Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The ratchet of power

I voted twice for Obama, and always despised Bush-Cheney. But I can't disagree with Cheney's remarks below.
New Yorker: After Barack Obama was elected to his first term as President but before he took the oath of office, Vice-President Dick Cheney gave an exit interview to Rush Limbaugh. Under George W. Bush, Cheney was the architect, along with his legal counsel, David Addington, of a dramatic expansion of executive authority—a power grab that Obama criticized, fiercely, on the campaign trail, and promised to “reverse.” But when Limbaugh inquired about this criticism Cheney swatted it aside, saying, “My guess is that, once they get here and they’re faced with the same problems we deal with every day, they will appreciate some of the things we’ve put in place.”
See also Making Alberto Gonzales Look Good.

23 comments:

gide07 said...

Gore Vidal said that since Lincoln the US has been, "a highly centralized military dictatorship".

Chris Adami said...

There is a difference, in my opinion, between unwarranted wire taps (circumventing FISA courts) as advocated by Bush-Cheney, and the wholesale collection of metadata, as is allegedly taking place now. The latter does not violate the 4th amendment, and the former does. I myself have written proposals (unfunded) to the DoD how to use the theory of how networks change to zero in on the stuff that matters. We cannot, and should not, read every email, listen to every phone call. We need to figure out how to zero in on the stuff that matters, and then get approval from a court to listen in on those. This is how you balance privacy with safety. It is done with science, and my personal (biased) opinion is that this is exactly what the administration is doing. But, I do not expect the talking heads to appreciate that. Because they don't speak that language.

gcochran said...

When you think of all the concentration camps and goose-stepping under Chester A Arthur, getting up in the morning hardly seems worthwhile.

gide07 said...

Americans are the most deluded people ever.

David Coughlin said...

I am ambivalent about ... The latter does not violate the 4th amendment, and the former does...

I have no vested in this scenario as my job precludes it. If in the course of an investigation on FISA approved grounds, the Feds discover a big pot grow in Oregon, then to me that information was gotten unreasonably.

tractal said...

I agree that there's a difference, but it's also not clear that metadata trawling is constitutional. Collecting everyone's data but just not actually looking at it too carefully is a very dangerous grey area, not least because "too carefully" is not defined. Surely, for instance, you could get a good sense of a person's vices and vulnerabilities through meta-data. So maybe you only use the software to track terror, but if its legal there why wouldn't it be legal for other crimes? It would be nice to have a decision that outlines the distinction and puts appropriate firewalls in place.

Cornelius said...

"I voted twice for Obama..."


Even very smart people do very stupid things.


I can state proudly that I have never voted for a Democrat or a Republican for national office. On the issues that really matter, issues such as internet freedom and privacy, there is only one major party, the party of the government against the people.

StevenS123 said...

You're absolutely delusional.

SethTS said...

Citing a translator of Heidegger is drifting even closer to Godwin-zone :)

Mr. Vidal was a hoot -- never could resist hyperbole. Our MIC has no unitary "strong man" leader, has no particular interest in running our lives. It is just largely unaccountable to the constitutional government. Mr. Obama -- the latest winner of the "So You Wanna Be President?" reality show -- dutifully pretends to be giving the orders, 'cause that's in the script. But apart from a few very specific decision points ("let's get Osama", "oh, ok we'll do a 'surge' for Afghanistan TOO"), he just shovels money at the MIC and they get on with their careers and rent-extraction activities. It goes on forever precisely because there is no dictator figure to focus and intensify public expectations ("let's solve our problems by conquering someone!") or disappointment ("why is everyone so mad at us?!"). It's not The Banality of Evil -- it's the Banality of Bureaucracy.

gide07 said...

But military dictatorships have never had a strong man of the sort you describe. Latin America's rich were behind all its juntas.

SethTS said...

Sure, there are a variety of models. But who are you nominating as our "dictator"? Surely not Barry?

Pincher Martin said...

Why would anyone other than an impressionable schoolboy take Gore Vidal's political and historical views seriously? He was a talented writer and a nut. He thought the golden age of America was in the late forties - right in the middle of that so-called "highly centralized military dictatorship".

gide07 said...

Well, the US president does play a political and media role different from any other developed world "head of government".

I don't "agree" with Vidal, bit Vidal didn't agree with Vidal. I think his BIG point was that due to history (including the Civil War) or a flaw in the American character or Constitution the presidency is too powerful an office.

SethTS said...

Yes Presidents are quite captive to the donor class. And Congress has surrendered the war making power to the executive. But I recommend Woodrow Wilson's "Congressional Government" or Walter Bagehot's "The English Constitution" for cogent arguments that the US Constitution (and Congress' own rules and customs) creates too many opportunities for Congress to defeat accountability to the public and frustrate presidential initiative. Watching our 44th president's Kafkaesque arguments with Congress can make Wilson and Bagehot sound very contemporary.

So I see a media-friendly figurehead nominally supervising a bunch of semi-autonomous executive agencies who is actually stuck play-acting at being in charge while the inner workings of Congress translate the will of various rent-extracting industries into laws written to order by K Street. Definitely not much democracy, but no dictatorship either. But perhaps my definition of dictatorship is more akin to "absolute monarchy" while yours is more impersonal -- as in the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariate". If dictatorship means arbitrary, unaccountable power over the masses whether exercised by the will of one man or by a small minority, then perhaps we live in a "dictatorship of the creditariate"?

gide07 said...

No disagreement from me, except that, in general what have been called "dictatorships" are more like the US than those who use such terms to disparage think. Or, the power one man can exercise is limited simply by his being only one man. The US president as an independent actor is in a straitjacket.

Anyway, US politics and political philosophy is boring. The US is OVER.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/us/census-benchmark-for-white-americans-more-deaths-than-births.html?_r=0

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gide07 said...

He's not the only one who thought/thinks so. In Lapham's The American Ruling Class an old Manhattan WASP says that since the Marshall plan it's been down hill. Vidal was a WASP. Buckley wasn't. I myself am a direct descendant of William Bradford, but who isn't?

The US was destined for ruin when it repudiated its British identity. The US will become just another New World shit hole like Mexico and Brazil.

Pincher Martin said...

Lewis Lapham is another nut - a drunk nut famous for his dyspeptic views printed in the front pages of Harper's only because he was the editor of that rag. A more sober editor would have made Lapham go somewhere else with his predictable, pie-eyed posh.

You didn't answer my question. "Why would anyone other than an impressionable schoolboy take Gore Vidal's [or Lewis Lapham's] political and historical views seriously?" Even a poser like Chris Hitchens came to realize Vidal was a nutter.

What are you, seventeen years old? Have you actually read Vidal? Find some serious and sober sources for your politics.

gide07 said...

I'm sorry to see an apparent Brit has been Americanized. Chee-burgah, chee-burgah, chee-burgah! As any intelligent person knows the US and UK are the two shittiest countries in the developed world.

And you meant predictable pie-eyed "bosh" not "posh".

Hitchens came to realize nothing except that he could make more money as a defender of the crusades. The same goes for his mentally defective best friend Martin Amis.

Pincher Martin said...

I'm not British, and I live in California, where the cuisine is, if not first rate, then at least edible, with some variations of it widely copied around the world.

"As any intelligent person knows the US and UK are the two shittiest countries in the developed world."

Sounds like a certain British school boy needs to get out of his house more often. Perhaps if he stops pretending to be a sophisticate by cribbing the political opinions of Gore Vidal, he might have more time to see the world he obviously knows so little about if he thinks the United States and the United Kingdom are the two shittiest developed countries in it.

"And you meant predictable pie-eyed "bosh" not "posh". But I'm not up on the latest English gibberish."

No, the proper word is "posh", as in upper class or aristocratic - an affected style that Lapham and Vidal both adopted in the hope there were enough impressionable school lads gullible enough to believe the two writers were well-connected if dissatisfied insiders who knew how the political game truly operated.

Vidal did this by constantly referencing his tenuous connections to power - a blind grandfather who had once been senator of some Godforsaken state, his occasional brief social meetings with JFK, his father's small role in the FDR administration, etc. Vidal played these connections for all they were worth, even though they gave him no more insight into power than someone like Frank Sinatra or Barbara Walters might have.

Lapham's connections to power were even more tenuous than Vidal's, and so he mentioned them less frequently. His grandpappy had once been mayor of San Francisco for four years, and his family had been solidly upper crust. So Lapham assumed the mantle of the insider who knows the score and is just letting his less well-connected readers into the secrets of power. He wrote little books like "Lapham's Rules of Influence: A Careerist's Guide to Success, Status, and Self-Congratulation", with lines like this: "Seek out the acquaintance of people richer and more important than yourself, and never take an interest in people who cannot do you any favors."


Wow, what an insight into power. I can see why you're so impressed with him.

gide07 said...

Thanks teach...(he snickered contemptuously).

Pincher Martin said...

No need for a Fanta. I think we've already worked it out. Any schoolboy who relies on Gore Vidal and Lewis Lapham for his political views requires a stern pedagogue, preferably one who still believes in the liberal application of the rattan cane. So I'm glad to have been of some service in your ongoing education.

gide07 said...

Huh?

I'm now sufficiently sussed to read your spuming sermon, and...nothing.

I have no regard high or low for Vidal or Lapham. For the Chomsk, though, heeeeeeeeeeee's great.

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