Sunday 24th of September 2023

Nuclear Alex says that Korea Could Nuke Australia... Again

Here we go with another Korean missile scare.  After warnings from
the U.S. for Korea not to test a missile that could potentially drop a
nuke on American soil, Mr Downer has revealed that Australia is also
within range.

 [extract from ninemsn]

A missile North Korea plans to test fire has the range to reach
Australia but the country is an unlikely target, Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer says.

Australia has added its voice to a growing
international chorus demanding North Korea give up plans for the test
launch of a long range ballistic missile.

The United States has threatened to respond if North Korea launches a weapon, while Japan has promised to take "severe action".

Mr Downer, who is on a trip to Europe, said North Korea would face
serious international consequences if it went ahead with the test

The long range missile could reach Australia, he said, but that was unlikely.

"I am sure they would not be targeting Australia with these missiles," Mr Downer said.

"(But) they would have the range to meet Australia, yes."

He warned that any test firing was completely unacceptable.

 The only trouble with Nuclear Alex (as Kevin Rudd has dubbed him)
making such an ominious announcement is that he's tried that one
already, and gotten it completely wrong.  Last time Downer's spinners
"forgot" to allow for the fact that the missiles would fall drastically
short of their targets if they were carrying a  payload.

This time Downer seems to have taken into account that some people
remember these things, and are wondering if history is repeating itself.

Travel plans

How's the weather in Adelaide, Richard? More to the point, what's Paris like in July? Nice and warm, but not still a hot-spot of Anti-Americanism, I trust.

Downer looks to France for UN resolution on E Timor

Now, a good-going conflab requires attention to detail, and the guarantee of much interpersonal face-time. Of course, it's OK if the precious few minutes of Foreign Ministerial time are expended on a local call, from the balcony overlooking the kiddies at play, while the missus tends to the half-yearly refurbishment of the wardrobe.

The venues in Vienna look particularly wonderful, so I reckon the Austrians may like to make a proposal for brokering peace with DPRK.

See, it's all doable with diplomacy, and a well-placed incendiary device.

Enter Tom Shaeffer

I'd been wondering since his transfer from Australia to Japan if Tom Shaeffer was, after a "mission accomplished" sent to the L.R.S to agitate the Korean situatioin.

Heard him speaking about the Korean Missile Crisis tonight.  Due to a mis-looping the 1 AM news was broadcast in a delay loop and the five-syllable replication made the whole bulletin sound like, appropriately,  an episode of Doctor Who 

Personally I think Tom was in Australia to write Alex' script.  It's a pity the poor bugger can't remember his lines.

Downer looking to UN for Timor Resolution?

 Firefighters create a controlled evironment in which to backburn.  Ales has not.

Lost in the Louvre


Well, well. ABC radio news just said Alex is in Europe, and unavailable for comment (on an event in Iraq).

It's a good thing Tom Schieffer hasn't abandoned his post, too, and is committed to talking up the threat. I bet Tom isn't swanning around the fleshpots of 'old Europe'.

From North Korean rocket serves the US very well in The Age:


... But in the meantime, the North Korean "threat" serves a number
of different agendas, so we can expect to hear more about this huge
and terrifying rocket.


hot and cold porkie meat

Cheney downplays N Korea threat

The new Taepodong missile could reach Alaska (archive picture)
North Korea's missile capability is "fairly rudimentary", US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said.
Mr Cheney was responding to calls from former top US defence officials urging that North Korea's missile be destroyed before it can be test-fired.

Several US officials have stepped back from threatening pre-emptive action against the North, while warning it can expect "consequences" if it goes ahead.

North Korea is thought to have prepared a Taepodong-2 missile for launch.

The untested missile has an estimated range of up to 6,000km (3,730 miles) - potentially reaching Alaska.

However, a South Korean official has insisted the launch is not imminent, and no substantial moves towards the launch of the missile from Musandri - on the North's north-eastern coast - have been detected in recent days.

'Mortal threat'

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Thursday, William Perry and Ashton Carter urge the US administration to act before a "mortal threat" can develop.

read more at the BBC

Tae-kwon-do missiles and childish diplomacy

From the NYT

US runs successful missile defence test
A US warship successfully shot down a target missile warhead over the Pacific in a test of a sea-based missile defence system, the US military says.

A Japanese destroyer performed surveillance and tracking exercises during the test, marking the first time any US ally has taken part in a US missile defence intercept test.

The test came amid a confrontation with North Korea over its preparations to launch a long-range missile.

The sea-based system tested off Hawaii is designed to counter only short- or medium-range missiles.

However, the cruisers and destroyers that took part are capable of tracking long-range missiles as well.

The mock warhead was launched over the Pacific atop a medium range missile and destroyed in a direct hit six minutes later with an SM-3 missile fired by the Aegis cruiser USS Shiloh, the agency says.

"We are continuing to see great success with the very challenging technology of hit-to-kill, a technology that is used for all of our missile defence ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles," agency chief Lieutenant General Trey Obering said in a statement.

He says it is the seventh successful intercept using the sea-based missile defence system out of eight tries.

North Korean 'cost'
The test came as the United States said North Korea would have to pay a "cost" if it launched a long range missile.

The US has said that North Korea was preparing to launch a multi-stage Taepodong-2 ballistic missile with a range of up to 6,700 kilometres.

US defence officials said the United States was ready to use its missile defence system if necessary against any threatening launch.

Dark city

Whipped by the cold, dead hand of the NRA, UN takes aim at gun runners:

...  Director Rebecca Peters knows what it is like to be in the sights of the gun lobby. The Australian rose to prominence as a gun-control advocate in the wake of Tasmania's Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
Ms Peters finds the NRA campaign against the UN "vicious, mean-spirited and deceiving of their own members". She claims the NRA does not believe its propaganda but is using the UN conference as a fund-raising campaign. For its part, the association calls Ms Peters "the mastermind" of a global conspiracy to take guns away from Americans. ...

From Evangelical apocalyptic schlockfest snoops on gamers

... Developers have incorporated software from an Israeli firm called Double Fusion. It incorporates video advertising and product placement into the game, and reportedly records players' behaviour, location, and other data to be uploaded to Left Behind's Bible-powered marketing machine. ...

From You don't need to be apocalyptic, but it helps

... Nonetheless, critics as well as supporters of US Middle East policy will find Brog's report of great use. A Jew and a partisan of Israel, Brog served as chief of staff to US Senator Arlen Specter and staff director of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, with the opportunity to observe the politics of foreign policy at first hand. He leaves no doubt that philo-Semitism is bred in the marrow of evangelical Christianity. America's alliance with Israel stems not from the machinations of powerful Jews, nor from America's imperial ambitions, but rather from an impassioned surge of religious feeling at the grassroots of US politics. Twenty-eight percent of Republicans may be characterized as "religious right", Brog observes, making them "the largest single voting bloc in the party".

This is all the more disturbing to enlightened world opinion because End Times prophecy, the Rapture of the faithful, and the Second Coming of Jesus figure prominently in Dispensationalist thinking. There is a bit of mad mysticism about the Christian Right, but the same could be said about the 17th century's master spy and diplomat, the "Gray Eminence" Father Joseph du Tremblay. No one but a mystic could have the stomach for a full-dress religious war, and that is precisely what we have gotten into. ...

... Christian anti-Semitism, to be sure, is alive and well, but it flourishes among conventional, middle-of-the-road, mainline Protestant denominations, notably the US Presbyterians, who voted in 2004 to pull investments out of any multinational corporation doing business in Israel. American Presbyterian leaders publicly embraced Hezbollah in 2004 and made overtures to the new Hamas government in Palestine. I do not believe that the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and other left-leaning denominations in the United States have any special concern for the sufferings of Palestinian Arabs. Rather, I think they simply hate Jews as they always have. The US never was so hostile to the Jews as when mainline churches held sway. Despite the public humiliation of Switzerland for its treatment of Jews during World War II, it is a matter of record that this small country accepted 21,000 Jewish refugees during the war, or precisely as many as the whole of the United States.  ...


In New York Times, on Leo Strauss - First Chapter.

June 25, 2006 First Chapter 'Reading Leo Strauss' By STEVEN B. SMITH

The essays contained in this volume are all intended as a contribution to the understanding of the philosophy of Leo Strauss. They do not purport to provide a comprehensive overview of Strauss's life and work, much less an evaluation of the influence of his teaching and the creation of a school of political thought bearing his name. They do attempt to examine what I consider the central and most enduring theme of Strauss's legacy, namely, what he called the "theologico-political problem," which he also referred to metaphorically by the names Jerusalem and Athens.

Who was Leo Strauss? Strauss was a German-Jewish émigré, the product of the pre-World War I Gymnasium who studied at several universities, finally taking his doctorate at Hamburg in 1921. He was a research assistant at an institute for Jewish research in Berlin before leaving Germany in 1932 to settle first in England and later in the United States, where he taught principally at the New School for Social Research in New York and later the University of Chicago. It was during his period in Chicago that Strauss had his greatest influence. He was, by most accounts, a compelling teacher, and like all good teachers everywhere he attracted students, many of whom came to regard themselves as part of a distinctive school. By the time of his death in 1973 Strauss had written (depending on how one counts them) more than a dozen books and around one hundred articles and reviews.

Strauss's works were highly controversial during his own lifetime. When he joined the faculty at the University of Chicago he was the author of two books published in Germany that were long out of print: a slim monograph on the political philosophy of Hobbes, and an even briefer commentary on a minor dialogue by Xenophon. The future trajectory of his life's work would by no means have been obvious. In the autumn of 1949 he gave a series of lectures under the auspices of the Walgreen Foundation, titled Natural Right and History, that was to set his work on a new and distinctive path. It was, literally, his way of introducing himself to the world of American social science from the seat of a major university. The book of the same title was published four years later, in 1953. What exactly did Strauss set out to do?

Strauss offered a deliberately provocative account of what might be called the "modernity problem" that had been widely debated in prewar European circles, but which was still relatively unknown to Americans of that era. Prior to Strauss, the most important current of twentieth-century American political thought was John Dewey's "progressivism." Against the view that the advance of science, especially the modern social sciences, was bringing about the progressive triumph of freedom and democracy, Strauss rang an alarm bell. Strauss argued by contrast that the dynamics of modern philosophy and Vertfrei, or value-free social science, were moving not toward freedom and well-being but to a condition he diagnosed as nihilism. In Strauss's counternarrative of decline, the foundations of constitutional government as understood by the American framers were gradually being sapped and eroded by the emergence of German-style historicism according to which all standards of justice and right are relative to their time and place. All of this was presented as the outcome of a densely detailed history of political thought in which all the trappings of German scholarship were on full display. His analysis was bold, audacious, and learned. The ensuing controversy pitted those advocates of American progressivism against Strauss, who regarded modernity as a mixed blessing that required certain premodern classical and biblical teachings to rescue modernity from its own self-destructive tendencies.

People on the outside often think of Straussianism as some kind of sinister cult replete with secret rites of initiation and bits of insider information-much like a Yale secret society. Straussians are often believed only to associate with other Straussians and only to read books written by one another. Some actually believe that Straussianism requires the subordination of one's critical intellect to the authority of a charismatic cult leader. Others regard it as a political movement, often allied with "neo-conservatism," with a range of prescribed positions and ties to conservative think tanks and policy centers. The liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger deplores the influence of what he calls Strauss's "German windbaggery" and compares it to the deleterious influence of Hegel on earlier generations. "Strauss," Schlesinger continues, "taught his disciples a belief in absolutes, contempt for relativism, and joy in abstract propositions. He approved of Plato's 'noble lies,' disliked much of modern life, and believed that a Straussian elite in government would in time overcome feelings of persecution." None of these beliefs could be further from my own experience.

There is no doubt that the influence of Strauss-or at least his purported influence-is greater now than at any time since his death more than thirty years ago. Of course, Strauss is widely regarded today as a founding father, perhaps the Godfather, of neo-conservatism, with direct or indirect ties to the Bush administration in Washington. The last few years have witnessed a virtual hostile takeover of Strauss by the political Right. "The Bush administration is rife with Straussians," James Atlas has written in the New York Times. Never mind that the Bush administration, like all administrations, is rife with people of all sorts. The association of Strauss with neo-conservatism has been repeated so many times that it leaves the mistaken impression that there is a line of influence leading directly from Strauss's readings of Plato and Maimonides to the most recent directives of the Defense Department. Nothing could be more inimical to Strauss's teaching.

Early readers of Natural Right and History like Walter Lippmann saw in the book a support for the belief that the growing debility of modern democracy was due to its loss of faith in the natural law tradition. Straussians have always advocated a strong national government against the crabbed conservatism of "states rights" fundamentalists or the reactionary defenders of a purely federal reading of the Constitution. A textbook on American political thought compiled by two students of Strauss was dedicated to the memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Felix Frankfurter and "to the noble employment of the power they once wielded." The editors of the collection commend FDR for expanding the powers of government beyond securing the bare rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to a "higher and grander" conception of the modern welfare state. What distinguished the Straussian approach to politics was the focus on the "philosophic dimension" of statecraft, often at the expense of mass behavior or interest- group politics that attracted the attention of mainstream of political science. Straussians typically studied not only the deeds, but the words of singular political leaders and statesmen, but without any particular ideological pique or animus. Straussians might be either liberal or conservative, although there was a bias toward those who sought to anchor their policies in a reading of the principles of the American founding. Even recently a distinguished student of Strauss served as a prominent member of the first Clinton administration, advising on matters of domestic policy.

The fact is that Strauss bequeathed not a single legacy, but a number of competing legacies. It is a gross distortion to retrofit Strauss's teachings to conform to the agenda of the political Right. His writings on a wide range of subjects continue to spark lively debate among students in a host of fields. New scholarly editions of his work including previously unpublished essays and lectures as well as a voluminous correspondence have all recently appeared, and more are slated for the future. The influence of his ideas on politics and policy-making are continually discussed and debated, and are frequently condemned in leading opinion magazines, journals, and newspapers. To the question "why Strauss, why now?" I would say, "if not now, when"?

What Is a Straussian?

Once when I was in graduate school, at a party where there was probably way too much to drink, a friend of mine-now by coincidence a prominent attorney in New Haven-was asked if he was a Straussian. "If you mean by that do I regard everything that Leo Strauss ever wrote as true," he replied, "then, yes, I am a Straussian." We all laughed because my friend's answer so perfectly captured and parodied the common view of Straussianism. The question, am I a Straussian, is something I have been asked on more than one occasion over the years. Sometimes the question seems prompted by nothing more than the idle desire to know what Straussianism means. At other times it has the vague character of an "are you now or have you ever been ..." kind of accusation. In any case the question has caused me to think about what it is to be a Straussian.

The first point I would make about Straussianism is that it is not all of a single piece. There is rather a set of common problems or questions that characterize Strauss's work: for example, the difference between ancients and moderns, the quarrel between philosophy and poetry, and of course the tension between reason and revelation. None of these problems can be said to have a priority over the others nor do they cohere in anything as crude as a system. Whatever may be alleged, there is hardly a single thread that runs throughout these different interests. Strauss did not bequeath a system, doctrine, or an "ism," despite what may be attributed to him. Rather, he presented a distinctive way of asking questions or posing problems that may have been loosely related but that scarcely derived from a single Archimedean point of view. It is questions that motivate all of Strauss's writings-questions like "Is reason or revelation the ultimate guide to life?" "Has the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns been decided in favor of modernity?" and "Are the philosophers or the poets better educators of civic life?" The point of Strauss's questions is less to provide answers than to make us aware of certain alternatives. In the age-old debate, he was probably more a fox than a hedgehog.

There are many different kinds of Straussians with many and varied interests and perspectives. Some Straussians have devoted themselves entirely to ancient philosophers, while others work on postmodernism; some are deeply religious, while others are proudly secular; some think about politics and policy-making, while others delve into the deepest problems of Being. This diversity reflects, to some degree, the variety of Strauss's own interests. Strauss's writings range from studies of the ancient political philosophy of Thucydides, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, to the Judeo-Arabic writers of the Middle Ages, to such early modern political thinkers as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke, to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century figures like Nietzsche, Weber, and Heidegger, to issues regarding the philosophy of history, hermeneutics, and the nature of the social sciences. In each of these areas Strauss made notable and lasting contributions that are still widely discussed today.

Few people-one might have to go back to Hegel-have written with as much authority on so wide a range of philosophical, literary, and historical topics. Precisely because Strauss's work covers such a broad landscape, there is not one way of being a Straussian. In fact there are considerable differences among his heirs over precisely what is most valuable in his legacy. Strauss regarded himself as taking the first tentative steps toward the reawakening of substantive interest in the permanent or fundamental problems of political philosophy at a time when it was widely argued that political philosophy was dead. More than this, he expanded the repertoire of political philosophy to include a large number of previously neglected thinkers and topics. The major textbooks of his era made no reference to any of the medieval Judeo-Arabic writers or even to the works of the American founders. Strauss's work treated the American founding as an important philosophical moment in the development of modernity and even encouraged a reconsideration of the ideas of philosophically minded statesmen like Jefferson, Lincoln, and Wilson. His work also inspired a serious engagement with the work of African- American political thinkers from Fredrick Douglass to W.E.B. DuBois to Martin Luther King, Jr. at a time when their writings received little formal recognition in the academy. None of this, however, gets us any closer to an understanding of what a Straussian is.

Careful Readers and Careful Writers

Straussianism is characterized above all by what its practitioners often call the art of "careful reading." When asked what he taught, it is said, Strauss often replied "old books." Strauss paid special attention to reading mainly primary sources, typically in their original languages. This does not sound terribly controversial today except that at the time the idea of actually reading the great works of political theory had fallen out of favor. It was widely believed in many circles that the development of the modern behavioral sciences had put political philosophy on the path to ultimate extinction. It was believed by many that the meaning of writers like Plato, Hobbes, or Rousseau had been more or less established and all that was necessary was to situate them in their place along the historical time line so that the proper burial rites could be given. Political philosophy had become a kind of undertaker's art with little relevance or importance for the living issues of either politics or philosophy.

Strauss helped to change this perception. In the language of the old Westerns, he came to realize that "there's gold in them thar hills." In contrast to the prevailing historicism that regarded the great works of the tradition as a product of their times, Strauss treated these texts not as museum pieces to be labeled and catalogued, but as living and vital contemporaries from which there was still much to learn. The history of political thought was not an end in itself, but a necessary propadeutic to the recommencement of serious political philosophy. Strauss taught that the interpretations that had been ascribed to the great writers of the past were far from settled or obvious, that to understand them it was necessary to bracket our contemporary preconceptions about the path of progress or history and to consider their writings afresh as part of an ongoing conversation in which we, the readers, were invited to take part. It is possible for us to participate in such a conversation precisely because the great thinkers disagree with one another. Is Being one or many? Does it exhibit permanence or change? It thus becomes necessary for us to try to understand and to judge between rival teachings, to determine which among them is closer to the truth. The reader is thus invited to participate in a conversation in which the outcome is far from predetermined, but which remains, in Strauss's term, an open question.

Strauss was, above all, a reader. He taught his students how to read and how careful writers, like himself, wished to be read. Strauss expanded the scope of our reading to include forgotten figures and others who had been overlooked by the canon of political philosophy. Not only did he breathe new life into familiar figures and texts; he introduced new and unfamiliar writers like Al-Farabi, Judah Halevi, Maimonides, and Spinoza to the attention of political philosophers. He pioneered the study of politics and literature by focusing on the literary character of texts and highlighting the "old quarrel" between philosophy and poetry in his reading of thinkers like Plato and Nietzsche. He inquired into the rhetoric in which philosophical arguments are cast long before it became fashionable to talk about "speech acts" and the performative function of language. He paid special attention to ironies, jokes, and puns even in the most serious works and devoted one of his last books to a study of the comedies of Aristophanes. Strauss's most important legacy was teaching his readers how to read. No one can be a Straussian who does not fundamentally love to read.


The United States, China and North Korea

For some interesting information on the North Korean missiles go to:

Not a peep from the Nazis of the US administration

From ASL Jazeera

India says missile launch failed

Monday 10 July 2006, 9:12 Makka Time, 6:12 GMT

India's nuclear-capable Agni III missile failed in its first test-firing over the weekend, unable to reach its target, the defence minister said.

The defence ministry had initially declared Sunday's test of India's longest-range missile a success, but it plunged into the ocean in the Bay of Bengal, short of its target.

Terming the failure a snag, the minister, Pranab Mukherjee, told reporters late on Sunday that India would press ahead with the programme and correct the faults.

read more of this at Al Jazeera