A gentleman of residual taste, at leastYou'd be surprised at who's losing patience with the loony left:
The Upchuck Letters, Chapter 1
In their analysis, the Situationists argued that capitalism had turned all relationships transactional, and that life had been reduced to a "spectacle". The spectacle is the key concept of their theory. In many ways, they merely reworked Marx's view of alienation, as developed in his early writings. The worker is alienated from his product and from his fellow workers and finds himself living in an alien world: The worker does not produce himself; he produces an independent power. The success of this production, its abundance, returns to the producer as an abundance of dispossession. All the time and space of his world becomes foreign to him with the accumulation of his alienated products....Guy Debord and the Situationists
The increasing division of labor and specialization have transformed work into meaningless drudgery. "It is useless," Vaneigem observes, "to expect even a caricature of creativity from a conveyor belt." What they added to Marx was the recognition that in order to ensure continued economic growth, capitalism has created "pseudo-needs" to increase consumption. Instead of saying that consciousness was determined at the point of production, they said it occurred at the point of consumption. Modern capitalist society is a consumer society, a society of "spectacular" commodity consumption. Having long been treated with the utmost contempt as a producer, the worker is now lavishly courted and seduced as a consumer.
At the same time, while modern technology has ended natural alienation (the struggle for survival against nature), social alienation in the form of a hierarchy of masters and slaves has continued. People are treated like passive objects, not active subjects. After degrading being into having, the society of the spectacle has further transformed having into merely appearing. The result is an appalling contrast between cultural poverty and economic wealth, between what is and what could be. "Who wants a world in which the guarantee that we shall not die of starvation," Vaneigem asks, "entails the risk of dying of boredom?"
In place of the society of the spectacle, the Situationists proposed a communistic society bereft of money, commodity production, wage labor, classes, private property and the State. Pseudo-needs would be replaced by real desires, and the economy of profit become one of pleasure. The division of labor and the antagonism between work and play would be overcome. It would be a society founded on the love of free play, characterized by the refusal to be led, to make sacrifices, and to perform roles. Above all, they insisted that every individual should actively and consciously participate in the reconstruction of every moment of life. They called themselves Situationists precisely because they believed that all individuals should construct the situations of their lives and release their own potential and obtain their own pleasure.
Printer maker Lexmark International Inc. on Thursday reported a higher fourth-quarter profit, powered by growth in sales of replacement ink cartridges for its inkjet and laser printers.In 1999, I bought a Lexmark for $100 and got a $50 rebate. Excited about having an inkjet printer after years of using a noisy dot matrix, I did no research into the pricing of ink cartridges. I have no one to blame but myself, but Lexmark's bait-and-switch is still obnoxious for a number of reasons.
First, it is almost as cheap to buy a new Lexmark printer (one of the lower end models) as it is to buy a replacement cartridge for it. My model came with a cartridge, so for about $20 more than the price of a cartridge, I could have a new printer for each refill I've bought.
Second, Lexmark could cut out the rebates and price its cartridges lower. I would gladly have paid $100 for the printer for the sake of paying $20 for a refill.
Third, Lexmark does not offer reconditioned cartridges, whereas the other printer makers do.
Finally, the cartridges often cease to work for no discernable reason, even when the ink meter shows ink left.
I won't be buying a Lexmark again. From what I've read, certain Canon models have a low cost per page. Unfortunately, I suckered Ernie into buying the same Lexmark model.
"If Salma were white and male, she'd be bigger than Harvey Weinstein," says Alfred Molina, who played Diego Rivera to Hayek's Frida Kahlo in the Miramax-financed "Frida."
"Salma held her own against everybody," says Weinstein, pairing his star with Julie Taymor, who directed the movie. "I call them the Ballbreaker Twins. I should be the one getting sympathy, having to deal with women that strong. Between the two of them, I didn't know which way my ass was getting kicked."
"No one would hire me," (said Hayek in the interview). "I had studio heads say to me, 'You could have been the biggest star in America, but you were born in the wrong country. You can never be a leading lady, because we can't take the risk of you opening your mouth and people thinking of their maids.'"
Blacks, especially in the enlisted ranks, tend to be disproportionately drawn to non-combat fields such as unit administration and communications. They are underrepresented in jobs shooting rifles or dropping bombs.Whites, on the other hand, go into higher risk jobs, and hence die disproportionately. What's interesting about this is that although it disarms the war-is-racist argument on one ground, it opens the argument up on another. The issue now is not how many blacks die in war, but how many serve as pilots, engineers, and so forth. Naturally, many will claim that this issue demonstrates racism in the armed forces, but the above article concludes:
The reasons for the racial divide are unclear, but several theories have emerged, including lingering racism in some quarters of the military and a tendency among black recruits to choose jobs that help them find work in the civilian sector.The irony is that if one wants to claim that blacks should be better represented "in jobs shooting rifles or dropping bombs," then one is claiming that blacks should die in higher numbers. To be fair, this is not an absurd position; one could accept that consequence in the name of equality, but I suspect that the race lobby will want to play the issue both ways, i.e., that it is wrong that blacks die disproportionately and wrong that they do not serve in high-risk jobs. The two positions are not compatible, but one can always cite Walt Whitman in defense: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself."
My Dear Good Sirs,
I read in this morning's dispatch that many public health officials are concerned about the growing size of chocolate bars. These officials are rightly concerned with the increase in obesity and its corresponding effect on health. All well and good.
But then comes an accusation that I wouldn't even make against my worst enemy, Mr. Slugworth:
Nutritionists claim that some manufacturers deliberately lure children and low-income families into buying fatty, sugary and high-salt foods by heavily promoting cheaply priced, king-sized products.My protege, Mr. Charlie Bucket, takes great offense at this. Having once been poor himself, Charlie found that being able to buy a larger candy bar at a reduced price was a boon, not a curse. Why? Because one does not need to eat the entire bar at one sitting. The Oompa Loompas have composed an entire opera on just this point. Moreover, such a bar can be shared with say, Grandpa Joe or Grandma Georgina.
I do hope that public health officials will not take issue with my Everlasting Gobstopper, which is designed for children with very little pocket money. Lest I be blamed for ruining the dental health of poor children, let me remind everyone that just because the Everlasting Gobstopper never gets any smaller is not reason to keep one in your mouth all of the time. The Oompa Loompa song about gum chewing drives this point home.
Equally puzzling is this passage:
Children were the least likely to understand the risks of buying king-sized chocolate bars or soft drinks.I have some expertise regarding how children understand risk, so my response is: no kidding. Who should understand the risks?--
What do you get when your kid is a brat,As to obesity:
Spoiled and pampered like a Siamese cat?
Blaming the child is a lie and a shame,
You know exactly who's to blame--
The Mother and the Father.
The same research showed that one king-sized chocolate bar would make up 30 per cent of a nine-year-old's daily fat intake--creating a "substantial problem" of over-eating for children.Again, I have some expertise here. I once knew a lad who tried to drink my chocolate river and just might have had there not been some slight unpleasantness involving him, a pipe, and Bernoulli's Principle. My point? Obesity is a problem regarding the entirety of one's eating habits, not just the eating of a large candy bar. Augustus Gloop ate everything in sight, candy or not. And that was his downfall (or in this case, his upfall).
Later this month, the Health minister Hazel Blears is expected to open another conference where experts will add to calls for tighter controls of food advertising, particularly targeting young people.Stop. No. Don't.
Good Day Sirs,
1. If the U.S. goes to war in Iraq, some catastrophic event X will occur. There is an ambiguity here: some might interpret the ad as saying that X might happen, and so it is prudent not to go to war. This would mean that the conclusion would follow probably, but not absolutely, from the premise. Fair enough, but this does not change anything in terms of the argument's merit. There still has to be a strong likelihood that event X will follow from another Persian Gulf War (hereafter PGWII) in order to justify the equally strong claim that it would be prudent to avoid PGWII. So for all intents and purposes, let's treat the argument as a deductive one.
So is there anything wrong with (1)? It should be noted that (1) is actually an argument itself, namely, a slippery slope argument alleging that P will lead to Q and Q will lead to R--and in this case ultimately to catastrophic event X. We might call such an argument an argumentum ad Armageddon, i.e., an appeal to Armageddon. The form of the argument is valid--sometimes P will lead to X--so the question here is: how likely is it that PGWII will lead to X?
"Not very" seems to be the reasonable answer. Remember the context of the original daisy ad. It was an ad implying that Barry Goldwater might lead us into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Of course, Goldwater lost the election to Lyndon Johnson, so we cannot say that ad's claim was falsified. However, we do know that Ronald Reagan's strong anti-Soviet position did not lead to a nuclear war. In fact, whether he was responsible or not, the Soviet Union collapsed. So in this regard, the implied claim that hardline conservative presidents will lead us into Armageddon seems to be false.
But what about an actual war, and not just a hardline stance? Here, too, predictions of Armageddon seem untenable. Neither the Vietnam War nor the Korean War led to X, despite involving two nuclear powers, and even more to the point, neither did the first Persian Gulf War. Moreover, even the predictions of a Vietnam-like "quagmire" in Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan did not come true. The point is not that war will never lead to X, but that is has not so far done so, contrary to dire predictions made by activists.
Another problem for (1) is that it does not mesh with certain other assumptions held by anti-war activists. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out on Hardball, the same people supporting the new daisy ad tend to believe that Saddam Hussein does not have nuclear weapons. This does not make the ad's argument false, but it does mean that some activists have an incoherent point of view; and so if they wish to make an argumentum ad Armageddon, they need to admit that Saddam has catastrophic weapons. [I suspect that they won't, because doing so would destroy the case for prolonged weapons inspection.]
2. This X would be the fault of the U.S.. Some might doubt that the ad implies this, but the ad clearly puts the burden for X on the U.S. and nowhere else. It is the U.S., not Iraq, that is supposed to change its ways. So while the U.S. might not be the efficient cause of X (e.g. the one who launches the nuclear strike), it is nonetheless somehow responsible for X. We've seen this same argument in regards to 9/11: Islamic terrorists were the efficient cause of the destruction of the World Trade Center, but the U.S. in some way begged for such an attack.
Of course, questions about who is responsible for what when countries come into conflict are thorny, but we can cut to the chase by looking at what underlies (2); and we might call what underlies it the Sheryl Crow Doctrine. According to the SCD:
The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies.At first blush, this seems to be naive or even vacuous, but a charitable interpretation of the SCD would be something like this:
Don't provoke people or countries until they become dangerous enemies.Indeed, there is a kernel of truth in this. If one provokes a snake, one risks getting bit. So its much better to let the snake go on its way and do its snakey things.
Anti-war activists (as well as isolationists on the right) tend to view war and peace (and terrorism) in these terms, and although it has a certain appeal, the snake theory of enemy-making makes for inadequate foreign policy. Iraq and North Korea, to name but two, do not merely pursue their own ends in isolation from the rest of the international community. They threaten, they attack, they oppress their citizens; and they commit human rights violations that would make Mumia Abu-Jamal glad to live in a U.S. prison if he had to suffer them. The upshot is that when countries act in such a way they cannot help but make enemies. It is we who are the provoked snake. It is Iraq and North Korea that need to heed the SCD, not the United States.
3. Therefore, we should not go to war with Iraq. This might be true. But because (1) and (2) are not sound, the daisy ad argument fails to support this conclusion.
Finally, Ernie would chastise me if I did not mention who is responsible for the original 1964 daisy ad: Bill Moyers of PBS fame. Also, I linked above to a pro-Mumia site; here is a site dedicated to Daniel Faulkner, the police officer whom Mumia shot and killed.
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.
The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams.
As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.
The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place;
its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich;
its reckless disregard for the world’s poor,
and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties.
They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.
But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?
How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history.
But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.
Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.
The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.
God also has pretty scary connections. In America, where all men are equal in His sight, if not in one another’s, the Bush family numbers one President, one ex-President, one ex-head of the CIA, the Governor of Florida and the ex-Governor of Texas.
Care for a few pointers? George W. Bush, 1978-84: senior executive, Arbusto Energy/Bush Exploration, an oil company; 1986-90: senior executive of the Harken oil company. Dick Cheney, 1995-2000: chief executive of the Halliburton oil company. Condoleezza Rice, 1991-2000: senior executive with the Chevron oil company, which named an oil tanker after her. And so on. But none of these trifling associations affects the integrity of God’s work.
In 1993, while ex-President George Bush was visiting the ever-democratic Kingdom of Kuwait to receive thanks for liberating them, somebody tried to kill him. The CIA believes that “somebody” was Saddam. Hence Bush Jr’s cry: “That man tried to kill my Daddy.” But it’s still not personal, this war. It’s still necessary. It’s still God’s work. It’s still about bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed Iraqi people. To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t. If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.
Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.
The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out. It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him.
But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. Blair’s best chance of personal survival must be that, at the eleventh hour, world protest and an improbably emboldened UN will force Bush to put his gun back in his holster unfired. But what happens when the world’s greatest cowboy rides back into town without a tyrant’s head to wave at the boys? Blair’s worst chance is that, with or without the UN, he will drag us into a war that, if the will to negotiate energetically had ever been there, could have been avoided; a war that has been no more democratically debated in Britain than it has in America or at the UN. By doing so, Blair will have set back our relations with Europe and the Middle East for decades to come. He will have helped to provoke unforeseeable retaliation, great domestic unrest, and regional chaos in the Middle East. Welcome to the party of the ethical foreign policy. There is a middle way, but it’s a tough one: Bush dives in without UN approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the special relationship.
I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.
“But will we win, Daddy?”
“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”
“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”
“But will people be killed, Daddy?”
“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”
“Can I watch it on television?”
“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”
“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”
“Hush child, and go to sleep.”
Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is also Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.
Canada is a bilingual country, speaking English and French. This is because Canada is the country in which two of history's biggest rivals learned to coexist. And that's something to honour, cherish and be proud of. [Boldface Bender's, as well as the British spelling of "honor" as "honour."]It is something to proud of. Except that it doesn't have the added advantage of being true. First, in 1994, French Quebec nearly seceded from Canada, and native peoples of Canada (e.g. the Inuit) likewise demanded self-determination. Second, the real England and France have been at peace with one another since before the Dominion of Canada was created in 1867, so what is the big deal about English-speaking Canadians living in the same country as French-speaking ones? Especially when the French-speaking ones almost left?
Nonetheless, I have some not so wishy-washy things to say about the arguments of death penalty opponents.
As we all know by now, former Illinois governor George Ryan emptied Illinois death row before leaving office. His reasoning was twofold. First, he is concerned about executing the innocent:
"I am not prepared to take the risk that we may execute an innocent person," he wrote in an overnight letter to the victims' families warning them of his plans.The problem is that this is the same justification he used for declaring a moratorium on executions in order that each death row case might be reviewed. Presumably he was worried that the moratorium might be lifted, but the incoming governor in fact supports the moratorium. If one is worried that Illinois is executing innocent people, then a moratorium is a rational response to this worry. However, a blanket commutation goes beyond protecting the innocent; it also releases the guilty from their justly-determined sentences. It is unlikely that all or even most of the cases on Illinois death row involve a high risk of executing the innocent, but a blanket commutation is tantamount to making that dubious claim. Ironically, it is only a case-by-case review that would provide evidence for such a claim.
[After writing the above, I saw Ryan on Nightline. There he justified the blanket commutation on the grounds that he had looked at all of the cases on death row and drew the conclusion that the system is broken. However, when pressed on this issue of whether he had in fact seen all of the cases, he backpedaled. If I can get the transcript, I'll look at issue in more detail.]
Second, there is an alleged disparity in who gets the death penalty:
"Our capital system is haunted by the demon of error--error in determining guilt, and error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die," Ryan said. "What effect was race having? What effect was poverty having?"This has become one of the most common arguments against the death penalty, i.e., that it is racist and unfair to the poor. Not surprisingly, advocates of the death penalty dispute this claim. Suppose, however, that it is true that non-whites receive the death penalty more often than whites; does this justify the abolition of the death penalty?
No, for two reasons. First, the death penalty is not racist, because a penalty in and of itself cannot be racist. Lest one think that I'm picking semantic nits, the point is that the application of a penalty can be racist, but not the penalty itself. Hence, if a penalty is applied unjustly to one group over another, the proper conclusion to draw is not that the penalty should be abolished, but that it should be applied fairly. In other words, the unfair application of a penalty is not a sufficient reason for abolishing the penalty.
Second, the key issue in determining whether someone is guilty of a crime and deserving of the death penalty hinges upon the particular case: did X commit a premeditated murder of a certain heinous character or not? If the prosecution meets that burden, accusations of race-based bias are irrelevant, even if they are true. Why? Let's take as an example two people formerly on Illinois death row, Fedell Caffey and Jacqueline Williams:
Caffey and Williams decided they wanted a baby. So they stabbed to death a pregnant woman, Debra Evans, in her Addison apartment and cut her nearly full-term fetus from her body, according to prosecutors. To eliminate witnesses, they also murdered Evans' 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 8-year-old son, Joshua. Another child, Jordan, was spared in the 1995 murder--children under the age of 2 aren't likely to be good witnesses. And the newborn boy also survived. Fortunately, Jordan's grandfather, Sam Evans, says Jordan has no recollection today of the horrors he witnessed.Caffey and Williams are black, and the Evans family is white. There is no doubt that Caffey and Williams are guilty and that the crime is heinous. So what possible argument can death penalty opponents make here vis-a-vis racism? Should Caffey and Williams not be executed, precisely because they are black and the victims white? Or do we want to make the hypothetical--and untenable--argument that if the race of the killers and the victims were reversed, there would be a different outcome? The problem for death penalty opponents is that the issue of innocence or guilt trumps the issue of race at the level of particular cases.
It's not hard to see what's wrong in general with the abolitionist position: it conflates empirical arguments against the death penalty with philosophical arguments against it. Lest our Objectivist friends cringe at this distinction, let me make it clear. Abolitionists are opposed in principle to the death penalty. For example, many think that the death penalty is nothing more than murder on the part of the State. Not finding this to be a popular philosophical position, abolitionists are now banking on empirical arguments, i.e., arguments about how the death penalty is in fact applied by the State. The two arguments above are examples of this. The problem is that empirical arguments only justify changing how the State applies the death penalty, from carelessly and capriciously to rigorously and fairly. They do not justify the abolition of the death penalty.
Another way to make this point is to take Ryan's "demon of error" rhetoric at face value. What does one do when one's house is haunted by a demon--demolish the house or exorcise the demon? Most of us would first try to exorcise the demon before demolishing the house. Abolitionists simply want to demolish the house even while pointing the finger at the demon.
Moreover, she clearly possesses the moral vision to realize, and to convey at once subtly and clearly, that the people – indeed, the peoples – of Pakistan: celebrated for their great traditions and talents: deserve better.
They deserve better than to have corrupt regimes in place that govern neither with their consent nor in their interest. They deserve better than to have their neighboring states surround them as in a deathwatch, impatient for a deadly inheritance. They deserve better than to have an intelligence and security service interfering in their lives without law or warrant, especially when it is deeply compromised by ties to radical Islamist movements and answerable to no one. They deserve better than to have no better choice for safety than the Army as their protection against national dissolution and the warlordism of rival claimants to the succession. They deserve better than to have their natural and environmental heritage raped by desert sheiks for a hefty bribe to their own corrupt elites. And they deserve better than to be a dumping ground for the terrorists bred by the corrupt and repressive regimes of the Arab Middle East, and better than to be made into an incubator of still more Islamist terror by having Saudi-funded madrassahs shoved down their throats just so the House of Saud can have a safety valve.
No charges have been filed yet. The officer has been put on desk duty during the investigation.Jeffrey Feiger has taken her case, and although I'm no fan of the Kevorkian defender, he's the kind of high-powered lawyer she needs. Also, the "officer" in question has been suspended without pay. In a refreshing twist, the Detroit Chief of Police didn't excuse the "officer's" actions, remarking that cutting someone's sleeves with a knife is unheard of.
The Iraqi president has been called many things. To some U.S. politicians, he's a modern-day Adolf Hitler, a liar, a ruthless dictator. In Iraq's official newspapers, he is the Great Leader.I naively thought that at least one point of agreement between doves and hawks is that Saddam is a ruthless dictator, but apparently only some U.S. politicians think so. Gee, I wonder what the people who have been gassed, tortured, and killed by the Great Leader think of him. Do you think they might a few choice "poems" for his Swellness?
But inside the library of Abdul Razzaq Abdul Wahid, Iraq's most famous poet, Saddam is the muse.And what does the Suck-up Laureate have to say about those who don't like his patron: "I feel proud that people can hate him so much."
Saddam, who has his own literary ambition, has sought Wahid's advice on writing.... In private, Iraqis discount the leader's talent.Hmm, a failed artist who became a ruthless dictator ...
Wahid receives $250 a month from Iraq's Ministry of Culture, several times more than a physician earns. A nurse earns just $84 a year. Iraqi painters and sculptors who make their names creating Saddam's likeness also are well paid by the government.Glad to see that U.S. sanctions haven't hurt Iraqi artists.
In the early 1980s, the president asked Wahid to choose a stretch of riverfront on which to build a house.... Sweeping his arms around his large library with its ornate wooden shelves, Wahid says: "I live like a poet."Ah, how sweet it is to reap the rewards of being a poet--or is it to reap the rewards of being a bootlicking toady?
He senses his 20-year idyll is coming to a close. Wahid expects a U.S.-led war will end this good life.How sad for him. Millions of others will be released from the nightmare of totalitarian evil, but how sad for him. Don't worry, though, Wahid can always move to Cuba and sing the praises of Fidel. There's no shortage of thugs and dictators.
The problem of truth and human fellowship is important for democratic societies; it seems to me to be particularly important for this country (the USA-E.B.), where men and women coming from a great diversity of national stocks and religious or philosophical creeds have to live together. If each one of them endeavored to impose his own convictions and the truth in which he believes on all his co-citizens, would not living together become impossible? That is obviously right. Well, it is easy, too easy, to go a step further, and to ask: if each one sticks to his own convictions, will not each one endeavor to impose his own convictions on all others? So that, as a result, living together will become impossible if any citizen whatever sticks to his own convictions and believes in a given truth?
Thus it is not unusual to meet people who think that NOT TO BELIEVE IN ANY TRUTH, or NOT TO ADHERE FIRMLY TO ANY ASSERTION AS UNSHAKABLY TRUE IN ITSELF (Maritain's emphasis), is a primary condition required of democratic citizens in order to be tolerant of one another and to live in peace with one another. May I say that these people are in fact the most intolerant people, for if perchance they were to believe in something as unshakably true, they would feel compelled, by the same stroke, to impose by force and coercion their own belief on their co-citizens. The only remedy they have found to get rid of their abiding tendency to fanaticism is to cut themselves off from truth. That is a suicidal method. It is a suicidal conception of democracy: not only would a democratic society which lived on universal skepticism condemn itself to death by starvation; but it would also enter a process of self-annihilation, from the very fact that no democratic society can live without a common practical belief in those truths which are freedom, justice, law, and the other tenets of democracy; and that any belief in these things as objectively and unshakably true, as well as in any other kind of truth, would be brought to naught by the presumed law of universal skepticism. (Maritain, p. 17-18)
The parallelism which exists between philosophical and political absolutism is evident. The relationship between the object of knowledge, the absolute, and the subject of knowledge, the individual human being, is quite similar to that between an absolute government and its subjects. Just as the unlimited power of this government is beyond any influence on the part of its subjects, who are bound to obey laws without participating in their creation (note the idiotarian "Create-a-world" theme in action 50+ years ago-E.B.), the absolute is beyond our experience, and the object of knowledge-in the theory of political absolutism independent of the subject of knowledge, totally determined in his cognition by heteronomous laws. Philosophical absolutism may very well be characterized as epistemological totalitarianism. According to this view, the constitution of the universe has certainly not a democratic character. (Kelsen, p. 909)
But, according to Kelsen, influenced by neo-Kantianism and at one with the Weberian perspective, moral norms are irrational (or in the idiotarian locution "unscientific"-E.B.) and arbitrary. There are no objective, rational principles or guidelines for determining their correctness or otherwise. Even should a consensus exist, it would be entirely a contingent matter. Given that in principle there are as many conceptions of a good or just law as there may be individual citizens, the notion of 'good' or 'bad,' 'just' or 'unjust' laws is an empty one. The only non-empty notion is that of legal validity; it constitutes the sole ground for civil obedience. This means that moral disapproval of a law is not a justification for disobeying it.
That is why Kelsen's account of legal positivism has been charged with providing the philosophical foundation for law during the Nazi regime in Germany. Paradoxically, Kelsen's attempt to banish political and ideological commitments from his so-called pure theory of law has led to the very allegation of lending (unwitting) intellectual support to Nazi law itself in spite of his own personal total opposition to it. (Ring a bell with "the Persian Gulf war" and "Serbia" anyone?-E.B.) Kelsen thought that, by making the law ideologically neutral, he would make the law safe for liberal values; but, ironically, he made it possible for it to serve the ideology of those in power. (Lee, p. 123)
In other words, Kelsen's political and jurisprudential thoughts may be said to follow from his meta-ethical stance, each reinforcing the other. Democracy as simple majoritarian rule is an attempt to enforce political or social order, just as legal validity as the sole grounds for civil obedience is an attempt to secure order in a context of value irrationalism. While anarchy is considered by all forms of legal positivism to be the greatest social evil and order the greatest social good, the Kelsenian variety alone focuses on procuring order, not good or just order, as goodness and justice are ultimately empty of content-what is good or just is whatever is deemed to be good or just by the individual.
All forms of legal positivism uphold the tenet that law and the physical sanction go together. But in the Kelsenian variety, law and order come into focus in a much harsher light. The fear of violating valid legislation and the fear of the physical sanction entailed by such violation coalesce. It is ironic then that Kelsenian legal theory should turn out to be more Hobbesian in character than Hobbes's own variety of legal positivistic thought. (Lee, ibid)
Be it a question of science, metaphysics, or religion, the man who says: "What is truth?" as Pilate did, is not a tolerant man, but a betrayer of the human race. There is real and genuine tolerance only when a man is firmly and absolutely convinced of a truth, or of what he holds to be a truth, and when he at the same time recognizes the right of those who deny this truth to exist, and to contradict him, and to speak their own mind, not because they are free from truth but because they seek truth in their own way, and because he respects in them human nature and human dignity and those very resources and living springs of the intellect and of conscience which make them potentially capable of attaining the truth he loves, if someday they happen to see it. (Maritain, p.24)