I'm not entirely sure what Yglesias is getting at here, but it bears repeating that there is no god, and the constant insistence of religionists that those of us who don't require the false comforts of the imperishable self to function and be happy in this one and only world must attest to some possibility that there might in fact be an invisible, omnipresent, extratemporal patriarch of the universe as a gesture of respect is a damned pain in the ass. And make no mistake, when religionists ask that atheists "respect" their faith, that's what they're asking: for an admission of agnosticism. But atheism is the empirically sound position, and every deity from Zeus to Ba'al to Yaweh to Vishnu to Ahura Mazda is a fairy tale. Usually at this point the modern believer's hands go up and out spouts a line about not having to believe in the genocidal, adolescent deity of the Pentatuach or the paranoid, apocalyptic hippy of the New Testament, or the Skittles-colored heavens of the Hindus to accede to the broader possibilities of the spiritual realm. I find this even more exasperating. I'm a pretty regular practitioner of yoga and mindfulness myself, and if you can just clease your mind of the brambles of insupportable belief and accept that experiences of profound understanding and physical rightness don't require external sources in the realms of ghosts and spirits and energies, then you can well appreciate that these feelings are part of our innate capacities to understand just what the hell is going on in your own mind and body if only you pay a little attention.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Will Wilkonson at NRO explains that the French are glum. Next up: the Japanese are dilligent.
What I've distilled from the Republican candidates confab last night is that the party will never progress beyond its necrophilic homosexual obsession with Empty Boots Reagan, that to the very end of time and days, so long as there remains one man on this earth who styles himself an elephant, the Gipper will hold the Grand Old Party as rapt as the biggest cock in any locker-room of high-school heteros. Guiliani actually said something like, "Iran should look at America and see Ronald Reagan," which wins the Gore Vidal United States of Amnesia Prize for Unintentional Historical Irony. (Oops: I see Yglesias had the same thought.) Beyond that, I actually agree with and laughed at something Peggy Noonan, the Visionary Martyr-Saint of Catholic Conservatania, wrote:
They stood earnestly in a row, combed, primped and prepped, as Nancy Reagan gazed up at them with courteous interest. But behind the hopeful candidates, a dwarfing shadow loomed, a shadow almost palpable in its power to remind Republicans of the days when men were men and the party was united. His power is only increased by his absence. But enough about Fred Thompson.And that, folks, is a little bit sad, because Fred Thompson is two mint juleps away from a Coen Brothers satire of a Robert Penn Warren novel. Every time I see him, I think of Pappy O'Daniel, the Governor and eternal candidate in O Brother Where Art Thou, who, while entering a radio station, yells at his son for suggesting he shake some hands:
I'll press your flesh, you dimwitted sumbitch! You don't tell your pappy how to court the electorate. We ain't one-at-a-timin' here. We're MASS communicating!Fred Thompson is a man carved out of corn meal, but I suppose that homilious gasbaggery appeals to the segment of the electorate that pluralizes the second-person pronoun with improper contractions, which is a fair portion. I always found Law and Order unbearable: 15 minutes of decent police procedural that in every single instance was undone by the same plot point of Judge Throws Out Evidence, leaving it to the impossibly tedious Sam Waterson to gather his aquiline features into a pastiche of incredulity and outrage, thence to deliver some grandiloquent summary nonsense to a jury of bored extras. But then they hired Thompson and the always shaky verisimilitude of the series plunged further, because who could believe that this self-styled refugee from Yoknapatawpha could get himself elected in New York.
The actorly appeals to Republican voters because authoritarians prize symbolism, and these guys can lay it on thick. Will and Resolve are qualities easily evinced by men who have played District Attorneys and Cowboys and Soldiers and so on. They are, in large part, inventions of the film industry. In the sense that I suspect he would lead this country as a glorious do-nothing who spent all his time glowing with the mere trappings of power, I think I could tolerate Thompson, but I would have to plug my ears against my voice and turn my eyes from his pendulous jowls.
I can't get too hackled by local grouch Bill Steigerwald's missive against his hometown, because, well, because Bill Steigerwald is a local grouch. Two decades after first receiving a surprising note as "America's Most Liveable City," we snagged it again--fortuitous timing, since next year marks Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary. Steigerwald is actually a good example of particular local phenomenon, discovered when the group for which I work and some other developers, foundations, arts organizations, and universities commissioned some national right-direction/wrong-direction polling on the Burgh. Outside of Western Pennsylvania, among those who said that they had read or seen news about Pittsburgh in the last six months, six in ten responded with the impression that the city and region were on the right track. In Western Pennsylvania, the inverse: four in ten said right track, the other sixty percent said wrong track. Well, we are known as a city of fairweather fans.
All of Steigerwald's complaints are good caveats. Allegheny County, of which Pittsburgh is the county seat, has a nation-topping 130 municipalities, many operating their own little police forces and fire departments, competing for funds, sucking off Pittsburgh's money-bleeding mass transit system, rebuffing efforts at regionalism in favor of old fiefdoms. Paradoxically to that, the same few political families still exert too much influence throughout the region; the Democratic Party is corrupt and the Republican party soft and supine and underfunded. Local labor is ossified.
But Steigerwald writes:
Since 1985, despite bleeding people and slowly converting to a sluggish service economy based on health care and organ transplants, the region has always been ranked among the almanac’s Top 20 most livable cities. That’s mainly because the ranking system favors the area’s many priceless assets, which include an abnormally low crime rate, a populace of regular-guy, smart-ass Michael Keaton-types (Keaton's a native), great old city neighborhoods and big suburban homes so cheap they’d make a Washingtonian weep. Pittsburgh also has top universities like Carnegie-Mellon and Pitt, major league sports teams, and a beautiful green landscape of hills, hollows and wide rivers. Sure, pay scales are low and the populace can be a little bigoted, too Democrat, and too working class. The two unofficial regional religions—unionism and Steelerism—can be annoying. And pop culturally, it's at least 5 years behind L.A. But Pittsburgh is a good city to raise a family in, grow old in and die in.And I can't help but think that in trying to make the case that Pittsburgh isn't America's "most liveable city," he's made the case that Pittsburgh is American's most liveable city. "A good city to raise a family in, grow old in and die in." It's cheap, walkable, has great museums and theaters, the most beautiful urban park system in the country, top hospitals, a yearly infusion of young people through its large university population. It's friendly. It's neighborhoods are beautiful. Neighbors still know each other. Property taxes are high and the assessment system a hit-and-miss atrocity, but then again, you can still buy a 4-bedroom house with a wide front porch and a back yard and a row of 60-foot sycamores lining the street in front for less than 200 grand. "Pop culturally, it's at least 5 years behind L.A." A dart without a bullseye, Bill. Besides which, a low cost of living means leftover cash for vacations, when cosmopolitan desires strike.
But who complains about a place that looks like this.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Mitt Romeny is a Mormon, and as if that isn't bad enough, he says his favorite novel is Battlefield Earth, which is the novel Ayn Rand would have written if she had dressed in rags soaked in raw ether every day during the writing of Atlas Shrugged, which is to say that it is very, very long. Perhaps you remain unfamiliar with Battlefield Earth. A précis:
It is the year 3000. A race of murderous extraterrestrial sasquatches called the Psychlos has ruled the Earth for a thousand years. Evidently they got us in the confusion and mass panic of Y2K. Naming your race of murderous extraterrestrial sasquatches the Psychlos, from the planet Psychlo, is like writing a crime novel with a perpetrator named Murder McKill or Burglar O'Steal, but it's every author's right to telegraph as he likes.
The Psychlos love gold, and seek their fortunes in it, like a band of intergalactic 49ers. Yes, the Psychlos have conquered the stars, but not the vagaries of the floating currency. The search is complicated by the fact that Psychlo breath explodes when exposed to radioactivity, making it impossible to mine gold where even trace amounts of, say, uranium are also found. Remember this point. On it hinges the fate of worlds.
Meanwhile. There are still some humans, and if you can believe it, they have regressed to tribalism and superstition. If you can further believe it, One Among Them goes off to explore against the wisdom of the elders and stories and songs and ages. His name is Jonnie, and he gets himself in a real jam when Terl, an especially murderous extraterrestrail sasquatch, grabs him up in the ruins of Denver. Why Denver? Why not? Terl has a rather hairbrained scheme to mine his own gold to getrichquick, but damn! The gold he's discovered is surrounded by uranium deposits. (How was it discovered, then? Who cares?) Did I mention that the Psychlos call people "man-animals?" The Psychlos call people "man-animals."
For no particular reason, having captured Jonnie and stuffed his head full of the knowledge of the ages, Terl goes to Scotland to get some more manimals for the mines. Why Scotland? Why not? Off to work, but not before Jonnie convinces this band of William Wallaces to help him free man of his shackles.
Pow! Smash! Bam! Nukes through the teleportor to Psychlo. Airplanes and guns. Mankind victorious!
Alas, no! It turns out that the galaxy is full of hostile races who threaten our newly freed future-brothers, not the least of which is a race of
Jews in Space interstellar bankers--seriously--who seek to repossess the Earth. Insurrections at home, war abroad, and the 300,000-year-old mystery of "Psychlo mathematics." Who will save us now? Who knows? Who cares?
To reiterate: this is Mitt Romney's favorite novel. His favorite book is The Bible, which is actually many books, but who's counting? Every time I hear some political hack place The Bible atop his reading list, I want to start trailing the campaign wearing shirts printed with my favorite passages, like, "Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lillies."
The Senate passes a $60 billion dollar boondoggle Washington's second pale-white dome wants us to understand it as a model for good governance.
The bill, boldly named the America Competes Act, authorized an additional $16 billion over four years as part of a $60 billion effort to "double spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers and retrain 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research."Boldly named!
As Alexander noted, "these were recommendations of a National Academy of Sciences task force" that he and others had asked to tell Congress the 10 things it most urgently needed to do "to help America keep its brainpower advantage so we can keep our jobs from going to China and India."
This has the reek of Bill Clinton's 100,000 cops on the street, of Ronald Reagan's thousand points of light. Let's clear up a matter of simple economics, though. "Our" jobs aren't "going to China and India" because of a
Let me suggest, however, that were we to invest a trillion dollars tomorrow to train a million new science teachers, it would not alter the underlying backasswarditude of the American mind. You can't legislate away cultural inferiority. It will not work. Here is a nation, 80 years after the Scopes Trial and 150 years after Origin of Species, in the first full blooming of genetic understanding, in a world where the biological sciences have advanced beyond most laymen's capacity even to imagine, and yet 51% of adult Americans believe that Homo sapiens sprung full-formed and tool-ready from the dust of the earth and the muttered incantations of a vast, invisible man. There, friends, is the death knell of American competetiveness. It is not that we lack in teachers. It's that we lack in brains.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
When last we encountered Professimus Maximus Harvey C. Mansfield, he was engaged in this (Groucho) Marxian dialogue with Deborah Solomon of the Times:
SOLOMON: Were you sorry to see Harvard's outgoing president, Lawrence Summers, attacked for saying that men and women may have different mental capacities?Consider if you will the Mansfield household, a riot of rearranging, in which his poor wife finds her home upended on a regular basis by her husband's requisite, manly opening and lifting of things. Pickle jars, sofas, Champagne, doors, windows, chairs, lamps, carpets, flues, the oven, the refigerator, the washing machine, boxes. "How exactly would you define manliness?" asked the unwitting Solomon. "My quick definition is confidence in a situation of risk. A manly man has to know what he is doing," replied Mansfield, quickly, I imagine, because he had given the matter a great deal of thought in the dull hours between stacking the dinette set chair atop precarious chair while commanding his wife to knit faster.
MANSFIELD: He was taking seriously the notion that women, innately, have less capacity than men at the highest level of science. I think it's probably true. It's common sense if you just look at who the top scientists are.
SOLOMON: But couldn't that simply reflect the institutional bias against women over the centuries?
MANSFIELD: It could, but I don't think it does. We have been going a couple of generations now. There are certain things that haven't changed. For example, in New York City, the doormen are still 98 percent men.
SOLOMON: Yes, but fewer jobs depend on that sort of physical brawn as society becomes more technologically adept. Physical advantages are practically meaningless now that men are no longer hunter-gatherers.
MANSFIELD: I disagree with that.
SOLOMON: When was the last time you did something that required physical strength?
MANSFIELD: It's true that nothing in my career requires physical strength, but in my relations with women, yes.
MANSFIELD: Lifting things, opening things. My wife is quite small.
SOLOMON: What do you lift?
MANSFIELD: Furniture. Not every night, but routinely.
Now he's returned to explain why, in the debate over the imperial presidency, we ought to let the triple star system of Aristotle, Machiavelli, and circumstantial exigency be our guides. Mansfield, to his credit, writes in complete sentences, and he evinces an undergraduate fidelity to the universal value of the Topic Sentence in each paragraph. At each sub-level of his semantics, you understand exactly what he's saying, and yet the cumulative effect is to leave you wondering just what the hell he's talking about. He seems to be making the familiar authoritarian's argument that laws are just fine except when they're not, and I agree entirely with that sentiment, except that I suspect Mansfield isn't talking about civil disobedience here. And lo:
The best source of energy turns out to be the same as the best source of reason--one man. One man, or, to use Machiavelli's expression, uno solo, will be the greatest source of energy if he regards it as necessary to maintaining his own rule. Such a person will have the greatest incentive to be watchful, and to be both cruel and merciful in correct contrast and proportion. We are talking about Machiavelli's prince, the man whom in apparently unguarded moments he called a tyrant."Or to use Machiavelli's expression . . ." Oh, put a sock in it. It's like going to the garden store and finding yourself confront by a prissy fag who insists on using the full Linnean taxonomy for every plant when all you want is to buy some fucking impatients.
There is also this: locating the source of legitimate executive authority for a constitutional republic in the patron-pleasing blather of Machiavelli, even if three steps removed, is what we in the provinces call bullshitting. But hopping back to Aristotle is even more bogus, because Aristotle, like the rest of the Greeks, was wrong about everything. To be clear: They wrote some neat plays and could build a hell of a column, but the ancient olive-eaters are not revered for the accuracy of their conclusions. As Mencken memorably put it: "The Greeks of the palmy days remain the most overestimated people in all history." Philosophers in every era have a notorious penchant for concluding that what the world needs is an increase in the influence of philosophers. Witness: Harvey Mansfield.
But, lest we're tempted to believe that Mansfield is only putting his musty lack-of-a-sheen on the familiar argument that liberties must wane in times of emergency, the Professor sets us to rights:
One should not believe that a strong executive is needed only for quick action in emergencies, though that is the function mentioned first. A strong executive is requisite to oppose majority faction produced by temporary delusions in the people.I'd never argue that the dreaming republic is anything other than bovine in its habits and stupidities, but if these Stupids are responsible, even indirectly, for electing the President in the first goddamn place, then how on earth do you locate in the fruits of their electoral stupidity the mechanism for correcting their "temporary delusions?" This is the incoherency at the heart of Harvey Man-Tan's argument. Machiavelli's yabber--all monarchist trash--rests on a principle of innate superiorty, that by blood and class and education and sensibility, the Ruler is the Solomonic superior of the peasants and the bourgeoisie and the noble rabble. But in a democracy, even so shabby and elitist a democracy as the early American republic, it isn't inherent worth but national consensus that lifts a man to the pinnacle of executive power. If there's one universal truth of human nature, it's that we are all suspicious of our betters, which accounts for the popularity of extraordinary mediocrities in democratic governments. Great men are abberations. Conferring the authority to suspend law and liberty on the singular result of a quadrennial election has got to be the dumbest idea I've ever heard. We see the fruits of it today: vast powers constituted in the hands of a third-rate legacy who finally acquired high office not because of his Satanic family, nor because of the Machiavellian politics of Karl Rove and the GOP machine, but because a slight plurality of the electorate concluded that this was the guy they'd rather suck down a warm sixer with while bitching about the local offensive line.
"Responsibility" is not mere responsiveness to the people; it means doing what the people would want done if they were apprised of the circumstances.
With all the usual caveats about the impotent symbolism of the Democrat's phony deadlines remaining in force, I admit that I enjoyed this:
Throughout the day, Democrats lined up to deliver floor speeches observing the fourth anniversary of the president’s speech on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. At the front of the House chamber, Democrats positioned a blown-up photograph of Mr. Bush standing on the carrier deck on May 1, 2003.You know, pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Or, to leave the proverbial for the truistic, you reap what you sow, motherfucker. When friends complain to me that there are no secrets in our gossipy social circle, that things said in confidence become common knowledge before long, and bad opinions and insults inevitably reach the ears of their targets, I alway give this advice: Never say in private what you'd be embarrassed to repeat in public. There is a corollary: If you're prone to regret, don't. Writers and artists understand that they will one day be embarrassed by their adolescent efforts, but they accept the embarrassment with the same basic good humor that most of us accept naked baby pictures. But the political class believes itself to be divorced from the weight of either a personal or common past, and the newsmedia, to be fair, largely obliges their wish to live in a new-agey, ever-present Now. They always seem a little bit shocked on the rare occasion that some past stunt or prior utterance out of harmony with the current tune arrives.
Aides to the president were openly angry about the reminders, and the Democrats’ unusual legislative signing ceremony.
“It’s a trumped-up political stunt,” Dana Perino, the deputy White House press secretary, told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One. Others grumbled privately that Congress had sent plenty of bills to Mr. Bush without such pomp and circumstance.
“We’ve got the lights, we’ve got the characters, we’ve got the action for some fine political theater in the House of Representatives today,” said Representative Lynn A. Westmoreland, Republican of Georgia. “It’s time for the majority to take off their costumes and exit stage left. We owe it to our nation and our troops to see the ending of this story.”
I suspect that George W. Bush and his courtiers are genuinely angry about this "trumped-up political stunt." That's not to suggest that they're legitimately angry. It's just to say that they don't percieve the President's past forays into costume drama as fair targets for derision. Even though that aircraft-carrier landing was spectacularly crafted and intentionally designed to be exactly a "trumped-up political stunt," they just can't understand why it should qualify as a reasonably target for mockery. It's receded from their vision. Lynn Westmoreland would not make so hysterically ironic a complaint as, "It's time for the Majority to take off their costumes," if the actual object of the Democrat's critique was clear to her. I have said it before and I'll say it again: what is most shocking to the decent mind about these people is not their viciousness, their bloodthirsty willingness to kill other people in the name of democratic abstractions and imperial fantasies. What shocks is their essential stupidity. These are prideful, lazy, stupid people, who have in their possession the vastest, deadliest resources ever available to the prideful, lazy, stupid people who have afflicted every government in the history of this earth.
Update: It appears, and we hate to judge before all the facts are in, that Lynn Westmoreland is indeed a He. A Him. A Male-American.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Glenn Beck, who apparently hosts a program on CNN, though I was only familiar with his radio program, has got something to say. Hear him, world!
And I read this one part on global warming about how they got-- what was the first thing they did to get people to exterminate the Jews. Now, I'm not saying that anybody's going to--you know Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.So . . . Al Gore and the UN are going to round up and exterminate global warming, but not if Glenn Beck has anything to say about it. One day, some aging hydrocarbons are going to put stones on his righteous grave.
You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming.
I know this is high comedy, but is it really fair to say that Hitler "united the entire world" behind him. Isn't it more accurate to say that he united the entire world against him? Perhaps if "the Jew" had been his only enemy he'd have gotten away with it. Who can say? But since another of his enemies turned out to be Uncle Joe Stalin who proved, in the immortal words of Buck Turgidson that, "We all know how much guts yer average Ruskie's got. Hell, look how many all them Nazis killed, and they still wouldn't quit."
What any of this has to do with Al Gore or global warming is beyond me, though if you squint hard enough, that hurricane does sort of look like a swastika.
Monday, April 30, 2007
James Wolcott has some thoughts on the McCain presidency, although you have to scoot past something about Rosie O'Donnell to get there. "McCain," he avers, "is running the screwiest schizo campaign."
What a fantastic candidate is John McCain. A gassy, opinionated codger, who like all others of that breed manages to be opinionated without holding any hard or fast opinions. It wouldn't do to call him contrarian or reactionary, because it's not that his thoughts align themselves in any relational aspect to the mainstream of human prejudice. He exists untethered to any external reality; his mind is full as a flea market is full of once-used and now-useless bric-a-brac, whose worth to its present seller is always vastly greater than its worth to any potential buyer. When he discovers this fact, it fills him with an unutterable rage, which reduces him to mumbles.
Pat Lang notices that Barack Obama is basically a neoconservative.
Neoconism is a body of ideas as well as loyalties. The ideas expressed by Obama in Chicago are neocon words. The neocons are not conservatives and neither is Obama, but he shares their ideas in foreign policy.As you've all noticed, the popular Donkle complaint centers on the "incompetence" of the Bush administration, although I do admit that there seems lately to be a modest, though surely temporary, uptick in the portion of Americans who consider foreign adventurism itself a bad idea.
The danger of a character like Obama--or Hillary Clinton, for that matter--is that they will more "competently" execute these adventures. Now the consequences will be no less awful; in fact, they may be worse for Americans. Consider: 9/11 was a response to decades of competent American foreign policy. Competence in this formulation is carrying out imperial plans and imperial aims while delaying the inevitable results. But of course, that simply focuses the results, and it guarantees that the response will be more spectacular. A vicious indigenous insurgency in an occupied country may be a sign of an incompetent policy of occupation. A pyrotechnic attack on American native soil is what results from well-executed imperialism.
The issue strikes at a central question about the fledgling government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: whether it can put sectarian differences aside to deliver justice fairly.Can it remain a "central question" when we already know the answer?
I suppose "the issue"--"the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias"--is drawn in starker relief in Iraq where such matters often have bloody conclusions, but it's nevertheless distressing, if also amusing, to watch America's vast gangs of Claude Rainses scratch their heads at the gambling going on in the casino. Phrases like "sectarian violence" and "civil war" have their uses and independent accuracies, but at some level you must admit that what's occuring in and around "the fledgling goverment" is, as the saying goes, politics as usual. Factionalism and regionalism are democracy, baby, at least in the American tradition.
Plenty of other blogs have already giggled that there's a particular irony in the plaintive cries about such corruption by American officials when we at home are in the midst of the US Attorney scandal, and it's certainly an irony worth chuckling at. Beyond the anachronistic notion of national governments--now so vast in scale and scope--as representative of some discrete, concrete citizenry, we all recognize that party politics, or factional politics, or sectarian politics, or however you wish to term it, are at the heart about rewarding allies and removing enemies. In the United States as much as in Iraq, the consolidation of factional influence is now the prerequisite to governance: "getting results for the American people" is a popular way to put it. That was the Republican project until it collapsed due to its own incompetence, venality, and greed, and that is the ascendant Democratic project. You need only cruise the pages of factional Democratic blogs like DailyKos and FireDogLake, or peruse the catch-phrases of the "progressive" movement and the "fighting Dems," to see the staunch desire on the part of the arriviste majority to emulate the "unity" and "discipline" of the other side, because that, after all, is the key to running things.
Of course, heads are occasionally bashed in American politics, but rarely drilled or severed, and party dominance is not precisely analogous to ethnoreligious rule. Still, it should be recognized that on some level the coercive methods used to gain and consolidate power in this country are simply more subtle than those currently on display as sects seek dominance in Iraq, and it's necessary to remember that the immutable traditions of Anglo-saxon political culture did in fact mutate: an evolution from the same old centuries of assassinations and civil wars.
That's the long way of reiterating that there is no incentive to political compromise in Iraq. What differentiates Iraqi politics from our own is not so much the intensity of passions as the absence of any capable inhibitors to the absolute pursuit of power by this or that ethnic or religious entity, and it bears repeating that they don't exist because we got rid of them. There is plenty of yakkage about the absence of "civil society" in Iraq, but all that really means is that we invaded a Napoleonically centralized nation and then got rid of its police and army, its internal intelligence services, its entire retinue of disincentives to communal violence. We did it all at once and violently, and now the Smart People react with genuine bemusement that beat-walking police didn't spring up sui generis in every town and village--that in the absence of the familiar forms of governance people turned to the older, collective comforts of religion, region, and clan. That in and of itself isn't necessarily a recipe for terrible conflict, but with so recent a memory of nationhood, and with a foreign occupier so resolutely insisting on nationhood, and with, therefore, all the wealth and power of nationhood tied up in national dominance, well . . .
Via Common Dreams:
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has been the most popular proponent of the idea that French workers must lower their living standards because of the global economy. “All of the forces of globalization [are] eating away at Europe’s welfare states,” he writes . . . “French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day.” For Friedman and most of the pundits, this is impossible.A flat world with a 35-hour day. It's like Pliny the Elder meets Battlestar Galactica. That and the fact that it's far from clear to me that "French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week," which was not a populist program, but a top-down government policy designed to reduce unemployment (which it didn't). Whether or not Europe's social democracies will last for centuries or die at the feet of East-Asian technocracies by 2100 is a question I'm unprepared to answer, but I have to agree with the linked article: the perspective of Freidmanian globophiles toward France is deranged.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Well now hold on there IOZ. Are you seriously saying that Congressmen should not be bound by their vows of secrecy? Or maybe you're saying that congressman shouldn't incur a duty of confidentiality to learn classified information? I buy the latter more than the former, but what exactly are you saying here?A basic principle of our jurisprudence is that the affirmative duty to prevent the commission of a crime outweighs almost any oath or bond of confidentiality. So while a priest-confessor, for instance, may not necessarily be compelled to testify against a murderer who has confessed to him after the crime has been committed, he has a moral obligation to reveal a confessed plan to murder if he believes it to be sincere. The same is true in the secular realm. The doctor-patient privilege in a psychiatric relationship does not extend to allowing a deranged patient to go on a killing spree. Neither circumstance is precisely analogous to Dick Durbin's failure to come forward when he realized that the government was lying publicly in order to suborn its war aims, and I mention them only to make the broader point that no oath is absolute. There are circumstances that release us from even the strictest presumptions of confidentiality. Those circumstances often have to do with matters of life and death.
I'm sure it's not that U.S. elected officials can lie (by falsely swearing themselves to secrecy) just to protect the lives of foreign citizens.
-YF, in comments downblog
An oath, in any event, is a kind of contract, an agreement between parties, and as with any contract, its legitimacy and enforceability depend on some degree of reciprocity, of mutual obligation. But good faith here requires more than just adherence to the literal parameters of the exchange. The basic agreement at work for a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is: We will allow you to view classified information in order that you can perform your oversight in an informed manner, and you, in turn, will practice the utmost discretion in regards to such information. You won't tell your wife, you won't tell your raquetball buddies, and you sure as shit won't tell the Times.
Yet when the possessors of that information, the military and executive branch, use the veil of secrecy to prevent any revelation that they're making false statements as part of a propaganda campaign to launch a dubious, unprovoked, and aggressive war; when, in fact, they present false information as if they themselves were revealing previously secret intelligence; when, in other words, they falsify the lifting of the veil of secrecy in order to acquire public faith in so questionable a projoect; then any reciprocal duty to secrecy on the part of the congressman is obviated. Indeed, the actions of the government in this matter conferred on every member of that committee a positive ethical and legal obligation to reveal that the government's lies were lies.