Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Mid-Term Elections, 2018


The Mid-Term Elections, 2018
Peter Schultz

            This should be brief. What happened in the mid-terms? Absolutely nothing.  

            By which I mean, we live in a national security state that pervades our lives, allegedly for our own security, a state that cannot function without engaging in endless wars all over the globe, while spending humongous sums of money on weapons of war, and a state that must incarcerate huge numbers of its citizens, especially the ones who would have little to lose if they resisted, and a state that is based on racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia, in other words, based on an all-pervasive fear.

            And nothing that happened on Tuesday as a result of our mid-terms is going to change any of this.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Government v. Republic, II


Government v. Republic, II
Peter Schultz

            On the advent of what are called our “mid-term elections,” a reference of course to the fact that presidents are elected or re-elected every four years, I was suddenly reminded of another of the differences between what I have been calling “a government” and “a republic.” As I noted earlier, government relies not so much on consent as on force to maintain its legitimacy, as manifested by the presence and prevalence of bureaucratic power in any government, as well as the presence of a significant “military” establishment, which includes not only the regular armed forces like the army and navy but also police forces. Persons or officials who wear uniforms, carry weapons, and are authorized to use them even at times to kill people are, for all practical purposes, “military.” No government would “work” without such forces, whereas life as it existed in Mayberry required neither a real police force nor a real government. [To my recollection, there was never reference made to the government of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show. And were such reference made, it would be, no doubt, to make fun of such an organization.]

            There is, moreover, another difference between a government and a republic, viz., the presence and frequency of elections. Governments, which seek efficiency and effectiveness rather than “re-presentation” of the people and their will, and elections are at odds. Governments want to “run,” as is said all the time, and elections are disruptive in this regard. Government in the day-to-day sense pretty much stops whenever elections come around. In fact, I had a one time friend who worked for the CIA as an analyst who told me that even the world pretty much stopped every four years as other nations waited to see who would be president of the United States. Also, as many have noticed, one theme in most elections is how badly the incumbents have been governing, a theme that does nothing to fortify the legitimacy of the incumbent government and governors.

            This is why, for me, frequent elections are not only necessary but beneficial, despite or even because of their effects on the government. And this is why those who opposed the Constitution in 1787 and 1788, the Anti-Federalists, thought that the elections provided for were not frequent enough, to say nothing of the fact that only one organization in the new Constitution would be elected directly by the people, viz., the House of Representatives. Frequent elections force government officials to repair to the popular will, as it were, to seek to legitimate their rule. Moreover, such elections disrupt government, which from a “republican’s” point of view is always useful. The Anti-Federalists knew that there was little more repressive than what we call these days “good government.” They were proponents not of good government but of popular government and such an arrangement requires frequent elections, at a minimum. This is a perspective that has been forgotten for some time in this nation as it is almost universally taken for granted that we want and should have is “good government.” As I noted earlier, my prejudices lie with the republicans.
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Founders and Republican Government


The Founders and Republican Government
Peter Schultz

            The questions are straightforward: Did the founders – the Federalists – intend to create a “government”or a “republic?” And what is the difference?

            The Federalists wanted to establish “a government” rather than “a republic.” How do I know? Because among other items, their new arrangement of power was without term limits. Absent such limits, it was almost guaranteed that a permanent governing class would arise. That is, politics would be “professionalized” as we might say today. A permanent, professional governing class would characterize the new order in the United States.

            A republic, on the other hand, does not, cannot have a permanent, professional governing class. In a republic, terms limits are absolutely essential in order to ensure that the government not displace or refine – as the Federalists put it – the popular will. For example, in a republic an institution like the Supreme Court, with its permanent and life-long justices wielding significant power would be impossible. The same might be said about a senate that was not apportioned according to population, and where senators had long terms and no term limits.

            The point is this: As the Anti-Federalists were wont to point out, human beings have a choice: They can create governments, that is, arrangements of power that essentially displace the popular will, or they can create republics where the popular will controls the government. Or, to use another distinction: Political arrangements can rest on FORCE or they can rest on CONSENT. Governments rest on the force of law, the force of bureaucracy, or of a military. Republics rest on consent, especially on the consent of the people, even or especially in the day-to-day affairs of the nation. “Popular government” is something of an oxymoron because all governments rest on force, not consent. It is safer, as Machiavelli put it, to be feared than loved because fear is not based on consent.

             Hence, we need less government today, but not in the sense meant by our faux conservatives. They want smaller government but still want, even crave permanent government; that is, they want a small government that rests on force, not consent. They are not populists, not in the least. They are elitists who wish to embed, permanently, their idea of “the elite” in the government, thereby displacing the popular will. The real issue is not “more” or “less” government. The real issue is permanent government or a republic. A republic gets my vote.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Why I Now Say: "Fuck Patriotism!"


Why I Now Say “Fuck Patriotism!”
Peter Schultz

            The counterinsurgency paradigm has come home. Today, all three central strategies of counterinsurgency have been turned back on the American people. Americans are now caught in total information awareness. American Muslims and other minorities have become the active minority that is targeted for elimination. And it is, more broadly, the American people whose hearts and minds are being sought.” [The Counterrevolution by Bernard E. Harcourt, p. 143]

            Without a revolution to oppose, our political establishment is pursuing a counterrevolution encapsulated in “the counterinsurgency paradigm” that is being used abroad to fight the war on terror. And patriotism underlies each of the three central strategies of this paradigm.

            First, patriotism requires that “if you see something, say something!” That is, patriotism requires us, each of us, to be vigilant; but not toward the government and the powerful as in classic republican politics, but toward others and “the other.” Hence, and this is second, this means patriotism requires us, each of us, to be especially vigilant toward those minorities – blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, protestors  – who are deemed to be dangerous, even revolutionary. Such vigilance requires “a heightened sense” of how these minorities are different from “mainstream” Americans. Hence, at least a little racism is useful in the service of vigilance. “If you see something, say something, especially if what you see involves these dangerous minorities.”

            Third, patriotism requires that our “hearts and minds” be devoted to the “homeland,” that we revere its symbols. No longer is our allegiance to the republic for which the flag stands, but rather to the homeland whether it be republican nor not. Thus, patriotism has replaced citizenship, which was a main part of the script of republicanism. Citizens, unlike patriots, are expected to challenge, to be vigilant toward the government, toward the powerful, and not to others or “the other.” Moreover, citizens were not expected to genuflect before government or its officials. Whenever the government runs up the flag, a patriot salutes, whereas a citizen first asks “Why?” Then, maybe, a citizen salutes. Maybe not. A citizen’s heart and mind is her own, whereas a patriot’s heart and mind belong to the homeland: “America: Love it or leave it.” Something no citizen would ever say!  

            And that is why I now say: “Fuck patriotism!”

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Why Kavanaugh Was Sure to Win


Why Kavanaugh Was Sure To Win
Peter Schultz

            Victims or victimizers? That is the question. Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? Answers to these questions resonate throughout our political and social orders.

            According to Dr. Ford and other “survivors” of sexual crimes, they are the victims. They have been sexually assaulted and have suffered and suffer as a result. They want, they demand recognition and at least some justice.

            On the other hand, Kavanaugh, et. al., claim to be the victims. Kavanaugh claimed he was being victimized by the Clintons and by a vast and pervasive “left-wing conspiracy composed of, as Trump put it, “evil Democrats.”

            Now, given that Kavanaugh et. al. represent at least one part of the ruling class, it became incumbent that he and they should win. Otherwise, it would be all too easy and likely that our ruling class would be deemed the victimizers and not the victims. The curtain would be lifted, ala’ the Wizard of Oz, revealing the predatory character of the establishment. This is a revelation that no political and social order can tolerate, especially in a place where “the republic” survives, at least as an aspiration. The predatory character of the ruling class must be disguised, must be hidden behind such myths, as that successful, ambitious, and politically involved men cannot be sexual predators. That would be outrageous and so Kavanaugh played at being outraged. It was quite a performance and is now being credited with saving his nomination.

            Make no mistake: The charade just concluded served to fortify the ruling class, which of course includes Democrats as well as Republicans. Hence, the Democrats, while still protesting the process by which Kavanaugh was confirmed, will not protest his use of the Constitution to advance the Republican agenda. After all, it is what they want Supreme Court Justices to do with their agenda. And eventually, the Kavanaugh “fiasco” will be put to rest when the Democrats announce, “it is time to move on.” This “battle” will be viewed as an aberration, just another moment when our political order went haywire. And, of course, we should regret that now. As George Bush might say: “Mission Accomplished!”

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The "Wonderfulness" of Susan Collins


The “Wonderfulness” of Susan Collins
Peter Schultz

            All of a sudden the role Susan Collins played in the Kavanaugh nomination hearings came into view. Note first the result of her role. She has replaced, by and large, Christine Ford as the woman at the center of this “drama.” What a neat trick, no? To replace a survivor, a woman who was traumatized by a sexual assault with a woman who played the role of a civics teacher for the nation. No wonder conservatives and even some moderates rallied round Collins. It was a drama worthy of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

            So what was required of Collins to make the star of this drama? Well, first, she had pretend that her mind was not made up, that she had not, until a very late hour, decided to support Kavanaugh. Very un-Trump like. By doing so, Collins underwrote both her alleged “moderation” and her alleged “thoughtfulness.” And, of course, she could also seem to play the role of a lone woman, a brave woman confronting the patriarchy that is the Republican Party.

            Then, when she had allegedly “made up her mind,” based of course on a close inspection of the evidence, Collins had to wrap her decision in the guise of a civics lesson. She was doing what any “civic minded” person would do, even though she might have to pay the ultimate price – losing her Senate seat. As a result, Collins appeared as the woman confronting danger, not Dr. Ford or, by the way, other survivors, and doing so because it was her “civic duty.” So, Dr. Ford’s claim to be doing her civic duty was pushed off stage and, viola, “a star is born,” ala’ that Mr. Smith who went to Washington!

            How wonderful! It is a wonderful life Susan Collins is living – and the rest of us should join in. After all, apparently we only needed civics lessons and we don’t need to worry about sex crimes after all. And isn’t that nice? It isn’t only Catholic priests who turn away from, ignore sex crimes and their perpetrators.

            Of course, quite a few saw through this charade as it unfolded, e.g., John Oliver. I did not although I did see that this whole “drama” was no more real than the alleged attempt by Republicans to impeach and remove Bill Clinton from office. [They had no intention to make Al Gore president. DUH.] But then most of our politics involves smoke and mirrors and the creation of Frank Capra like heroes and heroines. Isn’t it a wonderful life?

Friday, October 5, 2018

American Politics: Fiascos Galore


American Politics: Fiascos Galore
Peter Schultz

            So many people seemed to have been genuinely shocked about “the fiasco,” as some of them called it, revolving around Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It was as if these people were shocked that there could be a political fiasco within the American political order. And this, to me, is really quite interesting as our politics is and has been characterized by one fiasco after another.

            This isn’t even the first fiasco revolving around a Supreme Court nomination, as the same controversy arose over Robert Bork’s nomination and, of course, over Clarence Thomas’ nomination. So what’s new here? Not much. Just more of the same old same old. Same shit, different day.

            Moreover, there have been numerous other fiascos as well. I guess these shocked people have forgotten about Bill Clinton and Jenifer Flowers and Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky or about Clinton’s impeachment. Apparently they have also forgotten about the recession of 2008, Bush’s invasion of Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, not to mention 9/11 itself, which seems to me ought to top the list of any American fiascos, right up there with Pearl Harbor. And why isn’t 9/11 seen as a governmental fiasco? The government and more particularly the administration of George W. Bush failed to protect the nation. Seems like a fiasco to me.

There was also the fiasco of the Vietnam War and of the current 17 year long war in Afghanistan. There was also Carter’s fiasco in the desert as he tried to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran, whose taking was yet another fiasco. There was the fiasco of not being able to protect a president when JFK was killed and another one when Reagan was almost taken out by a gunman. I could go on but what’s the point of that? If it isn’t clear that our political order has produced a series of fiascos to you by now, more examples will not persuade you

            The truth is we or at least some of us like to think that each new fiasco represents aberrant political behavior because such fiascos almost never occur in the good old US of A. In fact, just the reverse is the case, even to the point that one must begin to wonder whether our politicians are adverse to fiascos. After all, after 9/11 as after JFK’s failure at the Bay of Pigs, Bush’s popularity ratings went through the roof! As JFK said after the Bay of Pigs, “The more you screw up the more the people like you.” Yes, indeed they do as confirmed by the response to the attacks on 9/11. Interesting, isn’t it? It might be worth pondering instead of beating our chests and wailing about how horrible the Kavanaugh nomination scene was.