Monday, July 05, 2010

Grandees? What Grandees?

Some political journalist none of you will have heard of tweeted:

The tectonics of voting reform | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye Blogs http://bit.ly/bd1X3o


In which John Rentoul argues that the Tories are in the process of converting to being in favour of the Alternative Vote. And since they're for it, guess what? He ends:

Meanwhile, Andy Burnham has come out on the Labour side against change, dismissing it (to The Guardian) as “a kind of fringe pursuit for Guardian-reading classes”. Since then Denis MacShane, a Labour MP and moderniser has said:

If AV delivered unending years of right-wing government in Australia why are Labour grandees so keen on it?


All change.


Yes, I did write a post about Aaro's tepid support for AV. But, apart from him, who are these Labour grandees? IIRC, changing the system was mooted in the 1997 manifesto. The Jenkins Commission was chaired by the eponymous former Labour grandee. After 1997, Labour lost interest in actually doing anything about the voting system.

I think we can file this under, "Why does Denis MacShane talk such bullshit?" He seems to be siding with some imaginary rebels against a non-existent status quo. Also "moderniser"? That's so 1994. And "unending years" - aren't they, er, over?

Of course, AV or AV+, or STV could be more democratic than FPTP, which would be a good reason for supporting reform, regardless of which party is favoured. That is, if one truly believes that democracy is a good thing and an end in itself. I doubt these 'grandees' exist, but I still hold some hopes for democracy, rather than mere opportunism, in the Labour Party.

Also, of course, we're not Australia.

53 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

I trust "democracy" isn't being used as a synonym for "Proportional Representation" here, because if it is I shall be obliged to observe that there's no bunch of people more opportunistic than the people most in favour of it.

7/05/2010 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Fair point Justin. That's not what I meant. Trying not to be too long-winded, I may have adumbrated myself. I meant something like, some Labour 'grandees' (or others) may believe that PR is, in fact, fairer than FPTP; so they may support it out of principle, as opposed to the only possible reason for supporting any system being it putting or keeping Labour (or one's own party) in power. Yes, the SDP were in favour of voting reform back in the 80s, and this could have been pure opportunism, just as Conservative support could be now. I don't deny there are opportunists in every party, believing that all politicians are (which is what MacShane seems to imply) is just too cynical for me.

7/05/2010 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Vinny said...

Whenever Labour is in opposition in tinkers with the idea of PR. I remember the mid-to-late '80s it was all the rage.

That was the time also when a "progressive alliance" (what ever that means) was also much talked about in the Liberals, the SDP and some sections of Labour.

What "progressive alliance" seemed to mean was 'wouldn't it be lovely if we had a party of liberals, right wing social democrats and other "progressives" (i.e unaligned identity politicos) without all these horrid trade unionists and socialists'

And MacShane needs to read some Labour history.

In January 1931 the Labour government, which was dependent on Liberal support, introduced a Bill putting forward the alternative vote (AV).

In August 1931 the Labour government fell and no more was heard about the Bill in public.

7/06/2010 04:47:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

Also, it's MacShane and he's just like that.

7/06/2010 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Strictly OT I know but I thought it was amusing that CIF featured a particularly boneheaded restatement of the Decent case against the 'Left' next to an article by Mark Curtis on the long history of UK/US support for radical Islamists.

Although Curtis has a tendency to sometimes overstate his case, I do think that Decency has been given too easy a ride on this topic. Inviting Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London or saying objectionable things about the Taliban or AQ has no real material or human consequences. Providing diplomatic support as well as training and arms is what really matters. And the terrible conclusion has to be that it has been the political mainstream in the US and UK that has provided support to radical Islam. Any support from the left which anyhow has been grossly overstated is pretty inconsequential.

7/06/2010 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Bubby, it's not that OT. I regret not calling these 'Labour grandees' the "straw lords." That Guardian piece doesn't attack straw exactly, but does share a few faults with Decency.

In the fanciful opinion – expressed only recently by Seumas Milne – that China, far from being an exemplar of human rights abuses on a colossal scale, is in fact an exemplary bulwark against a rapacious, capitalist hegemony.

There's probably a good name for this tactic: the false antinomy or something. Stalin's USSR was "an exemplar of human rights abuses on a colossal scale" and was also what saved Europe from the Nazis (if you believe, as I do, that it was the Eastern Front what won it), and was thus a bulwark of sorts against fascism. There's also the thing, which I really have no idea of the name for, where China is largely an enemy or non-friendly state in the eyes of our government, I am therefore inclined to give it the benefit of any doubt, as a sort of compensation for propaganda (I'll admit to being guilty of referring to some islands in the South Atlantic as 'Los Malvinas'), while our Decent friends lean too much the other way. In a nutshell, it's my wishy-washy, "I'm sure it's more complicated than that" approach against their moral certainty (which purely coincidentally happens to agree with HM Government's and, in MacShane's case with the argument for "tougher" laws).

Let's not overlook, either, that Alex Callinicos himself is a member of Socialist Workers' party...

Yes, because denouncing people because of their affiliations is certainly better than the weakness of trying to be generous.

I see Peter Bracken served as an army officer. That's just what I need: a neoliberal who can kill me.

7/06/2010 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'll admit to being guilty of referring to some islands in the South Atlantic as 'Los Malvinas'

Las.

7/07/2010 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

Los, because that pisses off both sides if I know CC a little..

7/07/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Come to this event....

http://www.littleatoms.com/liveatoms.htm

7/07/2010 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

In a nutshell, it's my wishy-washy, "I'm sure it's more complicated than that" approach against their moral certainty

Well exactly - that's the problem you have when you try and think about say China.

China does have a pretty poor human rights record. Its undemocratic and shot through with nepotism and corruption. Its also facing a coming ecological crisis. But it has also managed to achieve an extraordinary reduction in poverty over the past two decades and the CCP actually has widespread legitimacy amongst the population. Having spent some time over there and spoken to quite a few Chinese the impression I get is that most people want to see democratic reforms but they want such changes to happen gradually. What they really fear is the kind of social dislocation and chaos that gripped Russia post '89.

Is this moral relativism - a position which implies that people with different coloured skins don't deserve the same democratic freedoms we enjoy - or is it a realisation that actually the world can be a very morally complicated place?

7/07/2010 02:13:00 PM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

I can't be bothered to hop through whatever drecktastic hoops TNR wants me to, but this review of Martin Amis' latest looks like a stinker.

7/07/2010 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

oh dear

An Oxford-educated scion of the literary intelligentsia, Amis has made a career of not writing about his own milieu. His fiction has always been drawn to the depths: to yobs and bims and spivs, to pain merchants and porn mavens, to dart parlors and snooker dens and hand-job emporia— to the Cockney demimonde, with its toothsome vernacular and lurid moral coloration.

the reviewer only seems to have read Money... Anyone who'd read London Fields would know that most of the charactersare upper middle class...

7/07/2010 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

What the fuck is a "dart parlor"?

7/07/2010 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous dsquared said...

It's where you go to meet a "porn maven".

7/07/2010 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Quoth the maven, "Nevermore!"

Couldn't resist. Please don't tell me it's pronounced 'Mah-ven' or 'Mavven'.

7/07/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

"bims"?

7/07/2010 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

OC: the reviewer clearly read 'The Rachel Papers' (which was blatantly autobiographical). I've read 'Dead Babies' but it's one of those books about which I can recall absolutely nothing. But yes, MA's books up to 'London Fields' were about the clash between 'nobs' (like MA) and 'yobs' (bitter, and sometimes rightly so). Amis has never claimed to be a James Kelman or a John Steinbeck. Nasty thought: Amis writes jokes: Steinbeck wrote novels.

See also Lit agent on McEwan protagonist. (My problem is that the character is like no scientist I know. As always in McEwan, the sensitive, delicate, so perceptive characters just happen to be those with arts degrees and perhaps Masters in novel writing.)

As the man said, "I'll show you the life of the mind!"

7/07/2010 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

As luck would have it via Twitter Look At Me! (the full review).

7/08/2010 06:44:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Cheers - after that very odd false start (undercut by later statements) the piece gets a lot better, actually... the ending in particular:

For another thing, is this really true? Did loveless sex and excessive self-love really not exist before the ’60s, or does Amis imagine, like all the other Boomers, that contraception, dirty sex, and female orgasms were waiting around for them to come along and dream them up? And to the extent that it is true, didn’t we know it already? Do we really need Martin Amis to tell us, in 2010, about the consequences of the sexual revolution? He has perpetrated this sort of effrontery before. Koba the Dread, a non-fictional precursor toHouse of Meetings, lectured us about the evils of Stalinism fifty years after the fact. Amis is one of those people—speaking of self-love—for whom nothing happens until the moment they think of it.

He also needs to think a little harder. Narcissism, as an explanation for everything that’s happened to personal life over the last four decades, is as glib and simplistic as it was when Tom Wolfe first pinned his label on the ’70s. As a novelist, Amis leans too heavily on the psychological as a source of historical understanding, with no apparent awareness of the social or the economic. He is also too charmed by the shapeliness of the monocausal explanation. There’s an analogy here with Keith’s story. One event explains the protagonist’s life; one concept explains the life of the entire culture. Amis’s essays on Islamic fundamentalism make the same aesthetic mistake. It’s all about cultural humiliation, he says. Or it’s all about sexual frustration, or the promise of heaven, or “boredom” (which I still don’t understand). One of those things, but never more than one at the same time, never the complex explanation, the nuanced understanding, the messy, seasoned, cautious view. He likes to have things figured out. He likes to put them in a box, so he can get started on the wrapping.


I do think this is a problem with recent Amis and McEwan - that they consider the 60s much more important than they were, mainly because of that Larkin poem, which is itself a historically inaccurate joke and highlights the fact by mentioning Chatterly. Amis isn't exactly Lawrentian...

and the end of the review is cutting in extremis and backs up jokes vs novels:

Sentence by sentence, Amis still writes some of the keenest prose in English today. But looking back a quarter of a century to Money, when he was the most promising young novelist in Britain, you have to ask yourself what happened. “Although his prose was talented,” we read of Richard in The Information, “he wasn’t trying to write talent novels. He was trying to write genius novels.” No one, it now seems clear, will ever say that about Richard’s creator.

ouch.

on the lit agent piece - the problem with Solar, as far as i can tell, is that you're actually meant to like the protagonist, who shares a lot of McEwan's own views. That's true of Saturday as well which is why i can't agree fully with this:

the sensitive, delicate, so perceptive characters just happen to be those with arts degrees and perhaps Masters in novel writing

it's true to an extent, but McEwan is on record as saying that in that novel, brain surgery = writing (and = Iraq war too) and McEwan has, in public statements, repeated Perowne's views verbatim.

MA's books up to 'London Fields' were about the clash between 'nobs' (like MA) and 'yobs' (bitter, and sometimes rightly so).

i kind of think they were past that point, too - The Information for definite (so utterly uninteresting that i couldn't finish it) and Yellow Dog too, as far as i can tell without having read it.

as i said this will have to do as a trail for my possibly-never-to-exist decency and literature piece...

7/08/2010 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

"Come to this event...."

An interestingly balanced panel. I'm not aquainted with McConnachie, but suspect that neither Wheen, Aaronovitch or Ronson will be quite prepared to defend the view that such theories are "justified". Might still come, though!

7/08/2010 09:36:00 AM  
OpenID yorksranter said...

re: maven. I once used this word in an article, which greatly impressed my then editor with my command of the idiom. Later, in the pub, it emerged that out of the entire editorial staff, none of us could define it, myself included. I don't think I've ever used it again.

In fact it turns out to be derived from the Yiddish and to have meant one who understands, connoisseur, expert originally or alternatively and in English, a self-styled expert.

I am relieved to learn this, as that was roughly the sense I'd used it in.

7/08/2010 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Sniff - what event, Bensix? Do I detect the stench of the 'C' word? If so then as something of a maven in the field (not to be confused with the saint of that name), I need to know about it.

---

CC- false dilemma? (I.e. exclusivity - not-both-abuser-and-bulwark - is falsely presupposed).

A special case: false dichotomy, which adds exhaustivity (not relevant in this case, but it would be: either abuser or bulwark, no distinct third possibility).

You get the latter in the title (and/or the content) of shit debates and policy 'papers' quite a lot. Also, o course, a staple of Decent and related rhetoric - with us or with the trrrists, Likudnik or antisemite, quietism/ quixoticism in contemporary political history, etc.

Btw 'dilemma' is often used to mean what I call 'dichotomy'. And often the point of a dichotomy will be exhaustivity more than exclusivity, e.g. 'he's either a fool or a rogue' - where it's not necessarily part of the point to insist that he cannot be both.

(Instead of false dilemma, you could use
Steve Coogan's false opposition, though he's actually on about false exhaustivity I reckon.

---

That was dull. How about - Amis's talent, though it's there alright, is pretty much limited to the writing of comic sentences?

Also I'm unable to reconcile myself to the occurrence of the reliably unpromising thought process: "must write great book. Need Big Theme, Really Clever Idea...I have it! It's perfect. The Holocaust...only backwards!"

---

Or this - OT, but I know how much you chaps like a good chat about rape: Labour MPs attack anonymity plan for rape defendants. Offhand I think defendant anonymity pre-verdict should probably be the rule for all offences.

7/08/2010 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Excuse blurt. Good to see you lot still around anyway

7/08/2010 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Tim -

The Sceptical soiree that Little Atoms advertises upthread. Aaronovitch, Wheen and Ronson, with the only hope for a new perspective coming in the form of the man behind The Rough Guide To Sex. (Oh, I mock, but it's probably more enlightening than Voodoo Histories.)

7/08/2010 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

March Lynch has a good piece on Berman/Ramadan at
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66468/marc-lynch/veiled-truths

7/09/2010 06:17:00 AM  
Anonymous saucy jack said...

Marc!

7/09/2010 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Cheers, Bensix. Can't muster the energy to comment on the blurb:

Central to the ideologies of the totalitarian regimes and authoritarian governments of the 20th century, conspiracy theories were commonly used against groups; socialists, anarchists, the Kulaks, the Jews. Then something changed, and conspiracy theories became in the popular imagination something that was committed by the government. From Pearl Harbour to JFK, from the Moon landings to Princess Diana time and again the government, the establishment or "Military-Industrial complex" is seen to act against the people's interests. By the time we get to 9/11, it seems that people are willing to believe governments capable of anything. How did this change in emphasis arise? Is it justified?

7/09/2010 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

...Sylvia, twenty-nine at the story’s conclusion and enlisted by the novel as a spokesperson for the higher truth— one of those wiser, more evolved nextgeneration types that show up in Boomer lamentations. Feminism, Sylvia says, demanded the wrong thing. Instead of worrying about sexual freedom, it should have gone all out for “fiftyfifty”—household duties fully shared in all their dreary particulars. (It seems to me that that’s exactly what it went all out for, but never mind.)

From that TNR review of Martin Amis. That does seem to capture a lot of what I think is wrong with MA. He's mostly wrestling a straw man.

As for McEwan, he can't allow that any scientist in any of his books *gets* art at all. They're all philistines. But scientists do understand art; it's just that a lot of artists don't get science. (I think this happened some time around the Romantics. Coleridge read Kant, who coined the term 'science', but since Blake's "Dark Satanic Mills" view of the Industrial Revolution there have been one and a half cultures.

Perowne in 'Saturday' is largely intended as sympathetic, apart from his poetry blindness, but he's just a massive cock (not literally). I wanted him to die, horribly.

7/09/2010 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

Tim, the shorter version of that blurb is surely - 'We know with great certainty that governments that do horrible things are capable of telling lies on a sustained and systematic basis. But those are the governments of other times and places. Some people believe that our governments have done horrible things and have lied about this on a systematic and sustained basis. Why are all these people mental?'

7/10/2010 07:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben Six - have you actually read Voodoo Histories? Phil D'B

7/10/2010 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Phil D'B - do you have any response to this detailed criticism of Voodoo Histories, produced at your request?

7/10/2010 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

Phil -

Yes.

7/10/2010 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Is that a no then, D'B?

BTW Little Atoms being the audio wing of Sceptic Magazine, I'm reminded that SM's founder Wendy Grossman offered this unselfconscious yet self-aware observation in lieu of an argument:

One of the things about Americans is that as children we are sort of taught to be Americans with a quasi-religious fervour. And it is very hard for me to believe that anyone who works in the security services, who has passed the security clearances and has become president, these people...I do not like the current administration and I did not vote for Bush, but I certainly don't think that he is going to blow up America.

Offered not as a Decent style guilt-by-association indictment of Little Atoms, just a pointed example of a widespread tendency.

Incidentally, Annie Machon who features in the linked debate on Press TV (cue much wailing and biting of rats) lies outside the ambit of Aaro's 'hysteria for men' bullshit.

That's assuming that Aaro isn't allowed to have a sudden bout of judicious clarity and observe that (psst! like most of those he wishes to attack) Machon isn't pushing any particular detailed theory.

See also Rowena Thursby, Cynthia McKinney...,

(Machon is 'just asking questions' - a phrase Aaro uses heavy sarcasm to paint as a conspiracistic trick, standard trope, hallmark etc.)

7/12/2010 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I don't think that tells us anything about anything except Wendy Grossman*'s capacity to acknowledge that her beliefs aren't entirely founded on reason (which I think does her credit). I didn't believe Bush was going to blow up America either, and I don't believe in America in any shape or form. You could equally argue that denouncing America springs from an inverted form of the pseudo-religious belief in the American destiny - except, again, in cases where it doesn't.

*A fine folksinger, incidentally.

7/12/2010 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Phil - Agree the admission does her credit, she's obviously an amiable type, and there's a slight compunction to be felt in 'punishing' such unguarded openness, but that doesn't mean the attitude described goes well with the 'sceptic' badge.

And WG does beat a bit of a hasty retreat, too. I mean until she tails off and substitutes a different conclusion, which as you noticed is easy to agree with, she is on course to say: my patriotic upbringing is such I find it very hard to believe that anyone working for our security services, and/or cleared by them (and OK, especially Mr. President) would be involved in a plan to kill Americans.

Would you be happy to offer something like that as an argument? Do you not think there's something funny about a self-appointed sceptic professing, a faith- or deference- based approach to historical topics, and both causally explaining and apparently intellectually endorsing that approach?

It's not as if WG says 'I'm aware of this tendency, and so tend not to trust my kneejerk response, and instead take extra care to ensure I'm being properly responsive to the evidence', is it. She seems to think it's fine and even, strange to relate, a good reason for others to share her views.

Your defence of her seems to rest on the fact that you agree with her hastily-narrowed conclusion. But since 'scepticism' is, I suppose, all about method, that isn't really good enough.

7/12/2010 06:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Your defence of her seems to rest on the fact that you agree with her hastily-narrowed conclusion.

I think all I'm saying is that the words she actually said strike me as entirely unproblematic. Your argument seems to be that if she'd said one lot of things she didn't say ("I struggle against my own credulity") that would have been good, and if she'd said another lot ("I embrace my own credulity and encourage you to be equally credulous") that would have been bad. Since she didn't say either of them, I find it hard to get worked up either way.

7/12/2010 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Unsurprisingly I don't think I could manage to get worked up about it either, and WG is neither a significant target nor someone I can muster much animus against personally. But I cannot stand idly by when someone is Wrong on the Internet.

Main point is, she did convey the message "I embrace my own credulity and encourage you to be equally credulous".

If her reason for concluding that Bush didn't 'do' 9/11 had been, say, that he was a fucking idiot who couldn't organise a sock drawer, then fine. But the only reasoning offered to the audience was:

we are sort of taught to be Americans with a quasi-religious fervour. And [so] it is very hard for me to believe that [1] anyone who works in the security services, [2] who has passed the security clearances and has become president, these people...[would kill Americans]

Now if somehow Lightnin' Hopkins, say, had been in her place I too might have been inclined to let it pass. But I doubt it.

7/13/2010 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Main point is, she did convey the message "I embrace my own credulity and encourage you to be equally credulous".

Well, it's an unscripted comment, and she doesn't say how the two parts of it are meant to be connected, so I can't say you're wrong to join the dots that way. For what it's worth, I read it more as "I realise that my beliefs may not be entirely founded on reason, but I still believe what I believe" - quite a courageous thing for a self-proclaimed sceptic to say.

7/13/2010 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

quite a courageous thing for a self-proclaimed sceptic to say

as Sir Humphrey might put it.

7/13/2010 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

One more thing (since I'm supposed t be doing something else) - WG didn't say merely (or at all) that she recognises that her beliefs are not all based solely on reason. She specified a particular, explicitly irrational, basis for her beliefs.

7/13/2010 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm not really au fait with who WG is - I hadn't heard of her (I think) before. But I'm more with Phil here; I think it is brave - and honest - of a self-described sceptic to admit where her beliefs may not be empirically based. However, I also don't agree with Tim's comment immediately (if I'm quick) above. She specified a particular, explicitly irrational, basis for her beliefs.

It's not entirely irrational. USians are inculcated with flag-worship; there are checks and balances in the US democratic system; it's not crazy to believe that a completely irrational person would either not be allowed to stand as a Presidential candidate or removed from office. (Nixon is an example of being removed; not only was he impeached, but his Secretary of State apparently took the nuclear codes off him and otherwise prised his hands from the levers of power before he left office.) I think WG's position, while not verifiable in any scientific sense, is more than hand-waving.

7/13/2010 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

But her claim was nothing like a completely irrational person would either not be allowed to stand as a Presidential candidate or removed from office.

It was that her upbringing (more or less) precludes her from believing that a secret service guy or security-cleared person or president would be involved in a plot to murder Americans.

On the separate substantive historical issue: Nixon is an example what about Reagan, say?

Also: USians are inculcated with flag-worship; there are checks and balances in the US democratic system I can't read (or hear) that into what Grossman said. (I think I have been a bit sexist in using 'WG' instead of my usual bare surname), but I also don;t get the trajectory of this argument? I don't get it. Is it that spooks and greasy-pole merchants are all overridingly patriotic (and wouldn't regard suchpatriotism as requiring sacrifice of fellow USians)?

I find these responses a bit baffling as I saw this as a glaringly discreditable thing for her to admit (though I offered it as a curiosity as much as anything).

I can't help thinking that if the discussion had been about Iran/Contra or Northwoods (obviously that stops just short of Presidential level though) or something, the response would be less exculpatory. As I said, scepticism as used in this context is surely about how you get to your conclusions, not just whether you happen inadvertently to stumble on the right ones.

I dunno. Useful to know that competent others disagree in good faith anyway, as I was thinking of using this as a mildly entertaining and revealing gaffe in my future scribblings on the topic.

7/13/2010 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

I can't help thinking that if the discussion had been about Iran/Contra or Northwoods (obviously that stops just short of Presidential level though) or something, the response would be less exculpatory.

I have no way of knowing how I would respond to someone saying something they didn't say, because I have no way of knowing how that thing would be phrased and qualified. I don't think this is a particularly useful line of argument.

One other tangent: it's just struck me that WG might not even have been talking about herself. The argument starts with "we are sort of taught to be Americans with a quasi-religious fervour" and ends with "I certainly don't think that he is going to blow up America.", emphasis added. The underlying argument could be that 9/11 was perceived first and foremost as an attack on America, and a group of people deeply imbued in American patriotism would be highly unlikely to do such a thing, even as a means to an end.

7/13/2010 07:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

(And other than that, I'll settle for "disagree in good faith".)

7/13/2010 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

But her claim was nothing like a completely irrational person would either not be allowed to stand as a Presidential candidate or removed from office.

It was that her upbringing (more or less) precludes her from believing that a secret service guy or security-cleared person or president would be involved in a plot to murder Americans.


OK, but I interpreted what she said as being about the President. (Maybe I should listen again, as I don't doubt the 'rogue Security Service guy' theory.) I think the following: becoming President means ascending several steps, all of which require some security clearance (much as civil service work does). Reagan may have been stupid (I buy the argument that he was extraordinarily successful, BTW. Baseball commentator on radio pre TV, movie actor, state governor, president. Too many coin flips for luck, IMO), and/or senile, but he wasn't certifiably mad.

I'm not clear on your point, Tim. Asking the sacrifice of some Americans (but, assuming some sanity on the part of the C-in-C, this being limited) is quite different from murdering them. I'm very much against war, and regard WWI as pretty much generals ordering the slaughter of their subordinates. But the Yanks do concentrate on killing the other guys. Nor are the causes (opposing Nazism, Stalin, etc) entirely crazy.

7/13/2010 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

But you introduced the idea of craziness yourself. Grossman never said nuffink like that.

BTW much more than the short-stop 'rogue secret service guy' theory (a theory of what is possible, I assume) is justified. Again, Northwoods. But this is not germane to Grossman's remarks.

By sacrifice, I meant murder under the rubric of 'patriotically necessary' sacrifice (or indeed, not to let Grossman get away with reframing the question, acquiescence in murder).

And Reagan appears to have been complicit in Iran-Contra, and this came out while he was in office, and he came nowhere near being impeached.

A lot of weight is being placed on the targets being Americans. I just can't see that as being anything like an absolute taboo among the kind of characters we're talking about.

Nothing could be easier than arguing from 'sacrifice of soldiers is sometimes required in the National Interest' to '[we inside this bubble have half-deliberately worked ourselves up to such a pitch that] the situation appears desperate enough that sacrifice of civilians is required'. We are talking about bodycounts, collateral damage: the whole battery of euphemes developed in the service of making realpolitik palatably unreal.

And reasoning that it makes no practical difference who does the killing is a cinch.

7/13/2010 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

btw,

Too many coin flips for luck, IMO

But they weren't independent were they. Far from it.

7/13/2010 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Tim, we've been over these jumps before, but a sense of proportion as to what is possible and likely might be helpful here. "Gosh, US Presidents wouldn't do awful things to Americans" is something of a straw man.

7/14/2010 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Yes, but then WG breathed life into it, and this wretch, this golem born of thatch, lurches blindly, headpiece made of straw.

I thought I'd lay its queasy flesh to rest with one swift, arch remark. But cruel charity insists: 'tis but a flesh wound'. The monstrous trunk, truncated, writhes on and finds no rest.

7/14/2010 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Sleep deprivation

7/14/2010 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Phil: on reflection (unless this is another fatigue-induced manic aberration) I think you've convinced me that the stuff about upbringing was not autobiographical but referred to the character of the putative conspirators. I missed that comment initially with CC posting hot on your heels.

So cheers for identifying an error which is looking more embarrassingly glaring by the second. As a result the quote turns out to be of (even) less interest.

It's still not a good argument - it still invokes the strawman-that-isn't, but at least it is a proper argument and not some weird excuse-like self-diagnosis. And the universal praise for her courage goes out the window, of course...

ejh: not sure what you are referring to with a sense of proportion as to what is possible and likely might be helpful here

Do you mean the Grossman exegesis, or just the point that possible doesn't mean likely? I assume it's not just a general remark based on the supposition that I advocate some Bush-based 9/11 theory.

7/14/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

And CC was driving at the same point I think?

7/14/2010 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

(cringe)

7/18/2010 10:06:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home