A picture is worth how many ideas?


Because it’s easier this way ….

On Friday, Glenn Greenwald noted:

So revealing: here's what Time Magazine thinks of its American readership

And just to save you the spare click, this is what he was referring to:

Cover images for Time magazine, Dec 2011

To be fair, maybe it’s not simply about Time holding Americans in contempt as emotionally immature consumerist dolts. It could be something about market dynamics. Maybe Americans just aren’t that into revolutionary politics. I mean, it’s nice to cheer for the underdogs, sure, but what with those weirdos occupying New York and other cities, it is entirely possible that people really are so unsettled that we need to be pepper spraying eighty-four year-old women.

And, you know, maybe the international cover for Time (v.178, n.22) just makes Americans unnecessarily anxious. So, you know, they run a much more appropriate cover explaining why anxiety is good for people. Rather than working to make life more satisfactory, we ought to just learn how to find greater satisfaction in the things that worry us. That way, well … you know … maybe revolutionary ideas won’t occur to Americans as possible solutions for anxiety. Or something.

Even more than raw politics, this could be about marketplace politics. Sure, this might be what Time thinks of Americans, but Greenwald overlooks the question of whether or not there is a reason for that.

Advertisements

The land of the what? The home of the who?


Is this really what we’ve become? Glenn Greenwald explains:

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry. A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that? There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic. In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg — the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader — headlined: “Why is Assange still alive?” It begins this way:

    I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

    So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

    It’s a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that “it wouldn’t do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web” — whatever that means — and reluctantly acknowledges: “That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.” What he wants the Government to do to “stop” Assange is left unsaid — tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean — but his question (“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?”) was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn’t as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:

    Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States. . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: . . .Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

I emailed Whiton and told him I’d like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied: “Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day.” I replied that it didn’t have to be the next day — I’d be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him — and he then stopped answering ….

It was only Tuesday that various guests, including former NSC Director for Defense Strategy Kori Schake and former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, explained on KCRW’s To the Point that there wasn’t anything particularly significant about the latest WikiLeaks release, save for its volume. Still, though, we see journalists like Goldberg, or former Bush administration officials, suggesting severe actions against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Are we really—really—so frightened by information? Would we support other nations that attempt to suppress public information about what the governments are doing? Would we not protest suggestions that whistleblowers should be assassinated or imprisoned as enemy combatants?

What ever happened to “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? How is it that “transparency” has become a political buzzword in the United States? More than bombs and bullets, it seems information brings night terrors to some, who feel that truth is anathema, and those who seek it ought to be punished harshly.

People don’t want transparency. They want someone to blame, to hate, to condemn. This is a fairly common psychological phenomenon; as people feel more and more alienated by the world around them, they seek some means of exercising a degree of authority. To blame and condemn satiates the hunger for a time, but that satisfaction is fleeting. For the Goldbergs, Whitons, and other warmongers of our age, the missions abroad have been disastrous blows against their identity politics. To admit and accept that the Iraqi Bush Adventure should never have happened, and the mission in Afghanistan was played to lose from the outset, is too great a burden for their identity complexes, so they must find someone or something to blame for every appearance of failure and injustice; the something is truth, and the someone is whoever brings it.

This is what we’ve come to. This is what we want. What I can’t figure, though, is why.

Gutter politics


w/apologies to Jimmy MarguliesThe back story: RNC Chairman Michael Steele criticized President Obama for engaging a land war in Afghanistan. (Where is Wallace Shawn when you need him?) The DNC, through spokesman Brad Woodhouse, responded with a press release saying that “Steele bets against our troops, roots for failure”.

Thus prefaced, read on. Glenn Greenwald explains:

As The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes, and I couldn’t agree more: “this is Karl Rove’s playbook. I don’t care how often Republicans do it — this blog is not on board with this kind of thing from either party.” Indeed, at The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol revealingly echoed the DNC, demanding that Steele resign for his “affront” to the soliders. Ironically, there was just a vote on war funding last night in the House, and numerous Democrats — 93 of them on a mild anti-war measure and 22 on a stronger one — voted to end the war in Afghanistan, many arguing exactly what Steele just said about the futility of the war. Do the DNC’s Rovian insults mean that these anti-war Democrats are also guilty of wanting to “walk away from the fight against Al Qaeda,” “undermin[ing] the morale of our troops,” and “betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan”?

Replicating the worst of the GOP rhetoric is unfortunately not limited to the DNC. Over on the front page of Daily Kos, Barbara Morrill ends her post about Steele’s comments this way: “What the family and friends of those who died or those who are still fighting there today think is, of course, another story.” A couple of months ago, Jonathan Alter and Keith Olbermann both suggested that criticisms of Obama weaken the U.S. and thus help Al Qaeda. Last October, both the DNC and some progressive groups accused Steele respectively of “siding with the terrorists” and being “downright unpatriotic” because he questioned whether Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was merited.

I understand and even accept the need to use the other side’s rhetoric against them, though once you start doing that, you forever forfeit the ability to complain when it’s used against you. More to the point: the 2006 and 2008 elections proved that this “against-the-Troops/cut-and-run” rhetoric is now as ineffective as it is ugly. That’s why the GOP lost so overwhelmingly in those elections while relying on those smears; why would the DNC want to copy such ineffective tactics?

No, really. It’s come to this. Read the whole thing. Or, if you really can’t be bothered, and absolutely need the capsule, here you go:

When the DNC, a front page Daily Kos writer and Bill Kristol all join together to smear someone with common language for opposing a war, it’s clear that something toxic is taking place. By all means, the ludicrous hypocrisy and illogic of Steele’s attempt to place all blame on the Democrats for this war should be screamed from the mountaintops . . . but equating war opposition with disrespect to the Troops or cowardice is destructive and stupid no matter who is doing it.

Yes, ’tis true that Michael Steele is exactly the sort of disgrace who can only ever speak truth as a clodhopping political ruse, but there is no reason for respectable society to dwell in the gutter with him.

(Image credit: Apologies to Jimmy Margulies.)

An amusing “conspiracy” theory


While I may not agree with every detail of her construction, Tina Dupuy offers up a long-overdue theory to the political arena:

It seems everybody gets their own pet conspiracy these days: Birthers, Birchers, Deathers, Truthers and whatever you call the people who won’t get their kids inoculated. According to the theories, nothing is as it seems and everyone is in on it. Following this reasonable assumption, I’ve come up with my own. Here it is: former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin are all Democratic plants.

The rest of the article pretty much spells out the theory, and as conspiracy theories go, it’s probably less crazy than Truther conspiracies, and clearly less insane than Birthers. Continue reading

The obvious answer that nobody likes


Well, Glenn, now that you mention it—

Can anyone reconcile Obama’s homage to “our legal traditions” and his professed faith in jury trials in the New York federal courts with the reality of what his administration is doing: i.e., denying trials to a large number of detainees, either by putting them before military commissions or simply indefinitely imprisoning them without any process at all?

—actually, yes, I can.

  1. Suspect is actually guilty.
  2. Evidence of guilt is too “classified”.
  3. Evidence of guilt is theoretic.
  4. Suspect cannot be reasonably convicted by any functional standard.
  5. Obama is an elected politician.

Do we really need it spelled out like that? Look, for whatever reasons—blame Bush if you want—President Obama finds himself in a position where (A) he’s not going to win bringing some guilty people to trial; and (B) as an elected politician, the one thing he apparently cannot do in such a circumstance is the right thing. The American people simply won’t stand for it.

Now, look. I’m glad we’ve got people like Greenwald doing what they do so well. But nobody’s perfect, and on this occasion it might be useful to admit that not everything in this nation is the fault of the government or press. Some of it is actually our fault. Voters, taxpayers, consumers, citizens—whatever word sounds most noble and heroic to your ears. I don’t care which; we’re all damned.

We keep electing these people. The American voter is neurosis in motion. We’re sick of incumbents who take their office for granted, yet we freak out if a candidate doesn’t have enough experience as a politician. We are upset with politicians who are out of touch with Americans, yet we demand higher standards for them. Now, let’s be clear on that one: Lie to us and you can start a war. But don’t you dare cheat on your wife.

Or, as Bill Maher put it, free beer and vagina trees.

So I’ll say it clearly for Mr. Greenwald and anyone else asking the obvious questions: This is what we wanted. Maybe not you and me individually, but Americans. This is what we voted for. What we failed to protest against. Hell, conservatives can find eighty-three random reasons to mobilize against a black man in the White House but we on the left couldn’t manage to find our voices against war and torture. Sure we had one or two politicians (McDermott, Kucinich), and the news media certainly didn’t like our kind, but we also spent the Bush administration being lazy, not going to jail, not holding mass demonstrations, not getting higher than Jesus and celebrating the American promise.

I get it, Mr. Greenwald. Many people out there do. But we cannot continue to rail against the political and private institutions that promote such injustice without ever looking to the people who empower them and asking what the hell is up.

And I recognize that it is unpopular in this country to acknowledge the things we do wrong. It’s a death knell for the politician, a blackball for the press. Yet we continue to reward liars and thieves with our votes.

Some days we even admit it to ourselves: This is the best we have; better to sound off in support than have no voice at all.

But for those things that make this nation so special and important, that fuel our leadership of the world? It’s all the same. If it’s bad for business, it’s bad for America. And that means truth, justice, and the “American way” are nothing more than inconvenient myths that people—Americans—are just about done with.

Do we play along? Fill up the Molotovs and fight? Maybe we should simply shut up and pretend this is still—or ever was—the land of the free and the home of the brave?

World Extreme Blogfighting


And now for something completely … uh … yeah.

Or maybe I could do that mixed martial arts bit. Michael Buffer. “It’s tiiiiiime!” Except I don’t have the voice for it. Nor the flair. Nor the bling, now that I stop to think about it. And, frankly, watching members of the journalistic community beat each other bloody is only mildly fun, like making crabs fight in sand pits on the beach without the pervasive sense of guilt.

Let me state at the outset, then, that I like Greenwald. If I walked into a bar and found Glenn Greenwald and Joe Klein arguing, I would probably wonder what someone did to piss off Glenn. And then, of course, someone would whisper, “That’s Joe Klein!”

And I would say, “Well, that explains it.”

More than likely, someone else nearby would say, “Who’s Joe Klein?”

Not that they would know Glenn, either. This aspect of political journalism, while widely-enough attended to keep it going, is actually fairly obscure. Yes, FOX News may be the #1 cable news station, but it’s a cable news station. The top-rated cable news station averages a little under three and a half million viewers daily. An intriguing portion of that is composed of people who despise the network and keep tabs on what insanity its talking heads regularly offer. But some weeks I’ll watch four, maybe six hours of cable news. Some weeks I don’t see it at all. That’s more than most people—perhaps anyone—I know. And I don’t watch FOX.

By the time we get down to a blogbrawl between two generally unrecognizable people like Greenwald and Klein, the audience for such petty spats is relatively small. It is also vocal and very much interested, so we’ll start by accommodating that rabid sector of conservatism that, while it despises “quotas” or any such rules pertaining to those attributes born into a person, requires ideological quota parity before rewarding anyone with the respect of taking them remotely seriously. Or even bothering with the pretense.

So for the benefit of those who do not understand that one can be critical of a Republican, GOP cause, or conservative talking point without fellating Nancy Pelosi, I’ll start with a quota rap against Glenn:

Continue reading

Starry eyes, whoa-oh!


Tom Degan wrote in from New York to point out Chris Wallace’s FOX interview with former Vice President Cheney, noting that, “Someone described it as a starry-eyed teenage girl interviewing one of the Jonas brothers”.

Indeed, sir, and thank you for raising the point; that would be Mr. Sullivan:

Now look: there are softball interviews; and then there are interviews like this. It cannot be described as journalism in any fashion. Even as propaganda, which is its point, it doesn’t work – because it’s far too cloying and supportive of Cheney to be convincing to anyone outside the true-believers. When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in the country’s history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars, war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.

My two favorite moments:

    CHENEY: I am going to — if I address that, I will address it in my book, Chris.
    WALLACE: It is going to be a hell of a book.
    CHENEY: It is going to be a great book.

And then the apology for asking the questions Cheney wanted asked:

    WALLACE: Well, we want to thank you for talking with us and including in your private life putting up with an interview from the likes of me.
    CHENEY: It’s all right. I enjoy your show, Chris.
    WALLACE: Thank you very much, and all the best sir.

When future historians ask how the United States came not only to practice torture but to celebrate it and treat torturers as heroes, a special place in hell among the journalists who embraced and justified it should be reserved for Chris Wallace.

Of Hell, Greenwald notes,

That’s going to be a very crowded place (see here for more on Wallace’s particularly well-deserved consignment to that locale).

I don’t know, though. I haven’t watched the interview. Dick Cheney is one of those people I’ve enjoyed not needing to pay attention to; since he stopped being vice president, it’s been something like a cross between bad stand-up comedy and an old-tyme circus geek show. I keep expecting to find him sitting in a bunker somewhere sucking the kidneys out of liberal bloggers’ children, or something. There’s an old Hap Kliban cartoon called “Show Your Symptom” ….

Anyway, thanks Tom.