В чем дело?*

Here’s a question for you, Dear Reader, about the road ahead. Over the years together we’ve explored and explained much of the American experience under Christian Socialist Authoritarianism 2001-2008. Sadly, we also assessed Obama correctly in 2007 and warned of recent events. So, what now?

Our lengthy joint conversation remains (begun before YouTube, when Arianna was still swanning for fleeting TV camera glimpses behind Arnold in California). Sure, some (many?) of the posts were hit or miss. But together we did lay down more than a few good ones. Those remain just as relevant today.

We watch with dismay ‘informed’ Democratic thinkers post-election smugly intoning that smart Democrats need to accommodate the Movement even more. Obama’s 2 year ineffective political disengagement will suddenly morph into Clinton’s adroit, intensely engaged political counterpunching? Boehner will be as psychologically fragile as Newt? Or is it some fundamental Democratic compulsion to commit ‘suicide by Movement’?

One is reminded of the apocryphal person determined to drown. One can offer help while remaining careful not to get ensnared and pulled down, too.

Because one thing is for sure: Democrats won’t learn a thing. Again.


* ‘What’s the deal?’


  1. Comment says

    re Obama – Pelosi should sit him down when they meet and show him the scene of the Godfather when the Nevada Senator (symbolic in this case of the new GOP winners) tells Michael what he expects of him and Michael replies. So far Obama has done the opposite – Not a big deal on small issues – but cumulative. He has to start winning for winning sake – The whole tax thing should be a no brainer since the cuts expire automatically – Normally a Dem Pres would have to work to get a vote to get the repeal – but here the automatic expiration is already gifted – But the Dems treat this gift like a plague. Obama doesn’t seem to realize the value of just denying the GOP a tax cut – just for the sake of denying them

  2. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Josh Marshall comments on Obama’s failure really to try and closethe START Treaty.


    We’re jealous of Josh and his team, not for the usual trappings that go with success post 2001. They earn that in spades. Besides, his sites are information rich and well designed.

    Rather we’re jealous of their unflagging enthusiasm for the day to day tactical minutiae. Congressman X likes Dr. Pepper, switches to Sprite. TPM is not Politico by any means, thank goodness. And sure, they get paid to blog. We know deal heat is real. Getting caught up in transactional information can be an intoxicant.

    But re Obama’s abdication of practical politics, how many times can one write essentially the same story with different nouns? Even with a pay cheque attached?

  3. Dr Leo Strauss says

    A Russian defector from Directorate “S” (illegals) is named by Moscow for allegedly helping blow the long term sleeper program rolled up per comments earlier in this thread.


    In keeping with the current cruder language from ruling certain circles, the promised retribution is not the brutal ‘London Touch’ or radioactive poison cloaked in euphemism but explicitly the ice pick.

    Our take at the time was here:


  4. Comment says

    Somewhat similarly – the media rallied to Rand Paul following the admittedly poorly done aqua buddha as – But this was just a case of the media allowing Rand Paul to amp up his false level of piety. Same with Dubya – who was about as observant as Obama.

  5. Comment says

    Bush in his book as this totally made up story – easily refuted – that he became pro life when his (planned parenthood fundraiser) Mom showed him her miscarry in jar.
    But Bush was pro choice long after that – when he ran for Congress for the 1st time.
    The whole story is BS – but for some reason the media just relays this as a revelation.
    There is just no way they would let Obama say something to easily disproved – Presumably this is one topic where the media is actually liberal – Why do they let Bush says this> We guess they condescendingly think this is an odd quirky explanation of something they don’t understand – Instead, they should look at history and notice Bush never did anything about abortion when he was President and the whole thing was just a political wedge against conservative Dems and a rally point for the base.

  6. Comment says

    @Dr Leo Strauss
    Generally we think things will work out over the longer term – we thought the economy would recover more – One thing we have been disappointed with Obama is his failure to take advantage of pretexts – Opposite of Dubya manufacturing pretexts and pseudo probs so he can “do” Iraq or social sec. etc.
    Obama had a great pretext to fire a lot of people when they tried to box him in AfPak etc – In fact, the Afpak moniker was somewhat a redefinition of the issue so as to change the subject a bit – We would have preferred Obama to have gone with a modified form of the Biden plan and then when the Generals came back with bogus plans, he could have fired many people who violated the spirit of change in nat. sec. policy.
    He should have pushed the foeign money/secret money thing as soon as Cit United came down – The whole establishment – including the liberal elites in DC – squeak like cornerd rats when the topic is raised. Rove never looked more porcine than when this was alleged against him – But you have to push push push and not back down –
    Would Obama have drop kicked Bork with the same glee and ease that Teddy K. did? No, we think he would not. But have you ever noticed how Republicans still whine about that? They do that kind of thing to Dems all the time and for once Ted K did it to them. Obama can learn a lesson from that.

  7. Dr Leo Strauss says

    @LarryM and Tbilisi
    Cogently put forth. The American Project was always a mortal experiment. No republic has ever really lasted long. Franklin and ‘As long as you can keep it’.

    As Tbilisi notes re Brooks’ column, it once meant more than aspiring to becoming a global FaceBook. That is now cutting edge thought leadership 2010. We share the same sense of likely outcomes both you articulate. Larry your odds on the blink and its outcome resonate. On good days we dare to sip cautiously from Tbilisi’s hope and cautious optimism.

  8. LarryM says

    And finally, my pessimism below is really based very much upon the truth of what Dr.
    wrote in comment 4 to the last thread (and of course many other times in the past).

    Dr. LS, let me ask you, in light of that analysis, do you really belive that ANY president – especially any electible president – could have taken a course any more ultimately effective than Obama’s? Yes, I would have MUCH preferred to see him have gone down fighting for something better – and of course calling out the Movement for what it is – but would that have really made any difference, given our debased polity?

  9. LarryM says

    And actually I think what will happen will be a combination of b and c – worst of all worlds – Dems blink, but too late to avert disaster.

    Of course voters could blame Rs for the consequences – unlikely – both because voters are idoits, and Dems sure to get outplayed on the politics of blame. And even a Dem victory in 2012 would be pyhric – really I see no hope at all.

  10. LarryM says

    Let me start by saying that, while not fond of Obama for many of the same reasons that you have stated, I don’t think that there is a scenario where he really could have made things better in a sustained way. Historically, movements sharing the characteristics of contemporary movement conservatism are very tough to fight once they have a foothold. I think an Obama who called movement for what it was, and eschewed “bipartisanship,” would have electorally been just as much of a disaster. Which is to say that, as much as our elites have failed us over the years, the people bear their share of the blame.

    Really the only thing that could have worked would have been … eh, I won’t spell it out, it would have been extra-constitutional, and would have either been almost as bad as the alternative, or would have been forestalled by a military coup. And, of course, would never have been taken by someone as basically supportive of the establishment as Obama.

    But as to what happens next, I am not going to venture a prediction. I can see several different futures for this nation, almost all of them bad. In the short run, I think that the Republicans will play hardball with the debt limit. Of the possible outcomes … (1) Republicans blink – not going to happen; (2) neither side blinks – financial meltdown and possible world depression; (3) Dems blink – adverts short term catastrophe at the cost of further strengthening the hand of the worst elements of our society.

  11. Comment says

    Leo – Everything you say re CI makes sense – It’s a lot more complicated these days than Ron Kessler a al Spy Vs. Spy. It seems the Bureau’s biggest monkey on the back has its being saddled with a Gary Aldritch small minded mentality – which encroaches on its more stolid and daughty G-man ethos.

  12. Tbilisi says

    @Dr Leo Strauss
    In my opinion, the most profound truth you have systematically chronicled in and for our wee community here is that there is indeed a tangible revolutionary social movement operating within American society at cultural, political, and institutional levels, which above all seeks to roll back the pillars of liberal democratic society in the United States.

    I get the feeling that while some deny this, many many other ken it but are afraid to articulate it for fear of feeling and being labeled as a conspiracy theorist. But one side effect of our 30 year consumptive bubble is a collective forgetting that conspiracy doesn’t just involve secret cabals. It can and more often just means people intentionally working together towards a common cause. In this light, failure to take the Movement seriously as a dangerous anti-Enlightenment revolutionary faction reflects IMO not only end-of-history utopian fantasy, but also an innovation in corporatism in which a decadent, venal, corrupt oligarchy is replaced by a decadent, venal, corrupt elite socio-economic class representing the top 5-10% of society (see Brooks today for a perfect illustration)

    What is forgotten is that the Movement is in practical terms attempting to roll back the New Deal and its later refinements, which itself was a revolutionary movement and a ‘conspiracy’ on the part of FDR to use national crises to promote a fairer and more economically successful society, and a foreign policy that actively promoted the destruction of empire.

    The Revolution has come, and it was largely televised. It just wasn’t the one that clueless, decadent, Sanity-uber-alles contemporary American liberals wanted.

    The Proles never revolt in any constructive way, so I am just holding out hope (with still a bit of optimism) that the liberal democratic remnant will at least accept reality and eventually articulate the danger and an alternative. If not, for most resistance will be futile.

  13. Dr Leo Strauss says

    One – OK two – observations about Wilson and his wife Valerie on O’Donnell’s embryonic broadcast last night.

    Wilson talks over his wife and gives the impression he still assumes the matter and any questions are about *him*. Santa Fe evidently hasn’t changed things much.

    Second, Plame, when she did speak, casually invoked ala Kuttner the Agency needed a Team B on Iraq. She misses the point entirely — Feith, Hannah, Wurmser, Cheney, Addington, Scooter et al. — all of them WERE the new Team B. The Agency did get one.

    How a personal victim of that new Team B remains clueless about what she lived through is bemusing. She evidently doesn’t know or chooses to forget that Angelo and *many* others during the first Reagan transition argued strenuously to abolish CIA entirely in 1980.

    Cheney’s war on the Agency was more successful (abetted by Tenet). The irony is lost on Plame.

    Plame’s use of ‘Team B’ — like Kuttner’s — reduces the whole matter to just a traditional Red Cell exercise ala a SAIC or Newport war game. OPFOR. You know, like those annoying UPS commercials with the guy standing by a whiteboard. ‘Thinking outside the box’.

    That’s not to say the actual ‘Team B’ did not have useful observations. Sure, Bush 41 created it as a political punt to placate the ‘Committee on the Present Danger’ crowd. To do the whole thing justice is too complex to go into here. IIRC we’ve written about it at STSOZ 1.0. Later access to senior Soviet military figures and then Soviet archives retrospectively adds clarity and perspective — as it did to the entire post-war analytical effort against the Soviet target.

    Still, the poster woman for Neocon excess and Cheney expediency wishes that the Agency got a Team B. While she and then the Agency were destroyed by that very new and feral Team B. Words fail.

  14. DrLeoStrauss says

    The Russians and Soviets earlier have always had that Ailes/Fox tribalism mentality and marketing image. With ideology more or less out as a recruitment tool for decades, it’s a potent asset. Apparently the 5 time draft dodger deferment recipient Cheney shares the view given his ‘we don’t leave our wounded soldiers behind on the battlefield’ entreaty to Dubya re Scooter.

    Plus, Americans are comparatively cheap to buy, an assessment shared from all across the Pacific Rim to Yasenevo and the GRU. That’s Asian and European perceptions about buying Americans generally, especially politicians, and not just intelligence officers. Nicholson got somewhere around $200k plus iirc as a GS-15. (Haven’t read the filings in years and don’t trust sloppy recitals circulating now).

    SVR adding a paltry $47,000 to the Nicholson account burnishes their ‘we take care of our own’ rep. In the worst case it’s discovered as here. Good pub for encouraging current and future recruits. Comparative chicken feed for the impact. Nice to see American CI is nimble in this case, at least.

    By comparison, recall that the frankly more cute than alleged bombshell and youngster ‘Anna Chapman’ was given and handled many millions. (Although there is no question that operationally the FBI screwed the pooch in their bungled meeting with Chapman that sent her sending up the flare).* The rest of those rolled up in 2010 collectively also received significantly more lavish infrastructure support. On top of that, the GRU probably still has more foreign assets worldwide than the old First Chief Directorate/SVR.

    Moving on from the Nicholson/Agency specifics to general CI perspectives, we’ve criticized the Bureau over the years for its crushing encroachment on liberal democracy in the name of War on Terrorism. Our Duma and the Executive gave the cloak of legitimacy to the Bureau making it in our view a largely unaccountable if not quasi-lawless, rogue institution. As we said, Obama has ’embraced and extended’ the Bush/Cheney approach to quote Bill Gates during his noontide.

    The Bureau’s CI mission, however, we have supported and defended from day one here. Compared to the ‘flooding the zone’ from Soviet/Russian, Chinese, Israeli, other alleged allies they have been underfunded, under appreciated and sometimes simply swamped. And each nationality/ethnic grouping has unique approaches to penetrating America. It’s a daunting mission.

    We still support that mission notwithstanding their clumsy, amateurish, ham-fisted efforts to approach Americans ‘for help’.

    They’ve approached ex- Agency personnel on the faculty at major universities and other types elsewhere around town during the Bush Administration. The schtick is the Bureau seeks ‘informational meetings’ about one’s perceptions of ‘Target X’. For the unwary, the Bureau then seeks to entangle the American citizen in operational efforts against ‘Target X’. Almost invariably, the American suddenly is in an Alice-In-Wonderland bizzaro world of Bureau-promoted charges of espionage and complicity — for cooperating with Bureau choreographed set ups in the first place.

    The Bureau’s duplicity and petty vindictiveness became so infamous a major warning email about not even taking an initial meeting with them was sent around policy and academic circles during the Bush Administration. Everyone read it. The Warning: Don’t even talk to them. You will get fucked.

    We didn’t need that warning after they first sat in our office and insulted us with crude insinuations and then comically pleaded for our help. Literally right out of Steve Carell and ‘The Office.’

    In this sense, the Bureau is its own worst enemy. It fostered perversely the anti-Russian/Soviet rep. Using people and then burning them, setting them up or otherwise being untrustworthy. Insulting people then assuming they will get involved in some Bureau ‘hare brained scheme’. Perhaps part of their DNA as essentially small-minded, rigid law enforcement/self-inflated private dicks [pun intended]. Bureau internal politics are Byzantine.

    We do give the Bureau props at least for walking away from torture. And despite the above, Mueller along with Aschroft, Goldsmith and others did take a stand against Addington and Cheney. So to be clear, this is not some blind blog screed. As with all things, there are nuances.

    Despite our decline to their insulting insinuations and then farcical request for ‘operational help’, we know the CI mission is a vital one. We continue to believe more resources, training and support *with appropriate oversight* are crucial. A shame that oversight won’t happen. The Bureau outside the CI mission likely will continue to mimic faintly the Russian FSB re trampling domestic civil liberties.

    Still, while there remains the faintest hope of restoring a law-based liberal democratic republic, the CI mission is vital. Someone has to do it.

    Update: Not to confuse the Agency’s own CI capabilities re Nicholson and the matter at hand with the more general observations about the Bureau’s domestic CI mission.

    *Update 2: Given the latest Kommersant revelations about the June 2010 Directorate “S’ defection of Shcherbakov and his later role in interrogating the mole Vasenkov posing as the Peruvian husband of El Diario columnist, the initial botched Chapman meeting becomes even more interesting. Vasenkov, whose wife Vicky Pelaez was also a spy and lived with her in Yonkers, was being promoted to the rank of general.

    After his arrest, Vasenkov was visited in his jail cell by Shcherbakov. But Vasenkov — who apparently had never met his boss — didn’t recognize him.
    “Mikhail Anatolyevich, you have to confess and give it up,” Shcherbakov told him in Russian. Vasenkov responded that he didn’t speak the questioner’s language.
    Shcherbakov switched to English. Vasenkov, 65, replied: “I am Juan Lazaro. This is all a stupid mistake. I don’t understand what I’m accused of.”

    He continued to stonewall until Shcherbakov placed a folder in front of him. It was Vasenkov’s internal SVR file, which Shcherbakov had brought with him from Moscow. Only then did Vasenkov admit who he was.

  15. Comment says

    In addition – it’s the featured article in HuffPo – we would comment, but don’t want to bother signing in.

  16. Comment says

    re Kuttner – yeah – he is totally clueless to the fact he has this bogus meme floating around his brain – Somewhere at some party or panel or reception or maybe in WaPo he heard that intellectuals called Team B did some great stuff schooling the establishment or whatever.

    Lord knows we all have misinfo implanted in ourselves – but his team B mistake is really unacceptable for someone as plugged in his he is.

    Had Christine O’Donnell made the same mistake – a collective smug chuckle would be audible as Everyone laughed at New Christine being gulled by her neocon handlers.

  17. Comment says

    Obama just used the phrase “hard long slog” on 60 min – A variation of Rumsfeld “long hard slog” – This follows hard upon his “heckuva job” slip up on Daily Show –
    As we noted in the recent past – Obama has also used Bushism “make no mistake” that he never used years ago.
    As an ally of his I say e needs a friend to grab him and tell him to snap out of it. It’s later than he thinks.

  18. Redhand says

    I Googled “stop the Spirit of Zossen” to get a bit further into this blog’s raison d’être. Catchy, I must admit, and a sound description of the recent high tide of Bush-Cheney authoritarianism and, to call a spade a spade, fascism.

    When I look past that abyss to the first two years of the Obama Presidency what strikes me is how truly degenerate our democracy has become. The man entered office promising fundamental change, chief among which I expected would be his claim to return us to “the rule of law.” Instead, what we’ve gotten is his institutionalization of the very Executive excesses that he promised to stop.

    As to Democrats and “governing,” it’s amazing Obama passed a health bill and some other legislation. Kissing the ass of the opposition was a prescription for grand mal seizure. No wonder his administration became frozen and allowed the Fascist Party to regain the House. We can now look forward to two more years of gridlock and a 2012 election to “assign the blame.”

  19. anxiousmodernman says

    Olbermann became totally unwatchable sometime in late 2007, when he used his sports broadcast credentials to expertly give us the latest boring play by play in the Democratic candidates ‘debates’, while ignoring developments in the real economy that would turn out to be quite interesting. He continued to ignore them long after it became obvious that a major financial crisis was upon us. It wasn’t too long before it was all-time Obama fanboyism, too-easy jokes about loony old Rush Limbaugh, and straight-up tabloid gossip. Unwatchable, as is most of MSNBC.

  20. DrLeoStrauss says

    That’s seems to be it in a nutshell. It’s almost like a bad parody of VH1’s old “Behind the Music”, where we are all shot retrospectively trying to explain years later why we didn’t take the car keys, still trying to rationalize guilt.

    re Olbermann, the corporatist, procedural confusion at MSNBC/NBC typifies their doomed ineffectiveness. Compare that to Alies/Fox’s fierce tribalism; they emphatically take care of friends and reward loyalty. Audiences and secondary impact respond accordingly.

    As pure broadcast, the Olbermann show was getting long in the tooth. It’s once innovative fast cut/pop culture sequencing long since copied ubiquitously. The less one says about ‘Special Comments’ the better.

    Olbermann’s pioneering ideological role and nurturing platform for additional farm team talent played its part. The latest actions show that MSNBC is more about marketing that perception than internalizing the schwerpunkt systematically and operationally. Who the hell came up with those ‘Lean Forward’ atrocities?

    In our less-than-even-focus group conversations around the country with non-Rightists, we are consistently struck by how many women, particularly professional women with advanced degrees find Olbermann unwatchable, angry and self absorbed. Your observation Comment resonates strongly with what we pick up. Haven’t seen or paid for any real focus group or better yet polling on this feedback but the anecdotal intake shouldn’t be dismissed.

    As for the practical impact of his suspension it seems a storm in a teapot. The fracas reveals more about the corporate mission/cultural disarray amongst Griffin/NBC/GE. There are even several scenarios where this ‘time out’ could be an unintentional blessing from Olbermann’s, MSNBC’s and the audience’s perspective.

  21. Comment says

    It would be somewhat ironic, if not surprising, to find out that the Georgians who spied for Russia (assuming the story is true) were people trained, in some sense, by those pushing for conflict w/Russia

  22. cb says

    Democrats learned all sorts of lessons. Unfortunately, the lessons were all completely insane: it’s a marketing problem! We need lots more Obama speeches! And much more aggressive spending to stimulate the economy! And we must fight to retain Nancy Pelosi as the minority leader in the House! (Really: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/the-fightin-side-of-nancy_b_779641.html)

    It’s like telling the drunk he’s going to crash, but he refuses to give up the keys. You know the outcome as he puts the keys in the ignition.

  23. Comment says

    Also – if you look at it from Olbermans POV – he gets his contract money – or he returns with free publicity – or MSNBC declines further – etc – Sounds llike win win – same w/ NPR guy – – Both Williams and Olberman – problematic causes for anyone to hang their hats on.

  24. Comment says

    Not that we really care – but libs should see Olberman’s firing as a multiple blessing in disguise – 1. It reveals the transparent mendacity, doublestandards, and hypocritical of a corp mgmt. that many libs were gulled into thinking as an ally. 2. Olberman was gonna get fired someday – probably for insulting women – a regular habit of his. Why go out on a limb for someone who would not go out on limb for you> While Tweety’s privately must be cheering, he is also sweating.

  25. Comment says

    The most important thing is to grow the economy and jobs – whatever it takes. That will wash away some problems.
    The other stuff is too embedded, as result of decades long secular tends – Boehner is not a basket case like Newt, but he is in his own way a symbol regional decline – His baby emotionalism about overcoming his middle class roots – Also, like Kasaich – he cheers for no French-like mass transit, but would also let the auto companies die. The GOP is soley emotional now – appealing to rust belt victims to enjoy fatty foods, bad transit systems, and let auto companies die to spite unions or mock clean energy because of hippie images.
    We think this will all pass. How? Don’t know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge