The Machinery of… whatever

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. From time to time we are offered the chance to take a stand and perhaps, to make a difference.

    But we rarely recognize these opportunities.

    They come and go, and our well-reasoned excuses for demurring blind us to our complicity in our own imprisonment.Report

  2. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    America, can you spare a Nagasaki? A Dresden? A London blitz?

    9/11 wasn’t a tenth the size of the blitz, my dear countrymen. It wasn’t 1/300th of Auschwitz.

    But it happened to “us,” and so it “changed everything.”Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

      Kyle:

      Yes 9/11 happened to us but during peacetime so I think the comparison to events during a war is BS.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kyle Cupp says:

      More deaths on 9/11 than Pearl Harbor. But we overreacted to that, too.Report

    • I think there are two key differences between 9/11 and WWII-era civilian deaths. First, and I think most importantly, during WWII there was a general acknowledgement that civilians do die during wars. Over the following five decades, people in developed nations came to view civilian deaths during warfare as something which can and ought to be avoided as completely as possible. Therefore, while more Londoners died in the Blitz than New Yorkers on 9/11, because the expectation of Westerners to be safe from attack in their homeland had risen so greatly, the loss of life on 9/11 was much more jarring than that during the Blitz. This speaks to the perception of the magnitude of the tragedy.

      Secondly, my understanding of the Blitz is that while the Germans may not have gone to particularly great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, they were at least not directly targeting civilians, but rather infrastructure and industrial capacity. The 9/11 attacks, however, directly targeted civilians.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Eric Seymour says:

        nu? I had no such expectation of safety. Anyone who thinks going to NYC for New years isn’t asking to be blown up is a loon — your chances have indeed increased, even if they’re still miniscule.Report

        • Avatar Eric Seymour in reply to Kim says:

          I’m not sure I understand your point. My comment on an expectation of safety was not made regarding acts of terrorism, but acts of war between nations. The bombing of Dresden, London, and other cities during WWII was done against a backdrop where carpet-bombing of sections of cities was commonplace and accepted. The death of hundreds of civilians during a bombing raid was not unexpected. 9/11 occurred in the age of the smart bomb. While there was certainly awareness of the threat of terrorist acts prior to 9/11, practically no one expected the sheer magnitude of destruction or death caused by the 9/11 terrorists.Report

  3. Avatar Steve Horwitz says:

    Outstanding Jason. Just outstanding.Report

  4. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    It wasn’t outstanding, it was a classy piece of broiler plate though.
    What’s scary is that while we’re not in the same pew, we may be in the same church. Jaybird said something about Libs and paleos a while back that struck me as right on, or at least in the ballpark

    My criticism is that you’ve drunk too much of the librul koolaide in that instead of a close analysis of the Bush regime’s reactions to the massacre, the possibilities that presented themselves, and what where the best choices predicated on civil liberties, national defense, and whatever other categories smart dudes with degrees in poly-sci or community organizin’ want to come up with you seem to jump on the librul bandwagon and paint the barn in broad, inaccurate, and grossly exaggerated and generalized strokes, leaving your readers half starved for insight and enlightenment.

    I’d have appreciated a close differentiation of the issue/problem but, apparantly, that’s too much trouble. Or, you’re too biased, prejudiced, and bigoted against those you perceive as anti-homosexual ‘rights (GOP),’ which destroys any objectivity in your analysis and does great injury to your reputation as a political thinker and writer.
    Oh, btw, the question here is, do you understand the difference between Waco and 9/11? It’s really, really significant.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      You know, I might have blamed the Republicans. Easily, in fact. If Obama had been better on civil liberties, I would have.

      But he wasn’t, and so I wrote very carefully to avoid mention of any political party post 9/11. Search all you like, they aren’t there. I mentioned the name of only one American politician in the entire essay — and, contrary to usage, I deliberately omitted his affiliation.

      I’d invite you to ponder the reasons for this choice, but inviting you to ponder anything usually just results in some gobbledygook about gnosticism. Tell me, too, how does one paint a barn while riding a bandwagon? Sounds like you’ve been reading Tom Friedman in the original. But at least it’s not Voegelin.Report

  5. Avatar BSK says:

    Great piece. I’ve heard a lot of conversations in the run up to the 10th anniversary that focused on the impact of 9/11. I thought a lot about its impact on me. At the time, I was a recently-turned 18-year-old starting my freshmen year of college in Boston. I had grown up just outside NYC in NJ, in a town in which you could see the Twin Towers from the top of a tall building. My father’s fire department went into the city that Saturday to lend support (in our town’s infinite brilliance, they refused to insure these guys during such a task, meaning they were relegated to running food and supplies from behind the barricades, a necessary job, no doubt, but I’m sure they could have been put to better use elsewhere).

    While many, many people had far better reasons to be deeply impacted by 9/11, I felt that I had enough reasons to be impacted somewhat. Yet, I couldn’t really think how. Instead, I kept coming back to how I was impacted by our (and by “our”, I mean the government, society, individuals, the media, etc.) responded. How much collective time have we as a society lost because of increased security standards at airports? What is the tangible effect of this on productivity and the economy? How many thousands of people have died since then in actions directly responding to the act? How many more have been tortured? How many of our rights have been eroded?

    I realize that many, many people lost loved ones in a truly horrible and unnecessary act and that my complaining about these things might seem callous or shortsighted. But the reality is, for the majority of us, these are the real and only impacts 9/11 had on us. And while they may not be as horrible as the loss of a loved one, they are just as unnecessary. And it is most unfortunate that we have compounded the horribleness of those 19 men and their supporters with some unnecessary horribleness of their own.

    This is what I take away from 9/11. I don’t think the date will fade in the public consciousness in quite the way that Pearl Harbor did, if only because of the pervasiveness of the media nowadays. But eventually, 9/11 will become another day. People are already back to getting married on that day (after it seeming sacrilegious to even consider such a thing). Businesses and schools are open. What won’t fade away is all that we lost afterward, unnecessarily, at the hands of our own government and our fellow citizen.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What gets me is the 55 gallon drum of potential binary explosives that they have just sitting there in the middle of every TSA area.

    They throw my toothpaste tubes and Pepsi bottles into this drum because they are potential binary explosives… but they treat them as if they are likely to explode as toothpaste or Pepsi if mixed together.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I’m thinking this is the best post I’ll be reading regarding the 9/11 anniversary. (It’s the best one I’ve read so far)Report

  8. Avatar MFarmer says:

    The problem I have is that I support real and excellent national security, but scare tactics used to justify greater State power are bogus. Although al qaeda has drained us in many ways, our reaction has decimated them, and as I’ve said since 2001, if terrorism succeeds in America, it fails. In other words, if Americans, from generals to soccer moms, are really terrorized in an existential way, we’ll destroy everything that moves the wrong way in the mideast. It’s not chauvinistic chest-thumping, just human reality of power over power, and we have far more power. If we’re ever cornered and pushed to use our power in blind terror, we’ll cause the greatest amount of devastation ever witnessed. So, terrorists can only play the game of keeping us on edge, and the smartest thing we can do is not exaggerate the danger but be prepared. The last thing any country in the mideast wants is to really terrorize us with another major attack.Report

  9. Avatar MFarmer says:

    We should celebrate 9/11 in Mardi Gras style each year across the nation — have a freedom bash and let ‘er rip — the victims would liley approve.Report

  10. Avatar Thomas says:

    I think “illegal war” is the sort of phrase that makes me take a more jaundiced look at the rest of the post.Report

  11. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    9/11 wasn’t a tenth the size of the blitz, my dear countrymen. It wasn’t 1/300th of Auschwitz.

    Also, about a Katrina, or a Johnstown, and a half, and less than half a Gettysburg.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      And 9/11 is significantly smaller than the lynchings of African-Americans that occurred between the end of the Civil War and the Civil Rights era. Of course, only a weenie liberal would compare the horror visited on all Americans by those who hate our freedoms with a few isolated incidents that really expressed justified (if misdirected) anger at the oppressive Yankee establishment. Not to mention that fact that undoubtedly most of the lynched were guilty, having been found so by a jury of their (hooded and masked) peers.Report

  12. Avatar Scott says:

    Why do most folks think this post is so great. It is too easy to call this country crazy 10 years after the fact . Even European countries who are used to terrorism never experienced anything on the scale of 9/11. So maybe went a little crazy, maybe we just had to get it out of our system b/c of the magnitude of the attack.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

      Now that it’s out of our system, can I have my civil liberties back?Report

      • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Jason:
        Which civil liberties are you missing? Not to mention that the terrorists are still out there.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

          It might be nice for starters to be able to travel to Canada without a passport.

          I’d like to see an end to the undeclared searches, warrantless wiretaps, data mining, and other forms of digital surveillance that have sprung up.

          The idiotic rituals of airport security have caught — correct me if I’m wrong on this — zero terrorists, while a commonsense measure like locking cockpit doors would be enough to stop any future 9/11, and alert passengers have been enough to do the rest.

          I’d like to see an end to the irregular trials, secret prisons, and assassination orders, too. That’d be nice.

          But I’m really wasting my time here. If you’re curious, reread the essay.Report

          • And the drone-killing in countries in which we haven’t declared war and who haven’t attacked us. That doesn’t violate my rights, but I have a right and responsibility to condemn the attacks.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to MFarmer says:

              MFarmer:

              If the country in which we are using the drones feels violated, they can complain about the violation of their sovereignty, they don’t need you and your liberal sense of righteousness. Maybe they don’t mind, did you ever think of that? Besides why should we wait to kill those that are bent on attacking us?Report

          • Avatar Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Jason:

            Just b/c you want something doesn’t mean you are legally entitled to it, such as no passport entry into Canada. BTW, if that is your worst complaint then I have little sympathy for you. Maybe you’ve heard of FISA, if an administration disobeys that law(or any other) then they should be punished. If an admin acts legally but offends your delicate sensibilities too bad.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            The idiotic rituals of airport security have caught — correct me if I’m wrong on this — zero terrorists,

            That is, as many Russian spies as Joe McCarthy caught in his entire career.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            “The idiotic rituals of airport security have caught — correct me if I’m wrong on this — zero terrorists…”

            Just like the idiotic ritual of vaccination has caught — correct me if I’m wrong on this — zero epidemics. Therefore we don’t need to bother with vaccination (which might be killing our kids’ brains anyway.)

            Whooping cough? Measles? Whatever, that’s what doctors are for, right?Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Hey, so I’m selling these tiger-repellent rocks for $600 dollars a piece, if anyone’s interested. Just send me a check. I promise no tigers will attack you while you’re carrying my tiger-repellent rock or your money back.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

              When I ask doctors — experts in health — whether vaccines are a good idea, they say yes. Unequivocally.

              When I ask security experts whether it’s a good idea to ban curbside check-in, to ban nonticketed people from boarding areas, to make everyone remove their shoes, to racially profile passengers, or even to perform enhanced pat-downs, I get a very different answer.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                If you want to carry the analogy out, talking to “security experts” about security is like talking to hospital administrators about doctoring.

                If nothing else, the first thing a “security expert” should say is that they don’t know about anything that’s classified and therefore can only talk in general terms.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Quite untrue. People with current or former security clearances are welcome to speak to the public in general terms about the efficacy of various programs and do so all the time.

                Even if they weren’t, “I need to restrict your civil liberties for… no reason I could possibly tell you” is a pretty weak argument.

                Can you imagine if someone tried to justify a CO2 abatement program on the same grounds?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “People with current or former security clearances are welcome to speak to the public in general terms about the efficacy of various programs and do so all the time.”

                Your assertion was that security practices haven’t “caught any terrorists”.

                To start with, you don’t take precautions to stop activity in progress. There’s a reason that I cited vaccinations (and tiger-resistant fences.)

                And people aren’t exactly going to walk around describing sources and methods for something like this. (Do I really, truly need to explain that to you?)Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                … funny, then, that kos has repeatedly cited sources saying that torture doesn’t work, as used in an American context. Funny how we know torture was used, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                you don’t take precautions to stop activity in progress.

                May I just say this is the dumbest characterization of counterterrorism work I have ever heard?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

                “May I just say this is the dumbest characterization of counterterrorism work I have ever heard?”

                So vaccines are intended to cure ongoing infections, then?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                DD,
                polio vaccine cures ongoing epidemic. ya?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

              There is a good, solid, scientifically backed basis for presuming that vaccinations can halt pandemics.

              There is no good, solid, scientifically backed basis for backing the rituals of airport security.

              I know, you’re now going to insist that I’m refusing to engage with you because any example you give of airport security I’ll just point out how stupid it is.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

          Which the terrorists are you talking about?

          The terrorists who flew the planes into the towers died on 9/11.
          The guy who masterminded the whole thing was shot and his body dumped in the ocean.

          Which the terrorists are left?Report

          • Avatar Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

            Jaybird:

            Which terrorists you ask? Have you been paying attention to recent events? Clearly not as that same group of terrorists has not just disappeared and is still trying to attack us.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Scott says:

              Terrorists have been trying to attack Americans since the Barbary Wars.Report

            • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Scott says:

              Yeah, like, evil exists. Do we really need to make old ladies take off their diapers to realize this?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                Right, because nobody ever puts explosives in their shoes or their underwear.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                And because the bombers were only caught thanks to the USA-PATRIOT Act.

                Oh wait. They were caught by alert passengers, who wrestled them to the ground. Not by anything secret, or new, or destructive of our liberties. Those things all failed us… because the bombers still got on the planes.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “Oh wait. They were caught by alert passengers, who wrestled them to the ground.”

                er, after they’d ignited the bombs, and if they’d been better at making bombs then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

                “Those things all failed us… because the bombers still got on the planes.”

                You’re making an excellent argument that the court system is a failure because people still commit crimes.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                … wouldn’t that be the police system? and yeah, the police system is a failure. In Japan, one could make the case that their policemen are significantly more competent. (lol)Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

                A failure at interdiction, sure. Not what it’s designed for.

                The security measures at airports are designed — we’re told — for interdiction. They can and do fail. All the time.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

                > “Those things all failed us…
                > because the bombers still
                > got on the planes.”

                >> You’re making an excellent
                >> argument that the court
                >> system is a failure because
                >> people still commit crimes.

                Here’s a thought, Duck.

                Why don’t you try engaging the argument inside the context in which it is relevant, instead of picking up the argument and plunking it down in another context where it has entirely different practical ramifications, and then declaring victory?Report

              • Kim, I don’t know if that’s a reference to “Japanese people don’t commit crimes” (because the Yakuza has a monopoly on crime in Japan) or “100% conviction rates” (due to forced confessions).Report

              • The court system has never been about prevention. It’s about justice. Back in the day, humans recognized that evil exists and it’s best to deal with it as it comes instead of being arrogant and foolish enough to think we could stamp it out completely. This is why neoconservatism is fundamentally a species of progressivism.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Christo,
                That was a reference to the Japanese policemen’s habit of classifying things as “not crimes” actually [man loses wallet, man commits suicide with gun — not man robs other man with gun and then shoots him]. That, and that most of a Japanese policemen’s job is giving directions. It’s significantly easier to be competent at “knowing the neighborhood” ya?Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Kim, I forgot about that one. I see you’ve somewhat cracked the eggshell that is the riddle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery that is Japan.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                … or takes garrotes on planes (friend of a friend did that). Or is a martial arts expert. Or smuggles flammable substances onto a plane (that was a writer for the Atlantic, I believe)
                It’s theater, pure and simple. Because the ability to kill large numbers of people is not something you can take away from people, without straightjackets or knockout gas.
                Not that I mind knockout gas….Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kim says:

                As someone who came of age in the 1980’s, the criticism that PATRIOT does not protect us against Ninjas hits close to home.

                We need a team of American Ninjas to help protect us all from Taliban Ninjas.

                We need Louis Gossett Jr.Report

              • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Jaybird says:

                Oh crap, I hadn’t even considered the Ninja threat.Report

              • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Jaybird says:

                We need to let the ninjas all get on the plane at the same time, so we can fight them in accordance with the inverse ninja law.Report

        • Avatar Paul Crider in reply to Scott says:

          White American here. I am not Muslim and don’t consume much Islamic material. I read and watch pretty boring entertainment. Oh and for better or worse I haven’t (yet) given any money to Wikileaks.

          In many ways then, life is pretty much the same for me as before 9/11, aside from the incredibly degrading experience of flying. I don’t *feel* like I’m missing many civil liberties.

          But isn’t this the problem? Most people don’t know anyone who has been nabbed in the dark and held in isolation without any kind of due process for years. Most people don’t know anyone who was tortured. Most people don’t know anyone who has had her laptop confiscated at the border just because. Most people have not even heard of Bradley Manning and most have no damning information to leak even if they were brave enough to do so. Most people don’t think that their emails are read or their phone calls eavesdropped upon because they’re not terrorists and they trust the government knows who the bad guys really are.Report

  13. Avatar James K says:

    This is a truly brilliant piece Jason.Report

  14. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I can’t bring back the thing I wrote immediately after 9/11 because it was multiple computers ago. I do recall saying to my friends in those emails (blogs weren’t my thing then) that as usual we were fighting the wrong enemy and as usual the enemies’ goals were not what we thought they were.

    America on 9-10-01 was a very free country, the antithesis of what Sharia law represents. Fundamentalist Muslims were apoplectic about the threat to their children, their religion and their diminishing social status from our freedom, our music and our inherent happiness. They fought back, not against our citizens (merely collateral damage) but our free and easy society. That has clearly gone by the wayside. There are no more dramatic attacks not because the threat is gone completely but because they simply aren’t needed. The 9/11 attacks achieved their goal, in spades.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to wardsmith says:

      Ward:

      Really no need for more attacks? That is funny since they still keep trying to attack us.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Scott says:

        Small potatoes by bit players. The big attacks aren’t needed anymore because they’ve already achieved their goal. Many generals need to remember this from Sun Tzu, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. “Report

  15. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Really, really fabulous. The best thing, by far, I’ve read during this whole week’s 9/11-athon.Report

  16. Avatar 62across says:

    Jason –

    I really enjoyed this post, particularly your close:

    In the end, we didn’t have the will to fight. We fought the terrorists, sure, and plenty of others who didn’t even attack us. But we didn’t have the will to fight as they took our civil liberties away. We didn’t even have the will to punish them afterward. The word “we” is the pawl on the ratchet of state power.

    I like this because I tend to think we get the government we deserve. In a democracy, it’s not our leaders we need to convince of the desirability of the liberties we seek.Report

  17. I feel really ambivalent about this distinction between us and we you end with. Isn’t saying we didn’t have the will to stop it just a different way of phrasing our saying that we did it? Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Hobbes stuff lately, but it’s not at all clear to me that our fear somehow negatives our will.Report

  18. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The collective “We” thing is obviously problematic, or even just obiously false and pernicious if you prefer, even if we know that it is an inevitable rhetorical tactic of politicians. But it actually cuts many ways. If we prefer the plural “we,” then it isn’t the case that “we” didn’t have the will to fight. Many of “us” did. The ACLU exists. Glenn Greenwald exists. But it is true that there are other “we”s. Some “we”s, indeed, didn’t have the will to fight, with implication being that they would have been inclined to fight on the side of those who fought the loss of liberty had they been inclined to fight, but just didn’t in the event have the will to do it. But there were still other “we”s. Some “we”s truly didn’t give two shits one way or the other. Will isn’t the issue for them that I can see; getting them to engage in the first instance is. But then there were other “we”s who were kind of like those who lacked the will to fight, except that had they been inclined to fight, they’d have fought on the side of the measures that “we” (though not that we) would say eliminated our liberties. And finally (though certainly even finer distinctions can still be made among these “we”s), there are people who did actively fight for what they said were needed security measures that, they said, either didn’t curtail liberties that were actually protected prior to 9/11, or did so only to an extent that we ought to accept in light of that event.

    These “we”s all really existed after 9/11, and I think that event had real effects on who found themselves among which “we”s. I think saying that “we” lacked the will to fight on civil liberties while also rejecting the construction of a single collective “we” is really pretty much facially rejecting a proposition while relying fully on it to make a different argument. What I think the strongest advocates for civil liberties don’t give enough consideration to is the extent to which 9/11 really did change people’s views (not theirs, but many of their fellow citizens’) on liberty and security, and that these changes are entirely legitimate and real changes in the polity, if truly lamentable ones. It’s not that “we” lacked the will to fight the loss of our liberty, though a few of us did (for example I think that description actually does fit me pretty fairly). It’s that, in fact, within our plural republic, there was a substantive shift in attitudes relating to what we expect from government vis a vis security and liberty. We did in fact give up essential liberties for certain measures of security, but I don’t think we did it out of lack of will – except maybe in a few cases. But that can’t erase from history the fact that a non-negligible, and I’d argue more likely a critical middle mass of us, did this consciously, with eyes open. It’s what “we” – some of the “we”s among us, in any case – chose to do, not just what we all together failed to exert the will to not do. That latter is just not what happened.Report

  19. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Didn’t the FBI find the guy who mailed the anthrax letters?

    Yes, some people say he didn’t do it. Same way that some people say there were bombs planted in the World Trade Center.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

      > Didn’t the FBI find the guy who
      > mailed the anthrax letters?

      Most likely. Bruce E. Ivins killed himself, to be 100% accurate, but there’s more than enough reasonable evidence to point to him being the culprit.Report

  20. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    I’ve been catering and busing tables lately to make ends meet. One of the girls I work with is a senior in high school and she told us all today that her class is the last class that actually remembers 9/11. None of the kids younger than her have any idea what happened. These kids have grown up in the world Jason describes above. They think it’s normal.

    When I heard this, a profound sadness came over me, because I realized we’ve missed our window.Report

  21. I heard about the attack on the first tower on the news when my clock radio woke me up. My first thought wasn’t “Oh, no — what will they do next?” or “Am I in danger?” It was that terrorism would be the new communism, that Bush would get a blank check to fight any war anywhere in the world, that stocks in the military-security-industrial complex were about to go through the roof, and that they’d probably pass through police state legislation giving the FBI all the goodies it asked for but didn’t get after OKC. My second thought was if there was another big attack, my red card from the Wobblies would probably be enough to get me held without charge in a detention camp.

    For the next few weeks, I felt like I was living in a madhouse with all the waving flags and jingoism. When I saw Tom Daschle say there was “no daylight between him and the President on foreign policy,” and Dan Rather said “just tell me where to line up,” I wanted to spit on the floor.

    I was working at the VA, and three different times a nurse in a supervisory position brought in homemade flag pins to distribute. I didn’t realize the VA had political officers like the Soviet army.

    It sickened me to see Americans, who at their best — in peacetime — are skeptical of government, acting like good Germans.Report

  22. Avatar Will H. says:

    “But have we ever, even once, been granted an emergency freedom?”
    The Future Handbook of Quotable KuznickiReport

  23. Jason: What you said is reinforced by the fact that all the purported mechanisms of shareholder control are near-mythical. Proxy fights almost always lose. Almost all new investment — as opposed to mergers and acquisitions — is financed internally through retained earnings. Takeovers, after a brief surge of hostile takeovers in the ’80s followed by a series of countermeasures, are usually acts of collusion between two sets of management.

    As for boards of directors, they’re more likely to engage in logrolling with the boys in the C-suite.

    What management tries to maximize is management salaries, bonuses and stock options. It does so by maximizing the quarterly numbers, often through short-sighted measures to cut costs at the expense of hollowing out human capital and long-term productive capability — thus destroying shareholder value.

    The assets of the corporation are legally owned, not by the shareholders severally or collectively, but by a legal person. It’s more accurate to say that management are the real residual claimants, and shareholders are simply another class of contractual claimants entitled to participate in the charade of a shareholder meeting and to collect whatever dividends the management sees fit to issue. Corporate management, just like the Soviet nomenklatura, is a self-perpetuating oligarchy in de facto control of a large mass of unowned capital.Report

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