Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kesler v. Obama

Charles Kesler v. Obama, the Radical
P. Schultz
September 29, 2012

Here are some passages from a book review of Charles Kesler’s rag on Obama as, well, pretty much the anti-Christ. The link is below. It is well worth a read as it illuminates the delusions of the conservatives or some conservatives today.

“The thing is, the conservatives have also spooked themselves. They now really believe the apocalyptic tale they’ve spun, and have placed mild-mannered Barack Obama at the center of it. It hasn’t been easy. Kesler admits that “Obama is at pains to be, and to be seen as, a strong family man, a responsible husband and father urging responsibility on others, a patriot, a model of pre-’60s, subliminally anti-’60s, sobriety.” But that’s just a disguise. In fact, he’s the “latest embodiment of the visionary prophet-statesman” of the Progressives, someone who “sees himself engaged in an epic struggle” whose success will mean “the Swedenization of America.” Or maybe its Harlemization, given that “the black church replaces the Puritans in Obama’s chronicle of American spirituality.” In any case, Barack Obama is, without doubt, the “most left-wing liberal to be elected to national executive office since Henry Wallace.” (Take that, Hubert Humphrey!)

“And what is Kesler’s evidence for these extravagant claims? He hasn’t any. Early in the book he writes that Obama came to office planning “bold, systemic changes to energy policy, environmental regulation, taxation, foreign policy” — though he never describes these plans and in fact never mentions them again. He carefully avoids Obama’s moderate record, preferring instead to parse “The Audacity of Hope” for signs of Germanic statism and to cite liberal journalists gushing over the Black Messiah as proof that Obama sees himself that way. It amounts to nothing. By the final chapter, it becomes apparent that Kesler’s whole case against Obama and the liberalism whose “crisis” he quintessences rests on a single piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act of 2010. From Hegel to health care: what could be clearer?”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Psalm 23

Psalm 23
September 26, 2012
My mother’s favorite. It is worth reading every so often. Peace.  

King James Version (KJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Libya and the CIA

Libya and the CIA
P. Schultz
September 24, 2012

            Well, gee, who’d have thunk it? Perhaps the attack in Libya had very little to do with a movie after all. Obviously, from this, the CIA is or was involved in Libya up to its eyeballs. And my guess: They were doing more than merely gathering intelligence.

          "Within months of the start of Libyan revolution in February 2011, the C.I.A. began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi, a locus of the rebel efforts to oust the government of Colonel Qaddafi. 

           "Though the agency has been cooperating with the new post-Qaddafi Libyan intelligence service, the size of the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi apparently surprised some Libyan leaders. The deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal last week saying that he learned about some of the delicate American operations in Benghazi only after the attack on the mission, in large part because a surprisingly large number of Americans showed up at the Benghazi airport to be evacuated."


Friday, September 21, 2012

Romney's 47%

Romney’s 47%
P. Schultz
September 21, 2012

            Here is what I think of Romney’s remarks about the 47% of Americans that he implied were irresponsible and would not respond to his rhetoric or vote for him for that reason.

            First, I always love it when people who can afford to pay $50,000 for lunch play the victim. It is so convincing, isn’t it? Life sure is tough on these people and easy on those who receive some kind of financial aid or assistance from the government, such as people on social security or Medicare like myself.

            Second, Romney’s rhetoric illustrates one of the problems with a national government, viz., that it leads rather easily to attempts to demonize human beings who share certain characteristics or who seem especially dangerous. This thought occurred to me today as I was driving to Wal-Mart and passed an apartment building where the apartments look to be rather small and people had their laundry out drying. In other words, it was not an upscale place and I thought, “Well, some people just trying to get by.”

            See, at the local level, that is what some of Romney’s 47% look like, people just trying to get by, just trying to make a life for themselves as best they can. But at the national level, they can be spoken about as if they were freeloaders, as if they are irresponsible, lazy, no good moochers. Why is this? Because from the national viewpoint what people see are mere abstractions. From the national level, details fade from view and it is possible to paint pictures of people that have little or no relationship to what I like to call “real reality.”

            One example: My father worked for the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., writing regulations for the shipment of hazardous materials. Such materials are everywhere and one owner of a small business took exception to some of these regulations, arguing that they would ruin him and his business. He even wrote a letter threatening to commit suicide. My father and his cohorts decided that they had better call the local police department where the man lived and let them know, just in case. The response from the locals: “Oh, Mr. Schultz, don’t worry. He threatens to commit suicide over something or other about once a month.” You see, from a national perspective, this man looked threatening. But from the local perspective, he looked like what he was, a harmless guy who was a threat to no one, not even himself.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How the Oligarchy Governs

Smoke and Mirrors: How the Oligarchy Governs
P. Schultz
September 20, 2012

            It doesn’t get any better or clearer than this. See and read the link below for confirmation of what has been said here for some time now. The oligarchy is protecting itself in this election. As I have said before and more than once, the most important event of this presidential election was the nominations of Romney and Obama when popular anger is at a peak. Enjoy.

“The Republicans don’t want to discuss tax cheating, offshoring, corruption, inequality, dissent, the rule of law, endless war, or Wall Street criminality. They’d rather lose. It’s not that they want to lose in 2012, it’s just that they aren’t going to go after every vote. It’s the same reason no one talks about how Romney is a flip-flopper anymore, or points out that Romney is the architect of Obamacare, or was a moderate Republican governor in Massachusetts. Those arguments are worse for the political class, and better for the public. And that is how elections operate in authoritarian America. The secondary goal is to win the election, the primary goal is to keep the public out of the deal-making.”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Politics as Escape

Politics as Escape
P. Schultz
September 17, 2012

You know, those who “devote” themselves to politics are, I am now convinced, shallow and afraid of their own soul. Politics and living a political life is, I am convinced, an escape, a way to avoid rather than a way to embrace whatever comes our way. Because when we confront what comes our way, we necessarily confront grief and loss; it is the nature of the beast, so to speak. And those who go “into politics” are those who have shallow souls, for the most part, those who need diversions from those losses, that grieving, that they cannot or will not deal with.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Political "Laws"

Political “Laws”
P. Schultz
September 16, 2012

            Here are two phenomena that I consider to be “laws” of politics. If you disagree, I would love to hear from you.

(1) If you want a republic, you cannot have an empire or an “imperialistic” or “activist, interventionist foreign policy.” If you have an “empire” or an “activist, interventionist foreign policy,” you cannot have a republic. Why? Well, just read or re-read Walter Lippman’s essays criticizing the foreign policy recommendations of “X” in the now famous essay by George Kennan that led, allegedly, to American foreign policy after World War II.

(2) If you pursue the creation of great wealth, the price you will pay will include significant social inequality or significant inequality, with all the attendant requirements such as the idea that some human beings are just significantly more human than others and that these better human beings have more money/wealth than the lesser human beings.

Sorry, but it seems to me that these are indeed “laws” of politics. Correct me if you think I am wrong. [The link to Lippmann follows.]

Maintaining the Status Quo

Maintaining the Status Quo
P. Schultz
September 16, 2012
            Here is an excerpt from an article in the NY Times, today, Sunday, September 16, 2012, speaking to what the article calls a “new strategy” by some Republicans to get elected or re-elected, touting the virtue of bipartisanship.
“They’re going to redefine, and we are going to remind. That’s what this is about,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “They were swept in on a Tea Party tsunami. The wave has receded, and they are left high and dry with their voting records.”
“With less than two months until Election Day, some House races may turn on whether the incumbent Republicans can shake the Tea Party label that Democrats are eager to press to them like flypaper.”

            So, as the likes of Walter Karp would say, the system is “working.” That is, it is working in that those in control are successfully maintaining status quo – and this despite about as much anger in the populace as I can remember for some time now. And before people get too excited over this alleged change, it would be useful to ask whether the status quo is really what we should want or need to maintain. It is almost as if people are breathing or about to breathe a sigh of relief as the partisanship of the last few years fades away and is replaced by a “politics of politeness,” at least for a little while. And perhaps this is what those who currently hold positions of power and prestige have wanted all along. So they fed the partisanship – such as it went and it didn’t go very deep – knowing that eventually this foolishness would be seen for what it was and people would be happy to return to status quo. Ah yes, paint the Tea Partiers as if they were and are responsible for the mess we are in, as the Democrats are now doing with Republicans as their allies. That should “work.” And we can move toward a “recovery,” but not to “reform.” Ah yes, recovering the road we were on that led us to our present situation – now there’s a goal that is, well, less than inspiring and might even seem insipid.

            And one last thought: It was bipartisanship that gave us Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terror, domestic spying on American citizens, TSA, No Child Left Behind, just to mention a few bipartisan policies. And here is what will seem to many a strange thought: Politics is always better when it is characterized by partisanship, not by bipartisanship. If you don’t believe me, read your Aristotle or your Machiavelli. They knew that where partisanship ended, nirvana did not begin.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Something's Happening Here

Something’s Happening Here
P. Schultz
September 15, 2012

Here is a passage from an article in the NY Times from today.

“The wave of unrest not only increased concern in the West but raised new questions about political instability in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle East countries where newfound freedoms, once suppressed by autocratic leaders, have given way to an absence of authority. The protests also seemed to highlight the unintended consequences of America’s support of movements to overthrow those autocrats, which have empowered Islamist groups that remain implacably hostile to the West.”

Just a couple of questions. First, “Middle Eastern countries…newfound freedoms…have [led] to an absence of authority.” Can we be sure this is accurate? Or does it reflect a particular and peculiar view of what “authority” means, viz., what we call “law and order” or an absence of protests? Protests need not reflect “an absence of authority” and could express assertions of a suppressed authority or the emergence of a different kind of authority, the authority of the street, as it were. “When I’m out on the street, I walk the way I want to walk…..I talk the way I want to talk.” [Bruce Springsteen]

Second, “The protests highlight…groups that remain implacably hostile to the West.” Can we be sure of this? Perhaps these groups are not “implacably hostile to the West” but are hostile to what Western nations have done to them, are hostile to certain policies of Western nations, you know, like supporting dictators and their dictatorial policies that have led to years, even decades of oppression, including religious oppression. Like almost any other human beings, these human beings don’t like being oppressed, having their most passionate beliefs oppressed and being treated unjustly and inhumanely. And this would actually be “good news” as it would mean that we in “the West” are not powerless to protect ourselves from these actions or reactions. All that is required is that we change our policies or, rather, just stop supporting dictators and those who would or are oppressing these people who are allegedly “implacably hostile to the West.”  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The "Two" Conventions

The “Two” Conventions
P. Schultz
September 13, 2012

            Below is an excerpt from a Ralph Nader column on the “two” conventions. This helps me understand why I found them so boring and even childish. But it is not just that the Democrats want “to continue dialing for the same corporate campaign dollars” that explains their behavior and that of the Republicans. This is certainly part of it. But it is useful to remember that as Nader says elsewhere in his column, we live in “an oligarchy greased by a plutocracy.” Obama and the Democrats, at least most of those who control the party now, are oligarchs, as are those who control the Republican Party. There will be no playing “offense,” as Nader said, or no “big proposals” but only “a protective agenda” as David Brooks said. And when you get these two guys to agree on what is happening, you can pretty much assume they have it right.

“Being on the offense with an agenda standing for and with the people who economically are being driven, along with their country, into the ground by unpatriotic global corporations and their political minions, should be easy. Unless, that is, the Democrats want to continue dialing for the same corporate campaign dollars.”

Ralph Nader, “Two Conventions: Profiles in Decadent Cowardliness”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Which Elephant in the Room?

Which Elephant in the Room?
P. Schultz
September 12, 2012

Here is a link to a column by Ross Douthat entitled “The Elephant in the Room,” which both enunciates and illustrates the problems the Republicans are having in beating Obama. To put it most succinctly, Douthat’s column says that the Republicans have little to offer the American people, especially after the debacle of the Shrub presidency. To wit:

“A presidential nominee could have filled this breach [caused by the Bush administration] with fresh rhetoric and creative policy, but Romney, compromised and uncourageous, hasn’t been the right man for that job. On economics, he’s shifted awkwardly between a message that focuses (sensibly) on the struggles of the middle and working classes and a much more conventional right-wing celebration of entrepreneurs and “job creators.” On national security, he’s campaigned as a by-the-numbers hawk, with barely a hint that hawkishness might have delivered America into difficulties during the last Republican administration.”

            True enough. But what Douthat illustrates is that this is all the Republicans – or the Democrats for that matter – have as he does not say what this “fresh rhetoric and creative policy” would be. And there is a reason for this emptiness, viz., Douthat’s failure, again illustrated by both Republicans and Democrats, to see that the need is not for  “fresh rhetoric” or “creative policy” but for republican rhetoric and republican policy. But because they are not actually a genuinely “republican” party, all the Republicans – or the Democrats – could offer was faux republican sentiments like those of Ann Romney, who tried to make it seem that young students attending college and living like college students were real republicans. This is the equivalent of Sarah Palin’s claim that she understood the Russians because she could see Russia from her house.

            But this game is up. This race has been run already, as Douthat points out, and it led, through the Clinton administration, to the Bush administration which led to debacles both abroad and at home. Most people are sensing that our political class is all smoke and mirrors, e.g., that Paul Ryan is not in actuality a deficit hawk and certainly not genuinely interested in republican values and, therefore, not much different than Shrub or even Ronald Reagan. But as Douthat himself illustrates, the Republicans have nothing to offer because they are not interested in a genuinely republican politics, that is, a politics that seeks to preserve or attain some decent level of social, political, and economic equality, that seeks to create or return to a society that aspires to be, at bottom, basically but pervasively egalitarian even if this means a society that is not as wealthy at home or as powerful abroad as that which both the Republican and Democratic parties now aspire to.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Our Politics

Our Politics
P. Schultz
September 9, 2012

I have finally figured something out. What makes our politics farcical is the fact that those we consider “leaders” are just ambitious human beings who are willing to put on whatever disguise that promises to garner them power and fame. And in this regard, they are just like those we label “entertainers” or the stars of our “pop culture.”

Friday, September 7, 2012

George Will and Political Philosophy

George Will and Political Philosophy
P. Schultz
September 7, 2012

Here is an exchange that I had with a former student and friend on Facebook, dealing with a column by George Will on Obama as a “radical.” Enjoy.

“Did you see the op-ed George Will wrote for the Washington Post today? It was that same bs casuistry that flowed freely in the political science department at our former institution....that Obama is a radical because he wants to change the founding fathers' (pause for respect) vision for how citizens relate to the government........when in actuality he's a moderate Republican who wants to raise taxes slightly on the rich and use government money to stimulate the middle class instead of just the can educated people buy into this??? Two facebook friends of mine--currently in political philosophy PhD programs-- posted the article in complete support of what he was saying! They can probably recite CIcero and Rosseau in their sleep, but post this crap by George Will as if it's all encapsulated within the "natural right" paradigm! It's enough to make a cat laugh! I need a drink!”

Yes, Chris, I saw the Will column but refused to read it because it was just asinine! And, yes, it's premise did remind me of the Political Science Department at Assumption Collge, where "political philosophy" is taught not as a way to get the young to think, and especially to think about "our way" and it deficiencies and defects. Rather, "pol. philosophy" is taught as a weapon, to arm the young to defend a particular and peculiar oligarchic and nationalistic agenda, to make the young warlike, not thoughtful nor questioning. And, of course, like any attempt to make the young warlike, this one requires blinding them. It is really sad that this is what Strauss' and others' legacy has come to: Sophistry of the worse kind. It is no wonder that Professor Dobski had no problem with going to Israel one summer on an all expenses paid junket to "learn" about "terrorism" and "terrorists" from the Israelis in Israel - not Israeli terrorists of course but only "the other" kind. And the "price" for this junket was that Dobski agreed to create and teach a course on terrorism - not Israeli terrorism of course - which he did. Ah yes, no danger of propaganda being taught in that course. I would bet he sent his course to Israel as confirmation of his loyalty. And think of it: This is the man who felt he could comment on your character in an inappropriate and inaccurate way! Talk about needing a drink! How about two or three??

Funny story: Once in class, I was expounding on the current prejudice against alcohol and crazy stuff like what passes for a definition of "binge drinking" these days and a young women said, shyly and sweetly: "But Professor Schultz, you don't need to drink." Well, I paused, looked kindly at her, looked at the class, and then back at her and said: "I don't know what world you live in. But in the world I live in, I need to drink!" I must say, it was one of my best moments!! And this confirms its accuracy!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pro-Life Not Anti-Choice

Pro-Life Not As Anti-Choice
P. Schultz
September 6, 2012

            It has become commonplace for those who are pro-life to think that this means, if followed consistently, one must be anti-choice. That is, if one is in favor of choosing life, then that same person must be for outlawing abortion, perhaps even in cases of rape and/or incest. I submit that this is not necessary nor is it even admirable.

            As I listened to Rick Santorum speak at the Republican convention about his daughter, Bella, I was struck by his passion, his love for this daughter and the strength of the love they shared. I did not hear a politician; I heard a father, a man who loved with his whole heart, his whole being, his daughter. And not a word about limiting choice; not a word about outlawing abortion; not a word about regulating it in ways that stop just short of outlawing it. Nor, I thought, were such words necessary. Rick Santorum had done in those moments what I never thought he could do: He made me respect him, he made me admire him, he made me applaud his and his wife’s choice or choices. And in those moments he made me pro-life – or perhaps to be fairer to myself, he confirmed my pro-life preferences.

            There is, I was reminded then, a pro-life rhetoric that is as powerful as any rhetoric I have ever heard. It is the rhetoric that some like to draw on when they quote the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is the kind of rhetoric that moves people, that directs them and does so without the benefit of laws.

            But further this rhetoric need not lead and should not lead to an anti-choice imperative. This rhetoric is so powerful that, if repeated and spoken as Santorum did it, it need not lead to an anti-choice agenda. People will choose life more often than not – but only if we speak a language and practice a politics of pro-life not only consistently but freely. Hence, those who are pro-life should not be anti-choice because it is our choices that define us. The opportunity to choose is the opportunity to be virtuous, to practice virtue, here to choose life. A choice constrained by law is not equivalent to an act performed freely, without a legal obligation to perform it.  Hence, charity and welfare are two different phenomena because the one is given freely while the other is a legal requirement, a legal bequest. Similarly, as Aristotle noticed in his critique of Socratic communism, without private property, human beings cannot practice generosity, as they would have nothing to give to others freely and absent compulsion. Choice or freedom is absolutely necessary for virtue to be practiced, for human beings to be, well, human beings.

            There is something about a regime based on rights that propels a society toward legal regulations because there is something about rights that enshrines or fortifies self-interest. As a result it is thought that absent strong laws, self-interest will prevail. But this could be wrong. The power of Rick Santorum’s rhetoric makes me think it is wrong. If human beings are given a choice, a real choice, between life and death, between love and self-interest, they will almost always choose life and love over death and self-interest.

Ben Franklin and the Presidency

Franklin on the Presidency
P. Schultz
September 6, 2012

            Here are a couple of paragraphs from a speech by Ben Franklin, given at the constitutional convention in 1787, a speech that was Franklin’s criticism of the presidency that was then being created. I like to read this speech every so often to remind myself of the character of the new government being created and proposed then and to remind myself that it is possible for some to see the future quite clearly. In another part of this speech, not copied here, Franklin predicts that at some time in the future, we the American people would have a king. As we endure another presidential campaign that is not being contested by “the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust,” it is safe to say that good, old Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about. I am tempted to write: Read it and weep but I prefer Willie Nelson: “I laugh when I can and I live with the rest.”

“Sir, there are two passions which have a powerful influence on the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power, and the love of money. Separately each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men, a post of honour that shall be at the same time a place of profit, and they will move heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is that renders the British Government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true sources of all those factions which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting its Councils, hurrying sometimes into fruitless & mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace. 

And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable pre- eminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate; the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your Government and be your rulers. -And these too will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation: For their vanquished competitors of the same spirit, and from the same motives will perpetually be endeavouring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The "Static" Campaign

The Static Campaign
P. Schultz
September 4, 2012

"The truth is that for all the action-packed, content-free verbiage employed to describe it, the contest between Obama and Romney has been remarkably static." Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, today.

Why should we expect this campaign to be different than the politics it reflects and that it will be followed by?  "Static?" Of course it is. The whole point of this election is to short circuit any real change; hence, our two candidates are "Mr. White Bread" and "Mr. Almost White Bread."

Here is another way to judge how static this campaign is. Reflect on the number of “issues” that have arisen that are just not relevant to the state of our union today and those that have not appeared that are. For example, as outlandish as Rep. Akin’s comments on abortion were, there is no real issue there. Anyone who thinks that even a Republican Congress and President will pass an anti-abortion law of the kind that Akin and Ryan claim they want is mistaken. Romney’s religion? Obama’s religion? How these translate into real issues is beyond me. Both Ryan and Obama agree on reducing the monies spent on Medicare and even by the same amount. Could anything convey “statism” more clearly than this? And both parties speak about social security as an “entitlement,” surely a prelude to the taking of our retirement money in order to “save” social security!

And is anyone in a position of power, in either party, talking about Citizens United? Not within my hearing. Jon Huntsman did so on the Colbert Report the other night but then Huntsman is no longer in the race. Coincidence? Not really. Is anyone talking about Afghanistan or even Iran? Again, not within my hearing. And no one, more generally, is saying anything about changing – almost in any way – how we do domestic politics and how we do foreign policy.

You know, more and more, Clint Eastwood’s little thing with the empty chair seems more and more appropriate. This is not only a “static” campaign; it is also an empty one. Coincidence? I don’t think so.