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Sunday, May 17, 2009

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"But there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: Obama's military escalation in Afghanistan and Obama's bank bailout."

Fixed. Or is she claiming that Obama is not responsible for his own policies? That military escalations and bank bailouts just blow in on the breeze, like the Swine Flu virus? Maybe if he wore a surgical mask, he wouldn't catch escalation/bailout fever.

Just like this hilarious bit of apologetics on the zombie thread that's currently engulfing A Tiny Revolution:

if the various Presidents are each evaluated on the basis of everything that happens in the world during their terms in office being their fault. they all end up war looking like criminals, because it's a big world and there is always something terribly unjust happening. and unfortunately the united States is involved in all of it.
Yes, it's a big world and there's always something terribly unjust happening: tsunamis, military assaults on Iraq and Yugolavia, forest fires, financing of right-wing death squads, hurricanes, sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children, earthquakes, carpet bombing, and so on. How unfair of us to blame our leaders for all these unjust things that coincidentally happen in the world during their terms in office! If they're Democrats, anyway.

By the way, Steve, it was entertaining to watch you make so many blazingly relevant and insightful points there (only to have them buried in bucketloads of tapioca minutes later).

Thanks John. Perhaps you'll be interested in a screen play I'm working on?

Katrina Van den Heuvel enters a phone booth, reaches overhead to retrieve a tape recorder concealed behind a ceiling panel, and presses "play":

"Agent van den Heuvel: We have identified a dangerous political operative who has infiltrated the Obama administration at the highest level. This operative, known only by the initials "B.H.O.", has skillfully influenced presidential decisions to ensure the appointment of corrupt Wall Street insiders who are funneling trillions of dollars to their cronies, and has even caused President Obama to immerse himself in a bloody and unwinnable war in Afghanistan. It is no exaggeration to say that the infiltrator B.H.O. represents the very gravest threat to the Obama Presidency. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find and unmask the infiltrator B.H.O., freeing President Obama to follow the noble impulses of his heart, which include divorcing his bitchy wife Michelle, so he can marry his true love, a sexy and brilliant editor at a Washington-based liberal publication."

Tape self-destructs, van den Heuvel wakes from her dream. She rolls over to discover, to her great disappointment, that her partner is not a tall, athletic man of Kenyan heritage.

N.E. seems like a nice guy and I even agree with him on a lot of things, but he's just goofy on the subject of Democratic Presidents. I looked up the book he's pushing on JFK--apparently it's yet another book proving that JFK was a saintly leader trying to end the Cold War singlehanded, only to be murdered by nefarious government forces.

I've spent my adult life avoiding the whole JFK assassination subject and don't intend to change now--it's intellectual cowardice on my part, but I have the impression it's a field dominated by bullshitters on all sides and I just don't have the time to sort out what's real and what isn't and I doubt it's worth the effort. For all I know JFK, against all the evidence of his life up to that point, was the towering moral giant N.E. believes he was. But N.E. seems predisposed to believe that Democratic Presidents in general are well-intentioned heroes. Weird.

OTOH, Richard Falk and Daniel Ellsberg were impressed by the book. Link

I'm not sure if that is an endorsement of the book or reason to lower one's opinions of Falk and Ellsberg. And to be fair to Ellsberg, he doesn't say he thinks it proves there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.

The other endorsements come from a bunch of religious peace activists/advocates. While I like these people, they come across here as folks who are thrilled to have learned that JFK was a saintly marty who died for a cause they all believe in.

My people will get in touch with your people, Steve.

Donald: It's looking like it may be more than just goofy, eh?

I'm amazed anyone has the time to dominate a thread like that guy has. There seems to be this massive cognitive disconnect between when he talks about the U.S. and he talks about its presidents, like there's this need to have chief executives be heroes that overrides all rational argumentation.

What also disturbs me is that he digested all these thousands of pages and it somehow made him less clued-in than he must have been before. It really is missing the forest for the trees, like Chazelle said.

"And he was a proud and mighty tree, towering over the other trees; but lesser trees resented his nobility and conspired against him."

I've never understood this business of "evaluating" presidents to figure out where they fall on some 1-to-10 scale. FDR signed the National Labor Relations act into law, he also imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians. How am I supposed to weigh those two facts in an evaluation of his presidency? And why should I even bother?

This is beyond apples and oranges, it's in the realm of: 17 + chimpanzee = volkswagen.

He's back to saying that Obama can't do what he wants, because he might end up dead having choked on a hot dog. Sigh.

.

I wonder how the threats are communicated? Does someone from the Military-Industrial complex sit the new President down, and give him a stern talking-to about the limits of his power? Is there a Powerpoint presentation?

How does Obama know that withdrawing from Afghanistan, for example, is a step too far, and merits the JFK treatment?

Yeah, I'd say "massive cognitive disconnect" is an understatement. And I can't help but wonder if this "choke on a hot dog" thing has some deeper psychological meaning.

Steve, I was wondering that also. Does the MIC Liaison for Presidential Assassinations send them email while they're still candidates? And if so why don't they just drop out? Or do they not get the word until they're actually president? Or do they just know (after all, they killed JFK, man!)? But then why do they go after the job anyway if they're aware they'll be nothing but a helpless pawn?

And is there a specific list of dos and donts, with punishments? I mean, I can see getting shot for pulling out of Indochina, but maybe if you foolishly try to cut the military budget they'll just give you a nasty case of food poisoning. You know, like George Bush almost choking on a pretzel—was that a warning? Or maybe, just maybe, someone didn't want him rooting for the Dolphins.

It's all so complex.

What was the name of that Republican Congressman who had a bribe list? A "yes" vote on your bill would cost $10,000, but if you want him to really go to bat for you, that's $50,000, etc.

Must be something like that.

Reduce aid to Pakistan: Suffer comic photo-op while falling off sabotaged Segway Scooter.
Cancel the F-22: Choke on a pretzel, wake up with a black eye
Reduce aid to Israel:All-expenses paid trip to Dealy Plaza

You're all missing the most important point -- this is comedy gold, coming from blue ox babe (who sure does remind me of another infamous hot-tempered, self-righteous threadjacker):

[...]and that makes for a lot of doo-doo and pee-pee in the cesspool that has become the ATR comment threads.

See, I'm ok with doo-doo and pee-pee in comment threads, but ka-ka is right out.

Steve: And I can only imagine what brought on this terrifying warning.

A quibble, John, "the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" is the crime of aggressive war, not just war, at least as far as the original quote goes. It's only a quibble as I categorize both the Iraq and Afghan wars aggressive wars.

As to JFK, I tend to suspect that it was a conspiracy, but it was conspiracy born in backlash from JFK's covert/overt wars against Cuba. It was Kennedy that got the mob, the CIA, and the reactionary Cubans together because of his hatred of the Castro government (which was more pathological than even most of the rest of our presidents), but after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he backed off a little, believing his early policies to be counter-productive, not because the overarching goal changed, and that, combined with Bobby Kennedy's decision to get aggressive with the Mob, enraged that circle. That's what done Kennedy in, is my guess. It is just a guess though. Even if I admit I'm just guessing, I definitely don't buy the official story.

I can't reasonably object to speculating and skepticism about the official story regarding JFK, though I also think the "Oswald acted alone" theory might be true. It's the pseudo-messianic quality given JFK by some brands of conspiracy buff that creeps me out or that's part of it.

I also think that conspiracy buffs really obsess over small details that they are in no position to investigate. The beauty (for lack of a better word) of Chomsky is that what he writes about is stuff that is actually pretty well documented--it's just that the mainstream press spins like mad or doesn't report the story until years later and leaves out the details, but, for instance, there was never any reasonable doubt that the US did help the Indonesians commit genocide in East Timor. What's bad about "conspiracy theories" of N.E.'s type is not that conspiracies can't happen (the justification for the Iraq War was a massive conspiracy against the American citizenry, not to mention the Iraqis), but that people confuse well documented atrocities which are as undeniable as the Holocaust with half-baked but often highly elaborate theories (perhaps true, perhaps not) about JFK's murder.

I was accused of believing in conspiracy theories a year ago when I told someone that the US had tortured innocent people to death. A lot of ordinary people just lump all this stuff into the same category of "outrageous claims which are unproven and probably only believed by crackpots."

Quibble accepted, Rojo. I was being careless about it because I was talking about the U.S., for which the concept of "defensive war" basically never applies (or hasn't during my life thus far, and probably won't for the rest of it, barring alien invasion...and even in that case I'd have to hear the aliens' side of it before I could make a call).

Concerning conspiracy theories, I like to quote (paraphrase) Parenti: "People ask me, 'What, do you think people are meeting in a room somewhere, coming up with all these plans?" and I say, "Of course they're meeting in a room! Where else would they meet?"

But, yes, the certainty of many conspiracy theorists that they have hit upon The Truth (TM) often bothers me, and along with the utter intolerance for the indeterminacy of the evidence often comes an equal need for heroes and villains in the accepted conspiracy storyline. Hence, JFK becomes a saint, because the people that killed him were bad. My take on this tendency is that it offers an easy catch-all answer to the question of how we deal with the evils of government. Well, so the reasoning goes, government is inherently good, it has only been captured by a singularly evil and unique cabal and once they are exposed all will be right with the world. This also, to me, explains the single-mindedness with which some people will pursue particular conspiracy theory issues in lieu of all other issues.

Also, I quibble with the wording of my quibble. I should have said "merely war" or "only war" and not "just war," as I did not mean to refer to so-called just war theory, which I generally find to be self-serving on the part of the just war theorist.

My favorite quote about conspiracy theories is Chomsky's response when people ask him whether he's a "conspiracy theorist" who imagines secret meetings of bankers, politicians and media bigwigs, "conspiring" against us. "Well," Chomsky asks, "Do you think the Board of Directors of General Motors conspires to make General Motors more profitable?"

Although that quote should probably be updated with some corporation other than General Motors. Maybe GM's board was actually conspiring to run the company into the ground?

Hey look. In the comments section to "Sympathy barf" over at ATR, someone just accused us of turning on Obama because we imagine Hilary might have been better.

Yes, and look how quickly the "powerless Obama" meme gets dragged out, even though it's a complete non sequitur in this case. It's like a defensive reflex at this point, intended to explain and excuse anything he does.

Well, so the reasoning goes, government is inherently good, it has only been captured by a singularly evil and unique cabal and once they are exposed all will be right with the world.

I'd never thought of it that way, Rojo, but I think you've gotten straight to the heart of it. That's the rot at the center of the JFK assassination theories, and part of why I feel uneasy when I hear someone spending so much time on the topic.

...look how quickly the "powerless Obama" meme gets dragged out, even though it's a complete non sequitur in this case. It's like a defensive reflex at this point, intended to explain and excuse anything he does.

A truly beautiful example of this sort of "thinking", in response to this cartoon:

We've been out of power for nearly 30 years, it will take time to get used to the idea that we write the narrative now. Maybe that is what's really going on, Obama is afraid to get his hopes up that we can actually control things now. Maybe after next year when we keep control of both houses he might be more willing to do what needs to be done but we need to make sure the majority really is on our side and that means getting through a couple more election cycles unharmed.

So we just need to "get through a couple of election cycles unharmed", and then you'll really see something! Why, that gives me such hope for the last fourth of the second term of the Obama administration.

I think that's actually part of why I posted that cartoon on the massive Not Exactly thread. Mostly, though, it was because NE reminds me of a mirror image of the wingnut guy: "Thank God Obama is a secret socialist!"

By the way, StO, I thought your "I still don't see how it helps me to have a secret friend in the White House" was the best single line in that thread.

Thanks, John, that's very kind, especially considering how many words were expended in that thread. (Although most of it was one guy.) I don't think anyone replied to it at the time, as I was just summing up what had already been said.

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