Arma diavlogumque cano

by Michael Bérubé on November 11, 2008

Because of his political naivete and his refusal to theorize power/knowledge in the previous post asking CT readers to “remember all those who have died as a result of the crimes of the rulers of the world,” I hereby declare war on John Quiggin.  And to belligerent blog commenters everywhere, I say:  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that posts his scathingly critical comment with me shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition.

It’s got a nice ring to it.

Also, I’d like to announce that I have officially joined the ranks of the Bloggingheads.

Last week I taped an hour or so of exceptionally entertaining <strike>decaloguing</strike> <strike>diaclogging</strike> diavloguing with Will Wilkinson.  Some of it was about the election, some of it was about rootless cosmopolitanism, and some of it was about liberals in academe.  And one section of it deals with Obama’s career to date, and it goes like this:

<embed type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” src=”” flashvars=”playlist=http%3A%2F%2Fbloggingheads%2Etv%2Fdiavlogs%2Fliveplayer%2Dplaylist%2F15749%2F17%3A54%2F25%3A53″ height=”288″ width=”380″></embed>

<a href=””>Will notes</a> that he was in Iowa City and I was in State College a few days before unranked Iowa defeated then-# 3 Penn State, pulling off a stunning upset and ruining our chances for an undefeated season and a shot at the national title, and asks you to make of this what you will.  But I think the implication is clear enough.  Will <a href=”″>won this diavlog 24-23</a> on a late field goal involving an argument about marginal tax rates, after I, believing that there was very little time left in the game, unwisely decided to punt.  It’s all about smart clock management at Bloggingheads.



Matt 11.11.08 at 9:36 pm

Have you shaved your beard because, now that Obama has won, you strugglers in the culture wars can return from the mountains and join society as master? Or was it just getting itchy?


Michael Bérubé 11.11.08 at 9:44 pm

Ah, Matt, it’s been too long. I actually shaved that scraggly thing at the end of 2006, after telling Jamie (who insisted I keep it after my appendectomy) that I’d worn it long enough. It survives now only in embarrassing author’s-photo head shots of the era. Oh, right, and on a book cover.


HH 11.11.08 at 9:55 pm

Can anything be more hilarious than accomplished bloggers lusting to be on TELEVISION? It takes them to a whole new level, significantly below blogging, and it allows them to exhibit personal speech mannerisms and facial tics. How wonderfully superficial! Now television can do to Internet discourse what it did to American politics: render it full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.


Matt 11.11.08 at 10:16 pm

I wish you’d re-grow the beard because I hate shaving (I can’t say I look better w/ the beard, but I really hate to shave) and my only defense with my wife is telling her I need it academic/leftist street cred. If you all start being known for being beardless I’ll have to tell her I’m joined a religious community or something instead.


Liam 11.11.08 at 11:17 pm

We are now at war with John Quiggin. We have always been at war with John Quiggin.


John Quiggin 11.11.08 at 11:22 pm

Well, I declare peace on you, Michael Bérubé. As my comment thread shows, that’s far worse than declaring war.


Bloix 11.11.08 at 11:24 pm

What I took away from this is: Wilkinson waves his hands when he speaks and says the “o” sound oddly. Michael is professorial. Also I liked the phrase “there’s been remarkably little under-the-bus-throwing.”

And it was MUCH easier to pay attention after I sped it up to 1.4 times normal. At normal speed it was excruciating.


Michael Bérubé 11.11.08 at 11:33 pm

Dang you, John Quiggin!! Dang you to heck! You have completely outfoxed and outflanked me!! I can’t even say I’ll get you for this someday — I have to say I will not get you for this someday, if I’m going to play your dastardly game.

HH: it helps a bit on the “comprehension” end if you listen to the words. And I’m with Bloix — 1.4 times normal is actually the speed at which I prefer to speak, but I tend to be extra extra halting over the phone. Part of that has to do with the fact that you can’t see your interlocutor in Bloggingheads — and I didn’t know that until we actually began recording.


Bloix 11.12.08 at 12:05 am

Actually, Michael, you weren’t bad at normal speed. Will was slow. It’s the difference between someone who spends his days expressing ideas orally to rooms full of people and someone who sits by himself with a keyboard. Also, the whole audience thing seemed to be unfamiliar to him. It seemed fairly clear that Will was talking to you, as if he were engaged in a conversation with a new friend, while you were using Will as a foil to talk to the audience, the way you’d do in the classroom. His whole presentation of self was about getting you to know him, while yours was about using him to riff on ideas that were interesting to you.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 12:43 am

Interesting, Bloix, but then again, it was Will’s show. He does one every weekend, I believe; it’s called Free Will. So the presentation-of-self you see there is part of the structure, I think.

The original idea for the exchange was that it would be a discussion of What’s Liberal. I suggested to Will that that would be way too me-centric, and that I was curious to get his take not only on the book but also on recent events. But that’s really curious about my appearing to talk to the audience — during the taping, I thought I was proceeding as if I were talking only to Will, and that maybe people out there in Bloggingheads TV-land (though, of course, it isn’t really tele-vision, it’s just another Internet) would be overhearing us. Sooner or later.


HH 11.12.08 at 12:47 am

Does a public intellectual need a hair stylist to make a successful transition to video? This is the burning question of our age.


Stark 11.12.08 at 1:08 am

Christ, somebody get Mike B a phone that doesn’t look like it was made by Gillette.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 1:23 am

What? That’s the phone I shave with!

Sigh. After learning that my laptop was insisting on blocking the camera’s access to the Internets, I installed the necessary software on my son Jamie’s computer, then ran the phone line down the hall from my wife’s study into the headset Bloggingheads sent me. All this took only eleventyteen hours and three extension cords. Then when I was finally all set up in Jamie’s room (up against his wall, so as not to have his bright windows behind me), I learned — but only when Will called — that I could hear just fine in my headset but could not transmit through the headset mic for reasons that remain obscure to this day. So I had to undo the headset arrangement, plug everything into my wife’s phone, and start all over again. That’s why I have that dang phone.

And I did it all for you, HH. You know I love you like a brother — indeed, like a band of brothers.


Stark 11.12.08 at 1:31 am

Forgiven, there is a certain charm to such throwback technology used in combination with webcams… Like an eight-track with Bose surround-sound.


Colin Danby 11.12.08 at 4:13 am

I thought your head was larger. Should I adjust my set?


Katherine 11.12.08 at 9:45 am

Could we have a translation of the American football metaphor for the international audience? I’m guessing that it may be something to do with scoring at the last minute but it’s just not close enough to rugby for me to appreciate the nuances.


ejh 11.12.08 at 10:01 am

I’m not sure the metaphor really works even on its own terms, since I can’t see how better field position could have been gained if a decision had been made to run the ball or throw it rather than have recourse to a punt.


Katherine 11.12.08 at 10:07 am

That did not help.


ejh 11.12.08 at 10:17 am

Yeah, sorry, but the trouble is that if the metaphor doesn’t quite work then it can’t easily be translated into rugby of either code since the decision wouldn’t make sense in them either.

Maybe Bérubé’s idea is that it was fourth down and inches, perhaps close to his line, but rather than try and achieve the first down he chose to punt – whereas if the fourth down had been achieved he’d have been able to run out the clock?

I suppose there’s just about a parallel in union, if a side marginally ahead had taken a decision, late in the game and close to its own line, to kick, not made sufficient ground and then conceded a penalty that lost it the game, when perhaps they could have retained possession. But it doesn’t really work the same way because you can, more easily, sit on the ball in union, whereas in both American football and rugby league you’re basically obliged to surrender the ball after a period of possession.

(Sorry, it’s really hard to explain this if you’re not familiar with what fourth downs are, or first downs, or punts. Can anybody direct Katherine to a useful guide?)


Katherine 11.12.08 at 12:38 pm

Thank you for your efforts ejh. I hadn’t realised how curious I was about the American football rules – having seen it in films and on TV so many times without giving it much of a second thought. I know what a touchdown is, and I’m pretty sure the quarterback throwing the ball forwards (forwards! I ask ye!) is important, at least for the purposes of drama, and that’s about it.

It may just be possible that we’re putting more effort into unravelling the metaphor than dear MB had planned for though.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 1:22 pm

Dang, I thought American football was a universal language — not like that “rugby,” in which players kick the ball out of bounds every so often for no discernable reason.

OK, so you’ve got four chances, or “downs,” in which to gain ten yards (9.144 meters, though we don’t believe in meters). If you don’t make it on your fourth down, the other team takes possession of the ball right where you left it; but if you choose to kick the ball down the field (i.e., punt) on fourth down, you usually wind up moving the ball about forty yards down the field. It sometimes happens in American football that teams, nursing a narrow lead, elect to punt late in the game rather than to take the chance of “going for it” on fourth-and-inches and running out the clock, as ejh suggests in # 19, in the belief that there might be enough time left for the other team to go 50 yards for a score, say, but not 90. And sometimes, this “conservative” strategy backfires, as the other team, upon receiving the punt and taking possession of the ball, finds a way to use the clock creatively. How can you use a clock creatively? By stopping it: in professional football, the clock stops whenever a forward pass is incomplete or a ballcarrier runs out of bounds; in college football, it also stops — but not permanently (!) — when a team advances the ball for a first down. And then, it’s always possible for a team to throw an incomplete pass deliberately, or “spike” the ball directly into the ground, to stop the clock. And then, also, there are the time outs: each team has three time outs per half, so . . . uh . . . what were we talking about again?

Oh, yes, punting. I was trying to indicate that at the very end of the exchange, Will challenged my “liberal” belief that marginal tax rates on very high incomes don’t really do much to dampen people’s enthusiasm for making money, and I said, basically, eh, not my field. Which was a way of saying, “this sounds like a debate for another time,” which was a way of, well, punting.


noselfrespectingscriptgivesitsnametoanotherone 11.12.08 at 1:58 pm

Katherine, if it makes you feel any better: my eyes glazed over at Michael Bérubé ‘s explanation above. I am a 52-yr-old American male suffering from low testosterone, apparently because of a selective attention deficit disorder concerning how American football works. It’s not Bérubé’s fault, at all — I find most of what he has to say fascinating.

I understand “Hail Mary Pass,” though. (Unless its meaning crucially depends on any of the above, in which case please don’t tell me.)


Miracle Max 11.12.08 at 2:55 pm

This segment works a lot better if you turn the sound off and play the Dead Kennedys for soundtrack.


christian h. 11.12.08 at 3:30 pm

While Michael wastes his valuable time debating so-called “important” topics, the Big Ten is getting slagged off on ESPN (“thank god Penn State lost, sparing us another Big Ten doormat in the title game” etc.). This is the problem with academics. They simply don’t have their priorities straight.


rea 11.12.08 at 4:02 pm

This is the problem with academics. They simply don’t have their priorities straight.

Insufficient attention to football? What an accusation to make concerning the holder of the Paterno Chair in Literature!


ejh 11.12.08 at 4:20 pm

What would John Elway do?


Bloix 11.12.08 at 4:36 pm

Katherine – a team “punts” – kicks the ball downfield – when it’ has possession of the ball but is about to lose it. It’s likely to be put in a bad situation where it can be scored on easily, so instead of trying to maintain possession, it kicks the ball away, giving up possession to the other side but moving the ball way downfield so that it can defend better.

The metaphor is that when you’re in trouble in an argument, you “punt” – you don’t try to win, instead you come up with some way not to lose – you put it off (“we don’t have the time to explore that very complex issue”), or pretend not to care (“that’s really not relevant”), or come up with some other excuse (“not my expertise”) – it’s better than admitting defeat, even though it’s clear to an impartial observer that you’re surrendering the issue for now to your adversary.


harry b 11.12.08 at 4:51 pm

Bloix – thanks for that, I’ve never really understood how the metaphor works, because although vaguely aware of the basic meaning of the term I couldn’t figure out the extension (though I have inadvertantly used it a couple of times, I think correctly given your explanation). CT is worth reading!


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 5:23 pm

you put it off (“we don’t have the time to explore that very complex issue”), or pretend not to care (“that’s really not relevant”), or come up with some other excuse (“not my expertise”)

Exactly. And I was availing myself of (1) and (3), instead of, say, tossing a lateral to someone like Robert Reich, who could answer Will better than I . . . oh, dammit, now I have to explain the “lateral” pass.


Alan 11.12.08 at 5:53 pm

So, in the language of cricket…


ejh 11.12.08 at 5:59 pm

Late in the day, nine wickets down but holding on for a draw with fading light and time almost gone, you’re in with the number eleven and you turn down a single off the fifth ball of the over, he gets skittled on the sixth.


Uncle Kvetch 11.12.08 at 6:00 pm

so . . . uh . . . what were we talking about again?

I think you were talking about that weird TV show that pops up on Sundays and Monday evenings. As far as I can tell, it consists of a 3-hour-long series of extremely loud commercials for SUVs, shaving cream, and Axe body spray, interspersed with minute-long snippets of men slamming into each other and then standing around patting each other on the behind.

But I’m not entirely sure.


jj 11.12.08 at 6:04 pm

Even more important than the game itself is the predatory connotations of the mascots employed to transform an innocent contest among grown adults into an atavistic celebration of social organization. Occasionally some of those mascots assume the fearsome characteristics of native American savages determined to torture and destroy innocent (white) migrant Americans. Otherwise the metaphor devolves into the heroic defense of the homeland by the native (white) Americans against the illegal (colored) invading aliens.


Alan 11.12.08 at 6:07 pm

I…I…I thought we were talking about the a priori conditions of experience in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason…..or cricket….about the same.


Uncle Kvetch 11.12.08 at 6:08 pm

he gets skittled on the sixth

Oooh, that sounds so dirty. I like cricket already.


christine 11.12.08 at 7:21 pm

If you don’t believe in metres, why on earth won’t you accept the spelling adopted by those of us who do?


Lee A. Arnold 11.12.08 at 7:40 pm

don’t follow litres, watch the spell of meters


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 7:44 pm

The pope don’t work because the lighters took the mitres.


Katherine 11.12.08 at 8:19 pm

Thank you Michael. I now know at least 10 times more about American football than I did. This is a good thing for my understanding of American football movies.

PS It can make complete sense tactically in rugby for them to kick the ball in to touch (out of bounds to you). It does however make for a boring game.


Katherine 11.12.08 at 8:20 pm

Oh, and thanks Bloix too. That’ll teach me to comment before I refresh the browser.


matt 11.12.08 at 8:36 pm

_Occasionally some of those mascots assume the fearsome characteristics of native American savages determined to torture and destroy innocent (white) migrant Americans_.

Yes, but sometimes they assume the form of ocean-going mammals wearing foot-ball helmets. Let’s not forget that.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 8:56 pm

And sometimes they’re just plain weird.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 8:58 pm


notsneaky 11.12.08 at 9:39 pm

“This segment works a lot better if you turn the sound off and play the Dead Kennedys for soundtrack.”

And doesn’t the beardless Berube bore more than a passing resemblance to Jello? Just needs to take those glasses off and sneer a bit more.

Oh yeah and American College football has so much intransitivity in it that the top teams get decided by voting which opens up a whole new off-field spectacle.

I’ve always been partial to the name “Boilermakers”. Just sounds so useful and practical.

Awesome thread.


HH 11.12.08 at 9:57 pm

This thread is a typical cascade of post-modern, meta-blogging, free-association rubble. Occasionally a chunk will hit you on the head and produce a pleasant dazed sensation, but mostly the experience is that of being buried by a heap of rubbish.

It is theoretically possible for CT threads to address substantive topics in a manner that significantly improves the understanding of the participants. This can be done without extension cords and webcams.


Michael Bérubé 11.12.08 at 10:24 pm

After you, HH. Any interesting thoughts on subjects Will and I addressed?


HH 11.12.08 at 11:01 pm

Well, Michael, I put you on 1.4x, which makes you sound more appealing to a New Yorker, and listened in around half way through. The submerged topic here is questioning the ossified Left-Right perspective, which is less and less relevant to the emerging issues facing the world.

I would argue that Pragmatic/Doctrinaire or Kantian/Machiavellian polarizations are far more useful than the utterly clapped out notions of Left/Right. Thus, talking for half an hour on whether university intellectuals push students to the Left is thunderingly moot.

It is painfully obvious that both the Left and Right in modern American politics are full of a random mix of cheap-jack hustlers and utopian dreamers, and that we should be talking about the real chemistry of political debate instead of the useless alchemy of left/right polemic that hasn’t changed since 1848. Remove the name Obama from your Bloggingheads chat, and it could have transpired any time in the last 150 years. It is time to move past Left and Right.


Alan 11.12.08 at 11:49 pm

It strikes me, though, that you haven’t said much about where we move to. How exactly would your new polarisations work? Please do some redrawing of boundaries.


notsneaky 11.12.08 at 11:52 pm

“How exactly would your new polarisations work?”

SEC vs. Big 12 obviously.


Michael Bérubé 11.13.08 at 12:12 am

Remove the name Obama from your Bloggingheads chat, and it could have transpired any time in the last 150 years. It is time to move past Left and Right.

Thanks for watching it! Good to know it was a timeless exchange. But I thought the discussion of secularization and industrialization was a bit surprising (on Will’s side). And since our discussion of Obama was largely about how “conformist” he was or wasn’t in the course of his journey from Columbia to Harvard to U Chicago, I’m not sure that it would work without Obama’s name in it.


Alan 11.13.08 at 12:18 am

I still want an answer to my question…


HH 11.13.08 at 12:44 am

I’m not sure that it would work without Obama’s name in it.

Substitute Woodrow Wilson moving from Princeton to Washington and it’s back to the Progressive future. A deeply religious man with sterling intellectual credentials moves into the White House with a dream of spreading America’s civilized values to all corners of the world. It didn’t quite work out that way.


HH 11.13.08 at 12:54 am

How exactly would your new polarisations work? Please do some redrawing of boundaries.

I think the central polarization is the Kantian/Machiavellian one. A guy like Rahm Emanuel is a pure Machiavel, but because of party affiliation is considered one of the “good guys” by the “Left.” Conversely, there are (few remaining) moderate “conservatives” who are sensible, pragmatic, and principled. Which side should one choose? The Left/Right divide gives no reasonable guidance.

Obama’s precarious balancing act is to keep his halo of spiritual purity, while acting the tough guy in the action movie that most Americans have playing perpetually in their heads. If Obama’s administration relies on thugs and liars to achieve progressive reforms, what will it have achieved, other than preserving the dominance of thugs and liars?

We need to make honesty and pragmatism the principle qualifications for leadership, not ruthlessness and manipulative skill. The Left/Right conflict is irrelevant to appreciating these qualities.


Righteous Bubba 11.13.08 at 1:04 am

Oh lord.


Alan 11.13.08 at 1:09 am

Well, for one thing, it will have achieved progressive reforms. But putting that aside for a moment, I think you need to elaborate further upon the opposition of Kantian to Machiavellian. Whilst I’m not denying their, possible, differences (there are a number of ways of reading Machiavelli) I’m not clear how pragmatism is considered the middle ground between the two. I would have thought the general reading of a Machiavellian position would be one of pragmatism, honesty a Kantian one. But that is too shallow a notion for any substantive policy position surely.
I agree that the Left/Right divide is simplistic outside of extreme positions (and problematic even then) and something of a relic of the conflicts of the 20th Century. Yet it strikes me that Machiavellian-Kantian throws up as many, if not more issues.
Perhaps the problem is actually with theoretical polarisations and the notion of a political spectrum as continuous.


jj 11.13.08 at 1:55 am

Why bother with an over-simplified spectrum when you can add two more dimensions to produce a recurrent helix which periodically plunges from fascism to communism as it winds its way through liberalism and up to fascism once again.


HH 11.13.08 at 2:57 am

We should distinguish between political oscillations that reflect inefficient seeking of optimal structures, and fundamental conflicts that represent logically opposed belief systems.

For example, lying as a defensible means to desirable ends is rejected in principle by Kantians. It may be argued that this view will ultimately prevail on pragmatic grounds in a highly interconnected world. As society becomes more tightly integrated, the utility of lying diminishes, because greater transparency and closer coupling of individuals and institutions reduces the advantages of lying and increases the penalties. Right now, the global financial system is being devastated as a result of widespread lying about risk, combined with huge amounts of leverage and closely coupled financial institutions. Eventually, the behavioral root of this debacle (Machiavellian zero-sum conduct) will be recognized and addressed.

The Left/Right conflict is mainly about the degree of concentration of resources and power, not about how power is to be exercised. Thus it misses the central issue of checking destructive behaviors, and the historical evidence of this fault is the emergence of equally dysfunctional Leftist and Rightist regimes.


Michael Bérubé 11.13.08 at 3:17 am

Woodrow Wilson was black? Jeez. I mean, I knew about Harding, of course. But Wilson?


Twisted_Colour 11.13.08 at 3:23 am

Late in the day, nine wickets down but holding on for a draw with fading light and time almost gone, you’re in with the number eleven and you turn down a single off the fifth ball of the over, he gets skittled on the sixth.

Is “you” at the non-striker’s end? ‘Cos if “you” isn’t then your metaphor is a french-cut onto the stumps.


HH 11.13.08 at 3:34 am

Woodrow Wilson was black?

Disraeli was a Jew, and Golda Meir was a woman. Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice are all black. So what?


Michael Turner 11.13.08 at 3:56 am

Thanks, jj. Yours is the best suggestion so far. We’ll get more people registered and to the polls if it’s all made more like a leading-edge amusement park ride. I mean, with voter guides categorizing candidates as Kantian or Machiavellian or dull grey shades in between, we’ll just end up with more city workers sent down to unclog sewers full of voter guides.

Yes, Alan, there are different ways to read Machiavelli (The Prince, anyway.) Take that bit where he seems to extol Cesar Borgia as the ideal, a passage held up by none other than Leo Strauss as pretty much the slam-dunk case for Machiavelli as a “teacher of evil”. Unambiguous, right?

Not really. I’ve seen it more persuasively argued the other way. Anyone who understood the immediate political context (and that would include the very narrow audience The Prince directly addressed) would see that Machiavelli was being deeply and elaborately sarcastic, that he was laughing through his sleeve at Cesar Borgia, who at that point had actually screwed up very badly and was on his last legs.

And yet, Machiavelli is also hedging here, further cloaking his meaning for those not already clued in. Although The Prince was intended as an “eyes-only” attachment to his resume, in applying for a specific job for a specific boss, and not for the ages, there was always a chance that it would leak into hands hostile to Machiavelli’s interests. Machiavelli was well acquainted with those sorts of fumbles (which reminds me, wait — is the game on yet? No, OK, I can keep typing for now) from his career of shuttling sensitive diplomatic documents around war-torn Europe. And Machiavelli, at the time of writing that little chapter on Cesar Borgia, had not long before been one of Cesar’s torture victims, before being sent off into ignominious retirement in the countryside. So this part is written in such a way that Machiavelli, in the worst-case scenario (i.e., Cesar rehabilitated, the manuscript for The Prince intercepted or copied by Cesar’s spies) could defend himself even he became a Cesar’s captive again. He could grovel in chains before Cesar and point out this chapter where he obviously praises Cesar to the skies, mewling and pleading that he in fact worships Cesar, that he had actually committed himself to Cesar-worship in ink, when he was free, and when everyone was laughing at Cesar. Machiavelli could easily imagine himself in that position, and set himself up to be able to act as any good little broken torture victim would, especially a former victim in the middle of a Stockholm Syndrome flashback. Even crouched and bowed before a reconstituted threat, Machiavelli would still have a chance to hold himself up, unbroken, in his own mind, and — most important — avoid being tortured again, in which event (he knew well enough) he would only be broken again. He would save himself then — through Cesar’s wounded vanity.

Now, taking Machiavelli at face value, you get the neo-cons, with their beloved teacher Leo counseling them that they must learn from this “teacher of evil” so that they’d know how to be evil when the time came to use evil in the service of good. But if you actually put yourself back in the time of writing The Prince, where everyone in the know is snickering nervously about how that rat bastard Cesar seems finally to have gotten his fucking come-uppance, may he never darken our doors again, you will read our Niccolo as snickering (nervously, tentatively) along with Borgia’s enemies — but still planning several moves ahead, which after all was his fated role in things political.

Taking Machiavelli’s texts at face value, you can make your way to a cold calculus of apologetics for torture on an administrative basis. Reading him in deep context, a gaunt, agonized human face appears before you, dimly, behind the bars of a cell in a dungeon, and you want to reach through the bars, put your hand on his shoulder, and whisper solemn promises that you’ll do everything in your power to get him out.

So if I may suggest a more informed axis: all Machiavelli, all the time, with the spectrum ranging from Florence to Mayberry. The way I read it, Mayberry’s on the run these days, they’re gonna need a Hail Mary Pass to pull it out now: a casus belli for martial law. Hey, they might be saying to each other, it says here in the Prince never to trust defectors, ‘cuz they’ll say anything to get revenge and vindication. So we get this Iranian defector to say . . . . oh, c’mon, it worked before, didn’t it? Well, OK, you’re right, too soon since that last one. You got another Hail Mary Pass idea?

Which reminds me. The game’s on, gotta go.


HH 11.13.08 at 4:15 am

A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.

A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.

It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.

No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.

Politics have no relation to morals.

— Niccolo Machiavelli


Michael Turner 11.13.08 at 4:46 am

Ever notice how “Thou shalt not lie” fits more easily on a bumper sticker than any non-trivial truth expressed in adequate context?


HH 11.13.08 at 4:54 am

any non-trivial truth expressed in adequate context

Haven’t you heard of acronyms, Mr. Turner? ANTTEIAC fits easily on a bumper sticker, as does NGSEB (Never give a sucker an even break.), or KTALAGSTO (Kill them all and let God sort them out). Problem solved.


Michael Turner 11.13.08 at 5:45 am

Well, then, HH, I suggest that somebody at CT take one of your posts, disemvowel it, remove the spaces, set it in all caps, and make the result a CT blog tag. That way, we’ll know (simply from the length of the tag, not from any attempt to decrypt it) that the post contains a thread heavily larded with rancid, pretentious, humorless, self-important troll-snot.


Alan 11.13.08 at 9:36 am



ejh 11.13.08 at 10:06 am

Is “you” at the non-striker’s end?

Yes, you are.


HH 11.13.08 at 1:41 pm

the post contains a thread heavily larded with rancid, pretentious, humorless, self-important troll-snot.

Is that an attempt at criticism (ITAAC), or are you just trying to be amusing (AYJTTBA)?

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