Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Others

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/01/09

The Sotomayor issue defaults not so much to law as to literature. It is not about Race but The Others. That she would identify herself as Latina, woman, New York Puerto Rican – the pundits recall poet Miguel PiƱero’s phrase Nuyorican - while she would see The Others – Rick Perry, John Lennon, Tolstoy, Charles Aznavour, the Pope, TinTin, William Butler Yeats, Dick Morris, St. Francis, Picasso, Richard Petty, Stanley Dunham, Jimmy Swaggart, Old McDonald and Dr. Porsche – as a soulless and generic bunch of white guys all packaged in the same crate, shows a mind with the subtle and nuanced sensibilities of a granite field marker.

On face value, one would question so narrow a perspective as The Others are always seen on the dark side, and empathy is all but impossible to its denizens as they live among the beasts. But it is of course only the same undergraduate cant repeated and bonded to generation over generation now by those generally with no experience other than school. Obama described them in his autobiography as leftovers from the Sixties, still stuck in the coffee shop at college, still smoldering.

No doubt she will get the job but this selection will diminish and it has diminished Obama. And that is why the Republicans will let it go. It is good for them as it improves their prospects ahead. But it is also good for Bill Clinton as well, because it is very good for Clinton when Obama, a far superior man and politician, looks narrow and provincial.

Dick Morris proposes this week in The Hill that Obama has masterfully sequestered the Clintons, sending Bill off to Haiti and effectively muzzling Hillary.

“Bill can’t even make money,” writes Morris. “Denied the ability to accept speeches from foreign governments or their organs and fenced out of continuing his profitable relationship with the Emir of Dubai, he and his wife must accept the loss of the $13 million they spend on her campaign and sit by passively, unable to earn the money to replace it.”

Hillary will subject herself to this discipline, says Morris, so long as Obama is popular. But should his ratings fade, she might move away from the president and could even consider a primary contest against him in 2012.

I think she will because his ratings will yield in a dollar crisis and inflated money later on and because the Clintons are without character. And because the people who live in New York City proper can think of little else besides Bill Clinton. He is to them what Conan was to the Barbarians, what Tristan was to Isolde, what honey was to Winnie the Pooh, what The Rapture is to Christian Fundamentalists.

There is an astonishing puff piece about Bill Clinton as a cover story at The New York Times Magazine this week (“Bill Clinton loves to shop.”) which brings to the fore the first steps in the 2012 election.

As a public figure, Obama should belong to the first ranks with people like FDIC Chairman Shiela Bair and Utah Governor and China ambassador appointee Jon Huntsman, Jr. But for someone so original in mind, so naturally urbane and sophisticated, this vision of himself as the New Roosevelt (or the New Kennedy or the New Lincoln) defeats him. It seems a mask; a persona designed for him by the marketing agents in alumni hall who answer to the company trustees. It is out of sync with his prodigious natural gifts. The Roosevelt persona is a mask that doesn’t fit and it is misguided in so many ways but mainly because America is a vastly different country now than it was in the 1930s.

The people went to Roosevelt for a second term because they had no place else to turn. A nation of factory workers and field hands cast their fate at his feet. Today we are a different people – and possibly different peoples. There are other options. There are greater potentials and possibilities. The Clintons are fully without grace and will lose in a landslide, but Bill has that Elvis karma; he will be an embarrassment to the country till his last days and like Elvis in the god suit in Las Vegas, it will get worse as he gets older.

The Democratic Party is a victim of memory. It has a crippling inability to see fresh into the future. Cycles of power today have no bearing whatsoever on the 1930s as the Roosevelt nostalgicos have it. If our time resembles any it is the mid 1970s, the decadent post-Vietnam period when the country was awash in drugs and narcissism. Unless Obama changes course he, like Jimmy Carter, is likely to be seen in history as an entertaining ethnic interim between major power intervals. Auto bailouts then, bailouts today times three; Carter then followed by Ronald Reagan and Saturday Night Live, where Hillary appeared to glow this past week, yielding to a very long run of Dallas.

Rick Perry, take note. Sarah Palin as well.

A primary change in America took place in the 1970s and it is the most important and most historic turning since the war. The Democrats are in full denial. The Republicans in half denial. In the 1970s, the South and the heartland rose as a dynamic political and economic entity for the first time since 1865. Most Republican pundits today live in Washington, D.C. and support the conventional political religion and the status quo, but conservatism now has two wings; the traditional Peggy Noonan/George H.W. Bush gentleman – now Catholic - politics of the Eastern Establishment, and the Ted Nugent tax rebels rising in the heartland.

This will affect our immediate future again as it did in 1980. It is a new political force rising in America and it has come about for one reason: Northeastern Liberalism believes it can “whistle past Dixie” and the heartland and simply dictate policy to these states as if it they were under a military occupation. It cannot, and the more it tries, the more the heartland will turn to Uncle Ted. Uncle Ted is a measure of heartland discontent, which is now growing prodigiously.

Obama’s heartland roots are deeper than anyone’s since Eisenhower. It is almost uncanny how his Kansas grandfather comes shining through each time he breaks into that sensational smile. But it is not part of the persona; that party mask which blocks out and stunts his deeper talents. He is clever enough to accommodate this new direction but most of his advisors are not, as they look to the past and when they see past Interstate 87 at all, they see only The Others.
Bailing Out Japan

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/01/09

Early on Harvard historian Niall Ferguson expressed surprise that Obama’s agents had rediscovered Keynes when they poured trillions in to stimulate the economy. Problem was with this 1830s thinking that in the Great Depression world economy was a fixed event with few players. While today world economy is vast panorama of primarily two major players, China and the United States, with many secondary economies from Indonesia to the Czech Republic all participating at varying levels.

We are told by the administration that the economy is now turning the corner. But the Sunday New York Times has an elegant set of color coded illustrations indicating economic change in a mall between 2008 first quarter and 2009 first quarter: Saks down 28.7%, Starbucks down 7.6%, Nordstrom down 9.2, Dillard’s down 12%, Jack in the Box down 16.6%, down Abercrombie & Fitch 23.5%.

Unemployment in the U.S. surpassed 9 percent in May for the first time in more than 25 years but Bloomberg reports that Japan’s industrial output surged the most in 56 years in April as a rebound in exports helped the economy emerge from its worst recession since World War II. Stimulus spending by governments around the world totaling $2.2 trillion has helped to prop up demand from abroad, they report.

“The region’s fate remains made in America,” said Stephen Roach, chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia. “That is where hopes of an Asia-led rebound are most tenuous. After a dozen years of excess, the overextended American consumer is tapped out.”

The Obama administration is bailing Japan out of the recession. Is that the way it is supposed to work?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Justice Souter, the Last Yankee

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/28/09

Much has been made about the retirement of David Souter from the Supreme Court a few weeks back and a great deal more about the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor. He was considered odd by mainstream because he didn’t do lunch or watch TV; because he drove a reasonable car if he drove at all; because he lived in a modest shack up in the hills which would have suited Henry David Thoreau. Although The New York Times found him quaint.

Souter was not a Puerto Rican, not Jew, not black or Catholic, not a woman nor a member of any other group vying for recognition. These and so many other possibilities are today prerequisite for a seat on the high court. When will we have the Chinese or Indian Justice? How come no Native Americans? No Buddhists?

Souter was not identified by theme or tribe but by the place where he lived. The personality traits of Souter were not characteristics of a tribe or ethnicity which had found a political constituency, they were characteristics of a kind of character which grew out of the earth proper here in northern New England and proudly proclaimed itself. Souter was the last Yankee to serve on the Supreme Court or anywhere else in the government.

Of course, they were most all Yankees at one time. The difference is, although Yankee in today’s approximation is a generic white man, that Souter and all Yankees were what they were because of the rough and beautiful place they lived in and the spare personality characteristics which developed in coping with that harsh region. We were at that one time a nation of places; citizens of places which had their own distinct characteristics which formed us.

Today we are a nation of tribes or pseudo-tribes. We are no longer from places, we are from economic zones. We are no longer really citizens there but consumers of things and even ideas in a “marketplace of ideas.” We identify instead of place with intellectual themes (economic justice), blood (black), generation (Clinton), condition (gay), religion carried over from the old country (Catholic) and any number of other things.

That will hold us until we get though it, but in time that will not be enough. Because people without places are only partial as place enriches character as the New Hampshire mountains enriched Justice Souter.

There are still Yankees up here. Some of them are stunningly handsome and intelligent. You see them doing common work like building roads and landscaping and with their Jersey cows at country fair. When I grew up up here I was impressed that the Yankees either did big work; went to Yale and to Wall St. or common work; worked on the boats or in the fields. There was no middle.

Any number of commentators this week have referred to Sotomayor’s “journey.” We are all on a journey; life is a journey, but eventually we will get to where we are going and in the mythology of the journey it is a timeless and immortal place; the Great Valley, the Land Before Time. It is then when the journey ends that we become whole. It is then that we get the sense of place and begin to experience our fuller nature. On the journey itself we are willful, striving and survivalist with only the narrow view of the trail ahead.

It has to be said that very few Americans have a sense of place anymore. Some Texans still do. Most all Alaskans do. Their sudden presence in our midst causes toxic shock. (Do we have a Texan on the Supreme Court?).

It is inherent in the American condition since spaces opened in the west, that things change interminably. Tribes change and dissipate. The participation mystique will turn Catholic to Buddhist and Dearborn Muslim into a Red Wings fan every time within three generations.

Possibly only one group has become fully formed on their journey through our continent, found its place and remained intact and still grows stronger and stronger by the generation: Mormons. Mitt Romney take note. Jon Huntsman, Jr. as well. This may be the only group that the participation mystique did not gobble up.

Joseph Smith’s journey started in Vermont about ten miles from where I live. Mormons are Yankees who left home; they are the Yankee brother on the other side. Is there a Mormon on the Supreme Court? When there is maybe we will begin again, this time starting on the other side of the continent.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bailing Out Tiverton

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/23/09

What a surprise when I went on to this morning and saw a picture of a woman standing in the middle of the street I grew up on holding a sign that read "Slow," then turning it to say "Stop." For this she was being paid $18.60 an hour.

May 22 (Bloomberg) -- Paula Daigneau makes $18.60 an hour directing traffic for the repaving of Main Road in Tiverton, a town of 15,000 in eastern Rhode Island. She says that’s twice what she would have earned doing chores on a friend’s farm.

“The jobs were getting pretty limited,” said Daigneau, 51, a flagger who signals drivers with a sign she pivots from “Stop” to “Slow.”

Daigneau and 31 full-time co-workers are beneficiaries of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion spending program aimed at reviving the U.S. economy. To Michael D’Ambra, president of the construction company that landed the $2.4 million contract, the Main Road project shows the effort is succeeding.

“It appears that the stimulus is doing its job,” D’Ambra said. “It’s putting people to work.”

To critics, the Tiverton project, which is scheduled to end in September, illustrates the stimulus program’s weaknesses: They say it may be creating too few jobs, too slowly, for too short a time.

Once the stimulus money is spent, “that’s the end of it,” said Harry Staley, chairman of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition, a group that advocates responsible government spending. He said he’s concerned that the money is going to “projects that are not in fact critical” and won’t provide a long-lasting boost to the economy.

Tiverton is a bucolic New England ocean town settled by first families from the colonial days. Main Street was lined with towering elms which followed down to Nanaquarket and Little Compton like an isle in a Maedeval French cathedral. The ocean enters a gray maze of tributaries in green and coral blue in September in by The Gut, where Herb Cavaca hung low with several bullets in his back, when federal agents tracked him but did not catch him, and shot him a few times but did not kill him, bringing liquor in from Canada during the Great Depression. Herb still had the bullets in his back and walked all hunched over when he would come in to George Silva's little Stone Bridge Market in his Eighties. The elms all died at once in the early Sixties, just when Herb and his gang were dying out.

There was a lot of roadwork going in back then; always the voices of men in the distance building roads and bridges, but most of it heading out of town. I don't recall that they used people to turn signs back then. One of the workers would wave and you just drove around. There was no place to go anyway but Little Compton.

If you didn't have a car to join the regular work forces in Fall River or Provindence - they drive to Boston today - you might have found gainful employ at Brownells' historic rose gardens as my sister did, at the Standish Boat Yard or maybe the Stone Bridge Inn where I worked in high school.

This Bloomberg item is the second time Tiverton has hit the big time. In around 1967 when I was overseas, Life Magazine picked us up to tell a symbolic story of the resolute Yankee spirit rising up against Big Business at a Tiverton Town Meeting.

Some big corporation guys had come in and decided that we would be an easy pushover for big oil, and they intended to put an oil refinery in our little town.

They were stopped cold at a town meeting. Refining oil was not the Tiverton way.

The Life photo essay featured one of our formidable local lawyers, but what was striking and beautifully intuitive about the piece was that they picked a local fisherman who lived down the street off Evans Avenue on the riverside to illustrate the indominable Yankee spirit. He was a guy we called Joe the Animal because he scared the pants off us when we were little and took a joyful pleasure in doing so.

There was Joe in Life Magazine in long beard, wool shirt and suspenders, cigar clutched between his teeth, proudly straddling the bow of his flat-bottomed, 17-foot, quohog skiff.

The quohoggers were elite fishermen. They were a breed apart and Joe set the archetype. They were all Portugese men and some of them spoke little English. Joe spoke none. They all painted their skiffs gray and drove out into the morning standing in the bows of their boats with a long pole reaching back to the motors. The best ones had twin hundred-horse Mercs aligned on the back which could easily out run the Coast Guard.

They headed out to dig quohogs at about four or five in the chilly Atlantic mornings with their long tongs swaying off the back, and when we kids were going to the river in the morning they were all done with their day's work and heading home to sleep.

What I admired about them was that they couldn't swim. It was much like Tom Wolfe's description of the fighter pilots in The Right Stuff: It wasn't that they couldn't swim so much as they didn't believe in swimming. Swimming was for children like us. If they fell off the boat they would, of couse, drown, but that was the point: They didn't believe in falling off the boat and I never heard of any one of them that ever did. They keep a benign faith in the Divine Mother to keep them afloat.

Such a different day it was in Tiverton before the roads and bridge came and the elms died.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jon Huntsman, Jr., Good for Everybody

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/20/09

As The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard has adroitly pointed out, President Obama’s choice of Jon Huntsman, Jr., for Ambassador to China was a shrewd choice and one of stealth, taking the most competent and attractive Republican out of the running for President in 2012. But it is good for Mitt Romney as well. Huntsman and Romney running together in 2012 would have been way too many Mormons. Considering how one freaked out the conventional religionists in 2008 (Eek! A Mormon!), imagine what two would do.

But everybody gains from this. This is the first dead perfect choice for a post Obama has made since he took office. And in historical significance, it is more important today than any other diplomatic post including special envoys to the Middle East or Secretary of State.

The Middle East is ancient history. China and the East are the future. If we as a country cannot turn and face Asia we cannot face the future. It is too his credit that Obama, who does have the Trickster gift, has outsmarted the armies of lobbyists who keep us ball and chain tied to the past. The most difficult thing our country has to do in the next ten years, and we should have been doing it in the last ten years, is like the TV character Frasier, shift our psychological base from the bar in Boston where we looked longingly back across the Atlantic, to the coffee shop in Seattle, when we awaken again to the rising prosperity of the Asian future.

There was a brief and shining moment in the 1970s and 1980s when it looked like we could greet China unafraid as an equal. Winston Lord and his wife Bette Bao Lord, known as China hands, were regulars on shows like The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. But then we somehow turned back across the Atlantic. Huntsman has long experience in the East. According to his Wiki biography after college, Huntsman worked as a White House staff assistant in the Reagan Administration, was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore in the administration of President George H.W. Bush and a deputy United States trade representative in the George W. Bush Administration. He even did his LDS mission in Singapore. He speaks fluent Mandarin and with his wife Mary Kaye has adopted children from both China and India.

He has a boyish appeal and as Governor of Utah, where he was reelected with 77.7% of the vote, he brings a level of professionalism to government like we have not seen since George Marshall walked the floors of Foggy Bottom.

He may be taken out of the race for 2012 but any major Republican – Rick Perry who has recently made amends, Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal – would be wise to put him on the short list for VP. But not Romney (too many Mormons). As VP he would first advance sustainable management to new ideas and turn arounds in a country in dire need of stability and restructuring, and keep the keel in the water for the long haul as we head into the Pacific Century.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cat Scratch Fever: The Ted Nugent Conservatives

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/18/09

It is futile today to try to understand what is happening through the traditional framework of Democrat vs. Republican. So much has changed since the beginning; class status and wages since Roosevelt have somewhat equalized in a vast middle class; moral and ethical issues have become regionalized and new groups like Libertarians are gaining ground. East vs. West, Roosevelt vs. Barry Goldwater, heartland vs. big city are abstractions that better express where we might be heading.

It is however now possible to see instead a clear division of four distinct political families, one of which could well claim our destiny in the new century. The four are: Kennedy liberals, of which President Obama is the current champion, Clinton liberals, who send forth loyalists like Hillary and Terry McAuliffe, and on the other side of the spectrum are the traditional George H. W. Bush conservatives and a new group which might be called Ted Nugent conservatives.

The Nugies are the most interesting group right now as they are an awakening force in America. The state sovereignty movement, in which 31 states have presented initiatives, are Ted Nugent conservatives. The nation-wide anti-tax Tea Party goers of April 15 are Ted Nugent conservatives. The 30,000 who signed on for a massive national phone conversation on Thursday night with Rick Perry and Mark Sanford on the same topic are Ted Nugent conservatives. So are those who stood together with Perry and Nugent to oppose the incursion of federal government into the state’s domain at the Alamo on April 15.

As he expressed himself in Human Events recently, The Nuge’s perspective might be seen as simple and uplifting:

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. . . .

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.

This week Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and a personal friend of Uncle Ted, has taken leadership of this constituency. Hollywood handsome and with that earthy Texas touch of LBJ that gets him photographed playing with dogs, his appeal will be strong outside of New York, New Jersey and most of New England. Revolution begins as a rumor, then a feeling or sensibility; a half drunk crowd massacred by British soldiers in Boston, a ruckus at The Alamo. Hagiographers, propagandists will come later. What you really need to get things boiling is a wild man; a John Brown or a James Otis, an early champion of the American Revolution in Boston. Ted would fill the bill. There couldn’t be a better one to send the lace curtain at The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and up by The Dakotas into toxic apoplectic shock. He hunts with high-powered rifles. Probably penguins. He probably eats them. He called Hillary a bitch.

As Politico reports: It isn’t 1860 all over again, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry thinks more states will follow his lead in declaring ‘independence’ from the federal government if matters keep going in the direction they’re headed under Pres. Obama. Both Perry and Gov. Mark Sanford said the time is now for conservatives to stand up and be heard.

Right now Ted Nugent Conservatives would include Perry, Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, Libertarian Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. And Richard Viguerie, architect of vast Christian Coalition’s influence in the Reagan period will find a better house here than any he has shared. Palin has just received an 11 million dollar advance on a book. She is not going anywhere.

Mitt Romney, said to have been first choice of the Bush camp in 2008, with Eric Cantor, representative in Virginia and Jeb Bush are walking softly lately to gain influence in a party that is becoming increasingly Catholic. It is also a party which is losing influence. They carry the torch of the Eastern Republican tradition. That is not a bad thing, but as yesterday’s events at Notre Dame pointed out, the Catholics at Notre Dame will increasingly turn to the rebels now over the soft spoken. And the Alaskan Governor has recently preceded Obama in Indiana and was greeted with overflow crowds. This was a bold step. She first took the initiative on an issue in direct opposition to Obama. This issue and the others will need a new start; a new agenda; new people. Need fire not nice.

It is worth noting that a recent Gallup Poll shows that more Americans describe themselves as “pro-life.” For the first time since 1995, 51 percent of American adults said they consider themselves “pro-life.” 42 percent consider themselves “pro-choice.” The LA Times reports that this represents a significant shift from years past. As recently as last year, 50 percent of respondents called themselves “pro-choice” while 44 percent identified themselves as “pro-life.” Perhaps we are at a generational sea change on this most critical of moral issues.

To find perspective, it helps to look to the beginnings of things and follow the accomplishments and the desired goals over time. As C. Vann Woodward pointed out in his classic, The Burden of Southern History, the North considered three goals rising into the Civil War period: the prevention of Southern secession, freedom for the slaves and equality. Lincoln and Grant accomplished only the first and the second but equality was hard wrought until integration in the 1950s and 1960s brought an unprecedented change. The Kennedy movement and the Civil Rights initiatives in that period and the election of Barack Obama as the first black President may have accommodated the third. These fairly recent goals hark back to the 1860s to their beginnings.

The conclusions of social movements will be glorified and their agents deified as George Washington is shown rising up to heaven in an apotheosis portrait in the Capital today. The recent swell of hagiography about Lincoln likewise deifies the Great Emancipator. These are victory dances. “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”: Lincoln, White Racism and Civil War America by Paul D. Escott Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University, offers correction and perspective.

But vastly different and unrelated historical periods move in and overlap. Shifts in economy, movements in population and other events like wars abroad for entirely different purposes, change people and shift the paradigm. When economy and new populations came to the South after World War II a new moment arose with the election of Ronald Reagan it brought an awakening in the countryside. As historian Dan Carter pointed out, new values and sensibilities awakened and new political perspectives on church and culture contrasted dramatically with the northern tradition. The heartland – the vast panorama of Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard - a previously undiscovered hinterland in political imagination, was suddenly real and competitive.

They were birth pains. That moment has come again to the Alamo and I think now it will not go away.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How About a National Student Council on the Origins of War and Torture?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/15/09

The question today should not be whether torture “doesn’t work,” as several major essayists have said this past week, or whether it does as Charles Krauthammer claims today in The Washington Post. There is never an ethical or moral basis for that discussion. It is like asking under what situations would rape most effectively advance the opportunity for gaining good progeny? The question should now be: What have we become?

Critters like Krauthammer and Dick Cheney can only advance to the head of the society and territorialize and commandeer it when the society itself has yielded its moral center. There is no turning back from this condition. Obama is timid and indecisive. Hardly a day goes by when Max Boot or Robert Kagan does not praise his sterling advancement of the Bush Doctrine even into the Punjab. And the MoveOn crowd; that expedient leisure class which so abhorred the war in Iraq, has said little about Obama’s troop increase in Afghanistan now that it has its own man at the helm.

A new generation is needed. A new start is needed. During the crises in Rwanda and Bosnia, some creative students at Wake Forest University initiated A National Student Conference for War and Peace to get to their own solutions to these situations when the adults in charge in the Clinton administration were conspicuously at a loss. It was a good idea but the time was not ready. Perhaps it is now.

The rising generation needs to ask; needs to know, exactly how did we get into the war on Iraq? Where did it start philosophically? Who initiated the plans and to what purpose? How did the Land of the Free fall to disgrace by initiating strategies of torture and humiliation?

No Jon Stewart, no Steven Colbert. No greeting human tragedy with irony and satire. It equals appeasement and denial. No involvement with the Congress of Easter Peeps. They are accomplice to the creation and even now have wormed their way to the highest levels of Obama’s administration as it heads into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once again, students should trust only themselves.

But a good mentor here would be Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief who happens now to teach at William and Mary, Jefferson’s old school.

Finding a "smoking gun" linking Iraq and al Qaeda became the main purpose of the abusive interrogation program the Bush administration authorized in 2002, Wilkerson, a former State Department official, told CNN.

Wilkerson wrote that the interrogation program began in April and May of 2002, and then-Vice President Cheney's office kept close tabs on the questioning.

Colonel Wilkerson was brave when it was needed to be brave and has been brave ever since. He has been undaunted in his denunciation of the war on Iraq and its Constitutional abuses. It would be a brave place for a new generation to awaken.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lost: Season 5 finale – Ben Linus is Pisces

In final Lost of the season, Astral Locke enters the foot of the colossus Ammit to have Ben Linus kill Jacob. It is necessary for Jacob – the spirit of the passing age – to die so that the new age can awaken. The Lost series is a parable of descending age of Pisces and the rising age of Aquarius. Linus has in several ways been identified as the Piscean; in second season and fifth he receives the “Christ wound” – a wound in the right of the chest where the Christ was speared on the cross – Christ is the Piscean in lore of the zodiac (the Magi were Persian and Zoroastrian astrologers following the star to greet the opening of the age). Ben = “Son” in Hebrew. Linus is “Son of Apollo.”

In this episode on the way to the foot of Ammit Ben actually tells John Locke he is Pisces. The foot, where Jacob lives, is the body symbol of Pisces. Lower leg, which Locke is always breaking, signifies Aquarius. There will be 12 avatars in the full cycle of the Egyptian temple – Anubis is seen on the walls as well – in the 24,000 year cycle of the Sun. Jacob – a Hebrew name suggesting the first patriarchs out of Egypt – and his “leader” Ben/Son is the first. Astral Locke is the second; Locke, the name suggests the Enlightenment, is the Aquarian. He is Astral because he is really dead and his body is delivered to Richard Alpert (Ram Dass). Dual nature is key to all J.J. Abrams work. The Platonic Months – 2,000 year intervals – alternate yin and yang or Introvert and Extrovert. Pisces was a yin age. Aquarius is a yang age. Some say the alternating nature is Jesus/John, the Twins which accompany the change, seen in Lemuria as Sanat and Sanada.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama Burned in Effigy

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/13/09

Wall Street Journal
columnist James Taranto notes an Associated Press photo accompanying a New York Times story about Pakistan. It depicts a crowd of South Asian men burning an effigy of President Obama at a rally on Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan.

“The burning of Obama's effigy symbolizes to all Americans who may doubt it, that Obama is a war president,” writes Taranto.

To review how we got to this point:

In the beginning was Gulf War I which scared the country half to death. When it turned out to be a cakewalk aggression rose like a swell. The Clinton/Gore administration initiated moves to push NATO into Russia’s back yard while it was still weak and 90 Senators agreed. The lesson here was that aggression was okay so long as you had a few Czech poets who liked Frank Zappa in your support group. It was left to conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina who had recently befriended just before His Holiness the Dalai Lama to lead opposition.

The Clinton/Gore initiative was culled from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and folded into Robert Kagan’s and William Kristol’s new Project for a New American Century. Kagan and Kristol are what we found to replace the old fashioned State Department. All Presidents starting with Clinton do exactly what they say. The Kagan/Kristol plan was Phase 1 of an idea conceived to confirm our country and culture to be primarily Western, European and Christian and to establish this in a new global matrix, so we would not have to worry about those inscrutable Chinese gaining on us.

This was the matrix which Clintonism, which used to be called the Democratic Party, thought would be a good thing because Bill would be god king with Al Gore a kind of wus (William Shatner’s description) sideman talking about global warming as they advanced the sales of millions of Buicks into China.

Then the plan entered Phase 2 with the Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz invasion of Iraq in the wake of 9/11. President Obama, gilded by an astonishing horde of hagiographers and proselytizers brought Phase 3 when he advanced the same systematic aggression into Afghanistan and the Upper Dir in Pakistan.

Obama was early on touted as the new Jack Kennedy. Obama is as he says he wants to be; a cool President, although that is something which might work better with a Miles Davis. But he is Kagan’s wildest dream come true: A youthful, appealing, hipster version of Dick Cheney.

It was the innocence and naivety of the new Irish President that advanced us into an intractable situation in Vietnam in the early 1960s. The same tragic innocence drives us again into the Punjab.

Monday, May 11, 2009

“Lost” and the Millennial Task

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on May 11, 2006

Just when we leave town for a few days for #1 son’s college graduation in Tennessee, key events occur; not in the Punjab, Iraq or Washington, D.C. but closer to the mythical core of our American being – on the strange and timeless island of the J.J. Abrams long running TV show Lost.

This is important to us because like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, set in the background of a ancient European tribal and ethnic conflict with religious overtones that expands to every corner of the world, the Lost hero is given a task which much be successfully completed before the endless conflict and confusion can stop and the world can begin again. Frodo must kill the Golem in the Tolkien series. In Lost, John Locke. Man of the Enlightenment, must kill Jacob, the spirit voice of the island’s ancient temple, before the new millennium, identified in the mythology as the first Aquarian millennium, can awaken. In this week’s episode, Locke goes to kill Jacob.

This is the essential myth at the base of all human culture, writes Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Every new generation and every new historical movement must find the hero who will silence the ancient voices and cut down the father’s tree, as George Washington did, so its own tree can come to life.

Frodo’s tale and our own goes back centuries to Rabbi Loeb, the last of the great Western mystics, who tried to conjure a redeemer but found only a Golem. The light of the age had gone out and as William Butler Yeats expressed it in his great and famous poem of the Rough Beast slouching toward Bethlehem, Christendom’s center no longer held.

Until our good time when Frodo appeared to kill the Golem. The tree of life could grow again and the new king, Aragorn, proudly wore it on his chest as his emblem.

This is our quest and our necessity as well. The Lost temple sweeps through “timeless time” to bring the same challenge to every generation and here it has come to bring a new millennium. The old sources of myth must be broken lest the churches become prisons and the priests inquisitors; the old tree must die and the new one must grow again if the new generation is to find its way and enter its millennium.

“Things change because things change,” Howard H. Baker Jr., Republican senator emeritus from Tennessee and one of two figures who brought the change of Watergate, wrote this past week in The Washington Post, “not because of any ideological primacy or purity on a particular end of the political spectrum.”

‘Twas ever thus.

The new generation must find the tree and, as George Washington did, must cut it down. Otherwise, it will be locked – lost - in ancient contention; contention not even of its own making but one inherited, and one which runs back through millennia entrancing the mind of the king and imprisoning his spirit from Templar wars in the 12th century to those today in the Punjab.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The New Victorians: Obama’s Hundred Year War

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 5/4/09

I greatly admire Secretary Robert C. Gates and have been writing positively about him since he took command. But he has few options now in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The smoke and mirrors of the recent whirlwind global tour – accompanied by the expected voices of triumph, even those which brought us full tilt into Vietnam – cannot obscure what is turning now into Obama’s Hundred Year War. Once we set on the path, the path was set. Obama should have turned this around. He did not and now it is clear that he will not.

Obama doesn’t feel he has the option right now to just turn it around as President Gerald Ford did in Vietnam and Prime Minister Clement Atlee did in India. Obama is the first black President. There is a pressing national desire and wish to make his presidency a history written beforehand: a mainstream, conventional, distinguished and memorable political experience. History forgets – even despises - the vital, brave and important work people like Ford and Atlee did; leaders who took the responsibility to do the important work that needed to be done in their time.

This is such a time. This too should be Obama’s role. He should end the wars in the Middle East as George McGovern recommended last week in the LA Times. But I don’t see that he can and I am all but sure that he will not.

Obama appears to feel he has to accommodate the hopes and aspirations which have been projected onto him at least until 2012 and he knows his supporters who opposed the war in Iraq during the Bush years will follow with him now to war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But this is not leadership.

He runs the risk now of being reviewed by history as a mediocrity; the black leader book-cased between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney lauded by a fickle white press in a time of high anxiety and transition; a black trophy to Nantucket liberalism; an adored leisure-class appendage to what John Kenneth Galbraith called the Culture of Contentment. Right now he’s got it all plugged in; well cut in the suit, the handsome wife working in the garden with Alice Waters, oh so proud to have been the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review and even the glowing recipient of Ted Kennedy’s doggie.

But if true leadership doesn’t begin to come across, Obama could well end up being the kind of black leader Malcolm X held in contempt; the handsome, submissive and entertaining black best friend, a regular at the Georgetown parlors and salons, who appealed so because he posed no threat to the white liberal power establishment.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is today considered among the greatest Americans and greatest of world leaders not because he gave such great speeches, although those speeches were heartfelt. King was great and remains great because he faced the moment and the times with fearless and cutting acuity. He did the work that needed to be done when it needed to be done. Like all great men he didn’t care what people thought of him in his life. All of the liberal press hovered breathlessly as they do with Obama. But they turned on him when he stepped up to oppose the war in Vietnam.

It was out of character. It was not what they expected of him and it was not why they had allowed him into their parlors. White liberalism wanted him to be only concerned with Southern segregation which was on the way out anyway. It expected him to know his place and it does with Obama as well. King had been groomed by the liberal press and nurtured by the Kennedy family as Obama has been. He opposed the war in Vietnam on his own initiative and was denounced by the press, including the liberal press, as a communist and an American traitor.

That is what made King a true leader and not a figurehead of the glowing pretensions and easy ambitions of white liberals. When he opposed the war in Vietnam, a tepid liberal, middle class followed. It was one of the most vital and important turning points in the crisis and subsequently in American history.

There is no such leader to bring a turning here today, only us eccentrics here in the mountains and George McGovern.

Clearly now the Obama Democrats are a touchy-feely, styish aspect of the same political ideas that the Republicans put on the ground in foreign policy. They are one face of a two-party political arrangement. Mitt Romney, who conducted a recent “listening tour” with Eric Cantor, Republican Whip for the 111 Congress, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, all in the line up for 2012, would certainly continue this same direction. The American occupation of the Middle East was the original conception behind the invasion of Iraq; it was to be the cornerstone of a new American century which strangely resembles the Victorian era.

But the low key meetings by Romney and friends had all the spark of a visit by Utah boys on a Mormon mission. Romney would continue the themes of George W. Bush and so would brother Jeb. No question, any team Romney put together would manage them better than Bush or Obama.

Romney is said to be rereading, The American Challenge, a book first published in 1967 by French writer Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber which advanced management techniques, technological tools, and research capacity and general post-war America know how as tools for the world. Romney is said to be writing his own book about this. It would seem to be an obvious theme for a run in 2012.

History does not remember failure and the Bush/Obama war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is not likely to be remembered as a failure. But it will not necessarily be remembered as the cornerstone for a new American Victorian age of pacification and conquest either. My old country people in the hills of North Carolina wanted this war as revenge against the 9/11 attacks but they seem to have been fully satisfied by the getting of Saddam Hussein. That is a legitimate and necessary objective in warfare and it may have been enough to have satisfied the heartland. Americans prefer peace to war and it is mostly the Northeasterners who support the idea of an abstract and conceptual foreign empire. The heartland feels it has done its job. It has had enough.

New times are ahead, they always are, and the vigor of Servan-Schreiber’s America might be seen as a growing pain of something else; something we have already achieved. To repeat it might be like going back and repeating a college internship two decades later when we are already on the verge of becoming something else.

Watching early film clips on You Tube of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. for a school project with one of my children this weekend I was particularly struck by the consistently shocked and confused faces of all the white reporters who interviewed Malcolm X in the early days. The same shock and confusion which erupted in the chorus last summer when Sarah Palin appeared on the scene and again recently when Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, talked about states rights at an April 15 anti-tax “tea party.”

History only repeats itself up to a point. Then it stops and something entirely different begins as we began again with King and Malcolm X. We could be at one of those new beginnings shortly and will leave Bush/Obama/Romney/Bush in the dust. A new generation is forming. It will take a decade yet to fully formulate, but some of those who will influence it are already arising: Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and John Galt.

As it is for anyone as predictably competent over the long haul as Romney has been, it is possible to discern his patterns of action. He will follow, modify and improve the Bush model, possibly with Jeb as VP.

W Bush brought to Romney and brother Jeb a raw force seeking a managed advancement, but Ron Paul has brought forth a raw force as well, and right now he is tied as second choice with young conservatives in some polling. Mark Sanford or Rick Perry could modify and streamline this raw political force.

The so-called Bush Doctrine, with its underlying neocon premises, like the Mexican plague has neither the strength nor the genetic complexity to carry. So also for the second phase of the Bush Doctrine, the Obama Doctrine. And both are poisoned by nostalgia, an anchor dragging on the sandy bottom of any political movement.

Ahead we could see possibly in 2012 three parties; traditional Democrats, Obama and Biden (or possibly Hillary and Wesley Clark), traditional Republicans, Romney and Jeb Bush, and a new entity; an independent, heartland-based, libertarian-in-progress, New West third party featuring Rick Perry. Former head of Hewlett-Packer, Carly Fiorina, would make an appealing VP.