November 9, 2008 archive

Good Germans

Orin Kerr and the responsibility of elites for the last eight years

by Glenn Greenwald

Sunday Nov. 9, 2008 08:40 EST

Prime responsibility for those actions may lie with the administration which implemented them and with the Congress that thereafter acquiesced to and even endorsed much of it, but it also lies with much of our opinion-making elite and expert class.  Even when they politely disagreed, they treated most of this — and still do — as though it were reasonable and customary, eschewing strong language and emphatic condemnation and moral outrage, while perversely and self-servingly construing their constraint as some sort of a virtue — a hallmark of dignified Seriousness.  That created the impression that these were just garden-variety political conflicts to be batted about in pretty conference rooms by mutually regarding elites on both sides of these “debates.”  Meanwhile, those who objected too strongly and in disrespectful tones, who described the extremism and lawlessness taking place, were dismissed by these same elites as overheated, fringe hysterics.

Some political issues, including ones that provoke intense passion, have many sides, but not all do.  Not all positions are worthy of respect.  Some actions and policies require outrage and condemnation, to the point where it becomes irresponsible to comment on them without expressing that.  Some ideas are so corrupted and dangerous and indefensible that they do reflect negatively on the character and credibility of their advocates, on the propriety of treating those advocates as though they’re respectable and honorable.  Most of all, elites who seek out an opinion platform have a responsibility to accept that their ideas and arguments have consequences and they should be held accountable for what their actions spawn (see Atrios’ related point yesterday about Tom Friedman’s responsibility arising from his advocacy for the Iraq War).

Over the last eight years (at least), we have not only crossed the line of what ought to be within the realm of reasonable, respectful debate, but we have crossed it repeatedly, severely, and with great harm to our political system and huge numbers of people.  And one of the prime reasons that happened is because those with the most vocal platforms and with the greatest claims to expertise failed in their responsibility to oppose it passionately and to describe its extremism, and, instead, eagerly served as apologists for it.   Those who seek now to depict their tepidness in the face of all of that as some elevated form of enlightened reason are merely illustrating one of the key mechanisms that enabled all of it to happen.

Just when you couldn’t take anymore…..


Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Only Politics, Business, and Science left.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 French say ‘Yes, we can!’ too, to ending racism

By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer

4 mins ago

PARIS – Inspired by Barack Obama, the French first lady and other leading figures say it’s high time for France to stamp out racism and shake up a white political and social elite that smacks of colonial times.

A manifesto published Sunday – subtitled “Oui, nous pouvons!”, the French translation of Obama’s campaign slogan “Yes, we can!” – urges affirmative action-like policies and other steps to turn French ideals of equality into reality for millions of blacks, Arabs and other alienated minorities.

“Our prejudices are insidious,” Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a singer and wife of President Nicolas Sarkozy, said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, which published the manifesto. She said she hoped the “Obama effect” would reshape French society.

Coltan Killing the Congolese

 I happened to catch a segment on PBS briefly discussing the Congolese conflict. Unfortunately if one is interested in international news, the MSM does a shoddy job of keeping Americans even vaguely informed. My own suspicion is that Americans tend not to want to be informed about the rest of the universe. We can debate that one since my opinion is simply that.

One dominant explanation for the root causes of the ongoing conflict is that its foundation is connected to the genocide in Rwanda.

An article here details that background.

Another dominant explanation is the availability of minerals that the outside world desires.

A piece from an Australian service here takes the viewpoint of Global Witness to lay out a few assertations…..

“The economic benefits of fighting a war in this region remain one of the central motives of the warring parties.”

Coltan, or colombo-tantalize ore, is used to make pinhead capacitators that are essential parts in cell phones and other consumer electronics.

One-third of the world’s estimated coltan reserves are in Congo.

Global Witness said: “Almost all the main armed groups involved in the conflict, as well as soldiers of the national Congolese army, have been trading illegally in these minerals for years, with complete impunity.”

Global Witness believes the competition for minerals and control of continues the cycle of violence.

Café Discovery: imitating christ

Previous episodes:

250 years of history

mathematics and science, philosophy and religion

Dutch history

to the heavens and back

I’d like to express extreme appreciation to the Mathematics Genealogy Project and Wikipedia.

Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus received his baccalaureate degree in theology in 1497 at the Collège de Montaigu in Paris, where he studied under the mentorship of Jan Standonck, after being mentored at Deventer by the German humanist Alexander Hegius.  It seems we have strayed far from mathematics, but we shall return.  This was the time of “men for all seasons.”

The Promised Land

I am still stunned by what has happened.  While I have many concerns I am not thinking about them now.  If only for this one essay, I want to set everything aside to simply celebrate our historic achievement as a people.

I remain overwhelmed.  It still hasn’t entirely sunk in.  It is really huge, probably the biggest single event in my lifetime – certainly in the political realm.  What a remarkable, amazing, stunning victory for us all.  What a wonderful moment for America.  We have achieved a great milestone.

How starving were we for this great day to be an American?

de-stressing after the election: working like a dog instead of a pootie

(crossposted at, this series started there, and a commenter suggested they might be more in sync over here)

Nothing against dogs; it’s actually admirable that they are more willing to exert themselves, though it may not be to their own benefit. Cats are more likely to stalk patiently, take things step by step, take a break when they need to, or even a long nap.


It may be my problem with meditation is not taking small enough steps; sleep is another story. For those who don’t want to go back and read my old Kos diaries, I identified stress and a shortage of sleep as factors in my belly fat hanging around ( I have the healthy diet and aerobic exercise down good), and I want to get rid of it. More below the fold.

A Battle for Hearts and Minds

Cross posted from WWL

Its pathetic when I start to think of 2000-2008 as halcyon days. Remember when all we could focus on is getting rid of the Bushites? We were united, man.

Predictably, I see the Left splintering, like children who, now that the evil stepmother has been banished argue about who gets the biggest piece of candy and who gets theirs first.

Not even a moment of awe at America electing a man of color, we cynically start complaining immediately about his lacks both real and perceived.

Imagine, if you can, had McCain won, how we would be acting, what would we be saying, if you would be renewing your passports…  as he announced he was keeping Bush’s whole cabinet intact.

Rahm Emanuel has a lot of panties in a bunch, but hear me out, please.


Throughout this most recent campaign I, like all of you, have been trying to get a handle on just who this man is that we have now elected as our next President. So many of us are projecting our hopes, fears, and cynicism onto who he is and what kind of President he will be, that it often gets confusing.

I continue to have lots of questions that will only be answered in the days to come. But the one thing I feel pretty certain about is that if you look at Obama’s history and how he ran his campaign, this is a man who believes in community organizing. The question is, how will that affect how he governs?

Sunday music retrospective: Phantasmagoria

Curved Air:  Phantasmagoria

Melinda (More or Less)

Brother, can you spare a dime.

They can stuff all the retraining they want into a  5 lb. sack; but until they create jobs, the unemployed are doomed.

For the first time in my entire life, I actually know people, not a person but people, who are not only unemployed, but unemployed, in foreclosure, and filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  WTF!

Table D. States with statistically significant employment changes from September 2007 to September 2008, seasonally adjusted


| September | September | Over-the-year

State | 2007 | 2008(p) | change(p)


Arizona…………………..| 2,670,700 | 2,611,500 | -59,200

Florida…………………..| 8,014,500 | 7,899,000 | -115,500

Georgia…………………..| 4,153,900 | 4,092,800 | -61,100

Michigan………………….| 4,249,500 | 4,171,600 | -77,900

Nebraska………………….| 965,800 | 978,600 | 12,800

Rhode Island………………| 490,800 | 478,200 | -12,600

Texas…………………….| 10,394,700 | 10,642,600 | 247,900

Wyoming…………………..| 290,100 | 298,300 | 8,200

Cross posted at dailykos

And Now? (w/poll)

I know it’s hard to move on, but I really hope that in the months and weeks leading up to January 20th, the left liberal blogosphere will not focus its attention single-mindedly on every rumor of Obama cabinet appointments or even every toothsome morsel of gossip about Republican backbiting and infighting.

It seems there are three main responses progressives and leftists are taking to the new administration-in-formation.

The first is the classic honeymoon:

Cut the guy some slack, he’s got a lot on his plate. Already the election has had a transforming effect on the mood of people in the country and more good stuff is on the way. Now is not the time to be tugging his coattails.

The second is to try and lobby or bring direct pressure to bear on the Obama/Biden team, the Congressional Dems and/or the Democratic Party machine around a broad agenda or, more commonly a particular issue. In particular, This takes the form of trying to call in markers by forces who worked hard to produce the Obama landslide. The clearest example is the drive announced by the Change to Win union coalition to get the Employee Free Choice Act “card check” law passed in the first 100 days of the new administration. The AFL-CIO, for its part, is calling for a million EFCA petition signatures to be delivered on Inauguration Day. Similar calls have been launched by health care reform groups, (The push here to defend the 50 state strategy and its organizing core seems to fall into this category.)

The third is the one I want to argue for. It has already been modeled modeled by the Proposition 8 activists in California and their supporters around the country in the wake of Tuesday’s vote.. They chose a target, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (a/k/a the Mormon Church), and lit it up with militant demonstrations, extensive muckraking exposure of the facts, and public online debate over, and planning for, a possible boycott of Utah.

I would characterize this third option as creating a firestorm of struggles, locally-based in the main, around critical issues. These will by and large not make the administration-to-be their main target but will create facts on the ground in terms of social unrest among important sections of the people, which will have to be factored into their planning and policy-making.

A couple of additional points on this strategic approach:

1. Those arguing for the second approach should bear in mind the FISA battle of this spring, when folks across the left liberal blogosphere, a sector Obama owed bigtime, fought urgently to get him to stand up for constitutional rule in this country. A broad united front of progressives, liberals, civil liberties advocates and libertarians was quickly built. Funds were raised and teevee ads even made. What his backers got from Obama was one live-blog session with some staffers defending his unconscionable support for the Bush-engineered FISA bill, which passed.

2. Some may object that this doesn’t deal with the big picture can be made, but let’s take the example of the global economic meltdown and the rapidly deepening depression in this country. Obama’s seventeen-advisor panel is drawn from the very clowns and crooks who dragged the world into this mess. The best thing that could happen before the inauguration would be a wave of protests-against plant closings here, foreclosures there, tuition hikes on campus, service cuts in broke communities. The bankers, the automakers, the shippers are already whispering in every ear they can find, amplifying their urgency with “common sense” and the rustle of lobbying cash. We have to show that listening to them has real social costs as well as fiscal ones.

3. The worst thing about Obama for many of his supporters was his “tough guy” military stance, The promise of an eventual substantial withdrawal from Iraq-providing the high command agrees-is more than undercut by his pledge to dump thousands more troops into Afghanistan (the Graveyard of Empires, going back millennia) and “plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers and the Marines by 27,000 troops.” It is time for the anti-war movement, which has done so much to crystallize opposition to the occupation of Iraq (and thus to turn the public away from the Republicans), to step up again. Troops are dying, Iraqis are dying. The war has brought unimaginable devastation to their country and costs ours $2.5 billion a week. We can’t wait for Inauguration Day to make our voices heard. A good place to start is the Iraq Moratorium. This locally-based Third Friday protest will be observed by groups and individuals around the country on November 21, for the fifteenth straight month. Make plans to take part now!

Crossposted at

Daily Kos

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