Still catching up with accumulated items. Next time we'll take a break from politics....
The war of reaction against modernist/enlightenment/pragmatic civilization is (I believe) much less a matter of politics or religion or ethnicity or even nations, than it is psychological. A matter of personality.
Robert Wright points out in NONZERO how most human civilizations were based upon zero-sum logic that may have been somewhat appropriate for eras of extreme scarcity. But that way of thinking always led to rigid hierarchies of both dogma and authority that limited human progress.
Both Hobbes and Rousseau were platonist essentialists who described 'pure' idealizations of human nature that fed into these civilizations' oversimplifying, either-or ways of thinking.
But Locke's Wager - the Enlightenment - was a bet that positive sum thinking was ready to take off. An empowered, knowing citizenry can participate in competitive markets, competitive democracy, competitive science, and yet -- in the sum of all their victories and defeats -- wind up making everybody richer, wiser and more free.
It has been stunningly successful, but by fundamental personality, a large fraction of humans simply think in zero sum ways. They CANNOT perceive this synergy, even if they try. And this includes many sophisticated people even inside our culture.
Indeed, "culture war" is in part a manifestation of deep alienation toward the very notion of progress as a rapid project toward human self-improvement. In the long run, therefore, any hope for national security will depend upon factors that go beyond matters of military and political self-interest.
In the long run, either positive sum thinking will prevail, or our civilization will fail.
Russ Daggatt offers a chilling insight:
One of the puzzling things about the US attorneys scandal is that the underlying actions were taken after Democrats regained control of Congress last fall. Didn't it occur to Rove that he no longer had a Rubber Stamp Republican Congress and that some of these abuses might come to light as the Democrats began to investigate the administration? Didn't it occur to him that the rules had changed? I thought Rove was supposed to be really smart. Wassup?
Think about it for a minute.
Without veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats are limited in what they can accomplish in the way of an affirmative agenda. We all knew that the real significance of the Democratic victories last fall was the investigative powers they gained. You can bet Rove understood that, too. And, sure enough, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have now voted to authorize subpoenas of Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in connection with the US attorneys matter. Bush (Rove), of course, has stated that he will refuse to comply. And these aren't the last subpoenas Congress will issue.
So Congress issues subpoenas and Bush (Rove) stonewalls. How does Congress enforce its subpoenas?
Oh. You don't think they know the game they're playing?
...It's important to note that these eight US Attorneys were all loyal Republicans appointed by George W. Bush. That's important to keep in mind, because the Republican character-assassination hit squads are already going after them.
As for the recent refusal by Bush to let his staffers testify under oath before Congress, Daggatt is equally biting.
Of course, Bush loyalists assert that he is upholding some grand tradition whereby White House aides never testify before Congress. That grand tradition goes all the way back to ... 2001: Clinton never defied a Congressional request (let alone a subpoena). According to the Cong. Record, under President Clinton, 31 of his top aides testified on 47 different occasions. The aides who testified included some of Clinton’s closest advisors:
Harold Ickes, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff - 7/28/94
George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy - 8/4/94
John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary - 8/5/94
Bruce R. Lindsey, Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President - 1/16/96
Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs - 9/11/97
Beth Nolan, Counsel to the President - 5/4/00
In contrast, between 2000 and 2004, Bush allowed only one of his closest advisers, then-Assistant to the President for Homeland Security Tom Ridge, to appear in front of Congress. He has also refused three invitations from Congress for his aides to testify, a first since President Richard Nixon in 1972. Clinton did not refuse any.
White House spokesman Tony Snow has gone so far as to assert that Congress:"The executive branch is under no compulsion to testify to Congress, because Congress in fact doesn't have oversight ability."
Urrrrrrrrrrgh. And there are still ostriches who are unable to let themselves see that these guys are INTRINSICALLY evil? That they aren’t simply “regrettably excessively political and stupid” but something else entirely? Either stark raving mad or deliberate traitors to the people and Constitution of the United States of America?
Mind you, I NEVER raged this way against Ronald Reagan. Never! There were dogmaticassholes and liars and kleptocrats around then. But but but but....
I had to add the following, even though it’s only marginally political. I read a recent article on “how to get rich” by Gary Shilling. Not even on the list? Creatively offering new or improved goods and/or services. Oh alas.
The section on Government Subsidies shows that the top 1% of Americans get as much from the govt as all the welfare recipients do. But this other category has a real surprise.
GETTING RICH THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
You can always make big money by picking rich parents who die young, or wealthy and feeble uncles with no other heirs. For most, however, inheritance is not the route to riches. A study by AARP found the total for inheritances of all people alive today to be $12 trillion in 2005 dollars. Most of it, $9.2 trillion, will go to pre-boomers born before 1946, only $2.1 trillion to the postwar babies born between 1946 and 1964, and a mere $0.7 trillion to the post-boomers. The study goes on to show that the percentage of people receiving inheritances since 1989 has been quite consistent, so there's no reason to expect big jumps in their numbers any time soon.
Furthermore, the value of all previous inheritances as reported in the 2004 survey was $49,902 on average, with $70,317 for pre-boomers, $48,768 for boomers and $24,348 for post-boomers. Clearly, these are not numbers that will provide for comfortable retirements.