Daily Archives: Monday, March 30, 2009

Evan Thomas, the media as an establishment entity

Many are noting a particular passage from Evan Thomas’ article on Krugman in Newsweek after it was excerpted and underlined by Dougj at  Balloon Juice

I’m tired of arguing about Krugman with everyone, but I’d like to point out a in Evan Thomas’s piece about Krugman in Newsweek:

If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he’s wrong, and you sense he’s being a little harsh (especially about Geithner), but you have a creeping feeling that he knows something that others cannot, or will not, see. By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring. But sometimes, beneath the pleasant murmur and tinkle of cocktails, the old guard cannot hear the sound of ice cracking. The in crowd of any age can be deceived by self-confidence…

I agree with John that the piece was content-free in general. But I credit Thomas for admitting what role establishment media plays.

As dday at  Washington Monthly says:

That’s a good thing to know about the establishment media. It should be in every single one of their stories as a boilerplate at the top.

Indeed.  I’m a bit too tired to draw this out right now but one ought to note that the admission from Thomas and these responses to it bear a striking similarity to the case against the media long made by Noam Chomsky.



A conversation over at Greg Sargent’s  The Plum Line reminded me of this Brittney Spears/Bob Dole ad for Pepsi.  At the time, he was also doing ads for Viagra.  It is probably the most perverse ad I’ve ever seen.

Just tell me that dog on girl isn’t an element here.

Minnesota and Republicans devoid of ethics or civic responsibility

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts.

Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “years” to resolve. But he’s adamant that Coleman deserves that chance — even if it means Minnesota is short a senator for the duration.

Story here

Yes, they want Obama to fail.  No, they don’t care about anything much besides power.  Yes, these people are functioning as parasites.

Today’s quote

John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations, has been described as dogmatic, abusive to his subordinates and a bully. Yet Mr. Bush has said that John Bolton is the right man at the right time. Can these seemingly contradictory statements both be accurate? Yes. The reality is that sometimes the characteristics that make someone successful in business or government can render them unpleasant personally. What’s more astonishing is that those characteristics when exaggerated are the same ones often found in criminals.

This is from a 2005 NYT Op Ed column by Brit psychologist Belinda Board, noted by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left.  His comment follows:

What’s more astonishing to me is how directly Board approaches the point of identifying Bolton–as well as large numbers of “high-ranking business executives” -as marked by personality disorders common among criminals, and then normalizes this rather shocking and appalling state of affairs.  Board’s attitude seems remarkable consonant with Obama’s casual dismissal of massive and open war crimes as no big deal.  It represents a desire for the complete normalization of the abnormal, the abusive, the bizarre, and the criminal, just so long as it “works.”

Continue reading here

Cheney’s motives

Why has Cheney, on two occasions following the election, publicly derogated Obama and his administration’s policies?  It is, so far as I can discover, an unprecedented violation of protocol for him to have done so immediately upon leaving office as VP.

Andrew Sullivan has a good piece on this here. He correctly observes that Cheney is trying to counter the emerging narrative (which has been emerging for several years…no WMD found, photos from Abu Ghraib, snippets from the torture memos, revelations from Britain).  But as Andrew points out, the internal information held so closely by the Bush/Cheney administration, and which looks likely to be seriously damaging to Cheney’s (and others’) reputations but which also may quite possibly result in criminal proceedings against them, are now slowly emerging into the light with a real possibility that subsequent information will be utterly damaging.

God only knows what Cheney et al are doing out of sight (likely their greatest area of expertise) but Cheney is clearly, as Andrew suggests, also trying to wage preventive propaganda right now.  But why?  Who does he expect to influence?  Is he counting on the conservative movement base to cause such a loud ruckus that Obama, with all on his plate, might go easy on Cheney and crowd?  It seems unlikely he’s worried about his his legacy (less so about Bush’s legacy) but perhaps it’s a consideration.  He’s been deeply committed for some years now (since Nixon) to an ideology which seeks expanded powers for the Presidency and may fear that, just as post-Watergate, this ideology is in serious jeopardy of being again discredited.

It’s a bit of a puzzle.  But motivations are often difficult to comprehend or ascertain and certainty most particularly so when the person who’s motives are subject to the inquiry borders on the pathological, which I believe Cheney does.

Update: An entirely relevant matter…the ongoing legal proceedings in Spain

Spanish human rights attorney: ‘I would recommend that Mr. Feith…get a very good lawyer.’

Last week, a Spanish court agreed to consider “opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials…over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay.” Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith said the charges “make no sense,” adding, “they criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated.” Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers filing the complaint, responded to Feith, saying, “If they [Bush officials] are innocent,they shouldn’t be afraid” to come to court:

“I would recommend that Mr. Feith first of all read the complaint, and secondly that he get a very good lawyer,” Boye said. “If he is so sure of what he is saying — then the address of the national court is #22 Genova Street, second floor.”

Feith often expresses amnesia about his central role in approving torture. “I strongly championed a policy of respect” for the Geneva Conventions, he told Congress last year. In reality, British international lawyer Philippe Sands reported that Feith “took the steps to ensure thatnone of these detainees could rely on Geneva.”

From Think Progress


A visiting friend and I sat down last night to watch Woody Allen’s old film Bananas, curious to see if it would stand up.  It doesn’t though I don’t indict Woody for that.  “I Want To Hold Your Hand” doesn’t either.

But, of course, there are gags that continue to work.  My favorite had Woody failing in love and at a magazine store covertly trying to peek at porn mags.  The camera surveys a long sequence of about a dozen different covers (“Gigantic Asses”, “Orgasm”, “Triple Ds”…that sort of thing) and included in this sequence is “The National Review”.

That gag stands up.

And now, the problem of Wall Street socialists

Let us sympathize.

The right has an interesting set of propaganda problems with Obama.  The ‘family values’ cliches can’t be rolled out in any convincing manner because of the nature of Obama’s family and life.  Being tall, handsome, confident in bearing and african american whose favorite athletic pastime is basketball, he can’t be painted as an effete European sort of man (eg Kerry on windsurfer, skiing at Gdansk).  As a compelling and engaging and confident speaker, he’s difficult to portray as stodgy, cold, awkward and rehearsed (eg Gore).  Coming from Chicago and with the particularly unique circumstances of his upbringing, he doesn’t fit the mold of Washington insider (think how hard they had to work to try and paint Bush as something other than what he was…buy a ranch, lots of workshirts with sleeves pre-rolled up, etc).  And he has no real history of saying outlandish things that might embarrass him now.  One reason the right’s propaganda dealt so much with Ayers and Wright was that was about all they had to work with and most folks (as the election demonstrated) understood those matters and/or Obama’s relationship to them, peripheral and irrelevant.

And now, they’ve got this new propaganda problem.  It’s a tough row to hoe for the poor fellows and fellowesses.

On the one hand, they’re trying to forward the idea that the Obama administration represents radical socialism.  But on the other hand, they are also trying to forward the contradictory notion that the administration is too closely tied to the Wall Street financial elites.  Not much of a surprise that neither notion is getting any traction outside of that “contradictions don’t bother us” base.

Another aspect to each of those propaganda strategies above – by trying to convince people that such unconvincing ideas are true, the propagandists themselves get discredited for their rather blatant and serial dishonesty (an impression not diminished by the last eight years, of course).

As things sit, there’s not much imaginable that they are going to get any traction with.  They’ll keep trying, of course (as with the present attempts to paint Obama’s governance as slipshod, disorganized, confused and overwhelmed) but because it isn’t and that’s obvious any time Obama talks.  He’s popular and he’s trusted by sizable majorities whereas the propagandists on the other side are distrusted and unpopular to sizeable majorities.

No easy problem for the lying bastards.