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Prior  Weblog

General Note to Visitors: 

In May of 2003 difficult circumstances in my personal life interrupted my daily work on this weblog.  In March of 2004 I recovered the ability to post to it, at least intermittently. 

Despite being unable to post after July 17, 2003, web surfing and some writing continued.  Material originated during that 'quiet' period will be included separately in the indexes to this weblog, even though it was not posted at the time created.   Much of the material originated as email sent to my personal mail list, but some was in the form of notes made for my own record.  This material will be indexed as opportunity permits and fortune provides, so the 'corpus' of the overall weblog will grow by backfilling, as well as at the tips of it's various branches.  

Recommended Sites:  http://gadflyer.com/   -   http://www.yuricareport.com/index.html  -  http://rightweb.irc-online.org/

Contents of this weblog file:  (archived)
This index is chronological (earliest is first), while the the postings are in reverse chronology (most recent is  first). 
Contents of Prior Weblog File (Archived)

Weblog, 2004-03-13, Saturn Day
Love and Sleep, Swinburne
Weblog, 2004-03-15, Moon Day  (The Ides of March)
Across a Great Divide - There are fundamental(ist) differences between Europe and the US.
Richard Mellon Scaife and the Death of Steve Kangas
Apparent productivity changes during recessions and recoveries are largely statistical aberrations
Why a supposed link between levels of taxation and employment is not there
Sloppy thinking and language about deficits, taxes, and spending
    Inflation statistics - core inflation rate excludes energy and food
    Income statistics - aggregate hides decreases for all but highest income individuals and families
    Comparison of Change in Income Share and Mean (Average)  between 1976 and 2001
Weblog, 2004-03-16, Tiw's Day 
The development of mobile robots and the future of artificial intelligence
Weblog, 2004-03-18, Thor's Day
NeoMedieval  Dominion
    Leo Strauss and his spawn
    The neocons and Bush/Cheney
    The "religious" right
    The corporate media
Weblog, 2004-03-19, Freya's Day
The DARPA "Robot Race" is in fact an artificial intelligence problem
NeoMedieval  Dominion (cont'd.)
    Bush's Black Friday
    Creationism Redux
Weblog, 2004-03-20, Saturn's Day
The ultimate neocon lie
Weblog, 2004-03-21, Sun Day
Doing something concrete in Afghanistan?
Weblog, 2004-03-22, Moon Day
Federal Regulatory Policy and the "Schumpeterian Hypothesis"
Stephan Schmidheiny and sustainable development
Honor to Malalai Joya
Weblog, 2004-03-23, Tiw's Day
NeoMedieval  Dominion (cont'd.)
    Dominion & domination: voiding the Enlightenment
    Dominionism and the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004
    Annotations and Sources

Weblog, 2004-03-23, Tiw's Day

Dominion & Domination: Voiding the Enlightenment

William Greider
of "Who Will Tell the People", wrote a scary article for The Nation of May 12, 2003, (posted April 24, 2003) about the long term plans of the gang in power. "Back to McKinley," won't sell as a slogan but seems about right.  
[Thx to Bill C. of the Reichline group via Will Kirkland of The Ruth Group]

Bill Greider has been onto the Bushies for some time, as evidenced by his article "Rolling Back the 20th Century" for The Nation of October 15, 2001.  
The URLs are:
  and http://www.publiccitizen.org/trade/nafta/CH__11/articles.cfm?ID=6444
Mr. Greider has written persuasively about the drive by the Bush administration to repeal the 20th Century.  But I think he is understating the extent of the problem, perhaps to avoid the difficulty of persuading and educating his readers to it.  For whatever reason, he has undershot the mark.  It is not the 20th Century the NeoCons and their fundamentalist allies have targeted.  It is the basis of Western Civilization itself, the Enlightenment, that they seek to repeal

I believe that Mr. Greider should  familiarize himself with the work of Katherine Yurica  in describing the influence of a political religious movement called Dominionism over the Bush administration and the reach and direction of that movement's leadership.  Another source, which relies extensively on Ms. Yurica's work, is the article by
Chris Floyd, discussing the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004.  That article includes annotations referring to other sources as well.  (It is copied below.)

Those sources deal with the ambitions of the radical religious elements in the Whitehouse and Congress - the element of Dominion.  For an introduction to the Neo Conservative agenda for Domination, consider "Leo Strauss and the American Right" by
Shadia Drury
An internet note on that book is at http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Leo_Strauss_and_the_American_Right
Additional useful background can be had at

The strong thread in neoconservatism of Platonism, with its skewed relationship to the real world, has great consequences for policy.  Chiefly, it results in the substitution - in a reversion to pre-Baconian epistemology - of reliance on internalized mental states - a priori ideas about reality, in lieu of reliance on empirically derived information about the real world.  I posted twin notes on the effects of this on science policy in the log for the 19th. ( Creationism Redux & Bush's Black(burn) Friday )

Perhaps of wider interest right now is its effect on intelligence strategy.  Small matters like believing in the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which seem to not have existed, and for the existence of which there never was real intelligence information.   Ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam?  Same game.   The 9-11 perps were mostly Saudi and Yemeni Wahabbists, and not Iraqi secular Baathists, but Iraq was responsible for 9-11?  Same Platonist, Straussian NeoCon game.

For an excellent analysis of the intellectual sources of this odd, pre-Enlightenment epistemology, which has had such a disastrous impact in leading US policy toward Irag in directions never supported by information, see  Tom Barry, "A Philosophy of Intelligence: Leo Strauss and Intelligence Strategy," IRC Right Web (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, February 12, 2004). 
The URL for Tom Parry's analysis is http://rightweb.irc-online.org/analysis/2004/0402nsai.php.  I hope you will visit the site and leave some $ to support the IRC's work there.  This is an important analysis, and if you have trouble accessing it you can write to me to get a copy.   See also http://rightweb.irc-online.org/analysis/2004/0402pi.php  Tom Barry, "Politicizing Intelligence: The Right's Agenda for the New American Century," IRC Right Web, Chronicle of the New American Century (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, February 12, 2004).
After considering these sources, it is terribly apparent to me that it is not the 20th Century that gives the Bush people, Dominionist fundamentalists and Dominationist neoconservatives alike,  heartburn.  Rather, it is the very foundation of Western, and now world, civilization: the Enlightenment and the secular, democratic organization of society that the Enlightenment has permitted to flourish. 

Arianna Huffington has undergone a political transformation.  I was pointed to the following by a reply to a post at her weblog.  

Pin Heads

If enacted, the Constitution Restoration Act will effectively transform the United States into a theocracy, where the arbitrary dictates of a "higher power" can override law.


By Chris Floyd

One of the sticking points in crafting the just-signed "interim constitution" of the Pentagon cash cow formerly known as Iraq was the question of acknowledging Islam as the fundamental source of law. After much wrangling, a fudge was worked out that cites the Koran as a fundamental source of legal authority, with the proviso that no law can be passed that conflicts with Islam.

We in the enlightened West smile at such theocratic quibbling, of course: Imagine, national leaders insisting that a modern state be governed solely by divine authority! Governments guaranteeing the right of religious extremists to impose their views on society! What next -- debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Oh, those poor, ignorant barbarians in Babylon!

Well, wipe that smile off your face. For even now, the ignorant barbarians in Washington are pushing a law through Congress that would "acknowledge God as the sovereign source of law, liberty [and] government" in the United States. What's more, it would forbid all legal challenges to government officials who use the power of the state to enforce their own view of "God's sovereign authority." Any judge who dared even hear such a challenge could be removed from office.

The "Constitution Restoration Act of 2004" is no joke; it was introduced last month by some of the Bush Regime's most powerful Congressional sycophants. If enacted, it will effectively transform the American republic into a theocracy, where the arbitrary dictates of a "higher power" -- as interpreted by a judge, policeman, bureaucrat or president -- can override the rule of law.

The Act -- drafted by a minion of television evangelist Pat Robertson -- is the fruit of decades of work by a group of extremists known broadly as "Dominionists." Their openly expressed aim is to establish "biblical rule" over every aspect of society -- placing "the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere under Christ the King." Or as Attorney General John Ashcroft -- the nation's chief law enforcement officer -- has often proclaimed: "America has no king but Jesus!"

According to Dominionist literature, "biblical rule" means execution -- preferably by stoning -- of homosexuals and other "revelers in licentiousness"; massive tax cuts for the rich (because "wealth is a mark of God's favor"); the elimination of government programs to alleviate poverty and sickness (because these depend on "confiscation of wealth"); and enslavement for debtors. No legal challenges to "God's order" will be allowed. And because this order is divinely ordained, the "elect" can use any means necessary to establish it, including deception, subversion, even violence. As Robertson himself adjures the faithful: "Zealous men force their way in."

Again, this is no tiny band of cranks meeting in some basement in Alabama, as recent reports by investigators Karen Yurica and David Neiwert make clear. The Dominionists are bankrolled and directed by deep-pocketed, well-connected business moguls and political operatives who have engineered a takeover of the Republican Party and are now at the heart of the U.S. government. They've made common cause with the "American Empire" faction -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, the neo-conservatives -- who seek "full-spectrum dominance" over the globe. The Dominionists provide money and domestic political muscle for the Dominators' imperial ambitions; in return, the Dominators provide a practical vehicle -- overwhelming military might and state power -- for making the Dominionists' dreams a reality.

The Dominionist movement was founded by the late R.J. Rushdoony, a busy beaver who also co-founded the Council for National Policy. The CNP is the politburo of the American conservative movement, filled with top-rank political and business leaders who set the national agenda for the vast echo chamber of right-wing foundations, publishers, media networks and universities that have schooled a whole generation in obscurantist bile -- just as the extremist Wahabbi religious schools funded by Saudi billionaires have poisoned the Islamic world with hatred and ignorance.

One of the chief moneybags behind the rise of Dominionism was tycoon Harold Ahmanson, Rushdoony's protege and fellow CNP member. In addition to establishing theocracy in America, Ahmanson has another abiding interest: computerized voting machines. As reported here last year, Ahmanson, a fervent Bush backer, was instrumental in establishing two of the Republican-controlled companies now rushing to install their highly hackable machines -- with untraceable, unrecountable electronic ballots -- across the country in time for the November election.

The Dominionists also have strong backing on the Supreme Court, Yurica notes. Justice Antonin Scalia, author of the unconstitutional ruling that gave Bush the presidency, declared in the theological journal First Things that the state derives its moral authority from God, not the "consent of the governed," as that old licentious reveler Thomas Jefferson held in the Declaration of Independence. No, government "is the 'minister of God' with powers to 'revenge,' to 'execute wrath,' including even wrath by the sword," Scalia wrote. He railed against the "tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government."

Meanwhile, the tools of dominion keep expanding. Just days after the Congressional Bushists launched their theocratic missile, General Ralph Eberhart, head of America's first domestic military command, said the Regime must now bring the experience learned on foreign battlefields to the "Homeland" itself, including the integration of police, military and intelligence forces, "wide-area surveillance of the United States" and "urban warfare tactics," GovExec.com reports.

Put this juggernaut at the service of democracy-hating extremists with no legal restraints on their enforcement of "God's sovereign authority" -- plus a proven track record of subverting the law to gain political power -- and what would you have? A mullah state? A military theocracy?

Or should we just call it "a second term"?


New Dominionist Bill Limits the Supreme Court's Jurisdiction
The Yurica Report, Feb. 28, 2004

The Despoiling of America
The Yurica Report, Feb. 11, 2004

Divine Transmissions
Rush, Newspeak and Facism, David Neiwert, June 2003

Constitution Restoration Act of 2004
U.S. House of Representatives Bill HR 3799, Feb. 11, 2004

Antonin Scalia: God's Justice and Ours
First Things, May 2002

Homeland Defense Chief Predicts Long War on Terror
GovExec.com, March 4, 2004

How George W. Bush Won the 2004 Presidential Election
Infernal Press, September 2003

Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence
The Public Eye, March/June 1994

Avenging Angel of the Religious Right
Salon.com, Jan. 6, 2004

Jesus Plus Nothing
Harpers, March 2003

E-Voting: How it Can Put the Wrong Candidate in Office
Common Dreams, Sept. 3, 2003

The Theft of Your Vote is Just a Chip Away
Thom Hartmann, July 31, 2003

Mishaps Run Deeper Than New Machines
San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 7, 2004

College for the Home-Schooled is Shaping Leaders for the Right
New York Times, March 8, 2004

Diebold's Political Machine
Mother Jones, March 3, 2004

Crossing the Threshold
Boston Phoenix, March 5, 2004

Homeland Security Information Network to Expand Collaboration
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Feb. 24, 2004

Slavery Under God's Laws
Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, Institute for Christian Economics, 1981,

Stoning: Integral to Commandment Against Murder
The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandment, Institute for Christian Economics, 1986,

World Conquest: The Obligation of Christian Politics
The Changing of the Guard, Dominion Press, 1987

An Anthology of Reconstructist Thought
Christian Reconstructionism, November 2002

Judicial Warfare: Christian Reconstructionism and its Blueprint for Dominion
Crown Rights Press, 2003

Introduction of the "Constitution Restoration Act 2004" (Interview) added by ed. jp

Weblog, 2004-03-22, Moon Day

Honor to Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya
Malalai Joya is a 25 year old muslim woman elected from the province of Farah for the Afghan Loya Jirga.

She is the daughter of an Afghan who lost a leg in the Afghan Jihad.
She has no political affiliations with any political parties but represents the most rudimentary class -the barefooted, weakest, silent, poorest Afghans. She founded an orphanage in Farah while she was a teenager. She has worked for 4 years in Afghan refugee camps. She taught social sciences for 2 years in Herat under the pretext of a religious school without the Taliban permission. She stands for FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, against WAR CRIMINALS , against those who have misused the name of Islam and ruined the name of the true Jihad, and against those who oppress women.

On December 17, 2003, she spoke to the Loya Jirga, appealing for protection of the rights of women and for recognition and a calling to account for the crimes against the women of Afghanistan by powerful warlords.   Her allotted time to speak was cut short, and the U.N. had to give her protection.

Read more at:  http://www.geocities.com/maryamaslami/joya.html 

Stephan Schmidheiny: I am not so much interested in defining philanthropy as in redefining it. I have not wanted to be thought of as "a philanthropist" ever since I read its definition in Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary: "Philanthropist: A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience picks his pocket."

I have certainly changed my approaches to philanthropy. When I started conceptualizing the AVINA Foundation soon after the Rio Summit of 1992, I thought in terms of "giving money to the poor." I sent a colleague to Latin America to look for possibilities. She reported back: "Sorry, but there are too many poor for your money to do any good." So we now see ourselves as partnering with leaders of civil society and the business sector in their initiatives towards sustainable development in Ibero-America. This way we seek more bang for the buck by investing in social change through change-makers.

GGM: Who are your role models, past and present?

Schmidheiny: I am very much a product of my family, being the fourth generation of a commercially successful Swiss-German clan who all believed in a responsibility toward society. They believed that society had given them resources, and therefore they should reinvest in society; society had given them leadership positions they should use for the bettering society. It was, I suppose, a sort of noblesse oblige, but it always seemed to me to have a more human touch than that.

At present? Most of the leaders we work with in Latin America are young, certainly younger than I. They are energetic, innovative, brave -- not afraid to "speak truth to power." I suppose these are my role models.

Read it all at:


Federal Regulatory Policy and the "Schumpeterian Hypothesis"

Mr Syre:

Re:  Your article "Ineffective Fed", 3/16/2004, The Boston Globe

The first of the three articles below touches on the reasons (or at least I think it does) for the Fed's and other regulatory agencies' passivity with respect to mergers.  Of course that is too mild a statement.  You put it better when you point out that federal regulators have actually favored concentration, and have have encouraged mergers as the best way to achieve it.  

The article notes that this policy preference (bias) originates in a novel distortion of the "Shumpeterian Hypothesis" regarding productivity, which proposed that productivity of large, bureaucratic organizations, counterintuitively, would be superior to that of small organizations, and thus more efficient, in economic terms.

As I take it from my reading, this Shumpeterian hypothesis was a late modification of Shumpeter's intellectual corpus, and contrasts to his earlier emphasis on "destructive creation" or the place of new and disruptive technologies' replacement of older technologies as the driving force behind increased productivity and economic growth. 

In both models, technological innovation is the driving force behind economic growth and increases in welfare, through its positive effects on productivity.   The difference is in Shumpeter's judgement about the form of economic organization, the structure of the firm, that most effectively creates and adopts new productive technology.  In fact, empirical data analyzed by economists has largely run counter to the later hypothesis, and generally show that large firms are less effective in creating and adopting new technology than smaller firms.

During the Reagan/Thatcher revolution, the later Shumpeterian Hypothesis was siezed upon to gut traditional regulatory practice, and more importantly to attack the intellectual basis for that practice.   The result is that we now have both an established ideology and a generation of staff in regulatory agencies who are intellectually crippled by that ideology; and this despite the fact that the hypothesis has largely been discredited by empirical studies.  In keeping with the tenor of the Bush administration - "frozen in amber" as it is -  the original Reagan/Thatcher distortion is once again in full flower.  

This Bush shift toward policies favoring well established "old economy" firms in defense and energy and away from economic policies focusing on encouragement of high technology competitive firms was prophesied byRussian policy analyst Antoly Baranov immediately after 9-11:  "...control over the private and public life of the American people is going to be toughened, including the business sphere.  The U.S. will shift its emphasis from hi-tech constituents over to the raw materials companies -- the ones which deal with oil and gas fuel first and foremost. The weight of the military and industrial complex in GNP will be raised..." (September 19, 2001).

As Baranov predicted, Bush economic policies are disadvantaging both firms engaged in the creation and marketing of new technology and those dependent on broad consumer demand driven by high employment and wages.  The Democrats should be aggressively using that fact to secure the financial and ideological support of major sections of the American business community in the current election.

This note summarizes a small part of the ideas and information included in
J. Patrick Raines, University of Richmond and Charles G. Leathers, University of Alabama
The behavioral influences of large bureaucratic organizations that were noted by Schumpeter would seem to weigh heavily against the plausibility of the Schumpeterian hypothesis that large corporations are more powerful engines of technological innovations than small competitive firms. 


Competition and Antitrust Policies Should be Updated
Michael E. Porter
This article seeks to contribute thinking on how the intellectual foundations of antitrust might be updated, based on a large body of theoretical and empirical research on company strategy, competition, and economic development. The aim is to outline a new direction for antitrust that can be incorporated into government policy and legal practice and pursued in litigation and legislation, both in the United States and internationally.

Microsoft alum laments inventor's dilemma
David Berlind
If you believe what ex-Microsoft research and development chief Nathan Myhrvold had to say to an MIT auditorium packed with Emerging Technology Conference 2003 attendees, we are stuck on a treadmill of incremental rather than paradigm-changing innovation.  ...  "Most big companies don't invent," said Myhrvold. "Even the ones with R&D don't invent.

Weblog, 2004-03-21, Sun Day

Doing Something Concrete:

Just when I am getting depressed about the way politics is going, and the place that wealth and industry have recently had in that decline here in the US, I find the Max Schmidheiny Foundation, with awards in 1995 to Dr. Mohammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank and  Hernando de Soto, Director, Institute of Liberty and Democracy, Lima (PE), and for 2003 to Kofi Annan.

I was looking, because Thomas Schmidheiny is the largest stockholder in the second largest cement producer (Holcim, Ltd.), and my fantasy is to use energy from Northern Afghanistan (and if necessary Tajikistan and Uzbeckistan) with local limestone to build a cement producing industry in Afghanistan.   That will require capital investment, and possibly the translocation of small disused cement production facilities to Afghanistan.

A corollary goal would be to find funding for the education of Afghans in Petroleum Engineering and in economic and explorationGeology.  I know of only one Afghan geologist, Daud Saba, but he may know of others and be willing to lend support.  (The idea of building of a pipeline across Afghanistan for Central Asian oil hurts my head - if only wealth and demand were available to build an Afghan refinery and petrochemical industry instead.)

If there is hope for interest in such projects on the part of major industrial and financial interests, it must be with Holcim and the Schmidheiny family tradition of public service, or others not yet known to me.  


For the whimsy of it I posted a version of this note at the "Contact" forms:

Stephan Schmidheiny, brother of Thomas, and Holcim Ltd.  are explicitly committed to Sustainable Development.   They all have my gratitude, it was a better day for having discovered them.

Weblog, 2004-03-20, Saturn's Day

Finally replied to an interesting email from Jerry Bass, the poet, who had responded to my emailing of this essay by Peter Scheider.
Schneider is definitely on to something. It is a fundamental axiom of right-wing radio talk shows and tracts that contemporary European culture and values are at radical variance with that of the U.S. There is a strong reiteration of American exceptionalism, our unique position of a defender of civilized values against so-called Islamofascists and effete Europeans. Europe's great strides in providing health and social security for all its citizenry, for example, is taken as a negative against the hardworking capitalism of the U.S. Perhaps we can generalize Adler's hypothesis that on the individual level a superiority complex actually covers strong feelings of inferiority. In genral, I'm struck at the belligerent know-nothingness and ignorance of current public discourse. Maybe I better stop listening to so much right-wing radio talk shows; still, they are often entertaining if infuriating.

That is the ultimate big lie, the big bang of lies - that the NeoCons and fundies are defenders of civilization.   They are in fact what they charge the Islamists with being, and their protestations are (I think conscious) diversions - magic tricks, sleight of hand to draw our attention from what they are really doing to civilization.

I think, Jerry, that this has to be confronted directly, and in so many words, at every occasion that presents itself.  These people are enemies of civilization, anti-Enlightenment neo medievalists who are in the process of dragging us into a nightmare morass of religious superstition, feudal corporatism, and manorial serfdom.

And the "felon radio" personalities may not see clearly where they have us headed, but they know full well that they are the ones who really hate our freedoms, right along with the Salafist Wahhabis who were on those airplanes.


Karen Ryan: "I Feel Like Political Roadkill"   If you haven't heard, Karen is the "actress posing as a newsperson" (actually a Public Relations type doing what PR types do) who got entangled in the Bushies efforts to politicize Prescription Drug benefits.

Weblog, 2004-03-19, Freya's Day

Creationism Redux:  Yes, those who know me....
The Scopes Monkey Trial is back in the News!  Not only has the burg that tried Mr. Scopes for teaching evolution attempted to make name for itself again (Should it be "The town that has no name?") by calling for the outlawing of same sex relationships, but a Harvard Law School type has managed to tout creationism in a Harvard LawReview piece, using that  distinguished journal to give cover to the silliness of the proposition.   Adding insult to injury he then denies that "Intelligent Design" is the same as Creationism, though he is clearly unable to specify the nature of any distinction between the two.  Conjoining two phrases from http://www.prospect.org/weblog/archives/2004/03/index.html#002618
"One for the annals of conservative intellectual decline; scientific illiteracy and journalistic dishonesty, together at last. ... Frankly, they couldn't have picked a better moment in history."
Fortunately, this foolishness has been well dealt with:
GobDAMN, but creationist apologists piss me off

"Why do we have to waste our time subjecting this crap to rigorous evaluation? Why? Because pompous jerks at Harvard Law with no training in science write ill-informed, inane articles advocating unscientific positions. Because rich scumbags like Howard Ahmanson dump megabucks into creationist fronts like the Discovery Institute as part of their plan to advance theocratic causes. Because religious frauds like Dembski and Wells declare their pious lies to be 'scientific', and the gullible believe them. Because mobs of those gullible, credulous twits elect sanctimonious politicians and school board leaders and 'educators' who then connive to force archaic religious superstitions into our kids' classrooms.

"The vast majority of scientists simply ignore creationist garbage. Those few of us who do deal with it do so because somebody has to shovel up the shit that people like Mr VanDyke are spewing. For them to then turn around and suggest that they are shitting jewels because otherwise no one would bother to scrape it up is just appalling."

It's a nice contrast to the usual pussyfooting around you see in comments about these people.  Not that I have a problem with detailed critical analysis such as at
Literature Check

creationists ornament themselves with references to peer-reviewed scientific papers that they claim support Intelligent Design, a great flood, whatever. In the course of interviewing scientists for articles or books, I will sometimes mention to them that they have been invoked in this way. Now, you'd think that if their work really did support creationism, they'd be delighted. Of course, the opposite is true: usually I hear a groan of someone being hideously misrepresented. Here's an example that was fortunately preserved in print. (Follow-up here) It frustrates scientists to no end that research that can take years to bring to fruition can be misused so swiftly.

Next time you encounter creationists trying to create an aura of respectability with a scientific citation and a few words quoted out of context, ask them what the authors of the paper think of creationism.

The Denouement to the VanDyke Debate about Intelligent Design Creationism

I particularily agree with the comment there approving "Chris Mooney's apt summation of the real point:"
"Let's face it: To defend Intelligent Design, you pretty much have to misrepresent what scientists know about evolution. You also have to pretend that a theory which has never been shown to have any scientific backing is nevertheless somehow 'scientific.' Those who perpetrate these falsehoods--especially in scholarly venues--ought to be held accountable for that fact."

And as a bonus, we get a well documented case study of how the right wing slime and smear machine works!   In this case the online version of The National Review publishes the smear job directed at Leiter.  That piece poses as a defense of the  incompetent review of a book by creationism apologist Francis Beckwith.com and which Leiter had  dismembered on a blog site.  And, it turns out, there is an undiclosed relationship between the author of the smear, Hunter Baker, and Beckwith:   Mr. Baker is Professor Beckwith's graduate student and teaching assistant.  Isn't life wonderful! 

My new hero! Chris Mooney does a great job of tracking the intersection of science and public policy, and has an impressive list of publications for a 1999 Yale graduate. 

And Kevin Drum's "Political Animal" for the 18th cheered me up, too!

Bush's Black Friday:  (from the Friday, March 19, 2004 Newsletter "Around the Bases")
The dismissal on February 27 of UCSF cell biologist Elizabeth Blackburn from the President's Council on Bioethics has outraged scientists and ethicists, and rightfully so. 

Although her two-year term had officially expired, Blackburn was by far the most expert scientist on the 18-member panel on critical areas under debate, including stem cell research and cloning. (The council only had three working scientists to begin with.) Council chairman Leon Kass denied in The Washington Post that there was any political motive for letting Blackburn go, but her replacement by three conservatives - two political scientists and a pediatric neurosurgeon - suggests otherwise.

An angry Blackburn said that Kass has "a nausea for diversity." Sixty ethicists, led by Penn's Art Caplan, fired a letter to President Bush protesting the lack of diversity on the reconstituted panel. Caplan told Slate: "I don't think this is the best bioethics has to offer. I don't even think this is the best the right wing has to offer."

Blackburn's dismissal came shortly before the publication of a commentary in PLoS Biology, co-authored by geneticist Janet Rowley, who for now retains her seat on the council. The essay was critical of misperceptions that Blackburn and Rowley say were allowed to stand over their objections. Last week, Blackburn published a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which she said that "there is a growing sense that scientific research - which, after all, is defined by the quest for truth - is being manipulated for political ends."

An informative, even entertaining, guide to the events leading up to 'Black Friday' can be found in Timothy Noah's "Chatterbox" column in Slate magazine online. There will be more on this subject in the April editorial of Bio-IT World.

E. Blackburn and J. Rowley, "Reason as Our Guide," PLoS Biology, published online March 5, 2004. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020116

E. Blackburn, "Bioethics and the political distortion of biomedical science."
NEJM March 12, 2004. DOI:10.1056/NEJMp048072

T. Noah, "Leon Kass, You Silly Ass!" Slate, March 8, 2004.

More on Bush's Black Friday:  (This deserves a full record.)
Chris Mooney has followed the Black Friday aftemath closely:
This last post illustrates clearly how the Bush Adminstration is pandering to the religious right (the "Left Behind" crowd) in its policies - and to Hell with science is undoubtedly their core belief system from the git go, so we are getting real close to an understanding of what is really going on here, eh? 

As have others:
Bioethics of--and in--the Brain
A 'Full Range' of Bioethical Views Just Got Narrower
Leon Kass Learns to Spin: Sage of bioethics wants you to think he knows nothing
The Bush administration's scientific distortions threaten the environment

...the Administration may have misinformed the public and interfered with science ...
Bioethicist slams Medicare drug plan


Changes Renew Criticism That the President Puts Politics Ahead of Science
Scientist Lauded After Gov't Fires Her

Regarding the DARPA "Robot Race" it seems to me that (to quote myself) this is in fact an AI problem - I regard it, due to my own biases, as *the* AI problem.   The personal reasons?  My background in geology, focused on paleontology and evolutionary biology.
I'd venture to break the problem down:

Once the intelligence of the vehicle can support actually getting from any given starting point to any given target ending point, then designing a vehicle that can withstand the rigors of the course becomes relevant, and the vehicular engineers can provide their essential contribution.  Intelligent planning of overall routing, adaptive mid range routing, and defensive damage avoidance practices will simplify vehicle design by relieving that process of many "survivability" concerns.

This approach has another virtue - the most important element, the intelligence, can be tested using minimalist vehicles at any scale large enough to hold the data aquisition and management hardware and in any sufficiently varied environment.
Put the money into the intelligence, not the hardware.

Weblog, 2004-03-18, Thor's Day

The NeoCons

Leo Strauss and his Spawn

I hope many will READ and understand the material at the following links:
Patrick J. Buchanan, veteran of the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan White House, and three time candidate for President, is a well known conservative and is an editor of "The American Conservative".  He writes in the March 1, 2004 issue (No End to War: The Frum-Perle prescription would ensnare America in endless conflict)  that all three editors of that magazine and four of its regular contributors have been ordered "purged from the conservative movement" by Frum.

"Expelled from the White House, Frum ratted out his old colleagues in a “hot” book and got himself hired by National Review, where he produced a cover story about a dirty dozen “Unpatriotic Conservatives” who hate neocons, hate Bush, hate the GOP, hate America, and “wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror.”"

I knew that there were a good many conservatives of a stripe I call "old conservatives" who have rejected the NeoCon gospel of unending war (see AntiWar.com) but I did not know that Buchanan was among them.  A choice sentence in his long, very critical article about the NeoCons is:

"Lawrence Kaplan, a Perle colleague who co-authored a book with William Kristol, after reading An End to Evil, declared: “This is not conservatism. It is liberalism, with very sharp teeth.” "

Which, I fear leads to the question:  Is Lugubrius Lurch no different than  the NeoCons except that he is toothless?  

Well, even if so, that is good enough for me, as a toothless "Liberal" is far preferable to the NeoCons so well described in Buchanan's article. 

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, an Air Force officer and American Conservative formerly attached to the Pentagon's planning office, has written a series of three articles describing the NeoCon take over of the US defense planning system.   Remember, as you read these articles that they are written by a conservative career officer, not a left wing pacifist.

Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski is interviewed in this article:
In March 2003 Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski reprised the American Conservative series for Salon:


describes how a NeoCon foundation is subverting the idea of democracy in American universities.

Shadia Drury's book "Leo Strauss and the American Right" is an academic survey of the American neo-cons, where they were educated, and philosophical underpinnings of their overt and covert agendas.  I commend it to everyone who is concerned about basic personal freedom and the poltitical health of this country both in the U.S. and in the international arena.  A review of the book notes: 

"The chief insight offered by Shadia Drury in LEO STRAUSS AND THE AMERICAN RIGHT is that Leo Strauss' political philosophy is a radical variant of conservatism whose assumptions and strategies are at odds with traditional conservatism. While ... Straussian and Burkean philosophy appear similar in that they both make the assumption that the only choice is between a beneficent plutocracy and anarchy, the Straussians are unsentimental about the past, rejecting the older conservative view that naturalizes pre-modern hierarchy and the inequalities preserved therein as intrinsic to and representative of mankind. Straussians are instead post-modern activists, who use the past as repository from which to cull whatever elements are necessary to build whatever institutional machine is necessary to regulate lesser mortals. They imagine themselves as an intellectual pastorate who must defend society against the depredations of liberalism -- that socially disruptive idea which insists on equality of opportunity and justice. "

Of course Googling the terms ' strauss neoconservative ' and ' "Leo Strauss and the American Right" '  will produce relevant information too.

The NeoCons and Bush/Cheney

The NeoCons, as Strauss,  are Platonists.  Platonism, a notoriously anti-democratic ancient Greek philosophy,

figures in Bush's
difficult relationship with reality
and his communications style

It also motivates his space exploration policy

and his administration's distortion of science in forming public policy
Scientists Say Administration Distorts Facts
Uses and Abuses of Science
Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science

The Junk Science of George W. Bush
Beware 'Sound Science.' It's Doublespeak for Trouble
Statement On the Bush Administration's Neglect of Science and Research

The "religious" right:

I recently read an unfortunate comment in a thread on Howard Dean's "Blog for America" which was a transparently mocking reference  to (Iraq Administrator) "Bremer's new friend Sistani" juxtaposed with exerpts from some Islamic literature describing rules of ritual cleanliness regarding sexuality.   I assume that the poster was an anti-Dean agent provocateur attempting to get some Deaniac to react with comments hostile to Islam and Muslims.

Ayatollah Ali Sistani is a noble and just man, but even a great representative of a culture which has entrapped itself in the 16th century is easily misunderstood, and by some ridiculed, out of that context.  Four or five hundred years ago most of our own forebears were in Europe, most likely, burning witches. 

Sistani's policies are not bad, considering his circumstances.  He opposes a theocratic form of government in Iraq, and is a supporter of pluralism and Federalism there.  He rejects political power for himself, and opposes it for all members of the Islamic clergy.  That makes him a better man than the pseudo Christian premillenialist dispensationalists who want an amendment to the US Constitution declaring our nation a "Christian" state.

Further, the sexual 'cleanliness' rituals of his religion may be medically incomprehensible, but they are no stranger than those described in the literatures of belief used by adherents to the Christian and Jewish faiths.   The reason they seem so strange to most of us is because Islamic culture has been in the hands of Islam's equivalents of Falwell and Robertson for the last 400 years instead of the hands of Locke, Voltaire, Condorcet, Jefferson,
Paine, Franklin and their company. 

Let Fallwell, and Robertson, and this new Shrubbyist NeoCon judge of GW's, Pryor,  run things a bit, and then try laughing at Ali Sistani!

Fundamentalism shares a common set of characteristics across the spectrum of religions and social settings in which it takes root.  This is true, whether based in a perversion of Taoism or Confuscianism in China, Hindu traditions in India as with the historically fascist RSS responsible for riots and murders of Muslims in Gujarat, Salafist Wahhabism in the Sunni Islam of the Saudi's, the Israeli religious zealots who, albeit indirectly,  gifted a once disgraced Sharon with power by assassinating Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, or the premi-disp rightists in the US who gave cover to Mc Veigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building.

READ the links and use the search words noted below for information on a peculiar branch (heresy?) of fundamentalist Christianity called Darbyism, or "premillenialist dispensationalism" which is in political ascendancy in the US today.  It is important to note that this is only one, in the eyes of many Christian theologians highly heterodox, branch of a large and complex religious tradition.   It is not representative of all of Protestant Christianity, or even of all Evangelical Christian beliefs - and - though Darbyists would not agree that it is possible - there are even so-called "fundamentalist" Christians who do not accept "premillenialist dispensationalism".    Certain fiction aggressively marketed at the US's WalMart discount markets, having to do with "disappearances", is representative of this strange offshoot of Christianity, as are Falwell and Robertson. 
Google these terms:

Plymouth Brethren

READ two items on my own site:

The Corporate Media 

For what the NeoCons are doing to the media read

For what the media have done to the Howard Dean campaign read
Eight Easy Pieces:   URL's for good articles about the media and the Dean Campaign. 
All are must reads.

The Black Commentator ( at http://www.blackcommentator.com/75/75_cover_dean_media.html ) is a really good piece that complements
Naeem Mohaiemen's AlterNet piece "The Assassination of Howard Dean" at http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17881 and
William Greider's piece in the Nation "Dean's Rough Ride" at
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040308&s=greider and
Vince Stehle's  piece in The Guardian  "Pre-emptive strike on the Dean machine" at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1152741,00.html
Carl Jensen's piece "The Unmaking of a President" at
http://blogs.salon.com/0002255/2004/02/02.html and http://www.joplinindependent.com/display_article.php/c-jensen1075581263

And more every day:
Ciro Scotti's piece in Business Week "How the Dems Did In Howard Dean" at
Zlatkin's piece "The Fat Cats are Comfortable with Kerry" at
Charles Lewis's "Public Integrity" article Anatomy of an "independent" smear campaign at

Weblog, 2004-03-16, Tiw's Day 

The future of artificial intelligence is here!   Problem appears to be that the "Robot Race" is being approached as an exercise in vehicular engineering, when it should be an AI project with engineering support.   The first intelligence was tropism - responsiveness to the external environment based on perceptual input.  However simple the initial perceptual apparatus was, it was what made the evolution of intelligence thermodynamically (or bioenergetically) "efficient" for the genome.   The preconditions for self awareness are rooted in that first need, to respond actively to the external environment as apprehended through a perceptual apparatus.  The response was, for the animal kingdom, mediated by the use of  electrochemical switching to manage and order the perceptual inputs.  Supplementing chemical pathways at the cellular level,  specialized neural tissues and activity evolved to manage the organism level electrochemical processes.

Human self awareness is rooted in this ancient capability to perceive and interact with an explicitely external environment.  An examination of "self awareness" as some late developing intellectual activity is truly pointless, when the capacity for interacting with features of an external environment which is clearly distinct from the perceiving organism is literally the earliest form of intelligence.  Self awareness is not something that distinguishes humans from other forms of life -  it remains to be seen whether any such distinguishing feature exists.  

It is as foolish for cognitive theorists and AI software writers to focus on high order logic and language processing without first providing for the base processes supporting perception and interaction with the environment as it is for Robot Race vehicle builders to build self propelled machines which cannot perceive and order perceptions of their environment and then efficiently manage their relationship to it.

If the cognitive theorists and AI folks want to make progress on their joint project of understanding and replicating in digital technology the forms of intelligent behavior characterizing the higher animals, they will eventually be forced to start at this very beginning.  And they may as well use the DARPA Robot Race grants to do it. 

Weblog, 2004-03-15, Moon Day  (The Ides of March)

Sloppy thinking and language about deficits, taxes, and spending

Ron Brownstein, in the LA Times (LINK) takes the press and the candidates to task for sloppy thinking and language about deficits, taxes, and spending.   In his words "If this is what Americans can anticipate over the next eight months, it's time to reach for the remote control.

The level of clarity and understanding in reporting on budget matters, not to mention economic policy, has always been bad, but is getting worse rapidly.  Much of the problem looks like simple intellectual laziness on the part of the reporters and the talking heads that media producers use as foils and proxies to illustrate whatever point they are trying to put across.   Some of it must be, though, that the people in the media game are simply unprepared by education or inclination to deal with quantitative, including economic and budgetary, information.  They often have that "deer in the headlights" look, when attempting to present news and analysis in these areas - and that applies to science and engineering stories, as well as to economics.

The reportage problems Ron Brownstein discusses would be easily enough dealt with - they seem to me to involve no conceptual issues, only the failure care enough about the story to attempt to disaggregate numbers even to a first level of detail.   I've made up a couple of interchangeable shorthand terms for this common failure - "aggregation error" and "compositional fallacy".  Brownstein describes very well what happens when you break down statements using aggregated 'data' into their component parts - the picture is very different than you were initially led to believe.    In the case of the tax and deficit story he looks at, even a rudimentary attempt to disaggregate the numbers being tossed about would have forced reporters who "gave a damn" to get into some important story elements that went unremarked.

I have a burr under my saddle these days about two other cases where appropriate detail is avoided in the media product fed to us:
Even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in an otherwise balanced article, failed to disaggregate wage figures when it noted:
Of broader impact is the news that wage growth also is stuck in neutral. Wage growth was rising at a 4 percent rate before the recession took hold in 2001, said Kenneth Goldstein, senior economist at the Conference Board, a New York research institution.   That increase was down to 3 percent in early 2003, he said. "In January 2004, it was 2 percent. Now it's 1.6 percent."
Unfortunately disaggregated wage growth numbers for the short term are hard to find, and I cannot provide a current chart.. Over the long term, disaggregated numbers for wage growth show:

Comparison of Change in Aggregate Income Share and Mean (Average)  between 1976 and 2001
Income Quintile (+ Highest 5%) 1976

Share %
Avg. $
Share %
Avg. $
Share %
Avg. $
% Avg. $
Highest 5%
Highest Fifth
Fourth Fifth
Third Fifth
Second Fifth
Lowest Fifth
  • In this 25 year period, the share of total income realized by the lowest fifth of the people has decreased by 20.5%
  • The share of the highest 5% of the people has increased by 40%. 
  • The average income of people in the lowest fifth had increased by $1, 146.
  • The average income of people in the highest 5% has increased by $129,356
  • The % change in the average income of the lowest fifth has been 12.7%
  • The % change in the average income of the highest 5% has been 98.7%
Source:  http://www.census.gov/hhes/income/histinc/inchhdet.html
Income $ amounts are in 2001 CPI-U-RS adjusted dollars
Additional info:  http://www.econedlink.org/lessons/index.cfm?lesson=EM65

A Washington Post article today (Link Between Taxation, Unemployment Is Absent, By Jonathan Weisman, Monday, March 15, 2004; Page A10) discusses  the absence of the frequently asserted link between taxes and employment levels (lowering taxes on the rich will create jobs for the poor, and such nonsense).  It only barely touches on the important truth that it is the structure of taxation, not levels of taxation, that affects employment, investment, and productivity.  

Providing great tax benefits to capital investment, while imposing tax penalties on the use of labor in production, can be counted on to distort the allocation of resources between capital and labor, over using capital, and under utilizing labor.

The historical genius of the US economy, its creative invention and technological dynamism, and the very dramatic improvements in its productivity that gave Americans the highest standard of living in the world was never driven and could never have been driven by tax benefits for investment in machinery, compounded by tax penalties for the employment of labor.   Rather, that drive to invent new technologies for productin was driven by chronic labor shortages, relatively high wages, and the presence of a strain in the American character that encouraged education and an appreciation of science and the mechanical arts.

Tax policies, such as those embodied in the Bush tax cuts, which reduce the demand for and cost of labor actually reduce the incentive for invention of and investment in new production  technologies, and destroy the some of the most importat conditions leading to increases in labor productivity.  

Of course those tax policies also reduce employment and wages, wage income, effective demand for products, sales, profits, the value of investments in producing companies, the propensity to save and invest, and the availability of the capital needed to invest in new equipment and technology.   So the growth in productivity takes a double hit.

Productivity changes during recessions and recoveries in the overall level of economic activity are largely statistical aberrations.

But, it is said, productivity is increasing rapidly, right now.  And that is given as a reason for the continuation of underemployment of the US labor force.   No, real productivity is not increasing.   Productivity figures are affected, going into and coming out of recessions, by the extent to which existing productive resources are underemployed.   When there is a large pool of unused productive capacity available, that surplus capacity is still "in use" for purposes of computing output per unit input, even though it is not producing anything.   When production increases, inputs do not, until this slack is taken up.  Walla!  We have a great increase in the productivity of our economy which is really only a statistical artifact.

Same thing happens on the other side - when the rate of utilization of existing productive capacity decreases, the statistical artifact produces the illusion of a "decrease in productivity" or more likely a "decrease in the rate of increase" in productivity.   The ignorant and conservative often use this as a rationale for evil economic propaganda and policies intended to reduce the demand for labor.  Such as "We need to provide a favorable tax environment for investment in machinery to improve productivity." etc.  A bit of distortion that is convenient for the owners of capital, but quite irrelevant to the actual situation - a statistical aberration resulting from decreasing utilization of already existing productive resources.

Richard Mellon Scaife and the Death of Steve Kangas

In memory of Steve Kangas, creator of the excellent web site "Liberalism Resurgent" I have posted a collection of pages from the internet which deal with his life and especially his death under mysterious circumstances at the offices of Richard Mellon Scaife - the billionaire who spent $10 million in attacking President Clinton, who funded and fomented the drive to impeach him, and who spent over $200 million of Carnegie and Mellon money in funding extreme right wing organizations over a 25 year period.

I have responded to an email from "The American Humanist" folks - with whom I am vaguely allied though no member.   Mr. Speckhardt replied, courteously and briefly, that he found my points interesting.

Roy, it is interesting to note that while am not a theist and agree with your point that the Little League should not conduct its ceremonies in a way that causes discomfort to polytheists and nontheists, I am personally less affected by the Little League's insensitivity than by your own!

It is amusing to me that the whole world seems so successfully to frequently ignore the existence of (non theist) Deists in their midst.  This results in some strange phenomena:
  • The AOL discussion groups have a number of groups dealing with religious topics.  Deism, somehow, is classified as a subtopic of Christianity.  I know that a lot of Christians are more uncomfortable with that than Deists are - or would be if Deists were not so invisible.
  • The US Courts can flirt with the possibility that certain references to God on official occasions are no contradiction to the "establishment" clause of the Constitution on the basis that such references are and have always been a permissible "ceremonial deism" within the intent 0f the framers and that no harm is done by such references. 
  • When I am questioned by Theists about these things I can truthfully say that I have always opposed the incorporation of the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and have never (ed. "never say never") used the phrase in reciting it (I learned the pledge before the offending novelty was added in the 50's) its inclusion not only does no harm to my personal religious persuasion, but in its character as "a ceremonial Deism" even affirms that persuasion!
  • In the same way, I can say with the Little League "I trust in God,"  without affirming any theist religion or Theism as a religious belief at all.
The law of unintended consequences often has such strange effects.

I often suggest to my animist and agnostic friends that they join me in my Deist commitment, so they can share in the benefits.  But it is still true that committed, believing athiests and polythiests could be discomfited by a crowd of Theists and Deists trusting in God in their presence.

On the other hand, a polytheist only has to use the plural form, Gods, to avoid this conflict.  And I see no reason that a non theist, or atheist, would be anything but amused at the whole thing.

I suspect that the most disturbed folks in such a crowd would be conservative theists, if they suddenly realized that they were in the presence of large numbers of Deists who spoke as comfortably of (and maybe even to) God as do they themselves.

Jim Pivonka

Roy Speckhardt wrote:
American Humanist Association Action Alert

Little League Endorsement of 'God' Excludes Nontheists and Polytheists

According to the Little League, Better than any other youth sport activity,
baseball and softball have become the thread that has sewn together a
patchwork of nations and cultures around the world, yet some of its actions
prove divisive rather than unifying. For instance, the league was founded in
1939, but girls were excluded until 1973.

The Little League pledge itself begins with "I trust in God," thus
excluding nontheists and polytheists. The recitation of this pledge
specifically inculcates children with a monotheistic message not held by
millions of Americans, amounting to an endorsement of a sectarian religion.

This morning (0100) I sent the following article and comments via email to my address books.  (The mail is sent, but I may change the form of this post to remove some of the NY Times article text after I get a nights sleep.)

It relates rather closely to the long essay I am trying to work on, a couple of draft sections of which are posted below.

The New York Times, March 13, 2004

March 13, 2004
Across a Great Divide
The war in Iraq has brought older and more fundamental differences between Europe and the United States into focus.

Across a Great Divide


BBERLIN, March 12 — The war in Iraq has made the Atlantic seem wider. But really it has had the effect of a magnifying glass, bringing older and more fundamental differences between Europe and the United States into focus.

These growing divisions — over war, peace, religion, sex, life and death — amount to a philosophical dispute about the common origins of European and American civilization. Both children of the Enlightenment, the United States and Europe clearly differ about the nature of this inheritance and about who is its better custodian.

Start with religion. The United States is experiencing a revival of the Christian faith in many areas of civic and political life, while in Europe the process of secularization continues unabated. Today the United States is the most religious-minded society of the Western democracies. In a 2003 Harris poll 79 percent of Americans said they believed in God, and more than a third said they attended a religious service once a month or more. Numerous polls have shown that these figures are much lower in Western Europe. In the United States a majority of respondents in recent years told pollsters that they believed in angels, while in Europe the issue was apparently considered so preposterous that no one even asked the question.

When American commentators warn about a new fundamentalism, they generally mention only the Islamic one. European intellectuals include two other kinds: the Jewish and Christian variants.

The US practice is to refuse to acknowledge the threat to Enlightenment values, and our own democracy, that are inherent in the Jewish and Christian forms of  fundamentalism.

Terms that President Bush has used, like "crusade" and "axis of evil," and Manichaean exclusions like his observation that anyone who is not on our side is on the side of the terrorists, reveal the assumption of a religious mantle by a secular power, which in Europe has become unthinkable. Was it not, perhaps, this same sense of religious infallibility that seduced senior members of the Bush administration into leading their country into a war with Iraq on the basis of information that has turned out to be false?

Another reason for Europe's alienation from the United States is harder to define, but for want of a better term, I call it American narcissism.

In the US, commentators dignify this narcissism with the appellation "American Exceptionalism"

When American troops in Iraq mistakenly shoot an Arab journalist or reduce half of a village to rubble in response to the explosion of a roadside bomb, there will inevitably be a backlash. Only a fool would maintain that an occupying power could afford many such mistakes, even if it is under constant threat of suicide attacks. The success of an occupation policy — however temporary it is meant to be — depends on the occupier's ability to convince the population, by means of symbolic and material gestures, that it is prepared to admit to mistakes.

In its use of the language of power the Bush administration has created the opposite impression, and not just in Iraq. The United States apparently cannot be wrong about anything, nor does it have to apologize to anybody. In many parts of the world people have come to believe, fairly or not, that Americans regard the life of their countrymen as infinitely more valuable than the lives of any other of the earth's inhabitants.

Of course, even in Europe only a pacifist minority denies the existence of necessary, unavoidable, justified wars. The interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan were supported by many European nations, even if some took a long time to make up their minds. European soldiers took part in those wars and continue to play a part in the peacekeeping aftermath.

What arouses European suspicion, though, is the doctrine of just, preemptive wars President Bush has outlined. Anyone who claims to be waging a preventive war in the cause of justice is confusing either a particular or a partisan interest with the interests of humanity. A president who makes such a claim would be arrogating the right to be the ultimate arbiter of war and peace and to stand in judgment over the world. From there it is but a short step to dismissing a basic insight of the Enlightenment, namely that human judgment and decisions are fallible by their very nature. This fallibility cannot be annulled or ameliorated by any political, legal or religious authority. The same argument goes for the death penalty.

Animosity isn't the only feature of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Europe is rightly envious of America's multicultural society. There can be no doubt that the United States has produced the world's most varied and integrative culture, and it is no accident that it is the only one to have a worldwide appeal.

But the American multicultural model also generates an illusion. Since Americans really have come from all over the world, in the United States it is easy to believe that you can know and understand the world without ever leaving the country. Those who were born and brought up in America forget that these people "from all over the world" first had to become Americans — a condition that new immigrants generally accept with enthusiasm — before they could celebrate their cultural otherness.

This is why it is always an American version of otherness that is encountered in the United States. You will not necessarily learn anything about the culture and history of Vietnam by working alongside a Vietnamese doctor in the teaching hospital at Stanford. You can sit next to an Indian in the same dot.com company in Los Angeles for years without learning much about the manners and customs of India. And going to a French restaurant in Atlanta is no guarantee that you will be served French cuisine.

Foreign films account for less than 1 percent of the American film market, and the figures are similarly low for books and news from abroad.

The impressive integrative power of American society seems to generate a kind of obliviousness to the world, a multicultural unilateralism. The result is a paradox: a fantastically tolerant and flexible society that has absorbed the whole world, yet has difficulty comprehending the world beyond its borders.

These differences and irritations add up to a substantial disagreement on the joint origins of American and European civilization. Europeans think that Americans are on their way to betraying some of the elementary tenets of the Enlightenment, establishing a new principle in which they are "first among unequals."

This is actually quite an amazing understatement, in my frequently reiterated view.  The United States, is at present in thrall to a combination of a form of fundamentalist Christianity known as premillenialist dispensationalism and an anti Enlightenment political philosophy, Neo Conservatism. 

In this state the US is a clear and present danger to "the elementary tenets of the Enlightenment."  It is terribly, even fatally important that those who wish to preserve the benefits to human welfare and civilization that are the legacy of the Enlightenment realize the extent of that danger, and address it directly, emphatically, and courageously.  And in the presence of the economic and military power, and the lack of conscience of the Neo Conservatives currently in power in the US, courage will most definitely be required. 

And Washington accuses Europe of shirking its international responsibilities, and thus its own human rights inheritance.

After all, what is the point of international law if it prevents intervening in the affairs of a brutal regime to stay the hand of a tyrant? Who is the true advocate of human rights: the one who cites international law to justify standing by while genocide is being committed or the one who puts an end to the genocide, even if it means violating international law?

Unfortunately, we cannot expect the news media in the United States or Europe to present a nuanced view of this dispute. In 20 years of traveling back and forth between Germany and America I have become convinced that news broadcasts usually confirm their audiences' views: in Europe, about America, the "cowboy nation," and in the United States, about Europe, the "axis of weasels."

These disagreements will be influenced but cannot be resolved by the the American presidential election in November. The divisions are too deep, and Europe cannot meet the United States halfway on too many issues — the separation between church and state, the separation of powers, respect for international law, the abolition of the death penalty — without surrendering its version of its Enlightenment inheritance.

On other contentious issues the United States feels as strongly: the universality of human rights and the need to intervene — if the United Nations is unable to act — when there is genocide or ethnic cleansing, or when states are failing.

So are we standing on the threshold of a new understanding or a new historic divide, comparable to the evolutionary split that occurred when a group of pioneer hominids thousands of years ago turned their backs forever on their African homeland?

So far it has usually been the Americans who have had to remind the Europeans of these common origins, which the Europeans, in turn, have so often betrayed. Maybe this time it is up to the Europeans to remind the Americans of the promises of the Enlightenment that the United States seems to have forgotten.

Peter Schneider is a German novelist and essayist. This article was translated from the German by Victor Homola of The New York Times.

Jim Pivonka has added emphasis and comments reflecting his own reaction to Herr Schneider's article.  All emphasis is added, and the comments are clearly separated from the original by incorporation into tables, like this one.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Weblog, 2004-03-13, Saturn's Day

Another Swinburne poem, for memory's sake.



by: Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

      YING asleep between the strokes of night
      I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
      Pale as the duskiest lily's leaf or head,
      Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
      Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
      But perfect-coloured without white or red.
      And her lips opened amorously, and said--
      I wist not what, saving one word--Delight
      And all her face was honey to my mouth,
      And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
      The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
      The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
      The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
      And glittering eyelids of my soul's desire.
"Love and Sleep" is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.
And still I dream of love.

Contents of prior weblog file (Archived): 
This index is chronological (earliest is first), while the the postings are in reverse chronology (most recent is  first). 
Contents of Prior Weblog File (Archived)
Weblog, 2004-03-05, Freya's Day
You want to do something about gasoline prices?   Consider these options
Weblog, 2004-03-08, Moon Day
American Ayatollahs and their "jihadi" schools
The Jihadi Who Kept Asking Why
Weblog, 2004-03-09, Tiw's Day
Heinlein Society site
Weblog, 2004-03-11, Thor's Day
Recollecting February 27 to March 16, 2003
NeoCon Putsch at the DOD
Halliburton Investigations
Proven Reserves of Gas and Oil are Declining
Grassroots Kieretsu:  A future direction for grassroots campaign organizing

Permanent and Draft materials are not archived, but included in the current weblog, or moved to a separate file as indexed below:


The Enlightenment and US Politics   (Draft, March, 2004)

Perpetual War!  A political agenda motivates the drive to perpetual war.

The Past is Prologue: Resistance, Rebellion, Reaction - Viet Nam and its Aftermath

The Face of Totalitarian Shrubbyism

Whose anti war movement is it, anyway?

Keywords:  blog, blogger, web log, weblog, web diary, Jim Pivonka, James Pivonka,
Keywords:  John Anderson, Ralph Nader, Jimmy Carter, third party candidate,  neo conservative, neocon, neo fascist, neo medievalist,

<meta name="KeyWords" content="H V Kaltenborn, H L Hunt, Rash Limpbow, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlessinger, Dr. Laura, Jerry Bass, Mike Savage, Michael Savage, Savage Nation, Felon Radio, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Ollie North, Charles Colson, John Poindexter, RAdm J. Poindexter,  radio monopoly, Clear Channel Entertainment, Bonneville International Corporation, radio, talk show host, Kent State, Kent State murders, Kent State killings, Earth Day, recycling, Newsweek, John Leo, Koch Oil, religious right">

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