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May 27, 2005


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John Reeve


Hasn't it always been the case that the truely terrifying, anti-human organizations have been premised on the certainty of the future disconnected from the facts of the probable?

Isn't the most frightening position for masses of people the one which will not recognize the fact that Anything is possible, except as the perverse other to a fundamentalist postion-- the position where, since anything could potentially happen, the masses must enforce their view of what must happen?

Isn't it just chilling when we realize that the possibility of the Protocols being true is, to some people, the point at which they have be come true enough?

We can't fight an argument against the radical void of the possible: the right has constructed it as the other to their position. We have to come to a position where we can bear a tenuous absolute truth in the face of a radically open future.



Jodi and John

I have been thinking about this issue recently in relation to pre-emptive war. Preemption is justified by preventing "possible" future harm. Just as John has said, the question is one of the "possible" vs. the probable. Many countries could do possible harm to the United States, but how many are likely to do so? It seems this is such an obvious argument one can only wonder why it was not raised more urgently in the months leading up to the Iraq conflict.

And of course, as the Downing Street memo points out, Iran, North Korea, and Lybia all have more advanced weapons programs and pose a more immediate threat.


The probable vs. potential argument seems another face of the reality vs. faith issue. A large segment of the US population seems to need to keep the blinders on and resist seeing the train wreck happening.

I don't know if this is some type of unconscious realization/guilt of our privileged position and the means with which we achieved that advantage. At any rate, "reality" or some kind of reasoned approach to address what might probably occur is too painful - thus faith or "potential" provides a short-term out - you can keep your blinders on for a little while longer.

Patrick J. Mullins


This is absolutely required reading--Joan Didion on the Schiavo case. There isn't anyone else I know of who can get to certain 'killer details.' She was certainly an ardent Kerry supporter and in no way supported the Bush policies on the case. What she has been able to do, as she has always been, has been to cast off the spell from what is essentially a localized matter--and however you may view the media spectacle on Schiavo, the suspicions she has raised on Michael Schiavo are the kind of journalism you are not going to find elsewhere. It's true she has the luxury to work a single story over a much longer period of time than other people do, but that's why she unearths things that nobody else unearths. For anyone who has difficulty with what she says in this article, it should suffice to read her account of the Republican Convention in a September issue of New York Review (however, that article is no longer free, after about 3 month you have to pay, the one on Schiavo can just b read online). I am not sure I know of anyone who thinks more fiercely independently.

Patrick J. Mullins

I would just add that it is important, if difficult to think about certain phenomena without politics, which is primarily what Didion does with her article here. Clinton was thinking about saving his own ass in Little Rock quite OUTSIDE politics, and as much as I may find this cynical, for me personally it has been his greatest most direct legacy as president: Due to Clinton's false testimony (I am not talking at all about the stupidity of making an issue over Monica Lewinsky; suffice it to say that an issue was heavily made)about 'not having sexual relations' I learned how to lie to save my own ass from Clinton, and I am grateful. Joan Didion is obviously primarily a supporter of non-conservative causes, supported Clinton and Kerry and has long voted Democrat (although she didn't back in the 60's always), but she's not a Communist, and I am now very clear that I'm not either. Anyway, we all need to give this point careful attention, because when things hit us personally, we do often and often should forget about whatever theory and politics we subscribe to when it seems comfortable enough.


John--I love the manifesto, but I'm not convinced. To be very mundane, criminal procedure and trial by jury accept the risk that criminals will get off; that risk has been considered acceptable; these day, though, there is zero tolerance for crime--that seems to be a change.


Patrick, thanks for the link to the article. I read it and agree with you that Didion does an excellent job navigating the political depths. What isn't completely clear to me is exactly why you posted it. I'm wondering if it is because you conclude from the article that everything possible should have been done to save Terri's life. What I take from Didion is slightly different, namely, that the political focus on potential was a mistake, one made by both sides, and that the only issue that mattered was the present one, her existence as it was and whether she had a right to it. If this is correct, then it seems to me that Didion may help us in thinking about the problems with arguments around potential, the way they displace our focus away from present facts and toward an indefinite future. So I am really glad that you pointed out the article.

Patrick J. Mullins

I posted it because Didion saw the wrongness in both 'political' sides to the matter--and primarily because of the flaws in thinking of the non-conservative side. Didion herself asks the question if everything should have been done to save Schiavo's life, without knowing any more than I do.

Since the conservative stances were fairly well-known (but not nearly as obviously as they were being presented either at the time, at least in the 'loudest' parts of the debate), Didion points out what thinking people were also missing. She succeeds where most of us failed in seeing the entire issue devoid of politics--almost as though it were an anonymous case, and almost as though it had seemed impossible to see it that way before she had concentrated on that almost exclusively.

I actually posted it here only because you mentioned Schiavo in your post.

However, it needed to be pointed out that, whatever one thought about what the outcome ought to be, that Schiavo's wishes for 'no tubes', etc.,were based on the merest hearsay, and that physical symptoms that occurred to Schiavo from possibly other means than the purely medical had not been part of the debate. In other word, like a fine trial lawyer, Didion is not staying with any political aspect of the situation or she wouldn't have said that such political usage of situations was 'nothing new.' So that she reminded us of evidence in the purely local aspects of the case that we needed to know, even when we don't think that they are the major ones, viz., that you cannot understand anything about this case unless you have looked really hard at what Michael Schiavo did every step of the way. It is clearly Michael Schiavo that she thinks did not get enough attention by the thinking people, and I definitely agree. I don't actually see how you imagined that I thought that everything should have been done to save Schiavo's life. Didion seems to be saying something harder: That we unquestionably do not really know whether or not if one looks at the case from its roots way back in the marriage.

In other words, Didion will not let you forgot the individual, the singular whether or not you think you ought to. She has always done this, and I was somewhat astonished to see that she was still writing with the same sharpness of edge she had 40 years ago in the first major book of essays 'Slouching Toward Bethlehem.'

Patrick J. Mullins

This is the end of the passage that was so crucial, but we weren't hearing about this, but there's no way it isn't important--in quite the same way Republicans don't want us to know that Saddam was previousy on our non-shit list, until it became inconvenient; and the same Bill Clinton and Janet Reno couldn't 'take the heat' that waiting at Waco would have required, so they turned up the heat instead--for the entertainment of millions. Thinking people ought to have to know every detail about these cases, because the very media blow-up victimizes by its nature.

Q: Assume that she was not in an auto accident but that she had suffered an anoxic or hypoxic encephalopathy type of injury from a cardiac arrest and had been bedridden for a year at this point. What might account for these abnormalities?

A: In my knowledge, that type of injury would not account for this pattern of abnormalities.

Virgil Johnson

When we speak of pre-emption, there was nothing of the sort going on in the attack of Iraq. What we have taking place with both the attack of iraq and Afganistan was a "pre-conceived plan" not pre-emption. Read PNAC published in 2000, or read Zbigniew Brezeinski's book on the global future - you will find the entire pre-conceived plan(s) in these published works.

Definitive point - pre-emption implies, and has been applied historically to mean immediate danger, like missles being launched at us or aircraft harmfully breaching our air space. Nothing of the sort went on with either of these countries. In fact, Iraq was no threat to it's neighbors let alone the United States - if you doubt that fact there is even video footage of both Condi and Colin saying so in the year 2000. What was done to these countries is what was condemned in the Geneva Convention back in WWII -yeah, Nazi Germany was the culprit (too bad, I used the Nazi word again).

The attack was not even prevention, prevention of what? These were all symantic ploys to enlist cooperation from the American people, useful idiots that we are. Carried by the compliant and embedded (complicit) major media.

Now we are "pre-empting" everything (with the loose definitions)! "Oh, those people might be terrorists, lock em up!" Don't like what this administration is doing, your disent now marks you for a pre-emptive act - don't protest, watch what you read, watch the company you keep, and by all means watch what you say - you may become the next victim of the pre-emptive act. Did you over stay your visa? Must be a budding terrorist! When will it stop, will it ever stop?

As far as went on in Florida with Terri Schaivo, I suggest you read an insightful article:


That's about as close as I can come to my sentiments about that fiasco.

Virgil Johnson

Oh, sorry - you may not have a subscription there, here is an indirect post:


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