Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Play Misty Watercolored Memories For Me

No wonder half the American people are just fine with their government stalking them. The same number now hold a favorable view of George W. Bush.

If you look at the data (not mined, but gathered politely over the telephone with the consent of the questioned), you'll notice that almost a quarter of the Democrats polled now like Bush. His approval ratings have been creeping up at about the same pace at which Obama has been revealing himself to be more like Bush than not. It could just be a melding of personas.

Then again, as Gallup notes, Americans have always treated ex-presidents kindly. We are a polite bunch. If you're confronted by a stranger out of the blue, who brings up a guy back in high school named Joe Smith, and you have only a dim hazy memory of his being an obnoxious fellow, you're not going to blurt out "Yeah, he was a real S.O.B. I hate his guts!"

Since Joe Smith has not done you any actual harm in the past several years, you're more likely to be noncommittal and circumspect in your remarks,  and you might even say what a great guy he was, much the same way you reply "fine" when people ask how you're doing.  People tend to forgive, as well as forget, with the passage of time. No atrocity can be so bad as to linger in our minds forever. It behooves us to protect our mental health, not to dwell upon the past, and thus protect those least deserving of protection.

And the half of the population which approves of domestic spying? Same theory. What we never knew about never hurt us in any palpable sense. It's easier to trust leaders and experts than to educate ourselves on metadata and algorithms. It's easier, and safer, to say we approve of something when that something might be listening in on the phone call.

Breaking down  the Pew/Washington Post poll results, while half the respondents don't want the government eavesdropping on their private communications,  only a fourth of them take issue with the secret laws and secret courts that allow the practice. And as is usual in all repressive, authoritarian regimes, the fear factor is the cudgel that keeps the cowed populace in line. More than two-thirds of those polled point to fear of a terrorist attack as justification for the destruction of their privacy rights.

While the numbers are similar to polls conducted during the Bush years, there's been a near-total flip flop on the views of Republicans and Democrats on domestic spying programs. Back in 2006, only 37% of Democrats approved and 61% disapproved of the NSA surveillance program. The most recent results show that 67% of Democrats are fine with being spied on, since President Obama is the one doing it.

Three out of four Republicans loved it when Bush peeped on them. And while they say they hate it that Obama is doing them now, they don't hate it as much as the Dems hated being hounded by the odious George. Almost half the Republicans report tolerating abuse under Barack. They are just not as principled and choosy as Democrats, it seems.

We are a nation of short attention-spanned hypocrites.

So, thank God for the Germans, who do have long memories. Just before President Obama is set to perform at the Brandenburg Gate, the Germans are accusing him of Stasi tactics. The NSA sweep is sweeping them up, too. NSA, when you actually try to pronounce it, is almost a homophone of Nazi. From Reuters:

Government surveillance is an extremely sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of the dreaded Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many citizens.
In a guest editorial for Spiegel Online on Tuesday, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said reports that the United States could access and track virtually all forms of Internet communication were "deeply disconcerting" and potentially dangerous.
"The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is," she said.
"The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the U.S. administration itself is paramount at this point. All facts must be put on the table."
Markus Ferber, a member of Merkel's Bavarian sister party who sits in the European Parliament, went further, accusing Washington of using "American-style Stasi methods".
I am looking forward to watching Obama's speech, to be appropriately delivered adjacent to the Tiergarten (Garden of Beasts) and the old Reichstag.


annenigma said...

I don't trust any poll that relies entirely on people who still have land lines. What's the average age, and how many of them are there still left? It's not a representative sample of the current population.

I haven't had a landline for over a decade so naturally never get polled. I have always used the pre-paid $10 (now $20) 'burner' phones, not that I'm hiding anything - just cheap.

James F Traynor said...

I agree with annenigma, to some extent. I have both land and a prepaid cell phone which I sparingly use. I never answer pollsters, avoiding them by screening my land phone calls. Polling without including cell phones probably excludes a lot of young people resulting in possibly biased samples. Still, with the exception of the last election, these same young people come up a little short in voting. And in the end it's voting that counts. Karen is most probably right in her assumptions.

The populace is scared and increasingly
propagandized. That plus misplaced party loyalty pretty much does the trick.

Jay - Ottawa said...

We are a nice people. We love our leaders, past and present, because they too are nice. Whatever the methodology of the latest poll, whatever the real count of sentiment across the land, our politicians need not tremble in fear of a Washington Spring. They know to the ninth decimal point what we the people will tolerate before they even test us. Our streets of protest yawn in emptiness. Our security experts will not be obstructed as they drag whistleblowers and other un-nice people down the avenue to jail.

We are a nice people. Therefore, our Stasi will not be like the Stasi of others. Our Stasi will be overseen by freely elected officials. Our Stasi will be on the short leash of righteous and involved Presidents like C and W and O. Our Stasi does not storm into the lives of others. Our Stasi is as smooth as a smart phone.

Above all things, poll or no poll, whether misty or prone to gnashing your teeth, never forget that our Stasi is necessary to preserve our way of life.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Reagan did one thing right, we hear east german knowledge;"the state is the terrorist."

annenigma said...

Actually, I have two throw away phones. One whose number I give to businesses and leave at home and check it for missed calls at the end of the day. With the other phone I only give the number to personal friends and I take it with me whenever I go out but I'm not trackable by GPS since they don't know my number. As long as I don't accidentally call a terrorist number I should be off the radar.

Oh ya, I said I didn't have anything to hide, but why take chances? Using both phones costs me far less than just the taxes alone on a land line.

Did everyone hear about the Word Bomb tonight? I think they call it something else, but the idea is the same. There are plans for everyone to send emails full of words that Trigger their system. They will just go Ballistic if it Explodes into an ongoing, popular movement!

hermanas said...

Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us."rracywo ter

Anonymous said...

Tend to agree with AnnEnigma on the inherent prob with the landline-based poll.

Some part of this may have to do with current economy - many can recall that during most of Bush II, ordinary Americans had access to credit. Until the crash, that is.

And so, as many of us scrape by today at "salaries" a mere fraction of what we earned during the Bush-era bubble, there is no doubt a tendency to cast a gauzy look back when, as individuals, we enjoyed not only more material comfort, but more status among our peers.

That it was illusory... alors!

I sense that many of my peers are now more thoughtful, and in many ways more ethical than in our previous corporate life. I'm "comfortable" in what is literally poverty, in part because I have more time to read, think, and engage. I'm also, ostensibly, healthier. But part of having my "attitude adjusted" involved losing essentially most of what I possessed, going through the alternately terrifying and magical experience of living solo in the wilderness, and finally getting extraordinary good luck in terms of affordable housing in an enviable neighborhood. (I also come from two cultures that, in theory if not in practice, have a tradition of venerating aescetics - it's a psychological crutch I'm grateful to employ, absurd as it may seem.)

So I don't look back fondly on Bush, but I understand how others could forget, as I don't know that many others have reason to be happier in poverty than they were in either consumerism or at a more basic level, just the peace of mind that they could stock the cupboard.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

part 1:

All these revelations are making my head spin, almost enough to give me a headache --- certainly undesirable when I've recently had too many headaches, both figurative and literal!

I've been away from commenting at Sardonicky for a few weeks, and almost don't know where to begin. Having not commented for so long, but nevertheless having halfway-followed most of Karen's posts and some of the discussions here, there's quite a bit that I want to say. It'd take too long to cover everything, but I think a few things are worth noting.

First of all, all these surveillance revelations finally getting some exposure --- however incomplete --- in the mainstream media is heartening. Some cautionary notes, though: Occupy got attention, too, and then the media moved on. Just as there is the concept of damning with faint praise, there is also the phenomenon of co-opting with distorted, superficial attention, and the mainstream media is masterful at that. I expect mass media coverage to exponentially decline over the next week or two and then essentially cease. The decline has already started. For instance, NBC Nightly News on Tuesday led with the unrest in Turkey, and by seven minutes into the program, both Turkey and the US NSA surveillance revelations had been pushed aside for stories on unusual weather, banking fees, and loss of hearing among boomers. Furthermore, the discussion is already being tainted by the standard technique of giving equal weight/gravity to both sides, even when one side makes preposterous statements. (Yes, I did see the Jane Harman appearance on the PBS NewsHour refered to by @Jay; who needs Republicans (or current administration Democrats) as counterpoint to arguments for privacy and civil liberties when you have Jane Harman?!) Furthermore, public opinion surveys have been tainted by grossly-distorted implied Bayesian priors. For instance, one recent poll asks "What do you think is more important right now — for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, or for the federal government not to intrude on privacy, even if that limits its terror investigations?". And that was from a poll whose participants included the Pew Research Center! I'll presume that everyone here, even those without a mathematics background, can recognize what's wrong with the phrasing of that question. (Hint, if not sure: "What do you think is more important right now — for the federal government to investigate possible invasion by outer space aliens, even if that intrudes on personal privacy, or for the federal government not to intrude on privacy, even if that limits its investigations of space alien invasions?"). And then those tainted survey results are paraded as justification for preserving the surveillance status quo.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Part 2:

Second, Zee took offense --- rightly, I think --- at being on the receiving end of what someone called a "smackdown". There are some areas in which I agree wholeheartedly with Zee, others about which I definitely disagree, and yet others in which we might have common ground. But I think the most important point to remember derives from the Alex Jones "Prison Planet" metaphor --- though Jones may not be thinking of the metaphor as being applied as I will: The stereotypical characterization of prison is that the inmates are fighting with each other rather than challenging the warden over conditions or even their imprisonment. If we hope to escape our "imprisonment" by the plutocracy, we had better reduce the distractions and divisions, and concentrate on the practices and systemic structures that have damaged, and continue to damage, the nation and the people. That doesn't necessarily mean finding some "happy middle ground", nor does it mean NOT fighting for positions in which we believe --- in fact, one of the central points of my "Democratic Party Politicians — The Chicken Men (and Women)" post at my blog and also cross-posted here at Sardonicky in December 2012 was that Democrats have become cowards. But we need to stand for our principles without treating it as a smackdown of the opposition.

Progressives also need to face the fact that they (progressives) can be wrong. As I've said previously, I support Zee's concerns about Second Amendment rights, and believe that such rights are just as important as, for instance, First, or Fourth, or Fifth ones. I think that progressives' common tendency to laud draconian firearms restrictions/registration is a major mistake, both on principle and strategically. As I've said previously, we are building an infrastructure for tyranny. In recent years we have seen major constitutional rights swept away by secret executive branch finding or stampeded legislative-executive collusion. And it could get worse, should our soft tyranny turn into a hard one. The massive prison infrastructure of this country could within a few days or at most weeks be emptied of its drug users and common criminals, and instead filled with political prisoners. The border fence currently used to keep illegal aliens out could be used, Berlin-wall style, to keep in U.S. citizens who want to leave. I'm NOT arguing for an armed revolution or even that such a revolution would have much chance of success; but I do assert, as I have in the past, that the second amendment and the presence of large numbers of firearms in civilian hands in this country may serve as deterrent to a move from a "soft", "inverted" totalitarianism into the more brutal hard one. It's ironic that the widespead distribution of firearms among the populace may make the second amendment the most difficult of all Bill of Rights protections to effectively suppress, much more so than the protections most progressives usually associate with freedom, which as I've said, can disapear at the stroke of a pen. To progressives who don't think that they might be wrong in their firearms-related political positions, I simply ask: Looking back over the course of the past five-and-a-half or six years, were you ever significantly wrong in your assessment of Obama, and your beliefs about what positions he would take once in office? If you were, then you should also consider that you may be wrong about other matters.

I'll have more to say, hopefully within the next few days, including an interesting anecdote about surveillance experienced by my parents during a trip to the Soviet Union in the early '70s.

Anonymous said...

Just want to add to Fred Drum.'s point:

1) Progressives need to consider that the hawkish DiFi, the vestal virgin of the NSA, is the Senate's main proponent of gun control legislation, making full use of the public's memory of her stained with blood after Moscone/Milk were shot.

2) In my neck of the affluent Bay Area suburbs, working class liberals and working class libertarians have increasingly forged bonds over concerns about an unchecked, increasingly authoritarian state. We are less frequently joined by those who contract our services.

My theory is that if you are very affluent, or white, or of a certain age, you are less likely to have experienced the irrational authority of local police, and the whole issue of abusive gov't may seem relatively abstract or lower priority to you as we help you pack your bags for that weekend in Aspen, or struggle to assure you that the children and their horses and the apiaries (I shit you not, apiaries) will be well-tended in your absence.

BTW, those Christmas breaks in Hawaii are at the same resorts visited by DiFi's contractor friends. Just sayin'.

Pearl said...

Article in the N.Y.Times about how Snowden's employer (Booz Allen) and the government snooping agencies are in bed together. Amazing that such reports are hitting the mainstream press. It will help Snowden's image.

Leaker's Employer Is Paid to Maintain Government Secrets

Denis Neville said...

United States of Amnesia

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” - H.L. Mencken

We ARE a nation of short attention-spanned hypocrites.

“We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.” - Gore Vidal

Half the American people now hold a favorable view of George W. Bush. Obama is so bad that he is making Bush look good? Bush's poll numbers were so low when he left office that he had nowhere to go but up? His approval rating is up because he hasn't done anything to harm the nation in the last four years?

This reveals much about America. Americans have perfected the art of amnesia.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself.

The American public is not getting any smarter. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern. The aim of public education is simply to reduce as many as possible to the same safe low level to stifle critical thinking and dissent. Our elites don't want people to be educated because they would get out of control. They keep the people in the dark and feed them bullshit. The lame stream media ensures an uninformed and totally misinformed citizenry with their propaganda and whitewashing.

American democracy has devolved to a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. The average American has the attention span of a gnat. Never bet against America's ability to forget! Never underestimate the stupidity of the great masses of the American people; the worship of jackals by jackasses.

“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.” - H.L. Mencken

Many people prefer totalitarianism. They don’t have to think about anything. They want to blame others. They don’t want to accept any responsibility. It’s an easier life for them. It is easier to live with comfortable lies than face bitter truths.

Gone are the massive marches, campus insurrections, the defying solidarity of the mass movements that altered our history. We are a nation of sheep.

Scratch an Obamabot and there is an authoritarian follower.

“A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened.” - George Orwell

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard that Nacchio was the only CEO to buck the NSA - and has been in prison for 4 yrs since?

Denis Neville said...

@ Fred and Zee – who both take offense at Zee being on the receiving end of what someone (me) called a "smackdown."

The meaning of SMACKDOWN: when someone is bested (subjective) in an argument between rival points of view

One of economist Brad DeLong’s regular blog features is his “DeLong Smackdown Watch.”

Scottish poet Robert Burns laid a magnificent “smackdown” on a critic of his poetry - supposed abundance of "obscure language" and "imperfect grammar" - in 1791:

“Thou eunuch of language; thou Englishman, who never was south the Tweed; thou servile echo of fashionable barbarisms; thou quack, vending the nostrums of empirical elocution; thou marriage-maker between vowels and consonants, on the Gretna-green of caprice; thou cobler, botching the flimsy socks of bombast oratory; thou blacksmith, hammering the rivets of absurdity; thou butcher, embruing thy hands in the bowels of orthography; thou arch-heretic in pronunciation; thou pitch-pipe of affected emphasis; thou carpenter, mortising the awkward joints of jarring sentences; thou squeaking dissonance of cadence; thou pimp of gender; thou Lyon Herald to silly etymology; thou antipode of grammar; thou executioner of construction; thou brood of the speech-distracting builders of the Tower of Babel; thou lingual confusion worse confounded; thou scape-gallows from the land of syntax; thou scavenger of mood and tense; thou murderous accoucheur of infant learning; thou ignis fatuus, misleading the steps of benighted ignorance; thou pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense; thou faithful recorder of barbarous idiom; thou persecutor of syllabication; thou baleful meteor, foretelling and facilitating the rapid approach of Nox and Erebus. - R.B.”

Good grief!

Zee is so sensitive that he was called on his “smaller government is best” in the rough and tumble of vociferous, blunt disagreement?

And Fred is upset? Sites Alex Jones?

We're all fools to some extent. Suffering fools gladly might be a sign of civility in social life, but not always, especially when in the political arena. I’m not talking about differences of opinion. Living in a fool's paradise can result in many innocent people being harmed. Then politeness is off the table. Learning to suffer fools gladly is a learned art. The problem is that many do not recognize fools, half-truths, innuendos, facts from fiction, or facts from rhetoric, or worse, beliefs that their favorite sources of information are infallible without any critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

I think I speak for many when I suggest that we'd be more interested in hearing your thoughts on the Nacchio prosecution than on Robert Burns.

Zee, what "sez you" on Nacchio case?

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Denis Neville:

You're reading way too much into my comment. I'm not "upset", I was voicing an opinion on the best strategy and tactics.

Nowhere within what I wrote today --- or at any time in the past --- will you find any adoration on my part for Alex Jones' ideology (or strategy/tactics), and I certainly wasn't citing him as an authority on what I consider desirable political or moral philosophy.

As has been mentioned on previous occasions in this forum, he is sometimes useful for bringing attention to specific abuses of civil liberties.

But I wasn't referring even to that in my comment today, I simply referenced a strategic implication that could be derived from the metaphor of one of his site names.

Silverado said...

Who would have ever thought we'd all be longing for the bygone days of Bill Clinton and that the 13 years since have been so.....what ever you call this sorry state of affairs. Ol Bill and that time he was at the helm never looked so good, did it?

Anonymous said...

Oh, hell, Silverado. 13 years ago, when Bubba was pardoning Marc Rich, we all had fewer wrinkles, and ran a 6:47 mile. Thst's something to miss
Five years ago, when Obama was promising to close Gitmo, we didn't think about locating tubes of Restylane in the dumpster outside Dr. M___'s office.
We're wiser now, not just about politicians, but about gravity.
Frankly, I miss being clueless. But ain't nothin' gonna make me miss Bubba enough to pull a lever for Hillary.

James F Traynor said...

Clinton was the guy carrying the flame for the Democratic Leadership Conference. The DLC's main objective was to create a more 'business friendly' attitude in the Democratic Party. Translation of 'business friendly' : Getting more campaign cash from Wall Street. Well Old Billy got in and Glass-Steagle was shown the door, resulting in the financial calamity that almost did in the global economy as well as our own.

Since then the DLC, started by Chuck Robb, LBJ's son-in-law, has morphed into something called the 'New Democrats', I think. Whatever, the Clintons and Obama are still carrying the ball for the 1%. They sold out the party and us. It is as Karen has oft' said a duopoly. And as I have said, the only difference between the two is how to treat the 'help'. That's us, folks.

annenigma said...

Re: Polls - Only one third of the colonists were in favor of rebellion preceding the American Revolution. On third opposed and one third didn't know or care. The 'Tipping Point' is said to be only 10% of strongly committed people necessary to effect change.

While I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, well versed on the American Revolution, a quick search showed some parallels between now and then. Someone else could do a better job at making the comparison, but here are some of my quick, sketchy, disjointed thoughts before I run off to class (not History, but Black Holes).

The ACA law requiring us to buy from private, corporate insurers and eliminating the public option = Tea Act requiring only British tea vs. public option to sell their own.

ACA tax - since there is no public option, there is no representation of the public interest, only corporate interests = Tea and sugar taxes support British corporate interests over the colonists and taxation without representation.

The NSA snooping = British ordering the colonists to house and feed troops in their homes. We are forced to house and support the snoop troops by sending the privacy of our houses (data) to them.

Corporate multi-nationals taking over governments and negotiating secret trade agreements = British companies getting monopolies on goods in the colonies. The TPP (TransPacific Partnership) being secretly negotiated would give more power to corporations to override national laws and sovereignty of the people. That makes us colonists of multi-nationals. They're not elected, they are our Royalty, so we can't vote against them.

British giving customs officials open-ended, no probable cause search warrants to stop smuggling = warrantless DNA collection without cause, not to mention data collection.

Gotta go now.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Don’t know much ‘bout Black Holes. Aren’t they like Wall Street, forever sucking in all the money in reach of their ever expanding gravity field?

The rule of thirds regarding the American Revolution divide seems likely. And that 10% within the pro-revolution third probably was enough to tip the balance and sustain the struggle to independence.

I don’t see the same proportions in play today, even remotely. Maybe an energetic and serious 5% object vocally to the 1%, but 20% actively go along with that 1%, and the remaining 74% have flies on their teeth. No stars in the sky around here to pull us away from the Black Hole. No constellations of activists of sufficient mass to turn things around.

Game changing meteors like Manning and Snowden come and go, brief lives wasted on populations that don’t even bother to look up.

Anonymous said...

Thirds and tenths - it might not matter because it seems clear that 18th-century colonists were BIOLOGICALLY of a totally different constitution (vastly different level of physical fitness and endurance), and the technology against which they fought was not totally out of proportion to their physical integrity.
Most Americans today are catatonically glued to their car seats. They don't chafe at "the shiny boot" - they might even secretly adore it, if cop shows are any indication. But they sure can't manage outside the shiny boots' existing structure, and that's the major difference between them... and us.

Zee said...


I confess that I had never connected the prosecution and conviction of Joe Nacchio on charges of insider trading with his refusal to comply with the NSA's request for information back in 2001.

Was it a case of “selective” prosecution because Nacchio dared to resist the Federal government? I don't have any new facts that might shed light on the subject, but do I think it's possible that the Feds simply decided to make an example of him?


Notice that the compliance of telecommunications companies with the NSA snooping program appears to be at 100% today. The veiled threat of prison time just might have had something to do with that compliance by CEOs, as would threats that the various companies might lose “suddenly” lose big federal contracts if they elect not to “go along to get along.”

pete v said...

From the Business Insider blurb referenced by Anonymous (emphasis added):

Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio is currently serving a six-year sentence after being convicted of insider trading in April 2007 for selling $52 million of stock in the spring of 2001 as the telecommunications carrier appeared to be deteriorating.

During the trial his defense team argued that Nacchio, 63, believed Qwest was about to win secret government contracts that would keep it in the black.

Nacchio alleged that the government stopped offering the company lucrative contracts after Qwest refused to cooperate with a National Security Agency surveillance program in February 2001[!?!].

The BI article connects the NSA dots in the headline, but - as some in the comment section point out - doesn't mention all the shit that went down at Qwest prior to Mr. Nacchio's conviction.

This extensive Denver Post article from 2002 paints quite a picture:

After scrolling through most of the DP article, I am left wondering why an apparent turd like Nacchio would have had any qualms about secret/lucrative government programs tapping the company he helmed.

Also, WTF (!?!): that bit from BI about the NSA requesting Qwest customer data in February 2001 - several months prior to 9/11. Typo?

Anonymous said...

That is weird timing. And your question about why Nacchio resisted the NSA demand is, yeah, very intrresting. But the 2007 Denver Post piece doesn't even mention the NSA. Which makes me wonder what other, perhaps essential, ommissions rest therein.

Always enjoy reading your thoughts. Does seem odd to pursue Nacchio and not Blankfein for financial crimes. Nacchio's low-hanging fruit, they seem to like that.

Zee said...


Am I “ so sensitive that [I] was called on [my] 'smaller government is best' in the rough and tumble of vociferous, blunt disagreement?”

Hardly. Believe me, I've been the recipient of far worse impalements in technical—and other—forums, and held my own without resorting to tears.

But it's not clear to me why discussion here needs to devolve to “the rough and tumble of vociferous, blunt disagreement” at all. This was billed to me as a “civil” forum.

James Traynor's “Excellent Zee smackdown!” had no substance to it, saying that “The government grew under FDR butserved most of us well,” and suggesting that I'm full of “libertarian bull.” (See the thread “Pick Your Scandal.”)

Your later remark applauding JT, had more substance, but it was still easy to parse the quote that you put forth as “evidence” differently than you did, concluding that, yes, Roosevelt cleaned up state and local government, but only because it served his political advantage; he moved the political favoritism up to the federal level, where he used it to solidify his own position. (Which I later did. See the tail-end of the remarks on the thread “Big Brother Caught Peeping Again.” I'm surprised that no other participants in this forum saw the obvious.)

I also pointed out that Andrew Bacevich traces the origins of the “imperial presidency,” with all the bad things that that connotes, right back to FDR's administration. I don't think that Bacevich thinks that was a good thing for the country.

At any rate, my subsequent attempt at rational discussion on the “right-sizing” of government went unremarked upon—perhaps completely unnoticed—save to deeply bore one regular participant.

Still, that hardly hurt my feelings. I'm merely doing a mental cost-benefit analysis as to whether or not I'm totally wasting my time here. I started participating here because Sardonicky was touted for its civility, and, in general, it is. Still, as I have said before, I get the distinct impression that some commenters out there are far more eager to pounce on me with a snappy smackdown rather than intelligent discussion. Is that really worth my time?

And poor Fred Drumlevitch, who dared to share some disdain himself for the “Zee smackdown, ” now finds himself on the receiving end of a mini-smackdown of his own. There's not a more thoughtful, more even-handed or more dedicated Progressive commenter/blogger here than Fred. And now he gets bitten because he sort-of defended ol' Zee.

How quickly you forget even your friends.

One final thought on “right sizing of the government,” and then I'll leave it alone unless someone asks me specific questions. (Same with the issue “It's not the size of the government, it's the kind.” No one will talk about what “kind” of government is necessary, or to explain how a big, powerful government of the right “kind” avoids all the perils of pete v.'s “Möbius strip regarding human nature and the nature of human government.” So I'll leave that alone, too.)

I came across this video discussion with Andrew Bacevich on his book, The Limits of Power.
In it, he also traces the origins of the “imperial presidency” back to FDR, and goes on to say the the principal reason for today's government disfunction is the sheer size of our government.

The transcript is worthless, so you really need to listen to the video.

He traces the “imperial presidency” back to FDR at about 13 min, 15 sec, coming to the heart of the matter at about 14' 50''. He talks about size as it contributes to governmental dysfunction at about 21'00''. I wish that he would have expanded upon these topics.

So it ain't just me, and I don't think Bacevich is a silly Libertarian, either. A “paleoconservative,” perhaps, but certainly not a big “el” Libertarian.

Zee said...


There are many other "titans of Wall Street" who should be behind bars today in the wake of 2008, but I suspect that only Joe Nacchio dared defy the NSA.

Could that be the crucial difference between Nacchio and Blankfein?

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Some last points from me regarding "smackdowns":

If Denis or for that matter anyone else does an eloquent "smackdown" of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Jane Harman, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Diane Feinstein, John Boehner, Barack Obama, Penny Pritzker, James Clapper, Dick Fuld, Jach Welch, Jeffrey Immelt, Pat Robertson, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, or any of the thousands of others who have personally profited with huge amounts of money/power/status for actively, willfully, mendaciously effecting the deconstruction of this country, they won't get any argument from me. In fact, I'll vigorously cheer them on. Those are the types of smackdowns that Karen often does in her posts, and which I applaud.

But there is a vast difference between those above active members of the plutocracy, and an ordinary citizen, even if that ordinary citizen might be very wrong. The differences include amount of benefits derived from their positions, amounts of influence they have wielded, their actions, their amounts of hypocrisy and manipulation. We might summarize all this into degree of culpability.

The individual citizen who supports, through his advocacy and/or vote, policies that harm this country and the people isn't off the hook responsibility-wise, but the degree of individual culpability is vastly different from what I would assess to a member of the plutocracy. Most of us on this forum would probably agree that the plutocracy, through the mass media, very effectively manipulates large segments of the populace.

Even if he is wrong, I don't think Zee fits into the category of member of the plutocracy, which means that he shouldn't be treated as one. And equally, the broader perspective is that we progressives need to not be dogmatic, that is, we need to 1) listen, be aware that we can be wrong, and if so, change accordingly, and 2) be effective in advancing our core agenda, which, in a democratic republic, implies the need to (among many other things) convince at least a few ordinary citizens of the correctness of the policies we advocate.

And I reiterate that I think that "smackdowns" --- by any definition of that word --- of ordinary citizens is not the best strategy.

Pearl said...

Fred: you are making MY head spin, but in a good way. You make sense, BUT, I agree that the distinct possibility that we will have a form of fascism take over the country ( some already in place) is possible, BUT if so, it cannot
last and I believe a reverse reaction will then take place.
Why? Because as Germany finally collapsed when the armies of WW2 destroyed their march to destruction, a similar takeover here will collapse because
the country itself will implode. From lack of financial balance which will affect the upper classes, it will implode from the rotting infrastructures
without sufficient money to correct things, it will implode from the number of people flooding emergency and other medical facilities without proper
care, it will implode from the ever increasing lack of jobs and the backlash from that financially which is already causing severe problems, there won't
be enough facilities or guards or supervisors to imprison political
prisoners who will incite those on the outside to protest strongly by
physical means, there won't be enough police and other guardians to keep street violence in check, ad infinitum. We are on that edge already and there will be no wriggle room if things continue to deteriorate. Also, I
don't believe Americans will be able to deal with too much discomfort no matter what the cause.
As to the hallabaloo about Snowden and his exposure of corruption covering the media, that will continue in other ways because once Pandora's box is opened, lots of things follow each other flying out. There are endless
scandals waiting to be unleashed and don't kid yourself, the whistleblowers are champing at the bit, not only because of their idealism but resentment
on how they and their fellow workers are sucked dry while the boss owners prosper.
Remember how the Vietnam war finally ended, by exposing the lies of the Generals, the lies of how it was started (thank you Ellsburg and the Bay of
Tonkin ). It could have continued indefinitely if not so. And surely some of the unnecessary waste of our recent 2 wars which most of the public has turned against finally will not be completely forgotten when another
invasion is planned somewhere.
The only change to these conjectures is if a true destructive act or
invasion by some terrorist enemies (which we have created by our policies) causes the country to unite in fighting back.

Now I will take some aspirin to deal with my headache and I suggest you do the same. I really appreciated everything you wrote Fred, you seem to be a
very busy political writer and when I looked you up in Wikipedia, it was basically not available for reasons unexplained (privacy?) which reminds me of how I contacted them when they had the history of my husband's family's
political activities (according to the FBI records quoted only) which were total lies. I requested they removed the information and never heard back.

I (all of us I am sure)hope to hear more from you.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't decide to spend your time elsewhere. Just as Garcia is usually the best part of the Times comments, you and Fred are (IMO) the best parts of Sardonicky. You are both consistently gracious and thoughtful, and, I think, very self-disciplined in how you write. It speaks well for your philosophy.

My question to Sardonicky readers is this: if Krugman is right that tech is displacing vast numbers or workers, then how can Zee be wrong in advocating the inevitable shrinking of government staff? Similarly, if we end the drug war, huge numbers of state and fed jobs will disappear. If we resist our imperial over-reach, there will also be a shrinkage of defense industry jobs. How is this bad?

Krugman's column today is a landmark. Tech is doing a large part of everyone's job. We can't go back to our consumerist society - the planet can't support it. It seems to me we don't have a model for how to deal with such a big shift.

Where I live, we are surrounded by the structures built by FDR's New Deal programs. They are still magnificent and practical. Washington High School, in SF, is a huge campus, and the student body is working-class and extremely focused on academics. The polo fields and casting pools, the beach chalet, the murals... these were great investments in a downturn. You could get great US labor for cheap, and people were thrilled not only to have some income but to be working on legacy projects.

Could you do that now, politically? I don't know. But I think it could be done for a relatively small cost. And what an investment.

Now that's big government. But smart.

Anonymous said...

One more "big government program":

After, I think it was the success at Marathon, the athenians began to rebuild their acropolis. Pericles, VERY MUCH in the model of FDR (aristo background, fantastic orator) was roundly criticized for overspending in his building project. And yet, the Parthenon stands as testament to the brilliance of Greek democracy and Greek culture - despite slavery, and oppression of women, it was a much more robust participatory democracy than we will ever be. It was also an empire, and a fairly successful one at that, with all the pitfalls an empire is prone to.
The Spartans, who defeated them, left us no architecture at all, and all that we know of them comes from... the Athenians. Go figure.

Fred Drumlevitch said...


Thanks for the compliment. The approach taken by Zee and myself probably derives from our scientific backgrounds. But others here, including Karen, Jay, Denis, and Neil, are all much more knowledgeable than I am in history, politics, literature, and philosophy.

Hopefully we can all contribute in our own ways and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

With regard to your point about Krugman's column, a decline in jobs due to displacement by tech, and implied shrinkage of government jobs, further job losses in "defense" spending and "law enforcement" if we end (as we should) imperial over-reach and the drug war --- you say "It seems to me we don't have a model for how to deal with such a big shift."

But we do, and you've alluded to it, with reference to FDR's New Deal. Post-WWII history provides additional guidance.

Scroll down to the entry for "Recession of 1945" (There's no direct link). GDP declined 12.7%, due to a decline in government spending post WWII --- but peak unemployment only reached 5.2% (in 1946). That figure would be envied nowadays.

(As I pointed out in my last blog post, between 1945 and 1948 U.S. military spending dropped 89% --- and military spending was a much larger percentage of total GDP than it is currently).

Why relatively little increase in unemployment? My guess is that after the neglect during WWII years, there were so many things that needed doing, and so much pent-up demand, that other spending quickly took up the slack from military spending cuts.

Similarly, there are so many things that need doing now. But many of them are large-scale, and must either be done by government, or via public-private partnerships. Either way, it requires planning, and an improved national industrial policy. Or rather, a national human-and-physical-infrastructure policy --- an industrial-research-educational-health-social justice policy, since many of the needed actions are not strictly industrial. And it requires the will, and new taxes. Unfettered capitalism as national policy needs to be deposited on the trash-heap of history. Aimless wandering with profit as the only goal won't get us where we need to go as a nation. And if we don't go, other countries will, and we'll be left behind. The choice is as stark as that.



Also thanks for the compliment.

That there's no entry for me at Wikipedia is not from privacy considerations but rather simply because there's no basis for an entry for me. I'm not an established writer or political organizer. I haven't done anything to warrant fame --- or notoriety! --- and I'm not seeking those things. I'm just an ordinary American outraged at the mismanagement and looting of this country, adding my voice to the growing outcry.

Zee said...

@Anonymous and @Fred Drumlevitch--

Anonymous, like Fred, I, too, thank you for your kind words. I doubt that I am going elsewhere anytime soon. I enjoy reading Karen's “Musings on politics and modern culture” too much to leave. Both Karen's writing and the remarks of the commenters give me regular food for thought, as well as links to other Progressive ideas that I would otherwise miss. Both have changed my way of thinking in significant ways, and when I disagree, I really have to sharpen my wits and gather evidence/data to try to make my point to the contrary. It keeps the aging brain agile in ways that Sudoku and crossword puzzles never will.

Anonymous, Fred has pointed out that you have already alluded to the best likely approach to dealing with the permanent disappearance of jobs and careers in this country, even amongst those who are currently considered well-educated. I agree with you and Fred that this is a nationally disruptive phenomenon—even a national crisis—and only as a nation can we deal with it.

If the United States are simply a geographical area in which the chief, protected “civil right” of its individual citzens is “every man for his capitalist-self and devil take the hindmost,” then we are neither a nation nor a distinct people anymore. We need to take care of each other. That's the “civic duty” side of Thinking Conservatism. But how to do it, and to what extent?

Fred, you've spoken in generalities about what a national plan might look like, and I would love to see you further develop those thoughts on your own blog, cross-posted here. Or perhaps you can refer me/us to something that you've seen elsewhere that is serving—in your mind—as a nucleus for such a plan.

Believe it or not, I am not opposed to such a national plan if I can understand the details, and can also understand what my higher taxes are paying for.

Most importantly, I want to see tangible results like those to which Anonymous alluded, whether it's the reconstruction of a failing highway or bridge, builders replacing outdated schools with storm-resistant ones in “Tornado Alley, ” or just more children in those same schools, learning from competent teachers how to succeed in a rapidly changing world. And the list could go on.

Here, I think, is where Conservatives differ so greatly with Progressives: that there be some sense of accountability as to where our money goes.

In the Krugman column, he more-or-less states that two necessary prerequisites for a national job recovery plan and a viable middle-class are universal health care and a minimum annual income.

Fred and Anonymous, I'm already with you on single-payer health care. But what do the recipients of a minimum annual paycheck do for their money? Anything? Or are we simply pensioning off a large sector of the population and hoping that they just don't bother us anymore?

And what is a “minimum annual income?” To my conservative mind, it should not be large enough that it removes all incentive to obtain the skills necessary move up the economic ladder, if possible. But I see great debates as to what constitutes a minimum annual income, and whether or not society has any right to expect anything in return for its money.

Well, I'm rambling at this point, because I certainly don't have “a plan.” I'm only trying to express what I think much of conservative—and yes, compassionate—America would like to see in, and understand about, such a plan. Because I think we all know we're in real trouble.