October 24, 2013

War as politics, politics as war – and various other things “continued by other means”...


THE MISTRANSLATED MAXIM:

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” 
      
Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
       Prussian general and military theorist
       On War (1832-1834), Bk. VIII, Ch. VI, Section B:
“War is an Instrument of Policy”
       This is the traditional English translation of a line from On War (Vom Kriege), a collection of writings by Clausewitz that was published posthumously by his wife in three volumes between 1832 and 1834. It encapsulates a point Clausewitz made, but it’s not an exact translation. One issue is that some words can be translated several ways. For example, the German word politik can mean either ‘politics’ or ‘policy.’ In German, the full sentence the maxim comes from says: “Wir behaupten dagegen, der Krieg ist nichts als eine Fortsetzung des politischen Verkehrs mit Einmischung anderer Mittel.” This can be and has been translated in several ways, but essentially says something like: “We maintain [or ‘assert’] however, that war is nothing but a continuation of politics [or ‘policy’] with the admixture [or ‘addition’] of other means [or ‘resources’].” In context, the point Clausewitz was making is that he disagreed with the idea that war amounted to an end of political ‘intercourse’ (Verkehr) or discourse. He asserted that war is merely another kind of political communication that has it’s own ‘grammar’ (Grammatik). In short, while the oft-quoted maxim does seem to reflect Clausewitz’s line of thought, the common English translation is not literally correct.


A MODERN POLITICAL VARIATION:

“American politics is now the continuation of ‘war by other means.’...Government shutdowns, threatened debt default, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia can seem like discrete political struggles for democracy, good governance, and equal rights. Progressives and moderates make a huge mistake when they do not see the connections extremists make among them. It is crucial to see that to the extreme right-wing that is hijacking our political process right now, these are not discrete issues but part of a cosmic war on Satan played out in our American political life.”
       Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite
       Professor of Theology at the Chicago Theological Seminary, author of #Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power  
       In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, October 15, 2013
       (Cartoon by David Horsey)


AN ARMS SUPPLIER’S VERSION:

“War is the improvement of investment climates by other means.” 
       Ben Kingsley as the character Walken, The Viceroy
       In the satirical anti-war movie
War, Inc. (2008)


A TECH VISIONARY’S VERSION:

“Technology is the continuation of evolution by other means, and is itself an evolutionary process.”
       Ray Kurzweil
       American inventor, author and futurist
       In his book
The Age of Spiritual Machines (2000)


LEGAL VARIATION #1:

“Law in a good society is first and foremost the continuation of morality by other means.”
       Amitai Etzioni
       German-born American sociologist
       In his book
The New Golden Rule (1998)


LEGAL VARIATION #2:

“Litigation...the continuation of business by other means.”
       Frederick L. Whitmer
       Professional litigator and author
       In his book
Litigation Is War (2007)

THE STOOGES MEET THE EVIL DEAD VERSION:

“Mr. Raimi [movie director Sam Raimi]...has cited the Three Stooges as his comic inspiration, and indeed, Evil Dead II is a sort of continuation of Stoogism by other means. Here, an eyeball isn’t just poked, but poked out and sent flying across the room, to be swallowed by an innocent bystander. Of such things, Moe Howard could only dream.” 
       Dave Kehr
       American film critic
       Referring to the famed
“eyeball popping” scene in the horror film Evil Dead 2 (1987)
       In
a DVD review in the New York Times, October 18, 2005

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October 15, 2013

From “Absolutism tempered by assassination” to today’s “Ideology untempered by pragmatism”…


THE FAMOUS, VARIABLY-QUOTED PHRASE:

“Absolutism tempered by assassination.”
       German diplomat Georg Herbert zu Münster (1820-1902)

       Quoting an unnamed Russian
in Chapter II of his book Political Sketches of the States of Europe 1814-1857 (published in 1868)   
       “
Absolutism tempered by assassination” is the usual translation of the phrase Münster used that’s cited by many books of quotations and websites, though original translations gave it as “Absolutism moderated by assassination.” In the book, Münster wrote: “An intelligent Russian once remarked to us, ‘Every country has its own constitution; ours is absolutism moderated by assassination.’” Other sources, all of which seem to have been published after 1868, say that a similar quote was said to Münster’s father Ernst Friedrich Herbert zu Münster (1766-1839), who was also a German diplomat. According to those sources, when Czar Paul I was assassinated in 1801, a Russian nobleman told Ernst, in French: “Le despotisme tempéré par l’assassinat, c’est notre Magna Charta” — which translates as “Despotism tempered by assassination, that is our Magna Carta.”


THE IDIOCY OF IDEOLOGY UNTEMPERED BY PRAGMATISM:

“The people we elected to represent us on the national stage, people who are supposed to be leaders, are too immature and fixed in ideology untempered by pragmatism to sit down and compromise with each other. The atrocious partisan nature of the Senate and the House would be humorous if our livelihoods didn't hang in the balance.”  
       Editorial about the budget stalemate in Congress,
in the Times Beacon Record, October 6, 2013. (Cartoon by Tom Stiglich)


THE FAMOUS (BUT APPARENTLY PHONY) VOLTAIRE QUOTE:

“The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.”
       Attributed to
Voltaire (1694-1778)  
       French novelist, philosopher, poet and historian
       Although this quote is
widely attributed to Voltaire, it does not seem to appear in any of his writings.


THE OPTIMIST’S VIEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“If we substitute elective dictatorship tempered by assassination at the ballot box, we have a system with more virtues than flaws.”
      
Bruce Anderson
       Columnist for the UK Independent
       In
an opinion piece posted on the Independent’s website, February 27, 2006


THE CULTURED VIEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“Tyranny is usually tempered with assassination, and Democracy must be tempered with culture. In the absence of this, it turns into a representation of collective folly.”
      
John Stuart Mackenzie (1860–1935)
       British philosopher
       In his book
An Introduction to Social Philosophy (1895)


THE CYNIC’S V
IEW OF DEMOCRACY:

“RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections.”
      
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913)
       American writer and curmudgeon
       One of the satiric definitions in his book
The Devil’s Dictionary (1925)


EMERSON’S STILL-RELEVANT COMMENT ABOUT CERTAIN WARS:

“The President proclaims war, and those Senators who dissent are not those who know better, but those who can afford to...Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.”
      
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
       American Philosopher, essayist and poet   
       In an
entry in his journal written in 1847, after American President James K. Polk declared war on Mexico


DEAN ACHESON’S RANT ABOUT DEMOCRACY:

“I think Churchill is right, the only thing to be said for democracy is that there is nothing else that’s any better, and therefore he used to say, Tyranny tempered by assassination, but lots of assassination. People say, If the Congress were more representative of the people it would be better. I say the Congress is too damn representative. It’s just as stupid as the people are; just as uneducated, just as dumb, just as selfish.”
      
Dean Acheson (1893-1971)
       U.S. Secretary of State under President Harry S. Truman
       In
an interview with Theodore A. Wilson and Richard D. McKinzie on June 30, 1971 


THE PUBLIC EXPLODER OPTION:

“After many unhappy experiments in the direction of an ideal Republic, it was found that what may be described as a Despotism tempered by Dynamite provides, on the whole, the most satisfactory description of ruler — an autocrat who dares not abuse his autocratic power.”
      
Gilbert and Sullivan (W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan)
      
Said by the character Calynx (originally played by Bowden Haswell) in Gilbert and Sullivan’s penultimate comic opera Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress (1893), which is set in a mythical South Seas island where kings who “lapse from political or social propriety” are blown up by “The Public Exploder.” 


LIBERALISM VS. CONSERVATISM:

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence; conservatism, distrust of the people tempered by fear.”
      
William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)
       British Liberal politician who served as Prime Minister four times between 1868 and 1894
       This
oft-quoted definition of “Liberalism” and “Conservatism” comes from a speech Gladstone gave in Plumstead, England, in 1878


A CLERGYMAN’S CALL FOR UNITY:

“Of course, the great drawback to democracy is that it’s messy. And the real danger of democracy is disunity…The key is democracy tempered by love and acceptance; where you accept the fact that you don’t always get your own way and not everyone sees things the way you do.”
      
Reverend Robert Cleveland
       American Universalist minister
       From a sermon he gave at the First Universalist Church of Central Square in New York, July 24, 2005

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October 1, 2013

What this country needs – in addition to a good five-cent cigar...


THE FAMOUS (BUT NOT ORIGINAL) QUOTE:

“What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.”  
      
Thomas Riley Marshall (1854-1925) 
       U.S. Democratic politician who served two terms as Vice-President under Woodrow Wilson 
       Remark made in 1917 during a debate in U.S. Senate  
       Although there are several versions of the story, the usual one is that Marshall uttered his famous quip after Senator Joseph Bristow repeatedly used the phrase “What this country needs…” while making a long-winded speech in the U.S. Senate. Marshall reportedly leaned over and told a Senate clerk, in a voice loud enough to be overheard: “Bristow hasn’t hit it yet. What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar.” Marshall didn’t actually coin the five-cent cigar line. It
had been used previously by cartoonist Kin Hubbard in his “Abe Martin of Brown County” cartoon strip and was already in use before Hubbard’s strip began running in newspapers in 1904.


THE “WHAT ARE THEY SMOKING?” UPDATE:

“[Senator Ted] Cruz and those who believe as he does are acting like unruly children who stomp their feet and hold their breath until they turn blue if they don’t get their way...Unfortunately for the country, the Democrats have begun to exhibit some of the same stubbornness, and if they don’t heed the signals from the public, they, too, could find themselves in trouble. What this country needs is a viable third party with a more moderate viewpoint that would attract those who aren’t comfortable with the extreme positions of the two current parties.”
       Bill Kennedy
       Columnist for the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Maryland)
       Commenting on the deadlock in Congress that led to a government shutdown, in a column published on September 30, 2013. (Cartoon by Clay Bennett.)


THE KINGFISH’S OBSERVATION:

“What this country needs is a dictator...There is no dictatorship in Louisiana. There is a perfect democracy there, and when you have a perfect democracy it is pretty hard to tell it from a dictatorship.” 
      
Huey Long (1893-1935)  
       Controversial Louisiana politician (nicknamed “The Kingfish”)
       Comments to reporters in 1935
       Quoted by Arthur Meier Schlesinger in his book
The Politics of Upheaval: 1935-1936 (2003)


A STONER’S PARADISE (AND A DEALER’S NIGHTMARE):

“What This Country Needs Is a Safe Five-Cent Intoxicant.” 
     
Dr. Martin M. Katz 
       American psychologist 
       Title of an article he wrote for Psychology Today, published in the February 1971 issue


A BUSINESSMAN’S OPINION IN 1939:

“What this country needs is a businessman for President.”  
      
Berton Churchill (playing the embezzling banker Henry Gatewood)
       In the film Stagecoach (1939)
       Stagecoach came out at a time when many business leaders were complaining about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs and the new regulations he had imposed on banks and other businesses. Early in the movie, Gatewood opines: “What’s good for the banks is good for the country.” Later, after secretly stealing thousands of dollars from his bank, Gatewood goes on
a long rant about government, saying: “I don’t know what the government is coming to. Instead of protecting businessmen, it pokes its nose into business! Why, they’re even talking now about having bank examiners. As if we bankers don’t know how to run our own banks! Why, at home I have a letter from a popinjay official saying they were going to inspect my books. I have a slogan that should be blazoned on every newspaper in this country: America for the Americans! The government must not interfere with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is something shocking. Over one billion dollars a year! What this country needs is a businessman for president!” By putting those words in the mouth of the slimy character Henry Gatewood, director John Ford seemed to be taking a sly shot at Roosevelt’s business critics and expressing support for Roosevelt.


A BUSINESSMAN’S OPINION IN 2011:

“Ron Paul cannot get elected...I’m well acquainted with winning, and that’s what this country needs right now: winning.” 
      
Donald Trump    
       Mega-millionaire, megalomaniac and losing candidate for Republican presidential nomine in 2011 
      
Comments he made at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, February 10, 2011


A POLITICIAN’S USUAL TAUTOLOGICAL SELF-ASSESSMENT:

“What this country needs is a man who knows what the country needs.”
       Remark by an unnamed speaker at a Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association meeting in 1952
       Noted in
The Mines magazine: Volume 42 (1952)

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