Day: May 15, 2003

Strong Must Rule the Weak, said Neo-Cons’ Muse.

“Is U.S. foreign policy being run by followers of an obscure German Jewish political philosopher whose views were elitist, amoral and hostile to democratic government?

Suddenly, political Washington is abuzz about Leo Strauss, who arrived in the United States in 1938 and taught at several major universities before his death in 1973.


Thanks to the ”Week in Review” section of last Sunday’s New York Times and another investigative article in this week’s New Yorker magazine [to which I previously linked — FmH], the cognoscenti have suddenly been made aware that key neo-conservative strategists behind the Bush administration’s aggressive foreign and military policy consider themselves to be followers of Strauss, although the philosopher – an expert on Plato and Aristotle – rarely addressed current events in his writings.”

As for what a Straussian world order might look like, … the philosopher often talked about Jonathan Swift’s story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians. ”When Lilliput was on fire, Gulliver urinated over the city, including the palace. In so doing, he saved all of Lilliput from catastrophe, but the Lilliputians were outraged and appalled by such a show of disrespect.”


For Strauss, the act demonstrates both the superiority and the isolation of the leader within a society and, presumably, the leading country vis-a-vis the rest of the world.


…(I)t is ironic, but not inconsistent with Strauss’ ideas about the necessity for elites to deceive their citizens, that the Bush administration defends its anti-terrorist campaign by resorting to idealistic rhetoric. ”They really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they’re conquering the world in the name of liberalism and democracy” …

— Jim Lobe, CommonDreams [thanks, walker]

Okay, so there are uncanny similarities between this rendition of Strauss’ principles and the pattern of Bush regime behavior, and it appears that a number of Strauss disciples are in pivotal positions to influence the decisions of our naive and credulous President. Many of us have long been convinced of, and outraged by, the centrality of deception in the dysadministration’s P.R. So, if this is Strauss’ influence, how does knowing about it help? It is not as if the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public is going to be won in university political philosophy departments. More bluntly, are most of the people who elect our next President going to grasp, or care, that an insidious pro-authoritarian philosophy is the altar at which the Bush zealots worship? What is to be done? Damned if I know. It does occur to me to regret that the relatively small segment of the population who did not believe there would be much difference between Bush and Gore, and thus voted for Nader (and who, by and large, might be sophisticated and interested enough to pay attention to the influence of an obscure and insidious political philosopher, and who are under no illusions about the power of a small covert inner core to so profoundly influence the direction of a nation’s policy) weren’t familiar with Strauss three years ago.

Also: Ardent opponent of tyranny, or an apologist for the abuse of power?

“Odd as this might sound, we live in a world increasingly shaped by Leo Strauss, a controversial philosopher who died in 1973. Although generally unknown to the wider population, Strauss has been one of the two or three most important intellectual influences on the conservative worldview now ascendant in George W. Bush’s Washington. Eager to get the lowdown on White House thinking, editors at the New York Times and Le Monde have had journalists pore over Strauss’s work and trace his disciples’ affiliations. The New Yorker has even found a contingent of Straussians doing intelligence work for the Pentagon.” — Jeet Heer, Boston Globe

DNA evidence shows race doesn’t exist –

“The recently completed Human Genome Sequencing Project has confirmed what many scientists knew all along — that humans don’t fit the biological criteria that defines race.

The revelation strikes at the heart of some of the most deeply entrenched social, cultural and political divisions among Americans. But some experts say our conception of race is not likely to be swayed by the DNA evidence.” twincities.com

Related: Researchers: Americans know no more about genetics than in 1990 EurekAlert!

Neutrino beam could neutralise nuclear bombs –

“A super-powered neutrino generator could in theory be used to instantly destroy nuclear weapons anywhere on the planet, according to a team of Japanese scientists.

If it was ever built, a state could use the device to obliterate the nuclear arsenal of its enemy by firing a beam of neutrinos straight through the Earth. But the generator would need to be more than a hundred times more powerful than any existing particle accelerator and over 1000 kilometres wide.” New Scientist

Homeland Security Department Used to Track Texas Democrats –

“Republicans in Washington and Austin, Texas apparently used a Homeland Security Department agency to track Texas Democratic legislators who left the state to block passage of a GOP-backed Congressional redistricting bill.

This is the same Homeland Security Department that is supposed to be making America safe from foreign terrorists. It’s the agency we were told would never be used for domestic political purposes.” CommonDreams

The Unquiet American:

The mysteries of Guy Waterman’s suicide

If you started a book (or finished one) just prior to the war, pick it up now. You very well might see it through different eyes.


The book that proved this to me was Chip Brown’s Good Morning Midnight, the story of Guy Waterman, a former political and corporate speechwriter turned dean of the homesteading movement in rural Vermont. On Feb. 6, 2000, Waterman, who was 67, marched up his favorite trail in New Hampshire and deliberately froze to death. Brown begins his book with a scene of Waterman’s friends heading out to retrieve his body, and the search occasions a look back at his life. But Good Morning Midnight isn’t a biography; it’s an investigation. Not a whodunit, but a whydunit. Slate

Prompted by an interview with author Chip Brown I heard yesterday on All Things Considered. A puzzling and arresting detail about his suicide — all he carried in his pack to his death at the summit of New Hampshire’s Mt. Lafayette (one of my favorite mountains in the Whites as well), in addition to some whiskey, were several stuffed animals and two (two?) alarm clocks. Here’s some discussion in an Appalachian Mountain Club forum about Waterman, and a short teaser from National Geographic Adventurer magazine.

American Mavericks:

a groundbreaking new radio and Internet series produced by Minnesota Public Radio in association with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and distributed by Public Radio International. The radio program was released in April 2003. Inspired by the adventurous programming of the San Francisco Symphony and its concert festival of the same name, American Mavericks features the iconoclastic, tradition-breaking composers who shaped the development of American music-from Charles Ives, Henry Brant, Harry Partch, Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich and more. Stream the shows here. [thanks, abby]