Obama’s Terrorism Cancer Speech, Carter’s Malaise Speech

The right wingers who insist on calling any attack by a Muslim “terrorism” — who insist on tying the San Bernardino attack to ISIS, even in the absence of evidence — do it to prioritize the fight against Islamic terrorists over all the other ills facing America: over other gun violence, over climate change, over the persistent economic struggles of most Americans. Theirs is a profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority, even far more pressing ones. That stance has led to a disinvestment in America, with real consequences for everyone not getting rich off of arms sales.

Last week, President Obama capitulated to these forces, giving a speech designed to give the attack in San Bernardino precedence over all the other mass killings of late, to give its 14 dead victims more importance over all the other dead victims. Most strikingly, Obama called attacks that aren’t, legally, terrorism, something his critics have long been demanding.

It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.

And he lectured Muslims to reject any interpretation of Islam that is “incompatible” with “religious tolerance.”

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

Not only does this give too little credit for the condemnation Muslims have long voiced against terrorist attacks, but it holds Muslims to a standard Obama doesn’t demand from Christians spewing intolerance.

It was a horrible speech. But this line struck me.

I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

In context, it was about terrorism.

I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris. And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it

But, particularly coming as it did after invoking dead children, it shouldn’t have been. Aside from those whose own kids narrowly missed being in Paris, why should we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris, rather than in the faces of the young people killed in the Umpqua Community College attack or the over 60 people under the age of 25 shot in Chicago between the Paris attack and Obama’s speech? If we were to think of a cancer with no immediate cure, why wouldn’t we be thinking of the 20 6-year olds killed in Newtown?

We have a cancer, but it’s not terrorism. And it’s not just exhibited in all our shootings. It is equally exhibited in our growing addiction rates, in the increasing mortality in some groups. Obama gave the speech, surely, to quiet the calls from those who demand he address terrorism more aggressively than he address the underlying cancer.

Obama’s horrible, flatly delivered speech made me think — even as I was watching of it — of that far more famous malaise speech, delivered by Jimmy Carter, 36 years ago.

Carter’s malaise speech, after all, was offered at the moment so much of the current malaise, the cancer, started. Inflation-adjusted wages for the middle class had already peaked, 6 years earlier. That was the moment when the rich and the super-rich started running off with greater and greater portion of the benefits of America’s productivity.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 11.56.08 AM

And the overthrow of our client dictator in Iran months earlier would set off our decades-long dance with Islamic extremists. Indeed, just 12 days before Carter delivered what would be dubbed the malaise speech, he authorized covert support for what would become the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Our entanglement with the Saudis — and with it our refusal to ditch our oil addiction — has disastrously governed much of our foreign policy since, even while the petrodollar delayed the recognition that our economy isn’t working anymore, not for average Americans.

Carter correctly diagnosed his moment. After making an effort to hear from Americans from all walks of life, he recognized that people believed — correctly, we now know — that the future might bring decline, not progress.

The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.

The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July.

It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else — public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.

Our people are losing that faith, not only in government itself but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. As a people we know our past and we are proud of it. Our progress has been part of the living history of America, even the world. We always believed that we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom, and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose. But just as we are losing our confidence in the future, we are also beginning to close the door on our past.

In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years.

He saw the gap growing between Washington’s policy wonks and the people they purportedly served.

Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual.

What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

36 years ago, Carter saw that the nation was at a turning point, a moment where it could choose to continue down the path it was (and remains on) or come together again.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

There are parts of Carter’s speech that grate, now. Given his singular focus on energy independence, he pushed hard for coal and shale oil exploitation. Carter’s endorsement of saying something nice about America dismisses the possibility some introspection about America’s mistakes was in order.

Moreover, some areas of strength, the areas where Carter believed America would endure, have not.

I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.

We still have unmatched military might and the largest economy, but that hasn’t brought us peace or respect for civil liberties. Instead, the monster Carter and his advisor Zbignew Brzezinski first unleashed led us to double down on our own malaise, one which led, after many years, to Obama’s cancer speech.

And while the initial response to the speech was quite positive, Carter squandered the value of the speech.

Obama was, in my opinion, wrong to capitulate to those who want to focus singularly on terrorism rather than on America’s problems more generally. Because both here and abroad, our failure to address the malaise Carter identified decades ago remains the more critical problem.


45 replies
  1. Vito Andolini says:

    Obama’s Terrorism Cancer Speech, Carter’s Malaise Speech

    Engendered An article written by a Putz, about other Putzes, containing the ideas of a Putz, and complaints about other Putzes.
    Oh, Lord, Please spare us ….. no more of this shit, Please………………

    And the online censor, apparently, has more tolerance for verbal DOO-do than for an American man’s freely given response to worthless drivel.

  2. tryggth says:

    Outstanding. And on point.

    “gun violence, over climate change, over the persistent economic struggles of most Americans”

    ISIS and the Trump show are distractions from where inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy have brought us.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

    Mr. Obama’s defining characteristic is capitulation to power. It’s worked well for him but not his constituents. It is an approach as deeply cynical as his latest speech. But the list is long, starting before he let Dawn Johnsen twist in the right wing winds of change rather than fight for his notional nominee to head the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. Being a courtier to power is a proven career move. Confronting its excesses is, however, uniformly better for the people of America.

  4. Ed Walker says:

    The neoliberals won out with the election of the rotting Ronald Reagan. As a people our first principle is “the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others”, as Carter put it. And it doesn’t matter how we do that grasping, with corruption, outright purchase of the agenda, destruction of the notion of governance or fraud. No one is accountable as long as they were merely following our new first principle.
    In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt wrote:

    The attraction of evil and crime for the mob mentality is nothing new. It has always been true that the mob will greet “deeds of violence with the admiring remark: it may be mean but it is very clever.””

    And so we have become a country with no accountability, where this sickening statement is the basis of the support of all of one political party and big chunks of the other.

  5. RepubAnon says:

    Pity that Jimmy Carter got talked into letting the Shah into the country. Had Jimmy won a second term, we’d be in a very different place.

    Instead, we chose the road to ruin sold by Ronald (The Great Con Artist) Reagan

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s hard to know. He was better on many issues. But it’s easy to forget he was himself a neoliberal economically.

  6. bevin says:

    “The attraction of evil and crime for the mob mentality is nothing new. It has always been true that the mob will greet ‘deeds of violence with the admiring remark: it may be mean but it is very clever.'”

    But has it ‘always been true’? Has it been true more often than false? And who speaks for the ‘mob’?
    Arendt’s observation seems typical of the sort of fin de siecle despair with democracy that afflicted so many intellectuals after the Second World War. It took the Cold war to reassure that any changes were not going to last, high wages and generous welfare schemes, educational opportunities and comfortable retirements could all be rolled back again. And that is were Reagan and Thatcher come in- leading the ‘mob’ back to the Victorian meanness and poverty, long hours and appalling conditions which is all that they deserve.
    I imagine Michigan is a sort of monument, from Michael Moore’s Flint to Barak Obama’s Detroit, to the fruits of this contempt for the mob or the ‘swinish multitude.’

  7. orionATL says:

    a fine essay.

    if the president wants to use the metaphor of a cancer that is eating away at the tissues and ligaments and bones of our society,

    i can give that cancer a name: Neglect.

    at every age level, for both sexes, at all but the highest income levels, the people of this country are being neglected by their government and its leaders.

    – food security programs for children and adults cut for none but ideological reasons – the wholesomeness of austerity, one might say.

    – education spending has been severely cut over the last decade. the excuse is the depression of 2008-12, but the reality is ideology – divided between cutting taxes to free wealthy individuals and
    corporations from some tax burden on the one hand, and passing out public money and property to polotical cronies on the other in the name of charter schools.

    – an effort to provide medical care for all americans has been relentlessly attacked by republican politicians in one of the most blatant effforts to refuse to help the medically disadvantaged in our scociety that i have ever seen in my life.

    – not only the affordable care act, but an expansion of medicaid to provide better care for least well-off americans was blocked by republican governor after republican governor in an extraordinary display of willful neglect.

    – from the 2000 bush tax cuts on, tax cuts have been about and for the very rich while presented to voters as even-handed and in their interests.

    – our government has repeatedly failed to protect its citizens from self-seving abuse of the law, from legalisms, and from local and federal police, from vicious, exploitative, dishonest prosecutors, and ideologically-motivated or cowardly judges.

    citizens have lost their homes in foreclosure games, seen bankers collapse the economy by knowingly selling poorly secured debt, seen police routinely extrajudicially execute citizens, seen their private communications collected secretly by their government, seen their federal police repeatedly behave incompetently (as on 9/11/01), seen their government hide its illegal conduct behind bogus security classification system.

    – men and women have stood by helplessly as k-street swells, many former congressmen or staff, have bribed congressgoobers to create a corporate-cum-corporate-tax production and jobs economy in which jobs have slowly leaked out of this country for decades. private groups and hedge funds buy and hold and carve up american corporations any way they please and send jobs where they please or dispense with those jobs. presidents sign trade deals ostensibly for the greater good but designed de facto to protect patents and property rights and the right to collect on debt whatever the circumstances.

    – and then there is the neglect of infrastructure and the bogus concern about national debt.

    – finally, there is that ancient last refuge of a demogogic scoundrel – “the terrible threat from outside our borders,” which, however objectively trivial, we are adjured to band together and fight despite the fact that neglect and economic rapine continue apace behind us in the homeland.

    • orionATL says:

      terrorism is the not cancer; neglect is the cancer.

      but a forever war against terrorism is a powerful anodyne to systematic neglect.

  8. Mark K says:

    Terrific article. The first paragraph was a knockout, too.: “Theirs is a profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority, even far more pressing ones. That stance has led to a disinvestment in America, with real consequences for everyone ” So true! Thanks for also pointing out how disappointing and lame Obamas unspecial speech was.

  9. Desider says:

    Aaargfhhhh, Brzenziski didn’t release any monster. He sucked the $600 billion a year hugely dangerous Soviet military machine into Afghanistan and neutered it, assuring the fall of The Wall 10 yearsblater. That a gnat like Osama bin Laden resurfaced 20 years later is largely irrelevant – Bush made OBL a huge calamity when he was on the periphery before, and then pumped into mythical proportions with Iraq’s invasion. Give Brzezinski credit for handling the largest threat of his time. Blaming him for what assholes did 20 years later is unconscionable.

    • Mick Savage says:

      Are you related to Brzenziski referred to in your post, or did you receive traumatic brain injuries at that time and not cognizant of surroundings? The fantasy you are spewing never occurred and to refer to your hero as saving us from the oh so dangerous Russkies – please spare me such nonsense. The only rats to have made out on the ongoing scam are the war industries and the wahabbists in ksa. And shills like yourself.

  10. Halle Bally says:

    Mainstream media is to the USSA what the TASS News Agency was to the Soviets back in the bad old days, but on steroids & multiplied across four major networks, micromanaging the narrative through omission, misdirection & diversion.
    Terrorists are neither scary nor interesting, beyond the fact that we manufacture our own.  What I dread finding out is, what has my malignant government perpetrated today.  The Nightly News has been reduced to nothing more than a vehicle for pharmaceutical companies to advertise on.  The real story on the MM is always what they DIDN’T talk about.
    The No Agenda podcast (dvorak.org/na) fills in the blanks every Thursday & Sunday.  I’m not affiliated with ’em.  Just a fan.

  11. haarmeyer says:

    Way, way too root-cause-ist. Looking backward into the past one always sees the tangle of butterfly effect disruptions and statistical smoothings as a single timeline that points inexorably to the present. Choose your “pivotal event” and you can easily put together a whole history starting at that point that would all have been different if that single event had been different. Which might be true, but if it is a butterfly event, so would the whole rest of history, and if it is smoothed statistically, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not pointing to a root cause. I’m pointing to a diagnosis that happened at the moment when a bunch of root causes coincided (decline of worker power, rise of post-colonial powers with ramifications in our immediate and secondary foreign policy, shift in petro-dollar relations, disinvestment from US industry). Some intensified–“free trade” backed globalization–after this point, clearly. But by a number of measures, 1975 was probably the apex of US power, or at least the power that gave Americans huge, unaccounted for benefits. Both the loss of that power as an ideology and the loss of the livelihood have created a lot of unhappiness in this country.

      • haarmeyer says:

        I guess I do see root-cause-ism, in the belief that Jimmy Carter’s authorization of a covert operation against Mohammed Daod led directly to ISIS. Too many other players and causes in the way for that to have any credibility.

        And the reason you see the sea change in the Carter administration instead of elsewhere is because you don’t really comprehend the oil embargo and its interaction with tons of other things — the first elected president after the first president to resign in disgrace, the fallout from the end of the Vietnam war, the rise of permanent protest, all of which had enormous effects on both ends of the political spectrum and to a change in thinking at the time.

        This is the second analysis I’ve seen this week that tries to read the tea leaves of the Carter administration into some kind of pivotal moment. Oddly, reporting goes on about the energy summit and the pollution alert in Beijing that actually talks about driving on odd and even days without any historical reference. But those of us who were old enough to vote and get drafted back then remember those measures when they were here.

        Stuff became a lot more expensive all of a sudden. At the beginning of that embargo, I could, and did, buy gasoline from a self-service coin operated gas pump that took quarters because gas was 29.9 cents. After weeks of long lines and odd and even license plate use to regulate gas purchase and shuttering of all January college courses and all the other things that had lasting impact and changed permanently a lot of ways of thinking, People got literally stranded in the cold and snow because they couldn’t buy gas in some places. At the end of it, gas was at $1.10.9 to $1.30.9, and there was a palpable hatred of Arabs out of nowhere. That hatred expanded dramatically when the Iranian students took over the embassy into a hatred connected with Islam. You weren’t there to see Iranian students posting for meetings in Persian, and American students blasting them and paranoid-conspiracy-like claiming they were plotting against them. Iranian students at the time were the largest single country of origin of all foreign students at U.S. universities. Go from the universities into the working class, and there are a whole other set of dynamics revolving around Japan eating our lunch technologically. Go over to Japan and there is a swirl of instability around Korea, changes brewing over the rise of other east Asian competition, and other forces. Go across the sea to China and there was the Tiananmen square protests. The whole world was changing, not a bunch of manipulators inside America doing dastardly things behind dark curtains.

        You weren’t old enough to know that, and you won’t get it looking at a chart. There was a lot of prep work that had nothing to do with mujaheddin, nothing to do with malaise speeches, nothing even to do with influences directly from our own government, that all funneled into the 1980 election. What came out of it was a huge course direction change.

        It’s all way too complex to ever assert that one covert ops funding created the current mess. It took too many factors both good and bad and both once good and once bad, and perceived as irrelevant and became relevant, and perceived as relevant that became irrelevant. There were also so many many players internationally that all had very real agency that this kind of U.S. based government on down analysis just falls apart on its face — other than making an exciting bedtime story that’s fun to write and fun to read.

        • orionATL says:

          re #27

          and so it follows from your tale of futility, that an individual should never attempt to wend their way thru all this “buzzing, blooming confusion” to write history based on their view of the world and of the significance of what has happened, elevating and demoting facts as it fits that viewpoint.

          writing history, it seems, requires one to be, essentially, an omniscent videographer. but who are you then going to get to slog thru your history with you?

          go sell your tale of infinite complexity to the historians i mentioned in #22.

        • emptywheel says:

          Pops? Thanks for suggesting I’m too young to remember things I remember very well. And thanks for creating a pretty little straw man to defeat.

          Usually you hold yourself to higher standards than that but I see this makes you very emotional.

            • haarmeyer says:

              Pushed post to soon, sorry. Addressing your other points, there was no straw man. You very much see a causative chain, you talked about it, and referenced the same thesis in Counterpunch.

              The point is that there aren’t root causes, any more than the top nail in a pinball machine (the original kind) is decisive as to where the ball lands. It’s true but irrelevant since all the other choices down the game are equally decisive and have equal agency, and there are many other choices as to how to decide the top nail that will lead to the same result.

              That handles the deterministic complex cases. The rest of the cases have either very large numbers of degrees of freedom leading to a statistically smooth result set, or they are in stable basins and get the same result set for all nearby perturbations.

              Net result is that you cannot attribute events to single events widely separated from them in time, just like you cannot predict the outcome of some very deterministic events very far in the future.

              The fact that people think they can really is something to get emotional about, because it’s not credible, and it does have its effects on the world. It’s disappointing that bringing that up is considered not up to standards. It’s incredibly important to situations like some unfolding now that there are these dynamics involved: The mathematics associated with them says that there can be, generically, no clear path to resolving some situations of conflict that behave this way. None exists, it’s not that everyone is too stupid to find them.

              The theorem is by Gavrilov and Silnikov, 1972, and asserts that generically there are spaces in three or more dimensional chaotic systems in which there are no versal deformations. “Generically” holds the meaning of those situations that can actually occur, usually. “Versal deformations” are paths through the space of possible evolutions of the system that have no singularities (bifurcation points). And three, and higher dimensional chaos will tend to exist in highly polarized circumstances in which there are multiple axes along which people polarize. Think wars in which there are a lot of different factions that don’t coalesce into one or two axes of common interest. Like, say, Afghanistan.

              • orionATL says:

                haarmeyer you really are an obscurantist.

                and a major bullshit artist:

                “… The theorem is by Gavrilov and Silnikov, 1972, and asserts that generically there are spaces in three or more dimensional chaotic systems in which there are no versal deformations. “Generically” holds the meaning of those situations that can actually occur, usually. “Versal deformations” are paths through the space of possible evolutions of the system that have no singularities (bifurcation points). And three, and higher dimensional chaos will tend to exist in highly polarized circumstances in which there are multiple axes along which people polarize… ”

                historical events have happened, i. e., are fixed in time. you cannot put them in matrix equations. you do not get to run simulations on them. your chaos theory, infinite universes, ray bradbury, fractals history mumbo-jumbo just does not fit here.

                • haarmeyer says:

                  @orionATL, @emptywheel: Right. Can’t be put in a matrix, inventing shit, bullshit? Have a good laugh. In the 1D case, I’ve already finished the proof, in the 2D case, it’s really practically only a reference to something someone else already published. In the 3D or more, V.I. Arnold really already supplied a lot of it, if not all of it, it remains only to show the same application of variables as in the 2D.

                  All the rest of what I said is straight out dynamical systems, except that I used explanations instead of definitions. Here are the definitions:

                  Generic: A property is generic if it is true on a countable intersection of open dense sets in a Baire space (i.e. one of Baire catergory 2). This means that any initial condition is vanishingly close to an open set of initial conditions which have the property, which is why it is assumed to be a pre-condition for observability.

                  Versal deformation: An unfolding (bifurcation path, perestroika, whatever) in which every bifurcation that exists is generic and caused by a transverse intersection with a boundary. That means that the type of bifurcation and its existence is stable, and not changed by an arbitrarily small change in the system dynamics. If you don’t have this property, the changes in the system as you apply whatever external forces to it are not predictable.

                  Why these mean what I said they mean: If there are no versal deformations in the state space of a given system/conflict/economy/whatever, it means there are no paths out of the current state where all the changes of state are predictable and straight forward. There may still be ways out of that system that can be arranged from the outside, if there are adiabatic (i.e. slow) variables, but within the system you are essentially constantly revising your strategy hoping for a way out of that basin. It isn’t rocket science, or putting historical events “into some matrix equation” to say that if a system is in such a state, you won’t be finding some overarching philosophy or grand strategy that will always work, or even work for very long. Whack-a-mole is an example of this phenomenon, the statement essentially means that the only strategy is whack-a-mole or juggling, or constantly patching leaks.

                  And it certainly isn’t bullshit to put real world events into a dynamics framework. How do you think that global warming was first proposed? How do you think the theory convinced 97% of the world’s scientists? Did you think people at NASA Goddard just philosophized some place on the internet?

                  Have your laugh. From this end, theory like this doesn’t look so funny. Not when the emergent form of conflicts are almost all of this type. They will always look to anyone like they have root causes. Even if they do, that will be meaningless in finding a solution to them, unless, as I said, it’s an adiabatic variable, and if it is, it won’t take the form of an event, usually.

              • emptywheel says:

                Pops, you simply are inventing shit now. It’s sort of embarrassing that you can’t even see the multiple factors I point to in this post, much less are inventing claims about primacy of one, but I guess you have your bloviating you intend to do, regardless of actual facts. Please stop inventing shit, as it violates the terms of commenting here and I will have to let bmaz ban you.

    • orionATL says:

      so just then how does one write history from one’s perspective – e. g., carlisle, morison, durant, diamond, et al., haarmeyer? apparently that’s impossible by your foolish standards.

      the philosophy of history is entirely different from the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of the social scieces, including those that use statistics, and for a very good reason. “philosophy” refers roughly to acceptable modes of reasoning. for one, historical events are unique and never repeatable.

      • haarmeyer says:

        No, actually it depends on when you’re talking about. Newsflash, kid, the world had less than 2 billion people and only about 100 countries before World War II. It had less than 1 billion people and far less countries than that after the American Civil War/European Napoleonic Wars/Russo-Turkish Wars, etc.

        Complexity that we now experience hasn’t always been this pervasive.

  12. Trevanion says:

    For what it’s worth, having fled DC after 30 years my perspective is that your otherwise fine post suffers from the first three words. In both the areas of finance and ‘security,’ there is no “right” or “left” anymore, only a well-fed uber-beast that will only be dislodged, I fear, through something that will nasty for all the rest of us.

  13. Anne Bennett says:

    Apropos reminders and comments, all. Thanks. One thing hit me as funny from the video and that was Carter’s remark about US being at peace all over the world at that point in history. Now why was that not enough for anyone!?! Oh I forget, its all about money? “the economy, stupid?” I never heard such mewling discontent about being a country in peace.

    • emptywheel says:

      The economy was a mess at the time, on account of the oil crisis.

      Indeed, I was looking at our crazy-cheap gas prices the other day, after I had already begun this, and imagined how much more crazy things would be if the Saudis managed to jack up prices suddenly to what they were in 2008. We’d have riots.

      • orionATL says:

        i’m not going to go back and try to check the accuracy of my memory, but every now and again with $2-$4 gas prices, my wife and i like to laugh together at the time, somewhere around 1972 on a visit home to farm country, we filled up on standard at 25¢ a gallon.

  14. Garrett says:

    I think that Zbigniew Brzezinski is giving himself way too much credit there, for destroying the Soviet Union. He laid the trap to draw the Soviets in to Afghanistan, he says. But according to the released Politburo documents, the Soviets were draw in for reasons very different from his trap. The Soviets were worried about the 1979 uprising in Herat, which was not by an Islamist mujahideen (though it would be given that spin later, by Ismail Khan). And the Soviets come across as a lot more worried about secret American support of Hafizullah Amin, than American support of a resistance to him.

  15. omphaloscepsis says:

    “Obama was, in my opinion, wrong to capitulate to those who want to focus singularly on terrorism rather than on America’s problems more generally.”

    An interesting report on where the top 1% thinks we should focus:


    “a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country’s first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.”

    That study:


    This sample of the top 1% believes most strongly in repairing infrastucture.

    Their least interest is climate change.

    And although they believe strongly that international terrorism is a problem, they don’t want to spend more on defense or homeland security.

    A mixed bag, like most opinion polls.

    • orionATL says:

      this is very interesting. thanks for the cite.

      my interest has to do with the suspicion that there might be surprisingly strong support for candidate trump’s racial, ethnic, and “social justice” views – ok, welfare, food stamps, free day care, etc. – among wealthy americans. it would take some careful interviewing to tease this out but i’d bet it’s there. i’d look for it first among old wealth individuals longtime in this country.

      at present, trump’s supporters are presented as poorly educated white guys in t-shirts. that may be true, but i’m guessing it is less than a complete stereotype.

      trump’s fund raising might offer a clue.

  16. omphaloscepsis says:

    Academic media coverage of 2013 study:



    Authors of the 2013 study:




    A follow-up paper:

    Page & Seawright, “What Do U.S. Billionaires Want from Government?”, Paper prepared for delivery at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 3-6, 2014

    “Billionaires are nearly impossible to reach. . . . As an . . . interviewer remarked of far less wealthy quarry, ‘even their gate-keepers have gatekeepers.’

    Rarely do billionaires have the time or inclination to talk with scholars, journalists, or survey interviewers. Thus the idea of conducting a policy-preference survey of a representative sample of billionaires is a non-starter.”

    With the exception of one notable loudmouth.

  17. Avedon says:

    I don’t remember Carter’s speech being well-received – what I remember is that it was instantly called his “malaise speech” even though he didn’t use the word, and he was attacked for it. I remember how it was seen as a great victory against the forces of “malaise” when Reagan took the solar panels off of the White House.

    It’s funny, I was reading the speech a few days ago and was surprised at how little he’d actually said about alternative energy sources. I think that was a huge mistake and he could have promoted it more, but at the time I’d thought he *had*. But the energy companies rounded on him fast all the same.

    • bmaz says:

      I watched Carter’s speech live and was around a variety of politically active people at the time, including both parties. I do not remember it being that poorly received immediately, but it did not take long for the GOP operative types to start framing it that way. As far as general people were concerned, it is true that most just wanted the gas shortage to be over. And it was not so much the cost of gas, as the availability of it. But, it has been a long time now, and who knows what time has done to frame my specific memories.

    • emptywheel says:


      Polling done right afterward found it well-received. But it took very little time for the right to attack it.

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