Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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That is exactly what the left has been saying since 9/11. They don't believe the threat is real, they think Bush is trying to become a dictator, they despise Israel, and they especially despise neo-conservatives, and they sympathize with Palestineans and Muslims in general, even the most fanatical jihadists.

I think you are correct in saying there is some truth on both sides. The neocons have been out of control and power mad, and have earned the distrust.

But all the 9/11 conspiracy theories I have seen are silly. And I just don't believe Bush ever had any desire to be dictator. I think he wanted to be a great president but will be remembered as one of the worst.

Of the two sides, I think the 60s types are the craziest. And that includes most of my friends and relatives, so I have tried to consider their perspective.

Of course it's wrong to insist that America is great and infallible and is fighting Bin Laden in Iraq -- and a lot of the midwest probably believes that. And it's also wrong to think evil villains are secretly running everything for their own advantage.

As always, and as you seem to be saying here, the truth is something between, or something other than, the popular extremes.


In fairness, short of the real 9/11 crazies (of whom there are all too many), they haven't been saying the threat isn't real. They've been saying it's greatly exaggerated, and that it could better be handled by a combination of law enforcement and diplomacy than by going on a war footing.

I think that they terribly underestimate the threat (bin Laden's folks getting hold of a loose nuke and taking out an American city is unfortunately not a paranoid fantasy, in my opinion -- it is all too possible). At the same time, going on a conventional war footing when you're not dealing with a state actor is futile.

We need exceptional intelligence work. Carefully crafted laws that do not unnecessarily tie the hands of spies but do not empower the government to spy on and harass mere political adversaries. Lots of Arabic speakers, lots of intrepid undercover infiltrators. Vastly improved border control (much more important to keep terrorists out than lawn and construction workers). Vastly improved port security.

Iran is a true threat and a real race against time, and a terrible dilemma because we actually have a lot of friends there. Even God said he would spare the city for ten just men. By threatening war too facilely we'll drive our friends into the arms of our enemies. You can't take it off the table, but it has to be a last resort.


Oh, and, thinking of past comments by Michael Reynolds: there's also a fine line between taking the threat seriously enough and overstating it to the point where we reveal that we are very afraid and the project of terrorizing us has been successful. Osama's dream of world domination is a laugh, unless fear causes the West to roll over to Islam. He's a pipsqueak who could take out an American city; that's the paradoxical reality.

Tom Strong

My first response is that Ellsberg and Wolfe are really late to the party. The heydey of this stuff was 4 - 5 years ago, back when Bush seemed like he might be in office forever. Now it's just kind of been there, done that.

Would another 9/11 lead to more erosion of liberty? Sure it would. If Naomi Wolfe and Tommy Franks agree on something, it's probably true. But as Callimachus points out here, that sort of thing has been going on for a long time. Again: been there, done that.

But I'm not that cynical about it, actually. Some of our liberties have contracted over time, but others have expanded. I just don't see the last two hundred years of history as a thick tar slowing the Founder's cart to a standstill. The past was no better than the present, and very likely worse. The future, as always, is simply grey.


The problem I see, coming from a pro-war, more right-leaning perspective, is that most of the people who believe as Ellsberg and others do accuse those more on my side of the debate as being in favor of the outcomes he fears.

This is to some extent the mirror image of the left who hear themselves being called unpatriotic when the right suggests that the policies they advocate would lead to our defeat.

But I'm not willing to acquiesce to any moral relativism here. As I pointed out in a thread on another blog recently, I think that red light cams, the I-9 immigration form, the national ID card proposal, the (fortunately unsuccessful) Clipper Chip, automated toll booth records and other such items are FAR greater threats to our actual liberties than the Patriot Act, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, and the SWIFT banking records monitoring.

Despite some small number of abuses (far more limited in scope than the horrors of Hoover's FBI), these programs have, so far, been quite narrowly targeted. The Patriot Act in particular has been the target of some of the most over-blown, hyperbolic criticism I've ever seen. I've tried many times in blog debates over it to explain that its opponents distort it so much, it's impossible for me to find common ground with them on the few real privacy-related problems it contains.

But the red light cams, the toll-booth records showing where and when you entered the city, every single time you did it, all these records that can quickly and easily be subpoenaed not just by the government but by any private individual with a legal beef against you, these things affect ALL of us. To work in this country at the moment, legally, you are required to prove that you are a citizen.

Yet these invasions of privacy weren't enacted by the evil Bush Administration and only a few groups, like the EFF (in the internet world) are challenging them. Most have been broadly accepted, or at least acquiesced in, by both the left and the right.

I had an interesting exchange with a fellow from Sweden once. He was criticizing the U.S. as not being all that free, because of the records we kept on our citizens and so forth. I pointed out that in his country, by law, records were kept of every citizen from cradle to grave, that every citizen was required to notify the government every single time they moved to a new address, among other things. All this information is kept in a massive database by the central government. In response he said that the difference was that his government only kept those records for good purposes, to make sure everybody got their appropriate government benefits.

Both the left and the right occasionally support programs which are threats to our liberty and freedoms, or could become so if abused. But I'm afraid I don't credit Ellsberg and his crowd with any sort of objective or good faith criticism.

Internet Ronin

It seems to me that no coup has occurred. Yet. As Pat alludes to (and I think Cal @ Done With Mirrors recently wrote about), the Bush Administration is just another stage on a long slide towards the loss of individual freedom. Almost every administration has succeeded in limiting this or that for fleeting but supposedly urgent purposes with little regard for the long-term results of those continuing limitations.

While I have no problem with programs like SWIFT, and various other things involving foreign nationals, I do have serious issues with secret subpeonas of American citizens not issued by a judicial authority, secret courts and secret trials for American citizens, and the threatened imprisonment of American citizens if they exercise their constitutional right of free speech and reveal that they have defeated the government in one of those secret trials. (All of this was documented earlier this year by the Washington Post)


I am not trying to be funny -- I honestly think we will defeat radical Islam with Coca-Cola, Ipods and sneakers. Most of the younger generation must be drawn to Western culture like moths to a flame. The only ones that can be reached by Al-Quaeda are a minority of malcontents.

Western culture, with all its wonderful pros and terrible cons, is irresistable to most of our species.

Radical Islam is just a desperate effort to hold back the inevitable.

Yes I think we need intelligence and security. But we certainly did not need this war, and we do not need to over-react.

I think the president is patriotic and well-meaning, but I think he and his friends conceptualized the whole situation incorrectly, by using the WWII analogy. Amercia was a great victorious hero after WWII and wouldn't it be nice if all our conflicts were that clearly defined and winnable? Well most of the time they aren't.

I don't think we have to be afraid of radical Islam, but we do have to be afraid of Iran and N. Korea and their nuclear weapons. We have to get some Ipods over there quickly.

Kobayashi Maru

Great post, Amba. I've been too long away. Love the bit about an "undead anti-Vietnam War ethos".

Part of the divide is about an asymmetry. One can ask the question: What specific developments since 9-11 make those of us on the right believe that external threats are very real and looming larger? and without a whole lot of effort, we can go on and on and on about highly specific terrorist incidents successfully executed around the world and others that came quite close to succeeding (and for which credible public evidence exists) but were thwarted, not to mention obvious geopolitical threats like Iran and Syria...

...and hours will have gone by and we still won't have had to dip in to any list of terrorist incidents for which the potential for success or major impact, or impact the U.S., our interests and our allies is at all debatable.

Yet when I ask my (exceedingly left-leaning) neighbors: Give me some specifics about this police state you worry about; tell me about specific ways (not fanciful, future-oriented scenarios) in which your civil liberties have been abridged...

...what I usually get back are slogans and red faces ("f-ing Cheney!" "g-dm-d Abu-Ghraib", "that idiot Bush", etc.)
Along with that I may get a dollop of true paranoia (e.g., I haven't changed my library reading habits, but it bothers me that they know about them!) and (usually)--and this is probably the most significant point--a complete lack of contextualization.

I.e., my left-leaning neighbors, when pressed, cannot envision any circumstances (including parallels to historical justifications for curtailments, such as German U-boats off Long Island) in which anycareful and judicious trimming of what have become rather expansive civil liberties since this country's founding would ever be justified. Every. Those things have become absolutes in their minds, even though some are fairly new and/or not without a history of measured curtailment in our history.

Simply put, our fear, on what has become the "right" (I'm really a JFK liberal at heart), is that the left's naive demand for business-as-usual is precisely what may cause the war with Islamofascism to get so bad that really serious curtailments of civil liberties (that none of us would like one bit) might become necessary for our very survival.

In other words, our fear is that the left, in failing to make trade-offs, will find itself having to make a sudden, awkward move to the opposite end of the spectrum when they finally figure out that sharia law is a real possibility (already true in parts of Europe) and that it is utterly incompatible with liberal values.

Internet Ronin

KM, not a leftist, but here's something for you to think about:

From the Washington Post

Kobayashi Maru

Ronin - Did not know about this. Thanks. It is indeed toxic and cause for thought. As an technology consultant, I can especially relate.

That said...

If the Dems were making more responsible, nuanced noises about how they would handle things that need to be kept secret (and prosecute the war on terror in general), I would be much more optimistic about finding a balance between this nightmare and the foolish notion that all will be fine if we just re-boot the system in pre-9-11 mode. That world, sadly for all of us, is gone forever.


KM, to put it another way, the arguments/concerns about loss of freedom and the possibility/probability of an authoritarian coup are undermined from the left. Although they do not recognize it, the fact that the same voices (at least the ones I hear among my friends and colleagues) also argue that 9/11 was a complete hoax for the purpose (and other conspiracy theories) detracts from their ability to convince that their real concerns have any merit.

Of course, the right's arguments concerning real threats from radical Islam, etc. are similarly undermined by their ideologically-based nonsense on other topics.

And neither can see the damage that they do to their cause. Sad.


As I said recently at Stubborn Facts the fact that Ellsberg can claim there was a coup and not actually be arrested for it, as can (and do) MANY, MANY people, the fact that you can stand in front of the President's house and hold up a sign saying "Buck Fush!" is strong evidence that we are not, in fact, living in "Amerikkka."

Contra InternetRonin, I think this is not a unidirectional trend. While technology has allowed for far greater surveillance and record keeping of the population than ever before, we have generally gone through pendulum-like phases. The mindset of today towards surveillance, even national security surveillance, is much more concerned about limiting government power than the nation's mindset in the 1950s. In the aftermath of Hoover, McCarthy, and CIA abuses in the 60s and early 70s, we swung back to a "keep the government out of everything" mindset. Now that we again see that there really are extremists out to kill us (both from within and without), we're more tolerant of a bit more government surveillance. When this becomes abused in a significant way (as opposed to the extremely limited incidents described by InternetRonin), then the trend will be back the other way.

Additionally, I have to say I get tired of the left decrying a "culture of fear" imposed by the President when they use the same rhetoric, in reverse, attempting to instill fear of a coup d'etat.

Finally, ditto everything Kobayashi Maru said. Any student of history should realize the great power this country has shown itself willing to unleash when we, or our ambitions, are threatened by outside forces. If we don't deal with a problem early, we may indeed experience the backlash described and then we'll see what real oppression looks like.

Internet Ronin

Pat - Like you, I am amused by those who loudly claim they have no free speech any more and are still walking around claiming they have no rights a month later. That said, up to 4,000 secret subpeonas a day (IIRC) do not strike me as "limited" Pat.

Internet Ronin

I forgot to add, that if this is the "Long War," then were are talking about supposedly extraordinary measures lasting 25 to 30 years. At what point exactly does anyone here think "extraordinary" will become "ordinary."



I don't know if the figure was that high. 4,000 a year, maybe.

As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that there are good reasons to require such subpoenas to be kept secret. Where there is an actual criminal, it is often imperative to not tip them off that the authorities have found their method of communication.

Suppose, for example, that the FBI finds out which particular chat room a terrorist cell is using to plot their next attack. As soon as they know that the FBI has found that particular chat room, they will stop using it, and we will get no future intelligence from monitoring it. If an ISP is free, for its own reasons and based on its own philosophy (perhaps it is run by anarchists) to disclose the subpoena to its targets, then there frankly is little point in getting the subpoena to begin with.

As with much of the over-blown anti-Patriot Act hype, this is an area where nothing is terribly new. In prior years, the FBI regularly obtained secret subpoenas and secret wiretap orders to monitor the mob. The wiretap orders usually require notification of the targeted individual 90 days after the interception of their calls, but allowed for longer periods of secrecy with approval from the judge.

I would certainly agree that subpoenas, or at least subpoenas imposing gag orders, should be issued by the judge or a grand jury. However, in practice, I'm not sure it makes much of a difference. Subpoenas do not require probable cause to issue. That's any subpoena, not just these kind. Even where judges do sign them, there is generally no standard by which they are to review the requests by the prosecutors for them.

There is some difference here in that the subpoenas are going to parties who really are just middle men, the ISPs and banks, but most Supreme Court precedent has applied much less stringent requirements for the government to obtain information about you from third parties to whom you have voluntarily entrusted your personal information.

Internet Ronin

Pat - the figure I've seen is 4,000 secret subpeonas being issued a day, by the FBI, without judicial oversight, with no right to reveal that such subpeonas were ever issued, even when issued in violation of law. That's just plain un-American and frightening, Pat. that's not how we do things in this country. We all just saw a good example of prosecutorial misconduct in the Nifong case and it reinforced the point that, had the boys not had ample financial and legal resources to fight it, they would all probably be on trial or in jail today. I'm sure you personally did a fine job while a prosecutor and would never engage in such misdeeds, and that most prosecutors would not as well, but I'm appalled that we have so little oveersight here, particularly given the very long and sorry record of misconduct and abuse of power at the FBI.


(I'm several posts back, having just come ina0

the left's naive demand for business-as-usual

There you've nailed something. A wishful thinking that nothing has really changed. A privileged softness that doen't want to acknowledge that it is the gift of hard choices. A tone-deafness to evil.


There's only about 12,000 special agents of the FBI. I have a hard time believing that on average one third of those agents file a new secret subpoena every single day.

Pending resolution of the actual number, I agree that such a large number should be a source of concern, and we should make sure we have strong oversight in place to prevent abuses.

At the same time, I feel compelled to again defend the occasional need for secrecy in such matters. I understand how sympathetic the author of the Washington Post article comes across. I'm sure he or she may well have legitimate reason to believe that the subpoena was inappropriate or unjust. However, we don't know that for certain. Some people are absolutely morally opposed to the government obtaining records of, for instance, who was in an internet chatroom at a certain time. They are so morally opposed that, unless restrained by law, might well notify the targets of the subpoena immediately, even if they have no actual desire to aid terrorists. Even if we assume that the WaPo author would be willing to not inform real terrorists that the government is watching them, the government has no way of knowing that, and certainly can't explain and disclose all of its evidence to each random ISP operator whose records are needed.

I agree that secrecy creates risks, and requires oversight at some level to prevent abuse. But I also believe that there is a need for secrecy in many instances. This need may not always be apparent. In the case described by the WaPo author, for all we know the government is continuing to monitor an individual suspect, and disclosure of these subpoenas would let that suspect know that he was indeed a suspect, which would hinder our ability to learn more about what he is plotting.

To pull in Amba's comment about wishful thinking, those who condemn the secrecy and the subpoenas outright must be forthright in acknowledging the consequences of that decision. It's easy to say "well, it can be done some other way." But the problem is, it can't always be done some other way, and if we're going to have full debate, then all the consequences of all the decisions must be considered.


Funny, I read the first few paragraphs and thought to myself, the threats both from outside and from within are real dangers. And then I read on to note you point to the same.

In the way it responded to threats from outside, including passage of laws meant to protect us inside, this Administration has weakened us from within.


IR, IR!! The National Security Letters provision of the Patriot Act has been struck down as unconstitutional! That happened early this month, and of course just today the amendments to FISA were also struck down by a Federal judge.

Naomi Wolf's dire predictions are therefore a bit premature.

Judicial appointments are one of the most important factors to weigh in your vote for president, and one of the most important factors to grill candidates about.

Internet Ronin

Judicial appointments are one of the most important factors to weigh in your vote for president, and one of the most important factors to grill candidates about.

Just saw this. (and Pat's response)
Yes, judicial appointments are an important factor, although we both know the nominees don't always turn out the way the nominator intended!


Fair points, all, particularly the last. I appreciate that there may be times for secrecy but I am exceedingly uncomfortable with altering our American way of life and practicing it wholesale in the name of security, so my answer to your last point usually ends up being that we do the best we can but diminishing some of our freedoms in the fruitless search for security will ultimately destroy all of them.


Ronin was kind enough to notice it, too: This post jibes in some ways with what I've been thinking. Every now and then the paranoids are right, in that broken-clock-twice-a-day way.

But in this case I think they're right-but-wrong. I think we may come out of the Bush Administration with more actual personql freedoms than we had before -- a constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus, for instance. These are deep and important. But PatHMV puts his finger on the creep.

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