Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Video tonight

UPDATE: Here is the link to the video: http://gallery.demconvention.com/Default.html?VideoID=525

and on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLq8hmmxcOA

I am in a video that will be shown at the DNC convention. It is scheduled to air between 7 and 8 pm Denver time. Here is an article that appeared in Variety today about it:

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117991199.html?categoryid=1064&cs=1

Spielberg DNC film honors veterans

Tom Hanks narrates Cohen/Jinks production

Steven Spielberg has directed a film short on the country's military veterans that is scheduled to unspool tonight at the Democratic National Convention.

Spielberg plans to attend the convention tonight, although he is not expected Thursday night when Barack Obama accepts the nomination at Invesco Field, according to a spokesman for the director.

The film is narrated by Tom Hanks and was produced by James Moll, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks. The music was composed by John Williams

The Democratic National Convention Committee is drawing on industry talent throughout this week. Davis Guggenheim, director of "An Inconvenient Truth," is reportedly working on an Obama film to be shown Thursday. Ken Burns and Mark Herzog were behind the video tribute to Edward Kennedy on Monday. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason made the Hillary Clinton film that was shown before her convention appearance on Tuesday.

Spielberg has taken creative roles in conventions past. In 2004, he consulted on a documentary about John Kerry that was directed by James Moll.

Spielberg endorsed Clinton in the primaries, but he and his partners in DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, are expected to host a fund-raiser for Obama, perhaps in September, if the candidate's schedule can be so arranged.

61 comments:

basilbeast said...

Howdy, JD! Good to see you back. I jsut happened to catch the tail end of it, the last 30 seconds or so.

I'm sure I can catch it on the net somewhere.

...

Charles Gittings said...

I couldn't find it on the net weirdly enough.

seydlitz89 said...

Good to see you posting again JD.

I've got mixed feelings about all this. Of course the Vets shouldn't be hung out to dry. Duckworth's speech afterwards was also good . . .

But all the "warrior" talk? No real discussion of the mistaken policy or lack of strategic thinking that got us into this mess. . . It comes all across too much like "big daddy's gonna save us", but it was trusting in "big daddy" that got us into this mess in the first place.

Bacevich is right, I don't expect much change from Obama, although he'll get my vote in November. That simply due to the nature of the alternative . . .

Publius said...

I generally avoid these types of films because I find them just too damned depressing. I always tell people who wonder about it that I already know all three acts.

In deference to JD, I did watch this one (just hit the link to YouTube, Basil and Charly) and found it to be about what I expected. I have to say, however, that I'm not really sure of the purpose, though. To convince us all that the Dems support vets? Well, duh. What else could they say?

IOTM that many of the Dem fat cats at this convention, notably the VP-nominee and the sainted Hillary were among those who were panicked by 9/11 and who were then stampeded by George Bush's lies into cheerleading for the most stupendous blunder in our nation's history, and thereby hatching another generation of these veterans they "honor". At least Biden has had the good grace to admit his error; Hillary has never done so, nor has she explained why she never bothered to read the intel, flawed as it was.

I don't think we should forget that in the crucible, at the point when the rubber met the road, when they really had to do their best for the nation, many of these people now excoriating Bush proudly lined up as good soldiers in his expeditionary war of choice, some so they wouldn't look "soft," others because they were too lazy, stupid or cowardly to do some research and ask some questions.

Which leads me to Obama, and Seydlitz's comments in particular. For whatever reason, Obama did not support Mr. Bush's excellent adventure and actually spoke out against it when others in his party were praising Mr. Bush's "toughness." I give him higher marks than many of them if for no other reason than he was right. And tonight Obama closed the deal: he did talk about the rank stupidity of the whole thing. Again, he's right. He seems to be smarter than the others, just because he saw through Bush when they couldn't.

All combat veterans know that nothing can ever make things right again. I think a lot of them would agree with me that the best thing these politicians could do for veterans is to do their damnedest to put together policies that might result in fewer veterans. Here, I kind of draw a parallel with Obama's line tonight when he did the typical tip toeing around abortion by noting we should have fewer unwanted pregnancies.

I'm not one of those who sees no difference between Obama and McCain.

FDChief said...

I have to say it; I have a bad feeling about November.

The video? Good enough, as it is. But I came away thinking, like Seydlitz: where's the anger? Where's the rage? Where's the vicious, mocking hatred of the people who got us here?

Today the GOPfest starts in Minnesota and you can bet for the next week were going to hear all the Bushie slimeballs, the Kagans, the Rovians, the Rushes and Malkins and Savages will tear Obama as an effete, out-of-touch, kumbaya-singing elitist. The lies, the cronyism, the foolishness of the past eight years will magically disappear in the bright light of Big Daddy McCain.

Once again, the Democratic Party has a chance to push the anti-Constitutional, anti-democracy, anti-equality, anti-American criminal slime that is today's GOP into the spotlight and force the American people to stand up and declare themselves Good Germans before voting for McSame. They didn't. They aren't. My goddam Party is dysfunctional and fucked up like a football bat. Im going to say it now:

Unless we're willing to get dirty, to go after McCain the way he's going after Obama, to pin his moronic policies and oligarchic clique of hangers on and fluffers right dead on his ass, we're going to lose in November.

The video doesn't name names.

We have GOT to name names: Bush, Cheney, Perle, Heckuvajob Brownie, Abu Gonzales, Rummy, the slimy weasel Addington, Yoo...there's so MANY. And we're not hanging them on McSame's neck.

We're beating ourselves.

basilbeast said...

I thought the video was very good for what it intended to do, namely a tribute, a history, a reminder of what we have often asked our fellow citizens to do for the country, right or wrong. Of course, I'm looking at it from a civvie POV.

And I still haven't seen all of it, up to JD's 2nd appearance, and the last 30 secs or so. Haven't had the chance to see it all.

As for the anger and righteous rage, that needs to be channeled into political action. Or the next time your local CongressCritter happens to have a face-to-face with you, then you can unload both barrels, and perhaps make the local news.

Or you can read someone else's righteous rage to release some of yours.

http://www.boomantribune.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2008/8/28/144745/882

There's a world of difference between Obama and McCain, it's obvious to me Obama's the much superior in ability, character and intelligence. He's appealing to our higher nature, we'll see if the GOPers take it up. If not, sure, stick a cattle prod up their butts and ramp up the juice.

..

basilbeast said...

A little PS.

I just noticed this from Stephen Colbert's show last night, in his brownie pan.

Obama spelled backwards is Latin for "I will love".

Cool, eh?

.

Charles Gittings said...

A bad feeling?

Not me. Even McCain will be an improvement, and Obama's chances are excellent. It's seems McCain agrees, judging by his choice for VP, which reminds me of Bush nominating Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. The shameless pandering and hypocrisy, etc.

Everything is favorable. We just have to hope enough of the people have wised up to act in their own self-interest and for the good of the country -- and if not, we will just have to keep trying.

pluto said...

I have to disagree with you, Charles. First I need to say that I pray that I'm wrong but I've also got FDChief's sinking feeling.

The cause of my disagreement is that McCain wants to win so badly that he has filled his staff with a bunch of Rove disciples. You can already see the impact, McCain has gone unswervingly negative and has started hitting Obama using the lessons learned from Hillary in the Primary. And he has drawn even with Obama and may well pass him next week after the Rep convention is over.

The big problem with Rove's tactics is that you don't get to stop using them once you win the election because the your base is motivated by fear and loathing of the opposition rather than respect and loyalty to you. This means that McCain, at least for his first term, will be tied to Rove-ian policies in order to get re-elected.

Furthermore, speaking strictly from the perspective of political tactics, the Republicans are using their many advantages perfectly.

McCain announced his big surprise VP choice just as the Dem's were building some buzz on the internet. Now they are going to hold their own convention and throw mud all over the positives of the Dem's convention while highlighting the negatives. And then they'll come out swinging (and aiming very low) in September with a concerted media blitz doing everything they can to spread doubt and persuade the independent voters to either vote for McCain or just not vote.

Some of us have urged the Dem's to fight back using the same tactics. This would work from the point of view of short-term survival as a party. But right now we, the voters, have a choice between a small, disciplined, and highly unethical political party and a large, friendly, weak-kneed but generally ethical political party. Do we, as voters, want to narrow our choices to two unethical political parties? I sure don't.

On the other hand, I found the Democratic party response to McCain's VP choice to be very interesting. The public relations office immediately issued a statement that hit Palin's lack of experience and was highly negative. Obama was interviewed a little while later and gave a much more balanced review and sounded very Presidential. Perhaps this is the Democratic party of the future, one that has room for both attack politics and statesman-like comments.

I sure hope it gets its act together before November, otherwise we are looking at a Rove-dominated McCain administration for the next four years and I don't know anybody who relishes that thought.

Charles Gittings said...

"Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody's having them dreams.

"Everybody sees their self walkin' around with no one else.

"Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
And some of the people can be all right part of the time,
But all of the people can't be all right all of the time.
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

"I'll let you be in my dream if I can be in yours.
I said that."


- Bob Dylan, Talking World War III Blues (1963).


I don't know what more to tell you Pluto. I started opposing the Bush administration on 911 because I understood that they were a far greater threat to the United States and the world than Al Qaeda. Do you suppose I have any illusions about Karl Rove and the people who swallow his poison?

Good decisions are the result of sound understanding, not luck, and understanding is a product of judgment and experience, not marketing. The American people will either get tired of taking it up the ass from these fascist gangsters or they won't, in which case they will suffer the consequences of their own stupidity until they wise up. I can't think for anybody but me, but this much I know for sure: I'll keep fighting these criminals until such time as they are defeated or I am dead.

And mind you: my basic view of all of this is that it's a war that has been going on for over 4,000 years, and that the only reason any of are where we are today is because of all the people who fought for what was right in the past. However remote our ultimate success may be, failure is not an option. We have the best candidates, and our chances are good. The dangers are real, and the dangers will be just as real if we win. I could st here spinning out scenarios were and Obama victory could turn out to be a disaster, or a McCain victory a back-handed blessing, but I'm left with the fact that all we can do is act on our best understanding of the situation and do the best we can, because if human reason can't solve our problems, then we're simply at the mercy of chance and the laws of physics.

basilbeast said...

CG:

And mind you: my basic view of all of this is that it's a war that has been going on for over 4,000 years, and that the only reason any of are where we are today is because of all the people who fought for what was right in the past.

That was very well said, and thank you for saying that.

I have to admit I'm puzzled by you fine military folk here. Why so glum? There's a future to be fought out, goals to be realized, and I'm betting most of you have good reasons to fight the good fight on the American political battlefield just as much as anybody else might have.

Life demands that you struggle. I'm sure as hell not gonna submit to BOHICA and take a dive.

Cheer up, we do live in interesting times, times you can spend telling the grandkids about, or at least those pesky kids that clutter up your lawn.

...

FDChief said...

"I have to admit I'm puzzled by you fine military folk here. Why so glum?"

All I can say, Basil, is that it probably has something to do with having had the repeated experience of looking out from the same hilltop across the same valley: seeing the mined approaches, seeing the covered dead ground, seeing all the fire and steel horrors that a well-prepared defense holds for the soft-fleshed footsoldier and hearing the officer beside you chirp "Now we've got 'em where we want 'em! Sergeant, I'll FRAGO this at 0615 and I want you to have the troops ready to move out in travelling overwatch ten minutes after that."

Most of us are professional pessimists at heart. We want to hope for the best, but we've seen too much of the combination of ambition, distration, uglification and derision that makes up human nature to really believe it. Soldiering, and especially war, tends to strip the polite fictions we hold about how people are really decent and honorable and expose the violent, ignorant savages underneath.

The GOP seems to have internalized that lesson and uses it now in every electoral cycle.

And the problem with that is that it works conciously to reverse Charles' 4,000 years of struggle. It works by dividing rather than uniting, by reinforcing every hearer's and viewer's basest ideas. By appealing to emotion over reason, fear over logic.

And, in the end, it is self-fulfilling. Because by using these animal-brain triggers, it helps drive society back towards those primitive motivators. I think a LOT of our republic's willingness to ignore things like torture, baseless war and civil repression has to be traced back to the Rovian use of hindbrain tactics.

I do agree with Charles that if the nation can't find a way to reject what these people are doing that we will get the government we deserve. I'm too old to worry about what will happen to me if that happens. But I worry for my children.

basilbeast said...

Most of us are professional pessimists at heart. We want to hope for the best, but we've seen too much of the combination of ambition, distration, uglification and derision that makes up human nature to really believe it. Soldiering, and especially war, tends to strip the polite fictions we hold about how people are really decent and honorable and expose the violent, ignorant savages underneath.

That's the foundational philosophy of my Christian faith. Those who see and hear the call and wend their way with God's help, falling and getting up, get salvation. Those who don't, who follow the hindbrain, who don't bother with bettering themselves AND their fellow man, won't be worth much a damn anyway.

'Sides, with so much hindbrain activity in abundance, the Con Man will never be unemployed. Such a tragedy that would be.

On something completely different, I don't believe I've seen a VP pick go so far south so quickly since Tom Eagleton.

.

FDChief said...

Dude! Three words:

J

Danforth

Quayle

Boxcar, bitches!

Publius said...

Y'all do realize that no matter who ends up winning, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million Americans are going to vote for this, the ultimate soap opera ticket the Republicans have cobbled together. Right?

So what does that tell you about the voting populace in the world's oldest continuous democracy? Starting to understand why the Greeks didn't make it?

There is a reason why the odds are against democracies surviving over the long haul.

Charles Gittings said...

Heh.

No confusion about that point here Publius. But then I started serious study of classical Greek and Roman history when I was nine. This is something I've understood all along -- indeed, it's what's driven me for nearly seven years now. Every demented racist, religious bigot, fascist, misanthrope, hypocrite, and greedy opportunist in the country: that's the Republican Party today. People used to wonder how the Nazis could have happened in a nation as civilized and cultured as Germany. It's not a mystery.

These people are not our fellow citizens: they are traitors and criminals for all practical purposes. I just hope you're right about the number. Bush got 62 million votes last time. If McCain only gets 50 million, we will crush them.

If not, then we'll have Hillary four years from now. That is a grim scenario, but I don't mean that as a knock on Hillary, it's just that we can't stand any more Republican appointments to the Supreme Court meanwhile. The one thing I know for sure is that the Republicans will ultimately collapse. Fascists always do-- it's just a question of how much damage they'll do first. The bad part is that nukes make the worst-case scenarios very grim indeed.

I'm an Obama volunteer. California is not in doubt, and I live in very liberal small town in Northern California, but tonight some of us will be phone-banking voters in Nevada. Whatever little any of us can do will help. I've seen some encouraging signs manning the office -- we've gotten quite a few young first time voters and ex-Republicans.

Just don't think there is nothing you can do -- there is always something you can do. Hell, you could even volunteer to help me with my preposterous little Geneva project. We don't just need to beat these folks, we need to make an example of George Bush, Dick Cheney all the rest of these gangsters that will never be forgotten. That's been driving me from the start.

seydlitz89 said...

Charles-

I think what you are doing is meaningful and I enjoy reading your comments, but I think you misread Publius, and maybe FDC and myself as well.

You also operate under at least three certain assumptions that I at least don't share:

"traitors and criminals",

"us and them",

"we will crush them".

The first doesn't apply to CheneyBush since they haven't been arrested, let alone tried for anything. It's just a subjective polemic label, same as the Reaganists use on anti-Reaganists all the time. Without the political will we see how far the law flies, which leads us to the second . . .

The real domestic US political struggle is best seen in theoretical terms as "Republic" versus "Empire" imo and I think there is a whole lot to back that up. The selection of Biden pretty much settled that question which leaves us with two Empire candidates, which explains why CheneyBush and Co are not in jail. Since the US has been officially at least a Republic since its founding, that indicates that we are probably in the backwash of events/changes which have already occurred. The troubling incidents at the DNC and RNC conventions, the whole nature of the Palin nomination, and plenty of other recent examples, give proof to the idea that a rational citizenry is not what is being addressed here, but something seen quite differently. This btw leads us to the same basic inquiry I mentioned several threads back about the political questions of 1917 which are still with us today, namely how can a meaningful democracy function in a modern mass state? . . .

As to the third assumption, if you expand you net a bit to take in the nominal and "playalong" opposition to your "fascist takeover" which in any case seems to be proceeding well, you would come across as at best a stooge, maybe worse, since . . .

Before you start with the civics lesson consider that had things been slightly different I might have been singing Obama's praises now. What has happened in the last several months has indicated to me at least the apparent nature of this "change" and only reinforced how I have seen the radical transformation in the US since 2000.

Not your worldview, but a perspective, is what separates us the most perhaps in that I see things more in terms of historical trends (for instance how capitalism has changed, the collapse of traditional Western religion, or how the environment has been degraded) and through the prism of my own theoretical interpretation (as in the military being a political instrument and politics being a reflection of power relations within a specific society). I think I share this outlook with others here, or we are close enough in perspective, which is why we communicate well and understand each other.

An example of this strategic view is provided by the recent conflict in the Caucasus. The Russians, masters of operational art, have started their third operation since the first part of August, the first, having started as a military counter-attack involved the clearing of separatist regions of Georgia and the destruction of the Georgian military which has been completed. Their second is the political elimination of the Georgian strongman which is still ongoing, and the third which has now started is the geostrategic/political annexation of the former Georgian regions into Russia proper. This all marks a significant change in Russian policy regarding NATO. It is very possible that this may end with NATO having painted itself in a corner and having to backdown directly to Russia which could be the end of the alliance.

All the sudden, the question between "Empire" and "Republic" could be thrown into the open and get very serious . . .

Charles Gittings said...

Seydlitz,

I'm sorry, facts are facts, not assumptions, and you are misrepresenting me.

I said if McCain gets 50 million votes we will crush them, not that we could assume such a result. Nor do I hold such a belief: after everything that's happened the last eight years I'm not making big assumptions at all (especially since my preposterous little project requires being prepared for the worst case); and since I'm both a systems analyst and a master bridge player, I'm also not in the habit of assuming ANYTHING unless circumstances force me to.

These people are criminals, and that is just a fact. As for them being traitors, they are subverting the Constitution and laws the United States, and that's close enough for me.

And as for the rest, I have no idea what the hell you think you are talking about. I know history and strategy quite well: rabid dogs and drooling morons don't do strategy. All you're really telling me is that you either aren't paying attention or you're a lot more naive than I thought.

The situation in Georgia you say -- should we send more Coast Guard cutters maybe?

What do you think these demented Republican gangsters are going to do about anything in Georgia?

Putin sure isn't confused about them. Sound strategy is based on sound understanding, and the Republicans are effectively brain dead for all practical purposes.

Publius said...

Actually, Seydlitz, I'm far more sympathetic to Charly's arguments than you might think. I don't need formal courtroom verdicts to confirm what I see on a daily basis.

So far as your geopolitical arguments are concerned, no argument from me. I would, however, caution you against thinking that those arguments will make even the slightest bit of difference in the beauty contest we call a presidential election campaign. You are so 50s, Seydlitz, thinking that intellect has much to do with anything in the electoral realm. On the contrary, politicians actually lose if they're incautious enough to demonstrate true intelligence and a grasp of world affairs. Biden will have to really watch himself in the debates. Mustn't be "unfair" to little Sarah, after all.

Just like a lot of us, Seydlitz, you're having a hard time coming to grips with the reality that is America in the year 2008. This is why I play more and more golf these days. I'm drinking more, too. Reality doesn't do much for me these days.

Charly, I am typing this from my daughter's place in Alameda. You're in Marin, right?

seydlitz89 said...

Gentlemen-

Calling CheneyBush "criminals" or "traitors" is simple polemic unless you have a trial and conviction to indicate otherwise. The system is based on the concept of "innocent until proved guilty". I'm not saying I disagree with the polemic, simply that it remains simply that due to the lack of political will to make it an objective, or legal, reality with any real force. This is for me the real issue. In terms of rhetoric it is no different then calling Bill Clinton a "murderer" which the Right wing has been doing for years. The lack of this political will indicates to me that there really isn't that much separating CheneyBush from the token opposition, since both support/are beholden to the constellation of corrupt interests behind "Empire".

Publius, maybe I misread you, but your next to last post seemed to me to see the problem as more systemic and the result of perhaps long-term trends than a case of "us" and "them", or "crushing them". Believe me I'm as angry at CheneyBush as Charles is, but that's anger, not theoretical analysis.

Charles, to me there is no "us and them", because there isn't really anyone who is effectively opposing what is going on, that is the maintenance of "Empire" while at the same time hiding that basic reality from the people. It all comes down to power and if you think you really have any in this crapshoot, well then maybe I'm not the one who's naive. You and I are operating from two very different perspectives, as in perhaps "systems analysis" versus "social action/strategic theory". You may actually think along the same lines as most career military officers I've known I would wager, whereas strategic theory is something quite outside that box, which is why it is in short supply within the military today. This reminds me of an essay that Paul K Van Riper wrote as to how the Vietnam-era Army was well versed in the "science of war" (including systems analysis) but knew little about the "art" of war. War being of course an instrument of politics.

Nor do I expect any of this argument to make much difference. I see us as being too far down the road for a sudden rebirth of democratic spirit, or strategic thinking, or somebody called "Big Daddy" to save us, since our current dilemma is the result of very long-term historic trends (not limited to the US), perhaps even leading to the collapse of our social system. At the same time I speak my mind, and I don't see anyone else commenting on Russian operational art, so maybe the argument has some merit, from a strategic theory perspective of course . . .

Would I be heartbroken if proved totally off the mark? Why not at all, but being the particularly gloomy cat that I am something tells me otherwise.

Charles Gittings said...

Publius,

No I live in Fort Bragg, which is on the coast 150 miles north of SF, pop. @ 5K.

I know exactly how you feel about the political situation. Truly, the ignorance and delusions of both the public and the pundits is appalling --- and I didn't have any illusions about that 7 years ago, but gee, it's just really depressing to see how persistent and pervasive the ignorance is in the face of so many obvious facts and dismal failures. It's equally depressing to contemplate just how malicious, dishonest, and deluded the Republicans really are -- something else I wasn't confused about 7 years ago.

Such dereliction will not go unrewarded forever, and you're exactly right about "so 50s".

But the good news is that we have a chance to elect a decent man of real intelligence as our President, and we just have to pray that enough voters have wised up to get it done. There's no predicting how anyone will turn out once they are in that office, but we have a real chance, so I'm just praying hard as I can, volunteering at the local Obama HQ, and trying to think about the legal issues going forward from Boumediene.

The elections will let us know where we stand, but it is depressing to watch all this nonsense unwind. Sometimes I just want to throw a brick at the TV.

Charles Gittings said...

Well Seydlitz,

I've spent nearly seven year now investigating their crimes, and was ready to file an indictment in 2002. I'm just not in doubt about the facts or the law here. Could it be that the facts and the law just don't matter to most folks?

Gee, I can't imagine how anyone familiar with Greek, Roman, English, or German history might be confused about that. As for my power to do anything, all I have is my own intelligence and understanding -- but those suffice, and I can do what I can do the best I can. That's all that anyone can ever do.

And it's axiomatic that the only way to solve a problem is to understand it. Do you suppose that magic can save us?

I can't make people listen, and I can't force them to admit that 1 + 1 = 2 if they refuse to consider any answer but 3. But I know I've done more than I thought was possible starting out -- indeed, a lot more.

When you say we "are operating from two very different perspectives, as in perhaps 'systems analysis' versus 'social action/strategic theory' ", all you're telling me is that you don't understand systems analysis very well. A system consists of the hardware, software, AND the users -- and social context is critical. There's no dichotomy there, you're just not seeing the forest for the trees. Systems analysis is the social science of everything, in the same sense that all of the hard sciences are just specialized branches of physics.

It's all about goals and resources and building a logical bridge between the two, and I'd like to refer you and the others here to a discussion that is going on Opinion Juris. See in particular my two comments on the post HERE.

J.D. said...

For all the talk of philosophy, politics, etc., nobody focused on the important issue: was I pretty? :)

Sadly, even Hollywood magic couldn't make me prettier, but I thought it was great that I was part of the convention that nominated the first African-American candidate for president from a major political party. I hope it will turn out to be the convention that nominated the first Black president. I can tell my grandkids about it.

seydlitz89 said...

JD-

I thought you looked distinguished.

Charles-

Power. It all comes down to that and if you don't really have any . . . also my comment as to our perspectives might be right on the money and has nothing to do with whether I "know anything" about systems analysis.

"social context is critical"

Well, yea, ain't that obvious. So how do you model "social context"?

Charles Gittings said...

Oh I loved the haircut JD, and envied the beard, as my own is so sparse and scraggly (beats the hell out of shaving though).

"So how do you model "social context"?"

Well gee, I'd say you observe it more than you model it, but why is that even a question?

Modeling anything is purely a matter of probability and statistics. As for power, that's a figment -- the only real power resides in our understanding, and the United States has rarely been as weak as it is right now. Our institutions retain vast latent potential, but our current government is incapable of using it effectively -- witness the endless fiascoes and corruption of the last seven years.

OBJECTIVES Seydlitz -- how many times do I have to say it?

You can't analyze anything unless you know what you're trying to do, and just trying to be "powerful" isn't a goal, it's an obsessive urge. You are only powerful to the extent you are capable of usefully applying resources to objectives, and everything else is just a delusion or a mirage.

What are our goals in Georgia?

Cheney wants them in NATO. I'm not sure NATO is even a good idea any more, but very damn sure that installing ABMs in Poland is a bad idea for everyone but Lockheed-Martin executives, who are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank, as usual. What are our goals in Iraq or Afghanistan? Or anywhere else?

I know my answers, and that the events of the last seven years have done nothing but confirm my analysis at every step. The biggest problems we have are all the false understandings and preconceptions people have, and all of it is purely a failure of analysis.

Publius said...

JD, you looked mahhhvelous. All in all, not too bad for a geezer.

Seydlitz, you and Charly are in the same place. You're hung up on system analysis as practiced in the military, sometning that's to the analysis Charly's talking about as military intelligence is to intelligence.

You might be interested to learn that although I'm not an engineer by trade, my years in Silicon Valley around them taught me some things. I constructed a rudimentary decision algorythm for BushCo around the time of the Afghan incursion, at a time I knew the fools would go into Iraq but would not back off on tax cuts. I've been proven right with respect to the economy. I also got it pretty near right on the law and order issues.

My point with you was and is that it unfortunately seems to me that your entire analytical paradigm has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Why? Well, if you know your Myers-Briggs, you'll know what I mean when I say we seem to elect only sensers, rather than thinkers, and that much of the electorate has gone in the same direction. I am an ENTP on Myers Briggs, something that helped make me a very good case officer. Given how you can't shut anybody up these days, lots of people, especially politicians, seem to be "Es," but relatively few seem to be "Ts." And everybody, it seems, is a "J."

Gotta be lots of "Ts" out there for your magic to work, Seydlitz. You're not wrong. You just don't have the raw material to work with anymore. This is why those of us who appreciate where you're coming from are depressed much of the time. Classical analysis requires rational actors.

You may have missed it, being overseas, but if you saw much of the Republican convention, I suspect you will respond pretty much as I did: this is not a rational political party. Thinking people kind of turn away because it's so embarrassing. Unfortunately, too many of your fellow citizens are absolutely enthralled by the presidential nominee's wife who wears $313K worth of clothing and jewels while her husband says nothing about the economy. Why would he? It's great for him and his fellow travelers.

Seydlitz, when you come up with the way to reach the former auto worker now making $7 an hour who identifies with and votes for a guy who doesn't know how many houses he has and whose wife's clothes on one night would feed 50 families for a year, let me know.

basilbeast said...

Yes, JD, it was great to see the physicality that fronts the intellectual powerhouse.

8 -)

If I may be so bold, there's a resemblance to NBC's Chuck Todd, if I block the top half.

8-b

My opinion on power as most folk consider it, and I base this on what I personally have experienced, read about, watched is that (1) there are different levels of power, but are wielded in much the same way, and (2) all power is illusory.

It's a well-used metaphor, but the end of the Wizard of Oz is a gentle illustration of a brutal fact. Once the curtain is lifted and truth revealed, "power" evaporates quickly.

Because it is based upon fear and force, which is what I believe most people think of WRT power. You know, the Greatest Military of all Time, the Finest on Earth.

The trouble with that type of power is that the more it is used, the less effective it becomes.

The most effective type of power, if you could call it that, derives from honesty and mutual respect.

..

seydlitz89 said...

Publius-

Yea, I must have taken one of the MBTI tests years back. They only told me I was "suitable for the job" and not to bother putting in a FOIA claim since I'd never see the results anyway.

I think you're wrong about Charles and me since the more I read from him the farther away he seems. We model "social context" all the time in social action/strategic theory and I'm slated to present a paper on exactly that at a conference in Cardiff Wales in March of next year (all expenses paid no less) so there must be something to it.

From this perspective all social interactions are complex non-linear affairs combining cultural and historical context with contingency. The most complex interaction is warfare since it involves violence, danger, opposing wills, paradoxical logic . . . Clausewitz's "remarkable trinity" combining as it does moral elements is a model for all wars, but by using this method and changing the elements, but retaining the model, we can use it to study various less complex social interactions. Say, what happens in a classroom for instance . . . In modeling the social interaction the "purpose" of the interaction is secondary (because the actual "purposes" may not be clear nor shared by all present) whereas the actual interaction and how it proceeds/evolves over time is what is of interest and what we attempt to explain in terms of theory. Obviously this is all oriented to a specific goal which is understanding the observed interaction and creating a tool in predicting the course of future interactions.

This is all very different from what Charles is talking about.

Now if we are talking strategic theory in terms of political purpose/military aim supported by military means, that would indicate the overall coherence of the war in question, at least from one side. There would have to be a model for each warring political community and connecting these models would be the larger general theory.

I mention all of this only to show a bit of where I'm coming from. Notice I have mentioned no statistics, no probabilities, hardly any material elements or linear systems . . .

seydlitz89 said...

"The trouble with that type of power is that the more it is used, the less effective it becomes."

Depends. Domestically it seems to work rather well.

Consider the absence of power. What that entails. For instance what the Demos have done with their Congressional majority: The democratically-chosen representatives were elected to implement reform, but none was implemented. Did "the people" actually have this power to implement or stop reform, or did someone else? What, if anything, has been the cost of their abuse of power?

Charles Gittings said...

Seydlitz,

That's just a bum rap: it takes sixty votes in the Senate to get to a vote on a bill, and sixty-seven to override a veto. The real culprits are the Constitution,the Bush administration, and the Republicans, not the Democratic Party.

basilbeast said...

Depends. Domestically it seems to work rather well.

Oh yes, it can work wonderfully if there is enough force and energy behind it.

The trouble comes when it is used excessively, and the intelligence behind it is, well, not very intelligent.

Excessive reliance on physical, brute force drains off resources from other areas which make a political state vibrant and alive.

Look at our situation, in the US. For many years we have put way more money into weapons and military than what is reasonable. So now we find ourselves gasping as our oil-based economy shows serious cracks, health care system is on crutches, financial status is shaky; our reliance on Asian banks has merely delayed the process of degradation. How long do you think the US poplace would have supported the tremendous cost of the military and the invasions in the ME with their tax monies?

Not for long, especially considering how Iraq and Afghanistan have been handled. And don't even mention a draft.

I'm thinking long term, and history tells us secular power eventually crumbles, no matter how many times it is propped up.

I watched "V for Vendetta" again a while ago, good movie.

And another quote:

Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

.

Publius said...

You know, this thread is kind of reminding me of the old Intel Dump. WRT the tangent on power, Basil, your most recent post provides much food for thought and I'm not about to say you're wrong in what you're saying.

Seydlitz, as I think I mentioned, I'm on the road and have limited time to spend on this pleasant diversion. You've given me much to think about and I'm going to reserve the right to come back at you in a few days when I'm back home. You always impress with your input and I'm glad you're going to make some $$ at the upcoming conference. Unfortunately, from my perspective, it may be that I'm just not smart enough to keep up with you. But I will keep trying.

Charly, I am very disappointed that you are showing partisan colors here in justifying the Democratically-controlled Congress's weak performance for the past two years by saying, well, yeah, there is the filibuster and the veto. That to me, my friend is a copout. This Reid/Pelosi led Congress is a joke. This Congress is what is allowing John McCain to make the presidential election a horse race.

Our host, JD, had it right all along. They should have gone after Bush. No, they wouldn't have convicted him if they'd gotten the bill of impeachment through, but they would have made a statement. As it is, in their political scheming and maneuvering, they just perpetuated the negative image and left the door open for the Republicans.

If McCain wins, you can point at the cowardly Democratic Congress led by the even more cowardly Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Spare us the BS about the difficulties of working in the Senate. We all know about that. What we'd like to see is some principled political behavior; we do not see it. The Democratic Party stands for nothing and that is why McCain and his backwoods sidekick are still in the game.

Charles Gittings said...

Well I don't know what to tell you Publius, except that I think describing either Pelosi or Reid as a coward is just silly, especially when we have so many despicable liars, racists, religious bigots, and demented murderous fascists in the other party.

And if you think McConnell and Boehner would be an improvement (which I doubt) then you've lost your mind.

Reality is reality. Do you think I don't wish they could do more?

There's stuff I would do differently too, but nothing that would lead me to credit these Republican talking points. The Republican Party is a criminal organization. That's the biggest problem we have.

seydlitz89 said...

Publius-

Thanks for the kind words. I'm not saying that Charles is necessarily wrong, just that we are coming from two very different perspectives. And I do think our views are closer than mine and his.

Basil-

I follow Weber's definition of "power" which is to impose one's will in a social relationship inspite of resistance. Now the use of force is coercion which is counter-productive over the long haul for a government to use against its own people since it destroys legitimacy. But if you look at what is going on in the US and what has been implemented since 2000 there hasn't been much domestic coercion, nor has there been a need for it. The people do pretty much as they are told, react in predictable ways, are relatively easy to manage when one considers what this government has in fact got away with. What I see is that the people are by and large powerless, that the government is owned by powerful interests which are basically imperialistic and undemocratic and that we have allowed our cherished values to be betrayed. I suppose these tendencies have always existed in a reduced and less malignant form in US history, but what is going on today, the system as it currently exists and operates, is a radical deformation of what the US Government was twenty or even 10 years ago. We have devolved into a quasi-monarchical system which operates a two-track structure of domination: one the traditional rational state which is being dismantled and degraded while hidden behind that structure a semi-feudal system of fealty to our new king, retainers swearing alligence to a man, or a group, not the law, the latter acts pretty much like a parasite on the former. "Our leaders" operate above the law. This is death to the modern rational state as we know it and that the Demos don't go after these anti-American radicals with knives drawn only tells me that they don't see it really as a threat or that they can somehow compromise with the radicals. To be convincing we have to have the facade of a political opposition . . .

I was amazed at how quickly and easily the government supported by the main stream media were able to turn the whole Iraq narrative around in regards to the "surge". Today one has to actually argue that the "surge" is not the resounding success that it is constantly portrayed to be, that Bush's war is in fact still a loser and constitutes a strategic disaster. I also don't think it would be that difficult for them to drum up support for a new war against Iran if they should decide on that disasterous policy as well. . . which tells us what?

We're in trouble.

As to secular power, Nietzsche thought that the state could not survive in the long run without the support of religion as a prop, that eventually private interests would taken over from the public intereste represented by the state. That would of course also be the end of democracy and politics as we know it, something I would think worth resisting . . .

Btw; I liked the "V" film as well.

Charles Gittings said...

Seydlitz,

I find that quite perplexing.

First, you say we have a very different perspective, yet then proceed to display a perspective very similar to my own.

But second, there is one point on which I think you are just flat wrong when you state:

"I follow Weber's definition of "power" which is to impose one's will in a social relationship in spite of resistance."

That isn't power, it is TYRANNY, and I believe I've stated my definition of that more than once in this group...

Tyranny: the use force or the threat of force to impose the will of one person or group on another person or group.

And if our "cherished values" actually matter, I have to add that both the Declaration of Independence and IMT Charter support my view of the matter a lot more than Weber's. (I assume you are quoting / representing him accurately).

Power, properly understood, is the capacity to apply resources to the realization of goals.

basilbeast said...

great posts, I hope we can continue discussing this.

But gotta go.

llllll

Publius said...

Charly, dismissing honest opinions of Reid's and Pelosi's shortcomings as "silly" does nothing to alter the fact that this Dem-controlled Congress has been a huge disappointment. We all know how difficult it is to make headway in today's legislative environment, but one would like to see a little more focus on what these leaders claim to be their bedrock principles. It's pretty clear to me that one of the main reasons we haven't seen some impassioned work aimed at "cleaning up the mess" is because the Democrats benefit every bit as much from the current state of affairs as do the Republicans.

As I've written before, I don't think this Dem leaders have principles; I think they're all about political manueuvering and scheming, all about the game rather than any principles. And I think the American people see them for what they are. I also think they're going to really outsmart themselves: yes, they will have a larger majority in both houses, but the way things are going, they will be dealing with President McCain.

WRT the presidential race, your bozos are going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Obama is unfortunately proving to be kind of an empty suit, and his party is not helping him.

And for you to even suggest that I might find McConnell or Boehner and improvement is, in your words, "silly." You know better, Charly but it seems you can't avoid resorting to personal attacks when challenged. ISTM that you, my friend, are in deep denial when it comes to the realities underlying our broken system. And in that, you are in lock step with your party's leaders.

Charly, instead of attacking people who express disgust with both parties and how they play with our lives, you should maybe start asking why there are so many of us.

Seydlitz, very nice summary of things in your latest post. You've given the best "State of the Nation" rundown I've seen in a while.

Charles Gittings said...

Oh Publius, I didn't mean it as an attack -- I consider you and the other regulars here as friends. But I haven't noticed that any of us are in the habit of mincing words either. That's one of the reasons I like you guys so much.

But I do disagree. Pelosi is political for sure -- her father was the mayor of Baltimore, MD, she got into politics by years of party work doing fund-raising and organizing, etc, but you don't get to be speaker unless you ARE political, and she's a first-rate parliamentarian.

I mean gee whiz. Sam Rayburn? Tip O'Niel? Newt Gingrich?

That's the nature of the game, and I guess maybe I have a different perspective because San Francisco is my home town. I've watched Nancy Pelosi throughout her career, and "coward" is just not an accurate description. Reid didn't intrude on my consciousness until he became majority leader, but I've watched him very closely since, and have come to believe he is one of the best people we have in Washington.

As for the elections, I'm not making any predictions one way or the other. After the vote, we'll all see where we are and go forward from there. You fight a war with the Army you have, and all I know is that Obama is an outstanding candidate, John McCain is unfit to be president, and this is a war for the Constitution and Laws of the United States.

seydlitz89 said...

Charles-

"That isn't power, it is TYRANNY, and I believe I've stated my definition of that more than once in this group...

Tyranny: the use force or the threat of force to impose the will of one person or group on another person or group."

Our perspectives are quite different although we agree on many things.

So, what would you call a mother telling her eight-year old to finish his supper when he wants to watch TV, or a teacher telling a restless class of teenagers to hold on after the bell rings for a special announcement, or a husband sheepishly asking his wife if he can go out drinking with his friends, or for that matter Obama sucking up to AT&T?

These are all examples of power being exercised or confronted in social relationships. You are confusing this concept of power with physical coercion which is a different concept.

The actual Weber quote is "the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests" (Economy and Society, p 53). He is not referring to "objective probability" as in statistics btw.

Charles Gittings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gittings said...

Well the confusion is all on your side here Seydlitz: you're conflating the capacity to act with the intent of the actor.

A parent or teacher is presumably acting in the best interests of their wards, who are, as a matter of fact and law, not capable of exercising adult judgment on their own.

A spouse is presumably acting in concert with their partner, having voluntarily entered the partnership of their own free will.

The Obama example doesn't really apply -- that's simply a political calculation. It's obvious that Obama doesn't have the political powers of George Bush yet, and it's equally obvious that nothing Congress does will affect the actions of the Bush administration -- they've already demonstrated that they're willing to commit criminal violations of the old FISA law, so there's no reason to suppose they'll act any differently under a new one, even if a bill that you or I would approve of could be passed, which plainly can't happen under the current Congress. I take it the decision was mainly a matter of not wasting time on a political battle that can't be won before next year in any case.

To say that power is the ability to impose your will on someone else is like saying automobiles are machines for killing people. Using power for the major purpose of making enemies is just dumb, and I don't think the historical record is unclear on that point.

seydlitz89 said...

Charles-

"Reid didn't intrude on my consciousness until he became majority leader, but I've watched him very closely since, and have come to believe he is one of the best people we have in Washington."

I almost blew hot coffee out my nose after I read that. Next time could you perhaps announce it with a warning beforehand . . . ?

seydlitz89 said...

"I follow Weber's definition of "power" which is to impose one's will in a social relationship inspite of resistance. Now the use of force is coercion"

Well, yea, that's my quote and it's not formulated too good . . . I switched over to a second concept, that of "coercion" in the last sentence but didn't signal it very well, kinda like Charlie and his Reid comment . . . ;-)>

Charles Gittings said...

Well I don't see what's funny about a simple statement of fact Seydlitz. I meant when he became minority leader (after Daschle was defeated for reelection in SD). I've done some research on the guy since, and have also paid close attention to what he has to say on the detainee issues.

And there's no resemblance between the two statements. The one is merely an anecdote about me, the other is a misconception, at least as you stated it originally. Are agreeing with me now?

Publius said...

Charly, I, too, consider you a friend after these years of online dialogue. As you know, I also support much of your project. So there are never hard feelings.

Unfortunately, I think we're going to end up disagreeing on this major issue of the suitability of various Dem heavyweights to govern this nation effectively. And I believe that's probably a function of different world views, as well as a more conservative bent on my part. Yes, I am a registered Democrat, and yes, my default position is generally to vote for the Dem, but I'm not one of those who blindly pulls the lever.

As I think you've seen, I'm clearly not spell bound by this generation of Dem leaders. Frankly, I think the problem of the Dems in the post-Carter era is that they've been overly influenced by far-left players and have accordingly become less attractive to voters more in the middle. In this, I am not referring to the rednecks, plutocrats and race-baiters so coveted by the Reps, but rather that kind of amorphous mass in the middle.

I don't agree with you about Pelosi and Reid. I agree both are good politicians, but I've seen little evidence that either of them cares very much about the nation as a whole; I think they focus on various interest groups, and in this, I think they're pretty much like the opposition. And, as I've noted before, they might not even be good politicians, as evidenced by the disdain the American people have for the Congress they lead. Personally, I believe the pro-Bush war votes have and will continue to haunt the Dems; I also think the caving in on FISA issues hurts. That, and the failure to make a serious run at the man who positively defines the words misfeasance, malfeasance and non feasance has hurt them in my eyes.

One thing we can agree on, Charly. John McCain is clearly unfit for the presidency. And his running mate? Hoo-boy. But I'll tell you, if Obama doesn't get his shit together (he's looking weaker all of the time and, given his slim resume, he can't afford that), the McCain show will win. I personally don't feel very confident. I think we're looking at another Gore/Kerry campaign, with the current candidate realistically having less to offer than either of them. I think Obama and Biden will be savaged by the opposition and I don't think they have the weapons to fight back. This Democratic Party is a far cry from Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn.

Charles Gittings said...

Well Publius, all I know is that we have to do the best we can with what we've got no matter what. The biggest problem I see in all of this is simply the ignorance of the public generally, and the malicious stupidity and corruption of the Republicans in particular. I imagine there must have been times during your career when you had something less than full confidence in your superiors, and based what I know of you, I doubt there was ever a time when you weren't worrying at least a bit about the readiness of your subordinates, but I imagine you always tried to do the best you could under the circumstances.

There's one more thing I can say, but I don't want to say it in public (entirely for reasons of my own), so if you want to hear that, send me a private email at cbgittings@yahoo.com

almost drafted said...

From Charles:

"...it takes sixty votes in the Senate to get to a vote on a bill, and sixty-seven to override a veto. The real culprits are the Constitution,the Bush administration, and the Republicans, not the Democratic Party."

True but irrelevant in terms of the Constitution being a "culprit" and what the Dem congress could have done to stop the madness. The constitution says:

"Section. 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the
House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with
Amendments as on other Bills."

The House could have cut off funding. There just weren't enough Dems who were willing to commit political suicide.

Cheers,

JP

seydlitz89 said...

Charles-

Well, no I don't agree. You never really countered Weber's definition of power, just reclassified my examples in terms of your own legal notions, which you then made into an exception in Obama's case (the distinction being that the little guys follow the law, the big shots do what they want). But you also seemingly agree that law by itself isn't worth much without the political will and power to implement it (my original argument as to the labels of "criminal" that you are so fond of). But then implementation also rests on political calculation, or so you state, which comes down in other words to the end justifying the means . . . I would watch that particular slippery slope since before you know it you may find yourself in some rather loathsome company.

Which is why for me Reid is not one of "us", but rather one of "them".

Charles Gittings said...

JP,

That's BS. Cut off funding for what exactly?

And what makes you think that a majority of the Democratic caucus -- or their constituents -- would agree with you?

What that approach would do is fracture the the Democratic Party, and if you think that would be an improvement, you're nuts. What we need is a Democratic President, and even then we're looking at an uphill step-by-step effort that will take years. The basic problems here are the profound ignorance and delusions of the people.

I'm so tired of this nonsense. All we can do is keep opposing them and and every time we suffer a set back, dust ourselves off and keep moving forward.

Charles Gittings said...

Seydlitz,

This isn't a matter of law, but of linguistics and logic. All this latest post of yours shows is that you're confused: I stated exactly what my definition of power is, and explained exactly why yours is mistaken.

As for the rest, you're putting words in my mouth now, I can speak for myself. If you have a question about something, just ask.

almost drafted said...

Charles,

"That's BS. Cut off funding for what exactly?"

Cutting off funding for operations in Iraq, of course. Or if necessary, cutting off funding for the entire military appropriations bill.

"And what makes you think that a majority of the Democratic caucus -- or their constituents -- would agree with you?"

Of course that was my point. Because the majority these people would not have agreed with this ploy, it would have been political suicide for most of the Dem majority to have done it. But it would have either stopped the war or -- if the administration tried to re-purpose other funding -- made the need to impeach Bush inescapably obvious.

"What that approach would do is fracture the the Democratic Party, and if you think that would be an improvement, you're nuts."

Maybe so, but that wasn't the question to which I responded. Seydlitz asked, 'Did "the people" actually have this power to implement or stop reform, or did someone else?'

Your answer was about a Republican majority in the Senate being able to stop legislation.

I simply pointed out that this was irrelevant according to Section 7 of the Constitution. The Senate can't block legislation that was never submitted, and all appropriations bills must originate in the House.

So your argument is with the Founders, not with me. And while I may be crazy, I'm not crazy enough to put the welfare of any political party above the welfare of the country.

Cheers,

JP

Charles Gittings said...

But that's just the thing JP: it's trivial that they could do that, but the fact is that they don't want to do it, and it's clear their constituents wouldn't support doing it.

Hells bells, I've been adamantly opposed to the RAPE of Iraq from day one. I've even stated flat-out that we would be better off today if we had simply disbanded the Army in 2001 -- not because I think that was necessary or prudent, but merely because it's an objective fact that NOTHING the Bush administration has done in Iraq or Afghanistan was worth the cost of doing it.

Get real already -- do you really want to cut off funds to the Army in Iraq entirely??

I'm not enough of a budget wonk to be able to say for certain that it's even possible as a pragmatic matter, given that the Bush administration has funded a lot of it without direct appropriations. But let's suppose you could just shut off the money entirely by NOT appropriating it in the first place. So we now have 150,000 troops stranded in Iraq with the supplies on hand and no money to even pull them out -- because you aren't enacting mandates or limits on spending, you're simply cutting off all spending by inaction.

Is that really what you want, anabasis 2008 and they all flee to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey as refugess??

Or maybe they could all hire on as mercs for the "Iraqi government", since that's pretty all they are right now anyway??

It's just a nonsensical Republican talking point that you've bought hook, line, and sinker. And oh by the way, the Republicans under Gingrich actually did something that irresponsible as I recall -- in peace-time. All this really tells me is that you think just like they do, which is exactly what got us into this god-awful mess in the first place.

I have no illusions about any of this stuff, but there simply is no substitute for understanding what the real problems are and acting in a rational orderly manner to deal with them. This isn't about magic or trickery, it's about doing what is right for the right reasons.

And it starts with the people: it's only their ignorance and folly that got us where we are today.

almost drafted said...

Yeah, Gingrich and company declined to pass an entire budget bill in 1995. But the result was regarded as a political victory for Clinton.

This would not be a case of shutting down the government but rather explicitly limiting the Iraq-related monies to fund a withdrawal. Surely you don't think that the military budget is given as a lump sum to the Pentagon, to spend as they see fit.

As for this being a Repub talking point, I'm not talking about witholding funds as a political strategem. It's about saving the country from the ravages of the last eight years.

Cheers,

JP

Charles Gittings said...

Well that puts us right back where we started: if you want something explicit, you have to pass a bill. They do not have the votes in the Senate to do it, nor enough votes in either house to override a veto.

almost drafted said...

Charles,

First, thank you for engaging in civil discussion.

Second, I am not a constitutional or congressional scholar, nor do I play one in blogs.

I think you would be right, had war funding been part of a general appropriations bill. (See Senate Rule XVI).

But the 2007 war funding came in in the form of a $124B supplemental appropriation. Had the Dem-controlled House refused to pass this, there would be no Iraq funding bill for the Senate to block.

And if the House had then passed a bill funding only the withdrawal and safety of the troops, and the Senate Republicans blocked that bill, they would also be committing political suicide.

Gee, that's a pleasant fantasy -- Democrats and Republicans in an inadvertent suicide pact.


Cheers,

JP

Charles Gittings said...

Well you're welcome JP.

About the only thing I'd add is that if I were Pelosi and wanted to try something like that, my first inclination would be to cut off funding for the White House, OVP, and the DOJ OLC.

Well see what happens in the elections.

Publius said...

I think you guys are getting a little circular now. You all agree on the major issues, so why are you fighting?

Charly, check your email.

almost drafted said...

Hi Publius,

Charles and I have always agreed on the major points, which include troop withdrawal and prosecution for war crimes.

But this discussion was triggered by Seydlitz's question about who had the power to stop the war. This may be an academic point after two years, but it is not an unimportant one.

The House essentially abdicated its powers and responsibilities in affecting the course of this war. Congress's ability to use "the power of the purse" never even came up in mainstream discussions.

Note that I have disagreed with JD over the effectiveness of an impeachment -- not because this crew doesn't deserve it, but because it was sure to fail in the Senate.

In contrast, Congress asserting itself by way of de-funding the war might have actually worked, as I have outlined above.

But I agree it's time for me to shut up, not least because the readership's eyes must've glazed over long ago.

Cheers,

JP

Publius said...

JP, far be it from me to ever suggest that you "shut up." First, it's not my place to do so. Further, inasmuch as I'm an inveterate flannelmouth myself, one who rarely shuts up himself, it would be hypocritical for me to do so. Finally, and most importantly, you provide good stuff.

In fact, you've set me to pondering "what ifs." Sometime after the '06 elections and the changing of the guard in the Congress, JD made several very forceful posts suggesting that the House should initiate impeachment proceedings. You disagree from utilitarian concerns; so does Charly. At the time, I agreed with you guys, also on utilitarian grounds. But earlier this year, I began changing my mind, specifically because the abuses became even more egregious.

It's no secret that I'm upset with the Democratic Party's legislators, most particularly Pelosi and people such as Hoyer. It's my sense that, upon assuming control of the House, they decided to let Bush hang himself and thus keep their hands clean. Well, to me, they've been too clever by half. Their strategy has led to them becoming fellow travelers of Bush, as exemplified by several key votes, as well as the refusal to consider impeachment. The same holds true with Reid and the Senate Democrats, even including Mr. Superstar Obama.

Am I wrong? Check the approval ratings. Congress is held in lower esteem than is Bush. And I think it's because the Democrats have kept playing the game the way it was played in prior years. Why are the Dems doing this? Well, I think it's because many of them are as dirty as the Republicans.

Why is this important? Well, ISTM that if the Democrats in Congress were really models of probity, they might just have gone after Bush. And I'll tell you, if they'd done so, they would have tied the Republican Party in knots defending their lame duck. Maybe to the point where Mr. McCain wouldn't feel free to absent himself from the Senate and run around the country peddling lies. Maybe to the point where he wouldn't have been comfortable in making his bizarre/brilliant choice of a totally unqualified person to run as the VP candidate.

McCain's choice of Palin has put the Democrats on their heels. It's sad to see the "majority" party always on the defensive. The Republicans are always on the attack. The Democrats are always fumbling around, apologizing. Now they're afraid to say anything about Palin, for fear that someone will be offended.

In like circumstances, a Republican-controlled House would have impeached in a heartbeat. In fact, they did so, not too long ago, for "offenses" that paled in comparison to Bush's.

The Dems are starting to have that distinctive aroma of "loser." A steadfast statement of principle and intolerance of Constitutional abuse in the form of impeachment might have done wonders for the party's image and backbone.

basilbeast said...

McCain's choice of Palin has put the Democrats on their heels.

I don't think so. Her mystique is quickly unraveling.
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almost drafted said...

Hey Publius, no sweat. Although I addressed that post to you, I tried to make clear that I was simply sparing the readership more blather after I'd made my points.

(Though if you did happen to tell me to shut up, I would take that advice very seriously, as I do all your posts.)

I hope other people do some pondering about this discussion, too. It's pretty clear that most of the contributors to this group have been exposed to a Civics class.

Sadly, that apparently cannot be said of most people in this country.

Cheers,

JP