Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Going Rogue with Sarah Palin

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/30/09

Years ago Dennis Hopper directed a movie about a Hollywood crew who went to the Amazon jungle to shoot an action film. After they left, a tribal chief had a movie camera fashioned out of vines and pretended to be directing movies. It came to mind during the recent G-20 meeting of global leaders in Pittsburg. Last year historian Niall Ferguson made the credible claim that there is no G-20. There is only a G-2, America and China or Chimerica, or possibly only a G-1, China.

This new phase of post-global, self-serving pseudo events and organizations, like Bill Clinton’s puerile Global Initiative or The (obsequious) Elders, carries all of the convincing authenticity of a Cindy Crawford infomercial. But in the reelection of Angela Merkel as Prime Minister, Germany has stepped away from the pack and opened a portal with fresh and new potential.

What gives significance to Merkel’s victory is that her centralist party in the previous election governed in coalition with the left. She won this time in a coalition with a party to the right with libertarian features. It marks a significant change in Germany and potentially in the west and in the world. It indicates that Germany and others in Europe will no longer necessarily look to Washington for initiative as they find their own way out of the economic recession. America’s post-war leadership arc – a product of military victory in Germany and Japan - may be over. And it suggests that the most central nation of Europe may have finally cast off the shadow of cultural and political nihilism which has plagued Europe and Russia since the Decembrists movement of 1825.

That Other Mother has not yet left New York however, as evidenced by the lead in the New York Times’ news item which sees the German vote not as the victory first for Merkel, but as a failure for socialism: “A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Socialism’s slow collapse.” As the philosopher Kenneth Burke used to point out, the perspective is ingrained in the nuance, tone and texture of the press’s language.

The Times: Even in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to capitalism in 75 years, involving a breakdown of the financial system due to “irrational exuberance,” greed and the weakness of regulatory systems, European Socialist parties and their left-wing cousins have not found a compelling response, let alone taken advantage of the right’s failures.

Those who look back to Europe including Obama’s economists, Obama’s publicists, academics and press, Obama’s friends and key advisors and Obama, are being left behind.

This different is here in the United States as well as the libertarian initiative first took root here. The numbers may be less important than the quality of the crowd; a difference between fashionable and righteous pique and ferocity. The one at the end of things, the other at the beginning. The sanitized, suburbanized, rich-girl Marxism and innocent indignation of the vast antiauthoritarian horde, like that institutionalized by Life Magazine when it reported on Hillary Clinton’s valedictorian speech at Wellesley years ago, which set the paradigm for the next 40 years. Compared to the University of Michigan students who rose to their feet chanting “End the Fed! End the Fed!” at a recent Ron Paul speech. Or that in the American heartland going rogue with Sarah Palin. Who’s afraid of Hillary Clinton?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama in Afghanistan: An Unprecedented Show of Uncertainty

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/27/09

There was a problem in Italy at the end of Ramadan last week when thousands of Muslims wanted to pray outside at Rome's Piazza Vittoria. Like they do in Tehran. The Italian government said no, they had to pray in mosques but they did it anyway. What, are the Italians going to arrest them for praying? Despite the ban thousands of Muslims left their shoes by the side of the road, lay down their prayer rugs and participated in the Eid al-Fitr ceremonies.

The French and Spanish imperialists were said to be clever when they sent the priests in right away with the invaders. Once a Catholic always a Catholic, it was said years back about something else, but looking back it did indeed make an imprint in the Philippines, Vietnam, everywhere. To the point where the war in Vietnam identified “ours” as Catholic and “theirs” as communists. Gandhi hated missionaries. They just disrupt the indigenous cohesions, he said. But of course, that was the point. Even in the territorial disputes between Texas and Mexico, when Anglos moved into the northern territories one of Mexico’s few demands was that these Southern Protestants “turn Catholic.” And he may strike people as rigid in his thinking today and stuck in the past, but Pope Benedict is aware of these things as the broody 1000 year rise of Europe in the Eastern Church in the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople became a mosque for almost another thousand years in the second part, leading up to us today. And there they are now praying in the Pope’s own streets.

Probably everybody inherently knows about this. No one told the Irish Catholics in Toronto, Ottawa or Boston to team up together to oppose the French Catholics. Part of being an Irish Catholic was not being a French Catholic. Or Catholic and Protestant among the working people in Manchester and Liverpool.

When my grandparents left from those ports most of the eyes were blue, RC or C of E. Today, judging from the images that come through on Daljit Dhaliwal’s world news, a good percentage appear to be Muslim, like it is a today second religion in England. As Catholicism was a second religion then; the religion of the working class and the common people. And as in much of Europe, these are the people who are doing the real work. The same work that my grandparents did there in Manchester.

In a vast march across the world and into the universe, my neighbors who are in their 100s up here in the White Mountains, and there are a few of them, can trace their ancestors in their time and not long before passing from Anglican, to Puritan, to Unitarian to hippie Buddhism. My people changed too. But only one of my generation has “turned Muslim”: Cat Stevens.

We happened to be in Michigan around Ann Arbor during the 9/11 tragedy. My boys were young teenagers then. There are large Muslim groups in that region and in the elegant and well-maintained state parks that serve as beaches there groups of families gather. You could clearly see the generational differences. The old women dress all in black, in chador. The next generation of women with babies in American style dress but with a head scarf. The third generation in jeans listening to Kurt Cobain like my kids. When we would go into stores in the little local cities where the community is more coherent and strict, the girls at the counters would commonly then be wearing veils. After 9/11 many of the veils came off but the scarves stayed on and the girls would talk to my boys. It was their secret generation way of saying we belong here. We belong with you.

But I think in the world where they play soccer, the veils started going back up. Not after 9/11, but after the invasion of Iraq and on and on with it. It is in the nature of people to separate by difference, often between head and heart. That is why the French and the Irish fought on ice and why when they built the big cathedral in Ottawa, they named one tower after a great French saint and the other after St. Patrick. To keep, as one commentator said, the Irish and the French working people, “ . . . from killing one another.” But the base is wider in this contention. Between the 78 million who watch the Super Bowl and the 2 billion who watch the World Soccer Cup, likely more than half of whom are Muslim. Lining up now in the unemployment lines in Manchester and praying together in the Piazza Vittoria.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The G-20 of Oprahworld

The Dalai Lama, bumping fists in Louisiana this week, found good and heartfelt friends there. But not likely in Pittsburg. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, cheerful, positive and encouraging when traveling in China as First Lady when the Central Committee was pulling middle-aged and elderly ladies from a Taoist sect off the streets by the thousands, never to be heard from again by their families, has assured them resolutely again that there would be no pesky human rights issues to impede our first and most essential friendship with the one-party state that is China. That one party being the Chinese Communist Party.

We are all friends now. Obama, who sees the world as a college dean does, wants to be friend to all. We are all one people in Oprahworld. Especially now that China is taking the lead in environmentalism. It sort of evens out the kidnapping of the child monk, the Panchen Lama, and the thousands of Buddhist monks tortured and murdered in Tibet by the Chinese government. Only Sarah Palin brought it up this week in her speech in Hong Kong.

China’s welcome initiative on environmentalism is modeled after marketing strategies of the old New York groups, venerable now, forerunners of firms today like Crips and Bloods, Inc., entrepreneurs out west. If you throw a basketball game as a charity event for poor children and single moms you can get away will all kinds of other stuff like dealing heroin to the same children and moms. Your marketing will amplify itself. There will be ten, 20 stories by the happy-face liberal press (what Stalin called “ . . . useful idiots”) about the good you are doing for the poor. It will make people happy and deny the more difficult issues. We want to be happy and we want to look nice. Because we’re all one people in Oprahworld; Obama, Hu jintau, Levi Johnson, Octomon, Mackenzie Phillips, Mao Tse-Tung – high fives all around. Makes no difference in the Land of the Free if you’re rich as the Rockefellers or born with a tail. Such a long ride from Germany and Bach’s cello suites in the time when people were all different. Better now.

The temptation of totalitarianism is never far away here in the greater cities of the northeast. Ancient memory possibly, because so many of us up here come not that long ago from Euro-realms dominated by one Rough Beast or another. But this quote from the New York Times’ celebrity columnist Thomas Friedman on Sept. 8 sent a chill through the live-free-or-die types with a few generations in the woods up here in New Hampshire:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

I expect Friedman will be in Pittsburgh this week egging them on. I am certain he will not be in Tibet for the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China because no foreigners will be allowed in the country. As Diana N. Rowan, a writer and activist who has written for The Atlantic and The Christian Science Monitor, ha written of that moment which the Chinese called “peaceful liberation” or as “reuniting Tibet with the Motherland,” “. . . more than 1.2 million Tibetans have died in wartime violence, by execution, the effects of long imprisonment, torture, starvation or suicide. Forced abortions and sterilization were once a policy. There are vast areas now, particularly in Kham and Amdo, where most Tibetan families lack any male members over the age of thirty-five.”

It may in time be seen as the great abomination of our period that we enter into full relationships with a government that is clearly totalitarian. Not to fight fascism as we did when we entered into alliance with Stalin, but just to make a buck. Both parties now have the one approach in fact, that Friedman so seeks. But as the few and the brave are stepping up in states like New Hampshire, Vermont, Texas and Wisconsin, possibly there is a states rights defense against entering into full commerce with states without freedom.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Bring the Guard Home Movement

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/23/09

In the days of the Vietnam War, journalist opposition approached the edge of fearless. The New York Times, leading the way, was not brave at first about Vietnam, nor was anybody else besides the soldiers. But as in Vietnam, a great wave of protest eventually rose up against the war in Iraq. Then it quickly dissipated with the election of the popular new President although he pushed a similar agenda in Afghanistan. In Iraq, the Times never got brave nor did most of the others, although after “Mission Accomplished” day, they did publish an op-ed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. War is bad. We can all nod vigorously to that.

The problem with quisling journalists, blogging hordes and vast demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people (in the Vietnam era, exposing their breasts and urinating against the walls of the Pentagon) is that the energy leaves like vapor. They simply vent anxiety and are expedient and unsustainable.

But they have a new approach in Wisconsin. The Bring the Guard Home movement brings state-based opposition to the Cheney/Bush/Obama/Biden war now meandering through Afghanistan.

Bring the Guard Home is a national movement of state campaigns to end the unlawful overseas deployment of the National Guard, their web sites states. “It’s the law,” reads their heading.

The idea was first broached up here in northern New England at the beginning of the war on Iraq. Loosely based on Jefferson’s vision of the Constitution, the claim was then that the feds had no right to engage National Guards in foreign wars. At least, not without permission of our Governors or State Legislatures.

As Duane Techsler writes in an opinion piece in the La Crosse Tribune, the current deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard is illegal, “ . . . and perpetrated by lies and deceit of the Bush regime and is being followed by the current administration.”

“We need the Wisconsin National Guard in Wisconsin to serve us in times of disaster at home, such as when we had such massive floodings around the Dells and Vernon County,” he writes.

He requests public support for Bill 203, a bill which will require the Governor to ensure that no Wisconsin Guard unit is unlawfully released into national service. It directs the governor to review every federal call-up of the National Guard for its legality, and where there is no lawful basis for Guard federalization, to take action to keep the Wisconsin Guard at home.

State campaigns are active in Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington D.C., Washington, Wisconsin, and new states are joining all the time, they say.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mitt Romney’s Speech at the Voters Value Conference Unites Conservatives

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/20/09

At the Voters Value conference this weekend Mitt Romney directly addressed Obama’s incomprehensible and fatally flawed decision, unprecedented in the American political tradition, to tax future generations. It poisoned this most auspicious and most inclusive administration from the very beginning. History – the future - will rise from that moment. It already has. Directly following, back in February, New Hampshire state representative Dan Itse first proposed that the federal government had no right to do so, it was immoral to do so and the states have Constitutional defenses against this. Almost overnight, 30 states followed his cue. Tax revolts and the current Town Hall disturbances followed.

Blame it on Glenn Beck, blame it on Sarah Palin, blame it on Rick Perry, but that Romney has endorsed these efforts as he did this weekend changes the political scenarios. Because if Glenn Beck is a demagogue, then now Mitt Romney is a demagogue. Questions will rise now it the hearts and minds of networks chiefs: Who do we stake our future on now, Mitt Romney or Tina Fey? Who will market our charade for this just one day today? Mitt Romney or David Letterman? And how will we be remembered when the moment is recalled?

As The Hill reports, Romney called the tea party protesters “patriots” who have often been derided by Democrats, and said they could block the president’s agenda.

“Thanks to millions of Americans who have stepped up in town halls and tea parties across the country, he’s not going to get his way,” Romney said.

The Romney speech at the Voters Value is an auspicious beginning. The Christian Science Monitor called it “ . . . a more genteel anti-Obama tea party.” Prior to this there was a division between what might be called Western Republicans like Rick Perry, who supported, endorsed and participated in the April 15 tea parties, and what might be called the traditional, culturally conservative Eastern Republicans who opposed.

The question since February, 2009, was how the mainstream of conservatives would respond to this movement. The question since August, 2008, was how would mainstream conservatives respond to the rising spirit in the heartland personified by then Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin? This week Romney, the smartest and most capable conservative politician since Eisenhower, sealed that gap and united the party on these issues. The West is the Best.

Things end where they begin, the Buddhists tell us. The great leader and conservative thinker, Irving Kristol, who passed away just this past week, asked this question in abstraction back in the late 1950s when liberal lions like Norman Mailer and conservative writers like Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter were still friends: Which should we trust in our hearts to lead us into the future, New York and Washington or the American heartland?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Republican Value Voters Straw Poll and the Ted Nugent Republicans

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/18/09

I received lots of comments and mail about an entry here yesterday relating Ron Paul to Sarah Palin in a political atmosphere where 43% consider themselves independents. Many were from Paul supporters who didn’t like the connection. Others did. Glen, who says he has supported Paul for 20 years and Palin for one possibly got closest to the current reality: “I think Palin and Paul have a lot in common,” he wrote. “They are both libertarians, but they come to it from different approaches. Paul is an erudite scholar on both economics and foreign policy. Palin comes at it from the heart and from the gut. She is a natural libertarian who believes in limited government, free markets and individual liberty just because it’s right.”

I found it interesting that one commentator claimed that Paul and Palin did not belong together because Palin was just another RINO, a Republican in Name Only. It’s a good phrase and one I have always associated with Ted Nugent, the mad cap Michigan rocker with a conservative political bent. But Uncle Ted is totally in love with Palin. I heard him call to comment on a radio show a month or so ago when Palin was being interviewed about gun laws in Alaska. “God Bless You Sarah Palin,” was his comment.

The Republican Value Voters conference in Washington this week will hold a straw poll on the still long away 2012 Presidential election. It should be useful in cutting through the ambiguity and denial about the various grass roots movements around the country. In a poll six months ago Palin and Paul came in tied for second, behind Mitt Romney. Romney will come back as we get closer to 2012 but he should sink some this week end because of his association with health care insurance as Governor of Massachusetts.

The brooding ambiguity in the heartland has both Jeffersonian aspects (Ron Paul) and Jacksonian aspects (Sarah Palin). Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry registers in on both of these. All three might be categorized as Ted Nugent Republicans to varying degree and manifestation.

The straw poll at the Value Voters conference should give some indication about the Nuge Factor that is rattling some traditional Republicans. Nugent was the star of the show in some of the Texas “tea party” rallies on April 15. Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, was sent almost to seizures when a purely conservative crowd started chanting “Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul . . .” to the tune of “USA, USA, USA . . .” during one of his speeches. Paul is not a Republican, Graham shouted back at the group.

This could actually be a creative cauldron for Republicans if they can get past the fear factor and it could be a winning new direction. They are playing with a bunch of brand new ideas; tax reform, Austrian economics, state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment, opposition to “one size fits all federalism.” If this got out of hand it could be bad, but if these ideas were properly modified, unified and organized it could indeed make – as Rick Perry phrased it not long ago – for a more perfect Union.

In the end, that might be a job for Mitt Romney. That is what he does. As President and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics, he turned the legendary Robbie (The Band) Robertson’s free-form but delightful hippie fest into a masterwork of sports and entertainment.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ron Paul and Sarah Palin: The Ross Perot Moment

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/17/09

The most startling statistic to come out this month is latest Washington Post/ABC poll that shows 43% of Americans now consider themselves to be independents. Much of the celebrity thrill seems to be gone, as Wall Street Journal commentator Fouad Ajami said it would, with the hip new President who gives such charming speeches. Could be that hip is not what you want in a President when the only difference between Cheney’s war in Iraq and Obama’s war in Afghanistan and Bush’s missile defense program and Obama’s is the better cut of the new Commander-in-Chief’s suit. On the two main fronts, the economy and the war, majorities oppose and he has even lost 10% of the young ‘uns since July. 22-year olds consider themselves to be immortal. They don’t want health insurance.

Change is about, without question, but Obama himself may only be the harbinger, not the change. We could be approaching not a Kennedy or a Roosevelt or a Lincoln moment, but a Ross Perot moment.

Ross Perot came out of nowhere back in the early 1990s and with a kookie Texas freshness, a crate full of his own cash and a bunch of charts, he took almost 20% of the vote in 1992. At one point in the summer he commanded a lead with 39%. What the Perot moment indicated was that World War II or Elvis or the Beach Boys or something had freed Americans from their old constraints. But Ronald Reagan really turned the sea. Prior to Reagan you could with accuracy count on good Boston Irish going to the Catholic Church and voting Democrat every time. You could count on New York Jews and Southern Baptists to do the same. But when Reagan took 49 states in 1984 it was all over with that. Americans were free. With 43% claiming to be independent today, they apparently are still free.

This week Ariana Huffington, the liberal doyenne, and Ron Paul both appeared on Morning Joe. They seemed to like each other and to be in increasing agreement on economic issues. But what was striking was the new legitimacy that Ron Paul has gained since Obama’s bailouts have taken hold. Given the high disapproval ratings on both the economy and the war, it could be said today that the country is moving to Paul’s positions by osmosis. Paul opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed the bailouts. He opposed the entire Keynesian perspective that the Obama administration has adopted lock-stock-and-barrel. Morning Joe – no radical libertarian – pulled out an old script to read in amazement how the housing crisis had played out exactly as Paul said it would back in 2003. Paul advocates Austrian economics and as he gathers continuing respect Austrian economics gains a new authenticity as well.

Sarah Palin and Ron Paul bear kinship. Those who like Paul very often also like Palin. She has said she admired Paul’s independent streak and Paul, like Palin, was considered a pariah when America’s support for Obama was in the 70s and all three networks were head over heels for Obamanomics. But as the sweet and authentic Mary Travis of Peter, Paul and Mary unfortunately passed away this week, I was remembering how the charmed old labor songs that The Weavers used to sing took flight when I was a teenager. Bob Dylan was the pariah then, now he’s everywhere – selling Pepsi and women’s underwear on TV during football games, playing Bar Mitzvah’s. You can’t get rid of the guy.

Such an awakening is ahead again perhaps as the old ideas inevitably yield to time. But different times yield to different ideas.

There are maybe subtle hints that the networks seem to be catching on. Charles Gibson, the ABC News anchor, who led the major networks in their idolatrous backing of Obama, is retiring this year. He will be replaced by Diane Sawyer. Comment was that they wanted a woman for the job. But there are certainly lots of other women who could do it. Sawyer goes way back, to Nixon, to Kissinger, to the Time of Tall Men. My instinct was they were making a correction; ditching the lightweights and getting their best people up front for what lies just ahead.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Afghanistan: War without Honor

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/16/09

When South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham asked Admiral Michael Mullen yesterday to assure the 55% of Americans who no longer think we know what we are doing in Afghanistan that the new troops he wants will do the job; will win the war, he nodded yes. As expected.

What I would like to have heard next was this: Do you assure us then that as a man of honor you will resign your commission and leave the republic in disgrace if you fail?

But this is fantasy football. The problem with broad-based governance and its vast, globalist appeals is that it is not based in real people and places but is a democracy of feelings and abstractions. It is like economy detached from gold – it has no talisman to indicate and sustain truth. In this realm of the televised everyday with its primal pounding of the radio everywhere, getting stoned is the modest substitute for enlightenment and disgrace and failure – whether it is an American President’s dithering while one million fall to the knife in Rwanda or a trophy grabbed on award night from Taylor Swift - can be easily accommodated by a simply apology on Leno. With Eisenhower, Sherman and Lee it was different and we may never find this character again in ourselves. And one day we may need it.

Commentator Haviland Smith, a former CIA chief who writes a column for the Barre Times and the Rutland Herald in Vermont, has a more likely appraisal than the Graham/Mullen sweet talk. The President’s strategy may be based on rhetoric, he says:

Why does President Obama believe it is necessary to "win" in Afghanistan? Of course, this question begs the issue of what "winning" means and whether it is even remotely possible. Certainly, historically, it rarely, if ever, has been . . .

Barack Obama of 2008 had literally no military experience or background and thus little credibility with either the military or its American supporters. If he wanted to have any credibility with the right and with pro-military congressmen, he may have felt that he had to balance his negativity on Iraq with a pro-military stance on Afghanistan . . .

As president-elect Obama, he has found himself in a completely different situation. None of his old political associates had much experience with military matters. President Obama has . . . completely revamped his military team with Generals Petraeus and McCrystal as his go-to leaders on Afghanistan . . .

It's a fair guess that two highly ambitious, educated, articulate, relatively young generals would be disinclined to admit that they could not meet the military needs of the administration – "winning" in Afghanistan. Clearly, they have said that the job can be done, albeit with much involvement on the civil side, yet they have no example of its ever having been accomplished!

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Yorker Responds to Joe Wilson’s Shout with Pique

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/14/09

As Pundit Blog’s Charlie Law was first to point out, The Shout – Joe Wilson’s spontaneous live Tweet, “You Lie!” during President Obama’s speech last week, bore some déjà vu resemblance to another episode: “In 1856,” he wrote, “one of Wilson's predecessors in the House, Rep. Preston Brooks of Edgefield, S.C., thrashed Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner with a cane in the halls of the U.S. Senate, leaving Sen. Sumner permanently disabled.”

Then as now, New York responded. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd thought she heard the South Carolina Congressman calling Obama boy. It is all about race, she said, clenching the issue with her Pacman grasp of nuance. Plain and simple. Joe Wilson is a racist. You can tell because he is white, he was born in the South and one of his ancestors fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Although probably more of my Yankee-reared and educated children’s ancestors fought for the North, unfortunately they all four would likewise fit the Dowd criteria for “racist” as they are all white, were born in the South and at least one of their ancestral kin fought on behalf of the South.

But Dowd sees here the spirit of Nathan Bedford Forest rising again . . . like those red necks always said, “The South will rise again.” And for informed, boots on the ground insight into the stealthy and insidious ways of the South, she calls on loyal Son of the South Don Fowler, a lifelong Democratic apparatchik most prominently associated with Vermonter Howard Dean and Connecticut’s Chris Dodd. “He said a state legislator not long ago tried to pass a bill to nullify any federal legislation with which South Carolinians didn’t agree,” reports Dowd.

Good to know. The Nation, most liberal of liberal political journals has been writing about this for years now and recently Trends Research Institute’s Gerald Celente (born in the Bronx) called this the most important trend of the new century. Apparently this is the first Dowd has heard about it.

There is without question some resemblance to the alienation that primarily opposed New York with “The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War . . .” (Dowd’s characterization) in the 1830s. But I don’t think it can any longer be seen as North against South. And in this round the rising voice approaching is not likely to be John C. Calhoun’s but the former governor of Alaska’s, who has already given Dowd & Co. advanced apoplexia.

But the difference between now and the1830s is this: Then, the New Yorkers were rising to industrial wealth and power unheard of and unimagined in the Western traditions while the South was languishing in the pre-industrial poverty of slavery and subsistence farming. Today, New York and its associated regions including California and New England are running deep deficits. They might even be considered welfare states. While most of the agricultural regions, South, West and Midwest, are flush with cash, running budget surpluses and advancing industry, particularly in the Southwest.

The other problem is this: The nullification legislation recently proposed in South Carolina that Fowler refers to does indeed parallel the nullification legislation advanced in South Carolina in the 1830s. But this time it didn’t start in South Carolina. This time it started in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wilson: Not that sorry . . .

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/11/09

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reports that John Boehner, the House Republican Leader, was a half hour late for a meeting today because he was trying to get Joe Wilson to say he was sorry. Wilson said he already said he was sorry.

How sorry is he? Hold a press conference sorry? Cry in public sorry? Go on Oprah sorry? Mark Sanford sorry? Go on Oprah and cry sorry? Milbank says the problem is that although he said he’s sorry, he wasn’t that sorry.

It’s not easy to be sorry or know how much sorry is always enough. Love is never having to say you’re sorry they said in a novel about Al Gore once. But John Lennon came back then and said love is always having to say your sorry. Hard to say.

The real problem is that this astonishing outburst during the President’s speech was, as Wilson said, “spontaneous.” Like lightning or a flood. By which he meant he didn’t really mean it. But it is maybe unhealthy to be sorry about something spontaneous. It just comes out. And that is what the President, generously forgiving and forgetting, figured. Nancy Pelosi too at first, then she wanted more sorry. And Nancy Pelosi knows sorry like John Chisum, cattle king of the Pecos, knew cows.

But spontaneous doesn’t mean he “didn’t really mean it.” Spontaneous means “he really meant it” and it slipped out. The truth slipped out. Like a sneeze. The truth beneath the suit slipped out.

Better to know it than not know it. Or pretend it will go away if he says he’s sorry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009 is not 1929

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/3/09

The headlines on the Washington Post shows how entrenched the mainstream press is in the romance of Rooseveltism and the Great Depression. “The President Pulls a Jimmy Stewart Moment” it read, referring to the Frank Capra movies of the ‘30s. But 2009 has no bearing on the 1930s, which was an era of total complicity and cooperation between government and the entertainment and information industries, and to pretend they do is dangerous and absurd.

Robert Samuelson, the economist at the Washington Post, says economists should learn a little history. All the talk today relating to the fiscal crisis is of the crash of 1929. But the situation today couldn’t be more different.

A little knowledge of literature wouldn’t hurt. The literature of 1920 tells us that America was at the end of an age of ideals and suppositions long before 1929. The crash of 1929 was an external manifestation of a collective psychological collapse or depression that had already occurred. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published in 1925 and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was published in 1926. These widely popular books were in their way end-or-the-world books; books of abandoned faith in ways gone just before.

World War I brought the death of Europe. It was a war which no one really won. But then in 1923 there was an attempted coup in Germany, evidence that the vast destruction and the moral degradation of the Great War – the mustard gas, the shell shock, the mud and the trench war – was not yet over and the worst was yet to come. In 1925, Hitler published Mein Kamph. History loomed and so did Hitler.

But no way will our historic turning resemble 1929. If anything, our day more closely resembles the rural America of the 1830s. A harbinger in our day might be seen in the TV show Lost, part soap opera, part Saturday matinee, part New Age cult film. It starts with a plane crash and follows in a long, epic struggle; a struggle for the life and death of the American soul, crashing, burning and striving to be born again.

It implies a breakage – a breach of faith - in the spiritual cohesion and continuum. We experienced this in the early 1800s when there were wild mystic variations and awakenings to the usual Western traditions. Cults and new religions arrived with wild preachers in beards. Pilgrims in bear skin shouting would roam these hills to find the dharma path and often found madness instead.

The great spiritual transformation of the early 1800s which brought the world Joseph Smith and the Mormons and Emerson and the Transcendentalists was for the English Protestants who settled in New England the end of an epoch; the completion of a long spiritual striving which started when the Puritans landed.

This season with the death of Ted Kennedy another epoch ends. That of the Irish, Jewish and others ethnics who arrived here between the 1830s and 1910 in the great migration from Europe. The Irish from that period are now Americans. And anyone who attended U. Mass. in the early ‘70s as I did would have seen the same pattern. Thousands of South Boston-born Irish from families Catholic for well over a thousand years, the first in their families to attend college many of them, filling the football stadium to bask in the aura of a 12-year old Hindu guru and god incarnate. Woodstock memories reawakened this season by Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock give evidence to this. The middle post-war generations were a time of shamanism – Mick Jagger, Madonna and Michael Jackson might even qualify - and utopianism and it lingers up here in northern New England’s hills today. Today the top 10 faiths identified by 150 million Facebook users are Christian first, Hindu fifth, Buddhism sixth and Jedi, a contemporary expression of Taoism, tenth. Jewish ranks seventh.

Both these periods experienced cultural and religious breakage or radical change. Decline of the cultural traditions preceded a major economic crisis. In both periods the dominant cultural group yielded power and position. Both periods were prelude to a full restructuring and reorientation of the American condition. But both signaled early before the coming chaos the nature of the crises ahead and the world and its economies that would arise – born again - after the storm had passed.

In 1941 when North Carolina’s W.J. Cash wrote his classic, The Mind of the South, critical of Confederate nostalgicos he expected to be universally condemned. Instead, the book was widely acclaimed by 50 Southern newspapers. The South had let go and was ready to move forward. Time for us to leave Great Depression and World War II behind as well before we get ourselves in real trouble.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Is the World Tired Capitalism? Hatoyama’s World and Miyazaki’s

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 9/9/09

Is the world growing tired of capitalism? An important op ed in the New York Times last week by Yukio Hatoyama, the new leader of Japan, suggests that Japan is. The reassuring voices of the mainstream press have built a wall defending the old temple, but it is unmistakable that something is going on in Japan when the new Prime Minister-designate’s first words to the outside world are these: In the fundamentalist pursuit of capitalism people are treated not as an end but as a means. Consequently, human dignity is lost.

Or maybe they are just growing tired of America: The recent economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the idea that American-style free-market economics represents a universal and ideal economic order, and that all countries should modify the traditions and regulations governing their economies in line with global (or rather American) standards.

What is interesting is that we recently have heard more or less the same words from Pope Benedict XVI and Germany’s Angela Merkel seemed to echo them. There is a new view of the world awakening and it contains a criticism of the combination of globalization and capitalism. “American-style capitalism” as Hatoyama calls it, the ultimate one-size fits-all economic culture first designed by Alexander Hamilton to cover the whole world.

For a while, between say 1946 and 2000, it worked. This view was first countervailed by Thomas Jefferson until the around 1948 when Karl Marx brought the opposing globalist perspective. From then till now, every opposition to capitalism, in the field, the factory or the English department, was based on Marx and Co. But if the world is tiring now of Hamilton, it tired first of his twin, Marx. Suddenly Jefferson, who favored the small and the rural; faith, family and community, is gaining relevance, not just in Texas with Governor Rick Perry, who most succinctly outlines and advocates the Jeffersonian perspective in America today, but in the Vatican as well and now in Japan.

It must be fun to be Japanese today. No erstwhile samurai like the great but severe Akira Kurosawa, no monks – or not many - with a shiv in the belt to kill themselves on route if they lose the path to enlightenment. Much more chill. And Hatoyama’s wife, Miyuki, who dreamed of being taken to Venus by aliens, is said to be a hoot. Robert C. Christopher, whose book, The Japanese Mind, was a best seller two decades ago said then that the Japanese had only three choices: To join with the Americans, the Soviet Union or the Chinese and eventually they would have to choose. One of Hatoyama’s national goals is greater fraternity with the East Asian community. But to understand Japan today Asia hands might go to Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki is considered by many to be a visionary and a genius. His movies are primarily for children but they work just as well for adults. In Japan he is a national folk hero. Here in my little town in New Hampshire I once asked my kids and a few others what was their all-time favorite children’s movie. They’ve seen Disney, Spielberg, everything, but the answer was universally, Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

Miyuki Hatoyama says her husband likes the Miyazaki movies and she mentioned Princess Mononoke in particular. It should be shown to Congress and the State Department, because Princess Mononoke is about a war between two women, one the Industrial Mother who brought factories to the countryside destroying forests and communities in the process, the other is a girl, Princess Mononoke, who shares spirit with the wolf. She is daughter to the forest itself, and she comes to avenge nature and destroy the world of the Industrial Mother. It is beautiful and dark, like a folk tale. The floating bodies may offend those squeamish members of Congress but my kids didn’t mine, and the quiet background – no music pounding constantly – takes a little getting used to, but the artfulness of that style draws you in.

I’d read interviews with Mayazaki when his masterpiece Spirited Away first came out. He has no love for the modern industrial globalists – Hamiltonian or Marxist - and sees the spirit of nature as the core of human experience and community. This is a story that could be told by Jefferson today if he had Mayazaki’s gifts. Or Pope Benedict. Or Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama.