Re: Post-Mortem America

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Paranoia and moderation are converging. Kotsko made an alarmist post on the impending Iran wara day or two ago, and today Josh Micah Marshall said about the same thing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 12:55 PM
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Merciful Christ, do America's depressed shut-ins need another cue to copy and paste all their daydreams about the righteous violence they'd wreak against Leviathan, if only the running dogs would renew their generic Xanax prescriptions?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 12:57 PM
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2 will look a lot funnier six months from now, I'll bet.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:01 PM
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Well, that site's depressing as hell. Thanks, Apo!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:02 PM
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2 is pretty funny already.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:04 PM
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I have sort of thought that W. was Octavian for a while.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:07 PM
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I'm just not convinced that Congress is in the control of the opposition, not with Lieberman hanging around threatening to switch parties if anyone steps on his little toesies.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:07 PM
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What should I do with an not well known individual on a date?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:08 PM
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This meshes with what I'm saying: Bush has been very successful by his lights. It will be very hard for the Democrats to undo the damage, and many of them don't even want to.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:10 PM
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8: You should get your indefinite articles straight.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:10 PM
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Yes.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:11 PM
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7: Between Lieberman being Lieberman and Tim Johnson being out on sick leave, nobody's really in charge of the Senate.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:11 PM
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What's the deal with Johnson, anyway? Right after it happened, I thought the news was that he was going to be fine. But he still seems to be an invalid.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:13 PM
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5: Oh, sure. I don't know what all these depressives and losers are freaking out about, either. It's not like Congress passed a bill that gives the NSA free rein to spy on anyone in the country a few weeks ago, or did away with habeas corpus a few months before that, or blessed the administration's practice of torture. And it's not like Bush and Cheney are going to start a war with Iran - after all, that would be very unpopular, and would upset many people not registered as Republicans, and we all know they care a great deal about that sort of thing. No, everything's just peachy over here, as long as, you know, we don't ever read the news or come into contact with the outside world or anything.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:13 PM
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Stras, are you even familiar with the concept of black humor?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:14 PM
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13: He returns tomorrow.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:14 PM
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I'm just not convinced that Congress is in the control of the opposition, not with Lieberman hanging around threatening to switch parties if anyone steps on his little toesies.

Lieberman switching parties wouldn't actually affect control of the Senate. Josh Marshall went over this ad nauseum months ago.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:15 PM
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Lieberman switching parties wouldn't actually affect control of the Senate.

Yes, that was my point.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:15 PM
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16: Johnson is teh hero!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:16 PM
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15: You mean like this?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:18 PM
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15: Bitch, I'm funny for a living. I come to Unfogged specifically to get away from funniness. I'm also interpreting the object/target of 2 rather differently than you are, I think.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:18 PM
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He's right about a lot, but then he gets histrionic and self-dramatizing. This is not worse than what state governments in the South were responsible for, for I don't know how many years. There are ways in which FDR and Woodrow Wilson did worse, too--but those were in wars with an end date.

He grossly overstates the dangers of opposition & the efficiency of surveillance. Alberto Gonzales was my boss last year--not anymore, but I left as scheduled & with a very nice performance evaluation. This was, of course, partly because I tried to be discreet & follow the rules; partly because I was extremely low on the DOJ totem pole; & partly because my opposition didn't actually amount to much. But as far as U.S. citizens being at risk of being shipped to GTMO or some black site for their political activities? I know some people whose opposition does amount to a lot--I bet some of them have had their phones tapped. But I do not think they're in any danger of being held as enemy combatants. I'm a chronic worrier, but that one doesn't register. Maybe if there was another attack, but now? The problem with civil disobedience isn't that the monstrous machine will chew you up under it's wheels without remorse. It's that the machine isn't really interested in torturing and disappearing white, well-educated, well-connected wealthy U.S. citizens--it's not TRYING to chew up partners of big law firms, Washington Post & New Yorker journalists, university professors, or human rights activists. Far too much risk that that would wake up Congress, the press & the public. Far safer & easier to just ignore them. If you try to throw yourself under the machine, the driver would shrug his shoulders & go around you.

When you combine those tendencies I get very annoyed. The idea that opponents of the Bush administration are in more danger than the people who led the civil rights movement is just ludicrous. How many of them were murdered?

But I'm all for well-written calls to the barricades, even self-dramatizing, ahistorical ones.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:20 PM
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Yes, that was my point.

How was that your point, given that Lieberman's threat to switch parties has been an empty one ever since he voted for Harry Reid as majority leader back in January?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:20 PM
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21: What do you do?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:21 PM
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(they do, of course, destroy people's lives--hundreds of thousands and counting, and they might start more in Iran. But the reason they get away with it so well is that the ones who get destroted are people that the establishment* & most voters don't know personally & don't really care about.)

* I used to find the unironic, capital letters of "The Establishment" in 1960s writing a little silly. Not anymore. But I do still use lower-case.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:24 PM
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22: Isn't that Floyd's point, though? "As long as the diversions keep pouring through the latest gadgetry, the monthly paycheck manages to cover the bills, and their own bodies are not subjected to the tyrant's evil, many people are happy to accept the authoritarian system."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:25 PM
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I come to Unfogged specifically to get away from funniness.

I'm struggling to understand the decision-making process at work here.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:26 PM
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24: Stras is Eddie Griffin. You may have seen him in such fine films as The New Guy and Deuce Bigalo: Male Gigolo.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:27 PM
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27: Unfogged is terribly diverting, not funny per se. Even the cock jokes aren't exactly cock jokes; they're either references to cocks or or references to the cock joke genre itself. It's all very interesting and light-hearted and fun. Writing material that's designed to make other people laugh, on the other hand, is no fun at all.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:31 PM
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The problem is with Democrats other than Lieberman, combined with Bush's clear intention of marginalizing both the courts and Congress during the next 16 months. His powers as Commander in Chief are enormous. They would be even without his willingness to defy the law, and even without the new laws passed during his time in office, but with those changes they're almost absolute if he says they are.

Media coverage of the new saber-rattling against Iran has been predictably gullible/complicit. Exactly the same lies and scare stories are being trotted out, and they're being reported straight. And opposition "doesn't get traction".

Bush's most frightening powers are the ones he hasn't used yet.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:32 PM
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28: There goes my secret identity. Now I'll have to go and slum with Yglesias's commenters.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:33 PM
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26: I think an objection to his piece--from a position of some sympathy with his perspective--might be that the US has never been a high school civics class democracy, and that the real problem of this Administration is that it has made this clear.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:34 PM
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8: You should invite your date somewhere very hip that not many people know about, but during an off-hour when it's quiet. You should show up fifteen minutes early and sit with a coffee or a glass of good beer, casually reading a book. When you see her walk in, look up from your book and do a double-take---doesn't she look lovely? Mark your place in the book and rise to smile and take her hand.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:34 PM
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Katherine has the most credibility here.

I am still *really* angry that the national Democratic party didn't get behind Lamont's campaign. Salazar and a couple of other people said that they'd support Lieberman as an independent. At least Chris Dodd nominally got behind his the nominee of the party of his home state.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:35 PM
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31: It was really B who tipped it, what with the knowing reference to "black humor."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:35 PM
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I come to Unfogged specifically to get away from funniness.

Man, you took a wrong turn somewhere over by TPM.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:35 PM
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You should invite your date somewhere very hip that not many people know about, but during an off-hour when it's quiet. You should show up fifteen minutes early and sit with a coffee or a glass of good beer, casually reading a book.

That sounds like a pretty good idea, but I don't know any such places.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:37 PM
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I don't see Katherine's superior credibility.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:39 PM
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If I read the essay will I understand how only the US's failure to be even a semblance of a democratic country explains why the Bush administration is stronger than it was a year ago? Is that even true? I mean, you can think of all sorts of democracy-compatible explanations of the (alleged) phenomenon, many of them involving the thought that many of our fellow citizens are much worse than we suspected. (One might think, that is, that an explanation on the lines of it's-not-a-democracy is too optimistic.)


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:40 PM
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"The time has passed for ordinary political opposition, "within the system." The system itself has been perverted and converted into something else; it is now impossible to "work within the system" in the old understanding of that term, because that old system is gone. To work within the current system is to collaborate with evil, to give it legitimacy."

The problem is, that like so many people who believe this, he winds up saying "Well, we've gotta do something!!" But if you accept his paragraph as true, that something can only be resignation, emigration, or revolution.

The "the system is evil, don't work within the system" stuff is juvenile nonsense of the worst sort. The "system" may very well be evil, but unless someone is prepared to make war on it, "working within the system" is still the only way to change things.

Other than that, his analysis is pretty much on the mark, probably.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:40 PM
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Katherine has loads of credibility, but best I can tell she's replying to a different article than the one that is linked.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:40 PM
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I'm actually the opposite of Stras. I came over here from my unfunny political site (Seeing the Forest) in order to be shallow and nasty. For a long time I felt uncomfortable on the political threads here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:41 PM
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W. was Octavian

Unfair to Octavian. Augustus was brilliant, and did a lot to strengthen the empire. He would notice a flooded city, and would not attack the wrong country in response to a threat from outside. Caracalla maybe, who built a gaudy public bath, degraded the money, and cheapened Roman citizenship, while neglecting distant provinces.

Katherine, there is no need to imprison if you can leak incriminating email, or financial or medical data; my most specific fear is a rebirth of the JE Hoover FBI model of political blackmail to maintain budget for whatever. It has happened before, and that with much more primitive technology and cheaper political campaigns.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:41 PM
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37: Find out! It's important when dating strangers to have a list in mind of some venues that your date will not have already been to, but that reflects something of your taste. That bakery in the Mission, for example---do they ever have any off-hours? You want to go somewhere where you don't have to eat, but you could recommend several things that you like there. Her response to your suggestions will tell you a lot about how you'd interact as a couple.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:41 PM
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FL, the polls are all against Bush. But the media aren't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:42 PM
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Well, I'm mildly to moderately depressed right now, so I'm not going to try to argue, because it will come out all wrong. My brain is not working very well.

I just remember that Labs once said that Katherine was really kind of heroic in all that she's done. She's done the human rights activism, she's lined up people to testify before congress etc. I haven't done shit. She knows more about the workings of congress and is really trying to fight the good fight, so I'm willing to defer to her a bit.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:42 PM
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Apo, I'm referring to these paragraphs (& the ones close by:

But we must also recognize that the kind of civil disobedience that Thoreau preached - and practiced - is immensely more difficult today, because the power of the state is so much greater, far more pervasive, more invasive...and much more implacable, more inhuman. No one would have dared put Thoreau in "indefinite detention" without charges, or torture him, or delegate some underling in intelligence apparatus (which didn't exist then) to kill him as a "suspected terrorist." ....

there is no place left for the kind of action that Thoreau advocated. His way - and that of Gandhi and King, who took so much from him - envisions a state opponent which one could hope to shame into honorable action by the superior moral force of principled civil disobedience. But the very hallmark of the present regime is its shamelessness, its utter lack of any sense of honor or principle, its bestial addiction to raw power.

It is pointless - and counterproductive - to simply throw yourself under the wheels of such a monstrous machine in futile spasms of rage and despair. The machine doesn't care. It will gladly chew up your life and move on

I know the public & the press doesn't notice--but I'm totally convinced that if Bush started using these powers against their friends & neighbors, they'd notice a lot more.

The civil rights movement got this--that was the whole strategy of Freedom Summer, right? When the people being lynched are white college kids, a lot more people notice.

And even among the white and well-educated--who faced greater danger: a GTMO lawyer, or a social worker or college student from New York who went down to register voters in 1964? Cully Stimson lost his job after saying nasty things about the law firms representing habeas prisoners.

Which he entirely deserved! But it would seem to suggest that they're not about to start torturing & disappearing judges, lawyers, students & journalists, much as David Addington might like to do so. Not because they're too moral, but because it would be too politically risky, for the same reasons that Laurie Pritchett got better results than Bull Connor.

(I'm not saying I know what'll be true in ten and twenty years, or what a President Giuliani would try after another attack. But as an analysis of the current situation, it's way off.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:43 PM
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The "the system is evil, don't work within the system" stuff is juvenile nonsense of the worst sort.

Agreed. I've been having on ongoing dispute with a libertarianish commenter at my site, who responds to every Republican misdeed with a variant of "But the Democrats rubber-stamped it!" Which is true enough, but I keep asking him what his prescription is, then. You go into battle with the opposition you have, not the opposition you wish you had, and the Democrats, self-loathing and easily-rolled as they are, are the only viable alternative.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:45 PM
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32: Sure, the U.S. has generally operated as a broad caricature of the government described by the Constitution, but the resemblance was still there. Nixon resigned, and after FDR we got the 22nd amendment. Today there exists no meaningful limit to executive authority. Before Bush the Younger, I believed I had legal protection from getting beaten up etc. by the government. Today, only the political inconvience of beating up a middle class white guy guarantees my safety. It is this shift from legal to political guarantees that, to me, marks the technical end of the republic.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:45 PM
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That bakery in the Mission, for example---do they ever have any off-hours?

Everyone knows about that place. I'd rather have some kind of activity in the picture than just sitting around, too.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:45 PM
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It's really weird to me that w-lfs-n chose this thread to discuss his date plans.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:47 PM
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very hip that not many people know about,

Talinn or Samarkand are both lovely this time of year.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:47 PM
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I actually have wondered whether some of the feeble Democratic responses have been the result of horses' heads in their beds,

Several things recently published have speculated that the big media and political people are being leaked secret information "too frightening to let the public see". Sounds like a lie, secret government, and the engineering of complicity. A lot of media are already on the team.

The combination of a fraudulent open-ended war, the nullification of the Bill of Rights, and tax reductions intended to bankrupt the government strikes me as unprecedented.

And in civil liberties cases, what's allowed is the important thing, whether or not you think that they will actually be misused in this way or that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:49 PM
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Surely this one is better than the other active thread, BG?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:49 PM
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I wouldn't mind going to Talinn, actually. I missed my chance when I was in Finland.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:49 PM
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I wonder if there's some correlation between thinking that these are indeed the grimmest of times in the Republic and having an overly rosy view of the past. For example, this:

Before Bush the Younger, I believed I had legal protection from getting beaten up etc. by the government.

strikes me as oddly optimistic; my guess is that I'm much less likely to be beaten up by the government than I would have been fifty years ago.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:51 PM
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It's really weird to me that w-lfs-n chose this thread to discuss his date plans.

So Ben has a date with either Dick Cheney or Arthur Silber. If it's Silber, good luck then - I hear he's actually a really nice guy.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:51 PM
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They have intimidated leakers & journalists--that part is certainly true. But the means by which they've done so are pretty comparable to the ones that most European gov'ts use right now & which we've used in the past: criminalizing leaks, threatening leakers with jail time or the loss of their jobs, threatening newspapers with lawsuits or just plain intimidating editors. None of it it is okay, but a corrupt & repressive classification system does not by itself transform a democratic gov't into a dictatorship.

It's an awful situation, and it's hard to figure out how to oppose it effectively, and I am far more depressed & less Pollyannish about it than I've been in years. But of the problems that political opponents of these policies face, the personal risk that they will be persecuted is very, very low on the list.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:53 PM
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47: Ah, okay. Well, it's true that the feds aren't disappearing folks like us. But comparing the current situation to the Southern states, there was a federal government willing to send in the National Guard and the 101st Airborne to overrule Orval Faubus. Now the federal government is the one saying it isn't constrained by the Constitution and instead of murdering opponents, they just ignore them because they've learned there is no price to be paid for doing so.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:53 PM
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8: Green Apple, obviously. There used to be a good Thai place on 9th(?)between Geary and Clement. And Shimo at 25th and clement used to be pretty good, but I think their main sushi guy started a new place.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:54 PM
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Before Bush the Younger, I believed I had legal protection from getting beaten up etc. by the government. Today, only the political inconvience of beating up a middle class white guy guarantees my safety

Has this *ever* been true, though?


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:54 PM
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57:

George: How was your date with Ben? did he blow you?
Dick: Let's just say I had other priorities.
George: anal?
Dick: I put it in an undisclosed location.
George: spread your freedom agenda?
Dick: yeah, I got to the last throes and pulled out.

If I were funny, this would be funnier.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:55 PM
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Katherine at 25 :
I used to find the unironic, capital letters of "The Establishment" in 1960s writing a little silly

Lots of the "revolution" mannerisms of the '60s are starting to look a little less silly.
(I always used to find the "fascist" epithet over-the-top back then, and discounted the opinion of anyone who employed it. Now, not so much.)

re: the point you make in 22 that the political opposition in the US is not really in danger of being imprisoned and tortured in Gitmo for thoughtcrime -- what do you think of the Don Siegelman case? And Georgia Thompson in Wisconsin? To me it seems that all that's missing is the nighttime disappearance and Gitmo; otherwise these seem like purely political prosecutions. BushCo is currently only doing it to a few people who chafe them -- but this Administration has shown no talent for restraint.
And we know that Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are not beyond our Leader's moral pale when he feels threatened.
Soon, electoral politics will threaten him and his coterie with disclosure of things they really really wants kept secret.
I see the NSA wiretap stuff as Watergate writ large. Nixon's plumbers only bugged Dem headquarters -- the NSA has bugged the entire political opposition, simultaneously. Again, this Administration has shown over and over again that it will feel no restraint in using whatever information they collect for political ends.

Can you talk about why you think Carol Lam lost her job? Can you talk about what happened to the MZM thread of the investigation?


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:55 PM
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62: See, now that was funny.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:57 PM
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Green Apple, obviously

Yeah, I was thinking of that. I think I have a tendency to mouth off too much in bookstores.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:58 PM
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50: An activity? What is this, Elimidate? Talk to the girl!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:59 PM
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strikes me as oddly optimistic; my guess is that I'm much less likely to be beaten up by the government than I would have been fifty years ago.

The problem is that it's probably much easier to justify beating you up in the past. We don't actually face much of a threat; that's what makes the civil liberties roll-up depressing.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 1:59 PM
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One can talk while doing something else, you know, and frequently the thing you do can provide topics of conversation of its own accord—to turn the Kantian tag on its head, here Nature puts us to the question.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:00 PM
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66: I have a friend whose brother was on Elimidate. He got axed first.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:00 PM
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None of the institutional checks and balances are working, the press is cooperative, the Democrats are passive, and Bush has 16 months to play with.

There's no sign that effective popular resistance is in the offing, but if it ever shows up, Bush has powerful tools to deal with it.

All of this in the context of an open-ended war against an undefined enemy, the goal of which seems to be world domination.

Bush has stated his intention of continuing to push his program. People are thinking that he'll act like a lame duck, but he won't. Why should he?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:00 PM
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The word is spelled "asked", apo. As in "he was asked to leave".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:01 PM
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Most schizophrenic thread ever?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:01 PM
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71: Racist.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:01 PM
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The "preponderance in a unipolar world" aspect hasn't been stressed enough so far. This isn't just domestic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:04 PM
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68: The problem I see with activity dates is that they're very threatening to the lady. If you at least meet at a bar or coffeeshop first for half an hour, then you can decide whether you want to commit to whatever activity you had planned. I recently had a first date where we were supposed to go to a movie together, but half an hour in the bar told me I did not want to lock in to two more hours with him without talking more. If she's roped into a situation where you're going to spend two hours playing minigolf or whatever, without some chit-chat time first, it might feel pressured.

What the hell kind of activity are you talking about? And is this a blind date?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:04 PM
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What worries me is not the possibility that the feds would disappear folks like us, but that if they did the general public would either not give a shit or just blindly accept the government's assurances that the people in question were really bad people, and that giving them access to lawyers would cause the republic to collapse.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:05 PM
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As for Katherine's point that ordinary people would notice if the authoritarian jackboot were to descend on people like them, white and privileged people especially, I think that this thread of anecdote at Boing Boing perhaps demonstrates that we're slowly being conditioned to accept arbitrary authority. For our own good and our own safety, of course.

We're finally on our own.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:06 PM
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What the hell kind of activity are you talking about?

Chicken sexing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:06 PM
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76 has already been proven true; no point in worrying about it any longer.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:06 PM
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I never found a date for Matt & Kim tomorrow. Tears!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:10 PM
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If they ever start disappearing people, they'll presumably start with someone who's a.) politically visible and b.) easily stigmatizable (non-white, Communist, Muslim, ex-convict, etc.) It's probably true that no one here is at risk. That's not reassuring -- intellectuals and professionals tend to be privileged by repressive regimes, if they keep their heads down.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:11 PM
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It's hard to talk to someone at a concert anyway.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:11 PM
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Not only is this thread schizophrenic, but my sleep deprivation is causing the subthreads to blur together. So as I'm scanning up and down I ran 75 and 76 together and got AWB's recommendation that Ben disappear his date, which I initially took to be startlingly offensive but not completely out of the realm of possibility for the cosmopolitan center-left.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:11 PM
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The link in 77 is depressing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:19 PM
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Because of the content or because it's at BoingBoing, Ben?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:20 PM
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the NSA has bugged the entire political opposition, simultaneously

This is exactly right, except that along with date-night chitchat, medical and financial records are also browseable. Unlike casual blather they are much harder to edit or self-censor.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:21 PM
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85: both.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:24 PM
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83, well w-lfs-n did say she was not well known. No one will miss her.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:25 PM
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"I actually have wondered whether some of the feeble Democratic responses have been the result of horses' heads in their beds,"

I can't rule it out, but I don't think it would be necessary. It takes a lot less than a horses' head to intimidate a Congressional Democrat. A week or two of nasty comments did the trick for Durbin for a while--and Durbin is one of the best of the Dems.

"Several things recently published have speculated that the big media and political people are being leaked secret information "too frightening to let the public see". Sounds like a lie, secret government, and the engineering of complicity. A lot of media are already on the team."

I don't disagree with this (I'm sure we'd disagree about the specific outlets that are complicit, to what degree, & why, but I have no desire to get into all that again. And overall, I think you're right).

"The combination of a fraudulent open-ended war, the nullification of the Bill of Rights, and tax reductions intended to bankrupt the government strikes me as unprecedented."

Yes. There are ways in which it's not as bad as other dark periods but there are ways in which it's worse. For me it's the combination of: (1) the U.S. government acting like it's the Roman Emperor (launching aggressive wars based on lies etc. etc.); (2) the President acting like a Roman Empire; (3) media & Democratic complicity in/complacency about 1 & 2; (4) they're justified by a war that isn't going to necessarily end.

"And in civil liberties cases, what's allowed is the important thing, whether or not you think that they will actually be misused in this way or that."

Agreed. I wasn't saying that these powers don't matter because they're not going to be used against people like me; I also wasn't saying that there is no risk of that ever happening. I don't think he's overstating the need to oppose this stuff; I just think he mis-diagnosing the most serious problems facings its opponents. in a way that is: (1) annoying (2) not helpful.

Because the question is: how do we get a critical mass of voters, reporters & Congressmen to be as disturbed by this as we are? I think the answer is to show people, in clear & specific terms, exactly what the costs of these policies are--that's the whole idea of civil disobedience: you don't just tell people that X law or policy is unjust and immoral, you show them its effects, preferably on primetime TV. But the fact is, people like us aren't the ones in danger, and pretending we are isn't going to convince people--the trick is to do our best to get people to know & care about what these policies do to people who really are affected. I think.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:26 PM
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I meant, the U.S. gov't acting like the Roman Empire, & the President acting like the Roman Emperor.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:28 PM
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(I have my own kind of dark humor. I looves me some kitsch)

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey

(Suicide)
The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

(America)
America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:40 PM
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Countdown to Niemoeller...


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:48 PM
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Apparently no one has yet linked to the Declaration of Universal Suckitude

Katherine does not suck. Emerson pushes his cranky curmugeonliness too far this time.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 2:56 PM
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An activity? What is this, Elimidate? Talk to the girl!

No, you definitely need an activity, Ben.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:07 PM
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Surveillance hits home: My passport was marked for special security checks for two years after 9/11. It was apparent that something was up, because I'd be pulled out for the special checks at every checkpoint every time. And I'd be standing there, a lone white girl among a bunch brown men. Once when I was checking in, the airline employee made some remark about me being 'on the list'.

Can't know for sure why, but my best guess is that it was because I lived two blocks from M. At/ta in Hamburg for roughly the same time period.

Scary to know you've been "on the list". Whatever list that is. I don't get specially checked any more, but something about it still comes up, as was revealed by a couple of bored and sadistic passport checkers in Berlin last week who decided to grill me about lots of things I had no idea were accessible through my passport.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:09 PM
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75 to 94.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:09 PM
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He, all I said was I don't see Katherine's superior credibility.

I still disagree with her about the media. Some things can't be explained without major, deliberate complicity at some high level. This doesn't mean that everyone at the Times and the Post is personally complicit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:10 PM
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I suspect that Tallinn is beautiful any time of year.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:11 PM
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Did Emerson accuse me of sucking? I don't think he did (this time). He said I don't get special credibility or deference, which seems pretty fair: if I were such an impressive and committed opponent of the administration, would I spend as much time as I do screwing around here?

Floyd does address some of what I was saying in the comments, and I pretty much agree with his conclusion, so the above may be nitpicking.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:11 PM
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Well, golly gee, what is to be done?

Nothing, and then everything. Silber is too moderate, too optimistic, too nice.

There will come a precipitating event, a tipping point. We, the good guys, and we are the good guys no matter what we do, fuck the saints very much, have a network, a national alert system. If the good guys at the moment of decision call for all their friends and commenters to hit the streets with axe handles it would happen and reverse the catastrophe.

But the hilzoys and DeLongs and Josh and EK's and MYs and Burkes have to decide for sudden chaos over slow homicide/suicide. They have to take the responsibility for starting the revolution. The old generation, the Gitlins and Sawickys, have lost their faith.

I remain optimistic and faithful. I think there are good people out there, who will not withdraw in the crunch.

But if the hilzoys and DeLongs and Burkes say:"Too dangerous, too scarey, Iran must die, then Syria, then Egypt, then Pakistan....untold millions must die for we must work carefully within the system and within the law because every fucking American life and mutual fund is sacred"...then damn them all to hell forever.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:17 PM
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you know what currently drives me craziest about even the relatively good media outlets & reporters?

If you get leaked an exclusive government document showing wrongdoing, PUBLISH IT, in PDF form, on your website. Don't save it to write your book, or to get multiple stories instead of one out of it.

Sometimes they don't publish because their source won't let them, but more often, they just don't want to share. It isn't the worse thing they do, but damn is it frustrating.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:19 PM
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hit the streets with axe handles

I very much doubt the efficacy of this approach.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:22 PM
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Yeah. You really need to hit things other than the streets with the axe handles if you want to make much progress.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:22 PM
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At one point Lara Logan sent out emails begging people to ask CBS to use the footage she shot. They were paying her good money to risk her life getting news, but then they'd just sit on it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:24 PM
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If the good guys at the moment of decision call for all their friends and commenters to hit the streets with axe handles it would happen and reverse the catastrophe.

Jesus Bob, what country do you think we're in? Buy some guns already.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:25 PM
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102,103:You are wrong.

What would you do if hilzoy and My and EK all wrote on their blogs: "this is it, I am going out and do some violence, burn something down". Just try to imagine it.

What would you do?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:27 PM
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Why the hell would you hit something with an axe handle rather than with the edgy end?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:29 PM
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Jesus Bob, what country do you think we're in? Buy some guns already.

Not only that, doesn't bob live in a state that is known for its lax attitude toward gun ownership? He should already have three.

What would you do?

Assume that their blogs had been hacked?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:31 PM
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106: I'd read the Sermon on the Mount again, as I did after September 11, 2001. Call me old-fashioned.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:31 PM
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y'all think this is all a joke. Y'all also think you can't stop the war.

It is not a joke. You can stop the war.

I am not saying you all suck. I am saying, and believe, the opposite. When I die, I will not die in any kind of disillusionment or cynicism about people.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:35 PM
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106:Really? MY or the Washington Crowd starts giving their lives to stop the monster and you would go hide?

See, I won't believe it. I think you would have their backs. You really can't convince me otherwise, even with facts.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:42 PM
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102 doubts the efficacy of a mobilized citizenry armed only with axe-handles. I think he's confusing efficacy with safety. As I understand it, Bob's vision of the Revolution includes the government reacting violently early on and damaging a bunch of citizens ala Kent State, which allows the general populace to suddenly see the situation in a stark new light.

Those kids at Kent State did a lot to end the Viet Nam war; not the ones who protested, but the ones that died. I don't yet see much of anyone willing to get their heads busted today, and that's Arthur's point. The nation never has to confront the question "What would you do if you found her dead on the ground?"
if everyone keeps their heads down and plays it safe.

I do remember that the people of the Indian sub-continent expelled the British Empire armed only with their own poverty, dignity, rags, begging bowls, salt, and willingness to be attacked and maybe killed for their vision of justice.



Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:43 PM
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Joel Hanes has it right.

The more you have to lose, the more you will lose by rebelling.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:50 PM
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A voice in the wilderness calls to bloggers, calls to them in their coffee shops, calls to them in the voice of Steve Jobs, calls to them with the power of an indie rock band, calls them to make the supreme sacrifice.

"By Crom!" says Matthew Yglesias, cracking a flagon of some hippie coffee in his puny fist. "The call shall not go unanswered! Who will join me on the path of the axe?"


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:56 PM
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But of the problems that political opponents of these policies face, the personal risk that they will be persecuted is very, very low on the list.

Katherine, how do you see the prosecutions for "voter fraud" fitting in with this perspective?

And that's just an example from the public record. Nixon wasn't exactly bragging about burglarizing Ellsberg's psychiatrist, but that doesn't mean it wasn't going on.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 3:58 PM
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107: Speed. The edge gets stuck in things -- the handle bounces off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:06 PM
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Bob @ 106
I think it would be sufficient and more effective to say "I'm going to go out now and get myself arrested and jailed." Property crimes tend to alienate the exact people you're trying to influence; in the Viet Nam era they allowed Agnew to paint us as criminals and anarchists.

If I were to suggest a tactic appropriate for today, it would be to refuse to be penned in "free speech zones" when Bush visits your city. Get arrested insisting on your right to peaceably assemble where Bush has to see you, where the TV camera will see you, where the press pool has to walk around you. Better yet, if you could somehow get into the audience at one of Dear Leader's speeches and stand up to firmly state "That's a lie" at the appropriate moment. I think either of these tactics would likely get you beat up a bit.

I talk big on the Web. So far I suck.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:08 PM
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Who are we supposed to hit? What are we supposed to burn?

I guess we could rent a van and drive out to McLean.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:11 PM
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We will see, I think. I think we will, maybe soon, see what happens. It will happen someday, and in America, it won't be by incremental liberal means. I know, I know, a precipitating event is coming. We will not go full fascist, or if we do, I won't live to see it. Nobody will follow me tho, but that doesn't matter.

I have also seen enough, and read enough, to know what won't work. Half a million people around the Pentagon didn't stop the American monster.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:13 PM
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"Katherine, how do you see the prosecutions for "voter fraud" fitting in with this perspective?"

I see it as an example of how poor minorities are easy targets.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:14 PM
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117:Been there done that, joel. All sorts of stuff was tried in the 60s. By the 80s and Central America, well, who remembers that resistance? It has just gotten worse.

See above in the thread. They are right, I think thousands of protesters can get machine-gunned in the Mall and the MSM and Establishment won't feel the fear & shame.

Sorry. It is gonna take violence. Lots of it. Or maybe just the committment to violence, just the heart.

And I am hoping people, maybe after Iran, will see what I have seen for forty years, what Silber sees. It is not just Iraq, it is not just Iran it is not just Bush and Cheney and HRC. If we don't stop the monster soon, before PO & GW, billions will die.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:22 PM
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Before Disaster

Evening traffic homeward burns
Swift and even on the turns,
Drifting weight in triple rows,
Fixed relation and repose.
This one edges out and by,
Inch by inch with steady eye.
But should error be increased,
Mass and moment are released;
Matter loosens, flooding blind,
Levels drivers to its kind.
Ranks of nations thus descend,
Watchful, to a stormy end.
By a moment's calm beguiled,
I have got a wife and child.
Fool and scoundrel guide the State.
Peace is whore to Greed and Hate.
Nowhere may I turn to flee:
Action is security.
Treading change with savage heel,
We must live or die by steel.

Yvor Winters
1934



Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:27 PM
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121: It is gonna take violence. Lots of it. Or maybe just the committment to violence, just the heart.

Gosh, that sounds completely unlike anything that one might find at gunsforwhitepower.blogspot.com or ihatehippiesandracetraitors.blogs.com. Have you scheduled the Day of the Rope yet, Bob? A list of fantasies to be lived out in voluptuous reality?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:46 PM
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123 is stupid.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:48 PM
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No, violence is stupid, as are people who indulge in fantasies of its potential well into the seventh year of the George W. Bush era, an experience that ought to have educated all and sundry as to the limits of violence.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:51 PM
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One thing I've been thinking about lately is what I'm going to do when/if we hit Iran. Say a massive bombardment is suddenly all over CNN next Tuesday -- what do you do that night? The next day?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 4:59 PM
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"...have educated all and sundry as to the limits of violence."

As I look at history & the world, it seems to me that non-violence is what needs defense and justification, for it has accomplished nothing except the sanctity of saints.

OTOH, violence and it's threats has not yet reached its limits.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:02 PM
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126: Stand outside with a candle singing Kumbaya? Then burn shit down?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:04 PM
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Newsflash: Educated, middle-class white people *are* getting their heads beat in these United States.

Not to mention the fact that for every one of those Critical Massers who gets jacked up and hassled, there's a thousand working class people of color who are enduring much worse to provide a floor below which people more like the foggetariat must not sink.

I know I say this every time, but seriously, be an election judge or a poll watcher! It's easy, you learn a lot, and you help the exact people that the Republicans keep disenfranchising have a little hope. I'll bet there's something like 150,000 people who don't get to vote each election in this country because polling places lack staff, and more to the point, lack competent, patient staff who can figure out ways around the bureaucracy.

Ballots, bullets, ballets -- whatever, just get involved with something!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:05 PM
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128
I'm with you on that first one; the second, not so much, unless the bombardment of Iran includes a nuke. Then I'd have to reconsider my options.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:16 PM
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Consider the obligatory anti-Critical-Mass objections made.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:21 PM
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129: is this comment directed at me?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:35 PM
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131:Critical Mass? I dislike Vanguardism in principle, but Iraq does teach lessons. A whole lot depends on circumstances, but I think 10% of a population can make a country ungovernable and 20% can easily change the government.

The 60s anti-war movement probably came nowhere near 10%.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:40 PM
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Haven't Critical Massers been getting harassed (back) since the beginning of the event? Is there any reason to expect that this is anything other than a local response to the disruption they are perceived to cause?

I'm having a hard time seeing a connection between Critical Mass and voter intimidation.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:40 PM
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And these particular Critical Massers surrounded two policeman and basically demanded they give up an arrestee. No shit the department came out in force after that.

133: These are the bicycle assholes. Had nothing to do with the war or the administration, everything to do with some trustafarians having an entitlement complex.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:43 PM
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Katherine, I think you're underestimating the amount of tyranny that can be accomplished short of sending folks like you to jail, but I also think you err if you think that folks like you aren't vulnerable.

(And we'll leave aside for the moment my puzzlement over the distinction you are trying to make here between those who are victimized and those who are not. "First they came for the Communists ...". I mean, I know it's a cliche, but do you know of a slippery slope this administration hasn't gleefully slid down?)

Gosh, even if we'll throw the poor and ignorant to the wolves without undue alarm, you don't get to be much more of an "establishment" figure than the erstwhile governor of Alabama, " Don Siegelman".

Now I don't really know the facts of the Siegelman case, but is there anything his supporters say that, in the current environment, seems incredible to you? Do you look at Siegelman and say "Well, Bush's people wouldn't/couldn't do that" ?

The fact is, virtually every bad thing we know about the Bush administration isn't the result of an aggressive opposition party or an aggressive media. It's the result of a bunch of hard-core Republican careerists being pushed just one step further than they were willing to go. Maybe Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke don't fit in that category (and maybe they do), but pretty much everybody else who has blown the whistle on this administration is a Republican careerist motivated at least in part by the fact that Bush screwed up his or her career, not the fact that Bush is screwing the country.

Who knows what we'll find out if any real investigation is ever done.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 5:57 PM
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If we're going to bomb Iran I wish we'd go ahead and do it already; I'm tired of the suspense. I'd like to get it over with, so I can adjust my plans accordingly.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:07 PM
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I'm having a hard time seeing a connection between Critical Mass and voter intimidation.

I bet you're one of those car-driving fascists. Macadam wants to be free, man.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:11 PM
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136: I think the idea is that victimization of members of the 'elite' is very selective, and very rare. I don't think the Bush administration would have any qualms about locking me up and throwing away the key if they wanted to, but I doubt very much that they want to, or that anything political I'm likely to do will make them want to. I don't get credit for personal bravery for doing much of anything in opposition to the administration, because it's very unlikely I'll be retailiated against.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:11 PM
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Lance Mannion on the upcoming unpleasantness.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:13 PM
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139: But my impression (formed by not reading the thread) is that this isn't really the issue--the question isn't whether they have any practical incentive to lock you up but whether they could. And no, we don't have secret police roaming the streets, but things like the Siegelman case are frighteningly fucking close (assuming for the moment that his supporters' allegations are true). Katherine seems to be saying (again, I haven't actually read her comments) that the professional-class whites aren't in any real danger, it's just a few brown people on the margins, and not really so many of them anyway. Which honestly may or may not be right, but I think there's good reason to worry that it's not right.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:18 PM
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139 seems to me to be on the right track. Something that Floyd acknowledges without taking seriously enough is that brutal oppression isn't a very effective method of control -- at least not in a post-industrial society like ours. The Bush strategy is not to silence dissent but to marginalize it, to make those who would oppose their agenda ineffectual in ways that encourage apathy and resignation.


Posted by: zwichenzug | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:23 PM
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victimization of the elite

I realize the following sounds like "a friend of a friend", but I am convinced my source is trustworthy.

I heard about someone who was a VP of a major international bank, working in a major US city. A member of the elite, in other words. He is, however, brown-skinned and from one of those countries we don't trust too much. He was disappeared for two days, and returned with cigarette burns on his body. He took his family and left the US immediately.


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:37 PM
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143: I'd love to know more about your trustworthy source. This is the sort of story I am just not yet prepared to buy. Perhaps I'll one day feel terrible about that.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:38 PM
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we don't have secret police roaming the streets

How would we know if we did? Actually, I agree with you, but how will we know when your assertion becomes false?

Tinfoil hat country: Google "Operation Falcon"
Did you know that was going on?


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:38 PM
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The Bush strategy is not to silence dissent but to marginalize it, to make those who would oppose their agenda ineffectual in ways that encourage apathy and resignation.

This leaves the option open, in what would be universally seen as extreme circumstances, for those people to unite in dissent. Like in Bob's "What if Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein announced that we should all start breaking windows" scenario.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 6:42 PM
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Personally, I'd assume they'd sold out to Big Glass.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 7:29 PM
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I think the idea is that victimization of members of the 'elite' is very selective, and very rare.

Well, "selective" and "rare" and "elite" are all qualitative terms, and without defining them we could go 'round and 'round. So is "victimization" for that matter.

But you don't get much more "elite" than a Republican federal prosecutor, and if you are one of those, demands from the president of the United States that you engage in gross breaches of ethics and law are, in fact, an extremely significant type of "victimization."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 7:36 PM
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He is, however, brown-skinned

From what you've not said, I'm going to assume he's not a citizen. Combined with the above, he's not really an elite, then.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 7:38 PM
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148: I didn't mean to imply that these things aren't a big deal, just that they directly impact very few individuals. The odds are massively against any individual reading being so victimized.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 7:50 PM
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I'd love to know more about your trustworthy source. This is the sort of story I am just not yet prepared to buy.

I completely get that. For me, this is something I heard from a member of his close family. For you it is something you read from some random stranger on the internets (a random stranger with a forgettable alias at that). In your position I'd put much lower weight on it as well.

From what you've not said, I'm going to assume he's not a citizen. Combined with the above, he's not really an elite, then.

Well, I would say that by some measures he is and by some he isn't. He's a senior executive in high finance. He probably makes a lot of money. In some circles that would probably be enough to give you elite status, even if you are foreign.


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:17 PM
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(And since this is the first thread where I have posted since LB revealed that she doesn't like people being identified by their initials, I offer in my defense the fact that the three letters I go by here are in fact very cleverly not my initials at all.)


Posted by: cdm | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:21 PM
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Unfortunately, it's not the veracity or otherwise of the initials I object to, it's the lack of any hook to remember them by. But it's all right, I'll suffer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:23 PM
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Cardamom?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:30 PM
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150: I'm a bit stumped as to why you and Katherine (and now Tim) are interested in differentiating the degree of fuck-ed-ness of different types of folks.

But okay. I, too, am sufficiently "elite" and inoffensive that I have a high level of assurance that I can live my life comfortably even as the secret police knock on other peoples' doors.

I have no plan to, say, try to uphold the rule of law or run for office as a Democrat. I'm white, and I can pass for a Christian if I have to.

I'm middle-aged, and I've got kids. I'm not inclined to stick my neck out. I'm the sort of person who will do fine under a Bush or a Pinochet or a Franco. It's only when you get to Mao or Stalin or Hitler that they start routinely putting people like me up against a wall.

But Jesus. Is this what we've come to, that people in my socioeconomic class are contemplating whom we can throw overboard without too much cost?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:30 PM
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we don't have secret police roaming the streets

What do you call the DEA, ATF, FBI, ICE, NSA, CIA etc. then, chopped liver? Not to mention all of the "anti-terrorist" money that has been poured into what used to be called "Red Squads" in a less post-modern age, but are now "ERU" and "tactical/intelligence/[whatever police jargon]" sections of big city police departments? This isn't J. Edgar Hoover's America anymore -- the FBI doesn't care who Justin Timberlake is screwing, at least, not very much. But much vaster and more complete databases are being compiled than anything Hoover could have imagined. Whether or not that warrants regular middle-class people having a freak-out is somewhat more open to debate than the linked essays suggest, in my opinion. It seems like the consensus here is still "so what?" Which may be a rational response. But what if it isn't?

Anyway, whatever. It's pretty sad that so many people are willing to consign the Massers to pepper-spraying and tasering, without even stopping to question whether it's reasonable that the cops can do that sort of thing with impunity. I know many Critical Mass riders, some of them are my friends, and while there may be a trustafarian contingent, most of them are just normal white middle-class people, more politically engaged than others of their ilk, who are willing to step ever so slightly out of line for something they believe in. Scoffers, are you?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:41 PM
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155: The point is not to say that it's okay. The point is that arguments about how bad things are that imply that 'people like us' are about to be hauled off to the Gulag are not accurate, and so they're unlikely to be convincing. If we're going to successfully convince other 'people like us' of how bad things are, we're going to have to do it while acknowledging the fact that most of us are "the sort of person who will do fine under a Bush or a Pinochet or a Franco."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:43 PM
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Is this what we've come to, that people in my socioeconomic class are contemplating whom we can throw overboard without too much cost?

I don't read it that way.

I think you have bob saying that thousands of protesters could get machinegunned on the Mall and no one important would really care, because that's just how far gone we are, so let's everyone go break a window. Then you have the Axis of Reasonableness saying "well, wait a second, it might be that the reason no one important seems to care is that the only people who are getting really seriously mistreated are some Critical Mass assholes, poor bastards snatched from their homes in Afghanistan, and cdm's acquaintance, who a cynic might observe has a description that is pretty consistent with Osama bin Laden before he went completely jihadi.

And that it was people out marching protesting at Kent State getting shot that had the big impact, and that if someone out smashing windows and lighting shit on fire got shot, people might just shrug and say "ah well, he had it coming."

Or in other words, #2.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:46 PM
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Look, people really don't need to quote Niemoller to me. I wasn't saying that it was OKAY for them to do those things as long as it's just to foreigners.

I meant what LB has apparently put more clearly: that a large part of the reason they get away with it is that they choose certain victims, who people in the Washington establishment & a lot of voters don't particularly identify with. Arabs. Muslims. Iraqis. Afghans. Foreigners. Terrorists. Poor blacks from New Orleans. Accused criminals. Dehumanized others, whose lives are counted as less valuable than people like ours.

It's possible that they're coming for those people as a preparation for coming for us. It's also possible that they're not--plenty of regimes are content to persecute certain groups, and leave others alone.

The fact that this country currently counts some people's lives as not only less valuable then others, but having so little value as to not even be worth counting, seems like a central part of the problem to me.

I'm not totally sure how to overcome it. It's a pretty universal human tendency to care more about people you know personally, & identify more with. But it's also dangerous, especially when a country gets as powerful as the U.S. does. We have the power to make our natural tendency to place a greater value on Our Own Kind into something like an empirical fact of life about the world today.

Every time I discuss this, people think I'm defending it. Particularly when I acknowledge it in myself--when I admit, e.g., that I opposed rendition in part because the first case I learned about was Arar, who is a well-educated, English-speaking, Canadian father of two--who oh by the way was pretty clearly as much a terrorist as me.

But I'm not defending it--I'm really NOT. I'm just arguing that it's a fact, and something we should honestly acknowledge so that we can figure out how to respond to it.

I think a big part of the problem is simply that we've never been to Baghdad, or Bagram, or a prison in Texas, or the lower Ninth Ward--we have never seen these places with our own eyes, or actually spoken to anyone from there. None of it seems real to us. Occasionally there are some terrible images on TV--more often, just a headline to an article we don't read. That's all.

I flipped out about U.S. torture policies because I learned about one specific rendition, which led me to learn about other renditions, which led to me to learn about Guantanamo and the secret prisons, and on it went...It's one thing to read a news story about a policy in general; another to read about some awful thing happening to specific, named person; another to read a transcript of that person speaking; another to actually watch or listen to a radio or tv interview; still another to hear his or her voice; still another to actually meet him or her.

Even if you just get to the second step, about learning about specific individuals by name--I think a lot of these policies become impossible to defend when you get into any level of detail about what they do to people. That's why the administration prefers to classify all the embarrassing details about what actually happened & have the debate about abstract hypotheticals or TV shows, or simply change the subject. And unfortunately the media is only too ready to do the same (actually, the press coverage of the domestic issues is even worse than the foreign ones.)

I think that's how you get through to people--not by quoting Niemoller (they've heard it before) or telling them they're in personal danger of political repression (it won't sound credible to them). And claims that you are risking serious personal harm, when you're really doing nothing of the kind, seem disrespectful to the people who really have been hurt or really are at risk.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:47 PM
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cold dead metacarpals?


Posted by: zwichenzug | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 8:48 PM
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cdm, for what it's worth: I know that sort of thing has happened; I know we don't know about a fair number of cases. To come to any conclusion about a specific case I'd obviously need to know a lot more of the details a lot more directly than would be possible for you to discuss here.

I assume that this is something that they already considered, & probably not something you're in a position to recommend, but in my experience the human rights orgs (well, I only have personal experience w/ HRW) are every bit as good & trustworthy as one would hope they would be.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:15 PM
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That is grossly unfair to Octavian. His opponents were the senate, the oligarchical powers, and he created a situation of peace and prosperity.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:27 PM
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Octavian's charm & Mark Antony's efficiency?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:28 PM
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One of the reasons military dictators ever gained power in Rome was that the roman legions were increasingly drawn from the poorer classes, and the increasingly wealth disparity in the late republic made the people and military support the dictators, who generally helped the people at the expense of the wealthy.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:30 PM
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(and now Tim) are interested in differentiating the degree of fuck-ed-ness of different types of folks.

I was just obliquely being a dick. I don't think it's OK. But...

Is this what we've come to, that people in my socioeconomic class are contemplating whom we can throw overboard without too much cost?

...the last several years have proved to my (dis)satisfaction that the above just is true. Sucks, but there it is. As long as such programs are targeted and limited, I don't see much opposition. I'm not sure this wasn't always true, which is what I meant by the US not being the democracy described in your high school civics class.

I think it's depressing as hell. I don't have the slightest idea what can be done about it, really. (Build a political coalition of the Damned, I guess. But if it's a targeted program, it'll be a small and weak coalition.) It just never occurred to me that our commitment to our standard notion of who were are was so soft. It makes me sad.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:33 PM
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I meant what LB has apparently put more clearly: that a large part of the reason they get away with it is that they choose certain victims, who people in the Washington establishment & a lot of voters don't particularly identify with.

Bullshit. They get away with it because they define who is marginal. Gullible people buy into their definition, post hoc. That's all.

Who is more "establishment" than a Republican operative selected as a U.S. Attorney? When those U.S. attorneys were asked to break the law, there were two responses: acquiesence and quiet refusal. When quiet refusal cost them their jobs, they remained quiet. What could be more "establishment" than that?

The only reason we ever heard about any of this prosecutorial misconduct was that the Bush administration, after firing these people, publicly called them incompetent.

To pick another example, how many hard-core establishment military careers have been destroyed? These guys aren't marginal figures. Or they weren't, anyway.

Okay, okay - none of the prosecutors or generals is in Gitmo - but only because they don't need to be put there.

The idea that establishment figures haven't been persecuted is just nonsense. And it grants the administration an important and entirely undeserved victory to suggest that the only people being persecuted are somehow marginal. The victims are marginalized by the administration, and your consent to their marginalization makes you (in a small way) complicit in this crime.

Sure, it's condescending to quote Niemoller at you, but you've said nothing that makes it seem inappropriate.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:42 PM
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Who thought otherwise? Ours wasn't supposed to be a "good" government; it was supposed to be a government of divided powers (which was intended to check its natural tendency toward tyranny). Once we as a society agreed to let that slip (was it WWII? Or the cold war that followed?), there was really never any hope.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:46 PM
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167 to 165.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:47 PM
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9/11 was in many ways just an acceleration.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:48 PM
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Bullshit. They get away with it because they define who is marginal. Gullible people buy into their definition, post hoc. That's all.

Yes, this is important. The governor of Alabama is marginal? Why is Cindy Sheehan marginal?

I'd change "gullible people" to "the media" too. The media defines the conventional wisdom. Why do they pass off the job to Karl Rove? Because it's all a game to them. Kit Seelye and her ilk are pathetic.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:53 PM
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people like us' are about to be hauled off to the Gulag

Cheaper to threaten than to imprison. If history is any guide, the first signs will be loyalty oaths of one stripe or another for any position of responsibility, harsh punishments for civil disobedience, and the use of state resources to eliminate or perhaps just weaken political opponents. Like Deutsch at NASA or Gonzalez or Siegelman over and over again, which last prosecution I had never heard of.

It's a question of scale IMO to decide when things tip from Daley pere's Chicago to something worse than venal self-defense. At least that's how the communists kept order in the 50s; my grandfather was imprisoned for talking like this, more-or-less, with three friends, and a granduncle to the uranium mines for not selling 60 acres, a small act of public defiance. Here, I guess contributing to the wrong organization may become sensitive. On preview, I second Katherine about watching and discussing particular cases, and on trying to keep a human perspective. That seems to be an eccentric view, present company excepted, but worth repeating.

People in the US by and large will not respond well to any sort of comparison or warning, I think. The belief that this place is different is widespread and deep.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:54 PM
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I definitely think people should be as active as they feel comfortable being: there's no single path.

I still don't really understand exactly how the McManus Revolution is supposed to work. I do recall, though, that Nixon was re-elected after Kent State, and that the war really ended, beyond the ability to get back in and muck around,* because of the collapse of the presidency, brought on by a mostly unconnected series of events. Yes, the protests against the war were important. They were not nearly enough. (And certainly the Weather Underground wasn't ever going to accomplish anything -- what country did those people think they were living in?) I'm not saying that Archibald Cox was more important than Abbie Hoffman. Well, I guess I am saying that.


* We'll never know how Nixon would've played the 1973 peace deal as 1975 unfolded, had there been no Watergate. I think it's fair to say, though, that there'd have been more bang than whimper.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 9:59 PM
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FRANCHISE ALERT: New Health Spa Craze Sweeps the Nation

(Mount Dora) My daughter hardly needs a tanning salon. She has lovely olive skin inherited no doubt from her half-Scottish ancestors. She enjoys health spas and would like to own her own business someday, she says.

So I've been looking into the latest health spa fad called "water-boarding." I have not seen it firsthand, but I understand it has something to do with taking a "dunk." I am told it improves respiration, or at least the ability to hold one's breath under water.

Aromatherapy bath oils improve the experience. Not the traditional balneology oils, but a new line of designer fragrances like: Choke, Heave, Swallow, and Spirit of Sanson.

I rate this franchise opportunity a "no-brainer" and plan to be the first in my neighborhood to start one. Of course, Lynne Cheney and the Bush girls will each receive a free introductory gift certificate to try water-boarding for themselves. To build your base, it helps to have testimonials from influential customers.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:02 PM
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166: I really haven't consented. Really.

I'm just going to leave it at that, this is just making me angry at this point.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:05 PM
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166 -- I think there's a pretty big difference between enforcing party discipline within the team, and oppressing ordinary citizens. Not to say that firing the US Attorneys was OK or anything, but you sign on with nutbars -- and no one should understand this better than scientists in NASA etc -- and crazy stuff is going to happen.

The press is awful, but not without moments of redeeming value. Addington sure came across as a raving lunatic in Tuesday's NYT piece about Goldsmith's book. Assuming that we get through the next 16 months without something really over-the-top happening, it's conceivable that Goldsmith's wrong but not insane legal views will once again form the right edge of acceptable opinion, and people out beyond will be thought of as are the people raving that the 16th Amendment is unconstitutional.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:12 PM
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166 again -- Really, Mr. Football, what are you proposing? Should people perhaps dedicate (without pay) a significant portion of their time to finding out about government illegality, and then publishing it repeatedly? That'd be good wouldn't it?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:17 PM
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It just never occurred to me that our commitment to our standard notion of who were are was so soft. It makes me sad.

I've shed most of my illusions about this country's supposed ideals, I think, but it has made me sad and sick to see how easily people accepted the Orwellian obscenity of 'Free Speech Zones.' In light of that, nothing else mentioned in this thread surprises me much.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:26 PM
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The question is not what we will or won't tolerate, it's whether the laws are reasonable and justifiable or arbitrary and capricious. (Along with who gets to decide the question, of course.) So far I think we're still largely on the right side of that line, although a few incidents have come dangerously close to crossing it. Restictions on speech/assembly/dissent and "violations" of privacy can all be part of a relatively healthy, democratic and free society so long as they are all reasonable. The danger is that these sorts of powers, once exercised, can become very hard to contain.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:33 PM
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"(Along with who gets to decide the question, of course.) "

Apparently, the President through, his handpicked appointees at OLC) gets to decide in secret, classify the decision & the legal basis for it, refuse to comply with subpoenas of the documents, & keep the courts from hearing the case on grounds that it would jeopardize national security. And if a later court or administration does change its mind, well, the former one is still immune from prosecution, because they relied on the OLC's legal conclusions.

They're like mob lawyers, but with superpowers.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:41 PM
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Yeah, that whole state secrets privilege thing has just got to go.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-07 10:45 PM
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A great help in thinking these things through, for me, has been Anatol Lieven's "America Right or Wrong" -- a book I've never seen in the state-of-the-USA displays in American bookshops, perhaps because it was written by a foreigner.

But he starts off from the distinction between the official myth of America (the civics class democracy) and the red-meat ideas which he first observed as a student at an undistinguished Southern college and then studies how the tension between the two has played out.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:31 AM
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re: 181

That book seems to be out of print currently [although is listed as being reprinted on some sites].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:41 AM
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$3.99 plus shipping (used or remaindered)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:44 AM
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re: Operation Falcon [mentioned above], doesn't it read a lot like Pynchon's Vineland?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:44 AM
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re: 183

ta. I found a copy from a UK seller via ABE.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:01 AM
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175: Should people perhaps dedicate (without pay) a significant portion of their time...

Heck, CharleyC, I'm even more utopian than that. I have this idea that people could be paid to do this. I envision large capitalist organizations dedicated to learning information, putting it in appropriate context, and conveying it to the public.

Call me crazy, but I could see such organizations becoming so crucial to democracy that people would want them to be protected by the Constitution itself.

174: I really haven't consented. Really.

Yeah, I get this. It's just that what you see as adding perspective and context, I see as defining deviancy down. Speaking of which, let's go back to CharleyC's 175:

I think there's a pretty big difference between enforcing party discipline within the team, and oppressing ordinary citizens.

A short time ago it would have been seen as beyond the pale to threaten the career of a federal prosecutor in order to induce him/her to put people in jail for political reasons. The fact that a reasonable person today can characterize this as "enforcing party discipline" demonstrates the administration's success in moving the line.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 8:50 AM
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129: Actually, I am going to be an election judge for municipal elections this year.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 8:58 AM
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175: The disturbing thing is not enforcing party discipline: it's that they were (and presumably still are) attempting to use law enforcement powers against the opposition party. That this hasn't caused more of an outcry among the political and media elite, that are potentially the targets is baffling and disturbing.


Posted by: Lars | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:22 AM
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A short time ago it would have been seen as beyond the pale to threaten the career of a federal prosecutor in order to induce him/her to put people in jail for political reasons

To the general public. That's the real problem. Those large, well-capitalized organizations of which you speak are staffed by people who have learned that think kind of shit has happened forever (kind of true) and so either don't think it's a big enough deal to follow up on, or present it in sophisticated fashion: it's the same 'ol same 'ol, folks. Which ends up teaching the general public to be blase as well.

Maybe we need term limits for media figures.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:42 AM
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Maybe we need term limits for media figures.

I don't think it's oversimple to say the media is the pretty much the entirety of the problem. You solve the media thing, and the rest falls into place. Absent a functional press, the system is designed to generate leaders like W.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:23 AM
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I don't think it's oversimple to say the media is the pretty much the entirety of the problem.

Yeah, but as I keep saying (and of the big-time bloggers, literally no one has ever agreed with me) the media problem is at the ownership-management level. Reporting as consistently bad, slanted, and unprofessional as we've been seeing can't be the result of individual low-level carelessness, incompetence or bias. A few phone calls and a few firings and hirings could solve the problem in an afternoon, and there's no possible way that management doesn't know what's going on. There are a large number of critiques out there, and some (e.g. Somerby's) are exhaustively detailed.

Management manages.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:36 AM
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196:I am, of course, a year behind y'all so finally watched Helen Mirren in The Queen last night.

Elizabeth was right, Blair as completely wrong as the butcher of Basra might be expected to be, and the movie is a complete tragedy, a story of how the mass media corrupts all values and morals unto genocide and tyranny. "But it is just so wrong to be alone, and not share our feelings, say the Alphas and Betas and Gammas."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:40 AM
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192 to 190


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:41 AM
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191:Emerson, I have a different critique of the media, maybe one that looks more like ssomething
from Mencken or Lippmann, or Kierkeggaard's "The Present Age" from 150 fucking years ago.

What do you expect in the age of Oprah & Jerry Springer? Surely you've seen Network


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:47 AM
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I thought Jerry Springer was basically just fights, now. You know: the combatants come out, they ring a bell, and then game on. Springer fills the Michael Buffer role.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 11:53 AM
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191: (and of the big-time bloggers, literally no one has ever agreed with me)

Woohoo ! Maybe when I tire of my current career, I can become a bigtime blogger. I already appear to have mastered a key intellectual requirement for the job.

Yes, managers manage, but in profit-making enterprises they have to be responsive to the market. Conservatives - I mean regular, Joe Twelvepack conservatives - have been willing to use their market power to desert the financially vulnerable MSM, and media entrepeneurs have responded to that, both by kowtowing to the nuts, and creating new media outlets for them.

The NYT is only going to be managed appropriately when readers demand it, and such demands from the reality-based community have been rare and wussified.

Good ol' Somerby. He's got the right idea. We just need a few thousand more like him phoning in every day to bitch about the morning paper/evening newscast.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:30 PM
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The stupid, silly media people could be stupid, silly Democrats (such people really do exist!) or non-political stupid sillies, but there's been a definite anti-Democratic slant. If management is putting in that slant because of pressure from advertisers (or from the business management end), management is still doing it. But almost everyone talks as though the problem is bylined individuals. (albeit a very large number of them.)

As far as I can tell, low taxes and neocon militarism are the two bottom lines (and maybe anti-union feeling). Most of the media are secular and mildly social liberal, but who cares?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 12:56 PM
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I do actually get paid to work on detainee stuff--specifically, suing the big contractors that provided interrogators & translators in Iraq.

I know this wasn't really addressing your point, which was about the press....

If you fixed the Democratic party, the media would get a lot better too. The current bunch seem to have no understanding of how the press operates.

I usually agree with Jay Rosen of PressThink about this sort of stuff. I don't think they're neocons per se--I mean, some of them are. But some of them are about sucking up to those in power & those in the know on general principle.

And some stories are missed because of entirely different problems, such as daily reporters' congenital unwillingness to build off of each others' work. So first a revelation isn't confirmed--then, when it is confirmed, it's old news. And stories get buried on A20 of the Saturday edition so they can make it to press before the competition--even if it's a story that the same source handed both of you on a silver platter, having the "scoop" outweighs the importance of anyone actually READING it.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:15 PM
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And stories get buried on A20 of the Saturday edition so they can make it to press before the competition

Yes. Buried in the bowels of the WaPo was a story about how the US is again screwing the Kurds, this time so that the oil bribes will go through a dysfunctional central Iraqi authority (that is, a more easily corruptible entity) rather than to a functioning government with something like a constituency in the north.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:35 PM
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If you fixed the Democratic party, the media would get a lot better too.

Katherine, I wonder a lot about this - there's a chicken-and-egg quality to it that I find resistant to analysis.

I think I could lay out a plausible case that a media that acted on normal, professional principles would create an atmosphere in which appropriate Democratic action was much, much more feasible.

What do you think the Dems ought to do to move the national conversation in the right direction?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 1:50 PM
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--The press is going to do "he said, she said" & treat your & the Republicans positions as equally reasonable, justified, defensible, extreme etc. regardless of the merits. Therefore, be as extreme as you want to be.

Why is impeaching or even censuring Bush seen as horribly out of the mainstream, while impeaching Clinton was considered acceptable? It's not the justification--there's clearly more grounds for going after Bush. It's not the polls--there's far more public support for going after Bush. It's not the most recent election results--the Republicans lost net seats in 1998; the Democrats didn't lose a single race in 2006. No, the main difference is: Nancy Pelosi falls all over herself about how impeachment is off the table--the GOP Congress impeached Clinton.

Why was there so much handwringing about how the Democrats would suffer at the polls for obstructionism if they filibustered some awful law or nominee, and so little of the same when the Republicans filibustered bill after bill after bill? It wasn't because the Democrats filibustered more often--exactly the opposite. It wasn't because the Democrats filibustered more popular measures--they didn't. It was because so very many Democratic Senators & other insiders gave quotes to the press about how they couldn't filibuster for fear of being seen as obstructionist, & the leadership made excuses for them. The Republicans just went ahead & filibustered every bill they opposed.

The Broders of the world can drool all they want about centrism--but they are going to try to split the difference between the parties NO MATTER WHAT THE PARTIES SAY OR DO. Therefore, you might as well say or do what you actually want. Audacity pays.

--Along similar lines: campaign reporting is going to focus on trivia & personalities rather than issues. Therefore, there's actually less cost than you think to being liberal & saying what you actually believe.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:10 PM
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Katherine, could you please go get a job on the Hill someplace?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:14 PM
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If you fixed the Democratic party, the media would get a lot better too. The current bunch seem to have no understanding of how the press operates.

I'm not sure I buy this. Part of the problem is that the media is trying--as mass produced product should--to appeal to "America." But there isn't a single America, there are lots of them, with different standards, assumptions, biases and end goals for America. And when the differences between those various groups of Americans become important to issues of the day, media has to pick who to serve. The Right--accurately, to my mind--bitched first and more about "liberal media bias," so that's who was served. That it happened at a time when liberal dogma was retrenching in light of...well, a lot...made it more likely that the Right's critique would find favor, and that reporting in its favor would be relatively durable.

I buy more of the Right's initial criticism of the media than I would have thought, actually.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:17 PM
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Nuh-uh. Quality & bias--as the term bias is usually used by the right--are completely separate issues. You can be plenty biased & plenty accurate. You can also be pretty non-partisan but just not actually that good.

The New Yorker is more biased towards one side of the political spectrum than Newsweek, but it's also just better. The main difference between, say, Digby & Powerline isn't bias or how politically extreme the writer is--it's how smart an accurate s/he is.

Of course, you could also define bias as "assuming your conclusion rather than proving it" rather than "reaching conclusions that tend to favor liberals or conservatives." In that case, an reporter or org. with a clear ideological mission that still does really scrupulous research isn't biased--a reporter who assumes in advance that the administration's & its opponents arguments have equally merit IS biased. But when people (esp. conservatives) complain about "media bias", they're generally complaining about whether the reporter's conclusion makes their party look good or bad, not about whether the reporter did his homework & showed his work.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:26 PM
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I buy more of the Right's initial criticism of the media than I would have thought, actually.

This is because you are in thrall to the conservative media bias that has existed your whole lifetime. The whole "liberal media bias" thing hasn't got much basis in reality - what it has always had, though, is a lot of play in the media.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:29 PM
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" In that case, an reporter or org. with a clear ideological mission that still does really scrupulous research isn't biased

You are making an assumption that I simply don't believe: that you can rip the politics/ideology out of your appraisal of things more complicated than the simplest facts. Right now, there are bright people of good faith who believe the various actions of the Administration that you most despise are well within our traditions and legally defensible.

I'm not sure if you disagree with that claim.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:36 PM
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206: Name one that you consider to be acting in good faith.

Tim, you are illustrating Katherine's point nicely. By your standard and the media's standard, the nuttier the claim the more effective it is. It becomes part of the national conversation because of this presumption of good faith. Message discipline not only rules, it ought to rule, you and the media tell us.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:45 PM
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207: I think you misunderstand me. I know people of good faith who believe such things because...well, I know them, and they give all the physical indications I associate with good faith, and have shown good faith in other areas. I don't really care--I want to win, and that's it--except as this assumption of "media bias" and "bad faith" keeps people from coming to terms with the need to win, full stop.

All I'm really saying is that sometimes people genuinely disagree, and at those times, process isn't going to magically reconcile disagreement.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 2:58 PM
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Relativism's pretty hard to conclusively disprove to someone committed to it, but I think when you get into specific & detailed comparisons it gets ludicrous, very quickly. Quick: whose factual claims on detainee issues proved more trustworthy--Alberto Gonzales & Donald Rumsfeld & their various underlings, or Human Rights Watch? Who's legal advice would you rely on, Marty Lederman or John Yoo? Who's funnier--Stephen Colbert or the guy who writes Mallard Fillmore? Who do you trust more--the National Review fact checkers or the New Yorker's? NPR or Rush Limbaugh?

You can say: but my answers to those questions might just prove MY bias, and yours being the same is evidence that you share my bias. I don't know how I would go about disproving this--I'd probably need some background in philosophical proofs that I lack--but I sure don't find it convincing.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:00 PM
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By "good faith," do you mean "sincerity"? Because sincerity is well and good, but there are a lot of other things beyond sincerity & IQ points that make someone a trustworthy source.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:02 PM
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Who's legal advice would you rely on, Marty Lederman or John Yoo?

Are you seriously denying that there are smart Republicans out there who are being honest when they say that they would choose Yoo? And that pairing strikes me as the easiest case, by a long shot.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:03 PM
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but there are a lot of other things beyond sincerity & IQ points that make someone a trustworthy source.

I agree, and, for me I'm looking for "shares my values." Or "sufficient common priors." Beyond that, I don't know what you'd look for.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:05 PM
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Are you seriously denying that there are smart Republicans out there who are being honest when they say that they would choose Yoo?

Seriously, the smart Republicans I can think of come closer to saying things like "Yoo's positions are defensible; they aren't absurd; this is very subjective stuff." Not a square belief that of course his arguments are right, but a certain amount of defensive shuffling.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:09 PM
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Well, of course they'd rely on Yoo; he tells them they can do whatever they want....I phrased that one badly.

"Smart" + "sincere" can still be missing attributes like: "decent", "knows what the hell he's talking about", "willing to acknowledge that the relevant clauses of the Constitution exist even if they're inconvenient to his argument," "has some limits on his capacity for self-deception," etc.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:10 PM
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Yoo's torture memo's section about how it's unconstitutional to forbid the President from torturing people somehow failed to cite not only the key Supreme Court case on executive power, but three separate, directly relevant clauses of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. I've never found anyone I'd call both "smart" & "intellectually honest" willing to defend this.

And HRW v. Gonzales, Rumsfeld & pals is actually an even easier case than Yoo & Lederman, because you're dealing in facts rather than constitutional arguments--when you're in the field of argument, things like "he's an expert! Tenure at Berkeley!" seem to have a sort of mystical power over non-lawyers.

But look, there's no arguing with subjectivism; there's no situation where you can't play the "but you might be biased too!" card.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:21 PM
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there's no situation where you can't play the "but you might be biased too!" card.

Which, to me, suggests that hoping to read out bias is unlikely if not theoretically impossible. I'm actually having a hard time believing that you think there's a some sort of Ideal interpretation of events available to all.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:24 PM
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Tim, there's a difference in saying that there's an ideal interpretation of events precisely objectively determinable, and believing that reasonable people can't agree on matters of basic factual accuracy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:27 PM
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217: The issue isn't "can" but "will" or "must" or "are compelled by X to." I say the evidence of the last six years is on my side. Hell, I say that no small part of American history--specifically, those points of conflict that aren't quite black hats and white hats--is on my side.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:31 PM
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And I say that to the extent that someone finds Gonzales more credible than HRW, they've forfeited any right to be thought of as reasonable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:32 PM
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"Beyond that, I don't know what you'd look for"

Besides "shares my values?"

"Does research." "Gives a detailed factual account instead of making vague assertions." "Can cite sources for his assertions". "Actually interviewed the witness." "Actually read the relevant document". "Tries to corroborate the accuracy of sources" . "Does not deliberately omit all evidence or authority which goes against his argument." "Does not regularly say things that are provably false."

For instance, you'll regularly find bloggers & radio hosts claiming that "no one died at Abu Ghraib". I would find these sources LESS credible than this article about a prisoner's death citing the autopsy reports & gov't investigation, especially in light of the pictures of the corpse being broadcast on national television a couple years ago. I'm sure that this reporter shares my values more than the talk radio host claiming that no one died, but I don't think that's the only difference between them.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:33 PM
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"Does research." "Gives a detailed factual account instead of making vague assertions." "Can cite sources for his assertions". "Actually interviewed the witness." "Actually read the relevant document". "Tries to corroborate the accuracy of sources" . "Does not deliberately omit all evidence or authority which goes against his argument." "Does not regularly say things that are provably false."

This, I want on a T-shirt.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:34 PM
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they've forfeited any right to be thought of as reasonable.

I don't disagree. But they don't actually forfeit any rights--which is probably good, but problematic--and people still think of them as thoughtful.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:36 PM
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Well, you called them 'smart' and 'honest'. At some point -- that is, when they're relying on people that don't meet Katherine's standards that I quoted -- they either aren't smart or aren't honest.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:38 PM
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I'm still pissed at Yoo for not dropping on us his teh Preznit is teh 3mperor!!1!1!!!1 knowledge when he was teaching. What a selfish bastard.


Posted by: Ugh | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:44 PM
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I think that by now, all smart Republicans have some kind of hidden agenda. I can easily construct an intelligible motive for Bush policies (imperialism plus restratification).

Two reasons why the Democrats are so timid are a.) their message doesn't get "traction" and b.) often their message gets kneejerk ridicule. Sometimes Democrats get ridiculed for no real reason at all.

There have been a lot of strong, outspoken Democrats in the House, and a few in the Senate, continuously for the last many decades. But somewhere in the Bush administration they started being ignored.

"Traction" isn't some mysterious public opinion chemistry. It's news management. For example, during the Clinton (so-called) scandals, the public never really shared the media excitement, and toward the end Clinton had nearly 70% approval. But all of those stories (many of which were journalistically worthless) had "traction".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:56 PM
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I can easily construct an intelligible motive for Bush policies (imperialism plus restratification). But Republicans don't express those motives (though George Will comes very close.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 3:57 PM
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Something I've been thinking about posting on, and haven't because I need to be working, although you wouldn't know it from the way I've been commenting, is the power of the unsourced assumptions that underlie news coverage -- the conventional wisdom. The one I've noticed is that sometime in the last few months, Edwards is now implicitly treated as much less likely to win the election than Obama or Clinton, to the point of being pretty much out of the running. That's the sort of thing that clearly has the potential to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it's not based on much.

There's another assumption that the September date for evaluation of the surge isn't going to mean much -- that missing all the benchmarks won't turn into any kind of political confrontation. Maybe it's true, but how do they know?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:01 PM
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227: the establishment Dem types I've been around are very nearly ready to declare Hillary the winner. Consensus reality-creep is very weird. All it takes is a few opinion leaders and a dense enough mesh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:05 PM
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Joe Drymala, who's the closest person I know to being actually politically connected, has been saying that Hillary's got the nomination locked for about a year now. (He's not happy about this, just thinks it's true.) OTOH, he didn't think we were going to take back the House last year.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:07 PM
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"Traction" is usually measured by "how many other media outlets are talking about this, & how much prominence they give it." It's not driven by how much the public actually cares, let alone by how important the story actually is; it's no kind of way to run a good newspaper (or tv show or what have you). It's something that the media create. But I'm not sure it's always a conscious, ideological choice.

Of course, this sort of behavior is very easily exploited by conservative ideologues, but I'm not sure that's the only thing going on, & it doesn't require every participant to be a conservative ideologue. Because you see the same sort of six-year-olds-playing soccer type swarming behavior in stories that have no real ideological content: everyone deciding to run stories about SHARKS: IS YOUR FAMILY SAFE in summer 2001, for example.

You also see occasional swarms around stories you actually want to see covered--for example, Cheney's little "I'm not in the executive branch!" stupidity--it was reported about 5x & largely ignored, but suddenly one week it got covered by enough places to become "the story that people were talking about." The press covers a story, so the story has traction, so the press covers it, so....


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:11 PM
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227: absolutely. This has driven me crazy for years. They completely refuse to engage the merits of political arguments, or political candidates' proposals--see, that would be BIASED. But they have no compunction about horse race stuff: annointing certain candidates as "serious" & "electable" & certain ones as not. That kind of stuff often has far more power to influence the outcome of election than substantive stories would, and it has less empirical basis (why is it their job to predict the future?)

It's gotten to the point where I think the main political benefit of fundraising is less the tv spots the money buys you then all the free articles you get about what a strong candidate you are & how you're the frontrunner.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:16 PM
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Yeah, and asking "How do they know? Why are they saying that?" comes off as pathetically naive.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:18 PM
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"How do they know? Why are they saying that?" "

Why, "observers said" so! Sometimes also "senior Republican analysts" and "Democratic consultants" and "sources close to the administration!" What more do you want?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:23 PM
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Katherine, I don't quite see what we're arguing about, but as far as I can tell you're making the same old "shit happens" argument I always get. The point I've been trying to make is that media problems are top-down problems, not bottom-up problems. Political slant is not driven by the whims and groupthink of bylined individuals and talking heads, and not by consumer demand either. A rather small number of mostly unfamous people run the major media (i.e. a few hundred, arranged in a hierarchy with some very big dogs at the top), and they like the product they're getting.

Whether they're ideologues, money-grubbers, opportunists, jellified lackeys, or slavish followers of conventional opinion I don't know for sure, but by now they have to know what's being done, and they have to have consciously decided to keep it that way.

If they accept the conventional establishment opinion they're simple neocons, because conventional opinion is neocon. If they have more passive reasons for doing what they do, they're effectively neocons, but without copping to what they're doing. They're essential, irreplacable players in the neocon game.

I don't mean to keep picking on you, but I'm trying to figure out why so many people (i.e. everybody) think that way you do. It really baffles me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:29 PM
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John, it's that your argument seems simplistic and reductionist. Are they ideologues, money-grubbers, opportunists, jellified lackeys, or slavish followers of conventional opinion? If they're various things, why is it that they're all agreed that this is what they want? Maybe there's some other force at work that "that's what the managers want" doesn't explain.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:33 PM
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ogged has apparently been assimilated.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:37 PM
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The thing is, though, any other explanation has to either include 'that's what the managers want' or assume that they're absolutely indifferent to what they publish, which seems peculiar.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:39 PM
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Ogged, that sounds like magical thinking. What is the other force, astrology?

I mostly focus on the Times and the Post. These are top-down organizations run by one man each. These world-renowned newspapers have been putting out unprofessional, dishonest product with a pro-war, anti Democratic political slant for well over a decade. To me the parsimonious explanation is that that's what management (Graham and Sulzberger) wants. It's fine with them. They don't see a problem. They're letting it happen. The buck stops there.

In what I just posted I tried to avoid getting lost in the weeds of motive. My point, though, is that none of those motives are honorable or valid ones.

To me, if someone says that the weather is controlled by a conspiracy, that's lunacy. To say that the Times and Post are not controlled by management is equally lunatic.

This isn't like the General Motors example someone gave last time. General Motors was an enormous organization with multiple overlapping problems. Explaining their decline by inertia and incompetence makes sense. The Times and the Post are much smaller organizations, and we're talking about very specific problems with international and political coverage. I could solve these problems myself in an afternoon with a few dozen phone calls. But Sulzberger and Graham do not think that there is a problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:43 PM
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237: "They're unable to tell the difference" seems like a possibility. So does "They're more focused on cutting jobs and making money than any given story."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:43 PM
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I think Emerson too quickly writes off "consumer demand." I mean, for all that Fox News is horribly unbalanced, it's clearly amassed a lot of viewers by delivering the right-wing slant on the news. One might argue that people shouldn't want that, and one could certainly argue that you don't want it, but to argue that no one wants it is flat-out wrong.

That's even before one gets into there being more money in giving readers something news-ish enough that they pay attention so you can sell ads to businesses with money (eg your local paper) than in giving readers something sufficiently informative that they're willing to pay real money for the value of the news (eg. FT, WSJ).


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:46 PM
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I agree that management is getting basically what it wants, but when the press as a whole is behaving in a consistent way, it seems unhelpful to say that the thirty people who sit atop the media pyramid all happen to want the same thing. There has to be something else at work here, whether you want to go with a Chomskian "the media kowtows to power" or a capitalist "that's what the public wants" or some other kind of explanation about class interests or whatever. Management manages, ok, now what? Kill Pinch and the problem is solved? That seems unlikely.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:47 PM
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These are top-down organizations run by one man each....To me the parsimonious explanation is that that's what management (Graham and Sulzberger) wants

An even more parsimonious explanation would be that that's what God wants.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:52 PM
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Sulzberger and Graham would have to be dull normal near-illiterates not to be able to tell the difference. Historically in cases like that, there's been a power behind the throne to hold responsible.

There's not random skew. The skew is directional. (Their big liberally-biased story in recent history was about a fucking golf club, for Christ's sake). It's also not scattered randomly through the papers; it's concentrated in political and i ternational news

I think I'm seeing fake skepticism. People expressing doubts have not been evenly divided between the two possibilities (incompetence and deliberate, knowing bias). . They've wanted to believe the incompetence explanation, and they've been extraordinarily resistant to the deliberate bias explanation. People are very invested in that, for reasons I don't understand at all. And they seem to believe that incompetence (or "other forces") should obviously be taken as the default, so that I have to make my case but they don't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:53 PM
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Joe Drymala, who's the closest person I know to being actually politically connected

I'm a lot more politically connected than my general position of ignorance would lead you to believe. Not by any fault of my own, of course. But the people I was talking to are about as likely to know the insider's story as anyone.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:53 PM
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I agree that management manages, but think that part of that management is to let a certain amount of off-narrative material slip through. The Post isn't just publishing Broderism. It's also running Dana Priest's stories.

We've all been through this before, and the central question is what we, you, are going to do about it. Whining to people who already agree isn't the most effective course of action (although I'd have to put it a small step ahead of arguing about whether buttsex becomes defilement based on the attitude/intentionality of one participant, or the other, or only both). I'm not ready to crawl through a sewer with a knife in my teeth -- for one, I'm not sure which way I supposed to be crawling. For another, I have no confidence at all that there's something to be accomplished by it. Other than screwing up my family.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:58 PM
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No, the suckiness DEFINITELY comes from the top down--plenty of individual, lower level people are involved, but they're largely doing it because that's How It's Done.

What I'm more skeptical of is the argument about it being, in all or an overwhelming majority of cases, a conscious ideological choice to promote a neocon agenda. Like I said, that swarming behavior occurs constantly--sometimes it's John Edwdards' haircut, but sometimes it's celebrity shlock, flesh eating bacteria, sharks. Occasionally it's even a story I want them all to pick up--but when that happens, I'm always very aware of how long the facts have been available and yet they've chosen NOT to write about it.

But if it were just ideology, they would continue not to write about it, right? Fox doesn't go picking up stories that make the Bush administration look bad just because everyone else is (unless it's something truly un-ignorable, like Katrina).

I think your argument is empirically just not true, basically. A lot of the time, for a lot of the press, the problem is less that they're right wing ideologues than that they (culpably, inexcusably) let themselves get played by right wing ideologues.

Why someone who's not a neocon would let themselves get played is complicated. Misguided attempts to fight off criticism and competition from talk radio & Fox News by falling over backwards not to be liberally biased or unpatriotic. A desire for access--an admiration of winning, power, & savviness for their own sake, & indifference to people who aren't powerful & aren't winners. A belief that this is all a game. Valuing stories for how scoop-y and exclusive they are rather than how complete & accurate. A Republican party, & right wing media, who are very, very, very good at exploiting these flaws. A Democratic party that's very, very bad at responding. The lack (until very recently) of an openly liberal alternative.

That said, there are certain ideological assumptions about America's place in the world they tend to make--hawks are "serious" even if they're nuts; doves aren't even if they've been right & right again for 5 years, all that sort of stuff. Greenwald's very convincing about illustrating it. But: (1) that's partly the Democrats' fault for not forcefully countering this--the press is going to define the Democratic leaders' position as the left end of mainstream debate, so if the Democrats won't challenge these things the press won't either*; (2) for a lot of the media, I think this is a careless assumption rather than a conscious ideological goal.

*there is a definite chicken & egg/feedback loop thing going on here.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:58 PM
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I don't think that Chomsky thinks of the media as a mob of equal individuals from which bias emerges. "The media" caters to the power structure because the most important managers of the media belong to the power structure. And the power structure is neocon.

242: The Emerson parsimonious explanation is the ordinary way of explaining institutional behavior. The "God wants it" parsimonious explanation is the moron magical thinking explanation of everything. Nice try, Tim. Pretty much what Ogged said about "other forces".

Why the fuck am I getting such stubborn argument about this? Nobody is really saying "maybe". No one is saying"You might be right". Basically, for whatever reason, my proposal, which is completely reasonable (and, I think, the best explanation) seems unthinkable to people. Why do people have this investment in not conceding that Graham and Sulzberger might actually be bad guys? (As I said, fake skepticism.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 4:59 PM
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Why the fuck am I getting such stubborn argument about this?

There's no reason to be upset. We can run it through the K-LB Epistemological Machine and see whose claims we should believe. I don't, myself, have access to the machine, and I believe Katherine has her own set of claims at issue with you, so we'll let LB publish the results. Easy-peasy.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:04 PM
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247 -- Are people really resisting the notion that the owners are bad guys? I'm not seeing that. I'm seeing, instead, the assertion that this isn't the only thing going on. That doesn't mean they're not bad guys.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:05 PM
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John, you're being obtuse (not to mention short, and old). Assume they're bad guys getting what they want. Why do so many of the bad guys agree on what they want?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:06 PM
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Peer pressure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:07 PM
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The media control traction.

So we're back to arguing that we get wretchedly bad, biased international and political reporting because people in the media are silly, stupid and passive and are being played by much smarter people. That doesn't seem plausible to me. Even the bylined grunts in the media are at the top of their profession, and fought hard to get where they are. But supposing that they are all as silly as you say, the pro-war anti-Democratic bias is not random.

I say that, not every single individual, but the key deciders at those places have to be willing, for whatever reason, to function as neocon enablers, and that in many cases this is because they're neocons. I don't see that this is a radical or implausible conclusion. neocons aren't lepers, after all; they control the foreign policy establishment, including many of the Democrats in it. It's not a slanderous or bizarre accusation. Four years ago the majority of the US bought the neocon line hook line and sinker.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:08 PM
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Four years ago the majority of the US bought the neocon line hook line and sinker.

So why couldn't some of the people in the media still be getting played?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:09 PM
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John, if you're going to attribute these things to leadership, you have to have some theory for why the leadership style changed, even when the actual leaders didn't.

As I see it, the false "liberal media" narrative was already getting traction (look how unfairly Nixon was treated. Why didn't the media uncover Johnson's burglaries, or Carter's dirty tricks?) when the mainstream media started a radical financial contraction. Conservatives pressed their advantage - and it was easy to do because a factual news source is, at best, useless to them, and often an identifiable enemy.

I mean, if you believe - with Tim-style "good faith" - that evolution didn't happen or that presidential aides don't have to testify before Congress, then you've got leverage - you don't need the MSM, but they increasingly need you.

How often do liberals threaten to cancel their subscriptions to the Times, or abandon CNN for the more factually correct cable station? Pre-Internet, who was even talking about the ludicrous conservative bias inherent in the Clinton coverage? There's a big scoop in the current Vanity Fair that Somerby has been shouting, pretty much alone, for years about.

Because the Times does, in fact, often provide useful information and analysis, liberals (and a certain type of conservative) find it useful. Those readers have lost control of the conversation because they haven't been willing to get down-and-dirty.

I think that might be changing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:12 PM
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I never said it was the only thing going on. And I don't see how I'm being obtuse.

For the last several years, people have been talking about this is though it were the matter of individual sloppy reporters here and there, and groupthink, and it's all a matter of multiple forces, and there's no real intention, and there also seems to be an idea that it all just happened and maybe if we point it out to the right people they will change. I'm just saying that I think that misrepresents the reality, and that we're dealing with a deliberate institutional slant of the kind that has been seen in many, many other newspapers in the past. Specifically, a neocon slant, with "neocon" meaning "the dominant trend in US foreign policy and establishment wisdom during the last 35 years or more". This does not seem like a bold or provocative statement. But it gets tremendous resistance, much of which is quibbly. (Yes, I know that every individual is not a neocon. Yes, I know that Graham and Sulzberger don't censor every line. Yes, I know that multiple people have multiple motives).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:15 PM
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Media ownership did change -- Sulzberger and Graham are relatively new. Or perhaps it was because Sulzberger and Graham changed their minds.

Sure, some people got played by the neocons. I'm just saying that a lot of these key people actually are neocons -- and very few of them have actively reneged. The neocons are still respectable and still fighting for dominance.

Atrios and Yglesias ask almost daily "Why are the liars who were wrong about the Iraq War being giving media space to promote the Iran War, while the people who were right are still on the sidelines"? It seems to me that my explanation for that is the best.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:20 PM
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And I don't see how I'm being obtuse.

Something of a tautology, isn't it?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:23 PM
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a lot of these key people actually are neocons -- and very few of them have actively reneged

This is undeniably true.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:24 PM
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Apo, ha ha, but 250 was just an assertion. His rhetorical question didn't say anything.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:24 PM
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It wasn't a rhetorical question.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:26 PM
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Apo, ha ha

That was all I was aiming for.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:28 PM
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258: Right, but you have to distinguish between people who (a) believe that the neocons are right, in the sense that their descriptions of the world are accurate, and (b) believe in some larger neocon project, and agree that sometime the truth, like eggs, must be broken for the sake of the omelette. The first case requires the K-LB Epistemological Machine to be set aright, and the second is an instance of bad faith. I take Emerson to be arguing for (b). I think it's occasionally (b), but mostly (a).


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:32 PM
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OK, let me start all over from the beginning.

Let "neocon" mean "advocates of an aggressive, militaristic foreign policy, especially in the Middle East".

Assume that everyone here is an anti-neocon, advocating a quite different foreign policy. So we want to figure out who our opponents are, and who our friends are, and who the undecideds are, and we have to figure out how to get our message out to the people in an effective way.

Our enemies include AIPAC, PNAC and various other necon fronts, the Heritage Society and various other conservative fronts, almost all Republicans, Fox, most conservative Christian groups. They also include a lot of less-right-wing establishment people, including a lot of Democrats. Militarism is an establishment position, not a fringe position. The neocons are in the establishment, not on the fringe.

What I've been trying to say is that the management of the Times and the Post (and most broadcast media) were, in 2002, part of the militaristic establishment consensus, and for them to reject that consensus they'd have to change dramatically, and there's no sign that they've done so or about to do so. It's not radical to say that Sulzberger and Graham are part of the establishment, and that the establishment is militarist and neocon. It's banal. Neocons are still respectable.

And from there, I'd go further to say that we shouldn't expect better journalism to show up from those publications in the future, because the bad coverage wasn't inadvertant. They're still publishing Perla and the other liars who have been proven wrong, and they'll continue to do so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:41 PM
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262 -- Surely there's a point at which even you are ready to call willful ignorance bad faith.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:43 PM
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262: I've been saying a) and b) both, and for some reason it's regarded as outrageous. B) is the best explanation of transparently bad journalism.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:43 PM
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I don't know, JE, if you read the articles about the upcoming Goldsmith book in the NYT yesterday and Post today. It's interesting enough, but I think the most important point is the width of the space between establishment neocons, and fringe Admin neocons. And there's still plenty of space between establishment conservatives and establishment neocons.

This matters because the owners of the papers aren't usually all the way out on the fringe: it may be fair to say that the NYT is Goldsmithian, not Addingtonian. And that this explains the stories on surveillance, rendition, and the rest.

Does it matter? In the sense of whether war with Iran can be prevented, maybe not. In the sense of whether masses of people are going to be arrested, disappeared, or both, probably yes. If you were someone subject to torture under the Yoo memo that Goldsmith withdrew, you might think there was significance in the difference.

Of course, the notion that Goldsmith is a liberal is just crazy talk, as has most of the 'liberal media' talk since about 1985 . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:55 PM
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The cash value of what I'm saying is that we shouldn't be hoping for significant improvement from the Times or the Post, and we shouldn't be too puzzled about why not.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 5:59 PM
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267 -- Jesus, there can't be anyone who disagrees with that!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:00 PM
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Someday a real rain will come and wash all the neocons off the streets.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:02 PM
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I have no idea what the problem has been. Apparently if you've taken enough philosophy you learn never to ascribe agency to management.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:09 PM
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264

You underestimate the ability of people to sincerely believe ridiculous things. Many people (possibly including HRC) profess religious beliefs which are crazier than their views on Iraq. Are they all liars?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:36 PM
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267

But by your theory all that would have to happen for significant improvement is for Sulzberger or Graham to be replaced by someone more to your way of thinking. Doesn't sound like too much to hope for if that is really the problem.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 6:41 PM
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272: What are the chances of that? They're owners.

271: By long tradition, religious belief gets a pass.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 7:05 PM
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I've taken exactly one philosophy class, and it had a multiple choice exam, so I don't think it counts. I AM ascribing agency to management; I have a different guess about their motivations, is all.

Anyway, right now I'm too busy being baffled and irritated by Tim claiming that asserting that there's a meaningful & obvious difference between Mayer's article on Jamadi and some talk show host being some mystical "epistemological machine".

Yes, reasonable people can disagree about some stuff! But not, actually about everything.



Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 7:46 PM
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Yes, reasonable people can disagree about some stuff! But not, actually about everything.

I think we disagree about the meaning of "can." Also, I'm not sure who you have in mind to police "reasonable." AFAICT, "reasonable" means something like "consecrated by a plurality of the relevant community."


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 8:04 PM
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273

But why does being an owner imply support for the war in Iraq? How is this stupid and pointless war in the interest of the owner of the NYT?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 8:21 PM
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273b -- Not I.

264 -- Willful ignorance. Someone looks closely at a fossil in situ, or Chief Mountain, and nonetheless concludes that the earth was created in 6 24 hour days. 6,000 years ago.

I'm not saying that everyone who believes these things is operating in bad faith, but I'll never agree that people with reasonable access to what science really has to offer -- geology, physics, astronomy, the whole gamut, and nonetheless clings to the belief. Bad faith.

Not that I care, generally -- most people don't owe me (or society) anything in this regard. But if such a person wants to be on a school board, or textbook buying committee -- I think the bad faith becomes my business.

Journalists and pundits who respond to questions about detainee policy by talking about WWII POWs. Or who want to talk -- in the United States in 2007 -- about ticking timb bomb scenarios. Bad faith.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 8:42 PM
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While I agree with John that newspaper owners likely get the newspaper they want, I think that more than one thing is happening. Judith Miller, for example, seems absolutely unrepentant about her stenography in the run-up to the current unpleasantness. Most of the reporters who covered Whitewater seem very unwilling to publicly acknowledge that there was no there there, even at this late date.

So I think that a second mechanism is at work, and that is that many reporters of the national and international news identify far more with their sources than with their readers. They burn the readers without a thought; they're scrupulous never to burn a source.

At 101, Katherine skrev

ometimes they don't publish because their source won't let them

and that bothered me.

Their sources won't let them?
The reporter has the document. How is the source able to prevent publication? It's explained to me that the reporter is so afraid to lose the insider access that will generate the next story that they accede to the source's wishes.

And the outcome is that insider sources have de facto editorial control over stories that are already in the hands of reporters. This explains, for example, the abysmal performance of the White House press corpse (except for Helen Thomas) over the last seven years.

What I don't understand is that many journalists seemingly would rather be Judith Miller than Helen Thomas. My brother-in-law the journalism professor says he can't understand it either.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 5-07 9:49 PM
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Following on 275, a quotation from Newsweek's interview with Jack Goldsmith found at Balkinization:

You're right; I don't impugn the integrity of anyone. I really do believe that everyone, both me and the people I disagreed with, were acting in good faith. And it's quite possible that I made mistakes as well. We were all acting under intense pressure in the face of blizzards of threat reports that scared everyone, the knowledge that the president would be held responsible for another attack no matter how hard we tried to prevent it. Therefore, we had to try as hard as we could. We were all faced with the same pressures and we all have are own views of the law and how to approach the legal principles. And in some sense it was a legal dispute.
(My emphasis.) Also, w-lfs-n is clearly needed at the Administration. That lack and the decision behind it goes right up there with disbanding the Iraqi Army.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 8-07 3:03 PM
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"I've been having on ongoing dispute with a libertarianish commenter at my site, who responds to every Republican misdeed with a variant of "But the Democrats rubber-stamped it!" Which is true enough, but I keep asking him what his prescription is, then. You go into battle with the opposition you have, not the opposition you wish you had, and the Democrats, self-loathing and easily-rolled as they are, are the only viable alternative."

But what's the battle, apo? Whom are we fighting?

When we peek behind the curtain, don't we see that BOTH parties are not only taking turns at playing the wizard, they both want to make OZ larger ond more powerful? Why? So they can skim off their share of the public treasury while they are doling out favors to the puppet masters - the elites (and their corporations) who have figured out that manipulating government is the best way to secure easy wealth and their positions on top of the dogpile.

There is really nothing new here; this is precisely the problem that our Founding Fathers tried to build a system of checks and balances to guard against (and why anti-Federalists opposed the creation of a federal government to begin with). Both parties have pushed to centralize government at the cost of the federal system, stacked the deck against real opposition, steadily fed the military-industrial beast and continued to entangle government in our lives. The Dems are fully complicit in this - and of course until recently was the party that tended to was most likely to drag us into wars and mess with our liberties. The Republicans have simply shown that they too care more about lucre than principles or freedom.

Sure, we have a short-term issue of who wins the next election. But that's NOT the real battle, is it.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 9:59 PM
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Whom are we fighting?

We? I don't know who you're fighting. I'll stand right beside you and agree that American politics in general is a shithole and that our influence on the world is more malevolent than benign, regardless of who is in power. But there are still only two items on the menu and one is starkly, unquestionably worse than the other.

Life is one long series of deciding between the lesser of two evils. So has it ever been.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 10:16 PM
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Sorry to see I left my name off of the above post.

Here's an interesting essay that shines a light on the tip of the iceberg: "Parasitic Imperialism".


Posted by: TokyoTom | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 10:18 PM
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But that's NOT the real battle, is it.

Yeah, actually it is. We can't call a misdeal and rewind to 1789. We are where we are.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 10:26 PM
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Apo, isn't the winning strategy is to bet on the LESSER of two weevils (as Aubrey said to Maturin)? ;)

As to the upcoming elections, I agree. But the real battle isn't between the two parties, it's against the manipulation of government and keeping the beast of government under control. This means restoring transparency and checks and balances, including the balance that states provide against the federal government, shining more light on who is benefitting from government largess and whacking back corporate influence. This is NOT a partisan battle.


Posted by: TokyoTom | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 10:28 PM
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restoring transparency and checks and balances

Sure. I'm all for it. So who is more likely to do that? The track record is mighty clear.

the balance that states provide against the federal government

Have you spent much time watching state governments in action? They really aren't stocked with the best and the brightest, and the corruption tends to be even worse. Also, as a lifelong southerner, I depend on the federal government to keep our crazy-ass state governments in check, not the other way around.

This is NOT a partisan battle.

All politics is a partisan battle.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 9-07 10:42 PM
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The Dems are certainly a better option than the Republicans now, but they've contributed as much historically to the growth of government, our empire and the many mouths that government feeds through corpotate welfare and the defense establishment.

Yes, I believe that the federal government should also act as a check on "crazy-ass" state governments. But the dangers involved in that should not be forgotten. The FBI has certainly been misused, for example, and legislating at the federal level often simply makes it easier for pwoerful interests to manipulate by creating a "one-stop" shop. This is one of the driving factors that has fueled the growth of the federal government.

All politics are a battle, but I think it should be clear that much of the partisan battles between the parties are simply a sideshow, and a distraction from the ongoing fleecing and tightening control of the American people that both parties are complicit in.


Posted by: TokyoTom | Link to this comment | 09-10-07 1:31 AM
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Tom, you seem to be under the impression that folks here and at my place think the Democratic Party is just swell and that everything will be gumdrops and ponies if we could just get enough Democrats in office. I can assure you that really isn't the case. The general consensus, best I can tell, is that the national Democratic Party (and especially the folks leading it) is overly beholden to big corporate interests and militaristic. That really doesn't change the available options, unless you're ready to start shooting people and burning shit down.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09-10-07 2:40 AM
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the national Democratic Party (and especially the folks leading it) is overly beholden to big corporate interests and militaristic. That really doesn't change the available options, unless you're ready to start shooting people and burning shit down.

Tactics are what you need after you know what you're really fighting, and have developed a strategy. If you're fully aware that the Democratic Party at the national level is overly militaristic and beholden to big corporations, then you'll also recognize that simply bashing evil Republicans and getting more Dems into power in the White House and Congress isn't going to address underlying problems.

Human nature isn't going to change with a shift in party control, and if the "contract with America", small-government Republicans could not resist the temptations to monopolize and exploit the Washington pork orgy, then surely we can't expect much better from the "let's use government to solve every problem" Dems. Nor can we expect Dems in Congress to be so much eager than Republicans have been to insist on greater oversight of he President, if he/she is from the same party.

So besides just the next election, aren't there plenty of things to focus on: restoring checks and balances, reining in corporate influence in Congress, increasing transparency, cutting back the military and our war on terror, strengthening civil rights vs. government, etc.? Isn't much of this is a bi-partisan agenda that is attractive to many on the right as well?:

http://www.americanfreedomagenda.org/News/default.html
http://www.cato.org/
http://www.libertycoalition.net/


Posted by: TokyoTom | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 4:29 AM
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Following on 279, if I'm reading this correctly, Prof. Paulsen from the University of MN agrees with the Yoo memos:

I regard Jack's position as an entirely legitimate one, however; the issue is one on which reasonable constitutional lawyers may differ, even when they start from common interpretive premises (approximating original-meaning textualism). For precisely that reason, however, I disagree with Jack's assessment that the OLC memo was deeply flawed in this respect; and I find his taking of such a position substantively rather puzzling.
I'm obviously assuming we can infer that he believes Yoo was acting in good faith. It's not clear to me that he thinks one can reasonably disagree with his expansive view of executive power.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09-11-07 3:23 PM
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