Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Review: "Washington Rules", by Andrew J. Bacevich

At the end of July I presented an analysis of an article Andrew Bacevich had written as a sort of introduction to his latest book, Washington Rules.

In that post I assumed that Bacevich was coming from a Clausewitzian perspective and that his position centered on three main points: First, "the Western concept of war sees war as a political instrument, that is in Clausewitzian terms. Military means becomes the instrument of appropriate policy ends". Second, "this is not the same as seeing war as a "problem solver" since pursuing a policy is not the same as solving a problem, which may be much more complex. One could for instance wage war in order to distract one's own population from domestic concerns, thus attempting to solve a domestic problem but using war as an instrument in a way that compromises the means and fails to consider the ultimate results of the war in question that one has initiated". And finally, "the reluctance of both the US and Israel to see the fallacy of this view". That is specifically mistaking the instrument of narrow policy for a "problem solver" that can reshape the geo-political landscape.
After reading the book, I find that my initial analysis holds up well, but that Bacevich has broader argument to make.

So what about the book as a whole? Washington Rules can be read as both a description of what has become of US political culture since 1945 and a warning of where that culture could take us if not turned around/radically changed: That is the "Rules" in the title can serve as both a noun and a verb, to rule one has to follow the rules, even if the rules themselves are dysfunctional.

"Washington" for Bacevich is
"less a geographic expression than a set of interlocking institutions headed by people who, whether acting officially or unofficially, are able to put a thumb on the helm of state . . . includes the upper echelons of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches . . . the principle components of the national security state . . . the intelligence and federal law enforcement communities . . . select think tanks and interest groups . . . big banks and other financial institutions, defense contractors and major corporations, TV networks and elite publications, even quasi-academic entities. (page 15)

The "rules" consist of two interlocking components that allow Washington to rule. These are what Bacevich describes as the "credo" and the "trinity". The credo is simply the assumption/belief that the US and the US alone is summoned "to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world" (p 12). The credo concerns purpose, whereas the trinity concerns means, or the use of means. Following Clausewitz, Bacevich's trinity has both related moral and material elements: its moral side consists of the emphasis of "activism over example, hard power over soft and coercion over suasion" (p 13), while the material are "global military presence, global power projection and global interventionism" (p 14). Bacevich writes:
The relationship between the two is symbiotic. The trinity lends plausibility to the credo's vast claims. For its part, the credo justifies the trinity's vast requirements and exertions.

Admittance to the ruling circle requires openly embracing both the credo and the trinity, something that President Obama did the night he was elected (p 19).

The whole book's purpose concerns the history, critique and dismissal of the credo and trinity and the call for popular support for a new consensus on which to build a new US foreign policy, one that is much better suited to our current reality.

In doing this Bacevich provides a revisionist view (in the most positive sense of the term) of post-World War II US history. The Washington rules first developed after 1945 under Truman, were expanded significantly under Eisenhower, and were modified and implemented under Kennedy and his successors. Bacevich notes that Eisenhower alone offered a warning at the end of his presidency of what had been created in part by his own policies (the famous warning of the "military-industrial complex" of his farewell address, pp 32-34 & 225-6). He also dismisses the argument that Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam had he not been assassinated (pp 90-92).

Vietnam was the potential turning point and given the degree to which the rules had failed miserably it is astounding that they came back so quickly. Perhaps a good indication of how public attitudes had changed is in the comparison of two people, one real and one a product of the cinema. General Curtis LeMay was the creator of the Strategic Air Command, and along with Allen Dulles and the CIA, is one of the two important figures from the 1950s that Bacevich describes in detail. Going into the 1960s LeMay was still a national hero. By 1968, as George Wallace's running mate for the presidency on a third party ticket he had been reduced to a "dangerous buffoon" for suggesting that a few well-placed nuclear bombs could reverse the tide of the Vietnam war (p 124). An indication of where this was leading is shown by the brilliant portrayal of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper by Sterling Hayden in the classic Dr Strangelove of 1964. By 1970, not only Vietnam, but US nuclear policy, which LeMay had championed, had been called into question.
What was the result? Did the Washington rules come to a well deserved end? Instead of a reassessment, by the end of the Carter administration and with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the rules had been reestablished without much question at all, as Bacevich writes, "Seldom has a war been so fervently memorialized even as it was being so thoroughly drained of meaning" (p 128). Much of this had to do with the nature of the official assessment which allowed for only acceptable views to be expressed. Scapegoats were identified, the failure due essentially to "tactics" and the actual strategic nature of the defeat buried. Those in power simply had too much interest in maintaining the status quo. This narrow-minded self interest remains with us today in George W Bush's War on Terror, since to call into question the events that "paved the way for September 11, 2001" would "call into question a national security tradition that goes back decades" (p 86). Approaches go under new names, but are simply repeats of past failed policies, for example Global COIN as a repeat of JFK's "Flexible Response", Bush's delusional "transformation of the Middle East" as the flip side of Eisenhower's domino theory and Obama's targeted assassinations by predator drone a high-tech repeat of "Operation Mongoose" and the "Phoenix Program". The durability of the credo/trinity precludes any strategic reevaluation and reduces the problem once again to tactics which only allows for their tool kit of military responses.

This is turn eliminates the possibility of effective strategic thought or useful application of strategic theory. As an excellent example of this we have the Surge of 2007, which "trivialized the very concept of strategy" (p. 190). The Surge was all about marketing and (re-)packaging, allowing those who had supported the Iraq war to regroup under a new banner and turn the tables on those we did not support the war. Questioning the success of the Surge was unpatriotic, even Unamerican, attacking the troops and the great man of the hour General David Petraeus.

Bacevich describes Petraeus's actual achievement thus:
Changing the way that a war was perceived - whether within the inner circle of power or in the eyes of the public - could be tantamount to changing reality itself. In a time of crisis, the soldier who demonstrated a capacity to alter perspections might well parlay military authority into influence extending well beyond the narrow realm of military affairs. (p. 195)

Not success, but the illusion of success for the delusional, which well describes our national security situation at present. It is also important to point out that Petraeus's "success" required that he adhere to the Washington rules and play to the strengths of a powerful propaganda machine, that is success is seen as maintaining the status quo no matter what the actual reality may dictate. To Bacevich's credo we can thus add the comforting assumption that the American enterprise of Empire is deemed as "too big to fail", only a question of keeping the US public supportive. Petraeus - and even presidents - simply become instruments for the continuation of the national security state and the rules under which it functions.

Bacevich's description of the Washington Rules seems at first glance remarkably similar to Thomas Kuhn's concept of a "paradigm" in that it comprises a world view in which the institutions involved measure and judge the phenomenon under investigation. Scientists are trained, evaluated and rewarded based on their adherence to the paradigm of their community. Kuhn himself doubted the applicability of his concept to the social sciences - to which strategic theory and political science belong. For this reason the Washington Rules are better classified as an ideology which has a much less firm connection to reality, and which to me would indicate we could remain under the thrall of the Washington rules until we reach political and social collapse. Bacevich agrees (p. 229).

Bacevich's conclusion is that the American people are complicit in the continuance of the Washington rules. An all volunteer force and massive deficit spending allow the price of Empire to be localized to a relative few while the costs are shifted to future generations. The choice other than the Washington rules, if it can ever get wide-spread dissemination, is an older trinity which defined the military as made up of mostly citizen soldiers serving to defend the narrow interests of America itself, not an Empire that benefits the ever expanding intersts of a corrupt parasitic elite.

To disenthrall ourselves from the Washington rules is in essence to rediscover ourselves as a nation. This book serves as wake up call for exactly that.

Post script:

Andrew Bacevich has just come up with a brilliant article in The New Republic . . .

He makes some very important points:

Operation Desert Storm didn’t turn out that way. An ostensibly great victory gave way to even greater complications. Although, in evicting the Iraqi army from Kuwait, U.S. and coalition forces did what they had been sent to do, Washington became seized with the notion merely turning back aggression wasn’t enough: In Baghdad, Bush’s nemesis survived and remained defiant. So what began as a war to liberate Kuwait morphed into an obsession with deposing Saddam himself. In the form of air strikes and missile attacks, feints and demonstrations, CIA plots and crushing sanctions, America’s war against Iraq persisted throughout the 1990s, finally reaching a climax with George W. Bush’s decision after September 11, 2001, to put Saddam ahead of Osama bin Laden in the line of evildoers requiring elimination.

Emphasis mine. Then there's this . . .
Unable to win, unwilling to accept defeat, the Bush administration sought to create conditions allowing for a graceful exit. Marketed for domestic political purposes as “a new way forward,” more commonly known as “the surge,” this modified approach was the strategic equivalent of a dog’s breakfast. President Bush steeled himself to expend more American blood and treasure while simultaneously lowering expectations about what U.S. forces might actually accomplish. New tactics designed to suppress the Iraqi insurgency won Bush’s approval; so too did the novel practice of bribing insurgents to put down their arms.

And this . . .
Which brings us to the present. After seven-plus years, Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded. Operation New Dawn, its name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid, now begins. (What ever happened to the practice of using terms like Torch or Overlord or Dragoon to describe military campaigns?) Although something like 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, their mission is not to fight, but simply to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts. In another year, if all goes well, even this last remnant of an American military presence will disappear.

So the Americans are bowing out, having achieved few of the ambitious goals articulated in the heady aftermath of Baghdad’s fall. The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation, and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.


  1. I understand he's basically a conservative who wants to fix the own society first and get rid of wasteful distractions, defeat special interests that wear down the own society.

    I can applaud that.

  2. Excellent review Seydlitz. Sounds like an interesting book. So does Bacevich consider Petreaus a 21st Century LeMay?

  3. Thanks seydlitz, I picked up the book today on my kindle. Great review. I find it interesting that in this book he only goes back to WWII, while in his previous book, The New American Militarism, he points back to Wilson and WWI era. I guess I have a hard time believing that the way we see the world today, the "Washington Rules" is a direct result of WWII. It seems to me that there was plenty of empire building and military use under Wilson as well.

    Wilson had dozens of military excursions in a time when America was growing. Although slowed by the Harding administration, these military excursions completely ended during the Great Depression only to pick up again after WWII.

    Is it possible that the Washington Rules paradigm/ideology/foreign policy is a result of a strong economy? In order to grow the economy, we must push outside the US either through military or economic power. Can it also be assumed that only under conditions of great recession will the US return to looking inwards for growth?

  4. bg,
    Your questions are based in logic and reason, and this is not the fodder of our foreign/ military policy.
    I don't claim to know much, but it all boils down to indifferent ignorance that kicks all our policies. Forget illegality or immorality, our actions are just plain paralyzed dumb ass.
    This is my basic stance, and a 2nd LT can grasp this-too bad not many of our leaders ever wore a butter bar.
    As always- a nice post.

  5. Glad you posted this, seydlitz. I've read it, and while it's not exactly rocket science for those who've been watching the news with a critical eye, it does highlight the issues.

    What I found disheartening was that the solution Bachevich suggests; what you summarize as "rediscover(ing) ourselves as a nation" implies that there exists a critical mass of fundamental agreement about what we ARE as a nation. But as several of the posts, and many of the comments here lately have pointed out, we seem to be reentering one of those periods, like the 1830s-1860s where the "center will not hold". We're very splintered, and there is a substantial minority - the "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" folks I was talking about earlier - who would argue that Bachevich's rules - "activism over example, hard power over soft and coercion over military presence, global power projection and global interventionism" are not a bad thing but a good one. These folks will actively oppose any sort of change from the status quo.

    I honestly don't see a way out of these "rules". Wish I did.

  6. bg: The post-war period was unique not because of the changes in the "rules" but in global power distribution. The US and the USSR were the "last men standing", and that, along with our relatively enormous economic power - hell, the rest of the world was beat to hell - allowed us to act with relative impunity globally, where before the war we could really only play by Bachevich's "rules" in places like the Americas, where the Euros ceded us the Monroe Doctrine, in places like Guam and the PI, where the only antagonist was little Spain, or in places like China where the Euros had already kicked the door in.

    I'm not sure if the recent economic woes are just a hiccup or indications of a longer-term U.S. weakness. If the former, I suspect that we will not see any real change in the way we do global business. If the latter...I'm not sure. Will we try and pick our fights, fight smart, be a Finland? Or will we go all Gustavus Adolphus' Sweden and exhaust ourselves trying to continue to maintain the scope of our influence? Are we karjalanpiirakka, or lutfisk?

    I have no idea.

  7. Andrew Bachevich, 2010: "Those in power simply had too much interest in maintaining the status quo. This narrow-minded self interest remains with us today in George W Bush's War on Terror, since to call into question the events that "paved the way for September 11, 2001" would "call into question a national security tradition that goes back decades""

    Upton Sinclair. 1935: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

  8. Thank you gentlemen for the interesting comments.

    Welcome SO, agree.

    Interesting idea, Petraeus as the 21st Century LeMay, but I think that would require that Obama is the 21st Century Eisenhower . . . political context . . .

    I wanted to add something about WWI, as I had in the original post about the Bacevich article, but did not so as to keep the post of reasonable length. Bacevich sees WWI has destroying the old trinity, but not ushering in the Washington Rules (p. 233), that is the notion of the US as model of the world instead of changing the world into its own image, which only catches steam after 1945. I agree with your view and find WWI the turning point where the US first caught the "European disease" of using war as a "solution" to geo-strategic problems without realizing all the unintended consequences war brings about. Post-WWI was also something of a "Cold War" in that the Allies attempted to continue the conflict and the attainment of their goals into the following peace, making peace impossible.

    Agree as to Bacevich's solution - I find it a bit of wishful thinking as well.

    What actually binds us as a nation? What shared values provide the moral cohesion to our political community, or simply as I read today on Joseph Fouche's blog, "What is America?" and "What is America for?" Notice that the first could be answered in terms of the credo while the second in terms of the trinity.

    That would be the first set of questions, the second I take from Steinbeck's "East of Eden" where he asks (and answers for himself) the following: "What do I believe in?" "What must I fight for and what must I fight against?"

    Notice the first set concern the community, whereas the second concern the individual. How close the answers are in nature would indicate to me how close the individual in question is to his/her community . . . ?

  9. Very interesting,

    One thought I've been mulling recently is that the US is fundamentally a conservative country. And by conservative, I don't mean right-wing political conservatism, but preserving the status quo and nostalgia.

    It seems to me in foreign policy we are basically going on inertia. Elites don't seem much interested in reexamining America's place in the world and questioning fundamental assumptions. It sounds to me like this is part of what Bacevich is arguing. Whatever the motivation, there is always going to be a lot of institutional support to the status quo, no matter what it is.

    Domestically, the political right and left, when they don't support the status quo, see solutions to modern and future problems in terms of their own rose-colored narratives of past glory. For the left, it is the New Deal and Great Society; for the right, it is Reagan. Few seem to ponder the possibility that solutions from decade's past are of questionable relevancy to today's problems.

    As I look on American history, I see two great "resets" that changed the national dynamic. The first was the Civil War and the second was the Depression & WWII. I think we are about due for another reset. Like the previous two resets, it's unlikely the majority of people will see it coming much less predict how it will all turn out.

    I think the reset is coming simply because it is apparent to me that our present course in all these areas is unsustainable. In other words, when the status quo is unsustainable, a reset is inevitable.

  10. Andy: But LOTS of people saw your resets coming. The country was violently divided over slavery way the hell back in 1820 when the Congress had to finagle the Missouri Compromise. The "reset" that occurred in 1865 was simply that the division was settled by force. The underlying issues remained - obviously so in the Jim Crow South, more viciously but more subtly in the North.

    Likewise the battle between capital and labor - or between the people who wanted a social safety net that became the New Deal and the people who wanted to make money and didn't really give a shit whether your grandma starved or not - go way the hell back into the 19th Century. The people who fulminated against what was then "Wall Street" were the linear ancestors of the people who enacted the Deal - the people who fought them were the ancestors of the people who are running today's Cat Food Commission...

    WW2? OK, I'll agree on that. But who could have guessed that the US would have emerged from that the largest economically and politically intact nation on the globe?

    I DON'T see a "reset" coming, bar a truly shocking economic or political event. Lots of polities set themselves on collision courses with disaster. Many of them run onto the rocks without a twitch of the helm. AFTER the crash, yes, there is a "reset". But that may involve the rise of a demagogue or a charlatain. Resets can be destructive rather than regenerative. I think our next one may well be; I can't see what it need be otherwise, can you?

  11. Chief,

    Sure, a lot of people knew there might be a reckoning on slavery at some point in the future, but I bet if you polled people in 1859 they wouldn't guess that two years later the country would in the midst of the greatest bloodletting in our history. There were people who saw the 1920's as unsustainable, but how many correctly guessed it would lead to a worldwide, deep depression? Similarly, there were some people who saw the housing bubble for what it was, but most people - even most professional economists - didn't predict the burst or it's effects. People have a natural tendency to to assume the status quo will continue and very very often don't see a crisis until it is happening. It's the way we're wired unfortunately.

    The reason I think we will have another reset is because of the unsustainability of our present course in so many areas - security/foreign policy being just one. The reason I think there will be a reset is because returning to sustainability can't be done by tweeking things at the margins, or incrementally building policy from the current baseline.

    In national security, for example, we need change on the scale of the 1947 NSA. Most of our other institutions require a similar shakeup - our entitlements, for instance, are sure to change because their failure is a mathematical certainty. But before any of those changes can really take place, there's got to be some kind of consensus on a new direction and that won't happen as long as the elites and partisans in this country remain invested in the status quo or simply incrementally building on their ideological ancestry.

    That's my theory. Besides the unsustainability bit, there's not much evidence for it, but it's what I think is happening and is likely to happen. Since people, even "experts" are generally very bad at predicting crises, I wouldn't expect much warning when the unsustainability peaks and the crisis hits. It could be this year or in thirty years, but IMO it's coming.

  12. Enh...

    Maybe. But isn't it just as likely that we'll go the way a lot of countries and tribes and organizations go...just gradually sliding into desuetude, the elites continuing to make decisions that make selfish sense but help degrade the society as a whole. Everyone and everything getting just a little bit poorer, a little bit shabbier, a little bit weaker...

    And finally someone faster and bigger and stronger and smarter comes along and it's all over.

    So Rome declines...and the Gothic kingdoms decline...Byzantium declines...the Holy Roman Empire declines...Britain declines...

    We somehow seem to think - and you're suggesting here - that we're immune to this process. That a crisis will happen and we will regain our mojo. Why?

    And why, if this crisis happens, should we end up with another Continental Congress, a Jefferson or a Madison or a Washington? Why not a Pol Pot, a Syngman Rhee, or an Augusto Pinochet? Given the lack of "change" in the security, secrecy, foreign, and economic policies between this and the preceding administration, what in these portents suggests that this crisis will produce a beneficial result, rather than one that leads to a demagogue, or an autocrat, rather than some sort of reflowering of the Liberty Tree?

  13. Chief,

    I fully admit I may be completely wrong. Predicting such things cannot be done with any surety. However, the reason I don't see a long-slow decline is the unsustainability problem I've talked about. To keep doing all the things we're doing isn't going to be possible for much longer. The elites and most people in this country seem to think we can continue on our present trajectory. At some point, something has to give.

    As for what happens after a crisis/reset, that's anyone's guess. We could end up with an enlightened autocrat like a Lincoln or FDR, but there's obviously no guarantee for that. I think a lot will depend on the strength of our institutions, particularly the courts, who rolled back a lot of Lincoln and FDR's excesses. That will be the key I think - it's certainly conceivable that things could get bad enough where the population is willing to stand by while an autocrat shreds the Constitution. Who knows? All I'm really saying is that I think there will be a crisis (or a series of crises in a relatively short timeframe), that the crisis is likely to occur in my lifetime (within the next 40 years), and it is likely to change this country's institutions and positions in the world to a large degree.

  14. One of the approaches to Catastrophe Theory is that the point where the discontinuity occurs is often unpredictable. Thus, there may not be a slow slide into "whatever" but a sudden falling off the cliff onto an unpredictable new plane. "Flee or Fight" in the case of a cornered animal, or knowing when the bubble will burst in the recent real estate mess, no less how badly.

    Way back in grad school (organizational behavior) we covered the work of one author (who's name escapes me) who addressed the subject of people changing their "beliefs" or "values". It doesn't happen often, and when it does, it's often only as a result of a "significant emotional event". Since beliefs and values are often based on other than empirical fact, they tend to be internalized and become part of the individual's identity. Thus, to accept that one's beliefs or values are wrong, often is to admit being personally wrong - often to the notion of a flawed identity.

    At times I have wondered if all too much of the general population's stance is based upon "belief" or "values". As the author said, information rebuking "values" or "beliefs" tends to be answered in one of three ways:

    1. Pure and simple dogmatic rejection, with no further discussion. "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it"

    2. Breaking down the subject into smaller and smaller fragments until one fragment supports the value/belief and declaring that proof positive. (fractionalizing) "Yes, but there could have been WMDs, and he used them before. Therefore it was a real threat."

    3. Modifying one's values/beliefs in light of the rebutting evidence.

    The least likely behavior is #3.

    So, any and all of the population who base their view of how the country should move forward on values/beliefs, rather than empirical reasoning, are more than likely to accept the status quo, or fight for the same old shit.

    Even after Alan Greenspan expressed his shock at how wrong he was in thinking that unregulated market players would never act in their own bad interests, a significant number of people are clamoring for as little regulation as possible, if any at all.

    In short, we are heading towards a catastrophic cliff. No one really knows where it is, so thinking that we can approach the abyss, recognize it and then pull back or stop is simply fooling themselves. But, it's a hell of a lot easier to be dogmatic or fractionalize than to face facts and admit we may be wrong.

    With the current struggle between "Right" and "Left" we have all too much of the population having a vested interest in dogmatics, lest they suffer the embarrassment of admitting an error.

  15. Andy, FDChief & Al-

    Thank you for those thoughtful comments. I think you each bring up good points, but there seems to be a common assumption present in all three. In Clausewitzian theory we have something that is called a "reductionist dialectic" which is what unites two or more sides, what they have in common. This in turn indicates something of the nature of what makes them different.

    In the case of your three comments, although Al's is more theoretical, there is the assumption of a political community more or less intact. That would allow for the "reset", the "slow decline" and Al's options 1 & 2.

    So what is the state of our political community?

    Forty-seven years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial. It's a great speech, inspiring and inclusive, optimistic and looking with great hope to the future, there was also a basic faith in the system as it then existed.

    Last Saturday, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and others held their own rally at the same place . . .

  16. Seydlitz,

    The state of our political community appears pretty bad, but I don't know how much of it is posturing and how much represents fundamental and irreconcilable differences. Note how, once out of power, the minority party begins to criticize the majority party for the doing the exact same things they did when they were the majority. That indicates to me it's as much about political power as anything else.

    BTW, on Beck, I just read this piece over at Chicagoboyz via Zenpundit's site. I'm still mulling it over, but I can see some parallels with Bacevich's arguments. I'd love to hear your take on it.

  17. Andy-

    Lex is a blog friend of mine so I'm happy that he's getting the exposure, but as to his actual analysis . . . let me think about it.

    Have you been able to find a transcript of Beck's actual main speech from the rally?

  18. Seydlitz,

    No, but I haven't looked either. I've never been interested in what Beck had to say, but maybe I'll look for something this weekend if the honey-do list isn't too challenging.

  19. Andy-

    Was that you defending Cheryl Rofer over at CB? Nice job if that is the case.

    I've come to a few conclusions in regards to Lex's post . . .

  20. Seydlitz,

    Yeah, that was me, thanks. I've "known" Cheryl for a number of years as we both visit and comment at the same nonproliferation-related blogs. Cheryl and I have a lot of disagreements on a number of issues, but she's fair and is almost always willing to consider an argument. So the reaction to her there was pretty disappointing and is sadly typical of what passes for "debate" on the net these days.

    BTW, I never did get around to looking for or reading Beck's speech. I'm just not interested and lately I've become pretty burned out on politics in general.

    I listened to Beck's radio program about seven or eight years ago. It was pretty good back then - he was funny and witty, but most of all self-deprecating. You may know that he's a recovering alcoholic, and he made no bones about what a shit-head he was before he quit. He took complete responsibility for it, which was refreshing. It's hard to explain, but the way he wove that into his humor and commentary was very endearing. Somewhere along the way, though, he began what I would consider a descent to where he is today. Somewhere along the way, no longer content to only give his own perspective, he became an evangelical for his worldview. Looking back, I think that's why I stopped listening to him. I don't care for prophets.

    Anyway, I don't know what to make of it all yet. Like Cheryl, I'm still trying to learn and understand their perspective. I get some of it, but it seems like there's more that I'm missing.

  21. BTW, hope you are willing and able to share your conclusions at some point.

  22. Andy-

    Beck's the Pied piper who was rolled out when the plutocrats thought they saw pitchforks . . . not really that exciting.

    The German "Rattenfänger" is a much better word for this type of character . . .

    What was interesting for me, as perhaps for you as well was the reaction . . . notice how they're already getting sloppy . . . what's the Alaska thing all about?

    I think Lex's response honest and do not attempt to evaluate too closely since it was laced with a strong bit of emotion . . . that linked to the Christian concept of prayer which I customary take very seriously.

    Still no transcript of Beck's speech . . .

    I do see a fundamental mistake among the Bodyians . . .