For The Trees

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

About the Authors:
Dave Johnson
John Emerson
Richard Reich
Thomas Leavitt


Recent Posts:
Moved to Seeingtheforest.com
This Blog Has Moved
Democracy Arsenal
Thought Crimes
Think Progress
Bill Bradley Describes VRWC in NY Times Piece Toda...
Blog Change Coming Friday
How the Liberal Media Myth is Created
Interest Rates
Finally Leaving Blogger


BEST OF STF:

Dave's:

Articles not at STF:

The ATLA Speech on building a progressive infrastructure
Lowering the Bar
The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law
Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors

On the Right and their communications infrastructure:

Why Republicans Win
Win or Lose
The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine
Some History of the Conservative Movement
HOW TO FIGHT BACK
An Amplifier Of Our Own
Don't Blame the Democrats
How They Do It 1 2 3 4
Getting Rolled

Other:

You're Gonna Get Drafted
Scalia and Self-Government
Who is Our Economy For?
Voting Machine Story Link Collection
What's Wrong with this Picture? (Voting Machines)
Like Meat in the Supermarket
Get Active
Thin Line 1 2 3
Fixing Social Security
Seeing the Forest I, II, III
"Incredibly Positive News"
The Breadth of It
The Republican Crony Club
Moon Bush
Ralph Nader is a Scab


John's Best Of:
Kerry Smear Page
Bandar Bush
9/11 Commission Report Damages Bush -- if you read it
Florida Goon Squad Intimidated the Supreme Court
The Use and Abuse of George Orwell
Zizka's Archives (John's previous identity)
Zizka Sampler


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What REALLY Happened

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3/07/2004
 



Could there be anything more crass?

Remember that a GOP insider told The Hill a couple weeks ago that there is a "real possibility ... we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero. It’s clearly a venue they’re considering.”

Let's be clear. The White House hasn't said they're going to do this. And we don't have any direct knowledge that they're considering it. But the idea is apparently being widely discussed in Republican circles.

I mean, the question isn't whether that would be a crass use of the 9/11 tragedies for political gain. The question is whether it's possible to imagine anything more crass. Isn't ground zero something like a graveyard?

What could be worse? The president addressing the crowd wearing a pelt from a recently executed Guantanamo prisoner? Personally executing Saddam on stage with a scimitar?

Not to be flippant, but could anything be more crass than accepting a presidential nomination on ground that is still mixed with the bodies of thousands of Americans?

Lincoln dedicated a cemetery at Gettysburg; he didn't hold the 1864 Republican convention there.

I know it probably seems like I'm piling on here. And perhaps I am. But this seems like such a compact example of the sort of hyper-politicization of this national tragedy that is one of the main reasons Democrats are so energized this year and eager to drive the president from office. People miss the point of this if they view it in isolation. I think the danger for the White House is that this plays to suspicions held by a not-insubstantial part of the electorate that they've been using this as a political lever from the start.
Indeed.


 



Here's a chart...

to go along with my earlier post about W's failed economic policies.

And how do you like this little factoid?:

According to Gallup, every incumbent since Truman has been ahead of his eventual challenger at this point in the cycle -- all except Gerald Ford, who lost."
As I said earlier, I'm beginning to think W may be doomed after all.




3/06/2004
 



Growth In Las Vegas

Everyone knows that Las Vegas is the city of fast growth. Why is that? Maybe this opinion piece has a clue to the answer. What Wal-Mart Has Wrought:
"Anyone who doubts the ability of these unions to transform dead-end jobs into productive careers should check out the improbable union city of service-sector America: Las Vegas. By organizing almost every Strip hotel, HERE has created an employer-funded training academy where maids and dishwashers can become cooks and servers and wine stewards, and a hotel workforce that makes enough to purchase new homes. The biggest housing boom in the nation today spreads across the Vegas desert and, as in Los Angeles a half-century ago, it is largely the consequence of unionization."
Sounds sort of like how the REST of the country was, back when unions were strong. Unions brought good wages, benefits, overtime, vacations, health insurance and created the middle class. Now they're weak, overtime is gone, wages are dropping, we're losing our health insurance, the middle class is being split up into the poor (if you add in debt, most of the middle class is worth very little now) and a few rich who own almost everything. I wonder if this is related?


 



Most Recent Kerry Smear is Fake

Below Dave has posted a piece of GOP-USA disinformation about Kerry's Vietnam service -- a story claiming that Kerry received an unearned medal for killing a Vietnamese who was unarmed and dying. Here's the truth (from Snopes):

"Kerry earned his Silver Star on 28 February 1969, when he beached his craft and jumped off it with an M-16 rifle in hand to chase and shoot a guerrilla who was running into position to launch a B-40 rocket at Kerry's boat. Contrary to the account quoted above, Kerry did not shoot a "Charlie" who had "fired at the boat and missed," whose "rocket launcher was empty," and who was "already dead or dying" after being "knocked down with a .50 caliber round." Kerry's boat had been hit by a rocket fired by someone else — the guerrilla in question was still armed with a live B-40 and had only been clipped in the leg; when the guerrilla got up to run, Kerry assumed he was getting into position to launch a rocket and shot him."

(Incidentally, if some winger starts raving about Kerry murdering innocent civilians -- that accusation has been made against Sen. Kerrey from Nebraska, not Kerry.)

There's a lot more at Snopes: Snopes on Kerry's Vietnam Service


 



9/11 Survivors Protest Rove Ads

Here's a nice site by 9/11 survivors. It's got a rundown of the various protests of the Bush administration's use of 9/11 images.

They don't want the Democrats to capitalize on 9/11 either, but you can tell that they have major objections to Bush's whole approach.


 



They've gambled and, so far, they've lost

I've said for more than a year now that the Bush team was trying to rerun Reagan's 1984 campaign. Reagan, who was one of the luckiest presidents in my lifetime was also one of the most unpopular presidents ever judging from his poll numbers in 1982 and early 1983. Reagan lucked out in 1984 when the economy recovered just in the nick of time (you and I can debate whether it had a damn thing to do with his policies) and Americans rewarded him with a second term. I have long contended that if the economy recovers and jobs start returning in any way we'll get another four years of W, immoral war based on lies and exaggeration notwithstanding.

Well W and the boys clearly thought they were going to be able to party like it was 1984 again. As Atrios so perceptively points out in this post, W and the boys have essentially revved the engine up and dropped the clutch as far as fiscal and monetary policy is concerned. There's nothing left they can do. They keep expecting the economy to respond and it stubbornly refuses to do so. We're still essentially in the same place as we were two years ago.

Furthermore, continuing the engine metaphor, I would contend that the RPMs are currently nearing the redline point and the wheels are spinning but we're not going anywhere. If the tires don't get traction soon folks, there could be one helluva mess. (A "dubya dip" recession perhaps?) And, as Atrios notes, any sort of shock to the system at this point (say, a major terrorist attack) would be nothing short of disastrous for the economy.

Through pursuing such reckless economic policies in order to assure his re-election, W has actually left us all in a very vulnerable position economically. Politically, W had certainly better hope nothing at all goes wrong in the next eight months because he has absolutely no margin for error now.

And, even if things go relatively well, I'm really beginning to think he may still lose.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?


 



Smears -- "Invented By Democrats"?

Cross-posted at american street.

When you hear a line like this one: "Nothing is sacred in today's politics of personal destruction - invented and perfected by the Democrats" on a website called GOP USA, you know there's really going to be some nastiness in the coming Presidential campaign. Republicans accuse others of what they are doing, as a tactic to give them cover. "Self-acquittal."

And then it begins:
"In the debate about which man has given more to his country, no evidence has been more emotionally persuasive than Senator Kerry's own claims of war heroism. One basis for this assertion is that while serving in Vietnam, Kerry showed great courage in leaping off his boat to attack and kill a wounded North Vietnamese soldier."
Some time back I said that the Republicans are going to spread so many disgusting smears that soon YOU will hate your own candidate. This is an example. This kind of stuff is so nasty, so wrong, so foul, and so low that you feel sick just being in the same country where it is being said. It makes my stomach turn, and I want OUT of the campaign already. And there are 8 months of this to go.

If you think the stuff they were saying about and doing to President Clinton was bad, this is going to be so much worse. If THIS smear doesn't "have legs" then they'll try a different one. And another one. And another one. And on and on until they either find one that DOES have an effect, or until the accumulation of dirt just makes the guy look bad. People will say, "Where there's smoke there's fire." Today people still talk about "all the Clinton scandals" even though NO ONE in the Clinton administration was EVER found to have done something wrong! Every single person accused was exonerated of every single charge. (Except Clinton got a blow job.) I'll be surprised if Kerry gets even ONE vote.
"Evidence suggests the Vietnamese soldier had previously been wounded by a 50-caliber round. Veteran friends of mine tell me if a person is hit by a 50-caliber round, it is highly unlikely they could continue to be a threat, because of the hydro-shock associated with the impact of the round. I am assured this is true regardless of where the enemy was hit.

I know from my own FBI training that certain high-powered rounds can destroy vital organs and blow away entire limbs - due to this same hydro-shock factor. Kerry's claims that he saved his fellow soldier's lives by taking the life of the wounded Vietnamese fighter now lie in reasonable doubt."
This is what they are spreading, especially in the South, where they worry that Kerry's service to the country might carry some weight against Bush.
"Also, Kerry's ardent fans clamor over the Purple Hearts he received for each of his several wounds. What is not widely known is that even a minor wound can qualify for a Purple Heart, and a combination of Purple Hearts can be the basis for reassignment to a safer post. Kerry did, in fact, take a safer post after accepting his war medals.

Other veterans tell me they didn't even put in for Purple Hearts, because they did not want to be transferred home unless they were seriously wounded. These veterans didn't want to leave their buddies behind just to seek the safety of distance from the battle."
Got that? Kerry wasn't BRAVE for volunteering to serve in VietNam, and getting wounded saving men he commanded, he was in fact TRYING TO LEAVE HIS BUDDIES BEHIND by receiving multiple Purple Heart medals for being injured several times. (And what about his Silver Star?)
"In total, it appears Kerry was in-country less than five months. Yet some prisoners of war served more than seven years and had many serious wounds. "
This Kerry guy, what a wimp. Trying to shirk his duty to his country, trying to leave his buddies behind. But wait, there's something EVEN MORE sinister about this Kerry guy:
"Did he only participate in peaceful war protests, or did he join the Hard-Left, anti-US, pro-Communistic cabal of Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda and other well-known Hard-Left, anti-US radicals?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know where to find them. Every significant leader of any anti-war, anti-US protest from the 1960s has a large file sitting in a file drawer over at the FBI Headquarters.

The Bureau's headquarters is located at 9th street and Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. To get a copy of the FBI file, which would clear up this entire thing, Senator Kerry merely has to file a form. But HE must be the one to do it. Nobody else can get a copy - only John F. Kerry."
My God! The guy is a COMMUNIST AGENT! We need to see his (illegally obtained, in the Nixon years) FBI file. He has an FBI FILE!
"Today I am announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to encourage and assist Senator John F. Kerry in the acquisition and distribution of these two [FBI and Navy record] files. In due course, we will send the appropriate forms to Senator Kerry to be filled out. Soon, following President Bush's lead, Senator Kerry can reveal to the mainstream media the various documents establishing the truth about his conduct."
The truth about his conduct. Right.

If you think for a minute this was really written by Aldrich... This is the real thing: pure, researched, focus grouped, professional stuff here. And we're going to see a LOT more of it!

Update - One more thing I want to say. As I said above, this isn't Aldrich speaking. This isn't even Bush - even though it is the Bush style to "stay above the fray" while sending out surrogates to do their dirty work. Like Bush did with McCain in the 2000 primaries. This is "The Party" at work here. This is who they are, and what they do. This is how they get power and keep it. Be ready for it.


 



Why Did They Drop It?

Why did the Democrats drop the AWOL controversey? Why did they stop talking about it? It was just starting to get somewhere. It was just starting to penetrate America's conciousness?

And, while I'm talking about Democrats dropping things, what about Harken Oil?


 



On His Watch

Bush Defends His Sept. 11 Ads, Economic Policies:
"Despite pressure from Sept. 11 families and firefighters, Bush said he 'will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency.'

'I have an obligation to those who died. I have an obligation to those who were heroic in their attempts to rescue (the victims). And I won't forget that obligation,' Bush said.

But he added: 'How this administration handled that day, as well as the war on terror, is worthy of discussion. And I look forward to discussing that with the American people. And I look forward to the debate about who best to lead this country in the war on terror.' "
An OBLIGATION to exploit their tragedy for political gain? WTF does that mean?

This happened on his watch. He shouldn't be bragging about it.

Update - George W. Bush acts like he's entitled to treat the remains of a dead man like a souvenir. Maybe he feel this way because it happened ON HIS WATCH.




3/05/2004
 



Anonymous voice of America's unemployed

Go here and click "Hear the Tape" : Anonymous voice of America's unemployed
"This week I got a call from America, who happens to be a 43-year-old unemployed woman living in the Valley. She is angry. She is sad. America got my answering machine and left a message. George Bush's line must have been busy. John Kerry was probably out of town.

The woman on my recording does not actually claim to be America, but she is. She is a mother and a wife whose husband also recently lost his job. There are millions like her, she says, and no one is paying attention."
Anyway, go click "Hear the Tape"


 



Truths

Go see 120 truths about liberals, including gems such as "The liberal must create an atmosphere of crisis and fear to justify collectivist oppression."


 



The Message From Martha

I fear the real message from the sweeping investigation, swift prosecution, and conviction of Martha Stewart is: if you are a high profile person of some wealth, you had better not be contributing to Democrats.

Martha is the symbolic prosecution for the corporate accounting scandals in which billions and billions were stolen. Ken Lay is not. End of message.


 



Outrage?

I left a comment to this post: Whiskey Bar: Bush Hits the Trifecta Again. My comment:
As a marketer, I think that all this "outrage" is going to do is amplify Bush's message, which is "Bush 9/11 Bush 9/11." It's intentional - carefully calculated, releasing the first ads with these pictures. Of course they knew what the response would be -- they counted on it. It's free advertising to have all the news outlets reporting that people are outraged that Bush is using 9/11 pictures in his ads. His TARGET audience will be reinforced by that. To them the news reports will just be seen as liberals whining. (I haven't tuned in to Limbaugh for a few days, but wanna bet something like that is today's theme?)

Others, regular Americans who don't pay a lot of attention, will take in the message, the association between Bush and 9/11 and nothing else. "Bush 9/11 Bush 9/11". They aren't going to spend a lot of time. They'll see the ads, and it will push a message into one side of the brain -- Bush 9/11 Bush 9/11 -- and then they'll hear some news report or some discussion and that will push it in the other side - Bush 9/11 Bush 9/11. That's how marketing works -- it's called "spell my name right."

NO ONE BUT US understands or cares about the finer point of the politicization of 9/11 as a bad thing. The REASON they politicize 9/11 is that it WORKS for them. We can be as outraged as we want, but as long as there is no consequence to them, of course they'll politicize 9/11. Because it does work. These ads show that this is where they are going to go 100% - because it works.

An anecdote -- a friend in Intel marketing told me that the best thing that ever happened to Intel was that math error as they were releasing the Pentium chip. They were in the process of changing from a number - 80586 or something - to a name so they could "brand" the idea of a processor chip. So "Pentium" was the brand. And then they have this math error and every news outlet in the country writes about it. But all consumers came away with was that Intel is now naming chips instead of numbering them, and everyone remembered the name. The math error was worth tens of millions in free advertising for their new branding campaign.

The Bush people aren't stupid. They are the people who market tobacco to kids. They convince people to kill themselves but to hand them their money first.
I left a similar comment to this post at american street.

Update - I just came across this: Bush Campaigns Amid a Furor Over Ads,
Mr. Bush's aides said that they would not pull the commercials and that the battle over them could even work to their advantage by focusing new attention on what they said was the president's forceful response to the attacks and the continued threat from terrorists.

They said the controversy had been expected and was serving their aim of changing the debate from Democratic turf like health care and jobs to Mr. Bush's strongest suit, national security.

"Are we on the Democrats' issue of health care, or are we on the Republican issue of national security?" said one Republican official with ties to the campaign. "On Wednesday we rolled out the spot — we changed the tone fundamentally. They missed the opportunity to tell the American people what the campaign is about. This is how the president has framed the question before the American people."
Doh!


 



February Job Numbers

Lately all the right-wing radio shows have been touting the "Household Survey" over they "Payroll Survey" because the Household shows that unemployment is not as bad as the Payroll shows. (Economists say the latter, Payroll, is the more reliable number.) But today's job numbers for February are terrible if you use the Household numbers, which actually fell. Don't expect to be hearing about the Household Survey on right-wing radio anymore.

The numbers are here: Employment Situation Summary.




3/04/2004
 



Scalia Knows No Law

Justice Scalia denies that there are any problems with his two recent hunting trips paid for by people with cases coming before the Supreme Court. (His precise response: "Quack quack".)

As far as I know, Supreme Court justices are invulnerable to any challenge except impeachment by Congress, and with the Delay-Lott Congress we still have, impeachment is unthinkable. Thus Scalia is untouchable and knows it, and is acting accordingly.

The authors of the constitution certainly must have recognized that there are certain critical points of vulnerability in our system of checks and balances, and that Supreme Court Justices are among the most important of these. I would imagine that over the years, quite a bit has been written about the system's dependence on having individuals of a high ethical standard located at these critical positions. (Nope, no citations. Am I wrong?)

But like most people who call themselves conservatives, Scalia seems entirely indifferent to conflict-of-interest considerations. Whereas the founding fathers presumably hoped that people in these positions would discipline themselves, Scalia seems to have decided that since there are no real legal restrictions on his behavior, that means that he can do anything he damn well pleases.

This feeling of sovereign and invulnerable entitlement, rather reminiscent of that of a feudal lord or a Saudi prince, is also widely felt among the captains of industry and by Republican political leaders. Many of these recognize no limits to their actions except the letter of the law, and often enough they feel justified in ignoring the law too if it cramps their style. "Trust us!" is their motto.

If you're wondering who I'm talking about, Scalia's hunting partner Dick Cheney would be a pretty good example. And also the Idiot King imposed on us in the year 2000 by Scalia and four of his friends.

Scalia / Cheney hunting trip

Scalia's Kansas hunting trip

The Court Ignores its Own Principles


P.S. Note Lessig's dilemma in "The Court Ignores Its Own Principles". He thought that he could win by arguing on the basis of the principles in which he knew the Justices believed. He's puzzled that that didn't work, but there's no mystery here at all if you assume that at least five of the justices are political operatives.





 



This Is Very Good

This is very good: the american street: The Po-Mo Prez and Identity Politics. Values vs issues.

And this: With God as my Copilot. Very good indeed. Bush saying he hadn't realized America could be attacked. He doesn't read papers, so I guess he never knew about the Soviet Union.


 



On His Watch

Furor over Bush's 9/11 ad
"After 3,000 people were murdered on his watch, it seems to me that that takes an awful lot of audacity. Honestly, it's in poor taste.' - Kristen Breitweiser, with her husband's ring."
I’d like to see a TV ad with this script:
"3000 people were killed on his watch, our worst national tragedy, when he was on vacation. He had already taken more time off than any president before him, but he went to his ranch in Texas, after he had been warned by the FBI, by the CIA and by the outgoing Clinton Administration, that we could be attacked at any time.

Before 9/11 Bush blocked funding for anti-terrorism. He blocked the FBI from looking into the bin Laden family and other Saudi connections to terrorism.

After 9/11 Bush used the attack for politics. He used it to justify a war with Iraq they had been planning all along. He used it to influence the 2002 elections. He even used it to justify more tax cuts for the rich.

And since 9/11 Bush has been doing everything he can to block investigations into how we let ourselves get attacked, into where our intelligence failed and what we can do to improve things.

This happened on his watch. Why isn't anyone held accountable? Why won’t he take responsibility for ANYTHING?"
Make suggestions for changes to this script. Maybe we can get something going, raise some money to put it on the air.

I don't want to let him get away with using 9/11 again.




3/03/2004
 



Oh my!

With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and airstrikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council.

...

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

The United States did attack the camp at Kirma at the beginning of the war, but it was too late — Zarqawi and many of his followers were gone. “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq,” Cressey added.

And despite the Bush administration’s tough talk about hitting the terrorists before they strike, Zarqawi’s killing streak continues today.
But W would tell you that all of this is not his fault.

Apparently, "prosperity is just around the corner" as W attempts to replay Reagan's "Morning Again in America" campaign but without any of the, um, positive news that Reagan could brag about back in 1984.


 



One for the good guys

Shockingly, the really bad guys lost really badly.


 



Straussians With Nukes

Sometimes I think that the right-wingers are competing to get weirder and weirder, like rock bands appealing for new teenagers by trying to top last year's acts. But the stuff going on on the Right matters, because they are firmly in charge and have nukes. For an introduction to the kind of thinking the Right is engaged in, Matthew Yglesias writes about the Straussian influence on Bush's Bioethics Council:
"Simply put, the view is that scientific research holds the promise of radically improving human health and therefore must be stopped.

To be clear, the view is not that scientific research holds the promise of radically improving human health and nevertheless must be stopped because of some other issue (this would be, I take it, the 'pro-life' thought on stem cell research). No. The view is that the problem with the research is that it might succeed in letting people live longer.

Now it's been hypothesized to me that the really really real reason for Gulf War II is that Straussians believe it's a good thing when lifespans are shorter (because this makes people more religious, which makes them more virtuous) and that therefore war is a good thing per se because it decreases life expectancy."
This article confirms the above, discussing Bush's appointments to the Council on Bioethics, headed by University of Chicago bioethicist Leon Kass. Please read or scan this article to get a sense of the kind of appointments being made by our government.
"A surprising number of the council members, including Kass, are closely associated with the neoconservative religious magazine First Things. [. . .] Leon Kass is a physician and philosopher with a decidedly anti-modernist bent. A disciple of University of Chicago anti-modernist philosopher Leo Strauss, Kass has long believed that the Enlightenment was something of a mistake. In his view, its focus on individual rights and individual conscience undermines the traditional bases for morality."
So... Straussian philosophy. Before I start - I don't claim to have particularly studied it, except to scratch the surface. Straussians are basically anti-modern -- the Enlightenment brought with it a liberal ideology of social-political progress. Strauss felt this liberalism allowed (or inevitably created) a weak German government that would fall to evil -- Nazism.
"The modern world is held to be the deliberate creation (with some unintended consequences) of the modern philosophers -- namely, the Enlightenment, which gave birth to both scientific-technological progress and the liberal ideology of social-political progress. The Enlighteners argued (though still covertly) that instead of hiding philosophy, philosophers should reform society to make it more hospitable to philosophy: in particular, by undertaking the "project" of modern science, by which reason masters nature and provides material gratifications -- safety, health and wealth -- to common men, bribing them into acquiescence to philosophy. Physical science and technology would provide the know-how, while a new kind of regime, liberalism, would provide the conditions of liberty and equality enabling men to pursue their self-interest. "
One of the points of Straussian philosophy is that there are a special few who are supposed to run the world. And this elite is also the group that will understand "straussian writings" - philosophy written by previous philosophers on two levels, one for the masses and one that the ruling elite will understand. There's a sort of Calvinist idea here: Only a few people are Chosen to go to Heaven, and they will know who they are -- only a few elite people are Chosen to understand the higher-level messages in Straussian writings -- and therefore be rulers -- and they will know who they are by understanding these messages. Here is a discussion of Straussian philosophy from a far-right viewpoint:
"The key Straussian concept is the Straussian text, which is a piece of philosophical writing that is deliberately written so that the average reader will understand it as saying one ("exoteric") thing but the special few for whom it is intended will grasp its real ("esoteric") meaning. The reason for this is that philosophy is dangerous. Philosophy calls into question the conventional morality upon which civil order in society depends; it also reveals ugly truths that weaken men's attachment to their societies. Ideally, it then offers an alternative based on reason, but understanding the reasoning is difficult and many people who read it will only understand the "calling into question" part and not the latter part that reconstructs ethics. Worse, it is unclear whether philosophy really can construct a rational basis for ethics. Therefore philosophy has a tendency to promote nihilism in mediocre minds, and they must be prevented from being exposed to it. The civil authorities are frequently aware of this, and therefore they persecute and seek to silence philosophers. Strauss shockingly admits, contrary to generations of liberal professors who have taught him as a martyr to the First Amendment, that the prosecution of Socrates was not entirely without point. This honesty about the dangers of philosophy gives Straussian thought a seriousness lacking in much contemporary philosophy; it is also a sign of the conviction that philosophy, contrary to the mythology of our "practical" (though sodden with ideology and quick to take offense at ideas) age, matters.

Strauss not only believed that the great thinkers of the past wrote Straussian texts, he approved of this. It is a kind of class system of the intellect, which mirrors the class systems of rulers and ruled, owners and workers, creators and audiences, which exist in politics, economics, and culture. He views the founding corruption of modern political philosophy, which hundreds of years later bears poisonous fruit in the form of liberal nihilism, to be the attempt to abolish this distinction. It is a kind of Bolshevism of the mind.

Some dispute whether Straussian texts exist. The great medieval Jewish Aristotelian Moses Maimonides admitted writing this way. I can only say that I have found the concept fruitful in my own readings in philosophy. On a more prosaic level, even a courageous editor like my own canÂ’t print certain things, so I certainly write my column in code from time to time, and other writers have told me the same thing.

According to Strauss, Machiavelli is the key turning point that leads to modern political philosophy, and Machiavelli's sin was to speak esoteric truths openly. He told all within hearing that there is no certain God who punishes wrongdoing; the essence of Machiavellianism is that one can get away with things. Because of this, he turned his back on the Christian virtue that the belief in a retributive God had upheld. Pre-Machiavellian philosophy, be in Greco-Roman or Christian, had taught that the good political order must be based upon human virtues. Machiavelli believed that sufficient virtue was not attainable and therefore taught that the good political order must be based on men as they are, i.e. upon their mediocrity and vices. This is not just realism, or mere cynicism. It amounts to a deliberate choice as to how society should be organized and a decided de-emphasis on personal virtue. It leads to the new discipline of political science, which is concerned with coldly describing men as they actually are, warts and all. It leads ultimately to Immanuel Kant's statement that,

"We could devise a constitution for a race of devils, if only they were intelligent."

The ancient view is that this will get you nowhere, because only men with civic virtue will obey a constitution. The modern view leads naturally to value-free social science and social policies that seek to solve social problems through technocratic manipulation that refrains from "imposing value judgments" on the objects of its concern.

The key hidden step in the Machiavellian view, a bold intellectual move that is made logically rigorous and then politically palatable by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, is to define man as outside nature. Strauss sees this as the key to modernity. Man exists in opposition to nature, conquering it to serve his comfort. Nature does not define what is good for man; man does. This view is the basis for the modern penchant to make freedom and comfort (read "prosperity") the central concerns of political philosophy, whereas the ancients made virtue the center. Once man is outside nature, he has no natural teleology or purpose, and therefore no natural virtues. Since he has no natural purpose, anything that might give him one, like God, is suspect, and thus modernity tends towards atheism. Similarly, man's duties, as opposed to his rights, drop away, as does his natural sociability. The philosophical price of freedom is purposelessness, which ultimately gives rise to the alienation, anomie, and nihilism of modern life."
Please read on, and you'll find:
"In a nutshell, Strauss would lead us back to the Aristotelian conception of man as naturally political. Politics implies natural goods that are prior to human thinking about them. If man is political by nature, the goods of politics also exist by nature. The goods of politics are the ways man must behave to make political community work. If there are natural goods, there is a natural hierarchy of goods, and therefore a natural hierarchy of men, as different men pursue different goods. Civic equality may be salutary for the functioning of society, but men are not truly equal in value. All these things and more follow. Following Strauss's arguments, it is not hard to realize that much of what conservatives find attractive in society is ultimately premised on philosophy that is pre-modern and to some extent anti-modern. We realize that our America is a modern society but not only a modern society. This alone is worth the price of the Straussian ticket."
I wonder where I fit in this hierarchy?

I don't really think there has been an ongoing conspiracy of secret organizations of elites who control the world. I do, however, wonder if those in today's right-wing movement listened to all the theories and decided, "That would be cool, as long as it's US doing the controlling," and got started setting it up.

A friend just said, "It's a good thing we're unable to actually do anything about all this stuff, because otherwise they'd shoot us for talking like this."

More Strauss stuff: Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception, The long reach of Leo Strauss.




3/02/2004
 



Working The Polls

I worked at the polls today. Just got home. This time I was the "inspector" -- the person in charge of the precinct operation... Got there at 6am, home after 9pm. Long day. Exhausted. Might blog tomorrow. Might sleep.

Congrats to Kerry. Good night.


 



Is Kerry a Liberal?

Well, yeah, sort of. I'm not the guy to defend Kerry against this particular charge; my hero is the late Paul Wellstone, who was unquestionably more liberal than Kerry.

And yeah, Kerry really is from Massachusetts too. Kerry and the Democrats are really going to have to take the bull by the horns on this one. Kerry has stated his intention of attacking rather than letting himself be put on the defensive -- thank God -- and once Bush's wretched record on counter-terrorism is widely known, half the "Massachusetts liberal" smear will become inoperative. Bush is supposedly "strong on defense", but you don't become strong on defense by talking loud, strutting around in a flight suit, and tying the American military down in the wrong country. Iraq was never the main problem.

As for the rest of it: deep down, most Americans would rather live in Massachusetts, California, or Minnesota than in Texas or Alabama. There is indeed a bigoted demographic which has a bitter hatred of Northerners and liberals, and they should be allowed to vote for George W. Bush. But there are also a lot of voters who thoughtlessly buy the "Northern liberal" smear without really being quite that bigoted, and we should change their minds. Massachusetts is America too.

P.S. And New York is also America. When al-Qaeda wanted to hurt us, they didn't attack Dallas.

Really, why should they have? They have lots of friends in Dallas.



Conason on the "Liberal" Charge


 



Blasts Kill 143 at Iraq Shiite Shrines

Link

KARBALA, Iraq - Simultaneous explosions ripped through crowds of worshippers Tuesday at Shiite Muslim shrines in Baghdad and the city of Karbala, killing at least 143 people on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar, a U.S. official said. It was the bloodiest day since the end of major fighting.

The blasts came during the Shiite festival of Ashoura and coincided with a shooting attack on Shiite worshippers in Quetta, Pakistan that killed at least 29 people and wounded more than 150.

Three suicide bombers set off their explosives in and around Baghdad's Kazimiya shrine, killing 58 and wounding 200, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters. At least one suicide attacker blew himself up and pre-set explosives went off in Karbala, killing 85 and wounding more than 100, he said.

A fourth suicide bomber whose explosives did not detonate was captured at Kazimiya, and four people were arrested in connection to the attack in Karbala, Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad.
Aren't you glad we started this war in Iraq?

We sure have improved life for the people of Iraq, haven't we?




3/01/2004
 



Bush & Guard Inflation

Boston.com / Bush bio on Web inflates Guard service:
"But the State Department biography of Bush, which has been on its website since 2001, makes the president out to be more of a frequent flyer than the embellished account in Bush's 1999 autobiography, 'A Charge To Keep.' In that book, Bush said he flew with his unit for 'the next several years' after his five months of training on the F-102 concluded in June 1970."
You can be sure these websites will soon will be set to "never said that."


 



More on "Who is Bandar Bush?"

I'll be continually updating my Kerry Smear and Who is Bandar Bush? files from here on. Here are some recent samples from the latter:

From the March, 2004 Harpers:

"Since September 2001, the administration has designated hundreds of individuals and organizations, including several Islamic charities, as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism and frozen their assets. Yet Saudi organizations and individuals have emerged relatively unscathed.... And although in January the Treasury Department designated several branches of the Saudi charity al-Haramain, U.S. officials declined to freeze the assets of the group's dozens of other offices worldwide, including the one in Riyadh....."

From the Sept 11, 2003 Time Magazine:

"U.S. investigators, he says, sometimes suspect that the Saudis are fishing, trying to ferret out details of U.S. intelligence, or stalling, to protect Saudi individuals from embarrassment. One of the Administration's top counterterrorism officials says the Saudis still appear to be protecting charities associated with the royal family and its friends.....

.....Indeed, when President Bush spoke to Abdullah for 20 minutes by phone last week [fall 2003], say U.S. and Saudi sources, he went out of his way to compliment the Prince on Saudi Arabia's efforts to combat terrorism."

There's more.


 



Haiti Takeover Part Of Bush's "War On Terror?"

Something's going on concerning Haiti, and I don't know what it is. Listening to AM radio this morning, the local far-right station followed the network news with a "War on Terrorism" report that President Aristide has left Haiti, and American troops are securing the country following over 100 killed in the uprising to get rid of him - the wording implying that Aristide had been behind the rioting and killings. Then O'Reilly comes on and rants about how the mainstream media just lies, and you should never listen to or read mainstream media news reports because they are all liberals and just lie because they truly believe that government solves every problem and they want to tax you to pay for their big-government solutions and will always take the side of the Democrats.

Then I tuned to Limbaugh who was going on about the "atrocities committed by Aristide," and how "the Democrats" are circulating stories that the Bush administration was behind the uprising against Aristide because they were against this just like they were against invading Iraq to get rid THAT dictator (and Democrats always support dictators,) and it is really all about securing "the black vote." (Limbaugh is ALWAYS pre-emptive, telling his audience that "the Democrats" or "liberals" are circulating stories that... and it's always way ahead of any stories actually appearing, but the stories he refers to will be accurate reports of what is really happening... And he ALWAYS tells his audience that what Democrats do is about "the black vote" and not about "real Americans...")

So I think (tinfoil hat guy) something is going on concerning Haiti. For some reason they are selling the takeover of the elected government of Haiti as part of Bush's strong leadership in the war on terror...


 



Read Billmon

When I combine this with Aaron Brown blowing his stack over the GOP machine's attempt to deep six the 9/11 investigation, I can only conclude the Matrix is experiencing a serious program run error in its CNN subroutine.

If this keeps up, Agent Rove may have to reboot the system -- in which case I assume we'll all wake up tomorrow and it will be September 10, 2001 again.
And, under Agent Rove's direction, the system is about to crash.

If you start seeing green numbers, be very afraid.




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