Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wesley Clark: The Real State of the Union

Two days before President Bush is to give his annual State of the Union speech, Wesley Clark was invited to deliver a speech at The New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. It is a great speech. It could bring a turning point. Here is the text in full.

Monday, January 30, 2006

General Wesley K. Clark Addresses New America Foundation Audience (1/30/06) on Capitol Hill: "The Real State of the Union 2006"

Thank you for that kind introduction. And thanks to the New America foundation for getting us together today to discuss these important issues.

It is a privilege to be with you this afternoon to address the state of our Union, to offer an assessment, and to tell you how the our Union can be great again -

For today we are into our fifth year of war abroad and threats at home, and the state of the union is not what it should be, and not what it could be....

I want to express my admiration and appreciation for the men and women in our Armed Forces, and their families. They have served with courage and honor and with incredible skill.

They have volunteered, and served selflessly. Over 2200 have died in Iraq, others in Afghanistan, and tens of thousands have come home with the injuries and scars — physical and mental - that will mark them forever.

Won't you stand and join me in recognizing them, and all our veterans, with a round of applause?

A few weeks ago, as I rode across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, the Pakistani-born cab driver interrupted my thoughts with his own story and reminded me why we all should feel this sense of privilege to be here in America....

"We came as three brothers," he said... "we came nine years ago...only I am still driving a cab....we own a store now, and a restaurant, and soon I will join the others full time in the restaurant....when we came we had nothing, but today....Only in America," he said, "could we do this, ONLY IN AMERICA!"

His story is the story of hundreds of millions of us and our forefathers who came here from somewhere else, who dreamed, dared, planned and struggled to forge new lives, raise strong families, and together, generation after generation we have built a great nation... exceptional…unique.

We are a nation where liberty is protected by the Constitution, a nation where people choose their own leaders, and a nation where government's power is limited. Generation after generation, America has throttled the self-serving impulses of the powerful and restrained the powerful passions of the multitudes, thus guaranteeing that the freedoms and opportunities of every citizen enumerated in law are provided in practice.

And in the process America has become a Beacon of Hope for people everywhere.

Unlike the taxi driver, I was born here. I learned to love this nation as a youngster growing up without a father, at a time when all our institutions and values were under attack by Communism.... I loved this nation enough to serve as a soldier, to come home from war on a stretcher, enough to stay in uniform for another thirty years....

My family and I lived in Germany, Belgium, and Panama, in Kansas and Kentucky, in Virginia and California, in Texas and New York.

Over time, like other officers I was given increasing responsibilities for others, commanding units, teaching courses, providing staff advice and assistance. We were at various times responsible for the work they did, the lessons they learned, the health care they received, the homes they lived in, the schools their children attended, the lives they led... and I learned about our country, our people, and how we are perceived in the world.

I was so proud to represent America in uniform....

And this is why today, I come before you with concern.... not in a spirit of partisanship, but because our nation is in trouble, veering from its heritage, and sliding into a dangerous future.

It doesn't have to happen this way, but we can change course only if we speak honestly and directly about what's gone wrong, and why, and how we must change, and then reach across Party lines to bring the American people together.

Today, billions of people abroad believe that America's beacon is fading, our star is dimming, and that America's time is passing. Why?

Because four years after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden remains on the loose in the fastness of western Pakistan, and Al Qaeda remains a potent force among millions of Muslims.

Because the threat of terrorism has actually increased, partly as a result of the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, where after almost three years, we find ourselves enmeshed in an intensifying sectarian struggle that is drawing in jihadi terrorists like a magnet and creating a new cadre of hardened opponents to America and our friends.

Because, despite our tough talk, Iran is discarding its international obligations in the apparent pursuit of nuclear weaponry, while simultaneously questioning Israel's existence and raising the specter of wider conflict in the Mideast.

Because, North Korea, with a standing army of more than 1 million men, armed with chemical and biological weapons as well as long-range missiles, is defying US efforts to contain its threat of nuclear proliferation.

Because, in the process of this struggle against insurgents and terrorists and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we are in danger of losing the very principles we are fighting for as revelations of torture and degrading treatment of those detained confound our long standing commitment to human rights and undercut our moral strength and leadership.

Because America's long-standing commitment to assisting democracy abroad was recklessly transformed into hot rhetoric and direct action in Iraq— and it has not only offended cultural and national sensitivities in the Middle East, but it is also contributing to the anger and violence in the region.

Because while we are distracted by the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, rising global competitors like China are taking advantage of the security umbrella we have created to lock in their own access to the resources needed to fuel their stupendous growth.

Because the United States has stood silently while the historic opportunity of a democratic Russia is systematically crushed and other new democracies threatened by the same power ministries and entrenched authorities that enslaved hundreds of millions during Communism's long reign.

Because our oldest friends and Allies, in Europe and Asia, are questioning America's commitment to the dialogue, institutions, and principles that kept us safe throughout the Cold War and even helped end ethnic cleansing in Europe during the 1990's.

The plain truth is, in America's rhetoric and conduct since 9/11, we've made more enemies than friends in the world - and that's no way to protect the American people!

And all of this at a time when Americans are more dependent on events abroad than ever before: the war in Iraq; the daily notification of losses; the threat of another terrorist incident; the rising price of gasoline, a global economy.

And here at home, to speak candidly, that beacon of hope is flickering also.

Again we ask why.

Because we're losing our manufacturing base in America, and failing to face the realities of a global labor market, international trade and capital flows which are robbing millions of Americans of income security and have mired us ever deeper in debt.

Because, while, statistically, the unemployment rate may be a little below 5% now, according to the way the Administration measures, these figures mask millions of people in the ranks of the long term unemployed, or trapped in low wage jobs, or underemployed in jobs which fail to use their skills.

Because even highly skilled jobs in the so-called knowledge industry are moving abroad, with big firms like Microsoft and GE as well as thousands of highly competent foreign-born, US educated entrepreneurs and business leaders seeking new talent, lower-cost labor and less competitive, friendlier business environments.

Because at home more than 45 million Americans lack access to health insurance, a profound systemic failure and imposes a staggering human cost on those least able to bear it and drives businesses offshore.

Because both our infrastructure and our system of public education lack essential modernization and reform, caught in a squeeze between rising costs for salaries, supplies, construction and repair, and rising federal deficits.

Because despite over thirty years of warning, this nation still has no policy to lead us to energy independence and away from the volatile and conflict-ridden regions where, today, the "geostrategic risk premium" is adding billions of dollars to the costs imposed on the American people.

Because the legal protections for the environment and natural resources on which so much of our economic welfare depends have been steadily undercut by new laws and policies, even as the Administration has tightened restrictions on the scientists and analysts who could tell us of the dangers ahead.

All this is common knowledge.

But what perhaps most surprising this year — despite the skill and dedication of our civil service, diplomatic, and military personnel - was the tragic incompetence of our government: failing effectively to assist the states in the terrible humanitarian catastrophe of Katrina, stumbling through a repetitive cycle of inflated rhetoric and crushing disappointments associated with reconstruction and reform in Iraq and the Middle East, and frustrating millions of American seniors floundering through a poorly designed and badly under resourced Medicare prescription drug program.

Even worse, has been the emergence of what appears to be a culture of corruption reaching from lobbyists, through the Republican leadership in Congress, and into the White House itself.

No wonder so many believes that America is a nation in trouble, squandering our precious resources in a destructive and unnecessary conflict abroad and a spendthrift economy at home. We are, they say, neglecting our future, failing in our duty to our children and grandchildren, and denying them the opportunities to dare, to dream, to achieve and create that our generation and our predecessors have enjoyed.

And they have a strong case.

What has happend to us?

We Americans can no longer hide behind our oceans, or pretend that the dialogue of politics should be confined to disagreements about domestic policy alone. And as for the partisan charge that Democrats are living in a pre-9/11 world, let us be very clear: the policies followed by this Administration since 9/11 - the belligerent tone, the unilateralism, the excessive reliance on military force are not making us safer; they are increasing the dangers we face abroad and distracting us from the most important challenges here at home.

From the late 1940's until the early 1990's, America led the world in winning an historic struggle, a victory in the Cold War against the tyranny and oppression of Communism.

We were guided abroad by a largely bipartisan strategy of containing the spread of Communist ideology, deterring the Soviet use of force, and supporting those who shared our values. And at home the stress of this titanic struggle inspired efforts in science and technology, industry, agriculture, education, health and fitness.

Over a period of forty years we persevered — through diplomacy, alliances, ideological struggle, and armed conflict in Korea and Vietnam. And in the end, we won — the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet empire collapsed, and the Soviet Union disintegrated into 11 separate states.

It was the triumph of American ideals — of the nobility of the human spirit, the priceless significance of freedom and human rights, and the incredible creative force of a free-market economy.

But when we defeated our old adversary, we not only lost our opponent, we also lost our strategy — our organizing principles — the animating principles of our society, and much of the cohesion that held our world together.

Oh, we did well economically in the 1990's, creating jobs, reducing poverty, balancing the budget - but the United States never quite put in place another strategy, another publicly understood, bipartisan set of principles which could guide America's policies at home and abroad, and take us safely into the future. We had taken economic advantage of the global opening, but we really didn't understand how to mitigate the many strategic risks it brought along.

And then, four and a half years ago this nation was viciously attacked in a serious of terrorist hijackings of airliners that resulted in three thousand innocents' deaths. 9/11 was an act of war.

Action was required. America struck back at the terrorists who attacked us and the Taliban government in Afghanistan that supported them.

And we should have.

But, soon the errors began:

  • Letting Bin Laden slip thru the noose at Tora Bora, in December, 2001 and failing to commit sufficient forces to Afghanistan to finish the job there gave the terrorist movement continuing stature and enabled a host of local imitators to ride his coattails of impunity.

  • Naming an "Axis of Evil" helped drive the North Koreans and Iranians to accelerate nuclear weapons efforts and probably spurred a deepening cooperation, even as the term itself offended allies and convinced millions around the world that a just American effort against those who attacked our country was being transformed into a self-righteous moral crusade against those of different religious convictions or geostrategic alignment.

  • Invading Iraq, neglecting North Korea, and ducking the diplomacy on Iran — and labeling it all with a bellicose-sounding strategy of preemption left us concentrating the greatest resources on the least urgent strategic problem and doing so in a way that has exaccerbated the threats we face.

  • Ignoring our European allies and sidelining NATO left us bereft of the strong Allied support necessary to succeed in Iraq and simultaneously meet challenges elsewhere.

  • Pushing through a series of deep permanent tax cuts using the pretext of a temporary recession have prevented us from addressing urgent issues at home and shoved the nation into long term and unsustainable budget deficit.

  • And in the press of partisan politics, the governing party has elevated the role of money in American politics higher than ever before, encouraging a "pay to play" culture of corruption and aiming to control the political agenda with a ferocity almost unprecedented in American history, undercutting the common good and threatening the very Constitutional principles which guard our most precious freedoms.

What's gone wrong? In the last five years we have seen leadership without vision or foresight, a backwards look to tough talk and excessive unfair tax cuts, and a misguided idea from the 1990's that uncooperative Middle East regimes could be "cleaned up" by American military action.

And at the same time we've seen such partisanship that many believe that this Administration lacks the basic decency to respect its political opponents, and the fundamental integrity to adhere to common standards of transparency, honesty, and ethics in government.

Enough is enough!

Americans are ingenious, energetic, pragmatic, and almost inevitably optimistic. But they are also keenly aware of reality — and today a strong majority disapproves of the way our President and the one-Party rule on Capitol Hill are leading the country.


A Forty Year War on Terrorism — which I have heard trumpeted more than once in this town — and which may well be required, particularly if we continue on this course — simply fails to provide the comprehensive strategy and framework — comparable to deterrence and containment in the Cold War - necessary to direct American policy abroad or guide needed change at home. We are a nation adrift, and America senses this.

Here's what we must do.

First, we've got to set things right at home. Protecting our Constitution comes first. Country before Party. Congress must fulfill its duties to the American people, not rollover for favors from the Executive branch. We need a full, in-depth, bipartisan investigation of the Administration's bypassing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Congress needs to show resolve that the laws it passes do bind the executive branch, whether in wiretapping, humane treatment of prisoners, or the freedom of information act. Moreover, it is time for a special prosecutor, independent of the Department of Justice, to be empowered to investigate the Abramoff scandal, and pursue the leads all the way through Congress and up to the highest office in the land, if necessary. Get it out and get it over.

Then, we have to focus on the principal challenge ahead: preparing our nation to succeed in a 21st Century world where capital and technology flows instantly across borders, where the labor market is global, and where the benefits and security Americans have taken for granted are put at risk as supergiant countries like China, with 1.3 billion people, grab resources, spur their own economic growth, redress old grievances, and naturally pursue their own interests.

Today, we are indisputably the world's most powerful nation, but how we organize and prepare America at home, and provide leadership abroad, in the face of China's growing power, is the real and enduring challenge that 21st Century America must answer.

Can we protect that which we value, welcome and profit from China's growth, maintain our own security, and avoid the conflict and war which has so often accompanied historical changes such as we will witness? I believe we can, if we see clearly what must be done and bend our will to do it.

It begins at home, for this is where the most intractable problems lie, with public education, health care, and creating a business environment that encourages innovation, growth, and the creation of meaningful valued jobs.

-In education, we should be offering public preschool across America, encouraging renewed study of mathematics, sciences and engineering, and reform and change must be deep and fundamental creating the community programs needed to assure that every American child graduates from high school.

We must commit more resources to public education — not pull them away with voucher programs - but the most important resources are not financial — they are the commitment of community leaders to create public schools emphasizing learning and character, and the commitment of parents to work with their children, to assure they are fully engaged in the classroom and at home in preparing for their own productive future.

We need to reward teachers for their skills and commitments, but the best form of teacher accountability is not found in standardized testing but in the dialogue between teachers and parents centered on the love and respect for each child in the class. And no student who seeks to go to college should be denied that opportunity because they can't pay.

-In health care, we need to take better advantage of modern technology to practice evidence-based medicine, in which treatments and practices are based on statistically proven results — not commercial advertising — and doctors and hospitals are held accountable for their performance, not just by the threat of malpractice but by the day-to-day quality of their results.

We need to harness the innovation of our biotech, pharmaceutical, and health insurance industries better to serve the public good, not just the private gain of shareholders. No child in America should grow up without regular medical check-ups and care — or regular exercise and physical fitness - and every adult should be provided access to the kinds of diagnostic testing and preventive treatments which can slow the onset of aging diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Additional insurance coverage should be directed to catastrophic illness and injuries, the kind that wreck families and shatter productive lives.

And inevitably this will mean transitioning over time from a work place centered, private payer system toward greater reliance on some form of single-payer system to ease administrative burdens and reduce costs.

-In the business community, we must spur research, development, and innovation, and the growth of the small companies that provide the majority of US employment. This will mean more private-public partnerships in developing new technology, and in linking our universities to business enterprises, as well as an expanded arsenal of economic and tax incentive programs aimed primarily at small businesses.

We must assure investments in the technology infrastructure — the broadband and wireless access improved and modernized highway, air, and rail transportation systems, and the access to affordable, reliable sustainable energy essential to continuing economic development.

We must have a real plan to achieve "energy independence."

And we need to do so without further damaging our fragile environment.

In fact, sustainable energy and so-called green engineering provide major growth opportunities for American ingenuity, and we must move in that direction.

We must chart a new path for labor in America, and probably for the union movement itself.

While workers still need help in redressing grievances against management, perhaps the old dividing lines make less sense in an age of high technology, social and geographic mobility, and global competition.

Is it possible that unions could become the "development agencies" for workers, protecting their rights, but also promoting their training, education and career development throughout a lifetime of many different skills and jobs? And if they don't who will.

For we know that in today's economy learning is a lifetime process and every American in the workplace must take increasing responsibility for his or her own development of skills, pursuit of opportunities, and creation of financial security for the family.

-And to address these and many other issues, our government will need more resources, for the great discovery of twentieth century America was not that we should get "government off our backs" but that government's could be a partner in the economy -in infrastructure, in regulation, in research and development, in education, and in health — laying the foundation for the achievements of private industry. In particular, we need resources to empower our people, with new programs comparable to the landmark contributions of the Homestead Act, the GI Bill, and the 30 year Mortgage in order to give every child in America a head start in education, business, home ownership, investment, and economic opportunity.

But we must raise resources in a way that protects the most needy and working families, and that still provides opportunities for the creation of the wealth that is the hallmarks of the American dream.

America's great strengths are our economy and the spirit of our people. And if we take these major, fundamental measures, we'll be well positioned to cope with the economic challenges of China's rapid development.

But we must also take other, urgent steps to assure America's security now.

Turning first to the Middle East, we need to use American military commitments to broker political arrangements that bring the Sunnis back into the Iraqi political system, delegitimate the insurgency, and reduce the threat of escalating civil war. We should create a regional security dialogue, in which we and the Iraqi government can hold real conversations with neighboring states, including Iran and Syria.

A substantial US troop presence will likely be required for years — and I am mindful of the sacrifices that we are asking from the men and women in the armed forces and their families.

It is a heavy burden, and they alone have been asked to bear such sacrifices - but we should draw down as rapidly as political objectives can be achieved and Iraqis can secure their own country.

Today, Syria presents an historic opportunity for the United States. Rather than just threatening Syria, we should talk directly to Bashir Assad, encouraging him to lay the foundations for economic and political opening and gradual transformation, cut off insurgent access through Syria into Iraq, and end the sponsorship of Iranian-backed terrorist institutions, in return for stabilizing his administration during the ongoing UN investigations.

And this in turn, will give us greater traction against Iran's steady march toward nuclear weaponry.

But actions on Iran are urgent.

We should join now — right now - in opening new talks with Iran, in which we ourselves participate, before pressing for UN action or moving toward the military option. No one should be mistaken: there is a military option.

We can strike hard enough to set back Iran's nuclear quest by many years, and take out much of their military capacity in the process. And we can at the same time protect most of the oil flow from Iran and deny their capacity to block transit through the Straits of Hormuz. But we also must recognize the possible consequences of this action: an embittered, vengeful Iran, seeking further destabilization of the region. Far better to pursue dialogue now, whatever the precedents, and save the military option for truly last resort. Understand: unlike others you may hear, I know when and how to determine our course with Iran.

As for Israel and the Palestinian people, there is no longer a "road map to peace." But Israel is increasingly secure.

It is now up to Hamas to form a government for the Palestinians. But they should be under no misunderstanding. Hamas is an international outlaw so long as it demands Israel's destruction.

The war against terrorists will continue, as it must. But it should be conducted with a new resolve to use diplomacy, local authorities, and international cooperation among law enforcement and intelligence agencies, reserving military forces only as a last resort.

Ultimately, we will not prevail in this war by killing terrorists — though that may need to be done — but rather by winning the battle for greater tolerance, understanding, and respect between peoples of differing religious convictions. It is first and foremost a battle of ideas. We need to bring terrorists to trial. And we must carefully guard our own values and principles, for in this struggle, moral leadership is far more valuable than pittances of information gained by compromising our beliefs.

We are still in danger from events in Southwest Asia.

We need to cooperate with Pakistan to eliminate the new terrorist base area forming along Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan, and sustain an enlarged commitment to Afghanistan for many years.

But more fundamentally, we need to redirect the main thrusts of American efforts abroad. We need to rebuild our ties with Europe, with NATO as the foundation, and a new Atlantic Charter as the means. Europe is our "base," more than 400 million people with whom we are the most closely aligned in terms of values and interests, economics and power. Together we can move the international system. Isolated, alone in a multipolar world, America simply won't fare as well. And we should strengthen ties with India, the world's largest democracy and itself a rapidly developing superpower.

If we are to avoid the reemergence of a 19th Century balance of power system replete with threats and warfare between states and alliances, we must use this period of American preeminence to rebuild the system of international laws and institutions which two generations of American leaders fashioned and extolled. We should set the example in shaping and obeying international law. Likewise, we should lead in the reform of the United Nations, seeking its full potential as a place for dialogue and the expression of values, and as the source for international law and humanitarian assistance in emerging crises.

Fellow Americans, although our nation is incredibly wealthy and uniquely powerful, we are at historic turning point. Facing multiple near term crises and a great and long term challenge to our very identity as Americans, we have critical choices to make.

Will we choose to emphasize boastful rhetoric or constructive engagement abroad? Will we lash out in anger with military force, or will we pursue every reasonable avenue to avoid the terrible destruction of war? Will we fight fire with fire," relying on the means and techniques of our adversaries, or live and lead by the higher standard of the values we have professed?

At home, will we persist in shortsighted partisanship, or will we follow a stronger vision to the deep reforms needed to secure our future? Will it be selfishness or teamwork that is our rallying cry?

These are the choices before us.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this great American adventure as we seek our destiny.

America's Beacon of Hope must shine brightly once more, lighting our beloved country and illuminating the whole world.

And if we choose wisely, it will.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I love those pictures of the Red Planet and the perky little Land Rover and Pathfinder scurrying around on Mars, but in truth, I’ll change the channel for a hockey game or even a program on the Georgia soy bean crop on the agricultural channel. Space exploration seems like a great idea, but one which only flits through my mind on occasion, and those occasions occur less and less frequently. In fact, for all the Space Age hype we have experienced since I was a kid, I find it remarkable how few of the brave space pioneers ring in my collection of things of where I was when the great things happened in the world.

When the Apollo astronauts went to space all my little nephews wanted to be astronauts and President Nixon said it was the greatest event in the history of the world. But then the other day when I was doing some research on the Apollo astronauts, I found the only name I could remember off the top of my head for the first flight to the moon was Neil Armstrong, and I had to look up the other two, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin. Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Ripley, Luke Skywalker and Seven-of-Nine come more readily to mind. Which was a little puzzling, as when my kids were born we happened to be living in Washington, D.C. and probably spent more time at the Air and Space Museum than anyplace else.

I think it is safe to say that the Air and Space Museum today is still one of the great attractions in Washington. Every time I pass it by there are half a dozen buses and long lines. Surely, like the Vietnam Memorial, it is and should be a central attraction for school kids across the country on visits to the nation’s capitol.

But hey, the Air and Space Museum opened in 1976. Wasn’t that a little early for a museum? After all, museums tend to be mausoleums, featuring artifacts from cultures long dead and buried and cultural movements which have fully passed; things like Egyptian mummies, Tasmanian shamanism and Impressionist painting. They create the impression that the subject matter which they present has finished its active life.

Perhaps this has as well. I know that today it would seem radically provincial to suggest that we are an earth-based species and that our destiny now and ever more will be on this planet. But we hear again today that we are entering a new space age.

“This is a period of transformation,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics told The Washington Post. “We are at the dawn of a new space age, and we have to do it right.”

President Bush has boldly endorsed the new challenge with his Vision for Space Exploration.

Frankly, I see the blind faith and the wild and childlike exuberance of John F. Kenendy, and the fresh innocence of a new post-war America, more conductive to this kind of high flying which first lifted our rockets off the ground, on to the moon and off across the Universe. I’m not one of the people who hate George Bush, but I honestly don’t see him as the kind of guy to do this sort of thing with much enthusiasm. He’s too much a homebody. If he were my neighbor I guess I wouldn’t consult him about the benefits of going to space. Maybe something about organizing a local church benefit or preferences for patio grills, but not space flight.

Recently, there has been public discussion about Introverts and Extroverts and how they form different phases of history. This idea came originally from depth psychologist C.J. Jung and is enourmously complicated. The great historian Arnold Toynbee redesigned his life's work when he first read Jung and a similar visionary popular a hundred years ago, Oswald Spengler. All three today have been all but forgotten - their ideas are brilliant, but too difficult to translate into the everyday perception as they are usuually counter-intuitive. Poets and monks are often Introverts, for example, but industrial studies show that so are most good cops. Bush is not an Extrovert as one of the articles suggested. Bush is an Introvert. Introverts feel uncomfortable in the world. They cause trouble with their neighbors. They want to retreat from the world and propose things like the Star Wars Missile Defense Initiative, which is a kind of turtle shell which American hopes to retreat behind. (The modern-day version of China’s Great Wall to keep out the Foreign Devils.)

This is not a criticism of the President. I am in Introvert myself and am like him in many ways. Introverts don’t want to go into space, like JFK did, they are already having fun here. They want to have a cook out with a few very old and select friends and watch the Super Bowl.

Globalisation was the work of Extroverts. But Bush has left Globalism behind and returned us to the old school approach of Nation States, each in opposition to the other, vying for power and trying to build teams. He has left the world behind as it was built in the post-war period by Dwight Eisenhower, George Kennan and George Marshall and it probably cannot be rebuilt. He has turned the United States inward. This is not criticism either. We were going there anyway. In this, perhaps he is right for the times. But you can’t turn inward and explore space at the same time.

My family and I have recently been watching the excellent British drama of Sir Earnest Shackleton. Like another excellent Masterpiece Theater presentation from long ago on Robert Falcon Scott, there is a spooky element to these stories which heightens the drama. It is the feeling that these are the last days of the great Victorian explorers and even if these great explorers succeed in their tasks, as Shackleton and his heroic men did, they are doomed to failure by history. Shackleton started his journey to “conquer’ the South Pole on the very eve of the First World War. Victoria was long dead. The Empire was over. It was well over 100 years since Lord Nelson brought England to world ascendancy, insinuating her intentions and leaving her mark on every tribe and distant island and tropical shoal and jungle. Scott and Shackleton were the last to go and they went to the least desirable places; the only places left to explore – the last places on earth. At WW I’s end a new England would emerge, and one which would rely for survival on its larger cousin across the ocean. The title of Robert Graves’s great memoir of World War I and the end of empire, Good Bye to All That, would tell the full story.

Congress fears that the Bush Presidency is not really behind space exploration. The Post reports that the question now being asked on Capitol Hill is whether Bush will ask for enough money to keep the “vision” on track when the administration brings out it 2007 budget on February 6, or whether he will shortchange the shuttle program or cripple the new exploration initiatives or both.

I think they are justified in their fears. If we were really interested in space exploration and were really on the verge of a new space age as Calvert says, there would be wellspring of pop culture shows on TV like The Jetsons and Star Trek as there were when enthusiasm for such ventures was high. But both Star Trek and Star Wars have virtually ended their long, epic runs this past year. What we are seeing instead in popular fiction is a return to earth. I think Lost in Space was most interesting and most suggestive of the old shows, coming onto the airwaves when we first entered space in the 60s and 70s. Now we have an excellent show about people wandering around on a desert island and not knowing what they are doing there. They are not lost in space, they are just Lost.

In the mid-1970s when we first found our way into space, film critic Stanley Kauffman called one movie an epiphany, “an event in the history of faith.” The movie was Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Close Encounters was a distinctly different kind of Sch-fi movie than those of the 1950s, the old War of the Worlds, in particular, in which great “eyes” suddenly appeared in the cities and blasted them to bits. With Spielberg’s movie, followed by E.T., we came to love the little critters from space and not fear them and blast them away. This would bring a thirty-year space ride with Captain Kirk pushing forward where no man had gone before, and Qui-Gon Jinn explicating the most ancient of Taoist texts to young aspiring Jedi Masters.

But if pop culture is any guide, I’m afraid the space age is past. Jedi Masters are yielding to Knights Templar. Tolkien’s Rings series of movies at the turn of the millenium enters a psychological state preceding the medieval period, State of Heaven brings us Christian on Islam warfare in the 12t century and the best seller The DaVinci Code, contains riddles of a far earlier day. Harry Potter, the Deathless Child of earliest Old England folklore, returns us to whence we came. Here at the beginning of the new millennium we have returned to earth. And pop culture today is also filled with "fear of earth" movies like Cave, and Reign of Fire, just as the rise to the sky fifty years ago was filled with space terror, anxiety and UFO nightmares.

Lost is the most interesting in this regard. The title of the show speaks volumes. This entertaining series is virtually identical to the early sci-fi first encounters with Outer Space in the 50s, but in reverse. In the 50s, there were hidden fears and neurosis resulted from exposure to unseen and exotic "psychic" forces of the Heavens. It is the same in this series. There are hidden fears, and forces of the Unknown at work in a strange and alien environment. But now the strange and alien environment is Earth - our home, our Mother. It brings to mind T.S. Eliot's poem of returning in the end to where we came, to know the place for the first time. But we don't know her anymore. We are strangers to our own world.

Maybe we are coming home and maybe it is time to come home. My family’s Book of Common Prayer tells us that, “ . . . in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength . . .”

I for one am glad to be here and wish for no other world.

Returning: This essay is from my other blog, Quigley in Exile. It is posted here as it is the full exposition of my essay for The Free Market News Network, above. Likewise, the tv show Survivor and all of its knock offs are "return to earth" stories as well.

" . . . in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength . . ."

- The Book of Common Prayer

Recently, this past week, one of my smaller children was instructed to think up and create a painting in school and he brought home a lovely picture of a giant eye descending from the sky and falling into the sea. It reflects a change in the world. Dreamers today dream of returning to earth. 50 years ago they dreamed of Eyes flying and rising into the Universe, and that is the psychic core of UFO dreams, visions and apparitions. (Photo courtesy of Carlo Cuman, Giuliano and Michele Edoni and Giampaolo Salvato.)
Here in the age of cyber faith there are on-line astral temples for Elvis worshipers and the Keanic Circle, whose supplicants see Keanu Reeves (Whoa!), the Chosen One of the popular Zen hit The Matrix, basked in “most excellent light.” C.G. Jung made the observation that Eyes in the Sky are characteristic visions of our shift forward in time. This is the one singular difference in the culture of Aquarius, represented in the zodiac by an air sign, and that of the earlier age. It is the shift in the plane of consciousness from the earth and sea, to the air. In Aquarius, we are all sky walkers, not just Luke, Lieutenant Ripley, Captain Kirk and the remarkable hybrid from one of the last Star Trek spin offs, Seven-of-Nine.

This is apparent with the advent of flight, space exploration and TV and radio broadcast in the past century. The first intrepid footsteps into the Age of Aquarius occurred in the 1890s thereabouts. They brought a perception of ourselves as flying in the air and sent us producing devises to fly.
The epochal journey of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins (“three men in a boat” – see The Three Celestial Ones in this blog, January, 2006) to the moon in a mission named for the sun god Apollo would mark the great change in July, 1969, just as the Beatles were winding down and John Lennon had married Yoko Ono in his white suit at Gibraltar. Norman Mailer described the interior of the VAB [Vehicle Assembly Building] which built the space craft as “the antechamber of a new Creation.” He dubbed himself Aquarius for the telling of the tale of the flight to the moon in his book Of a Fire on the Moon. And in the spirit of the day, the LEM module, which was used as an escape devise and saved the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert on the troubled flight of Apollo 13, was named Aquarius.

But comfort level with air and space-based consciousness did not come easily and perhaps the heroic achievements of the Apollo astronauts were necessary for it to be realized. The astronauts were travelers not only to the moon but to a new condition of human consciousness. Psychologically it was, as Armstrong said, “. . . one giant step forward for mankind.” Earthrise, seeing the earth rise above the lunar horizon from the moon, would change how we saw ourselves in the universe, wrote mythologist Joseph Campbell, much like Columbus’ journey materially dispelled mediaeval notions that the world was flat. The change would manifest itself in the culture -- the world culture -- at one very precise moment, and history can look back and look forward from that moment.

It was in the mid-1970s, and film critic Stanley Kauffman called it an epiphany, “an event in the history of faith.” It was Stephen Spielberg’s movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

This movie could be considered a psychological companion piece to Star Wars, where one floats freely in space as if in the interior of the mind. It clears the deck of the tenacious Star Trek state of mind, viewing outsiders in outer space with hostility and suspicion like an imperial conqueror going to other planets.

Close Encounters is distinctly different from Sci-fi movies of the 1950s, movies like War of the Worlds, in particular, in which great “eyes” suddenly appear in the cities and blast the cities away. The Fifties response of course was to blast the aliens away before they blasted you, transferring a hostile enemy from Nazi Germany to the U.S.S.R. to an ambiguous alien invasion in ten short years.

C.G. Jung was fascinated by U.F.O. sightings in the 1950s and as early as 1946 he began to collect data on people who had “visitations.” He wrote the monograph Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies in 1958 and it was translated from the German the following year and included in volume 10 of his Collected Works, Civilization in Transition, in 1964. The learned establishments viewed it with as much trepidation as they did little green men from outer space (air-wise projections of the Green Man there, for the Age of Aquarius – Osiris had a green face as well), but as always, the hippies and the art students got into it right away.

Jung wrote in his monograph, to the chagrin of the mainstream of American psychologists and behaviorists of the day (and today):

“As we know from ancient Egyptian history they (UFOs) are manifestations of psychic changes which always appear at the end of one Platonic month and at the beginning of another. Apparently they are changes in the constellation of psychic dominants, of the archetypes, or “gods” as they used to be called which bring about, or accompany, long-lasting transformation of the collective psyche. This transformation started in the historical era and left its traces first in the passing of the aeon of Taurus into that of Aries, and then of Aries into Pieces, whose beginning coincides with the rise of Christianity. We are now nearing that great change which may be expected when the springpoint enters Aquarius.”

The circular space ships are eyes, said Jung. It is the eye of God, the eye of Horus, the sky god, projecting down from the heavens.

Characteristically, when one would see or dream of a UFO, Jung reported, he or she would report a light so bright that it burned the viewer’s face. This represents a confrontation with the unconscious with great impact on a people who have been away from the unconscious for a very long historical period. (First day awake. This is the music of Pink Floyd as well.)

Jung reversed the flow. We shouldn’t fear these things, he said. We should welcome them. And when we do we will begin to engage the new consciousness.

I don’t know if Stephen Spielberg was listening, but I expect he was, as his breathtaking movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, followed just that prescription. Spielberg’s screenplay is based on the book The UFO Experience (1972) by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who portrays alien encounters as optimistic, benevolent and loving. The dreamers in the movie follow their visions and welcome the intruders fro Outer Space rather than blast them away.

This was followed by the Spielberg movie E.T., screenplay by Melissa Mathison - a well-known contributor to Tibetan Buddhist causes. E.T. is the story of the sweet-faced extra-terrestrial and it was accompanied by a famous poster featuring the Hand of God touching the little alien, like Michelangelo’s picture of God touching Adam’s hand in the Creation scene on the Sistine Chapel. (By the end of the century aliens are less than divine and we have become completely acclimated to critters from outer space. In the Spielberg blockbuster a few years back, Men in Black, they pass for ordinary citizens in New York City, although the guardians, the Men in Black, cast a wary eye upon them. The Men in Black in a folk tale of science fiction lore. Three Men in Black are said to accompany an Aquarian messiah, a space alien, much as the three Magi accompanied the Christ – see The Three Celestial Ones, January, 2006))

That would set the course. From then on out, Outer Space would be an element we would feel familiar in. Indeed, from then until the end of the century all epics would take place in the air or in space. The Star Wars sage presented a Taoist and Zen primer and would carry for 30 years. There are specific references throughout the series to Zen, Buddhism and Taoism. A “Quigon-ginn” for example, is a Taoist avatar. John Wayne, the 1950s man on horseback, would be the last of the earth-bound heroes.

No one understood the sci-fi alien encounter genre better than Chris Carter, creator of The X Files, whose agents, Scully and Mulder, are often between worlds, earth-bound and alien, and aliens are sometimes viewed as ourselves on another astral plane or ourselves evolved from DNA from an extra-terrestrial species. The X Files, which took some of its impetus from Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack’s book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, progressively moves the genre away from us against them, to a situation where we somehow share something with the aliens: I am he. (Like Santa and the Beatles, The X Files has a shadow production; Chris Carter’s darker Millennium, broadcast during the same period.)

David Duchovny, educated at Yale and Princeton, brought some learned credentials to the show, and in one episode to which he contributed script, there is a retelling of Dostoyevski’s chapter in The Brother’s Karamatsov, “The Grand Inquisitor.” In the X Files version – as in the sci-fi folk lore of the three Men in Black accompanying a new avatar - Christ comes back as an alien and is imprisoned, effectively making the jump to hyper space from the Piscean Age and one of its last, great Christian thinkers and novelists, Dostoyevsky, to the Age of Aquarius.

For the record, in the final episode of The X Files on May 19, 2002, in which Scully and Mulder are reunited, the Cigarette-Smoking Man reveals that the world will end on December 22, 2012. That is, the “alien invasion” -- which suggests the new consciousness taking precedence over the old -- will be completed on that day. In the final scene, Scully and Mulder realize they are seeking the same thing - he as a UFO investigator and she as a Roman Catholic. Mulder takes Scully’s cross in his hand that she has been wearing on her neck throughout the series. It is interesting that it is exactly that worn by John Lennon in his last pictures with the New York City basketball shirt. It is interesting because in the week in which the Age of Aquarius actually began – Dec. 31/Jan. 1, 2001, the X Files featured an episode written by Mulder with a messiah figure who directly suggests John Lennon.

The ultimate Aquarian episode and one of the best is The Blessing Way, in which Mulder is left for dead by the Cigarette Smoking Man, then taken to the Land of the Dead where he meets his father, and is raised again from the dead or near-dead and “born again.” He is guided through the Land of the Dead and brought back by a Native American shaman during the birth of the White Buffalo on a Wisconsin farm, a Native American sign of new Awakening and a harbinger of Aquarius.

The X Files’ final regular series episode with Scully and Mulder together is a virtual Nativity scene with alien visitors, complete with guiding star and the Lone Gunmen presented as the three Magi bearing gifts. The child Scully bears is ultimately given up for adoption to a family that lives under the flag of the White Buffalo.

The child is the Chosen One, the Aquarian, and the White Buffalo is the symbol of Aquarius. (Both Close Encounters and The X-Files have tag lines that suggest religious faith. The movie poster for Close Encounters reads, “We are not alone.” In The X-Files, there is a poster of a flying saucer in Agent Mulder’s office that reads, “I want to believe.”)

By the turn of the millennium, but even the tenacious Star Trek crew has turned the corner. One of the very last chapters, Andromeda, staring the dreamy, New Age Kevin Sorbo as Dylan – no authoritarian Captain Kirk, just Dylan – the ship’s commander, casts its crew as “keepers of the way,” a page right out of Lao Tsu and the Tao te Ching, although the commander still has a tendency to break heads.

The desire to conquer the universe is a phantom. The Star Trek series began coming “back to earth” in the 1986 feature Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, the self-paroding tale of the Enterprise crew coming back to earth in the 1980s to save the whales, one of the most engaging of the series, directed by Leonard Nimoy. After his retirement from the series William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the long-running series, wrote a book called Get a Life about Trekie cult followers. Trekies later became the subject of the hilarious spoof Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver, who played Captain Kirk’s dark cosmic sister, Lieutenant Ripley, in the Alien series. Trekies aside, Captian Kirk and Lieutenant Ripley are both Master Aquarians working their way through the murky ambiguity unknown of an unknown future. “To boldly go where no man has gone before”; that would be to the new millennium.

A few years back a movie in the original genre of War of the Worlds was made called Independence Day. It was a classic right-of-passage movie in which the whole world united in a manly way to blast an alien ship out of the sky that looked a little like a giant flea about the size of the Empire State Building. Presidential hopeful and World War II era veteran Bob Dole attended the opening with Reagan-era culture czar William Bennett (where was Agent Smith?) to publicly declare it “a great movie.” Which it was. But not the kind of thing you see that much of nowadays.

This year Spielberg has made a remake of War of the Worlds and in my opinion it is his best effort and his best movie ever. The Spielberg remake virtually returns the genre to its beginning, folding time back to 1954. It is shot with some dense-looking color process that looks like the movies Jean-Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut made in the early Fifties with only the barest-of-bones film making equipment. The Extraverted and heroic engagement of the characters reaching out to the aliens in E.T. and Close Encounters is over. The film has more the anxious tempo of Jaws – crowds milling around and tension and chaos building on the streets. It is a father-and-son movie of generations moving in different directions. The movie confirms my observation that somewhere in the interior of the psyche, everyone in the world is either a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan (see “The Center of the Earth,” October, last). In this movie the father wears a Yankees cap and the son wears a Red Sox cap. And the movie is a journey movie going from an (Extraverted) New York state of mind, with its fast energy and power principle, to an (Introverted) Boston state of mind – staid, provincial, and conservative. When we leave the action and passion of New York behind, we return to ourselves and first principles and begin to cultivate again our own garden. When father abandons his singular adventures (in the sky, in fact - he drives a derrick high above New York City, much like the aliens’ Tripods), he returns home to family.

We are a land-based species and cannot live in outer space. It should be the most obvious fact of human nature. By the beginning of the new century we have returned to earth (and to its quality of the Unconscious, Middle Earth). Spielberg's A/I (2001) is a high-tech retelling of the Old World Pinochio story (the myth/dream of an old man at a spiritual loss and carving his Savior/Messiah out of a tree, like the Prague Golem story of the 16th century Rabbi Loeb). In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Matrix, there is no longer the belief that the alien is really out there, in space, and that we should go after him, but that space fiction and its inhabitants are representative of an inner condition, as it has been right along in the Star Wars series. And in the magnificent animated feature film, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, (2002) we re-enter the natural world of earth, air, fire and water that we left behind when we said good bye to Abbess Hildegard in the 12th century. Perhaps like Haku, we will remember our name.

As all things looked to the sky in the 1950s, today all paths return to earth. Tolkien’s Rings series enters a state preceding the maedeval period, State of Heaven brings us Christian on Islam war is the 12th century, the best seller The DaVinci Code, contains riddles of a far earlier day and Harry Potter. The Deathless Child of Old England, returns us to where we came.

My experience with dreams and extraordinary dreams in the past few years tells the same story. One woman for example, dreamed of gold coins coming from the Pope while a contemporary suitor offered her only coins of chocolate covered with gold paper. Another had a similar dream with old gold marked by St. George’s Cross, again, in opposition to something new and trendy. And my astonishing dreamer friend – a woman from Australia - dreamed this on August 13, 2005:

I am outside the earth’s atmosphere, or in another realm.
I am sitting in a tree that is growing there.
It has leaves made of thin gold foil, and it looks
like a cherry tree. I don’t want to be there, the sun
shines all the time, there is never any night - it
feels surreal and I want to get home, or to earth,
I feel I should not be there. I try to climb down,
but every move I make takes me further up the tree,
not down. I decide that the only way to get down is
to jump - I think that this must be my destiny, and
if this is so, God will not let me die. Next to me
I find a piece of rope that is made of three ropes
twisted together. I pick it up and it is alive, and
purple and pulsating. I jump out of the tree, holding
this live, pulsating rope. I am falling into the
atmosphere and the wind is rushing past me, I am falling
like a skydiver without a parachute, freefalling. I look
up at the sky now and it is a beautiful combination of
pink, blue and purple, like a magnificent sunrise.
I also see that the rope that I am holding is attached
to the sky. I know eventually that it will pull me to
a stop if I keep hold of it. Every thing goes black
suddenly, but I am still aware, I am not dead, I rest
for a while. Then I see a light. It is as if I am
looking through a window into a light room from the
darkness. I see a dresser in the room, and I think
to myself 'this is my grandfathers dresser', I watch
the room for a while. Then suddenly my whole body
feels pressure, and there is pressure on the top
of my head. I am pushed past this pressure and
I suddenly see a baby being born, and I hear a
baby's cry and then I realise that the baby is me
and it is me that is crying and I am the baby -
I sense that I am a boy and my self awareness fades
and I become the baby and I am crying.

The dream here is a vision of Andromeda, Mother in the Sky, who holds the two fish dangling at the end of the rope. She visits us again. This is a cosmic dream of the new Creation – born female last time, this time a boy.

Our space journey did not begin with Flash Gorden or Captain Kirk. It began with Columbus. These are the sentiments of the most American of poets, Walt Whitman: “Lo, soul, seest thou not God’s purpose from the first?/ The earth to be spann’d, connected by network,/ The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,/The oceans to be cross’d, the distant brought near,/ The lands to be welded together.” The passage would be to the sun and the moon and all of the stars and to Siruis and Jupiter. Then: “After the seas are all cross’d (as they seem already cross’d)/ After the great captiains and engineers have accoomplish’d their work,/ After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the geologist, ethnologist,/ Finally shall come the poet worthy of that name;/ The true son of God shall come singing his songs.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Entering the New Millennium

By Bernie Quigley

Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night? – Jack Kerouac

I’m feeling at the moment that we are entering a new phase . . . the Iraq business will end up much like the Mexican War – as Ulysses S. Grant said, it was an egregious war of the Strong against the Weak, but only those who participated would go forward thereafter into the future. Incompetent though he may be, Bush has turned a corner. And the Shill Voice from the New York Senator rising again today and more so lately will send his numbers higher.

It must be said that action was always the first initiative after 9/11 and Bush took action. Wesley Clark calls that action in clear and exacting declarative sentences: The war in Iraq was a strategic blunder from the very beginning. And the Administration's handling of the war has only gone downhill from there.

Like all things from this President, the war on Iraq is (was?) a Heart-driven initiative and the Heart acts at the expense of the Head. But under the circumstances of 9/11, even with the apparent secret agenda of the Evil Dwarves Who Live Under the Stairs at the Pentagon, quite obvious from the first, the presence of Heart was more important to that moment than Competence. For the first two years of the Civil War, Lincoln brought Heart as well, and an equal measure of incompetence.

These days, Competence, like Intelligence, can be purchased by the pound (much as muscle was purchased 100 years ago). That is Bush’s weakness. Primarily it is the weakness of a purchasing agent. But in the end, it is a secondary weakness. Inaction would have been the greater sin. Had he hesitated to act, had he demurred as a Gore or Kerry might have, he would have been thrown out of office the second time around. America now will take his path and so will the West.

Two years ago, on the morning John Kerry announced his choice of Vice President, I met with a small group of volunteers who had worked for Wesley Clark in the primary. He urged us to support the party’s choice. “The President’s agenda in Iraq is not the country’s agenda,” he said. “But it will be in five years if he is reelected.”

It was a brilliant call, and comes in about two years ahead of the prediction.

With the inauguration of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has signed on to a new agenda. And this week Canada will sign on with the election of the Conservative Stephen Harper, who is 8 to 13 points ahead of the Liberals in the polls. The West is in the wake of these actions now and frightened because of Iran. We face a turning in our moment, and all past is past now and all new is new.

The Republicans are going in both directions – deeper into corruption with torture issues, disgracing the integrity of the Land of the Free, but at the same time initiating reform as well. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, pushing forward with 90 Senators behind them on the anti-torture bill, save the day for the Republicans and for America and for the West.

It is virtually impossible for Democrats who endorsed Bush’s war to criticize his strategies. Rove knows it. (It is the oldest trick in the book – when you hire a new College President, give him the free membership to the Country Club which doesn’t allow Blacks and Jews. If he takes the free dinner, you have him by the short hairs and he belongs to you.)

For myself I see the Democrats cursed by the Magic Mountain. They have sent themselves deeper and deeper into irrelevance by oppositionist policies without offering any viable alternatives. But worse than that, they have lost themselves in fanciful issues. Canada’s current race is a Petri dish experiment for the Democrats here in the immediate future. Three liberal issues have dominated in Canada for the last three years: gay marriage, health care entitlement geared to an already wealthy middle class and the legalization of marijuana. These issues will drive the Canadian Liberals into oblivion and the same could happen here very shortly. It is now conceivable that the Democratic Party completely disintegrate in the United States as did its old ancestor, the Whigs, 150 years ago. The same dynamic between exist today between populist Jacksonian Republicans and effete Whig Democrats.

I would like the see the world begin again with Wes, but apart from the daily Kos and a few New Hampshire red necks like myself, I find few takers. So I see only Mark Warner among the Democrats, but he is considered by many in Virginia to be in fact a Moderate Republican. Why would the country chose a Democratic version of a Moderate Republican when there are actual Moderate Republicans coming up initiating reform and allied in spirit with our American folk hero and Gray Champion, John McCain? People like my own worthy Senator John E. Sununu, who just recently came to office. Others who come to mind are Mitt Romney, George Pataki, and did somebody say Arnold? Would Warner succeed in this new realm? Perhaps. But whenever I’m watching a football game and the TV ad of the three dweebs dancing to a Boom Box in a corporate office between cell phone calls comes on, I get a kick out of it but I also get a small pain near the back of my head on the left.

Warner came into the world big time and made millions as a cell phone entrepreneur in the 1980s. The entrepreneur was the man of the hour as the Age of Leadership and Excellence rose into the Ronald Reagan years. But that was then and this is now. Is the Democratic Party once again on the cutting-edge of a trend which has long passed? Here in New Hampshire we have already had our overnight-millionaire cable guy entrepreneur as governor. He washed out in one term, a rare political event in New Hampshire. There will always be a need for entrepreneurs, but we face a different economy today and different global circumstances. Warner is a good manager and he did a great job managing a state with a great life force and a bad bureaucracy. But he seems alone in his party with his skills and attitudes.

My prediction today is that we in our country will soon leave the old century behind like an old skin, with its old irrelevant issues and novelty candidates, and begin at last to address the new century. I was startled to read a prediction in the leftist journal The Nation recently. As one of its ten “bold new ideas” for the new century, here at the very end was this: “Numerous thinkers--from historian Frederick Jackson Turner to the late George Kennan--have suggested regional change as a desirable long-term goal. One plausible scenario would begin with California asserting more independent powers of self-determination. Groups of states like New England or the Northwest might demand similar changes. Regional decentralization is fast becoming a fact of life throughout the world. If a future US regionalism is to protect and enhance democracy, self-determination and ecological sustainability without sacrificing federal civil rights protections, progressives will have to take the lead.”

Progressives? How about Libertarians? I’ve been outlining regional possibilities for the last year in this journal as the natural path for Libertarians who favor small and unobtrusive government interference. Progressives? How about Conservatives. Regionalism is essentially an ascending application of traditional states rights issues. I’d say The Federalist Society has been ahead on this for a decade or so. And to my mind regionalism brings neither a Progressive or Conservative state, but a natural state, able to grow at its own speed with its own needs. My guess is, the federalist Yanks at The Nation, have finally figures out that they can no longer dominate the states rights South and will now take this strategy to back away from them, just as the South did to the North in 1835.

Nevertheless, regionalism can save billions in wasted funds. New England, for instance, does not need one, two, three, four, five state-supported schools of agriculture. It needs only one. (And the best farmers I know up here go to Virginia Tech anyway.)

We have seen the failure of federalism bring terrible human despair in this past year, particularly on the Gulf Coast. As mentioned here months back, if the poor and injured states of the Gulf Coast formed a regional lobby group they should be able to curry at least as much influence in Washington as Israel or Taiwan.

But I don’t see Progressives leading the way here. (I’m not even sure what a Progressive is. Ida Tarbell comes to mind but it doesn’t ring a bell.) Or Conservatives. Destiny and necessity will lead the way. In his recent State of the State speech, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wanted to rebuild the state’s infrastructure. This is a great idea, and by all means it is work that needs to be done.

When a Reformist Republican like President Mitt Romney takes the helm, or an Entrepreneurial Democrat like President Mark Warner, the one or the other should advance Schwarzenegger’s vision as national policy across the country. Beneath the grunge and grime, America has some of the world’s most beautiful cities. Two of my favorites are Philadelphia and Detroit, both of which have been abandoned to the forces of chaos. These cities are absolute jewels underneath and there are many others, large and small, throughout the country.

The old industrial cities are irreplaceable national treasures. Most, like Detroit, need to be rebuilt from scratch. Rebuilding in Katrina has boosted regional economy in the Gulf States. But all the cities need to be rebuilt with comprehensive, long-term master plans which take environmental issues in mind, issues of historical and regional significance, labor force, employment, welfare and security. It should be considered a specific crime to destroy a neighborhood and to cause beautiful, historic family neighborhoods of affordable town houses like the lovely stone and brink houses of old Richmond, West Philadelphia or South Boston to be territorialized and controlled by drug and crime lords. This kind of rebuilding creates meaningful jobs – carpenters, electricians, architects – family and neighborhood building skills that translate into other areas and can be handed down generationally. They are jobs that cannot be exported and this is a kind of economy that cannot be exported to India or China. In this venture regions should teach their own trades in community colleges appropriate to their regions, follow the example of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City which started its own stone-carving school. It now sends stone carvers from Harlem to Europe to restore and repair ancient architecture.

After the Second World War, it almost seemed that the federal government was intent on establishing dominance over the states and regions and demonstrating it by driving a major highway through the very heart of local cities, killing most of them off in the process. Boston – my old neighborhood – was virtually ruined by such a highway and just this week finally succeeded, at the cost of over 14 billion dollars, in burying the monster. It seemed to have almost a subliminal psychological intention and my objection to the kind of federalism we have in the United States today and since 1865 is primarily psychological. In Hamilton’s vision of federalism, a citizen belongs to a vast abstraction – an idea - and finds no identity in a specific place in the world to nurture and develop in. It is good for jobs as they come and go, booming and busting across the world but it is detrimental to family, neighborhood and local custom and religion. The regional approach builds identity and gives citizens a place in the world. A regional approach would work for the Gulf States in rebuilding after Katrina, and it would work in rebuilding New England just as well.

A regional strategy for federalism – a federation of free and independent peoples - was Thomas Jefferson’s view from the first. It is said that people go home when they have no other place to go. Maybe it is time now for America to go home.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sign General Clark's letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner and Ranking Member Carl Levin

General Clark states: President Bush continues to attack critics of the war effort as “unpatriotic” - but I refuse to stay silent. The war in Iraq was a strategic blunder from the very beginning. And the Administration's handling of the war has only gone downhill from there.

To sign, click here on Clark's site, WesPAC.

Furthermore: An internal government report recently obtained by the New York Times and published in an article this past weekend confirms that “80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor.”

The Times report continued, noting that “such armor has been available since 2003,” but the Pentagon declined to supply it to the troops despite “calls from the field for additional protection.”

More than 1700 American troops have died during combat. And according to the Times analysis, as many as 300 deaths could have been prevented if our soldiers were equipped with the right kind of body armor - armor that costs as little as $260 per set.