Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


Now that my brick path is complete, i am inspired to really turn it into a work of art. The bricks have been laid in a herringbone pattern, most of them have the standard six holes but some are darker and solid, and these have been arranged to form diagonal stripes and the borders of the path as a whole. It occured to me to start placing small ceramic tiles in the holes of the bricks, so i have ordered hundreds of them - gold, purple, blue, etc. I don't have enough tiles yet, but i figure the project will take me months so why rush it? Once tiles cover the holes, i will paint the entire path with a masonry lacquer, which will seal the bricks, deepen their color and make them shine.

Philosophers do it deeper.
Philosophers do it a posteriori.
Philosophers do it consistently.
Philosophers do it conceptually.
Philosophers do it for pure reasons.
Philosophers do it with their minds.
Philosophers think about doing it.
Philosophers wonder why they did it.


I advise you to go to this site http://www.philosophers.co.uk/games/matrix_start.htm and enter the interactive philosophy game "Strange New World" - which is modelled on the Matrix and designed to guide you through the philosophical problem commonly known as "Brains in Vats." I first became acquainted with Brains in Vats as an undergraduate many years ago, so i had no trouble navigating the questions i was asked. However, at one point the computer claimed it could read my thoughts by asking me to select one card from five, memorize it, and then re-visualize it. The computer successfully managed to remove the card i had chosen to memorize from the screen. That was a bit unnerving, but what the hell, it had a 20% chance of success. At the end of the journey, you are asked to choose a position on the possibility of knowledge from among three competing positions. The computer then analyzes your response. Here is what i was told:

You selected the "heroic" response

Read on to see what this means…

In his 1986 book The View From Nowhere, the philosopher Thomas Nagel described a philosophical
puzzle - the kind of puzzle that seems to make the existence of the Matrix possible - and three
responses to it.

The puzzle is this: we see the world from a point of view, namely, the point of view of our own
conscious selves. As babies, we only have a view of the world from this viewpoint. But as we grow
older, we also have what Nagel calls the "view from nowhere". This is the idea of the world as
objectively existing, independently of both our viewpoint or any other particular viewpoint. We consider
ourselves to be a part of this world. Therefore we have a view of ourselves from the inside as
perceivers of the world, but also of ourselves as members of the objective world.

Common-sense tells us that when we accumulate knowledge, this knowledge includes knowledge of the
objective world. But Nagel sees a problem in the enterprise of accumulating such knowledge. Objective
knowledge requires a neutral perspective. But we cannot occupy this neutral perspective. Therefore,
objective knowledge seems unattainable.

What we try to do is give an account of the world that "includes an explanation of why it initially
appears to us as it does". The problem here is that, while doing this, we always have to keep our
subjective perspective, so there is always room for doubt that we are not getting the proper picture.
"The most objective view we can achieve will have to rest on an unexamined subjective base."

The skeptical response to this is to accept that we just can’t have knowledge of the objective world.
For all we know, we might live in the Matrix.

However, skepticism isn’t the only response to this. One alternative is a reductive response, which is
anti-skeptical in nature. Nagel writes, "On a reductive view our beliefs are not about the world as it is in
itself ... they are about the world as it appears to us." As what we commonly understand by objective
knowledge is not possible, it is accepted that reality beyond our experience is either not possible or
meaningless and so knowledge is understood as being confined to what is possible for us to experience.

The third possible response is the heroic one. This attempts somehow to bridge the gap between
ourselves and objective knowledge. Part of the reason for calling this heroic is that the odds seemed
stacked against its success.

Nagel also makes a distinction between realist and non-realist positions. The skeptical and heroic views
are realist because both hold that there is a really existent outside world which we either can (heroic)
or cannot (skeptical) comprehend. The reductive view on the other hand, sees this all as a red herring.
It can only make sense to talk of how we see the world. The idea of an objectively existing world just
doesn’t make any sense. However, Nagel believes that only realist response to the problem are credible,
and wants to pursue a heroic one.

If you’d like to know more about Nagel’s views, click here to download a PDF file containing a
commentary on Chapter Five of his The View From Nowhere, which contains his discussion of these

"BATTLEGROUND GOD" http://www.philosophers.co.uk/games/god.htm

Here is the description:
Battleground God

Can your beliefs about religion make it across our
intellectual battleground?

In this activity you’ll be asked a series of 17 questions
about God and religion. In each case, apart from
Question 1, you need to answer True or False. The aim
of the activity is not to judge whether these answers
are correct or not. Our battleground is that of rational
consistency. This means to get across without taking
any hits, you’ll need to answer in a way which is
rationally consistent. What this means is you need to
avoid choosing answers which contradict each other.
If you answer in a way which is rationally consistent
but which has strange or unpalatable implications,
you’ll be forced to bite a bullet.



Battleground Analysis


You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest
award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only
one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well
thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical
contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that
required that you held a view that most people would have found strange,
incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided
direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good

How did you do compared to other people?

98998 people have completed this activity to date.
You suffered zero direct hits and bit 1 bullet.
This compares with the average player of this activity to date who takes 1.37 hits and bites 1.10 bullets.
46.80% of the people who have completed this activity, like you, took very little damage and were awarded the
TPM Medal of Distinction.
7.48% of the people who have completed this activity emerged unscathed with the TPM Medal of Honour.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


Apologies apologies for not having had the time to finish the previous post - i *WILL* return to it but i have been busy working, rennovating my garden and editing a manuscript for a book a professor i work with is writing on the Mantra of Light in Japanese Buddhism (specifically Shingon and Kamakura sects). So, I have been busy. But there is always time for what Marx describes as the sigh of the oppressed creature. Here is a poem which rivals Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again" for a privileged position among my all-time favorite poems. Like the Hughes poem, i cannot read Berthold Brecht's "TO THOSE BORN AFTER US" without suffering a transition from my standard manic disposition to sheer melancholia. He is speaking to me, and i turn my face away as i echo his words, now my own, into the future.


by Bertolt Brecht


Truly, I live in a time of darkness!

The innocent word is foolish. A smooth brow

Suggests lack of sensitivity. Those who are laughing

Just haven't heard the terrible news yet.

What kind of times are these,

When a conversation about trees is almost a crime,

Because so many misdeeds are left unspoken?

That person there - calmly crossing the street,

Is probably no longer available

To his friends who are in trouble.

It's true: I'm still earning a living.

But that's pure coincidence.

Nothing in what I do justifies my eating my fill.

By chance, I am spared. (When my luck runs out, I'm lost).

People say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad that you can.

But how can I eat and drink, when what I eat

Is taken from the mouths of the hungry, and the

Water I drink deprives one who is thirsty?

But still I eat and I drink.

I would like to be wise.

In ancient books one can read what is wise:

To not participate in the conflicts of the world,

To be without fear, in the short time we have,

Also to get along without violence,

To requite evil with good,

To not satisfy one's wishes, but to forget them -

These things are considered wise.

All of them are beyond me.

Truly I live in a time of darkness!


I came into the cities at a time of disorder,

A time of hunger.

I came among people at a time of uproar,

And I was outraged with them.

So passed the time

I was given on Earth.

I took food between battles,

And laid down to sleep among killers.

I was careless in love,

And regarded nature without patience.

So passed the time

I was given on Earth.

In my time, all roads led to a swamp.

My language gave me away to the executioner.

I could do very little. But the rulers

Sat more securely without me - that was my hope.

So passed the time

I was given on Earth.


You, who are the ones who will rise up

>From the flood in which we went down,


When you speak of our weaknesses,

The dark times from which you escaped.

We traveled, changing countries more often than shoes,

Through the wars between classes, in despair

Because we found injustice, but no outrage.

And yet we do know this:

Hatred, even of meanness,

Distorts the visage.

Anger, even at injustice,

Makes hoarse the voice. Alas,

Though we wanted to prepare the ground for kindness,

We didn't know how to be kind ourselves.

But you, when the time comes,

When human beings can help one another,

Remember us

With forbearance.


The private sphere here at The Blasch Menagerie (the name i have given to my house, with a requisite nod to Tennessee Williams) continues to cohere rather nicely. Here is a catalogue of developments:

Lorax gave me a two week old kitten (all black of course) which is the sole survivor of a litter abandoned by the mother. I've been mixing formula and bottle feeding for almost a week now, and the little bugger is clearly a scrapper. Originally my intention was to raise him until i could find a decent home for him, but i have become attached. I am waiting for the right name, reflecting on those monikers most suited to themes of cheating death or surviving as an orphan. I've considered characters from Dickens to Greek mythology, waiting patiently for the right one to present itself.

I am getting ready to complete the flocked wallpaper in the room which Evan will be moving into in the near future. Gold background with white velvet brocade - accentuated by purple trim and purple lace curtains - well, you might think it's over the top but I think it's smashing and Evan's heart has always skipped a beat when it comes to my aesthetic judgment. I am looking forward to having another intellectual for a roommate - and since our friendship has been so intimate and beneficial for both of us, i think we can really have a blast living under the same roof. Besides, not just any girl gets to room next to the most brilliant student in our doctoral program. We'll both be in dissertation land starting in the fall, and teaching, and watching Woody Allen films at night while drinking decent cabernets. And every Friday night we'll watch NOW will Bill Moyers on PBS to keep up to date on the demise of American democracy.

In my own bedroom, I am installing a gold background with red flocking wallpaper. I have been characterizing it as a sensual blend of Palace at Versailles and French Bordello. It looks fabulous with my burgundy-red satin on the windows and closet doors. I guess even doctoral students need to surround themselves with sensual extravagances in one way or another.

I turned in my teaching portfolio to the English department, selected the reader for the course i am teaching in the fall, and am gearing up to change my contract with the English department to a two-term appointment so that i can teach Eastern Religions in the winter. I retrieved my student evaluations and teaching scores today, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I blew away department averages on all my scores. I had not one negative evaluation, which i suppose does not surprise me because I am never so dynamically present in the moment as I am before a classroom, teaching the philosophy of democracy and showing documentaries on political corruption. Even students who complained at having to read Rousseau, Aristotle, Marx etc. described me as "hyper-intelligent" "kind and ethusiastic" and "very deep and emotional" in the same breath. It is always so gratifying to see this kind of feedback. One student hit the nail on the head with this comment, included almost as an afterthought: "I've never felt so comfortable as a writer. Thank you Lisa for giving us a better understanding of Democracy - without this Democracy cannot exist." Sigh - it is good to see one's own struggles come to positive fruition once in awhile.

I'm finishing up my first bonafide gig editing a manuscript for a book Mark is writing. Why he chose me is not entirely clear, but over the last few years he has taken an interest in mentoring me and by working with him i have had the most gratifying intellectual experiences. I guess i would say that he has comported himself to me with such openness and sincerity that to describe my feelings toward him as a mentor as profound respect misses too much. This man is the son of the most well-known Japanese scholar of Shin Buddhism, whose translation of the Tannisho has become the classic text. Mark himself is a premier scholar of Buddhism, has lived as a devotee in a monastery in Japan - and yet is compelled by the deeper questions of philosophy (his thesis on Kierkegaard, for example) and the problems of socio-political justice. What other Buddhist scholar ends his class on comparative philosophy by spending three weeks analyzing war and capitalism as the dark side of human experience? He could choose from any graduate student in the entire university who has made the choice to study Eastern thought, and yet he has not only chosen to work with me, he has actively chosen to advocate for me whenever he finds the opportunity. I guess what i'm expressing here is astonishment and deep gratitude - in fact loyalty. I certainly don't deserve such a remarkable opportunity.

Finally, i have had a rather precious opportunity to reflect on what it means to have a really GOOD man. I don't just mean a nice man, a man whose heart is in the right place but who lacks that certain extraordinary quality of kindness, strength, supportiveness and unconditional devotion. I have had MORE than my share of partnerships with men, some of them less worthwhile, but almost all of them with nice, intelligent, good natured fellows. This is NOT what i mean when i speak of a good man - one who is thoroughly virtuous. In all my life i have known only two such men, and by an accident of fortune i have turned around to find one of them by my side, managing to change my life in ways which have not ceased to astonish me. Perhaps I will use this forum to chronicle this astonishment for myself, if i can ever get over my extreme disdain for people who use their blogs as metaphorical opportunities to masturbate to their distorted views of themselves (but i'd NEVER mention any names!). For now i'll relay briefly the latest opportunity I had to experience revelation. My longtime partner was a nice guy, if physically and intellectually lazy, rather petty, pathologically dishonest and incapable of acknowledging his own responsibilities - and still i say he was a nice enough guy. But all those personality flaws rendered him too weak of character to handle me - a strong woman of vision whose direction in life reflects the profound philosophical and existential commitments which compel her. He couldn't grow with me, couldn't be a provocative participant in a dynamic relationship - and his weakness of will led him to fail and betray me with such regularity that eventually his character could be seen for what it was. Now i look over and find a man whose intellectual vigor and dynamic zest for actualizing what is best about human life parallels my own. His affection and support are unconditional, and he goes out of his way to avoid harming me in any way. He actively seeks to understand my needs, and responds unconditionally to them. I don't have to ask for a thing, and as a happy unforeseen consequence i find that he ennables ME to become the virtuous person i long so much to be. Now, in the last two weeks something happened which really threw this distinction between the really good man and the nice guy into high relief. I had been asking my longtime partner to help put in a brick path in my garden for three years. You see, I was the person who cleaned the house, I worked a second job so that we could keep our house while he was unemployed for a year, and i did all the maintenance on the garden. The dirt path regularly became SO overrun with weeds that i would spend more time weeding than tending to flowers and vines, not to mention studying or cleaning the house. For three years he ignored my request, lying pointlessly on the couch watching trash TV and reading trash books. I was wistful and slightly frustrated, but you see i had become ACCUSTOMED to lesser quality. However, this summer with this man has opened my eyes in a really radical way. As usual, my frustration with weeds taking over the garden path led me to express a desire for a brick path. Without drawing attention to his own heroism, or stopping to consider whether he ought to take action, this amazing man had a brick path installed in my garden as a gift. He labored for two weeks cleaning mortar from old bricks while he paid a brick layer to construct the path and lay them. He could have been working on his own pursuits (or lying on the couch to protect it from reverse gravity) but he put my interests first and expended untold amounts of labor and capital to give me a present i have longed for for a thousand days. I could barely believe the initiative, the consideration, the selflessness - not to mention the joy he takes at the opportunity to please me so much. Today the path was finished, and he was exhausted. I placed myself around his tired frame and told him how much what he had done meant to me, how i have wandered along that path in the afternoon and in the middle of the night and cried just a little when i realize i am the object of such kindness every day of my life. I told him i had once again been given the opportunity to appreciate the difference between him and my previous partner, and to be confirmed in my estimate of his superior quality. He just nodded thoughtfully, kindly, and looked back at me. At that moment i actually witnessed the emotional impact of what i had said as it was reflected on his face.

I'm not a sloppy or slavish disciple of the ideology of love. Two years in a row I taught Plato's Symposium - a dialogue on the nature of love - in a class entitled Love and Sex. Without fail, the speech of Aristophanes was a favorite among the students, who share with him an account of idealized love: a desire for wholeness expressed as a search for one's original other half. Naturally, in the context of the creation myth within Aristophanes' account, the implication is that there is only one ideal mate; likewise the love relationship is eternal, wholly reciprocal and fundamentally exlusive. I'll excuse Aristophanes, but for moderns to cling to such romantic mythology runs counter to our experience and is ultimately life-denying. At the same time, as a result of becoming close to a good man, I see that exemplary people reinforce what is best in each other, and it is a noble thing to work toward achieving a bond of this sort. It can't be done with just anyone. I understand the difference between a diamond and a shiny pebble with pretty colors - and i would be foolish to forget the lesson and trade something precious for the commonplace, the mundane. THIS man will never fail me, will never crumble under the pressure of my idiosyncracies, my most extreme moments. He's strong enough to handle me, and match me blow for blow in the struggle for excellence. The more i see of this in him, the more i begin to see myself as part of something greater than myself - something which occurs when two remarkable people recognize that each provides the what the other requires to continue their own journey. In sum, I guess i am finding new thoughts for future possibilities emerging where I would never have trusted myself before, and for the first time in my life i can look at the man i have chosen and see infinite potential for solidarity and growth toward shared goals. I am not only awestruck by his virtue, i am awestruck by the thoughts and capacities he seems to be inspiring in me.

Anyhow, those of you who know me well understand my romantic nature, and also the way in which my cynical self-suspicion has obstructed it. Thus i don't often give myself enough opportunity to express and explore that part of my self - i have preferred to withhold just a little, keeping myself high and dry above the flotsam and jetsam of human weakness. But sometimes life is characterized by transitions which would be phantasms if their reality were not otherwise confirmed by experience, and i think i ought to begin trusting myself enough to speak honestly and openly in moments when the extraordinary presents itself to me and asks only for my embrace and acceptance.


I love philosophy with all seriousness, and I love using philosophy as an excuse to laugh. Every once in awhile I look up the list of "Proofs that P" just for kicks. For those of you non-philosophers, a proof is an argumentative demonstration for a particular conclusion. "P" is often used by philosophers when they go into logician-mode to signify a premise (thus 'p' - yeah, you get it!). The fact that philosophers employ such a variety of methods for demonstrating their premisses eventually provoked some witty folks to parody the styles of particular philosophers by distorting their approach to proofs, in the good-natured spirit of jest of course. As you read each proof, notice how silly they are, how badly they go about demonstrating P. If you are familiar with the particular philosopher in question, you will have extra-special fun. Personally, i get a great kick from the proof attributed to Rawls. Rawls takes up two chapters of my dissertation, and it is not an exaggeration that the greatest American political philosopher prefaces the texts that were responsible for political philosophy regaining a respectable position after the McCarthy era with the disclaimer that in the absence of objective premises to provide a foundation for distilling a conception of political justice, he will begin instead from our shared cultural intuitions. (Actually it's damned frustrating because it makes it very difficult to criticize his conclusions: he slips back into the protective cover of 'anti-foundationalism' which is a codeword for not having to justify your assumptions with sufficient rigor ... But nevertheless i love John Rawls and we are still feeling the loss of his recent death) And now without further delay...


Davidson's proof that p: Let us make the following bold conjecture: p

Wallace's proof that p: Davidson has made the following bold conjecture: p

As I have asserted again and again in previous publications, p.

Some philosophers have argued that not-p, on the grounds that q. It would be an interesting exercise to count all the fallacies in this "argument". (It's
really awful, isn't it?) Therefore p.

It would be nice to have a deductive argument that p from self- evident premises. Unfortunately I am unable to provide one. So I will have to rest
content with the following intuitive considerations in its support: p.

Suppose it were the case that not-p. It would follow from this that someone knows that q. But on my view, no one knows anything whatsoever.
Therefore p. (Unger believes that the louder you say this argument, the more persuasive it becomes).

I have seventeen arguments for the claim that p, and I know of only four for the claim that not-p. Therefore p.

Most people find the claim that not-p completely obvious and when I assert p they give me an incredulous stare. But the fact that they find not- p
obvious is no argument that it is true; and I do not know how to refute an incredulous stare. Therefore, p.

My argument for p is based on three premises:

From these, the claim that p deductively follows. Some people may find the third premise controversial, but it is clear that if we replaced that
premise by any other reasonable premise, the argument would go through just as well.

Sellars' proof that p:
Unfortunately limitations of space prevent it from being included here, but important parts of the proof can be found in each of the articles in the
attached bibliography.

There are solutions to the field equations of general relativity in which space-time has the structure of a four- dimensional Klein bottle and in which
there is no matter. In each such space-time, the claim that not-p is false. Therefore p.

Zabludowski has insinuated that my thesis that p is false, on the basis of alleged counterexamples. But these so- called "counterexamples" depend
on construing my thesis that p in a way that it was obviously not intended -- for I intended my thesis to have no counterexamples. Therefore p.


Outline Of A Proof That P (1):
Saul Kripke

Some philosophers have argued that not-p. But none of them seems to me to have made a convincing argument against the intuitive view that this is
not the case. Therefore, p.

(1) This outline was prepared hastily -- at the editor's insistence -- from a taped manuscript of a lecture. Since I was not even given the opportunity
to revise the first draft before publication, I cannot be held responsible for any lacunae in the (published version of the) argument, or for any
fallacious or garbled inferences resulting from faulty preparation of the typescript. Also, the argument now seems to me to have problems which I
did not know when I wrote it, but which I can't discuss here, and which are completely unrelated to any criticisms that have appeared in the
literature (or that I have seen in manuscript); all such criticisms misconstrue my argument. It will be noted that the present version of the argument
seems to presuppose the (intuitionistically unacceptable) law of double negation. But the argument can easily be reformulated in a way that avoids
employing such an inference rule. I hope to expand on these matters further in a separate monograph.

Routley and Meyer:
If (q & not-q) is true, then there is a model for p. Therefore p.

It is a model theorem that p -> p. Surely its possible that p must be true. Thus p. But it is a model theorem that p -> p. Therefore p.

P-ness is self-presenting. Therefore, p.

If not p, what? q maybe?


1. You don't think that phenomenology supports that P? Look haaaarder! Therefore P. [Charles Siewert, others]

2. To think that not-P is to over-intellectualize. Therefore P. [Brian Loar]

3. It's completely implausible and a violation of common-sense intuition to think that not-P. Therefore P. [various]

4. P is a bold and controversial claim that shatters common-sense intuition. Therefore P. [various]

5. Only philosophers would think that not-P. Therefore P. [Galen Strawson, Aaron Zimmerman]

6. Not-P entails that there are sense-data. Therefore P. [various]

7. Not-P is true from the transparent perspective. But I take the oblique perspective. Therefore P. [Brian Loar]

8. See my "..." where I argued for P. Therefore P. [Bill Lycan]

9. I know that P is true because I teach it to my undergraduates. Therefore P. [John Searle]

10. Representationalism entails P & not-P. Therefore P & not-P. [Bill Lycan]


No amount of tub-thumping by dualists (including my past self) carries any weight in establishing that not-P. Therefore P. [Frank

Sellars has established to McDowell's and my satisfaction that P. Therefore P. [Bob Brandom]

Sellars argues that P. (Actually, Sellars argues that not-P, but that was wearing his black hat.) Therefore P. [Bob Brandom]

Most philosophers think it is a priori that not-P. Therefore P. [Susan Hurley]

P gives me an "aha!" reaction. Therefore P. [Susan Hurley]

Someday someone might discover that P, and I want to get the credit. Therefore P. [Colin McGinn]

Anyone who says that not-P is using the terms differently from me. Therefore P. [Galen Strawson]

The argument for not-P has seven steps, and I'm way too old for that. Therefore P. [John Searle]

I've considered and rejected one possible defense of a key premise in one possible argument for not-P. Therefore P. [Susanna

Not-P? That just doesn't work for me. Therefore P. [Brad Thompson]

I have a lot of arguments for P, though none of them are very good. Therefore P. [Amy Schmitter]

I'm tired, I went surfing, therefore P&~P. [by Becko Copenhaver, attributed to unnamed presenter]

The folk think that not-P. But I just called them "the folk". Therefore P. [attributed to Frank Jackson]

P* and representationalism holds. Therefore P. [by Amy Schmitter, attributed to unnamed presenter.]

These considerations tend to suggest something in the vicinity of the ballpark of P. Therefore P. [David Chalmers]

Now that I've taken you on this little journey, I'm beginning to lose my grip on what it means to say that not-P. Therefore P.
[Charles Siewert]


We have been lucky to discover several previously lost diaries of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre stuck in between the cushions of our office sofa. These diaries reveal a young Sartre obsessed not with the void, but with food. Apparently Sartre, before discovering philosophy, had hoped to write "a cookbook that will put to rest all notions of flavor forever." The diaries are excerpted here for your perusal.

October 3

Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.

October 4

Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.

October 6

I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.

October 10

I find myself trying ever more radical interpretations of traditional dishes, in an effort to somehow express the void I feel so acutely. Today I tried this recipe:

Tuna Casserole

Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish

Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.

While a void is expressed in this recipe, I am struck by its inapplicability to the bourgeois lifestyle. How can the eater recognize that the food denied him is a tuna casserole and not some other dish? I am becoming more and more frustated.

October 25

I have been forced to abandon the project of producing an entire cookbook. Rather, I now seek a single recipe which will, by itself, embody the plight of man in a world ruled by an unfeeling God, as well as providing the eater with at least one ingredient from each of the four basic food groups. To this end, I purchased six hundred pounds of foodstuffs from the corner grocery and locked myself in the kitchen, refusing to admit anyone. After several weeks of work, I produced a recipe calling for two eggs, half a cup of flour, four tons of beef, and a leek. While this is a start, I am afraid I still have much work ahead.

November 15

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.

November 30

Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver's powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for the tender limbs of America's favorite homemaker. I only got third place. Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.

December 1

I have been gaining twenty-five pounds a week for two months, and I am now experiencing light tides. It is stupid to be so fat. My pain and ultimate solitude are still as authentic as they were when I was thin, but seem to impress girls far less. From now on, I will live on cigarettes and black coffee.



Emphasis on work, deadlines. Now would be a good time to do more reading. Drinking more than seven cups of coffee today probably not a good idea. Be trenchant!


Carefully check the premises and inferences of your latest argument. Don't neglect your foreign languages. Do more work on your papers or your thesis.


You'll find yourself fantasizing about leaving grad school and becoming a carpenter, or even a lawyer. You're behind schedule. Today would be a good day to try to get more work done.


Your arguments are subtly flawed, and everything you're doing is worthless. Today would be a good day to get more work done. Dead philosopher plays role.


Beware of sectionees' sexual harassment grievances. Today would be a good day to suck up to a professor. Job market fears figure prominently. Get back to work!


Emphasis on thesis, work, classes, incompletes, procrastination. Depression not at all inappropriate at this time. Stress careful exegesis and critical assessment of texts. Libra native finds devastating objection to your best argument.


Don't bother preparing for section; you can wing it anyway. Hours will be wasted gossiping in lounge. Lunar aspect highlights unfinished books.


Problems in love relationship due to being philosophy grad student. Adopt air of bored sophistication. Grade term papers! Leo native begs question.


Green light flashes for trying to get more work done. Member of opposite sex annoyed by focus on work. Career prospects unpromising. Cancer would be better.


Deep-seated confusion pervades your philosophical views. Careful attention to Wittgenstein may induce writing block. Spread rumors about who's getting jobs where. Requirements figure prominently.


Thesis looms, considerations from seemingly distant areas of philosophy relevant. A little hand-waving goes a long way. Back up your discs! Moon in Gemini means thistime, like all other times, is inauspicious.


Now is time to 'go meta', question what you're doing and why you're doing it. Undermine philosophical motivations, theories. Regress threatens. Study Cancer message for valuable clue.



Plato: For the greater good.

Karl Marx: It was a historical inevitability.

Machiavelli: So that its subjects will view it with admiration,
as a chicken which has the daring and courage to
boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom
among them has the strength to contend with such a
paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the
princely chicken's dominion maintained.

Hippocrates: Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its

Jacques Derrida: Any number of contending discourses may be discovered
within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and
each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial
intent can never be discerned, because structuralism

Thomas de Torquemada: Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I'll find out.

Timothy Leary: Because that's the only kind of trip the Establishment
would let it take.

Douglas Adams: Forty-two.

Nietzsche: Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road
gazes also across you.

Oliver North: National Security was at stake.

B.F. Skinner: Because the external influences which had pervaded its
sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a
fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while
believing these actions to be of its own free will.

Carl Jung: The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt
necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at
this historical juncture, and therefore
synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.

Jean-Paul Sartre: In order to act in good faith and be true to itself,
the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The possibility of "crossing" was encoded into the
objects "chicken" and "road", and circumstances came
into being which caused the actualization of this
potential occurrence.

Albert Einstein: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed
the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Aristotle: To actualize its potential.

Buddha: If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-

Howard Cosell: It may very well have been one of the most astonishing
events to grace the annals of history. An historic,
unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt
such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to
homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.

Salvador Dali: The Fish.

Darwin: It was the logical next step after coming down from
the trees.

Emily Dickinson: Because it could not stop for death.

Epicurus: For fun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson: It didn't cross the road; it transcended it.

Johann von Goethe: The eternal hen-principle made it do it.

Ernest Hemingway: To die. In the rain.

Werner Heisenberg: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken
was on, but it was moving very fast.

David Hume: Out of custom and habit.

Jack Nicholson: 'Cause it (censored) wanted to. That's the (censored)

Pyrrho the Skeptic: What road?

Ronald Reagan: I forget.

John Sununu: The Air Force was only too happy to provide the
transportation, so quite understandably the chicken
availed himself of the opportunity.

The Sphinx: You tell me.

Mr. T: If you saw me coming you'd cross the road too!

Henry David Thoreau: To live deliberately ... and suck all the marrow
out of life.

Mark Twain: The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.

Molly Yard: It was a hen!

Zeno of Elea: To prove it could never reach the other side.

Chaucer: So priketh hem nature in hir corages.

Wordsworth: To wander lonely as a cloud.

The Godfather: I didn't want its mother to see it like that.

Keats: Philosophy will clip a chicken's wings.

Blake: To see heaven in a wild fowl.

Othello: Jealousy.

Dr Johnson: Sir, had you known the Chicken for as long as I have,
you would not so readily enquire, but feel rather the
Need to resist such a public Display of your own
lamentable and incorrigible Ignorance.

Mrs Thatcher: This chicken's not for turning.

Supreme Soviet: There has never been a chicken in this photograph.

Oscar Wilde: Why, indeed? One's social engagements whilst in
town ought never expose one to such barbarous
inconvenience - although, perhaps, if one must cross a
road, one may do far worse than to cross it as the
chicken in question.

Kafka: Hardly the most urgent enquiry to make of a low-grade
insurance clerk who woke up that morning as a hen.

Swift: It is, of course, inevitable that such a loathsome,
filth-ridden and degraded creature as Man should assume
to question the actions of one in all respects his

Macbeth: To have turned back were as tedious as to go o'er.

Whitehead: Clearly, having fallen victim to the fallacy ofmisplaced concreteness.

Freud: An die andere Seite zu kommen. (Much laughter)

Hamlet: That is not the question.

Donne: It crosseth for thee.

Pope: It was mimicking my Lord Hervey.

Constable: To get a better view.


I really like a lot of these

Unfortunately, by the very nature of logical codationalism I
cannot offer a proof that P along the elegant lines of BonJour's
coherentist proof. Indeed, I cannot offer a PROOF that P at all,
and for two reasons; first, because PROOF (as opposed to proof)
embodies a linear foundationalist conception of justification
that cannot survive the "up, up and away" argument, and second
because BonJour's own account of justification falls prey to the
"drunken students" argument. Nor can I offer a proof
that P, as I seem (like Fodor) to have mislaid my theory of the a
Yet a case can be made -- in modest, fallibly naturalistic
terms -- for P. And if the criteria embodied in codationalism are
in fact truth-conducive (and if they are not, then every other
theory of justification is likewise a failure since codational
criteria are used by coherentists and foundationalists without
proper appreciation of their interconnections), then this will
amount not to a PROOF nor yet a proof that P, but simply
a proof that P, based on the explanatory integration of P with
the rest of my beliefs that are explanatorily integrated with
each other.
The explanatory integration at work in this proof is rather
like that found in a crossword puzzle. . . . [Remainder of the
proof is left as an exercise for the reader. For the solution,
consult next Sunday's London Times.]

Margolis's disproof that p:
The assumption that P -- indeed, the belief that P is so natural
and obvious as to be beyond dispute -- is so deeply woven into
Western thought that any attempt to question it, much less to
overthrow it, is likely to be met with disbelief, scorn, and
ridicule. The denial of P is a deep thesis, a theme of courage, a
profound insight into the fundamental nature of things. (Or at
any rate it would be if there were a fundamental nature of
things, which there isn't.) Anyone unfamiliar with the hidden
brutalities of professional philosophy cannot imagine all the
nasty things that will be said about someone who dares to mount
an assault on P. (Just look at how neglected Protagoras is now --
they even cut his writings up into tiny little bits!)
It has repeatedly been alleged that the denial of P is
self-refuting. Extraordinary! As if one bold enough to deny P
would feel bound by the conventions of dialethism on which alone
any charge of self-refutation rests! Once we have seen through
this delusion, we are free to dismiss as nonsense our current
vision not only of philosophy and science but also that quaint
notion of 'the good life.' We are also free to discard antiquated
Hellenic prejudices as to what counts as proof and disproof,
whilst retaining (of course) a proper sense of logical rigor.
Hence, the foregoing constitutes a disproof of P.

Some people have claimed that not-P. How can that be? I just
don't get it. When I think about not-P, it makes me sick to my
stomach, and I lie awake at night worrying about the future of
philosophy. Therefore, P.

I can entertain an idea of the most perfect state of affairs
inconsistent with not-p. If this state of affairs does not obtain
then it is less than perfect, for an obtaining state of affairs
is better than a non-obtaining one; so the state of affairs
inconsistent with not-p obtains; therefore it is proved, etc.

Certain of my opponents claim to think that not-p; but it is
precisely my thesis that they do not. Therefore p.

The theory p, though "refuted" by the anomaly q and a thousand
others, may nevertheless be adhered to by a scientist for any
length of time; and "rationally" adhered to. For did not the most
"absurd" of theories, heliocentrism, stage a come-back after two
thousand years? And is not Voodoo now emerging from a long period
of unmerited neglect?

SOCRATES: Is it not true that p?

GLAUCON: I agree.
CEPHALUS: It would seem so.
POLEMARCHUS: Necessarily.
THRASYMACHUS: Yes, Socrates.
ALCIBIADES: Certainly, Socrates.
PAUSANIAS: Quite so, if we are to be consistent.
ERYXIMACHUS: The argument certainly points that way.
PHAEDO: By all means.
PHAEDRUS: What you say is true, Socrates.

Dammit all! p.

While everyone knows deep down that p, some philosophers feel
curiously compelled to assert that not-p, as a result of being
closet Marxists. I shall label this phenomenon "the blithering
idiot effect". As I have shown that all assertions of not-p by
anyone worth speaking of, and several by people who aren't, are
due to the blithering idiot effect, there remains no reason to
deny p, which everyone knows deep down anyway. I won't even waste
my time arguing for it any further.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Or, how to get what you've wanted for over a decade by hitting a tar-baby...

For a year now, the image of a potential and now actual war with Iraq has conjured up images of Brer Rabbit and the tar baby. I know it's a stretch, and those of you who know that the rabbit is my totem are probably rolling your eyes. But it's my literary analogy and it's so effective that it's highly disturbing. Read on, and see if you don't agree that the American people may have just been the victim of an epic slight-of-hand distraction, perpetrated by a group of men who are so enamored of an imperialistic Pax Americana that ten years ago people considered them too far gone to worry about with any seriousness. Yes, i'm talking about THE PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY, whose membership includes the Bushes, half the executive branch and their advisory committees.

The question before us is how in the world the DOD was able to launch a full-scale nation-building project without a coherent plan for securing anything more substantive than the oil reserves. The first fact from which to begin answering this question is the consistent response the administration gave whenever it was asked to speculate on the duration of the nation-building process (read 'occupation'). The answer on the lips of Bush, Rummy and all the others was "Long enough to establish an independent Iraq, secure from Hussein's Baath party, and not one day longer." The initial contradiction: how to establish an independent, democratic Iraq with no plan whatsoever for how to go about it (beyond privatizing the oil reserves in US hands and using the profits to offset the costs to the corporations who were handed the DOD contracts).

Let me segue briefly to the literary analogy for those of you unfamiliar with the Uncle Remus story. Brer Rabbit happens upon a tar baby and attempts to chat it up. The tar baby don't say nothin', so Brer Rabbit socks it and catches his fist. He socks it again, and catches the other fist. He kicks and kicks, and ... well, you get the idea: Brer Rabbit is in a mess of tar and can't escape. Brer Fox and Brer Bear jump from the bushes and begin making plans to do the tarred up Brer Rabbit in. Brer Rabbit tells them to do whatever they want, but for the love of mustard PLEEEAAASE don't throw him in dat briar patch. After sustained pleading not to be pitched to the brambles, Brer Fox and Brer Bear give little Brer Bunny just what he doesn't want, and throw him deep into the jungle of vines. As they are laughing at their magnificent triumph, they hear a gleeful voice: "Thank you brothers! I was born in dis briar patch and have lived in it all my life." The Rabbit got just the punishment he was hoping for.

Now, what does this mean for understanding the DOD's strategy to remove Saddam from power and liberate Iraq? To quote Marx, "let us pick up the threads of this development once more." There are two GENERAL ways of thinking about this. The first is the view of most critics with sustantial media publicity: the Bush administration did not think beyond dropping the bombs. It did not train its soldiers to be civil authorities, it did not give consideration to the cultural preconditions for democracy. It planned on bombing the Baathists into another dimension, and then reconstructing the economy, and eventually to open the state to all constituents equally.

The problem with this criticism is that it takes a FAR TOO FACILE view of how interests, intelligence and power are distributed throughout the executive branch as a coherent unit. It suffers from a very stupid mistake which throws the superficiality of these critics (or their COMPLICITY) into high relief, namely, the sense that the idiocy of the commander-in-chief is some kind of structural phenomenon rather than localized in one individual. In The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx describes the way in which the structural deficiencies of Liberal Democracy made it possible for a madman to rise to the helm of the ship of state. Drawing on Hegel's aesthetic view of historical development, the little madman who believes he controls all that he sees would be comedy, were it not for the dialectical revelation of a more substantive tragedy. Bush is indeed an aging, brain-damaged ex-alcoholic whose mind has little facility in the orderly spheres of the conceptual, the linguistic. But this has been largely responsible for the success of the administration as a whole - we can't imagine he has anything on his mind beyond what he says, and as the chief executive, his remedial descriptions of executive policy must somehow set the agenda for his advisors.

This could not be less helpful. Bush is being handled, specifically by the DOD. Rumsfeld has more influence on him than any other cabinet member, and Rumsfeld (along with Bush's brothers and many many more who infiltrate the ranks of the White House) is a long-time member of THE PROJECT FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY. But the association alone is insufficient to draw any strong conclusions for the purpose of answering our question. We must start with the history of publication by the PNAC themselves. Here I offer the following evidence.

I. FINDING OF FACT: The PNAC was calling PUBLICLY for a long-term occupation of Iraq at least as early as 1998. In their 1998 article "Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough," Kristol and Kagan call for a war to topple Saddam Hussein, with a subsequent military occupation ('nation-building' as it is being euphemized) designed to reconstruct the Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian terroritories such that they harmonize with and support US goals for the international theater. I published the full text of this essay below (7/24/03).

II. FINDING OF FACT: The PNAC saw candidate Bush as a subject for manipulation according to their imperial objectives.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003


I am more angered than ever that the Bush administration continues to blame the "QUAGMIRE" (which sec. Rummy only recently admitted had finally become a guerilla war) on leftover remnants of the Baath party. Now, we all know that Saddam has yet to be captured, and we all know that for whatever reason, the Republican Guard vanished into the mist when the US infantry stormed Baghdad. But the question remains whether the remnants of the old regime are well-structured and well-supplied enough to continue carrying out attacks that rival the sophistication of the recent attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Here is the short answer: probably not, and with each new 'capture' of those individuals on the Bush admin's "DECK OF MOST WANTED" that possibility is diminished. Yes, you heard me right: as the number of Baath party members from the old SOVEREIGN government who have been taken into custody increases, the plausibility that Baathists make up the bulk of the resistance efforts is DECREASED. The Bush administration continues to incriminate itself as it struggle to explain how things can be getting so much better in Iraq at the same time the largest act of violence and sabotage is committed against the very organization which was forced to enter Iraq in order to pick up the pieces left by a war effort that was never designed for securing the peace. Bush tells us that the people who committed the act want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein - thus they are affiliates of the Baath party. What - no other possibility? One pundit on C-SPAN mentioned the war Al-Quaeda has been waging on the UN for decades now, but then promptly dismissed it by saying "But that link presumes the strategy is RATIONAL, and we're not dealing with a rational situation."
Still, regardless of whether it's rational in the loose and popular sense of the term does not diminish the likelihood of a link.

Bush would prefer we internalize his own brand of irrationality. Specifically, the longer "The Baathists Did It" excuse is used to explain away attacks that are growing INCREASINGLY more sophisticated, the Bush administration opens itself up invariably to one of two criticisms (and they should really decide which of these two they prefer to have levelled at them) - either 1) the Bush administration has not been nearly at successful at dismantling the structure of the old regime as they say they are, or 2) they are offering us a red-herring, yet another in a two-year strategy of misleading us with weapons of mass distraction as a mechanism for covering up the fact that they have INCREASED rather than DECREASED the scope of terrorism through the Arab world.

It may be the case that a substantial Baath party structure still remains intact. However, by now half or more than half of the individuals most wanted by the DOD have been taken captive or killed, and this leaves us to question the plausibility of the idea that the Republican guard could be orchestrating sophisticated structural assaults such as those we have witnessed in the last few weeks. It may well be that the explosives were little more than residue from Soviet-era proliferation of weapons - that is possible. It is also possible that, as the administration is claiming, the vehicle was a Soviet-built truck that belonged to the former regime. But after 12 years of sanctions, we also know that the majority of vehicles have had to be IMPORTED from outside IRAQ to assist with the so-called reconstruction (all in the name of privatizing the Iraqi economy - just happening to contain 40% of the world's oil). NOW, Syria and Iran have for AT LEAST THREE MONTHS NOW caved to US demands to close their borders and (possibly) desist interfering with internal efforts at stabilization. I say possibly because terrorist elements linked to Iran still appear to have access to Iraq despite stricter border regulation. The Republican guard may well have slipped into Syria, but if they had, they stand little chance of re-entering Iraq and are subject to potential detention if they emerge from hidden positions. The Republican guard are blood enemies of the Iranian regime, so they are unlikely to be in Iran at all, and so that option seems implausible. They could NOT be outside the Suni-controlled areas surrounding Baghdad or Tikrit, because they would stand to face revenge execution by the Islamic tribes that control the outlying areas (North and South in particular). So even if the Bush administration has substantially dismantled the Baath party leadership and command structure, which it claims to have done, it is unlikely that the Republican guard could act in such a cogent, well-organized and overt manner.

What about terrorism? Well, you remember there was a terrorist outpost in Northern Iraq (in the No-Fly zone, by the way, which was patrolled and BOMBED daily by the US for 12 years, so whatever terrorist strains developed there happened our OUR watch). This organization is generally viewed as an umbrella organization for radical Islamic terrorists, but with 12 years of isolation it is unlikely that they could have amassed capacity of this level without having been noticed by US intelligence. THis does beg the question of how intelligent our intelligence is, and i do suspect that the Bush administration ignores the advice of intelligence agencies and pushes them to change their findings of fact when they obstruct the goals of the PNAC.

Still, the question is whether the Northern Islamic organization, weak as it may be, has any interest in hitting the UN. Perhaps - but is MORE LIKELY that AL QUAEDA hit the UN, and here is why. Eyewitnesses have described the vehicle used in the suicide bombing was a CEMENT TRUCK - how likely is it that such a vehicle would still be operational after so many decades under Saddam Hussein if it were Soviet-made? I'm not saying it WASN'T a Soviet truck, i'm just wondering if it might have just as easily been imported from a neighboring Arab country (and we should be finding out which one). After 12 years of sanctions, stockpiles of Iraqi weapons had been substantially diminished, and even given residue of Soviet-era explosives, it would have taken highly effective organization to commandeer a utility vehicle AND so much munition. The UN has been a principle target of AL-QUAEDA for decades, because it represents and has largely functioned as the international wing of US foreign policy. Any radical Islamic tribes would be aware of the oppositional role between the US and the UN in Iraq - specifically the UN has passed a resolution to terminate the US occupation, and to ensure this outcome it has devoted itself to reconstructive and humanitarian efforts. Traditionally oppressed Islamic groups would be more likely to see the presence of the UN as the opportunity to cast of the yoke of US imperialism. But AL-QUAEDA, on the other hand, makes no such distinction and has a history of targeting it with bombs which has been going on for longer than I have been alive.

I have heard no Bush administration official mention the name of Al-Quaeda so far, nor have i heard them mention the Northern terrorists. To do so would be to tacitly admit they have enabled more terrorism, not decreased it. In the case of the Northern terrorists, they would be tacitly admitting that a terrorist organization which developed under THEIR WATCH had become more dangerous. Better stick to blaming the Baathists and hope that nobody puts two and two together and concludes that they have they have been far less successful at removing the old regime than they claim.

Bush declared an end to major combat several months ago and announced that the process of building a new democratic regime had begun. His burblings are regurgitated by Bremer, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. First things first, rich boys. Take out the old regime before you build the new one, if you know how. Just be honest with the American people and tell them to their faces that it will cost a billion dollars per week for the foreseeable future. THen tell them that the experts are telling us we'll be there for 10 years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


When i was about 12 years old, i had this dream about working for the UN. In many ways, i still do, but now my dreams include being a philosophy professor and a labor law/human rights lawyer. Still, whenever something transpires with the UN i pay special attention. I woke early this morning after battling with a migrane for over a day (which i still have, btw) to hear on NPR that the UN headquaters in Baghdad had been bombed. There was speculation that the special ambassador had been hurt, as he had not yet been found. Hours later, i returned to my various news sources to find he had been killed along with sixteen others and one who cannot be found.

The president gestured at the remnants of the Baath party as the perpetrators in his weak statement given a few hours later, after having been taken from the golf course. Of course he would - because US credibility is riding on SADDAM LOYALISTS as terrorists, so that it can go on painting a false dichotomy between the past (and the forces of resistance) and the future (the US occupation and so-called liberation).

But this had all the marks of Al-Quaeda. And, up until a few months ago, Al-Quaeda had NO ACCESS to Baghdad. I will write more on this later, i still have this splitting headache. But the short but simple analysis: the Bush administration has INCREASED the range of terrorism through the Arab world, and lies about it in order to evade the appropriate condemnation.


Wednesday, August 13, 2003


It is getting late now, and i have a lot of work to do on IT (ch. 2 dissertation). I have someone coming over tomorrow to look at the garden path and discuss the specifics of paving it with bricks. I have numerous errands (many of them distateful and emotionally distressing), so i had best go rest before getting back to my writing. G'night.

I was leafing through some of my writing from years ago, and I came across this. Looking back on it, I see that I now believe the relationship between the United States and the USSR was more complicated than I describe it here, so that is another interesting writing project for later. For now, I thought i would post it ONLY because I wrote it EIGHT YEARS AGO (back when i was a young pup who had JUST STARTED thinking about political criticism), and it resonates more now than I could have ever known at the time. The essay's most striking blind spot reveals its age: in the early to mid-nineties, the role of outright war in American foreign policy was diminished. For example, the first Gulf War was undertaken according to a UN resolution, and although the US contributed a disproportionate amount of military resources, the overwhelming majority of the costs were assumed by European nations and Japan. The US preferred 'interventions' to outright military campaigns. At that time, however, the PNAC was calling for pre-emptive war against half the Arab nations of the world. By one electoral fiasco, those madmen were appointed to head the ship of state. As you read, look for connections between the role of the mercenary state in the new world order, and the analyses I published last month (see below) on the PNAC and the Bush administration. There are similarities, but if I were to write this piece again I would show how the mercenary system has come to be more complex under this presidency. I have not edited this essay for either content or grammar.

The Hierarchy of Mercenaries and the New World Order: A Chomskian View of Post-Soviet US Foreign Policy

Today, there is a general consensus regarding the significance of world events in the transition between decades, from the late eighties and into the mid-nineties. The United States demonstrated its legitimacy and power by triumphing over the now-defunct Soviet Union. President Bush declared the beginning of a New World Order, and as the Berlin wall came down it appeared that capitalism went hand in hand with democracy. And yet, we should ask how we came to be victorious, and what significance the victory will have for us and for the rest of the world. Undeniably, at the close of the 1980's, the 'old world order', as Noam Chomsky refers to it, was poised to undergo catastrophic change, brought about by several unprecedented global happenings. Perhaps the two most significant factors involved in this transition from 'old' to 'new' are the global economic decline of the United States, and the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Recognition and analysis of the relationship between these two factores, specifically how they serve to act in concert in the creation of the new world order, is an invaluable mechanism for evaluating current global situations involving economics, propaganda, and militarized force. Simultaneously, these sorts of evaluations are potential aids for predicting the direction of U.S. foreign policy, economics, and internal debate. The emergence of a system of mercenary state interdependence appears to be a direct result of these transitions.

The economic decline of the United States on the world market appears to find its origin in the intense economic growth of other industrialized nations, specifically Germany and Japan. This situation becomes particularly foreboding when it is viewed alongside the collapse of the Soviet Union. The ramifications are both extensive and varied. In the past, the perceived threat posed to the United States from the Soviet Union was both a boon as well as a serious limitation to American imperialism. The United States could only go so far before a military confrontation with the Russians would be imminent. Yet, the demonization of communism and escalation of the cold war, beginning with a fraudulent missile gap and reaching it's zenith in the spectre of the "Evil Empire", presented a plausible scapegoat for the manifestations of the will of statesmen and businessleaders alike, since it worked itself so powerfully upon the structure of the American psyche. This is Chomsky's characterization of the old world order: a conflict between two superpowers for resources, with the Soviet Union operating primarily within the sphere of it's satellites, and the U.S. across the surface of the globe, which could be defined in a very real sense as confrontational and limiting, yet which contained an element of mutual dependence in order to maximize each superpower's capacity for unquestionable political authority within their respective spheres.

Unsurprisingly, the decline of the Soviet Union tips the tables for the United States in these respects. First of all, there is no longer a substantial threat of military entanglement with another superpower - this frees the United States up by imparting the possibility for unchecked aggression and intervention. On the other hand, theoretical justifications for these actions becomes more complex. Chomsky identifies the U.S. need for the invention of enemies to supplement it's global excursions and internal policies. The reality this is evidenced by rhetorical attacks on Arab terrorism, third-world madmen, and the enemy within - individuals such as the Unabomber, the Freemen, and Timothy McVey.

But 'the enemy within' has only so much purchase when we consider the United States' transition from one of two superpowers to a solitary imperial power with global aspirations. The case must also be made that 'rogue states' are sufficiently dangerous to warrant the spread of American military might to the ends of the earth. Given the simultaneous decline of the United States in the world economy, the factors that complicate this transition become increasingly more crucial. To begin with, although the U.S. is essentially free to intervene anywhere on the globe at will with little threat of retaliation from a superpower per se, our economic decline makes these excursions far more costly. The costs must be socialized both domestically and internationally. At the same time, the sudden accessibility of the former Soviet empire for economic investment is alluring. Chomsky speculates that these territories, i.e. the former Soviet bloc and Siberia, will be exploited and maldeveloped by the two leading economic giants, Germany and Japan, not only on the basis of economic strength but also their geographic proximity. The United States will find itself involved in a land-grab of epic proportions which will not be won through economic influence alone.

What do these factors indicate for the new world order role of the United States both at home and abroad? There are likely to be many diverse answers to this question, but none rival the explanatory power of the notion of the mercenary state.

The majority of the American public has some familiarity with historical mercenaries such as the Hessians of the Revolutionary war, yet the notion of a mercenary state is still inchoate, particularly with regard to the modern political landscape. However the particular functions of such a state are a very basic part of our political self-consciousness, especially in matters of foreign policy. When people complain or boast about the propensity of the United States to either be the global "police force" or American ability to manipulate sovereign nations by means of "foreign aid", what they are usually, if unknowingly, referring to is a complex system of mercenary relationships among nations.

Chomsky's point is that the new world order mercenary structure will adjust to the changes in the world ordre itself, and thereby produce consequences of its own. The relationship between the US and its 'client states' will become increasingly important as a means for exerting influence without exercising military power. The loss of the scapegoat of communism to justify U.S. intervention will increase American reliance on smaller regimes which suck the teat of U.S. foreign aid in exchange for their compliance with American foreign policy goals. The U.S. may then act without acting, and avoid risking public opinion, the so-called "Vietnam syndrome" which is strikingly anti-war, anti-imperialism. While freed up to exert more force globally, the United States, in economic decline, will pressure more prosperous first world nations such as Germany and Japan into economic support for interventions aimed primarily at the satisfaction of U.S. interests. Such interventions against 'rogue states' will ultimately support the globalization of "free" trade, thereby serving the interests of the other economic giants such as the defense industry, who stand to gain greatly in the process. This is a two-tiered mercenary system. The United States maintains it's own mercenary states to recover the loss of a definable enemy in the U.S.S.R. Secondly, the United States acts as a mercenary state to it's economic rivals, the reuslt of American economic decline combined with virtual freedom to tramp the globe without fear of Soviet retaliation.

There is a reciprocal mercenary relationship between the US and the rest of the world, but because it is based on a disparity of military power it is ultimately coercive. Chomsky uses the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as a case in point: "That's [Israel] our mercenary state and we sustain it. We want to be the world's mercenary state and they're going to sustain us. Of course, the difference is that we're going to be strong enough to threaten them. Israel was never a military threat to us, but we're going to be a military threat to the rest of the world. That is a parallel." In my estimate, this comment illuminates the axis upon which the structure of the mercenary new world order turns. Not only does it shed light on the apparent contradiction between the U.S. need to keep mercenary states as well as our need to be a mercenary state, it also reveals the essential nature of the new world order as a kleptocracy perpetuated by one superpower. Kleptocracy is a system in which those in power steal from the majority of the population in order to support more extravagent lifestyles and more powerful systems of destruction. The U.S. military arsenal and capabilities so exceed that of any other nation that its maintainence requires unquestionable command of influence around the globe. To reap resources and labor from the third world, we maintain client states, and act as a mercenary state on behalf of our economic desires. From those countries such as Germany and Japan, who have clenched their fists around sections of the globe which we have been at a disadvantage in seizing, we will exact an exorbitant fee for the military aggression we conduct in our own interests. This strategy simultaneously supports laissez-faire systems of global economy that line the nests of those who rival us economically, but who dare not launch a full-scale military onslaught. This system is analogous to the old "robber baron" social orders which pre-date our own. The chief and most startling difference, then, is the fact that unlike the old world orders, the new world order envisioned by Chomsky will be especially dangerous, since it provides a world-wide stage with virtually unlimited possibilities to be explored by only one monster, only one predator, without the system of checks and balances provided by other superpowers. Under these conditions, it becomes possible for one predator to act with impunity.


I use this poem in my introductory argumentative writing course. A year or so ago, I read it aloud to a friend whose vision is rather poor, and I began to choke up. Try reading it aloud to someone when you have the time.

Let America Be America Again

By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.
PRIVATIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH: Takin' da Cash and Handin' Out da Stash
(Or, I Get By With a Little Help From My Millionaire Friends ... oh yes and then I give them political privileges in return)

This election cycle, like the last one, finds the Bush camp offering the honorary titles of "Rangers" and "Pioneers" for their donors. Ever wonder what this means? I did a little looking around at WhiteHouseforSale.org, and here is one of the many interesting bits of information I found there.

President Bush’s choice to opt out of the public financing system for
the primaries reflects his expectation that he can raise as much as
$200 million from private contributors. Since an individual is legally
able to contribute a maximum of $2,000, achieving such an
unprecedented goal requires a massive fundraising drive by
supporters who bundle together hundreds of thousands of dollars in
individual contributions. Of course, these bundlers hope to win
special recognition, expressions of gratitude - and often favors - from
the candidate.

Bush has dispensed recognition and expressed gratitude by creating
honorary titles for those who serve him best. In 2000, he called his
most successful fundraisers “Pioneers.” This time around, he has
added the superlative ranking of “Ranger.” These are the kinds of
supporters who get invited to special events, like barbecues in
Crawford, Texas.

Rangers and Pioneers come from many different states and
represent many different business and social groups. But they are
joined by their willingness to connect with money – and deliver it to
an appreciative candidate.

Among the important things to know about Rangers and Pioneers
are the following:

During the 2000 campaign, 551 people signed up to be Pioneers for
Bush according to Texans for Public Justice – meaning they
pledged to round up at least $100,000 in campaign contributions.
For the 2004 election, as of June 30 the Bush campaign has
named 23 “Rangers,” a new, superstatus for those who corral more
than $200,000 in contributions. The campaign also has identified 45

Of the 23 Rangers in the current election cycle, 15 were Pioneers
in 2000. Of the 45 current Pioneers, 21 were also Pioneers in 2000.
In 2000, Texas was the leading state when it came to producing
Pioneers. Of 551 Pioneers, 267 (49 percent) hailed from the
Lonestar state, followed by California with 34, Florida with 27,
Washington, D.C., with 22 and New Jersey with 21.

Texas again sets the pace in 2004, but the gap is closing. While
12 Rangers and Pioneers hail from there, California and New York
each have contributed 11.

In 2000, the greatest concentration of Pioneers (66, or 12 percent)
came from the securities and investment sector, followed by 47 (9
percent) from the oil and gas industry, 41 (7 percent) from the
ranks of lobbyists and 30 (5 percent) who were defense lawyers.
The securities and investment industry leads again in 2004, with 10
(15 percent) Rangers or Pioneers, followed by lobbyists with four (6
percent) and public officials with four (6 percent).

Becoming a Pioneer is a good way to get an influential government
job. After the 2000 election, Bush appointed at least 61 of his 551
Pioneers to government posts. There were 21 who received
ambassadorships to such places as Austria, Belgium, France,
Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland,
Belize, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

Three cabinet posts were filled with Pioneers: Secretary of
Commerce Don Evans, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge
and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Also appointed from the ranks
of Pioneers were a federal judge, William Martini, a U.S. Attorney
for New Jersey, Chris Christie, and at least four members of the
Energy Department's transition team, including former Enron CEO
Ken Lay.

At least 20 Rangers and Pioneers have stayed overnight at
theWhite House.

At least 12 Rangers and Pioneers were listed among the Forbes
400 richest Americans in 2002; nine were billionaires.
At least four of Bush’s Rangers and Pioneers are principal owners
of professional sports teams: William DeWitt, St. Louis Cardinals;
Tom Hicks, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars; Carl Lindner,
Cincinnati Reds; and Alex Spanos, San Diego Chargers. Leonard
Coleman, former president of baseball’s National League was a
Pioneer in 2000. Among athletes, golfer Ben Crenshaw and Dallas
Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach were Pioneers in 2000.
At least five Bush family members are Pioneers: brother Neil Bush,
sister Dorothy Koch, uncles William H.T. Bush and Jonathan Bush,
and cousin Craig Stapleton.

Four members of Congress and three governors have become
Pioneers or Rangers while in office. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas),
Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.)., Rep.
Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), former Gov. John Engler (R-Mich.), and
former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.), were Pioneers in 2000. Gov.
George Pataki (R-N.Y.) has become a Ranger for the 2004


Here is an excerpted speech by William Rivers Pitt on the connection between the PNAC and the clamor for war against Iraq which began in Sept., 2002.

The first of August saw a very interesting article published in The Washington Post. The title was, "U.S. Shifts Rhetoric On its Goals in Iraq." The story
quotes an unnamed administration source -- I will bet you all the money in my wallet that this "source" was a man named Richard Perle -- who outlined the
newest reasons for our war over there. "That goal is to see the spread of our values," said this aide, "and to understand that our values and our security are
inextricably linked."

Our values. That's an interesting concept coming from a member of this administration. We make much of the greatness and high moral standing of the United
States of America, and there is much to be proud of. The advertising, however, has lately failed completely to match up with the product.

Is it part of our value system to remain on a permanent war footing since World War II, shunting money desperately needed for human services and education
into a military machine whose very size and expense demands the fighting of wars to justify its existence?

Is it part of our value system to lie to the American people, to lie deeply and broadly and with no shame at all, about why we fight in Iraq?

Is it part of our value system to sacrifice nearly 300 American soldiers on the altar of those lies, to sacrifice thousands and thousands and thousands of
innocent civilians in Iraq on the altar of those lies?

Is it part of our value system to use the horror of 9/11 to terrify the American people into an unnecessary war, into the ruination of their civil rights, into the
annihilation of the Constitution?

Is it part of our value system to use that terrible day against those American people who felt most personally the awful blow of that attack?

Is striking first part of our value system?

Is living in fear part of our value system?

It is not part of my value system. It never will be.

This new justification for our war in Iraq is yet another lie, an accent in a symphony of lies. The values this administration represents play no part in the
common morality of the American people, play no part in the legal and constitutional system we adore and defend. One of the worst things ever to happen to
this country was allowing the people within this administration to use words like "freedom" and "justice" and "democracy" and "patriotism," for those good
and noble words become the foulest of lies when passing their lips.

For the record, the justification for war on Iraq was:

The procurement by Iraq of uranium from Niger for use in a nuclear weapons program, plus 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons
of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents -- 500 tons, for those without calculators, is one million pounds -- almost 30,000 munitions capable of delivering
chemical agents, several mobile biological weapons labs, and connections between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda that led directly to the attacks of 9/11.

None of these weapons have been found. The mobile weapons labs -- termed "Winnebagoes of Death" by Colin Powell -- turned out to be weather balloon
platforms sold to Iraq by the British in the 1980s. The infamous Iraq-Al Qaeda connection has been shot to pieces by the recently released 9/11 report. And
the Niger uranium claim was based upon forgeries so laughable that America stands embarrassed and ashamed before the judgment of the world. This is all
featured on the White House's Web site on a page called 'Disarming Saddam.' The Niger claims, specifically, have yet to be removed.

Lies. Lies. All lies.

That Washington Post story, however, reveals a deeper truth here. Now that the original and terrifying claims to justify this war have been proven to be
utterly and completely phony -- Niger recently asked for an apology, by the way -- the administration is falling back upon the justification for war that these
men have been formulating for years and years and years.

They call it Pax Americana, a plan to invade Iraq, take it over, create a permanent military presence there, and use the oil revenues to fund further wars
against virtually every nation in that region. This we call bringing our "values" over there. Norman Podhoretz, one of the ideological fathers of this group of
neoconservatives who now control the foreign policy of this nation, described the process as "the reformation and modernization of Islam." That's a pretty
fancy phrase. I am a Catholic, and can therefore call it by its simpler name: Crusade. We know all about those.

This is the Project for a New American Century, the product of a right-wing think tank that, in 1997, was considered so far out there that no one ever thought
its members would ever come within ten miles of setting American policy. One broken election, however, vaulted these men into positions of unspeakable
power. Their white papers, their dreams of empire at the point of the sword, have become our national nightmare and the nightmare of the world. I speak of
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Lewis Libby and the rest of these New American Century men who have taken
our beloved country and all it stands for it and thrown it down into the mud.

You will note that I did not name George W. Bush, for blaming Bush for the gross misadministration of this government is
like blaming Mickey Mouse when Disney screws up. He is not in charge. Truman said "The buck stops here," and so we
point to Bush as a symbol of all that has gone wrong. But he is not in charge. These other men, these New American
Century men, have delivered us to this wretched estate, and by God in Heaven, there will be a reckoning for it.

But is it all ideology for these men? Of course not. There is the payout. Have you ever heard of a company called United
Defense, out of Arlington, Virginia? Let me introduce you. United Defense provides Combat Vehicle Systems, Fire Support,
Combat Support Vehicle Systems, Weapons Delivery Systems, Amphibious Assault Vehicles and Combat Support
Services. Some of United Defense's current programs include:

The Bradley Family of Fighting Vehicles, the M113 Family of Fighting Vehicles, the M88A2 Recovery Vehicle, the Grizzly,
the M9 ACE, the Composite Armored Vehicle, the M6 Linebacker, the M4 Command and Control Vehicle, the Battle Command Vehicle, the Paladin, the Future
Scout and Cavalry System, the Crusader, Electric Gun Technology/Pulse Power, Advanced Simulations and Training Systems, and Fleet Management. This list
goes on and on, and includes virtually everything an eternal war might need.

Who owns United Defense? Why, the Carlyle Group, which bought United Defense in October of 1997. For those not in the know, the Carlyle Group is a
private global investment firm. Carlyle is the 11th largest defense contractor in the United States because of its ownership of companies making tanks,
aircraft wings and other equipment. Carlyle has ownership stakes in 164 companies which generated $16 billion in revenues in the year 2000 alone. The
Carlyle Group does not provide investment or other services to the general public.

Who works for the Carlyle Group? George Herbert Walker Bush works for the Carlyle Group, has been a senior consultant for Carlyle for some years now
and sits on the Board of Directors. This company is profiting wildly from this war in Iraq, a tidy gift from son to father.

And then, of course, there is Dick Cheney's Halliburton, profiting in the millions from the oil in Iraq. Halliburton subsidiary, Brown & Root, is also in Iraq. Their
stock in trade is the building of permanent military bases. Here is your permanent military presence in Iraq, and all for an incredible fee. Cheney still draws a
one million dollar annual check from Halliburton, what they call a 'deferred retirement benefit.' In Boston, we call that a paycheck.

Pax Americana. That which President Kennedy spoke so eloquently and specifically against when he said, "What kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax
Americana enforced upon the world by our weapons of war." This is now the rule of law for this nation. It must be stopped, and we must be the ones to
stop it.

This RingSurf The Political Science and Politics Webring Net Ring
owned by Philosopher's Stone.

[ Skip Next | Next | Random Site | List Sites |Previous ]

< # blog girls ? >
« Liberal Blogs » << # GeekLog ? >>

This The Anti-Dubya Webring site
owned by Philosopher's Stone

[ Prev | Skip Prev | Prev 5 | List | Stats
Join | Rand | Next 5 | Skip Next | Next ]
Powered by RingSurf!

Listed on Blogwise

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?