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.

AUGUST 8, 2011 2:57PM

Is This the Best of All Worlds?

Rate: 4 Flag

As I read this morning that stock markets around the world were shuddering and tumbling as governments around the world scurry about like rats in an attempt to restore confidence and prevent even worse from happening, I found myself wondering aloud: if capitalism is so wondrous, then how come it is wracked by crisis so often? If its greatest rival, communism, is long one, and it has had no major economic or political rivals for decades, then why is everything so awful and worrisome for the vast majority of the world’s people? Why is the planet in danger of ruination from global warming and mass extinction of species?

If triumph for capitalism and the U.S. way of life looks like all of what we see happening around us, then what must defeat look like?

If you want to understand why what is is, then you have to get to the heart of it. You can’t just say, “I want to go there and let’s move in that direction.” You have to develop a deep understanding of why things are the way that they are first and what’s keeping you and everyone else stuck where we collectively are. This means examining theory and looking at the foundations of processes and systems.

As the economist John Maynard Keynes once said, “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” (The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997, p. 328.)

One of the foundational assumptions of capitalism is that greed is good and that individual striving is thwarted by guarantees for jobs and income. Last week, for example, Matt Damon responded testily and correctly to a libertarian radio station reporter’s criticism of teacher tenure with this: “A teacher wants to teach. Why else would you take a sh- -ty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really loved to do it?" 

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the right-wing media pilloried Damon for this, claiming in essence that job insecurity is the only thing that motivates people to work hard.

It’s interesting that neoliberals think that the greatest idea they’ve ever heard was that everyone is driven by material incentives. It’s funny for one thing since they make such a fetish of claiming that everyone is an individual and everyone’s got their own individual ideas that make them so clearly individuals. Yet they contradict themselves by insisting that everyone everywhere and for all time has been identical in that everyone is motivated by material incentives. If everyone was so individual and different, then wouldn’t you have to argue that what motivates people is equally diverse? If not, then isn’t everyone then just the same and not such individuals?

One of the themes in my new book Globalization and the Demolition of Society is that if we are to change the perilous and destructive direction that the neoliberals are taking the entire world down, then we have to deeply understand their worldview, their theory, and replace their theory with something else that actually reflects the real world and that embodies values that will sustain the planet rather than destroy it.

One of the passages where I take this on follows. If you adopt the framework of your adversaries to begin with, you have already conceded the battle to them (e.g., as Obama did in the debt “debate” and has done on “national security,” “the war on terror,” a woman’s right to choose, and almost everything else). In the passages that follow, I refer to functionalist theory. I do so because functionalist theory forms a large part of the premises for the neoliberal philosophy. This is from Chapter Seven of my book.

“Functionalist theory assumes that societies require a hierarchy for their overall welfare. The people who occupy leading and disproportionately-rewarded positions do so because they perform exceptionally important functions and they are particularly worthy due to their skills; to get them to fill these crucial posts they must be disproportionately rewarded; others who are less talented cannot fill the elites’ shoes and therefore occupy the less well-rewarded positions; if people are doing what they are most suited for, then the whole society benefits.

“This argument seems plausible, but functionalists conflate several different factors in justifying social inequality. To begin with, they equate incentive with material rewards. While people obviously differ in their abilities, the people who assume leadership posts do not necessarily have to be materially rewarded more substantially for what they do. Teachers, for example, carry out exceedingly important tasks for a society, as do parents, yet they are not well compensated. They do what they do for reasons other than the material rewards. The American dictum that implicitly celebrates moneymaking, 'Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach, and those who can’t teach, teach teachers,' overlooks the fact that if everyone avoided teaching because they were all so good at other jobs, there would be no one to teach the young and the untrained. Would all children and teens be autodidacts then? Is not outstanding teaching one of the critical skills in any society at any time in human history? How does the accumulated knowledge and experience over millennia get passed along otherwise? Is everyone who home schools their children the best teacher for all subjects? Where do these home school parents get the materials such as books for their children to read if not from people who are writing books in order to teach?

“While everyone needs to be motivated to work and to excel, the nature of the reward does not necessarily have to be material. A society that equates material rewards with success and that relies upon material success to motivate people is also saying—and must say—that success equals having things that others do not have. This turns society into a zero sum game of winners and losers and structurally encourages a sense of entitlement among the ‘winners’ that they are better than the ‘losers’ and that they merit goodies and respect that should not be granted to the less deserving hoi polloi. Is this the meaning of a good society: the leaders think of themselves as so much better than everyone else? Because there is only a finite amount of monetary and material incentives to go around, more for a few people means less for most others. Moreover, if the incentive must always be external to the job or activity itself, then something is wrong with the work or activity; what makes it not rewarding intrinsically? Perhaps the activity needs to be changed so that those who do it gain satisfaction from the act of doing it. Not all jobs are amenable to that change, which is why the less desirable activities such as cleaning up need to be shared.

“Material rewards as the incentive means that social solidarity, what functionalists value more than anything else, is actually undermined by the structure’s inherent logic that people participate in a zero sum game in which many must be deprived so that a few may benefit a great deal. Rewarding people with non-material incentives, on the other hand, does not function as a zero sum game if what is being honored is cooperation and dedication to the group. Physicians in the US customarily make much more than the average worker. People will commonly cite doctors’ expertise and the importance of what they do as the reason for this inequity. In countries outside of the US, physicians perform equally important work for their patients but are not paid nearly as much. Is this because people in the US need more incentive to become physicians? Is it because physicians outside of the US are not valued as much as within the US?

“If we stopped paying brain surgeons as much as they now earn, would that mean that everyone now performing brain surgery would put down their scalpels and say: ‘Well, I’m not doing this any more.’ Would the people who are paid well now and/or honored for their work refuse to do their jobs if they were paid less? If outlandish salaries were no longer paid to TV network anchors (such as the $20 million per year that CBS pays Katie Couric) and if CBS, for example, paid their anchorperson, say $200,000 per year, would this mean that they would not be able to find a good person to anchor their nightly news broadcast? I should imagine that there are some people for whom the reward of fame, exposure, influence or service to the society would mean that they would be willing to do the job for a relative pittance in dollars. Not that CBS would have to do this, but the point here is obvious.  These jobs would continue to be done because the monetary compensation is not the only reason why people do such jobs.” (Pp. 313-315)

 

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Thanks. I share and reread at the Mennonite side-porch mid-week hymnal sing.

It's innocent.
We talk farm.
We eat snacks.

If Yoo - As in
Mr. Yoo - You
ever teach the
Berkeley car
driving class
please teach
student well.
Kerry drive?
Hold wheel!
`
I mean that
if he drive
a P.U. car
grab the
steering
wheel.
`
Economics sure confuses most people,
I have been readin Wendell Berry's read:
`
If Economics Matters. The forward is by:
Some University Of Maryland Professor.

The Forward really makes sane sense too.
I forget who he is. The books is in my P.U..
I can hardly believe I ate lunch and burped.
Respectfully.
Thanks for Pedagogic Teachings. Step by Step.
We sure enough need calm and clear leadership.
The calm response can quell a insane mob-gang.
[r] World Can't Wait rocks!

We need a paradigm shift to partnership and cooperation. Patriarchal power and control mode bringing the world down fast. Becoming more and more anti-humanist. Morality is buried under shallow cronyism and its group think. Encroachment of not only ideas but the emotional sensibility of empathy. No sustained collective sense of empathy. Little emphasis on respect for humanity. Little capacity to register evidence of evil. Especially from non-stop blathering of the media who now is buzzing about the economy's affect on the election. To hell with its affect on millions of Americans and the world. Ends justifies the means has gone on too long as a rationalization for amoral conduct, and the means has amorally derailed the intention so badly the worthier "ends" is never reached or easily forgotten or adjusted for self-aggrandizement and crony-aggrandizement. Free for all social Darwinism. The Darwinian winners take ALL, and they really intend to take ALL. Common good, public trust. They have no concept of them. We have a whole new crop of bastards of the universe due to the lack of values and a capacity for critical thinking in our society, in our education curricula, in our media, everywhere. Show them the money. Soul-less-ness in the bastards of the universe. Numbness in those who should be rising up to challenge them. Decency deserves to be fought for.
Dennis,

Military battles have been won because of strategic retreats; and other social battles have been won by people seeming to give unwarranted, ill-advised advantages to the opposition.

I don’t know whether Obama’s strategy along these lines will be effective in the long run—and I doubt I will ever find out. I am almost certain he will be a one-term president—first in a series of one-term presidents—and the experiment will be cut short before a chance to reach fruition.

Like you, I am dismayed by the fact that we have become a society intent on thinking the only reward for industry and excellence has to be material—so I agree with you in that. But your comments regarding Obama “conceding the battle” with his strategy is suspect—unless you acknowledge that there are times when conceding a battle is a necessary, logical, perhaps even brilliant maneuver to eventually win the war. (Sacrificing a bishop to eventually take the Queen)

In any case, our major problem, as you apparently recognize, is that the solutions to our problems will never be found within the structure of the economic system now in place. The system has to be seriously tweeked (some argue, replaced) in order to make any inroads.

Will we do it? If I had big dough, I’d be betting that we won’t…that we will jump off the cliff first.
I've been meaning to do a thread about "greed is good"...and something you said in this thread has prompted me to pull it out of my "ideas for threads" file and publish it.

Hope you get a chance to stop in and comment.
Musahsi had it best. "In our society, the sammurai are the highest class. Next come the farmers, who feed the sammurai. Next comes the artisans, who make useful things, like weapons. Last is the despised merchant class, who live by manipulating the products of others, but, sammurai must be nice to the merchants, as long as they know their place: money must be made to pay the army." Book of Five Rings.
GREAT read, Professor as always. GREATLY appreciate Your insights.

Somebody knows how to play chess?

Somebody is gonna' jump off of a cliff?

Please inform me of where and when.


-R-
Hi Art, thanks as always for your free verse.

Libby: Decency deserves and must be fought for!

Frank: I'm going to focus on where we agree - the fundamental problem of the economic system we live in. We have a choice, either allow this system to spawn more calamities or wrest a different future from that. (As for Obama's gambit, I'd call it, as the GOP itself does when they snicker and talk amongst themselves, surrender. But that isn't really the point since that presumes that the Democrats and the GOP are fundamentally at odds with each other, which they are not. As you note in the point about the economic system, they are both representatives of that system and they differ with each other over how best to protect its interests and advance the interests of corporations and imperialism, but are fundamentally in agreement. Were they not, then Obama would not allow their obvious lies and distortions to go unchallenged, and yet he does, with the exception of the very late response on his birth certificate.)

Don: Japanese feudal society - with the samurai as the warrior/knight class - despised the merchant class because the bourgeoisie were the incipient class under feudalism.

Mark - always a pleasure.
Just a clarification about my last comment in case it is misconstrued - it is I, not Frank, who is making the point that capitalism is led by the two major political parties in collusion with corporate capital and the military-industrial complex. I think Frank believes otherwise regarding Obama, yes?
Just a clarification about my last comment in case it is misconstrued - it is I, not Frank, who is making the point that capitalism is led by the two major political parties in collusion with corporate capital and the military-industrial complex. I think Frank believes otherwise regarding Obama, yes?

Gonna be a complex response to your question, Dennis, but there is more to your question than is apparent at first glance. I hope my response does it justice. The response will be a list of independent comments leading, I hope, to a complete response.

First of all, I think both major parties—most of the minor “third” parties—and the vast majority of Americans want capitalism as the defining component of our economic system. Considering that, I also think political parties acting in collusion with the “corporate capital and the military-industrical complex” is a just about a given. The majority of Americans want a capitalistic system—“acting in collusion with the institutions of capitalism” is how a government works in a capitalistic system (at least, not doing so is perceived as an imprediment to capitalism operating at maximum efficiency)—so, as a consequences of that, BOTH major political parties, in order to stay ascendant, WILL operate within the confines of that imperative.

Obama is the leader of one of the major political parties—Obama IS operating within the confines of that imperative, and more than likely, will continue to do so. (I guess that makes the short answer to your question, NO, I do not think differently from you on that specific!)

Americans, most decidedly, do not want a socialistic, or even a socialistic “tainted” system, in fact, most Americans have been taught to loathe the notion that we could head in that direction.

Personally, I think integrating elements (lots of elements) of socialism into our system is highly desireable (and inevitable)—and I think American’s reluctance to do so is doing us great harm. I can only hope we come to our senses before we fall off the cliff.

Having said that, however, I think any president advocating moves in a socialistic direction would be commiting political suicide. I think integration of socialistic elements into our economic system is in the very best interests of the American public, but I think it is a non-starter unless it is “sneaked in.” I think that is the tactic of American liberalism and the Democratic Party—but considering the other sections of my response here, I can understand people thinking the two parties are “in collusion with etc. etc. etc”—although I think anyone supposing they are therefore “both the same” is looking at the issue rather simplistically.

Making the necessary changes has to be done in incremental steps…and has to be made with lots of preemptive concessions to “the enemy.” This is what I see Obama doing.
I consider it an obligation of citizenship to try to get people to at least consider my perspectivve…especially to consider that there truly is not parity of collusion—nor is the “intent” of collusion similarly motivated.

I going to stop here, Dennis, to hear what you say in response, but I am willing to discuss this without end. I want to leave you with what I consider a significant thought about the gap separating us—and I hope what I say is not too oblique.

There is a difference, Dennis, between saying someone is “doing the best job he can under the circumstances”…or “doing as good a job as anyone could be doing considering the circumstances”…and saying, “that person is doing a good, or even an adequate, job!” Saying that a person trying to lift a locomotive without mechanical aid is doing essentially as good a job as anybody else could be doing…is not the same as saying the locomotive is being lifted.

(Spell check is not working, I hope I caught all the errors!)
Frank -

Thanks for the clarifications. I want to make some distinctions here to start with. You are correct that most Americans if asked "do you prefer socialism to capitalism" would say no. But if you asked them "do you like social security, public education, Medicare, etc." they would say yes. Why is this? Because people have been brainwashed over a period of a very long time to despise socialism/communism. That's no mystery.

There is a huge gap between what the leaders of the major parties (and their parties as a whole) call for and want and implement and what the majority of Americans want. For example, the majority of Americans did not want to invade Iraq (a little known fact that on the eve of the invasion a majority wanted no invasion unless the UN sanctioned it, which it didn't) and a large majority have wanted to all troops out immediately since at least 2007. A majority would not have bailed out the big banks and investments houses in 2008. It took Hank Paulsen threatening martial law and twisting arms to get the House to change its vote and authorize TARP. A majority would have supported Obama if he had called for a single payer health plan. In the 2006 elections the GOP's majority in Congress was ended by voters who wanted the Dems to end the war. The Dems, in opposition to majority opinion, continued to fund the war and in fact gave Bush more money than he was asking for. As I go into in my new book, a majority despite the arguments of the Dems, wanted Bush and Cheney impeached. Obama was elected on a platform of change. He has been doing the opposite of this on virtually all of the critical areas since. He promised to restore habeas corpus, he promised to end torture, he promised to restore Constitutional rights. He has not done this and has in fact gone further in the wrong direction than Bush would have dared.

Systems, and this is another point I make in my book, operate the way that they do because they are systems. They don't change because a few new faces, or even a lot of new faces, are put in charge. If you look at the evidence rather than rely on what you hope to be true, then you will see unmistakably that Obama isn't who you wish he was.
If you look at the evidence rather than rely on what you hope to be true, then you will see unmistakably that Obama isn't who you wish he was.

Dennis, that is an assumption that is totally wrong…and I suspect it is wrong because you are mistaken about what I wish Obama to be.

For the record, I wish him to be exactly what he is…doing whatever he is doing. My expectations for him were that he would get into office—look at the situations facing the executive—evaluate them in the light of information he would have as president (rather than as candidate) and act on them the way he thinks best to act on them. I was not expecting him to present and implement a complicated progressive agenda—because I was (and still am) convinced that the country is NOT ready for a leftward shift—no matter how sure you are that it is.

In any case, I think he is doing exactly what I expected of him—being exactly what I wish him to be.

I am totally willing to acknowledge that I wish he were getting more done in the progressive direction—but I cannot be more clear that I think NOBODY could be further down that road than Obama considering the political climate ANY Democrat, liberal, or progressive would be working.

I understand that you and the many, many others who are of your mind will probably never change your minds that Obama is incompetent, a disappointment, and a failure—but I simply do not share that mindset with you. And I suggest as respectfully as I can that those of you so intent on having him painted an incompetent, a disappointment, and a failure are helping people who are going to bring this country down around our ears.

Good luck with the primary challenge route. I think you folks will have lots of help from the Republicans with that venture. I think they will be delighted with that idea. Perhaps the pleasure you think they get from saying that Obama is “surrendering” is actally occasioned by the aid they are getting from the radical left in savaging the man.
Frank:

I'm not disappointed in Obama. I didn't expect him to be a real change agent and this was apparent in closely examining what he said before he took office.

I'm not engaging in some kind of primary challenge for or against Obama or any other candidate. Electoral politics is not where public policy is made. Why I am saying that I get into extensively in my book.

If you were not expecting anything different from Obama than what he has delivered, then you are comfortable with some really terrible things. For example, Obama has given himself the right to launch wars without Congressional approval, superficial or otherwise. He had given himself the right to hold people indefinitely on the grounds that he worries that they MIGHT do something in the future. He has violated the Geneva Conventions that require signatory nations to prosecute people who violate the Conventions against, for example, aggressive wars and torture. He has given himself the right to assassinate and torture American citizens, without trial. The list goes on.
I understand your position on Obama, Dennis--and I respect your right to hold it.

I have a different take on the matter. I just wanted to offer a few comments in your thread about how I feel on this—and I thank you for the opportunity to do so.

We have lots of problems in America right now—I think we can agree on that. There’s a lot wrong with America that really needs fixing.

On balance, I think America would be much better off if Obama were re-elected than for him to be defeated. You apparently think defeating Obama is the better way to go. (I discount all other choices as unrealistic. It is my opinion that if the Democrats have a primary contest and Obama loses, the Republicans will eat up the winner—and I think the chances of a third party taking the prize is pie-in-the-sky.)

But let me out-front with you: I honestly think your thinking will prevail, Dennis. I have no illusions about which position, yours or mine, is more popular in America right now. I am almost positive that Obama will be a one-term president—and that a Republican vetted and endorsed by the tea party fringe will replace him.

Every fiber of my being tells me America will be the worse off for that happening.

We’ll see.
Frank:

I did not say that I thought it would be better if Obama were defeated in the next election. I actually said that elections don't determine public policy.

Do I think, since you raise the question, that it would be better if Obama were defeated? I don't think I can honestly give a simple answer to that question because there are different variables at work. I have to say in the first place and as the most important point, that thinking about whether it is better that so and so is elected or not is the wrong way to go about analyzing the situation.

Political rule isn't settled by elections. Elections aren't designed in this country for that purpose. Political rule is decided in backrooms and elections are the front stage activity designed to try to convince the public that THEY are really in charge, when we are not.

Having said that, on the one hand, re-electing Obama isn't going to be a good thing and isn't going to be better than a Republican in the White House IN THE SENSE that Obama is in important respects able to get away with doing horrible things precisely because he is seen by many people, including yourself, as better than the GOP. Thus, he can and has been doing things that if they were done by a Republican, would have raised a hue and cry in the streets and in the news and they probably wouldn't have been able to get away with it because of the storm of controversy.

On the other hand, the election of a GOP figure such as any of those running other than perhaps Ron Paul who is a different kettle of fish in some ways and also for that reason isn't going to be elected, is going to mean that the fascist elements in this country are going to be further emboldened and that's not a good thing either. The situation in Wisconsin is an example of this.

So if both possibilities are bad, then what is one to do?

The answer is first, you have to think outside the parameters/trap of electoral politics per se. You have to recognize what history tells us and what a clear theory will tell you regarding the role of the state and of elections: what matters is whether or not social movements fighting for a different way are present and influential. The 1960s are an example of this. The war on Vietnam was ended to a significant degree by the anti-war movement (the biggest factor was what the Vietnamese did themselves). A Republican began the withdrawal (Nixon) and a Republican completed the withdrawal (Gerald Ford).
Your treading on dangerous grounds, here, Professor. Using calm cool logic could cause You to wake up to an another apisa blog entitled:

"Dennis Loo - Intellectual Coward!"
Mark:

Frank and I have buried the hatchet. : )
It will be interesting to see how long that lasts?
Dennis, I agree in part with your comment,

Obama is in important respects able to get away with doing horrible things precisely because he is seen by many people, including yourself, as better than the GOP. Thus, he can and has been doing things that if they were done by a Republican, would have raised a hue and cry in the streets and in the news and they probably wouldn't have been able to get away with it because of the storm of controversy.

Just as Nixon was the president who COULD GET AWAY with going to China, Obama is able to “get away” with things that might cause a hue and cry among a segment of the population. I dare say, however, that he is hardly “getting away with it.” He is being pilloried for it by all sorts of commentators and pundits—and by a segment of the population who could, if they chose, “go into the streets.”

I also think most of the things that you consider “horrible things” —are items that his advisors have indicated have to be handles the way he’s handled them. The conduct of the wars; the phasing down of the wars; the move into Libya; the gitmo situation; and many other items—simply look different when viewed from the Oval Office than from the sidelines. There are different imperitives—different considerations that must be met. I think he has made adjustments that have to be made.

Anyway, I DO understand your point.

But considering the problems with which we are dealing right now (economic fairness issues) do you really think any candidate the GOP could field would be better than Obama? The GOP is not going to be able to field anyone who is not agreeable to the right-most fringe, including the tea party—and probably not be able to field anyone who is not highly endorced by that faction.

The frustration I feel as I write these words is enormous. I can only imagine the frustration that accrues in you as you read them…in the several people of like mind with you who read them—but the reality is that the GOP candidate WILL NOT BE as good a choice as Obama.

Ultimately, a choice has to be made.

I am of two minds for a different reason than you.

I often want to root for a Republican victory, because I see the problems now existing as IMPOSSIBLE to be fixed within the confines of the system now in place. I see failure from the executive no matter who that person is. And I really would like to see the Republicans owning the debacle I see coming—rather than Obama, a man I consider a decent, pragmatic, individual trying to work effectively under conditions that are beyond imagination.

I’m going to win either way things work out. If Obama wins—I get to see how he handles the crisis and I suspect I will feel as I have felt right along—he is getting as much out of the situation as anyone would be getting. If he loses, well, I will not be petty and root against the Republican who wins, but I cannot see anyone from that side doing the things that have to be done to straighten this ship.

As I’ve said often in several threads—I guess we all gotta do what we gotta do and then watch how things work out.

I can only hope that whatever eventuates results in a better America and a better world.
Frank:

We continue to talk past each other in certain very important respects.

Two things.

First, you think Obama has to do what he's doing, such as refusing to prosecute confessed torturers (e.g., Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney), indefinitely detaining INNOCENT people on the grounds that they MIGHT do something, torturing or having people tortured at black sites INNOCENT people, leading to the deaths of some of these INNOCENT people, and reneging on numerous promises because it looks different once you're in the White House... These ARE CRIMES. Their institutionalization by none other than the present occupant of the White House is worse than Bush doing them because Obama has now made them the norm. This means that the stuff that you hold precious in what makes America supposedly different - the rule of law, habeas corpus, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, etc. - are no longer true. Your tolerance or acceptance of these things means that you are being akin to a Good German of the Nazi years' infamy.

Second, you say "Ultimately, a choice has to be made [meaning choose the GOP or the Dems]." As I have tried to make clear, that is not correct. The choice is between silence and complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of the rule of law and Constitutional guarantees or fighting these egregious and fateful things.
Dennis,

Since interest has died down in this thread (we seem to be the only two still discussing your post)—and since I am still interested in the items we are discussing, I’d like to continue it. It is your thread; if you tire of my comments, just tell me to drop it and I will.

I’d like to take your second item first:

Second, you say "Ultimately, a choice has to be made [meaning choose the GOP or the Dems]." As I have tried to make clear, that is not correct. The choice is between silence and complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of the rule of law and Constitutional guarantees or fighting these egregious and fateful things.

How are you going to make the choices your suggest in the polling booth in 2012, Dennis? My comment that ultimately a choice will have to be made (indeed meaning between the candidate of the Dems or the GOP) stands. You will have to vote for one of those people—(or stay home or vote for a third party)! So the choice I suggest is the one that will have to be made during the voting process.

Yes, I guess a choice will be made such as you suggest—but I submit that we are doing that, in a fashion, right here in our discussion. There is absolutely no way I would have backed any plan to prosecute Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney or anyone else for war crimes or torture. I think any prosecution would have been wasting money—and although I suspect you think good would have come from it regardless of the ultimate verdict, I think a prosecution could easily have made an horrendous situation even worse—particularly if a “not guilty” verdict resulted either in the trial or on appeal.

You are expressing your reasons for your choice (and your reasons for considering me careless with our legal safeguards by advocating mine—and the reality is that is a great deal of what we, as private citizens, can do.

I understand you see me as the American equivalent of “the good German” during Nazi days, and you are entitled to that opinion. I do not see myself that way. I am appalled at what has happen to us regarding some of these things—but I am willing to see a difference between dealing with the aftermath of a rogue regime instituting them—and simply suspending them without any consideration of potential consequences. The detentions sicken me; the rendition sickens me; I never for one second thought our country would ever resort to torture—but I think handling those things once instituted is totally different from never having instituted them at all.

We will more than likely never agree on this—but that is the way things often go during discussions of contentious issues such as this. There are intelligent, well-intentioned people on the same side as you—and intelligent, well-intentioned people on the side I’ve come down on.

I think Obama got advice from military advisors on how to proceed in certain areas—and I see nothing wrong with him following that advice.

My guess is there has NEVER been a president of the United States who has not done things that would sicken any reasonable person. Probably there has never been a leader of a powerful nation ever in history who has not done things that would sicken any reasonable person. I seriously doubt any president or leader anywhere has ever seen to executive decisions—and not “committed crimes” either against the laws of his/her nation or against the natural laws of humanity. Being the leader of a powerful nation is not for the meek of heart—and the people thinking Obama is weak of heart are, in my opinion, simply misreading what he is doing.

I may be wrong…you may be right. But that is my assessment.


First, you think Obama has to do what he's doing…

Okay, I’ll grant you that I did say, “I also think most of the things that you consider “horrible things” —are items that his advisors have indicated have to be handles the way he’s handled them. The conduct of the wars; the phasing down of the wars; the move into Libya; the gitmo situation; and many other items—simply look different when viewed from the Oval Office than from the sidelines. There are different imperitives—different considerations that must be met. I think he has made adjustments that have to be made.”

On reflection, I probably ought not to have made it “has to” or “have to be”…but rather some form of “decided that it would be better to…” or “…decided to heed the advice..”.

In any case, I do want a person elected to that high office to look at the situtations that confront him/her in light of what knowledge is gained upon getting into office…and to make decisions based on that information, even if it means reneging on promises made while not in possession of all the facts.

If you were elected president, Dennis, I would want you to look at what you see as the actual holder of the office—rather than sticking hard and fast with some of the rhetoric you’ve offered here in OS. In fact, it should come as no surprise to learn that I would welcome such a change of heart if that were to happen.

Let me end this segment by asking again:

But considering the problems with which we are dealing right now (economic fairness issues) do you really think any candidate the GOP could field would be better than Obama? The GOP is not going to be able to field anyone who is not agreeable to the right-most fringe, including the tea party—and probably not be able to field anyone who is not highly endorsed by that faction.

I’ll even amend that to “…better than or equal to Obama?”
frank: "the phasing down of the wars

Just which wars, of the seven, are being phased down?

Oe of the few goods,I can ascribe to frank is that I DO see him as a "Good German."
Frank:

You really need to read my book. Not that I think it will change your mind - that's unlikely - but it will provide you a fully developed analysis for my arguments and we won't go back and forth so much without your being privy to that larger argument.