Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mark Warner Steps Up

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/30/09

It is interesting that as America leaves Iraq this week on President Obama’s order, two thoughtful and intelligent op-eds appear in the papers by Virginia’s new senator, Mark Warner. One of them in the Sunday Washington Post declares that expanding the Fed’s powers is a mistake because the Federal Reserve “ . . . has proved itself incapable of managing and preventing systemic risk.” We haven’t been hearing this from other Democrats possibly because no other Democrat is anywhere near as smart and as capable as Warner.

What began when George W. Bush invaded the Middle East ends today as American troups leave Iraq. What else happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not important to us. We are satisfied. 9/11 has been vindicated. One thing you have to say about Bush. He may not be that brainy about policy but he does know how to satisfy the gut. And that is a legitimate and necessary objective in warfare.

What happens now in Iraq is anybody’s guess. You are on your own.

“The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security,” Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the Associated Press. “We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty.”

But it looks to be as it was in the beginning with the embedded reporters, most of whom have gone on to prestigious think tanks by now, when they claimed that the Iraqis were raising a finger to them in joy and celebration when the invading American force approached Baghdad, as the baseball players do in Boston when they hit a home run. But it turned out that they were just throwing them the finger.

“All of us are happy – Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day,” said a celebrant in the streets of Baghdad. “The Americans harmed and insulted us too much.”

Warner, who was considered one of the best managers and governors in Virginia’s history, was a clear favorite to get the Democratic nomination in the last cycle if we judged by the record. And when the Democrats chose to “whistle past Dixie . . .” with Obama and Clinton, a strategy which threatens now actual division in America between urban and agricultural states, they had on hand with Warner a New England-reared, Harvard-educated Governor who had the Stanley Brothers playing for him at campaign rallies and NASCAR stock cars with his name on the side.

But who are you going to trust, the historical record or Oprah? The Democrats panicked. They may even have self-destructed. Or more accurately, the Democratic Party may have actually been destroyed by the Clintons.

The New York Times Magazine had a cover story on Warner early on and he came up here to New Hampshire to talk to folk in rest homes, then he quickly pulled out of the 2008 race. It was easy to see where the money was going. Bill Clinton, he of the 50 gold watches, was raising money from every corner even going into 2006 when Iraq war veterans running for local offices couldn’t raise a nickel. But the fault was within the Democrats themselves. As I was told by one major fundraiser in the South: “I guess Bill and Hillary are the closest thing we will every get to a king and queen.”

In actuality, they found something even better, Barack Obama, the boy king. The Democrats response to the Republican onslaught that carried for eight years was much like that of the Tibetans when the Red Chinese invaded in the 1950s. They retreated in the mind. There was an overwhelming push to abandon their regents and governors and give all governing power to the boy king, the 14-year-old Dalai Lama who knew nothing of governance.

The Democrats’ boy king took the day, first, as editorial cartoonist Jules Feiffer said, because he was not Hillary Clinton. Second, because like the Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad today, Americans were tired of war.

It is hard to say if the Democrats can recover. Obama could conceivably bow out in 2012. The boy king seems overwhelmed and dominated by his regents and doesn’t really seem to understand the finances any better than Timothy Geithner does. (Jim “The Legend” Rogers: “They don’t know what they’re doing.”) The default to nostalgico strategies of the 1970s, the 1930s and the 1840s could bring us to ruin in no time. But the Democrats are still trapped in their escapist tendency which leads them to boy kings, politicians that look like Elvis, their wives and aunties, professional wrestlers, stand-up comedians and just anybody.

It may be too late. New things are happening in the heartland and the Democratic Party is in the hands of the northeastern leisure class. Obama has left the red states behind. His Homeland Security chief clearly hates and is afraid of Iraq war veterans, most all of whom live in red states. They are still swooning over Clinton and, as Karl Rove said, Joe Biden is a dork. If Obama retired in 2012 they would likely wheel out Hillary again.

But if inflation goes to 20%, as the investor analyst Marc Faber of Gloom, Boom & Doom Report says it soon will (“Because the government has no political will . . .”) and the dollar breaks, it is possibly that the Democrats will finally leave the undergraduate coffee shop behind and turn to Warner for leadership.

In every war cycle there is a pause – like the Obama pause – and then the victor gets back to power and the power cycle restarts. It was that way with Eisenhower, Churchill and it was that way with Nixon and Reagan. This augurs well for Mitt Romney but it could be different this time because what ends today in Baghdad started in 1979 and we are at the end of a full cultural and political cycle.

But the party which advanced the push always has the advantage. As Ulysses S. Grant said, “Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no enviable place in life or history.”

People don’t remember retreat. They remember victory.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Year of the Chicken Coop . . . and the Gun

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/29/09

This has been the year of the chicken coop I was told in my rural hardware store across the river in Vermont. Everybody’s coming in for supplies to buy chicken coops. Some from the city and there have been an increased number of elegant Porsches and the new BMWs around town, coming in to buy chicken wire and two-by-fours. A new wave perhaps of city folk going rural as characteristically happens up here every 20 years or so.

And there are chickens everywhere. The Murray McMurray mail-order kind which arrive peeping at the local post office and are the first delights of people going rural. Once you’ve tasted your own home-grown egg you never go back to the store bought kind. People are getting self sufficient. Saving money as well and not spending.

This could well be a symptom of the declining economy. But this is year two of the return and the economic turndown only snapped last September. Last spring the retailers sold out of wood stoves and the gardening shops sold out on seed potatoes and onions in the first few days. So people started preparing for the turndown six months before it turned. Potatoes and onions; the most fundamental symbolism of basic food stuff, which with a gun, could provide you with squirrel stew all through the winter. Or chicken stew or moose.

Speaking of which, they are selling out on guns as well.

“I’ve been in this for a long time, and I can’t say I’ve seen it as much across the board like now,” Wayne Barros of Barrows Point Trading Post told Chris Fleisher of the Valley News. “On handguns and ammo, not even close.” This in a temperate New Hampshire town on the border of pacifist Vermont where you rarely ever see a gun in public.

“It’s because of Obama,” Ernest Welch, co-owner of Welch’s Gun and Gift Shop told Fleisher. “He’s going to take the guns away.”

It is indeed a phenomenon that is happening in heartland states across the country to a greater degree than it is up here.

But that doesn’t account for the squirrel soup. Why have people been buying up potato and onion stocks from a year before when it seemed likely that Senator Clinton might be President or John McCain and Obama was just a twinkle in Oprah’s eye?

The death of Michael Jackson marks the end of an era. As the death of John Lennon marked the end of an era. As the death of Elvis marked the end of an era. America is at the turning; we are beginning to undergo a fundamental change of temperament today and no one is really looking into what it is about.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Let Someone Other than Kerry Speak for Iraq Veterans

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/26/09

When Wesley Clark was brought out of the jungle with five bullets in his back and carried back home it was, as they said in those days, in a basket. My first sympathies went to him as I was more or less at the same time frame in a safe combat hospital just to the left; 150 miles away from the action and passion. Mine was only a bad case of jungle fever at one time and a collapsed lung at another, but pilots and fighters from the heat of war kept coming in through the night; one pilot, not five years older than us still without full beards in the enlisted ranks, had just had his leg blown off in the air – he screamed and cried all through the night without pause, clutching a framed picture of his wife.

What I came to admire about Clark was that when they brought him home and fixed him he forced himself to learn to walk straight again before he went into public life. There was no public trace of his injuries. He did not appear injured. He did not appear to have been broken. He had metabolized the experience and it had matured and wizened him.

And when I worked as a volunteer for him up here in New Hampshire when he ran for President in 2004 he was asked about the experience. It was a long time ago, he told an audience at Dartmouth. He’d rather the whole thing not have happened. Pretty much how I felt: Let’s go on to the next thing or it will wear us down. An attitude like that of the Chinese who suffered through the Cultural Revolution: It was cold and dark and we didn’t have much to eat. Let’s go on to the next thing.

And for someone born and reared Irish, Catholic and Democrat 150 years into the Massachusetts tradition, this is something else I liked about Wes Clark: He spoke for Democratic veterans from the Vietnam War period and he was not John Kerry.

Kerry has distinguished himself again this week in the league of the light by joining the ranks of the Lettermans; those to mock Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska, whose son happens to be serving in active duty. Characteristically off karma, Kerry commented that Palin should get lost for a week like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In fact, Palin was away visiting American troops overseas. It is like a cult of the aging here in the northeast. Why we don’t know. She is a dedicated and formidable woman with babies; her husband is a real man; she is beautiful and she is unafraid. Because of these things, perhaps. They love her in the heartland. They hate her in Kerry’s Boston and they hate her in Letterman’s New York. But one thing we do know: The enigma of the famous Edvard Munch painting of the twisted and screaming face running across a bridge from the foreign, ambiguous terror on the other side of the river has been solved. We know now what terror lies in wait on the other side of the river: A woman in a red dress.

At General Clark’s request I and a number of other veterans volunteered to work for Kerry after he received the nomination. I did not want to but I did. I had left the war in Asia behind. I had left the equally anguished age of John F. Kennedy behind. Kerry seemed like a shadow of Kennedy. And there was a problem here. That the Irish and others up here would vote for a man who looked a little like JFK. Because wow. They say in school that Kerry so identified, not only because he looks a little like JFK, but because he had the same initials, John Forbes Kerry, JFK. Woooooo.

But Kerry was always a mirage. He appeared to be the archetypal Irishman politician – the kind like my Boston uncles pre-war that Tom Wolfe wrote about; high collar and diamond pin in the silk tie gleaming in the smoky room of all white, all male, all Irish faces. But he was not really Irish as the rest of us were. That is, he was not poor on all sides and from the Old Sod and no other place. He was a Half-blood Prince. The other half was rich and Yankee.

The problem with Kerry is that he is too tall. The Democratic Underground says he is six foot seven and wears padding in his shoes to look taller, but like so many things with him – rumored cosmetic surgery in the old days and the botox rumors when he one day suddenly showed up looking like Spock in the midst of the 2004 campaign – nobody really knows for sure. He looks down at the joyful horde beneath and there is something in him that wants to take part; wants to join in the fun with the real people. So there he is with the hippies, dressed in his old army clothes on the Dick Cavett Show condemning the war in Vietnam, or throwing his medals back at the Pentagon, or up on stage with John Lennon in Lennon’s brief anti-war stage. But he looks frightened of Lennon and Lennon ignores him completely. Then there he is with his army colors, a military hero, marching in the parade. But certain veterans look askance. There is always ambiguity. He is never what he seems. He can never find himself.

Today he wants to be a movie producer. But on June 25, the Federal Election Commission failed to reach a decision on his request to use $300,000 from his campaign funds to invest in a documentary. Kerry wants to produce a movie tentatively titled Keeping Faith about injured Iraq war veterans.

Kerry’s own claims to heroism are also plagued with ambiguity. But the bigger problem here in how we remember war. We remember World War II in the Alfred Eisenstaedt photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Time’s Square on V-J Day, the photograph masterfully composed around the sailor’s huge hand in the center.

When we recall WW II in that picture we remember victory. We remember Vietnam in a picture of Tom Cruise sitting crippled in a wheel chair. When we recall the Vietnam War we remember breakage.

The truth is, we lost that second one, and that is why the black flags are flying from every flag pole in every town in America. I’d like to see them come down. Always charmed and pixilated by us Boston Irish, sympathetic to us Little People who willingly serve, Kerry’s documentary will have us waving another black flag from the flag pole. Victims again. Like in Vietnam. Another subset of the exploited to be patronized.

It is a kind of persona madness that leads one to believe that because he is clever at one thing like science, as Einstein was, then he must have good ideas about world politics as well. Or because he his well regarded as a politician in Boston then he must be a good film producer as well.

Kerry is not Tom Hanks, not Ron Howard, not a perfect master like Joel Schumacher or Steven Spielberg. I certainly cannot speak for Iraq combat veterans but I would not want Kerry divining memory of my war. Because such images give form to the future.

I would however, like to see maybe a commission, starting with Tammy Duckworth and including Jim Webb, the Senator from Virginia and a few others from both parties. Maybe Wes Clark and John McCain can do co-chair. For my part, I would like to see the Iraq veteran rise up and take the initiative, leave the wheel chair behind, and soldier forth on his own character and initiative as Clark did. Before she and he are exploited and manipulated for political purpose and gain by some politician.

Let the Iraq veterans chose their own Elders. Because although Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano sees them and has identified veterans as potential terrorists, it is they and possibly they alone who will bring us to the American future. ‘Twas ever thus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sanford Out, Rudy In

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/24/09

From the beginning it smelled like teen spirit. Just riding on the beach. Out for a hike. Like I used to tell my mother in high school. Bad for Sanford but good for Rick Perry. Most all historical movements from Christianity to the hippies to the Civil War started with one or some vastly imaginative and somewhat eccentric few who are usually quickly forgotten as soon as the tall men and the lawyers take over. Sanford may be such a one.

He was the first to speak out in opposition to the bailouts and he stood alone. Shortly after Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, joined him. What he started has converged now with an entirely new approach to government, an approach more akin to Jefferson than Hamilton which is taking hold in 35 states, including Texas, with Perry at the front of the ship. Yesterday, there might have been three people articulating these themes in the 2012 race; Sanford, Perry and Sarah Palin. Now there will likely be two; Perry and Palin.

Rick Perry is a very agreeable man. When things get said they sound better when they come from him than when they come from others, including Sanford. In that he is like Obama. Now as they head to 2012, whatever has worked its way in the creative mind of Sanford will come in the package of Perry. Unfortunate for Sanford, but this is good for conservatives, as it brings a creative new direction in an attractive new package and this is the most important new direction of politics in America today.

And don’t rule out Rudy Giuliani either. Today in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Rudy has called for a state constitutional convention.

“New York state government is not working,” he writes. “This has been true for some time. But the paralysis and confusion that has overtaken the capital demonstrates the need to confront this dysfunction directly and take decisive steps to solve it once and for all.”

This is an extraordinary step and it takes someone with the character in personal sense of authority of Giuliani to call it. As goes California, so goes New York. These states, the most prestigious in our tradition, are falling apart before our eyes and without them, American leadership and participation in the world dwindles.

They will not be bailed out by Obama because he has his team listening to Glenn Beck and understands that Sanford’s Jeffersonian initiatives have hit such a cord in the heartland that it could drive the red states to a consortium of opposition, as it would be the productive red states where commodities come from and states running budget surpluses like Texas under Perry’s tenure that would be doing the bailing.

As Rudy points out, New York has been dying for some time. New York has not yet healed from 9/11. It has not yet metabolized maturity out of the suffering. It is still in a state of denial about all matters of responsibility and prefers to play. This particular New York state of mind might be called Lettermanism. The disgraceful commentary by Letterman last week directly pitted Letterman’s New York against Giuliani’s, as Rudy was sitting next to Governor Palin when she and her family were insulted by Letterman.

One cannot reconcile Letterman’s New York with Giuliani’s; one is responsibility and the other the ignoring of responsibility and the building of a subculture of irresponsibility and pretension as a substitute. New York City today is like London between the wars. It was tired of war, tired of responsibilities. But the responsibilities would keep coming. Eventually the leisure class at the Marlborough House would listen to Churchill. Time again for New York to listen to Rudy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Back to the Moon: Neil Armstrong is the First Man of Aquarius

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/21/09

The epochal journey of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins like three men in a boat to the moon in a mission named for the sun god Apollo would mark the great change in July, 1969. The primal dance of Woodstock spontaneously materialized into a world celebration less than a month later. The moon has always tracked and haunted the earth; dogs howl, oceans rise. In Tibet, when the shadow of the earth completes its passage across the moon in an eclipse, the towns celebrate victory over the demon that walked across the moon. Maybe Woodstock was such a celebration.

Norman Mailer described the interior of the VAB [Vehicle Assembly Building] which built the space craft as “the antechamber of a new Creation.” He dubbed himself Aquarius for the telling of the tale of the flight to the moon in his book Of a Fire on the Moon. And in the spirit of the day, the LEM module, which was used as an escape devise and saved the lives of astronauts on the troubled flight of Apollo 13, was named Aquarius.

It was a shift in the plane of consciousness from earth and sea to air and fire. In Aquarius, we are all sky walkers, not just Luke, Lieutenant Ripley, Captain Kirk and the remarkable hybrid of mother and machine from one of the last Star Trek spin offs, Seven-of-Nine. The phrase was commandeered by the hippies but as novelist Robertson Davies once pointed out, that was misdirection. Aquarius is an age of Titans. This age will belong to the sky walkers.

Comfort level with air and space did not come easily and for some it has not come at all. And not all remember it the same. One of the networks was asking recently what were you doing when we landed on the moon? But not everyone remembers it as Ron Howard and Tom Hanks do. When did PBS use the moon landing in a fund raiser? Never. Woodstock? Annually.

For 40 years we did not go back to the moon. But last Thursday NASA sent up a pair of unmanned probes that will help find landing points and camp sites in years to come. It is prelude to an effort to return to the moon by 2020.

Perhaps the heroic achievements of the Apollo astronauts were necessary for it to be realized in our minds as possible in the first place. The astronauts were travelers not only to the moon but to a new condition of human consciousness. Psychologically it was, as Armstrong said, “. . . one giant step forward for mankind.”

Earthrise, seeing the earth rise above the lunar horizon from the moon, would change how we saw ourselves in the universe, wrote mythologist Joseph Campbell, much like Columbus’ journey materially dispelled mediaeval notions that the world was flat. The change would manifest itself in the culture -- the world culture -- at one very precise moment, and history can look back and look forward from that moment.

That moment was July 20, 1969.

Today we go back and we are not alone. Russia, China and others have ambitious plans to return to the moon and head out from there to Mars. But not everyone is on the bus.

Mars is not the kind of place where you'd want to raise your kids, wrote Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum in a 2004 essay titled, Mission to Nowhere.

“Nor is it the kind of place anybody is ever going to visit, as some of the NASA scientists know perfectly well,” she wrote. “Even leaving aside the cold, the lack of atmosphere and the absence of water, there's the deadly radiation.”

I think we still have those silvery space suits for stuff like that. And helmets.

You’re either on the bus or you’re not on the bus, as hippie guru Ken Kesey said at the time of the Apollo missions about something else.

Armstrong, appropriately pegged “First Man” by author James Hansen in his well-received biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, would disagree. In 2005, his Wiki bio reports, Armstrong said that a manned mission to Mars will be easier than the lunar challenge of the 1960s.

"I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo [space program] in 1961,” he said.

Armstrong also recalled his initial concerns about the Apollo 11 mission. He had believed there was only a 50 percent chance of landing on the moon. "I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful,” he said

This July’s Scientific American offers a few pointers on moon walking by Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt, lunar module pilot for the Apollo 17 mission. A side bar, titled “The Lost Decades” discusses the long gap in moon exploration.

Schmitt has long argued that the cancellation of the Apollo program in 1972 was a costly blunder. Michael Griffin, the head of NASA who was recently replaced by President Obama, agreed in a March 2007 paper. If NASA had stuck with Apollo technology rather than opting to develop the Space Shuttle, we could have expanded the Skylab space station and gone to the moon twice a year and with incremental improvement the system could have gone to Mars.

“If we had done all this,” Griffin wrote, “we would be on Mars today, not writing about it as a subject for ‘the next 50 years.’”

The Space Shuttle program may have brought 30 years of flying in circles when the technology was ready and the astronauts were ready for higher ground. But we, the people, were not ready. We were not yet ready for space and the moon and Mars. Maybe now after 30 years of tutelage from Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dr. Spock we are.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whose Supreme Leader?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/19/09

One of my favorite public moments was in the mid-1970s at a football game in New York. Howard Cosell, the most prominent announcer in his day, was in the stands looking for a few celebrities to talk to at half time. He was having a playful little back and forth chatter with John Lennon who had not long before moved to New York. Then he said to him, “I’ll see you, John. I’ve got to go interview the Gipper now.”

Lennon said, “Who’s the Gipper?”

It was a moment when history shifted and brought two figures together on a hinge; two who created their own generations and changed the world in my life time possibly more than any others, John Lennon and Ronald Reagan. Reagan was known as the Gipper for the role he played in the movie about the Notre Dame football player, George Gipp. Lennon did not know who he was and in the early 1970s, neither did many other Americans back East.

History shifts in a moment, and in my life time there have been two definitive moments. The one was in the early 1960s when The Beatles, all four together and dressed in black, tumbled down the steps of an airplane and landed in New York. The second was the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, came to power. The first gave the world John Lennon. The second gave the world Ronald Reagan.

Reagan first came to great popularity not so much as for who he was as for who he wasn’t: because he was not Jimmy Carter. In Carter’s term 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days by Iranians rising to revolution. As Wiki reports: In America, it is thought by some political analysts to be the primary reason for U.S. President Jimmy Carter's defeat in the November 1980 presidential election. In Iran, the crisis strengthened the prestige of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the political power of forces who supported theocracy and opposed any normalization of relations with the West.

The hostage taking divided Americans. Many liberals – at least in New York City, where I lived – supported the Ayatollah, the revolutionary guard and the hostage takers. It divided liberal sentiment to a point of complete separation.

It was a time to ask, who’s side are you on? Gut reaction in a positive way determined public opinion. One either supported the American hostages or one supported the Ayatollah’s crowd. I never spoke to half my friends again.

We may be at such a turning today. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out in his column this morning at The Washington Post, President Obama “solicitously” referred to the Iranian chief as “Supreme Leader” when he said, "some initial reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election."

What’s in a word? Everything. The French were divided for 100 years between those who referred to the supreme revolutionary leader as “Napolean” and those who referred to him as “The Emperor.”

Obama is dead wrong when he says that both parties in the disputed election have hostilities toward the United States. An Iranian student keeping anonymity for safety, reports today in the New York Times, that there is strong evidence that Iranians across the board want a better relationship with the United States and Mr. Moussavi would carry out his campaign promise of seeking improved relations with America.

“Until last week,” he writes, “Mr. Moussavi was a nondescript, if competent, politician — as one of his campaign advisers put it to me, he was meant only to be an instrument for making Iran a tiny bit better, nothing more. Iranians knew that’s what they were getting when they cast their votes for him. Now, like us, Mr. Moussavi finds himself caught up in events that were unimaginable, each day’s march and protest more unthinkable than the one that came before.”

If there is more blood on the tracks before this is over and there will be, again it may be time for a new generation of Americans to ask, which side are you on? Already, Obama may have missed the turning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Returning: Back to the Fifties?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/18/09

My reclusive near neighbor up here, J.D. Salinger, has successfully prevented a Swedish author from publishing a book that resembles his 1951 classic, Catcher in the Rye. The Salinger original is a near perfect picture window of the America northeast in the post-war period. So why did the Swedish publisher want to go there anyway?

Worth looking at in light of the upcoming movie, Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, a film in homage to the great Federico Fellini and his masterpiece 8 ½ which reflects on the same period. For decades 8 ½ was considered among the top five best movies ever. And like the Salinger book, it is likewise a specific artifact of the period.

So what’s going on with that? Auto buffs will note that the Germans are reproducing today an almost total replica of the sweetest car ever made, the silver-grey 300 SL Gull Wing, a 1954 coupe with doors which flip open from the roof which was the fastest car of the day.

Maybe it’s only the Euros. But I noticed, flipping through the channels, that in the big ethnic communities like those in Chicago, the Catholic Church is successfully returning to the Latin Mass and to all of the evocative artisanship they left behind almost 50 years ago. The Church is trading back sociology for the sacred. The Dan Brown books and movies like the current Angels and Demons evoke the old days as well. I can’t see that it can be anything but good news for the Vatican.

The smell of the prayer book lingers through the ages and the Latin remains in secret but in a conditioned reflex somewhere in the psyche. People dream of the old church and its talisman sometimes comes to dreams in the shape of a gold coin. In one dream forum, a woman who had been experimenting with ad hoc hippie religion, told of a dream that a friend gave her one of those chocolate coins covered with gold paper that we put in the children’s’ stockings at Christmas, while the Pope gave her a gold coin. No doubt some of us have been dreaming of Gull Wings as well.

There was a sturdy tradition and authenticity to these things; something which remains and prevails and re-surfaces when the gold paper money fails to negotiate.

Truth is this has been growing up here for a few years. Round about 2001, we in the Boston region started returning to the true old-timey Boston religion. We started watching baseball again. Many of us hadn’t really paid attention since Ted Williams went fishing in 1960. But when the Red Sox won the pennant under a full eclipse of the moon a few years back, I received enthusiastic calls from as far away as Australia.

In that same period there suddenly appeared what might be considered a new movie genre; master film portraits of masters, like Pollock, Capote and the most recent; Ron Howard’s masterpiece, Nixon/Frost. In the Nixon movie Frank Langella gives a performance for the ages in portraying the man who probably more than anyone represented the 1950s well into the 1970s. The movie is structured like a great fight or samurai contest and there is a telling detail near the end. After the third interview with the Australian broadcaster David Frost, Nixon leaves, beaten by Frost by a late round TKO. As he walks to his waiting car he spots a woman holding a dog. He stops and walks over to her and asks, “Is this what you call a dachshund?”

It references a zen tale about samurai detachment: a master is going to his execution but he stops the procession to smell a flower budding through a hedge. The Nixon portrait by Howard, an enthusiastic Obama supporter, is portraiture of the samurai politician by a samurai director. And that is the quality of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Truman Capote and Ed Harris’ Jackson Pollock in both subject and artist. They are all samurai. They were and are unsurpassed at their crafts, and that is why they and these others are now resurfacing.

It is interesting that this began just as the first term of George W. Bush was about to get underway.

Ten weeks into his Presidency The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd wrote: “Bush II has reeled backward so far, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it’s redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas.” “What’s next,” she lamented. “Asbestos, DDT, bomb shelters, filterless cigarettes? Patti Page?”

No. History is taking form and filtered them out. It is separating the wheat from the chaff and leaving only mastery. It was here all the time, hidden under the burden of the ephemeral present. But as another samurai from the 1950s, William Faulkner, who was relatively unknown before 1949 once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sarah Arrives

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/16/09

When Sarah Palin first took the podium with John McCain I was first struck by the quality of “yes.” It is a zen thing that means full and unconditional acceptance of the new dynamic condition; no thinking about it, no doubting; but knowing in your heart and in your full self, not in your head. It is bushido as described by Tsunetomo Yamamoto, the “way of the Samurai.” Charles Gibson asked her about it in her interview and that is pretty much how she described it without the samurai stuff.

He called it arrogance. She was not one of us. She didn’t lunch at CafĂ© des Artistes with the network people; she didn’t talk with the full voice of the others that bounces everything of substance off it. She dressed in red and compared to the kind of politicians we had long become acclimated to which might be considered in Jesus’ phrase, neither hot nor cold, as in, “I know you by your works and you are neither hot nor cold,” she was totally hot. She had a husband who drove a hundred miles an hour in a snow machine. She talked with her hands and with her children by her side, all passing the baby from one to the other. A brilliant artist I know said she talks from “Eros” rather than “Logos.” That is, her talk breaks up when she thinks, as she “experiences” thinking from the realms of deeper abstraction and intuition as an artist’s does.

But apart from that perceptive artist’s comment I began receiving pure hate mail. I received the most vicious slanders, some purely in hysteria, about this woman from the woods who dared to challenge us urban types from Boston and New York. Denunciations of the press followed, like those by the most prominent op-ed writers in The New York Times, one comparing her to Hitler and another in the same week mocking her daughter’s pregnancy.

This continued as part of a strange and dark subculture of the rising Obama group. As the press and its mainstream horde built Obama into the “new Kennedy,” the “new Roosevelt,” the “new Lincoln” and has Charles Krauthammer said recently, Obama saw and sees himself as a messiah, it likewise saw its first warrior responsibility was to destroy the woman in the red dress before she raised a challenge in the heartland. And destroy her family as well. The press and its horde had become a bloodthirsty mob.

Letterman’s despicable comments last week brought this sick zeitgeist to a crescendo. He’s not man enough to quit. He should be fired. But his apology today will bring an end to the gibes, mockery, institutionalized hate speech and contempt this astonishing woman, her children and her husband have suffered this past year now.

Today the age shifts. The Palins have arrived.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Does Rick Perry’s Dog Hunt?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/15/09

The Republic of New England? California broken in three? Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.

These are not the broody and misanthropic wanderings of the few too long in winter up here in the snowy hinterlands. It is front page of The Wall Street Journal this past Saturday in an essay accompanied by a map of the United States divided in parts, titled Divided We Stand.

“There might be an austere Republic of New England, with a natural strength in higher education and technology; a Caribbean-flavored city-state Republic of Greater Miami, with an anchor in the Latin American economy; and maybe even a Republic of Las Vegas with unfettered license to pursue its ambitions as a global gambling, entertainment and conventioneer destination,” writes Paul Starobin, author of the recently published After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age. Starobin is a staff correspondent for the National Journal and a contributing editor to The Atlantic Monthly.

California? America’s broke, ill-governed and way-too-big nation-like state might be saved, truly saved, not by an emergency federal bailout, but by a merciful carve-up into a trio of republics that would rely on their own ingenuity in making their connections to the wider world. And while we’re at it, let’s make this project bi-national—economic logic suggests a natural multilingual combination between Greater San Diego and Mexico’s Northern Baja, and, to the Pacific north, between Seattle and Vancouver in a megaregion already dubbed “Cascadia” by economic cartographers.

Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition, writes Starobin, —a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself as an animating spirit for the future.

Consider this proposition, he asks: America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment. The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale—too large to make any rational sense in an emerging age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller form.

Not surprisingly, he says, a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent on an already immense federal power.

Starobin considers the federalist apparatus of Obama a kind of “brontosaurus” like the “industrial age General Motors” it hopes to revive. “All of this adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR’s New Dealers blush.” He cites a number of ad hoc secessionist groups from Vermont, to Texas and up to Alaska, which have sprung up in very recent times in opposition to federal overreach.

A notable prophet for a coming age of smallness was the diplomat and historian George Kennan, a steward of the American Century with an uncanny ability to see past the seemingly-frozen geopolitical arrangements of the day, says Starobin.

Kennan always believed that Soviet power would “run its course,” as he predicted back in 1951, just as the Cold War was getting under way, and again shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, he suggested that a similar fate might await the United States. America has become a “monster country,” afflicted by a swollen bureaucracy and “the hubris of inordinate size,” he wrote in his 1993 book, “Around the Cragged Hill: A Personal and Political Philosophy.” Things might work better, he suggested, if the nation was “decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment.”

England, Europe also drift toward devolution, he writes. “Even China, held together by an aging autocracy, may not be able to resist the drift towards the smaller.”

So why not America as the global leader of a devolution? America’s return to its origins—to its type—could turn out to be an act of creative political destruction, with “we the people” the better for it.

As Starobin points out, Texas Governor Rick Perry has almost by accident found himself in the center of this. It has come to him so fast that he has had to backtrack. This week we’ve been treated to pictures of him with his doggies. Twice with the dogs. But youth wants to know: Does Rick Perry’s dog hunt?

This week Perry had lunch with Leo Berman, a more conservative Republican from Tyler, who plans to run against him. But he reasonably said he would pull out if Perry supports four issues, one of which is this: Join forces with other states whose legislatures have approved resolutions stressing state sovereignty in accord with the U.S. Constitution in committing to go to federal court against any federal laws in violation of states’ sovereignty as soon as such laws win congressional approval.

Perry already supports state sovereignty in his own state and it wouldn’t make sense to support it in his own state and oppose it in other states. But a consortium – or a confederation – of states could mean a variety of things, depending on the tone and management.

This issue was originally awakened up here in New England’s snowy north country woods only six years ago by a clever and committed old woman who wears Sorel snow pacs and has a husband with a beard down to his knees, angry at George W. Bush for the invasion of Iraq. It is now in the realm of the men in think tanks with quiet voices and well-groomed beards and little tassels on their shoes that you see in passing on TV talk shows. It is moving faster than a California fire storm.

If Colonel Berman ran against Perry it is unlikely that he would get elected. But this is the question that should be asked: If you don’t take charge of this, who will, Rick? They’ve already got it nailed down in Oklahoma, Tennessee and South Carolina. Georgia could very well have a “10th Amendment” governor next. This could very quickly leave its sturdy beginnings with George Kennan and the enlightened spirit-realm of Jefferson and land instead on the horse back of the fast-riding Nathan Bedford Forest.

And what would happen to us then, Rick? What would happen to Texas?

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Palins Should Sue Letterman: A Hero’s Medal for Bristol Palin

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/12/09

It was good of Senator John McCain, who has a daughter of his own, to come out in support of his running mate, Sarah Palin, after her daughter – or daughters – were slandered by late night comedian David Letterman. The Palins have shown remarkable grace and restraint in this. Other commentators have disgraceful attacked their children in the past, some working for the highest newspapers. If it was my daughter, I’m not sure that I could be so constrained.

Letterman – still boyish at 62, which should tell you something right there – half apologized as best he knew how and as best he is capable of and added that luckily there is no Hague for him to be called up on for this slander. Lucky for whom?

The understanding we who write in public have long had is that politicians have a low threshold of protection against slander and libel, as do public performers and the very rich. It is why the supermarket tabloids go after movie stars.

As Mike Bloomberg recently pointed out, you can say much anything you want about the Congressman so as to protect the public’s legitimate right to know. But anyone with any trace of character can see that this would be a terrible thing to say about a child. It would be a terrible thing to do to the child. Has this elderly man-boy even considered the child once? Is he capable of doing so? Does he as a parent understand the animal passions aroused when that parent’s child is threatened? Is he capable of such passion himself? I expect not.

Letterman fully misses the point. His claim that he was talking about the 18-year old Bristol and not the 14-year old Willow takes his disgraceful commentary out of the classification of statutory rape. It still publicly injures and shames a child who is only 18.

Bristol Palin should be given this year’s hero award for bearing up with a pregnancy unmarried at such a young age and having the courage to go through it by herself – something people like Letterman could not even begin to understand - even as the world watched while her mother was on the world stage. And this, while the cute and the immature Lettermans mocked and shamed and taunted mother and child for almost a year now on the airwaves.

She is clearly a girl with sturdy character.

But the Palins should not let this end here. I do not believe that the high level of scorn politicians like Sarah Palin are allowed to sustain by pundits and public comedians applies to children. It certainly should not. I have never seen in my life underage children and teen aged children of Presidents – not with Kennedy, not with Nixon, not with Carter, not with Obama – treated so shamefully.

This should come to a dead stop right here. The Palins should sue on behalf of their daughters.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

David Letterman’s Hate Speech

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/11/09

Having been a New Yorker in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I don’t ever watch the David Letterman show. It seems an insipid and bitter celebration; a shadow of past glory when network TV featured brilliant entertainers and commentators like Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett, and on into the middle of the night Tom Snyder interviewing Marlon Brando who in one very brief aside seems to threaten his life for smoking a cigarette. The creative arc of these shows long ended but the marketing agents tooled the conditioned reflex. The Letterman Show manifests as well the descending glory of the greatest city in the world; he is Norma Desmond in the city’s final close-up - an aging actor in a city suddenly without its purpose. Like Saturday Night Live, when the great cast of Killer Bees and Samurai chefs went off into the sunset, the show went on and on and on after the moment and the generation had long passed.

After Letterman’s performance the other night, the network might try to come up with a new idea for late night. In his introductory comments Letterman called Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who had attended a Yankees game that day with Rudy Giuliani honored by a special needs group, a “slutty Flight Attendant.” But there is more: He said she had problems with her daughter when between innings, Alex Rodriguez “knocked her up.” Palin’s 14-year-old daughter, Willow, was at the game with her.

This suggestion of criminal rape of a politician’s child is pure hate speech, the kind of thing found and heard in rural pockets of the old Ku Klux Klan, the kind of poisonous ramblings of a mind dissembling, like those found on the web site in the last days of a dying, disturbed neo-Nazi flailing in his very last days for connection by attacking the Holocaust museum.

It goes well beyond the caricature and polemic of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. Their attacks generally go to the politician’s person, character and policies. To go after a politician’s children, as some have gone after the Palin’s daughter who found herself in dire straights at age 17 is previously unheard of. To go after a 14-year-old child is preposterous.

From the beginning, some in New York City, like Letterman, have seen demons in Sarah. But it is hard to imagine that many in Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas or anyplace else between New York and California today would find his comments amusing.

Maybe Letterman is just too far away from the strong force; this happens in the tailings. Maybe he and the non-Rudy New York he represents are just too long in the valley, terrified of women and seek the inner bully: A condition I think psychologists call “anima polluted” but there is a much better phrase about a cat.
But the Palin political phenomenon represents a new American condition and so do Letterman’s comments. It is a regional political phenomenon. Those in the red states love her. But a certain political class in New York – but not Rudy’s New York – hate her. They really hate her and they hate what she represents, and what she represents is heartland America.

There was a day in America when the greatest writers – Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Willa Cather – would move to New York in their peak, but their writing would always return to the heartland. Even a few decades back, When Saturday Night Live was funny, New York’s greatest editors like Harper’s Willie Morris and Esquire’s Harold T.P. Hayes, were Southerners. The heartland and the City were one, and the City without the American heartland was without substance and soul. It was just a bunch of restaurants. Even Norman Mailer, who ran for mayor of New York City, found a wife in Arkansas and was so fond of his father-in-law that he wrote an interpretation of “The Son” of the New Testament for him. But that was not Letterman’s New York and that day is long past.

The Shadow is fierce with Sarah. This could actually tell us something very important about ourselves as Americans today. This ferocity of feeling about Sarah, and the press attacks and TV interviews set up to embarrass her are manifestations and reinforcements of this, could mean perhaps that we are today beginning to internalize a conflict like the one we began to externalize more than 100 years ago with those hated Others, the Soviets. But this time we are projecting the same internalized hatred onto the American heartland.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sarah Palin at the June 8 Republican Dinner

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/09/09

Last year when Neil Young was promoting some new material, people kept asking him to play the old songs. He told a reporter that he preferred doing the new material because he was a different person back then – Young headlined at Woodstock and was a leading voice into the next decade – and he can’t even remember who that person was.

That is a comment on the artist’s life well lived, taking it as it comes and always peering ahead on the smoky river, never looking back. But it creates issues for the firm. The corporation hates change. It wants to sell the old songs in the backlog. That is the problem the Republicans had with Sarah Palin last night at the Republican dinner. As said here months back, if Governor Palin is to come forth, she will come forth at the June 8th dinner. And she did.

But the Republicans are heavily invested now in the old school. They are very old people with very old ideas who want to hear the old favorites. Palin, Todd and extended family fully change the paradigm; they are an explosive new force in American politics coming down out of Alaska like a volcano. The Palins are Neil Young, coming out of the big mountains in the northern wilderness. The Republicans want to hear the old favorites. They don’t want Neil Young. They want Perry Como. So they took her off the dais and put in that old chestnut, Newt Gingrich.

But Governor Palin is a force of nature which cannot, will not be held back. She was not allowed to speak last night but I couldn’t find any reports about what the speakers actually talked about. However, three million people listened to Sean Hannity’s interview with Palin on Fox in the yard outside.

Hannity, to his credit, circumvented the market. Much as Bob Dylan did when he first awakened on the scene. Likewise, the firm Dylan was under contract to refused to play his good songs, pitching instead the old favorites; modest and moving folk songs he had played at Newport on a wooden guitar. But the really good stuff would change everything. It would be bad news for the old crooners. It would ruin their list. So Dylan surreptitiously brought his music to a New York disco famous and trendy in the day called Arthur’s and slipped it to the DJ. Several radio people were on hand and played it in the morning all over New York. Like a Rolling Stone changed the record industry, changed the day, changed everything.

I’ll put Hannity’s interview with Palin last night in comparison. The Palins cannot be held back; not by Muggle network apparatchiks like Tiny Fey, Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, not by the Republican National Committee, not by anything.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

My Year in Review: Battlestar Galactica, Dow Jones to 50,000, “Doodling without the Yankee”

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/07/09

As I have been writing Pundit’s Blog for one year this month I would like to do a review to outline what I see as three key issues which awakened in our country and in the world this past year and to suggest how they will determine our future. They are really all one problem as they will interact dynamically, the one affecting the another to form our future.

Issue One: Endless war - Mitt Romney’s “Battlestar Galactica”

When Wesley Clark asked his Army superiors in the early 1990s what could be done about the rising tragedy in Bosnia he was told that the Army had no plan. The Army had a vision of future history and it included war rising in the Middle East.

Cultural division in America helped create this vision and helped create the war in Iraq. In the late Sixties and thereafter the elite schools in the Northeast decided to throw out ROTC. Even the presence of soldiers on campus, it was assumed by the newly passifistic Northeastern elites, would lead to war. That was misguided. What these policies led to was an army consisting almost exclusively of officers and soldiers from red states only, which brought with it all of the grace and character of those regions and all of their foibles and worst prejudices as well. Those of us who lived in the South and in the hollows of Appalachia as I did in those days know from listening to Christian mountain radio that beneath these public postures and policies was the Appalchian fin de seicle version of Armegedden in the Middle East and an overriding desire and pressing need to git Saddam.

In his writing and lectures, historian Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (2005) and The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008) discusses how futile and misguided policy is passed on from generation to generation in large government, particularly in terms of foreign policy. Our continually advancing presence in the Middle East should be reviewed at its early beginnings. Obama should have been the President to do that but he is not.

This past week the Wall Street Journal had a lead essay titled Barack Hussein Bush. Obama vindicates and advances the Bush initiatives. We are fully engaged in the Middle East as far in as Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is no movement against these actions as the vast anti-war sentiment of two years back is fully assuaged by this appealing new liberal President. But he advances the same policies as the last president and there is no end is sight.

Obama will tread water on this and expect he is doing the right thing by giving speeches around the world. But that he has a Muslim name is no more likely to appease Muslims than the German name of our greatest general did to assuage the Germans. On the Islamic side the situation today recalls the Anarchist movement of the mid-to-late 1800s which scattered random but vicious violence across Europe and America. After a dozen years or so it died out. Then 20 years later it reawakened as a well-organized, pan-global movement, the Communist Party, and shook the world for almost a hundred years. Islam is a natural existing package for the unification and consolidation of this random action today to a similar reawaken.

If California’s former governor Jerry Brown’s political vision was of Spaceship Earth, Mitt Romney’s might be called Battlestar Galactica. Romney is a great fixer and manager but as it often is with the best of managers, his original perceptions are off kilter and he needs to attach his skills to origins from elsewhere. He has taken the Presidency of George W. Bush as his Creation Myth and will advance it if he is elected in 2012.

Had he been on hand to face the fiscal crisis we would be in better shape today, but in several speeches he has given recently he spoke of government spending to rebuild the military. No doubt it needs to be rebuilt but he also talked belligerently last week at a speech at the Heritage Foundation of “boots on the ground” throughout the Middle East and even on the border with Russia.

In the 2008 contest Romney aggressively supported torture and wanted to double the population at Guantanamo. He will present Obama as weak on defense and promise to restore the glory that was Cheney, Wolfowitz and Bush. Romney has his own sense of neo-Rooseveltism and it is closer to reality than Obama’s nostalgico version: In truth, as Nicholson Baker points out in his highly detailed Human Smoke, it was only massive spending on war material that brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression and only world warfare that energized and awakened the new generation.

This is Second Millennium thinking in the Third Millennium. America must find its place in the world newly conceptualized and following the contours of history. My perspective is that we are neither a European nation nor an Asian one, but a dynamic new world in between.

In a poll taken last week Romney was at a dead tie for first place with Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, each at 22 percent. The Republican Party can be seen today as divided in two between the gentleman H.W. Bush Republicans of the East, and although Romney lays claims to the West he is casting his lot with the East, and the rustic Jacksonian conservatives rising in the West like Sarah Palin. What will determine the future of the Republicans is the question of which of these will dominate.

At the moment, Palin and Huckabee are more or less in the same camp and their 22%s add up to 44% in opposition to Romney’s 22%. And so does Mark Sanford belong to the heartland and so does Rick Perry. Romney has the big bucks, the media and the Bushes. But the heartland will take this and the 2012 could well change the formula and see the rise of a third force, be it a new party or a new direction of the existing party – Ron Paul will play a hand in this – much as party alignment changed in the Jacksonian era.

Romney could in the end find his place is history as pathfinder, gatekeeper and political elder for Mormons. As Obama opened the door for blacks and other minorities so Romney allows entry to this enormously gifted and politically mature group which has been scorned and outcast from American politics entirely because of insidious and un-American religious prejudice. A most attractive VP for Palin would be Jon Huntsman, Jr., Governor of Utah, China ambassador appointee and a Mormon, if Rick Perry proves too feisty.

Issue Two: Let them eat speeches – Endless spending; Dow Jones to 50,000 – Angela Merkel takes the initiative

“Mr. Obama thinks that the way to revive the economy is to restore confidence in it,” write Sandy B. Lewis, an organic farmer, founded S B Lewis & Co., a brokerage house and William D. Cohan, a contributing editor at Fortune and former Wall Street banker, in the Sunday New York Times. “If the mood is right, the capital will flow. But this belief is dangerously misguided.”

This view of Obama’s evolves from the fatally flawed and misguided idea that Roosevelt fixed the economy by giving speeches. Likewise, Obama believes that he can fix the U.S. economy – the world economy – by giving speeches. This, like the Bill Clinton approach to world governance, is essentially shamanistic. Roosevelt was a hard-nosed Navy man all of his life and from the beginning to the end he was a war President. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. He fixed the economy by preparing an Arsenal for Democracy and preparing the people for a patriotic world war. And when the phone rang calling him to World War II, he said it was just like a continuation of his first war.

From the beginning we have been hearing the universal scolding voice both from the President’s men and his supporting cast; people like Paul Krugman of The New York Times, flailing the Germans in particular for not following on cue in its supporting role as an American sub-state and regency. As it was in the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, the independent voice of the press has today willingly and universally yielded scrutiny and independence to power in blind support of the flawed fiscal policies of the Obama Administration.

But not all voices were in agreement. Jim Rogers, the investor known in the trade as legendary for his ability to predict major long term trends has been speaking out regularly in the past six months on the financial crisis.

"I think it's astonishing,” he said in March, 2009. “They're ruining the US economy, they're ruining the US government, they're ruining the US central bank and they're ruining the US dollar. You are watching something in front of our eyes, very historically, which is basically the destruction of New York as a financial center and the destruction of America as the world's most powerful country."

“Ten years time” is a phrase Rogers used back in March, as in, “: . . . imagine what America will look like in ten years time.” The occultists are all up about the Mayan prophecy of a flood to destroy the world in 2012. Perhaps it will be a flood of paper money.

A currency crisis is now imminent, Rogers said recently.

"I’m afraid they're printing so much money that stocks could go to 20,000 or 30,000," Rogers told CNBC this week. Possibly as high as 50,000 he said in another interview. "Of course it would be in worthless money, but it could happen and you could lose a lot of money being short."

This would in fact follow a path like the Dot.com boom of the 1990s. We were regularly told then that these trendy stocks were not capitalized and couldn’t pay, but that didn’t stop the imaginary climb of imaginary stock. And California then and today should be seen as a paradigm; a returning tide. What happens west will happen east in four to ten years.

Fellow doomsayer Marc Faber of the GloomDoomBoom Report, well illustrated by Kaspar Meglinger’s early 1600 painting, "The Dance of Death,” sees problems as well, possibly fatal ones. The U.S. economy will enter “hyperinflation” approaching the levels in Zimbabwe because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates, he told Bloomberg Television this week. Prices may increase at rates “close to” Zimbabwe’s gains. Forbes.com reports that Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reached 231 million percent in July, the last annual rate published by the statistics office.

“I am 100 percent sure that the U.S. will go into hyperinflation,” Faber said.

Today they are not alone. This week German Chancellor Angela Merkel, just before President Obama arrived on his most recent world speech-giving tour, declared independence from American global fealty. In a rare public rebuke of central banks, she suggested the European Central Bank and its counterparts in the U.S. and Britain have gone too far in fighting the financial crisis and may be laying the groundwork for another financial blowup, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"I view with great skepticism the powers of the Fed, for example, and also how, within Europe, the Bank of England has carved out its own small line," Ms. Merkel said in a speech in Berlin. "We must return together to an independent central-bank policy and to a policy of reason, otherwise we will be in exactly the same situation in 10 years' time."

The Queen was not invited or was intentionally uninvited to the D Day celebrations. This year they sent the boy prince instead, sporting a dazzling row of military campaign ribbons (Falkland Islands?). Could be the common WW II enlisted man from Brooklyn, NY, Tobaccoville, NC, or Smyrna, TN, is not so beholding to the royals as the Clintons, country bunnies who chronically seek status and validation, or the Bushes, New England gentry who assiduously seek to preserve and reinforce it. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he who basks with the Beautiful People on Nantucket while one of his chiefs petitions the government to bail him out for the eight bucks he threw into the plate at church, seems overwhelmed by the burden of office (Obama Beach?). The day has arrived, as the Walrus said it would, to think of many things. Perhaps the Falkland Islands invasion will be England’s final embarrassment.

Angela Merkel rises in Europe and her reputation for steady and mature governance will rise or fall and Germany’s will rise or fall now with the fate of the economy: Either she is right or Obama is.

And once again, the Germans are making sweet cars with soft lines outside and muscles beneath, as they did in the mid-1950s when James Dean drove a silver Porsche 550 Spyder. Worth noting: German muscle cars are the ride of choice for the Shining Ones, avatars of the Twilight generation, only now around age 13. They are mostly girls but boys will follow girls, and this generation which starts now is yet to rise. It is said to get here around 2019 and some economists who follow the generational model say the economy will not begin to recover until it does get here. But America still makes a nice truck and Bella drives a classic.

Issue Three: Division in America – “Doodling without the Yankee”

Mary Chestnut’s soul sickened as she watched the sale of young Mullato women in silk dresses; “Nice looking – like my Nancy,” she wrote. As a South Carolina slave holder she tried without success to rationalize. Just the same there was an odd detachment from the Lincoln group that had just taken the White House. Slavery was the casus belli for the Civil War but Jefferson’s agrarian South and Hamilton’s industrial North were never a good fit. It still doesn’t seem to be the best and now it has morphed to red and blue; heartland vs. Northeast urban. Shrill voices from eloi in New York’s and Washington, D.C.’s highest perches reached a pitch that must be called venomous when Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, and her natural family arrived on the scene. Not since Neo’s journey to the Underworld did a woman in a red dress so glitch The Matrix.

“The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial,” wrote historian Frank Owsley, one of the Vanderbilt Agrarians, in describing the key differences between the regions before 1860. Had there not been slavery as an added difference the two sections would have developed each its own political philosophy to explain and justify its institutions and its demands upon the federal government.

But by Chestnut’s time, when “Doodling without the Yankee” would be the playful suggestion in parlor entertainment, the one could no longer simply bear the presence of the other.

The goals of Northern invasion of the South were three: Prevent the secession of the Southern states, emancipation of the slaves and equality. As C. Vann Woodard pointed out in The Burden of Southern History, the third goal, equality, was the “deferred commitment.”

But today, with a black President in the White House who has support of 65% of the voters, racial equality must be considered to have made headway.

And virtually at the same time there rises in the United States a “states sovereignty” movement.

Something of possibly great historic importance occurred at the anti-tax “tea parties” demonstrations across the country on April 15, 2009. Heartland America found a voice and a new natural leader: Rick Perry.

The story, which made a sardonic splash on the op-ed pages of The New York Times and the other major venues, was not so much about the substance of what he said, but that the Governor of Texas, American native son, rancher and Texan back to the fifth generation, had the audacity to speak at all. Perry, the most temperate, main street, main stream, straight-arrow Eagle Scout of governors, was widely accused of threatening Texas secession. He did use the phrase, “states rights.” Indeed, he used it is a chant, like “ . . . states rights, states rights, states rights . . . .” He did not of course endorse Texas secession, but he did remind listeners that we are a nation of states and that states form the first circle of our responsibility and power.

History enters the world hiding in plain sight. It is ignored at first, then patronized. Next, hostility builds against it, then panic. Perry pretty much pushed the panic button right off.

The Obama Presidency completes the goals of Northern invasion and occupation of the South in the 1860s. But at the same time, the Hamiltonian part of our American journey may be drawing to an end. Today, 35 states have proposed states sovereignty resolutions which demand that the federal government abandon the expansive interpretation of the Constitution and stick to the role of governments as outlined in the 10th Amendment. Legislatures in Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota have approved resolutions suggesting that Uncle Sam "cease and desist" from interfering in their business. The Tennessee Senate unanimously approved a resolution in May. A resolution passed the Georgia Senate 43-1 and Cynthia Tucker, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that “Four of the six Republican candidates recently said they would support Georgia seceding from the United States of America.”

As Hamilton’s vision dominated from Jay’s Treaty in 1795 to the present, we are seeing now the Jefferson tendency arise. In a poll of young conservatives in Washington, D.C. several months back, Ron Paul, who more than anyone has reawakened Jeffersonian thinking, tied for second place behind Mitt Romney. That is what was going on across agrarian America in the anti-tax “tea party” demonstrations on April 15, 2009.

Commentary from that voice of the people, Time magazine, was remarkably amiable in response to Rick Perry’s comments. “So what if Texas secedes?” read the headline. “Who wants a union, founded on high ideals of liberty and justice for all, to be maintained only by force of arms or weight of law?” wrote Nancy Gibbs.

Likewise Matthew Yglesias, a prominent voice in the liberal blogosphere, when he speaks of an “amicable divorce” with Texas.

“Letting a state secede on a whim would be a bad idea,” he wrote in his blog on April 18. “But the situation in 2009 is very different from the situation in 1860 so if a big state like Texas (or a sizable bloc of states) had a population that was showing a clear and consistent preference for secession, one should consider just letting them go.”

As I recall, the tone is exactly the same as that of The Economist about a decade ago when they first reported on a new movement by the Bloc Quebecois to remove Quebec from the rest of Canada. Wish them the best, was the Economist’s go-lightly comment. Attitudes in Canada would eventually toughen, but not by much. Quebec has since been declared Quebec Nation by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Fundamental changes in economic dynamics change the world. They did in the early 1800’s when the North moved heavily into manufacturing and industry and soared ahead of the agrarian South. They did again in the 1930s and they will today as China and India rise as the world great manufacturing centers. Commodities guru Rogers says that in the 20 to 30 years ahead agriculture will be the booming investment field while London and New York will lose their functions as finance and investment centers to other regions. Good for the red states. Bad for the Northeast.

23,049 Union and 28,063 Confederate were killed, wounded, went missing or were captured at Gettysburg, 16,170 Union and 18,454 Confederate at Chickamunga, 16,170 Union and 18,454 Confederate at Chancelorsville just as the red buds were coming in, 25,251 at Manassas, 24,645 at Stone’s River, 23,741 at Shiloh and on a hot September morning in 1862, 26,135 fell together in the low hills at Antietam.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Another Woman in Red: Did Nancy Reagan Save the World?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 6/1/09

It may seem like small peanuts today as China gobbles up Australia, the Mekong and Africa in plain sight and when on the 20th anniversary of the most historic massacre in modern times the President of the United States sends his chief man over, as innocent as TinTin, not to inquire as to the safety and whereabouts of the child monk known as the Panchen Lama, kidnapped by the Chinese government years ago, but to submit and to swear fealty. But once upon a time Russia was a big threat to the world.

That period came to an abrupt end overnight. Maybe because of a more vital American vision; maybe because of a bigger batch of nukes or a superior economic model – however, the advanced Marxist-Leninist agenda across the Pacific seems to be doing so well that it is drawing admirers here – but there has long been a rumor that the Cold War actually ended because of Nancy Reagan.

At the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term, there was a general consensus that America had finally found equilibrium in the post-war world and things were getting on course. But Reagan was old and beginning to slip. His important work in the world was done and he was brought in again with 49 states approving, to stay the course.

At that point Time magazine ran a story about a dinner President Reagan held with a variety of historians and presidential biographers of both parties to consider his own biographer. The renowned Roosevelt biographer, Frank Freidel, was at the dinner and Time reported that he and Nancy had struck up an odd couple friendship. It was suggested that Friedel might have taken the opportunity then to encourage Nancy to speak up and come forward in her husband’s second term and to become an agent for the public good as Eleanor Roosevelt had been in her husband’s administration.

Nancy, who had stood by and behind her man in the first term, did suddenly become prominent and outspoken in the second, and was even seen to be mouthing answers to questions to Ronnie as press conferences. The venue did change dramatically, with better relations with the Soviets at the top of the agenda.

The historic Reykjavik meeting between Ronald Reagan and Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev followed. Soon after the U.S.S.R. descended in a bloodless change of policy and Russia reemerged from beneath the mask. But Gorbachev reported later to a university audience that President Reagan was almost incomprehensible at the meeting. He kept talking about old Hollywood days. Quite likely this initiative was not designed by the President.

But it could very well have come from Nancy.

“You can change the world if you don’t care who gets the credit,” Ronald Reagan once said.

Perhaps it was his wife, Nancy, he had in mind. The gentle, chipper woman in a bright red business suit walking with a cane at the White House yesterday on the arm of the President, properly described by the press as indomitable.