Friday, November 30, 2012


P. Schultz
November 30, 2012

            How does anyone express gratitude to one who has given love when it was needed?

            I grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey, and I grew up along side of Bob Nann, who was our “star.” He was “the athlete,” playing football, basketball, and baseball in our high school and he was “the star.” I did play sports but I was never in the league that Bob Nann played in. He was truly exceptional.

            We graduated together and went to college. Bob ended up a Marine and, of course, was sent to Vietnam. I did not know this until much later when Bob called me and told me that my brother, Charlie, who was killed in Vietnam, would be honored in Memorial Park in Metuchen. When I met Bob, he told me that he had seen the firefight in which Charlie had been killed and I found myself home and with a place of solace and peace in Memorial Park. Bob, despite what he had “experienced” in Nam, reached out to me and gave me comfort and brotherhood. He cared for me.

            How does one express gratitude for such acts of human kindness? For such acts of love? I do not know. I suspect there is no way to do so beyond remembering, beyond sanctifying the act itself.

            It is said by some that “the dead” are not really “dead” until all those who knew them have also died. I believe this. Bob Nann will always reach out to me until the day I die. And I will love him until then.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meacham's Jefferson

Meacham’s Jefferson
P. Schultz
November 26, 2012

            Attached is an op-ed piece from the NY Times by John Meacham, a historian, writing about Jefferson and his “politicking.” Typically, Meacham focuses on the trivial and not the essentials of Jefferson, focusing on his use of dinners as a way to “relate” to his opponents. He also mentions how Jefferson strove to differentiate himself from Washington and the latter’s behavior as president. Again, though he, Meacham, misses the most important aspects of Jefferson’s behavior, such as his going about town, as it was put by one of his opponents, dressed shabbily and without the coach and accouterments preferred by Washington. Meacham also fails to mention that Jefferson radically downsized the national government and, when he left office, had helped to put in place a nomination process for president that made the party caucuses the nominators. Most significantly, however, Jefferson helped to create a system in which the Congress was the predominant department of the government, not the presidency or the executive more generally.

            I too would like Obama to model himself on Jefferson and he should begin by not delivering in person the State of the Union to both houses of the Congress. He should, as Jefferson did, send his State of the Union as a message and have it read in Congress by someone there. This would help Obama to model himself on the behavior of a man who was always skeptical of and careful to avoid “monarchical practices.” What do you think the chances are that Obama, or any other “modern” president, would actually model himself on Jefferson? That’s right, between zero and none.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Read It and Weep

Read It and Weep
P. Schultz
November 20, 2012

            Ah yes, the “military-industrial-think tank” complex is going strong with results that are predictable. Aren’t we proud? Well, not so much.


P. Schultz
November 20, 2012

Well, it looks like I will have to check out those whom Brooks describes as “paleo-conservatives,” as they are, as Brooks says, skeptical of “bigness,” even in the military. But perhaps it isn’t “bigness” that these guys are opposed to but the results of bigness, that is, the triumph of the urban-industrial mindset and its foundation, a stilted consciousness, one that cannot even see phenomena, e.g., imperialism, that are hidden in plain sight and are inhuman.

But, all in all, there is some stuff here it will be interesting to investigate and Brooks does a pretty good job of not marginalizing any of it. Defeat, like death, sometimes serves worthwhile results or, as my mother use to say, “It is an ill wind that blows no good,” although I would not classify the Republicans defeat as an ill wind! Nor would my mother have done so.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gaming the System

Gaming the System
P. Schultz
November 16, 2012

Here is an email exchange I had with a friend. Thought it might be interesting to others. His email is first.

The problem with Republicans is that they think everyone is like them, and that the point in life is not to play fair, but to game the system.

Romney said this in the election; Ryan said the same thing in the last couple of days.  The problem, they claim, with raising taxes on the wealthy, is that those on the "low end" of the wealthy, in particular small business, aren't wealthy enough to hire a phalanx of high powered accountants to figure out how to exploit every loophole, however shady it might be, to avoid paying taxes.  Consequently, the really wealthy hire such people and don't pay the 38%, but it's only the "sort of wealthy" who can afford the accountants and end up paying the full amount. 

Same line of thought.  Obamacare.  How to game the system?  If you're required to contribute to insurance of those working for you who work over 30 hours a week, cut their hours back to 28.  That's a reason why Obamacare probably won't work.  It was hatched by the Heritage Foundation as a way to avoid a single payer system and keep insurance companies in the game.  The system can be gamed.  

The guy who owns Paps John's pizza is threatening to do this.  The fucker has this gargantuan house, his own friggin' private golf course as his back yard, and a 22 car garage.  And Romney talked about him and said, "isn't that great.  Isn't that something what free enterprise can do with something as simple as pizza."  A guy named Ponzi figured out the problem with this.  It's not possible for every Mom and Pop pizza store to expand into a giant chain.  The market can support only so many giant chains.  I think after maybe your 3rd car, you might want to think about setting up a foundation of some sort.  But I guess I don't have that "entrepreneurial spirit."

It's like playing board games with my brother.  He tries to find every pay possible to exploit ambiguities in the rules and "go outside the clearly intended purpose of the game," thereby completely negating the spirit of the game.  He votes Republican.

Yes, Paul, I agree. But "gaming the system" is our way of life and not confined to the Republicans. This does not make their actions any less reprehensible, just more understandable. The health insurance "system" we have is a result of "gaming," by Obama and many, many others. They looked for a way to get such insurance while meeting other goals as well, as you point out, keeping insurance companies in the game. 

From my perspective, this phenomenon is merely the offshoot of a politics of ambition, which is what I call the kind of politics recommended by and created by the Federalists and our founding fathers. It's character is captured nicely in an address by A. Lincoln entitled "On the Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" that he gave in the 1830s, I think. Up to date version is "In the Lake of the Woods" a novel by Tim O'Brien and also one that students love to read. [The movie version sucks.] As a friend said a long time ago, one of the founders greatest failings was in assuming that they - and we - did not need to pay attention to fostering moral virtue, that this was a constant that would leaven the effects of ambition. I say that the founders did not think moral virtue - simple restraint, to start with - was needed, that ambition was and would be enough to get us through. Hamilton, in the Federalist, wrote of "the love of fame, the ruling passion of the noblest minds," no doubt with himself and Washington in mind. [I believe both Plato and Aristotle thought of politics in far different terms than Hamilton: the love of fame should be redirected or satisfied in ways other than politics given the dangers it creates. Or as some have argued, Plato was looking to substitute Socrates for Achilles as the "role model" for Athenian/human youths.]

And while we rely on ambition, we are shocked, again and again, when its limitations are revealed, e.g., the Petraeus [or "Betrayus", as his wife should call him now] affair. Ambitious? Heck, the guy married the daughter of the head of West Point after he was graduated from there. It's a classic. 

I guess this is my way of saying, as I use to say to students of Bush II, the Republican Party isn't the problem; it is rather a reflection of the problem. Any way, that's my take on this phenomenon. And I will add that when ambition is given a national stage to play on, things only get worse as this stage feeds on and attracts or feeds those types Hamilton thought were the "noblest." 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Betrayus or Petraeus?

Betrayus or Petraeus?
P. Schultz
November 14, 2012

            Why is it that a lot of people assume that a person’s sexual behavior and his or her political behavior are or can be different? I mean this assumption, illustrated by the link provided here, strikes me as odd, to say the least. JFK engaged in risky sexual behavior and so we think that he would not engage in risky political behavior. But this makes no sense to me, not because sexual behavior and political behavior are indistinguishable but because a human being who engages in risky behavior is, well, a human being who engages in risky behavior. JFK’s political behavior got him killed, although this is about the last thing we Americans want to admit. Because if we admitted that, we would also have to admit that some of what we want to consider unwarranted aggression committed against us would have to be rethought.  Anyway, General Petraeus’ sexual behavior and his political behavior are of a piece. We can deal with that or pretend that compartmentalization is a fact of life. I say we deal with it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mythmaking American Style

Mythmaking American Style
P. Schultz
November 8, 2012

            Here we go again. Apparently, according to Joel Achenbach, the election results demonstrate that not only is our nation deeply divided politically, but that it is becoming even more deeply divided than before. And no doubt this analysis will be followed by a rehashing of the idea of “the culture wars” that are allegedly afflicting the nation. We have, we will be told, a “red” nation and a “blue” nation and, allegedly, never the twain shall meet.

            Now, while this makes for drama, it is hardly the only conclusion that one could draw from the 2012 presidential election. In fact, it makes more sense to draw a conclusion that is quite the reverse of this one: Our nation is not deeply divided at all, although there are divisions and for some these divisions are taken to be quite significant. Consider, for example, the state I live in now, North Carolina. It as a state voted for Romney by a little over or a little under 100,000 votes, out of millions cast. Of course, on a red state/blue state map, North Carolina appears as a red state, fortifying the idea that the nation is deeply divided. But how could this be when a shift of a relatively small number of votes would transform North Carolina, hocus pocus, into a blue state? And, of course, the same phenomenon is visible in Florida, which as of today’s NY Times can not be labeled either red or blue. Change a relatively few votes and Florida can be labeled either red or blue, as you choose.

            Let me suggest the following: Our nation is not deeply divided, but it is deeply disturbed. That is, people are disturbed that our politicians seem unable to govern successfully by which I mean in large part “representifully,” to coin a new word. We the people are quite fed up with our politicians’ apparent incompetence and their even more apparent desire to help those who need the least help. We the people are also fed up with spending millions, no, billions of dollars to fight wars that make little sense and bear little fruit. In other words, we the people are disturbed by the kind of politics, a militaristic, oligarchic politics, being practiced in Washington.

            But, of course, if we focus on the alleged “deep divisions” in the nation, we can, for all practical purposes, ignore popular dissatisfaction with the kind of politics our politicians are practicing. And, by this illusion, we as a nation don’t need a new kind of politics and probably a new political class; rather, we need the current politicians to come together for the sake of “moderation” or “civil peace.” According to this logic, we don’t need change; we just need more of the same done peacefully. And this is a message the current political class loves to hear and one which follows hard on the alleged fact of a “deeply divided nation.”

But glimmers of the people’s desire for a new kind of politics are visible, e.g., in Colorado and Washington, where the people voted to end the war on drugs by legalizing the use of marijuana, and in Maryland and Maine, where the people voted to legalize gay and lesbian marriage. Both votes, besides the immediate outcomes, indicate that the people don’t think that these issues – and certainly others as well – are best handled by the politicians in Washington, D.C. And I dare say that if any candidate who opposes our militarization had been allowed to be heard, that candidate would have garnered a whole lot of votes.

The people, the voters, know the difference between “divided” and “disturbed” and they also know that what they want is a new kind of politics. And it is this fact that scares the crap out of our reigning political class and its trumpeters, like Joel Auchenbach. And so, when presented with an election that promised no chance for real change, voters chose to keep things as they are. So much for a “deeply divided nation.”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Our Corrupt Regime: An Email Exchange

Well, Chris, I disagree that "under Obama we have a chance." I believe, in fact, he may be worse than Romney because he does or wants to do the same things - like "Obamacare" - while pretending they are from necessity. In this way, he legitimates policies that Bush and probably Romney could not legitimate, even if he, Romney, adopted them. Besides all we have is Romney's rhetoric and as was evident while governor of Mass. Romney's rhetoric means nothing when it comes to his governing. He does what he thinks will cause him the least resistance. He is no more committed to what is called "conservatism" these days than he is to dressage!

But, for me, the bottom line is that I have concluded that our political regime today - and it is the same regime whether Obama or Romney wins, with some minor differences - is as corrupt as it was in the mid to late 60s  - the Vietnam War - and early 70s - Watergate. But since the 70s, the powers that be have gutted the impeachment provisions of the Constitution via Nixon's resignation [and Congress' decision not to pursue impeachment after he resigned], the farce that was the Iran-Contra hearings [even Ollie North has admitted that the Congress deliberately did not pursue actions by him and the Reagan administration that were far worse than those they did pursue - I am assuming he was talking in part about the CIA helping drug smugglers bring drugs into the U.S. among other things], and finally by the farce that was the "impeachment" of Bill Clinton [one way to destroy an institutional check on the powerful is to abuse it, as the powerful did not only with the obviously concocted and asinine impeachment of Clinton but with independent prosecutors as well]. So our presidents are, for all practical purposes, unaccountable to us or the Congress, which has been part of the Progressive agenda for quite a few decades now [and here by the "Progressives" I include those who pretend to be "conservatives" - e.g., the "neo-cons" - as well as those who are labeled "liberals"] and of course includes a government that is unaccountable in any significant way. [You may throw in the "Citizens' United" decision too if you wish to as that is part and parcel of this project to render government unaccountable to the people as it allows our elections to be bought and sold.]

Both Romney, despite his rhetoric, and Obama, with his rhetoric, embrace a pervasively powerful and essentially unaccountable national government, a government that is essentially lawless and rabidly militaristic [for example, the Patriot Act is only criticized by those like Gary Johnson who have been marginalized]. Faced with a consensus like this, I choose to play golf, drink with my good friend "Jack Daniels," and enjoy my retirement, while sympathizing with those your age and younger who are, plainly, getting screwed. Oh yeah, I also reread "No Country For Old Men" every so often in order to relish Sheriff Bell's wisdom and try to figure out "what's coming" or what the order under the control of Chigurh will be like. "A Quiet American" helps too, along with some Mark Twain on U.S. imperialism. 

On Nov 2, 2012, at 7:14 PM, Kessing, Christopher wrote:

I think there are two major things at play.
1. Our country is getting worse, so it stands that our presidents will need to get worse. We sell out more jobs, make more honorable jobs obsolete, go after natural resources to feed our moribund economy, deny science and interrupt climate justice, do crazy things in foreign policy and how we secretly treat prisoners, and we run a police state to ensure "security." This is why in a lot of ways Obama is indeed the "worst" president we've ever had, despite inspiring rhetoric--he has to be the worst to keep the imperial, oil-driven equilibrium.
2. Romney's rhetoric is considerably worse, which would normalize a lot of the anti-democratic/imperialist avenues Obama has upheld or taken on his own. This would further the shift to the right, I think. Obama is no progressive but a lot of his worst offenses have been out of necessity. Romney would seek those options out.

So under Obama we have a chance, if we fight. Just like under FDR who was a moderate but had to cave to the populist sentiments of the age. I think Romney would resist the populist uprising at all costs. In that way I think he would be worse than Bush, who didn't fundamentally change a lot of automatic economic stabilizers like food stamps, unemployment insurance and Medicaid.

With that said, I voted for Rocky Anderson, a helluva good man, and would have voted for Dr. Jill Stein if she was on my ballot (I don't believe in write ins because they are generally not counted.)


Friday, November 2, 2012

Hope and Change? Not So Much

Hope and Change? Not So Much
P. Schultz
November 2, 2012

There is little that I need to add to this assessment of Obama. I would just point out that in my local paper, the Winston Salem Journal, there is an article today, showing pictures of Obama and Romney, over the headline “Obama and Romney: I’m the real candidate of change.” Well, I cannot not think of much that more clearly illustrates the farcical character of our politics. For me, I have the feelings of betrayal like those I had when I finally could recognize that my older brother – and 58,000 other young Americans – had died in Vietnam because of the delusions and mechanizations of those who governed us. It is simply amazing to me how well “real reality” can be disguised and people misled by those who claim to serve them. 

“A recent series of articles in the Washington Post, among other publications, has revealed the extent to which the Obama administration has not merely entrenched Bush administration policies but developed a new "matrix" or "playbook" (as Chief Counter-Terrorism Adviser John O Brennan describes it) to ensure that perceived threats and enemies can be disposed of in a manner that is "so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit".
“The "disposition matrix" that has been developed is a "next-generation targeting list" that supposedly pairs the name of every suspected terrorist with all the possible ways in which that person can be disposed of, whether through drones, special operations, local government actions or capture. The development of this matrix signals recognition that the US will be disposing of perceived enemies for years to come, with no end in sight. 

“As one senior official explained, "We can't possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us [now]... We're not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, 'We love America'."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Is This Election Over?

Is the Election Over?
P. Schultz
November 1, 2012

            Below is a link to an article from the Washington Post from today, November 1, 2012, which is about claims by the Romney campaign that they could possibly win Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and even Michigan. But when I read the article and then perused some of the comments at the end, I began to wonder if this article is not actually telling us – obliquely and unintentionally perhaps – that this election if all but over and Obama will be re-elected. I cannot say just why this is my reading but it is.

            And that led to another speculation: What if the election is over, barring unforeseen events or developments, and both campaigns and the media know this? Nonetheless, these campaigns and the media continue to pretend that this election is up for grabs. Why would this happen? How does this benefit the political class or the media? Of course, the media benefits because many still watch and read it, thinking that there is a battle going on. And the political class benefits because this makes it seem as if something important is going on, that the political battle they want us to think characterizes our nation is going down to the last day, the last minute, the last second. But it could be that this is all a farce; just as the political class has given us a “choice” that is not a real choice, so too it has given us a contested election which is no longer a contest. Just sayin’.