Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Looking for a Conservative Phoenix

I have long yearned to see a rising by old-style American Conservatives against the hijacking of their movement (even its zombification) by the cynical murdockian cabal, a process that Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Billy Graham all saw in early phases and denounced.

A process that none of us could have imagined would go as far as it has, with all of the GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee deliberately and vociferously proud to be anti-science.

Elsewhere, I describe the sort of thing that's called for.  Something akin to what liberals and democrats did in 1947, when they decisively cut themselves off from the mad-communist left, and thereby saved the relevance of their movement.  Alas, while millions of U.S. conservatives do express discomfort with the transformation of Buckley's intellectualism into a know-nothing mob, few on the American right have roused to do anything about this tragedy for the republic. (And let's be clear -- it is tragic if we're compelled to look only to one party for a semblance of sanity. I prefer a competitive marketplace.)

Some voices of protest have risen, now and then, e.g. on the pages of the American Conservative, decrying how Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of the Republican Party (assisted by the Koch brothers, radio shock-jocks and the Saudi Royal House) has systematically reversed dozens of hallmarks of the Goldwater-Buckley era, especially the notion that grownups engage in debate, not hysteria, with the aim of negotiating pragmatic solutions in a complicated world. That conservatism's natural skepticism vs "activist-meddling" should not mutate into rage against everything in the last lines of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

It has become clear that this rising of conservative adults won’t be happening soon, to any degree that actually matters.  Amidst Phase Three of the American Civil War, the side that stuffs ballot boxes and gerrymanders in order to stay in Congress will go down in flames, as did the Confederacy, and decent conservatives will then have their chance -- rebuilding from the ashes.

Still, there are such men and women out there, making sincere efforts to at least talk about the problem, offering hopeful manifestos for what the conservative phoenix might look like.  Take this one by Andrew Bacevich in the Imaginative Conservative. I highly recommend that you read it…

… especially if you are a liberal or progressive!  Because you, above all, need to begin parsing what a sane conservatism would look like. Because half of your fellow citizens do ascribe to a conservative worldview, and that is not going to change. You will achieve more by pointing them toward a more adult version than by ridiculing them in blanket terms. Let me reiterate that: I hope all of you liberals do read Bacevich's article.

Consider the following passage: “Conservatives, therefore, are skeptical of anything that smacks of utopianism. They resist seduction by charlatans peddling the latest Big Idea That Explains Everything.”

I believe that (putting aside the "charlatans" snark) he hits it on the head, here.  That conservatives will always – by personality and nature – be wary of externally imposed and frenetic “improvement campaigns.” And this trait will always make them inherent opponents of meddlesome, gotta-save-the-world liberalism. They will have this trait, even when Goldwater-sanity in restored. Moreover, in this reflex they will not always be wrong.

Progressives – driven by a manic need to solve this problem right now(!!!) … and that problem and that one(!) … naturally drive half their fellow citizens batty.  And liberals’ inability to recognize that visceral response is one reason the Koch-Murdochs have been able to nurse resentment into fierce political power.  In other words, liberals, Fox is partly your fault.

The crux: progressives see a world that needs saving and many things that desperately need improving.  They are correct about this… but often insane in their mania and inability to listen.  Their worst crime is often refusing to admit that many past progressive measures actually worked! Refusing ever to give the citizenry a pat on the back for past, partial victories against racism, sexism, prejudice, and environmental blindness. By emphasizing guilt trips and chiding … and only sanctimonious chiding… many progressives have been Sean Hannity's favorite people and the source of much of his power.

ConservativeIn contrast, conservatives react to nagging with hackles.  They find the constant hectoring to improve things aggressive and often rude.  They have a perfect right to feel that way. Meddlesome chiding (justified or not) truly is rude.  But that emotional response blinds them to the simple fact that liberals have been correct in nearly every improvement campaign that they’ve raised for 80 years.  The world does need saving and the proper role of conservatism is not to obstruct with volcanic fury.

It is to act as the voice of skeptical reason, demanding proof and reality checks and evidence. To insist, as Buckley and Goldwater did, that “solutions” always contain as much as possible of the element most in need of preservation from would-be meddlers -- a generous helping of old-fashioned free will. That is what conservative negotiators would be insisting upon right now... if conservatism still negotiated.  If it were still sane.

When you read Bacevich, you get the sense of a fellow who would take up that latter role, as Barry Goldwater did.  A role that would serve us all well… even when you deem it retro, overly recalcitrant or overly nostalgic.

Sure, when you read his essay, you will find much of it rather old-fogey. Tough. You must learn to converse with folks like this. Learn to talk Fox-watchers into veering away from the Hannity-Limbaugh hate fest  and listening instead to folks like Bacevich.

You will never make the conservative personality go away! (If you dream of that, then you are a would-be tyrant.) But you can try understanding it better, so you can ease your neighbors’ pain. The dread and fury that has transformed them from debate-worthy fellow citizens and estimable opponents into rage-drenched soldiers in the New Confederacy.

=== Can you hear the tumbrels? ===

AirlineDeteriorationDelta, United and American Airlines have all announced plans to upgrade their business-class seats for cross-country and transcontinental flights. Then there’s Emirates, which now sells first-class suites — complete with a shower — that go for a tidy $19,000 on the New York-Dubai route.  At the other end of the economic spectrum, low-cost airlines that re-create the thrill of traveling in steerage are thriving, too. The new business model, apparently, is to shrink the seats, charge extra for everything and offer nothing for free.  Elsewhere I have discussed what all this means (See Airline Deterioration and the new Elite).  When the rich abandon a mode of transport, or can truly divide castes of travel, that mode goes to hell.
What does it all mean? Harold Myerson of the Washington Post lays it out in A Hard Landing for the Middle Class:  "The upgrading of business and the downgrading of coach present a fairly faithful mirror of what’s happening in the larger economy: the disappearance of the middle class. As University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez has documented, between 2009 and 2011, the incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of American families grew by 11.2 percent while those of the remaining 99 percent shrunk by 0.4 percent. Median household income has declined every year since 2008. Profits, meanwhile, have risen to their highest share of the nation’s economy since World War II, while wages have sunk to their lowest share."

I'll let Myerson have the last word: "The U.S. economy has not stagnated over the past four decades, but so much of its wealth has been claimed by the very top that most Americans have experienced it as a zero-sum game in which they’ve lost ground. As tax rules favored the wealthy, as employees lost the power to bargain for their wages, as globalization reduced the incomes of millions of workers, the rich grew richer at everyone else’s expense. That’s the reality that today’s air travel illustrates, as the comfortable standard seat that once was the norm goes the way of the dwindling middle class."

They truly haven't a clue what they are doing. History shows where this leads.  I even tried to warn them, in Existence.

=== High Speed Trading Redux ===

TransactionFeeTerminateI've discussed elsewhere the problem of High Speed Trading or HST, which allows a cartel of "seated members" of stock exchanges to game the system, exponentially augmenting their already unfair advantage over other traders (like you and me.)  Now see how institutionalized this unfair practice has become, as the New York Attorney General reveals that Thomson Reuters would allow you access to the Consumer Confidence data a full two seconds earlier than the rest of its subscribers… if you pay them thousands per month.

There are three levels to this: (1) The insider trading aspects are intrinsic to human nature and all we can hope for  in transparency, wary regulators and whistle blowers. (2) This is made far, far worse by the cartel of seated exchange members.  Even if this generation does nothing about it, a future one will, so the brightest cartel members should start looking for ways to benefit from helping us.  (3) HST offers a potential for a true doomsday scenario.  One akin to TERMINATOR.  I mean nothing less.  See my article for reasons to fear.

=== Political Miscellany ==

As Congress braces for a possible government shutdown next month and the fresh danger of default before Thanksgiving, there is a surprising exodus of senior GOP staffers that has worried people in both parties.

NamesInfamyThe appalling poor taste of Rolling Stone - a journal I generally admire - in putting the face of the surviving Boston Bomber on their cover - had the Net roiling with anger.  My simple reaction? Refer folks to my Salon Magazine piece proposing a solution. That we  "re-name" people who are decisively proved guilty of heinous deeds.  It's called the "Herostratos Effect" and it has compelling logic.  We deserve the right to shun those who harm us grievously, denying them the attractive "immortal fame" that derives (in a sick mind) even from infamy.

Here's a link to the offensive cover, which has drawn hundreds of marriage proposals from deeply sick women who seriously ought to enter the Darwin Awards contest... as (thank heavens) The bomber clearly has.

The Boehner-led Congress has been the least productive since record keeping began, in 1940.  And yes, that includes their stated goal of reducing government or repealing laws… they've done less of that than any democratic-led Congress.  

Communist Party cadres have filled meeting halls around China to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through Chinese society. These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s traumatic past.

Lawrence Kotlikoff has been doing yeoman work drafting legislation for which he has now lined up significant bipartisan support in Congress. This bill would require congressional budgeting offices to actually state the long-term fiscal impact of current legislation on future generations. He also has support of 12 Nobel laureates and over 500 economists. I urge you to go to and sign up yourself and pass the word to your friends and associates.

=== Oh… the hypocrisy! ===

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz To Renounce Canadian Citizenship. Cruz was born in Calgary, Alberta, on Dec. 22, 1970. His mother was born in the U.S. and his father was a native of Cuba. And all of a sudden that's just fine for a fellow who's blatantly already running for president in 2016.

Um really?  Seriously?  All of the sudden having an American citizen mother is more than enough, even if you were born overseas?  Um…. birthers?  Does your hypocrisy know no bounds?

== The Deadly "smoking gun" memo? ==

If this is even ten percent true, then you have to conclude that the world's master connivers are nowhere near as smart as they think they are, since the only possible place for this to lead is tumbrels.  "The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of bankers." The less this mess is attributable to conspiracy, the more it has to be stupidity.


Jumper said...

As usual, I have to follow these links later. I did run across two articles in Forbes which relate to a couple of conversations we have here:


Sorry I'm late, David, but I did order my copy of Existence! :>]

sociotard said...
- “Just you wait: the Clintons will be proved corrupt traitors and murderers, just as soon as decent republicans control the Justice Department and open all the files! And whenever you prove one allegation false, I’ll hurl others!” (Hint: after 14 years, not one Clinton official has ever even been indicted for a single crime-of office. Not one. Ever.)
Alas, there was yet another betrayal of our national security in store, one that may have had far more dire consequences. For, just as soon as they entered office, the Bush group began devoting top priority to finding that Clintonian smoking gun.

They unleashed scads of GOP lawyers - many of them at taxpayer expense - to sift through filing cabinets in every executive department, trawling for something, anything, that might let them indict at least one Clintonite. To help justify what they had put the country through for a decade.

As I’ve said, this hunt proved unavailing. And that pathetic failure would be amusing... an expensive but hilarious joke... but for one additional fact.

Not only GOP political operatives were engaged in this witch hunt.

Agents of the FBI, along with skilled operatives at other intelligence and law enforcement agencies, were diverted from normal duties, in order to join in this frivolous activity, during the months leading up to September 11.

And Now . . .
The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of semantic hair-splitting, I want to point out that phrase ‘political conservatism’ can be used in at least two very distinct ways. In the contemporary US, it has a very historically specific connotation where it eventually became roughly interchangeable with Republican. But in a more historically universal sense it means something like ‘defender of the status quo,’ which could lead to just about any political position depending on what the status quo is at the time. In the Reagan-to-Bush2 years, the specific and universal definitions were almost flipped on their heads for a generation, with Republicans seeking radical changes like dismantling the welfare state and abolishing banking regulation, while liberals found themselves in the position of defending these status quo policies.

I doubt Liberals will be starting a movement to re-appropriate the term ‘conservative’ anytime soon, but thinking about it like this has bearing on Dr. Brin’s argument. By seeking the ‘Conservative Pheonix’ exclusively among the Old Right he is falling into that Left-Right binary he so often decries.

Kathy Amen said...

I'm looking forward to seeing several of your panels at WorldCon!

David Brin said...

First to be considered, re Syria, is this earlier posting of mine:

The doctrines could not be more different. What I'll be watching is whether the cruise missile strikes mostly go for air defense facilities. That will scare Assad because it will imply more strikes to come and some of them air space denial and tactical, involving human pilots.

sociotard said...

Meanwhile I'll be watching to see how well he shoots around the Russians.

This is escalation. It is asking for Syrian allies to match our escalation. Their Russian allies.

Maybe Obama will just target a suspected gas storage facility, and send a message that we don't care who wins, just don't use WMDs. Maybe Putin will accept that. Maybe.

Or, maybe, Tomahawk Barack will try eliminating Syrian air defenses. That would prompt Putin to sell more arms, and maybe even deploy fighters to bolster his allies' air defense.

David Brin said...

There is much going on below the surface. This will be a proxy war in that there are advanced Russian Radars and russian and chinese "observers" on the ground, eager for this to start, so they can pull in lots of data on U.S> e-warfare methods. They will also test their latest jamming methods and (possibly) more aggressive things like anti-air missiles.

On a geopolitical level, that stuff is as important as anything else and believe me it has the most attention right now. American reputation of invincibility has a calming effect on the world, and if it fails, then we're in for tense times.

andrew said...

Dr. Brin, I suggest that you check out political scientist Corey Robin's writings on the intellectual history of modern conservatism. He basically demonstrates that the likes of Buckley and Goldwater actually contributed and encouraged the conservative movement's current direction:

Tacitus said...

Re: Syria.

I am not prone to conspiracy stuff but am having a very difficult time understanding the motivation of Assad to use nerve most accounts he was winning without it.

That being said, the opposition is a mixed bunch. Some white hats, some bad people. They would have an enormous amount to gain by pinning nerve gas use on Assad. It may in fact be their only hope of international intervention.

I would like to see the evidence. Various accounts have the gas being delivered by aircraft. That would finger Assad pretty well. Or by rockets.....less neat. It would take fewer motivated people to fire rockets, and it does pay to remember that a large part of the Syrian army has defected already.

The skies over Syria are probably thick with satellites and drones. Tidy up the secret aspects a little and bring the evidence forward. Even the Russians might be convinced. Look, this jerk has used weapons that even Hitler backed away from when he assaulted your country. How can you support this?

In the end our resolve, our willingness to see things through is more important than where the first salvo of Tomahawks land. This, and future, administrations need to dispel any suggestion of "Wag the Dog". And if the UN has become nothing more than a podium to speak from, at least use it for that.

No comment just now on the Conservative Phoenix post, other than to say conservatives regard progressives as the ballot box stuffers!


Anonymous said...

In order for the Republican party to reform the US would require two things, the talking heads on TV would need to acknowledge the problem and confront their conservative guests when they lie or say something crazy.

They won't, and there's also very good money to be made as a professional centrist practising "bothsidesrism", such as David Brooks.

That and the republican base have largely been trained by Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh for the past 20, 30 years to believe that liberals and leftists hate America, want to destroy it and anyone who disagrees or proposes the slightest hint of compromise is a RINO communist traitor.

They have an entire media industry catering to that ideology referred to by some on the left as "wingnut welfare." and are often invited onto even mainstream tv shows to provide "balance."

Unless you can fix some of the above problems you won't find the GOP becoming rational again because there's to much money to be made for the enablers and no votes and a primary challenger for any politician who challenges or questions the current handbook.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, Assad had plenty of reasons to use gas. He was locvked into attrition with half of his capital city in enemy hands. His initial hezbollah-led push has stalled and his time is running out as the supplies are now flowing thru Jordan.

Show me the proof about demo ballot stuffing. We hear it again and again and there have been maybe five cases proved in 30 years.

Meanwhile, GOPper gerrymandering is beyond blatant and beyond all excuses.

Tacitus said...

Fair enough.

In my role as window to the conservative mindset I should point out that there is a feeling that election day hijinks are not prosecuted with vigor.

Admittedly these are all from a single, and partisan source, but it gives a sense of the potential problems especially with absentee ballots.

But I think the Syrian issue is more pressing. Had a nice chat with a fellow physician working at the local free clinic recently. He has been "in country" a couple of times working in hospitals on the rebel side.


Walt said...

Billy Graham has not yet died. Of course, most denunciations coming from Buckley, Goldwater and Graham would date before their demise.

LarryHart said...


No comment just now on the Conservative Phoenix post, other than to say conservatives regard progressives as the ballot box stuffers!

In Mayor Daley The Elder's day, perhaps. That was in the era of MLK's "Dream" speech, which we've just heard was fifty years ago.

Nowadays, the vote fr- ok, maybe I should charitably say "suspicious vote pattern" capital has moved north to Waukeshau County.

And as Dr Brin asserts later, the Republican gerrymandering is not even TRYING to look reasonable. Nor is the sudden rush of GOP-controlled states to suppress the vote. Think about that. It's not like "both parties try to prevent the other party's voters from voting." One side wants more people to vote, and the other side wants fewere to vote. Doesn't that say something about respective character?

Alex Tolley said...

We already have conservative phoenix - the Democratic party, which is arguably more conservative mow than was the Republican Nixon administration.

I'd like to see a real people's party in this US.

“Conservatives, therefore, are skeptical of anything that smacks of utopianism. They resist seduction by charlatans peddling the latest Big Idea That Explains Everything.”
Really? Then why are they espousing simplistic and wrong ideas to fix what they see as wrong - i.e. everything FDR did and since? And christian fundamentalism isn't utopian?

We don't need from the gut skepticism, just processes to test ideas on a pilot scale. We need a political system that doesn't ignore the educated citizenry in favor of monied interests. How many empires collapsed being too progressive rather than conservative?

David Brin said...

Alex, Bacevich was talking about IDEAL mature conservatives. Of course his words are a joke if applied to fox-watchers.

Tacitus, the states that are passing voter ID are the conservative states with officials who WOULD prosecute, if they could and who WANT examples to point at.

I have said before, I am fine with phasing in voter ID! But the proof is that not one of these Gopper-led state VID efforts funded even a fig leaf program to HELP the poor and elderly and young and minorities to GET the ID they would need...

..which would also help them in many other ways. That utter, drooling hypocrisy, so shameless that they did not even notice (!) is downright evil.

Tony Fisk said...

One of the problems facing a would-be phoenix is that of 'tribes'. Every conservative identifies with the conservative movement (aka the GOP) and tends to react negatively to suggestions that they are batshit loonies (see the decidedly non-batshit loonie Tacitus' response: although I think he's just being the messenger here).

I try to present it as a question of distinction, and labelling. Of course conservatism is a useful mode of thought and acts as an essential counterweight to gung-ho, brainstorming progressives.

Can you say the same of 'self-servatism', though? Those seeking to maximise their takings and minimise their contributions to the common weal in the name of free enterprise and supply-side economics, do they help anyone else?

For levity, look at who I get to vote for next weekend!

StephenMeansMe said...

American conservatism needs to grow away from being merely traditionalist. If there really are some "eternal verities," then by all means conservatives ought to try to conserve them, but why rigidly preserve them?

Take, for example the "community." Bacevich mentions one-man-one-woman married couples, but we need to move on. That's not the ESSENCE of a family. Two (or more!) loving parents with enough time between them for child-rearing: THAT'S the essence of a family!

Similarly, the possibility space for what makes a strong community isn't the same as it was in the 1950s. For one thing, suburbanization sorta sucks, especially for the environment (which Bacevich laudably promotes conservation of). Rather than the keep-it-or-leave-it dichotomy, conservatives need to probe for the fundamentals and keep THOSE strong, not just appearances.

Re: Syria, some interesting analysis. Also here. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic in light of the (D)-vs.-(R) track record, whatever the hysterical on either side may contend.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

I read Bacevich's article, and have read him for years. This article, though, is far more liberal minded and even left minded than David seems to think. David is so intent on ripping into those who try to bring attention when no attention was paid that he did not read very carefully what Bacevich is saying. Here is what he describes as his ideal conservative, and count the liberals and leftists among the people he puts into his conservative stew:

"Here’s the basic recipe. As that stew’s principal ingredients, start with generous portions of John Quincy Adams and his grandson Henry. Fold in ample amounts of Randolph Bourne, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Christopher Lasch. For seasoning, throw in some Flannery O’Connor and Wendell Berry—don’t skimp. If you’re in a daring mood, add a dash of William Appleman Williams. To finish, sprinkle with Frank Capra—use a light hand: too sweet and the concoction’s ruined. Cook slowly. (Microwave not allowed.) What you get is a dish that is as nutritious as it is tasty."

Not one of those names would appeal to Bill Buckley or Barry Goldwater other than perhaps Flannery O'Connor and I doubt either Buckley or Goldwater read a word of O'Connor.

There is something deeply telling in this. And we really, and I mean really need to stop hippie bashing and left activist bashing, David. They do the heavy lifting in our society. Always have. Always will. They were active in the civil rights movement when people said, "Go slow and don't bother me so." Abolitionists too, and anti-war people, and environmentalists, feminists, union agitators, and assorted Reds.

If we really want to grow up, we can start by recognizing these folks as sympathetic figures, not objects of derision or worse, telling me Sean Hannity has anything constructive to say in this regard.

Paul451 said...

If you want to take the time, there are sites to help you vote below the line in the senate. They let you shuffle the blocks

I prefer... ...because it suits my particular pedantry (and lets you print a one-page "how to vote" card.)

OTOH, there are others that do much of the work for you. For example, just like/dislike the parties you know or care about and it will create an order for the rest for you.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks, Paul. The AEC also give the senate listings, and details each party's preferences for those who want to vote above the line.

New Matilda is currently running a series on the minor parties, in their own words.

My wife had minor conniptions when she read that there was a Pirate Party! (It is, it is, a glorious thing...!)

Since I'm on the topic of minor parties, I rather liked the Wikileaks/Rap-news spoof on 'Game of Thrones' (not sure what John Farnham thinks, though!)

Patricia Mathews said...

If you live in Albuquerque, you know what a sane conservative looks like. We have one for mayor, and I'm going to vote for him. My liberal friends will have steam coming from their ears, but so be it.

sociotard said...

Oh, how the worm turns:

Biden: The president has no constitutional authority to take this nation to war . . . unless we are attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked. And if he does I would move to impeach him.

Alex Tolley said...

@LaryHart " One side wants more people to vote, and the other side wants fewer to vote. Doesn't that say something about respective character?"

I don't think so. I think both parties want to be in power. They both see a under-voting demographic that would tend to vote in favor of one party. Therefore one party tries to block their vote, while the other tries to unblock it.

If you have a party that believes (as Romney does/did) that this demographic is never going to vote for you, then the rational thing to do is try to prevent them from voting.

Any party that engages in voter blocking, gerrymandering, and various forms of vote rigging, is so far from the ideal of democracy that they should be kept out of office. Yet here we are in the C21st, where all this continues to take place and where the SCOTUS has effectively endorsed vote blocking by removing controls.

A 10 year old could do better designing a system for fair voting than what we have now.

matthew said...

Tacitus - We have been over and over the Bush2 DoJ efforts to find voter fraud here in this forum. You have participated in the discussions in the past. You seem to have forgotten all the evidence piled up here, so let me recap for you: After years and millions spent on the search, there was no pattern of voter fraud found and prosecuted. Cases brought forth numbered in the high single digits. Less than a millionth of the votes cast in the national elections. Bringing the canard back up is simply toeing a party line. Your reputation as "an honest conservative voice" is beginning to wear a bit thin, IMO.

On Syria, here is the administration talking about why they are so sure that it was Al-Assad's goons that used WMD.
Tl:dnr is that the US claims to have intercepted the call from the missile launch site to Al-Assad's military command base. Russia and China are claiming that since it was not UN Inspectors that intercepted the call the evidence must be faked by our intelligence agencies. In other words, geopolitics is trumping the hope of some sort of future without the threat of rogue nations using WMD.

Our future is getting a little darker bit by bit.
I am not an Interventionist Liberal Hawk but I see Al-Assad using WMD on a large scale like the last attack as the sort of existential threat that we are most used to hearing Israeli voices warning us about. Obama cannot allow this to go unanswered. I predict a nasty bit of bombing and a no-fly zone, coupled with a policy statement that states that the use of WMD anywhere in the world will trigger a similar response.

Tacitus said...

You misunderstand me slightly. I was objecting a little to David's use of the term ballot stuffing regards to Republican redistricting. I concur that the visible problem is not large...but point to any R efforts to, for instance, vote more than once. My point was only that this was a conservative perception. I feel that David, and many commentators here, have scant insight into the mindset of modern conservatives. Note also that I said Syria was a much more pressing matter.

My efforts over the years to get Brin to use less offensive language in describing conservatives has been largely unsuccesful.

Info on Syria is indeed coming out in dribs and drabs. More please. This is not a pure partisan issue. I also understand that congressional leaders are getting briefed today. Maybe this is just for show but it is a needed part of the process.

Best case is Assad is persuaded to move somewhere out of Tomahawk range. Abdicating and moving to Iran or Saudi would be good.

Wouldn't it be something if the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles really did have a few Bagdad labels on them after all these years. Such allegations have been made, but who knows really. The stuff is pretty stable long term....


locumranch said...

“Conservatives, therefore, are skeptical of anything that smacks of utopianism. They resist seduction by charlatans peddling the latest Big Idea That Explains Everything".

Can anyone say 'Climate Change' ??

In the Age of Social Marketing, PMT & Behavioralism, that question is more than a non sequitur. Every 'Big Idea' that you can think of has been sold to you (to us) through the pernicious use of Protection Motivation Theory (PMT), often for the most altruistic of reasons, so much so that only the gullible talk about 'Free Will' as if it exists in a vacuum.

Take a gander at this synopsis (1) on PMT provided by the evil empire of Saskatchewan and, if you still don't believe me, then google 'PMT and climate change' for a list of scholarly articles discussing the best way to influence & persuade through the use of fear-mongering.

Fear (as previously mentioned) is believed to be the prime motivator -- the strongest E-motion tied most directly to behaviour -- and, as a result, it has been used in lieu of reason to influence, convince and control individual opinion & public sentiment for generations regardless of the justifying rationale.

There is no discussing it. From poison gas to seat belts, politics, climate change, firearms, drugs, terrorist attacks & cigarettes, just be very VERY AFRAID because if you are afraid enough then you will stop thinking, start feeling and DO what your masters wish of you, suspending all objectivity & reason.

Think of the horror, the end of the world, the children, 9/11 and poison gas. Remember the Alamo, the Maine, Leonidas & the Gipper. The time has come to ACT & let loose the Dogs of War!!


Jumper said...

Those whose motivations are questionable have resisted using precise terminology regarding elections accountability and fairness, and the press and TV have augmented that fuzziness of meaning: voter impersonation is different from ballot stuffing. Flipping elections through doctoring thumb drives is a different story, as is doctoring elections by self-erasing code in PCs with proprietary software used alongside paperless voting machines. All of which are different from absentee voting problems.

It's not very hard being more precise than TV and newspaper people who are simply not analytical personality types.

Jumper said...

locum, you are attributing much fear of your own to others. Granted, many are like you, but policy is usually more grounded in reality than the headline-grabbing "be afraid" sort of junk. Politics is a game of inches, and if you can get another 3% on your side by scaring them, be assured PR types will do it. It's not the whole story, though.

David Brin said...

Bruce Murray was one of the most agile members of an agile generation. Under his leadership, the Jet Propulsion Lab's skilled teams extended humanity's reach and vision to distant worlds. A brilliant scientist, he also served his civilization in realms of policy, and even art. Bruce was among the first to grasp the potential of the World Wide Web to improve human conversation and his early "hyperforum" experiments still have not been matched. Above all, his legacy is found in generations of students and others who benefited from his guidance and example. The lesson that I draw from his life is that we are capable of being "many." Bruce Murray was the truest citizen of our renaissance.

I feel his loss, blended with joy that we were able to create and nurture such a wonder.

Anonymous said...

At the other end of the economic spectrum, low-cost airlines that re-create the
thrill of traveling in steerage are thriving, too. The new business model, apparently,
is to shrink the seats, charge extra for everything and offer nothing for free.

Swide your card and the pilot relief tube pops out of the deck.

Joel said...

High frequency trading - HFT, not HST. Just finished reading Dark Pools by Scott Patterson. A few notes.
* Maker-Taker fees pay HFT traders to provide liquidity, $.20 per trade.
* New order types that give HFT traders the ability to enter trades retail investors can't see, but can take out bids making it expensive for you and I to invest
* Trades should have a 5 sec rule.

A tax isn't near enough to fix this problem

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin,

What's even more amusing from Ted Cruz is that for all of his grand pronouncements according to Canadian citizenship law, his renunciation is meaningless, there was no official representative of the Canadian government to receive it.

So like most republican histrionics "it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

sociotard said...

UK Parliament votes no to Syria attack

Wooo! and here I thought Peace had no hope. Now if we can persuade Obama to be less of a unilateralist cowboy than Bush, who at least had that ally when he attacked Iraq . . .

Alfred Differ said...



You really want us to do nothing when chemical weapons are used?

Acacia H. said...

I actually mentioned this on Facebook (in someone else's post). This is a Catch-22 situation, or perhaps more aptly a Negative-Sum Game. And the more I look at things, the more negative it becomes.

First: if we do nothing, then the U.S. looks weak. (There is an easy solution for this: state either that due to the Security Council not sanctioning this, we will not act because International Law should be abided by. A version that would not piss off Republicans would be to require Congress to vote on whether military action is sanctioned in this situation and let Republicans say "no" for a change.)

Second: if Assad falls, then his chemical stockpiles WILL end up in the hands of terrorist organizations and WILL end up being used in Europe and possibly the U.S. in terrorist attacks.

Third: Russia and China are waiting for us to attack Syria so they can see if they can hack our weapons (seeing they have been hacking our military websites and military contractors and getting vital information on these systems). Attacking would thus show them if the U.S. is now a paper tiger who they can go after because our high-tech weapons are useless.

Fourth: People are dying because of chemical attacks. More people will die because of chemical attacks. If we don't attack, eventually Assad will attack outside countries because of "terrorists" in the refugee camps. He will escalate his efforts to wipe out anyone who is his enemy, which includes millions of refugees who had the audacity to try and flee.

I saw an excellent article on how the U.S. could react instead: increase the number of Humanitarian Parole visas for Syrians who have family in the U.S.; we've done maybe 40,000 this year and those are mostly Iraqis and other nations, not Syrians. Syrians are being denied visas for EVERYWHERE.


Tacitus, from what I understand, Absentee Ballots are not counted unless an election is close. They're SUPPOSED to be, but the extra effort involved usually means they get put aside and then tossed out after one candidate overwhelmingly wins (or one candidate steps out and declares the other the winner).

There is a simple solution to dealing with voter fraud. Iraq did it. You ink the finger of the voter. This will keep voting down to one vote per person. People who vote will thus have a decision: risk getting caught if they are being fraudulent while their vote doesn't count in their own county? Or vote at home? Because they ain't voting more than once.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Oh, and I am so waiting for the Onion to do an article about Conservatives in the United States... and then end with the zinger that the Democratic Party is the conservative party, not Republicans (who are trying to overthrow laws, eliminate regulations, change voting requirements, and eliminate abortion, all actions which would drastically alter the social landscape of the country).

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

I don't think so. I think both parties want to be in power. They both see a under-voting demographic that would tend to vote in favor of one party. Therefore one party tries to block their vote, while the other tries to unblock it.

If you have a party that believes (as Romney does/did) that this demographic is never going to vote for you, then the rational thing to do is try to prevent them from voting.

I'm not sure we're actually arguing, but perhaps I need to clarify my meaning.

Of course, both sides want to win elections. I don't mean to pretend that the Dems are altrusitic in wanting to increase the participation of voters.

However, I do think it says something profound about the two parties' characters that one thinks it can win if more people vote, and one thinks it can win if (and only if) it prevents voters likely to oppose them from participating.

That's not "Both sides do the same thing to win." It's all but an admission from the Republicans that, despite lip-service, they don't really believe in democracy. They believe in entitlement: their own entitlement to the reins of power, and if they can't win it by the rules, then the rules must give way to suit their ends.

Imagine two competing grocery stores, one that people prefer to shop at, but is a half-hour out of town by car. The other is in walking distance in the city, but has shoddy merchandise and poor customer service. The only reason anyone shops at store #2 is because they don't have the vehicle or the time to spare to reach #1.

So store #1 constantly lobbies the city for a public transprtation route out to their store, and store #2 blocks those efforts at every turn, working tirelessly to PREVENT decent transportation. Both are acting in their self-interest, but they are not equally blameworthy. One store "wins" if people are empowered to exercise their free will. The other "wins" by preventing them from doing so.

And despite store #2 no doubt painting itself as the champion of "freedom" from paying for a road and a bus route, which of the two is really promoting "freedom", or even WANTS to?

LarryHart said...


I was objecting a little to David's use of the term ballot stuffing regards to Republican redistricting. I concur that the visible problem is not large...but point to any R efforts to, for instance, vote more than once.

I see your point. Republicans don't cheat that way. They prevent others from voting or they use voting machines that can flip votes their way. But no, they probably don't specifically vote more than once. Hardly a ringing endorsement, though.

Info on Syria is indeed coming out in dribs and drabs. More please. This is not a pure partisan issue

I agree that it shouldn't be a partisan issue. Due to the political climate of the times, of course, it will be.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

Concerning the "Terminator" scenario, are you familiar with Robert Harris, the author of "Fatherland"? One of his most recent novels (maybe his most recent) dovetails nicely with a lot of what your article on AI posits (I've already spoiled way too much of the book just by saying that).

Funny, but I've wondered if Harris is influenced by your writings ever since I read his "Fatherland", which takes place in an alternate-history 1964 in which Nazi Germany won in Europe and has been in a "cold war" with the US for 20 years. It has no supernatural elements, but nonetheless reminds me a lot of your "Thor vs Captain America."

David Brin said...

Prediction. The missile strikes will start by nibbling the edges, slamming Syrian air defenses and "accidentally" taking out some russian and chinese observers who both nations disavow having there. This will scare Assad silly because it implies it is just the start.

If they have made the mistake of placing more than two artillery pieces near each other, those will be taken out. Warehouses of munitions. Israel will know where those are.

matthew said...

@ Tacitus, thanks for the clarification. I understand your point now.

And Slate (plus presumably WaPo since they run Slate) agree with you on releasing the intelligence. ""Obama Should Reveal Secret Syria Intercepts

sociotard said...

Alfred Differ said...

You really want us to do nothing when chemical weapons are used?

If they are not used against us? No, I want us to do nothing. We have no dog in this fight.

I mean, it's not like we bombed Israel for using White Phosphorus, which is also banned. And it's not like other countries bomb us for still using land mines, which a great portion of the world considers unethical. And it's not like people who die in gas attacks are less dead than people who die from ultrasonic lead.

Edit_XYZ said...


Not even bothering with the 'no good option' straw-man any more, I see.

This is somewhat better - you shed your hypocrisy and let everyone see the ugliness hiding behind it: some creep is killing people with WMDs, USA can stop it with minimal risk to itself - and you want this not to happen.

Acacia H. said...

Edit, scroll up a little bit and look at my interpretation of this situation. Attacking Syria is a bad idea because it is literally a trap meant to sucker us into a fight against Russian military hardware and Chinese hacking equipment.

Though personally I suspect the U.S. could manage to do these attacks if it unveiled a new weapon: stealth missiles. Now THAT would cause certain parties to extrude building materials! ^^

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Not even bothering with the 'no good option' straw-man any more, I see.

Actually, I still use that argument. No matter what we do, lots of Syrians die. We can't back either side, or we're abetting monsters.

You claim to be the big hearted fellow here, but all I hear is "I want to kill Syrians using these weapons to Stop Syrians from killing other Syrians with different weapons."

It still doesn't make sense. Unless you can really explain why "dead from gas" is different from "dead from bullets and shrapnel". And then you have to further explain why you did not back similar action against countries that use White Phosphorus or Land Mines.

Tacitus said...

So David. You are fond of telling us how many generals and admirals you know, and how greatly they loathe the interventional cowboyism of recent Republican administrations.

Illuminate us if possible. What are the "brass" saying in private on the matter of a Syrian incursion? The Washington Post today is running its usual sort of "off the record" bit in which Deep Concerns are being voiced.

I also assume you have comments on the recent rejection by Parliament of British involvement and the polls suggesting 79% of the US populace wants Congress on board for any intervention.

We agree that Assad is a murderous s.o.b. But as there is no imminent threat to the US or to obvious US interests a thoughtful debate would seem appropriate.

Two final points.

I am rather enjoying the support in this matter of some of my Progressive fellow Contrarians.

The harshest commentary I have seen-ouch, gonna leave a mark-is a conservative fellow who elsewhere said he was not comfortable having the US serve as Al Qaeda's Air Force.

Matters of War and Peace.

To a reasoned debate and a best case outcome.


Edit_XYZ said...

There's no option that will stop syrians from dying today, yes.

But there's an option that will cause FAR fewer syrians to die and would have the effect of removing a monster from the command of an arsenal.
And that IS the better option.
Of course, sociotard, you prefer to equate this option with the 'let Assad do whatever he wants' one, despite the fact that their consequences are nothing alike. Well, this is called a straw-man.

It's FAR more probable that chemical weapons will reach terrorists/will be used (more then they already have, by now) if Assad remains in control of them than if he doesn't.

About Russia/China - the longer USA waits, the better prepared Assad will be with their hardware and the bigger the resulting mess.

Already USA waited too long: the opposition fell into the hands of figures more unsavoury than a few months ago; russian/chinese hardware already found its way to Assad.

And this war - considering the arsenal Assad has - will almost certainly spill over to other countries.
And the West WILL feel it; we don't live in a bubble.

sociotard said...

But there's an option that will cause FAR fewer Syrians to die

Nope. I'm not entirely sure which option you wanted (cruise missile barrage? No-Fly Zone? Assassinate Assad?), so I'll assume you want to try targeting their chemical weapon supplies.

Even if we succeed in either destroying the chemical weapons or persuading Assad to not use them, it won't make a difference. The numbers of Syrians killed by bullets and shrapnel is at least two orders of magnitude larger than those killed by chemical weapons. Numbers killed by food and water shortages and so forth are similarly bigger. Halting the use of chemical weapons will not noticeably decrease the rate of killing in the future.

And that IS the better option.
Of course, sociotard, you prefer to equate this option with the 'let Assad do whatever he wants' one, despite the fact that their consequences are nothing alike. Well, this is called a straw-man.

That isn't actually what a Straw Man is. Straw Man means you argue against something your opponent has not actually said. You may be thinking of False Equivocation.

Honestly, this debate would go much smoother if you actually lined out what option you want. It would also help if you directly addressed my questions. Why do you think chemical weapons require an intervention while White Phosphorus and Land Mines do not?

matthew said...

Sociotard - the difference between being dead from land mines or white phosphorus and being dead from Sarin gas is the utility of nerve gas to a terrorist organization. WP or land mines are not very portable / concealable. Sarin is both. For that reason alone it is a whole different animal than the two you have mentioned.
On top of that, the international agreements between major powers to not use poison gases has lasted much longer than the agreements not to use either land mines or WP. Longer lasting = more cultural resistance to use. Here, have a little history

Michael Gerardi said...

I will confine my response to your comments about Ted Cruz. I oppose Ted's running for President precisely because he fails to meet the "natural born citizen" requirement of the Constitution. And I say that as a supporter of Sen. Cruz. I refuse to change my opposition to non-natural-born citizens, like Obama, occupying the White House, even though doing so may be to my political advantage. Or rather, ESPECIALLY in cases when it would be to my political advantage. There are many, many others, including those you smugly and contemptuously dismiss as "birthers", who hold the same view. Some of us actually BELIEVE in the Constitution and think its words mean what they say, and mean what the Founders intended them to say.

I'm eager to read your next "Uplift" book. Your next condescending political pronouncement, not so much.

sociotard said...

Except Cruz and Obama are both Natural Born citizens. They were born to women who were citizens. This made both Obama and Cruz citizens at the time of their birth, and, consequently, natural born citizens.

Paul451 said...

Re: "It's a trap."

You're assuming that the DoD and its contractors wouldn't want to similarly find out their vulnerabilities, and their enemy's capabilities, in a non-critical arena. (As opposed to finding out in the Sth China Sea.)

Acacia H. said...

Also, Obama was born in Hawaii, which was a U.S. State at the time. That ALSO makes him a natural born citizen.

Unless you believe his mother risked her unborn child to get on an airplane in 1961 and had his child in Africa, in a region without modern medical facilities? Please note, the most modern transport jet of the time was the Boeing 707. I'm not sure if they had any flying to Africa or not, but let's just assume for the sake of the Birther argument that they were. (Of course, there was also the Sud Aviation SE 210 Caravelle and a Soviet jet liner, the Tupolev Tu-104.)

Why would she do this? Seriously. Why? What logical reason would a pregnant woman get into an aircraft back then to an area that did not necessarily have better medical facilities than she had in Hawaii?

Please. Answer me that.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Two final points.

I am rather enjoying the support in this matter of some of my Progressive fellow Contrarians.

Exactly. This really should NOT be a partisan issue.

I'm against getting involved in Syria, but I don't see how this is a "for Obama or against Obama" issue. President McCain would have been just as likely (if not moreso) to want to bomb Syria.

LarryHart said...

Michael Gerardi:

I refuse to change my opposition to non-natural-born citizens, like Obama, occupying the White House


Obama supporters don't flaunt the Constitution. We simply accept the FACT that the president was born in the State of Hawaii, and is therefore a natural born citizen.

Jonathan S. said...

The Constitution doesn't actually address what constitutes a "natural-born citizen". I believe it's Federal law that states that someone who has at least one parent who is a citizen qualifies for citizenship from birth; as well, the 14th Amendment specifies that anyone born in the US is a citizen.

Therefore, Barack Hussein Obama II, born in Honolulu, HI, of an American mother (and a Kenyan father), is a US citizen, and one can well suppose a "natural-born" citizen as well (since no one has proposed that he's actually a clone hatched in a lab or anything).

Sen. Cruz was born of one American parent, but was born in Canada. The law, if I understand it correctly, grants him citizenship through his parentage; however, the 14th Amendment doesn't apply, as he was born in a foreign nation. Is he a "natural-born" citizen? (I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this question; I think his rank hypocrisy on the matter would come back to bite him in the posterior in any actual presidential run.)

Paul451 said...

"President McCain would have been just as likely (if not moreso) to want to bomb Syria."

You think Mr "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" would turn out to be a warmonger? Why the nerve of you, sir! Apologise at once.

Tim H. said...

Don't forget, the Syrians who most need blowing up have the best bomb shelters. Expect some tragic pictures.

Tony Fisk said...

I hear Obama is seeking congressional approval before hurling things. Will it be an ironic first if Congress grants it?

irtchur: the agonising feeling of wanting to scratch an itch and not daring to. Of Congrees wrt Presidential requests.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi guys
I'm just a foreigner but in your division of power is it not Congress that has the task of declaring war?

If it is then Obama SHOULD request Congress to rule on this

Jonathan S. said...

Yes, Duncan, Article I, Section 8 states that Congress has the power "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water...".

It's frequently claimed that the Authorization for the Use of Force passed in the days following 9/11 gave the President that power. However, I don't seem to find anywhere in the Constitution where it says the legislative branch has the authority to delegate their powers upon another branch.

Of course, there's also the question of whether a limited use of military power constitutes a declaration of war. That was one of the reasons Congress passed the War Powers Act back in the '70s - presidents from Kennedy to Nixon had committed our troops to the defense of South Vietnam without ever going to the trouble of having war declared. The Act requires the President to seek a declaration of war if any intervention is to last longer than 90 days, IIRC.

sociotard said...

It's one thing about our legislature that I've found odd. They have the full power of the constitution defending their power and theirs alone to make war. And yet, in practice, they neither want that power nor exercise it nor even acknowledge it is there.

I'd always thought that "the goal of every office is to increase its own budget and oversight." However, Congress doesn't want to be in charge of war. The chance of it turning unpopular is too risky.

Acacia H. said...

Personally I think it would be quite interesting to see if Congress dares to vote against it, now that Putin, Syria, AND Iran are all thumbing their noses at the U.S. and saying "neener, neener, you don't dare!" And I'm quite curious as to how things will escalate should Congress say "no" despite these provocations.

I mean, what happens should the next nerve gas attack happen in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan? I'm not sure if they'd dare go after Turkey as that would give NATO permission to move in... but Jordan? Who cares about Jordan? So yeah. If the U.S. Congress dares to say "no" you'll hear plenty of words about how Americans are "gutless" and then a strike against Jordan with claims that "it was Syrian rebels who fired shells from Syria into Jordan as provocation." And Russia will continue to block action from the U.N. despite the attack.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I'm waiting for the first calls to impeach this dangerous war-monger of a President.

Tim H. said...

Tony, a good working definition of a Republican is someone who dislikes Obama (Or Carter or Clinton.) for the wrong reasons. Anyone who replaced Obama would likely face the same sort of assimilation by the establishment, think of the Babylon 5 episode where Moliari is gifted with the regents "keeper".

Tacitus said...

Tim H

I should probably dispute that definition but having never watched Babylon 5 I suppose I can't comment.

There have been grumblings about impeaching all recent presidents.


Acacia H. said...

Figured I'd repost this from my Facebook account as I suspect even my fellow conservatives here on Contrary Brin would agree with me on this one bit. ;)


I know a number of my fellow conservatives dislike government regulation (and for that matter may not consider me conservative because I don't goose-march to the Republican Party). But I do believe we need a federal law passed to regulate one specific industry: fashion.

More specifically, we need a Federal law STANDARDIZING clothing and footwear sizes. We've all heard about how a Size 6 (for example) in women's clothing may not be a real Size 6. And we've heard this is spreading to men's clothing so a waist size of 38 may in fact be a 42 or 44. Well, it's ALSO spread to shoe sizes and you NOW have to try on every single pair of shoes you want to buy ahead of time even if you know your size and width BECAUSE IT WON'T BE THE SAME FOR EACH BRAND.

To heck with this. I know "government regulation" is a dirty word to some, but we need set standardization for clothing sizes, not "feel good" sizes. You don't see nuts and bolts claim to be 5/8ths of an inch ad actually be 1/2 an inch (or 12 mm when it's actually 15 mm, depending on if you have standard or metric). Why should clothing be different?

Rob H.

Occam's comic said...

Hi David ,
As a liberal, one of the things I hate most about the modern Republican Party elites is that I now have a negitive knee jerk reaction to anything labeled as Conservitive. All I see on tv is war mongering, torture loving, neofudalists, but when I talk to family, friends, coworkers, who are conservitves I find people who are good decent, people who want to find agreeable solutions to the problems we face.

That is why I am fond of blogs like yours.
I have recently found another blog that is tring to bring some mutual understanding to the problems facing local communities. It is called Strong Towns blog. They did a really neat series on talking with Consevitives, Libertarians, and Progressives about the problems facing our local communities.

Jonathan S. said...

So, Robert, would this law be enforced by the Fashion Police? :-)

Acacia H. said...

No, Jon. It would be enforced by the anti-Fashion police. The Fashion police are part of the problem. :P

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

a good working definition of a Republican is someone who dislikes Obama (Or Carter or Clinton.) for the wrong reasons.

I'd ammend that to someone who thinks President Obama is always wrong. Remember how McCain et all were on his case for NOT intervening in Lybia until he did, and then they were on his case FOR intervening in Lybia. It's just like "We've always been at war with Eastasia".

In fact, I wonder if the reason Obama was in favor of austerity was so that the Republicans might come out against it. I mean, if so, it didn't work, but it was worth a try.


There have been grumblings about impeaching all recent presidents.

Very cynical response: There were grumblings about impeaching Bush because he DESERVED it, while the grumblings about Clinton and Obama are purely partisan tit-for-tat.

Healthier response: There were grublings from liberals like myself about impeaching Bush, but the Democaratic leadership who could have acutally pursued such a measure were never in danger of doing so. The first thing Nancy Pelosi did when she became Speaker was to take impeachment "off the table."

Whereas the Republicans DID impeach Clinton, and the only thing preventing them from impeaching Obama is knowing the Senae won't go along.

Tacitus said...

Frankly the one recent Pres whose actions probably come closest to Impeachable is the one almost everyone loved/loves.

Reagan and Iran/Contra was pretty far over the line.

Bush the Elder was a one termer, I can't recall anything terribly damning in a constitutional sense.

As to more recent Chief Execs I share the concerns generally expressed regarding extending Executive Privilege.


LarryHart said...


Frankly the one recent Pres whose actions probably come closest to Impeachable is the one almost everyone loved/loves.

Reagan and Iran/Contra was pretty far over the line.

Hey, I don't know how to respond, because you're going further "left" than even I would.


I despised much of what President Reagan stood for during his term, and I lay a lot of blame for what this country has become at his feet, or more accurately, at the feet of his cult of followers.

But even at the time, impeachment as an option didn't even occur to me.

Bush the Elder was a one termer, I can't recall anything terribly damning in a constitutional sense.

Of all the presidents since Reagan, and possibly even since Carter, George H W Bush is the only one who was NOT a personality-cult type leader. (On other forums, I've said that he's the only recent president I have not suspected of being the anti-Christ). In that sense, he's probably more of what I think is appropriate in a president, as opposed to a king or dictator. I liked Dukakis in 88 for the same reason, and was horrified when he was portrayed in ads as being a "mere administrator", which is what I think a president SHOULD be.

As to more recent Chief Execs I share the concerns generally expressed regarding extending Executive Privilege.

In a sense, I'm more disappointed and frustrated when Democrats go along with that. When Bush/Cheney overreached, I could imagine that the remedy was the same as it was for Nixon--force them to resign or vote for the other party. When President Obama does the same thing, what am I supposed to do? Vote for McCain/Palin or Romney/Ryan instead? To what end? If "Democrats are just as bad", then the terrorists have won. Metaphorically, I mean.

Acacia H. said...

Personally I think impeachment is overdone. Everyone talks about impeaching a President over the most trivial of matters. Nixon was not impeached... but would have been because of a truly valid reason. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was not valid. And any talk of Impeaching the Shrub were likewise not valid. And while I dislike Clinton... I feel the Republican Party sullied their office by impeaching him over lying on a trivial subject as an affair.

If Clinton had lied under oath about a murder or concerning a subject of national security then it would have been a valid reason to impeach him. By going after Clinton for the most trivial of reasons... Republicans diminished what Impeachment truly is and abused their own power.

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"I feel the Republican Party sullied their office by impeaching him over lying on a trivial subject as an affair."

Did he lie?
The impression I got was that he sailed very close to the truth but by the definitions he was given he did not lie
He did not have sex (penetration) with that woman

Acacia H. said...

And that level of weaseling just makes me hate Clinton that much worse. What he did with Lewinski was sex even if he didn't "technically" sleep with her. What's more, it was an abuse of power. My one hope is that Obama is able to resist any such temptations and remains true to his wife. But that's not so much "remaining true to marriage" as "avoiding potential abuses of power" that come with being President.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Tacitus, from my perspective Obama is kind of a DINO, more like a Republican of the sixties, but the liberal/progressive movement has only a shadow existence in the contemporary Democratic party. The B-5 reference has to do with the way outsiders tend to be assimilated by the Washington establishment, lobbyists and "Serious people", go to youtube and try this search "Babylon 5, the regent dies".

Tim H. said...

R.I.P., frederik Pohl

Tacitus said...

To tie the various sub threads together....

There is a reason why impeachment is rare and should be reserved for the ultimate level of abuse. Even if a president has done something that could be viewed as impeachable by partisan folks, there is no question that starting or even openly calling for impeachment weakens our image in the world. Could Clinton have better handled Bin Laden before 9/11 if he did not fear the consequences of a "wag the dog" criticism? Quite possibly.

I also think Iraq could have been less traumatic had D opposition been more principled, but that is a view I do not ask others to endorse.

So, at this point I think it is time for those who are reluctant regards a Syrian incursion to give the administration a fair and respectful hearing. If there is risk to take and credit/blame to share afterwards lets have both sides do so honestly.


sociotard said...

In the spirit of the vandals in "Earth", making people look at things that don't fit their worldview:

TED Talk: Eric Li - A Tale of Two Political Systems
He explains why he thinks that Chinese Meritocracy is awesome. He doesn't persuade me, but it was an interesting talk.

Gator said...

"In other words, liberals, Fox is partly your fault."
Nope, Republicans need to own that. Saying Fox is partly liberals' fault is like telling a woman she's partly to blame for being raped because she wore a short skirt.

Each side will annoy the crap out of the other. How one chooses to deal with that is the difference between adult politics and the constant childish "me-victim" whinging we see from the modern conservative.

Michael Gerardi said...

LarryHart said...

“Obama supporters don't flaunt the Constitution. We simply accept the FACT that the president was born in the State of Hawaii, and is therefore a natural born citizen.”

First off, that “fact” has not been established. To the contrary, copious evidence exists supporting a different conclusion, not the least of which is the 1991 Acton & Dystel agency lististing of its client Obama as being “Kenyan-born”. One could list at tedious length the factual inconsistencies, falsehoods and cover-ups surrounding this issue. Your naked assertion is unpersuasive.

Second, there is no reason to believe that the Founders conflated “citizen” with “natural born citizen”, or considered the mere accident of birth on American soil (assuming such was the case) automatically to confer the status of “natural born citizen”. The fact that the Founders used different terms in different provisions of the Constitution clearly establishes that they considered the terms NOT to be interchangeable. Until the Supreme Court speaks to this issue, it remains open IMO, as does the issue of Obama’s qualification to be President, or lack thereof.

sociotard said...

“Except Cruz and Obama are both Natural Born citizens. They were born to women who were citizens. This made both Obama and Cruz citizens at the time of their birth, and, consequently, natural born citizens.”

The foregoing argument applies here as well. There is no legal justification IMO, and more importantly, no constitutional support, for equating “citizen” with “natural born citizen”.