Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jim Webb and Russ Feingold on Afghanistan

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/31/09

Directly after the invasion of Iraq I attended an anti-war rally in Montpelier, Vermont. But I knew any efforts then would be useless because the invasion brought out the same anti-war crowd that had been waiting for this moment since Vietnam. And when I was told at a party for Wes Clark by one of his state administrators in his run here for President that the enthusiasm she felt for Clark was “ . . . just like the George McGovern days,” I knew our plight was hopeless.

A few of us brought a new approach, claiming a states rights defense against Dick Cheney, which seems to be catching on now in other areas.

It didn’t need to be like that. There were disciplined, discriminate and outspoken voices, strong enough to build a new, focused movement on: Wes Clark’s, Jim Webb’s, Russ Feingold’s, Robert C. Byrd’s, Gary Hart’s. Some had been there before, some not. The venerable senator from West Virginia, Robert C. Byrd, was a solitary voice in the Senate and his vote against Iraq was a pure pilgrim’s progress. He had voted for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution as a young man. He knew better than to vote for this one.

But most in the Senate – Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry included - voted for the invasion. They should today be held accountable. They waited for the moment to yield; for the moment when enthusiasm for the war in the heartland, a naturally occurring vengeance in response to the tragedies of 9/11, began to flag to turn the tide on the president. But it was this weakness of character and tragically expedient political maneuvering which enabled Bush, Cheney, Rove and company in the first place. Liberal appeasement was tantamount to Cheney strength. It was the Bush administration’s primary tool of war. They knew they could depend on it.

This past week on The News Hour, Jim Webb, who just returned from Burma where he had conversations with the reclusive leader, General Than Shwe, and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was asked about the war in Afghanistan by Margaret Warner. Did Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, see any comparisons with Vietnam? Entirely different situations, he said, but he felt the Afghanistan incursion had even less of a planned future.

“The challenge in both,” he said, “is to clearly articulate your strategy so that you will have an end point that you are working toward. Quite frankly, I see that as less visible in Afghanistan than I did during the Vietnam War.”

This week Russ Feingold, the senator from Wisconsin, also spoke up as August, 2009, becomes the deadliest month for U.S. troops.

“I am saddened by reports that for the second consecutive month, we’ve seen a record number of deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan,” he said. “This grim milestone comes ahead of a potential request for even more troops to be sent to Afghanistan. The current troop increase in Afghanistan could push members of the Taliban and other militants into Pakistan, further destabilizing a nuclear power. After nearly eight years in Afghanistan, we continue to risk further loss of American lives and increased resentment among the Afghan people – all without a clearly focused mission. It is time we discuss a flexible timetable for withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, along with a clear public strategy for achieving our counterterrorism and regional stability goals.”

Obama’s first error was in rewarding those – Biden and Clinton in particular – who failed the first leadership test of the Iraq vote and took the path of expediency at that time. He should follow the moral compasses now of Webb and Feingold as they go against the general direction of their own party leadership. He should have in the first place. They should now be cultivated as party leaders because they were brave when they needed to be brave and not a year or so later when the winds changed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

After the Kennedy Mystique, What’s Next?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/26/09

In the Massachusetts town where I grew up my father could go through life and never talk to anyone who wasn’t either Irish or Quebecois. Jack Kennedy changed that. He changed everything. And to my surprise, he changed everything for everyone. Traveling in northern Thailand in military service in 1967 I’d entered tiny jungle villages where the children had never seen an American before but on the wall of their hooches were pictures of the king, the queen and JFK.

The Kennedy era ended long ago, but the mystique lived on. The question today is this: Does the Kennedy mystique die as the last brother, Ted Kennedy, enters the realm of the Departed?

Thomas Jefferson’s work in the world was done long before he died but likewise, his mystique lived on and colored political events. Then once he was out of the room, things started to move fast. He was barely cold in his grave in 1826 before events began to swirl again. The rustic frontiersman Andrew Jackson would soon be president and those in the industrial north who had been waiting and watching the South for 50 years with loathing and distain would begin to focus their gaze. With Jefferson’s death the Colonial Period, for all practical purposes, had ended and those of that period would not participate in the new day.

The Kennedy Mystique could likewise pass on with the death of Ted. Which would not be great news for Barack Obama, whose yearning to be the “new Kennedy” is on the verge of the obsequious.

Things begin where they end, the Buddhists say. This year we have seen things in the west start to stir again, much as they did with Andrew Jackson. The rise of Sarah Palin, Alaskan, in particular, as touched a cord in the heartland and sent seizures through the conventionally-bound political classes in the northeast. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, has since joined hands bringing substance, management, new thinking and the suggestion of an actual movement.

But I couldn’t help notice that today’s New York Times featured an op-ed by Jim Webb, novelist, warrior, and now Senator from Virginia. He first brought the same cries of Eeeek! to New York, particularly when he responded to President Bush’s State of the Union in 2007. And like Sarah Palin, he was dismissed outright by the Wall Street Journal’s doyenne, Peggy Noonan ( “ . . . Nancy Pelosi with metals.”)

When Jack Kennedy was elected President, we Irish in Massachusetts came into the country. Suddenly, we were Americans first, and Irish second. And having lived and worked in the shadow of the past again later in Virginia when Richard Allen was Governor, I’d felt that with the election of Mark Warner as Governor, Virginians were having that same experience.

Webb and Warner, now co-senators from the Old Dominion, brought a new day to the Democratic Party. One not strong enough to flourish yet n the national scene by 2008, but one which may find the strength and will to get there in years just ahead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Judging Soldiers

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/25/09

I noticed that when one of the major papers asked different people this morning whether President Obama should follow up on Attorney General Eric Holder’s report of CIA abuses, they asked a variety of self-appointed “watch” groups for their opinions with fairly predictable results. Obama should investigate but soldiers and administrators including CIA operatives should best be judged by those who have served; people like General Wesley Clark and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson rather than by those at the salon who sit in pensive detachment and wait to pounce on malfeasance by those engaged in the action and passion of history. A number of others fall to mind for a panel or council; Major Tammy Duckworth, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, and former CIA station chief Haviland Smith, who writes today on foreign policy here in New England.

Self appointed watch groups with no authority vested by voters should perhaps always be ignored. They tend to create a shadow culture; an antithetical opposition organically hostile to the needs of power when power is needed.

When the American press turned against the war in Vietnam, they also turned the American people against the soldiers who fought in Vietnam. That is why today we have black flags flying beneath Old Glory in every town square in America. Toward the end of the war in Vietnam an entire generation of Vietnam veterans were denounced by the shaded reporting of the tragedy at My Lia. American soldiers were despised then and this influence still ripples through the culture and possibly the Obama administration. Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano should have been fired on the spot for her suggestion that Iraq war veterans are potential terrorists.

In the later Sixties and Seventies the elite northern universities in a pique of righteous indignation threw ROTC off campus. It has not yet returned. Naval officer Joe Sestak, now running for Senate in Pennsylvania, talked about the cultural and regional imbalance of the military in his campaign. The result today is an army of Southern officers. This is an abdication of civic responsibility on behalf of the northern universities and their students and professors. Poor reportage of events like My Lai and the Watergate hearings which at times struck an anthropological cord is partly responsible for this. They became Show Trials calling for human sacrifice.

People volunteer for danger in the service of their country out of a noble human instinct. In following through on their commitment they become results oriented even knowing, as one CIA agent said, they would have to pay for it later. To those who have not responded to that initial instinct to serve “. . . God and country,” it can sound corny. It is not. There is a second phase; a reflex to build a more detached and stylist “alternative.” There is no alternative.

Although done on a much grander scale, the Nuremberg Trials were such a successful model because like much done in that period it was done without public theater or intentional malice. The great General Eisenhower even hired the most learned scholars of the day to find a way to bring conquest to Germany and Japan without the kind of public humiliation what would break their spirit. For this he hired Ruth Benedict for Japan and C.G. Jung for Germany. The desired result was to rehabilitate these nations and bring them back into the community of nations. An army captain, Telford Taylor, directed the show at Nuremberg.

Because of widespread press outlets today including blogs – which bring a ubiquitous chant similar to the “underground newspapers” of the Sixties and Seventies – there is a greater potential today for press opinion to descend to a horde mentality than there was even then during the reportage of My Lai and Watergate. The result then was backlash. It will be today as well if these events are managed so poorly and unprofessionally.

If Obama is to go forward with this he should instead look to the wisdom, care and maturity of the Eisenhower day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rick Perry’s WSJ Interview: Do Perry and Palin bring the “Fourth Turning”?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/24/09

In Saturday’s New York Times Bob Herbert reflects some of the anxiety supporters and loyalists are feeling about Obama. If it turns out that he’s wrong, he writes, “ . . . hold onto your hats. Because right now there is no Plan B.” First call here one year ago was that Obama would be a moment rather than a movement; a feel-good respite before a new political era, as Carter was to Reagan. Obama unquestionably fulfills the hopes and yearnings of a hundred years and completes unfinished business since the Civil War. But a period that fulfills a historic promise is anticlimax to a main event long ago. Its relevance to our day is only to contrast an entirely new political culture which is just ahead. Ideas expressed by Texas governor Rick Perry in a Wall Street Journal interview headlined Fiscal Conservatism and the Soul of the GOP over the weekend could show the way to a new approach.

Key points:

- Texas is now outpacing California economically. As of 2002 (to 2007), with tort reform in place, Texas' annual economic growth jumped to 5%, while California's remained essentially the same at 3.6%.

- Texas created more jobs in 2008 than the rest of the states combined.

- As of July, Texas, which taxes neither capital gains nor income, had an unemployment rate of 7.5%, two points below the national average, while California's hovered at 11.5%, two points above.

- Over half a million people flooded into Texas between 2000 and 2007. Meanwhile, 1.2 million residents left California in the same seven-year period.

Perry, a fiscal conservative, has little regard for the approach of the Obama administration, calling it “ . . . one of the great Frankenstein experimentations in American history. We've seen that movie before. It was from 1932 to 1940." As opposed to "vanilla . . . one size fits all" government, Perry’s "goal is to have states compete against each other. I don't want to look like Connecticut, no offense, I don't want to look like Oklahoma, I don't want to look like California. I want to be uniquely Texas. And that's not to diss anybody else."

At a time when influential conservatives like Charles Krauthammer are falling in line at the Tiny Fey-Letterman-Levi Johnson diss parade, Perry is outspoken in his support for the Alaskan governor: “I love Sarah Palin, I love her positions, I think she was a good governor. . . . I want her to be engaged in this rebuilding of the Republican Party. . . . She is substantially more the face of this country than some other people who might want to be the face of the Republican Party. To me she's the face of America. I mean she's a hard worker, she didn't come from money, she didn't come from privilege, she just worked hard. . . . I have not seen another person who invigorated the Republican base [like she did] with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan in 1976—the speech he made at the Republican Convention. People were looking around and saying, 'we nominated the wrong dude.'"

Since the rise of Obama mainstream political writers have almost universally looked to this administration as the “fourth turning”; the event which would marshal the most influential fourth post-war generation to action and passion much as “the Greatest Generation” did in the 1940s. I felt their estimates were at least ten years off and their predictions did not correctly follow the economic and regional patterns the demographics suggested.

Instead, the critical historic change ahead should be seen to relate to the economic rise of the inland states, the agrarian states and the western states, and the subsequent shift in political influence to those regions featuring Texas in particular. Perry and Palin could be seen now through a glass darkly as original innovators and inspiration to those directions ahead.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Obama’s NASCAR Moment

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/20/09

This President, unlike many, has what I would call an authentic personality, meaning he is naturally curious and interested in the world and responds naturally to originality and creativity no matter where he comes from. Then he also has an “official” nature; modified by his handlers. If you look, you can tell: He looks like he really likes this; or he’s just doing what they tell him to do or what he thinks a President should be doing in a situation like this. He has two smiles that go with it. The one, a huge, beaming, indomitable smile of joy that is present on every picture of his maternal grandfather. The other, the attractive and stylish JFK smile with the casual wave. His picture today with 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson on the South Lawn of the White House and his big car shows the President beaming, happy, and engaged. There is something in the animal that wants to go fast.

As a posse of pundits has been expecting pictures of him basking with Prof. Gates and New York’s elite at Martha’s Vineyard this week and waiting for his approval ratings to drop accordingly, we have been getting instead Obama and his girls at the Grand Canyon, most American of icons and here with NASCAR’s top drivers. Nice footwork by somebody. This is the President’s best public relations photo op moment since he ran for President.

The President is not a snob. But he has been led to the institutionalized voices of snobbery and pretension by people who are and it has hurt him. Obama might take a cure from Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who advised Mark Warner in his successful run for Governor of Virginia. Mudcat got Warner to sponsor a NASCAR team and brought the Stanley Brothers to his events. Warner, now Senator from Virginia, like Obama, is a Harvard-educated lawyer and the vital, rural life force of the sweet hills of Wilkesboro where stock car racing got its start wouldn’t come naturally to him. But, like Obama, he seemed to enjoy the party.

Not everyone would, and it would show. NASCAR might be a touchstone for rising politicians. Bring them to an event. See if they look like they’d like to go fast too. Or see if they squirm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sarah Palin: The Return of the Renegade

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8 17/09

Two words on Twitter by Sarah Palin and the President of the United States is featured on the op-ed pages of the Sunday New York Times in opposition.

It should have been a great week for Newt Gingrich. He was the one who said last week on national television that there should be questions about federal bureaucrats running this thing; there should be questions about something so heartbreaking as the death of a loved one being footnoted in an indecipherable bill hundreds of pages long, there should be questions about euthanasia. Gingrich is their idea man and this was his idea and press has been listening to his ideas and responding now for 20-some years. But this time he was passed over and ignored, because Sarah Palin, Citizen and Renegade, echoed these sentiments in a short, simple declarative sentence on Twitter.

One of the major networks began their coverage of the protests at the town halls with a commentary about Palin’s brief Twitter message, darkly suggesting that these demonstrations were un-American and were instigated by Palin. Then, seen through an airport window night before last, Fox News, which supports Palin and opposes the ObamaCare plan, presented the story with a bright picture of Palin at the upper left top with Obama in a modest scowl to the right and below.

In both cases, for and against, Palin was provided as the original force.

Now she apparently is. In an essay Friday titled, Palin Wins, James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal says that it is clear at the end of this week that Palin has won.

On Thursday the Senate Finance Committee dropped language from its healthcare reform package that Palin and others had suggested would eventually lead to mandated end-of-life counseling sessions for seniors.

Taranto writes: If you believe the media, Sarah Palin is a mediocre intellect, if even that, while President Obama is brilliant. So how did she manage to best him in this debate? Part of the explanation is that disdain for Palin reflects intellectual snobbery more than actual intellect. Still, Obama's critics, in contrast with Palin's, do not deny the president's intellectual aptitude. Intelligence, however, does not make one immune from hubris.

This week I’ve been seeing the world through airport glass and overheard snippets. The on-line press, taking a page from a Leni Riefenstahl propaganda classic and describing Bill Clinton descending from a plane “ . . .like an angel” to free two journalists. Hillary venting wrath at an unfortunate African student. The major networks heading up to Woodstock nostalgia and Obama’s vacation among the royals in Martha’s Vineyard. And in contrast there is Sarah Palin composed by every nuance and aside to be the new Emanuel Goldstein, the state’s official “Enemy of the People” in George Orwell’s 1984. Every state needs an official enemy. It tells you who you are not. An interesting turning as both the Clintons and the Woodstock crowd were it seemed for ages themselves Enemies of the People before they became institutionalized banalities.

Gingrich and Carly Fiorina and others seeking office should take note: If Sarah Palin goes to a baseball game with Rudy Giuliani it remains in the press for two weeks. When Sarah Palin talks, or does virtually anything, people watch and listen. They listen even to her silence, waiting beneath the window for an appearance.

Renegades have a “numinous” quality of the mind which haltingly seeks form. That is why they learn to paint or draw, make music or write. It is the same for an original leader in politics. This is where new eras start. There will not be a better way of insinuating new ideas into the discussion today than by letting them be carried first into the air by Palin. But they need to be followed up on by the eloquent and analytical; Gingrich, Fiorina, Rick Perry even Romney and McCain. Support, clarify, explain, organize and amplify, as Gingrich does this Sunday in the LA Times. They give form to the renegade. There is a symbiotic relationship between these two types and together they begin and advance history.

The world begins again with renegades. There is no longer any question in my mind that if a new political day is to go forward in our country it will start with Sarah Palin, Citizen and Renegade.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sell Clunkers at Auction to Low Income Workers

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/13/09

Thirteen years ago, living in Durham, NC, when my wife was starting grad school, we finally ditched the family car; a great light green Buick station wagon. It had been the last “last year’s model” in Alexandria, VA, where we bought it cheap after our first son was born and we needed something a little bigger than the Subaru. It gave flawless service for a dozen years and over 200,000 miles and had hauled sheep, chickens and a total at one point of 43 animals including multiples of dogs and cats and the four young ‘uns.

There was a program then to give or sell old cars cheap to the poor on government support. And possession of an old car like that was supposed to be considered tangible evidence that you qualified for support. We sold it to someone in the neighborhood and I saw it driving by long after, a triumph of American vision and innovation that just wouldn’t die.

Like my old Dodge van, a prison bus I’d bought at auction in North Carolina. I was stopped once by a Buddhist monk in a rest stop in Virginia who admired my van. He had one just like it years before he became a monk. “You just can’t kill it,” he said. It was a classic. Today there will be no such thing as a classic.

It came to mind yesterday when I drove by the Chevy dealer up here in northern New Hampshire and saw a group of nice looking trucks lined up with “not for sale” written on their windows with marker. They were all good, strong trucks. Nicer than the one I just bought off Craigslist; a ‘96 Ford F150 with 146,000 miles on it for $800. A six cylinder, 306. I should get another 70,000 miles out of it for my 800 bucks. I was bragging all week about the great deal I’d made.

I assume they are going to destroy these perfectly good trucks and cars; injecting their engines with glass which seems more like an execution. Too bad. I’m guessing that the economist who thought up the program didn’t actually think it up but observed maybe that in Singapore, the legendary prime minister Lee Kuan Yew outlawed old cars entirely in modernizing Singapore. Pollution being one consideration. But Singapore then was concerned about being new and looking new just like us Americans and getting the new citizens of a jungle region reprogrammed out of their quiet country ways and into the buy/sell/buy/sell program of a modern market economy. Lee Kuan Yew also outlawed playing music in public and spitting.

But this program is characteristic of a throw away society. A society that throws away entire cities – Newark, Detroit, Durham, Fall River, Mass., where I grew up. The angel of capital alights like an iron butterfly then moves on – Singapore, Shanghai, Mexico City. Both Pope Benedict and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have recently remarked that this world-wide recession gives us an opportunity to change our ways and rebuild to a more traditional society based on savings and community values and responsibility. Saving the world by saving ourselves.

Destroying perfectly good trucks that get 17 miles per gallon to prompt people to buy new ones that get 20 miles to the gallon isn’t going to help if they destroy the cars. And four out of the five car companies that are profiting from this are either German or Japanese. Destroying cars causes more pollution. And every one of these trucks I saw up here destined to be destroyed is in better shape than the trucks and vans being driven by the army of compesinos who cut tobacco and do the field work in Yadkin County, North Carolina, and everywhere else across agricultural America.

They people are poor only in the eyes of politicians from northern cities. They don’t make much money but seem to be doing all right. And they know how to do things. They could take any one of these clunkers and drop a new transmission in it right there in the front yard, putting together an innovative new ride that will take them home to Juarez or Chihuahua and back to do America’s work over a long weekend.

But this administration, having “whistled past Dixie” to bask at Martha’s Vineyard also whistled past most of the hardest working people in America’s heartland. Cash for Clunkers is not so much a bad idea as one that is painfully out of touch with working peoples American realities.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Carly Fiorina Should Challenge Barbara Boxer

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/12/09

What is needed is an entirely new conceptualization and a business plan.

The salon journalists and late night pundits who see ideas of governance as issues of style, like the new Versace line or the latest dish at Chez Panisse, have done a great disservice to the republic this last year in demonizing Alaskan Sarah Palin.

But on the other hand, this past year has been most innovative as we have seen a resurgence of grass roots, Jacksonian style and Jeffersonian ideals of governance. This is related to the pundit’s angst and furthers their contempt, because change is at hand and they are not part of it because change does not come top down, from the White House and its associated TV producers and press reps as they would like it. It comes out of nowhere.

This year marks the critical change. This year marks a new beginning if conservatives can first acknowledge it and second, manage it. And time is right for it. When government and media converge to singular effect as they have done with Obama as in no other time in our history, the result, in a country as vast and diverse as ours, suggests a game show. “Cash for Clunkers” is the appropriate name the novelty economics to come out of a campaign that was widely compared to American Idol. Even loyalist Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post today compares Obama’s health plan to “Deal or No Deal.”

The new century still has not started yet. The “change” touted by Obama was a return to the past. A turn back to industrial state economics of the 1930s at a time when less than 30% of American economy is involved in manufacturing and over 80% is made up of small businesses. We are getting to the end of things and as loyalists like Maureen Dowd begin to turn on their man in the White House, not far below the surface is the Democrats’ fatal and pathetic yearning for Bill. Hillary’s African tantrum this week is said to have been half caused by Bill Clinton scheming with his bros Bing and Terry McAuliffe in LA. Staging a comeback, no doubt, like Elvis in the god suit in Las Vegas.

To the elite who have never ventured on the ground past the Hudson, Palin is an Alaskan fish wife and Texas governor Rick Perry and Southern governors Mark Sanford, Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour are nothing but Southern White Trash and scheming militia. The language of regional hate and discrimination is as pronounced today as racial and anti-Semitic caricature was in the 1930s and 1940s.

But Carly Fiorina, as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has charted waters acceptable and allowable to the corporate paradigm of the New York elite. Let’s see what she has to say. She is said to be drawing near a positive decision about running against Barbara Boxer in California’s upcoming senate election.

Because California is falling apart. A constitutional convention is at hand and there is a strong movement to divide the state in two, which will have strong repercussions in places like New York, New Hampshire and Virginia, where the city folk have found the demographics and the numbers to commandeer the general will of the vast attached rural populations. This same division has already been proposed here in New Hampshire.

California is the canary in the mine suggesting danger for the rest of the country. There is a free and independent New West Republican movement at hand – Romney sees it but may not be able to carry it. McCain may be father figure to this if only because they listen to him in New York. But Perry, Sanford, Jindal, Barbour and Palin are the original forces behind this new approach.

It needs now to gain traction before the press kills it. And we need to hear more from a systematic and analytic thinker like Fiorina. Because both parties today in power in California are failures. We need to begin again and we need to begin again in California.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Woodstock and the Other Mother: A Brief History of the New Age

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/9/09

When the wave of Woodstock nostalgia awakens this next week with the 40th anniversary of that spontaneous celebration of peace, love and dope that so deeply marked a generation and impressed the media so thoroughly that we still listen to these people, youth will want to know: Is that Granny and Grandfather dancing naked in the mud? Is that Great Auntie Eleanor firing up a jumbo? To find the answers to these questions youth might ask: Is Great Auntie a lawyer or a journalist? Then probably yes, because virtually everyone who was at Woodstock then is either a lawyer or a journalist today.

There are several unmarked or unnoticed elements of the storied Woodstock festival. First, the music sucked. Most of the performers – Country Joe, Sha-Na-Na, Quill, Mountain, were never heard from again. But Janis was there, and so was her elegant shadow, Grace Slick with the Jefferson Airplane. Nothing free and awakening like that which they had at Haight-Ashbury in California just a year or so before, but well enough for a bunch of lawyers on acid. Woodstock would be Haight-Ashbury for lawyers.

The other great acts, Bob Dylan, The Beatles didn’t go. The arc had passed; the age was ending – it was clear that Dylan’s contemptibly square and myopic Mr. Jones had got hip; was wearing jeans and a tie-dyed shirt now and would write the ending for Life or Newsweek. The really rich and original stuff had happened in the brief, breathtaking and contagious years just before when the age had reached apogee; Sgt. Peppers and the Summer of Love – 1967, in Haight-Ashbury – “The Haight”; it would be and still may be a catalyst to what Madame Blavatsky had claimed a hundred years ago, the beginning of a new spirit civilization; the beginning of the Age of Aquarius.

Madame Blavatsky, new age Earth Mother incarnate, is said to have influenced Einstein and his niece said that Einstein’s motivation for the General Theory came from her complex text, The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888. He kept it on his desk at the Princeton Institute throughout his life, she said. I took a look at it and couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it. All math. Hippie math, like the General Theory, that has time going in both directions and whatnot.

People today hardly recall that Blavatsky said that or hardly recall her at all but if anyone is responsible for the new age of new beginnings that seemed to just pop out of nowhere in the early Sixties, it might be her more than anyone. They recall instead the Other Mother; Gertrude Stein, the flip side of Madame Blavatsky, who looked to the same general region and said, “There is no there there.” Ambassador Clinton likes to say that too.

There is a second thing about Woodstock that is unknown or forgotten, and this could be a test: Ask anyone you know who went to Woodstock who was the Indian guru who appeared on stage between acts and gave little talks while Great Auntie was dancing naked in the mud. The answer is Swami Satchidanda. He is entirely forgotten or was not even remembered at all. But Satchidananda was friend to Mia Farrow and guru to Laura Nyro, one of the great, soulful voices of the day who was also quickly forgotten.

Satchidananda’s message was “Truth is One, Paths are Many,” and I can’t see a more perfect point of order for our own period. And had it not been for Satchidananda, and had John Lennon not brought The Beatles to the Marharishi Mahesh Yogi’s retreat in India the year before it would not have been possible that an old Christian, Southern conservative like Jesse Helms would find a true and authentic friendship with the Dalai Lama in the last decade of the 20th century.

But anyway, all the real action was before, in 1967 and 1968 around Hashbury, when Janis Joplin awakened to the world with a scream and a cry as if born of the earth itself; a cry that had been sleeping for maybe 600 years. But sadly, she would be gone too shortly after, leaving us too early. The gods take the great ones young and they intentionally obscure the Paths by sending the lawyers on to write the history.

Woodstock marked the end of a period of what Tibetan Buddhists call a “between” – it is the creative, “timeless” gap between childhood and adulthood. The age began in the early-mid Sixties in my high school football field in Newport, RI, when Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were still singing about Jesus. Not only that, but they brought in these great people from North Carolina and Tennessee; Doc Watson, Johnny Cash and the Johnson Family singers – real, authentic people like we who wore suits to high school did not know existed in our great country. You can still see this on PBS because they run it by during fundraiser time; Joan Baez, the most beautiful young woman of the age at 20 who sang like a bird, peering out into the audience and asking, “Is Bobby there?” Then he’d lightly jump up on the stage too and sing with her. I like to watch it with my kids because I am there too.

Then one day he changed from a wooden guitar to an electric one and they say it was then that the age really began. About 1965. Indeed, everything was different after that. They brought the rite of entry for the age. Woodstock was the rite of exit. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell coming to him shortly after. They closed the portal that Joan and Bob opened. They were good. They were great.

But it all collapsed nine months after Woodstock as if the coming death was going through a returning pregnancy; May 4, 1970, at Kent State, when National Guardsmen shot down and killed four students who were protesting against the war in Vietnam.

Neil Young, howling a sacred animal chant like a wolf lost and alone on Alberta’s frozen northern tundra, sang: Tin soldiers and Nixon coming . . . we’re finally on our own . . .

That was the key phrase: We’ve finally on our own. Because there the gap between the generation’s childhood and adulthood had closed.

Jerry Rubin, hippie leader of the day, wrote in one of his biographies, “After Kent State you couldn’t get a girl to type your term paper for you.” For sure, for sure, there would be no carrying sign like “Chicks up front,” like they held two years before at the Democratic Convention riots led by Rubin in Chicago.

It has somehow been my twisted karma to be like Waldo, walking anonymously through the crowd when these things were happening. I happened by the Haight-Ashbury scene right at the peak as I was flying out then from San Francisco to Tan Son Nhat. It was a moment exactly like Madame Blavatsky said: It was a moment possibly like the Yeats/Krishnamurti/Blavatsky day which started the new age, and it was a moment like none other that had occurred in the Western tradition for a thousand years and more.

It was astonishingly joyful and free and beautiful. I had so much fun I missed my plane to the war and had to catch a ride the following day. A year later, at the end of my tour of duty, it was all dark and dangerous. And the “chicks up front” riots were happening in the Chicago Democratic Convention and I ended up there too sleeping in the train station when I ran out of furlough money.

Within that year – between August 1967 and August 1968 - age had become politicized. The age was over because as the Christ, who awakened another age 2,000 years before almost to the moment, had said: The Father lives on the one side of the coin, The Caesar on the other. If I may be so arrogant as to update the Master on that a little: The Earth Mother likewise lives on the one side of the coin. The Other Mother lives on the other. (For further exposition, see Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.)

In that regard, Woodstock was dénouement. It was a shadow of the real thing which had happened just a year or so before on the other end of the continent in San Francisco. But politics and public policy are more accessible to lawyers and journalists. So they left the Earth Mother side of the coin and went over to the Other Mother.

The men had landed on the moon, John Lennon had married Yoko at Yalta in a white suit suggesting Jesus and the hippies had all left the farm and gone on to grad school. A lot of people started going then into rehab.

Jerry Rubin entered the life of suits. He was, as he said, a pilot fish for his generation, and what he did millions of others just his age would do as well. He moved to Wall Street. And they did too.

He told them: ". . . wealth creation is the real American revolution." It’s okay to be rich.

The age of the Earth Mother had ended. The age of the Other Mother had begun. Hillary Clinton and Joe Namoth were featured in Life magazine in 1969, the same summer of Woodastock. You can get a copy on-line now for $35.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ling and Lee and the Al Gore Religion

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/6/09

I am sure that every American is delighted that the two journalists were safely removed from the desperation of North Korea’s twilight. If ever there was a realm that time has passed by it is that one. The kind of thing Kafka used to write about: People stuck in the time warp of their youthful glory days when the trends and the stirring movements had well passed and the world had passed them by. Nostalgicos. But there is something about these two reporters that makes them seem more like missionaries than reporters.

And this story is so much like a modern day retelling of the classic story of American missionaries getting “accidentally” caught alone somewhere behind the lines and some high profile American politician or celebrity or both like Bill Clinton is sent out to save them – isn’t this Jesse Jackson’s job? – out there in the Godless realm of the Foreign Devil, raising the celebrity’s profile and the profile of the whatever, esoteric, Christian cause that no one has ever heard of before but everybody knows all about now.

In the oldest days they used to show them – the missionaries - being boiled in a big black pot by natives but that would of course be excruciatingly bad journalistic form today. You will however be shocked to know that these savages traffic women and children and worship elephants and snakes and fight with roosters. There couldn’t be a philosophically more remote hinterland than North Korea, land of the Dear Leader, that putz, Kim Il Sung II, to contrast the new enlightenment.

But if these incredibly naïve young people are journalists how come we’ve never heard of them before? Missionaries boiled in the pot gave martyrs to the cause and profited the movement, but why would a journalistic enterprise expose such star-struck, devoted amateurs to such a life-threatening situation? And what is Al Gore doing in the picture? He is there because Ling and Lee are journalists for the Al Gore Religion.

The young women are apparently reporters for Current TV, a new vehicle for Al Gore. Much has been written lately about environmentalism as a kind of devotion, or religion, or a cult, or a transcendent detachment. If so, Al Gore is its self-appointed Perfect Master. The headlines on Current TV today are: Rewarding Farmers to Sequester Carbon; In Climate Fright, a Time for Civil Disobedience?; This Morning: the Dawning of Hope and Truth for our Dearest Mother, the Earth and this one with periods to emphasis the blunt truth talk of the avatar: Al Gore. Interviewed. By You and Kevin Rose: Announcing Digg Dialogg with Al Gore. On the current issue there are seven pictures of Al Gore on the front page.

This is the language of the Maharishi. The journalists who write for it sound like missionaries trying to be hip. Al Gore is the new Bhagwan. No doubt there are summer camps and missionary responsibilities. Myself, I long for the real thing. I long for the days when the Hare Khrishnas used to give out cookies in airports. Back in the Sixties and Seventies. So does Kim Il II. So does Al Gore.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Rick Perry vs. Obama: Red State vs. Blue State

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/5/09

Gov. Rick Perry suggested Thursday that he would consider invoking states’ rights protections under the 10th Amendment to resist the president’s healthcare plan, which he said would be "disastrous" for Texas.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that should “Obama-care” pass, Perry predicted that Texas and a "number" of states might resist the federal health mandate.

"I think you’ll hear states and governors standing up and saying 'no’ to this type of encroachment on the states with their healthcare," Perry said on Mark Davis’s talk show in Dallas. "So my hope is that we never have to have that stand-up. But I’m certainly willing and ready for the fight if this administration continues to try to force their very expansive government philosophy down our collective throats."

Interviewed after returning from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, Perry spoke out against President Barack Obama’s healthcare package less than 24 hours after the president used a prime-time news conference Wednesday night to try to sell the massive legislative package to Congress and the public, the Star-Telegram reports.

"It really is a state issue, and if there was ever an argument for the 10th Amendment and for letting the states find a solution to their problems, this may be at the top of the class," Perry said. "A government-run healthcare system is financially unstable. It’s not the solution."

Perry has shown “unwavering support” of the 10th Amendment initiatives that have popped up this year in 36 states which assert state sovereignty over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.

The federal government “ . . . has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens and its interference with the affairs of our state” he has said recently. Returning to the "letter and spirit" of the 10th Amendment, "will free our state from undue regulations and ultimately strengthen our union."

One of the first governors to speak out in opposition to the federal bailouts, Perry has taken leadership in the state sovereignty movement which began in New Hampshire this year. It has since exacerbated red state/blue state contention as most of the states using the 10th Amendment to oppose the bailouts are in red states. And as The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat pointed out on August 2, 2009, Texas, probably the most representative of red states, today looks like a model citizen.

The Lone Star kept growing well after the country had dipped into recession. Its unemployment rate and foreclosure rate are both well below the national average. It’s one of only six states that didn’t run budget deficits in 2009.

On the other hand, that poster boy for blue states, California, is a disaster:

Meanwhile, California, long a paradise for regulators and public-sector unions, has become a fiscal disaster area. And it isn’t the only dark blue basket case. Eight states had unemployment over 11 percent in June; seven went for Barack Obama last November. Fourteen states are facing 2010 budget gaps that exceed 20 percent of their G.D.P.; only two went for John McCain. (Strikingly, they’re McCain’s own Arizona and Sarah Palin’s Alaska.) Of the nine states that have raised taxes this year, closing deficits at the expense of growth, almost all are liberal bastions.

The president is pushing a California-style climate-change bill at a time when businesses (and people) are fleeing the Golden State in droves, says Douthat. He’s pushing a health care plan that looks a lot like the system currently hemorrhaging money in Massachusetts. His ballooning deficits resemble the shortfalls paralyzing state capitals from Springfield to Sacramento.

Douthat cites the work of author Joel Kotkin who writes about urban and economic issues. On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory, Kotkin wrote recently in The American. “The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry.”

But in fact, blue states are experiencing a decades-long meltdown: “Hope” may still sell among media pundits and café society, but the bad economy, increasingly now Obama’s, is causing serious pain to millions of ordinary people who happen to live in the left-leaning part of America.

For example, while state and local budget crises have extended to some red states, the most severe fiscal and economic basket cases largely are concentrated in places such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, and, perhaps most vividly of all, California. The last three have among the highest unemployment rates in the country; all the aforementioned are deeply in debt and have been forced to impose employee cutbacks and higher taxes almost certain to blunt a strong recovery.

And as commodities guru Jim Rogers has been suggesting this past year, the long-term future looks bright for agricultural regions and places where commodities grow. That would be the vast red America. While places like New York where paper is traditionally moved and securities are dealt have lost their function to global competitors.

Increasingly, the growing economies of the red states will be asked to support the declining blue states.

The East Coast–dominated media, of course, wants to claim that we have reached “the twilight” of Sunbelt growth, writes Kotkin. Instead, the list of fastest-growing regions recently compiled for Forbes are traditional red-state strongholds such as the Dakotas, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and North Carolina.

Monday, August 03, 2009

McCain: Deficits “ . . . biggest problem we’ve ever faced.”

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/2/09

John McCain is stepping up. In an interview last week he told Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal that he felt the deficits were “ . . . the biggest problem we’ve ever faced.”

We need more McCain. McCain is possibly the most trusted, admired and respected of Americans for his long service and his long suffering as a POW during the war in Vietnam. Today he is our Gray Champion. We need his leadership. Perhaps now more than ever.

We may be on a nine-month reality time lag here. What investment master chiefs Jim Rogers and Marc Faber were saying about the danger to the dollar ten months ago mainstream pundits are saying today. And what South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Texas Governor Rick Perry were saying about the bailouts last November, McCain is saying today.

"I think you could say that it is a short-term improvement in the economy. And I'll be glad to give him [Obama] credit for that,” McCain told CNN's John King in an interview taped Friday for State of the Union. “But the question that I think we should be asking are the long term consequences of this unprecedented debts and deficits — are they beneficial to the country? And I think the answer is no."

Long term, Faber has said, the printing of money will bring inflation of 20% and possibly 100% in a sea of paper.

“Never have I seen such a transfer from the private enterprise system to the government of such massive scale,” he told Moore. He went through the list: car companies, banks, insurance firms owned by government, and he especially grimaced when he mentioned the $787 billion stimulus package.

In recent weeks, Rogers, speaking plainly, simply called it American communism. Let’s see who speaks up nine months hence.

The only time where we amassed greater debt was during World War II, and that was temporary spending, he said. “We won the world war and then cut back. But now . . . the spending is permanent.”

And this is not to win the war against German fascism. This is a stimulus to trade in the 1973 Dodge Dart slant six that’s been rusting on the back 40 for a down payment on a new Lexus or one of those sweet Audi R8s. (The Toyota web site reports: With the U.S. government’s trade-in program, a.k.a "Cash for Clunkers," your old vehicle may be worth up to $4,500, plus factory incentives**, towards the purchase or lease of a new Toyota, Lexus or Scion.) Good for Germany. Good for Japan. Bad for us. Non-partisan estimates today are approximately an $80,000 tax burden for every man woman and child and for those yet waiting to be born to bail out Germany and Japan. Second time for Germany, counting the Marshall Plan.

The Hill reports that McCain will lead opposition to “cash for clunkers.”
The mainstream press was still enamored of the new boy king when Perry and Sanford wrote in The Wall Street Journal on December 2, 2008, that as governors and citizens, they've grown increasingly concerned over the past weeks as Washington had thrown bailout after bailout at the national economy with little to show for it.
“In the process, the federal government is not only burying future generations under mountains of debt,” they wrote. “It is also taking our country in a very dangerous direction -- toward a "bailout mentality" where we look to government rather than ourselves for solutions.”

They asked other governors from both sides of the political aisle to join with them in opposing further federal bailout intervention. Very few stepped forward. Only Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska. Both faced the scorn of the winged monkeys.

McCain makes the point in the Moore interview that not much has improved because of the stimulus. “And now, the answer is, according to the Obama economists, we didn’t spend enough.”

McCain told Moore that he was perplexed that his pals in the media turned on him in 2008 after years of worshipful press treatment.

McCain was, in a way, a victim of network marketing circumstances. When Barack Obama appeared on the scene virtually out of nowhere in the middle of that very, very long campaign it did two things for the media. It gave them the opportunity to neutralize the long and tedious soap opera that is the Clintons. And then it gave them an opportunity to market a fully new venue that could conceivably carry for a generation – the first black President - with fully over-the-top historical tie ins to Kennedy, Roosevelt and Lincoln (and even Jesus). All network hands were got on board from Late Night pundits and comediennes, to mainstream broadcasters and the major newspapers joined the new zeitgeist juggernaut as well. By July, Senator Obama was up 15 points on McCain. They were already into long-term planning and investment. Then when McCain picked Governor Palin for VP they were suddenly dead even again.

The scorn Palin and family have been receiving this past year is primarily related to that. Obama was to be the new star. There were no plans for anyone else. There was no room for such a dynamic and attractive individual running in such a pure counterpoint to everything Obama stood for. It would be the New Man again as it is periodically in our history, and there was no longer room for a venerable old soldier like John McCain.

But now it is coming down fast and this could be dangerous because there is a long way to go and it could be a long way down. The networks and complicit papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post basically marketed Obama as a tour manager would a rock star. Obama likewise, staging his acceptance speech at Mile High stadium to a rock star crowd or possibly closer in his mind, modeling on a Cecil B. DeMille production of Jesus or Moses hovering, arms raised, over the minions.

It is interesting that The Beatles actually started this but soon after John Lennon refused to perform before vast crowds in huge stadiums like this because it created a horde mentality - they came to see you as “gods” - and he was afraid someone might get hurt or die which they do. But even the Pope today has no such scruples. Or Obama. As Mick Jagger once said, his job was basically to come up with one hit song ever six weeks or so to create and sustain a static market. Obama likewise needs a new hit every six weeks or so.

That was probably the first mistake and it reveals a condition deep, widespread and dangerous in the American electorate that may yet bury us. You want a rock star for piped in background music at the super market or the Bada Bing! You don’t want a rock star for President. You want an adult.