Friday, February 27, 2009

Ron Paul: The Most Dangerous Man in America

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/27/09

. . . first of all, to go alone; to refuse the good models, even those which are sacred in the imagination of men. - New England’s Celestial Bard, 1838

The newspapers are in a hissy fit of indignation in the lower quarters of New Hampshire – North Massachusetts, we call it - because the folkloric north country types; men with beards; men who live in the forest, have proposed a version of Thomas Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions.

I and a few other renegades proposed Kentucky Resolutions five years ago to make the claim that the Bush administration and the federal government did not have the Constitutional right to send New Hampshire men and women to war in Iraq without the express consent of our governor. We had only two interested parties back then, George Kennan, on his deathbed, and John Kenneth Galbraith. Kennan actually applauded our initiative. Galbraith, late in his 90s but still at his desk at Harvard, called our wish to send our own representative to the United Nations “ . . . wonderfully to the good.”

Beyond that, there was zero interest. But two weeks back when my well-versed, original-thinking and inspiring representative, Paul Ingbretson, and another, Dan Itse, and several others proposed Kentucky Resolutions to the New Hampshire state legislature, other state governments started to take notice. Oklahoma actually passed a resolution in their House. And suddenly, only two weeks later, 31 states have initiated state sovereignty clauses in their legislatures.

This is all because of one man; the most dangerous man in America today: Ron Paul. In hindsight, his arrival is worth review because it helps explain the Kentucky Resolutions and it helps explain Jefferson.

At the beginning, our continent took two paths and was led by two visions; the one, the expansive, globalist vision of Alexander Hamilton of the Empire State, who saw a strong and singular central (world) government enabling a world of capital and corporations. The second was a vision of unique states and regions and peoples, loosely connecting the one to the other, growing over time, rich in character and each with its own identity and personality. These would be peoples whole in their own communities; people close to the earth and close to their experience of God. This was the vision of Thomas Jefferson, the Virginian. The Jeffersonian vision was sent into exile in 1865. Ron Paul has brought it back.

Hamilton’s vision was at war with Jefferson’s from the start. And as power accumulated in the Empire State through the rise of corporations and the industrialization of the northern cities, the Hamilton vision dominated.

From as early as 1830, when the industrial revolution came to New England and New York, Jefferson had no role whatsoever. The industrialists had the power and Jefferson and the Virginians were considered tribal and regressive. Today, for the first time in more than 150 years, Jefferson’s vision has awakened again in the world with the rise of Ron Paul.

Ron Paul awakens here to us in northern New England because we are one of the last vestiges of Jeffersonian independence in the northern parts, although all of our early great poets were Jeffersonian, including the Celestial Bard cited above. We lost our identity when Wall St. became the world vortex of capital, but as we are increasingly seeing, it is no longer.

And for whatever reason, New England does indeed seem to be rising again and coming out to NY’s shadow. It was horrible here growing up in a city of 150 empty cotton mills. I volunteered for Vietnam just to get away from it. It was so bad that in the restaurant I worked at as a college student some of the waiters also played for the Patriots. And the federalies had sent a major highway right through the heart of the city of Boston as they had through so many other major cities in the country, cutting them in half to show who was boss.

But today New England – Jeffersonian New England - is looking pretty good and so is Boston. They buried the highway. Our quarterback is almost beyond imagination. And the Red Sox have broken the Curse, and possibly broken the Yankees: Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.

Hamilton is losing ground and so is his vision of world economic conquest.
It was inevitable that the Jeffersonian paradigm would awaken after the South, Texas and the Southwest were brought into the mainstream Republican fold, as all Southern life is based on Jefferson.

As Frank Owsley, one of the great historians of the 20th century put it:
“In the beginning of Washington’s administration two men defined the fundamental principles of the political philosophy of the two societies (North and South), Alexander Hamilton for the North and Jefferson for the South. The one was extreme centralization, the other was extreme decentralization; the one was nationalistic and the other provincial; the first was called Federalism, the other State Rights, but in truth the first should be been called Unitarianism and the second Federalism.” (“The Irrepressible Conflict” by Frank Owsley, 1930)

Today, Jefferson’s vision comes out of shadow and onto Main Street with Ron Paul.
At the end of the recent campaign season, Paul was asked if he would endorse another Republican who supported the invasion of Iraq. He said: “I cannot in good conscience vote for them.”

This is the way the world begins again; with one man willing to go alone, refusing the good models, even those which are sacred to the imagination of men, as Ralph Waldo Emerson advised us to do here in New England back in 1838.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We’re Not All Socialists Now: New Hampshire’s Jeffersonian Uprising

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/25/09

The Newsweek headline last week hit a cord: We Are All Socialists Now, it read. That should not surprise us, says Pete du Pont in a Wall Street Journal column, for more government involvement and decision-making in all aspects of our country's policies, organizations, businesses and local governments is the belief of the Obama presidency.

But not everyone is ready to roll over so quickly. Here in New Hampshire, they have discovered the long forgotten antidote to government over reaching: Thomas Jefferson.

It started with a skit, Margot Sanger-Katz reports in the Concord Monitor. Rep. Dan Itse was preparing for a Constitution Day celebration this summer when his research for the part of James Madison brought him to the 1798 Kentucky Resolution, a repudiation of federal overreaching penned by Madison and Thomas Jefferson in response to the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts.

"I looked at this and I said, this is the real thing," Itse told Sanger-Katz.

Now, the fruits of Itse's studies - a 2,400 word House continuing resolution designed to reassert New Hampshire's sovereignty - have set off a frenzy among liberty-themed media and have helped inspire a flurry of federalist legislation in states across the country.

Suddenly Itse is gaining national attention. He was recently interviewed on the Glenn Beck Show. Beck: “You say the federal government is overstepping its bounds. . . .”

“Yes,” said Itse. “We have a resolution which says, thus far and no farther. It’s a line in the sand to tell the federal government that they are no longer allowed to transgress the Constitution and if they do, they’re nullifying the Constitution.”

Itse quoted directly from Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolution in his bill where Jefferson writes that we are not bound by unlimited submission to a general government by a compact, the Constitution.

Secession is clearly suggested in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, but Itse makes the more subtle point.

“This isn’t about withdrawing from the union,” he told Beck. “The happiest resolution of this resolution would be a renewed union within the confines of the Constitution. But if the general government nullifies the Constitution, how do you withdraw from something that doesn’t exist?”

“You’re playing word games,” said Beck.

But Beck missed the point. Jefferson and Madison did not leave the Constitutional faith. They carried the faith and kept it. The feds left the faith when they passed the illegal and unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Kentucky Resolutions, possibly more than any other legal document, express the immaculate mind of Jefferson and the pure vision of his legal writing. Jefferson says that the Constitution represents a contractual relationship between people freely entered upon based on good faith, fidelity, honor and responsibility one to the other. It is similar to a marriage contract. If one of the parties breaks the vows he or she has broken faith with the other and the marriage no longer exists; the people are living alone together in a house in bad faith, and it can no longer be called a marriage.

Likewise, if fidelity to the principles of the shared republic are broken, and Jefferson’s point was that the contract was broken when the federal government pushed through the oppressive Alien and Sedition Acts, then the republic no longer exists. The people then are little more than a horde, blindly following Emperor or Suleiman. In time, they become fenced cattle, neither free nor connected.

A House committee voted 13-7 against the proposal earlier this month, Sanger-Katz reports, but local activists plan a massive rally for the resolution's floor vote March 4. And between 10 and 22 states are considering similar resolutions this term, some inspired by New Hampshire's example. The bills all tell Congress to stop meddling in state functions.

Sanger-Katz reports that Sen. Randy Brogdon of Oklahoma, the sponsor of a similar resolution in his state, described Itse's bill as "poetic." The Oklahoma resolution, which reasserts that state's sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, passed that state's House last week and Brogdon predicts it will carry the Senate as well.

"If we're going to take back our nation, it's going to be, we're going to do it state by state," says Brogdon, a Republican from the suburbs of Tulsa who is mulling a run for governor in 2010. Brogdon pointed to the recently passed federal stimulus bill as just the latest congressional act that unconstitutionally limits states' autonomy. "Congress isn't doing it. Congress is destroying our nation," he said.

Matt Shea, an Iraq war veteran and a new state representative from Spokane, said he almost came out of his chair when he read the headline on Newsweek.

“It speaks volumes,” he said on the Alex Jones Show. “That type of federal government intervention and over reaching is exactly why state governments are beginning to fight back. We need to rediscover our sovereignty.”

They are sending a message to Barack Obama, he said, that Washington is a sovereign state and demands to be treated as such.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waiting for Bobby Jindal: Obama Advances Red State/Blue State Contention

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/24/09

President Obama’s call for “bipartisanship” is lacking in any authentic desire to go to the opposition and find a center between. Instead, he tries to find Republicans who are conservative in style only but in culture and principle are the same as he is. What the astute political commentator Ted Nugent calls RINOs; Republicans In Name Only.

Judd Gregg, the senator from New Hampshire, did the right thing in turning down the Commerce position when what was underneath became apparent. Obama’s call now will go to Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, both from the most liberal and most blue states in America.

And that is the core of what is unfolding in the Obama administration: The President is consolidating political strength in all the blue states in opposition to all the red states. This is potentially a dangerous error of historic proportions.

Here in the northeast, red state/blue state history is misunderstood. Red state/blue state contention is, to paraphrase military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, an extension of war by cultural means. It awakened when the Christian Right rose as a cultural force in opposition to the perceived decadence of the hippies and radicalism in the North in the 1960s. It took power as the Southern states and the extended red states in the heartland gained in economy in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming an actual contending political force with Ronald Reagan.

These two forces might be considered agrarian America and urban America. Urban America with Obama has defaulted to the French cultural model of socialism, which is anathema to the red states and agricultural America. The red states have different roots, different cultural bearings and different mythical beginnings than the blue states. They have shaken their European traditions. It is not in their nature to look to Europe for anything. Blue states since Woodrow Wilson are an extension of European culture although this is only a default of traditional northeastern attitudes.

The liberal blue states momentarily have slightly greater population than the red states and have come to political dominance with Obama. But it is entirely necessary for the liberal blue states to bring in policies that can be accommodated by red states and are to some degree acceptable to the red states. This should be politics 101. Instead, Obama has taken the “whistling past Dixie” approach. Consolidating blue against red to such a degree exposes a conquistador posture. Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it bluntly: We won. We will do anything we want.

A recent press report says Obama will unite us as Lincoln did. Say what?

The blue states have written our history since Washington teamed up with Hamilton and Adams at Jay’s Treaty in 1794. But they have been receding in importance since World War II as population and economy headed South and West. The Obama Presidency might be seen as a movement of descending karma; a remembrance of things past – Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy - and the end of these things. A nostalgic journey bereft of any new life force, prone to accident and missteps, like the Academy Awards’ stale recollection of the 1930s.

The South, the West and the red states have grown simultaneously in ascending karma; coming into prominence gradually. But they could springboard to dominance overnight in opposition to Obama’s February Surprise; his French socialist agenda.

That could happen and it could happen tonight when Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, provides the Republican response to the President's address to the joint session of Congress. Jindal could take the day and take it from Obama. Again, as in the Academy Awards, where the usual suspects seemed as dry as leaves in winter in comparison to the youthful and vital new crew; a vision of awakening grace from India.

Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy all brought northern and blue state initiatives which dragged the red states along, sometimes kicking and screaming. They were great men not because they tried to reconstruct the past as Obama attempts to do today but because they ignored the past to begin the world again. There is no question that we today are at a major historical and cultural turning. But it is the red states that are on the verge of an awakening today. And Governor Jindal could well be the catalyst.

Monday, February 23, 2009

King Bill and Czar Arnold I – forget Caroline, Robert and Uncle Teddy; Arnold is the “new Kennedy”

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/22/09

Why is Bill Clinton suddenly in the press again every day? A few days back he was denouncing Republicans for trying to destroy the country by talking bad about the economy. Then he apparently got hold of a newspaper and it was liberal New York Times economist Paul Krugman shilling for a new Great Depression. And Obama as well. I almost expected them to show up in a Busby Berkeley skit at the Depression Era themed Academy Awards last night.

They cornered themselves into it. If Obama’s going to be the “new Roosevelt,” they’ve got to make it look as bad as possible. So next day, Bill was saying Obama should stop talking down the economy.

Why do we need to know every day what Bill thinks? He didn’t actually know what to do himself until he hired Dick Morris.

We need to know what Bill thinks because we love him. We love him and we want him back. Possibly we can’t live without him. Because nostalgia is art’s poor sister and we’re getting bored with the new scolds; Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder telling all the white people that they’re a bunch of cowards. Jimmy Carter was a scold. We didn’t like him that much.

We love Bill. And the young ‘uns on the blogs keep asking for a “rock star.” That’s what they want in a president.

That’s Bill. He’s practically a rock star. Obama is boring. He never cheats on his wife and he hasn’t smoked a joint since high school. He’s a grown up. He’s no fun at all. He’s always reading to children and doing good works. Like Jimmy Carter. We want Bill back.

They thought Carter was going to be a rock star too, at first. Hunter Thompson, a journalist who was stoned all the time in the Sixties, said so. Then he turned out to be like a Sunday school teacher or something, telling us to try harder and turn the lights out when we leave the room.

It’s getting tedious watching Hillary traveling everywhere in the world as Bill’s proxy. It’s like a veggie burger instead of the real thing. We need Bill back and I will bet right now that there will be an initiative to allow him to run again in 2012, Constitution be damned. We don’t care that much about the Constitution anymore . . . Gitmo, habeas corpus, so many things. It is an archaic talisman which constantly interferes with our flow and yearnings and always has. Bill would be president right now if it wasn’t for the Constitution. It artificially keeps Bill out of the White House where we want him always. We don’t want a boring president like Obama. We want a king, like Bill.

16 years ago I interviewed one of the most important and influential fund raisers for the Democrats and she actually said: “I guess Bill and Hillary will be the closest thing we ever come to a king and queen.”

Myself, if I had to have a king I think I’d prefer Arnold. Although I think of him more as a czar and I’ve always found the big Russian czars more appealing than kings. And bigger. They call him “a party of one” so he could be Czar Arnold I. We’d have to change the Constitution to get him as well and it has already been suggested. I think he’d make a cool president. For about a month.

They say the “strong man” caricature Arnold has played so many times now actually compensates for moral and spiritual weakness. It doesn’t really, but it sends a signal of apparent weakness. Obama needs to pull him out of California right now to use him as a front man to sell his bailout. Arnold is finished with the Republicans now and the California Republicans are finished pretty much with him.

While they were gathering elsewhere this week, Arnold was meeting again with President Obama to work things out on the bailout. But he could still be seen as leader in a split which might have permanently divided the Republicans this week; Arnold the leader of the Obama Republicans; those who support the bailouts – or maybe they could be called Kennedy Republicans, due to Arnold’s family connection - while Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who said he would refuse part of Obama’s bailout, stepped forward to lead the real Republicans.

And Obama does need a front man; a pitch man. Someone who might know someone else in Hollywood who might know how to write a press release. It might help avoid public statements like Secretary Hillary telling the world that China and the United States will “rise and fall together.” Jesus in the Garden. Did she sign us on as an economic colony? Bill would never say something as stupid as that. He knows Hollywood guys.

There is a TV show coming up next month called Kings; a modern day reworking of King David’s story. During the Super Bowl they had a preview and one of the characters said: “We were nothing before we had a king.”

Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why they keep going back to Bill and why they drafted Arnold out of the movies in the first place. We need a king.

I’d like to think that governors and former governors such as Kathleen Sebelius, Mark Warner, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, John Lynch, and business leaders like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman and Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York actually had a chance on their merits. But Governor Palin aside, none of these other competent managers were seriously considered in the last election. And she was laughed off the stage.

Maybe management abilities are no longer an issue. You hire people for that like Dick Morris.

Zhou Enlai, the great Chinese Communist leader and first premier of the People’s Republic of China, our new best friend, was once asked about the impact of the French Revolution in 1789.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said.

The same might be said today about Jefferson’s vision of a free republic.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Black Swans at Starbucks: Marketing at the end of things

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/20/09

Our house in the western valley of the White Mountains is older than Tennessee and so is most of the stuff in it. So it is always good to get away and see what is new in the world; cable TV, motel doors that open with magnetic cards and Starbucks.

In my latest journey to the outside I’m feeling a complete change of seasons here in North Carolina. When I first came here 25 years ago I used to go to the original Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem. In those days it was a smoky cavern filled in the early morning with older men talking among themselves – World War II vets mostly – including Graham Martin on occasion, the ambassador to Vietnam at the end who infuriated President Ford by holding the American fleet in the South China Sea for three days after the fall of Saigon. It saved 40 thousand lives.

In the times which opened up afterr that first period Krispy Kreme caught the entrepreneurial spirit and went global. Then they brought in latte and banned smoking and the men began to drift away. In the later period a Starbucks came in and here you could see the newer generations unfolding by the CDs they would play and pitch at the counter. World music. Good stuff, too. Then in more recent years which might be considered a turning – at near the pitch of the war on Iraq – you could find Johnny Cash as he had just passed away and the Dixie Chicks. Later – last year – they recalled Paul McCartney; the age in dénouement.

But it was a little surprising this time around to see Dean Martin being promoted at the Starbuck’s cash register. Great singer; better than Frank I always thought but I am not of that generation and so don’t have that bonding thing that reinforces Frank among those of his time, nor do most any of the others who come to Starbucks. Was as if they were suddenly marketing to the old World War II crowd from Krispy Kreme. Or else, they had come to the end of things, marketing-wise.

I see this on PBS as well.

All of my adult life, PBS fundraisers have presented an anthropological path up the mountain and down again of my own generation. Rising in to the decades of work ahead they always presented the movie Woodstock at fund raising time, year after year, as we rose reluctantly away from it. Then descending from the mountain was Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D, and a woman who looked like Hillary giving Buddisty psychological advise; down-market Depak Copras. Then penguins; an ominous sign as penguins are a prey species; benign, aging tellitubies who evolved by escaping predation to frozen and barren places like where I live; the totem animal of the horde that PBS was pitching on documentary, CDs and little desk calendars. Penguins, like the price of gold, are harbingers.

In recent years they have been running old tapes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at Newport in 1964 where we who are not Southern first encountered Johnny Cash and where the generation was supposed to have begun (and apparently where it ends); much the same images that Dylan is pitching now on TV to sell Pepsi. Long interviews with Peter, Paul and Mary as well with occasional bouts of Pete Seeger.

But this year everything has changed. This year at PBS fundraisers they present Victor Borge, a classical pianist/vaudeville comedian in tails from the old Ed Sullivan Show. I can’t imagine that anyone under the age of 60 would even know who he was.

This Starbuck’s is now is a cop’s hangout. The Krispy Kreme is still there but the global empire has gone bust and it is empty in the mornings.

Sociologists take note. Economists too and political scientists. Generations come in waves then the sea turns flat. Some social systems and effects are technically hard wired but they interact with soft systems as well; things like love and the feelings music brings, which MIT theoretical physicist Kerson Huang says acts with hard systems but cannot be measured or quantified. And as Nassim Nicholas Taleb says, there are always those pesky and unpredictable Black Swans, like the occasional mad man who comes into Starbucks off the street, asks for spare change then tips over your table. He is part of the equation as well; an essential part.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Iraq War Veterans Should Demand a Voice in Foreign Policy

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/20/09

Yesterday morning on Fox News they were all in a huff about the addition of 17,000 troops – a de facto surge - in Afghanistan while Obama and Smokin’ Joe Biden, neither of whom have ever fired a shot in anger – railed against the Bush administration not so very long ago for just such a surge in Iraq.

Worth consider though. Those who did not serve are often compelled to wish they had in hindsight and later in life it can cause all kinds of problems. They can get a little over confident and headstrong about warfare. See Dick Cheney. And as Nicholson Baker has pointed out in Human Smoke, passifists can become militant war hawks overnight as they did in WW II when those who refused to fight for Eisenhower and Churchill suddenly became bellicose when Joseph Stalin was attacked. And New England’s Transcendentalists – Henry David Thoreau in particular, who literally wrote the book on non-violent opposition, Civil Disobedience, during the war with Mexico - went gangbusters on the South after John Brown’s hanging.

Ulysses S. Grant poignantly discusses these attitudes in his autobiography; opposition to war can linger in the heart as cowardice and those who legitimately opposed may be considered traitors by the culture and even by themselves. So support for Obama’s war in Afghanistan could suddenly awaken in those who just recently opposed Bush’s war.

In travels this week and last I’ve felt that the heartland – and the vast majority of enlisted and officers in Afghanistan and Iraq are from red states - are about tired of war. The war to git Saddam was linked to vengeance for 9/11. Different in policy, feeling and in operations entirely than the systematical drudgery today that is Afghanistan.

And what exactly is going on in Afghanistan? And how did we get to this point anyway?

I have every confidence in Secretary Robert C. Gates and General Petraeus. I trust their judgment. But they were brought in both when the circle of auspicious possibility and hope was completely shattered. I expect that most women and men who enlisted to fight in Iraq did so on simple and clear motives; feelings of patriotism, feelings of compassion for the victims of 9/11, possibly complex feelings of revenge but a desire to take action and do the right thing.

In hindsight, they should seek out the beginnings of the war that so changed their lives and ours. The war is widely considered to have been mismanaged at the beginning. But who formulated this original vision of the war in Iraq? Was it formulated in the offices of The Weekly Standard and even longer before that by naïve but very influencial undergraduates with political agenda in the student cafeterias of Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins? Who are these people anyway? How did they manage to so take control of our lives when we weren’t paying attention?

Iraq war veterans need to begin asking themselves these questions because they are policy questions. And the same people are still making plans for them and for us ten, 20 years into the future and on into generations yet unborn. It is the lives of soldiers and veterans who are being traded here and soldiers and veterans need to take hold of their situation.

It is an iron-clad law of history that post-war periods find their creativity and life force in the public lives of veterans. Post war in the Revolutionary period, the Civil War and World War II, it was veterans almost exclusively, after saving the country’s bacon, who created a new America. And so we need Iraq war veterans today to begin to conceive policy and execute it.

Haviland Smith, a former CIA officer and one of the last of the old breed of New England Yankees (flinty, old school), asked in a column recently, what is our ultimate goal in Afghanistan?

Because, he said, if it is security and stability, that simply cannot be achieved militarily.

“If Afghanistan were ever to be pacified,” he writes, “which it never has, it would take hundreds of thousands of troops. Afghans have never accepted foreign domination of any kind. They have even been unwilling to accept central indigenous governance.”

Our current moment might be considered “post statehood” or “post regional.” States and regions have no power; it has all voluntarily been sent up to the feds. Few of us have a sense of place anymore except maybe Texas and Alaska. We have come instead to identify with themes and ethnicities and that is where power lies; pseudo and ad hoc tribes often like the wandering and stateless of old Egypt. We have distinct political entities of gay people, women, black people, religious groups, etc., each seeking their own specialized agenda, each with lobby groups and expensive lawyers, even presidential candidates.

We need to start hearing from Iraq combat veterans as a group on these issues. They need to find leadership among themselves and make their presence felt.

What do they think about Afganistan? What do they think about everything? Do they trust Obama? Do they like John McCain? Ron Paul? Are they amused because Sarah Palin speaks to Hockey Moms and her daughter got pregnant and her husband drives a snow machine? Are these Alaska country folk and their common ways as alienating and laughable to West Virginia soldiers and Montana veterans as they are to the Saturday Night Live crew and the editorial board of The New York Times, cheering on Obama yesterday in his Afghanistan surge? I doubt it.

After Vietnam, veterans were despised, spurned, exploited, hated, patronized, driven into hiding and very many of them driven to despair. They figured it out later, but it was too late.

This moment is starting to feel strangely like that moment. Iraq vets need to find their fate today and ours and take it and hold on to it and own it and don’t let go.
Today from Water, Wood and a Wolf . . .

Last Night on Lost: John Locke is the Aquarian

Feb. 19 - 09

Last night's Lost: This story told like a dream; as a dream reveals itself -- suggests coming from teh Unconscious. As in the detail last night in which Jack takes his father's shoes -- wing tips; work shoes -- and puts them on the deaed John Locke in the coffin. John Locke has been on the way to being the "new father" to a "born again" to belief Jack.

As in Twilight, this epic reverseed the "empty crypt" myth - a Silence of God myth - of the vampire tradition (we cook in the crypt for the rising Christ but find instead an empty crypt). We know John Locke will rise out of the coffin to awaken the age.

As Christian said to John Locke, he must turn the style because the axle is "off centerr" -- John Locke re-aligns the constellations.

John Locke, it is plain now, is the Aquarian. As Ben tells Jack, he is a "proxy" as Jesus is a proxy; he fulfills the mythic passage on our behalf.

Ben reads James Joyce's Ulysses on the way back to the island.

IN this episode a painting of Thomas putting his finger in the Christ wound (much as Ben had in season two) is on the wall. Ben relates to Jack that Thomas offered that they should all go their deaths with Jesus. It is reflected that the six in returning to the island are likewise apostles following John Locke into death and rebirth.

Hillary in China: The Bride with White Hair Awakens

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/17/09

Early in the last century, when he was lending the insurgents a hand up the Royal Way, Andre Malraux said to his wife, “The real question of the century is how the Chinese will adapt to individualism.”

That answer today might be found in Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls; a delightful narrative of work and sudden independence of the 130 million migrant workers – mostly girls - who have found their way from country to city to work in the factories of the Pearl River delta. 20 million of who are this week unemployed and roaming.

The question Malraux might have asked today is this: How will the West adapt to the successful Chinese adaptation of individualism?

Can we in the West endure, prevail and evolve as non-Western people; as people who look to Lord Krishna and Lao Tsu rather than to the Christ and Abraham? Can we as a vast majority go forward without turning back to our traditional antithesis in Russia and to the centers from which we have emerged over millennia in London, Rome and Jerusalem? Can we fully embrace Marx rather than Keynes or Hayek? Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi and Jet Lee rather than John L. Sullivan, Jimmy Cagney, Elvis and Little Richard? Is it possible for us as a whole to turn east across the Pacific or will it destroy us and divide us in time?

In fact, we have been asking these questions since the East first began to rise quickly in our imagination in the late 1970s, about the time when Ezra Vogel’s Japan as Number One and Robert Christopher’s The Japanese: the Goliath Explained began to turn our gaze east. Was then we first saw The Bride with White Hair awakened from an endless sleep up the Yellow River. Her kung fu was strong. She was a timeless avenger, an avenging angel, slaughtering the unholy and wreaking havoc on all through the centuries that had threatened, intimidated or abused her. Gore Vidal suggested we team up with the Russians, our brothers anyway, to defend against the Yellow Peril. It’s coming, it’s coming. . .

And policy makers listened. The war on Iraq – readily signed on to by Senators Clinton and Joe Biden and almost all of them with the same blind enthusiasm and ambition with which Congress signed on these past weeks to the bailouts – was an apparent neocon design called The Project for a New American Century to defend against the Yellow Peril. In invading Iraq we would determine, once and for all, that we were a Christian nation with roots in Jerusalem and the Middle East and we would turn away from the Pacific Century and commit to war against Saddam, the Great Satan in a Great Crusade just as we have been doing through much of Christendom’s last millenium: There would be none of Mike Mansfield’s Pacific Century. There would be a Second American Century in its place.

This the psychiatrists call a transference, and in this case, it was possibly the greatest mass delusion in our history.

But still they come in the East, over a billion of them up from the Pearl River and now Hillary is sent to greet them. Smart too and determined and each one of them working, as Iris Chang recalls the phrase in The Chinese in America, “ . . . like a Chinaman.”

This is an important reality-based historical moment. A moment we were about getting to in the decade of “leadership and excellence” as the day was called in the mid-1980s, then we backed off. Was only some of us were able to look across the Pacific without fear and loathing and they the old school; serene Yankee gentry like George H. W. Bush and Barbara; China Hands, they were called – the phrase used for those among us with round eyes who could go to the East and find there inspiration, grace and awakening. But they were few, very few – most, like the missionaries, lived in white cocoons and many would even bring their own furniture. The policy makers and their missionary friends would take the day and turn it back to Saddam. But I see it over for those policy makers as of today.

I don’t know how Europeans will adapt to the East and it is not really to my interest. It would seem difficult to leave behind the ancient stone church and the cave of the Earth Mother if you lived next door. But I’ve never really felt that we Americans of the traditions are really still Westerners. We left most of it behind when we crossed the Atlantic. Nor are we Easterners. They leave it behind when they cross the Pacific.

They have come to the right place and so have we.

Our tale is of Natty Bumpo – Hawkeye, Deerslayer - who cut a better deal with the Mohegans. He lives in nature and draws from East and West but finds his own center here, between. It is told another away in Texas and it is our most important and telling Original Story and Myth: It is the story of six Texas lawmen gunned down and left for dead. One rises from the dead but he has lost his memory of who we was. An Indian nurtures him and restores him to life, but it is a new life to which he is born again and one without traces of tradition or Europe’s history; one of wandering in a new desert between the East and West where the only reliable guide is the Indian. He wore a mask to hide his identity but his identity was hidden from himself as well. And weekly we were asked, “Who is the Masked Man?” We are the masked man, our identity not yet revealed, even to ourselves.

Incrementally, we emerge. Hillary’s trip to the exotic East removes some fear and mystery, and helps in finding in identity that which is us, neither east nor west, but wandering still in the desert between.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Center No Longer Holds: The Right to Revolt

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/14/09

What are the natural consequences of “generation theft” – the phrase John McCain used to describe the onerous, endless spending bill being passed by Congress this week and representative of the arcane, minority political sensibilities of Barney Frank, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama? A bill unlike any other ever passed in the history of the United States. A bill so unfocused, reactionary and reprehensible that it leaves a tax burden to children yet unborn and to their upcoming generations; a virtual political debtor’s prison like those of old Ireland and England where children were forced to pay the debts of their dead parents; like those debt prisons outlawed in early America; a bill which is the opposite of a moral and material inheritance, the natural object and product of the good and happy life and the life lived so well and so responsibly that it leaves something over for the children; a bill instead which demands that the children pay up for the extravagance and waste of their feckless and irresponsible parents and grandparents.

Such legislation gives the children the legitimate right and the moral obligation to revolt.

Welcome to America. The land of the free. The home of the brave.

California today is on the edge of a complete political and economic breakdown brought on by the long-term irresponsibility of its citizens. Standard & Poor’s ranks California’s credit rating last among the states when it should be first. And Standard & Poors has also warned that the United States faces a downgrade by 2012: If we don’t get our own fiscal house in order by then they will nick us, putting us in the same category as Venezuela and Poland. The chances of the dollar surviving today as a reserve currency in this arena are minimal. The best and brightest among investors today - Jim Rogers, for example - are already heading out. He expects to ditch all his dollars by the end of this year for other currencies. The troubles in California today are America’s tomorrow.

Pundits today should not be looking into the mirror and seeing the glowing and reflected glory of Kennedy, Roosevelt and Lincoln like Obama does. They should be seeing Jefferson.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Today from Water, Wood and a Wolf

Satellites crash and Lost . . .

"Two satellites, one Russian and one American, have collided some 800 kilometers (500 miles) above Siberia, the Russian and U.S. space agencies, said Thursday." Fuck.

It is unbelievable that two of these things could accidentally smash into each other randomly in space. Nothing represents the post-war age as the rise of Sputnik and the competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. As a symbolic event and a synchronicity my thought is that this competition is over.

I mentioned here to Gregory a few months back and Christopher commented on it that the key stress I see in the U.S. in the next decade will be competition between the red states and the blue states here in the U.S. I wrote an article this morning about how American political attitudes since 9/11 have been sociopathic. The "Greatest Generation" thing brought a great pretending that the Iraq war was like WW II; we were pretending to be in WW II and be "like the Greatest Generation." Now we are pretending to be in the Great Depression. Both sides - Dems and Repubs - are locked in neurosis: as Norman O. Brown wrote in the 1950s: Neurotics don't remember, they repeat.

Jim Rogers, the commodities guru, has given up on New York moved from New York to Singapore. The U.S. vs. U.S.S.R. competition reflected the antipathy and division of the Roman Empire in Rome and the Empire in Constantinople & likewise the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Church of Constantinople; they have been at odds since the 3rd century. 'Tis over today.

Y'all see Lost last night? John Locke turns the style in the "center of the world" shifting the karma from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. Ben in this saga represents the Christ gone mad (in secret television language to hide from the censors - just like the Russians did in the 19th century) in the last of his 2,000 years ("Ben" = "Son" in Hebrew & Ben is identified as the Christ by the Christ wound in the chest and the book John Locke gives him in season two - The Grand Inquisitor" by Dostoyevsky, in which the Christ comes back and is imprisoned and tortured, as Ben is here). John Locke - agent of the Enlightenment - is the Aquarian.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Banking on Despair: The New Great Depression - sociopathic politics since 9/11

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/12/09

Directly after the destruction of 9/11 a cry arose from a very few but very prominent artists and writers of Great work! – What a mastery of political performance art – blowing up the World Trade Centers; the primary symbol of American greed and capitalism! This is “independence day” – the revolution starts today! These brief episodes can be easily documented as they were reported in such august periodicals as The Atlantic. The idea was, that 9/11 – “liberation day” - the revolution, whatever it may be, can finally start today. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

These voices were quickly, correctly, squished by mainstream media but the paradigm of welcoming despair that would reach such depths of human sadness was apparent. It was a deep trigger response. I myself received such emails and calls from friends, now former friends.

After such depths of human tragedy as 9/11 came the few voices in academia recently wishing and hoping for a new Great Depression, so’s that the arts can flourish as they are imagined to have flourished in the real Great Depression. It will be all Zora Neale Hurston, Studs Terkel, Kenneth Patchen and Richard Wright hopping freights with Woody Gunthrie again: Workers – and writers and artists – of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your government bailout.

Time to read Elie Weisel’s Night.

Time to read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward.

And most important perhaps, time to read Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, about the vast number of Europe’s middle class intellectuals who readily and willingly signed on with Joseph Stalin.

Time to get back in touch once again with the real depths of human despair.

As in the early days of the Bush administration post 9/11 and possibly before, where there were undeniably wishes for a Great War so we could be great too like the Greatest Generation (Are we not men?), so the Democrats today get to the other side of the coin with nostalgia for the Great Depression.

It won’t hold up long because it is basically sociopathic.

It is almost astonishing that these two directions have taken hold here at the turn of the millennium. Perhaps we really are, as Charles Krauthammer and Francis Fukiyama said 17 years ago, at the end of history. But what comes to my mind is some old reading of Norman O. Brown, political theorist and sociologist of the 1950s, who borrowed from Freud: Neurotics don’t remember, he wrote, they repeat. By which he meant that when the politics and the culture, like the individual, loses the will or the ability to go forward, it returns instead to the past. It repeats itself. Much as neurotics, he said, continue to return to the safety of early obsessions rather than engage their fate and plow forward.

There is something inherently wrong with the widespread execution of press and politics in the Obama moment which increasingly is coming to resemble the Jimmy Carter moment. And it was correctly assessed by The Hill Pundit, John Feehery: John Maynard Keynes, on which the Obama spending policies are based, is irrelevant to the times.

Keynes is not a set piece, like an antique porcelain vase on the fire mantle, as he is daily presented now in the pages of the mainstream press. He said himself that economists are soldiers for dead ideas and scholarship should change as the times change. He was, like his doppelganger, Karl Marx, relevant to the great mass movements of mankind across Russia, China, the United States and Europe a hundred years back. Those days might be characterized as a struggle between Keynes and Marx.

But applying them today in America makes the mistake of leaving out one major economic element: The rise of the red states in America to economic vitality since the Second World War.

The attempt to apply Roosevelt era economic applications to present day America sees America as Roosevelt did in the 1830s: As an extension of New York moving into an empty heartland of farmland and forest. That characterization may not have been far off in 1930. The industrial regions spread west to Michigan and Ohio and were about to head South, but much of the heartland was empty compared to today.

To apply that formula today is to ignore the economic rise of the South, the Southwest and the West including California and the Pacific Northwest since war’s end.

American economy has advanced, matured and vastly diversified since wars end and the Southern states in particularly have found cultural relevance in many ways in opposition to the North and the extended sensibilities of the New Yorkers.

These states – primarily the red states - do not come from the factory-worked tradition, nor do they have as much in common with Europe as the northeast states do. They have evolved economically over longer traditions and more diverse and indigenous traditions. And they are not today conquered provinces of the North as they were in the 1870s and even in the 1920s. They have their own organically grown cultures and traditions and they are different cultures from the extended New York culture.

As Feehery says about politics today: “This is a philosophical struggle more than a political struggle. It is a battle of Keynes vs. Hayek. Keynesian economic philosophy puts more power in the hands of politicians (so they tend to really like it) by saying that the way to economic salvation is to spend more money. Hayek’s economic philosophy puts more money and power in the private sector, to create private-sector jobs.”

This succinctly explains the political party conflict in America today. It is, as he says, a philosophical struggle. It can also be considered a territorial difference today between red states and blue states.

The Obama campaign and its advisors followed a “whistling past Dixie” strategy in their winning campaign, believing that it could dominate and territorialized the South and the red states without consequences.

This is a mistake of judgment that will cost. As historian Frank Owsley pointed out, conflict between North and South was always philosophically based. The same philosophical differences can be seen today in the Keynes approach of the blue states – and Maine’s two Senators have always been “kind of blue” (Miles Davis again . . . he keeps popping up). They are now thoroughly blue. While the Blue Dog Gang; the conservative Democrats in the House, are actually red and should be called the Red Dog Gang.

This is the inherent conflict in American today what will grow over the next 20 years.

Radicals today like Bill Ayers, who wants to do a dog and pony show with Sarah Palin, are laughably out of time; leftover from the Sixties, leftover from the 1930s. But there are today real radicals and they are new voices. Like committed radicals of the past – like Arthur Koestler - they are responsible adults and fearless and potentially threatening to the status quo in that their points of view would change everything manifesting in the conditioned reflex of press and politics. They bring forth new beginnings. One, on the left, is Thomas Naylor, a Duke economist who lives in Vermont and has sponsored the Second Vermont Republic, which was covered recently by The New Yorker and The Nation. The other, on the right, is Ron Paul, spirit father of the Free Staters here in New Hampshire, which has similar objectives. What is interesting is that both reject some of the major traditions of both Marx and Keynes and call for a return to a gold standard.

The last historical cycle – the Hoover/Roosevelt era - was as struggle for dominance between the views of Marx and Keynes. It ended with Roosevelt. Our historical cycle today is and will continue to be a struggle between the Keynes/Marx hybrid of the Obama Democrats and the theories of Friedrich von Hayek known as the Austrian School of economics, which is growing among Republicans. It is too late for Keynes but possibly too early yet for Hayek.

When new movements start there is always a "wild one" who inspires the more staid to new ideas and to action. It was James Otis, the Boston revolutionary lawyer who went mad later in life, who inspired John Adams. It was the half-mad John Brown who inspired Emerson and the Transcendentalist and brought them to the Civil War. Ron Paul is the “wild man” and vocal voice of Austrian economics in our time and increasingly some of his themes are being picked up by more institutional players, like the very eloquent Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, who speaks in opposition to the Obama bailouts.

Sanford speaks in Sacramento at a Republican Convention this month - it could bring a turning point.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Timothy Geithner vs. Mark Sanford, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina – Arnold’s last chance

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/10/09

The Zen people say that your first decision will plant the paradigm for all future decisions. After great expectations, hiring Rahm Emanuel was an initial disappointment. Then hiring Senator Clinton as Secretary of State, whose husband – he of the 50 gold watches – set the high water mark for political corruption in the modern age when he notoriously took a one million dollar bribe to let a lobbyist for a foreign government out of jail was enough to gag a horse.

That the real work seems to be headed over to the NSC to the very competent Samantha Power or Harvard and General James L. Jones brings a sigh of relief, but this is not how to run foreign policy; this is how you stealthily manage a disturbed auntie at an important family reunion. And when the Dow Jones drops 350 points in direct response to the new Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner’s financial bailout plan it is time to start getting worried.

Maybe it is that deer-in-the-headlights thing he has whenever a camera points in his direction. Maybe the time is finally up for tax cheats and the generalized atmosphere of corruption and decadence that bled into the Democratic Party with the Clintons. Maybe the time has passed for putting the politically favored up front and the competent behind to run things. (There is a name for this model and tradition: Monarchy.) Maybe it is less than heartening that the Secretary of the Treasury uses TurboTax to not pay his taxes.

But this is no longer about the vanities and illusions of internecine American sociology. The world economy is endangered by these early missteps and if they continue it could enter free fall. And as historian Niall Ferguson points out, when world economy is endangered at the base level great wars often follow in the power struggle. President Obama should do just what Al Gore did when he saw his campaign for President going down the drain: Hire that other Chicagoan; Bill Daley, to try and save it.

I had the good luck to see another true beginning a few months back; increasingly more probable to be the countervailing movement to the Obama moment. I was able to hear the voice of one all alone, speaking in opposition to the bailouts and bearing the contempt of the Old Bulls in the House and Ways Committee for having the audacity to come before them and ask them to please stop sending money to his state. Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, has made a few friends since; Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

And he is about to make some more friends.

Sanford and Mitt Romney will headline the California Republican Party Spring Convention on February 20 to 22. It could well be a turning point event as it will address the economic damage to the country and the political paralysis where it is at its worst and where it has persisted the longest, in Sacramento. Also, two new voices will begin to enter the mainstream of politics and this could be a jumping off point for an actual movement: Meg Whitman, the eBay executive, who has announced that she will run for Governor of California and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packer, who is said to be considering a run for Senate in California.

“We’re moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy,” Sanford declared recently in a CNN interview. “A savior-based economy sort is the definition of what you see in Russia or Venezuela or Zimbabwe or places like that where it matters not how good your product is to the consumer but what your political connection is to those in power.”

And if you think about the power that has been granted to the fed of the Treasury, he said, it has savior-like qualities.

“Everybody knows that we’re in an economic slowdown. But the consideration now is, if I can just get my word, if I can be the plaintiff to the right person in Washington D.C., I can get these things fixed.”

That is quite different than a market-based economy, he said, where some rise and some fall but there are consequences to making stupid decisions.

New beginnings need new faces and the Republican meeting will provide some. While Obama has brought a disappointing return to the old school of political insiders, the Republicans could be about to begin again with Whitman, Fiorina and others new to the national scene like Sanford, Jindal and Perry, who was the first to sign on with Sanford’s way of thinking and co-authored an op-ed with him in opposition to the bailouts at The Wall Street Journal.

When Sanford first spoke up to ask the federalies to keep their money, it was a mere several hundred billion they were talking about.

But as Ken Rogoff, the Harvard economist and regular commentator on Jim Lehrer’s The News Hour said last night, this will really open up to many, many trillions of dollars.

We know that. The Obama vision of “change” with its reinforcing traditions and associated supporting voices in the press is quickly revealing itself to be a textbook model of the kind of calcified institutional thinking that kills entrepreneurial spirit and new ideas. So it will be interesting to hear what these new people come up with in Sacramento.

The American imagination will start again in California and in the West or it won’t start at all. No doubt Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be there. He threatens today to fire 10,000 state employees if legislators do not approve a deal to help close the state's projected 42-billion-dollar budget deficit. And he must. This is Arnold’s last chance: His last chance to ride the white horse.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Rise and Fall of the Leisure Class: Carly Fiorina for Governor of California

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/09/09

My father was born in 1899. He was an electrician – he put the beacon light in the tallest building in Providence, RI, early in the century and he shut the lights out in the last factory to leave Fall River, Massachusetts, and head south after the Great Depression. Through most of that time he worked in factories as did most of my relatives; all of whom on my mother’s side, dozens and dozens of cousins, half cousins and great aunties, had come over from Ireland together just at the turn of the century.

There is so much talk of those days now because of the Obama bill going back to the House this week; talk of Hoover, talk of Roosevelt and talk of John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist between the wars.

“There are very few economists who really buy into Keynesian theory anymore,” says The Hill columnist Dick Morris. “Keynes felt that people would react automatically to a few dollars in their hands. Consumers would run out and buy new products, and businessmen, seeing the uptick in sales, would rush to open new plants and hire new workers who would, in turn, generate more demand.”

I seem to have distinct memories of that time although I wasn’t even born then. But I remember that world as my parents remembered Ireland, although it was a place they had never been; it resonated around the house, floating in the background like a clear tenor voice on the radio in another room; the voice of John McCormack, the Grand Maestro, singing A Little Bit of Heaven. Apparently for many, it still does.
I once asked my father what they did before the Great Depression when they weren’t working.

They went dancing, he said.

How often, I asked?

Every night, he said. They went dancing every night.

It’s different today. People are different.

Some thoughts for the Roosevelt nostalgicos and the Hoover nostalgicos: In the mid-1920s when Keynes predicted people would spend money if it was thrown at them, he was right, they would. That is because they had nothing else to do with money but dance. They lived in the present – a good and sensible way to live. The common people did not see money as something they would need to prepare for old age; that is, something to put in a 401k fund, a retirement fund, a nest egg; dotcom stocks or Wall Street investments, as they did in the 1990s when a vast swath of middle-class Americans were invested in the stock market. For that - for looking to the future - they had kids. The money the Keynesians gave to them for free they used for dancing.

It came to mind recently when an old friend said not to worry about the state of the economy and the future it demands because, as we get older, “ . . . our kids will take care of us.”

We hope and expect they won’t have to. But we do have kids. And not this week, but soon it will be time, as the Walrus said when Victoria’s age was just beginning to go to pieces, to think of many things, meaning difficult things and things we usually don’t like to think about normally. And we will begin to review again why we have kids and why we don’t.

That time could come sooner than we think; next week possibly or by early March if the Obama group fails in the administration of bank bailouts and the stimulus/spending bill. The best observers among us, including New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and Jim Rogers, the commodities guru, suggest the obvious path; the path of nature: The weak banks have to die or they will kill the strong banks. The strong banks have to survive.

I don’t think they will do it because Obama and his administrators have not shown themselves to be the kind of people who have the courage to do difficult things. Many of them have shown themselves to be expedients. So far it has shown itself to be an administration of delightfully soaring rhetoric, style and the cool, as Miles Davis designed “cool” to be a noun and an object. But cool is not what you want in a President. It’s what you want in Miles Davis.

If they don’t this, it will be the turning point.

Rule of thumb if fate casts you as it has Iceland this week and maybe Ireland next week and you have to look to your kids for support as you age because American money, on which you have staked your entire existence, is suddenly not worth much of anything: First, one of two children would not be enough. It would be an unfair and unjust economic burden to put upon them. Four to six was the usual model – you might call it a “general theory” of family in the Keynes era of love and work. Second, the kids would have to like you. They would have to love you or they just wouldn’t do it.

Revolution is another option. Like what they are calling the Saucepan Revolution in Iceland where a lot of older people who were a little rich just a few weeks back are beating sauce pans outside government buildings, demanding action of some kind to try and get their money back; demanding something from a government which has nothing to offer. But in our global economy this is a little like the Marie Antoinette crowd revolting against the King while the peasants face starvation. Just because we have out-sourced the working class – in the case of the current declining economic cycle primarily the 130 million girls, more child than woman, who left countryside to labor in China’s Pearl River factories to work 50 hours a week for $50 a month in the greatest migration in human history – does not mean that we have not been enriched by their efforts.

So what are the options? Possibly for very many of us, there are no options. Possibly the leisure class revolutionaries like those in Iceland demanding action today are the Decembrists of our time; the original Russian intelligencia – revolutionaries who had the character to declare themselves superfluous in the 1820s.

When President Obama placed an op-ed in the Washington Post the other day to pitch his stimulus/spending plan, Mitt Romney was there the next day explaining the plan’s pitfalls. It appears that Romney was there at the editor’s bidding and not on his own suggestion as his comments were culled from a speech he had given recently. Which suggests that the bookies in Los Angeles and at the Washington Post are beginning to put their money on Romney and helping to prepare the way already for Romney in 2012. No doubt he sees the way himself.

Romney, who offered and supported a much smaller stimulus package, made the point that stimulus spending should follow the economic karma. Spending should head in the direction of projects that are likely to be built anyway. Stimulus spending should help them get there.

In other words, government intervention in the economy should follow the contours of history.

How hard is that?

Very hard.

We today are at a new sign post; a “between” – a Tibetan word meaning something like death. We are facing a new era and a new “post”: there was post-colonial, which brought my father’s people here in the 1840s, then the post-industrial, which gave my grandmother’s people work. Later, if they were smart, some of them went on to invest in Wall Street. That’s the new “post”: We are in a “post investment” phase or a “post Wall Street” phase.

This is the new “post.” As Victoria’s rise marked the end of an era built on the grazing and shipping of Cotswold sheep across the world in wooden sailing ships, so Roosevelt ended a vast world empire built on Anglo-American manufacturing. And Bill Clinton, our own Queen Victoria, marked the end of an empire built on massive, class-wide individual investment.

But that is not where this American journey ends. A recent poll tells us that half of all Americans would like to move. And most want to move to these four cities: Denver, San Diego, Phoenix and Seattle, all western cities.

That is where it ends: California, Seattle, the Pacific Northwest. And that is where it begins again. This – heading west – has always been the American way of progress and new beginnings and will continue to be in the foreseeable future.

California is at the moment, in a state of political free fall. It is the center of our current disorder; the spot on our map where we as a people began to lose confidence. It must be there – not Washington or New York – that we begin to turn it around.

Romney is good but Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packer and key McCain advisor in 2008 is good too. And she is considering running for Senate, it is reported.

She might instead run for Governor.

“One of the things about leadership is that you have to see things before other people,” she told Charlie Rose. To date, she has.

Both parties now have tried everything; movie stars, professional wrestlers, stand-up comedians, relatives, Sunday-school teachers, musicians and celebrity singers. It is a management task, and Fiorina is a legendary manager.

And she is a Californian and California is our most import state as it is the end of our American journey and the place where we face our fate today across the Pacific.

I’ve felt that the nostalgia binge is a kind of secular malaise or illness; historically, people begin to look to the past when they can no longer see their way to the future. Until we square up to the times, we will not recover. And until we recover we will not begin again.

And recovery will begin at journey’s end, in California.

Friday, February 06, 2009

“Falling Apart”: California hits bottom; calls for a Constitutional Convention – the Obama Republicans and the Republican Insurgent Governors

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/06/09

California has this week scored the lowest Standard & Poor’s credit rating of any state in the country. Facing a $42 billion budget deficit and a legislature in gridlock, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, brought in by radical intervention of the usual Democratic processes, has been unable to make a difference. Rumor is he plans to go back to making movies when this governor gig is up.

The Great Man having failed, San Francisco’s Bay Area Council is calling for a Constitutional Convention.

“We believe California’s system of government is fundamentally broken,” they write in a press release. “Our prisons overflow, our water system teeters on collapse, our once proud schools are criminally poor, our financing system is bankrupt, our democracy produces ideologically-extreme legislators that can pass neither budget nor reforms, and we have no recourse in the system to right these wrongs.”

This is a sign of health in the republic and in our most important initiative state. As many state governors and even local mayors have simply dropped the reins of responsibility in recent days and turned to the feds for a bailout, the most respectable business leaders in California are taking the initiative.

"Government is failing in a profound way," Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, told the Sacramento Bee's editorial board. "It's reached the stage where I don't see it healing itself through a new leader, a temporary solution, good will on the part of the participants, an improved economy. Those are all things that are factors, but the situation we are in has to be seen for what it is, which is essentially government falling apart."

Falling apart: One commentator remarked, as California goes, so goes America.

The Bay Area Council is holding a summit to discuss a California Constitutional Convention on February 24, 2009, at Sacramento. The original California Constitution was adopted in 1849. It was superseded when the current Constitution was ratified in 1879.

Critics warn that once a convention is called, anything can happen and results may be unanticipated.

Opening up the Constitution is fraught with dangers, writes Joel Fox, editor of Fox and Hounds, a newsletter on California business and politics. California’s only effort to overhaul the Constitution in a convention occurred in 1879. Delegates from the Workingman’s Party and the Grangers captured that convention. They were able to produce a document that put into the Constitution their agenda, which included regulation of the railroads, new tax policies and restrictions on Chinese from owning property or holding certain jobs.

In California we could be seeing the new American paradigm. The Obama bailout, which takes its initiative from government policies of the 1930s, is today all the rage but could well suggest a kind of mass hysteria evoked by a stressed out populous seeking a new political god king. Much as Arnold – movie strong man – suddenly materialized in the political arena in a psychologically stressful and destabilizing time when California hoped for a kind of “strong man” savior effect – like a call for Spiderman - to save them from a misery which seemed beyond the help of human intervention. Indeed, Schwarzenegger played such a “superman” role – The Last Action Hero – in 1993.

In awakening this event the Bay Area Council brings the voice of clarity and strength out of chaos and political squalor that has persisted through several administrations. This is what Jefferson intended. Likewise, we see in Congress today beginning to rise to prominence the Blue Dog Gang in the House and a similar moderate group in the Senate, a true “post partisan” group, forming in opposition to the bailout, which could well take the initiative in days ahead.

And rising as well and beginning to find cohesion, the Republican Insurgent Governors who opposed the bailout from the beginning - Mark Sanford (SC), Rick Perry (TX), Bobby Jindal (LA), Haley Barbour (MS) and Sarah Palin (AK) – gaining ground in opposition to the Obama Republicans who support the standing bailout bill.

“Where we think this proposal fails is that the deficit in the current fiscal year already stands at close to $1 trillion, by far the highest in our nation's history,” says Scott English, Sanford’s chief of staff. “This proposal would ensure deficits of that proportion for years to come. Also, before this year, the outstanding liability of the federal government was $52 trillion between the national debt, Social Security, and Medicare. This represents an invisible mortgage of $455,000 for every household in America and, sadly, a further strain on future generations.”

If Obama, like Schwarzenegger, proves to be just another celebrity god that fails - this one brought to us overnight via Ophra - then the nationalization approach of the Roosevelt era fails with him and fails once and for all. And these fledgling groups formed in opposition will ascend – the new Quaternity of Sanford, Perry, Jindal and Palin in particular. And this morning it doesn’t look too good for Obama’s bailout.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

David Patraeus: The Return of the Warrior Scholar

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/03/09

As The Hill Pundit Blogger Ryan J. Davis has recently pointed out, General David Patraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command in Iraq, may see an opening in 2012 for a run for President. It is said that when General Paraeus looks in the mirror he sees President Patraeus. The question is, does the mirror see President Patraeus when it looks back at General Patraeus?

Quite possibly. Or Vice President Patraeus. The crisis of authority; the crisis of leadership; the crisis of character and economy and war; the 60-year, post-war equilibrium dust under the bed in a matter of weeks and the shattered dreams and shards of globalization aren’t bad enough yet for an Army General to win in a straight up run for President. More has to break. But we’re getting there. We could be there by 2012.

Reports are that he got the most applause when he flipped the coin to start the Super Bowl on Sunday. I for one out of the 90 million who watched, was a little surprised to see him. But it didn’t seem a bad fit. The adults are in charge, my wife commented.

If Patraeus’s political stock rises in the next two years and I expect it will, he can thank the Democrats. Because Patraeus represents the return of the warrior scholar to public policy. Warrior-scholar is a way big improvement over Tommy Franks and Donald Rumsfeld or even General William Westmoreland and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara of the Vietnam War. It is an ancient concept but new to our period. And it was first brought to public service in our time by Wesley Clark when he ran for President in 2004.

I wrote about General Clark as a classic “warrior scholar” quite a bit around 2004 and the idea has now cross-cultured. Clearly the Democrats rejected the idea of a military general as POTUS although I felt then and still feel that he would have been the best man for the job in 2004. Jim Webb, the intriguing Democratic Senator and novelist from Virginia, is another warrior scholar and would have added some veritas and cajones to the unbearably lightness of being that characterizes the fledgling Obama administration.

There’s still time and it may retrieve a bad start for an administration showing as much early cohesion and grace as the Smashing Pumpkins. Does this Obama team with its Wall Street refugees and lace curtain tax cheats in funny glasses and Ivy League waifs and Harvard Law Review types have an aversion to warriors like Tammy Duckworth, Wes Clark, Jim Webb and Joe Sestak? Are they afraid of soldiers? Do they have a “veteran’s slot” where they put their token soldier over in the corner in a small office without a window?

Is this simply another “anti-war” crowd left over from the Vietnam era? And when they wheel out their “honored” veterans to the public on Memorial Day will it be another patronizing and pitiful pseudo-event contrived around that cheapest and most insidious, poisonous nihilist metaphor, the crippled and mentally deranged former soldier held together by wire and Prozac – loves his country but fears his government - as it was post Vietnam? And will there be another black flag flying under the Stars and Stripes in every town in America to mourn the loss of a another generation of soldiers? This is not about Vietnam. We did not lose this war.

The big media started to catch on to the warrior-scholar thing and maybe the army as well after Clark, a Rhodes Scholar, came into the public eye. The Clark model of warrior scholar in 2004 manifest in David Patraeus in 2007 when he took over as Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Petraeus has a Ph.D. from Princeton. First mainstream press reports referred to him as a “warrior scholar.” Secretary Gates refers to him today as the “the preeminent soldier-scholar-statesman of his generation.”

It is a good thing as it will encourage others. The best among us should all be warrior scholars and President Obama should follow through on getting the dilettante blue-state universities, particularly those up here in the Northeast, who dropped ROTC in the ‘70s to reinstate it. Scholars have recently pointed out that most Iraq war soldiers and veterans including officers are from red states; Republican states. We have a red-state army and that is good for the heartland but bad – and obviously dangerous - for the country as a whole, nor will it be good for the Democrats in the long run.

And this might not be bad news for General Clark. Obama might think of spending some conspicuously public quality time with him, maybe at the Legion Hall. Enough with the reading Goodnight, Moon and Country Bunny at the day care centers. Leave that to Joe Biden.

War takes some getting used to and Clark presented a concept that the Democrats were not yet ready for. I felt they were in denial about the war in Iraq. I think they still are. Clark or National Security Advisor James L. Jones would have been a better pick for Vice President and would have set a theme for the Democrats. Democrats will now at one point get ready all of a sudden if General Petraeus’s star begins to rise.

The process of adjustment to difficult times should be respected as we pass through tough periods. And the adjustment from the giddy days of the Clinton high life to the terrible awakening of 9/11 took a major cultural adjustment. It is simply a fact of life that a healthy people don’t really want nor need great military commanders in times of peace.

It took Lincoln years to get the North acclimated to its avowed political commitment to fight after his election and it didn’t really start going in the direction he wanted until he found Ulysses S. Grant. Peacetime army does good work; it prepares to fight. But a peacetime army or administration is never ready to fight after a long period of peace when war abruptly happens.

The Tommy Franks army was not a bad army and Franks was not a bad General. Nor was Donald Rumsfled a bad Secretary of Defense before 9/11. As in the 1860s, the personnel changed once fighting evolved; the fighting brought forth the talent which the engagement demanded. Patraeus, by most standards, is considered a good commander, just as Robert C. Gates is, by most non-partisan standards, considered a good Secretary of Defense. These two men evolved with this natural process. The decision to advance both was made after hostilities were long underway.

There is still today an illusion that runs like a virus through the Democratic Party. It is that Democrats think they can substitute “healthy” things for the miserable, existential duties of war. It is transference. It avoids the difficult task by substituting an easy one, one irrelevant to the day. Today the Democrats see the war on Iraq much like they saw the war in Vietnam and they have responded to it much as they responded to that war. This, because they – under the aegis of Howard Dean most prominently – carried anti-war cultural attitudes over from the war in Vietnam direct to this war.

But the war in Iraq in no way resembles Vietnam. However well or badly it was initiated and fought, the war in Iraq happened because of attacks on the United States, which struck closer to the heart of America than even Pearl Harbor. Those attacks will never leave the hearts and minds and those who fought and managed the war including George W. Bush will not be forgotten. It is not in our human nature to forget these things.

I opposed the war from day one. I am a Buddhist and believed – understood – that there were and are other ways to neutralize and engage enemies and outsiders, but they take longer and require a greater engagement and a greater commitment of individual citizenship, particularly on the leadership level. That is why General Clark was so important in 2004; he fit the Buddhist paradigm. He understood that violence is sometimes necessary and would be necessary after 9/11, but that war is always the last resort. Simple denial or transference is no help at all and weakens the body politic. Clark also understood that once events unfolded, destiny would take over so it is most important to act at the beginning. In Iraq and in the area through to Afghanistan, destiny has taken over and now must be followed through on.

And incidentally, the concept of warrior-scholar as I found it and first wrote about it regarding Wesley Clark and Jim Webb came from a Taoist text honored by Buddhists, the “Tao te Ching”: Those of old who were good at being knight-scholars were subtle, were possessed of ineffable efficacy, and were in dark and mysterious confluence, so profound that they could not be perceived.

Ulysses S. Grant said of the Mexican War that it was a war of the strong against the weak, but anyone who did not participate in it would not take part in the dramatic future events ahead or any of the country’s future events.

Something General Patraeus might keep in mind. And this: All historical periods to date in the American condition ended with a General at the helm.

Monday, February 02, 2009

If . . . Post America

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 2/2/09

The pioneering New York psychiatrist Edward F. Edinger suggested that sports form the primal matrix of a people. In our case, the Super Bowl will form a template image in time of who we were and what we wished to become back then. And that is why the ads are so important. They are the organic and unpretentious poetry telling of the moment between winter’s end and rebirth; last night’s costing $100,000 a second.

I find it thrilling and spooky; an utterly zen revealing of who we are instead of whom we intend to be which never is, or never has been, what we actually did become. The spooky part last night was seeing the images of Bob Dylan; thin and dynamic in classic sunglasses, dancing off a concert stage. It was spooky because anyone who happened to be sitting a hundred feet or so in front of him when the pictures were taken, as I was, understood that the pictures were taken 40 years ago. The gods take the great ones young – John Lennon and Kurt Cobain – before they end up playing bar mitzvahs and selling bras and Pepsi at Super Bowls, as Dylan makes his way today; a kind of hippie Norma Desmond, still waiting for her close-up as the age runs out, selling postcard pictures of himself when he used to be pretty – he is actually about 70 years old today and ugly.

But those were the days. Still free, childlike and innocent, but a changin’ fast. When I headed east for Tan Son Nhut air force base, only one or two of the adventurous kids we had known in Newport until then had ever smoked a joint. When I got back a year later, everyone was stoned.

That moment is this moment. That was the point of the Super Bowl ad/poem. Dylan’s voice, though only his 1965 and 1967 selves, shared in a duet with the 2009 self of, who’s elegant and biblical chant rendition of a political speech first brought Barack Obama to prominence.

There was a movie back then called If . . ., directed by Lindsay Anderson, a political satire about a glitch in election laws which created circumstances that sent a boy radical like Bill Ayers to be President at a time, 1968, when leisure class white kids were rioting in Paris and blowing up banks and university buildings and rampaging across the United States armed and on acid; almost, as Henry Kissinger said back then, bringing the country to the point of civil war. In a time when media is heavily laundering the zeitgeist to be like 1968 again, it should be reviewed. Because probably half of the 40 million born directly at post-war have been holding their breath from that moment to this moment. And the leisure class is rioting again in Paris. And that moment could once again well be this moment.

These times could even be a better fit for 1968 than Bob Dylan was. The meeting at Davos this past week will be remembered by its negative space – the empty seats of the American delegation. Since Adam Smith and the rise of global capitalism, Davos has evolved as the top of the mountain; a vision of globalization in which Americans set the tone; called the shots; made dimes out of nickels on a global scale. Nothing represents Alexander Hamilton’s vision of a singular global economic state with one center more than Davos.

But Elvis has left the building. As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman put it, “To put it crudely: everyone is looking for the guy — the guy who can tell you exactly what ails the world’s financial system, exactly how we get out of this mess and exactly what you should be doing to protect your savings. But here’s what’s really scary: the guy isn’t here. He’s left the building.”

Then this week in returning, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, inadvertently perhaps, coined a new phrase: “The Obama administration's absence gave a post-American feel to the session, but that's deceiving. Barack-o-mania is as strong among the global titans as it is everywhere else.”

That may not be so good because titans are notoriously cagey and deceptive and often like for themselves what hampers America. They also like weak or malleable presidents because it hampers our efforts and advances theirs; if one’s enemy is weak it is as good as a strength and talent of your own. And that phrase, “post American” like post-colonial or post-modern, is something they have been earnestly waiting for and something they will dance around in a circle with at the academy over the next decade or so.

Two pictures come about since Davos, and one is a memory of the early 1950s: It is the resonant, dark, paternal voices, narrating the propaganda documentaries about the very large men in very bad suits of the Soviet Union, teamed us with Mao’s minions in surplus military overcoats, as red pours over the world map, surrounding us from every side. Here they are together again; all grown up this time, Russia and China, in Bottega Veneta, Armani and Ralph Lauren, so vast a binary colossus it would squish Rome in a day.

And the patronizing rhetoric of Mr. Putin today calling for multiple reserve currencies or just something – anything - other than the dollar would resonate to the engagingly earthy, folkloric style of Classic Communism and Nikita Khrushchev’s famous statements like, “We will bury you,” punctuated by beating his shoe on the table at the UN. Economically, he explained later – we will bury you economically. Phew. It came as a relief to us plain folk, because we thought they were planning to nuke us.

The second picture emerging resonates increasingly and seems to make sense; it is suggested by commentary and views of Niall Ferguson, the Harvard historian, who sees America as a rapidly receding empire which would do well to look across the Pacific to China for new best friend. England at one point toward the end of Victoria’s reign quickly let by gones be by gones and bonded with its English-speaking step child across the Atlantic and so survived long enough to get to The Beatles. There could be no question when the big ships flocked to Victoria’s Diamond Julilee in 1897 that America had the most proles, the most iron and the most coal; certainly more than the Germans, and would take the day for the next 60 or 80 years of so. America’s future ahead would likewise wisely look to China in partnership or some kind – and so Mitt Romney has already suggested.

Unfortunately, when Democrats today look across the Pacific they tend to see India instead.

It seems almost arbitrary when the new Secretary of State, married to a cash cow, can barely sustain her contempt for those “elitists” – economists – that she consider cash flow and balance sheets even an issue of national security. In ten days relations have gotten so bad with China that President Obama finally had to place a call to President Hu Jintao just to say hey. If they keep going in this direction things could unravel to the point where we have to go back to the old ways and start using actual diplomats again like Condi Rice or Winston and Betty Bao Lord instead of the relatives of celebrity politicians.

We are at a major cultural and historical turning and one that goes well beyond politics and economy; a churning really - we are experiencing a change in what Peggy Noonan has recently and correctly called the “collective unconscious.” It is the year when people finally give up trying to predict the year ahead, says Ferguson in an imaginary retrospective. That is, as Bob Dylan said when he was thin and beautiful at a similar churning: You know something is happening, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones? And if Obama doesn’t master it here at the birth of the cool all this could all well get away from us.