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July 4, 2007

Fireworks
Posted by Patrick at 09:22 AM * 121 comments

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”
—Frederick Douglass

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
—George Orwell

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”
—Samuel Adams

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”
—Abraham Lincoln

“Being afraid of monolithic organizations especially when they have computers is like being afraid of really big gorillas especially when they are on fire.”
—Bruce Sterling

“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”
—Jerry Garcia “Be not intimidated…nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”
—John Adams

“No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich

Comments on Fireworks:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Bravo. Happy Independence Day!

Speaking of freedom, Alan Johnston was freed today in Gaza. He's in good health. That alone makes today a good day.

#2 ::: Randy Paul ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:36 AM:

To which I would add:

"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

- James Madison

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:46 AM:

A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; a republic is a raft which will never sink, but then your feet are always in the water.
-- Fisher Ames, speech in the House of Representative, 1795


The fireworks in the picture are glorious.

#4 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:48 AM:

"My country; and my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."
-- Sentator Carl Schurz, Feb 29, 1872, remarks in the Senate

It's amazing how selective quoting can completely change the meaning of a phrase...

#5 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:50 AM:

Happy Independence Day over there!

Reading Gore Vidal's Lincoln at the moment and it seems there was a time around 1861 when he wasn't quite so hot on the people's "revolutionary right" to dismember or overthrow the union.

And how can a man who starts about one sentence in three with "but then" make historical fiction so engrossing?

#6 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:54 AM:

Run faster. History is a constant race between invention and catastrophe. Education helps but it's never enough. You must also run. - Leto Atreides II

#7 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:54 AM:

I don't know. I think there may be something to be said for being afraid of really big gorillas especially when they're on fire.

#8 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Aha, reminding me again why I adore John Adams.

No fireworks here in Scotland, except verbal ones.

Jane

#9 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:58 AM:

#7: Uh, yeah. Would cause a bit of damage at random, that.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:06 AM:

jane @ 8... reminding me again why I adore John Adams

In case you don't have the DVD of "1776", Turner Classic Movies is showing it today.

A Merry Fourth to you all, and don't let the bastards appropriate its Meaning.

Pop goes the Fourth!

#11 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Every year on Independence Day, NPR broadcasts a reading of the Declaration of Independence during Morning Edition. The reading always gets to me in a way that I find quite embarassing. I won't ever listen to it with witnesses. Every year, it catches my breath. I'm all surprised by it even though I know it's coming.

(I should note that they changed the traditional closing of the segment. They used end by mentioning that King George III wrote in his diary, "Nothing of significance happened today." They're probably sick of mail from literalists who, apparently, think that people will get the erroneous impression that George III was refering to the Declaration, rather than just savoring the irony.)

#12 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:11 AM:

I posted this in the prior thread, but it equally belongs here.

"...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

"He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation."

#13 ::: Pete Darby ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:18 AM:

A very good day to remind our new PM what happens when you really piss off a chunk of your population... they get rid of you.

Looking forward to having a "London ID card database party" in Canary Wharf...

#14 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:27 AM:

I can never keep my anger and disillusionment with American politics; not on a day like today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!!!

And yes, John Adams rocks.

#15 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:33 AM:
If you don't grasp that democracy and good citizenship entail draping Jesse Helm's house in a giant condom or chaining oneself to a pharmaceutical executive's desk or shutting down Wall Street at rush hour, then, as Larry would say, you don't know history.
-- Rodger McFarlane, from "Afterword" to Larry Kramer's The Tragedy of Today's Gays.

#16 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:45 AM:

A! Fredome is a noble thing
Fredome mays men to haiff liking;
Fredome all solace to man giffis;
He levys at es that frely levys.

--- John Barbour, The Bruce

"Freedom is the expression of the creative in life. It is neither an inherent right nor a hard-won value. It is a law of being, lacking which there would be no evolution, no progress, no civilisation, only primal chaos set in permanence... Progress is denied with every denial of liberty."

-- Norman W. Manley (4 July 1893-2 September 1969)


#17 ::: Pixelfish ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Scott @4 : Thanks for providing the full context of that quote. I had no idea where it had arisen from, but as you say, context makes a great deal of difference.

#18 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 10:58 AM:

John Adams was an odd duck... he spoke of defense of liberty, but also signed the Sedition Act, under which Benjamin Franklin's grandson was imprisoned. And yet, after not only the first really contested Presidential election in the country's history, but still one of the nastiest ("Jacobin Tom" doesn't begin to cover it), he ceded power for no other reason than that he lost an election --- which, I'm sure, struck some at the time as an odd thing to do...

#19 ::: pourquoi ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 11:01 AM:

'Tht's hw mrc wrks nw. t rns n ls, gssp, slndr, ht nd dcptn. fnd t hrd t gt pst bt t nymr.'

Fnd n th wb - prtty mch sms p my flngs.

Dmcrcy - bgns wth bng, nds wth sgh (xcpt fr th ppl bng trtrd, vr s dlctly, t f sght).

#20 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 12:06 PM:

"It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320.

#21 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 12:14 PM:

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something."

"Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?"

Both from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Heinlein. Lots of good gems in there. Link

#22 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 12:41 PM:

They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1776.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932.

It's a dangerous world. I wish it wasn't that way. I wish I could tell the American people, don't worry about it, they're not coming again. But they are coming again. [...]

Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation.

George W. Bush, September 15th 2006

#23 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 12:45 PM:

For pourqui @19

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

- The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot

#24 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:06 PM:

"So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."

Molly Ivins, Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead, pp. 254-5

We've got a lot of work to do, but why should it be an onerous chore?

#25 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Richard Minsky believes that the "essential liberty" quote often attributed to Franklin was actually written in a book by Richard Jackson which was edited and published by Franklin.

#26 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:31 PM:

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man"

Lazarus Long notwithstanding, democracy isn't based on any such claim. It's based on the idea that the preferences of the million matter. Wise or not.

I actually think that, in aggregate, democratic processes tend to lead to better results. But if that's your only argument for democracy, pretty soon you're arguing that only people with more that a certain minumum amount of education should be allowed to vote...then only people who can prove a higher-than-normal IQ...and in not very damn long, what you've got isn't remotely "democracy."

The basic argument for democracy is justice, not efficiency. People should have a say in how things are organized. All people, not just the ones we respect and approve of. This is something science fiction people have a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around. Heinlein, for all his many strengths, insights, and virtues, never got it. Temperamentally, most of us are very like him in this regard.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Lots of good lines get erroneously attributed to Franklin, much the way they get attached to Voltaire. A truckload of Internet quotation sites notwithstanding, I also don't believe Franklin was the origin of the line about how "rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God."

#28 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:38 PM:

'My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'
--G.K.Chesterton

#29 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Carl Shurz is roughly quoting Stephen Decatur (1817).

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.

And the Founders' goal was liberty, not democracy; democracy was a means.

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:42 PM:

bryan, #7: I think that's implicit in Sterling's quote. The point isn't that burning gorillas are safe to be around, it's that they're liable to be primarily preoccupied with the short-term emergency.

Sterling is reminding us that the image of monolithic, IT-equipped organizations as cunning, omniscient chess masters is largely an artifact of the propaganda put out by monolithic organizations. Inside the citadel, most days, it's burning gorillas all the way down.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:45 PM:

PNH #27: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations attributes that to John Bradshaw ).

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:45 PM:

The Founders had all sorts of goals. Some were devoted to the idea of democracy. Some simply wanted independence from the British crown. Some wanted to protect slavery, while a few wanted to abolish it.

I've heard rumors that they even had big arguments about all this stuff, if you can imagine that. I wonder if there are any books in which you can read about it?

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Fragano #31: That's a lot more believable.

#34 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:52 PM:

4th of July is a lot like Christmas. We're celebrating a birth. Also like Christmas, I think the 4th of July is a great time to extend an olive branch to fellow citizens, especially those with whom we experience significant or painful disagreement. In divisive times, when the suits of the beltway and the pundits and the loudmouths of the airwaves would have us all clawing at eachothers' throats, today is a day to give the dividers in our lives a united middle finger, and sing our collective joy to the heavens over this continued Great Experiment we call the United States of America.

Also, if you will be meeting someone today who is either current or prior service, tip your hat or shake their hand. Like Veterans and Memorial Days, the 4th of July is one of those national patriotic holidays on which it's good to remember the nobility and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform, going all the way back to those cloth-footed, freezing patriots who first marched with Washington.

Also also, be safe and sane. No whacky fireworks tricks. No driving under the influence. Make sure you and your family don't find their holiday turned to tragedy on account of foolishness.

Hooray for the USA! Land of the free, home of the brave!!

#35 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Fragano (31): John Bradshaw first said it, which is no surprise; the sentiment is characteristic of his period. It went into general circulation via Thomas Jefferson, who quoted it in his writing, and used it as the motto on his seal ring.

#36 ::: IT ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Mr. Hydn,
wht prt f 'crdt rcrd' dn't y ndrstnd? Mrvr, wht prt f 'crdt chck' dn't y ndrstnd? r 'crdt crd?' 'Dbt crd?' r 'tlphn rcrds?' (Th .S. phn ntwrk hs ctlly bn nthng bt cmptr ntwrk snc th rly 1990s.) r th fct tht f yr hlth nsrnc s pd fr by yr mplyr, yr hlth rcrds n trms f tht nsrd prd r th prprty f yr mplyr.

Th prblm s nt xctly T - t s hw vrs srcs f dt r nw trvl t ntwrk, nd th fct tht ths ntwrks xst. f crs thr r nmrs fbls, fllcs, nd rrrs n r prspctvs - bt th bsc fct rmns, dtrmnng yr brthr's nghbr's sstr ddrss nd tlphn nmbr n prl 2004 s trvl n th .S. Fndng tht nfrmtn n 1994 ws dffclt, nd t ws mttr f plc ffrt n 1984.

Qt hnstly, cnsdrng hw drg tstng hs bcm prt f th mrcn lndscp, nd hw DN tstng hs xpndd t ncld mny ppl wh mrly cm nt cntct wth th plc, nd n lngr ths wh r fnd glty n crt f lw, wld srsly xpct tht n 2014, n th .S., fndng wht wll lkly stll b clld DN fngrprnt f yr brthr's nghbr's sstr's chld's DN nfrmtn wll b lss ffrt thn fndng t hw mch sh ws pd n 2007.

#37 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Colin McEnroe sums it up.

But I still have hope:

My Strange Nation
By Susan Werner
Produced by Crit Harmon
© 2006 Susan Werner

My strange nation
Has ocean on two sides
And the `Bama Crimson Tide in the south
Tilted slightly toward the north
The immigrants pour forth
Seeking Phoenix
And life hand to mouth

My strange nation
Tilts sharply to the right
With our leaders straight and white
As our teeth
Our population's mixed
But our election's fixed
In my Strange Nation
America

My strange nation
Built on the backs of slaves
Who were sailed here cross the waves
From far away
This cruel experiment
Was ended by a president
Who was both
A republican ... and gay

My strange nation
Gave the Indians our germs
They surrendered on our terms
As in Died
Their survivors filed appeals
So we gave them roulette wheels
In my Strange Nation
America

But my Strange Nation
Has lost its mind again
Sending young women and men
Off to war
For reasons that aren't clear
Unless you're standing near
To the rich and the righteous
And the bored

And my strange nation
Enamored of the cross
And who will win the toss
Of the coin
The circus and the bread
Distract us from the dead
In my Strange Nation
America

But my Strange Nation
Will surely come around
For you cannot hold us down for long
We'll sputter and we'll cough
And throw the despots off
And recover the soul that makes us strong

And my frustration
Is just a product of
My strange but loyal love
For this land
For its mountains and its lakes
Tornadoes and earthquakes
For its poets and pioneers
For its fetishes and fears
For its freedom of dissent
For its greasy government

And I will not change this stance
I will not move to France.
I will always hold out one more chance
For my Strange Nation
America.

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:10 PM:

PNH @30
Inside the citadel, most days, it's burning gorillas all the way down.

Amen to that. I've washed my hair any number of times since quitting big corporate IT, and I still can't get the stench of burned rilla fur out of my hair.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:21 PM:

TNH #35: That explains why the ODQ's citation is from a biography of Jefferson.

#40 ::: Tesseract ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Phn rcrds r fscntng pnt fr bt mr nfrmtn.

n Grmny, mst ppl hv 'Hndys' (cll phns), nd ccsnlly, vrs rcrds r sd n crt - nd yt, th nws rrly rprts n hw sch rcrds r sd.

n thry, ll tlcmmnctn rcrds r dltd ftr 6 wks - t s th lw - bt f crs, tht s nt rlly tr.

Thr ws cs f Mrcds tst drvr bng nvlvd n n ccdnt whch klld wmn nd hr yng chld bcs h ws drvng fr t fst.

H mntnd hs nncnc thrgh th ppl prcss - nd whn lcl Krlsrh rd rprtr gv lv rprt, sh mntnd tht th jdg ws rvwng th cll phn's rcrds wth plc xprts, nd t wld b th lst vdnc rvwd bfr hs dcsn (sh ws thr wtng fr th dcsn) - tht s, th cll phn llwd th sttmnts f th drvr t b chckd gnst n ndpndnt src f nfrmtn cncrnng hs spd nd lctn. Wtht xct prcsn, bt crtnly mr thn sffcnt t rvl hw mch h ws lyng bt hs spd nd lctn.

nd tht ws t - n thr mntn f th mjr rsn hs ppl fld, whch ws th dtld nfrmtn strd n th cll ntwrk.

Thr r lt f fcts whch r smply nt dscssd n pblc - lk th fct tht vry sngl -ml snd hr s mntrd, cmng s t ds frm rp, thgh thrtclly, s n mrcn ctzn wrtng t n mrcn ctzn, t shld nt b hppnng (lt's nt gt strtd wth whthr CHLN dt shrng mks t lgl - CHLN ws lwys fctn n trms f lglty).

nd try syng 'rnm hxflrd' n tlphn cnvrstn - wh knws wht srt f fn mght rslt (wll....). Nt tht wld rcmmnd t, s 'rnm hxflrd' s n f ths trms y my fnd shldn't b sd vr tlcmmnctns ntwrk. nd y my ls fnd tht crtn T rgnztn r lt lss blndrng thn y my mgn.

#41 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Charles Dodgson at #18 "John Adams...signed the Sedition Act, under which Benjamin Franklin's grandson was imprisoned. "

Was there anything especially important about it being Benjamin Franklin's grandson?

Patrick at #30 "Sterling is reminding us that the image of monolithic, IT-equipped organizations as cunning, omniscient chess masters is largely an artifact of the propaganda put out by monolithic organizations. Inside the citadel, most days, it's burning gorillas all the way down"

Well I guess that's something I can agree on. Except this makes the gorilla sound too smart.

However I don't know that this is what Sterling's quip should reasonably be expected to mean.

#42 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Sam Chevre -
Carl Shurz is roughly quoting Stephen Decatur (1817).

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.

And the Founders' goal was liberty, not democracy; democracy was a means.

Oh, I know. But Decatur's comment can be construed* as rather more jingoistic - and much more in keeping with the "Love it or Leave it" version of simply "My Country, right or wrong" that is bandied about by those who would brand all patriots as fools and jerks - and by those fools and jerks who call themselves patriots who spout it off without understanding the whole meaning.

Whereas the words of Shurz - and many of his other words - mark him as a true patriot - a man who believes in the inherent greatness of his country, and will work to keep it great - and work it back on to the road of greatness when it falls off the path. He wasn't perfect (so few icons are) - his maintenance of what would become the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Department of the Interior (rather than the War Department, which it nearly got moved back to) is seen by some - including in the Native American community - as having been a dreadful mistake, the damage of which still hasn't been undone.

As for Chesterton - feh. I know a few people (too many) who would cheerfully give a push if their mother were standing in front of an oncoming train (or at least would not throw a life preserver if they found her drowning in the ocean), and still others who simply wish to have nothing whatsoever to do with their maternal ancestors.

There are times when one says a thing out of desperation, and other times when one says a thing because it needs to be said, or because it wants to be said ("I love you" not being restricted solely for when a parent is on the deathbed, for example).

*This is not to say that I construe it that way - I think Decatur was a hero, and wish we had another dozen or so of him in our modern Navy - we need some pirate hunters for the South China Sea, and the east African coastline - but I can easily see how it can be construed as such.

#43 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:37 PM:

JC @ #11 mentions hearing NPR's broadcasters read the Declaration every year.

Link

#44 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 02:43 PM:

#36, "IT":

Exactly what argument were we having in which it's appropriate to yell at me ("Mr. Hayden, what part of 'credit record' don't you understand? Moreover, what part of 'credit check' don't you understand?") as if I were denying that IT-enabled governmental and corporate surveillance constitute a growing problem? I think it's real problem. I've written about it on this very web site, and I've linked to the writings of smart people like Bruce Schneier who know more about it than I ever will.

I liked the Sterling quote because it's a reminder that, powerful though the giants are, they're often blinded, or at least partly blinded, by immediate short-term emergencies, a situation for which the idea of big gorillas on fire seemed like a witty image. You're entitled to find the image less apposite than I do, and there's plenty of room for a sensible discussion of just how much alarm or terror we should feel as we move into a world of less and less privacy. As Tesseract observes in #40, some IT organizations are a lot less blundering than the Sterling quote implies. Still, Sterling's point of view seems to me worth keeping in mind, and I don't think I need to be hectored about the (perfectly evident) dangers we face just because I posted the quote and then explained it at a little more length.

Also, I'm not "Mr. Hayden."

#45 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 03:03 PM:

"My Country, right or wrong:
If right, to keep it right,
If wrong, to set it right."

Oh, by the way, congratulations to the free English folk who threw off the tyrannical yoke of a foreign king and his foreign mercenaries.

#46 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 03:14 PM:

This is currently showing at the Main Branch (between the lions)

From June 29, 2007 through August 4, 2007
Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery (First Floor)
Humanities and Social Sciences Library, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018-2788

Declaration of Independence

The Library is honored to safeguard a fair copy (clean, full-text version without corrections or alterations) of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s hand. In the days immediately following ratification on July 4, 1776, Jefferson made several copies of the text that had been submitted to the Continental Congress, underlining the passages to which changes had been made. The Library’s copy is one of two known to survive intact. It is shown together with the first Philadelphia printing and the first New York printing of the final version issued by Congress. These versions are complemented by the earliest newspaper printings; the second official version ordered by Congress, published by a woman printer in Baltimore; and a letter from Franklin to Washington mentioning that the Declaration was being drafted. In addition to the exhibition, the 14-minute film We Hold These Truths …, a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, will be shown continuously in the South Court Visitors’ Center. Admission is free.

#47 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Teresa's particle about Watching Sicko in Dallas/Fort Worth seems to me to be a terrific illustration of both the potential for good and the weakness of democracy as she is practiced in this country.

I find it hopeful. But then, I am disposed to hope; I am by nature an optimist, and a patriot. I also am moved by hearing the Declaration of Independence read by the familiar voices I listen to every day (Hi, Nina Totenberg!) Earl Robinson's Ballad for Americans can move me to tears. So can The Lonesome Train. (Our national anthem, not so much. It, and the flag, have been manipulated too much by people who want to channel feeling into prejudice and violence.)

I feel at loose ends, politically speaking. Who to support? What to do? Where to put my outrage and my energy?

#48 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Linkmeister's link seems broken - it ends up at the "missing" page at NPR.org

Try this one instead.

#49 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 04:08 PM:

#48: Neat. The George III thing is a historical misquote. I'll have to remember that. Now that they've corrected the myth though, I hope they come up with a better ending next year.

#50 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Yeah, I mucked it up at my place too. Consistency.

#51 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 04:31 PM:

PRV, #34: I think the 4th of July is a great time to extend an olive branch to fellow citizens, especially those with whom we experience significant or painful disagreement.

An excellent idea. I await the extension of such an olive branch from the likes of Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly. After all, they've been telling me and people like me that we need to do that for a very long time. Leading by example is often the best and strongest way to make your point.

I'm not holding my breath.

#52 ::: Janice E. ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 04:53 PM:

"Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles."
— Abbie Hoffman

Not that this crowd really needs reminding of that ....

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 04:55 PM:

PRV # 34

I'll consider handing out olive branches when the people who have been using 'traitor' and 'unAmerican' in the same sentences with 'liberal' and 'ACLU' apologize to the rest of us.

#54 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 05:13 PM:

I disagree with the Chesterton quote Kathryn cited in #28. "'My country, right or wrong' is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" I have a different standard for patriotism than that. Or perhaps I only care about patriotism in desperate cases.

#55 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 05:17 PM:

meredith (#37): great Susan Werner citation! For somewhat similar mixed feelings that don't ultimately lead to despair, see the latest Jon Carroll column at SFGate.

The gods of link-posting don't seem to like me today, so you'll have to look for it yourself here: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/07/02/DDGMVQ5D141.DTL

#56 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 05:37 PM:

Another quote: "One day public opinion polls announce that the only reason Americans would suport a war would be to prevent Iraq from having nuclear weapons. And the next day Bush announces this as the principal reason for going to war."

This is from Sue Griffin's journal notes in November of 1990, during the run-up to the FIRST Iraq war, recounted in her classic meditation on war, A Chorus of Stones.

Spending the fifth Fourth of July that the U.S. is occupying Iraq rereading her book and thinking about impeachment. My representative in the House is Judiciary Committee member Tammy Baldwin. I'll let her enjoy the Fourth and reflect on what the holiday is all about. Tomorrow I'll call her office about starting the impeachment process.

#57 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Patrick at #26

Aside from the bits about Heinlein's conception of democracy, I don't disagree with anything you said. That's why I put both quotes up there, as they are in the notebooks. I think what he was getting at had more to do with stressing the problems inherent in any approach to government than citing faults with democracy specifically.

#58 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 06:38 PM:

#53

Yup. And I'll consider supporting Our President because he _is_ The President -- when the people who tell me to assume this atittuded of obsequiousness present evidence that they supported our previous President.

Personally, I've never trusted anyone whose first name is "The".

#59 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Don (#58):

I think you're safe there, as I've yet to meet a one of them who doesn't believe that the Clinton impeachment was the best thing that happened during the late '90s.

#60 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Happy Fourth of July!

The US is my adopted home; I moved here six years ago. I think the US is a remarkable country, founded on a remarkable set of ideals, and most of my fears and frustrations arise from when it fails to honour those ideals. Thank you all here for being a community that reminds me that there are many people, all over the country, that believe in making America a better place, and who work for that progress.

I'm proud to be here - both in the US and on Making Light.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Patrick @ 30... Inside the citadel, most days, it's burning gorillas all the way down.

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

#62 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 07:26 PM:

#10 Serge, 1776 is one of my favorites. My wife bought me the DVD last year, after our VHS developed problems. I was shocked to see there were extra songs and dialog I had never seen before (on Philly TV growing up and on the VHS). It's on right now, "We say to Hell with Great Britain, the eagle inside belongs to us."

#37 meredith, now I REALLY have to get her new album (I have all the others).

And later I'll need to go listen to Tim O'Brien's "Mountaineer Is Always Free"

... I carried them up on my shoulders to where they could see
The whole world before them just so they would know what it means
No more a wanderer, no more a refugee
A mountaineer is always free

No kings and no landlords to treat us like beggars and thieves
There's no one but God here to fear or to look down on me
No more a wanderer, no more a refugee
A mountaineer is always free

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 07:43 PM:

Steve Buchheit @ 62... My understanding is that some scenes were pulled out because Dick Nixon didn't like them, especially the one where Rutledge and the other conservatives of Congress launch into a menuet about always stepping to the Right. (Of course, my understanding may be very misinformed. Won't be the first time, won't be the last.)

#64 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 08:06 PM:

I'm really enjoying all the John Adams love today.

#65 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 08:13 PM:

PNH @ #26 said: The basic argument for democracy is justice, not efficiency. People should have a say in how things are organized. All people, not just the ones we respect and approve of. This is something science fiction people have a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around. Heinlein, for all his many strengths, insights, and virtues, never got it.

While anaea @ 56 said: Aside from the bits about Heinlein's conception of democracy, I don't disagree with anything you said.

Heinlein's views on democracy were pretty much the opposite of what Patrick describes and can be found, spelled out in detail, in the afterword to "Who Are The Heirs of Patrick Henry" in the collection Expanded Universe (if you have the current Baen edition, skip to page 485 and start at the top). He strongly advocates replacing universal suffrage with some kind of test of competence for any prospective voter. Some of his suggestions are clearly not meant to be taken seriously but his contention that just having a warm body should not be the sole qualification for voting rights clearly is.

#66 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 08:27 PM:

Patrick #26: The basic argument for democracy is justice, not efficiency. People should have a say in how things are organized. All people, not just the ones we respect and approve of. This is something science fiction people have a great deal of difficulty wrapping their heads around. Heinlein, for all his many strengths, insights, and virtues, never got it. Temperamentally, most of us are very like him in this regard.

Oh, but justice is such a slippery word.

There is an "economic-and-social-justice" sense in which I agree wholeheartedly with Patrick. People should have a say, despite the best efforts of self-appointed political masters and would-be corporate overlords to prevent it.

The trouble with democracy-and-justice (and, perhaps, with selling that meme to science fiction type people) is that a phrase that goes with democracy is "tyranny of the majority." Democracy is great for getting rid of kings and Haliburtons. But it sort of sucks at preserving the rights and prerogatives of individuals who don't happen to be part of the democratic majority.

It's not unheard of for a "science fiction type" to also have been an "odd person out" in high school. I was, and so I know at a gut level what tyranny of the majority feels like. And so, no, I don't automatically "get" the democracy/justice connection, even though it's a perfectly legitimate one. I get how it improves justice in the aggregate, I'm just worried it won't provide justice for me. Nose-counting monkeys acting in concert are at least as dangerous as a single gorilla on fire, and not something we non-conforming individualists want anywhere near us.

All of which is old news, and indeed may be why we technically live in a republic rather than a democracy. Unfortunately, I'd have to say at this point in time that the republic we live in is not functional at restraining the power and economic elites, even if it's struck a balance that might seem comfortable and appropriate to a wealthy patrician like Alexander Hamilton.

#67 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 08:46 PM:

I've always made a McLuhanesque interpretation of Sterling's Gorilla quote.

Computers might make monolithic organizations a bit scarier in the short run, but in the long run they make monolithic organizations less tenable.

"But all the conservatism in the world does not afford even a token resistance to the ecological sweep of the new electronic media." -- Marshall McLuhan, 1967

Or better yet:

" . . . the social and educational patterns latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy. Panic about automation as a threat of uniformity on a world scale is the projection into the future of mechanical standardization and specialism, which are now past."

#68 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 08:54 PM:

I took the Sterling quote to mean, "What? You're only afraid of gorillas when they're on fire?"

#69 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 09:56 PM:

These days, there's also Amartya Sen's argument for democracy --- which is, at least in part, that government will do a better job of seeing towards the poor if the dissatisfied poor can turn them out with means short of armed revolution. (Sen himself here, a few highlights here).

#70 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2007, 11:41 PM:

We could actually ask Bruce Sterling what he meant by that quote. Perhaps he could be persuaded to expound on the theme a bit. There's nothing like a good Sterling Rant. heh.

#71 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 12:37 AM:

I can't find the exact quote, but Jack Vance wrote something like:

"There was once a democracy composed of three hundred wolves and nine hundred squirrels. When the zoning ordinances and city planning regulations were completed, the wolves were required to live in trees and eat nuts."

#72 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 12:50 AM:

For some verbal fireworks, check out this clip of Keith Olbermann talking about Bush and Scooter Libby. It's quite the speech:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmrcpDiv_ac

#73 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 01:03 AM:

in re #26...

Heinlein, for all his many strengths, insights, and virtues, never got it.

Maybe; but that quotation from the Notebooks isn't a good piece of evidence for it, because he paired it with the other one quoted in #21, which makes exactly the same kind of fun of autocracy.

#74 ::: jeff ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 01:19 AM:

He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.
Thomas Paine

#75 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 05:40 AM:

"There's nothing like a good Sterling Rant. "

I agree, they're all awful. :)

sorry, couldn't resist under the circumstances.

#76 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 06:31 AM:

I think I'm going to have to disagree with you there, Bryan. It may just be that, as a journeyman curmudgeon, I have acquired a taste for that sort of thing over the years. There were many quality rants produced by Bruce Sterling, Mike Godwin and others, back when I was sysop of the SMOF-BBS; unfortunately, the archive is stored on Apple IIe floppy disks in a proprietary backup format, so I can't trot any of them out any more.

#77 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 09:23 AM:

Earl, that's a strong argument for broadcasting a call for help in at least finding someone with a working Apple floppy drive and hopefully a copy of the backup software. Some stuff deserves to be rescued for posterity from the digital dark age that's engulfing our recent past.

#78 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 10:43 AM:

Sometimes, democracy is the tyranny of the something-less-than-a-majority.

#79 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 10:57 AM:

David Dyer-Bennet @ 73: Well, in the same book, a government which is a benevolent dictatorship is, if not glorified, at least not criticized, and a bunch of democrats is exiled to another planet so as not to cause disarray (although some consideration is given as to whether democracy would work properly among people who are all ideologically committed).

The main solution offered seems to be "When living with people gets complicated, go move to another planet where you don't have to deal with them." As much as I share that fantasy sometimes (like every day), it's not exactly a workable solution.

Richard Brandt @ 78, I like the idea of the phrase "tyranny of the plurality."

#80 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 11:04 AM:

"Government of the orioles, by the foxes, and for the foxes, must perish from the earth." -- James Thurber

#81 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 11:24 AM:

#71:

"There was once a democracy composed of three hundred wolves and nine hundred squirrels. When the zoning ordinances and city planning regulations were completed, the wolves were required to live in trees and eat nuts."

That's a relatively benign outcome, compared to the democracy of three hundred wolves and one hundred sheep (eventual population 300).

When the majority of people around you hate atheists and gays, and you're an atheist with gay friends, unalloyed democracy doesn't look so great.

"Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man"
I think the theory is that while everybody is stupid in some ways about some things, they are mostly stupid in different ways about different things, so any particular stupidity is outnumbered by the people who don't follow it.

This explains why the greatest threat to democracy has always been ideologies that convince millions of people to be stupid in exactly the same way. (Religions that reach into politics fit this description, but so do some political ideologies.) Which, come to think of it, has a lot to do with *why* most of the people around me hate atheists and gays.

Democracy would work so much better for a non-herd species that didn't have the bandwagon and hierarchy instincts. They'd actually make independent cross-checks on each others' opinions and not just take The Leader's word on things. But you build a political system with the species you have, not the species you wish you had.

#82 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 12:14 PM:
But you build a political system with the species you have, not the species you wish you had

Best reason I've ever heard to uplift the parrots. Mine is a social little guy, but if you try to feed him a line of BS, you're gonna get either beaked or pooped on, whichever's easiest for him at the time.

#83 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 12:50 PM:

May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
—Samuel Adams

There's a bit of dialogue in "300" (that's sort of an understatement, I suppose, unless "Rrrarrrghhh!" counts as dialogue) where Leonides calmly curses his betrayor with "May you live forever." Only problem is that sort of curse only works on people who are capable of feeling shame. Shame seems to have been completely bred out of the Neocons.

History channel had a Revolutionary War marathon going on yesterday. Watched about 6 hours of it. We were amazingly lucky to have to sort of people founding this nation. I shudder to think if Washington was replaced with Bush, Revere replaced with O'Reilley, and Franklin replaced with Dobson.

Funny bit was that it covered the whole span from 1775 up till 1782 and how the English thought their invading army would be welcomed by an uprising of loyalists who would fight the rebels for them, and they just couldn't understand how come it kept not working out that way. The war nearly bankrupt them, and the British population grew tired of the war. In the end, the only ones who wanted to keep up the fight was the King and the hawks who pushed the idea in the first place. After the British parliment voted to end the war, they voted George insane and unfit to rule. Kind of wish we could do that now.

#84 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 01:32 PM:

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

hmm. would a gorilla on fire still be dirty though.

#85 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 01:50 PM:

Bryan@84: Pretty darn sooty, anyway.

#86 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 01:54 PM:

A democracy without minority rights lacks justice. That lack strikes at the heart of what makes democracy better than mob rule. That is why civil rights matter to all of us.

#87 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 02:07 PM:

Bob Webber @ 85

Greasy, too.

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 02:18 PM:

One of the major advantages of any constitutional system is that (if the writers of the constitution had any brains at all) the succession of power is moderated and controlled by laws and the power behind them. This prevents, or at least ameliorates the dislocation caused by the sucession of leaders, and eliminates the sort of social catastrophe caused by wars of succession. Constitutional democracies like the US have the additional advantage of splitting the control of the succession completely out of the normal power elite (in theory, of course), making it harder for the rulers and the controllers of succession to strike a deal to circumvent the system.

That's precisely what Bush and friends have damaged the most with their shenanigans. By publicly perverting the voting system, or at least tampering with it, and using the Supreme Court as cover, they've pushed the system of succession outside its normal operating envelope. It will take at least a generation for that damage to be corrected, assuming that some other greedy politician doesn't decide to follow their example and push the system even further.

#89 ::: JoXn Costello ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2007, 05:42 PM:

"Our community belongs to us and whether it is mean or majestic; whether arrayed in glory or covered in shame, we cannot but share its character and destiny."
-- Frederick Douglass

"Do you ever feel like there's a secret game being played in America, and nobody will tell you the rules?"
-- Get your war on!

"It always feels so good to see Henry Kissinger standing beside a U.S. President. It's kind of like watching Voltron gear up to physically assault the Statue of Liberty."
-- Get your war on!

#90 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 01:58 AM:

"a call for help in at least finding someone with a working Apple floppy drive and hopefully a copy of the backup software"

If my old Apple II gear isn't working anymore (which seems very likely), I'm sure I can find someone who does have working gear. I'm nearly certain the guy in the office one floor above mine has a near mint condition Apple IIe on his desk. Failing that, I'm pretty sure I can get hooked up with one or two of the old engineers still at the company who worked on the II-series computers and have a sentimental attachment to the horrible beasts.

Working out how to get the text converted to more modern interchange formats might be an issue. Which proprietary backup software are we talking about here? (And what version?)

#91 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 02:02 AM:

SpeakerToManagers@88: ...assuming that some other greedy politician doesn't decide to follow their example and push the system even further.

This strikes me as a very dubious and certainly unwarranted assumption.

#92 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 03:00 AM:

j h woodyat @ 91

As I said in a recent comment on another thread, this is the same slippery slope that Rome went down; when the only way to determine the succession is a contest between the candidates in which they themselves are the only ones who make the rules of the contest, you will eventually get to a "Year of Six Emperors". Of course any hope of a decent life for the majority of the population goes out the window much higher up on the slope.

#93 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 03:30 AM:

I probably don't know enough to comment. I've always been more fascinated by the fall of the Roman republic than the fall of its empire.

#94 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 04:59 PM:

To sum up what I gathered with my puny mind:

“Being afraid of monolithic organizations especially when they have computers is like being afraid of really big gorillas especially when they are on fire.”

I guess this means you don't have to fear as long as you're not under one or the other's shadow. Which is, of course, only mildy reassuring. But a great source of relief for those hoping for the light, the fire makers, and all those still beautifully alight.

"A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock, and go to the bottom; a republic is a raft which will never sink, but then your feet are always in the water."

Thanks for this one, very nice analogy. Though I must say my main reason for prefering the republic isn't so much its greater reliability as the knowledge that, if everything goes as should, there'll be no one chained in the hold (and even, with greater luck, no one thrown overboard).

#95 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 10:46 PM:

To mix up a metaphor, the fall of the Republic and the fall of the Empire were one slow-motion train wreck. The Republic was taken over by thugs, who spent the next 3 or 4 centuries squabbling over the division of the spoils.

IMO, though, the Republic has a lot more to offer in terms of literature and art* than the Empire. My theory is that having to produce institutional art with your life hanging on critical acceptance is not conducive to creativity.


* Though Rome was never really a deeply artistic place; in many ways it was a utilitarian culture.

#96 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2007, 11:27 PM:

I would agree with Bruce Cohen #95. It's a fair description of the worst of the Empire, though perhaps a little tough on some fairly Good Guys: Hadrian, Agricola, Marcus Aurelius, even Claudius.

On parallels between Julius and the present merry band, I quite take the point, but would remark that when Caesar crossed the Rubicon he was a successful fighting general adored by his troops, whose loyalty was to him, personally, since he paid and secured retirement benefits for them. Those veteran troops were a decisive force that could, and did, beat all comers in the field. George W Bush, Richard Cheney and their merry band of loyal neocons and dominationists do not appear to me to be in the same respective classes; and I believe - though I speak under correction, if others have seen evidence to the contrary - that the US military is still loyal to the Constitution, not to the person who holds the office of President. Speaking as a foreigner, if there is persuasive evidence to the contrary then I believe it is time to be very, very afraid.

#97 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 01:15 AM:

Dave Luckett,

True, I was hard on some of the less bloody-minded of the earlier emperors, but it's difficult to be even-handed when you're synopsizing more than 4 centuries of the politics of a significant fraction of the civilized* world. I wasn't just talking about Julius when I mentioned the thugs who hijacked the Republic. The takeover started before the coronation of any emperor. I'd say the skids were well-greased by the time the First Triumvirate took secret power; the Civil War was an almost inevitable outcome of the failure to restore true representative government after Sulla left power.**

The current situation in the US isn't a close parallel to Republican Rome. For one thing, there's a much larger difference between standard military tactics and civil control operations in US military doctrine than there was for the Roman Legions. So the military isn't a tool that comes as easily to hand as it did for Sulla and other generals who took political power in Rome. The levers of power in the US are much more related to economic and political forces than military or police power.

But that could change. The effort that the Neobarbs are going to to purge the general officer corps, to take control of the military academies, and to proselytize Dominionist Christianity in the Chaplain Corps would seem to show that they believe that it will change if they have any say in the matter. I personally don't believe that this is a danger yet, but that we dare not allow them to continue these actions any longer.


* in the literal sense of "the culture of cities". I make no representations that the Romans were civilized by modern Western standards.

** It didn't help a bit that Crassus and Pompey hated each other's guts. A triumvirate two of whose members can't agree on anything but each other's painful deaths isn't likely to institute effective power-sharing mechanisms.

#98 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 01:17 AM:

Dave Luckett writes: I believe - though I speak under correction, if others have seen evidence to the contrary - that the US military is still loyal to the Constitution, not to the person who holds the office of President.

If the constitutional crisis in the U.S. grows deep enough, the questions to ask will all be about how much of what parts of the U.S. military, police and paramilitaries, and in control of what resources and positions are loyal to which factions of civilians claiming to be the True Defenders of the Constitution against the Terrorist Fifth Column. American civil religion about the inviolability of the Constitution is still impervious to assault.

I sincerely and very much doubt our constitutional crisis will grow anywhere that deep, but then— I doubted the crisis would grow as deep as it now has... I have a very bad record of predicting the course of this weirdness.

#99 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Well, if we were writing fiction here, my plot would look something like this: About a year from now, there is a major terrorist attack in this country, which the administration informs us (and the media obediently recites) is the work of Iranian-backed organizations. Despite Iran's denials and other countries' demands to see proof, the President decisively unilaterally retaliates, starting a third simultaneous shooting war. Due to warnings of a terrorist plot to attack the election, it is postponed for the duration of the present crisis; another terrorist threat forces Homeland Security to shut down the Capitol Building and other Congressional offices until the terrorists planning to attack it are captured. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court rules that it should defer to the judgment of the Executive Branch in these matters, dismissing lawsuits challenging the legality of election postponement and involuntary adjournment of Congress.

*Now* who's the military loyal to? Do even they know?

I predict it won't take much of a veneer of legality to confuse them into sticking with the chain of command (which is drilled into them pretty hard in the first place, I think - correct me if I'm wrong, though, I'm a civilian). And you know what kind of officers will be in command: ones with the proper loyalties.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Chris #99:

There is no precedent for postponing elections for the duration of a war in the US, and there could be no justification for doing so. In the wake of some huge disaster like terrorists nuking New York the day before the elections, maybe you'd have to postpone elections in New York, and conceivably even in the country, for a few weeks. But there doesn't seem to be any way that this leaves Bush or his appointees in power.

#101 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 06:41 PM:

Chris wrote (99):
I predict it won't take much of a veneer of legality to confuse them into sticking with the chain of command (which is drilled into them pretty hard in the first place, I think - correct me if I'm wrong, though, I'm a civilian). And you know what kind of officers will be in command: ones with the proper loyalties.

I dunno. My contact with higher brass was always non-existent (although some of my class would now be mid-range officers - Majors and Colonels), but the officer's oath is -

"I (insert name), having been appointed a (insert rank) in the U.S. Army under the conditions indicated in this document, do accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."

as far as I know, that hasn't changed - and I know that even in first year ROTC courses, they stress the "not an oath to the President, not an oath to Congress, not even an oath to the people of the United States - oath is sworn to defend the Constitution, not any of those other things". Now while that may have changed - it's been twenty years - a lot of those mid-range officers grew up on that culture - and there are lots and lots more majors and colonels than there are generals, and a lot less ability to just wipe them off the face of the Army wholesale.

I suspect, under any circumstances where there is a question, you are not - at all - going to see a lockstep response. Some will fight, some will stay in barracks, some will disband/desert, and some will fight - on the "wrong" side.

The percentages will vary, in all branches and even arms (istr a survey done in the mid/late 90s which suggested that something on the close order of 90% of Navy enlisted surveyed would refuse to fire on US citizens, except under drug enforcement situations, no matter the provocation or order given, unless they were under fire and threat of their life from the other side, but I can't find a source for it any more), but the idea that, in a revolution/revolt/coup d'etat situation, the military will move in lockstep is, I suspect, a foolish one - you're more likely to see a general paralysis, rather than a solid backing of the current government.

#102 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Chris @ 99

I predict it won't take much of a veneer of legality to confuse them into sticking with the chain of command

I think this is likely provided that no strong voice from within the military or from a recently-retired high-ranker speaks out against the coup. I suspect that retired General Wesley Clarke, who has been pushing hard to prevent an attack on Iran recently, would speak out against a coup attempt, and would be listened to be many active military personnel. But that wouldn't necessarily solve the problem; it might just split the military into pro- and anti-coup camps. On the other hand, I think it unlikely that military units can be convinced to actively engage other units, or to fire on civilians who were demonstrating with the backing of high-ranking civilian and military officials. A situation like that would be a real crap-shoot

#103 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 08:56 PM:

#102 Bruce:

I don't think a coup could succeed, but a serious attempt that went beyond the "Have you lost your mind, Mr President" stage might very well wreck the country.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2007, 11:49 PM:

You realize, of course, that the only reason that Richard Nixon didn't twitch and push the big red button in the nuclear football out of spite instead of resigning was because Remo Williams snatched him and hauled his sorry butt to the top of the Washington Monument, sat him down on the pinnacle and had a little chat with him....

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 12:44 AM:

albatross @ 103

Depends on what you mean by "succeed". If Bush ends up President-for-Life of a US consisting of the Eastern Seaboard states and Texas with the rest of the country effectively having seceded, he might think that was good enough.

And if a few thousand people die in street fighting and the National Guard is shredded from inter-unit fighting, I'm not sure I'd call it a successful coup prevention.

#106 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 03:04 AM:

Chris@99: "*Now* who's the military loyal to? Do even they know?"

I hate to say it, but that plot sounds far-fetched to me. It's the forced adjournment of Congress that sets off the loudest alarms. The postponement of elections is also hard to imagine, but to get to either one directly from a terrorist mass-casualty event requires the suspension of more disbelief than I'm willing to put up. Continuity of Government plans are pretty specific about how this kind of event sequence is supposed to be handled. I doubt the military would have any trouble figuring out where it was honor-bound to be.

A more interesting plot development would be if President Bush is impeached and removed from office, then— before Vice President Cheney takes his oath— a mass-casualty terrorist attack happens and Cheney vanishes. Was he killed in the attack? Has he merely been temporarily incapacitated and undergoing surgery somewhere? Is his brain still functional? Whatever, Nancy Pelosi takes the oath of office. She's President, and she starts doing things the military really doesn't like, i.e. treating the terrorist attack like a law enforcement problem, not an act of war. Then, out of nowhere, Dick Cheney returns to public view. Pelosi refuses to step down. Cheney insists he's still the Imperial Vice President. Some of the battleground states in the 2008 election are asking for federal emergency assistance to deal with aftermath of terrorist attacks. The infighting in the executive branch spills over into the legislative branch, and now the Dem hawks with all of the GOP are boycotting Congress until Pelosi resigns. The Senate can't achieve quorum anymore. Pelosi reaches a compromise with Cheney about a limited martial law to be applied across the states with the worst damage. Progressive Democrats, being only nominally in control of a badly bollixed Congress and seeing that the state of emergency will throw the 2008 election badly in favor of the GOP, loudly demand Pelosi make the emergency nationwide and suspend all federal elections for the duration. Meanwhile, conservatives and the GOP continue to assert the unconstitutionality of Pelosi's ascension to the Oval Office. The elite and mainstream media loudly and constantly reinforce this view. Pelosi suspends the elections, declares threat level red, fires the Attorney General without replacing him, orders Cheney arrested for insubordination and, the very next day, he's suspiciously declared incompetent by a physician. Moreover, she "orders" all the boycotting Senators to report to Congress and sends federal marshals to collect enough technically to make quorum. They all catch private flights out and set themselves up in exile in Britain, which chooses not to deport them.

At this point, the Imperial Presidency is in the hands of one of the people in America the military loathes most. The Congress is totally dysfunctional for the indeterminate future, but $400B/fy needs to be allocated to the Pentagon somehow. Pelosi isn't going to shut down the military for lack of allocation— she's too pragmatic for that. She'd just unilaterally assert dictatorial power and try to keep the engine running somehow. Right about there is where I would expect the military to reach its breaking point and start wondering where their loyalties really lie.

There are lots of things about this plot I still don't like. Personally, I think I shouldn't try to compose near-future political catastrophe stories. I'm certainly not competition for Ken MacLeod...

#107 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 08:45 AM:

But in 2006, the Thief in Chief did announce plans to postpone the election in the event of a terrist attack. It didn't fly--but what if the lesson learned was not "don't postpone elections" but "don't announce anything"?

#108 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 12:56 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 106

I'm certainly not competition for Ken MacLeod...
I'd be more concerned about competition with Karl Rove :-(

This is the point I was making before about the slippery slope of succession. After some (probably very early) point in the process, everybody is part of the problem, and there may be no solution that puts Humpty Dumpty back together. Once the process breaks sufficiently the only recourse may be to tear it down and rebuild, and I certainly don't relish living through the consequences of that. Once the military gets involved, expecially if its loyalties are divided, it's likely that a significant number of civilian deaths will follow, and very likely that the rebuilding process will involve at least one generation of fairly harsh authoritarian rule. Whether the eventual outcome is worth the pain is an interesting question, for interesting times.

#109 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 04:38 PM:

albatross said (#100):
There is no precedent for postponing elections for the duration of a war in the US, and there could be no justification for doing so. In the wake of some huge disaster like terrorists nuking New York the day before the elections, maybe you'd have to postpone elections in New York, and conceivably even in the country, for a few weeks. But there doesn't seem to be any way that this leaves Bush or his appointees in power.

Just to add to this: elections were not postponed during the Civil War, nor were they postponed, as far as I can tell, during the War of 1812 -- not even the election of 1814, which took place only a few months after Washington, D.C., was captured and burned by British troops. That's a pretty strong precedent.

#110 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 04:41 PM:

1. House impeaches Cheney.
2. Senate convicts Cheney.
3. Congress rejects any attempt to appoint a new vice president at confirmation hearings.
4. House impeaches Bush.
5. Senate convicts Bush.

It would be problematic, though, if Bush were to resign and Cheney didn't resign during this process. The VP impeachment process would be interrupted and would most likely have to be restarted to impeach President Cheney.

There, I said it. "President Cheney". (shudder) I'm not saying it five times in front of a mirror, or it might trigger a Candyman Event.

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 07:52 PM:

Earl, you're going to have practice typing "He Who Must Not Be Named". And, yes, it's much more dangerous aloud than in text. Although, sometimes summonings can surprise you. Maybe Chen- er HWMNBN is like that demon that was summoned by some frat boys in an episode of Buffy, where everyone was terrified of this thing that they had no magical defenses against. Vg ghearq bhg vg jnf 3 vapurf gnyy, fb fbzrbar fgrccrq ba vg naq fdhvfurq vg syng. Nalbar ibyhagrre gb trg gur Irrc nyy bire gurve fubrf?

#112 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 08:28 PM:

I've already doomed myself to the Happy Camps many times over for things I've said here. It's just a matter of time before the FEMA dataminers get around to processing ML comments.

#113 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 10:31 PM:

Bruce 111: Vg ghearq bhg vg jnf 3 vapurf gnyy, fb fbzrbar fgrccrq ba vg naq fdhvfurq vg syng. Nalbar ibyhagrre gb trg gur Irrc nyy bire gurve fubrf?

Zr! Zr! Tbg gur ovt obbgf nyy ernql!

#114 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2007, 10:46 PM:

I am fascinated by the optimism of some of these comments in view of the removals of general officers who have the guts to say out loud that Cheney isn't connected to the real world. How many of the ones that remain think that Cheney is smart enough that they should follow his orders instead of their oaths -- or worse, accept Cheney's novel interpretations of the Constitution, and therefore think that they are in fact following their oaths? And if a sitting general says one thing and a retired general another, how many officers or enlisted men will break the chain of command, given a plausible excuse for not doing so?

#115 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2007, 02:25 AM:

CHip @ 114

how many officers or enlisted men will break the chain of command, given a plausible excuse for not doing so?

Probably no enlisted men at all, and normally very few officers below general rank. That these are not normal times for the military may be the one bright spot in the current picture: there appears to be a good deal of unrest among junior generals and senior colonels over the Cheney Military Gospel. One of the few indications visible from outside the military itself is the writing of and the reaction to the article by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling on the failure of the general officer corps to properly prepare for and wage the war in Iraq.

Oddly, one of the senior generals who's given Yingling even lukewarm public approval is General David Petraeus, Bush's Surge Leader. That may be because the two know each other; I do know that Lt. Col. John Nagl was a co-author on a Field Manual with Yingling and on another with Petraeus.

#116 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2007, 03:59 PM:

I hate to say it, but that plot sounds far-fetched to me. It's the forced adjournment of Congress that sets off the loudest alarms.
That would definitely set off alarms - among some people. But given the evidence of the last six years, I can no longer say with confidence that the American people as a whole would not sit still for it. If it's just a few leftists marching in the streets, they (or in the event, more likely we) can be pretty easily suppressed or ignored.

Clearly, the people demanding that elections be held on schedule are just trying to make sure that the terrorists' target doesn't get snatched away before they can strike it. That's the fair and balanced interpretation of events. Didn't the Supreme Court rule that the President has the authority to take those steps to ensure national security? (Well, it did in my fictional scenario, anyway.) That's two branches of government against some congressional grumblers and bloggers.


It's a stretch, but I don't think it's out of the question. I bet the Senate never expected Caesar's army to cross the Rubicon with him, until it was too late. (Or maybe they did, having had the previous example of Sulla. But it didn't seem to do them much good.)

#117 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2007, 06:17 PM:

"But given the evidence of the last six years, I can no longer say with confidence that the American people as a whole would not sit still for it."

I mean that I have hard time imagining that the Congress would sit still for it. They'd have to put members in jail basically without charge. What? Are They going to accuse Tom Lantos of being an enemy combatant and ship his ass to Camp X-ray? No. As I pointed out above, all They would really need to do is engineer proper conditions to prevent the Senate from achieving quorum. Without quorum, the Senate can't even change its own rules. The Congress would be effectively shut down.

#118 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Aw, crud. We're never going to be able to prevent hideous recess appointments by maintaining a Senate quorum of 51 senators in place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

#119 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2007, 03:20 PM:

I think the rules say the Senate has to be in recess for some number of days before a recess appointment is allowed. I haven't looked it up, though.

You're basically right. You can't stop recess appointments by keeping the Senate from recessing. The Federalists wanted a strong executive, and that's why the Constitution says the President has to be impeached— not just voted out with no confidence— as a remedy if you don't like his/her recess appointments. Unless you can charge the President with a high crime or misdemeanor, and win a conviction at trial in the Senate, you're going to be stuck with his/her recess appointments until the end of the Congressional term.

#120 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2007, 02:17 AM:

Bruce, CHip: The enlisted are not automatons.

If such a scenario as have been discussed here were to come to pass, there would be chaos in the ranks.

I thought this through when I enlisted; the answers (which I shan't share with anyone, haven't done it, won't do it) haven't changed. Should it come to pass, I've already made up my mind.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2007, 11:15 PM:

Terry: How many are not automatons, after the training designed to produce same? If you went right down the line of ]serial[ numbers, how many would jump your way? I know this only from the outside, but I've discussed enough bits with people who were inside to wonder whether fractures could happen.

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