Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Clownish Naivete

      I have always thought that John Dewey was a crypto-bolshevik.  While reading Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley, I saw the following attributed to him:  "a renewal of faith in common human nature, in its potentialities in general, and in its power in particular to respond to reason and truth, is a surer bulwark against totalitarianism than a demonstration of material success or a devout worship of special legal and political forms."  In other words, we don't need the Anglo-American legal tradition, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution.  People are just so extraordinarily wise that they can discern tyrants before they elect them.  Have you ever heard of an educated person being so naive?  Can you imagine why such a writer would be considered sacred writ in education colleges?

          The sunny optimism of assuming that people always support justice and progress.  From John Dewey to Marie Harf, nothing is new under the sun.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Country Party

       Estase has been observing that in many ways the current situation bears resemblance to 18th century Britain.   During the reign of Queen Anne, the Tories started to self-destruct by their open Jacobitism.  As a result, there was no longer a real Tory/Whig conflict anymore.  As someone once said, in the late eighteenth century the two parties were the Whigs and the fools.  The real conflict became one between Court Party Whigs, who tolerated expansive government, and Country Party Whigs, who did not.   Another terminology was "Real Whigs" or "Commonwealthmen," as denoting people who were old line Whigs of the type of Locke and Collins.
           The term "TEA Party" has become current in contrast to the mainstream Republicans, who basically want an economy version of the liberal agenda.   Such conservatives revile John Boehner and his accomodationist version of Republicanism, which has little to say about hot-button issues like immigration, other than a willingness to grant amnesty.  To use the language of the Elegant Eighteenth, John Boehner is a Court Party politician.  Expansive executive power bothers him not a whit.  Other than the fact that Robert Walpole was a genius with money, and John Boehner pours it out like water, John Boehner could be the reincarnation of Flimnap.  
            Many conservatives like to point out the elitism of referring to middle America as "flyover country."  How appropriate it would be to rename the TEA party the Country Party.  A counter to the unchecked power of the executive is just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Foggy Bottom: Smarter Than the Peasants Since 1792

         You know you really have to hand it to the State Department.  Just one day after my blogpost "Don't Monkey With a Buzzsaw" came out, the striped-pants brigade opined that Vladimir Putin was an Asperger's patient, thus explaining his "authoritarianism."  Oh, OK.  So if you won't cooperate with the U.S., you have a medical problem.  Very respectful of a foreign head of state.
           Perhaps instead of "Striped-pants brigade," I should call Foggy Bottom "the Striped-skirt brigade."   A blonde with Zooey Deschanel glasses named Marie Harf (rhymes with "barf?") came out yesterday, saying that ISIS was a problem because of lack of economic opportunity.  Yes, really.  Today, Ms. Harf is claiming that her critics (i.e.:  people with active central nervous systems) "lack nuance."  So, in other words, if you think that ISIS are cold-blooded ideological butchers, you just aren't terribly smart.  Foggy Bottom:  Smarter Than the Peasants Since 1792.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Practical Men Not Suited to Crises

       "And I am particularly amazed by this feature of the philosopher's argument, that people who admit their incapacity for steering in calm weather--because they have never learned how or wanted to know--these same people offer to take the helm in the greatest storms.  They make a habit of saying openly, and even boasting, that they have neither studied nor taught anything about the methods of organizing and preserving commonweaths, and they think that such knowledge belongs not to wise and learned men but to men of practical experience in these areas.  But then what is the sense of promising their aid to the commonwealth under the pressure of necessity when they have no idea of how to guide a commonwealth when there is no such necessity, something that is much easier to do?  For my own part, even if it were true that a philosopher should not willingly lower himself to take part in civic affairs, but should not refuse to do so under the compulsion of a crisis, still I would think that the knowledge of public administration is something that philosophers should by no means neglect, because they ought to prepare in advance whatever they might need, even if they do not know whether they actually will."  Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Re Publica, Book I, Paragraph Eleven (Zetzel trans.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

       There's a fine line between clever and stupid.--
                                                                "This is Spinal Tap"

          Just to show the results of college students wasting time with Chomsky and Derrida, here is an exchange between a reporter and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (of whom it might rightly be said that he is less than earnest). ( Petasus-tip to John Podhurtz's Facebook page.)

              Karl:  well, back to the question Jim was asking about his description of the shooting at the kosher deli in Paris as being a bunch of--randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris, I mean, this was not a random shooting of a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris, this was an attack in a kosher in Paris, they attacked that deli because there would be Jews in that dele- deli?

Josh Earnest:  the writings they put out afterwards, we know that their motivation was, the adverb that the President chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in there terrible tragic incident were killed, not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.

            Karl: they weren't killed because they were in a Jewish deli, though, a kosher deli?

Josh Earnest: they were not targeted by name, this was the point.

            Karl: not by name but religion, were they not?

Josh Earnest:  well John, there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.

            Karl:  that deli was attacked because it was a kosher deli?

Josh Earnest:  no, John.  I answered the question once.  Ed?


Saturday, February 07, 2015

Don't Monkey With a Buzzsaw

           At the same time Islamist hordes threaten to take over the Middle East entirely, Secretary of State "Red" John "of the Battles" Kerry is greatly exercised over the war for Ukraine.  When the Russian aggression against Georgia caused George W. Bush to harshen our relationship with Russia, Red John and his cohorts pointed to the friction as a sign that Bush was a "cowboy," and too reckless in his dealings with Putin.  The idiotic Hillary Clinton tried to "reset" our relationship with Russia through a mind-boggling reference to a Staples office supply commercial that was certainly unknown to Putin.  Adding even more idiocy to an already dumb idea, a bonehead at Foggy Bottom mistranslated the word "reset" into Russian. ( Note to General Services Administration:  When hiring Russian translators, try to pick people who at least pulled a "C" in Russian class.) Vladimir Putin obviously learned quickly that the Obama Administration were the gang that couldn't shoot straight, more interested in soundbites and publicity photos than in seriously addressing the territorial ambitions of Russia.  Red John of the Battles is a fitting successor to Clinton.  An aging leftist who denies ISIS is Islamic will do no better than a frumpy, narcissitic opportunist like Hillary Clinton.
            Unlike ISIS, which is a threat to every civilized nation on earth, Russia is only interested in maintaining its hold on old Soviet territory.  While not optimal, one should remember that Franklin Roosevelt basically handed most of eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin during World War Two.  If the Baltic states, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Albania, and Poland were essentially Russian property circa 1945, it beggars the mind why Ukraine should not be.  In a perfect world, the United States would delay the reassembly of the Soviet Union.  Given the present circumstances, it makes much more sense to use our limited military resources to attack ISIS.  Irritating the Russian bear makes as much sense as ballooning the public debt and flooding the country with illegal immigrants.  Which is to say, this is what Oh Blah Blah will probably do.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Yin and Yang of the Elegant Eighteenth

         The two threads that wrap through the thought of the eighteenth century are enlightenment, as represented by such luminaries as Isaac Newton and John Locke, and Romanticism, represented in the thought of Sir Walter Scott and Oliver Goldsmith.
           Enlightenment thinkers emphasized reason.  They also tended to be egalitarian, though the egalitarianism of a John Locke had definite limits, and never intended towards the empowerment of the uneducated or poor.  The Romanticism of a Sir Walter Scott or a Goldsmith emphasized the importance of heroic people.  Scott and Goldsmith also recognized the nobility as the conservers of the state and its traditions.  
           Enlightenment called for a broadening of political representation.  The common man's voice was now heard as never before, reinforced by the popular culture of Daniel Defoe, which honored the tradesman and shopkeeper.   At the same time, Romanticism curbed the desire to reconstitute society entirely.  Never could England forget her monarchy and nobles.
             Some thinkers represented a synthesis of Enlightenment and Romanticism.  Edmund Burke offered a modified Lockean doctrine.  Burke respected tradition while extolling Parliament's role as voice of the nation.   Thomas Jefferson also took Enlightenment ideas, softening their potentially corrosive potential towards established authority.