Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Twilight Generation: World War II Republicans, Roosevelt Reenactors and Brent Scowcroft

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/30/08

We begin now to pretend with the new Obama-Clinton administration that we are in the Great Depression. Great Depression, the Sequel. Much as in the Bush II administration we pretended that we were in World War II again and W was the dress-up leader of the New Greatest Generation. World War II, the Sequel.

It is unfortunate that Obama has adopted the mantra of the recidivist Democratic generation which can’t see past the Clintons. Because dreaming doesn’t make it so and such dreaming leaves an emptiness beneath the rhetoric as dry as leaves in November; a hollowness echoing in the small and the petty posturing after the great ones. Invariably light breaks through, but through the glass darkly. And from that cold light will come the new generation.

Anyone wanting to get a glimpse of the new generation might catch the movie Twilight, or get Stephanie Meyer’s book by the same title from the local library. But you might have to wait in line. Five people have already reserved it in my library and if you are over 13 years old, it might not appeal to you anyway. Previews to the new Harry Potter movie appear first in the theaters, and in contrast, seem incredibly dated. The actors now are in their 20s and the themes worn and frazzled. If you or your kids were raised with or bonded on Harry Potter, consider it over. You will not like Twilight, but 25,000 million kids around the age of 13 are crazy about it.

Twilight is one of those generational bonding things. It is part of a new generation’s package in time; a package of who they are and who they are not. A friend of mine who edits a newspaper in North Carolina has always wanted her kids to see The Graduate, which I saw in 1968, because it explains to them how her generation and mine awakened as a group; a group which would form the full and possibly now complete economic arc of the post-war period. But the kids don’t get it. You had to be there. You had to be part of the generation.

The generations can change in an afternoon, write historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, who pioneered the theory of alternating generational patterns. From what I can see, Twilight is the first cultural initiative of a brand new generation which will bond within itself.

Some of the economists and sociologists today who use generationality to make predictions speak too soon, identifying those young people up to 28 who support Obama as the essential “turning” generation. It is the fourth post-war generation that we are patiently waiting for to start the world again. But as George Will has recently pointed out, it sometimes takes awhile to get between generations. When the economy broke in 1929 at the end of the third generation in the last historical period, it did not fully repair again until 1953. We are today at the critical breaking point between the third and fourth post-war generations. The gulf is large. And the generations form vastly different world; as different as the Dorsey Brothers of the 1930s were from Elvis.

Sociologists on this issue tend to advance themes they themselves like, but it is in the nature of rising generations to oppose the one that came before. Elvis was impossible to envision in 1929 and so the new generation will be.

But there is much reason to be optimistic if Twilight is any indication. The entire book came to Meyer in a dream, she said. It is a vampire movie. But it no way resembles the cloak and fangs of the tradition.

What it does suggests is the great shift in generations like that which Ivan Turgenev found between Russian fathers and sons in 1862, and that Dostoyevsky found in the shadow of a decadent and failing Russian society. As with Dostoyevsky, the sacred and the heroic are shadow people; outcasts locked away and tortured by corrupt adults. In Twilight, the vampires are humane and responsible. They have learned to curb their violence and manage their barbarism and psychosis. They are family and community oriented while the adults are frivolous and random. They are noble when the adults are vacillating and predictable; their minds easily read. They are chaste, committed and organized. They are fast and able and when they come into the light they glitter in gold. They are the Enemy of the People.

The young people who identify with this new book and movie are the people who will make our world. They will bring the first original initiatives to the new century. I don’t see them at all reflective of Depression-era Roosevelt Reenactors or World War II-era Republicans revisiting in make believe like W. But if I can be the first to say it, in watching this movie with my youngest children I was reminded of one recent president who might appeal to them: George H. W. Bush.

As unfortunate as some of Obama’s advisors appear to be in my opinion, I was trilled to read that Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor and wise councel who warned against the invasion of Iraq, has Obama’s ear and could well be the formative influence in his foreign policy.

With the return of Scowcroft, it is possible to discern now three distinct trends in politics: the Clinton-Obamas, the W. Bushes and the H.W. Bushes. The Twilight Generation could well ride into their morning on one of these three. Quite possibly another of the three will be discarded entirely and fall by the wayside.

Recently Mark Sanford, the Republican Governor of South Carolina, appeared before the House and Means Committee, to ask that they stop sending money to his state. Deficit spending is only deferred taxes, he said. Like some of the Southern states around him, South Carolina appears to be well managed (by New England standards). Sanford has a respectable and thoughtful approach which might be considered Jeffersonian. That calls came in to Congress 10 to one in opposition to the Wall Street bailout suggests he has support in the heartland that is Jeffersonian in spirit and related to the libertarian conservative perspective of Barry Goldwater. John McCain reawakened this approach with the selection of Sarah Palin who likewise echoes Jefferson. There is a distinct Jacksonian flair to the Alaska governor as well. At the Republican Convention, Mitt Romney rightly referred to this as a “ . . . western” approach in opposition to the Eastern Establishment.

There will be a future for this point of view because the eastern establishment constantly underestimates heartland America and ignores its needs. Jefferson’s regional approach and a Jacksonian revival could well have a future in our century and if it does, its roots will not be traced back to McCain, Sarah Palin, Barry Goldwater or Ron Paul, but to George W. He may not have been aware of it, but much in his approach was Jacksonian populism – particularly his contempt for the educated in the Northeast and Europe more prominent in his first term.

The potential for this is mighty and to some degree it depends on what happens in Iraq with Obama. Headline in The Economist this week about America and Iraq: Well, is it victory or humiliation?

Youth wants to know. In the problems we have today outside our borders, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore share as much responsibility as the W administration. Possibly more. Unnecessary wars cause unintended consequences. And as Ulysses S. Grant said, no one likes to lose a war even if it is a war we had no business in. If an Obama administration is seen as retreat, it could bring a chauvinistic response and a return to fighting.

The first Bush administration was a time of peace and good faith abroad. It was a time of even temperament and next to H.W. Bush, Scowcroft deserved most of the credit for that.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Scowcroft said the [W.] Bush administration's two terms were "difficult years."

"The general mood of the last administration has been more a combination of idealism and self-assertion," he said. "And if the election was a vote on foreign policy -- and I'm not sure it was -- then you can say, yes, that idea has been rejected in favor of realism."

There was something strange about the father and son President Bushes from the start. Something which brought to mind Turgenev and the struggle between fathers and sons, with the son hell-bent on opposition to the father.

But there is another son. Brother Jeb, who is said to share the same temperament and tradition as his father. They dare not speak his name at the moment, but with Obama marking the trail with another Clinton, the gate is now open. Republicans will have every right to bring him forth now. It is more a question of temperament than politics really and other Republicans share the temperament of H.W. Bush and Scowcroft, most prominently Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.

The post-Harry Potter generation, the Twilight Generation, which sees its heroes rising from the dead as shining lights in the forest, will chose one of these three paths to our future.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Replace England with Tibet on the Security Council: Requiem for the Eggman

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/26/08

Humpty Dumpy had a great fall . . . Lewis Carroll

In 1871 when Alice in Wonderland was written, England had come across the world as if out of nowhere; as if out of a rabbit hole. But Nelson was long dead and Trafalgar was 66 years in hindsight. To a visionary like Lewis Carroll the end could already have been in sight.

1857, the year of The Indian Mutiny, was perhaps a decisive moment; the year of returning. The Queen was growing old and irascible and the map would quickly start to shrink. Carroll’s Eggman would be the last man of Empire; high on the wall but facing an imminent fall.

But as with the Big Three in Detroit, these things, the Big Symbols, get subsidized and survive in body if not in spirit well beyond their time. When this fair Queen passes on - Carroll’s Earth Mother Incarnate who’s arbitrary right to cut off the heads has long been stripped - the Brits might ask if it is not finally time to end the subsidy.

The resolute valor that was Elizabeth I and Lord Nelson - or even T.E. Lawrence or even John Lennon - was the same indomitable spirit which wakened American and the Enlightenment. But there was little trace of it this week when Gordon Brown, who vacations annually at Nantucket with the Clinton crowd and singers and bit actors from the Sixties, asked China to give money to the International Monetary Fund, in return for which Beijing would expect an increase in its voting share.

Robert Barnett, who directs the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia, writes this week in The New York Times that there is speculation that a trade-off for this arrangement involved a major shift in the British position on Tibet, whose leading representatives in exile this weekend called on their leader, the Dalai Lama, to stop sending envoys to Beijing — bringing the faltering talks between China and the exiles to a standstill.

“The exiles’ decision followed an announcement on Oct. 29 by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, that after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind,” writes Barnett. “Mr. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier.”

Until that day, the British had described Tibet as autonomous, with China having a “special position” there. Mr. Miliband described the British position as an anachronism and a colonial legacy.

Not since, Francis Younghusband’s invasion of Tibet in 1903, in which 700 Buddhist monks were gunned down and left to die, has England shown such Imperial detachment.

“Did Britain just sell Tibet?” asks Barnett.

As he says, Britain’s change of heart risks tearing up a historical record that frames the international order and could provide the basis for resolving China’s dispute with Tibet.

At the beginning of the war on Iraq New York Times columnist Tom Friedman asked that France be thrown off the UN Security Council to be replaced by India. I felt he had a sub agenda and was hoping for a few million Indian “Gurkhas” – England’s loyal Nepalese troops – to fight America’s battles in the Middle East. He was right at least to suggest that America’s interests, as we enter the new century, lie across the Pacific rather than the Atlantic. Likewise, it is questionable today what use England brings to the world when a dormouse like Gordon Brown can arbitrarily seal the fate of ancient peoples like Tibetans.

It is unlikely that England or France be thrown off the Security Council. But the time has come, as Carroll’s Walrus said, to think of many things. And it has been 40 years since John Lennon claimed the mantle of Eggman, the last man of Empire.

We need a new Council, not a new Empire. Something approximating the G-20 economic group which met in Washington just recently. And it should find its center in someplace central to the equal and opposite forces awakening in the world today; Detroit maybe or up by the Sault Ste. Marie on the Great Lakes, which borders Michigan and Canada. We need a council which looks East, West, South and to the Great White North. But especially one today which looks across the Pacific.

As global economy raises the East, India and China could well be great binary forces in a future not far ahead. Tibet could form a benign center between them and a buffering zone to temper their ambitions. And in the last 30 years, its exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, has brought awakening and enlightenment to the world well beyond Tibet’s borders. Much as England did centuries back now, long before the fall.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Let Caterpillar Have the Big Three – Wall Street’s Hillary flop and Geithner bounce - Visualizing Roosevelt

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/24/08

We face here today a cultural sea change. Volvo-driving liberal Senators who have not driven an American car since their fathers taught them how to drive in ’52 Chevies with three on the column and brakes you had to begin to apply a block before negotiating the turn, are in a panic to pour money into Detroit. It would be a done deal already if Mitt Romney, who knows something about cars and about Detroit, hadn’t spoken up last Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed saying the car manufacturers would have a better chance of recovery if they were allowed to go bankrupt.

Panic is in the air but it is not clear that there is any need or reason for it. It would be good if Obama could avoid the denial/panic cycle that we have been chasing these last months and years. It leads to the Do Anything Syndrome. Ethanol? Rust belt bailouts? The war on Iraq? Windmills?

The current upheaval in the financial markets suggests a turning, but this has been suggested for months, even years. That it is happening now could well relate simply to the uncertainty of the November election, continuing now do to Obama’s administration picks and the apparent shift in theme from change to return: A return to Clintonism. It wasn’t what the world wanted. It wasn’t what the world expected.

Stocks rose 494 points in the last hour of trading Friday when word leaked that New York Fed president Timothy Geithner, 47, would be appointed Treasury secretary. They had dropped 873 points in the two days before after a general slide with the fatalistic news that the Clintons would be back in the White House administration with Hillary at Foggy Bottom.

Seen simply as products by us consumers, Geithner is a new face to us, young and unheard of by most although he is well connected to Treasury administrators Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. That he has studied Japanese and Chinese and has lived in present-day Zimbabwe, India, Thailand and China (according to his Wiki bio) points in the right direction. And it might even offset the gnarly and contentious Summers, whose patronizing tutorials to Japan showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the East and his tenure as Harvard’s President illustrated a fundamental misunderstanding of most everything in human nature.

Geithner is what we want, what we chose and what we came to expect in a new Obama Presidency. In packaging alone, he looks smart. Even if he is incompetent we won’t know for at least six months.

Hillary on the other hand is the same old Chevrolet, retooled and recromed, but the same old wagon. The stock bounce at three o’clock Friday should help explain things. It should be a warning to Obama that his administration begins to look like Clinton III, as they put it in The Wall Street Journal. So far only Geithner breaks the pattern. And now with Bill Richardson on board it is again back to the Clintons. Obama needs new faces. All new faces. Young people like Geithner unheard of by us before. It is exactly how Kennedy and Reagan began to make their mark and it is marketing 101. There can be no turning back in this administration or it will fail and fail fast.

Hillary, Biden, Richardson . . . half the whole line up. You know what Obama’s problem is? He’s nice. That could be a problem.

Congress might think of convening a special session of realists, inviting only those among them who drive American cars and trucks. People like Senator Jon Tester, a farmer from Montana with fingers missing to prove it. He had some good comments at the car hearings last week about half tons.

Noel Perrin, a folkloric Dartmouth professor who recently passed away, might be researched as well by this lace curtain Congress. There was a time when urban types like the editorial board of The New York Times, which contracted the vapors this week when they saw a clip of Sarah Palin at a turkey farm, would read his First Person Rural books and want to move up here to become sometimes farmers like Noel, and buy an old truck and learn how to drive a tractor and work a chain saw. But it was revealed this week that the Times entire board of elders was apparently fully unaware that the turkey they will eat this Thanksgiving was once a living being.

You learn these things in the country. Brutal and strange things. Like the moon moves to different places in the sky at night while you are sleeping. Things happen. It can really creep you out. There was a time when great New Yorkers like E.B. White moved up here to leave that and find this.

There needs to be some original thinking here. Something more than a nostalgico FDR approach and a liberal Congress fully oriented to the last century visualizing Roosevelt in séance.

Some observations on American trucks for those who have never ventured past the Hudson River or the Potomac: In 1980 I bought a 1973 Dodge super cab truck that already had 186,000 miles on it. I bought it from a very nice Elvis worshiper in Silver Springs for $700 and sold it with about 400,000 miles on it 10 years later for $500 to a college professor who had read Noel’s books and was moving to the country. Those trucks were legendary. They used the engines to fly airplanes.

Last year I bought a Dodge Durango for hauling with 131,000 miles on it, expecting the same Dodge truck karma. I wanted a covered truck with all the features of a real truck including heavy shocks. But it had short shocks and floated on the highway. And at 161,000 it started making noises. I sold it cheap to a mechanic after putting only 30,000 miles on it.

The people I work with building stone walls, doing housing construction, landscaping and dairy farming mostly use American trucks. They are people like Todd Palin. As James Carville said last week, people like Todd Palin who are not “ . . . as complex” as Bill Clinton. My mechanic, who once called my house because he smelled something wrong with my truck when I drove by his garage, drives a Ford to do heavy plowing (we have snow on the ground as of this week). Most others I work with drive Dodges. That is because people who do that kind of work up here are fairly prosperous by our standards and they will sell their trucks and buy new ones when they get up by 80,000 miles.

But you can’t count on getting 400,000 miles on your truck anymore. They don’t make them like they used to.

I notice on the highway that there are not really many American cars anymore. There are vans, but a van like those used by people in the suburbs as I understand it is actually a truck chassis with the van thing built around it marketed by Detroit when they felt they couldn’t compete head on with Honda and Toyota in regular cars. (We have 265,000 miles on our Honda Civic and it runs like new.) There are Vibes, but they are really Toyota Matrixes. There are Escapes which are nice, especially the Hybrids, but they look like something else too. Most cars I see – cars like what my father would consider an actual car – seem to be made in Japan or Germany. Too bad. I got 260,000 miles with almost no repair costs out of one of the last Oldsmobiles made, then gave it to a kid.

What Congress, in constant panic mode probably inherited from the Iraq war where it proved its incompetence, seems to be doing now is imagining what Roosevelt would do; visualizing Roosevelt. Much as Richard Gere has asked us to visualize world peace. I have much greater faith in Richard’s efforts and try to do what he says in that regard and admire him for doing it, but I doubt it would bring forth a very good car or truck. In politics this is simply idolatry. Our world couldn’t be more different than Roosevelt’s. Today’s world is awash in cash. The cash is just not in our part of the world. Our circumstances are different. It won’t work.

With China and India about to enter the car market, pouring cash into Detroit to make a car that Joe Biden can drive around his district to emote conspicuous piety will be a short term novelty.

But from the point of view of people who work with their hands as I do, here is a thought. We use Caterpillars all the time in our work; excavators, back hoes, skid steers and other things. Farm equipment companies used to make trucks as well. Harvester International’s Scout was a classic. There is no reason why they can’t make them again.

Caterpillar is doing very well and China is a primary source of its growth. They make good machines. There might be opportunities for Caterpillar to converge its interests with the big three, at least in the realm of trucks and vehicles for working people. It would be nice to have an American truck again that could be counted on.

Recently Wesley K. Clark has called for the bailout of the auto industry because of military contracts and military research and development that car companies do. Those issues could solved by Caterpillar and other large equipment makers as well.

It would be a truck version of mergers and acquisitions: Let the healthy companies go to the failing and restructure them rather than turning them over to Congress and certain death.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hillary Catches the Bone

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/21/08

If Obama innocently brought in Senator Clinton for Secretary of State he is so out there where the buses don’t run that he will have to hire Dick Morris to tell him what to do.

But I don’t think he is. Obama is a Trickster. He knows the Clintons are hustlers better than anyone and like the Road Runner he enjoys the chase. He has the inner voice which assures him that he can be caught, he can be stopped . . . someday maybe his dance can be stopped. But not today. And not by the likes of the Clintons.

In restoring the Democratic Party, Obama’s first Herculean task is cleaning out the stables. In this environment that means managing the Clintons. He got some good laughs during the campaign when he said he looks forward to taking her advice. He understands territory and place. The Clintons want and expect to dominate. But they cannot and will not out stage Obama.

Putting Hillary as Secretary of State is an insult to Condi Rice, considered formidable to her task by any standard, and the entire league of diplomatic corp old school gentry who served out of a sense of duty. And on face value, the worst thing about Senator Clinton in this position is that she is like the man in the cell phone commercial who tries to get a room in a motel and is told it is a dead zone. It’s ok, he says, he has his army of technicians with him. But Hillary’s is an army of lobbyists who have her and her husband in their pocket for almost two decades now – a group Obama promised to avoid.

But Secretary of State may be a very good place for the Clintons, and as Peggy Noonan says, they always go together. I was told by a perceptive retired Foreign Service officer, Obama intends to be his own Secretary of State. Hillary will be understudy. She won’t like that. Obama knows that. From the Trickster point of view, it is a masterful tack.

Bringing Hillary into the Obama cabinet is something like having The Beatles agree to have Perry Como open for them on tour after heavy lobbying by his agent. She and her husband and his fifty gold watches will be absurdly out of place with this smart new generation.

But that is the Elvis curse. He/they refuse to leave the building.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

America Finds its Center in Chicago – for the last 20 years all Presidents have been from the middle of the country

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/20/08

Governments usually place their capitals in the center of the country. It is natural to do so as people naturally divide between head and heart (yin/yang/ Logos/Eros, particle/wave) much as the head-based urbanites of the North and the heart-based pastoralists in the South did here at the beginning.

They usually war because head and heart are organically in opposition and the heart always loses because war is primarily logistical and logistics is a tool of the head. (The heart fights with élan and courage. The head fights with machines.) The heart is not good at doing the things the head is good at: George W. Bush, a heart-based Texas, was a good man but not a good governor. He would have made a good priest or preacher. On the other hand the head does poorly in the realms of the heart as well. Visit any Yankee church up here in New Hampshire and see. But long term, the heart rises and the head yields to it, just as the head-based Roman Empire yielded in time to a more enduring empire of the heart.

The capital is wisely placed between head and heart to be a uniting force: Brahma in the center links the opposing forces of Shiva and Vishnu on the edges and the realm finds grace and power in equilibrium. But in time the center is overwhelmed. Even in 1985 you could live in a studio apartment in D.C. a three minute walk from the Capital building or the Library of Congress for less than $350. You could go camping inside the Beltway and experience quiet. Today you couldn’t do that outside Manassas. Now it is, in the phrasing of Mick Huckabee, like a roach motel: Power seekers enter and they don’t check out.

But the Capital is put in the center for another reason. The edges are prone to attack by outsiders or even a few individuals who are not part of the realm. The attacks on the World Trade Centers – the absolute symbol of American post-war power – on 9/11 may have had the effect of subliminally making us back away from places on the edges.

America’s center is moving to Chicago. Chicago “feels” safer and less vulnerable to attack than New York City or Washington, D.C. Of course it is not, especially since the Russians have planted their flag at the North Pole. Nothing between them but fences. Not even fences.

Just the same, this year we were prompted to call forth as President someone from Chicago even though he has little experience in the things needed in a President. And now we want a Chicago woman for Secretary of State who likewise has no experience for the job. And practically everyone else the new guy knows or remembers is from Chicago.

But we have long been moving to this. For four hundred years we have been a North/South country. The rise of the Christian Right was in direct dynamic opposition to the supposed decadence and leftist leanings in the North – it was extension of Civil War by other means. It may have presented the last waning cry of the Southern heart in opposition.

We are now an East/West country, an empire like Rome’s with two centers; LA and NY. In time these two will grow in opposition but not today. Chicago is now the center of our country and for the last 20 years the Presidents have all come from the middle of the country. It has been suggested that these people are all from the South but anyone who knows the South would see nothing Southern in either of the Bushes or Bill Clinton, the consummate striver and New York wannabe of the Eastern Establishment and its governing class. And Arkansas and Texas are only outskirts of the South. Both are west of the Mississippi; the mythic dividing center of the new world and the new millennium first marked to be so by the American coyote trickster god, Huck Finn.

As per the election of Barack Obama it may be said that we are no longer a North/South country and are now an East/West country. You could think of this in terms of the good work of Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, some of the best minds in my opinion, who write that the South and its values and culture must be considered by Democrats or the country will constantly yield to Republicans. An opposing view said that enough votes could be garnished in other regions so that the Democrats can “whistle past Dixie” and simply ignore it. The Jarding/Saunders perspective (the “Mudcat Paradigm”) could be considered a bellwether. If and when a time came when all parties could ignore the South, a new dynamic will have been formed. And that would be East/West. That could be now.

As the beautiful city of Washington, D.C., once served as a center-most mandala uniting North and South prior to the Civil War, so the Mississippi River divides the world today with Chicago at top and New Orleans at bottom uniting the U.S. east and west and all of the Eastern world and the Western world into one world. At center is the Lakes Region, which forms a water star. Maybe a new center of the world will be built here one day and feature the Sea Serpent; the chi spirit in the Great Lakes known to First People in this region as Manitou - the Primary Spirit of the Earth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is Obama Incompetent? - Anybody but Hillary for Secretary of State; the return of the Clinton Cult

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/18/08

At the Yearly Kos conference summer before last Senator Hillary Clinton said she would consider using nuclear weapons in terrorist situations. This position was first publicly promoted by Cal Thomas, one of the most extreme voices of the Christian right, in a widely distributed newspaper op-ed shortly after 9/11 when he proposed nuking Islamic terrorists. By any rational approach to the new millennium this position approximates madness. At the same conference Obama said he would never use nuclear weapons in a terrorist situation. Why would he consider Hillary for Secretary of State?

In the same period, Harvard lawyer Alan Dershowitz supported the use of torture in extracting information from terrorists. Most opposed. But Dershowitz correctly pointed out that Bill Clinton’s position on torture was exactly the same as his. That is: We shouldn’t use torture. Only when we really need it to get information. As reported in the LA Times, Hillary position was exactly the same. Obama opposed the use of torture. Why would he consider Hillary for Secretary of State?

Senator Clinton, who considered herself “co-President” during her husband’s tenure, was in the White House when 90 Senators agreed to push into Russia’s near frontier under a new NATO agreement in which U.S. troops would be committed to responding to conflicts involving any of the new member nations of Central Europe. It was called an error of “ . . . historic proportions” by the best foreign policy minds of the period. This year, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia and antagonized Russia into responding, she called for a commission to investigate. It is a good idea. But to get the roots of this, investigators would have to go to the administrators who vigorously initiated the first incursions on to Russia’s border: President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and “co-President” Hillary Clinton. Obama says he will delay the deployment into Poland. Why would he then put Hillary in the position of Secretary of State?

At the time of the fateful vote on Iraq, Obama spoke out against the invasion. To some degree his position has been vindicated. Time will tell. The Bush position was carried by a public wave of war fever and a burning desire to avenge the 9/11. Because the Senate lacked oppositional leadership, the Bush position was accommodated by a weakling Congress. Bill Clinton and Hillary, the “presumptive nominee,” were the leaders of the opposition party. They showed the character of Vichy France in appeased President Bush, vigorously supporting his position when polls supported the war, then vigorously opposing it when polls showed that people had soured on the war. Obama was consistent in his position. Bill and Hillary were not brave when they needed to be brave. Why would Obama consider them now?

Senator Clinton’s claim to be knowledgeable on foreign affairs because of a visit to Bosnia with Sinbad, the actor, as First Lady became a laughing stock of her campaign and helped turn the Democratic primary against her. She lied about her experience. Why would anyone want Hillary now as Secretary of State?

Senator Clinton had a negative ceiling of over 50% all through her campaign. Among those between 18 to 28 years old her popularity hovered around zero and never when up past 11% in the campaign. She alienates half of the country. (“Toxic. . .” is the phrase Mudcat Saunders used.) Why would Obama choose her for Secretary of State?

Hillary’s career and Bill’s have been possibly the most corrupt in American history. Hillary’s husband has accepted a virtual bribe of one million dollars from a lobbyist for a foreign country now associated with “Scooter” Libby, one of the instigators of the war in Iraq, later convicted of obstruction and perjury. Clinton pardoned him and got him out of jail on his last day in office. Their presence in the White House poisoned the country and actually awakened two secessionist movements, The League of the South and The New England Confederation for the first time since the 1860s. Why would Obama want them back in the Oval Office today?

Is Obama incompetent? It has been noticed that so many mentioned for Obama’s administration got there simply because they went to college with Bill Clinton. It is beginning to look like the Hillary administration without the Hillary. With Hillary in place in an Obama administration sagging under the weight of Friends of Bill, the country will enter stasis; stuck in arrested development and trapped in the Clinton cult of personality. This could have devastating consequences.

Secretary of State is a tool of diplomacy not an honorarium.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Economy in the ‘tweens

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/16/08

I happened to pass William Kristol, founder and editor of The Weekly Standard, on C Span over the weekend on way to a football game on a different station. He was commiserating with fellow conservative pundits at the Republican Governors Convention and said something which should be watched is the demographic of young people between 18 and 28 who tended to vote Democratic in this election. He said he has three kids in that range. I do as well. It came to mind Sunday morning reading Tom Friedman’s column in The New York Times. Our fiscal and political condition Friedman points out feels like a mess with no one in charge. He offers a solution which might be considered a manifesto: “Go shopping.”

“Now is when we need a president who has the skill, the vision and the courage to cut through this cacophony, pull us together as one nation and inspire and enable us to do the one thing we can and must do right now: Go shopping.”

Kristol suggested that his kids and mine could well change their political direction between 2008 and 2012. But there is a bigger problem here because if Friedman’s analysis is correct, the fate of our nation and perhaps the world is not linked to how this demographic group will vote in 2010 and 2012 but how it will shop between now and then.

They will not be buying washing machines or refrigerators. They will not be buying lawn mowers. They will not be buying houses and have no interest whatsoever in cars. They might like a new cell phone if they happen to drop the one they have in a lake. They need Ipods, possibly a Blackberry if they get a job. One of my kids paid several hundred dollars for a great bike – more than I paid for my truck. Another needs cash occasionally for shared gas costs to get to climbing ranges in Arizona or someplace. And they need laptops. Laptops are magic mirrors to kids; icons and talismans of a generation like cars were to the Fifties generation. Maybe the kids today will be calling for government bailouts of Mac and PC in 60 years. I have no idea where they get their clothes; find them or borrow them perhaps. They don’t care how they dress.

If we are waiting for these kids to jump start the economy it could take awhile. They have college bills to pay and graduate school and entry level jobs which don’t pay well. The best among them care about the work they will do rather than the pay and go to work at places like Teach for America.

To understand this situation economists might go back to the original texts; not Keynes or Adam Smith, but J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. These young people, like the hobbits in the glade, are still in the ‘tweens; the age between childhood and adulthood which in neither the one nor the other. The ‘tween, says Tolkien, lasts until age 32. That is when people – adults – start buying stuff. It is still awhile away for these young ‘uns.

Economist Harry Dent, who uses generational demographics in his projections, makes the point that the spending issue is generational and most of the people who make up the fourth post-war generation demographic are still in high school and college. They will not start big deal spending for another 10 years.

As a war baby, I can attest to the ‘tweens theory. In 1978, when I was 32 I owned practically nothing. I’d spend my ‘tweens in military service, college and graduate school and had only just started by first real life job. I’d never dreamed of buying a house and lived more than an hour’s subway ride from my job in Manhattan. Then around 1980 I got married, bought a house, and all the stuff that goes in and around it – beds, furniture, washing machines, lawn mowers, etc. – then a new station wagon when the first baby came, then a new bigger one with the second one and a bigger house. From then until now there have been four kids and all their stuff, six houses in sequence, each one bigger than the last, a whole bunch of cars and trucks and everything imaginable on weekend trips to Lowe’s.

Now I am 62 and all spent out. All we need now is a small patch of woods in a southeastern corner of the Smokies and a retired yellow school bus to live in which I think I can get for about $800.

A new generation will have to do the spending now but they are still in the ‘tweens.
But Friedman says we must spend now and he may be right: “Obama can’t wait until Jan. 20 to weigh in on this. If we don’t stimulate the global economy fast enough and big enough, some of Obama’s inaugural balls might be held in soup kitchens.”
And this complicates the problem. The generational economic cycles alternate light and dark; they rise in light and descend to darkness. This year the descent starts. 40 million people were born within the same few months shortly after World War II. They have likewise already bought all their stuff. This year, the 62nd post-war year, they begin to tap into Social Security. Another 40 million are right behind us.
We will need Medicare and Medicaid and we expect it as a birthright. Medicaid grew 9.5% annually over the past 10 years and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford says that's unsustainable. And if Congress opens the checkbook now for all these bailouts, there will be no reform.

“Already, our nation's unfunded liabilities total $52 trillion -- about $450,000 per household,” says Sanford. “There's something very strange about issuing debt to solve a problem caused by too much debt.”

It will invariably get stranger. I can reasonably expect to live another 25 years and so can most of the 40 million my exact age. And what we “spent in” to create the economy in the last 25 years we will tap out in the next.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary and The Nuge

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/14/08

I can’t believe Obama would be so stupid as to appoint Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State and I think he’s only sending this out through his probe droids to create the appearance of fairness. Also, because like so many people he is afraid of her. (That terrifying carnival laugh . . . .) But I hope he remembers that first law of politics, which is the first lesson of everything. That thing in Newtonian or Buddhist law or something which says a force creates its equal and opposite counter force.

According to this law, if Obama appoints Hillary, the Republicans will probably come back with Ted Nugent in 2012. Those of us who have had the great good luck to have lived in Michigan know well The Nuge. We have seen the bumper stickers telling us to teach our kids to hunt so they can eat. I’m kind of afraid of The Nuge because he swears a lot and because he makes “ . . . Fedzilla punks squirm and turn into a puddle of sweat and drool . . . .” I’m not sure what Fedzilla punks are and hope I’m not one. But he has a more pleasant smile than Hillary’s and in a toss up I’d probably go with him.

As reported in The New York Times, Uncle Ted speaks out this week in Human Events:

There are really only four things I have a strong aversion to: unloaded guns, dull knives, banjos, and Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) . . .

RINOs are Fedzilla punks who feign support for conservative principles only when it serves their political interest. RINOs are also known for their moderate positions such as supporting tax increases, federal "bailouts," "comprehensive immigration reform," advocating more counterproductive gun control that guarantee more innocent victims, opposing the death penalty, and growing and sustaining Fedzilla and all its toxic mongrels by going along with the liberals. RINOs have forgotten President Ronald Maximus Regan’s admonition that government is the problem, not the solution …

My specialty is making Fedzilla punks squirm and turn into a puddle of sweat and drool. Therefore, in the spirit of famous butt kickers Generals Chesty Puller and George Patton, I say we launch an attack on all fronts. Uncle Ted hereby declares it is open season on RINOs. No bag limits or permits required. Conservative ideas, arguments and votes are the weapons we will use.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Obama Moment: Kennedy, Roosevelt, Lincoln . . . or Carter and Ford? Bring in Tammy Duckworth

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/13/08

Here at The Hill, an interview with Dr. Herbert London of the Hudson Institute offered a succinct perspective of our transitional moment. Wall Street and the financial markets have been nationalized, he points out, but you would have to wonder: What happens to the automobile industry? What happens to the airlines industry? Where does it stop? How much does the government own?

Hard to tell right now. Will the Democrats with their mandate temper these visions by reaching out across the isle?

They don’t need to, London points out.

“There is no question that the Democrats have come to dominate. It’s their moment.”

It is that last; the “. . . their moment . . .” part that might be looked at.

Will Obama bring lasting change to the country? Or will the Obama Presidency be a brief power interlude; a moment or relief, possibly enrichment and perhaps entertainment between power surges?

There have been moments like this before and it has always been the Democrats providing the entertainment. Like at the end of the “century of total warfare” as French philosopher Raymond Aaron called it, when Eisenhower finally stabilized a world torn apart and tentatively turned the keys over to a charming Irish Catholic with little to no actual experience in management.

Then again at the end of the war in Vietnam when the country was violent and divided, as Henry Kissinger said, to the point of civil war. Then purging the demons at Watergate, we suddenly discovered Sam Irvin, an old North Carolina country lawyer, and his side kick Howard Baker, the Senator from Tennessee. We found with these two a corner of our collective heart or mind that we’d not fully awakened to before and it was a pleasant valley and a refreshing interlude. Irvin and Baker were country before it was cool, but soon it would be when a Sunday School teacher from Georgia and his folkloric brother Billy and their God-fearing mother took the White House.

But that was only a moment as well and after we recovered from Vietnam, with its terrifying images of burning college campuses, burning Buddhist monks and burning children, we quickly moved again back to the power path. Ronald Reagan brought in the next phase and turning East in a more productive way than with warfare, we rose to an abiding stride in the post-war power and economic cycle.

Politics is about power and the management of power but power has its moments of transitions or “betweens.”

The question is will Obama, with his charming wife and lovely daughters in the White House; with his light blue aura and deft touch and joyful smile - will he heal us for a year or two until we get back to speed again? Or will he bring something more lasting to us which we can’t yet see?

I don’t think Obama will go ahead and nationalized everything. His Chicago friends probably want him to and so do Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. But they are provincials still living in the last millennium. Obama is not. And the Clinton/Gore crowd – both politicians and press - are merely generational figures whose time has passed – they just haven’t figured it out yet. Obama is not so narrow, provincial and exclusively generational as any of his supporters and advisers are. Nor was Kennedy. Nor was Carter.

Obama is both smart and instinctive. Smarter than any Democrat I’ve seen in my lifetime, and possibly with an overview as good as Eisenhower’s. By which I mean his vision of the world is a personal one acquired through life experience and is more comprehensive, idiosyncratic and non-ideological than that of any of his advisors. This Presidency will not be the kind of pseudo-monarchy run by a hired agency like we have been seeing in recent years: Obama will not have to hire Dick Morris to run the world for him as Bill Clinton did, or as Bush did with Karl Rove or as Hillary would certainly have done with Mark Penn. He himself will be in control.

Certainly the weakest among Obama’s supporters see him as a messiah, but he does not see himself as The One. There are babies being named Barack today, but I had childhood friends named Ike. Also like Eisenhower, he understands that virtually all of his advisors are agents of their particular agenda. And a burden that Eisenhower didn’t carry; at least 30% of Obama’s supporters want revenge for something and see him as their vindicator. He doesn’t have that gene.

What makes Obama interesting – again like Eisenhower – is that he is not really personally beholden to any of these agenda. He even seems immune to them. These are afflictions which always tail any famous person – the horde always wants messiah to be as common as they are.

But this is where the river has brought Obama and no matter what he hopes to accomplish, his options may be limited by the particular history of his moment. ‘Twas ever thus.

The moments in between power surges are when we come back to ourselves. Then we start again. This could be the task that history has handed Obama.

Our day today strangely resembles the mid-to-late Seventies; a transitional power link which featured Jimmy Carter and Gerry Ford. It was all world’s-going-to-end back then, then it suddenly awakened. There were long gas lines. Then gas was almost free, like it is today. There was energy shortage, then they tapped into the North Slope. And again today federal scientists have concluded that Alaska’s North Slope holds one of the nations’ largest deposits of recoverable natural gas. There was widespread talk that the Republican party was dead, then it came back to life. Then there was talk that the Democratic Party was dead and for a long time it was.

President Carter’s good service was in making the liberal group an idea again and taking it out of the House of Kennedy. Obama could likewise take liberalism out of the House of Clinton.

The Republicans are not as dead as they say and there are some live ones on the horizon. The woman in the red dress has sent ruling class pundits and politicians alike into an apoplectic tailspin. The Eastern Establishment of both parties is quaking. But Bobby Jindal, who governs well in Louisiana, is in the wings. And Mitt Romney, whose investment company liberal politicians hire to run their affairs. And Arnold Schwarzenegger. Even Mike Huckabee, who is friends with Chuck Norris.

And just in case Obama does attempt to nationalize everything, Richard Viguerie, who made the Christian Coalition a formidable political entity, is working on a “Third Force” which could fit in well with Ron Paul’s outlook, and the fiscal collapse has brought Paul out from the perimeter. He regularly appears now on Fox and CNN and should not be underestimated.

We hear this morning that American soldiers are being ordered to abandon urban areas of Iraq taken with much blood, fire and treasure. The picture of helicopters lifting off the roofs of embassies at the fall of Saigon comes to mind, with people hanging and falling from their runners. It is conditioned reflex from a Gerry Ford moment. In his moment, Obama could face a fate like President Ford, who “ . . . got us out of Vietnam” when it was time to go.

That will be his trickiest task and it may be an unforgiving one. Because people don’t like to lose a war. They don’t like even the appearance of losing. And if terror returns to the regions we leave, our long efforts could appear to be futile. And military failure leaves a mythic scar and poisons the collective will, sending new generations to seek redemption or revenge, sometimes over centuries. It puts black flags up there in the town common with Old Glory.

President Ford was called a “healer.” And for his compassionate and humane work he is almost forgotten.

And this could be Obama’s fate as well if it doesn’t go right. It was wonderful to see him paying homage to the fallen on Veterans Day, hand-in-hand with Tammy Duckworth, the heroic army major who was blown almost to bits in a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq. This formidable and indomitable woman could help Obama with his unenviable but necessary task.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Note to Obama: Form a Council of Elders and ignore the dead and the undead

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/09/08

Buffalo Bill’s defunct . . . - E.E. Cummings

There can be no question now that we have come to the end of certain things that have made us what we are. As per November 4, there are no longer any Republicans in office here in New England. The substance and sensibility of what was once considered a Yankee no longer exists.

But here in the north we have long been a very old house with empty rooms, as Andrew Wyeth presented our place before the war. Our most honored poet hails from San Francisco. And we clearly saw it coming a few years back when the Old Man of the Mountain’s head fell off during Little League practice. Actually most Yanks left well over a hundred years ago.

And not just here. Even more fateful perhaps is the announcement that the Big 3 automakers may pull out of NASCAR sponsorship. Can’t afford it. My friends in Wilkes County, NC, saw that coming as well when the perfect master hit the wall in 2001. And then again when Toyota sponsored a car shortly after.

“We don’t really race,” Dale Earnhardt once said. “We just exist together on the track.”

This might be the most sublime requiem for Ford and the other two, who English Hindu Aldous Huxley considered the Creator Gods of American globalism.

I was delighted that Barack Obama had consulted “ . . . only with the living” when he talked to Presidents, as he said in his first press conference last week. At every turn the press is referring him to the dead, particularly Kennedy, Roosevelt and Lincoln.

He is entirely screwed if he listens to them. Bear in mind that this is the same chorus of the press, apparently on life contracts, that egged on the 75% of Americans who supported the invasion of Iraq, waving from the back of Humvees, saying “ . . . I think the Iraqis are greeting us,” when in fact they were throwing us the finger. The same group, expecting and often receiving rapid advancement for their efforts, that told us it would be a cake walk and be done in a week; the same group guaranteeing it would be a slam dunk.

Roosevelt had full experience in World War I and was well prepared when World War II broke out – it was like picking up the same phone in the middle of the night, he said. Comparing the moral and organizational squalor in Iraq and Afghanistan today to Dunkirk and Normandy is in itself a travesty.

Obama has no such experience as Roosevelt had in war. And Roosevelt had the experience of four years of broken economy when he went forth to the Presidency. Obama has a month.

The comparison with Lincoln is almost sacrilegious and all but guarantees Obama’s failure.

I admit to being one of the first to compare Obama with JFK, but back then I was way more concerned with who he was not than who he was. (He was not Hillary.) And then as now I have no idea who he is . . . nice narrative though . . . although checking my notes, my first impression was that the prose seemed a little owing to Richard Wright, who had a less interesting story to tell but was a more compelling teller.

My first interest came primarily because Obama was not the spouse of a former President in a party so calcified and cultish and bereft of imagination that it could find no other – and she so dour that she had to be sent to a therapist to learn how to laugh. And when she finally did it frightened the children.

Rule of thumb: In a time of change never take advise from someone who inspired them when they were little (practically everyone) or when they were in college 30 or 40 years ago (Clintons, Gore, most everyone Obama knows in Chicago).

Don’t look back. That is how Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy awakened the republic – by ignoring the voices of the past and the dead Presidents.

A suggestion: New times require new structure and new substance. And a new idea: Call forth from the African tradition of village and tribe the custom of a Council of Elders.

Late in life a Council of Elders was suggested by the great ambassador George Kennan, one of the most original thinkers since Franklin. Six men, six women. Obama picks his six, the Republicans pick their six.

Perhaps an even better idea, also suggested by Kennan, would be a similar council of a regional body of 12, one each from a different American place to temper the horde effect of mass market, fast food culture, government and people which has developed since television and is endemic perhaps to world capitalism. It has turned citizen to consumer in choosing cars, burgers, press, judges and politicians. This is a secondary legacy of Hamilton, Adams and the Yankees who used to live in New England when the rooms of the house were full, but quite likely it is an unintended consequence.

The usual groups intended to give wise counsel – the Supremes, the Congress – have become partisan and calcified. Obama’s first appointments suggest his cabinet will be as well. The “post partisan” quality to it suggested so far is window dressing . . . Chuck Hagel, Colin Powell. These people are de facto Democrats same as Joe Lieberman is a de facto Republican. They are outlanders; dissidents disliked by their own party.

The purpose of bi-partisanship is not to feel good about ourselves. It is to draw the best managerial abilities and insights and visions from the full spectrum into harmonious opposition.

An appropriate chair or head of a study group for such a proposal might be someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, who belongs to a party of one, as a recent book about him is called. Unlike Hagel and Powell, he is in fact liked and desired by both parties. Actually, a party of two, because his bro, Mike Bloomberg, mayor of New York, is as well. These two are actually post-partisan. They are also most immune to the spirits of the dead – and the voices of the undead in press and Congress today who constantly channel them.

This approach of Kennan’s is in opposition to what is called Best Practices in business and academic circles. Best Practices calls on successful people in different disciplines to hear their opinions and strategies, to be emulated by others not so clever. Obama cites “best practices” in his correspondence, for example, in his letter on Fannie and Freddie to consider remedies. But Best Practices, as a managerial technique, are only helpful as the arc rises to the top of continuing positive trends. At a sea change, a great crisis or a time of breakage like the one at Fannie and Freddie, the same procedures and strategies insure failure.

Send the car guys back to Detroit; a federally inspired car industry will only bring forth an American Hugo. Send the Sixties types back to the college cafeteria – as Obama suggested in his autobiography. And send the New Dealers back to the land of the dead; federalizing a service economy in a fully developed federation like ours will destroy it.

The lesson today from New Hampshire and Wilkesboro should be that when the creator spirits leave, let them go.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama’s Accidental Empire

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill at 11/06/08

To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world...a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. – from Obama’s acceptance speech

Today, you can bask in the realization that there are billions of people around the planet who loathed our country last week but are now in awe of its capacity to rise above historic fears. – Gail Collins, The New York Times

Obama’s victory on Tuesday was widely hailed around the planet. Headlines read, “ . . . the first world President.” Actually Bill Clinton, who thought he was the first black President, thought he was the first world president as well. He wasn’t. Woodrow Wilson was the first; Roosevelt was one as well and so was Eisenhower. But the civilized world was a dead thing in shards back then with only America alive, tall and breathing.

Not anymore. Today the planet is a fully living and breathing economic organism. I checked the Chinese news we get on one of the high numbered stations. From what I could see, not everyone outside our borders sees Obama as their President. Much of Africa does, but in China the man and woman on the street seemed relatively indifferent. Nor does Russia seem to believe itself to be a peripheral province in Obama’s Planetary America, although much of Europe, especially France, does.

Andre Malraux who was Minister of Culture under Charles DeGaulle once said that America was the only country to become first in the world by circumstances. It was as if by accident. Nevertheless, here we are an empire as large and obtrusive in the world as Rome’s. And there can be no doubt, reading the journals of Adams and Hamilton that Rome was exactly what they had in mind from the beginning.

Rome was the model drawn of America in elementary schools after Adams and it is still drawn in the schools for my children today. It is a good comparison. When historians William Strauss and Neil Howe created their model of alternating cycles of history which has had large influence in recent days, they used the model of the Roman Empire and compared it to the rise of England and by extension, America. Empires like Rome’s last up to a millennium, they pointed out, and the contours of the English/American model will as well. If the comparison is accurate, we are today in the 700-year range of a millennial ride; just over the hill and beginning to wiggle.

The Strauss/Howe picture is a convincing model. At its essence is the prospect that cultures break around the 60th post-war year, at the end of the third post-war generation, which is right about now. The model has been adopted by economists and sociologists since. Economist Harry Dent uses a similar model with some accuracy. Recently, he has written that the fiscal crisis we face is the product of post-war generational demographics. It will take awhile to recover, he says, because the fourth generation, which brings recovery and starts the world over again, is yet still in college and high school.

But some of the sociologists I feel are manipulating the data to fit their own desires and initiatives. Obama represents a generational rise as Reagan did and the fourth generation will rise with Obama they say. Maybe. But the Reagan movement rose on geographical dynamics as well as well as generational demographics; that is, it brought the South, the Midwest and the West – Red America - into the electoral process as it had not been included before. And I think they are counting the tail end of the third generation as part of the fourth.

The fourth generation is formed like all fourth generations, by world-shattering crises. These crises have not yet arrived. The fiscal meltdown of October could be a fluke or a response to the election or only the beginning of something which we cannot see. It was not big enough to constitute world-shattering.

Several years ago Gar Alperovitz wrote a thoughtful essay in The New York Times comparing the American empire which Obama has just been handed to the Roman Empire.

Something is happening here, he said. “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale.”

What is succinct and visionary about Alperovitz’s essay is that it noted that – as Adams and Hamilton learned in elementary school – Rome broke in half and succumbed after it divided in half. As we have seen, there were two capitals and the empire divided between Rome and Constantinople. It got too large and had to divide. Alperovitz saw America dividing as well into Empire East and West, polarizing between Schwarzenegger’s California and Bloomberg’s New York. This division could suggest the same decline as it did in Rome.

“If the scale of a country renders it unmanageable, there are two possible responses. One is a breakup of the nation; the other is a radical decentralization of power.”

The endemic curse of the sensibility of empire is such that the larger it gets – and as Collins claims above, Obama’s accidental empire is into the billions – the narrower the spectrum of light and the duller the life force and imagination of the person. No one seems to have noticed, but this is what the Star Wars movies are about; the awakening consciousness of the intimate republic’s holistic citizen in opposition to the generic, passive and submissive denizen of the vast empire, who yields to – who seeks – the authoritarian control of an emperor. At one point the empire reaches a tipping point; it grows so thin that it can be tumbled overnight by a feather (or a Christ).

But something should be added. An empire like Rome’s or Obama’s today can also succumb to the internal growth of a third force.

I am not by any stretch a Roman historian. In fact, all I recall from mandatory Latin in Catholic school is this phrase: “Gaul is divided into three parts . . . .” The Belgae as I recall, were the bravest of the three. But if I have this right, it was they, the brave Belgae, who survived and awakened when the Roman Empire fell.

There is a third part to the Roman model: France; and not the France of the caustic waiter or the chain-smoking nihilist poet at Les Deux Magot who longs to submit to the new American master, but the France with the heads of its enemies dangling from its saddle horn eons back. France awakened in the heart of Europe like a cosmic egg hatched between Rome and Constantinople as the empire succumbed. Born on the Ile de la Cite with Clovis in the 400rds thereabouts, it lasted a millennium.

If you look today at an electoral map at the end of the campaign you might draw similar conclusions. The American empire today is divided into three parts: Blue East (NY - Bloomberg), Blue West (Schwarzenegger’s California) and Red in the center.

There is a lot of red. The binary blues are in complete denial of the existence and vitality of Red America, with its big top Assembly of God churches, its barbecue and Moon Pies, its Creationist leanings, its Cabela tree-bark clothing, Big Trucks, Walmarts, Glock 9s, doublewides and Carhardt digs. But it is there everywhere, and since the 1960s, it has risen organically in opposition to Blue America as an equal and opposite counterforce.

Sarah Palin, the woman in the red dress, has just this election cycled awakened in Red America an idea of itself which has never before been clearly articulated in a presidential election. It is an idea the aftermath of which will linger in the heartland because she was and is one of them. And if you have ever attended a NASCAR race in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, or ridden a snow machine in Alaska a hundred miles an hour, you might draw the same conclusions that Caesar did: like the Belgae, the Red in the middle are the bravest of the three.

And Red it is not going away. It is the heart and heartland of America, while Africa and France are only distant perimeters at the end of the empire.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

John Lennon and the Egg Man - this is the work I do on Quigley in Exile and in the manuscript The Age of Thomas which relates to both The Gospel of Thomas and Thomas Anderson, Neo in The Matrix; primarily art analysis which was my first occupation and not characteristic of this journal which primarily lists my essays at The Hill - political writing has always been secondary to my life and I only got back into it recently in opposition to the war on Iraq. I hate politics but am endlessly grateful for The Hill for including my thoughts and perspectives.

But for the few who might be interested, this is part of an analysis I've been working on for 15 years on the life passage of John Lennon as an artist and generational hero which might actually be called in Mircea Iliade's characterization of things a shaman; not as a social figure or a political figure, although his essential artistic work bleeds into the culture with long-term effect as an awakening myth does. My thoughts on this are generally recorded at Unus Mundus, an on-line forum hosted by Remo Roth, a Swiss Jungian depth psychologist and colleague of Marie Louis von Franz.

"Eggman" enigma solved at the DMV

Whenever I have to go the the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) I enter a state of trance of some kind or detachment. Questions come up that seem unanswerable and processes unsolvable, creating a koan situation and sending the mind in exile to more pleasant pastures. I was there today with one of my sons to take the test for his drivers license and while we were waiting in line I solved an enigma that I have been thinking about for about 13 years - it just popped in my head when I was looking at a kid who looked like Kurt Cobain. The answer is incredibly simple. I'd been thinking about John Lennon's tune "I am the Eggman" and I had put together that as the song begins with the phrase "I am He" - and continues with "I am the Eggman, I am the Walrus," I understood it to be a reference to the Upanishads and other Eastern texts, which use the phrase "I am he" followed by "I am the Atman. I am the Brahmin." It refers to the individual consciousness as an individual coming to the realization that she or he shares consciousness with others and everyone and everything. So I felt John was cloaking this in comic imagery from Lewis Carroll (Walrus was in Through the Looking Glass if I recall correctly.).

I'd also written a lot about links between Lennon and Salvador Dali and Magritte; Lennon can be seen as fulfilling "prophecy" of Magritte and Dali - I proposed that Dali and Lennon went into the same "room" in the Unconsious and some how connected there through the talisman of the white grand piano. But waiting in line I realized that when Lennon said "I am the Eggman" he was likely refering to a painting of Dali's about the New Man being observed by "Geopolitical Child" - virtually the global man - the Aquarian - climbing out of an egg and waking in the new world. Lennon was an art student and would quite likely be familiar with the work. He encountered Dali after The Beatles and Dali was hot to do some projects with him but Lennon demured. This is an important painting by Dali and lived and grew in the Unconscious for decades before it went to canvas.

Here are some illustrations.

The white grand piano became the icon of Lennon; it is where he composed his anthem, "Imagine."

Dali painted Grand Pianos for decades, pulling images from the Unconscious. A musical instrument like a piano or violin is often conduit to the Unconscious - the images of the dead in Dali's work or anyone's can be understood in Jung terms to be the Unconscious:

This one - Partial Hallucination - 1931 has a door open to the Conscious; most dreamers dream of a door opening to the Unconscious; Dali goes the other way - the Six Sculls are present; a common motif in art, dreams lit (See Lone Ranger - Six dead lawmen - one rises form the dead, the Unconscious; see Black Elk's vision - the six represent the yang half of human consciousnes as for example represented in the zodiac; six male signs, six female).

This one very elegant; the tree of life, and the curing waters of Aquarius coming from the Unconscious. Titled, "Necrophilic Fountain" - Dali and his Surrealist group gave strange names to freak out the conventional religionists and the uninitited.

"Invisible Man" in 1932 - a white grand piano made out of food - again, the artist lives in the "room" of the Unconscious with only a window to the Conscious world:

There are more; there are many. Magritte, in 1964, did this, "Son of Man" - from Book of Daniel, signifying the Aquarian would be marked by a green apple - the sign of The Beatles Apple Corp.

But this is far more significant; a long series over the years that starts with a Knight from the Unconscious. People - artists, or anyone with an access to the Unconscious - often dream of a Knight who carries something from the Unconscious and it begins with images as in this one; "land of the dead" in dreams always refers to the Unconscious. This series progresses with Knight and Tower - sacred earth phallus - an agent from ancient and perhaps inherited consciousness (see Edward Edinger):

Another in this series as the Knight and Tower (1932) develop features - light coming into the light of day - into Consciousness:

The series ends in 1943 with this painting, Poetry in America. The Tower has full come into Consciousness - It has a clock where the "eye" of the sacred phallus tower would have been; the map hanging from it is the leftover of a egg which has hatched from a picture of significance called Geopolitical Child; a picture of a man - New Geopolitical Man - climbing out of an egg.

This is Poetry in America:

Notice in this picture the Knight from the early picture is now a naked man sitting forelorn in the left of frame. His task is completed; he has brought his event from the Unconscious and has lost his cosmic nature and is now only a man. But it does indicate that all these pictures are connected.

And this is what they are connected to: paintings of a egg about to awaken with new life in the world. Here are two of Dali's world/egg pictures, the second, the important Geopolitical New Man - Eggman.

This is Baby Map of the World:

And this is Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man.

This is the Eggman. This is what Lennon referred to when he said, "I am the Eggman" - I am Geopolitical New Man; I am the new man of the world come to take away the old - "Imagine there's no heaven . . . no country . . . no religion too"; I am Shiva the Destroyer; I am Brahma, come to introvert and awaken the matrix.

If you go back to look at Poetry of America, the one with the dancers, you can see the content of the Egg. Notice both pictures have a cloth beneath them and something is pouring onto it. It is oil and Coke in Poetry in America. It is blood in Geopoliticus Child. This identifies the pictures as a connected sequence. In Poetry in America we can see that the dancer on the right has a candle in his head - he is "the Enlightened One" - we can see that New Man is intended to be the Enlightened One. Notice as well that the Enlightened One - dancer on the right - has a hole in his right chest - it is the wound where the Christ was hit with the spear; New Man is the "second Christ" the Aquarian - it is Eggman.

Late in life, in pain, Lennon say, "I was the Walrus (Brahma) but now I'm John."

Tibetan Buddhists say after Enlightenment, life is a broken glass. He never smiled again for the cameras after India.

For more on this stuff see Quigley in Exile and The Age of Thomas linked above.

For more on Lennon's journey see: Free as a Bird: John Lennon's Unfinished Journey.
American Metamorphosis

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/05/08

It is reported that George W. Bush plans to become a Catholic when he leaves the White House like his brother Jeb. He can thank Jack Kennedy for opening the gates for him. When Jack Kennedy was running for President Catholic was one of the things you were not supposed to be if you wanted to be President; Jewish was another, black was another, woman was another. As FDR said to Jack’s father Joe, “This is a Protestant country and you Catholics and Jews better get used to it.”

Jack Kennedy was married in my high school parish in Newport, RI. Prior to his election we in his neighborhood thought of ourselves as Irish and Americans. Afterwards we thought of ourselves as Americans. It changed everything for us. Prior to Kennedy we were all Catholic. Two generations later I have nieces and nephews who are Buddhist and Evangelical.

This is the participation mystique; perhaps it is the essence of the American condition. What is the point of being an American if you can’t become a Buddhist monk or join a biker gang? Or take up serpents in the service of the Lord in eastern Kentucky if you damn well please. None of these things you would be allowed in Ireland and if they are today, it is only in imitation of the American condition; the conduit of life and love in the land of the free.

And wasn’t only us Irish in New England who were set free, it was everyone, including the Bushes.

If Barack Obama doesn’t change the world he will at least change America. He will be a gatekeeper. Southern, if you were white, was something else you couldn’t be if you wanted to be President. But after Jimmy Carter no one cared. Carter was gateway to Clinton – it wasn’t given a thought that he and Al Gore were Southern whites. No one cared that Reagan was Irish after Kennedy. No one will care that Jeb Bush is Catholic. And no one will care that Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, is Catholic and from the sub continent of India a short sail from Obama’s ancestral home.

Today, the American metamorphosis is fully inclusive.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tom Clancy’s End of the World: Four Scenarios for November 5

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 11/3/08

I have no objection to computer play; the warrior monks at Shaolin Temple who are committed to passive defense are said to hone their skills by playing Street Fighter II. And I read somewhere that surgeons who play on computers have a 15% higher rate of success than those who don’t. But it is worth questioning an author’s veracity when he promotes a computer extravaganza called End War, featuring the vivid destruction of Rome, Moscow and Paris during the Sunday afternoon football game. The ad for this end-of-the-world scenario brought forth by novelist Tom Clancy closes with the voice of the Dark One telling us, “The end begins on November 5.” Which is, of course, the most widely anticipated first day in office of the first black president, Barack Obama.

Supposing the world doesn’t end. Here are four other possible scenarios for November 5.

Scenario One: Obama has won the presidency. But his support proves to be sensory and idolatrous and when he brings in a slate of Clinton-era hacks and party has beens – Joe Biden sets the paradigm, and John Kerry says he has “an understanding” with Obama, understood say reports to be Secretary of State . . . Rahm Emanuel and Clinton staffer John Podesta also keep popping up – elation quickly deflates. To paraphrase the Divine Miss M: When it’s 3 am in Los Angeles it’s still 1972 in the Democratic Party. Economy sours and the country destabilizes. A yearning for stability and action brings in Jeb Bush with Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal as VP in 2012. A new economic era opens after the Panama Canal is expanded and President Jindal brings to the Gulf ports in Mississippi and Louisiana the same explosive energy and excitement that was New York City in 1840, this time coming across the Pacific.

Scenario Two: McCain has won the presidency. Turmoil in the eastern cities, sending the pundits to such chaos in the head that they reach for the Nostradamus quatrains to seek understanding: “ . . . the soldier, always second . . .” says the oracle. (That would be the Palin/McCain Administration.) “The hordes flee north . . .” It is the woman in the red dress that is freaking them out. It is the woman in the red dress that all eyes are on.

Seems unlikely, but in hindsight, the tip off came when calls came in to Congressional offices 10 to one in opposition to the Wall Street bailout. The heartland was in the mood for an uprising, triggered by red dress. Polls all say Obama but there is this from New York Times columnist David Brooks: “ . . . government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.” Press too and pollsters – Brooks is talking about the financial meltdown but he could just as easily be talking about the current election.

McCain was ahead on Friday according to Zogby. Most are ignoring the IBD (Investor’s Business Daily) poll which had Obama at 46 yesterday and McCain at 44 with 8.7 not sure. That is because the fast-food surveys are using an expanded model which tells them that so many young voters like Obama, and that model is appealing to marketeers. You can tell who they like because of computer use and internet traffic. Computer users are presumably younger than John McCain and more liberal. However, Hitwise, which measures internet traffic, shows more people are hitting the conservative Drudge Report this week than are hitting the liberal Huffington Post, suggesting that conservatives have learned to use computers as well and not just to play Street Fighter II.

A Palin/McCain Presidency could bring a new day and very possibly the rise of a Jeffersonian movement first considered in our times by Barry Goldwater and echoed recently by the Federalist Society and even Ron Paul. This would shake the foundations of our democracy. Most eloquently put by the late historian Frank Owsley, there are two approaches to American government: corporation-based government and family-based government; the first is Hamilton, the second is Jefferson. The two main parties today are both corporation-based. Sarah Palin suggests a breach and a possible a new direction; a family based party.

Scenario Three: Same as Scenario One, but substitute Sarah Palin for Bobby Jindal as VP in 2012. As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson succinctly put it recently, “I predict we'll have Sarah Palin to kick around for a long, long time.” Red Dress will shake the world. That’s what is freaking out the penguins.

Scenario Four: Barack Obama saves the world.