Monthly Archives: April 2009

The rock garden is yelling at me

and my spine is yelling back



Sen. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken:  “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they franklyown the place.”  The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis “own” the U.S. Congress — according to one of that institution’s most powerful members — demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.

read Glenn Greenwald here

Karl Rove’s reading material

Ron Suskind famously quoted an unnamed Bush official who said in 2004:

The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

It has been speculated that this aide was Karl Rove but neither Suskind nor Rove have verified this.  However, a column by Rove today in the WSJ gives further weight to him as the speaker.

While officials in the Obama White House dismissed yesterday’s “100 Days” anniversary as a “Hallmark Holiday,” they understood it was what sociologist Daniel J. Boorstin called a “pseudo-event.” By that, Boorstin meant an occasion that is not spontaneous but planned for the purpose of being reported — an event that is important because someone says so, not because it is.

So, who is Boorstin and what did he say and why was Rove studying him?

Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin’s 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America is an early, description of aspects of American life that were later termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture — mainly due to advertising — where the reproduction or simulation of an event becomes more important or “real” than the event itself. He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event which describes events or activities that serve little to no purpose other than to be reproduced through advertisements or other forms of publicity. The idea of pseudo-events closely mirrors work later done by Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work is still often used as a text in American sociology courses.

Rock gardens

are bloody hard work and I’m going to bed.

Reihan Salam

I’m going to paste in this very bright piece by Salam from a collection of commentaries on Obama’s first 100 days to be found in Daily Beast. I also recommend Matt Yglesias’ contribution and h/t to him for steering me to Salam.

100 Days of Paranoia

It seems that no matter what Obama does  as president, wild-eyed conspiracy theorists will generate their own reality.

Americans love conspiracy theories. One of America’s favorites at the moment maintains that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim. I don’t believe it, of course. But there’s something so forehead-slappingly strange about the notion that you can’t help but wonder how, even after 100 days in office, Obama retains this air of mystery. In October, before the election, the Pew Research Center found that only 51 percent of Americans believed that Obama was a Christian, while 12 percent were convinced that he was a Muslim. The good people at Pew asked the question again in March, and they found that the numbers had barely changed: 48 percent think Obama is a Christian and 11 percent think he’s a Muslim. The rest are unsure.

It gets better. One of my favorite numbers from that Pew poll is that of voters who approve of Obama’s job performance, 7 percent believe that he’s a Muslim. They seem to be saying, “Hey man, as long as I get my stimulus, you can worship Allah all day,” which is pretty admirable. But does the persistence of the Muslim Obama theory have a more dangerous edge to it? It just might.

After 9/11, a small cottage industry sprung up around the celebration of George W. Bush’s greatness, complete with bronze busts and package tours of Crawford, Texas. At the same time, 9/11 Truthers claimed that a secret Zionist cabal was behind the 2001 terror attacks. If anything, Barack Obama has proved an even more electrifying—and even more polarizing—figure than President Bush, despite the fact that he mostly comes across as a sober, professorial executive. We can’t even decide if he’s telling the truth about his religion, let alone the NAFTA superhighway or a secret plan for one world government.

When the Department of Homeland Security issued its clumsy report on right-wing domestic extremists, conservatives were furious. Some even argued that dissent was being criminalized. But the truth is that extremists of the right and left really have gone bananas in our history. I worry that we’ve entered a dark and paranoid moment in our history, and that these first 100 days—for all the craziness and tumult of the economic apocalypse—will be remembered as pleasingly calm.

Reihan Salam is a fellow at the New America Foundation and the co-author of Grand New Party.

And let me take this opportunity to once again point interested readers to the seminal essay on this tendency in American history/culture… Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics

Today’s quality snark – “Someone help Halperin!” category


Mark Halperin’s 100 Days grade for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: B-

Mark Halperin’s grade for thinking Pelosi’s job title is “House Majority Leader”: any ideas?

The ever-dependable Josh Marshall

Future of Israel

A very good piece from Foreign Policy on the future choices before Israel by Stephen Walt