Friday, December 31, 2010

America is in prehistory: In the year ahead, how about a Council of Elders?

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/31/10

Obama had such a bad two years because he had no major executive experience and just put in people like Joe Biden. But he cleverly ditched the left and moved to the center this past week which gives him strong support. He could bring in new people now including Arnold Schwarzenegger and maybe Elizabeth Warren in a more prominent position. They are appealing and capable. It would give the President a better year.

But the change we face now is systemic. The new Tea Party Congress may be a bunch of Jacksonian rustics but it will bring a chorus for substantive issues in the states where governors will rise in importance. 17 newly elected GOP governors are coming in, most with a Tea Party bent. It is significant that mainstream conservative commentators like George Will support Judge Henry Hudson's decision on Obamacare. A year ago this was considered esoteric and libertarian. Now the state rights initiative is accepted by the responsible mainstream.

But this is not an existential threat to America. It is growth pains. Michael Gerson today has an excellent and necessary essay in the Washington Post on religion which brings perspective. In 1985, he writes, according to the British Social Attitudes survey, 63 percent of Britons called themselves Christians. In 2010, it was 42 percent, with 51 percent claiming no religion at all. But here in the U.S. there is “a fluid marketplace of faith that is favorable to faith itself.” Strong and vital religious attitudes reflect the life force of a people: Gerson’s observations suggest that Europe is in post-history, while America is in prehistory. They recede, we ascend. “Faith,” he writes, “in freedom, is ever new.” And our story of faith and freedom has barely begun yet.

America, starting with the new Congress, will begin to find regional expression because the regions and their governors will now demand it. The Tenth Amendment is the key to regionalism. I have been pitching Texas Governor Rick Perry this past year because he fully understands the state-sovereignty-as-progress paradigm and power flowing to Texas and the southwest follows the demographics. This change could easily fall into bad hands. But Perry is honest, smart and competent.

And it is serendipitous that Perry has been named chief of the Republican Governors Association this year. It indicates that the states and regions have developed a different attitude than the Washington elite to the Tea Party issues of the last two years, particularly those which pertain to state rights and responsibilities. It is historic. America has learned again the first lesson of the Founders: The only defense against federal malfeasance and unconstitutional action is the states.

Under Perry’s tenure the governors might consider an idea that took the imagination of the great ambassador George Kennan late in his life. He proposed a national Council of Elders, an idea actually first discussed by a handful of undergraduate students at Wake Forest University 16 years ago. It would be something like a national Board of Trustees or a Board of Visitors intended to advice and occasionally warn; a board of six or a dozen governors. And better than a Congress burdened by its own banality and bound by its own traditions, could sustain and amplify the new directions of the past two years.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Year ahead: Woodstock on welfare, the end of globalism

by Bernie Qugley

For The Hill on 12/29/10

Woodstock on welfare: The year ahead will be distinguished by a singular feature, reported by Associated Press: On January 1, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, a pattern that will continue for the next 19 years. This is a problem for which there is no central planning solution. As Texas Rep. Ron Paul has said, this could bring a “Soviet style collapse.”

The system falls to its natural frailties. Since the early 1800s when deTocqueville wrote about America and Russia, we have been in a competition which might be called Marx vs. Keynes; megastate vs. megastate. But since WW II the western states have filled in. The internal regions have developed as “natural states.” The competition today changes from Marx v. Keynes to Keynes vs. Hayek: From global megastate vs. global megastate, to internal competition within and between the American regions. In my opinion, America has reached its beginning.

As the new census data indicates, Americans are moving from the Northeast and the upper Midwest to the South and the Southwest. Culture and politics follow economic power and people. The west will advance at the expense of the northeast. The Bush v. Clinton contention, which extends bipartisan control coming from the northeast (Kennedy v. Lodge, Catholic v. Protestant), is archaic; a residual nostalgia influence of the century past. It will yield to demographics. If it does not, there will be trouble.

The end of globalism: The Elliot Wave Theory predicts that the dollar ends its curve as the relevant currency this year. The Strauss & Howe generational theory also predicts chaotic turning in this period. It has already begun. Economic turndown changes the game and new elements enter as dominants. Israel, China and the BRIC network rise. But the world is a donut where they play soccer on the outside and football on the inside; it is better to be in the inside with Tom Brady and Michael Vick.

Globalism was a feature of the American conquest in WW II. The arc is complete. New archetypes will awaken, new ideas will open, the new century will begin. Key to this will be decentralization and the awakening of states and regions to their own rhythms and styles and political demands. It is already happening. In cultural terms, the uniformity and sameness of the “Leave it to Beaver” generation will yield. (Diversity is an illusion: Beaver, be he black, female or gay, is still a banality.)

Much of this was caused by the babies being born at the same moment at the end of World War II (10,000 a day) and domination of the FCC control. It caused producers to self-censor and produce bland content. There is genius ahead suggested in the direction of Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler") together now with Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” perhaps bringing a new generation to the arts in strength and character. With the FCC off their backs, writing, directing – art – returns in cable shows like” The Sopranos” and “Mad Men.” The screen gets smaller, yet the drama more engrossing. The strangely addictive tale “Dexter,” tells the nuanced and archetypal story of the god which comes with a sword. Storm coming.

Best reading: With the demise of globalism, the influence of the priests who accompany the conquerors will diminish. To see the contrast in our day in which celebrities like Bono, Elvis Costello, Pamela Anderson and Lady Gaga regularly advise globally and form foreign policy, to a time when this kind of work was done by people like George Kennan, George Marshall and John Forster Dulles, look to the new book “Going Home to Glory” A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969,” by David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lisa Murkowski: Alaska without labels and without the wild

All that hurtful talk about “Republicrats” scorning them as squishy brained and sheeplike, a Congress of Easter Peeps despised by 89% of the country; the middle age, the mid’lin, the mediocre and mauve – what novelist Curtis White called (scornfully) the “middle mind.” Now they who seek to be neither masters nor men, have a name: “No Labels.” And it even claims its own generation, a conspicuously multicultural chorus which sits passively in the pew and looks selected by churchmen elders. Their theme should be Cher’s “If I could hold back time.” But as Cher is finding out, time cannot be held back.

The young ‘uns don’t seem to be jumping in. Gawker calls it, “the most boring political movement of all time.” Maybe they try passing out cookies at the airport. Or how about the phrase, “Have you heard the good news?”

It suggests an attempt at a new third party, but one afraid to go into the water. I proposed here a few weeks ago a third party to encompass the new themes of the last two years, to be called a Federalist party, stressing state and regional responsibility in Jefferson’s configuration, pitching Joe Miller of Alaska as its candidate for President. And guess who arises as the darling of No Labels? Lisa Murkowski, the Senator from Alaska.

In the lame duck session Murkowski has transformed from traditional Republican to No Labels independent. She was one of three Republicans to vote yes on DREAM, one of eight on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and she voted for START. This accommodating sudden “post-partisanship” is right out of the No Labels playbook.

"Alaskans want to be heard on the issues they don't necessarily want to be tied to a political label or a party position," Murkowski said on CNN's "John King, USA.”
Conservative columnist George Will called the new group preposterous and cloying.
“The premise, obscured by gaseous rhetoric, is that political heat is inherently disproportionate. The complacent pretense is that it is virtuous to transcend the vice of partisanship,” he writes.

And in a remarkable occurrence of bipartisan agreement, liberal NYTs columnist Frank Rich says:

“In its patronizing desire to instruct us on what is wrong with our politics, No Labels ends up being a damning indictment of just how alarmingly out of touch the mainstream political-media elite remains with the grievances that have driven Americans to cynicism and despair in the 21st century’s Gilded Age.”
“ . . . out of touch . . . mainstream political-media elite”: Sarah Palin could not have said it better.

That Murkowsi jumps to the front of this movement is actually good news for the Tea Party and especially for Joe Miller, her nemesis. The same No Label-ish self-righteous churchmen gathered against Little Richard, Elvis and the Beatles. But today we forget their names. They rallied against Jack Kennedy as well.

I can’t speak for Alaska. But this is what I’d like from a leader, maybe Joe Miller:

"When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack." – Jack London, The Call of the Wild, 1903.

The song of the young. The song of the pack. There is still time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Iraq war is over. We won. Fly the Blue Star flag

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/24/10

From the new Jane Fonda workout video to Wikileaks there has been for those who lived through the Sixties and Seventies that sensation Yogi called “deja vu all over again.” But there is a fundamental difference between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. This war we won.

Maybe we’re not used to it. But however one feels about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it cannot be denied. Our soldiers will win.

And America feels it, even if MSM trails in the nihilist nostalgia of the Seventies. We have today a different attitude to our soldiers and vets. Everyone in our town is proud of our men and women in uniform. It wasn’t like that in 1968 for those of us who arrived home from Tan Son Nhut to a country, in Henry Kissinger’s words, on the verge of civil war. The ambiguity of the war in Vietnam and the scorn many experienced on return left a scar on a generation of soldiers. But that was almost 50 years ago. Time to move on.

Driving around our snowy neighborhood this past week I’ve been seeing something new. High schools, homes and houses of friends have been flying a new flag under Old Glory; a white flag with red trim and a blue star in the middle: The Blue Star Flag.

Cyber Sarge, who runs a Vietnam veterans web site, explains that the once-prominent Blue Star Flag that hung in windows in wartime is making a comeback. The flag made a brief appearance during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, but because of the conflicts short duration, never really caught on. The tradition originated with WWI. In 1917, the Congressional Record stated: "The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother---their children." Also known as a Service Flag, the blue stands for hope and pride.

Let it speak now for our soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be nice to see more of these; to see them here, there and everywhere because those who serve and sacrifice should understand that we at home speak with one heart in our admiration and respect.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bring ROTC back to the Ivy League

Suppose we here in the northeast, citing the foibles and earthy prejudices of the gnarly red clay heartlanders, decided not to send ours to Congress or the Supreme Court or any court until they became more refined, like us. Congress might then consist of Senators exclusively from Baylor and Southern Methodist and the Supreme Court of Justices from Liberty University and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. That is what we have done with the refusal to allow ROTC to recruit on ivy league campuses. To become an American military officer you would have to go to another college. Without a doubt, it has influenced foreign policy, including our current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we in Boston suffer the most. Gone is the memory of Joshua Chamberlain, and although the tourist bus makes its first stop on Boston Common at the monument to the historic Black Civil War Regiment, Robert Gould Shaw, who died and was laid to rest with his men, is likewise lost to our collective memory. Barney Frank, Bart Simpson, Bob Dylan: This is what we are today. This is what we have become since the Vietnam period.

As Eliot A. Cohen points out in today’s Washington Post, many elite universities kicked ROTC off campus during the Vietnam War and never brought it back. But in truth, the military's policies toward homosexuals were, for the most part, merely an excuse for keeping recruiters at bay.

“The attenuated memories of Vietnam, a restoration of patriotic sentiment, a far less turbulent student body and the trauma of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made it easier to contemplate the return of ROTC. During the 2008 election campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain both supported it,” he writes.

In the excellent new Eisenhower memoir, “Going Home to Glory: a Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 - 1969,” by David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the authors report that Ike was skeptical of the clamor for federal aid to education.
“When the federal government begins to fund education, he argued, educational institutions will find they cannot live without the assistance they receive.”
That was in the first days of the Kennedy administration and was certainly prophetic.

General Eisenhower wisely added that with federal funding, the government will eventually tell educators what to do.

True again, especially in the sciences, and Eisenhower’s famous characterisation of the “military industrial complex” has been expanded by some to the military-industrial-informational-educational complex.

But if they don’t allow military officers to be trained on their campuses, they should at least for the present time, receive not a penny more of federal aid.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter solstice: The end of exile

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/20/10

Over the weekend, winter solstice made the big headline on Drudge, with a picture of the moon, because for the first time in 456 years, more of less since the beginning of Protestantism, a lunar eclipse falls on winter solstice. It would be pointless to speculate on the meaning of this or it if has any meaning at all, except that I was struck a few years ago when we here in New England who had been complaining about The Curse for about 80 years, had The Curse lifted when the Red Sox beat the Yankees for the pennant during a lunar eclipse. At the end of the game I went outside and sure enough, the shadow was passing across the moon. Eclipse at solstice, the darkest night of the year, may likewise have particular, essential meaning.

We in the scientific world and its secular manifestation deny meaning as part of the conventional orthodoxy. Science is our religion said The Cigarette-Smoking Man, not oracles. But Arthur Koestler, an early Zionist who turned back to Europe and communism but later repudiated it, would insist later in life there must be meaning in omens. They were like “an arrow in the blue” intuited only once or a few times in a lifetime. Maybe this is one of those times. This belief lived in the one corner of his brain, he said, while Trotsky lived in another, and the one remained in full denial of the other.

Something this year at solstice we might consider. Something cosmic. A rite of entry then, now a rite of exit, crystallized by action in the stars and heavens. What happened not long after the beginning of the aeon was that the Jews left Israel and came north to us. Then just a few hundred years ago – actually something like 456 years, more or less – the Jews of Poland, Spain, Germany and then everywhere, started leaving us after we were fully formed and going back to Israel. William Butler Yeats and his occultist friends sensed something in this; an ending or beginning: God was moving again in the moon and stars as happened only once every 2,000 years.

Now this:

“This year, with God's help,” Moshe Feiglin, a native-born Israeli leader wrote recently, “there will be more Jews in Israel than anywhere else in the world. This is a sea change in the state of the Jewish nation and the first time since the First Temple era that the majority of Jews has resided in Israel. This summer we start the countdown to the end of the exile.”

It is sure to have a yet unseen effect not only on Jews but also in the external, peripheral realms of time and timelessness: To Ivanhoe, the Templars, the priests, cardinals, saints, popes, explorers and the rest of us – even us New England hippies and Buddhists – who came from the Christian world over the last 2,000 years.

So that is something that might be considered this solstice by those faithful or just curious because without the Jews’ journey north we would not have found our humanity and we would not be anything. Something more than just a curiosity, like our good fortune in Boston when the Red Sox finally beat the Yankees after all those long years.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Revolution this time: The 28th Amendment

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/17/10

As Linda Greenhouse reports today in the NYTs, it has been 15 years since the Rehnquist court began applying the constitutional brakes to assertions of federal power that had seemed unassailable since the New Deal, clarifying “the distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local.”

Greenhouse’s essay is appropriately titled The Revolution Next Time, but it might have been called The Revolution this time, as yesterday, a resolution (H.J. 542) calling for a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, permitting states to repeal federal laws and regulations, was introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by Delegate James LeMunyon . If ratified as part of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment would permit two-thirds of the states, when acting in unison, to repeal specific federal laws and regulations.

Federal mandates imposed on programs such as transportation, education, and social services are frequently implemented at the state and local level, says LeMunyon. These programs have expanded beyond the capacity of Congress to oversee them. Federal laws and regulations have become so intertwined with state laws that it is difficult for states to apply cost-saving reforms and policy innovations when necessary.

“The Repeal Amendment aims to re-balance the relationship between the federal and state governments as our Nation’s Founder’s intended,”says LeMunyon. “By providing states recourse to counter federal overreach and policy micromanagement, the amendment would also have the practical effect of creating a better partnership between states and the federal government to ensure that programs meet the needs of citizens, do not waste tax dollars, and when necessary, are fixed or eliminated.”

In order for the amendment to be adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution, 34 states are required to call a convention to consider the amendment, and if approved, it must be ratified by 38 states. Congress may also approve the amendment by a two-thirds vote in each House followed by ratification by 38 states.

Ever since the Rehnquist court it has been quite easy to get a good debate going, among people who spend time thinking about such matters, about whether the federalism revolution really had amounted to much beyond the symbolic, Greenhouse writes.

As Zhou Enlai said about the French Revolution 200 year later, it is yet “too early to tell.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why doesn’t Palin just endorse Rick Perry?

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/16/10

We are at the end of things. Again. It always happens just before the beginning. But in every turning, traditionalists fight against it. The Beatles land in New York, and the old school comforts the rank and file: They will soon get on the plane again, go back where they came from and everything will be like it was in the peaceable kingdom. It never is. The Democrats have been plagued these past years with the Clinton reflex and the Republicans are today with the Bush reflex. But the Beatles have landed. This time it is Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. And I can assure you that here in the New Hampshire back woods, where conservatism is a fireside tradition, Sarah Palin strikes discord in the heart of local conservatives, just as she does with Frank Rich and Barbara Bush.

It is worse now for conservatives. Liberals have acquiesced. Conservatives were delighted when Palin was freaking out the liberal establishment. Now their own establishment feels threatened. They know what conservative women are supposed to be like: Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Senator from Texas, and Christie Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey. Barbara Bush with a college degree, not Andrew Jackson. This is why they lined up so heavily against Rick Perry in the resent Texas gubernatorial primary. They knew this wasn’t going away. And Lisa Murkowski won’t hold back the call of the wild coming from Alaska. At first they saw the Tea Party as “man yelling”; like Gingrich, Pt. II, this time featuring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who can yell better. Now it is out of hand. And now the name “Jeb Bush” keeps floating by, out of the ether, like saving grace from the Holy Spirit.

But I have seen the happy place. The conservatives’ happy place was the Southern Governors’ Association convention last spring; half a tent revival with great speeches by Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Palin, Perry and others. And Nikki Haley, the new governor of South Carolina, who faced more disgraceful primary opposition than the others, gave a formidable speech at a recent governor’s conference and was this past week among the first to challenge the President directly. Conservatives should be thrilled to see the age opening in their ranks. Instead they are afraid: Afraid of Sarah Palin.

The claim today that the Tea Party was about many things is divisive. And the new Republican Congress will turn it into a blur unless a leader evolves. That seems likely to be either Perry or Palin.

This movement has come to the edge of the river. It will cross now or never. As Christian Heinze of The Hill reports, Palin said she would only run if the field were missing a candidate who had “common sense” and “pro-constitution passion.” If there were such a candidate, Palin would opt out and be “their biggest supporter and biggest help-mate.” She could bring Iowa and South Carolina to a potential Rick Perry/Jon Huntsman, Jr. ’12 ticket in the primary season. Perry received a big endorsement by Palin in his recent primary.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, who has become to the Tea Party what Mr. Natural was to the Sixties, has talked to these two on his TV show, Freedom Watch. Why don’t they both go on and publically talk this through together? And one or the other comes out the leader. I say Perry because the conservative establishment is more afraid of Perry than it is of Palin.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rick Perry’s “Fed Up!” An Eagle Scout’s guide to states rights

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/15/10

If Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, gets up here any time soon and I have a feeling he will, he might take a look at Henry’s James classic, “The Bostonians.” He might find us today much as James found us then in 1886; feminists, utopians, New England Hindus, mesmerists and socialists, and feel some kinship to the more stalwart Confederate cousin, Basil Ransom of Mississippi, who eat his peas with a Bowie knife. But Perry, Eagle Scout, Texas rancher, C-130 Air Force pilot and governor longer and any in Texas history, is no Confederate. In fact, in his guide to states’ right, “Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” he writes that it was the South’s unwillingness to give up a way of life inexcusably based on the abominable practice of slavery that persuaded Congress to pass the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which compelled citizens of northern states to act against their conscience and help return escaped former slaves into bondage.

“Thus,” he writes, “while the southern states seceded in the name of ‘states’ rights,’ in many ways it was the northern states whose sovereignty was violated in the run-up to the Civil War.”

This book is one of the best things to emerge from the Tea Party movement and Perry is just the man to be doing the explaining. In time, it could be that all of this, including Sarah Palin’s carrying the flag these two years, was just prepping and plowing the fields to prepare for Rick Perry’s arrival on the national scene.
We are seeing an astonishing change of outlook in our times. Just one year ago Nadeam Elshami, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s aid, said questioning the Constitutionality of Obamacare was “ . . . not a serious question.” This week Judge Henry Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia said it is.

Perry’s book explains with the clarity of the Boy Scout Handbook the Constitutional history of the United States and the essential issues we may face just ahead. Perry, with Mark Sanford, then governor of South Carolina, was the first to bring a public challenge to government bailouts, writing in the Wall Street Journal back on Dec. 2, 2008, “As governors and citizens, we've grown increasingly concerned over the past weeks as Washington has thrown bailout after bailout at the national economy with little to show for it. In the process, the federal government is not only burying future generations under mountains of debt. It is also taking our country in a very dangerous direction -- toward a ‘bailout mentality’ where we look to government rather than ourselves for solutions.”

Perry sees the states as laboratories of democracy. “States can be free to experiment with different ideas to deal with societal concerns and problems, and they can do so at a level closer to the people so that those particular trials can match the morals and beliefs of the people most affected,” he writes.

“We are fed up with a federal government that has the arrogance to preach to us about how to live our lives, and the chutzpah to haul every baseball player and other ‘evildoer’ in the world before a congressional committee – or some comic such as Stephen Colbert.”

He hopes his book will lead to a new conversation about the proper role of government and perhaps be a step toward renewing our collective appreciation for the genius of our nation’s federal system of government – when it works the way it is supposed to.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Israel and the Krebbs factor

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/11/10

Bringing Bill Clinton to the podium to support his tax decision further delegitimatizes Obama’s Presidency. It makes him look like a child. Like more of a child; the adulthood aspect was never that convincing. And that anyone would consider Clinton to be a father figure is absolutely spooky. This is not the party of Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. This is the party of Maynard G. Krebbs. In fact, that could explain everything; the Pelosi House, the Barney Frank initiatives, the irresponsible and unconstitutional spending in the trillions and the delusional foreign policy. Forget Marx and Keynes, Jefferson and Hamilton. As the prescient Aldous Huxley said, the eye of the camera had come to control us, to make us its willful zombies. It’s could all be from the mind of the 1950s TV beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs, sidekick and antithesis to the blond and happy Dobie Gillis, who enchanted an entire generation in its formative years.

Bill is again at the podium and not letting go. Coming on top of the incredulous Hillaryland no-fault diplomacy and the incongruous commission to reduce the deficit, it further diminishes America. A 50-year debt reduction program? We will need a five or seven generational thing. It is purely Krebbsian.

But a failing Presidency, a failing political system and a failing America can awaken new life in the world at large. Not in Europe, where the self-imposed warehousing by the EU has so far successfully kept them from killing one another, but to those just being born to the world again like China and Israel.

Israel especially. Much as vast China gave the impression that it was about to hatch 30 years ago, the tiny jewel heart that is Israel does today. It goes still unnoticed here as the press looks to the new millennium with the eyes of the last. And just as the twisted sisters of the enlightenment like Gore Vidal condemned China for daring to challenge the territorial imperative of America 30 years ago, so Israel is attacked daily today by its own, here and abroad. Especially in the editorial pages of the New York Times, marginal – by Obama’s recent declaration – as they might be.

Nothing to be afraid of though; no heavy weights around anymore like Arthur Koestler, Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Kenneth Burke, Hannah Arendt and so many others. No one in influence today can even remember Dostoyevsky or Willa Cather or Aldous Huxley. But they will remember “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and “Leave it to Beaver” and “Gilligan’s Island” and The Doors and Herman’s Hermits and Bono and Mick Jagger and Princess Summerfall Winterspring. It is the dominant paradigm of the dominating post-war generation. And if Israel can survive Rome, Germany, Russia and the Golem, it will surely survive the current antagonism and rising anti-Semitism of the post-war generation.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Obama could now take back the tea party

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/09/10

One of the more interesting aspects of the current moment is President Obama’s suggestion that the editorial pages of the New York Times do not speak for liberal America or mainstream America. That is to say, they are marginal. As he moves to the center now it is possible for him to imagine reelection. For advice on how to do this he might look to the Tea Party. Because before it was cool, that which became the Tea Party lived on the left and in small libertarian journals.

Tea Party was “discovered” by Glenn Back and Fox news much as the Indians were “discovered” by Columbus. In fact we, like Quanto, were already here. The invasion of Iraq became a catalyst for articles like “A states right defense against Dick Cheney” and “A New Age of Jefferson” which I wrote for small libertarian journals before the world first heard of Barack Obama. Elementary to this position was Jefferson’s Kentucky Resolutions of 1797, as elegant as a marriage contract: If there is infidelity on the part of one, then the marriage is dissolved.

These ideas and those of better writers have now fully found their way into the mainstream, which is good. America, right and left, has found the effective antidote to federalist malfeasance: states’ rights. It is a door that will not be closed. We are a nation of states and regions. It is our birthright. I wrote a lot about his then and the two champions I wrote about were Mark Warner, then the governor of Virginia, and Jim Webb, who is now Senator of Virginia. My guides were Jefferson and Andrew Jackson and Warner was Jefferson and Webb was Jackson. Sarah Palin has since stolen the Jacksonian fire, but there is no reason why the Obama Democrats couldn’t take it back. It belongs to Jackson. It belongs to Jefferson.

The Democrats went astray by listening to the editorial voice of the New York Times. As Steve Jardin and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, advisors to Warner and Webb, wrote in their excellent book, “Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ‘em Out” if liberalism ignores the South and the red states, it will destroy the Democratic Party. The rise of red state Tea Party suggests it could destroy the country. Instead, the Democrats chose the dangerous path of “Whistling past Dixie”; the path of the marginalia at the New York Times.

My most important impression of Barack Obama came during his campaign at a high school in Littleton, NH, when I pulled my kids out of school to hear him talk. Most revealing was a story he told about a long ride into the country on a campaign tour in Greenville, SC, I think it was. When he finished his talk, he heard an elderly black woman in the crowd say, “Fired up.” Then the crowd began to chant “Fired up.” For the first time he found himself in the very country heart of America, where rural, black women spontaneously sing to express their fidelity and devotion. It was a kind of touchstone moment which could easily have sent urbane New York editorialists scurrying back to Elaine’s. But Obama was clearly enchanted by it. It was Obama’s American moment. He had passed the test.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

30 anniversary of John Lennon's death

Note: Mentioned today on my Tom Brady piece for The Hill. "For the past 15 years I’ve watched the headlines on Dec. 7 and 8 as a barometer of the times. Pearl Harbor was Dec. 7, and on Dec. 8 John Lennon was murdered in NYC. Each year Pearl Harbor wins. This year there was barely a mention of Pearl Harbor and John Lennon is on front pages everywhere. There are three op-eds about Lennon today in the NY Times. It is a seismic shift in my opinion, marking the beginning of the century, the millennium. Lennon will be remembered in time as the most important English person to date since Victoria. For more on John Lennon Google “Quigley in Exile”. But after the football game Monday night Tom Brady is more on my mind." Here is the John Lennon piece:

On the 25th Anniversary of His Death

"Is it not written in your law . . . you are gods?" John 10:34

"The crosses are all full," said the lay brother.
"Then we must make another cross. If we do not make an end of him another will, for who can eat and sleep in peace while men like him are going about the world?" -
"The Crucifixion of the Outcast," Celtic tale retold by William Butler Yeats in Mythologies

"Zen demands intelligence and will-power, as do all the greater things which desire to become real." These are the words of C. G. Jung in the introduction to D.T. Suzuki’s An Introduction to Zen Buddhism. Jung’s words and observations would win him a place top row center, right next to Edgar Allen Poe, on the cover of Sgt. Peppers. In the 1950s Suzuki was always referred to as Dr. Suzuki – much as Richard Gere is referred to as only Richard today by Tibetan Buddhists. It is kind of an honorarium, a title. Dr. Suzuki was a solid forefather on the path East and one of the very first learned Masters to come from the East to the West.

In the 1950s he taught at Columbia University and was a celebrity in New York City, an exotic but common monk with a great smile and a pure vision of Zen. Personal experience is everything in Zen, said Dr. Suzuki. No ideas are intelligible to those who have no backing in experience. Mystification is far from being the object of Zen itself, but to those who have not touched the central fact of life Zen inevitable appears as mystifying. Penetrate through the conceptual superstructure and what is imagined to be a mystification will at once disappear, and at the same time there will be an enlightenment known as satori.

Dr. Suzuki talked straight: personal experience is everything in Zen. The purpose of life is love. I’m not sure if John Lennon read these words but perhaps his wife, Yoko Ono, did. She was a key figure in the avant garde art scene in New York City at the time and had been in New York for a long time, even as a student at Sarah Lawrence. She was well known as a conceptual artist before she met John Lennon, and lived and worked in the same realm as people like John Cage and Marcel Duchamp. These would be the first people in New York to listen to Dr. Suzuki.

The art students were always the first to catch on, and John Lennon and his friend Stu Sutcliffe were the art students who started The Beatles. They were like pilot fish for the rest of us who were born at the end of the war and it was quite a large school of fish. 40 million people. All our fathers had been warriors. We were all the same age and born within months of one another, conceived by men who had been a long time without women, directly on return from war in Asia and Europe.

For us it was a bristling, exciting respite between childhood and adulthood and we were interested in new things. There were no teachers around to deflect our learning, no priests to lead us astray. For the briefest period, all of the shields were down. Other voices would come shortly. Swami Yogananda, who wrote The Autobiography of a Yogi, would become very popular for awhile. John said he read about half of it, which I thought was pretty good, as I’d only managed about 80 pages. Later, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Tolstoy. But Suzuki’s message entered the river of our generation at the same time as John entered our river. At first much of the Zen around New York was dark, misunderstood in the West as nihilism, the shadow which withered the Western heart after 500 years of exploration and dominance. But John and Stu understood Dr. Suzuki’s Zen message that love is the purpose of life.

John is said to have started The Beatles to have something to do with Stu. When McCartney entered the group he drove them to become more serious and businesslike. But at first it was always John and Stu. Stu had the artist’s eye for style – naming the group The Beatles after seeing Lee Marvin and Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones. Lee Marvin’s motorcycle gang was called The Beetles. Stu always attracted the coolest people as well. And when they went to Berlin before the group was fully formed he attracted the beautiful photographer Astrid Kirchherr, who would become an anima figure – a muse – to the group and open them up in the mind in new ways and awaken new music and images.

An avante garde photographer in Germany, she and her friends, including Klaus Voorman, traveled in the seedy night scene in Berlin and met the group there, which was still going under the name of The Silver Beatles. She gave them the playful Beatles haircuts. Friendship would bind them. Stu married Astrid and Klaus later drew the cover picture for the Revolver album, and much later, after The Beatles had broken up, he played as a background musician on the Imagine album.

Personal experience would guide the fledgling poet as well, and like many ordinary men before him, Lennon became great when someone he loved died. He would remember them all. And he would remember Stu, who never returned to England with them.

I know I’ll always feel affection, for people and things that went before. I know I’ll always think about them.

But it was different with Stu.

In my life, I loved you more.

This requiem, this love song, is considered today to be one of the greatest songs ever written. It is the beginning of the artist’s journey for John Lennon.

The Sixties was a cacophony of a million sounds and smells and voices and music and colors and textures, but especially music. The electric guitar was like a key; an ancient iron ornamented key to a mediaeval dream door that would open to an age.

Every age, be it short or long, has a beginning, a middle and an end, like a person’s life, and this age was no exception. This age, someone pointed out, came with its own sound track. And it rose and fell rather quickly.

At the center was The Beatles and the Sixties rose and fell with the fate of the Beatles. And at dead center, the man in the center of the Beatles was John Lennon.

From beginning to end The Beatles was about John Lennon. He was not the most important innovator or instigator of the period, except perhaps in music, but the music would eventually become secondary to his life, as literature had become secondary to Tolstoy.

He was one of us, common and working class, but of course, more gifted. And the transformation he made, we made. Eventually he left The Beatles behind to complete the passage himself. He was the Man at the Center who made passage with us and for us and completed the journey on our behalf. And I don’t think we could have or would have completed passage without him.

The remaining Beatles say they were transformed by Bob Dylan like the rest of us were. John was as well. It shows in his pictures. It shows in his clothes and in music like Norwegian Wood, a folksy, spare song inspired by the folk scene, written when the Beatles would begin to rise to a higher artistic level. John, they say, wanted to conquer the world, which The Beatles did with ease. Then, when they heard Bob Dylan, they aspired to be artists.

Dylan opened the gate and performed the Rite of Entry to the age with his soulful cohort Joan Baez, and the age rose to the center when The Beatles reached their artistic apex. Then followed the rite of exit with Joni Mitchell and the howling animal cries of Neil Young, mourning the passing of the brief and sacred moment.

The Beatles, at the top of their creative arc -- that would be somewhere within the Sgt. Peppers area -- brought the defining moment to a generation. Some 30 years later, in January, 2001, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd contrasted the generation with George Bush, Jr., who last week threatened to cast the first veto of this presidency to overthrow Congress’s attempt to ban his policy of allowing the torture of military prisoners.

In his first month in office she wrote, “He said he never liked the Beatles after they got into that ‘kind of a weird psychedelic period.’” One either crossed the river or did not, and those who did not, struggled to create a counter-force. (Ten weeks into his presidency Dowd reported going hungry for a shred of modernity. “Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it’s redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas,” she lamented. “What’s next? Asbestos, DDT, bomb shelters, filterless cigarettes? Patti Page?”)

Not unlike George Bush, John Lennon was preoccupied with Jesus. You could see it early on with the trouble he got into when the Beatles were first big. Fans would crowd them and overwhelm them and once John said to a crowd of reporters, “We’re more popular than Jesus.” There was no arrogance to it, but subtle awareness. The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Yet Bush and Lennon couldn’t be more far apart in their quests.

In The Tao of Jung, psychiatrist and Jung scholar David H. Rosen discusses C.G. Jung’s decent into the shadowy world of the collective unconscious, the world beyond the conscious ego. On the way into the “cave” of the unconscious stood a dwarf with a leathery skin, as if he were mummified, which Jung squeezed past. Rosen explains this in terms of Indian mythology: “Shiva steps on a dwarf that represents the ego when this deity does its creative dance of death and rebirth.”

Likewise with the Beatles. When they began their real creative work, they left behind the casings of their early ego identity, pictured as four mop-top wax dummies in early Beatles suits at what appears to be a burial on the cover of the Sgt. Peppers album, while the “new” Beatles appeared above like butterflies just left the cocoon in brightly colored satins and playful epaulets.

At the building vortex of their work, John went through a classic shaman’s arc, the same as the one described by Dante in The Divine Comedy; the same ascribed to Jesus by his followers thus, “. . .he descended into hell the third day . . . . he ascended into heaven.” (As E.C. Krupp writes that Santa Claus, an archaic remnant of a Norse shaman, enters the subtle realms of the archetypal shamanic journey by descending the chimney to the Underworld and flying through the Cosmic Heavens with magical reindeer.)

This is the classic pattern of the journey of the shaman described by anthropologists and it occurred with John as the Beatles rose to the top of their creative arc. IN this kind of psychological transformation, the man or woman who is about to enter into Unconscious falls, out of nowhere and against his or her will, into a funk. He falls into a torpor, a sickness of the mind and heart and feels a worthlessness to his life. He goes through a period of spiritual death and descends deep into the earth. Afterwards, he ascends and rises into heaven. Finally he emerges transfigured and enlightened god king, leaves the celestial place and comes out, usually down from a mountain, with a simple transforming idea for the tribe, a gift from the Land of the Dead.

Lennon went through such a transformation, falling into a psychological funk and getting fat and afraid at the peak of the Beatles initial popularity (“Help,” he sang. “I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be.”) Then at the Revolver album, something new began to happen. Suddenly there is a sense of entering the river, an image which occurs in dreams at times of birth or death (“turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,”) and at times of psychological transformation. In Buddhism and Taoism, it is the sign of a new awakening.

He sang a second song on the same album about floating downstream in a transcendent, blissful sleep, while everyone thinks he is just lazy, (but “I don’t mind,” he sings, “I think they’re crazy”). Some say I’m Only Sleeping is aesthetically the best song he ever composed.

In terms of anthropology, this is the first orientation of an earth shaman finding his feet in the Underworld – the creative unconscious – the world under the earth, where he will take you down with him into the density of the earth, but this is the Subtle Realm of the earth, the Underworld, where “nothing is real” in Strawberry Fields.

And there he finds clarity and confidence, but in a new world, the world of the Unconscious where there is understanding of all you see with eyes closed, and the old world becomes a shell, a mere caricature of psychic life.

The shaman then ascends out of the earth and into the sky, like Jesus rising out of the tomb and entering heaven. John and the Beatles rise then to the very height of their work in Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. And here at their best work is the shaman’s archetypal journey to the heavens in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Like the Underworld of Strawberry Fields, the Astral Heavens also have otherworldly features, like newspaper taxies and magical rivers with tangerine trees and marmalade skies (like the tree “showered with reddish blossoms” blazed in light, a cosmic vision Jung had – a “vision of unearthly beauty” which oddly enough, took place in Liverpool, home of the Fab Four. Lennon’s dream vision in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds also echo’s Dante’s, looking upon the stars from above, in Paradise: “I saw light in the shape of a river/Flashing golden between two banks/Tinted in colors of marvelous spring./Out of the stream came living sparks/Which settled on the flowers on every side/Like rubies ringed with gold . . .”).

At the peak, John wrote a song called I am the Walrus in which he invoked the Upanishads, which along with The Autobiography of a Yogi was very popular back in those days. John wrote, “I am he,” about the swimming together of all of us at the peak of the Sixties, and “we are all together.” “I am the Eggman,” he sang, with his characteristic Liverpool humor, “. . . they are the Eggmen. I am the Walrus.”

Lennon’s favorite book was Alice in Wonderland and the Abbey Road album contained a snippet of Lewis Carroll's prose. He may have drawn on Lewis Carroll’s wise Walrus, who would fit right in on Sgt. Peppers, holding forth on cabbages and kings to a horde of oysters.

It is all comic and hidden, but it reflects an awareness he had about being a man at the center of a world in transformation. The words, “I am he,” are from the core of Eastern spirituality and are well known to its practitioners. Shimon Malin’s recent book Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective offers an explanation from science: He writes, “Erwin Schrödinger had the experience of finding the soul of the universe within himself, as his own ultimate identity. He expressed his finding as follows: Inconceivable as it seems to ordinary reason, you – and all other conscious beings as such – are all in all. Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is, in a certain sense, the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins express in the sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear: Tat twam asi, this is you [or I am he or this is that]. Or, again, in such words as ‘I am in the east and in the west, I am above and below, I am this whole world’.”

Malin writes that Wolfgang Pauli, when asked if he believed in a personal God, responded with an answer that suggests a mandala: “May I rephrase your question? I myself should prefer the following formulation: Can you, or anyone else, reach the central order of things or events, whose existence seems beyond doubt, as directly as you can reach the soul of another human being? I am using the term “soul” quite deliberately so as not to be misunderstood. If you put your question like that, I would say yes.”

This expression reflects the sentiment of the Upanishads in which the Atman (the Eggman) or the individual soul, finds itself at one with another individual soul, then another, then the whole soul, the world soul, the God consciousness, the Brahmin (the Walrus). It is what Jesus had become after he had gone through the Transfiguration, referring to himself as at one with the God force, at One with the Father. This is the Brahma consciousness.

The Beatles were at their peak with Sergeant Peppers. There John would find fulfillment, anthropologically speaking. Then he would journey to the East, although Paul and Ringo were bored, and find the mystic Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a father figure to him, but a Great Father, a spiritual father, not an earthly father.

The shaman’s work is essentially over by then, except to bring the gift idea to the community. The shaman has brought the tribe with him through the transformation of the Unconscious. It is up to us after that.

Yet some of the Beatles greatest work would come as they traveled down the back side of the mountain. The White Album is still a favorite to fans. One song, I’m So Tired, wonderfully reflects the rite of exit of the exhausted artist that comes at the end of the transformational passage, balancing the liberating I’m Only Sleeping, at the rite of entry.

It is characteristic of the dark side of the passage that the archetypes reverse themselves and show themselves not as they are in the holistic form of the inner life, but just the opposite, shattered in the outside world, reflecting that the center has been passed through and we have once again entered the flat consciousness of the everyday world. And in this instance, it was a hostile world at war in Vietnam and on the streets and campuses of the United States (“Happiness is a warm gun,” sang John)

“Can one live with a shattered glass?” the guru classically asks a Tibetan monk who has just found Enlightenment.

And here – classically - the Beatles reject their psychological god-king, the Maharishi, and even publicly denounce him. Here John sings, “My mother is of the sky.” Lucy is of the sky, his anima, his female counterpart whom he found in transcendent journey. Mother is of the earth. And the tricksters continue their playful treachery, fooling their audience and keeping them off guard with pranks like this one: “ . . . here’s another clue for you all. The Walrus was Paul.”

The Walrus, of course, was John.

Coming off the backside of the mountain – and on return form India - John sometimes believed he was carrying – channeling, we say – Jesus and said so to the Beatles. And he made occasional references, even paraphrasing the Gospel of Thomas “. . . the inside is out/the outside is in. . .” on the White Album.

The full text is, “Jesus said to them:/When you make the two one,/and make the inside like the outside,/and the outside like the inside,/and the upper side like the under side,/and (in such a way) that you make the man/(with) the woman a single one,/in order that the man is not man and the/woman is not woman; when you make eyes in place of an eye,/and a hand in place of a hand,/and a foot in place of a foot,/an image in place of an image;/then you will go into [the kingdom].” – from The Gospel of Thomas.

This preoccupation with Jesus appears again and again. “Christ, you know it ain’t easy,” he sang in one of his last songs, suggesting in The Ballad of John and Yoko that he, like Jesus, would be crucified.

Certainly Lennon made himself look like Jesus at the end of the Beatles. On their last album cover, Abbey Road, he is dressed all in white, like Jesus after the Transfiguration, with the Beatles trailing him across the road, like the Three Celestial Ones (see this blog in January, 2006 for the Three Celestial Ones), following in his wake. (And cultism would abound in the Beatle myth. The old Catholic myth about the three secrets revealed to the children at Fatima by the Blessed Mother took a pernicious turn into hippie lore in the late 1990s when the Pope revealed the third secret to be about a “man in white” who would be gunned down when he returned from the mountain top. The Pope, who had been wounded in an attack at the same time that Lennon was murdered, revealed the contents of the letter to the public because he said the prophecy had been fulfilled. John Paul II, who wore white garments at public ceremonies, claimed to be the man identified in the prophecy.)

Even later, at the very end of his life Jesus is suggested. All through the most creative period, the shaman’s journey from Sgt. Peppers to the end of Abbey Road, John wore a special flowered talisman around his neck. Afterwards, he stopped wearing it. But in New York, in one of the later pictures ever taken of him, a well-known photograph where he is wearing a t-shirt that says New York City across the front, there is a tiny cross hanging from his neck.

At the end of the Beatles period John continued in a prophet’s journey. Like Moses and the Bodhisattva, he returns from a celestial vision on top of the mountain with a simple transforming idea, as Moses did with the tablets.

It is the same idea that has occurred throughout the century but is new to our century here in the West. It is Emerson’s message and here it is again expressed ten years before the Beatles by C.G. Jung: “Our world has shrunk, and it is dawning on us that humanity is one, with one psyche. Humanity is a not inconsiderable virtue which should prompt Christians, for the sake of charity – the greatest of all virtues – to set a good example and acknowledge that though there is only one truth it speaks in many tongues, and that if we still cannot see this it is simply due to lack of understanding. No one is so godlike that he alone knows the true word.” As Woodstock guru Satchidananda put it, “One truth, many paths.”

It is the same idea that Leo Tolstoy, a Great Father figure to the non-violence movement of the Sixties, had brought to the world after his night of the dark soul when he went through a religious transformation.

Lennon, with his wife Yoko Ono, entered the peace movement when he left the Beatles, and like Tolstoy later in life, attempted to apply his natural gifts didactically to public purpose. He is said to have been reading Tolstoy’s late non-fiction work on religion and non-violence as many were in the late 1960s, and his final word, the simple transforming idea he brought down from the mountain is precisely the same thought as Tolstoy’s: Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do. . . Imagine all the people living life in peace.

Tolstoy claimed that there was one singular thought in Christ’s work and that was do not return violence with violence. On this he built the doctrine that would inspire Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the anti-war activists of the 1960s. Furthermore, in Patriotism and Government, Tolstoy wrote that patriotism was a practicable solution for nations early in their development, but it was time now to abandon national prejudices. Even Ghandi, who he corresponded with and who admired Tolstoy enormously, had failed in this, he said. The non-violent approach was the right approach, but, said Tolstoy, declaring the nation to be Hindu, “ruins everything.”

It was time for the removal of all barriers. No country, and no religion, too. This would be Lennon’s final impression on the people: Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you can, no hell below us, a brotherhood of man.

This is precisely Tolstoy’s religious conviction at the end of his life. He advocated abandoning identity with a particular prophet as one would abandon nationalism.

In one of his last writings on the subject Tolstoy clearly states his opinion: “Attributing a prophetic mission peculiar to certain beings such as Moses, Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah as well as several others is one of the major causes of division and hatred between men.”

John’s swan song, Imagine, reflects timeless Buddhist sentiment like that presented in What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, which had gained popularity in the Sixties. And is likely an intentional reconstruction of Tolstoyan philosophy which was deeply influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. Intended or not, it completes the shaman’s journey and begins the transformation of the group.

Imagine also bears a relationship to The Gospel of Thomas. Elaine Pagel's book Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, states that in Thomas’s account, Jesus challenges those who mistake the kingdom of God for an otherworldly place or a future event: Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, Look, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will get there before you . . .” In a word, Imagine there’s no heaven.

William Butler Yeats writes: “What portion in the world can the artist have/Who has awakened from the common dream/But dissipation and despair?” Such was the lot of John Lennon.

Late in life, broken and in pain, he wrote, “I was the Walrus, but now I’m John.”

One of his biographers writes that he was never happy again after the Sgt. Peppers period. The pictures show it. He never smiled again for the camera after he returned from India.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Imagine there’s no football. Maybe California needs Tom Brady

by Bernie Quigley

for The Hill on 12/08/10

If there is a lock out next year America will be left without its basic matrix; that which holds us together and apart in harmony in tension. Hard to think what we in the frozen north will do without Tom Brady and our Dear Leader, Bill Belichick. But since they are just going to be waiting around and not doing anything anyway, I’ve got a few suggestions: Much as we would hate to see him go, Brady should spend the year without football in his home state where he is building a really big house, and plan his next career, starting with governor of California. A few years ago on a national TV interview when he first flabbergasted the football world with those quiet eyes and that steadfast arm, he said he hoped to do more with his life that just “throw a football around.” He said he was thinking of going into politics. I’m sure Mitt Romney, who borrowed his logo for his 2008 run from the Patriots, would help. He lives out there now. And Brady’s broheim, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lives next door.

Belichick can help out here with his old bud Doug “drop kick” Flutie, who campaigned for Scott Brown, in putting New England back together. Much to be done to tailor health insurance to the region as Governor Romney intended it.

A thought came to mind in those so many times when so many of our national and local polls including Obama and Biden and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush seemed to need help. They seemed to need a life coach and a professional mentor. The thought would occur, What would Tony Dungy do? I mean look what he did for Michael Vick. Imagine what he could do for Joe Biden.

Then listening to David Eisenhower talk about his new book, “Going Home to Glory” and recalling the clarity, good faith, integrity and order which virtually won the war, saved the world and reunited it on a new center, began wondered what it was exactly Dwight D. Eisenhower did to make him get like that? What did he do before the war?

The answer: Football coach. And he was a star halfback at West Point until he injured his knee.

Belichick is old school New England Taoist – listen to this, repeated by Brady after the game on Monday night: “We really take after our coach and he says, ‘When you win, say little. When you lose, say less.’” Sounds like the Tao te Ching, number 82. And these guys are playing football?

Belichick is one of us old school men-don’t-hug New Englanders. But Brady, much as I wish he would be ours always, is California’s and he is California’s finest. CA is new, we are old. Brady is new. And the political arena today is filled with brand new ideas, some great, some terrible. And as in every possible case of new ideas, they need new people. And those who champion great ideas bring them to life and are ever remembered as avatars of the new thinking. ‘Twas ever thus.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

America is now an East/West country (Rick Perry/Carly Fiorina ’12)

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/4/10

New York came to prominence with the signing at Appomattox in 1865. But that all changed when John Ford and John Wayne reawakened the western spirit and Ronald Reagan brought the western idea to Washington. With the nomination of Sarah Palin, the call of the wild again ignited in the west and America entered a paradigm shift. Before that moment America could still hope to be a North/South country under New York dominance. From that moment forward, America would be an East/West country.

Since WW II economy and population have shifted from the northeast to the south and the southwest. The Reagan Presidency began to bring the south and west to cultural relevance and political dominance. Rural farm counties like Tobaccoville, NC, saw their voter registration change from Democrat to Republican by 80%; the first time people there would vote Republican. They were not suddenly allying themselves with Wall Street and its Kennebunkport friends, awkward and unconvincing in cowboy boots, who had followed the conquest to Texas. They were allying themselves with Ronald Reagan’s Santa Ynez Mountains and Barry Goldwater’s Arizona. In 1984, 49 of 50 states voted Reagan.

The agricultural and commodities rich middle states were advancing in this period and the blue state/red state division reemerged but with a difference: In the 1830s, the blue industrial northeast was rich and the rural red was dirt poor. Now the blue are poor and calling on the red for support. The other important difference is that the blue northeastern states and CA see themselves as extensions of Europe. The red states do not. They are indigenous American rural cultures: When they look across the Atlantic they see only Israel. In a word, the abstract political temperaments of liberal and conservative America have materialized into oppositional regional cultures.

The red states have awakened and what might be called the Jeffersonian paradigm of colonial days has now risen north from Texas up through the Rockies and heading almost unbroken through to Alaska. As Jefferson challenged Alexander Hamilton’s vision of dominance by New York in the early 1800s, so Sarah Palin and Joe Miller of Alaska do today. So does Texas Governor Rick Perry. (Rick Perry/Carly Fiorina ’12?)

I wrote here on Pundit’s Blog on 8/29/08 hours after McCain picked Palin for VP:

“This is no longer a race between one candidate who brings to mind John F. Kennedy [Obama] and another following in Bush’s Wall St.-with-cowboy-boots theme . . . It [Palin’s entry into the race] opens an entirely new political dialog in the country pitting the Eastern establishment and all of the institutional thinking and baggage that entails against the new mores of the West and the rising spirit of adventure on a frontier still free and open, independent and self reliant.”

The eastern conservative establishment will claim the Reagan mantle hoping to bring control back to New York and Washington. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard sees NJ Governor Chris Christie as a hedge against the rising western tide in 2012, somewhat predictably, with Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, as VP.

But ignoring the natural contours of history can bring conflict and even in time, warfare. History must follow the demographics. The west – Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Palin (Perry, Fiorina) - is rising. The east – Roosevelt, Kennedy, (Bush), Obama - retreating. The demographics have been moving America steady to this position since war’s end.

The great and definitive president is just ahead. Whoever it is will fulfill Reagan’s vision of western awakening and destiny and will set the stage for the new century.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Will Israel survive contemporary Christianity?

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/3/10

I would hope that any Jewish studies course at university today might start with a viewing of the very great movie, “The Train,” with Burt Lancaster, about the heroic peasants of the French resistance offering up their lives to save the precious art of the Paris museums, a legacy from Rembrandt to Picasso, from falling into the hands of the Nazis. Lancaster hijacks a train and tricks the Germans to deliver the art unscathed to Free France. It should be immediately followed up by another movie, Alain Resnais’ “Night and Fog,” a gritty documentary about the deportation of Jews on trains to Hitler’s death camps. Because the question cannot arise from watching them save the precious art of Paris why they didn’t do the same for France’s Jews.

Art had become France’s religion. Possibly why it was so easy to conquer. But the two films together illustrate an elementary impulse about the cloak of cowardice that rewards substitute action for the true work that needs to be done: Substitutes saving pictures for saving Jewish lives.

The French have thought a great deal about this and Marcel Ophuls’ “The Sorrow and the Pity” examines French cowardice and collaboration. Possibly not enough. When I worked in New York City in the later 1970s I was perhaps the only non-Jewish Bernie to eat breakfast at DuBrow’s Cafeteria in the garment district. The rest were old Jewish men. Everyone had a relative killed in Hitler’s camps. And so did all Jewish friends my age.

It was the Age of Golem, the rough beast which would sweep across Europe since Rabbi Loeb unwittingly released it in Prague in the 16th century. Golem is still with us and this time hides behind a cloak of religious respectability.

As Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper report in a WSJ op-ed, “Presbyterians Against Israel” today, “ the anti-Israel politics of certain powerful Christian bodies hampers interfaith relations and threatens to breathe new life into medieval doctrine that demonized Jews for hundreds of years.”

In 2007, they report, the World Council of Churches, an umbrella organization of mostly liberal Protestants claiming a membership of 580 million worshippers, convened the "Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East Conference." The conference produced the Amman Call, a document that condemned violence and endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but denied Israel's right to a future as a Jewish state.

Again, in 2008, they say, the World Council of Churches convened a group of Protestant and Catholic theologians to review the underpinnings of Christian attitudes toward Israel. (No Jews were invited.) The group published the so-called Bern Perspective, which, among other things, instructed Christians to understand all biblical references to Israel only metaphorically.

It marks a return to "replacement theology," they say, “the medieval view that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plan and that all biblical references to Israel refer to the "new Israel"—that is, to Christians.”

Jewish friends my age have largely gone over to Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger (did somebody say golem?). In America, Israel’s only true and reliable friends today are earthy red necks (Johnny Cash, grits, Mammoth Jack mules and Pastor Hagee) of the old rugged cross persuasion. But they seem a worthy crew compared with the art lovers and appeasers of Vichy France and the current World Council of Churches.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Palin/Romney ’12 or Perry/Christie ’12?

As commentator Armstrong Williams says, Sarah Palin has finally gotten the attention of the media, now they won’t let go. That is the way in mass media. It could be a problem for democracy, maybe causing the neurosis Prof. Paul Eidelberg calls “demophrenia” but that’s the way it is right now. Already, op-eds have appeared in the New York Times calling for “our own Sarah Palin,” and the Washington Post calling up “the next Sarah Palin.”

She has made her mark, and so has Fox News. In Ted Koppel recent essay criticizing MSNBC and Fox for demagoguery (Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news,” 11/14/10), he matched the left’s Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews on MSNBC with Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly from Fox. But a telling trend of the times is that the MSNBC group is expected to lose their jobs when the network is sold. While the Fox crowd is a rising point of departure. Fox Business, which grew from Fox News, today features the respectable and entertaining Neil Cavuto, Charlie Gasparino and the inimitable libertarian, Judge Andrew Napolitiano, urging listeners to “Stay free!” This same crowd appears occasionally on Fox’s Don Imus morning show. Pretty mainstream. The zeitgeist has shifted to the right.

Mitt Romney sees it. His experience in South Carolina with Nikki Haley was telling. He was the first national figure to come to her aid when local (Republican) thugs tried to slander her. He did the right thing when it needed to be done. But it didn’t make much of a bump in Haley’s approval rating. A week later Palin endorsed Haley and her ratings skyrocketed. She won the governorship.

That should tell Romney how well he would do in the South Carolina primary. And it is already a lesson he learned earlier in Iowa, where he spent 20-some million and Mike Huckabee won. Palin is very popular in Iowa and could very well beat Huckabee this time. Radio commentator Lee Davis says if Palin wins Iowa and South Carolina and Romney wins New Hampshire, she will have the nomination. Could be.

Sarah Palin wants to do the right thing and so does Texas governor Rick Perry. Both have said that they would only think of running if no one else was running who would address the same issues they talk about, which is to say, Tea Party issues. I think they were talking about each other. Perry is an enormously attractive candidate but Palin has already managed to commandeer the media zeitgeist. Romney might sense now that his only road to the Presidency is following Palin as her VP. If he followed Palin he could package the feral spirit of Alaska and the west as no other could. And packaging is what it needs. But it would take Perry a little longer to get his own formidable kung fu going.

All interested should first look up New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s recent speech at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, where he told the crowd, “This is our moment.” Because Christie can make you cry. Not in a sad or unhappy way, but the way the crowd cried in the movie “Casablanca” when Victor Laszlo ordered the band to play La Marseillaise.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 12/1/10

OMG! news reports that James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host “Hollywood’s biggest night,” the Oscars. Omg! He played the sidekick in “Spiderman,” I think, and she was in that movie which gave away the ending to “Lost.” Suggests we are in a between; a time waiting as Israel waits for David, as Marcos Moulitsas and crew from the Daily Kos waits for the Clinton era people to go away, - the time described by the Wu Priesthood as “wu chi”; undifferentiated karma between worlds; imagine there’s no heaven, no country, no religion too. Imagine there’s no Oprah. Imagine Dr. House finally gets a girl friend. Imagine the new generation finally arising, but for big screen Hollywood, there won’t be one.

The art has moved on, and so have the artists. There is still occasionally mastery in the combined big-screen story-telling of Jeremy Renner and director Kathryn Bigelow like that in “Hurt Locker,” and flashes of light in the work of director Catherine Hardwicke. But a glimpse at the Redbox window will tell you what Blockbuster has recently discovered: That which started in John Ford’s Arizona desert has been taken down by the tumbleweed.

Today, artists work in TV. For a long time now, TV has been hiding its mastery, riding beneath the censors as the great Russian writers did in the 19th century: In “Mad Men,” the protagonist is early on given a talisman by a Jewish daughter, giving Don’s saga cosmological intent; in “Lost” the demonic Ben is marked by a chest wound and given a copy of “The Brother’s Karamazov” identifying him as a Christ figure gone mad at the end of his work, and even as far back as Chris Carter’s “X Files” where Fox Mulder is “born again” by Indian shaman and Scully’s hybrid baby born under the flag of the White Buffalo, indicating aeon Aquarius rising. Not since John Ford put an apron on Jimmy Stewart to match him against John Wayne has such subtlety in story telling occurred in Hollywood.

And big screen Hollywood has never seen mastery like that of Tony Sirico, Paulie “Walnuts” Gaultieri, in “The Sopranos.” (YouTube “Paulie Walnuts – ‘The 3 O’clock thing’” for a taste.) What makes “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” great is troupe acting. And small screen economics allow actors, directors and writers to use their words, and to work together as one. Big screen has long been dominated by “superstars” – Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis; always men – blunderbusting across the screen alone. At the first, Aldous Huxley, hated the big screen and saw it as an instrument of cultural dominance by Americans; thus perhaps “Ford” the “god” of the autonomous feel-good totalitarianism in “Brave New World.” I wonder how Huxley would feel about getting groped by the rubber glove brigade at the airports today?

But the American “big screen” era has yielded to small screen, possibly suggesting our diminishing influence in the world. Even miniscule screens, like the Droids and iPads my kids carry.

It may have all ended with the parallel journeys of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”; the one across the universe and beyond. The other inward. And has anyone in the “small government” movement noticed that in spite of what Ronald Reagan said about the Evil Empire, the Star Wars saga seems a textbook treatise against all mega states and mega governments including this one, and a journey back again to the “natural state” – called “Druidia" in the Mel Brooks spoof, “Spaceballs,” but one that also bears an unmistakable suggestion of Israel in the very last episodes?