Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Past

It isn't even past. 

Time Magazine's David Von Drehle:
Hard to imagine that at his zenith, George W. Bush would ever have wanted to quote the Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but one of Trotsky's famous lines would have fit perfectly into his farewell. "You may not be interested in war," Bush said in essence, "but war is interested in you."
I took this reference as a "wink wink, nudge nudge" type of statement. And Time's Karen Tumulty has a good eye for metaphor--the type Ron Suskind might write into one of his books.

After something happens, it can begin to seem inevitable. The extent to which the actual has its origins deep in the past, and the present-day has been unfolding for decades, becomes clear to us all. On occasion, it’s useful to have a jarring reminder that things didn’t always seem that way...
The problem is that most didn't see how strong an influence the past really was.

PS: Sam Tanenhaus is indispensable on analyzing the present state of the GOP (and Jim Sleeper is helpful in this post, if a bit on the breathless side).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Joe the Plumber Has a Handler?



Update: More from a decadent New Class Enemy of the People, conservative comrades:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Which Liberal Milquetoast Will Play the Next Emmanuel Goldstein on Fox?

Alan Colmes just signed off...

How the template was developed:

At its high point, the syndicated "McLaughlin Group," which airs on NBC and PBS affiliates nationally, had 3.5 million viewers, far more than the top-rated FOX News Channel opinion shows today. Host John McLaughlin, a former Jesuit priest, aide to Richard Nixon, and National Review alum, chose the topics, the sequencing, and his four fellow panelists. The show always pitted three or four conservatives against two or even only one liberal. Over the years, one of the liberal slots typically went to a nonideological reporter, such as the Baltimore Sun's dyspeptic Jack Germond. Often, the "liberal" guest, usually the bumbling Morton Kondracke, then of The New Republic and now with the FOX News Channel, was booked to endorse and bestow legitimacy on conservative views.

This arrangement left Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the sole woman panelist, who was typecast as a screechy feminist, to fend off two or even three angry, white, conservative men. Among the regular panelists, only the liberals -- not the conservatives -- were trained reporters. Putting Clift and Germond -- rather than liberal opinion writers -- up against conservative ideologues bolstered the conservative caricature of all reporters as closet liberals; at the same time, it ensured that liberals would be more restrained and nuanced in their advocacy than their opponents.

This imbalanced and exaggerated TV picture was projected, to Washington and the nation, as if it were somehow a representative microcosm of political dialogue in the country during Ronald Reagan's presidency, leaving the indelible misimpression that conservatism was the dominant view in the country. Meanwhile, McLaughlin's buffoonery -- his exaggerated manner, his nicknames for panelists, his reduction of politics into a game show -- made conservatism seem unthreatening, and even funny. From the composition and tone of "The McLaughlin Group" panels sprang the stereotype that conservatives are entertaining, while liberals are whiny and boring -- another seeming advantage engineered by the Right as the values of entertainment, rather than those of journalism, were prevailing on television.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Broaching the Subject of the Neoconservatives' Role in Iraq

David Frum wrote recently about a challenging and controversial subject--the Neoconservatives role during the run-up and execution of the Iraq War. I'm glad he's making an effort, but I'm afraid he's falling into a certain tendency to "simplify and then exaggerate" rather than face real issues:  

During the Bush years, we heard a lot about the sinister influence of powerful Jews. Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Doug Feith, Richard Perle: These were the men who supposedly led America to war.

There was always one flaw in the theory: none of these men held a top job. Wolfowitz was deputy secretary of defense, not secretary of defense. Libby was chief of staff to the vice president, not to the president. Feith ranked third at the Department of Defense; Perle headed an advisory board.

First of all, just saying they are Jewish is not very descriptive. Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, and Perle were a very specific group of Jewish policymakers--the Neoconservatives. Jacob Heilburn has very helpfully described the Neoconservatives as having certain common intellectual roots, ideological commitments, concerns, backgrounds, and history which clearly identify them apart from their ethnic identity.

Secondly, Wolfowitz, Feith, and Perle, have been widely referred to as architects of the Iraq War. This is how Paul Bremmer characterized them. Recently, Wolfowitz and Perle have been trying to run away from this characterization, but not very convincingly. Doug Feith, on the other hand, has not tried to run away from that role--he owned too many of the key decisions to do that. Instead he's been busy trying to convince people that none of the failures were his (something that a large number of his former colleagues differ with him on).  

As State Department administrator Robin Raphel revealed, the Iraq occupation was rife with ideologically blinkered Neoconservatives who seemed to actively hamper the monumental--and abysmally planned--task of reconstruction.

Scooter Libby worked at the Office of the Vice President. But this was not an ordinary vice presidency. As the Guardian reported, the Office of the Vice President played an indispensable part in the bureaucratic fight during the run-up to the war. A December '03 New Republic article (link not available online) gives a flavor own what that fight was like:
For years, Libby and Hannah in particular had believed the Agency harbored a politically motivated animus against the INC and irresponsibly discounted intelligence reports from defectors the INC had brought forward. "This had been a fight for such a long period of time, where people were so dug in," reflects a friend of one of Cheney's senior staffers. The OVP had been studying issues like Iraq for so many years that it often simply did not accept that contrary information provided by intelligence analysts-- especially CIA analysts--could be correct. As one former colleague of many OVP officials puts it, "They so believed that the CIA were wrong, they were like, 'We want to show these f***ers that they are wrong.'" 

Intelligence analysts saw little difference between Cheney and his staffers. The vice president's aides may have made more trips to Langley and signed more memoranda asking for further information, but, as the CIA saw it, the OVP was a coordinated machine working for its engineer. "When I heard complaints from people, it was, 'Man, you wouldn't believe this shit that Libby and [Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J.] Feith and Wolfowitz do to us.' They were all lumped together," says an ex-analyst close to his former colleagues. "I would hear them say, 'Goddamn, that f***ing John Hannah, you wouldn't believe.' And the next day it would be, 'That f***ing Bill Luti.' For all these guys, they're interchangeable." Adds another, "They had power. Authority. They had the vice president behind them. ... What Scooter did, Cheney made possible. Feith, Wolfowitz--Cheney made it all possible. He's the fulcrum. He's the one." 

From the OVP's perspective, the CIA--with its caveat-riddled position on Iraqi WMD and its refusal to connect Saddam and Al Qaeda--was an outright obstacle to the invasion of Iraq. 

As David Frum points out, the Neoconservatives did not hold the executive positions that the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense did, but it seems unlikely that the war would have gone forward without the loyal Neoconservatives working the intelligence bureaucracy and also doing propagandistic work, like leaking unvetted and incorrect intelligence to outlets like the Weekly Standard where it could be subsequently pushed to other conservative news outlets, impacting their coverage (something that was apparently very effective). 

And as mentioned previously, much of the post-invasion planning was planned and steered by key Neoconservatives.

Frum continues (please note that I am excising quite a bit of text, which I feel a bit presumptuous doing, since this is a pretty sensitive subject):
...What, if any, special moral responsibilities do Jewish power-holders have as Jews?

The Catholic hierarchy has long demanded that Catholic officeholders oppose abortion. Indeed, individual bishops have sometimes threatened to refuse communion to those officeholders who do not comply.

American Jews, by contrast, have never expected any particular degree of observance from Jews in office...

...many reject any special duty to fellow Jews as improper, indeed a betrayal of a duty to the larger society. Any sense of special duty shows “dual loyalty”—a charge that has been flung about often in these past eight years...

Does any other group in American society feel such strong inhibitions about speaking for itself? Surely not—and for good reason. There are always those, and not small numbers of them, for whom Jews are inherently problematic—and Jews in positions of trust inherently illegitimate. In a city full of lobbies for everything from Albania to zirconium, it is the Jews who are damned as “the” lobby.
First, the social issues that Catholics are concerned with, although important, do not compare with a country's acts of war, which are life and death issues--not only for Americans and their families, but many thousands of people killed in our name. So it is not hard to see why passions run high.

It goes without saying that war is one of the most serious pieces of public business that the US Constitution deals with, and there were historical reasons why the founders were so careful about this kind of business, and they wanted to be sure that due public deliberation happened before the country went to war. So it's not a trivial question: if the issues discussed in public during the run-up the Iraq War weren't the real ones, what were the real ones? What does it say about our democracy that these issues weren't publicly discussed? One of the few reporters to broach the most sensitive aspect of this subject was Michael Kinsley:
Bush's public case for going to war against Iraq is full of logical inconsistencies, exaggerations, and outright lies. It reeks of ex-post-facto: First came the desire, and then came the reasons. But this raises a troubling question, especially for opponents of Bush's policy: If his ostensible reasons are unpersuasive even to him, what are his real reasons? There must be some: Nobody starts a war as a lark. It would be easier to dismiss the whole exercise if there were an obvious ulterior motive. Without one, you are left wondering, "Am I missing something?"

...The lack of public discussion about the role of Israel in the thinking of "President Bush" is easier to understand, but weird nevertheless. It is the proverbial elephant in the room: Everybody sees it, no one mentions it. The reason is obvious and admirable: Neither supporters nor opponents of a war against Iraq wish to evoke the classic anti-Semitic image of the king's Jewish advisers whispering poison into his ear and betraying the country to foreign interests. But the consequence of this massive "Shhhhhhhhh!" is to make a perfectly valid American concern for a democratic ally in a region of nutty theocracies, rotting monarchies, and worse seem furtive and suspicious.

Having brought this up, I hasten to add a few self-protective points. The president's advisors, Jewish and non-Jewish, are patriotic Americans who sincerely believe that the interests of America and Israel coincide. What's more, they are right about that, though they may be wrong about where that shared interest lies...
OK, why does Kinsley feel he has to add "self-protective points?" Surely he wouldn't have been so concerned about the "Albanian" or "zirconium" lobby. Most likely, Kinsley is concerned about power of this lobby, the tactics it uses, and the level of emotional intensity and also, perhaps, calculation that it uses to attain its ends. If you do things to earn a reputation for sharp elbows, you can't be surprised when you get that reputation.

But back to Kinsley's point about the possibility of people being "wrong about where that shared interest lies." Here is Neoconservative Francis Fukuyama from a few years ago commenting on what he feels are Charles Krauthammer's views on American and Israeli foreign policy:
Krauthammer has thought long and hard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and his views on how the Israelis need to deal with the Palestinians colors his views on how the United States should deal with the Arabs more broadly. Krauthammer has not supported strongly engaging the Arab world through political strategies. In the past, he has put forward a particular view of Arab psychology, namely, that they respect power above all as a source of legitimacy. As he once said in a radio interview, if you want to win their hearts and minds, you have grab a lower part of their anatomy and squeeze hard.

Towards the end of his AEI speech, Krauthammer speaks of the United States as being in the midst of a bitter and remorseless war with an implacable enemy that is out to destroy Western civilization. This kind of language is appropriate as a description of Israel's strategic situation since the outbreak of the second intifada. The question is whether this accurately describes the position of the United States as well. Are we like Israel, locked in a remorseless struggle with a large part of the Arab and Muslim world, with few avenues open to us for dealing with them other than an iron fist? And in general, does a strategic doctrine developed by a small, vulnerable country surrounded by implacable enemies make sense when applied to the situation of the world's sole superpower, a country that spends as much on defense as the next 16 most powerful countries put together?

I believe that there are real problems in transposing one situation to the other. While Israel's most immediate Arab interlocutors are indeed implacable enemies, the United States faces a much more complex situation. In Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups, we do in fact confront an enemy that hates us for what we are rather than for what we do. For the reasons given above, I do not believe they are an existential threat to us, but they certainly would like to be, and it is hard to see how we can deal with them other than by killing, capturing or otherwise militarily neutralizing them.

But the radicals swim in a much larger sea of Muslims--1.2 billion of them, more or less--who are not yet implacable enemies of the United States. If one has any doubts about this, one has only to look at the first of the United Nations Development Program's two Arab Human Development reports, which contained a poll asking whether respondents would like to emigrate to the United States if they had the opportunity. In virtually every Arab country, a majority of respondents said yes.
If Fukayama is right here, and Krauthammer's thinking is shared by other Neoconservatives, then the problem of what Joe Klein has called "conflated loyalties" is a real one. You could see how someone might fail to objectively parse Israel's interests and the US's--which is a critical thing to parse (ignoring the real possibility that Krauthammer's reading may not be good for Israel's interests, either--an argument that many Israelis would even make). 

The nightmare scenario would be the US getting sucked into a conflict because of the angry paranoia of a few like Krauthammer, from their bureacratic perches provoking events that lead the nation to going to war against its real collective interests--and probably against Israel's interests. (This is something we arguably almost did with Iran.)  

Parts of Madison's Federalist Paper #10 read like they were tailor made to describe situations like this:
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
And he writes about what those passions or interests might consist of:
A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.
The solution is to prevent factions from being sole powers unto themselves:
No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time...
Should someone like Krauthammer be allowed to "judge his own cause," and make critical decisions affecting everybody? Certainly not. Critical decisions like the motivations for going to war need to be discussed publicly, and within the confines of government as well. Bodies like Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans, with its secretive and propagandistic intelligence activities, and its poorly formed plans for the occupation, put critical matters beyond informed deliberation across different parts of government (mirroring the fact that critical matters were put beyond public deliberation as well). Indeed, Feith's office even referred to themselves jokingly as a "cabal." For good reason, the kind of activity that he and his cohorts engaged in during the pre-war was made illegal when our present espionage institutions were created. Unfortunately, Feith and others lacked respect for these laws--as well as for the deliberative institutions that those laws were designed to serve. 

And we're living with the consequences.

Even the "Good" Republicans Pass Along Bad Memes

The work of David Brooks and David Frum makes for interesting reading on the right. I think they're probably being earnest when they argue that "the old G.O.P. priorities were fine for the 1970s but need to be modernized for new conditions," and that "they cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class..." 

Nonetheless, Brooks and Frum still pass along blatently misleading information (in many cases hatched in fully-staffed GOP think tanks) that wouldn't get a gentleman's C in a college course.

A classic example is the meme that the mortgage meldown was caused by 1977's Community Reinvestment Act. This right wing argument conveniently blames poor minorities (a staple rightie populist tactic) for problems created by bankers and investors. The baselessness of this argument, as well as its origins in the right wing echo chamber, have been reported in a number of outlets (including the Wall Street Journal). 

Indeed, you can point to a number of specific acts of deregulation and failures of oversight on the part of Alan Greenspan, Phil Gramm, the Bush White House, and the Bush-appointed SEC--acts that are much more recent and relevant. Despite this history (which would be uncovered with minimal research) some reporters at prominent right wing publications are propagating the CRA meme without even knowing the basics of what the bankers did

The argument's transparent flimsiness must have caused some embarassment, because the AEI has stepped in in an attempt to rescue their fellow movement conservatives. Here's David Frum:
[The AEI's] Peter Wallison offers a careful study of the origins of the financial meltdown. I urge you to read the whole thing here, but for those pressed for time, a summary.
The current financial crisis is not—as some have said—a crisis of capitalism. It is in fact the opposite, a shattering demonstration that ill-considered government intervention in the private economy can have devastating consequences. The crisis has its roots in the U.S. government's efforts to increase homeownership, especially among minority and other underserved or low-income groups, and to do so through hidden financial subsidies rather than direct government expenditures. The story is an example, enlarged to an American scale, of the adverse results that flow from the misuse and manipulation of banking and credit by government...

The key question... is the effect of relaxed lending standards on lending standards in non-CRA markets.
In response to Wallison's argument, the (usually) non-political blog Baseline Scenario writes:
One might have hoped that one collateral benefit of the end of the election season would be the end of the attempt to pin the financial crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1970s law designed to prohibit redlining (the widespread practice of not lending money to people in poor neighborhoods). Unfortunately, Peter Wallison at the American Enterprise Institute... has proven that some people will never give up in their fight to prove that the real source of society's ills is government attempts to help poor people. Regular readers hopefully realize that we almost never raise political topics here, but sometimes I just get too frustrated...

Wallison comes up with a new argument: relaxed lending standards, encouraged by the CRA, caused lending standards to be relaxed in the rest of the housing market. Really, I'm not making this up...

At its core, the argument is that the government forced lenders to make bad loans in one market, so they went and decided to make bad loans in other  markets. Even conceding some of the premises for the sake of argument, this is illogical. Wallison says "it would seem impossible–if down payment or other requirements were being relaxed for loans in minority-populated or other underserved areas–to limit the benefits only to those borrowers." It doesn't seem impossible to me: if you're running a business, you should be able to understand that you have different target markets, and you have different products for those markets. In fact, if you (the bank) truly thought that you were being forced to make bad loans in one market, you would damned well keep those loans out of your other markets. If lenders are as stupid as Wallison's argument implies they are, then the entire premise of the American Enterprise Institute - that government should leave businesses alone - starts to look shaky.
The people at Baseline Scenario must be members of the New Class. Hey guys--haven't you heard? You're either with us or against us.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Credit Where Due

Over at (Frum's new, soon-to-go-live blog) David Frum is advocating for... environmental protection?

This is good to see. Baby steps. As Joe Romm noted Wednesday, AEI deserves some credit as well.

The Truth

Leon Panetta today:

A reader of David Frum's recently wrote:
I am not all that impressed with how the Agency over the last eight years has used its budget in hiring personnel. It is, at this point, a hopelessly dysfunctional organization incapable of fulfilling its mission. Up to me, I would abolish it, or at the very least, emasculate it and create a parallel organization to do its job for it...
I think they were already emasculated over the past eight years (just look at how the work of intelligence professionals was treated). Who wants to work for an organization like the one James Risen describes here?:
Gross: You say in the book that many of your sources that you draw on in the book came to you or spoke to you because of their growing disillusionment. What can you tell us about what was disillusioning your sources with the way intelligence was run. These are sources both in the NSA and the CIA.

Risen: I think one of the things that struck me when I first started working on this book, not just in the intelligence community but throughout the Bush administration, that people I was meeting, a lot of them, many of them people of them who had recently left the Bush administration over the last year or two, you looked at them and they had a dazed look as if they'd just been in a car crash.
Why would a talented person be interested in working for a place where your work was completely twisted or disregarded? This is in contrast to an earlier CIA that did quite well in Afghanistan.

A couple years ago David Corn noted a strange remark someone made to him at the AEI following him asking some pointed questions at a Chalabi speech:
As I headed for the elevator, a white-haired woman whom I did not know yelled at me, "You should be paid by the CIA!" She apparently thought my questioning of Chalabi was too rough. Her jeer was a demonstration of how the Iraq war has twisted the ideological lines in Washington. Yes, I said to her, only a CIA provocateur working for a left-of-center magazine would dare question Chalabi in that manner, and I cannot wait to get back to my office and receive my payment from Langley.
CIA employees--add them to the list of suspect New Class professions that the right guns for...

Joe Scarborough Namedrops in Attempt to Commodify GenX Dissent

These days, the GOP is desperate to figure out how to commodify liberal dissent. Joe Scarborough has gone from taking pot shots at Paul Krugman to namedropping "Elvis Costello":

Hmmm. Where have I heard Elvis Costello namedropped before? Mr. Brooks?:
Elvis Costello and The Talking Heads’s David Byrne popularized a cool geek style that’s led to Moby, Weezer, Vampire Weekend and even self-styled “nerdcore” rock and geeksta rappers.

The future historians of the nerd ascendancy will likely note that the great empowerment phase began in the 1980s with the rise of Microsoft and the digital economy...

But the biggest change was not Silicon Valley itself. Rather, the new technology created a range of mental playgrounds where the new geeks could display their cultural capital. The jock can shine on the football field, but the geeks can display their supple sensibilities and well-modulated emotions on their Facebook pages, blogs, text messages and Twitter feeds. Now there are armies of designers, researchers, media mavens and other cultural producers with a talent for whimsical self-mockery, arcane social references and late-night analysis.

They can visit eclectic sites like and Cool Hunting, experiment with fonts, admire Stewart Brand and Lawrence Lessig and join social-networking communities with ironical names. They’ve created a new definition of what it means to be cool, a definition that leaves out the talents of the jocks, the M.B.A.-types and the less educated. In “The Laws of Cool,” Alan Liu writes: “Cool is a feeling for information.” When someone has that dexterity, you know it...

Among adults, the words “geek” and “nerd” exchanged status positions. A nerd was still socially tainted, but geekdom acquired its own cool counterculture. A geek possessed a certain passion for specialized knowledge, but also a high degree of cultural awareness and poise that a nerd lacked.

The news that being a geek is cool has apparently not permeated either junior high schools or the Republican Party. George Bush plays an interesting role in the tale of nerd ascent. With his professed disdain for intellectual things, he’s energized and alienated the entire geek cohort, and with it most college-educated Americans under 30. Newly militant, geeks are more coherent and active than they might otherwise be.

Barack Obama has become the Prince Caspian of the iPhone hordes. They honor him with videos and posters that combine aesthetic mastery with unabashed hero-worship. People in the 1950s used to earnestly debate the role of the intellectual in modern politics. But the Lionel Trilling authority-figure has been displaced by the mass class of blog-writing culture producers.
That gosh durn "hippie" adversarial culture and their attempts to represent for the reality based community!! But wait, maybe if we do some hand wavy things, we can distract from what's happened over the past 8 years and bestow on people the mind-altering experience of associating Dick Cheney and Elvis Costello. Wow. Dude. Now that's some mind blowing countercultural stuff. Cheney must be cool.

By the way, being the "Media Maven Culture Producer" that I am, here's the original Daily Show Cheney/Vader locus classicus:

And here's Elvis (I think the two clips go well together):

You're nobody in this town
You're nobody in this crowd
You're nobody till everybody in this town
Knows you're poison,
Got your number, knows it must be avoided...
You're nobody 'till everybody in this town thinks you're a bastard...
Congratulations, Dick Cheney and Joe Scarborough, you *are* somebody!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is "Individualism" Endemic to Any One Political View?

I was born in 1954, and can still remember how, around 1965, a teenage boy who let his hair grow long could be sent home from school by the vice-principal, or ostracized by his peers, despite his being an A student, a star athlete, a regular churchgoer. Choosing to flout society’s expectations had consequences. I wouldn’t think that anyone born after, say, 1960 (A quick check of Wikipedia tells me you were born in 1960 – you just made it!) would have any living memory of a time when the interests of society carried any significant weight in opposition to the interests of the individual.
We just don't have the same expectations as we had then. That's not the same as saying that expectations don't exist--which is surely a sweeping statement.

And yes, our expectations about individuals change--sometimes for the worse, and sometimes for the better. You get good developments, and bad, often at the same time.

That's not to say that you shouldn't have an opinion (I happen to think the boomers were kind of a narcissistic bunch--although I never had to worry about getting drafted into an elective war either), just that you should realize that societal changes and differing expectations are not the same as the Downfall of Everything. You take the bad with the good. (For instance, I'm glad that my mother was a reader of Dr. Spock. It's part of who she was, and that was a good thing.)

And by the way, over the course of history, a gesture like growing your hair long is not an exceptionally shocking act. It meant different things in different contexts--long hair had different meanings in Charles the 1st's England, the Post Civil War US, or the 1960's. In the 2000's it could mean something as innocuous as having a lifestyle involving hiking on weekends and working at a software company--not that you're a selfish person oblivious toward "the interests of society" (a statement that surely comes off as a pompous generalization).

Lastly, cases of obsessive attention to yourself as an individual, as opposed to awareness of "the interests of society," surely aren't restricted to what you might find among some liberals. What about the narcisism involved with Reagan and Thatcher's rise?:

Update: Now here's something from one of the original, excrable long haired people that Frum's reader is talking about:
[Todd] Rundgren's new album, "Arena" [has as its] subject matter, militarism and "what I saw as a loss of masculine integrity," he explained.

"The people who have been running the country are liars and cowards and hypocrites and perverts," he said. "And I wouldn't want all the rest of the men in the world to think that's how you succeed in life. Now that they are out of here, we have to ... reclaim what our traditional ideals were: You protect the weak, you bear up under the horrible burdens, and you seek the truth. ... You sacrifice for others."
Sounds not too far off from American traditional values to me--at least the ones that I was raised with. (I'm not saying that Todd Rundgren should be beatified by the pope any time soon, but he's certainly not All That's Wrong With America, as Frum's reader seems to imply.)

Joe the Plumber: Representative Member of the Republican "New Class"

Joe the Plumber--now officially a card carrying member of the GOP "New Class." 


This is funny:

Monday, January 5, 2009

John Bolton Is Published in the New York Times for Some Inexplicable Reason

Thomas Ricks comments about a NY Times op-ed by "John Bolton AND John Yoo" (his emphasis). "Frankly, I'd rather be waterboarded," he says. Nice snark by newbie blogger (and excellent military reporter) Tom Ricks.

In that spirit, I'd like to post one of my all time favorite Daily Show interviews--with none other than John Bolton:

Lots of Evidence: No WMD and the Administration Knew It

Steve Benen lists several sources of evidence contradicting Cheney's arguments asserting a pre-war WMD intelligence failure. 

There are a number of them that he doesn't list:

Wingnut Welfare's Manifesto: Irving Kristol's "New Class"

When beganeth serious wingnut welfare? For a long time I wasn't sure. But so many things point to the work of Irving Kristol. One day, shortly before the Reagan era, Irving Kristol pronounced:
[The] New Class is not easily defined, but may be vaguely described. It consists of a goodly proportion of those college educated people whose skills and vocations proliferate in a 'post-industrial society'... We are talking about scientists, teachers and educational administrators, journalists and others in the communication industries, psychologists, social workers, those lawyers and doctors who make their career in the expanding public sector, city planners and the staffs of the larger foundations and upper levels of the government bureaucracy, and so on. It is by now a quite numerous class; it is an indispensable class for our type of society; it is a disproportionately powerful class; it is also an ambitious and frustrated class.
Wow. Scientists? Teachers? Journalists? That's a lot of suspect professions.
... they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call 'the welfare state' toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfil many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.
Yes. Administrators. Public Sector Workers. City Planners. Scientists. Teachers. All commie hippies.

This required action! The question is, how far are you willing to go in taking a stand against "THE LEFT!!!1!" (as you've defined it)? Just how far are you willing to distort reality, and circumvent "the reality based community"?

The answer, as we've learned over the past decade, is pretty far. So far that even conservatives themselves are worried about the fallout. As Jim Sleeper commented on Sam Tanenhaus's talk at the American Enterprise Institute a few months ago:
In Tanenhaus’ telling, Kristol showed conservative business and political leaders that New Deal managerialism had bred a liberal “new class” of academic, think-tank, and media experts who trafficked in words more than in deeds or missions accomplished. He counseled conservatives to outdo liberals at this game in order to rescue liberal education and liberal democracy for the kind of capitalism and politics conservatives can profit from and enjoy...

Through lavishly-funded initiatives such as those I encountered in New York City’s Manhattan Institute and on college campuses, and in vast private ventures such as Rupert Murdoch’s “journalism," conservatives generated a parody of the liberal “new class,” an on-message machine of talkers, squawkers, power brokers, and greedheads which Slate's Jacob Weisberg dubbed “the Con-intern.” Their social ideas resemble Margaret Thatcher’s more than Disraeli’s, driven by a corporate capitalist materialism that's as soulless as the Marxist dialectical materialism of their elders’ nightmares...

So far, the conservative “new class” has excused the displacement of the liberal counterculture with a degrading over-the-counter culture; of the New Deal’s oft-lampooned make-work programs with the public non-response to Katrina; and of the dreaded “Vietnam syndrome” with the worst strategic blunders in American history. Beneath their civic chimes and patriotic bombast, the spirit of republican vigilance writhes in silent agony, forsaken by conservatism itself.
Update: This is Tanenhaus more recently, after the past election:
What seems to have impressed [Republicans] is Mr. Obama’s attunement to the problems afflicting the country and the hope he offered that they might be solved. [Really? Solving problems?]

If so, then Republicans may have to jettison some of the most familiar items on their agenda. “The issues that have provided conservatives with victories in the past — particularly welfare and crime — have been rendered irrelevant by success,” Michael Gerson, the Bush speechwriter turned columnist, wrote last week. “The issues of the moment — income stagnation, climate disruption, massive demographic shifts and health care access — seem strange, unexplored land for many in the movement.”

In fact these “issues of the moment” have been with us for years now, decades in some instances, but until recently they were either ignored by conservatives or dismissed as the hobby-horses of alarmist liberals or entrenched “special interests.”

The key word in Mr. Gerson’s analysis is “movement,” a term more applicable to moral or spiritual crusades than to the practical matters of governance, particularly governance in a two-party system, where success almost invariably requires compromise, consensus and a mind open to all manner of workable solutions.

These have not been, historically, the strength of “movement conservatives,” who prefer arguments built on first principles often expressed in supercharged rhetoric.
Oh, you mean like, literally, yelling?

"With Us or Against Us"

From the Wall Street Journal (not the Edit Page, of course):
It’s hard to tell what’s more striking about Raghuram Rajan’s 2005 presentation at the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium — the way many of the dangers he laid out came to pass, or the way he was attacked, and then discounted...

Mr. Rajan came to the conference, dedicated to soon-to-retire Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, with strong bona fides as a pro market advocate. He and University Chicago colleague Luigi Zingales wrote a 2003 book, “Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists,” that argued at length that free-market capitalism is the best way to organize an economy, and that free financial markets – through their ability to direct funds to where the economy needs them most – are crucial to the system’s success. But when he suggested at Jackson Hole that markets could get it badly wrong sometimes, and that central banks should consider responding to that, he was lambasted as nostalgic for the old days of highly regulated banking.

Fed Governor Donald Kohn – who for years has played the role of providing intellectual ballast to the central bank’s decisions and now serves as its Vice Chairman – said that for central bankers to enact policy’s aimed at stemming risk-taking would “be at odds with the tradition of policy excellence of the person whose era we are examining at this conference.” Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the premise of Mr. Rajan’s paper was “misguided.”

“This is a common feature of people when they come across dissent – they want to put you in a box and label you and dismiss you,” says Mr. Zingales. “He is definitely not anti-market. That’s the most mistaken characterization of Raghu.”

The episode suggests one reason that the crisis went unchecked: A dangerous all-or-nothing orthodoxy had come to dominate the policy debate, where one was either for free markets or against them.
I'm trying to figure out where I've heard that kind of thing before... Maybe, here? (Here's Naomi Oreskes on climate change denialism:)