Neocons for Pelosi

It’s a slow night. Not much new to read on the blogs I usually visit, so I poked my head over the fence to see what might be going on over at the Volokh Conspiracy. The writers there are all male lawyers and law professors, neoconservative Republican types. They call themselves libertarians, but they are at any rate pro-war and Bush supporters.

I understand guys like this to an extent because I grew up in a more or less neoconservative environment.

Anyhow, Ilya Somin is one of the writers there and he is writing about the benefits of Nancy Pelosi becoming the new speaker. Not in terms of making the best of a bad situation, but in actually favoring that outcome. He goes so far as to say:

I want enough Republicans and independents to vote for the Democrats (or stay home) to give Pelosi a small majority in the House.

This has two impacts, one positive and one predictable. The positive impact is that this gives all the more impetus to the removal of power from the principal war party. The predictable outcome is that after the fall elections, the Republicans can say that this was really good for Republicans and bad for the Democratic Party because it will somehow hurt their chances in 2008.

I can’t say that his approach right now is that different from my own, in that I would rather convince as many Republicans not to vote or to at any rate not vote for any Republicans, than get behind any Democratic politician. I’m against torture and war for lies, and it is too much to ask a Republican who does not understand the benefits of social government, to vote for a Democrat. It’s enough that they stay home in droves.

You’ve got problems with the electoral machines to be concerned with anyhow, and not as an afterthought. The fact is that a vote isn’t going to change the minds of society, but if we can get Republicans to defect from that horror and become part of society again we can heal them. In other words, hearts and minds is more important than winning the war; we have to win the peace.

Well I’m all for dialog, anyhow.

Update: Other bloggers are noticing this new Republican strategy of distancing from George Bush, so it does seem to be part of a larger game plan in light of expected losses at the polls in November. But is it in some way commendable or courageous? Not at all. This is a craven political maneuver. As Christy Hardin Smith writes:

Sure, George Bush has been a horrible President.  But true character means that you stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming obstacles because it is the right thing to do…not just because you now fear for your political hide and the President provides a convenient target.  That’s crass opportunism, not ethical responsibility, and ought to be labeled as such.

Until the polls went against them, these Republicans (including the neocons of the VC, who call themselves libertarians) supported the administration and never wavered except to criticize when it wasn’t extreme enough. Harriet Miers was undoubtedly unqualified by her record, and wouldn’t have been a strong enough proponent of the principles that the neocons advocate, namely and principally executive authority to do whatever the president deems necessary to win a war against an ideology and a method they themselves advocate employing. Violence against innocent people is justified by the belief that they are virtuous, and the other is not.


Blog of the day: Whiskey Bar

One of the most insightful political commentary blogs on the web. Whiskey Bar is a collection of observations by billmon.

Today’s episode finds him reviewing the administration of George Bush as a television program that is losing ratings and really ought to be cancelled soon.

Ending the culture wars

John Dolan asks why many Americans support wars to impose our culture on foreign lands.

Cultural relativism starts with a very simple, sensible premise: Every time and place is unique, and its standards can’t be transposed to any other time and place without fudging the comparison. Cultural relativism is thus a form of intellectual rigor — a very uncomfortable one, compared to the cozy simplicity of cheering for your tribe and sneering at all others. Whenever serious intellectuals apply cultural relativism to their studies, they face the wrath of tame pundits. Nietzsche, the greatest modern relativist, is still regularly slandered by tenured cowards for daring to treat philosophers’ most cherished concepts as historical artifacts rather than timeless truths.

You’ll note that so far I’ve cited a Frenchman and a German as examples of the intellectual courage it takes to face the scary fact of cultural relativism. Unfortunately, America got its tutors from Britain, whose intellectuals have always been much more timid and inclined to collaboration than those of continental Europe. After the French Revolution, Britain actively discouraged intellectual inquiry of all sorts that might have interfered with the mass production of the practical, unimaginative, cruel men needed to run the empire. Great minds in 19th century Britain went into the sciences, where a certain degree of intellectual freedom was tolerated. That’s one of the major reasons that what passes for the American intelligensia has been so craven and tongue-tied in defending cultural relativism.

And it’s not just the right wing.

Indeed, the evangelical mullahs’ position is actually more intellectually rigorous, if you grant its starting point of divine sanction. The godless Protestant progressives of places like Berkeley lack any such foundation; theirs is an ideology rooted in a few seedy cafes near the Fine Arts building. It’s no wonder that Kansas prefers the evangelicals’ simple, consistent bigotry to this sub-Unitarian muddle. If we actually apply a cultural-relativist perspective to the conflict between “liberal” academics and “conservative” Christian militarists in America, it’s easy to see that we’re simply watching a replay of the old quarrel between the two most aggressive groups in Anglophone America: the Scots-Irish Presbyterians who settled the South, and the New Englanders whose Protestantism was always veering off into semisecular intellectual quibbles. Both are missionary groups extremely popular with themselves and willing to bring the rest of the world to heel by military force. Neither has even a taint of cultural relativism. It’s just that their blood rage is stimulated by slightly different triggers, the Scots-Irish by the very existence of heathens and the New Englanders by offenses against what they imagine to be a universal moral code.

He’s describing Berkeley as it seemed to him some time in the past. From what I have seen of it so far it is not like this today, but that may only be due to a different subset of the population with whom we’ve interacted or the passage of time and cultural evolution. Mainly, though, I’m not godless.

Indeed, the only way to explain the left’s stunning cowardice in the face of the War on Drugs is by realizing that these people are simply missionaries of the Church of Christ without Christ.

Just as they know that drugs are bad, they know that it is their right, their mission, to outlaw other unruly customs, like war. If Somalis consider raiding and clan war essential to a man’s life, then — well, they’ll just have to change.

Certainly what he says about this is not remotely like the Bay Area today, at least as far as cannabis is concerned. We’ve recognized that cannabis is good, that it is medicine, that it helps people to live better lives with less pain and more enjoyment.

But war has to end. Absolutely. If that makes me a cultural absolutist, it’s only because I came to this conclusion after considering the alternatives. But it’s insane to think you can end war by waging it. Let people of every culture learn about one another and leave one another alone if asked. It’s just good manners.

Hat-tip to Dankhank.

Saturday afternoon music

Happy Rhodes covers David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Just awesome.

I love way too much music to make it a once weekly thing, so I hope you like listening.

And the Heretik has some Leonard Cohen for you today too.

Collective messiah

Two kinds, many forms. One consciousness.

Any questions?

Broad language is not ambiguous

The press conference yesterday which George Bush gave was so painful and wrong that it motivated me to write a prayer. Holden provides a condensed transcript by excerpting phrases to demonstrate their inanity.

Taking this seriously, however, George Bush has admitted to war crimes and is asking Congress to effectively amend the Geneva Conventions application to his administration to immunize himself from prosecution. As he said:

And that Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It’s very vague. What does that mean, “outrages upon human dignity”? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.

Attaturk responds:

The Geneva Conventions are written explicitly to be broad. If you have to stop and think whether this violates a prisoner’s rights and answer “yes”…then the purpose of the treaty is accomplished. That requirement of thinking and making sure you are not violating their rights, is the very purpose of the provisions.

Consider this: torture is torture. Do you think it is not torture unless it leaves a permanent mark? Starvation, extreme heat and cold, painfully blaring noise, being chained on a rack, mock execution. These are all things this administration has done and admitted to.

Update: More from the Heretik.

Update 2: Jerome Doolittle found someone who underwent a similar kind of torture to the “waterboarding” that sounds like some kind of summer activity at the lake.

Henri Alleg
Henri Alleg

What if Woodstock had been monitored by police cameras?

In June, there was a huge festival in Lawrence, Kansas. More than seventy hugely talented bands performed. The Flaming Lips. Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Artists that you and I love.

This was a peaceful festival. But there was a snake in the garden.

The whole thing was under surveillance. Hidden cameras and night vision with thermal imaging.

And not just the festival grounds. The campground areas outside the festival may also have been monitored. People who thought they had privacy, did not.

This was like a giant honey trap into which fans were drawn, and then arrested when they were observed to have drugs, including cannabis. The police even set up a highway checkpoint to stop the people leaving and search their cars.

Maybe this kind of thing is no big surprise anymore. Have we become so jaded that we shrug when this happens?

Obviously the performers did not know. These are bands who would never have performed under such circumstances. They may all have been surveilled as well.

Maybe someone can get this message to them.

Here below the fold is the complete list of performers as listed on the program, in case the promoter’s site goes down. This list may not be accurate as it states on the program that all artists had confirmed their appearance but were subject to change.

But try and get ahold of them all anyhow, or anyone else who was there. Read the rest of this entry »

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