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Archive for January of 2006
January 31, 2006
January 30, 2006
“When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”
As many readers of this site know full well, Barzun's critique of our time is that despite our seeming technological advancements and capabilities, we are in the twilight of a Heroic age. According to him, we live in a time of cultural sunset. Our depleted intellectual and cultural energies are sapped further still by our civilizational moral confusion.
Tonite, as the Boy Imperator seeks to becalm the roiled demos
, perhaps it is time to examine the state of America today, through Barzun's prism. And if we are in a decadent phase, what comes next? Will revolution (however defined) be the engine to haul the U.S., let alone the West, into a new era? And from what direction will it come?
Read more »
January 29, 2006
“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects a balanced budget by 2012. A number of CBO’s assumptions underlying this projection are, to say the least, problematic. For example, CBO’s projections assume that all of the President’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, as well as all other temporary tax cuts, are allowed to expire and that the Alternative Minimum Tax is not fixed before it digs further into middle-class incomes. CBO is also required by law to assume that there will be no more appropriations for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Gulf Coast reconstruction; that the pending reconciliation budget will have no effects; and that discretionary spending will not grow at all, in inflation-adjusted terms. With all these caveats in place, CBO’s budget baseline is extremely unrealistic
To present a more realistic picture of the federal budget over the next ten years, Heritage Foundation analysts corrected these shortcomings in CBO’s projections. The numbers in this paper are based on CBO’s projections but also include the following:
* CBO numbers for extending the tax cuts and fixing the AMT;
* CBO numbers on gradual phase-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan;
* CBO numbers for past Gulf Coast reconstruction spending, as well as modest Heritage Foundation estimates of future appropriations;
* CBO numbers for the reconciliation bill about to be signed into law;
* A 5-percent annual increase in defense discretionary outlays (excluding supplemental bills)
after 2006; and
* A 2-percent rise in non-defense discretionary outlays (excluding supplemental bills) in 2006 and a 4-percent annual increase thereafter.
With this more realistic set of assumptions in place, several points become clear:
1) Budget deficits are far larger than CBO projects.
Realistic baseline assumptions show that the federal budget is in much worse shape than the CBO’s baseline numbers indicate. While CBO projects a balanced budget by 2012, it is far more likely that the deficit will explode:
* The deficit will reach $394 billion in 2006;
* $412 billion in 2007;
* $428 billion in 2008;
* $436 billion in 2009;
* $458 billion in 2010; and
* $805 billion in 2015.
By 2015 it would it take a $6,500-per-household tax increase just to balance the budget.”
Think about that next time the Administration shovels Fear, Emotion and the Baby Jesus at you.
January 28, 2006
January 27, 2006
If only life was as simple as stopping 'The Neocons' or 'John Bolton'.
In our denatured times, we all need enemies to express thought or action, apparently. So for those opposed to the Administration's reckless, incompetent actions, careers and reps are made around demonizing 'cabals' or the aforementioned John Bolton. Josh over at TPM Cafe is even threatening to unleash a John Bolton watch website for the Baby Jesus' sake.
But the militarization of American foreign policy is a deeper problem than 'cabals' or Doug Feith or [drum roll] John Bolton. After 9/11, the Stiftung would be over at the Pentagon and in briefings the phrase 20 year war would always pop up. Whether from OFT (and the excruciatingly self promoting Barnett) to logistics people, etc. that '20 year war' phrase would be ominpresent. A clue is that in these conversations, the words would always be 'The Battle of Afghanistan' and 'The Battle of Iraq' — as part of a longer 20 year War. Even Bush slips into this lexicon now and then.
Some mouthing these platitudes and brain farts are and were either neocons or sycophants thereto. But not all. And therein lies the rub and the danger.
The forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is promoting this concept: The Long War. Bill Arkin has written about this recently
. It isn't a surprise — the first QDR written by this Administration was largely drafted before 9/11. This is the QDR that expresses their thinking most succinctly.
“This generation of servicemembers will be in what we're calling the Long War,” Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week. “Our estimate is that for at least the next 20 years … our focus will be … the extremist networks that will continue to threaten the United States and its allies.”
As Arkin notes, it is farcical to compare a campaign against terrorist networks to the struggle to deter, contain and destroy the Soviet Union, a continental Empire with 35,000 nuclear warheads, a global navy and a KGB operating across the world. Yet as Arkin notes:
The Quadrennial Defense Review now exhorts the military to reform and retool to fight the long war, in everything from its business practices to its training. The backdrop of what the Pentagon is arguing is clear: Whatever constraints exist in the current world to fight need to be changed to increase operational flexibility. “New and more flexible authorities from the Congress” are needed. Old laws, like old Europe, need to be chucked overboard.
And so we see this from today's WaPo — Congress caved to lobbying from Rumsfeld and Rice to cut out the State Department from overseeing up to $200 million in foreign military assistance.
Heretofore, foreign military assistance was channeled through the State Department. Now, Congress has granted unusual authority for the Pentagon to spend as much as $200 million of its own budget to aid foreign militaries. This provision was added to the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act passed last month. The reason this is significant is that the State Department enforces standards for receiving such assistance, including support for local civilian authority.
The overall sweeping vision of a militarized American policy for the world is breathtaking. Another small but telling example is the DoD's victory over the State Department regarding stationing special forces assets in U.S. embassies without approval or control by the sitting U.S. ambassador. By contrast, even the CIA station chief has to report to the Ambassador and is ultimately accountable to the Ambassador.
Together with the upcoming QDR's emphasis on 'global strike' using precision stand off weapons, we see a vision of the world as one large shooting gallery. Filled with villians and intrepid 'expeditionary' American capability to surge overseas, deliver 'kinetic' ordnance, and if non-robotic, return home to a parade.
And yet under this vision, American militarized power will be largely negatory — i.e., the capacity to blow things up. Given our lamentable intelligence capability, with its obessession on technical means over HUMINT collection, we will not even know for sure what it is we are blowing up. We will not have the staying power to engage in a sustained combat presence, nor the will nor resources to have the cultural or linguistic skills necessary to effect a successful occupation.
A vision of hyper-militarized interaction with the world turns America more and more into the Soviet Union. The only effective tools at our disposal to effect change abroad will appear to be the militarized global strike infrastructure. This is all the more true when the military is increasingly seen as the only remaining functioning institution in American public life.
The need to preserve American financial integrity and primacy is given little heed — indeed, as Cheney famously said, deficits do not matter. Yet, a collapsing financial condition and a hyper militarized presence abroad means that American soft power will only continue to erode. And thus the virtuous cycle of the Cold War and its triumphant result is turned inside out.
Can critics of the Administration, the so-called 'Realists' or 'Owls' or whatever label they adopt offer an alternative explanation of American Power in the world? And more importantly, will they have the vision and political cohesion needed to shift the massive resources and domestic policies necessary to avert this hyper-militarized future? Or will their 'alternative' be more cosmetic, moderating the militarization by slight degrees?
Perhaps our future is Diocletian - and the struggle is over how soon that future arrives. It would be nice to be proven wrong.
January 25, 2006
January 25, 2006
There has been an awful lot of criticism of Google lately. For 'selling out' to the PRC and agreeing to censor its offerings at PRC government direction
. Congress is planning hearings.
A U.S. court has set a February date for Google's refusal to compy with a DoJ subpoena. (Details below fold). But most attention is focused on Google in China.
Google's new China search engine not only censors many Web sites that question the Chinese government, but it goes further than similar services from Microsoft and Yahoo by targeting teen pregnancy, homosexuality, dating, beer and jokes. In addition, CNET News.com has found that contrary to Google co-founder Sergey Brin's promise to inform users when their search results are censored, the company frequently filters out sites without revealing it.[emphasis added]
There are legitimate questions to be asked about what Google is accomplishing in China by limiting its technology to suit the authoritarian regime. In the articles cited above, a number of human rights experts suggest that Google will harm the Chinese efforts to develop home grown democracy.
With a contrarian view comes the Stiftung's old friend, Tom Hazlett.
Read more »
January 24, 2006
It is tough to be an Empire with a glass jaw. Think of it. There you are. Armed to the teeth with equipment designed to fight a non-existant peer competitor. Surrounded by a mass media hyping the pornography of violence and death. Total street cred.
And then Iraq.
Reality is a grim thing for those with visions of Romantic Violence. As made clear by Andrew Krepinevich
. He is the retired Army officer who wrote a recent report under a Pentagon contract. Krepinevich concluded that the U.S. Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. And he also suggested that the Pentagon's December decision to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.
According to press reports,
he wrote that the Army is “in a race against time” to adjust to the demands of war “or risk `breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline” in recruitment and re-enlistment.
Glass jaw indeed.
Read more »
January 22, 2006
Behold two Imperial metropoles. Both in transition towards neo-Authoritarian politics. Both still maintaining the pretense of responsive democratic forms. And both using political kabuki theater to distract the ruled.
In Russia, the Putin regime is preparing to crack down on non-government organizations (NGOs)
. The Putin regime claims NGOs are being used by Western governments and foreign spies to fan revolution in the former Soviet Union.
And to dramaticize the situation, we see L'Affaire de Rock
. Russia has accused four British diplomats of spying. The FSB, the old Second Chief Directorate of the KGB
, has linked some of their activities to the financing of prominent private organizations, including the Eurasia Foundation and the Moscow Helsinki Group. A great collection of videos here
Russian use of foreign intelligence threats for domestic purposes is a time honored tradition. And what can one expect when a Russian newspaper reports as many as 6,000 senior posts in the government are currently held by former KGB officers?
Still, people do wonder . . .
I wonder if the rock was constructed out of fiberglass, and contained a Linux-based single board computer with both 2.4 Ghz and 900 Mhz spread spectrum frequency hopping radios, with a 3DES encrypted transport link and DSA PKI.
I wonder if the camera was a custom designed Altera FPGA with integrated CMOS imager, utilizing a 100:1 proprietary wavelet compression engine (or at least it used to be proprietary), triggered by a thermal motion sensor.
I wonder if the power source was a lithium dry cell capable of operating the rock for years without the need for a recharge.
Read more »
January 20, 2006
If 'ordinary country' (futsu no kuni
) is a charged expression, the word 'Yamato', now extremely prevalent in Japan 2006 is equally significiant. 'Yamato' operates on several different levels.
First, the Yamato Damashi
or the 'Spirit of Yamato' is a phrase used colloquially by Nationalists and Rightists in Japan to speak in nostalgic ways about a a vague 'Golden Age' of Japanese culture. In this mythical imagining, life was simple and people allegedly were honest and worked hard.
The Yamato Empire had the concept of the state as led by a powerful singular leader (Emperor or Tenno
). That was the idealized state, of course. In Japanese feudal times, the military caste, that included the bushi and the samurai, were organized in strict military forms and had a unified single headquarters-like structure, the Shogunate. The Shogun represented civil and political power. As is well known, the Shogunate ruled Japan in various forms from 1192-1868.
Second, Yamato refers to Nara Prefecture. Here, Japanese history indicates that the first political efforts of unifying Japan began in the Nara Basin from the third century until the fourth century. Thus, at the dawn of Japanese history Yamato was clearly the political center of Japan.
Which brings us to the battleship Yamato. Famous along with her sister ship Musashi as being the largest battleships ever built
, the battleship Yamato embodies the mythos of the above, symbolized by the Imperial (teikoku
) chrysanthemum crest on her bow. She was and is more than just a battleship.
The Yamato and its role in Japanese popular culture post 1945 have long been a barometer and proxy for Japanese nationalist and conservative efforts to portray the Pacific War. When in 1974 it was featured in an animated TV series (and later movies) Uchuu Senkan Yamato
(Space Battleship Yamato), it was widely and correctly seen as a replay of the Pacific War in the 'safe' mode of space battles with aliens.
Now in January 2006, the Yamato has made the jump to the wide screen. She is the star of a live action movie
that portrays her death ride in 'Operation Ten-Go'
as a heroic and noble sacrifice. It is the number one movie in Tokyo in December 2005 -January 2006. Here, Haruki Kadowkawa, the film's producer explains:
Losing is the ultimate eye-opener. Japan is no longer moving forward — it relies too much on rails that have already been laid and has forgotten how to make new types of progress. What is going to save us — our sense of duty? Or are we going to finally wake up? We are hoping for someone to lead the way, someone who has a fresh outlook for Japan. That is a motif of the film. When you lose you wake up — and Japan needs to wake up.
In other words, the core audience for this film is young people. I find it really interesting that the group I most want to see the film is the group that most wants to see it. That age group knows that Japan and America fought, but not much more. Some will ask you who won the war. (laughs) It's not hard to understand — looking at Japan today, it's hard to believe we lost.
In addition to the Yamato movie, there is now a full time Yamato Museum
in the naval city of Kure. And the set of the movie has itself become a tourist attraction. The Yamato today exerts enormous impact on the contemporary Japanese psyche.
And as Japan seeks to discover its identity and purpose in a 21st Century of Chinese ascendancy and U.S. strategic incompetence and hyper militarization, the Yamato and imaginings of the Yamato will have an important role.
Which is all very interesting and overly abstract to non-Japanese perhaps. Except yesterday the Stiftung was wandering through the blight of strip malls that litter the Imperial City environs. And what did we stumble across? Yes, Dear Reader, for our little boys and girls:
As Japanese soft power waxes and drives much of U.S. popular culture for those under 50 years old - either through toys above, videogames, animation/manga, or movies — it will be interesting to see how Yamato and the Imperial project emerges in the U.S. mind. Perhaps in the end, she and her crew will actually prevail. And Okinawa was not the end but merely the beginning.
January 19, 2006
Few innocuous sounding phrases are as fraught with latent implications as 'Japan as ordinary country'. Popularized by perennial power political player Ichiro Ozawa
and his book of the same name, the phrase unifies decades of work by conservative politicians such as former PM Yasuhiro Nakasone.
Nakasone, Ozawa and others seek to jettison the legal, political and psychological constraints on Japanese re-armament.
Parallels between radicalization of American foreign policy post 9-11 and Japanese developments are noteworthy. And hardly accidental. Japanese conservatives and nationalists have used the American radicalization of the international environment to push through transforming Japanese military activities and changing internal consensus on Japan's role in the world.
Under Koizumi's government, Japan now speculates on owning nuclear weapons to oppose China, is launching military surveillance satellites
to give Japan real time intelligence, and has deployed troops to Iraq. Four Japanese troops were claimed to be killed in January 2006.
The Japanese Defense Agency included in the 2006 defense program the introduction of cruise missiles and light aircraft carriers for a pre-emptive attack on enemy missile bases.
The Japanese conservatives have not fully reconciled internal Japanese attitudes to all this. Koizumi's drive to make Japan 'an ordinary country' and active military ally of the United States, while accepted still raise eyebrows now and then. Opinion over Koizumi's commitment to “the victory of the American cause” in Iraq fluctuates sharply. Moreover, a Fukuoka court ruled last year that Koizumi's visits to Yakusuni Shrine (a practice begun by Nakasone), the controversial site which honors Japanese war dead, were illegal. Koizumi's response? His reaction appalled everyone — “I don't understand what the court means at all.”
Koizumi is required to step down this year. These elections might seem like an important test case on Japan's course. But in fact only two political parties will be major players. And both are essentially conservative nationalist.
Besides Koizumi's moribund Liberal Democratic Party (he won by his personal charisma, not by party affiliation), the political party which was the most successful in 2005 elections is ''The Democratic Party' , even more committed than Koizumi to the return of militarization of Japan. The party is another of Ozawa's machinations, a coalition of different factions united only in their ambition to take power. The DPJ and Ozawa want even more “force transformation” by strengthening Japanese special counter-terrorist corps, massively increasing Self Defense Forces, upgrading military technology, and further strengthening Japan's integration with American missile defense.
Upcoming Major Political Confrontation Impending
Over the Japanese Constitution
“Article 9 of the Constitution had become an impediment to strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance.”
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to LDP leader Nakagawa
Whoever succeeds Koizumi will lead a major political confrontation in Japanese politics to the amendment of the 1946 Constitution, particularly on the revision of its pacifist clause, Article 9.
What is astonishing is that in 2006, powerful political momentum has already been created in order to change the constitution. Opposition to such a change now looks anachronistic. All of the major pro-revision actors are politically visible on the Japanese stage. When Armitage told Nakagawa quoted above, he made the comments in the context of Washington's support for Tokyo's moves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Armitage argued logically that any nation with that status must be ready to deploy military force in the interests of the international community.
The media campaign is already underway — the Yomiuri Shimbun
, Japan's largest newspaper with a circulation of 10 million, started a campaign to change the constitution by publishing its first draft constitution in 2000. In 2005, on May 3, the memorial day for the proclamation of the current constitution, the same newspaper published its third version. It and other major media organs are pushing for an acceleration of the revision process.
Japanese polls are all over the place. Some polls indicate that around 60% of the Japanese people are against changing Article 9. So one can expect that mobilization of the threat (Chinese and terrorist) will be amped up accordingly to 'mobilize' public opinion in favor.
January 17, 2006
Was it a dream? The post-1945 Japanese holiday from national assertion and full participation in the international arena continues to wind down. In addition to the symbolic troop presence in Iraq (operationally less significant than the Luftwaffe
out of country operations in the Balkins) comes this from the DoD Press Service. This marks the first time Japanese troops have ever trained in CONUS - something not likely missed in Beijing and elsewhere.
Today begins the first in an anticipated series of posts this coming week. The Stiftung will explore the role and image of the United States in the Japanese psyche as they seek to recapture a warrior ethos and confidence deliberately repressed for 50 years. More to come shortly.
Marines School Japanese Soldiers in Amphibious Warfare
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL AMPHIBIOUS BASE CORONADO, Calif., Jan. 18, 2006 - Boating around San Diego Bay may sound relaxing, but members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force training with U.S. Marines here have found it to be just the opposite.
Roughly 200 Japanese forces have been training here since Jan. 9.
Read more »
January 15, 2006
The critique of 'America' as the great leveller, the 'Technological Moloch' of the West
, is a common one in European circles, both from the Right and Left. The triumphant consumer culture created by American economies of scale is the antipathy of the bourgeois emphasis on heirarchy and 'refinement' as tools of social order, containment and control. Jean Cau's description of EuroDisneyland as a 'cultural Chernobyl'
merely one example.
And of all American innovations, 'Hollywood' stands above others in its mythic status as the embodiment of all that America's critics love to lambast. So the Stiftung has been very interested in following reaction to the recent movie 'Tristan and Isolde', made from the opera of the same name. Opera is one of the few remaining genuinely bourgeois affectations in American society.
Tristan and Isolde
is doubly important because it has long been revered as Richard Wagner's greatest single work, eclipsing in the eyes of many even his more famous Der Ring Des Nibelungen
it is said best represents Wagner's notion of Gesamtkunstwerk
— “total art work” — the union of music, theater and environment to create an emotional response.
Of course, Wagner did not invent Tristan
. The story comes to us from Arthurian legend and from there was derived from earlier obscure Celtic interpretations.
Yet that does not stop Philip Kennicott in the WaPo from raging at the temerity of Hollywood
to deign 'level' Tristan
and make it accessible to a mass audience. When a reviewer begins with “Most of us have made our peace with Hollywood's insatiable appetite for things we hold sacred”, you know where things are going.
“Tristan & Isolde” may cross that line for opera lovers. Co-produced by Ridley Scott, who brought us his vision of the Crusades and 12th-century Jerusalem in last year's “Kingdom of Heaven,” “Tristan & Isolde” is a standard-issue sword and sex romp, with a bloody battle scene at the same point in the movie that Richard Wagner, in his opera, has barely finished the prelude. The actors, James Franco and Sophia Myles in the title roles, are lovely and blank, like animated versions of some insipid pre-Raphaelite painting. Wagner's “Tristan and Isolde” is all depth, all psychology, an opera in which most of the singing is done sitting, or in a near swoon, or lying half-dead on a bier. The movie, which opened on Friday in Washington, is all action, motion, surface sex appeal and beautiful pictures. The movie and the opera share a title, but the two versions couldn't be further apart.
Is this sacrilege? . . . “Tristan and Isolde,” four solid hours of slow-moving angst, is the epitome of operatic seriousness, an opera with such gravity of purpose, such extraordinary depths of pain and existential longing, that Hollywood should be ashamed to trespass on its turf.
And here we see the old Rightist European critique again, using Hollywood as stand in for the American 'Technological Moloch' and its culture of democratizing access. And when Kennicott concludes with a fervant wish that the movie will be ignored, unable to mar the memory of Wagner's stagecraft, he is really wishing that Wagner and opera as art form, Wagner and opera as elite privilege, Wagner and opera as signfier of those who Have Risen Above Mass Entertainments will survive America.
All of which is pretty amusing, because Kennicott's fears are misdirected. Rather than fear leveling and access, Kennicott should embrace any and all means that will revitalize wider interest in opera as an art form. This includes popular music. Besides the hoary Who rock operas of Tommy
(the former having been staged at The Met in 1970), the recent Green Day rock opera American Idiot
is reaching millions of young people in a way that Wagner could only dream about: walls of amplification, giant stages, lights, video screens.
In fact, given his approach to sound and stagecraft, one can be legitimately entertained thinking what Wagner would do today and whether he himself wouldn't prefer to reach millions via the technology and stagecraft of popular music. Just how would he react to chants of 'Do Stonehenge!'? Doubtless that makes Kennicott squirm. Good.
January 13, 2006
Leon Hadar at Global Paradigms
offers an inconvenient warning to those celebrating 2005 as the end of the W era and the “normalization” of politics: Help Is Not On The Way.
But let's be honest with ourseleves — and I'm referring here to the critics of the war and the entire Empire Project — there was a lot of expectation, well, wishfull thinking that the tide was turning against the neocons and the other members of the War Party. Pundits were fantasizing about Senator Chuck Hagel emerging as a Republican presidential candidate not to mention all the talk about the Democrats taking control of Capitol Hill in November,followed by Congressional investiations of the war, and who knows? Inpeachment?. Stop dreaming, my friends in the Reality-based Community. It ain't gonna happen anytime soon. The Democrats may gain a small advantage in the House. A few U.S. troops with return home and others will be deployed to Iraq. But America is going to be there for a long time to come.
Worth reading the whole thing. The Stiftung agrees that any overt action re Iran beyond the diplomatic will be in 2007. Global Paradigms
has a proven track record of exceptional accuracy and insight in the Middle East. This is really a well written summation.
: See Comments section. Just to clarify, the Stiftung endorses Global Paradigm's
analysis unreservedly. The observations below the fold are directed to other members of the Anti-War Coalition.
Read more »
January 12, 2006
To maintain a facade over decades must be a draining exercise. Imagine the relief now when the full throated roar of Belief refuses to hide behind acts of pretense, and the mask falls away. Always a sign that an ideological movement feels its Moment has arrived. Divine Providence and History are going their way. Time to grab the hem of History. Before she moves on!
So it is with the Schmittean and Straussian New Authoritarians.
Guest blogger David Luban over at Jack Balkin's site has a terrific analysis of the Weekly Standard's endorsement of an overtly Straussian and Authoritarian view on L'Affaire NSA
. David writes about a piece in the January 16 issue by Harvey Mansfield, who is, lest we forget, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard.
And Dear Reader, Mansfield is one of the best-known followers of Leo Strauss in academic political philosophy. One Harvey Mansfield instructed one second year William Kristol as a student. So does the pupil now summon the master. Although, unlike the Sith, there are far more than just two of them.
Mansfield is the ideal choice by Kristol to dismiss the Constitution as a feckless scrap of paper (from a corrupt liberal modernity) unworthy of shackling a True Leader. He has worked systematically in Revisionist zeal to corrupt and pervert key aspects of the liberal democratic intellectual heritage over the years. For example, one labor has been to claim that Machiavelli's The Discourses
are not properly understood as a nuanced discussion of politics in support of classical liberal democracy (and the nature of 'virtue'), but rather their “true” esoteric reading reveals them to recommend authoritarian principles and expediency. Mansfield seeks to claim they are no different than Machiavelli's throw away pamphlet of political expedience, The Prince.
Thus, Mansfield's short and fustian Weekly Standard
piece encapsulates the long furtive but sustained Straussian hostility to classical liberal democracy. Now, Mansfield propounds their true (and unalloyed) belief in (allegedly) enlightened authoritarianism. Mansfield succinctly puts forward the Straussian and Schmittean joint belief in the “necessity” of a Leader with unfettered power. Here, Mansfield argues that the President in our time of semi-permanent national emergency, has extra-legal authority “To Do What Must Be Done”. Such a Leader, in Mansfield's imagining, can not be bound by mere law or constitutional niceties.
Luban deconstructs Mansfield's tautological thinking admirably. Here are but two samples:
: “But enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force.”
: “A total non sequitur. Worse: mere games with words. A pickpocket is extra-legal, but it in no way follows that he needs to be faced with extra-legal force.”
: “The Federalist tells us that a republican constitution needs energy and stability, terms taken from physics to designate discretion and law.”
: “Last time I checked, physics does not include the concept of discretion. A speeding bullet has loads of energy but no discretion about where to go. The Straussians have always been famous for having contempt for physical science matched only by their ignorance of it.”
And so on. Luban concludes his wonderful analysis with this accurate observation: “What's most remarkable about this article is that nearly every sentence in it is false.”
David Luban, welcome to the world of the Straussians. And while your point is well taken, it also unfortunately misses the raison d'etre
of Mansfield's exercise, I think. This rigid and declamatory piece was not intended for us Outsiders. Nor was it intended for the Initiates, who presumably knew and accepted all this years ago. Rather, Mansfield's audience are the gentleman patriots who subscribe to the Weekly Standard
. And his overt embrace of the Straussian and Schmittean agenda set out for them is a signal to those who have waited decades for this Moment - “this is our Time now”.
January 11, 2006
January 10, 2006
What to make of the limpid book tour of L. Paul Bremer, aspiring gourmand and only the second overtly declared American proconsul in living memory? His seeming serenity is matched by his permacast ala DeLay hairstylings. What preturnatural calm or prescription sedative can bestow such equanimity having presided over a World Historical car wreck?
The answer may be found in some of the reviews pouring in: Kakutani here,
Evan Wright here
and so on.
He offers little insight we did not know. As Wright notes, Bremer seeks to pre-empt finger pointing at him by blaming the Pentagon and CIA for his (and our) woes. His defense? The classic bureaucrat: “I sent you a memo.” Even here, we did not need Bremer to tell any of this.
Kakutani gives Bremer some credit for trying to help historians identify who was in the decision-making chain. And Bremer continues his slavish devotion to Bush personally.
But Wright, I think, reveals the essence of the fiasco:
In his first briefing with Bush in the Middle East, which took place in a limousine as they rode to a summit in Aqaba, Bremer answered the president's request for an update with what sounds like a high school social studies class book report. “I'm optimistic for two reasons, Mr. President,” he enthuses. “First, Iraq has excellent resources, plenty of water, and it's fertile, besides the huge oil reserves. And, the Iraqis are energetic and resourceful folks.” Bush later responded with a backslap and what would become a catchphrase: “Pace yourself, Jerry.” If Bremer is to be believed, the nation's most serious military adventure in generations seems to be managed at the top level with all the gravity of a fraternity house charity event.
Arendt was wrong. Or at least incomplete. Evil may be banal. But, so too, can banality itself become a form of evil - a blithe indifference to peoples' lives, safety, national treasure and prestige. Certainly, this indifference would qualify as nicht einmal unheimlich
, Arendt's reaction to seeing the man in the glass booth (“not even sinister” ). Arendt then describes the man this way: “... the only specific characteristic one could detect in his past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.
And then she offered this:
“When confronted with situations for which such routine procedures did not exist, he was helpless, and his cliché-ridden language produced on the stand, as it had evidently done in his official life, a kind of macabre comedy. Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence.
”Pace yourself, Jerry“ indeed. From such shoddy sloganeering qua thinking, mirrored in different form by Feith and his comrades, the ”Banality of Freedom" is the most striking aspect of Bremer's book. As Wright notes, Bremer to his credit did not wholly succumb to the banishment of critical thinking — his work on the Transitional Administrative Law being not wholly in vain. But that is noteworthy for being the exception, not the rule.
Bremer's details about this or that bureaucratic ally as a more capable manager are beside the point. And silly when he tries to defend Rice. But competent management aside, there is little evidence that any of them were not all complicit directly or indirectly in the larger banality, the absence of thought. And thus as guilty.
January 10, 2006
Apparently, the problem with Democrats and non-Movement Republicans, libertarians and conservatives is that we all lack “Gleichschaltung”
. According to this blame the victim approach, America deserves the authoritarian radicalism inherent in 'Bushism' and Alito.
If only, the lament goes, Democrats and Oppositionists could be more like the radical Authoritarians. This would somehow prevent social tension. Thus, we need more “Gleichschaltung”
or coordination — the policy used post 1933 to “coordinate” spheres of life in Germany with the 'will of the people' channeled through the regime.
is the inherent premise of almost everything regime apologists like the tiresome Marshall Wittman
, Joe Lieberman and the like spew forth. According to this view, Democrats and Oppositionists will prevail only when we embrace the authoritarian, traditional, emotional, irrational. This dishonest view offers . . . what? The peace of Landrew?
There Is No Accomodation With Their Authoritarian Drive
To Rollback Liberal Democracy
Those who sing the siren song of accomodation are either intellectually dishonest or truly ignorant about the nature, purpose and goal of the “Movement” now hiding behind Alito. But always lurking just beneath the surface of this repugnant Regime. And here it is in a microcosmic nutshell: the laughable case of one Christine Flowers.
(She is just for illustration purposes. What she writes has been said by other chortling apostles of brown shirtism like Pat Buchanan
Ms. Flowers writes against the recent Dover decision to eject the fraudulent “Intelligent Design” from the classroom. So she is just another excessively emotional Peggy Noonan, although downmarket from La Noonan. But note what happens. A letter is written to the newspaper and published. She contacts the letter writer privately. The letter writer asks the correspondence stay public via the newspaper, and Flowers begins to stalk and harass him because the letter writer opposed Creationism.
There can be no accomodation with the agenda of Flowers, Buchanan and the like. Their goal is a revolutionary one — to roll back the Enlightenment and resurrect old Counter Enlightenment doctrines of Faith, Authority, Tradition, Race and Obediance over rational thought.
So, when this truth sinks in, this may well mean the end of the Antiwar Coalition. The Stiftung for its part no longer will support those in the Antiwar Coaltion who endorse the brown shirt agenda of Pat Buchanan and the like. Make no mistake. They played their role against the Administration's incompetent war. But now we must never forget that these brown shirts (and those who think by sporting open necked khaki dress shirts and their elite educations makes any difference) are opposed to the Enlightenment, the American liberal democratic idea.
“Become more like us?” The Hell you say.
Read more »
January 09, 2006
The Stiftung has to apologize for the light posting. We are transfixed by the Senate Hearings on our large screen TV. (Although Tweety, Hatch and the others are transformed by size and girth into eery poltergeists looming over a funeral).
We don't watch for the observable minutae of predictable prevarication from Alito about his beliefs, memberships in racist organizations, or the like. Raw ambition oozes from every pore of this eager, social climbing apparatchik. And has for decades.
The true spectacle before us is the institutional suicide of the United States Senate. Alito? He is a small time clerk. Hired by Cheney and Addington to rubber stamp their transformation of three separate and equal branches of government into rule by “the Unitary Executive”.
Some get it. Armando, at Daily Kos, has explained the stakes masterfully
. His commitment, energy and zeal on explaining the legal issues in terms accessible to all justifies (in the Stiftung's eyes) the promise of the blogosphere.
Most don't get it. And reduce this issue to traditional shop talk of retail politics. Whether from a Right or Left perspective. To them, encroaching authoritariansm is “the New Normal”.
By every indicia of his record, Alito is not “conservative”. And certainly not mainstream. He may be conservative by one means — in deportment. As Robert Gordon notes correctly,
Alito is a radical authoritarian hiding behind the soft facade of legalisms.
Read more »
January 07, 2006
As portions of the U.S. Senate prepare to codify overtly the Imperial Era with the Alito Hearings, we point out some other things worth checking out.
See links below the fold.
Read more »
January 06, 2006
Michael Berube has an interesting deconstructionist take on Kong here
. He begins provactively with:
Over the break, I took Jamie to see a very weird, postmodern kind of movie. To begin with, the whole movie was about movies—about the spectacle of movies, about the flimflammery of movies, and most of all about the fetishization of the female leads of movies.
From that, Micheal discusses the movie's confused colonial and cultural point of view. Read the whole thing, he writes a great piece.
Jim Pinkerton's Newsday
take on Kong says this about the movie and our current geopolitical circumstance:
Any movie that features white people sailing off to the Third World to capture a giant ape and carry it back to the West for exploitation is going to be seen as a metaphor for colonialism and racism . . . The new “Kong” drills home its race consciousness by making repeated references to Joseph Conrad's 1899 novel, “Heart of Darkness,” which denigrates both the colonizing whites and colonized blacks. In the novel's climax, the once-idealistic character Kurtz writes of Africans, “Exterminate all the brutes!” Conrad presents Kurtz as crazy, but Africa is presented as a crazy-making place.
The new Kong is, as always, a noble beast with a tender side. But, at the same time, his killing is presented as a cruel necessity. And at the end of the film, the white people - love interests Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody - are brought closer together, thanks to their brush with the big ape.
But if the movie is so loaded with race-charged imagery, why isn't it being protested? Why aren't we seeing pickets and boycotts? Perhaps it's because today, as people look around the world, they see that most political strife is, in fact, ethnic strife.
And now the Stiftung's take — as posted over on Michael's site: read his post for context. Nutshell? See the concluding comments below. J. Pinkerton suggests the movie — and America — have already made a choice in the paths I discuss. Perhaps, but only the first footsteps so far? Or is it more advanced? Even then, I am not sure that decision if reached is really where we end up.
[begin Stiftung comments]
"A response might be to compare the Japanese journey along this path. The confusion of the Western intellectual conceit underlying Jackson’s vision as Michael discusses here might mirror parallel Japanese imaginings.
In the original Ishihiro Honda ‘Gojira’ (1954) (tampered with and marketed in the U.S. as ‘Godzilla’) and his subsequent ‘DaiKaiju Mosura’ (1961)(’Mothra’), aside from the metaphor of Nature’s revenge/B-29-san/A-Bomb,there were astonishingly similiar depictions of the nativist island environment and the ‘civilized’ Japanese reaction.
a) the Japanese just lost their self-styled war of Asian liberation against Western imperialism;
(b) the interesting question of how much of the Japanese mind set was merely mimicry of Western imperial conceits post-1868 Meiji Restoration;
(c) perhaps the films were trapped in creative prism of the 1933 ‘Kong’ template anyway, albeit with a stronger anti-capitalist critique.
(We also note in passing the Japanese are famously racially tolerant. As, say Bull Connor high on mescaline and Absinthe).
Read more »
January 05, 2006
Roger Ailes (the good one) delivers a sea-skimming Exocet
into the wooden (in all senses of the word) hull of the self-styled 'Captain' over at Captain's Quarters.
What amuses the Stiftung so much is the Spinal Tap
nature of the discourse over at Quarters. What started out as El Capitan
defending Patrick Henry as a righteous 'chickenhawk' like himself turned into a mau mau by his own readers on Patrick Henry. Spinal Tap
in a 'Hello Cleveland' sort of way.
How “The Movement” will Explain Away Abramoff — It is All the Fault of 'The Non-Revolutionary Republican Party'
Check out Craig Shirley today in Human Events
Craig claims Abramoff and careerists in the Republican Party are diluting revolutionary purity of “The Movement”. Pretty amazing considering Abramoff, Rove, DeLay et al. were the epicenter of “The Movement” in power.
A good signal for how “The Movement” is rationalizing.
Shorter Shirley: 'We Need More Chekists'
Here's a list of resources monitoring Administration secrecy at the fold.
Read more »
January 05, 2006
From The Other Times across the Pond
Hollywood's appeal to the Japanese advert business is fading as national confidence grows
Japanese people, say the top media analysts, no longer look up to American and British film stars, so it does not help a product much when they are called in to hawk it.
Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray plays an actor who is paid millions to tout whisky in a Japanese commercial, will look like an historical period piece within a year or so, the chairman of Japan’s biggest advertising watchdog predicts . . . Japanese stars now exclusively dominate the top 20 adverts of last year, and in the course of 2005 Mr Sasamoto has cast five Koreans and a Taiwanese — something that he says would never have happened two years ago. [Emphasis added]
January 04, 2006
The always entertaining Spengler on VDH
January 04, 2006
A follow-up to a quick comment over at Glenn Greenwald's blog.
On the whole 'Republicans disaffected with the Administration and divided government' argument. That blog raises excellent points. Many of us made the arguments among Republicans circles in 2003-2004.
It also follows up on the thread we discussed here previously over at Michael Berube's 'On Production of Further Wingnuts'
The resurrection of this discussion now would benefit from understanding the phenomenon of Republican 'Inner Migration'. By 'Inner Migration' we mean the deactivation of speaking the 'true' self in political and social activity. And reserving that 'true' self of resistance for a 'private' (and safe) place.
'Inner Migration' was also famously used as an excuse by the German intelligentsia
to explain (falsely) that they hid their 'true' self expression and resistance during the Nightmare years. We now know, of course, that from new unearthed correspondence and research, re Heidigger, Strauss, Gadamer, etc. — 'Inner Migration' was a myth; the intelligentsia
were active in supporting the Regime.
For sixty years, one could try and explain away opportunism, fear, insincerity. But it was there.
So with us now in the New Century. Except in our future lexicon, it will be “But he wasn't a *real* Bushie”.
But unless one is a part of or professionally dependent upon “The Movement” in Republican politics, and we mean actually on-the-ground-familiar, not via the sanctity of a webpage, it is hard to convey the all encompassing pressure and true fear of 2001-2004. Not just for tedious conformity. Or suppression of doubt.
But for the unmasking and punishment of Deviationism.
'Forward Leaning' indeed.
Things are incomparably better now. What the Oppositionist Blogosphere curiously still doesn't understand though is how the contemporary American “Movement” (which is truly a Schmittean entity as he described 'Movement', not a mere abstract label) directs its most bellicist attitudes and resources at 'deviationists'. Hagel, McCain, and Specter et al. are not really good examples. Their prominence makes them a prime target and gives them a shield. The less inhibited venom directed on those not lucky to be so famous has been largely undocumented. And widespread.
Curiously, because the whole ideological phenomenon of the Movement in power 2001-2006 and its moral consequences should be fresh in the living memory of the Left.
More to come on this topic later. But much the Oppositionist Blogosphere discourse does not really understand this reality of “Inner Migration” and “The Movement”. And when discussed, the talk remains in the abstract.
Questions for the Opposition Blogosphere
Abstraction needs translation into practical analysis.
, about how a possible migration of some 'true conservatives' and 'libertarians' away from the Administration almost by definition does not reach “The Movement”.
, many in “The Movement” seek this expulsion in any event - a pure union of Party and “The Movement” is in many eyes a nearly attainable goal in 2005-06.
,beyond the immediate opposition to the Administration, what is the coherent political and social program people are being asked to join?
, anyone leaving the Republican Party and risking confrontation with “The Movement” rightly knows the ferocity of the machine left behind. They inevitably will ask how joining the current Oppositionist fold offers any solace of organized toughness of infrastructure, finances and electoral possibility. These latter three being of course the mother's milk for cross overs.
By asking the question Glenn does, I fear he assumes that “The Movement” is part of and in the same spectrum of our familiar notions of Dahl-esque politics — of pluralism. It, in our opinion, is manifestly not. In the Schmittean sense of being separate. With all that entails.
And in that gulf lies our current danger.
January 03, 2006
Enuff of Grande Politique
. Let's savor this moment.
January 02, 2006
In vernacular of the moment —
“Playoff time, Dear Reader!
Today we review the Challengers to the ruling Regime. Let's go to the videotape!!”*
At Least They Stopped Playing Badminton
Six years into this Administration. And its war on liberal democracy.
On the plus side? The Challengers wear pads now. And stopped bringing badminton rackets. But Democrats still play the wrong game.
Democrats and some blogosphere friends still — still — wonder aloud why they flinch prematurely. Six flinching years. A long time.
This grueling political war of annihilation may reach a crescendo in 2006. And make no mistake — Rove, Grover et al. do not want to prevail merely on the issues. They seek to destroy their political opposition. Not win. Destroy.
And still —
First, this from Digby.
Digby wonders why the Democrats can't seem to take a stand on the NSA issue. Oddly, this was widely circulated and linked. Noted by some as ground breaking and “important”. Important? Ground breaking? It is pathetic that Digby must make this point.
Here, Glenn Greenwald notes
the very same thing — Schumer and the “Premature Flinch”. And so on. The stakes for American democracy are high. After six years to prepare. And? Flinch.
Okay, okay, Doc, but can they play???
Sorta. On the plus side, the blogosphere infrastructure is much stronger now. Air America is up. The bench is getting better.
Read more »
The last gasp. Our modern day Empire Builders, now tragi-comic paper tigers.
Reports from Israel
and elsewhere that the Adminstration is planning military action against Iran.
Theater of the Absurd at a bad dinner theater. Unintentionally farcical.
For those who live in Reality, the U.S. military is in no position to start hostilities with Iran. Our strategic retreat from Iraq *requires*
Iran to play along. And give us our coveted “Decent Interval”.
Airstrikes will not (a) be able to neutralize all the dispersed nuclear sites; (b) prevent even the relatively pro-Western youth demographic from uniting in national solidarity against half-assed aggression.
But Dear Reader, you might say, Herr Doktor, the Administration has proven it is delusional. Might they do something stupid? Or get their henchman in the region to do so?
No. The answer is simple: November 2006. Congressional elections mandate that nothing happen this year. 2007 is another year and another question. Yet by then, the Administration becomes truly lame duck.
The Administration *wants* people to speculate it might attack. To cover its status as a paper tiger. It *craves* this talk. It *needs* its critics to talk about this, to give it some fig leaf of vitality.
The Stiftung has refused to take the bait watching this rumor float around. Dear Reader, rather than spread the rumor, mock the Administration. And its helpless belligerent rage. These self-imagined Empire builders have an empty hand. Courtesy of arrogant incompetence, bungled diplomacy and directionless military strategy.
Just remember. Unfortunately, their incompetence affects us all. And a rational and sustainable policy on Iran is needed desperately.
02.01.05 — 9:30 PM