Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's All the Hoopla About, Part 2

What’s All the Hoopla About, Part 2
P. Schultz
September 28, 2013

            The title of the article whose link is below is: “House GOP To Plan Next Step As Budget Clock Runs Down.” But, again, as I read this article, it illustrates that almost nothing will change as a result of this “battle” between the Republicans and Democrats and between different factions of the Republican Party. It strikes me that this little “drama” is a lot like our presidential elections, where the drama of the election obscures the fact that once the election is over, almost nothing of any importance changes. So, what we get is whole lot of “drama” or apparent “drama” and little change in the status quo. And if preserving the status quo were the goal of those in charge of the established order – a goal that seems never to occur to anyone as quite common in politics – then it is wrong to say that “Washington is broken” because from the perspective of those who benefit from the status quo, it is working quite well, thank you very much.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What's All The Hoopla About?

What’s All the Hoopla About?
P. Schultz
September 27, 2013

            Posted below is a link from an article in Politico which considers the possible outcomes of the current activity in D.C. over the debt limit and, apparently, over “Obamacare.” Now, correct me if I am wrong – and I mean this sincerely – but as I read this article, my conclusion is that, whatever the outcome, not much is going to change in terms of the budget or the deficit.

            So, please read this article and see if you reach the same conclusion. I will not be offended if you don’t.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ted Cruz Radical?

Ted Cruz Radical? Not So Much
P. Schultz
September 24, 2013

            Ted Cruz is presenting himself as an alternative to “the norms” that control politics in D.C. these days, according to this article in Politico. “The chattering class” is repressing him because, he says, he is not interested in “cutting a deal,” as are his colleagues apparently.

            Well, being all in favor of those who would “stir the stew” in D.C., I think that Cruz is merely serving to preserve established order, while pretending to being devoted to overturning it. To see this, it is necessary to also see that those in charge of the established order are merely trying to preserve it and the way to that these days is to do little or nothing, at least in most instances. Why? Because they are aware that the established order and their places in it are threatened by popular dissatisfaction, to say the least, with “standard operating procedures.” Reflective of this is Cruz himself, who rode into the Senate on a wave of dissatisfaction only occasionally experienced in this nation.

            People ask why Cruz is taking a stand that will not “win,” that will not accomplish anything. Well, the answer to that question is in the question itself: Accomplishing little or nothing is and has been the goal of those controlling the established order. Cruz is merely serving to advance that “agenda,” while trying to appear as a “radical.” He isn’t one and he isn’t acting like one. I thought someone should point that out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

9/11 = 9-1-1?

9/11 = 911?
P. Schultz
September 22, 2013

            I am presently reading a book entitled, Conspiracy Theory in America, by Lance deHaven-Smith, which argues that the concept of “conspiracy theory” was created with the help of the CIA in order to deflect attention away from what deHaven calls “State Crimes Against Democracy” or “SCADS”. And, as he points out, those who embrace “conspiracy theories” are thought of as delusional or even insane. And this despite the facts that we know some conspiracies have taken place, such as Watergate and Iran-Contra, and that these conspiracies were meant to undermine or sidestep our “democracy.”

            There is much in this book I find less than persuasive. For example, deHaven seems to accept the characterization of John F. Kennedy as a “dove,” which he must in order to argue that his assassination could have been – he does not assert that it was – the result of a conspiracy undertaken by “hawks” who were fearful that Kennedy would undermine the military-industrial complex. This reading of Kennedy strikes me as just bizarre.

            And yet there are other parts of the book that make more sense to me. For example, deHaven raises the question of why the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and potentially the White House or the Capitol are referred to as “9/11.” At first, I was skeptical that this question had any importance but as deHaven points out, we don’t refer to the attack on Pearl Harbor as “12/7.” Moreover, except for the fourth of July, we really don’t refer to other important political events by their dates. We don’t refer to the assassination of JFK as “11/22,” for example, or the assassination of Lincoln by its date. So, why should we refer to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by its date?

            DeHaven argues that this is to set off those events as world-changing events, the date when “everything changed” and a “permanent emergency” was created. Hence, the connection deHaven draws between 9/11 and the emergency phone number 9-1-1. Why do this? Well, if we are facing not only an emergency but a permanent emergency, then the government will be justified in taking all measures it thinks necessary to meet this emergency insofar as emergencies justify the use of all or any measures thought necessary to meet them.

            I grant that this is speculative on deHaven’s part. But consider this: After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the following shorthand appeared: “Boston – 617 – Strong,” where “617” is the area code for Boston! I wondered when I saw this shorthand why use the telephone area code and not the date. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But now it makes more sense as 9/11 must be thought of as unique, unlike almost any other event or events.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


P. Schultz
September 19, 2013

            These passages are from a book, Conspiracy Theory in America, by Lance deHaven-Smith, which is about the concept of “conspiracy theory” as it is known in the United States today. Of course, as most know, the be accused of believing in “conspiracy theories” is almost a sure road to marginalization at least and ostracism at worst. DeHaven-Smith thinks this is not only wrong but dangerous, as well as inconsistent with older traditions of American political thought, including that of the founding generation. But in the course of describing the origins of this mode of thinking, deHaven-Smith makes some illuminating remarks about Leo Strauss.

            “On the basis of an innovative analysis of classical political philosophy, Strauss challenged modern belief in the civilizing effect of science. He concluded that ancient philosophers had realized that a society based on philosophy alone eventually transformed into tyranny. The truth discovered by philosophy is that there are no gods, the universe is eternal rather than created, and life according to nature is for the strong to rule the weak. If this truth is shared with people who are not philosophers, social order will be destroyed because non-philosophers will no longer revere their society as unique and exemplary and will become lawless and politically opportunistic. Elites will abandon restraint in their competition with each other, and the masses will turn to elite demagogues who promise them equality of power, wealth, and status. The result will be rule by the will of the tyrant rather than by the laws of the land.

            “Strauss argued that totalitarianism had arisen in Western civilization in the 1930s because modern philosophers had failed to conceal their dangerous truths from ordinary men….In Strauss’ view….science had destroyed belief in God and in the laws of religion, and this led to totalitarianism and to what Strauss called ‘the crisis of the West.’

            “For Strauss, the only strategy likely to succeed in preserving liberal democracy and the philosophical way of life it allowed was to prop up confidence in Western values and the democratic system of government. He believed this necessitated noble lies and salutary myths, which would include an account of history showing that the democracy in question was fair in war and generous in peace, and that its founders were unmatched in courage, honesty, and overall greatness. Strauss believed there is a natural tendency to revere ancient authority, but this human inclination must be reinforced with tales of heroism. Presumably, civic culture would also need to be buttressed by calculated acts of hypocrisy by the nation’s leaders – for example, President Roosevelt maneuvering Japan to attack the United States; the victorious Allies trying and executing Japanese and German leaders for war crimes the Allies had also committed; and harping about the threat of global communism during the Cold War when much of the ‘expansionism’ the U.S. decried was coming from the U.S. itself. Strauss did not speak openly of all that would be condoned by his point of view, but SCADs [State Crimes Against Democracy] to shore up hatred against the enemy would seem to be acceptable. The key consideration would be the ability to avoid detection. Just about anything would be allowed if it could be kept secret.” [pp. 98-100]

            Hence, the need for “conspiracy theory” denials and deniers, and, more generally, the need for a “culture,” a mindset that treats talk of conspiracies or evidence of conspiracies as paranoia, even mental illness, to be dismissed out of hand – unless of course the conspiracies in question were the work of our enemies, whether these enemies be communists or Islamists. Conspiracies meant to modify [“martialize” or militarize] and control [“high tone” or “oligarchize”] “democracy” or “representative government,” undertaken by our leaders, should be treated as the delusions of madmen or the flaky, not because they are false, as Karl Popper had argued, but rather because they are true – as Strauss implied and Machiavelli argued.

            One result of this “culture,” not at all unintended, is that serious scholars and intellectuals sneer at anyone taking conspiracies seriously and focus their attention and efforts on, say, the founding fathers who are to be treated as statesmen of the highest order. Scholars like Charles and Mary Beard, authors of An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution and President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941: Appearances and Reality are not to be taken seriously but rather dismissed as mere partisans and simpleminded partisans at that.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Syria: "The chaos will be extended."

Syria: “This chaos will be extended.”
P. Schultz
September 16, 2013

            “This chaos will be extended,” Mr. Nashar said in an interview in Istanbul.”

This is a quote from Samir Nashar, who is a member of the main opposition group in exile to Assad and I believe he has it right. I also believe that this is the goal of the current Obama/Bush administration, and was the goal of the Clinton administration as well. I believe this is so because, as judged by their actions and the results of their actions, the US policy since the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power has been to create chaos and bloodshed throughout the Middle East. That “fiasco” following the Iraq invasion was no accident. As Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said at the time: “Stuff happens.”

Why, you ask, would the US pursue such a policy? Because those in power know that it is impossible to “defeat” those forces, Arab and Muslim, that are seeking power in that part of the world. And also because it would not be in the “interests” of the US to reach an accommodation with these forces as that would jeopardize our access to Mideast oil, undermine the security of Israel, and endanger what is perceived as US hegemony throughout the world [the code words for this hegemony are “American credibility”]. Therefore, the most rational policy, the most “realistic” policy is to contribute to and create as much chaos and bloodshed as possible in the Middle East, thereby depriving the insurgent forces of the ability to gain power and keep it.

Death and destruction as an end as well as a means? Exactly. And as the “realists” will tell you, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.” Or, if you prefer, “Freedom isn’t free.” Untoward affects on our troops and eventually our army itself? To be sure. That is why it is now the eleventh commandment to say, “I support the troops.” Of course, the madness here is all-too-evident: supporting the troops means sending them, repeatedly, into battles and wars the government has no intention of “winning.” Which is not only expensive but inhumane. But, hey, that is a small price to pay for “hegemony.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Syria and the Magic Show

Syria and The Magic Show
P. Schultz
September 15, 2013

Raymond A. Zilinskas, a senior scientist at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said chemical experts would get up early to beat the desert heat, donning full-body protective suits that protected them from hazardous fumes at sites where lethal toxins were being incinerated in open pits.

“They’d supervise the Iraqis,” he said of the United Nations inspectors. But the local workers themselves, he added, wore sandals and “put rags over their faces.”

“But the rapid work gave way to gradual obstruction. Mr. Hussein grew increasingly hostile to United Nations arms inspectors, and by late 1998, seven years after the gulf war ended, the United States fired hundreds of cruise missiles at Iraq in an unsuccessful bid to force Baghdad to get serious. That effort largely failed, and the absence of inspectors led the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies to make projections about how quickly Mr. Hussein was rebuilding his arsenals. Those estimates, which fueled the march to war in 2003, proved entirely wrong.”

These paragraphs are from a story in today’s NY Times about the coming effort to destroy Syria’s cache of chemical weapons. As the article makes clear, this task will not be easy even if it had the full support of Assad and his government. However, the article also makes clear why Assad probably will not cooperate because he knows that the issue of his chemical weapons is a phony issue. The issue is, of course, him and the goal of the US and its allies is to make him disappear.

“Mr. Assad, however, also knows that Mr. Hussein and Colonel Qaddafi were both deposed and ultimately executed years after giving up their weapons.
“The history does not exactly create an incentive,” the senior administration official said.”

It is always interesting to me how those in charge of the established order act like magicians, making issues and persons appear and disappear with some sleight of hand. The issue in Syria is not and has never been their chemical weapons. It is and has been Assad and the need to remove him from power in order to “stabilize” the Middle East, where “stabilization” means protecting US access to oil and Israel. If the road to that goal necessitates supporting jihadists, as the US did in Libya and is now doing in Syria, then so be it. Apparently, these groups can be dealt with later.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Syria: More Smoke and Mirrors?

Syria; More Smoke and Mirrors?
P. Schultz
September 14, 2013

Here are a couple of passages from the NY Times, today, describing what it is calling a significant decision by Obama, viz., “effectively [taking] force off the table,” a decision it is said “underscored his desire to forge a workable diplomatic compromise and avoid a strike that would be deeply unpopular at home.”

Now, given the fact that including the use of force in a UN resolution was a non-starter because Russia would veto any such resolution, it is difficult to see how Obama’s decision is significant in any way, as it “simply acknowledged the reality of the Security Council, where Russia wields a veto….” Of course, it could be described as significant if one sees that decision as another step leading up to an attack on Syria, while pacifying what the Times describes as deep feelings of opposition at home. Of course, I could be giving Obama too much “credit” for forethought but, as a Zen Buddhist might say, “we will see.” And I would point out, that as the opposition is presently so intense, waiting a couple weeks, while playing at the game of “diplomacy,” makes sense. Popular opposition to military strikes in the US – and probably elsewhere – has been known to dissipate, especially when such a mind set is being facilitated by the government.

“A significant sign of movement at the United Nations came Friday when the Obama administration effectively took force off the table in discussions over the shape of a Security Council resolution governing any deal with Syria. Although Mr. Obama reserved the right to order an American military strike without the United Nations’ backing if Syria reneges on its commitments, senior officials said he understood that Russia would never allow a Security Council resolution authorizing force.

“As a strategic matter, that statement simply acknowledged the reality on the Security Council, where Russia wields a veto and has vowed to block any military action against Syria, its ally. But Mr. Obama’s decision to concede the point early in talks underscored his desire to forge a workable diplomatic compromise and avoid a strike that would be deeply unpopular at home. It came just days after France, his strongest supporter on Syria, proposed a resolution that included a threat of military action. “

Friday, September 13, 2013

Syria: More Smoke and Mirrors

Syria: More Smoke and Mirrors
P. Schultz
September 13, 2013

“….[S]aid one Damascus-based analyst who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. “The chemical weapons deal — there is no deal, it’s very impractical, and if that becomes clear, it could put Obama in a stronger position vis-à-vis airstrikes.”

This quote appears in a story in the NY Times today, 9/13/13, and I think this “Damascus-based analyst” has it right: As is becoming clearer and clearer, not only is it true that “there is no deal,” but there will be no deal. And, of course, the president’s team will make sure that the impracticality of any deal is as clear as it can be. Then, as noted earlier here, again based on little more than stories in the NY Times, a congressional resolution will be passed that authorizes the Obama/Bush administration to attack Syria after “a decent interval.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Smoke and Mirrors: How the Pros Do It

--> Smoke and Mirrors: How the Pros Do It
P. Schultz
September 11, 2013
September 13, 2013

 Here is another story from the NY Times as the US moves closer and closer to an attack on Syria. We can see what happens but I suspect that the Congress will approve a "two-fer" resolution and the attacks will commence before too much more time has passed.

            Ah yes, this is for anyone who thinks the Congress will not ultimately, in one form or another, approve the Obama/Bush Administration’s request for consent to attack Syria. These guys are pros, as this illustrates. It is “how the game is played” in D.C. Link attached below.

“Mr. Levin stressed Tuesday that the alternative resolution developed by the group would authorize a military strike, but set aside that authority if Mr. Assad placed his chemical weapons under the control of the United Nations, as Russia has proposed.
“This is kind of a twofer,” Mr. Levin said. “It’s a way of keeping the pressure on Syria and on Russia to get rid of chemical weapons, which is the goal of the whole effort, and second, if they fail, it would keep the authorization to launch a strike.”

The approach quickly gained supporters in both parties. It meshed with an alternative resolution drafted by two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, which would have given Mr. Assad 45 days to join and comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention or face “all elements of national power.”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

War and The Politics of War

War and The Politics of War
P. Schultz
September 9, 2013

            Below you will first read a quote from an article sent to me by a friend, the link to which is at the end of my comments in response to said quote. Enjoy.

"In his book He Came Preaching Peace, John Howard Yoder wonders why it is so hard for political leaders to admit mistakes, to confess they were wrong. He asks, for instance, if it was necessary to withdraw American soldiers from Vietnam in 1975, or from Beirut in 1983. "Why can it not be admitted that it was wrong to send them there in the first place? Why can the statesman not afford to advocate peace without saying it must be 'with honor'? Why must the willingness to end the war be dulled or perhaps even denied by the demand that we must still seem to have won it?" I think the answer to Yoder's perfectly sensible questions is quite simple: to acknowledge a policy or a strategy was mistaken is thought to betray the sacrifices made by those who as a result of the policy died."

This quote is from this excellent article that you sent. But it is only partly right, I think, because it is insufficiently political. Part, and I think a greater part, of the answer to these questions is that lost wars undermine political orders or, as I like to say, '"established orders," and those in power in the established orders cannot abide by that as it is the established order that gives them their sense of worth. Nazi Germany arose from defeat.

If Vietnam were "lost" and the cause admitted to be dishonorable, then the "peaceniks" and the "hippies," the Eugene McCarthy's and the George McGovern's, and other "subversives" would have been right and they could have claimed "the power." This is why LBJ and Nixon fought in Nam even though they knew they couldn't win there. They couldn't allow a "loss" there as they were concerned about losing power here. Both these men were quite capable of betrayal and even the betrayal of those who had already died, as well as those who would die, although they would use them to continue justifying the war. These dead are still being used today for the same purpose: protecting the established order. Men like LBJ and Nixon, et. al., are not moved by noble deaths; they are moved by fear, the fear of losing the established order and, hence, their own elevated social status, their fame, and, hence, their glorious immortality. [Think of how history would have been written about Hitler had the Germans won WWII. You get a glimmer of that by reading what people, well thought of people, were saying about the Nazis and Germany's "economic" recovery in the 30's.]

And I would argue that even Hedges' take on war is also insufficiently political in this sense, at least for those who authorize wars. These types are calculating how to preserve their own power and the power of their ilk. LBJ wanted Nixon to succeed him, I think, because he knew that Nixon, unlike Humphrey, his own vice president, knew how to use power and what it was for. He despised those in the peace movement as "whiners" and "egg heads" and so when he announced he would not seek re-election to seek peace, he put himself at the head of his own "peace movement" because he was sacrificing his own power for peace. No one in the other peace movement could make that claim as they were seeking power. He now looked like the "honorable" one. But he was merely calculating how best to prolong the war and, hence, the established order. 

Thus, the purpose of his "peace movement" was to prolong the war long enough for Nixon to win the '68 election and then he, Nixon, would prolong the war even longer for the same reasons. And neither man cared how many more died, both Americans and Vietnamese, to preserve the established order. They spoke of these deaths as "noble" because it served their purposes to do so. And the explanation offered here makes these "leaders" like LBJ and Nixon seem honorable themselves when in fact they were not at all. They were guilty of criminal negligence, at least. But I would say they were guilty of more than that. McNamara, in his own way, came to see, to sense, what he had done or helped to do and he hated it. LBJ and Nixon knew what they were doing and took pride in their "virtu." [But then Machiavelli taught us this, didn't he?] 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Oh, Let Me Guess How This Comes Out!

Oh, Let Me Guess How This Comes Out
P. Schultz
September 7, 2013

            Let me guess: the president, after an “uphill battle,” prevails. Which is so convenient as it reinforces the idea that the president’s planned attacks were so persuasive that even the hesitate joined in to approve the president’s actions.

Positively Hilarious

Positively Hilarious
P. Schultz
September 7, 2013

            This “analysis” in the New York Times is positively hilarious! And now we know why Obama has been “unable” to work his magic: Blame it on the Congress and the Constitution. Never entered Tanenhaus’ mind that Obama is little more, and always has been, than a status quo president! Yes, his hands have been tied. Poor boy! I am surprised only by the fact that Tanenhaus does not attribute this to “racism.”  Amazing! And this is what passes for “analysis” in the United States today in the “newspaper of record!”

Friday, September 6, 2013

More Smoke and Mirrors: The "Peacemakes" are Making War

More Smoke and Mirrors: The “Peacemakers” are Making War
P. Schultz
September 6, 2013

            Here is a great quote from Hans Blix pointing out that those who are pretending to want peace in Syria are actually the making war. But then why should anyone be surprised? Most of our politics is all smoke and mirrors anyway. The link to the article is below.

"Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector who led the investigation into Saddam Hussein’s regime, today called for the powers gathered at the G20 to stop importing arms into Syria. Russia is providing arms to the Assad regime, while the rebels are backed by Saudi Arabia and the gulf states. Britain is providing equipment including protective hoods against chemical weapons to the opposition forces.
"'We know that the war could not go on very long if the fighting sides could not obtain weapons and money from the outside. If you can engineer an agreement where they stop these supplies then the war would end. That’s a call for diplomacy, not for intervention,' he told the BBC"