Saturday, February 27, 2010

Doug Hoffman’s New York and David Paterson’s

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 3/1/10

A Wall Street Journal essay this weekend calls Albany’s possibly the most corrupt legislature on earth. That would include Poland’s, Russia’s, Belarus’s, Brazil’s, Argentina’s, Mymar’s and Philadelphia’s. But Doug Hoffman’s New York is a vastly different place than David Paterson’s or Andrew Cuomo’s.

When you get to Doug Hoffman country everything changes. All the bags and baggage of Europeanized New York left behind from the 19th and 20th centuries – the corruption of Albany, the industrial revolution, patronage, class warfare, family connection; the pseudo-monarchist, personality cultism like that which accompanies Cuomo (married to a Kennedy, son of a charismatic governor – wouldn’t have a prayer otherwise) – suddenly disappears. It leaves entrails randomly strewn across the desolate Canadian border but it stops when you get past Malone.

And there the future opens. Not at the bizarre and oppressive wind farms beyond Moira, which reminded my son of the alien tripods in Stephen Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, but a little further on in the rhythmic clip clop, clip clop, of Amish horse buggies.

History turned on the NY 23 race last year when Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman brought a third party challenge to Dierdre Scozzafava. Hopefully there are four or five books or graduate theses in works that chronicle that critical moment because everything since – Virginia, Scott Brown, Tea Parties, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry’s critical primary just ahead in Texas – hinges on that moment.

American politics has three aspects now – traditional left, traditional right and populist conservative - whereas before NY 23 it had only two. Roosevelt Democrats, relevant when the industrial cities of eastern New York were flourishing and full of European immigrants a hundred years ago, are less and less finding purpose, function or useful adaption in a new century of farmers and small businesses.

Jim Rogers, the legendary commodities guru, has all year been telling Bloomberg’s Bernard Lo and anyone else who would listen to take up farming. Trade in the Maserati for a John Deere, because the future of wealth is in agriculture.

Which is good for Doug Hoffman’s New York because when you get to where you first start to hear the canter of Amish horses it is worth noting that from there on continuing west, once you get around Chicago, America is a farm for as far as the land is flat, about 2,000 miles.

NY 23 is an appropriate place for new politics to start in the new century. Like California, like America, NY is a state divided between red and blue and those cultural divisions now have specific regional contours. From Potsdam and Canton west, NY feels more like the Midwestern agricultural states in the Lakes region, while the eastern region seems a broken, industrial residue of New York City in the previous century.

It has occurred to the productive inland farmers in California’s rich valleys that they are being asked to support the deeply in debt beautiful people in LA and San Francisco. Thus, it is not actually the feds that are bailing out the cities, but the productive inland farm folk. They are calling for a Constitutional Convention to address this and other issues. The NY Times reports that some valley farmers are also calling for regional autonomy. CA is actually two states with distinctively different cultures they say. Inland CA should be its own state. So far as I know, it has not been proposed in New York by public figures, but it is an idea whose time is arriving in CA. If successful in this very large sister state, big New York is a natural candidate as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

CPAC – not good news for Mitt Romney . . . not bad news for Scott Brown

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/22/10

There are two measures of current conservative taste and popularity. The CPAC poll indicates professional opinion and should measure abilities of the candidates as they are judged by professionals. The second is the NASCAR track, the Baptist church and the popularity of the candidates in the heartland for whatever reason. Mitt Romney, who won the last three CPAC polls, lost by a good margin this year to Ron Paul, the conservative libertarian who offers Austrian economics. This is bad news for Mitt Romney.

As a technician, none could be better than Romney, but a politician requires some level of appeal to the heartland, where Romney hasn’t done as well, say, as Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. A recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll showed Palin in the lead at 16% while Romney came in second with 11%.

To be elected in 2012, Romney would need full pull of the professionals at CPAC to counter weakness in the heartland and he doesn’t have it. Paul is now the rising favorite of the young conservatives at CPAC .

I see Paul as a sincere and vital figure that will parallel and stabilize a new approach to government – a “wise grandfather” figure to a new generation. But he will not be President. He and his son Rand Paul will carry a supportive theme alongside much as his friend Ralph Nader did in 40 years of liberalism. In that regard he may be a harbinger of American things to come. I believe he is.

And an endorsement of Ron Paul can be seen as an endorsement of his son Rand, the Tea Party favorite running for Senate in Kentucky. Can also be seen as a major plus for the national candidates who have supported Rand’s positions. Sarah Palin, who wisely stayed away from the CPAC gathering, has endorsed Rand Paul, although she opposes some of his positions on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel. Mike Huckabee told CNN the conference as increasingly irrelevant to the conservative movement and accused its organizers of conducting a "pay for play" event. The 2008 GOP presidential candidate said the "truly grassroots" energy on the right lies in the Tea Party movement.

The CPAC results bring three to the top: Ron Paul and Romney with Sarah Palin in third at 7%. It is not surprising that Palin did not do well among the technicians and the Beltway people at CPAC. Her popularity, like Ron Paul’s, is grassroots and from the heartland, and if it was a bad day for Romney and a good day for Paul, it cannot be said to have been that bad a day for Sarah Palin.

And a good day for Scott Brown. Although he wasn’t included in the tallies, questions have come up about him running for President in 2012, but concerns expressed about his interfering with Romney, to whom he is beholden for vital support. But if Romney, champion of the Republican Establishment and the older generation, determines the season has passed by this time next year, Brown would have no ethical barriers to entry and could even have Romney’s support.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arrested for praying: Sarah Palin, Iran and the Temple Mount of Jerusalem – the “temple that doesn't exist”

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/22/10

The main sticking point remained the Temple Mount, known to Arabs as Haram al-Sharif. Mr. Arafat has been saying since the Camp David talks, when the question of sovereignty over the site was raised, that the Temple does not exist, a senior administration official said. – Sept. 8, 2000, news article in the New York Times on the Middle East, (“Summit in New York”) when the White House had begun to sense that “. . . a solution is slipping away.”

Say what you like about the invasion of Iraq and I have said the worst, but whether it was about oil (Cheney, Greenspan) or Israel (Kristol, Krauthammer) it cannot be denied that Israel is in a better place on the ground today than it was in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran.

Because whatever our American ambitions – oil, influence – it is clear that to some large degree due to Christian conservative influence in the heartland, Americans are willing to act collectively on Israel’s perimeter and near frontier. And an attack on Iran today to remove its nuclear threat to Israel would be sustainable politically here now if Americans went alone or with Israel.

Obama might do this – Sarko says he is a weakling – but it seems counter-intuitive that he will. As a personal matter of character I have no doubt that he can do it if he determines it to be the morally correct and historically inevitable path.

“Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do . . . if he decided to tough it up . . . I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and think maybe he’s a little tougher than he seems today,” Sarah Palin said this month to Chris Mathews.

Obama should do this because it is right and needs to be done and if he doesn’t, Mitt Romney (who said he would check with his lawyers first) will do it in 2012 as his first act as President. Or Palin.

When this action is successfully completed, discussion can begin about the centermost place and purpose of Israel, where Jews from everywhere in the world – after attempts in the heart of Europe (Germany, Vichy, Poland, Russia) to extinguish them failed – were allowed in post-war to return on an inner journey to their cosmic beginnings, but unbelievably were forbidden by the same agencies to pray when they got to the vortex, the Temple Mount. “Every religious looking Jew who ascends the Temple Mount is accompanied by a Moslem wakf attendant and an Israeli policeman, who together, scrutinize his/her lips. A Jew who is suspected of praying is detained or immediately arrested.” Moshe Feiglin, of the Manhigut Yehudit [Jewish Leadership] faction in the Likud party, reports.

This is where the discussion will begin again or perhaps where real discussion will begin for the first time, at the “temple that doesn't exist,” from which the entirety of the Western world awakened these past 2,000 years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Scott Brown’s Hail Mary Pass to the White House

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/19/10

If there is a celestial guiding spirit behind Scott Brown, it could be that legendary Bostonian, Dropkick Doug Flutie, who might be considered the father of the Hail Mary pass, as he once threw the ball so far at just the right time that it is considered one of the greatest moments in college football and in American sports history. Flutie supported and campaigned for Brown in his recent election. As The Hill reports that Scott Brown is being considered for President, it would seem right now like a Hail Mary pass.

But not impossible. And not necessarily a bad idea. I say that after viewing a few of the speeches at the CPAC conference. I am glad to see the solidarity and glad to see the Grand Old Party absorbing the Jeffersonian messages of the Tea Party people. But in all kindness, what a bunch of squares.

Politics is the structuralization of more general cultural themes. As time passes, those ideas become calcified. As Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter said yesterday, Republicans should look to conform to the world, not look to conform the world to its own ideology. And in that regard, there is something happening here in the world today, and it wasn’t quite happening at CPAC. What is happening is more confluent with the rise and arrival of Scott Brown.

What is awakening can be seen in Scott Brown, Sarah Palin, Bob McDonnell, the new Governor of Virginia and in particular, Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. They bring a new spirit, a new flame. And Cheney and the H.W. Bush crowd would like to extinguish it before the Democrats get their chance, and claim it for themselves. That is why they are lining up the family in opposition to Perry in his primary race in Texas, and since their candidate seems in futile pursuit, it seems only a symbolic action intended to line up the rest of the party.

But I’d like to hear Scott Brown unplugged. Our world is rapidly going post-global. Right now the major political influences as I see them here are the H.R. Bush/Dick Cheney people who are primarily interested in oil in the Middle East. Then the Clinton generation, globalist utopian romantics seeing Bill as World Avatar and Israel as one of his kingdoms, India another, and Obama a secondary footnote.

We need a new approach and new people should bring it. Brown is beholden to Romney, but in the end history may cast him in the leading role. And he may have to take the advice of another New England guide, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and go alone because: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” Or the old suits at CPAC whose historic time has passed, looking to market a second act.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nikki Haley: The new face of the South (Rick Perry/Nikki Haley 2012)

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/18/10

Think I’ll pack it in and buy a pickup . . . take it down to LA. Neil Young

The Democrats are experiencing “big truck envy.” Somebody call Dr. Freud. It’s all about trucks now. Big ones. The entire political culture has turned on one symbol: Scott Brown’s pickup truck. Now the rumor that John Cougar Mellencamp might be thinking of running for Senate likewise comes down to trucks. For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years, Mellencamp is a pitch man for Chevy trucks and has probably logged more TV time in post-season football than Brett Favre.

We are undergoing a Jacksonian awakening. The heartland is rising up as it did in the 1830s and the lace curtain of Boston and Richmond are freaking out, as they did in the Colonial period. Now they are beginning to adapt, as they did then, by turning country. But this all started with a Democrat, the gun tottin’, tobacco-chewing Scotch-Irish Virginia war hero, Jim Webb, who went to the Senate in 2007. John McCain noticed and in a stroke of political genius unparallel in our time, borrowed karma and brought in Sarah Palin and her Big Dog, Big Truck husband Todd.

The sudden appearance of Real People in prominent position shocked the nation and the eloi retreated. Now they are coming out, getting off the porch to run with the big dogs, striving to be good ole boys themselves, barely more than a year after their fateful strategy of “whistling past Dixie” almost destroyed the Democratic party. Suggested reading: Noel Perrin’s “First Person Rural” will teach city folk what to look for in a used truck and how run a chain saw without cutting your leg off.

But red neck is only a base camp, like the one that came together this month in Nashville. The future of American politics lies with the elegant and the swift. Anyone looking for the new face should look to that most capable political operative, Jenny Sanford. She has already brought one candidate to the Governor’s office in South Carolina. Now she has brought her endorsement to another, Tea Party favorite, Nikki Haley, to replace her husband as governor.

"I think South Carolinians are ready for that," Sanford told a local South Carolina TV news outlet. "I don't know if our political system is ready for it, because it really is kind of a good ole boy club still."

“South Carolina and our nation are at a crossroads,” Haley says on her website. “The bailouts and stimulus packages are continuing to hurt job growth, weaken the value of our dollars, and increase debt for our children. I proudly stand in contrast – as the ONLY candidate for South Carolina governor who believed then, and still believes now, that taking the stimulus bailout was wrong for South Carolina.”

Like Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Haley in the daughter of Indian immigrants. She might be considered the face of the new politics in the Tea Party Movement and the new face of the South. And as Governor of South Carolina she would be in perfect position to be Texas Governor Rick Perry’s running mate in 2012.
And RE Jenny Sanford. Never underestimate the fury of a woman scorned. Especially if she happens to be a vastly competent political operative as Jenny Sanford is said to be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

China, Iran, and a “Jerusalem Quaternity”

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/17/10

China has gone too far, says Celestine Bohlen, a columnist for Bloomberg. Even Russia is fed up and talking tough sanctions, with the United States, France, Britain and Germany. But there’s one problem: China. This would be a good time for China to prove it’s ready to assume a leadership role in global affairs, she says. Something “its partners” have been asking it to do for five years or more.

Partners? Did they not notice the Mao suit Hu Jintao was wearing recently at the 60th year celebration of the birth of the People Republic of China? Assuming leadership is exactly what China is doing in not cooperating with the West in regards to Iran. Assuming leadership is exactly what it was doing when it began to formulate new world relationships with South Africa, India, Brazil and Japan pending at the recent group hug at Copenhagen. Building relationships quite possibly in opposition to our own traditions and our own interests.

But that Russia would team with France, Germany, UK and the United States would be monumentally auspicious if it could bring in a few friendly faces from the Islamic world as well and I don’t see why it couldn’t. From our point of view and from Jerusalem’s point of view. Because for the first time in my lifetime (and in the last 2,000 years as I have understood them) we are seeing what might be called a “Jerusalem Quaternity” – the four external cultural pillars which grew from the ancient tradition and the common psychological ancestor of Abraham and Aaron these past 2,000 years; the Catholic, the Orthodox, the Protestant and the Muslim – hanging together as if in a mandala on the far frontiers of Israel to practical, united purpose.

This quaternity of related cultures has a 2,000 year history and recedes to a biblical dimension. It consists of almost endless relationships of harmony and conflict swirling together, which in the east defines a marriage. How long have we in the West considered China a partner? Maybe 20 years. An equal partner? Never.

It’s all been good. It was good for Americans to invest in China from the Clinton era and will continue to be good. It was very good for Maoist China to adapt to some capitalist strategies under Deng Xiaoping. It brought 130 million Chinese out of poverty and created for China a new management class. But it is time for new buzz words. Time for us to rethink who we are and who we are not, just as China is doing. Time to think again about how we can prosper and be healthy in the years ahead.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Israel, Moshe Feiglin and the two American mainstreams

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/15/09

As it is with Sarah Palin and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, writing about Israel always brings strong responses. Possibly each brings something direct from the “collective unconscious” – a term Jung and Toynbee used – creating a “disturbance in the Force” – Obi-Wan’s term - which changes the way we see things and practice our lives. They portend real and fundamental change, not novelty or distraction. And in real life change is always unwanted as it renders our life-long experience and conditioned reflexes in love and work to be suddenly irrelevant.

One writer expressed the point that Israel is about to undergo fundamental change with the election of Moshe Feiglin and his Jewish Leadership faction within Likud which he says are on the verge of taking control of Likud at the upcoming Central Committee election. This will be the next to last step in moving Israel toward a Jewish State and independence from America. Feiglin would become the first religious/Zionist Prime Minister of Israel.

But what I want to know is about the “independence from America” part. Whose America? The current, transient New York City zeitgeist of dark wing late-night comics like David Letterman and Tina Fey, NYT’s lifestyle columnists such as Frank Rich and Manhattan’s reining avatar, that great, aging emperor penguin Bill Clinton? Or the America of Nobel laureate and survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Elie Wiesel, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Pastor John Hagee of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas? Because of attitudes in America today toward Israel these are the two mainstreams.

Attitudes of support for Israel vary on a spectrum from planting trees on a kibbutz to make mother happy to invasion, so as to aid and abet the coming Armageddon. Probably most are in between, like Thomas Friedman’s, the New York Times columnist, who supported the invasion of Iraq to the point where he suggested American boots on the ground in Israel and throwing France off the UN Security Council to amend the invasion. Then he changed his mind not long after and started talking about India.

Pastor Hagee’s America is a different place and it is an alienating and unacknowledged place for the Letterman/Fey/Rich/Clinton (plus the missus) spectrum. Hagee sees war to Armageddon. Passing through the cable TV channels recently I saw both Elie Wiesel and Rick Perry sitting on his couch at different times.

As journalist Max Blumenthal writes (on 10/29/09): “On October 25, while an overflow crowd of 1,500 poured into the first convention of the progressive-leaning Israel-oriented lobbying organization J Street, Elie Wiesel, addressed a crowd of 6,000 Christian Zionists at Pastor John Hagee’s ‘Night To Honor Israel.’ According to the San Antonio Express News, while Wiesel sat by his side, Hagee trashed President Barack Obama, baselessly accusing him of ‘being tougher on Israel than on Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.’”

Classic regional antipathy here. Hagee believes non-Christians go to hell. Not unlike the Slayer, of Los Angeles’ Hellmouth neighborhood, who saw an archetypal Southern preacher as an agency of The First, the primal source of all evil. Tit for tat.

Change coming to Israel parallels new political changes coming to America. Possibly relating to the rise of the new initiatives and attitudes developing in the Tea Party Movement and to Scott Brown and Sarah Palin. I see Perry as a figure of rising importance here as he openly supports Hagee. A new Israel could find a new America by 2012.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sarah Palin, Iran, Al Qaeda and Israel

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/12/10

In the end, coming to terms with Iran and coming to terms with Al Qaeda is the same thing. It requires a uniform, unqualified, resolute American political temperament which we do not now have and as yet have never had. Because we Americans – American Jew and gentile alike - haven’t yet fully come to terms with Israel. And success with Iran and Al Qaeda will require a resolute and unqualified American – not European, not the UN, not the world – life or death commitment to Israel. Put simply, success in the Middle East requires full commitment by all Americans to the defense of Israel at all costs (lives, fortune, fate). Possibly the only person who can unite Americans in this way is Sarah Palin.

Since the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and the taking of Americans hostages shortly after, it has been impossible to imagine this kind of political cohesion in the liberal northeast. But the election of a soldier to the Senate in Massachusetts potentially brings us back into alignment with our older traditions.
We have fought in the Middle East since Desert Storm as we fought in World War I, the Mexican War and Vietnam. All of those ambitions ended in derision and divided America. The war/wars in the Middle East must not end like this. They must follow through to a clear victory for the United States and Israel.

Last week, William Kristol, publisher of the conservative Weekly Standard and one of the first supporters of Sarah Palin, expressed disappointed when she endorsed libertarian Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, for Senate in Kentucky. But Sarah Palin also gave money to the leading mainstream conservative Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina. Paulite libertarians fiercely oppose American foreign policy on Israel and any outside intervention. Graham fiercely supported the war on Iraq. But Palin, like many others today, possibly supports some of the libertarian economic and cultural policies of Paul and the Austrian economists but also supports the strong and independent foreign policy of Graham and John McCain. Both these principles today are running together, particularly in the Tea Party Movement.

The Tea Party Movement is heartland based, where the vast majority of American soldiers and officers are from. There is no conflict in holding these two positions. It is forming a new context; a new political paradigm. One which Palin shares some aspects of and advances.

Kristol is still thinking in a context created when New York liberals and conservatives divided among themselves back in New York in the 1950s, when thinking between left and right in America found champions such as Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and Alfred Kazin on the left vs. Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter on the right. Decter, Podhoretz and Co. embraced the Christian heartland and brought it into mainstream conservative politics. Mailer hunkered down in opposition in Provincetown and sent his money to Ted Kennedy.

The key discussion today in America will no longer be between the Irving Kristols and the Gore Vidals. It will be between Tea Party conservatives in the red states and traditional conservatives like Kristol. This is the meaning of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. It brings us in New England into the mainstream trends forming in the American heartland. It makes it possible here for the first time since Jack Kennedy to begin to think concretely about specific foreign policy issues at their core, and the fate of Israel is the core of turmoil in the Middle East.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Move the UN to Nunavut

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/10/10

Last March I proposed here that the G 20 meet in Ottawa as “ . . . holding the G-20 meeting in London cripples the negotiations from the start. Such an important meeting, to be more than a geriatric ruling class fa├žade, should recognize the rising economic powers in the world.” Ottawa, Victoria’s elegant legacy, is center of the world as the world awakens to us in our century, the rising east, the receding west, the southern Americas and the Great White North. This past week, Canada’s clever Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, went one better and gathered the G-7 at Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost frontier on the edge of the Arctic. They might think of moving the UN there as well.

It would be tough for lobbyists to set up permanent shop as they do in New York and Washington. And there would be none of those issues about a leisure class political establishment basking and bonding as they do at Davos and Nantucket, with side journeys to Paris and Switzerland on taxpayer’s cash. And unlike the tawdry scene at Copenhagen, they might get some real work done. I’ve been on the high road as far north as Hearst, a delightful French-speaking jewel in the middle of Ontario not far from the forest center of Canada, where roads stop and 13-year olds play hockey almost as well as Sid the Kid in high school auditoriums where smoke blows out of a moose head’s nose mounted on the wall whenever a player scores. An excellent place for a new UN as well.

Others have proposed that the UN move from New York, Rudy Giuliani among them one Canadian paper reports, and Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the United States has been accustomed to being the superior partner in Sino-US relations,” Gau Qihui, a commentator on China Daily writes. But a change in Chinese attitudes is occurring as the Sino-US relationship evolves into a more equal one, says Qihui. China's role in the world's affairs is growing politically and economically. China has grown to be a dominant element in almost all crucial international issues, including climate change, global recovery and Iranian nuclear capability.

Qihui has a point. India, South Africa, Brazil and most of the other developing countries indicated at Copenhagen that they are conforming to these new global dynamics. New York City was a terrible place for the UN to begin with. Placing a capital at the seat of power dictates down, conjuring a subtle empire. As London and Paris were in a previous century, New York City is a pocket of influence and is susceptible to looking out for its own.

Like many others, I am not sure what the UN does anymore that is worth doing. Possibly the Mormons, joining forces with Islamic Relief USA, and other groups like Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health with a lending hand from Bill Clinton are doing a better job in Haiti. Likewise the well-organized and generous Canadians. The time of change is at hand and it is apparent everywhere. Maybe it is time to start again from the beginning and to start from scratch.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sarah Palin at Opryland

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 1/7/10

My first impression in watching Sarah Palin’s Opryland speech on C Span was that this was like Bob Dylan in Newport in 1963 or ‘64, raw and unpretentious, unformed and unscripted, informal and from the heart, but the beginning of something purely original and of vast and natural willfulness which was just now awakened and would not be held back.

It was Ronald Reagan’s 99th birthday and she spoke again and again of Reagan. She spoke of Barry Goldwater as well, that home-grown political avatar of western self-reliance. No mention of Bush.

She began her speech with reference to Scott Brown with the comic aside: “If there’s hope for Massachusetts, there’s hope everywhere.” She spoke of the Christmas bomber and the tragedy deflected by a “Christmas miracle.” The Christmas terrorist attempt and the Scott Brown election clearly framed her speech and were prelude to it.

At one point she mentioned people throughout the world seeing “Alaska” as a beacon of hope. I think she meant to say “America” as a beacon of hope, but it was a nice synchronicity. As the free spirit that called Jack London to the wild in 1903 still beacons. Her slightly erratic style in public speaking is a “personality type” (as in Myers-Briggs) thing. She has inner, comprehensive abilities; “right brain” – which gives her larger cultural perspective than most politicians. Perfect speech, the trade of slick politics, indicates a narrow, fixed, matrix perspective. It is why common folk sense the life force in her and why politicos and handlers hate her.
In the scheme I use to understand long-term politics, there is always one character which appears in the middle of a post-war period that will re-emerge and awaken the next century. The popularity of Teddy Roosevelt was prelude to the outwardly expanding American century which followed decades later. In our post-war period that person in the middle would have been either John F. Kennedy of Ronald Reagan. In hindsight of one year of the Obama Presidency, the Jack Kennedy period seems to have successfully completed the three goals of Lincoln and Grant. Those goals were prevention of the secession of the South, freeing the slaves and equality between white and black. The Kennedy period and the Obama Presidency fulfilled the last of those three which were unattainable to Lincoln and Grant. It completes that historic period. History moves on.

The Reagan period began to open up America to see and experience itself internally and Goldwater was avatar to that movement as well. We can see an age receding with the Obama Presidency and one beginning its ascent with Palin as its folk hero trickster which will begin now to find future history or historical destiny ahead.

As Dylan called back to Woody Gunthrie at his first Newport appearances, Palin thus called back to Reagan as her historic ancestor. In this regard, Reagan Presidency should be considered as the opening of the western states as an original and determining political force in American destiny and Palin’s talk to the plain folk in Nashville on Saturday night suggested that nascent movement to be finding its true beginnings. As the Super bowl between New Orleans and Indianapolis suggests, America’s “center” is moving west.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Year of State Sovereignty?

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/4/10

At a press conference last October Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was asked: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”

She replied with that wild-eyed self-assurance that drew more shrill and extreme as we got to Christmas: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

She shook her head and moved on. Her aide, Nadeam Elshami, said that questioning the Speaker about whether the Constitution authorizes Congress to mandate that individuals buy health care was not “a serious question.”

This week the Virginia Senate passed a bill prohibiting a requirement for Virginians to purchase health-care insurance. With a Republican State House and Governor, this bill will likely make it into law.

In an effort led by Texas Governor Rick Perry who is up for reelection on March 2, more than 2/3rd’s of the States have introduced measures to stop individual mandates on health care. Many State Attorney Generals threaten law suits if current federal reform proposals are passed into law. The Heritage Foundation reports that state legislators across the country are considering various bills that would allow their state to opt out of key provisions of Obamacare or provide state voters a chance at the ballot box to reject nationalized health care in their state.

“Regardless of legislative components of the Virginia action yesterday, Conservatives should cheer the resurgence of federalism and what it means for reigning in the rapidly increasing federal government. With most states starting their legislative sessions, this may be just the beginning of what could be the ‘Year for State Sovereignty,’” says Dani Doane, director of government relations at The Heritage Foundation.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Will John Kerry walk on the wild side? America needs a “Council of Twelve”

by Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/3/10

Senator John Kerry is calling for states to amend the Constitution. It would be dramatic but he said it is necessary to restore restrictions on corporate influence in politics. Possibly this idea is not exactly catching fire because Kerry, one of the world’s super rich, doesn’t need corporate money while most of his Senate colleagues do. But if he wants to amend the Constitution and not just a sound bite in attempt to overshadow his new colleague Scott Brown, why doesn’t he show the courage to call for a constitutional convention? California is holding one and Rudy Giuliani has proposed that New York hold one as well. That way he could gather supporters in from all the states on a variety of issues that need discussion.

Issues such as:

- Should gay marriage be a states’ rights issue as Barney Frank and Scott Brown have suggested?

- Should abortion be a states’ rights issue as William F. Buckley, Jr. once suggested?

- Should the 10th Amendment be the First Amendment as Jefferson might suggest?

- Do we really need a federal reserve bank? Ron Paul has suggested we get rid of it.

- Should we go back to a gold standard?

- Is California really one state or two states or more?

That last one is a little tricky. It bears on some thinking by George Kennan, America’s greatest ambassador since Franklin, in his later years. He got attached to the idea of a Council of Elders, an idea actually first thought up by four creative undergraduates at Wake Forest University which somehow migrated to Kennan probably via the Gorbachev Foundation. This would be a group much like the Canadian Senate was once intended to be. A collection of people from varied walks – artists, doctors, monks, hockey players, trappers, business people, voyageurs, etc. – who expressed the whole of Canadian consciousness and not just the narrow political and legal spectrum. They would not make law but would advise the law making body. This might be considered a “Council of Twelve” like so many religious and social groups since ancient time which have found holistic balance in twelve representatives.
In one of his last books, “Round the Cragged Hill,” in which he said he “ . . . attempted to take the higher gorund” Kennan wrote: “I have often diverted myself, and puzzled my friends, by wondering how it would be if our country, while retaining certain of the rudiments of a federal government, were to be decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment. I could conceive of something like nine of these republics—let us say, New England; the Middle Atlantic states; the Middle West; the Northwest (from Wisconsin to the Northwest, and down the Pacific coast to central California); the Southwest (including southern California and Hawaii); Texas (by itself); the Old South; Florida (perhaps including Puerto Rico); and Alaska; plus three great self-governing urban regions, those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—a total of twelve constituent entities. To these entities I would accord a larger part of the present federal powers than one might suspect—large enough, in fact, to make most people gasp.”

This vision could find form in a “Council of Twelve” regional brokerages or agencies between states and the federal government. It would solve Mitt Romney’s problems with “one size fits all” federalism. It would bring equibrium between small states and big states. It would change the way we think of ourselves as Americans, bringing us “down to earth” by giving us back our sense of place and region, while keeping us united continentally as Americans. But it would require a few giant steps and maybe even a constitutional convention.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

“Lost”: The return of an American masterpiece

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/2/10

The best writing is in TV these days said Glenn Close when she went to work on FX’s “Damages.” It has been so now for quite a while. Nothing surpasses “The Sopranos” in writing and dramatic imagination, and “House” regularly surpasses Hollywood movies. The star system, the technology, the exploding cars and cities, are yielded to the more complex art of the acting troop, in which the star is the story told and not the muscular or snarling actor. Greater subtlety can evolve as the telling develops over time.

But in our time of imagination perhaps nothing compares to “Lost” which begins its final chapter tonight. Like the revolutionary Russian writers of the mid-1800s, it is filled with hidden references, intentionally planted beneath the story line to slip beneath the censors, the sponsors and the culturally sensitive. In season two, for example, it is suggested that the seemingly malevolent Ben is actually the Christ worn through and half mad in his final days of reign. He is marked by the chest wound and John Locke – his replacement in the rising Age of Aquarius – gives him a book to read while he is being imprisoned and tortured. The book is “The Brothers Karamazov,” Dostoyevsky’s great classic in which the Christ returns and is imprisoned and tortured by the Grand Inquisitor.

The early Russian revolutionaries claimed that stylish writing was a bourgeois affectation – the original folk tale was as good as the elegant opera populaire which expanded its market. Likewise “Lost” which mixes soap opera with subtle composition and recalls the great Saturday afternoon matinee serials like “The Daredevils of the Red Circle” pays homage to originality in both high and low in a masterful mix. George A. Romero’s living dead share the stage with Thomas Mann and Lao Tzu with Tarzan.

Like those Russians mentioned and the French writers of an earlier century who wrote for serial publication, “Lost” traces our age like a river rising and receding. When historians look back to us they will look to “Lost.” Some of the references are arcane – Ben turns the style in a “timeless” place so the Age of Pisces can yield to the Age of Aquarius. But one reference is clear. The plane that crashed and brought the voyagers to the island belonged to Oceanic Airlines, a reference to George Orwell’s “Oceania” the global realm suggesting us and our English-speaking cousins in “1984.”

Will the Lost islanders physically and psychologically survive the crash? Will we?