Just Above Sunset Archives

December 21, 2003 Sidebars

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

You will find the SIDEBARS from the first Twenty-Five issues here.  The page was getting rather long.  This page starts a new series.

The Other Endorsement - Tuesday, 9 December 2003

Kris Kristofferson is the actor, singer, songwriter ("Me and Bobbie McGee" for Janis Joplin) who was once a Rhodes scholar.  His masters thesis, whist he was at Oxford, was on the British poet William Blake (1757-1827) - "The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom" and all that).  He has just endorsed Wesley Clark as the best man to be the next president.

Clark, from Arkansas, was also a Rhodes scholar.  I guess those who are Rhodes scholars stick together.

Here's the endorsement:


Just when the world is being dragged into the death spiral of an unending cycle of violence by a vision-less, coldblooded collection of think-tank warriors goose-stepping their way into the new millennium with a stunning lack of respect for human rights, the environment, or international law, along comes a man with the proven credentials of intelligence, integrity, and courage singularly equipped by his spirit and experience to lead us out of this mess. Don't listen to what the lying liars say about him; listen to what he says.  Wesley Clark is a prayer answered.



Bill Clinton was also a Rhodes scholar.  And from Arkansas.

But I have no conspiracy theory about all this.  Just three damned intellectuals dissatisfied with Bush.

Is such an endorsement good for Clark, and for the country?
Should one question the elected (or at least legally appointed) leader of the country in a time of all-out war?

Is it prudent?

One might glance through Blake's The Proverbs of Heaven and Hell (1798). "Prudence is a Rich Ugly Old Maid, Courted by Incapacity."

Pithy.  And appropriate.

Why we fight: the real (latest) reason we elected to wage this war, examined by an old-line conservative.  Does he misuse history?

Things are getting really odd when you find a column by Pat Buchanan republished on a site called antiwar of all things.  But there it sat.

These folks gave him a short bio: Patrick J. Buchanan was twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the Reform Party's candidate in 2000. He is also a founder and editor of the new magazine, The American Conservative. Now a commentator and columnist, he served three presidents in the White House, was a founding panelist of three national television shows, and is the author of seven books.

They did not note Pat is pretty ticked at the current "neoconservative" crowd running things now, nor note his history of xenophobic, isolationist views.

Anyway, Buchanan rips into Bush and his recent speeches on democracy - a November addresses at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington and at the Whitehall Palace in London on that recent trip to the UK.

Buchanan considers them and suggests Bush didn't even know what he was saying.

See Here We Go Again
Pat Buchanan, December 10, 2003, AntiWar.com

Buchanan can be blunt:


George Bush did not write this democratist drivel. This is the kind of messianic rhetoric he probably never heard before he became president. Who is putting these words in his mouth? For if George Bush truly intends to lead a "global democratic revolution," and convert not only Iraq but the whole Middle East to democracy, he has ceased to be a conservative and we are headed for endless conflicts, disappointments, disillusionment and tragedy.


And then he starts with the rhetorical questions regarding Bush:


Where in the Constitution is he empowered to go around the world destabilizing governments? Can he truly believe that by hectoring such autocracies as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, America is more secure? Who comes to power if Mubarak goes in Cairo, the Saudi monarchy falls, or Musharaff is ousted in Pakistan? If memory serves, the last wave of popular revolutions in the region gave us Nasser, Khadafi, Saddam and the Ayatollah.


Ah yes, good questions all.

And then this:


Where did he get the idea we are insecure because the Islamic world is not democratic? The Islamic world has never been democratic. Yet, before we intervened massively there, our last threat came from Barbary pirates. Lest we forget, Muhammad Atta and his comrades did not plot their atrocities in the Sunni Triangle, but in Hamburg and Delray Beach.

Surveys shows that Islamic people bear a deep resentment of U.S. dominance of their region and our one-sided support for Israel. Interventionism is not America's solution, it is America's problem.


Now that is interesting.  I seem to recall Buchanan is an ex-Marine, so the strains of the Marine Corp Hymn "...to the shores of Tripoli" do mean something here - the Marines really did take care of the Barbary pirates.  Was that the last justifiable use of US forces over in that part of the world - the 1805 storming of Barbary pirates' harbor fortress stronghold of Derna (Tripoli)?  Really?  I'm not so sure.

But he does have a point. Hamburg and Delray Beach are dangerous places in the sense he means - bad folks plan bad things there.  Iraq is just another place.  Or was.

But his point is not that this particular recent intervention was bone-headed.  What is really bone-headed is the idea that we know best.  And the reasoning?


Freedom, the president said, "must be chosen and defended by those who choose it." Exactly. Why not then let these Islamic peoples choose it on their own timetable and defend it themselves?

It is "cultural condescension," says Bush, "to assume the Middle East cannot be converted to democracy. ... Perhaps the most helpful change we can make is to change in our own thinking."

But if 22 of 22 Arab states are non-democratic, this would seem to suggest that this soil is not particularly conducive to growing the kind of democracies we raise in upper New England.

... What support is there in history for the view that as we meddle in the affairs of foreign nations, we advance our security? How would we have responded in the 19th century if Britain had declared a policy of destabilizing the American Union until Andrew Jackson abolished slavery?


Well, there he goes, arguing from history again.

Well, "History never repeats itself. It only seems like it does to those who don't know the details." - see History: What you don't know can't hurt you. Maybe. Maybe not... for some thoughts on that.

But I get the point.  This whole enterprise, this new way of explaining why we went to war - since there seem to be no weapons of mass destruction after all - has no good precedent.

In fact, examining history suggests it might be more than a little bit dumb.

I suspect Bush, who prides himself on not reading much, reads even less history.

Is angry talk dangerous?  It's only talk.  A social scientist considers the question.


Another odd site came my way: The Left End of the Dial: Dr. James Benjamin's periodic musings and rants - primarily of a political nature, as well as jazz, poetry, haiku, and whatever else happens to be on my mind.

The Left End of the Dial is pretty much "angry left" as you would imagine.  Benjamin is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Behavioral and Social Science at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.  He's not really a doctor in the MD sense.  Here's what I found: Doctor of Philosophy University of Missouri-Columbia (2000), Major Area: Social Psychology, Dissertation Title: The Moderating Influence of Individual Differences on the Provocation-Aggression Relationship: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Literature

Yeah, that's cool.  A Meta-Analytic Review.  Sure.

Well, he doesn't like Ann Coulter and all her talk about bombing the New York Times building and stuff like that, and others on the right who talk about the moral right to "perform procedures" (kill) abortion providers as a way to stop mass-murder of innocent "children" [sic].


Yeah, Ann Coulter, in her 1998 book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, suggested the only viable discussions for dealing with Clinton came down to whether we should "impeach or assassinate."


There's been a lot more talk of such things in the air recently.  A couple of weeks ago the nationally syndicated conservative columnist Kathleen Parker approvingly quoted an anonymous military man's wish that the nine Democratic presidential candidates be "lined up and shot."

There seems to be no real parallel to this "verbal behavior" from the left, but maybe I've missed it.

Is such talk dangerous?  It's only talk.

Benjamin has some things to say about the dangers of right-wing "rant radio" -


... the general trend of political hate speech is truly the domain of the right wing's politicians, pundits, and rank and file. Research on authoritarian aggression is especially pertinent, as it appears that individuals who are high RWA tend to be prone to act in aggressive or violent ways if those actions appear sanctioned by those they consider as authority figures (see, e.g., Altemeyer, 1981, 1988, 1996).

What is troubling from my standpoint as a social scientist is that much of the writings and speech advocating violence against liberals and other political enemies is coming precisely from those authority figures. Television and radio talk show hosts are for better or worse viewed as authorities by those who make up their core fan base. Same with those who hold political offices or who are considered religious leaders. If these authority figures appear to sanction violent acts against other groups, there is an increased risk that someone among their followers will ultimately act violently. The danger isn't so much from what is said by these authority figures (most of it comes across as sophomoric at best) but rather the danger is from the interpretation of the meaning of those hate-filled words based on the rather black-and-white mentality held by their followers.


Benjamin has no faith in the essential goodness and good sense of most people?  Perhaps so.  After all, not one of the Democratic candidates has been shot yet.  He's being alarmist, no doubt.

And all the talk on the right now is about how much the left is being so unreasonable and just full of blind hatred of George Bush - and not being civil and responsible and moderate at all.  The left has been consumed by its irrational hatred.  You hear that everywhere.

Here is Benjamin's psychologist's take on the right, particularly Fox News, lamenting all this recent criticism of Bush as no more than "hate speech" -


What is projection?  Freud viewed projection as an ego defense mechanism used to ward off anxiety.  What the individual does is to attribute their undesirable traits onto someone else, thus enabling them to hate said others instead of themselves for possessing those undesirable traits.  For example, a husband who has been carrying on an extramarital affair may project this undesirable quality onto his wife by showing suspicion towards her potential to be unfaithful.  Let's face it, that various famous and obscuroid right-wingers have advocated violence against various liberal and/or Democrat targets is well-documented and need not be repeated here.  To the extent that these people want to portray themselves as "reasonable" or "fair and balanced," such pronouncements by themselves or likeminded individuals has to be inducing some cognitive dissonance.  What better way to handle a guilty conscience or to reduce the dissonance than to latch onto any angry rhetoric from one's political enemies and use it as "evidence" that those enemies are a bunch of hate-filled violent thugs.


I like this guy.

Check out his site.