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.