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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "Goldfinger" Defense

One of my favorite expressions comes from a James Bond novel, "Goldfinger." It goes: "Goldfinger said: "my friends in Chicago have a saying, Mr. Bond. Once is Happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action."

I kinda feel that this applies to my reaction about Colin Powell. There is no doubt that he shamed himself in the whole WMD thing. But the REASON his presentation to the U.N. worked is because people trusted him so much--in other words, no matter what you think of him, he hadn't had a pattern of lying up until that point. I believe that it is possible to make a case for Powell being misled and coerced. That he was, in effect, a Good Soldier doing what his Commander In Chief told him. Easy to imagine Bush saying "I've got sources of information I can't even discuss with you. You have to trust me on this one, Colin. Your Commander is asking you to go out and protect the American people."

Some such scenario makes sense to me, absent a pattern of prevarication on other issues. I consider it "happenstance" instead of "enemy action." So I was thrilled to hear his endorsement of Obama, and sat back to see who would leap to a racial conclusion first. Proving, in my mind, that that person has racial problems.

Does race influence my support of Obama? Sure. But if I thought his opponent was 1% better, it wouldn't. If Obama was white, I'd still vote for him. And if he'd been white, given the same approximate birth circumstances, his history would have been different, but he'd still be thought of as a wunderkind. And the election wouldn't even be close.

ᅠAnd I'd bet anything that the tolerance is a hell of a lot tighter for Powell: maybe .1%? Because it is possible to take the position that even if everything else looked even, the social power of electing a non-white President is difficult even to convey. But black people didn't flock to Obama because of his race: they didn't flock to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or Alan Keyes. Nor did Powell endorse one of them. Blacks flocked to Obama because he inspired them--spoke to them in a language they could understand, and was sufficiently brilliant that they began to hope that he might not only win, but actually be a fine president (not embarrassing us, if you understand what I mean.) Remember that initially Hillary Clinton got more of the black vote.

So when people say "It was race" about Powell, in my mind, all they're really saying is: "Race is the most important thing to me--it MUST be the most important thing to these black people. And Powell is a traitor for turning his back on the White Man who put him where he is."

Listen to Limbaugh and the like, and notice just how little it took for Powell to turn into a nigger.

Oh, I'm sure much of this is unconscious. But if the flock of white officials, editors, pundits and voters who vote for Obama can do that on the basis of his intellectual and leadership qualities, why not Powell? Or are they saying that EVERYONE is voting for Obama because of race? I kind of suspect that there is a touch of that, and that, again, it is racism so tightly wrapped that it simply is considered the status quo. All my life, I've heard (some) white people saying such things about ANY black man running for office, getting jobs, whatever: "there was a more qualified white man. Blacks just vote for their own, and all these whites are nigger-lovers."

There is something sadly satisfying about watching the Republicans flinch as the flat rocks flip over, and the ugliness comes crawling out: bear cubs (!) murdered in effigy, exhortations to murder, accusations of traitorous behavior, claims of Manchurian Candidate-hood, claims of "palling around" with terrorists (sounds like they went fishing every Saturday morning, doesn't it?), calling a Harvard scholar a "street" person, and on and on.

"I just don't know who Obama is!" some white folks bleat. What a crock. Can you tell me where McCain went to elementary school? Where his father was from? How many of you know his middle name? How many Americans do you think could answer those three questions off the cuff?

The media crawled up Obama's ass with a microscope, and people still make this absurd comment. I know coded language when I hear it.

There are many, many good reasons a Conservative (or even a liberal) might not want to vote for Obama. But I am frankly hearing a level of vitriol that I just don't remember.

This thing could cause REAL damage to the Republican party, and I don't want that. I believe that two healthy parties (maybe more) are vital to this country. But the same people who crowed over that 33% rate of negative racial attitudes among Liberals have no comment at all about the fact that that number would have to be about 47% among Conservatives. And without looking at that, and the way homophobia has been stoked on the Right, and asking the hard, hard questions about how human bigotry is so intractable...and why so much of it is collected in the Republican Party...you can't fix the problem.

You CAN'T. And if you stay in denial about it, then the very worst aspects of your party and ideology are going to take over, and it won't be pretty to watch. If you look at the lack of minorities in the Republican party (aren't you embarrassed by the rallies, even a little?) and basically take the position regarding lack of brown faces on the Right: "Oh! It's because minorities are too stupid and brainwashed to know what is good for them" (which, basically, in one form or another is the ONLY answer I ever heard for this phenomenon from Republicans) then in order to protect a perfectly sane and intelligent set of beliefs about how a society should be governed, taxes should be gathered, and morals maintained (note I said sane and intelligent--I didn't say I agreed)--you are allowing yourself a MASSIVE blind spot. Massive. And it's warping your reality maps.

I am quite, quite certain there are equal problems on the Left. Probably, they have to do with moral and cultural relativism taken to the point of cultural suicide. But as I see the shape of how this is shaking out, I felt a real need to try to speak honestly to my Conservative brothers and sisters out there. If you react to this with denial, or finger-pointing, you've missed the point. At no time have I suggested that Liberality is better--although I think that for the next eight years it is more appropriate, in the sense of balancing the scales. If you just try pointing out all that is wrong with the Democrats, you are pointing at my runny nose while your cancer runs wild.

Someone is going to have to wake up, and notice that you can't just "ignore" race (it cracks me up when people say: "I don't see race." Right. And I don't see gender. Or hair color. Trust me: if you don't consciously see it, your hind-brain does. And all that is necessary for racism to flourish, is for us to consciously pretend that it doesn't exist. The bigots of the world are just drooling for us to stop paying attention. Trust me. ) they your party will begin to implode. And that won't be good for anyone.

60 comments:

Norris Hall said...

Is it about race?
Only one person knows for sure…and that’s Powell.
Powell claims that he’s not happy with the “rightward shift” of the Republican party.
Any merit in his accusation???
Listen to Republican Senator Michelle Bachmann
Click to watch Senator Michelle Bachmann’s interview
So...what do you think??. Is Powell just imagining things?

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't just that there's a rightward shift in the Republican Party; it's that both political parties are a lot more driven by their "base" (once called the "extreme") than they were 30 years ago. At the same time, the increasing intrusion of the Federal government into every aspect of our lives has made winning the U.S. government, more and more, a winner-take-all game. I doubt very much if conservatives would be as dismayed by 2008 if they actually knew that they'd be allowed to continue exercising their First Amendment rights (by not reinstating the rather Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine") and their Second Amendment rights (by not actively trying to ignore, or suppress outright, the individual right to gun ownership).

I don't doubt that racist troglodytes support McCain. Given this country's history they have to still exist, and McCain's the one guy they have to support. But it doesn't follow that even a plurality of the opposition to Obama is driven by his skin color; given my own observations, it really is driven at least in part by the belief that the Dems mean to turn this into a "one man, one vote, once" kind of election. (And then there are other worries about whether "dialogue without conditions" is really an effective foreign-policy response to Iran nuking up, or whether "a tax cut for 95% of the population" has any chance of working out better than Huey Long's "every man a king" ... but I digress.)

Obviously, I very much hope that belief's wrong, but also obviously, it would be a lot less inflammatory if rhetoric from the Democrats didn't give that worry at least some superficial plausibility.

If Obama leaves talk radio and guns alone, he'll have a surprisingly good first term, with an increasing number of Republicans willing to re-elect him in 2012. If he doesn't, he won't. You heard it here first.


--Erich Schwarz

Pagan Topologist said...

Powell was interviewed as he left the Meet the Press studio; I think by MSNBC. He pointed out that is race had been a major motivating factor for him, he could have endorsed Obama months earlier. Personally, I find this line of thought quite convincing. Race had little to do with his decision.

Maybe the Republicans are playing to their base, but the democrats have completely turned their backs on those of us who constitute their base, i. e. those of us who are further left than John Edwards, but probably not as far left as Dennis Kucinich.

Mike said...

McCain's middle name is Sidney, but beyond that, I cannot answer those question, no.

I worked, for a year or so, at the George C. Marshall library in Virginia. Colin Powell was on the board (I think? He was related to the library in some way.) I never got the chance to meet him, but I did read the text of some speeches he made for the library. Like Marshall (who Powell regards as a hero), Powell saw (sees?) his role, as a member of the military, and as a public servant, above any political role. This is why he was not nominated as Bush Sr. VP, and why he was willing to work with both Clinton and Bush Jr. I agree that he saw (sees?) himself as a loyal soldier; loyal to the office of president, not the person. As such, this endorsement is - has to be - a major thing for him. Race may be a factor, but for Powell to step out of his a-political role into what is an entirely partisan action he has to have been motivated by more than race.

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Off-topic comment to Mike: What year did you work for the Marshall Library and how did you like Lexington? I attended school in the area from 1990 - 1994 and fondly remember the Marshall library.

Bennett said...

McCain's father--also named John S McCain--was from Iowa. And his father in turn (also, funnily enough, named John S McCain) was from Mississippi. The two elder Johns were Admirals in the US Navy.

The final John advanced through the ranks handily after graduating 894 of 899 in his class at the Naval Academy.

As to really knowing anyone? Looking at issues like the Keating 5, his reputation for short-temperedness, the railing against lobbyists (except those on his staff), the complaints about inexperience (except in his VP), his grand-standing in 'reaching across the aisle' on the 10% of issues where he'll compromise... it seems like he's very convinced with being perceived as a man of integrity. But just how much has he demonstrated as opposed to displayed?

So yeah, I'd say that the question of how well we know a candidate could fairly be asked of either Senator on the ticket. Don't get me wrong, I think Obama plays it close to the vest with his emotions and inner life. His record really is more to the left than he's presenting now (though it's not unusual to play to the 'base' for the primary, then swing center for the general election). But trying to imply that he is anti-American or has skeletons in his closet or the like is ludicrous. Steve's exactly right when he calls it 'code talk', saying that you just don't know enough about the man. It's a way of casting baseless aspersions, claiming that there are Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns in his past.

I'm not that concerned about Obama, really. I'm concerned about a population that doesn't understand how the process works and thinks electing one man or the other makes or breaks the whole kitty. If you want a problematic politician to remove, take a look at Nancy Pelosi and her cronies. Not for her alleged 'San Francisco Liberalism' but for her clinging to power and being too afraid to pursue impeachment or other potential boat-rocker issues. She's finally gotten to the top of the pile, but now her main goal seems to be keeping her perch, rather than utilizing it.

It's like Wizard of Oz here. You've got the Tin Man Republican pols, the Cowardly Lion Democrats, and then the Scarecrow voters. And no one wants to look behind the curtain.

Of course, it might help if we had proportional representation to address winner-take-all contests where 49% of the electorate gets jack. Or maybe a proportion of voters to representatives a little more tight than the present average of 700,000:1. Might even resemble a parliamentary system without such an over-muscled executive and the inability to recall ineffective or corrupt pols. Could involve the real need for compromise and discussion. Of course, it would also involve major change. Americans want the Big C, but they're only willing to change the drapes and spruce up the bathroom fixtures. They're not willing to build a new house, no matter how many termites have eaten this one's foundations.

And that's democracy inaction.

Dan Moran said...

and all these whites are nigger-lovers.

I've been called lots worse.

I doubt very much if conservatives would be as dismayed by 2008 if they actually knew that they'd be allowed to continue exercising their First Amendment rights (by not reinstating the rather Orwellian "Fairness Doctrine") and their Second Amendment rights (by not actively trying to ignore, or suppress outright, the individual right to gun ownership).

Conservatives are worried that the powers of the Imperial Presidency are going to be directed at them? Maybe they shouldn't have been in such a rush to tear the Constitution up in the first place. All that "permanent majority" fantasy must have clouded their ability to think ...

I've got a little list, they'll never be missed. Club Gitmo for everyone who used the Constitution as toilet paper these last 8 years ... it's just like a big frat party, you know.

Josh Jasper said...

This thing could cause REAL damage to the Republican party, and I don't want that.

Could cause? It already has. Th white conservative Christian power base of the Republicans is shrinking, an they're not appealing minorities at the same level that Democrats are.

I'm not saying they're failing 100%, but the racism of middle America is showing up on the media's radar now. When Republicans pull stuff like to food stamp "joke", it suddenly get national attention.

If Obama does as well or better as Clinton did, and keeps himself away form sex scandals, and if Congress gets better approval ratings, we'll probably see a 12-16 year Democratic dominance. And honestly, I think Obama is smarter and more Charismatic than Clinton was.

Or we might see a shift among Republicans to a more centrist power base.

Anonymous said...

Dan Moran wrote:

"Conservatives are worried that the powers of the Imperial Presidency are going to be directed at them? Maybe they shouldn't have been in such a rush to tear the Constitution up in the first place."

And so the childish reductio ad absurdum of the Democratic Party begins: "We don't actually want to reform abuses of liberty -- we want to slam down abuses of our own! We don't want to roll back the Imperial Presidency -- we want it to be our play-toy!"

The dismal prospects of where this could end up were pretty well described by Steve Dutch:

"The really bothersome thing is that on both sides we have factions demanding rights for their own side while simultaneously demanding the power to impose new restrictions on the other. This can only end in two ways.

"The first is that we will live in a progressively less free society. Every time power changes hands, the incoming party will impose new restrictions of its own. Meanwhile the losing party will mostly be able to block repeal of its own pet restrictions. Neither will concede anything. It will be like a python: every time we exhale, the coils get tighter...

"The other end state is to accept that maximum freedom for ourselves demands that we allow maximum freedom to others. This means we will have to accept things we disapprove of vehemently in order to have the freedom to do things the other side disapproves of equally vehemently."

"[But] I don't see much prospect of this happening. Right now both camps seem far more interested in suppressing the rights of the opposition than in securing more freedom for themselves. They'd dearly love total freedom for themselves and total control over the opposition, but they won't get that. Not, as Lincoln noted, if God is just. That's the scary part."

Not much I can really add to that, except that I wish fewer Dems sounded like Dan Moran and more sounded like Steve Barnes. If they did, I'd be much more optimistic about the prospects for this country still being a functioning political entity by 2016.


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

And so the childish reductio ad absurdum of the Democratic Party begins: "We don't actually want to reform abuses of liberty -- we want to slam down abuses of our own! We don't want to roll back the Imperial Presidency -- we want it to be our play-toy!"

Who did you vote for in 2000 and 2004, Erich? Do you normally vote Republican? Because your despair of Democrats is conveniently timed.

Steve Perry said...

Every summer, the local natural gas company, which supplies the fuel by which I mostly heat my house, offers me an averaging plan. By which they mean, they will take last year's total bill, divide it by twelve, and charge me that much per month.

Funny how they never offer that plan in the winter when the heating bills are through the roof, but in the summer when the only thing I use at home is the water heater and the stove.

Wonder why that is?

Methinks we are going to hear the word "bipartisan" used a whooole bunch by Republicans in the next few years. When Bush swaggered into office with a majority in the Congress and no mandate, the R's couldn't be bothered to piss on a D if he was on fire; you never heard the R's speaking that word.

They said "Bend over!" and rammed their legislation home. When the D's came up with anything and managed to squeak it through, Bush vetoed it. It was party time in D.C. if you were an R, and fuck the D's.

The worm is turning, the chickens coming home to roost, and payback is a bitch. I'd hope the D's don't spend too much time doing it, the country needs all hands to save the ship but the Republicans don't get to whine about how the Democrats aren't being cooperative, not for at least six years.

What goes around comes around.

Anonymous said...

"Who did you vote for in 2000 and 2004, Erich? Do you normally vote Republican? Because your despair of Democrats is conveniently timed."

So, you don't actually have a rebuttal of what I've written -- that what you yourself are advocating, if carried out, carries with it the serious prospect of a steady lowering of general liberty in this country.

You simply have an ad hominem.

It somehow reminds me of something one of my teachers said in a Jesuit high school: "The cool fool thinks that being in Hell will be as fun as getting there." Politically, I'd say that your indifference to liberty is a pretty fun road for the Dems to roll on down. But it's not one that has a good end.


--Erich Schwarz

Anonymous said...

"The worm is turning, the chickens coming home to roost, and payback is a bitch."

I don't think any serious Republican expects bipartisanship. I think what they're wondering is whether the Dems want power in order to govern like something resembling adults, or whether they're going to be trying to limit the remaining freedoms of ordinary citizens and generally criminalizing political opposition.

Adult governance would be welcome. Attempting to roll back the First and Second Amendments, less so.


--Erich Schwarz

Josh Jasper said...

"Liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C
---------------------------------
We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call real America, being here with all of you hardworking, very patriotic, very pro-American areas of this great nation. Governor Sarah Palin, R-AK, GOP VP pick.

----------------------------------

REP. BACHMANN: It's important because we look at the collection of friends that Barack Obama has had over his life, and usually we associate with people who have similar ideas to us. And it seems that it calls into question what Barack Obama's true beliefs and values and thoughts are -- his attitudes, values and beliefs with Jeremiah Wright on his view of the United States --

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay --

REP. BACHMANN: -- which is negative; Bill Ayers, his negative view of the United States. We've seen one friend after another. It calls into question his judgment, but also what is it that Barack Obama really believes? And we know that he's the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, and that's just after one year after being there. He's the most liberal. Joe Biden is the third most liberal. You've got Harry Reid who's liberal, Nancy Pelosi who's liberal.

MR. MATTHEWS: Right. What's the connection?

REP. BACHMANN: You have a troika of the most leftist administration in the history of our country.

[...]
MR. MATTHEWS: How many are anti-American in the Congress right now that you serve with?

REP. BACHMANN: You'd have to ask them, Chris. I'm focusing on Barack Obama and the people that he's been associating with. And I'm very worried about --

MR. MATTHEWS: But do you suspect that a lot of people you serve with --

REP. BACHMANN: -- their anti-American nature.


Rep. Michele Bachmann R-MN
----------------------------------

This isn't just an "enemy action", it's war.

Brian Dunbar said...

and why so much of it is collected in the Republican Party...you can't fix the problem.

You CAN'T.


You can't _fix_ it but given the problem will work itself out.

Guys who are conservative and younger than I am (I'm 40) don't seem to have the same racist nonsense that you're seeing.

Or to put it another way - people who are 'liberal' now will be 'conservative' in a few generations.

Dan Moran said...

Erich,

Since you feel free to make my arguments for me, let me return the favor:

"Republicans screwed the country for eight years. They treated the Constitution of the United States, the second most important document in human history behind the Judeo-Christian Bible, like wastepaper. They have maliciously violated or ignored as it suited them the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment, and shown a general contempt for the Constitution as a whole and for the rule of law.

"Democrats are scary."

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Dan Moran complained:

"Since you feel free to make my arguments for me..."

What part of this:

"We don't actually want to reform abuses of liberty -- we want to slam down abuses of our own! We don't want to roll back the Imperial Presidency -- we want it to be our play-toy!"

don't you, in fact, agree with?

Because this, which is a verbatim quote of your writing:

"I've got a little list, they'll never be missed. Club Gitmo for everyone who used the Constitution as toilet paper these last 8 years ... it's just like a big frat party, you know."

sounds awfully like it to me. But maybe I missed some subtlety?


"Democrats are scary."

Given that I'm a registered Democrat, that'd mean being scared of myself in the bathroom mirror.

And it's not "scary" when grown men -- middle-aged going on old men, really -- adopt the it's-my-turn rhetoric of small children. It's pathetic. But, unfortunately, it's also potentially very bad news, if it ends up getting acted-out on a national scale, and ultimately results in grown-up consequences.

There's two reasons to want political power. One is to actually do something that in some way could be reasonably construed as being for the good of the whole country. The second is to act out one's id. To the degree that Obama and the Democrats actually go for the former option, any decent person of either political party will wish them well. To the degree that they go for the latter option, they're inevitably going to squander their historic opportunity -- and, if they really go crazy, perhaps start permanently wrecking the country.

Trying to reform the executive branch, end abuses of human rights, redirect the war in a more effective way, and generally act like sane people would be a fine instance of the former option.

Trying to criminalize free speech via the Fairness Doctrine would be, I think, a profoundly polarizing instance of the latter option.

More generally, trying to criminalize political disagreements by any means would be deeply ominous; it's not for nothing that Jerry Pournelle keeps quoting the history of the later Roman Republic when that topic comes up.

When I read Steve Barnes' image of Obama, I find myself imagining the former political course. I can't help thinking that Steve's image is perhaps idealized -- but that's OK. I'd be fine with it being 50% correct.

But when I read other people commenting on this blog about "payback", I find myself imagining the latter political course.

The latter one is the road to Hell. You can take my word on that, or you can root for Obama, Pelosi, et al. to give you a trip down that road. But you're an idiot if you do. You'll be a damned idiot if Obama obliges you. And so will he.


--Erich Schwarz

suzanne said...

"Conservatives are worried that the powers of the Imperial Presidency are going to be directed at them? Maybe they shouldn't have been in such a rush to tear the Constitution up in the first place."

And so the childish reductio ad absurdum of the Democratic Party begins: "We don't actually want to reform abuses of liberty -- we want to slam down abuses of our own! We don't want to roll back the Imperial Presidency -- we want it to be our play-toy!"

Eric I don't think
your reading of Dan's quote
is accurate.

IN fact it was one of my first questions
about Obama
actually during the primaries
about each of them
what was each saying about
what he/she would do
about themess BUsh has made of the
separation of powers?
what would each do to undo the executive presidency notion?

Obama says he will get started undoing the damage
within the first six months.

you present yourself as a thinking raionale conservative
but what you say just seems
partisan Republican. . .

Anonymous said...

"In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." - Colin Powell

This was his conclusion after he was charged with investigating a letter which backed up the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War. The facts behind the massacre later came out, which led some people to think he might have been involved in a cover up.

Later, he was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. The Independent Counsel in the case found that he and Secretary of Defense Weinberger (whom he was the primary aid for) had detailed knowledge of the missile shipments in 1985, even though they claimed in testimony that they had not known about them until 1986.

There's your other two. In each case, you'd never have known anything was up unless evidence from an independent source was found later (which it was).

Now, the above is based on internet research (example: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20010108/corn) triggered by a comment made by an older friend of mine after he mentioned that he'd lost respect for Colin Powell after his involvement in covering up My Lai (I'd had no idea of that at all prior to his comment). I really have no axe to grind one way or another, but I do favor clarity over comfort. Maybe someone here who has more depth on the topic could speak up?

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

"But the same people who crowed over that 33% rate of negative racial attitudes among Liberals have no comment at all about the fact that that number would have to be about 47% among Conservatives."

I'm curious what qualifies as negative racial attitudes according to that survey? You just said in the previous thread that you think black culture is badly damaged. Would that qualify as a negative racial attitude? Would you be put in the 33% for that?

>(which, basically, in one form or another is the ONLY answer I ever heard for this phenomenon from Republicans)<

Hmm . . . no. I know for a fact that I proposed that switching over to the Republicans could produce a sub-optimal situation for Blacks where they lose power among the Democrats without gaining a significant enough of power among Republicans to counterbalance the loss among Dems. That was pure electoral math and power politics. (Short version; currently Dems need 90% of the Black vote to win. If 20% of Blacks begin voting Rep then the Dems will be out of power, but going from 2% of the Rep vote to 4% of the Rep vote is unlikely to be worth the loss of power that blacks gain from having the Dems in power because Blacks represent a significant share of the Dem power base. Now if Blacks could shift overnight to 50-50, their vote could be courted and bid for and that could increase their power. But changes like that _don't_ happen overnight so their is a natural tendency to avoid them. Doing short-term pain for long-term gain is not natural for large groups of voters.)

Shady_Grady said...

Obama does not support reinstating the fairness doctrine.

Obama does not support confiscating guns.

In any event Obama is not getting death threats, hate mail etc because of his policy positions.

For the past eight years conservatives have basically taken a position that the Constitution means what the President says means. Now that they are faced with the possibility of a non-conservative President they might come around to see the problem with that point of view.

It is laughable for anyone to fret about a possible President Obama reinstating the Fairness doctrine and for this to be some sort of restriction of free speech when during the present Administration we've seen increasing control, prevention and criminalization of protest, up to and including "free speech zones", infiltration and spying on protest groups, arrest of journalists and so on.

There are First Amendments right now to be concerned about.

As far as radio people should also remember that these are public airwaves.

Marty S said...

Two comments: First I found the site with the actual survey questions and the analysis method used to come up with the 33% of liberals have at least one negative impression of blacks and give little credence to the result. In some cases they inferred attitudes not from the answers to the questions but from their interpretation of patterns in the answers. Its wonderful, how someone can publish their interpretation of their study and suddenly it becomes fact quoted by everybody who likes the result.
Secondly all this discussion about backing the Republican or Democratic candidates because of high ideals is great, but the truth is I back McCain and the Republicans because I see them as better for me. I am a retired person who lost a big chunk of my life savings in the past few weeks. Yesterday I tried to withdraw money from my money fund so I could pay next months bills and was told I couldn't because the money fund was frozen. While I hear Obama talking about tax breaks for 95% of "working people" it's McCain who is talking about tax breaks for retired people whose 401k's have been devastated.

Lester Spence said...

Both McCain and Obama support removing penalties for withdrawing from 401Ks, at least temporarily.

I don't believe "black culture" is damaged...but the question isn't really whether believing this makes one an anti-black racist. Martin Luther King jr., WEB Dubois, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, and Minister Louis Farrakhan, all have indicated some level of support for this statement.

The question is if you asked this question along with related ones of thousands of respondents, what type of relationships would we tend to find among the answers?

.....

The Democratic Party has been run by the right since 1976. It is only liberal in comparison. Arguing that both parties are run by their ideologues mistakes even-handedness for the historical record.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

So, where is the site with the actual survey questions?

Kami said...

I'm not Republican but I have to say there are legitimate concerns that haven't been mentioned. It's not fair (and I applaud Steve for maintaining that Republican doesn't equal stupid or blind) to prejudicially assume that Republicans vote the way they vote because they're racist or they're 'for the war.' Gun control has been mentioned but the fears of creating a welfare state and increasing peoples' dependence on government hasn't been mentioned. And there are other things I'm sure I'm not aware of because I'm not in the conservative political discussion loop.

As much as I like Obama and will likely vote for him, I dread the "All right thinking people" mentality I see from so many Democrats. I think the racism burbling up on the Republican side is vile. But I'm not particularly impressed with the nasty predisposition to assume that if someone is Republican they're undereducated, violent rednecks (redneck used in as derogatory statement as possible) or trailer trash who are ruining America. Trailer trash. Good gawds, these are people, not garbage. And I find the common conception that Christians are the root of evil and ignorance disturbing as well. I have to admit I'm enjoying the fact that this particular religion is getting knocked off its pedestal and that some of its views are being challenged, since that's to my personal benefit, but the demonization of Christians is not any prettier than the demonization of Islam or any other religion.

Both parties are carrying a lot of baggage. I wish we had more viable parties, or maybe, though I'm not sure it would work, no parties.

My son recently said he wished the U.S. was actually several countries instead of one. That way people could live in the society they want instead of having one political entity or another foisted on them against the way that they voted. This is a symptom of living in a state where the political majority generally lives in an urban area and is liberal and much of the conservative minority is physically separated from them by mountains and has different needs. Local conservatives often have trouble being heard and are often treated like idiots who couldn't think their way out of a paper bag (and yet they're considered a threat.) I think that physically dividing the country (or states) along political lines would be giving up. People need to learn to respect each other and get along, not physically separate.

I don't really care how many Reps vs. how many Dems are respectful in regard to what social issues, nor am I interested in people deciding what type of disrespect is uglier. Everyone should be more respectful overall. To say that 'the other side is more disrespectful so my disrespect is justified' is a downspiral mindset. When adversaries cease to respect each other, they incur as much damage on themselves as the other. My favorite book on this subject is "Achilles in Vietnam," if anyone's curious about the effects of disrespect, as illustrated by a war though it's applicable in politics as well.

Steven Barnes said...

I take the position that black culture in America is badly damaged, yes. A "negative attitude" (from my POV) would be to say this and suggest that it is because of something intrinsic about black people. I consider it roughly equivalent to noting an abused child has bruises. If I blamed it on the clumsiness of the child, then yes, that would be negative.
#
I don't "like" the conclusions of the survey. I just feel it matches my sense of human behavior, and what I have observed culturally all my life. But I hate it.

Dan Moran said...

Eric I don't think
your reading of Dan's quote
is accurate.


Now, suzanne, the art of attributing a position to your opponent and then arguing with the position you wish they had is a fine old one. Erich's just having a little fun.

Dan Moran complained:

How about: "Erich Schwartz whined:" ... a little disrespectful, perhaps, but I do try hard to find the level in a given dialog.

What part of this:

"We don't actually want to reform abuses of liberty -- we want to slam down abuses of our own! We don't want to roll back the Imperial Presidency -- we want it to be our play-toy!"

don't you, in fact, agree with?


All of it. I would like to see Democrats reform the abuses of your political friends, not emulate them.

Because this, which is a verbatim quote of your writing:

"I've got a little list, they'll never be missed. Club Gitmo for everyone who used the Constitution as toilet paper these last 8 years ... it's just like a big frat party, you know."

sounds awfully like it to me. But maybe I missed some subtlety?


Possibly. You are aware that conservatives dismissed the abuse at Abu Ghraib, which included torture and murder, as no worse than a big frat party? You are aware that conservatives coined the term "Club Gitmo" and sell t-shirts and other gear bearing that slogan?

I do find the idea of conservatives fearing the monster they've unleashed, in hands other than their own, downright amusing. Anyone who can't take a little pleasure in the fear and worry of bullies and thugs is a better man than me. (Possibly this includes Barnes. Wouldn't surprise me any.)

"Democrats are scary."

Given that I'm a registered Democrat, that'd mean being scared of myself in the bathroom mirror.


Well, that is interesting. A question about who you've voted for is ignored, but you volunteer your registration. Zell Miller was a registered Democrat too, as I recall. Lieberman keeps tossing the word "Democrat" around as if it meant something, while campaigning for John McCain.

That said, I couldn't care less what your registration is. If you're more concerned about potential Democratic abuse of power than the last eight years of brutally well documented Republican abuse (and it sure sounds as if you are, to me) ... shrug. Your priorities are off.

And it's not "scary" when grown men -- middle-aged going on old men, really -- adopt the it's-my-turn rhetoric of small children. It's pathetic. But, unfortunately, it's also potentially very bad news, if it ends up getting acted-out on a national scale, and ultimately results in grown-up consequences.

If you're talking about me in the middle-aged going on old, I take exception. I'm young and handsome.

As to "my turn," all I really want is the prosecution and jailing of the people responsible for Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and the adoption of torure as an official tool of the United States of America. As a warning to the next ten generations that some pleasures come at too high a cost. If that's what you mean by "my turn," hell yes.

Nasty "my turn" thinking at Nuremberg too, I suppose.

More generally, trying to criminalize political disagreements by any means would be deeply ominous

Do you mean that the people who tortured and murdered and who created the policies encouraging torture and murder ought not to be held to account for their crimes?

I can't help thinking that Steve's image is perhaps idealized -- but that's OK. I'd be fine with it being 50% correct.

Me too, I think Barnes is in love. But I Understand, and I like that about him. As to Obama, if he's half the man Steve thinks he is (and I suspect he is that) he'll be one of the better Presidents this country has ever seen, and we'll all be fine.

Mike Ralls said...

>A "negative attitude" (from my POV) would be to say this and suggest that it is because of something intrinsic about black people.<

OK, that's from your POV. But my question was would the study take that point of view? In which case couldn't a good chunk of that 33% share some views with you?

Anonymous said...

"Do you mean that ... people who tortured and murdered and who created the policies encouraging torture and murder ought not to be held to account for their crimes?"

I actually agree that such people should be punished.

However, I have yet to see you answer the question of what it is likely to do to this country if you and the Democrats decide that Bush's having imprisoned captured terrorists at Guantanamo, and his having freed Iraq from Hussein without French permission, constitute such crimes; and if you then decide to proscribe Bush et al., late Roman Republic-style.

I think your choosing to do that would indeed constitute the sort of criminalization of legitimate political differences that Jerry Pournelle's referred to as having brought about the demise of the Roman Republic. And I think it's likely to lead straight to the Second American Civil War.

But it seems your opinion differs. Which leaves me with not much to say except that I hope Obama has more sense than you; and that if he doesn't, you're likely to experience consequences that you aren't morally or emotionally ready for.

For better or worse, it won't just be you who gets to experience them.


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

Well, good; Erich and I, fellow Democrats that we are, are finally once again in agreement. We agree that torturers and murderers, and those who led and enabled and supported the torturers and murderers, should be punished for their crimes. Excellent.

you and the Democrats

Er, you mean, "us Democrats," I think.

As to Bush's remaining crimes, we can sort those out after he's tried for the torture and murder stuff. Deal?

However, I have yet to see you answer the question of what it is likely to do to this country if you and the Democrats decide that Bush's having imprisoned captured terrorists at Guantanamo, and his having freed Iraq from Hussein without French permission, constitute such crimes; and if you then decide to proscribe Bush et al., late Roman Republic-style.

Maybe we don't have a deal. Let's try it like this: For having tortured and murdered prisoners in American care, pretty specifically at the instruction of the Bush White House, I want to prosecute, convict, and jail those responsible, all the way up the chain of command to those who originated the orders to torture and murder. Maybe I'm being unclear somewhere, but I doubt it.

However, I have yet to see you answer the question

Who'd you vote for again?

criminalization of legitimate political differences

Love that phrase. I'm just awaiting the day a bank robber uses it -- "Sir, this is the criminalization of legitimate ad hoc bank withdrawals, that's just what it is."

For what it's worth, Bush & Co., and you for that matter, probably don't have much to worry about. If the Democratic leadership had an ounce of courage and spine, they'd have impeached the guy almost two years ago. Bringing Bush to justice for his crimes, though a lovely thought, isn't likely.

Dan Moran said...

"and you for that matter"

Let me clarify; I don't think you're guilty of war crimes. :-) I was implying merely that you were worried on Bush's behalf. Which is odd behavior for a registered Democrat, but people are complex.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

OK, found the reports on the survey:

http://storybank.stanford.edu/stories/poll-shows-democrats-racial-views-could-hurt-obama-close-election

http://news.yahoo.com/page/election-2008-political-pulse-obama-race

The survey asked whether certain negative and positive adjectives appied to "most blacks." So it is, yes, as mike ralls suggests, possible that some of the 33% would hold that the negative adjectives apply, but are due to a damaged culture, rather than being intrinsic to black people. On the other hand, the survey shows 20% of white people saying that "most blacks" are well described by the adjective "violent," which to my mind is plainly false. However damaged black culture may or may not be, it's still the case that the adjective "violent" doesn't fit "most blacks," while the adjective "law-abiding (to take one of the positive adjectives) does. So, any way you slice it, the survey does show a significant minority with unwarranted prejudice against black people.

Mike said...

rl - it would have been after that.

The bizarre thing about working in Lexington is the instinctive behavior of the VMI students to salute anyone in a suit. At the time, I had long hair, midway down my back, and a full beard - not officer material at all - and yet these cadets would rip off snappy salutes everytime they saw me.

Mike Ralls said...

>On the other hand, the survey shows 20% of white people saying that "most blacks" are well described by the adjective "violent," which to my mind is plainly false.<

Hmm . . . I wonder what results you would get if you polled the question, "Does this word acuratly describe most people - violent?" That would have been a good control question to ask. (I would agree that most humans are violent, btw. We're the most efficient predator ever brought forth on this planet after all). Or at least ask "most Americans" to put the numbers in perspective.

Also, it depends on the definition of "violent." Have most people on the planet ever been in a fist fight of some kind in their life? I would be shocked if they weren't, and by some definitions that could mean they were violent.

I also think it's a relative term. White Americans, as a group, are violent compared to modern day Japanese, but non-violent compared to modern day Russians. Does that mean most white Americans are violent? I lived in Japan, and I can tell you that most Japanese would probably agree with the statement "Most Americans are violent."

>a significant minority with unwarranted prejudice against black people.<

If you had said, "black individuals" I would agree with you, but you said "black people" as in blacks as a collective whole, so I think exaggerated might be a better word than unwarranted. Saying that most blacks are violent may or may not be an exaggeration depending on your definition. But saying that blacks, as a group, are more violent than whites, as a group, is just a fact. On a per-capita basis, blacks commit around 7 times the murders of whites. Seven times. That's a huge gulf. Enormous.

I'll state this; Any time group X has a crime rate that is more than double that of group Y, group Y is going to have some negative prejudices about group X. Does anyone really doubt that statement is true?

And if it is true, then that means that it is necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, for the black crime rate to radically decrease before non-blacks no longer harbor prejudices against blacks. It's possible that prejudices may still exist after the black crime rate radically decreases, but it is absolutely impossible for the prejudices to go away until it does decrease. Humans just don't work that way.

Pagan Topologist said...

For what it's worth, Bush & Co., and you for that matter, probably don't have much to worry about. If the Democratic leadership had an ounce of courage and spine, they'd have impeached the guy almost two years ago. Bringing Bush to justice for his crimes, though a lovely thought, isn't likely.

Dan, for what it is worth, I no longer believe this, though I did for a long time. I think Pelosi realized that there would not be enough votes in the Senate for a conviction, no matter how great the offenses, and so blocked the impeachment resolution(?s) to prevent the Democrats from looking almost as ridiculous as the Republicans did impeaching Clinton. But, I think that only by pardoning himself as he leaves office can Bush avoid prosecution. Or, maybe by resigning on January 19 and having Cheney pardon him.

Anonymous said...

"I think that only by pardoning himself as he leaves office can Bush avoid prosecution. Or, maybe by resigning on January 19 and having Cheney pardon him."

Boy, this sure has been an educational comment thread.

I'm not sure it's worth trying to explain to anybody, again, just why it is a bad idea to have any significant change of executive power in the U.S. automatically lead to political show trials for whoever just peacefully gave up that executive power.

But it sounds like at least some people are going to have a wonderful time finding out.

Part of me cares. Another part of me thinks that this is evolution in action. Probably the former part is what keeps me human; but the latter part may, unfortunately, be much more accurate.


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

Automatically? Why, no, I don't recall calling for trials of Clinton, or Bush the Elder, or Reagan, or Carter.

Of course, I don't recall Clinton, or Bush Pere, or Reagan, or Carter, instituting gulags and murdering people within them.

So something's different there.

But it sounds like at least some people are going to have a wonderful time finding out.

Maybe you think about the long-term effects of permitted elected administrations to murder and torture at whim, eh?

Dan Moran said...

Oh, your core question, I think: is it worth fighting a war to prevent American gulags?

Yes.

It shouldn't take that. But it's not too high a price to pay for justice.

I don't want to live in the Soviet Union, even if the comissars do speak with a twang.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe you think about the long-term effects of permitted elected administrations to murder and torture at whim, eh?"

Who are you arguing with? Who is this "you" who you seem to think you are going to defeat in some way?

You seem to be living in a fantasy world where, if you want something badly enough, it will just happen, with no bad consequences or side effects. So you seem to actually believe that the Democrats can win this election, start some sort of prosecution of Bush et al., and not have it instantaneously drive Obama's presidency right off a political cliff.

The only thing your writing is making me "think about" is that the Republic might be a lot closer to having its second, and possibly terminal, Civil War than I'd ever wanted to believe.


--Erich Schwarz

Marty S said...

Lynn: Did you click on the pdf link and read the actual questions. Take question 10 on race:
How often have you admired Blacks? Five choices from extremely often to rarely. 31% of whites answered not very often or rarely the two negative answers. That question alone has 31% of whites giving at least one negative response. Does anyone think that this really indicates those 31% are racists? There are no groups that I wouldn't answer negatively on to that question including all those I belong to.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Erich, personally I seriously doubt Bush is going on trial post-election precisely because of the problems of trying an executive who's just surrendered power. It's the kind of thing people on the left may want, but not the kind of thing Obama et al are likely to actually do. (And I'm appalled by the use of torture these past several years.)

Mike: While it's true that many people are "violent" to some degree, I tend to think of "most people are violent" as indicating a stronger degree of violence than "were in fist fights as kids." FWIW, I was in fist fights as a kid - bullies hit me, and I hit them back. So, I didn't exactly turn the other cheek as a kid, but I'm not exactly a particularly violent person for life. On the other hand, yes, whether one thinks most people are X is a good control question for how much to read into thinking most black people are X. I suspect, though, that what's going on isn't that people are thinking, well, people are violent and so black people are as well, but that people are thinking something more like, the crime rate is higher among black people and so black people are more violent, and forgetting that really violent crime, for any group, is committed by a minority of that group, and so doesn't speak to the traits of most black people.

Marty S: I'm not too sure low answers to positive questions like "How often have you admired Blacks?" by themselves indicate a lot of racism, for the reason you say; I, too, wouldn't give a particularly high answer to such a question for any group, including those I belong to. But then, I'd also give low answers for the negative traits - most black people, like most of everyone else, aren't exceptionally smart and reliable and wonderful, but also aren't exceptionally violent and lawbreaking and lazy. Also, what per cent are "racists" surely depends whether "racist" means "has some level of bias" or "has a severe level of bias." The percentage of white people who are "racist" could be either quite high or quite low, depending what level of bias one requires to consider someone "racist."

Anonymous said...

"It's the kind of thing people on the left may want, but not the kind of thing Obama et al are likely to actually do."

Whoah! Sanity!


"(And I'm appalled by the use of torture these past several years.)"

Whoah! More sanity! Somebody managing to ideologically chew gum and walk at the same time!

OK, maybe we're not due for national implosion by 2016 after all ... one hopes ...


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

Erich, if the cost of a Republic without gulags is a terminal civil war, god bless. Maybe a better structure will supplant it.

Marty S said...

Lynn: Neither Democrats or Republicans are homogeneous groups. To judge how much validity to give the conclusions I would have gathered more information about the individuals answering the questionnaire and used that to gain greater insight on the results. Taking myself as an example I have known well a relatively small number of blacks. Those that I have known since entering college have mostly been middle class or upper middle class and college educated. I therefore tend to see blacks as similar to whites with respect to the characteristics in the questions. Other whites with different backgrounds than mine may also have met few blacks and either have unfavorable opinions because of the particular blacks they have known or because lacking a significant personal basis they are influenced by the media.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe a better structure will supplant it."

Look around the world.

Is there any government in the world that's substantively better at providing both freedom and security for its population than the U.S.? While keeping 340 million human beings with extremely diverse racial, religious, and political backgrounds actually coexisting more or less peacefully?

If so, you might want to consider emigration. But assuming you don't see such a government:

What on earth makes you think that massively shattering the existing U.S. will lead to something that actually works better than the (very imperfect, but at least functioning) society we have now?

What makes you so confident that a civil war between self-satisfied people like yourself and the people you consider yourself superior to will do any of the following things?

1. End in your side winning.

2. End in your side even keeping what it has.

3. Avoid causing vastly more carnage than the war in Iraq.

4. Qualitatively improve the general moral and political quality of territories currently governed by the still-existing U.S.

And even if a terminal Civil War does result in a "better" society, what makes you so smugly convinced that the actual "better" will correspond with what you personally believe is "better"?

For all you know, the outcome of a Second Civil War might be a society that in fact did work more effectively, and did manage to have more honesty and responsibility in its political leadership, but that followed political principles that you found unpleasant or outright painful. Think, for instance, of the future society described in Heinlein's book Starship Troopers: while the way Heinlein described it made it certainly look like a stronger society than ours, it sure as heck wasn't a lefty's dream. What if you end up with that?

In fact, what even makes you think that you yourself, or your spouse or children, will survive a civil war?

It's really hard for me to take seriously anybody who writes happily about the prospect of what in all probability would be the defining political cataclysm of the 21st century, in the same way that WWI was the defining one of the 20th. I just can't look at that sort of Ratbertesque contentment, and not wonder if I really am seeing the early stages of "evolution in action", as Larry Niven put it.


--Erich Schwarz

Dan Moran said...

Erich,

On the occasion of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's death

Many years ago, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I had a correspondent who was an apparatchik in the Communist Party. God knows how, he'd gotten a hold of my first novel. (I once had the pleasure of receiving a letter from him -- this thing printed on paper, with his signature at the end -- calling me, in effect, a capitalist lackey. Within a couple of days of that, a nice priest I was corresponding with up in the American northeast sent me a letter calling me a godless commie. I had those letters pinned up on my bulletin board together for years.)

This exchange reminds me of those with him. He was utterly convinced of the rightness and morality of the Soviet Union. That people could be seized off the streets, tortured and murdered, whenever the government felt like it, was either untrue or irrelevant or something that had happened in the past or something that would cause A Lot Of Damned Troubled if people pushed it.

Now we have our own American gulags, and conservatives sound a lot like that commie apparatchik. "A Lot of Damned Trouble," yes indeed.

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts.


It goes on a bit, but it's a good speech and worth a read -- though it may be a little unsophisticated for your tastes. A lot of people of that generation were.

Here.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Marty S: Sure, Republicans and Democrats aren't homogeneous, and I'd be surprised, if a survey were done that sliced the groups up more finely, if there didn't prove to be a lot of overlap in racial attitudes among those finer slices.

Anonymous said...

"Now we have our own American gulags, and conservatives sound a lot like that commie apparatchik."

Maybe they do to you, Dan.

For my own part, I've never claimed that the U.S. is flawless. What I have claimed is that, as actual societies existing on the surface of the earth in 2008 A.D. go, the U.S. is arguably the least bad. It takes in a vast number of human beings, both native-born and immigrant, and allows them as much liberty of thought and action as any other society on earth manages. If present trends continue, it's about to elect Barack Obama as President and give the Democrats a possible supermajority in Congress. You may think that's good news, or bad news, but it certainly isn't the way a society would behave if it were anything remotely like the Soviet Union.

Nor have I ever claimed that there aren't moral causes worth going to war over. (If you'd been paying attention to the comments on an earlier post here, you might have noticed my quoting John Stuart Mill's defense of the American Civil War, and getting called a jingoistic hawk for my pains.)

What I am saying -- apparently to the deaf -- is this:

1. If the Dems decide to prosecute Bush and his administration, they're going to be criminalizing political disagreements. The war in Iraq and the Patriot Act were both open political decisions arrived at with supporting votes in the Congress. Bush's decision to imprison and interrogate captured terrorist suspects at Guantanamo, for good or bad, at least had some sort of legal basis: as it was originally written, the Geneva Convention gave zero protection to ununiformed terrorists (or "francs-terreurs", as they were called in WWI). If the Democrats seriously choose to override past Congressional decisions and prosecute Bush for the entire War on Terror, they're going to look deranged to something like half of the U.S.

2. Deciding to fight a war is a decision for adults. Not for children -- whether they're in childrens' or adults' bodies. That you are so relentlessly jovial about the prospect of a continental-scale war in North America shows me, beyond any reasonable doubt, that you do not have any idea what you are asking for.

3. My main concern really isn't for myself. I have very little to lose. I don't have a spouse, I don't have children, as a working biologist I have almost zero accumulated personal wealth, and my chief assets are portable -- mental skills and physical fitness. I'm not even opposed, as you seem to believe, to the idea that injustices can call out for violent redress. I've had a few near-death experiences and have read a great many books about the horrors of history, including Solzhenitsyn's own Gulag when I was in high school. That the U.S. may collapse due to the bacchantic rapture of folks like yourself is not really, to me, very shocking.

But I wouldn't want to be in your shoes if it did come to pass. For I think you would have some learning experiences, then.


--Erich Schwarz

Josh Jasper said...

Erich - If the Dems decide to prosecute Bush and his administration, they're going to be criminalizing political disagreements.

So it's impossible for a President to violate the law while in office? Nixon tried that line of logic. I beg to differ. If Bush violated the law, why should he not be prosecuted?

Dan Moran said...

If the Dems decide to prosecute Bush and his administration, they're going to be criminalizing political disagreements

By which you mean torture and murder.

God, I hope so.

Dan Moran said...

Comment above slightly unclear, I suspect. "God I hope so" means that if torture and murder are now "poltical disagreements," then yes, by God I hope to criminalize political disagreements.

If the U.S. can't survive the punishment of murderers and torturers, it doesn't deserve to survive.

Just for the record, Erich, I'm pretty sure you're wrong about a Civil War resulting from the prosecution of murderers and torturers. I think it's an hysterical argument that hopes to sway people to abandon the hope of justice. But at the end you're right that I don't care. If a Civil War is the cost of living in a just and moral society it's not too high.

Unlike you, I have five children. And I don't want them to live in a country where they can be taken off the streets, and tortured into their graves ... and have people like you assert that justice is much too expensive, dangerous, and unreasonable.

There are worse things than wars. Gulags are among them.

Anonymous said...

"I'm pretty sure you're wrong about a Civil War resulting from the prosecution of murderers and torturers."

About half of the entire country disagrees with you that this is a reasonable description of Bush and his administration. Bellow all you want about how you're right and they're wrong; even if you are correct, you're nevertheless living on Planet Earth and not Planet Dan. And on Planet Earth, half of the U.S. voted for Bush, twice.

On Planet Earth, if the Obama Administration and Democratic Congress decide to prosecute Bush et al., you seem to believe that the response of half of the U.S. who voted for Bush twice will simply be to shrug and say, "Oh well, I guess that's OK."

That view strikes me as delusional. And my pointing out that the real result would quite likely be a violent fissue of the U.S. isn't "hysterical", just historically literate.


"Unlike you, I have five children. And I don't want them to live in a country where they can be taken off the streets, and tortured into their graves ... and have people like you assert that justice is much too expensive, dangerous, and unreasonable."

Nowhere have I said that justice shouldn't be pursued. What I have said is that your own preferred means of pursuing it, even if you were infallibly correct about its moral justification, is likely to be vastly more costly than you seem able to comprehend.

Your personal view of justice is not one that 340,000,000 other American citizens are likely to unanimously agree with. And their disagreement is likely to become profoundly, catastrophically violent if you're unlucky enough to get your way.

Given the history of the U.S. Civil War, and of WWI and WWII, and given the current capacities of weaponry available to citizens of this country, the butcher bill for a second American Civil War could become immense.

I too can say that I'm willing to pay any price for justice, if I want to be a strutting blowhard. But talk is cheap.

The real cost of a war between Red State and Blue State America could become vast enough to make any particular claim of "justice" being satisfied seem pale indeed.


--Erich Schwarz

Anonymous said...

"So it's impossible for a President to violate the law while in office? Nixon tried that line of logic. I beg to differ. If Bush violated the law, why should he not be prosecuted?"

Josh,

I don't blame you for not having been following this whole thread -- but, read my several past posts to see how I got to this point.

Or, just read Jerry Pournelle. He's written about this point, many times: when politics became a lethal sport, so that losing an election meant being proscribed, it was the end of the Roman Republic. Note, of the Republic; what followed was less free than what was destroyed.


--Erich Schwarz

Steve Perry said...

Yep. And if you discount the loyal Republicans, Bush's approval ratings among everybody else are at 11%.

Not quite half any more, is it?

Anonymous said...

"Not quite half any more, is it?"

You're confusing unpopularity of Bush with support for the Dems. Of course, that's nonsense: those same popularity ratings that give Bush 24% nationally and 11% among Democrats also give the Democratic Congress 8% nationally (!). That's probably not a mandate for Speaker Pelosi to start the impeachment hearings, though I imagine somebody out there believes it is.

Even in 2004, when he won reelection, Bush's inherent popularity wasn't that high. A noticeable number of people voted for Bush not because they were thrilled with him, but because they thought Kerry and the Democrats were worse.

Conversely, even in November 2008, under political conditions deeply adverse to McCain, and with his own weaknesses as a political candidate, McCain is likely to win at least 45% of the popular vote (which would put him 10% below Obama) and could win as much as 48% (which would put him 4% below).

In any country which is wiling to go 45-48% for a Republican candidate in 2008 -- after eight very controversial years of Bush in office, and in the middle of a economic convulsion -- it's probably a bad mistake to equate Bush's unpopularity with political support for a late Roman Republic-style proscription of Bush after he leaves office. If you are confused enough to make that equation, you're likely to get political results very different from the ones you seem to expect.


--Erich Schwarz

suzanne said...

I'd venture to say
some of the discontent reflected in the low approval ratings of Congress
is because impeachment has not been pursued . . .

I'm confused, Erich:
is it the case that
you don't think Bush
has done anything impeachable???

Anonymous said...

"... you don't think Bush
has done anything impeachable?"


I can't answer that question competently, not being a lawyer.

My incompetent best guess, as somebody who isn't a lawyer but has read a lot of history, is that "impeachable" is self-defined: if the Congress can actually manage an impeachment vote against any given President, and succeeds in doing so, then by definition that President was impeachable.

By that pragmatic definition, Nixon might have been impeachable, but Clinton wasn't, Johnson (in the 1860s) wasn't, and Bush hasn't proved to be.

And as for the idea that the Dems would have had their 8% popularity go up if they'd just found their inner Noam Chomsky and tried to impeach Bush: am I really supposed to believe that Nancy Pelosi would have refrained from starting a Bush impeachment, if she thought for a moment that it would have helped her or the Dems? (Or -- to try to be fair to Pelosi -- if she actually cared about the welfare of the U.S., and believed that the U.S. would best be served by her trying to impeach Bush?)


--Erich Schwarz

Kai Jones said...

Suzanne wrote: I'd venture to say
some of the discontent reflected in the low approval ratings of Congress
is because impeachment has not been pursued . .


And by the same token, some of the disapproval of Bush is because he isn't pursuing the war strongly enough, or isn't conservative enough. Neither of which implies approval of or support for Democratic Party policies as a replacement.

Josh Jasper said...

I think the idea of immunity for a President from prosecution for crimes because it will divide the republic is wrongheaded, and ought to be buried.

I'm not saying that loosing an election means getting prosecuted, I'm saying that IF the president commits a crime, THEN he should be prosecuted. As the DOJ is the only one who can prosecute a President, Nixon found he could just fire anyone who'd prosecute him. And he did. So the articles of impeachment were drawn up.

Afterward, we should have sent his ass to jail. It should be a national embarrassment that he walked free after breaking the law in the way he did.

Pagan Topologist said...

Erich Schwartz: Your semantics are a bit off. Both Clinton and Johnson were impeached. Neither was convicted. How can one be impeached if he is not impeachable??