Moored in Iraq

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Earlier this week I saw Michael Moore?s Fahrenheit 9/11, and though I would like to say something profound on how a Beirut audience reacted, I suspect it was a case of Moore?s partly preaching to the converted, but mostly taking advantage of the audience?s ignorance of the issues he was bringing up. The film is pure demagoguery ? dishonest, cheap, but also remarkably successful in its aim.

More importantly, this note from a soldier (link courtesy of Andrew Sullivan?s blog) suggests the film is having an effect on the morale of U.S. troops in Iraq. Writes the soldier, one Joe Roche: ?From what I?ve heard from the soldiers, the things that have them most shocked and upset them are the connections Moore makes between the Bush family and the Bin Ladens. The impression is that Bush is part of a conspiracy that supported the September 11th terrorist attacks.?

The link is a spurious one in the context of 9/11, and Moore never reaches the logical conclusion of his charge that dozens of Saudis and other nationals were allowed to leave the U.S. soon after the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. (He also omits to point out that Richard A. Clarke, Moore?s Exhibit A in a different segment of the film on Iraq, approved the departures.)

This and much else that is doubtful define the film, but one point is worth underlining: If Bush?s enemies can?t stomach his dissembling on Iraqi WMD and the administration?s spurious link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, there seems little justification to respond to this by endorsing a film that offers up evidence that is just as untrustworthy.

NEXT: Jerry Brown Interviews Me

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  1. I don’t understand how that qualifies what you said. You stated in the OP that “…Richard A. Clarke…approved the departures.” You just posted that he denies approving the departures. Please clear this up for me.

    As to the 9/11 Commission’s report, here is where it says (on pg 329) that Clarke did approve the flights, which jibes with what is said in F911:

    “… and Clarke said he approved of how the FBI was dealing with the matter when it came up for interagency discussion at his level. Clarke told us,?I asked the FBI, Dale Watson . . . to handle that, to check to see if that was all right with them, to see if they wanted access to any of these people, and to get back to me. And if they had no objections, it would be fine with me.? Clarke added,?I have no recollection of clearing it with anybody at the White House.?26”

    OK, so he never actually said “I approve the flights” but he did say it would be fine with him if the FBI approved them.

  2. Arguing with Michael Moore supporters is about as useful as arguing with National Enquirer readers and drunks. They’re endlessly creative, can’t keep on topic, and spew spurious “facts.” They are funny, though.

    I especially love Michael’s “are you familiar with US history, or history in general?” Come on, Michael, out with it: the US is evil, right? Come on, make me laugh. Please.

  3. Second, we found no evidence of political intervention.

    lol — you present that like they could have said anything else. i don’t think you’ve sufficiently discounted the inherent dishonesty of all bureaucracies reporting on questions of self-examination.

    people, people — will you quit simply talking and start the shooting? i’m getting impatient for the civil war that must be ultimate outcome of all this silly and increasingly virulent partisan namecalling. don’t just type and get angry — get out there and kill the evil, stupid enemy! you know you wanna!

    this country’s abandonment of aristocratic parliamentary government and century-old decay and decline into the morass of pandering to the lowest common denominator — because the lowest common denominator now decides who gets to fleece them in our plebiscitarian joke of a rulership — has a lot of obvious historical precedent among ancient republics. i can’t think of one that didn’t engage in an endless and suicidal series of civil wars between partisan factions. so get the jump on your neighbor — and shoot that lying fucking republican/democrat!

  4. ‘I especially love Michael’s “are you familiar with US history, or history in general?” Come on, Michael, out with it: the US is evil, right? Come on, make me laugh. Please.’

    I didn’t say ‘the US is evil’, but merely ‘the US does not act altruistically’. I’m not making an essentialist argument about the US being ‘evil’. I’m making the observation that the US has acted, and continues to act, in a short-sighted manner in an attempt to increase its own power unnecessarily. Note that it is not alone in this regard. Other countries often do the same thing. But this doesn’t make it ‘good’ or ‘right’. This is a libertarian site, no?

    If you think we went into Iraq to combat ‘human rights abuses’, I’ve got some fine leather jackets I’d like to sell you.

  5. ‘…decay and decline into the morass of pandering to the lowest common denominator’

    I think that describes the system from the outset!

  6. So can somebody explain to me… Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Clarke (Cheney, Bush, anybody) approved travel plans for Bin Laden family members while others were still grounded. My question is, so what? Is it not common knowledge – at least common enough that Moore could have discovered it if he’d wanted – that his family disowned him years ago and disavows his beliefs? So what’s the problem, exactly? (And, frankly, identifying yourself as “Fred Bin Laden” in the US circa October 2001 was probably not good for your health; they had good reasons for wanting out, although I would still not support any special privileges for them.)

    Personally, I suspect the whole issue is the kind of “tactical ignorance” that some people like to practice lately: pretending not to know or have known something so that you can act morally outraged. (For example, anti-war activists breathlessly declaiming that civilians were killed during the war! when all the rest of us already knew, that yeah, war sucks, and civilians die, because that’s what war is like.)

  7. I think that describes the system from the outset!

    we are surely meant to believe so, but it does not.

    a meaningful electoral college, appointed senators, conventions that selected appropriate candidates instead of the choice of the masses, suffrage restricted to the educated, propertied elite — all these safeguards of aristocratic republicanism have been destroyed. instead we increasingly are subject to mob rule — polls drive policy, spin and vote-getting have replaced debate and principle, and the lowest common denominator rules all things — because every idiot has just as valid a vote as a ph.d. or a factory owner, and there are a *lot* more idiots.

  8. Gaius-

    My understanding is that the electoral college almost immediately stopped functioning as a deliberative body. Electors were affiliated with parties from early on. What changed over time is that some of the states used to have electors appointed by the legislature instead of directly elected.

    Now, maybe that change was a bad thing (I don’t think so, but I can see the argument). But the electors themselves were rarely independent even in the early days of the republic. In the end, regardless of whether the voting is done by regular people, the elite, or the legislature, people who vote for electors want to know how that elector will vote. The result is that electors will inevitably be proxies rather than sages in a deliberation.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree over the merits of appointed Senators and limited suffrage, but to say that electors were meaningful and independent agents once upon a time is a distortion. While they may technically be free to vote as they wish, in practice they have (almost) always been chosen for their declared loyalty to a candidate or party.

  9. I am in some limited agreement with gauis marius, insofar as I would restrict the franchise to those who can pass a civics exam at least as rigorous as must be passed by an immigrant seeking to obtain citizenship. Some will cry that this would adversely impact minorities, and I don’t care. End the vile war on (some) drugs and thereby quit making 25% of black males convicted felons who cannot vote, and that should offset any disadvantage that blacks (who unfortunately have higher illiteracy rates than whites) would face. Plenty of lily white idiots should not have the vote, and I am not willing to see them have it just because a disproportionately larger share of minorities would be excluded.

    But I do not think education level (I hold a J.D.) or property onwership (covered there, too) should be a factor re: suffrage. Just sufficient literacy and knowledge of civics.

    –Mona–

  10. JD astutely observes: “And, frankly, identifying yourself as ‘Fred Bin Laden’ in the US circa October 2001 was probably not good for your health; they had good reasons for wanting out, although I would still not support any special privileges for them.)”

    I mean, no friggin’ kidding. The Bin Ladens are a huge clan, many of them were getting educated here, and I’m given to understand that most had ZERO love for the zealot Osama, who had been shunned for quite some time by most of them. But they were bin Ladens, and one of those had just flown a few airplanes into some kinda important buildings and killed a lot of innocent Americans. Gee, why might bin Ladens thereafter figure they should get the hell out? How craven of them. How outrageous that our govt let them go, after properly vetting whether they had ties to terrorism. (And what would Moore be saying if we had forced them all to stay, and one or two had had the snot beaten out of them, or worse? In the days and weeks after 9/11, when passions understandably ran high, such behavior was hardly out of the question.)

    George Bush is by no means my favorite politico, but I think he is sincere in his reasons for the war in Iraq. After all, he ran on a basically isolationist platform, and like many others, 9/11 shook us out of that stupor. Not responding sufficiently to Saddam and his bellicosity agasint us had been a mistake, and it was time to fix that. We cannot be seen as weak and lacking the will to smite hard when attacked, or attack the bad guys will. Duh.

    –Mona–

    –Mona–

  11. “Bush…was basing his views on the intelligence that was COMMONLY believed by virtually everyone, including opponents to his foreign policy.”

    It defies common sense to accept that the report that Powell trotted out at the UN and called “valuable intelligence” but which turned out to be an altered, plagiarized and dated grad student thesis was actually believed by the administration.

  12. If Bush?s enemies can?t stomach his dissembling on Iraqi WMD and the administration?s spurious link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, there seems little justification to respond to this by endorsing a film that offers up evidence that is just as untrustworthy.

    I love that Democrats are always supposed to be the ones taking responsibility — Repubs are supposed to be allowed to get us into fun, crazy messes, and Dems have to be all sober killjoys as they fix the situation. And yet the Repubs talk about how serious and responsible they are! It’s like Planet Bizarro.

    Well, I say f*** that. I want to have fun, too. If the Repubs can make up stories about WMDs — if the friggin’ Vice President of the United States with a straight face can continue lying about them for months after all knowledgeable people know it’s incorrect — then why can’t we have fun with Idiot Boy?

  13. George Bush is the President of the United States, and the leader of the Republican Party.

    Michael Moore is a private citizen with a camera, who didn’t support Gore in 2000.

    It’s a little crazy to equate them.

  14. If Bush’s enemies can’t stomach his dissembling on Iraqi WMD

    Haven’t we just had two major reports from blue-ribbon commissions essentially confirming that Bush did not dissemble on Iraq, but instead went forward on the best available intelligence?

    and the administration’s spurious link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda,

    Would that be the spurious link that has since been well-documented?

    Who’s dissembling and making spurious arguments now?

  15. Would that be the spurious link that has since been well-documented?

    Who’s dissembling and making spurious arguments now?

    Jesus H. Christ, you people are frightening with your Orwellian tendencies! For the sake of clarifying the record for future historians, please note that in fact there is no “well-documented” link at all. Practically speaking, the best anyone seems to have come up with is that a couple of Al-Qaeda losers once visited the Baghdad Zoo.

  16. Also, the commission into intelligence failures was forbidden by the Congressional act that created it from looking into the actions of the White House, and the distortion of the process that resulted in that “best available intelligence” being promulgated by the CIA.

    Let’s not forget that the CIA’s initial reports were so unhelpful to the White House’s cause, that they formed the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon to produce reports closer to what they wanted to hear.

  17. Now, now joe, they formed the OSP because everyone knows the CIA is a bunch of pot-smoking, panty-waisted flower children who preach love and peace to all Mankind and spend their days tie-dieing their “love shirts”. Clearly if the CIA says it doubts a country has WMD, it’s only saying that to advance its ideological agenda of a UN-controlled world government.

  18. Damn hippies! American intelligence operations need to be led by people more grounded in reality.

    Like Richard Perle or Douglas Feith.

  19. This is quite frustrating, when intelligent people keep up the hue and cry that Bush was lying, or employ kinder, gentler terms such as “dissembling.” A month or so ago I posted several dozen quotes from Democrats — including Clinton — from the late 90s, all of whom were warning about Saddam’s WMD program and what a menace he is. Further, I well recall that my own misgivings about the war in Iraq were largely driven by the anti-war faction that argued Saddam would unleash his WMDs if we invaded him, and horrid carnage would be the result.

    Just recently I went through the masochisic project of reading the “neo-Confederate” paleoconservatives (Raimondo’s pals) and observed what they were arguing before the war, and there it was: we will be inviting Saddam to use those WMDs. (Don’t have the link, but it was in one of the Chronicles magazine articles that they opt to make available online.)

    Moore is a lying propagandist. Bush, by contrast, was basing his views on the intelligence that was COMMONLY believed by virtually everyone, including opponents to his foreign policy. The 9/11 commission vindicates him on that point.

    Saddam WAS linked to the ’93 attempt to bomb the WTC. He DID try to kill a former U.S. president. If these are not bellicose actions, I do not know what might be. After 9/11, I and many felt the effete responses to Saddam up to that point, observed everywehere by those who wish us ill, were precisely what had invited the attacks whether or not AQ and Saddam had close or any ties at all.

    –Mona–

  20. I suggest that if you have an issue with Moore’s film you should start by referencing his six pages of sources to back up the claims in the film (http://www.michaelmoore.com/warroom/f911notes/). Dropping these pseudo-accusations of F911 being “dishonest” serves no one.

    And about Richard Clarke, there are still some conflicting reports as to what actually happened during the post-9/11 flight approval process. Maybe the way the film was put together did not cause you to reach Moore’s intended conclusion, but do not question the validity of the facts without offering alternative sources, possibly more than just a link to News-Leader.com.

  21. When I was in Iraq, I visited a mass grave of about 200 to 300 Kurdish children buried toys and all after they were killed by Saddam. Its a sad state of affairs when the formerly liberal democratic party can’t seen to admit that the world is a better place without Saddam in power. Time was the Democrats were the party of Johnson and Kennedy. Now, the best they can do is rave about conspiracy theories and how wonderful life would be if one of the worst right wing mass killers in the last century were still in power. Why don’t they just get it over with and nominate Pat Buchanon for President. Maybe Saddam could be his running mate. Kind of a Mumia Abul Jamal thing, running for office from prison and all.

  22. John, I doubt anyone thinks the world would be better with Saddam in power. That’s just foolish. The issue is how he was removed from power, and many folks think that the way it was done is not the way it should have been done.

    Duh.

  23. For the sake of clarifying the record for future historians, please note that in fact there is no “well-documented” link at all.

    Try:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060746734/reasonmagazinea-20/

    And then explain how Saddam’s use of an AQ affiliate Ansar al Islam to destabilize northern Iraq doesn’t constitute a link.

  24. Now, the best they can do is rave about conspiracy theories and how wonderful life would be if one of the worst right wing mass killers in the last century were still in power.

    What on earth are you talking about? I don/t know anyone who has ever suggested such a thing. But it’s a classic Repub attack device, kind of like the classic question: “So when did you stop beating your wife?”

    Lesson for today: Presupposing the underlying factual basis for a statement doesn’t in fact make it true.

  25. The issue is how he was removed from power, and many folks think that the way it was done is not the way it should have been done.

    Do please tell us of the more productive alternative to removing him from power. Remember, 12 years of UN condemnation and the strongest sanctions available served only to enrich and entrench him.

    So, if multilateral diplomacy didn’t work, and US-led invasion was not the way it should have been done, just how were we supposed to get rid of him?

  26. Duh,

    If the world is better without Saddam, then why are so many people hyperventilating about the war?I think lots of people on the left don’t think that. Read MoveOn.org and any other far left website and what you will see is that the world was better with Saddam and the war was all about oil, haliburton, the Saudis, the Jews or whomever else is the designated villian de jour. Let’s not forget the scenes from F9-11 showing people flying kites in Baghdad and how “no Iraqi had ever murdered and American.” I think a large number of people in the Democratic party would be very happy if Saddam was still in power.

  27. Can I be the first to question whether the world is better without Saddam? Even Colin Powell had to admit there is more terrorism now than before the US went to war with Iraq. Iraq may be better off, not too sure about the rest of the world.

  28. If you honestly think that anyone, save for Saddam’s supporters, wish for his murderous, tyrannical rule to be imposed on anyone then I believe you are sadly mistaken. Just because someone did not agree with how the war was played out (collateral damage, etc) does not mean that they support Saddam.

    RC, were UN condemnation and a US-led invasion the only two options available?

    How very polarized of you two.

    “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” – GW Bush

    “Some choice!” – Jello Biafra

  29. ’12 years of UN condemnation and the strongest sanctions available served only to enrich and entrench him. ‘

    I wouldn’t be so sure.

    check it:
    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040701faessay83409/george-a-lopez-david-cortright/containing-iraq-sanctions-worked.html

  30. ‘Read MoveOn.org and any other far left website and what you will see is that the world was better with Saddam and the war was all about oil, haliburton, the Saudis, the Jews or whomever else is the designated villian de jour’

    Do you honestly believe our motivations were so altrustic? are you familiar with US history, or history in general?

  31. duh inquires: “RC, were UN condemnation and a US-led invasion the only two options available?”

    Then precisely — please be specific — would you advocate should have been done?

    –Mona–

  32. What else could have been done? Well, since this whole mess was supposed to be about getting Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, how about ignoring Iraq until after we’d brought down the terror networks who were posing a danger to us?

    When Osama heard we were going into Iraq, I’m sure he laughed his murderous ass off.

  33. to say that electors were meaningful and independent agents once upon a time is a distortion.

    that’s well stated, thoreau — i think that what one can say is that the electors were certainly *intended* to be a safeguard; that is, in the event that a terrifying candidate somehow made it past the plebiscite, there would be an engine by which the electors *could* intervene. but you’re probably right to say that they have rarely served that function, and not at all since early on.

  34. In response to the statement above that there is some confusion on Clarke’s role in allowing the Saudis to leave, here is the protagonist’s statement to the 9/11 commission. It does qualify what I said–Clarke didn’t authorize the flights, or so he says–but it also shows that he took the bureacratically sound decision of throwing the whole thing back into the lap of the FBI, and then implictly endorsing the authorization to fly by saying: “Were there any individuals on that flight that in retrospect the FBI wishes they could have interviewed in this country. And the answer I’ve been given is no, that there was no one who left on that flight who the FBI now wants to interview.”

    This is in stark contradiction with what Moore suggests in his film. The passage is here:

    CLARKE: Someone — and I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know who — someone brought to that group a proposal that we authorize a request from the Saudi embassy. The Saudi embassy had apparently said that they feared for the lives of Saudi citizens because they thought there would be retribution against Saudis in the United States as it became obvious to Americans that this attack was essentially done by Saudis, and that there were even Saudi citizens in the United States who were part of the bin Laden family, which is a very large family, very large family.

    The Saudi embassy therefore asked for these people to be evacuated; the same sort of thing that we do all the time in similar crises, evacuating Americans.

    The request came to me and I refused to approve it. I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it — or not.

    I spoke with at that time the number two person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue.

    The FBI then approved — after some period of time, and I can’t tell you how long — approved the flight.

    Now, what degree of review the FBI did of those names, I cannot tell you. How many people there are on the plane, I cannot tell you.

    But I have asked since: Were there any individuals on that flight that in retrospect the FBI wishes they could have interviewed in this country. And the answer I’ve been given is no, that there was no one who left on that flight who the FBI now wants to interview.

  35. In response to the statement above that there is some confusion on Clarke’s role in allowing the Saudis to leave, here is the protagonist’s statement to the 9/11 commission. It does qualify what I said–Clarke didn’t authorize the flights, or so he says–but it also shows that he took the bureacratically sound decision of throwing the whole thing back into the lap of the FBI, and then implictly endorsing the authorization to fly by saying: “Were there any individuals on that flight that in retrospect the FBI wishes they could have interviewed in this country. And the answer I’ve been given is no, that there was no one who left on that flight who the FBI now wants to interview.”

    This is in stark contradiction with what Moore suggests in his film. The passage is here:

    CLARKE: Someone — and I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know who — someone brought to that group a proposal that we authorize a request from the Saudi embassy. The Saudi embassy had apparently said that they feared for the lives of Saudi citizens because they thought there would be retribution against Saudis in the United States as it became obvious to Americans that this attack was essentially done by Saudis, and that there were even Saudi citizens in the United States who were part of the bin Laden family, which is a very large family, very large family.

    The Saudi embassy therefore asked for these people to be evacuated; the same sort of thing that we do all the time in similar crises, evacuating Americans.

    The request came to me and I refused to approve it. I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it — or not.

    I spoke with at that time the number two person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue.

    The FBI then approved — after some period of time, and I can’t tell you how long — approved the flight.

    Now, what degree of review the FBI did of those names, I cannot tell you. How many people there are on the plane, I cannot tell you.

    But I have asked since: Were there any individuals on that flight that in retrospect the FBI wishes they could have interviewed in this country. And the answer I’ve been given is no, that there was no one who left on that flight who the FBI now wants to interview.

  36. So, Clarke assumed the FBI had done its job?
    Obviously, it would be INSANE to think the FBI would ask to release potential suspects/informants/witnesses without first asking “So, just how long has your uncle been a terrorist?”
    Whatever happened to libertarian dispassionate observation? I regret ever subscribing.

  37. Maybe I am wrong, but I had heard that the majority of those Saudi citizens who were on that flight out of the US were students. If they were members of the bin Laden family that doesn’t make them responsible for the actions of their crazy relative. We were right in getting these kids out of possible harm’s way. If one wants to make a point how the Bush family or all the past administrations have been in bed with the Saudis, you’ll have to do better than that.

  38. Michael, “Richard Clarke” – here’s from page 326 or so of the 9/11 Commission Report:

    “Flights of Saudi Nationals Leaving the United States

    Three questions have arisen with respect to the departure of Saudi nationals from the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11:
    (1) Did any flights of Saudi nationals take place before national airspace reopened on September 13, 2001? (2) Was there any political intervention to facilitate the departure of Saudi nationals? (3) Did the FBI screen Saudi nationals thoroughly before their departure?
    First, we found no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001.24

    To the contrary, every flight we have identified occurred after national airspace reopened.25
    Second, we found no evidence of political intervention. We found no evidence that anyone at the White House above the level of Richard Clarke participated in a decision on the departure of Saudi nationals.

    The issue came up in one of the many video teleconferences of the interagency group Clarke chaired, and Clarke said he approved of howthe FBI was dealing with the matter when it came up for interagency discussion at his level. Clarke told us,?I asked the FBI, Dale Watson . . .
    to handle that, to check to see if that was all right with them, to see if they wanted access to any of these people, and to get back to me. And
    if they had no objections, it would be fine with me.? Clarke added,?I have no recollection of clearing it with anybody at the White House.?

    Although White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card remembered someone telling him about the Saudi request shortly after 9/11, he said he had not talked to the Saudis and did not ask anyone to do anything about it.The President and Vice President told us they were not aware of the issue at all until it surfaced much later in the media. None of the officials we interviewed recalled any intervention or direction on this
    matter from any political appointee. Third,we believe that the FBI conducted a satisfactory screening of Saudi nationals who left the United States on charter flights. The Saudi government was advised of and agreed to the FBI?s requirements that passengers be identified and checked against various databases before the flights departed. The Federal Aviation Administration representative working in the FBI was aware of the flights of Saudi nationals and was able to screen the passengers before they were allowed to depart. The FBI interviewed all persons of interest on these flights prior to
    their departures. They concluded that none of the passengers was connected to the 9/11 attacks and have since found no evidence to change
    that conclusion. Our own independent review of the Saudi nationals involved confirms that no one with known links to terrorism departed
    on these flights.”

  39. keep in mind that the recovering cokehead in the White House is from the propertied elite, and he attended quite a few elite schools.

    indeed — but if his peers had been the electorate, he’d never have been nominated, much less empowered.

    gaius, how do you characterize yourself politically?

    mona, too complex a topic to reduce — i haven’t voted with any political party or even idiom that has some common currency we’d both understand. trust that there *are* things we’d disagree on 🙂 but the exclusion of women from power on the basis of their gender (if that’s what we’re talking about) is probably not one of them — it’s silly chauvanism. isabella of castille, christina of sweden, elizabeth tudor, catherine de medici… i see no example on their records of how women are politically inferior.

  40. However, you seem to see this as a problem to correct while I see it as inevitable. I don’t see any point in trying to remedy an inevitable phenomenon.

    no, we see it similarly, imo — i view a great deal of what has transpired to pervert an aristocratic, decentralized republic of limited powers into the behemoth that consumes us today as the result of historical (“inevitable”, perhaps) processes. limited parliamentary republic has a lifespan; ours has exceeded its, as has england’s.

    that i lament its loss is a concession to emotion — i fear the onset of the age of caesarism and what it will mean for my family.

  41. What’s good about this country, although not as good as it used to be, is that we can all become propertied, to the extent of independent and even fabulous affluence.

    And, if we can roll back the state, this American dream gone extreme will become more attainable by the general population.

  42. Just sufficient literacy and knowledge of civics.

    once upon a time, mona, i think property ownership was seen as a reasonable proxy for this — and, beyond that, it was understood that the ruling class would be relatively small and at least notionally intimate. the voters would know each other and the candidates through more than nightly news blurbs — as acquaintances of trusted friends, for example — and be able to judge their character accordingly. absent that, the smoke of mass propaganda leads us to unwittingly elect recovering cokeheads.

    such a propertied class still roughly exists here, imo, but the demotic nature of our 21st c society — openly antagonistic to anything that would be considered “elitist”, itself a term of derision — effectively keeps them from asserting the control over the system that they were once intended to have, in the english parliamentary tradition.

  43. It defies common sense to accept that the report that Powell trotted out at the UN and called “valuable intelligence” but which turned out to be an altered, plagiarized and dated grad student thesis was actually believed by the administration.

    and yet millions will find self-deception and delusion preferable to admitting they were hoodwinked, or that the adjudged Right Side was in fact wrong. a very human weakness.

  44. gaius, how do you characterize yourself politically? While your views are intriguing and I concede that mindless endorsement of democracy misses much that it cannot cure, I feel a certain disturbance at what I think may be some sub-texts in your posts, to which I would take some strong exception. But maybe I’m wrong.

    –Mona–

  45. Gaius-

    We seem to agree on the history: With a handful of exceptions (e.g. 1960, when some Southern Democrat electors ran on a platform of being unpledged, so that in a close election they could force concessions from Kennedy) electors have not acted as independent agents since the early days.

    However, you seem to see this as a problem to correct while I see it as inevitable. I don’t see any point in trying to remedy an inevitable phenomenon. Regardless of who choose electors, be it property owners, state legislators, or the general public (well, less than 50% of the general public), those who vote for the electors will want to know how the elector will vote. Even before general election of electors was the norm, electors were still pledged (informally at least, if not always by law).

    Whatever the virtues of the electoral college (and I freely admit that it has some, even if on balance I still don’t like the institution), independence of electors is not and has never been one of them.

    As to your statement

    the smoke of mass propaganda leads us to unwittingly elect recovering cokeheads

    keep in mind that the recovering cokehead in the White House is from the propertied elite, and he attended quite a few elite schools. (Whether or not he was actually educated is another matter.)

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