Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Location
Los Angeles, California,
Birthday
December 31
Title
Professor of Sociology
Company
Cal Poly Pomona
Bio
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at dennisloo.com, worldcantwait.net (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2009 12:35AM

Bush was the Decider. Obama is the Legitimizer.

Rate: 20 Flag

On Wednesday the Justice Department announced Obama's plans for continuing indefinite detentions of individuals deemed “dangerous” by the government. Note that this is a designation rather than an adjudicated fact because those who are being indefinitely detained in this way are not being charged and will not be tried in a court, where facts and evidence matter.

According to Obama, the president now has the inherent power because of the “war on terror” – a war that has no possible end because it is a war on a tactic – to declare that someone is too dangerous to be free.

These suspects are so dangerous, in fact, that they are too dangerous to be put on trial. 

The evidence of their possible future crimes is so strong that we will not wait until they actually do anything criminal, we must seize them and hold them before they do anything.

If we are wrong and turn out to be holding someone who wasn't going to do anything, we must nonetheless continue to hold them because the very fact that we held them unjustly when they were innocent will so enrage them that they will want to do something upon their release. Therefore, we must hold them indefinitely to forestall that possibility. Whatever we do is right, even if what we did is wrong. 

Moreover, the evidence we have on these individuals is so compelling and so strong that we can't air the evidence in court, even in camera, behind closed doors. Our withholding this proof on national security grounds from the judge is actually protecting the detainee from consequences worse than our indefinite detention of them. Our refusing to share any of this information with you, the public, is also being done on your behalf. 

You must trust us on that. We are your government. We have your best interests in mind. Even if we come to take you and accuse you of being a terrorist and hold you indefinitely, you must have faith that we have your best interests in mind. We would not do anything that wasn't justified. You voted for us, remember? And if you didn't vote for us, then too bad for you.

*** 

In May 2009 Obama stated that he planned to seek a new legal regime in which holding people without charges and without trial for prolonged periods would no longer be the sole decision of the White House but would involve the Congress and Judiciary. I wrote at the time that this proposal was even worse than Bush’s policies because what Obama was doing was legitimizing and enshrining into law Bush’s blatantly illegal policies.

Obama has now backed away from that plan. He is now claiming that he has the power to indefinitely detain people under Congress’ authorization in the wake of 9/11 to use force against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Some people on the left are hailing this as a significant “victory.” Of what does this “victory” consist? Obama has backed away from his plan to get the Congressional stamp of approval over indefinite detentions and is now using the apparently “one size fits all” 2001 Congressional authorization to use force in the war on terror that Bush used to justify his warrantless wiretapping over all of us when the secret wiretapping was revealed. Bush’s argument was transparently false then. Obama’s use of the same argument now to justify indefinite detention is just as false.

Exactly how is this a victory? The fact that he hasn’t enshrined it into a new law is a good thing, I suppose, but his using an old resolution to justify holding people without end because the executive branch claims that these detainees might do something based on evidence that isn’t good enough to go to court on and is too sensitive to share with anyone isn’t what I would call a “victory.”

Obama is, after all, the one who suggested back in May that he would bring Congress and the Judiciary in as co-conspirators in suspending habeas corpus in the first place. So Obama deciding not to do this is the equivalent of someone telling you that they and their friends are going to rob you, tie you up, and hold you in the basement indefinitely, and then having that person decide, oh well, that he is going to do those things to you all by himself and not share. 

"Aren't you glad that I didn't get my friends involved in doing this to you? Aren't you happy that it's just me? My friends, I assure you, are a nasty bunch." 

This is how I would describe this "victory:"

Bush was the Decider. Obama is the Legitimizer.

It’s getting hard to tell who the good guys are when the “good guys” sound exactly like the bad guys.  Reminds me of the old saw about ducks. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it is a duck.

If the president says that he has the right to override habeas corpus and the right to snoop at all of our mail and electronic communications, if the president says that he has the right to launch military strikes on countries that have not attacked us first and continue to kill innocent men, women and children, if the president says that this is all because we are the shining beacon of hope and moral leader of the world, and if the president is a Democrat and black to boot, then by god, who am I to question the president?

I mean, what do I have instead?

Logic. Reason. Law. Evidence. Facts. Truth. Fairness. Justice. Morality. 

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You know my views on all this Dennis. I thought with Obama we'd get an administration which would start to roll back some of the more egregious Bush legacies. What we have instead is an administration which, as your title suggests, wants to make these legacies, or what I'd consider aberrations, permanent features of the executive branch. It's an unfortunate fact that presidents rarely if ever give back powers and perquisites that were acquired by their predecessor, and especially unfortunate when those powers are clearly illegal. As you say, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it is a duck.
Here's my take: the man is terrified that if another attack happens and anyone can point to anything anywhere where he's been "soft" on terrorism, he'll be roasted alive. Obama is the exact opposite of Martin Luther King. He views human rights as a liability, not the way to a future.
Thank you Nanatehay. Well said.

Harry: I don't think Obama is all that frightened, although I do agree with you about him being the obverse of MLK. He is an imperialist and the political chief of the biggest superpower in the world and in history. He is doing what is expected of him and what he himself also believes in in that role.
"The Precautionary Principle" - embraced by activists of liberal AND conservative persuasions to remove the actions and people that they deem too dangerous and likely to offend (or re-offend). I think I'll go back to college and get a doctorate in Profiling.
"A time for reflection, not retribution," as Obama put it, in explaining why he isn't going to prosecute torturers and blatant law breaking, is the logical corollary to preventive detention and also the logical corollary to pre-emptive military invasions/attacks.

If you aren't going to convict people for crimes you know that they have already committed and have freely admitted to (such as Bush and Cheney), then why not punish people for crimes that you think that they might commit before they do anything?

Don't convict them after the fact for what they have done, just punish them for what they might do before the fact. Makes perfect sense to me.
Ah, then you think he's a moron. Could be. But can you imagine the uproar if there is another successful attack? I don't think he's a true believer in what he does a la [the anti-Christ 43rd president] was. That makes him a man of fear then not to follow his true convictions.

I agree he's doing what's "expected" but I think that's because he's in permanent cover-your-ass mode. Left to his own devices I don't see Obama as an imperialist. I don't think if you put him on an island he'd be seeking to conquer other islands. He's just one not to disrupt the norm, so he can "unite" us - or whatever garbage he's got in his head.
Harry: I don't think Obama's a moron. I think he's very smart. I also think that it is his personal style to seek conciliation, but he consistently seeks conciliation only with those who are in power. His stance towards those who are not powerful is to tell them to shut up and/or to utter soothing and disarming and deceptive words to them.

Left to his own devices you don't see him as an imperialist. I would ask you why you conclude this. He sought out the presidency. He knew what he was getting into. He isn't suddenly beset by forces out to get him that he didn't have a very good idea would be doing what they're doing before he tried to win this job. He is doing what he's doing because he believes in it, not because he's really a nice guy and is being scared into this or being coerced into it.
I don't get it. How does this shit happen all the time? Is there some noxious gas floating in the air of the White House that turns presidents into robots with amnesia? Sad.
R
John: that noxious air you speak of is called "Eau de Empire."
The "legitimizer" label is perfect.

The irony is, if Obama WERE the leftist extremist the republicans made him out to be, then we'd be seeing some change now. As it is, we got what we voted for: a middle-of the -road product of the same system that gave us Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush I. Carter, who came the closest to stepping outside the boundaries, was thoroughly discredited and maligned, in and out of office.
I wonder how long until we stop calling these kinds of outrageous abuses "Kafkaesque" and think of them as either "Bushesque" or "Obamaesque."

Digby is all too right in warning that Obama's capitulation to Bush's immorality - whether from craven political calculations or from his finding all these powers irresistible - is going to bring about someone like Ralph Nader in 2012.

I didn't think Obama was going to be anywhere near a genuine leftist, but even I am disappointed at how Empire-friendly he is.
Just when I thought it was safe to quit reading OS. Dennis, I blame you for getting me into reading this stuff in the first place with your fears about the DOD classification of protestors as “Terrorists” That post was linked by WND- (Wouldn’t be surprised if this one (and maybe Zen Haitian’s ) is too)

I’d about decided it was a waste of time to look to OS for any great rapprochement between people who are afraid of a unaccountable and uncontrollable left wing takeover of the government and people who are afraid of a unaccountable and uncontrollable right wing take over. “We the People” have already been taken over by an unaccountable and uncontrollable (is it too paranoid to posit governmental- industrialist post national globalist (Think Ike’s military industrial) complex on steroids? ) Government. (I just refer to it as “The Big (Animal) Farm”)

Guys, we’re past “being” taken over, we’ve been. All the noise here lately about right wing teabaggers and left wing acorn and union thugs is just so much divide and conquer, and I quite frankly gave up posting anything on OS just because all it got was threats of violence both ways, mostly from people who’ve never participated in violence, and consequently had no idea what they were talking about.

Can we get over any notion of this being “Bush” vs “Obama”? I don’t care for either of them, and I haven’t liked or trusted a president since Kennedy ( and I was still pretty naive back then) What are we The People, going to do to stop this, as you aptly referred to it, “Pro Wrestling Match” between the “Republicans” and the “Democrats” ?

It’s all “Entertainment” ( Bread and Circuses) brought to us by internationalist corporations of all types. (How much “Arm twisting” do you really think it took to get “Big Pharma” and “Big Insurance” on board with “Health Care Reform”- Every Prole a customer with the government to enforce your prices? That’s their wet dream)

It’s time to quit playing their game and do something about it. Together
>Logic. Reason. Law. Evidence. Facts. Truth. Fairness. Justice. Morality.

Old hat! We have terrified old Republicans and Democrats to think of. They have violated international law and are frightened of being punished for their crimes. So we brick up our prisoners in some forgotten wing of the White House and leave them there, chained to the wall as if in a dungeon, until they are reduced to literal skeletons. And we never discuss the matter like the best of dysfunctional families.

Obama has so far been a major lemon -- more of the same, Bush44.
The only differences between bush and obama, are that one could see in bush's eyes that he was a liar and there were neither eloquence or logic to his words.

Obama speaks eloquently and the sincerity in his eyes hides his lies. His policies are virtually the same as bush's.




rated
Everyone does what they believe in if you want to look to their actions as empirical evidence of that - you have a self-serving circular argument then. It just leaves out the fact people can lie to themselves and are capable of self-deception. Obama certainly deceives himself and one needs to ask why he does that to know the truth of his motivations. Very rarely is truth on the surface.
Benjamin: Your point about the similarities of the last few succession of presidents, and the fact that upon leaving office, Carter has become a much better ex-president than he was when president, are both true. Thanks as always for commenting.

Michael: Obama is friendly to Empire alright. That is why he was given the kind of backing and attention that he got from powerful interests when he decided to run for the presidency.

Token: I continue to be interested in what you have to say and where you're coming from given that we are starting from very different ends of the political spectrum. Much of what you've said here I agree with, although I wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination call the Obama White House a "left-wing" takeover.

Gordon and Mark: Thank you.

Harry: I do agree that truth is not always self-evident and that surface appearances can be deceiving at times. The difference w/ you is that I'm arguing that it's self-deception to argue that Obama is somehow significantly different in his worldview than what we find him doing. You haven't yet presented any evidence of why you think this gap exists.
Thank you for your good post.

The thing is becoming more and more crazy.

But cannot Congress now contest Obama's move? Obama is trying to act using the previous decision during the time of Bush that people could be indefinitely detained. Earlier he was seeking for legitimizing it, now he trying to do it telling that is was already made legal..?

--------
[Obama's] administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban... [Obama] said he would “work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.”... Officials said Wednesday that working with Congress did not mean the president would seek legislation, only that he would consult lawmakers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/us/politics/24detain.html?hp
------

Now Congress members could argue that they were completely sidetracked and question the legality of Obama's move? Doesn't Obama need some proofs that detained people really are 'forces of Al Qaeda or Taliban'? If that kind of proof is not needed it would mean that the president has actually got rights to detain anybody indefinitely.
Hannu: That is precisely the power that Obama is claiming, following in Bush's footsteps: the power to detain someone indefinitely, simply on an assertion by the executive branch that this person is potentially dangerous.
Dennis

My point is precisely that the Obama election was no more a "Left Wing" takeover than the "Bush" election was a "Right Wing" takeover. I think that pretty much since Johnson showed the "Military-Industrial" ( Now "Governmental-Industrial") complex how to get things done, we've had pretty much the same people in power- the battle of the "Left" vs. the "Right" is just a "Big-Time Wrasslin" match to keep our (The People's) attention focused on being angry with each other while the multinational banking and industrial interests walk off with the government.
Token: Ah yes. Thanks for the clarification. Agreed.
What's the matter Dennis Loo, doesn't calling the "War on Terror" an "Overseas Contingency Operation" legitimize it enough for you? ; )
@Token--
I'm uncomfortable with being identified with World Net Daily (WND) -- as Dennis states; the Obama admin is not in the least "left wing," so WND criticisms of the Obama admin are based on a false premise -- to say the least.
Anyone ever seen the film Minority Report? It's science fiction (or it WAS science fiction), but in the Spielberg film, at least authorities had special ability to see the future, to KNOW the crimes would occur (wink).
Leslie: Yes, Minority Report is very apropos to our situation today. It says something very revealing about our political leadership and the two major parties that they are all on board with the egregious premise that it's ok for any and all outrageous governmental actions in the name of the "war on terror" more properly dubbed the war of terror.
"the power to detain someone indefinitely, simply on an assertion by the executive branch that this person is potentially dangerous."

Yes I agree. This is Obama's claim. But everybody can understand that the claim is completely crazy and dangerous.

Congress members should understand that next they are in the danger to get detained, too. They should go against this. Everybody should. I think that lawyers can show that this is against the constitution.
@zen Haitian

I apologize if my reference to WND makes you uncomfortable. It wasn’t meant to.

I read WND in the same vein as I watch a Michael Moore film (or read Salon)- it doesn’t have to make sense, it’s all just part of the Circus designed to keep us Proles occupied. The people who have run our government since at least Johnson couldn’t care less who “Wins” the Left/Right struggle, so long as it distracts us enough that they can make off with the “Gate”. I simply meant to point out that the urge to throw your shoes at Obama is one that most readers of WND share- and you’d be surprised how many wish old G.W. had been a little slower ducking the ones thrown at him. What I am hoping is that people on both sides of the “left/right” divide will wake up and realize that Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, Carter, Ford, and Nixon have just been “Sock Puppets” for the, for want of a better term, “Governmental Industrial” Complex, and if “Shoes” are being thrown at Obama by the “Right”, it isn’t because he’s Black, it isn’t because he’s a “Lefty”. It’s because he’s another “Sock Puppet” for the same old same old.

* NB it isn’t that Johnson wasn’t part of the “Governmental-Industrial” Complex, it’s that he wasn’t a “Sock Puppet”- he was the one who allowed the “Military-Industrial” Complex to realize its full potential during Vietnam.
Token: Thanks for the further elaboration. I want to query you about one aspect of what you said - that people who are opposed to Obama from the right aren't doing so because he's black. I don't think there's any question that a fair amount of the opposition to him IS because of racism. I say that as someone who is not a fan of Obama's, as you know. But it's impossible to overlook the fact that some of those who despise him and want to see him gone are doing so precisely because of his "race."
Token: I agree that what you describe as the "Circus" is the means to keep Americans engaged in polarized backbiting below the radar of the dance of corporate strings.

And I also feel that pulling the race card, however genuine or not, helps to effect the same outcome. The skirmish deflects attention away from the true power brokers. A national strike--if indeed such a thing is possible to pull off--would be a decisive yank on those strings. We have economic power we refuse to exercise.
Thank You for Your comments and post, Professor.
I’d like to take some time and think about a way to explain the difference between “Hating” or “Ignoring” someone because they are a member of a class/race stereotype, as opposed to using that stereotype as an “insult” to annoy or upset an “existing enemy”, or just to see if a “New Kid” is the type who can be upset by such trash talk.
See Clint Eastwood in “Gran Torino” for a good take on teaching a “Kid” how to talk to “Men” (The barbershop scene) I’ll try to post something on that.

But for now, as a “Redneck/Swiss-German” rural white man, who has installed computers for small town “Redneck” ( Including Cajun, Native American, and Black) County Governments all over the South and East, I feel pretty comfortable saying that the “Racist” overtones of “Redneck Individualism” are more perception than reality.

Will a Redneck insult your race? If you get him angry at you he’ll insult your race, your height, your weight, your dog, your mamma, and the horse you rode in on. That doesn’t mean he’s “Racist” Just means he doesn’t like you. Or maybe he’s just seeing what “Rattles” you. But I can Guarantee that if you take refuge in saying something like “You just hate me because I’m Black” he will SCORN you, not because you ARE Black (or Red, or Yellow, or Brown) but because you’ve declared yourself not responsible for yourself.
If you check, most often you’ll find that there are others of your “Hue” in town that he likes just fine. He knows them as Individuals.

The town I grew up in was just too small for anyone to hide behind a stereotype- everyone knew who YOU were. The two black kids I grew up with had to bear the full weight of being “Lazy and Shiftless” for their whole “Race”, and it turns out they just weren’t up to it. Every time someone would make a crack about something they’d just smile and prove it wrong. No one could have accused them of being anything other than typical semi-rural small town kids, if a little darker in hue than the others. That isn’t to say they didn’t get called N****, they did- the same way they referred to us white boys as “Honkies” and “Rednecks” and with as much “Hate” on either side as calling a red head “Red” or a tall kid “Stretch”
Kids call each other names to see who gets bothered by it. It’s all “insensitivity” training. It shows you who you can count on not to loose his cool in a fight. ( Impromptu “Fights” formed a lot of our “recreation” in a small town)( What you doin? Nuthin, what you doin? Nuthin- Wanna Fight?)
Another indication of the “Role” of “Race” in the anti-Obama movement is to note that I do not know a single anti-Obamite who doesn’t think well of Clarence Thomas and wouldn't jump at the chance to vote for Alan Keyes for President, if he were on offer.
“Redneck” isn’t so much a “Race” as it’s a Rural Individualist attitude- hence my reference to “Cajun Redneck”, “Native American Redneck”, and “Black Redneck”.

The skinheads? Well, I admit they’re kinda from the “Deliverance” side of the family, and, we don’t really want them sitting in our pew either,(or coming to our gun shows), - (you Ethnic folk are more than welcome-) but if push comes to shove, we’ll handle them-

Now if ya’ll just promise me that ya’ll handle Reverend Wright and his crowd, we might be able to reach an understanding.
Harry is right that Obama has added burdens -- he's relatively young, relatively inexperienced and relatively black. All that makes it harder for him to do what is morally correct. So what? The added burdens may explain his reticence, but they in no way justify it. As he's fond of reminding us, if this was easy, it would have been done already.

In my post, I pointed out that Harry Truman integrated the Armed Forces after WWII, angering not only Conservatives, but his own party. Truman was told that act would cost him re-election, and he replied if it did, the job wasn't worth having. I suggested that so far, Barack Obama is no Harry Truman. Read more here:

Passing the Bucks
.
El Torino was a fantastic movie -- too bad, it seemed to gather only passing interest.
@markinjapan

Just read your post on Peter Schiff on the Daily Show, and nothing could better illustrate the real issues that should UNITE Left and Right. Those of you who haven’t read the post read it, those of you who haven’t watched the video, watch it at:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=230058&title=Peter-Schiff

Those of you who live in Connecticut, demand that Peter Schiff replace Senator Dodd.

(And yes, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” still makes everyone verklempt, no matter what race, party, or political affiliation- goes to show we’re all just people)
Mr. Loo:

I saw your comment here that Obama is conciliatory with the powerful, but tells those who aren't to "shut up," and is deceptive towards them.

I think you're projecting. I also suspect you are politially naive. Your judging him based on an ideology, not the reality of politics and the fact that a conciliatory style means he always isn't going to carry out your agenda.

You may want to consider if your are going to make such broad, sweeping, and derogatory pronouncements that you supply a little evidence. You say you are a sociologist, but I see little proof of it here. Do you have any real concept of what he is trying to accomplish, and the obstacles he faces?
Obama, as it turns out, is exactly what he presented himself to be (a politician).

All of the posturing is by design, camouflage for the MIC and the continued fleecing of the Proles. Orwell was clairvoyant.
Ben Sen: I am going to take what appears to be the heart of your disagreements with me and address that. You say that I am "naive" because I don't appear to appreciate the difficulties of Obama's situation: "Do you have any real concept of what he is trying to accomplish, and the obstacles he faces?"

Let's examine what it is that Obama is trying to accomplish. You and I obviously differ in our understanding of what he's trying to do. You take him - I assume since otherwise you wouldn't be criticizing me as you are - at his word that he wants to restore the Constitution to governance and that he is opposed to doing unjust and illegal things to suspects/detainees, and so on.

I will grant you at the outset that Obama's got the GOP to contend with and that this makes life more difficult for him. The question here is, can a leader be a leader if he is compromising on fundamental principles?

The two main principles that I'm speaking here of are a) that one cannot be detained indefinitely for what they MIGHT do as opposed to what they HAVE done, and b) that one should always have the right to challenge your detention and have your day in court.

These two principles go back a very long ways. Both of them were developed in opposition to the dictatorial and arbitrary powers of the monarchy and emperors who asserted the right to hold and punish (including torture and murder) of those they didn't like on the grounds that these individuals posed a threat to the crown and/or the kingdom.

If you are willing to sacrifice these principles on the grounds either of the fact that the GOP is against restoring these principles to actual practice (and therefore Obama must abide by and compromise or give in to those forces) or on the grounds that the US faces some threat so grave that it cannot stand by principles that date from at least as long ago as 900 years (the Magna Carta), then who is being naive?

While Obama says all the right sounding phrases and words, we need to look closely at what he is actually saying and also what he is actually doing. If someone, for example, says that they respect your opinion, but otherwise does everything that indicates otherwise, do you take them at their words? Is that "projection?" Is that being "naive?"

The Democrats have the power in both chambers of Congress and of course in the White House to overrule whatever objections the GOP is putting in the way. Obama was elected on the promise that he would restore the Constitution, habeas corpus, transparency, etc., etc. He is reneging on those promises. To say that the GOP is blocking him is to fail to see that this is a ruse. Obama has the power to override the GOP - he has the votes - and he has the bully pulpit to do what, for example, FDR did to those who opposed him: he labelled them as obstructionists and rallied the people against it.

I suggest you check out what Obama has done in his meetings with progressives at the White House. He has told them in no uncertain terms that they better get on board with him or else. He does not use this language with people like Joe Wilson. He does not use this language against the extremist right. He conciliates with those forces.

As for what Obama is really trying to accomplish: I argue and have done so repeatedly in numerous articles here and elsewhere that he is the political leader of an imperialist superpower with the greatest empire since Rome. The reason he is continuing the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and now against Pakistan is because he represents those interests. The reason he hasn't actually stopped torture, has continued rendition, banned habeas corpus for Bagram detainees, and still hasn't closed Gitmo is not primarily because of the GOP. It's primarily because he, like Bush before him, is in a role that calls for the US to do egregious things in order to try to maintain and expand an empire.

This may perhaps sound like rhetoric to you, but if you examine each and every particular step that has been taken, then it no longer looks like rhetoric, it looks like an accurate description.

Let me just end with this: if Obama really was against torture, then why does he continue to refuse to release the damning torture photographs? If he really was for reforming the health care system for the people, then why has he ruled single payer off the table? The majority of people in this country are for it. If he really was for restoring fundamental legal rights, then why is he refusing to allow detainees these rights? To say that the GOP is blocking him from doing this is to misunderstand what is really going on. It's the equivalent of someone saying to their friends under their breath, "hold me back," when they are gesturing publicly that they want to fight and defeat their adversary. As Token notes in reference to an analogy that I used in an earlier essay that I borrowed from Jesse Ventura: politics in this country are exactly like professional wrestling.
mr. loo:

obama made it clear in the campaign he was and is a politician. that's why i voted for him. sure, i'd like him to do a lot of exactly what you specify, but i'm not calling him "bush44." I think anybody who makes that association is a jerk, pure and simple and needs to be called out on it now--before the ideologists take control, and the next thing we know the best opportunity for change we have seen since clinton is sabotaged.

i am very suspicious of ideological purists, and you are close to the mark on this. i don't care if you are left or right. obama got elected going down the middle so now why so surprised that he is staying that way--other than your own fantasies?

we may have a fundamental difference in understanding how democracies work. I think it is by increments, i suspect you believe it is by moral rightousness. Make obama the enemy and you get the next bush. the reason the right has controlled this country for the last 40ty years is just as much due to liberal cynicism and disloyalty as it is to right wing conspiring. I call it naive for a reason and so far you have not disproven it.
Ben:

Does the principle that you are not guilty until proven guilty constitute moral purity? Or is it a fundamental principle of any democratic polity?

Does the principle that there must be a provision in the law that allows someone who is innocent and has been arrested and is being detained indefinitely to contest their detention constitute moral purity or is it a fundamental principle of any democratic polity?

Does the principle that every suspect has a right to hear the charges against them constitute ideological purity or is it a fundamental principle of any democratic polity?

You speak of democracy. Let me ask you this as a final question: how can you have a democracy if you don't have the above rights?

The absence of those rights are markers of a tyranny. I mean the term tyranny here, by the way, technically, as opposed to a hastily chosen term to impugn. Technically it is a tyranny if people do not have the rights enumerated above. How would you propose that a democracy could operate in the absence of these rights being observed?

(By the way, you can call me Dennis. I would prefer that as opposed to Mr. Loo. If you insist on continuing to use my last name with a title of address, then Mr. is not correct. I'm a Dr.)
I prefer to be called Ben Sen, Dr. Loo:

Yep, you make the case well for ideological academicians I have known in what has turned out to be a life where I have seen a lot, maybe too much. I don't disagree with your brand of self-righteousness. We come from the same place on the spectrum. But I think we've seen enough of it in this form, and while it may work in the classroom with a bunch of kids looking for a passing marks--that old "imperialist" Amerika routine and it's stooges just goes so far in the real world.

At one point, I believed it fully--and made sacrifices on it's behalf that may be beyond your experience, Dr., but then I came to realize that obstinancy only creates more obstinancy, and crying from the rooftops the system is corrupt and everybody in it is self-serving at best.

Next, if not already, I suspect you will exert leadership by abandoning Obama in search for a perfect world elsewhere, maybe in another country, or on another planet. I am simply tired of watching the right wing win again and again and again due to faux liberals who eschew loyalty.
@Ben Sen

Systems are not corrupt, they may only lend themselves to a greater or lesser degree of deception or double dealing.

PEOPLE are corrupt- OR NOT.

I think that, even coming from greatly different points on the political spectrum, people can work things out, provided they are honorable people who agree that no matter how "Noble" the desired end, certain "means" are not just “out of bounds” but despicable. No ”End” ever justifies despicable action. Dennis believes that. Therefore, no matter how much he and I may differ on matters, I esteem him as an honorable man, who can be dealt with reasonably and Justly. Obama is not.

One of the biggest problems the “Rural Individualist” (Redneck) has with, not just Obama, but all politicians, is that Obama doesn’t know or care what the meaning of “is” is. You may think that being able to tell a politician is lying by watching to see if his lips are moving is a great joke, but out in flyover country, it is the single biggest reason for not trusting the government and wanting it out of our lives. You may call such “treachery” “Political Reality”- I call it treason, whether the “Sock Puppet” of the moment is Obama, Bush, or any other politician.

The first thing needed to put our country back together is TRANSPARENCY (? Have I heard that somewhere before?)

As has been said many times before, the light of day is the best cure for corruption.

Given transparency, honest politicians ( yeah, I think at one time there was such a thing-I’ve even known a few) would no longer be so easily assassinated in corporate board rooms and union halls and might actually be able to run for elections and win.
Wow, just to easy to figure out........lucifer.
Ben Sen: Would you describe the founders of the Republic as academicians? Is that how you'd describe the Bill of Rights and Constitutions' authors? Would you account for everyone such as justices who took these civil liberties seriously (habeas corpus, et al) and all those who have fought against kings and queens and latter day versions of those monarchs by dismissing them as mere teachers preaching to their students in a futile exercise of moral simplicity?

While I'm not a big fan of the authors of the Constitution, I raise this question to you because you continue to claim that legal principles that people have actually fought and died for are mere academic exercises with no real world consequences. You'd toss these matters away as if they are mere trifles, like flicking away a gnat on one's shoulders rather than bulwarks against tyrants. How anyone who gives these key civil liberties their due seriousness constitutes being a faux (or real) liberal - neither of which I am - is beyond me.

If your stand is the stand of those who continue to claim their allegiance, however qualified as it may be in your case, to Obama's actions, then fine. But don't claim that your stand also constitutes reality unless reality according to you is a world that is without civil liberties. Don't claim to represent "democracy" when you are willing to throw out indispensable elements of what a putative democracy must contain. Don't wail when the gendarmes come for you because you stood by when civil liberties that supposedly distinguish the U.S. from banana republics and open dictatorships were destroyed and you yawned then that the people who exposed this at the time were chicken littles.
Dr. Loo:

When you see the world through a peephole, you can come up with a lot of conclusions that eliminate a lot of light. You have now made it clear you don't have a notion of what politics are about.

The appeal of a politician is to constituencies. Constituencies are based upon perceptions. Whether they are true or not is a conversation, but not what brings about committment and change.

Obama wants to make changes. He wants legistalation that passes. He want to shake things up a bit. He has the audacity to think that is why he was elected. He's given up being "right" and making you right, for making things happen now. He wants to find out what the "consensus" is for change at the current time. That, after all, is the consensus that matters, not an ideal--no matter where that "ideal" exists--that is to say--regardless of what is "right" or "wrong" only what the collective agreement that makes it possible at the present time.

That's politics. It's not moral. It is the collective agreement that is possible now vs. the overwhelming power of apathy and greed, which will do nothing for what very well be the "good" for a greater number at a specific time.

We may agree that most Americans are fools most of the time. How else does one explain the lack of nationalized health care? Where I disagree with you is your inability to understand the game. There is no way around it in a democracy. The "blue dogs" are teaching us all about it at present. The miserable mother fuckers will get their asses re-elected because of the stupidity of their own constituents. They don't give a shit otherwise.

Can you understand that? It takes a leap of faith, I admit it. You have to realize that reason has little to do with the political process, and not everybody can understand your logic. In fact, they can't understand anybodies logic and never will. Their lives are govened by fear. They don't share your security. I'm sure you're an honorable man Dr. Loo I just think you've been over educated.

Peace, love, joy, happiness, and make sure those insurance premiums are paid, either by your employer or yourself, or you will be sorry for some time to come.

I don't expect at this time you will understand what I am saying to you, but I am always willing to be inspired by a mind that is free from the common assumptions. To say Obama is "following in Bush's footsteps" is plain foolish. Please, read a few of my posts. I don't speak from a vacuum.
Ben Sen: You haven't addressed what I have said directly at all. Instead what you continue to do is make claims about its validity (i.e., they're invalid) without really explaining why or providing any evidence. As close as you get to explaining why is contained in this latest comment of yours: "You have now made it clear you don't have a notion of what politics are about."

"The appeal of a politician is to constituencies."

What, indeed, is politics about?

According to your (non-peep hole) view of the world, you accept the conventional wisdom about what politics is, which for our purposes is this:

The people get the leaders they deserve because they voted for them (or didn't vote and so have to put up with what they get.) The people are in charge. Anything good or bad that happens is a reflection of the people not the leaders.

While your view of this has the "virtue" of being widely held, it has the distinct vice of being wrong. (I say that as someone whose undergraduate degree from Harvard was in Government - with honors - and as someone who has made a study of politics historically and in the contemporary world for most of my life. So your dismissive statements about what I know or don't know about politics are really empty of real argument, condescending, and ill-informed.

Instead of saying that someone doesn't know what they're talking about, the reasonable way to go about elucidating differences of opinion is to state what you believe, why you believe it, and why you think the other person's views are wrong.

1) Obama won the 2008 election on the perception that he would undo many of the egregious policies of his predecessor. Do we have agreement on that?

2) This is not what he has done now that he has office. Is this because politics - as you describe it - is the process of politicians responding to their constituencies? If Obama is responding to his constituencies, why has he not done what they nearly all thought that he would do?

3) If your answer to #2 is - he wants to do these things but he can't because the blue dog Democrats and/or the GOP are blocking it, then why doesn't he use his platform as president and as an extremely popular elected official to actually fight for the things he led people to believe that he was going to do? Why doesn't he use his power as head of the party to punish his opponents and rewards his friends? Why doesn't he do what FDR did? He has the majority in both chambers of Congress and he has the wishes of the vast majority of the people if he would but call for that.

I will tell you what I believe and have come to conclude based on my reading of history and politics:

Obama is doing what he's doing because he first and foremost represents the interests of empire. That means that he is sharing power with the other elements of the ruling class. He is not speaking on behalf of and fighting for the interests of the public in general.

If constituencies determine what public officials do, as you say that politics is, then how come the Iraq war isn't over yet? For at least a few years now 70% of the people have wanted an immediate end to the war. In the latest CNN poll, 57% of those polled said they want the Afghanistan war over now. A majority of people since at least the summer of 2005 wanted Bush impeached, yet the Democratic Party leadership said that impeachment is "off the table." A majority of Americans wanted Obama to block the Telecom Amnesty Bill. After promising initially to support a filibuster of the bill, Obama went on to vote for it. I could go on and on in this way. How does any of this add up to what you claim is the essence of politics: public officials doing what their constituents want?

Finally, I find it remarkable that you can describe upholding the critical nature of civil liberties as seeing the world through a peep hole.
Congratulations for this excellent essay, Professor. Loo.

"Obama the legitimizer!"

I hope that nick-name sticks! It sums up a lot of news from Washington in three little words.
Thank you Lionspride and Jacob.
I'm not disagreeing with you on one of your points in substance Dr. Loo. Who would disagree with the value of civil liberties? It's moot.

What's not moot is the process by which government moves forward and decisions are made on the playing field such as it is. While it's your blog and it's understandable you control the dialogue, I don't have to agree with you.

My argument is that I think Obama deserves more support, not less, if he is going to accomplish much. You've made numerous remarks that you are ready to desert the ship. I'm not sure you know just how typical you are being of liberals who either want it their way or nothing else will do--and I say that as a life-long liberal from a family that help establish the Democratic party in the Midwest.

While you say I am not addressing what you think the issues are, I think the same is true of you. I suspect our fundamental analysis of how the nation got into the fix it is in is different and probably not worth further unraveling.

Let me end, by saying I've enjoyed this exchange with you, and mean none of it personally. If Obama is going to accomplish half of what he promised he is going to have to distance himself from intellectual saboteurs.
Ben Sen:

I have a couple points to make in conclusion (presumably):

First, you say: "Who would disagree with the value of civil liberties? It's moot." I presume you mean that it's moot because you and I can agree on the value of civil liberties. What is not moot is what has actually happened to civil liberties. Agreeing that they're valuable in the abstract isn't meaningful if that isn't extended into the realm of recognizing when they are being annihilated and into the realm of defending their existence as vital to a civil society and any chance of having an actual democracy. You have said here that you don't think this is the issue and that in fact my calling attention to this is a form of either moral absolutism or futile philosophizing in a classroom setting.

Second, you need to pay closer attention to what Obama is actually doing overall. If you still think that the solution here is to give Obama support, no matter what he's doing, then you aren't watching what he's doing and how similar it is to what Bush did. Indeed, in some respects what Obama is doing is actually worse than what Bush did.

I have consistently spoken out against those whose opposition to Obama has been due to racism and against those who are advocating assassination. So it cannot be said that I am in the camp of those who are against him no matter what. My opposition to him is based on his actual policies regarding the national security state.

I began warning of this well before he got the nomination because if you look at his speeches and his actions, it was clear that he was going to not be a change agent. So, deserting the ship isn't a metaphor that I think is apt here.
Then who were you going to vote for? If the best you can say of your "support" for Obama is that you have argued against the racists and assassins we are in different camps indeed. I think what you need to take a closer look at is how utterly ridiculous this sounds. Your ideology is so extreme it paints you into the corner.
Thank you for the good discussion.
I completely agree with Dr. Loo as I have agreed before.

It is true that Obama needs some support. But he needs that support to go right ways. Not to follow his predecessor to take away the fundamental rights of people living in a democracy. He needs support from his party and fellow citizens to restore those fundamental rights and that he would have, if he wanted that. Dr. Loo is exactly right. Obama wants all the time to go the wrong way. And that is not because he wouldn't have support to go the other way. It is something else.

Already during his election campaign Obama told that he wanted to expand the war in Afghanistan into the area of Pakistan. At the same time the big munition industries of America started to support Obama against McCain. Already at that time I realized that the things will go bad ways, if Obama would be elected.

Now I think that the things would maybe would have gone as bad even wprse, if McCain would have won. But it is Obama now in the office. And so you need to try pushing him to go the right ways, even if he seemingly doesn't want to do it.
Ben Sen: I don't vote for candidates for public office. You think that this is extreme, but I must say that if you study history and examine closely what has made any differences in public policy it has not been through elections but through social movements. The historian Howard Zinn's books such as A People's History of the United States make this very clear.

In other words, history teaches us what you consider "extreme" - elections are not what makes public policy. Ending the war in Vietnam, the 8 hour day, the women's liberation movement, the civil rights movement - all of these came about not because of elected officials but because movements compelled these leaders to make concessions in the face of those movements. Believing that electing someone is what politics is about isn't supported by the historical record. One needn't even go back very farther than a couple years or so to see how this is demonstrated true again and again.
You're too good to be true Dr. Loo. You prove the case that the boys in the ivory tower are just too damn good for the rest of us plebs. I don't think I could make you up and better than you do the job on yourself. I hope some day you find out what a commitment is and the freedom it provides, but until that time we live in different orbs. Keep those bells chiming and I hope for your sake your university doesn't run out of cash.
Ben Sen:

Just so you know - I'm not just some "ivory tower" person, as you continue to describe me as a way to dismiss what I'm saying as irrelevant to the "real world."

I'm a member, for example, of the steering committee of the World Can't Wait, an activist organization.
You also live in a prison within your own mind. I can't think of it as anything other than a terrible burden. Let me know the day Mohammad comes to your mountain and I'll bring flowers to worship. With a hug, Ben Sen. I think you need a few.
Ben Sen: Wow. That's amazingly haughty of you to say - "the prison of my own mind." The difference between you and I on this issue is that I realize that there are very real prisons in which victims of this "war on terror" have been incarcerated and in which they have been and continue to be tortured by our government and at least 100 of them have been tortured to death.

Amazing that you should feel sorry for me that I recognize this fact while you sit in blissful dismissal of that fact. I would say that I'm sorry for you, but that isn't the term that I am feeling.
Ah, I see. It's "my" government. Your hands are washed clean. You "participate" on a higher plane. You "counsel" given your intellect, educational status, objectivity, and let's not forget your superior "professional" wisdom. Do I have that right, Dr. Loo?

If I hadn't seen it again and again through the years in academics I'd take umbrage, but as it is you're another example--albeit a "perfect" one. You must be called on it repeatedly or you wouldn't be so defensive. My suspicion is you take great pleasure in it. Thank "god", (little g) you are feeling something by this point.

At least, we have the love of flowering trees in common. My favorite are cherries. What's yours?
Did I miss something? I thought the reason Obama was elected was to Change politics as usual. He was going to give Washington back to us Proles. He was going to post every Bill on the Internet so that We the People could respond to it in our capacity as the Ultimate Sovereigns of the United States (As is clearly set forth in our overriding governing document, the Constitution,) He was going to run the most transparent presidency in history.

So now that he’s won the office, oops, change of plans, turns out we just have to trust him to know and do what’s best for us? (just as with every president since Kennedy)

This is why the comparison with Hitler is out there. Let’s not pretend to be any more stupid than we are- the Hitler comparison has been out there with every president since Kennedy, with the possible exception of Carter and Ford, who were perceived as harmless screw ups in a time when we needed harmless screw ups to get us over the scare of Nixon’s Imperial Presidency.

What brings the “Hitler” comparison into play is when the leader of the moment demands that we “forget”, not OUR Human Rights and Constitutional Powers and Liberties, but merely Ignore the Human Rights and Constitutional Powers and Liberties of OUR ENEMIES. (Defined as anyone who would oppose the divine wisdom of the Fuhrer)

So, if in the end, you call for YOUR Rights, Powers, and Liberties, guess what – you’ve just become an Enemy of the State ( As personified by Der Fuhrer ).

I don’t really see Obama (or Bush, etc.) as capable of a “Nazi” style coup in America. And the truth is, the powers that be neither need nor want one- they just like the appearance of the threat of one to keep the tensions between our two parties at a boil, so that lobbyists and “advisors” can continue to rule for the governmental-industrial complex.

How does this fit into a discussion of “Political Reality” versus “Standing up for Principals”? Here’s where I guess Dennis and I (and most of the “Rednecks” I live among) are all off in our “Ivory Towers”. We believe in a Nation of Laws.

“ Political Reality” which believes that a “Strong and Wise” Fuhrer will guide us to our Valhalla, if only we don’t require him to observe or respect the Rights and Liberties of people we don’t like very much anyway, leads to some interesting places.

Whatever Dennis and I disagree on, we both demand, respect for not just “OUR” Human Rights and Civil Liberties, but more importantly, the Human Rights and Civil Liberties of all People. That’s the only way to maintain our way of life. By observing the “Rules”, we remain trustworthy and able to be dealt with as honest and honorable. Other wise, there are no Rules, and we are ruled by “Men of Action”

Personally? I prefer to deal with “Men of Honor”, with whom I can agree to disagree, and not worry about what they are going to do behind my back. Anything less is just a prelude to violence.

What is worrisome is that the only thing that seems to change “Political Reality”, once it sets in, IS violence. I’d prefer “Honorable Opponents”. Which Dennis is. And Obama is not.
Token:

You've hit the nail on the head w/ respect to the question of whether we take a stand that all people are equal, no matter what nation they live in or are from, or say that it's OK to do terrible things to them because they aren't "our" nation's people.

Those who tolerate or look the other way when injustices are done to others who they consider "other" are surprised when that same logic and same reactionary forces left unhalted come home to haunt their own lives directly. They shouldn't be surprised: they said in the early days of those policies that it was fine with them.
It is quite strange that so many people coming from such a multicultural country as U.S. don't understand that it is one of the most fundamental things that all people on the earth are equal and that they should be treated as equal.

I'm sharing the view of Dr. Loo that you cannot change much by voting. The candidates are normally really of the same stock and are not going to change much. You need some kind of social movements for changing some 'realities'.

I don't believe much on demonstrations even if I have myself attended some, for example against U.S. starting the war in Iraq. But frankly I don't know much better things either what people could do. I have been thinking quite hard about these matters during last years and maybe Dr. Loo is right anyway even about the demonstrations. If you know any better idea, please tell.

I have been a long time an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas about civil resistance and obedience. But his ideas were much based on his knowledge about the Indian society. In other countries we probably need different working ways.

I never voted in any elections before there was a clear possibility that they could elect as the president of my country a person whom I felt to be really dangerous in the president's office. So I voted for her opponent whom I didn't either like much. Even that person was in my opinion much too much right wing and for violent ways in politics. And I wouldn't have voted for him if there wouldn't be that other candidate, whom I feared to win. But finally he performed reasonably. (He even got later the Nobel Peace Price, which in my opinion was not given for the right reason even if he maybe deserved it anyway. That man is Martti Ahtisaari.)
Dennis,

I really respect your work but I agree with ben sen to the extent that if you're encouraging people not to vote at all (like you don't vote) you're missing one of the avenues by which change can occur.

I love Howard Zinn. But I never took from Zinn the idea that you have to have a perfect candidate before you can vote. anyone who makes it to the level of a national candidate is going to be flawed in some way. What was flawed about nader for example was the fact that he couldn't even engage with the green party in order to run as their candidate. He couldn't even engage with those he basically agreed with to affect change, and he claimed falsely that there was "no" difference between bush and gore. For many of us, as flawed as gore was, we don't believe he would have gotten us involved in Iraq or in the current levels of torture. So even seemingly perfect candidates have flaws and are wrong a good percentage of the time.

I think people need to engage at all levels. I don't consider you a "prisoner in your own mind," but I do think that if you encourage others not to vote and only to have "social movements" then I'm not sure that you can succeed. Engaging with political candidates is part--though not all--of the work social movements need to accomplish. And those who are unwilling to engage with Obama on issues because he dares to engage with Republicans (or Iran or....) may be cutting off their own noses to spite their faces.

I don't want to see obama as a legitimizer and I think we need to push him on issues and create the whole "we are the change" he talked about before taking office. But I think it can be dangerous for the left to keep threatening "or else we'll leave the party." The true left has already left the democratic party, for the most part. What good has this done? Obama needs to be engaged with....to me the question is how to engage him.

For the left, pointing out the fact that Obama is a flawed man doesn't really solve the pressing issues the country is facing right now. My big question is, if you aren't threatening "or else" (which unfortunately rings as a false threat) then what can we do to influence Obama and to change policy? It's like the left is in a less than perfect marriage with obama, but what can the left do to try to work out their issues....if you're already (less than a year in) ready for a divorce, maybe you aren't committed to the work it takes to find some way to accomplish good within the imperfect parameters humans generally have when they try to affect change in the world....
Dolores: Thanks for your comments.

I don't call for people not to vote. That isn't the dividing line. Ben Sen asked me about my voting choices and I answered what I do.

Elections don't decide public policy.

The issue of voting isn't whether one has a perfect candidate or not. Even if you did have such a thing, and that person got elected, and they wanted to do all of the right things and set about to try to do so, and let's assume that Nader was such a person: how long do you think that Nader, even with the enthusiastic backing of the vast majority of people in this country personally and for his program, would remain in office before a "terrorist" incident were to occur that happened to involve his assassination and that "necessitated" the declaration of martial law? The answer to this I hope is obvious.

The thing that people in the US need to come to grips with is that we are living in an imperialist superpower. This isn't mere rhetoric. This is a simple and technical fact. What we have been and continue to be taught about how our government works, how public policies are made, who is in charge, and what role our country plays in the world (e.g., why we go to war, etc.) is for the most part completely untrue.

There is a reason, for instance, why, according to the V.A., eighteen vets commit suicide every day. Our soldiers served in a war that they were told was to protect liberty and they find (most of them) when they get there that this is a lie.

There is a reason why Obama while a US Senator refused to filibuster the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that "legalized" torture and as president refuses to release the incriminating photos of torture and won't prosecute the past regime for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. It's not because he's really just a nice guy and is mistaken or misled. He's representing the interests of empire and plunder. That's what he is, regardless of how charming he might appear to be and is in person.

Token and Hannu (to name a couple of people who have spoken to this here) and I agree that no good can come of national chauvinism that says that Americans are more precious than any other people. If you really want to see a better world, then that perspective needs to make up part of the foundation of that platform.
This statement, "Elections don't decide public policy" sounds nice as a piece of rhetorical relish, but empirically it's untrue.

We do live in a military imperialistic superpower. I agree with you there.

But concerning the Iraq war you're ignoring the point that the Iraq War I don't believe would have been started by Gore. We would still have a military. We might be at war in Afghanistan. But I think Iraq had to do with Bush/cheney/rove being in office.

Do you think Gore would have started a war in Iraq?

Also, how can a people's movement gain influence on policy if they don't try to influence politicians at all? Through a revolution?

I'm just not seeing where you're taking the argument if (as you seem to be implying) there's really no difference between anyone in washington....while that's nice rhetorically when it comes to the details of policy who is signing bills and writing them it's a pretty untrue statement to say it doesn't matter at all who is writing and who is signing....

maybe it doesn't matter to the degree we wish it did. But if it doesn't matter at all then I guess you won't care if Palin is Bush4? (assuming there is bush1, bush2, and obama's bush3).

I would be saddened if you seriously take your arguments that far....
Dolores: I'm unable to give you a full reply now but will do so later. For now:

The 2000 election was won by Gore. By any criteria for a recount, he won in Florida. The election wasn't decided by votes - which is the corollary to my point that elections don't decide public policy.

I'm not arguing that there is absolutely no difference between the GOP and the Democrats or between Gore, for example, and Bush. Palin is a Christian fascist. Obama is not.

The point here, however, has to do with what will actually work and what will make a difference. It would be, for example, for the sake of argument, much better if we had a large and determined movement under a GOP president than if we had no real social movement under a Democratic president. The people who shut down the anti-war movement in the name of electing Obama committed a grave error. That error is based on the same logic that says that investing our energies in elections is super important. The 2009 Democratic party's policies on foreign affairs is not distinguishable from the GOP's 1980's foreign policy. That is the shell game we're being played: both major parties are moving and have moved decisively to the far right. Those who cling to the Democrats will follow them down that path. Obama's not a fascist but he is conciliating with fascists.
I agree with you about the move to the right...and I agree with you that conciliating with fascists does seem to be the job of most politicians. But as far as engagement goes, I think it's hypocritical for the left to applaud obama for volunteering to speak without preconditions to iran, but then criticizing him for meeting with republicans and big industry. If he locked them out the scenerio you mentioned earlier probably would occur. They're there. That goes without saying.

but I wonder what you think will be the most effective thing for groups to do. usually during election years activist groups tend to be less active than in non-election years. And even if a people's movement is grown...how do we now deal with the vast inequalities of money where very few people can have a big impact on public opinion just by using their money (it also works with politicians obviously).

...I'm interested to read your take....how do you have influence without money in 2009?
Thank you Dennis - very late to the party and much has already been discussed. Glad to meet Token, too. I added him to my favorites...he has a lot of valid points - I like his takes on solidarity - I believe this will be the real change.

"Aren't you glad that I didn't get my friends involved in doing this to you? Aren't you happy that it's just me? My friends, I assure you, are a nasty bunch."

This was priceless. I am losing my confidence in Obama by the minute...I haven't lumped him with Bush yet, like some, but I do fear he is going way off course (as you have eloquently noted).

I do wonder, why do you think he flip-flopped on this issue? I mean to say, initially calling for transparancy and then turning around? What do you think we are not seeing? I think Ben went way off course above, but I do wonder what is not being seen. I have no investment in defending Obama - none. I just wonder why he came out so hard and then retreated? Some of my friends and I felt it was because of his own self-protection interests...fearing for his own safety. It would be a challenge to prosecute those who protect you. He came out, then retreated, but opened the door...therefore providing an opportunity for an independent inquiry which has only amounted in two cases in which the DOJ is going to trial? I find it such a travesty. Maybe we are way off base.

Just a few thoughts of mine. Thanks for the post.
I see the government since Johnson as having gone off on kind of a “Lord of the Flies” governmental-industrialist picnic, brought about by their conceptualization and realization that, by means of TV and other mass media (Think Mad Men), they no longer had to listen to what We The People think- They can tell US what to think! and suddenly the Adults were gone-

They were free to Worship The Beast (Godless Capitalism).

Now the internet has brought the adults back into play, so what can they do now? They try to convince us that WE are the problem, that WE are broken up into hate filled little cults who want nothing better than to destroy our fellow citizens who disagree with us, if only we could get past the all caring government who must defend us from ourselves. What dangerous and treasonous utter nonsense - and yet, seemingly, if we listen to the media, it's more true every day.

The first thing we must do is to realize who is hurting us. It isn’t our fellow citizens. It is the dangerous children who run our multinational industrialist dominated government. We the people as adults must demand an end to this “Wrasslin Match” where the only winners are those who centralize power for their own use at the expense of the citizens.

One of the main problems confronting us, as the Adults newly arrived on Beast Island, is : What do we do with these savage and wicked, yet nonetheless “innocent” children who have led us? If it’s “Legal”, does that mean it’s Moral? No true adult has any problem answering that question. If you know the answer to that question, it’s time we quit worrying about “Liberal” or “Conservative” and ask, what must we do about our morally challenged lawmakers who don’t even understand the relevancy of the question?
It's late in my time zone so I'm going to make this brief but hopefully to the point.

Dolores: I'm still planning to address your statement that elections do make public policy, but it will have to wait till I have a bit more time to put the response together than I have now. As to the later question of yours of how do we cope with the lopsidedness of money - my shortest possible answer to that would be to cite the work of someone who studied the outcome of wars over long periods of time. He found that the armies that had the shabby uniforms won out over the well-dressed armies. I cite that as a metaphor for what we're up against here and will try to elaborate upon that later on.

Kate: Nice to hear from you! Obama I think can be best understood if you consider what his role in essence here is. As the leader of the Democratic Party in the wake of the Bush regime which was thoroughly discredited, exposed, reviled, and clearly disastrous, Obama's mission was and is to revive the legitimacy of the government and system, restore people's faith in it (those whose faith was severed shaken by the Bush years), and yet at the same time, persist on the basic trajectory that Bush had mapped out.

That is why I call him the legitimizer. In order to have credibility, he had to persuade people that he really represented something different and better than Bush - thus all his statements during the campaign especially about transparency, accountability, change, hope and his condemnations of the abrogation of habeas corpus and declarations against torture. He could not have swung people back into the elections and the party and the system as he did without this schtick.

If you looked closely at what he was saying back then, and now, however, it was clear that this was meant to deceive people. I've written about this quite a bit over the time period in question so I won't repeat it here.

As he has assumed the actual full powers of the presidency, his role has changed and he has had to pursue a much tricker path of carrying forward the Empire's policies while still seeming to be doing something else. It's far tricker to maintain the impression of being a person of justice when you are at the same time, however, actually implementing real policies. It's much easier to make speeches and say you're going to do things when you aren't actually in charge directly and doing real things. At the same time, he was a US Senator while running for office, so his actual actions on legislation and votes were there to be examined. They told the story, but it was more subtle than it is now when he's the president.

He has been extremely consistent actually. His need to appear different from Bush has led him to do somethings that Bush wouldn't do - for example, launch a (very limited) investigation of torture. But even as he is doing this, or letting it be done, he's making very sure that the investigation is a) extremely limited, and b) that it is done under a logic that preserves the "legitimacy" of the torture memos themselves.

Token: I love your Lord of the Flies analogy. The adults have allowed the immoral and amoral kids to be in charge and they are running amok. Also, they do think that they can make us believe anything they say!
Dear Dr. Loo:

If everyone had your attitude and withheld themselves rather than participated in selecting political candidates, there would be no democracy, no civil liberties whatsoever, and no sanctuaries where ideologues like yourself could find employment and a platform.

At least, you have the common sense to realize if you advocate your position to others it is a dead end street--if in fact that is the reason rather than fear of losing your position as a teacher at a public institution. What you consider a "logical" approach is the equivalent of stereotyping. It is how you see it, and how you see it alone that matters. It is "absolutist" and doctrinaire rather than pragmatic and open minded. You want the pegs to fit your puzzle or you will throw them all out.

I saw and was a part of the cynicism that grew out of the 60's that you are essentially perpetuating. There is nothing particularly insightful, original, or noble about it. The reason the country took the turn it did toward the right and fell further into the hands of the "evil empire" is that the generation defaulted from the political process and ran away rather than fought with the primary non-violent weapon we have in a democracy: voting for the candidate who most approximates their views.

As far as I can tell, the main thing extremists such as yourself receive in return is that they are "right." The rest of us who believe in change and are willing to fight, die, and make sacrifices for democracy receive is more domination by the vested interests rather than less. I can see why you are more interested in movements than democracy since they require far less responsibility.

Now it has become a "tradition" with a band of fear mongers on the left and the right to renounce whoever is in leadership at any one time and show any loyalty to our form of government and how it works. I think the right is more loyal than the left--and that is why they win more often. Why make the effort to discriminate between politicians when your point of view is the only one that matters to you?

You totally lost me when you put yourself above the political process as a matter of principle.
Ben Sen:

I have to ask, after reading your newest comment here, if you have been listening at all to what was in the original post here and the string of comments from myself and others. It doesn't appear to be the case that you have really done so because you have not even acknowledged it other than to dismiss it as "doctrinaire," "naive," "moral absolutist," "dead end," a "prison of my own mind," indulging in some kind of safe venue in the university, etc., etc. Your comments are without evidence and you seem utterly cavalier about dropping insult after insult without thinking that you even have an obligation to back up your assertions with argument and data.

Though you describe yourself as a Democrat and perhaps a liberal, your style of argumentation is clearly influenced by and mimics in many ways that of the right wing who think that insults = an argument and that evidence is something for fools to indulge in when they can ignore it at will.

If what you were saying about what I am doing were true, that my views are "safe" within a classroom, then why would I be writing this blog to a wider audience than classroom students? Why would I put myself on the record to the world as the co-editor/author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney." Why would I put my with my body on the line, with my picture in the papers, in places like demonstrations outside the courthouse recently where Jay Bybee presides, calling him a sadist and demanding his impeachment and trial as a war criminal? That isn't my idea of the safe academic environment. But perhaps you have a different view of things?

You wrote me a PM a little while ago touting your credentials from the 1960s. What of it? A person's credentials and credibility is in the here and now. What stand have you been taking?

Your position that political activity consists of voting and nothing else is not consistent with the historical record, even very recent history. People voted out the GOP in 2006 because they wanted the Iraq war to end. Guess what they've gotten for that? People voted for Obama in 2008 and brought even more Democrats into Congress. Guess what that did?

Despite being replied to not only in this thread but in the numerous articles that I have written here and elsewhere about the political process, you continue to claim that politics is what you think it is, and that you won't brook anyone daring to offer a very different view of it. They must be, by your definition, naive and ill-informed.

What is even worse than this is that you are taking the immoral position that it is perfectly ok for people to have been tortured and murdered who are innocent of anything, and that you are fine with Obama continuing these policies and not prosecuting those responsible, including, at this point, his own policies of rendition and allowing people to be tortured under his watch.

I will say, however, that you have done a very good job of demonstrating for people the moral bankruptcy and myopia of a certain segment of those who continue to defend Obama's actions in the face of the growing evidence that he is not what so many people thought he was.
http://www.laughtergenealogy.com/bin/history/politics.html

Founding Fathers: Political party affiliations

Political parties did not exist in 1789. Washington despised the idea of political associations, formed in such a way as to pit one group of citizens against another. In his farewell speech in 1796 [While speaking on the subject -- The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.] he said:

"All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

"However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty."


What Washington despised most was the idea of political parties; factions of any kind. He further warned in his Farewell Address; discussing factions between people, between North and South, between states and between nations, "...it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy."


So, how do moral people, who view the political party process itself as an abomination, benefit themselves or The People, by participating in Party Politics? Let's be Politically realistic, the 2 party system conspires to make itself "The only Game in Town" What we need is the option to vote for "None of the Above'" when presented with candidates who the parties love, but who make us "Proles" want to vomit. Why vote when your options are “Amoral” and “Immoral”, choose one? Rather, insist on a change in the system. (Tea Party anyone?)
Dolores: I promised you a further response on the question of the importance of elections in relation to public policy. I've written quite a bit about this in my book, in my forthcoming book (still in process), and in other essays online and in journals, but for these purposes let me offer this:

My statement that elections don't decide public policy isn't a rhetorical conceit. It's what I literally mean. Policy-makers at the highest levels (if we're talking especially about the federal level) are drawn from both major parties and the distinctions between them are not that wide. There are distinctions in the sense that there are tactical or even sometimes strategic disagreements within the ranks of the ruling circles. For example, during the Vietnam War some were more hawkish and wanted to drop nukes. These voices were overruled under LBJ and under Nixon, it was Nixon himself who wanted to do it but he was stopped by the anti-war demonstrations that forced him to conclude that if he went ahead that there would be hell to pay for it domestically. LBJ didn't, if his memoirs are to be believed, think that the war policies that he was following were going to work. But he felt compelled to abide by the advice of the generals and the MIC.

In the 1964 election, LBJ's campaign famously ran the "Daisy" ad in which he warns that if Goldwater is elected that there will be a nuclear conflagration. LBJ was the "peace" candidate. He won in a landslide. If elections decide public policy, then how come we got the escalation of the war in Vietnam?

The civil rights movement and not JFK and not LBJ produced the concessions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, affirmative action, et al. These were powerful social movements that shook this country to its roots.

The women's movement produced more equality for women, not Hillary Clinton (who benefited from the movement instead) or any other public official.

The gay and lesbian movement won greater rights because they fought back in the streets, not because some politicians suddenly woke up.

The anti-war movement ended the war in Vietnam, not Nixon and Ford.

If elections decided public policy, then how come for the last several years the policies being implemented have been contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people?

If elections decided public policy, how come Bush and Cheney took office in 2000 and 2004 when they lost both times? (See my article, ."
The article is called: "No Paper Trail Left Behind: the Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election."
Yes. It is quite clear that in the US elections don't make any big changes in public policies. You have got only two big parties, the others are very small and those two big parties differ of each others very little. Big corporations are ruling the economy and they don't want any big changes. And the common people are of course afraid of big changes, too because during any rapid changes many people would loose their jobs.

Now even big corporations are going through hard times. Many of them are almost in bankrupt. The most worrisome thing is they might want a big war to be back in the business.
Dr. Loo, Dr. Loo:

I'm not your student. I have no interest and there is no value for me to get a grade from you. I do not need to respond to your agenda.

I think this is how it happens. It is as much a trap for you as your students or any student really. You get stuck in the model and think that is the only one.

You have responded to no input of mine. "Learning" is not a one way street, Dr. Loo. It is not "hierarchical." That is a necessary convention, but not how we grow and expand if our minds are open and not locked shut tight.

You have provided me with great humor. You are transparent. Your methodology is old as the trees. You think your appeal is to reason, but your experience and perceptions are still locked tight.

This is all beyond you. I understand that. It would entail a leap of faith outside the box in which you have been educated and trained. You may recall this exchange as the years go by, or not.

I know, it is terrible of me. I am not sticking to your point. And that, at this point, is my point.

hugs, (it is such a shame so few who can think for themselves are listening, but there will be another day.)
I'm so happy that I have provided you, Ben Sen, with such amusement. And since my methodology, as you say, ever so sweetly, as you have been throughout these oh-so pleasant exchanges, is as old as the trees (whatever that means), I shall take that as a compliment as I'm a big fan of trees.

I am puzzled by what you have said once again since what you've declared so emphatically and even mockingly isn't logical and isn't on point - have you ever been? But since you have been consistently not on point here, then thank you for being so consistent. It would shock me if you were all of a sudden, after all of the ink that you've spilled on this blog, to actually address a point directly and provide some actual piece of evidence to support your contentions.

Yes, it's true that I expect logic and evidence from my students. But, then, I also expect it of others as well. Oh, my goodness, how very ivory tower of me to do so! Please, I do beg your forgiveness. Those of us who see the world through peep holes, you see, can't help ourselves.

Perhaps this is what you mean about my methodology being as old as the trees: insisting when one has a disagreement that each side address the other person's points rather than engaging in silly insults and even worse, expecting evidence. I guess in the so-modern and not mind imprisoned world that you live in (oh how I envy thee!) evidence isn't necessary!
I vote, but I know that that's only a small part of what's necessary. For example, I marched against the Iraq war. And what good did it do? Not a lot.

BUT-- if we had had someone other than Bush Jr. in the White House, it might have made a big difference. And to me, that's where voting comes in: to put in power, not a big daddy/mommy we can trust to make thing s all better, but the person who will be most beholden to us for the change we want to effect. But that change will still not come without action from the people.

Another point: I think that a lot of people treated Obama's campaign statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan as merely tactical moves to counter McCain's perceived military/foreign policy advantage. I say we should stop second-guessing our pet candidates, take them at their word, and let them know what we think.
Your points are well taken Dennis, thank you. I understand the campaign promises being a lot of hype, however I was very disappointed to see the investigations become so narrow. Even with the burden of evidence for criminal trials, there should have been open congressional trials at a minimum! Nancy Pelosi was more concerned with clearing her name around the CIA briefings than she was with real human rites violations. She makes me so, so sick. The idea we are going to narrow this way down is such a deep dark stain on this nation -- I can't begin to swallow the bitter pill yet. I guess it will be one thing at a time - but I'm not going to take this lying down.

Token is a great blessing, too. I liked the Lord of the Flies analogy greatly!

Tim4Change are looking to start a "movement", non-partisan with no organizational ties. Purely citizens - purely grass roots with succinct talking points. Healthcare reform will be our aim for now. We must start somewhere, and I for one, unlike Ben, believe it will take much, much, much more than our vote at this point. I am not worried about two-party systems or the media any longer, I am concerned about changing the conversation from within our citizenry. One thing politicians don't get which corporations do, it is about talking points. I've been in sales in marketing - it's about persuasive speaking and making it simple for people to understand - demystifying the process. It's time.
benjamin_the_donkey: "I think that a lot of people treated Obama's campaign statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan as merely tactical moves to counter McCain's perceived military/foreign policy advantage. I say we should stop second-guessing our pet candidates, take them at their word, and let them know what we think."

What do you think about it now?

---

What I have seen, that was the only promise Obama has really kept. OBAMA EXPANDED THE WAR. He sent there more troops and extended the war inside Pakistan. There are more than two million refugees from the area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. If Obama will now manage to make a health care reform it would look like he is buying the permission from his fellow citizens to kill more people on the other side of the world with that better health care of those people who voted for him. One thing to remember is that big American weapon industries backed Obama against McCain during their campaigns.

Some big corporations in America maybe realized that they cannot indefinitely get permissions for their wars if they don't give something in return to people who are supporting them in America. So they arranged Obama with his nice face and talks in the power to make the deal?

That is my interpretation.

---
I wanted to add that just now the situation is dangerous. The administration of Obama is going to do in a few weeks the decision if they will attack Iran or not.

That war would be critical for the whole world, not only for America, Iran and Israel. It is probably not possible to destroy the nuclear facilities without either using nuclear weapons or trying to occupy almost the whole Iran.

A few weeks ago Obama and the leaders of Russia made some kind of deal. The contents we don't know. But we know that Obama promised to cancel the planned missile system in Europe, which Russians and (besides American public) the rest of the world understood to be built against Russia. In return Russians promised that they don't sell to Iran their advanced S-300 air defense missiles. It might mean that Russians have shown a kind of green light to Americans to attack Iran. The better meaning could be that Russians have promised that they will find a way to avoid the war.

My feeling is that they are trying to hide these much more important things from the general American public behind local discussions about the reform in the health care.
For fear of repeating myself, I've learned enough to know Dr. Loo: trees are what we have in common. For me it started with the elm my grandfather planted in Detroit. My father cared for it, then me, then it died in the epidemic and hearts were broken for three generations.

Every spring I spend days sketching the cherries when they bloom in the orchard on the West Side of the reservoir in Central Park. I can't tell you the joy that has given me in troubled times. Did you know the last major stand of the American elm on the East Coast is in the Park?

The family bought five acres of an old apple orchard 35 years ago in the hills of Northern Michigan. The last apple tree died three years ago but I've left it exactly the way it was so it will return to the earth as nature decides. Some may say as "god" decides, but I don't want to get controversial on your blog.

The peach, cherry, pear, and one young apple are all thriving, as are the magnificent Austrian pines that line the road. The bores have started to kill off the birch in the deep woods behind the house, but let's not go there.

Maybe I'll call my book: The Logic of Loving Trees. I'll give plenty of good reasons then and maybe you will approve.
"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy." --Samuel Adams

@Ben Sen
I hear you brother.
You just keep on dealing with the Iceberg by rearranging the deck chairs until the Feng Shui is just right, then the wisdom of your steadfast beliefs will be proved.

@Everyone else

Civil liberties and Civil Rights both require Civil Discourse and Civility.
Sine qua, non
Civil liberties can only be preserved by moral government.
I need to think on how best to approach demanding a return to civil discourse,And the return of the power of Government to it’s rightful owners, The People.
And how to define “Moral” government, which is kind of on the order of : for those who recognize the need of it, no explanation is necessary, for those who think Government is by definition, amoral, no explanation is possible.

These are 2 things that I believe the Adults among both the “Liberals” and the “Conservatives” can agree on, if we can only get everyone to quiet down enough to consider their common good.

It’s perhaps too much to hope for much else, but it’s a start.

My problem is “translating” that for My People, the Rural Individualists (Rednecks)Who by definition take a dim view of “City People”(and vice versa)
( civil= Latin “civis”, a city, rural= Latin “rus, rustica, rural” Country- the differences in attitude are of long standing)

It is heartening that you people of this blog “got” my reference to “Lord of the Flies”,
( I’m not accustomed to that- references to such things around my parts mostly gets me a look like a dog watching “Monty Python”)
( which isn’t to say the dog is “dumb”, just, it’s kind of like “So?”)

To help you guys understand “Dog Talk” ( Redneck) I would like to recommend two things. One, my take and what I believe the generalized “Redneck” attitude is, concerning the “Powers that Be” is close to the “Power Elite”
(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_Elite-This is not meant to be definitive, I’m writing my own take, working title “Godless Capitalism”)

The other thing, without turning this into a Cinema Arts class, I would like to be able to discuss the Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino”, and I recommend it as a very well thought out presentation of the distinction between Rural Individualism and Racism, in the context of teaching boys to deal with the unfairness and problems of life on the way to becoming “Men”
( You’ll just have to go with the notion of Clint Eastwood being an Ideal Archetype for Redneck Manhood in any of his movies- and he plays the role with an awareness that he is playing an Archetype, not an actual “person”) Renting the video is best, but there are clips on the internet- most instructive are “the barbershop” and “ Get off my lawn” clips)

I recommend this, knowing that many of you will be so offended by the “Racism”, that you will come away more appalled by Rednecks than before, and that’s too bad, but better you should see it in a movie than try to march on Washington with it holding one end of the Banner of Civility- which is gonna be like trying to herd a mixed lot of Bulls and Bears anyway- and I mean real Bulls and Bears, not the wall street variety.


Better you should know what you’re getting into. Realize that most Redneck “Civic Awareness” begins with “Get off my lawn”

Me? I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be better to herd the Bulls in one day, and the Bears the next, and I’m not too sure that a “March” at this stage of mutual understanding isn’t both too much to expect and a disaster waiting to happen, but because I know and get along with both “Bulls” and “Bears”,(Liberals and Conservatives) and know them both to be decent and caring peoples, it remains an interesting notion.

That, and the current misunderstanding and lack of civility among We The (Factioned) People will tear our Nation apart, unless we all agree that we can be, if nothing else, civil and moral in our discussions.

I recommend we call it the “Samuel Adams” movement and drink lots of beer.
Token: What I'm hearing is that the bridge has to be built before it can facilitate a crossing. And yes, I agree, Gran Torino is a compelling study. Thanks for your point of view.
Kate: A movement of the people that is dedicated to the independent power of the people and that does not subordinate itself to electoral politics and parties is a very urgent necessity. All power to the people!

Benjamin: We differ on the importance of who is in office in terms of emphasis some, but I am totally in agreement with you on your support for the importance of a people's movement.

Hannu: The news I heard on the radio today about Iran indicates that Iran has agreed to allow its uranium to be processed in Russia.

Ben Sen: I am pleasantly surprised by your eloquence about trees.

Token: Gran Torino is a very good movie. Going back to your much earlier comments on racism among rural folks: I have to disagree with you about the continuing significance of race and racism. As I read what you said there, you seem to be arguing that racism isn't a real issue.

Maria: thanks for your comments as always!
Dennis

I’m not arguing that there isn’t racism. There are those people (of all races) who just will not accept people who are different from them as “Human”. Those are the people I refer to as “Skinheads”; and yes, they are a problem. I just think there is a lot of misunderstanding about a “Rural Individualist’s” notion that he has a right to discriminate against anyone he chooses to, and if you can’t handle that, that’s not his problem.

But I would contend that what seems at first blush as “Racial” discrimination is often more on the order of being “discriminating” about who his friends are. I would illustrate what I mean with an anecdote.

In the ‘60’s, I worked at a Goodyear plant in a small town in Ohio as factory labor, The only Black man employed there was the father of the two Black kids I mentioned above. He also got “Ragged” about being a N*****, and he also replied in kind by referring to us as Hillbillies and Rednecks as occasion and humor required, and he worked hard and provided for his family and never had any particular trouble that I was aware of.

After civil rights legislation was passed by the federal government, Goodyear was required to hire a certain percentage of Blacks in order to keep government contracts.

This caused a bit of a problem, because the only Black who lived within 30 miles already worked there. The only source of Blacks to fill the needed quota was a small city about 40 miles away, and Goodyear had to go there and recruit Blacks to commute to work in its factory, or lose the government contracts.

This caused a certain amount of ill will among the locals, because it meant fewer jobs for their kids, and it was rumored that Goodyear had made some sweetheart deals with some individuals just to get them on the payroll and speculation was that at least half probably would never show up for work and have their paychecks mailed to them. And yes, the term N***** was thrown around quite freely in reference to the expected invaders.

Time came that my department (which made weather-stripping) got its N*****. . And he was given to understand by some of the guys that that was what he was, As it happened, he’d heard that before. The way the department worked, you were part of a 4 man team paid by piece work, and if you couldn’t work together, no one made any money.

Well the N***** got put on a crew with Bill, one of the more tolerant of the Hillbillies. And Bill quite freely trash talked and trained the N*****, whose name it turned out was George, into being a pretty fair crew member, and it got to where Bill’s crew would usually be the first to make its quota, and spend the rest of the shift in the bull-pen, with Bill and George trading insults to pass the time.

The plant had a locker room where workers would leave their street clothes and change into work clothes, and one day, George wore a particularly handsome scarlet, for want of a better term, “Pimp Suit”(complete with bell bottoms and “Robin Hood” hat) to work and left it in his locker. So, comes lunch-time, Bill went off and returned wearing George’s suit and strutted it around outside the bull-pen. Everybody howled, scarlet not being a particularly flattering color on a Hillbilly. So Bill was strutting around, and George left and came back wearing Bill’s Hillbilly Huntin Hat, lumberjack shirt, and humtin vest, and they looked at each other and put on an impromptu chorus line, and they both looked absolutely ridiculous until the supervisor came over and told them to cut the clowning and get back to work.

I’m not sure exactly what that illustrates, except that one day I heard a guy from another department ask one of our guys “ How’s your N***** working out?” and the reply was “George? He ain’t a N*******.”

I know that sounds like a “Fairy Tale”, and I know that that sort of thing doesn’t or didn’t take place as some areas were integrated. But what it illustrates to me is that a Redneck reserves the right to dislike (or like) anyone, and one of the surest ways to make sure someone is treated and regarded as a N***** is to give him special privileges and exempt him from the normal sorts of hazing and measure taking that takes place with any New Hire.- presumably because he can’t take it.

I reserve the right to choose my friends, and my respect has to be earned. If you need special treatment and can’t carry your weight, then I don’t want you dragging my paycheck down cause you can’t keep up. On the other hand, if you work well and help me make money, I don’t care if you’re purple, I’ll choose you to work with me. Now is that discrimination? Sure is- Is it “Racial” discrimination? I don’t think nearly as often as it might appear.