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What is a Neo-Con

Discussion in 'Alley of Lingering Sighs' started by T2Bruno, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I know what a neo-con is by definition -- but that does not appear to be the way it is used around here (especially by our European members).

    So, a simple question: How do you define neo-conservative?
     
  2. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I view neocons as the "new" version of the Republican party - the post-Reagan Republicans. They got their start in the Clinton years, with the Newt Gingrich led House. So I think it is fair to say that the neo-con movement started as an anti-Clinton move with the primary focus to get the Republicans back in power. (Keep in mind that when Clinton took office in January of 1993, both the House and Senate were also in the hands of the Democrats.) And they no doubt succeeded - the Republicans took over Congress in the elections of the fall of 1994 - thanks in large part to the new driection the Republican party - lead by the neo-cons. The neo-cons set the main talking points of the Republican party back then, and many of those are still in place today.

    But even the neo-con movement has evolved over the years. The initial neo-con movement was focused on "family values" (although to be fair the corporate welfare programs were up and running too - that's when Enron started cooking the books). The "family values" part was no doubt somewhat in response to some of Clinton's philandering behavior. This was key to the success of the initial neo-con movement - it's what got the evangelical christians on board.

    However, it wasn't until after 9/11 that the neo-con movement took on the shape that we see today, with bigger government control, some repeal of civil liberties, and the idea that it is America's duty to spread democracy around the world. So the present neo-con movement is almost like the neo-neo-con movement.
     
  3. Dinsdale Gems: 13/31
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    Neo Cons are politicians who pose as conservatives in order to get elected then proceed to enact policies that are tyrannical, unconstitutional and dishonest. (Bush, et al). They are wolves in sheep's clothing. What's sad is that many Americans are stupid (or deluded) enough to believe their lies. Oh, the joys of partisan politics! :rolleyes:
     
  4. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    Dinsdale, I would think that these people see the neo-con movement as a lesser evil to the Democrats...
     
  5. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    It is a pity that I have to keep my post short on so fascinating a subject, so I have to resort to a little tour de force.

    For starters, I'd rather call what Aldeth call's a neo-con the 'New Right' which was a far broader phenomenon than the Neo-Cons. Gingrich and the Neo-Cons don't have much more in common except that they had their (first in case of the latter) heyday under Reagan. The defining difference is that the neo-cons focus almost exclusively on the national security side of foreign policy. They are interested in domestic policy only to the extent that is neccessary to generate and maintain support for their foreign policy views. They also share a believe in American Exceptionalism and moral superiority and in the utility of military force to achieve political objectives.

    I find the term Neo-Con unlucky in that it suggests as the only alternative folks like the Paleo-Cons. The label Neo-Con originates in my understanding from their activist view on foreign policy, as opposed to the isolationaist streak of the 'Old-Right'. It underlines the dilemma that comes with labeling. Another term that has been used, and that I find quite fitting for the second generation Neo-Cons like Perle, Ledeen, Wurmser etc. is 'Neo-Jacobins' (as for why, bother to read: 'An End to Evil', on creative destruction or 'A Clean Break'). But it wouldn't fit old school Neo-Cons like Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

    The Neo-Conseratives are momentarily aligned with the GOP, yes, but has in my view more to do with opportunities and shared views and an attraction of their hard line world views with the current and then with the Reagan administration. In (the unlikely) case (gasp) Joe Lieberman becomes president, you'd find them all over his administration, in a re-discovered spirit of bi-partisanship.

    Ideologically the Neo-Cons are rooted on the left, as Paleo-Cons never fail to mention (socialists, quelle horreur!), for example in the very entertaining articles on them in Buchanan's American Conservative. The ever evolving American society was for them a, no, the model of how perpetual revolution could indeed work. In my understanding their arguments have to be seen in light of their opposition to collectivist communism. They started their ideological journey as Trotzkyites, and later found themselves in platforms such as Social Democrats USA before beginning their journey to the right. Key moments for that were iirc the social unrest and chaos in the tumultous 1960s that made them doubt the blessings of liberalism. Jeanne Kirkpatrick for example was fiercely anti-communist and drifted from Social Democrats USA to the right, eventually ending up as Reagan's ambassador to the UN.

    Random list of US politicos, with yes or now for neo-con:
    • George Bush - no
    • Richard Cheney - no
    • Donald Rumsfeld - no
    • John Bolton - no
    • Norman Podhoretz & fil - yes
    • William Bennett - yes
    • Paul Wolfowitz - certainly
    • Richard Perle - certainly, in some sense he is IMO a perfect showcase
    • The Kristols - yes
    • The Kagans - yes
    • Douglas Feith - yes
    • Michael Ledeen - yes (Mr. Creative Destruction himself, and perhaps the most vocal Neo-Jacobin)
    • Eliot Cohen - yes
    • Elliott Abrams - certainly
    • David Wurmser & wife - yes
    • Scooter Libby - yes
    • Gary Schmitt & Abram Schulzki - yes
    • David Frum - no, he's just a poser I think
    • Edward Luttwak - yes
    • Francis Fukuyama - he sais no more (read why in his article: "The Neo-Conservative Moment", where he argues his bretheren lost their way)
    • Liebermann - yes
    • Alan Bloom - yes
    • Jeanne Kirkpatrick † - certainly, but 'old school' in that she would any day had preferred a friendly dictator over creative destruction of the Middle East
    • Charles Krauthammer - yes
    • Newt Gingrich - Not really
    • Albert Wohlstetter † - certainly
    • Henry 'Scoop' Jackson † - certainly
    • Thomas Donnelly - yes
    I am looking forward to reading, eventually, Shadia Drury's book 'Leo Strauss and the American Right' that elaborates on the first generation neo-conservatives and his influence on them and through them on the American Right as a whole. Leo Strauss is really an interesting figure.

    As a side note, I see similarities between ideas formulated by Strauss' friend and eminent German lawyer Carl Schmitt. Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss shared with he experience of the Weimar Republic the conviction that democracy is weak.While that not neccessarily indicates that it's Strauss influence. Schmitt could as well been discovered independently. Schmitt's ideas about the Ausnahmezustand, the state of exception, must be irrestistible for a right-leaning lawyer working in the executive branch. Schmitt was all about a strong executive, that's why the Nazis liked him and why he at least originally liked them.

    Reading List:
    -IMO Francis Fukuyama is a good starting point: The End of History? - I strongly recommend to read Nietzsche's Zarathustra before. It helps. He later elaborated on that in the the book version "The end of history and the last man'. I hold Fukuyama in high esteem, even though I am sceptical about his ideas. I think I remember well the impressions under which he formulated his end of history thesis, sans the American post-Cold War triumphalism. I never had the feeling we or the US so much 'won' the cold war.

    -Why Neo-Jacobins?
    An End To Evil
    A Clean Break
    Creative Destruction (apparently for Ledeen change is a value in itself. I do not think so.)

    -Interesting little line buried in the fulminations of one of Charles Krauthammer's Op-Eds on the surge:
    Put in the context of the three exemplary article on Neo-Jacobinism this makes sense. I think he is honest when he sais that. It was, from the Neo-Con point of view, about pushing the dominoes in the Greater Middle East towards democracy. That is what Ledeen's creative destruction thesis is about.

    It reminds me of Rousseau's social contract: Rousseau begins with the observation that "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains". This for him the "fundamental problem" of political theory: How to create a community which protects all its members, yet leaves them all as free as they were before?
    The key is Rousseau's understanding of "freedom". For Rousseau this means the ability to conform to a rule we have given ourselves (even if we now don't want it). Is an addict more free if you give him open access to the temptation, or if you instead restrict him, thus helping him to achieve his ultimate goal of independence (from the addiction)? The classic example is of Odysseus asking his men to tie him securely to the ship's mast, so that he might resist the lure of the Siren's song. Thus Rousseau's seemingly oxymoronic notion of being "forced to be free" begins to make sense.

    In the context of the dissatisfying political status quo in the Greater Middle East that means: Breaking up the existing order, as the status quo is so unsatisfying, and unleashing the forces to modernise Islamic societies as to meet Western standards of individualistic society. After all, that's where the end of history is anyway. Let's hurry up history. It is hard to top that degree of hubris. As for the shattered illusions of how 'creative destruction will look like, see Iraq today.
    Interestingly, Rousseau's idea is the essence of the argument folks like Ron Paul make when they opposes the welfare state in the US.

    -The surge - and my answer to my question from 'Ray Guns...': Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq

    -Interesting article about AEI's donors getting nervous about what their money is funding, 'AEI: Caught Between Its Likudist Heart and Its Corporate Head', brought to you by the indispensable Jim Lobe.

    -In contrast, 'old school' Neo-Conservatism: First, Jeanne Kirkpatrick's Dictatorships and Double Standards and second, Fukuyama's critical essay The Neoconservative Moment.

    [ September 16, 2007, 12:35: Message edited by: Ragusa ]
     
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    Stu likes this.
  6. Drew

    Drew Arrogant, contemptible, and obnoxious Adored Veteran

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    @Ragusa: You apparently do have a very different definition of "Neo-Conservative" than what is used in the US. Lieberman, by virtue of his centrist to liberal domestic and economic stances, in no way would be considered a Neo-Conservative in the US. Bush, and any other republican who is a member of PNAC (which also includes Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld), is considered a Neo-Conservative. It appears that, when making the distinction, you are only looking at foreign policy. Here in the US, we generally mark someone as a Neo-Conservative based on his/her domestic policy stances.
     
  7. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    EDIT: I have found it necessary to re-write the parts in my post about the Neo-Con journey from the left to the right. Alas, it would have been inexcusable to pontificate about the sin of imprecision while succumbing to it myself ;)

    For me it EDIT: today is primarily about foreign policy, yes. And I think that in the US discourse the term is misapplied and abused. When the Neo-Cons find themselves slandered by the promiscuous use of the term they are to some point correct.

    EDIT: The earliest Neo-Conservatives originally EDIT: were more disenchanted with the War on Poverty of the 1960s than they were with, say, the war in Vietnam. But a second wave of neoconservatives left the Democratic party after that party disgraced Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Serving on Jackson's staff served folks like Richard Perle, who iirc is still a registered Democrat.

    Senator Jackson embodied the liberal interventionist wing of the Democratic party, and stood for the projection of American power and the advancement of liberal democratic institutions throughout the world. By the late seventies, however, the Democratic party - which had become accomodationist (key word: detente) toward the Soviet Union and actively supported a nuclear weapons freeze - had no place for Jackson, and thus had no place for Jackson’s supporters. They consequently joined the conservatives in their opposition to detente (key word: Comittee of the Present Danger). Fierce opposition to any sort of arms control agreement has been a Neo-Con character trait ever since.


    That they found common ground with other conservatives on their long march from the left to the right is something that was as inevitable as it is unsurprising.

    I believe they see a stable order and social cohesion as imperative. Without order there can be no rights, after all, rights are guaranteed by the social order. Without order to enforce rights, they are meaningless, and tyranny and chaos are the probably consequences. I can comprehend that view.

    In my understanding for example Neo-Conservatives regard religion much as Marx did. To throw them into one pot with the Christian Right for example is ridiculous. There are just a few Neo-Conservatives that are actually religious, namely Michael Novak, who is catholic. I think it rather is about that in their eyes religion is an essential means for maintaining the end of social discipline, which is imperative to maintain order.

    I think they are genuinely moralistic people. To create the political will to do the right thing is a moral thing to do, and if it takes a little white lie to do that, so be it. I found David Frum's defence of the freaky 'ex-gay' pastor intriguing to say the least because I think it reveals a pattern of thinking. It went along the line: Yes, he was gay, but isn't propagating being gay evil? So in keeping it secret, lying about it, and thus not propagating evil, he did a virtuous thing.

    So nobody found Saddam's WMD? Too bad, but wasn't kick starting the democratic revolution in the Middle East the right thing to do despite that? To get even more to the point, this quote by Irving Kristol:
    Exitus acta probat. Of course that only works when you have 'moral clarity', and know evil when you see it. They see themselves as the avantgarde. Ironically, in light of Bush's freedom Agenda for the Middle East, Neo-Cons distrust democracy. I would even go so far that they are profoundly anti-democratic. That is why they don't see a harm in manipulation. To the contrary, it's a virtuous thing to do. Because the benighted hoi poloi foolishly will only do what's convenient, and opportunistic politicians operate by poll results, what is needed are enlightened leaders. As a result Neo-Cons write, give interviews, get appointed and generally don't run for office. EDIT: There are not and never have been cabinet level Neo-Conservatives in Bush's administrations. They could be found in second and third tier posts, or in supporting roles like Perle at the Defense Policy Board, where he wasn't even a government employee.

    [ September 16, 2007, 13:56: Message edited by: Ragusa ]
     
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  8. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    I really don't think you mean that. Unless you are somehow referring to neo-cons not involved in the US politics (are there any?) then you're saying that people in the US are misusing and abusing a term that they coined. It's even hard to give you the benefit of the doubt here, as it was clear from T2's initial post that he was talking about the neo-cons we see in US politics. In other words, you're saying that people from other countries - many of whom don't even speak English, have a better idea of what a neo-con is than an American? Come on Rags, that defies belief - and it reeks of arrogance, pompousness, and smugness.

    Needless to say, I agree with Drew - I think your definition of what a neo-con is differs greatly from that of any American I know.
     
  9. Dinsdale Gems: 13/31
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    I agree with Drew and Aldeth regarding Ragusa's definition. King George is not a neo-con? I don't believe that for a second.
     
  10. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    Aldeth,
    what I say is that Americans apparently do not use the term as the Neo-Cons themselves use it. That suggests to me that there is a limited understanding about what they actually are.

    Of course, in language widespread use creates (new) meaning, but that isn't necessarily precise or correct.

    The result is the conflation of the Neo-Cons with the loonies of the Christian Right who want to hurry up the Armageddon countdown and support the neo-cons on Israel policy for their own ends (to get raptured asap), normal Jingoists and aggressive Nationalists, or politicos using them and their ideas without sharing their ideology - or in the case of Bush, without fully understanding them.

    This lack of precision makes it very hard to discuss the Neo-Cons and their very distinct ideology. It is barely possible to have a sensible discussion on that issue with a definition so broad.
     
  11. Chandos the Red

    Chandos the Red This Wheel's on Fire

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    Aldeth - I do not often disagree with you on these boards. If anything, you are the most non-ideologically driven voice we have here - being moderate, fair and temperate in your views. But I fear I must disagree with you in this instance. What Ragusa is saying, I think, is that neocons have their own internal ideology, which makes them recongnizable to each other, but more difficult for others on the outside to recognize. They also speak in terms, and with a language of their own, which helps them to indentfy with each other and their larger purpose. This is true of any politcal or social sub-set. That makes them harder to pin down, even within their own country of origin. If you listen to them closely they are often critical of GWB and other Republicans.

    GWB really is a creature of the religious right, more so than the neocon camp. He does not pander to the religious right, he really is one of them. He probably even indentifies with the "almighty" and sees himself as His instrument on earth. Of course, he is still a professional politician and sensitive to the levers of political power, like most of the "religous leaders" of the right.

    Theirs is an ideology steeped in the machinery of politics rather than the Gospels, much like the "old" Roman Catholic Church, which emeged out of the Middle Ages and the excesses which eventually brought on the reforms of Protestantism. American Protestants now find themselves nearing the same crossroads with the results of the heavy politization of their churches. They have enough points of commonality with the neocons to make them political allies, but they are somewhat different, which Ragusa has already illustrated. I think that GWB and the religous right really do try to embrace democracy, but they really don't grasp its implications the way that neocons do. The religous right and GWB both suffer from myopia in this regard. They are somewhat delusional, for they don't see themselves as strict authoritarians - which they truly are - but as "liberators."

    But I do disagree with Ragusa on his notion that the neocons marched from the left to the right. I think the Democratic party marched to the center and left the neocons stranded with no other place to go but with their current political allies.
     
  12. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    Chandos, fair enough. I don't know enough about the Democrats to agree or disagree with you about that.

    I think you captured my point well. It is indeed their distinct ideology that separates the Neo-Cons from the conservatives. It is only that they share some common ground where their priorities are concerned.

    Take arms control. You find an aggressive nationalist and ultra-conservative lawyer like John Bolton trying to have 'freedom of action' sans 'entangling treaties' allied with Neo-Cons who oppose these treaties for entirely different reasons: Because they would 'appease' identified evils, show 'lack of resolve' to oppose such evils, and 'give evildoers undue legitimacy' and that folks suggesting such treaties fall for the deception of evildoers (because they are evil, the certainly cannot be trusted) etc. That are the big Neo-Con themes there. That are two very different ideological approaches to support the same policy.

    If they find some guy like Liebermann supporting their policy, they'll support him without blinking. The Neo-Cons transcend party lines.

    For the Neo-Cons the religious right are useful idiots. And considering that Rove has outed himself practically as an agnostic, to him probably just as much. Now that must hurt.

    [ September 19, 2007, 09:11: Message edited by: Ragusa ]
     
  13. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    @Chandos and Ragusa,

    Hmmm... I evidently failed in getting my point across. I wasn't saying that neo-con = republican = religious right. While I would contend that most neo-cons are republicans, it certainly would be incorrect to say most republicans are neo-cons. Similarly, I agree that the neo-con movement certainly panders to the religious right, but is not part of the religious right per se. I did not mean to suggest that to be a neo-con automatically made you a republican, religious right nutjob (although some of them certainly are).

    Then again, Ragusa extensively edited his post long after I had responded to him, which partially explains why I had initially disagreed with him. In the time since he has explained himself much better. Although if Ragusa is correct about the neo-con movement starting in the Democratic party in the 1960s, I have to admit that this is the first time I'm hearing about it.
     
  14. Draco Vlasavius Gems: 11/31
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    A most interesting post here on the subject. I have not visited here in quite some time, and when I did today - 'Surprise'! There has already been quite a deal of thought and reflection on this topic but I’d like to add to it nonetheless as well as emphasize some comments already stated.

    I think everyone can agree that we each individually see things through our own perspective. We also do this nationally and culturally. When it comes to identifying the exact meaning of ‘Neo-Cons’ this is critical. The term as well as the definition may have various meanings throughout western cultures. But make no mistake, if you do not grasp what it means, and to whom it applies to here in the USA as well as the UK – they will dominate you. And it is fair to say in many ways they already do dominate much of the political thinking in western countries.

    Their approach to this world is similar to the labeled ‘Religious-Right’ of the Republican Party but with certain differences when it comes to the ‘Ends’ and ‘Means’. What I mean is that Christians here look to a unified world under God’s government in the near future. They believe they live in the country that God is using to bring that about. And therefore must elect and influence Politicians and Policy so that God’s will be done here on earth...as it is in heaven.

    That is not entirely the case with Neo-Cons. It’s not God’s will be done... it’s theirs. The Neo Conservative will.

    Neo Conservatives here in the USA are intent on bringing about a unified ‘New World Order’(Project for a New American Century type plans) by military might and power through USA/UK politics. And by bringing this about by any ‘Means’ to them certainly justifies the ‘Ends’. Here in the USA that means extreme manipulation, influence and access to the power of the Presidency of the United State, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the USA War Machine, and those who are the crafters of Foreign Policy at all levels of politics. And to the extent it is beneficial they also dabble into Domestic Policy. They believe using the United Nations only when it is in 'lock step' with their thinking and goals.

    In a Biblical ironic way they intend to make the world in their image. That is the image they ‘think’ the USA is, and will impose it everywhere else through the side of Democracy that is unbending and unyielding. The ‘iron-side’ of Democracy so to speak.

    By the way, they are also masters of the Media, silencing debate, and implanting group-thinking that if you disagree with them some horrific ‘false choice’ will happen. When in truth many options can happen. Although very few Neo Cons are fiscal conservatives, and very few are devout religious types they still are nearly unanimously Republicans.

    They hold immense power and influence here in the USA and are on track to bring about this 'New World Order' over the next few Presidencies. I personally believe they will be successful. After all, who is going to stop them? What military force? What ‘global’ statesman has risen up to challenge and debate them?

    In order to rule all you must break or convert those who oppose you. Iraq should indicate to what measure they will go to. And in their minds Iraq is only one of many steps to this new world order and to them it is a successful step. There are many more to come.

    I have some family members that are 'Neo Con' types - I rarely have much to do with them. I sleep better at night!
     
  15. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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  16. martaug Gems: 23/31
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    ah yes , francis fukuyama, the gentleman who states that the threat of radical islam to the u.s. was OVERestimated.

    yeah ok.
     
  17. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    martaug,
    the recording lasts 63,55 min according to my Winamp. You cannot possibly have listened to what he has to say. You should. He addresses part of what you allege in this recording, so you technically have a chance to broaden your horizon.
     
  18. martaug Gems: 23/31
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    actually , i have perused several of his articles & that happened to be one of his DIRECT quotes, thank you very much.

    you may wish to read some of his articles as he does a very interesting flipflop.

    first he supports this position, then he is against it.
     
  19. AMaster Gems: 26/31
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    I don't see how the position that 'Bush overestimated the danger posed by radical Islam' could possibly be controversial.
     
  20. Ragusa

    Ragusa Eternal Halfling Paladin Veteran

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    martaug,
    you're of course correct in your astute observation. Fukuyama's sin is that he's flip flopping. His ridiculous claims that he has 'thought' and 'changed his mind' are merely a transparent smokescreen. Would Fukuyama be really bright, he would have stuck to saying things you like all along.

    In this time of dire crisis we don't need no ambiguity, no sir! It has always the distinguished quality of the greatest conservative minds to hold a point of view, not to think about it and especially under no circumstances change their mind when the conclusion arrives that this view might have been wrong. That's not imbecility. It's strength of character. That's why concrete head is in fact a compliment which merits liberals merely fail to grasp. Aah, moral clarity …

    [ October 10, 2007, 11:30: Message edited by: Ragusa ]
     
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