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02 January 2008


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David W

Col. I appreciate your ability to post thought-provoking comments wherever you find them, and in this case, it appears that you would like us to consider the message, but not the messenger. Fair enough. Just beware of the 'concern troll,' a.k.a. in this case the Wise Village Elder, who after a few years of metaphorical hard drinking with the good ol' boys, now tells the kids to stay away from the sauce, and live the sober life.

While I can personally accept the message, I have a hard time applying it to the political landscape, given that the Reagan and Bush eras were all built on the way the world 'oughta be,' according to Republican eyes.

Morning in America, anyone?


"This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off." - Richard Cohen on Scooter Libby from Wikipedia

Disclosure I am a Republican, but will vote for any Democrat until my party is freed from the Neocon menace.

I believe Mr Cohen is stating that maybe our Democratic process is beginning to fail because in the information age people are easily manipulate by instantness of information.

So where do most of us get our information which is so easily manipulated and instantly being fed to us?

Remember most Americans still believe that Saddam was involved in the 911 attacks yet nobody has been held accountable for the practice of the darker politics in that belief.

A few weeks ago, all the information being feed to us was about the Hillary versus Rudy match up in the Fall, now it's Obamma versus McCain yet we are only starting to vote now.

We missed information on everything involving Iraq, the failures of Democracy in places where it has never existed nor implications of the GWOT's current strategy in creating more problems than it has solved.

I'll skip Iran, the Middle East Peace process and Pakistan for the sake of brevity.

Perhaps if we where kept in the dark, our information would be better thought, sourced, analyzed and implications understood or debated.

"Ought to be true is not the same as true"


Richard Cohen

"In a provocative recent essay for the New Republic's Web site, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz coined the phrase "the delusional style in American punditry." He applied it to Obama's fans in the American press. His argument is that certain journalists are so enthralled by the sheer Obama-ness of Obama that they are willing to overlook everything they know about the fundamental value of experience."

So Cohen arbitrarily defines young as "18-24" and says the statement is still false if you go up to 35 years old. What about under 40 Richard?

For Cohen to compare this to the treasure and life risked in the Iraq debacle by "experienced" men such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, through misinformation and obfuscation--aka deceit-- is absurd.

How can anyone take a man like this seriously.

Nancy Kimberlin

I'm not sure who I will vote for but I know I do not want a religious fanatic as president. It seems to me much of the world's problems are due to religious fanatics, in Iraq, Afganistan, Pakistan, Israel and alas in the US.


What? First you post Cohen's inane thoughts—approvingly, I might add—and then you slip out of the trap by noting it was only done as an object lesson. And after I'd spent all that time working up my riposte. Very disappointing, but also instructive.

The way this turns out is that you've done a good job in conveying an important teaching point. Not bad. Not bad at all for an old MI dude.


On May 29, 2007 I read my last and final Richard Cohen article. It was titled
"Bush the Neoliberal".
It was the single stupidest article I have ever read by a professional journalist.
I don't think that Cohen contributes anything that justifies his job.
Any truths or interesting ideas that may emerge from any Cohen article can undoubtedley be found expressed more intelligently elsewhere.
When it comes to human self delusion and politics Mark Twain (quoted by JohnH in his post above) seems to have it covered.

T.S. Wittig

Just thought I would throw in my cuts of the Razor:

BO: There is a big gap between what he hopes to be and what I want him to be, and he hopes that the presidency will be his opportunity to narrow that gap. Risky, to say the least.

HC: A competent yet corrupt and corrupted scion of the original With Us or You Will Be Destroyed family. America's Benazir?

JE: An otter. Hard working and likable, but somehow not impressive.

Kucinic: Communist

McCain: A great man who was lost but now is found, maybe. All we have to do is elect him to find out. An experienced Obama?

Mitt: Worthless.

Rudy: Fascist.

RP: Right questions, (mostly) wrong answers.

Huck: The raft ride down the river would be an adventure and perhaps not that bad, but don't expect Aunt Sally/America to sivilize ol' Huck.


The field of candidates in Iowa has demonstrated to each of us the supreme value placed on organization by political parties. Each of the Col.'s readers shows a knowledge of bureaucratic habits. The idea that a party having gained a useful tool would lay it aside out of feeling for the common good strains what we know of group behavior. The progress made by the Bush Administration in construction of a "Unitary Executive" is more likely to be built upon than taken apart by the wining party, Democrat or Republican. That political theory presents a more realistic threat to the system of checks and balances thru the manipulation of Party Leadership than any single candidate.

Nancy Kimberlin

I disagree with the comment that Huck's ride down the river would be an adventure, perhaps not that bad. The last thing the US needs now is a religious zealot for a president. Isn't that what we are fighting against in Iraq and Afganistan. Do we need a president that polarizes this country even more. I don't want my president to sermonize to me about Jesus and family values. I want a presidnet who can lead, who can lead us out of the mess this last president got us into.
I'm not sure who I will vote for, but it won't be Huckabee and of that I am positive.

Clifford Kiracofe

<"There is a danger of seeing what you want to see in someone, of accepting the crude image building that modern political campaigns depend on ...">

Indeed, so what do we know with precision about Obama and his family?

Unlike the traditional centuries old African-American community which derives its heritage from the western coast of Africa and the Congo region, Obama's father was from East Africa, Kenya.

Apparently, his father was from the Luo tribe in western Kenya which traces its origins to southern Sudan. His home village, Nyangoma-Kogelo, according to press reports, is in the Siaya District. For which see Wiki

The Luo were known for their acceptance of western education in the English language and modern forms of dress under British colonial rule. It is said many accepted the Christian faith, although some press reports indicate Obama's father's middle name was "Hussein" indicating an Islamic influence. "Baraka" is itself an Arabic term, and via Swahili in East Africa, is in the family naming pattern.
On the Luo see Wiki at

His father's family, apparently converted to Islam. "His grandmother, Sarah Hussein, who only communicates through an interpreter, treats him like any other grandson. His father, who rose to become senior economist in the Treasury department died in 1982 in a car crash. He left three wives, six sons and a daughter. Obama's grandfather, Onyango Hussein, was one of the first Muslim converts in the village."

Perhaps a SST reader would know whether the Mau Mau activities spread into this area?

Obama's father, who must have had some influential sponsors, came to the US on a student scholarship (US government?), prior to Kenyan independence (1963) then, leaving family behind, returned home to work in the government. Would this have been under the patronage of Tom Mboye (Luo) in the Economic Planning Ministry or under whom? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Mboya

Did the father survive the political split between the Kikuyu and Luo after 1966? While the Luo had originally teamed (KANU Party) politically with the Kikuyu tribe, there was a political split. "Oginga Odinga, a prominent Luo leader, became the first Vice President of independent Kenya, after declining to take the Presidency and leadership of Kenya from the British Colonists, citing the freedom of Jomo Kenyatta. However, differences with Jomo Kenyatta led Oginga to leave the government and the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) party in 1966. With Oginga's departure from the government the Luo were politically marginalized under the administrations of Kenyatta and Moi." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luo_(Kenya_and_Tanzania)

Obama's secondary school education was at the elite Punahou prep school which, as an able student, positioned him well for Columbia and Harvard Law. For which see their website:


"Confirmation bias," as it's known in the biz, is an inherent human limitation that affects everyone to greater or lesser extent. The comparison to intelligence analysis is a good one but obviously it extends to many facets of human activity. Scientific methodologies, such as the double-blind study, are purposely designed to limit the effects of confirmation and other cognitive biases, for example.

Since we are discussing the political here, I thought this portion of the confirmation bias wikipedia article was interesting:

Another completely unrelated study was carried out during the pre-electoral period of the 2004 US presidential election on 30 men, half of whom described themselves as strong Republicans and half as strong Democrats. During a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, the subjects were asked to assess contradictory statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry. The scans showed that the part of the brain associated with reasoning, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was not involved when assessing the statements. Conversely, the most active regions of the brain were those involved in processing emotions (orbitofrontal cortex), conflict resolution (anterior cingulate cortex) and making judgments about moral accountability (posterior cingulate cortex).

Is it any wonder politicians lie? They've understood what this study shows all along. In my view it's why "ought to be true" is usually more successful than actual truth in politics. It reminds me of the old joke, "How can you tell if a politician is lying?" - Their lips are moving.

ISTM the internet has exacerbated the problem of confirmation bias since it frees individuals from the burden of having to hear contrary ideas or arguments - though I will freely admit this perception of mine may be wholly or partly based on my own bias.

David Habakkuk


' … the first step towards that clarity of thought is, as always, to know yourself, and in particular, to understand what your own inner needs and desires are.'

I think your point is absolutely crucial.

The only qualification I would want to make to your admirable comment on Colonel Lang's admirable post is that it may be slightly misleading to say that our 'fears and desires' are 'anything but modern'. In all times and places, 'fears and desires' shape human behaviour, and bias human judgements: quite how fundamentally different we really are from our ancestors seems to me something of a moot point.

In my experience, people who are enormously convinced of their own 'rationality', and of the depth of the gulf separating themselves from the 'irrational' -- or 'backward' or 'primitive' -- often turn out to be, in some measure, failing to face up to the truth about themselves. And unacknowledged 'fears and desires' can make apparently 'rational' people hold beliefs which are close to crazy.

Needs, fears and desires whose existence one can confront -- rather than rejecting them in order to maintain an idealised self-image -- do not, commonly, have the same capacity to bend one's judgement as ones of which one is ignorant. It follows, of course, that in talking about the conditions which make intelligence failure less rather than more likely, one is necessarily talking about moral virtues, as well as purely intellectual ones.

William R. Cumming

Interesting to me to watch the threads develop on this blog. Events shaping up so that only after Iowa, N.H., and S. Carolina will there be a feel for the standings of the candidates. After that Bloomberg will decide whether to enter. Hope there is no rush to judgement after the three primaries listed above. The willingness to attack with skill and imagination the current US foreign policy will be decisive because educated Americans, certain ethnic groups, and academics know that the only truth evidently in circulation is the "Long War" theorem.


"HC: A competent yet corrupt and corrupted scion of the original With Us or You Will Be Destroyed family. America's Benazir?"

What does this mean?


T.S Whittig,

What, in your opinion, makes John McCain a "great man"?


"If you don't vote, you have to shut up and take it."

Why? You think spending 15 minutes every 2-4 years doing something that will never make a difference gives you the right to complain, but others that don't do that don't have the right? Perhaps you could say that it's important for people to become informed and involved. Just voting and then thinking you've done your part is a mindset I find harmful, and it is one of the reasons I don't habitually vote (as I don't habitually do anything).


cohen does not seem to be interested in the plight young black men

he seems to be "negatizing" someone he does not approve of

he equates the bushie spin on iraq with a campaign speech by a presidential candidate

he uses a
generalization- "Ought to be true is not the same as true" to suggest that "that
barrack fellow is deceiving "you" the same way the bushies
deceived "you""

in the cohen style

"writing words to make it look like you are saying something important is not the same as writing words that say something important"


Colonel, you say that the statement "Ought to be true is not the same as true" is itself a profound truth. True. And it is important to be aware of the truth of any situation in order to formulate appropriate policies and strategies. The problem very often, however, is to know what the truth really is. Military and diplomatic intelligence, surely, can never give the complete truth of a situation. There will always be uncertainties about the intentions and capabilities and resources of an enemy force. What policy or strategy to follow in response to possible threats calculated from incomplete evidence must be decided by an estimation of probabilities. You refer to the Ardennes offensive of 1944; what of the French failure to anticipate the Ardennes offensive of 1940? The French worked from their experiences of the German assaults of 1914-1918 and perhaps reasonably enough calculated that a massive set of static fortifications from the Swiss border to the "impassable" Ardennes would suffice to deter any German offensive in the future; the result - the Maginot Line. What had seemed to be true - the impossibility of attacking France through the Ardennes - was not true. But had it not been reasonable of the French, with the understanding they had, to build their Great Wall?

A perhaps cynical Pontius Pilate famously asked of Christ "What is Truth?" Perhaps he was an early post modernist - one who might argue that there is never an objective truth, merely truths for particular cultures, societies, viewpoints. How men act is determined, not by what is true, but by what they percieve to be true - or hope to be true: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness....." these "self evident" truths were hoped to be true and firmly believed to be true. But are they true? Personally, I, a subject of a descendant of George III, am in harmony with your nation's Founding Fathers beliefs and declarations, but I have to recognise the possible truth that men may not be equal, that there may not be a creator, and that humans were not endowed with inalienable rights etc. The "truth" of the Declaration of Independence is surely proven by its benign and beneficial consequences in history. Is it not an example of what ought to be true, rather than what is (probably) true?



Senator Webb is from my G-G-GGG-GGGGG-GG-Generation, unlike Obama, but I guess despite being an old goat, he fills in nicely as a "Fresh New Face," and can actually bring some critical thinking, leadership, and problem solving skills to the fore. The problem is he might be too much of a bright light beside Obama.


The sad truth is that too many American fall on the side of "belief" rather than truth (facts). Has the Bush administration ever done anything based on fact? Hardly! On that note, let's all gather 'round the television tonight and watch the pundits give us the corporate take on who is best suited to be president.

America is getting what it deserves for being so lazy and going along with the media fluff.

Thank you Col. Lang for creating this thought-provoking string.

john in the boro

When I first read Cohen’s article I took him literally. His assertion that Saddam’s removal was a greater good that justified the administration’s lies sounded quite like most Washington opinion purveyors to me. The shifting rationales for Iraq are well known in any event. Pat suggests that Cohen was being ironic: plausible but entirely unexpected on my part. In effect, I assigned a role schema to Cohen based on my evaluation of his motivations for writing the article and missed what he wrote about—self-generated false expectations. So, to borrow from Pat, “What could be better than being able to find a good ‘lesson’ in the work of someone like this man.” I should have remembered Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author.”

We all entertain hopes and fears about the future of the United States. My own hope is that America awakens from this long nightmare which I attribute to neoliberalism and its close ally, neoconservatism. My fear is that America continues this waking nightmare. Perhaps Richard Cohen implies a relevant line of inquiry. Are hope and fear mendacious like a young child or a politician? Do they promise me that which they never intend to deliver? Am I delusional? Have I imbibed Norte Americanismo, that mad unreason which sees only the shining city on a hill and not the effluent that is eroding its foundations?


No worries PL, I'm all for open debate, and for me, short of Kucinich, I'll vote Democrat...cause bascially, the Republicans have not repented of their past seven years.
As for Cohen's "Come to Jesus" moment...hmm, we'll see about that. I've often given credit where credit should've been withheld till a certifiable historical trend was established.
A mistake I will not make again.

W. Patrick Lang


Someone observed here that the intelligence process of collection and analysis does not produce absolute truth. Thst is correct. The information on which the analysts' judgments are based is always incomplete but judgment as to the extant reality is still demanded because decisions as to combat courses of action or policy must be made whether or not the information is incomplete.

That is why the work demands special people, broadly educated and aware of human nature who do not believe that history is linear. pl

Martin K

My question is: What are Obamas backers? Who owns him? From a foreign point of view, mrs Clinton is unfortunately closely tied to the Military Industrial Complex. WHat does mr. Obama bring to the table of alliances? (He should get Schwarzenegger as VP...)

frank durkee

there is an emerging field in economics that has bdgun to demonstrate that emotions are a significant factor in so called "rational" decisions. gettin clear about that for o neself is at leat the beginning of comming to grips with bothe the complexity and contingency of makin any historical jucgement; especially in real time. that we often do as well as we do ought to be celebrated. Any projection that does not begin with that awareness should be relgated to one of the check out counter news papers.

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