Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Political update for June, 2012

Last week, on C-Span, my fountain of knowledge, I watched a journalist, Michael J. Gross, speak about an article he had written for Vanity Fair magazine called World War 3.0. He was discussing the effort to control the internet, which, like everything else people are trying to control, is inevitable. The internet became, in lightning fast time, the greatest source of information in the world for virtually anyone who might want to have anything to say in this world beyond the sound of their own voice. In a fraction of my lifetime – actually, even a fraction of my adult life, it has become almost everything, driving other information sources or tools out of business, like print newspapers and the post office. Imagine being able to control it. Controlling it means being able to shape the way people think for the foreseeable future.
Essentially, Gross explains, there are three groups of people – or forces – each of which has a different perspective on the internet. There are those he calls the “forces of order people,” who are trying to latch their pre-Internet ideas of order onto the internet. Then there are the internet hacker activists who he calls the “forces of disorder” who just want to let it all “burn down to the ground,” if that is what is going to happen. Think anarchists.  And, there are those in the middle, which he refers to as the forces of “organized chaos,” a sexy, but I think bad title for those who want to preserve a general order in the internet “without strangling it.”  

Three paragraphs from his article on an international conference in Dubai:

“Diplomats from 193 countries will converge there to renegotiate a United Nations treaty called the International Telecommunications Regulations. The sprawling document, which governs telephone, television, and radio networks, may be extended to cover the Internet, raising questions about who should control it, and how. Arrayed on one side will be representatives from the United States and other major Western powers, advocating what many call ‘Internet freedom,’ a plastic concept that has been defined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the right to use the Internet to ‘express one’s views,’ to ‘peacefully assemble,’ and to ‘seek or share’ information. The U.S. and most of its allies basically want to keep Internet governance the way it is: run by a small group of technical nonprofit and volunteer organizations, most of them based in the United States.

On the other side will be representatives from countries where governments want to place restrictions on how people use the Internet. These include Russia, China, Brazil, India, Iran, and a host of others. All of them have implemented or experimented with more intrusive monitoring of online activities than the U.S. is publicly known to practice. A number of countries have openly called for the creation of a ‘new global body’ to oversee online policy. At the very least, they’d like to give the United Nations a great deal more control over the Internet.

The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation. The war grows out of tensions that came to a head as the Internet grew to serve populations far beyond those for which it was designed. Originally built to supplement the analog interactions among American soldiers and scientists who knew one another off­-line, the Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded. The system is now approaching a state of crisis on four main fronts.”

What does this tell me? It reinforces that people almost always gravitate to one of three three sides to political, social, even scientific and philosophic arguments – the tyrannical, the anarchical and the moderates, and that for me, the middle ground so often holds the best philosophy. I frequently quote Justice Robert Jackson  on this topic – “The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either.” 

As with anything like this, the devil is in the details. For example, Justice Jackson’s own opinion in the case that quote comes from- his dissent in Terminiello v. Chicago, would be deemed grossly repressive nowadays. Moderation is also a relative thing. I would not normally call Hillary Clinton a moderate although it is difficult to say how her experiences as Secretary of State have changed her thinking over the past four years. But, with adversaries like Russia and Iran on one side and computer hackers on the other, she appears a veritable statue of Justice with blindfold and a well balanced scale – a moderate.

Like our economy, the internet needs conventions so that voices can be heard without interference or censorship, but otherwise let free to grow with civilization that includes all three groups. That’s what I think. I’m pretty sure that’s what most Americans think. Now we have to convince everyone else. We will too.


I also recently watched a hearing about government control of banks. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is not an office that rings in your ears.  Someone said at the hearing that it is the OCC’s job to prevent banks from putting taxpayers at risks. Well, that sounds sort of good I guess. Who would want to invest in a bank if there was risk. But, if you think about it, there’s some other stuff in there that’s not so easy to swallow.

For example, what do taxpayers have to do with banks? Probably they shouldn’t have anything to do with them, but we know what that means. It means that the government, in order to save certain banks they think are important, have given them our money and they want it back. The idea doesn’t bother a lot of people. They like the idea of the government giving the banks money and getting it back.

Of course, by banks, they don’t really mean what most of us mean when we think about banks. They mean what we used to call investment houses.

Of course, why should certain Americans – the taxpayers, have to fund banks for everyone?

Of course, why should only certain banks get this largesse?

Of course, if you have your money in another bank (an investor) that isn’t getting money, how is this possibly fair to you?

Of course, if the government can do this to prop up banks, and has given literally trillions to Wall Street or banks, why do we think we need them so much.

Of course, this only proves that there was a real moral hazard about guaranteeing banks against failure.

Of course, it also presumes that if certain banks failed, the sky would fall in, instead of other banks or groups of investors charging in and dismembering them the way it is supposed to happen when you aren’t careful about your business or you just have bad luck. Sen. Richard Shelby had it right - the lesson of TARP is that creditors of a failed bank must suffer the losses.

There are so many things wrong with this, that it could be an entire post here (but I spare you). And it doesn’t matter. Because the powerful pols decided they would lose their phony bologna jobs if everything failed, at least temporarily. It is no different under Obama than it was under Bush.

That may be so. But it’s because our system encourages the two parties/ideologies to savage each other and never encourages any patience at all. I often go back to one of my favorite John Adams’ quotes:

“As soon as one Man hints at an Improvement his rival opposes it. No sooner has one Party discovered or invented an Amerlioration of the Condition of Man or the order of Society, than the opposite Party, belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it . . . .”

I wonder if I will have nothing else to say about the problems of partisanship in America or if I will continue to be a broken record. If a broken record drones endlessly and there is no one listens, isn’t every time the first time?


What is the message of Governor Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin? One opponent of his in Wisconsin who had worked to have Walker recalled was literally crying to a v reporter because this was the day that democracy ended. Oh, boy.

Walker was victorious, not because Wisconsin was suddenly filled with conservatives - it is a Democratic state – but for two reasons. First, polls showed that most voters just didn’t like the whole idea of recalling a governor except for a really good reason. But, the second reason is more subtle. It’s because the question was not complex like it will be for the presidential election where you have all sorts of domestic and foreign policy issues. It was about the question of whether the state would be better off with weaker government unions. I think most people there agreed that it should be. They get the very basic premise that unlike a private union, there is no management on the other side saying, not so fast, that’s too much money. Instead, they are saying, if you guys vote for me I’ll give you a deal you’ll really like. I’m sure you won’t be greedy, because you are good people.

With all the hoopla over Wisconsin, you’d think that it is the only state that has taken action like this. But, not even close. It’s just that Wisconsin’s history of collective bargaining and strong Democratic Party made it quarrelsome about the issue.


Is it too late for conservatives to criticize Bush?  I hear so many of them criticizing him these days. Suddenly, he mishandled the wars. Suddenly, he usurped too much power for the presidency. Suddenly, he mishandled the economy after the crash.

Sorry, cons, but you have to put up a fuss about it while he’s in office to qualify with me as a legitimate complainer. So, you can gripe about his immigration bill, which you opposed, but which didn’t pass – so not too much, and you can gripe about TARP and other pre-Obama survival programs, because Bush did that with Democrats for the most part against your wishes. But, always with exceptions, you backed up torture, you backed up the idea of the unitary executive (which is a truism, but really meant that congress couldn’t have a say in almost anything unless it was controlled by his party), you called anyone who doubted WMD’s in Iraq or not going to war unpatriotic and so on. Of course, the left ridiculously savaged Bush about silly things all the time although now so many of you want out out out out of Afghanistan and Iraq completely, and you hated the filibuster in the senate, which you now love.  I guess you can complain, but you have to admit you went overboard sometimes when your team was in power. And this is what you get. A weaker hand when you are out of power.


If we are going to spend money on foreign affairs, we should spend it on finding ways to give more and more people in tyrannical societies unfettered access to the internet.  What people are not going to want more freedom when they see what we have?  And I don’t mean porn (even though, it continues to dominate the internet, supposedly being 1 out of every 8 sites). I believe the internet (and tv, but more the internet) is largely responsible for the Arab Spring, and though short term consequences of that may be terrible, I am sort of optimistic about long term improvements.


I can’t make up my mind about Attorney General Holder yet. I watched parts of hearings in which he was grilled on Operation Fast & Furious by Republican Senators and Congressmen. Yes, he dances around answers sometimes, but, he also is no where near as bad as Alberto Gonzales was under Bush.  He was a terrible liar and even laughed at inappropriate times. True, even some Democrats are pushing for more information from Holder and he may be held in contempt of the congress in the House. I don’t really have a handle on the facts yet so I’m not sure which way I leave (one of the down sides to being a moderate – you can’t just know).  Though an American agent did die from an American gun which was “walked” across the border as part of this operation, I don’t know at all that he wouldn’t have just had another gun to use and the poor agent would be just as dead. In the Valerie Plame matter it appeared that the first person to reveal information to columnist/reporter Bob Novak was not one of the neocons that liberals so hated, but Richard Armitage, a relatively moderate career diplomat who served under nice guy Secretary of State Colin Powell and who it appears did not act maliciously in revealing her CIA status. But the cover up there, like the cover up here may be far worse than the act complained about. Going after Holder will give Republicans an opportunity to get revenge for Scooter Libby’s prosecution (this is the McCoys and the Hatfields – both sides always think the other side started it), if possible. While I personally think that Plame was a covert operative under the law (and I actually suffered reading the presidential order and related statutes) and recall that Libby was convicted by the testimony of other Republicans, among others, I also believe that it was the war room hyper partisan attitude of VP Richard Cheney that was most responsible for Libby taking a bullet for him. Cheney I believe feels this intensely, and that is the reason he and Bush fell out in the last years of their administration. But, I’ve written at length on this before and, of course, hate to repeat myself endlessly.

Will this be Holder’s undoing? I don’t know, but I witnessed the power of administrations to hold out for years against these efforts, until they are no longer in power and don’t care so much. And, if Romney wins the election, some Republicans will remember that Obama and even the Democratic congress (until ’11) did not pursue anyone on the torture memos and enhanced interrogations, illegal wire tapping or Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and others regarding the Assistant Attorney General firings [another so called scandal where nothing was done wrong other than the almost brilliantly stupid cover up]). If Obama is out of office, in particular, it will end with a whimper, not a bang, because more than anything, that is really what this is about.


Senator Cornyn has already publicly called for Holder to resign. Even if Holder has deliberately lied at one of these hearings, or even to the public, and he knows eventually it will out, Obama would be politically crazy to have him leave. Why? Because there is no way that the president would get anyone through the Senate confirmation process. Although Democrats have the majority, the Republicans have the filibuster.

As the parties get more and more comfortable pulling the filibuster card and tougher and tougher on presidential nominees, it is time that the Senate gets rid of it for presidential nominations just like they do with the budget.  That means the president gets his nominees through pretty fast unless the minority party can convince at least some of the majority that the nominee is really not up to snuff. That’s the way it was supposed to work and I would even argue, as the president has the power of appointment in the constitution, he is entitled to the Senate’s advice and consent/non-consent. I could argue the opposite too because the constitution also provides that the Senate writes its own rules. Like many things in the constitution, it is hardly clear.

When should the Senate change their rules to allow this (constitutionally, they write their own rules)? Now. Why?  Because no one knows who the next president will be right now and that is the time to do it.


I know this is really petty, and no offense meant, but should some tell David Axelrod that his hair and mustache gives him sort of a Hitler wannabe look? Am I the only one who notices that? Oh, wait a minute – the internet. Yahoooing and nope, I am definitely not the only one who noticed. Wow. Memo to Obama. Talk to him. Be gentle. He probably doesn’t know.


What’s the statute of limitations on calling someone macaca? When George Allen was running for Senate in Va. in 2006 he called a tracker from his opponent’s campaign “macaca” while making reference to his foreign looks (he was of Indian heritage). Allen said that he made the word up, but it was apparently an insult in Africa used by the French derived from words meaning a type of monkey. Some think that Allen learned the word from his French Tunisian mother, but that is speculation. Anyway, it really hurt him. His name had been batted around for a shot at the presidency and he lost the Senate race he was expected to win.

He’s running for Senator again, now that his conqueror, Jim Webb is leaving. He started off his campaign last year by apologizing for it, which was politically wise, and pointed out that it turns out he is part Jewish – so a minority, but I haven’t heard people really  bothering about it (you can always find dome on the internet). I’m sure no one has forgotten. Is there some amount of time that a racist statement - I believe it was, but I don’t really think that makes him a racist - loses its importance?  Apparently. Good. I’m just not used to good when it comes to politics.


What is wrong with Allen West? He’s a good looking, relatively young congressman from Florida with a military career, haircut and bearing who Republicans would love some day to get behind for Senator or even better, President, mostly because he’s black, in my opinion. Having their own black candidate would once and for all end the argument by liberals that they are racist

West is, of course, very conservative. And they keep saying he’s a great guy. So, why does he keep saying dumb things? A few month ago he lost a verbal joust with another Florida Representative, Deborah Wasserman Schultz. I would have thought it nearly impossible to lose a popularity contest to Schultz (also DNC chairwoman), who has to be one of the most charmless women in politics since Mary Matalin was George H. W. Bush’s campaign director (and whose apparently happy marriage to her opponent, Clinton’s strategist, James Carville, is one of the great mysteries of politics). She took a shot at him on the floor of the house and he radically over-reacted. He emailed her calling her vile, unprofessional, despicable, a coward and told her to “shut up.”  Do you want that on an ad when you run for office?

Then, to make matters worse, last week he said in a speech that there were up to 80 communists in Congress. Supposedly he was talking about the Socialist, I mean, Progressive Caucus. Communist is a load word which evokes Stalin and, even at its best, Brezhnev and the cold war.  You can argue to me that progressives are socialists, and socialism leads, eventually, to the same economic results as communism, but that is a logical argument, not provocative name calling that just irritates people who might have otherwise voted for you. More, it is just foolish to go down that route, particularly in an election year (do I need to say this again?– yes) where independents will be deciding who is president.

Of course, a few months ago he told Obama, Reid and Pelosi to “get the hell out of America,” so . . . .



  1. My ears perked up a bit when I read that you hate endlessly repeating yourself. Really? So then you are a masochist after all.
    On to another point: I was really charged up when I got home from work. Tough day, lots of adrenaline pumping, thought I'd never be able to unwind and fall asleep. Then, I turned on my tablet and read this column. Slept like the dead.

  2. I was mocking myself, knucklehead. Glad I could help you get some sleep, though. If you have trouble tonight, try the archives.

  3. Axelrod's mustache is probably a little too big for a Hilter comaprison. Of course, if he nicksit while shaving....... And his hair is spot on. I never thought about it before.

    I alternate betwee thinking West has no political instincts and that he has great ones and tries to raise his profile by making incendiary comments think Gingrich Cspan speeches.
    And you are right about Schultz being charmeless although I would go further and call her odious. I don't know why she is given high profile media tasks.

  4. If you Zeliged Axelrod into a Nuremberg rally photo, no one would notice he didn't belong.

    Odious is a little too strong. She can be offensive, and that fits, but I think of odious (and I don't think I use it very much) as hateful, disgusting or rousing the strongest sentiments. I don't think of her like that at all. I would be more comfortable saying Hugo Chavez or that Neo-Nazi Bill White was odious.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .