Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Whose Manifest Destiny Is It Anyway?

You’ve seen it -- or if you haven’t I’ll show it to you (see below).  A very large, pink, fleshy woman drifts over the landscape in a diaphanous gown like some kind of Macy’s Parade float, and in her train come railroads, a stagecoach, covered wagons, a Pony Express rider, farmers, hunters, prospectors… and (implied but not pictured) troops.  And she is holding -- believe it or not -- a “school book”, and pulling a telegraph wire along.  And before her there is a cringing, terrified band of Indians -- oops, I mean Native Americans -- and vaguely in the background one sees an Indian village with the natives dancing about, presumably calling upon almighty forces to rid them of this nightmare vision and impending doom.  There is even a herd of buffalo, likewise panicked and hightailing it westward (to no avail, of course -- you‘ll notice the remains of two of their number who have already succumbed to the forces of progress).  The artist even added a snarling bear and a fleeing deer to the mix.  The title of this work is American Progress, by John Gast, and it is the iconic image of what is called Manifest Destiny -- the notion that the conquest of North America by Europeans (Euro-Americans if you like) was meant to be -- that it was inevitable (the same way Hillary’s election in 2016 was inevitable, come to think of it).  Not only inevitable, but a matter of patriotic duty.  This was, in effect, the program of the 19th Century, and there was no other -- until we discovered imperialism, that is. 

Here she is!

If you look closely, you can see the East Coast, and New York City, and even the Brooklyn Bridge (which was started in 1869, three years before the painting was done) -- the starting points for the inexorable westward march of the white race.  It’s crudely done, frankly -- except for the floating woman, who might just as well have stepped down from an Italian fresco.  But one would be hard pressed to find another work that packs in as much symbolism as this one.  And it sums up the mindset of America (OK, white America) in the 19th Century, and in a sense is prophetic when it comes to our current woes -- the conflict between white supremacy on one end of the spectrum and the struggles of the Third World on the other end, as manifested by immigration (legal, illegal, and ambiguous), with everyone else in between -- good-intentioned and otherwise -- arguing endlessly about issues like how much illegal immigration is enough.  (And here we also have a continuum ranging from slamming America’s doors to eliminating America’s borders.  Our history shows both, at various times.)   

And Manifest Destiny, I might add, was an at least unconscious assertion of the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest -- that the conquering race was succeeding, and bound to succeed, because it really was more fit (but also because it was white) -- that being a sufficient reason for taking over what, in another more recent context, was called “a land without a people”.  But of course America in pre-Columbian times was most assuredly inhabited.  And yet their claim on the land and its resources had to yield to the forces of history and of human destiny, although I’m betting that few saw it that way.  (The Palestinian term for the establishment of the State of Israel and the resulting ethnic cleansing is “nakba“, or “catastrophe”. )

And Manifest Destiny, however one might argue about the validity of the concept, did work -- it succeeded as an idea (and ideas do have consequences, after all ) beyond the wildest dreams of its promoters.  North America was conquered, from sea to shining sea, and the losers (those who survived) were herded into reservations, and eventually compensated with casino licenses (“Now we’re even, OK?  So shut up.”). 

And yet, in the great flow and fluctuation of human events, migrations, invasions, and so on, an antithesis was bound to arise, and arise it has, in the form of a human wave crossing, relatively unimpeded, our southwestern border (and showing up by other means elsewhere, via boats, planes, trains, and automobiles).  And this new wave, unlike previous waves of immigrants, has shown little interest in being “assimilated”, which was always the first criterion for immigrant groups until recently.  Thus we have a change of immigrant mindset, from “assimilation is the key to becoming a full-fledged American citizen” to “we’re going to hold on to everything we had before, including our language, and if you don’t like it, tough”.  And in the case of the Southwest, you might almost call it a re-colonization (note that prior to 1848 Mexico extended as far north as Wyoming), but this time it’s the descendents of the pioneers who are bearing the brunt of it.  The “land without a people” is now populated, but that population is being threatened by the descendents of the non-people who were forced out many generations earlier.   

And there is a school of thought -- adhered to primarily by liberals, progressives, and the open borders crowd -- that this is all good, and proper, and that “it’s about time”… and that white America is getting its comeuppance.  (And you’ll notice that it’s mostly white people who are saying this.)  Again, this is Darwinism with a vengeance, with the addition of karma and “social justice” and, yes, self-loathing to the mix.  A new immigrant, without passport or portfolio, now enjoys the same rights as people who’ve been here since the first rowboat crunched into Plymouth Rock -- nay, more rights in some cases.  Not only that, but vast tracts of our cities have been turned into, basically, no-go zones for law enforcement -- not in as extreme a way as in Europe, but still significant.  So we have, on one side, the “conservative” mind set, which boils down to the idea that the U.S. should, basically, be frozen in time, and stay just the way it was a couple of generations ago, or even earlier, depending on one’s notion as to when things started to go wrong.  (Some will go back as far as the time when all those damn Irish Catholics flooded our shores in order to escape from genocide at the hands of the British.)  And on the other side, we are lectured day and night on the charms of “diversity”, and “inclusiveness”, and being “welcoming”, and how we should stop being so selfish, etc.  (And notice that Christians and Christian organizations tend to be caught in the middle -- between compassion and charity on the one hand and desire to preserve some semblance of law and order, not to mention Western, i.e. Christian, culture on the other -- with the latter losing pretty much every battle.)

Nowhere in this discussion is ever found any consideration of sustainability, i.e. can our social welfare system accommodate, basically, an unlimited influx of people who at least start out dependent -- though many have already shown a lot more ambition, energy, creativity, and gumption than the people who are being told they have to make way and be “tolerant”.  In the age-old struggle between ambition and complacency, complacency tends to wind up on the losing side unless it’s bolstered by substantial firepower.

If one adopts a ten-mile-high view of things, it appears that, yes, this is just another case in the long history of human migration, occupation, and conquest.  At ground level, it boils down to more immediate concerns -- the “haves” who want to hang on to what they have, vs. the “have nots” who want to get their piece of the mythical pie, which means (according to the zero-sum model, which everyone seems to agree is the correct one) that someone else has to give something up.  So there is pain and conflict -- but I can’t imagine any case throughout human history where pain and conflict have not been inevitable consequences of human migration.  There have always been people who were “born there” vs. intruders, invaders, aliens, etc.  People flee from hardship and move toward what they see, rightly or wrongly, as a better life.  And their drive toward the better life is going to result in someone else having a not-as-good life (by their own standards at least).  It’s a simple concept, really -- and based on nothing more complicated than limited resources.  America as the Gold Mountain has paid off for immigrant groups in times past; the question now is whether the very fact of massive immigration will turn that gold into dross.  After all, if the pie is shrinking with each passing day, it becomes less effective as a motivator -- to the point where we may, willy-nilly, reach a kind of parity.  But the mythology will outlive the actual point of parity, as it always does, just as western expansion in some form didn‘t come to a screeching halt with the official closing of the frontier in 1890.   

Now, the ultimate ideal, or goal, of the open-borders crowd seems to be a sort of Utopia where resources are equally available to all, and equally distributed to everyone on the planet -- and where everyone winds up with pretty much the same standard of living (the real goal, vs. intermediate goals like equal pay, non-discrimination, full employment, etc.).  This has, in fact, been the stated goal of various movements over the years, of which international communism provides the best -- “purest”, if you will -- example.  Equal opportunity, equal outcomes -- and, magically, everyone will get along, wars will cease, swords will be beaten into plowshares, and so on.  But like all Utopian ideas, this tends to ignore human nature with all of its quirks and dysfunctions -- fallen human nature, if you will.  It ignores the natural tendency of human groups of any size to form hierarchies, with leaders and followers, winners and losers, the doers-to and the done-to.  It ignores the natural tendency of any human group to divide itself into the In Group and the Out Group; check out any middle school if you want proof.  It is, in effect, an urge to remake human nature and to create -- to provide another example from 20th Century history -- the New Soviet Man.  And opposed to this is the equally venerable drive to not only establish hierarchies but to justify them on the basis of -- you name it -- skin color, ethnicity, national identity, language, and so on, from which you get concepts like the Master Race, or (in our time) white supremacy.

Again, from the ten-miles-up perspective, this is all sadly inevitable, and repetitive… and possibly intractable.  “Liberty, equality, fraternity” on the one side and a fixed social hierarchy on the other, with a ruling elite whose right to rule is based on, again, race and ethnicity, but also blood lines (and don’t think we’re immune to that consideration in this country -- far from it -- we even speak of politically-inclined families as “dynasties“).

So -- getting back to the floating pink lady -- she seems to have run up against a brick wall at this point.  Not just the West Coast, which has become the reductio ad absurdum of American ambitions, but the reality that a lot of other people on the globe have their own ideas of entitlement, and of the way things ought to be.  She has run up against Hispanics in the Southwest United States and Muslims in Europe, and, I’m sure, comparable phenomena elsewhere on the planet.  And what these new contenders have in common -- it hardly needs mentioning -- is determination, self confidence, a strong sense of identity, and… drum roll, please… a willingness to reproduce.  Yes, demographics is still destiny after all these years (the response of the Regime to this being unlimited access to abortion and contraception -- if we can‘t keep them out we can at least keep them from reproducing).  And as far as the new immigrants are concerned, their destiny is every bit as “manifest” as the destiny that those involved in the westward expansion considered theirs to be.  Plus, those old timers were, at least, not obsessed with “getting even” with the Indians; all they wanted was resources -- land, water, game, and so on.  The Indians were an inconvenience and yes, certainly considered to be inferior human beings, but there was not the overlay of politics and activism we see with the current struggles.  The propaganda of those times mostly revolved around liberating the land from all those “naked savages”, and with justifying that effort -- not unlike the propaganda used to promote and sustain black slavery.  And yes, there were the humanists and those with compassion who wished for a better way -- and who eventually won out in the case of slavery (less so, perhaps, with Native Americans, who had to wait a lot longer).  They were, if you will, the philosophers of their time, and it was an uphill battle every time they went up against those of a more materialistic bent -- settlers, merchants, traders, trappers, buffalo hunters, plantation owners, and the like -- this group being strikingly non-philosophical, though on occasion an apologist would appear who would provide “intellectual” justification for it all, the way the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany produced its own intellectuals and apologists.  (Even the white supremacists of our time have their “theorists”, who hold forth on the Internet and at rallies -- at least until the police show up.)  (And I always say that if this is what “white supremacy” looks like I’ll pass, thanks.)   

No one likes to be the one left high and dry when the tide goes out -- or to be on the losing end of a historic phenomenon.  And yet that’s what seems to be happening to Americans with nostalgic tendencies (highly correlated with Trump‘s “deplorables“ is my guess).  More and more of them are finding out that, indeed, you can’t go home again -- because that’s now someone else’s home.  (You need go no further than the history of “urban renewal” to see this in action.)  And I don’t expect them to be philosophical; their pain is real.  No one wants to be a part of “history”; they’d prefer that history stop the minute they were born.  But that’s not the way it is, or has ever been.

And yet -- also with many historical examples -- there is, eventually, a settling down of sorts -- not the mythical “melting pot” which satisfies no one except the most abject globalists and collectivists, but at least peaceful coexistence.  There may even be, eventually, a cause to celebrate real diversity, not the endlessly-mouthed pabulum that the term signifies in our time, which is really a code word for enforced conformity.  Even intermarriage cannot completely erase the ancient memories of origins.  (If “diversity” is so damn important, why are so many Americans signing up for DNA testing, from which they can brag about their more-exotic-than-they-thought origins?  Why is no one satisfied to simply be considered (by themselves and others) “American“?)  (Full disclosure -- I recently had one of those tests done and guess what, after always thinking of myself as nothing but British and Welsh, it turns out that my DNA has more in common with Lithuania than anywhere else in Europe, and more in common with Libya than anywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa.  Talk about hybridization!  I think I‘m going to try another DNA outfit to see if these results are robust or just the result of some accident in the biology lab.) 

So there is hope.  And it doesn’t take a whole lot of investigation to come to the conclusion that pure blood lines are a myth -- save, perhaps, for the few remaining truly isolated cultures and gene pools around the globe.  But again, these are ten-mile-high considerations, and most people most of the time live with “ground truth”, which is always more difficult to deal with than any theory.       

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Trump's Game -- Addendum

My previous post featured four pretty much symbiotic theories as to why Trump doesn’t just walk in the door of the Justice Department and go wild with a machete.  But there’s another theory -- Number Five -- that is also symbiotic with the rest, and for which evidence mounts daily.  It is that as the “probe” drones on it keeps coming up against evidence that, yeah, there was “collusion” and all kinds of other high-jinks around the 2016 election, but that much of it can be traced to the Democrats/liberals/”progressives” and their allies and facilitators in the Deep State.  (And I’m not just talking about the shabby treatment the Democratic powers-that-be handed out to poor old Bernie.)

In other words, once you’ve decided to go after the “bad guys” (i.e. Trump and his supporters) you’re going to ensnare some of the “good guys” as well.  (Kind of reminds me of the parable of the wheat and the tares; I’ll leave it to you to decide which is which in this case.)  Of course it would be natural enough if Mueller & Co. would slam on the brakes every time they looked under a rock and found a Democrat lurking there -- but that would be asking too much.  I guess they figure that uncovering a little bit of Democratic hanky-panky is a small price to pay if the ultimate payoff is a moving van pulling up to the White House and removing all of Trump’s stuff, while Trump himself is led away in handcuffs and leg irons -- well, that is their vision at any rate; this is what they live for, after all.  Their noble vision for America is to invalidate the results of a presidential election; how far we’ve come!  Plus, a bit of collateral damage done to the other side might be seen as a way of boosting the probers’ credentials as “impartial” (assuming there is anyone left on the planet who seriously believes that).

So, of course, anything as ham-handed as the Mueller probe is going to spread destruction in all directions, so that’s another reason why Trump & Co. might not be all that anxious to see it come to an end.  To put it another way, Mueller and his staff of witch hunters have already made up their minds, and the hard-core Opposition/Resistance has made up its mind, so those parties can be written off.  What cannot be written off so readily is the independents, who are, occasionally, amenable to actual facts -- unlike the hard core on the left.  So the gradual exposure of Democratic wrongdoing can only count as a plus as far as the Trump camp is concerned.  Why step in and mess things up at this point?   

But the broader problem is that corruption, however defined and of any degree of seriousness one cares to focus on, is pretty much endemic in politics -- in our time at least, and I daresay things were never any different.  So if you’re going to “root out” corruption in, and by, one party or one faction, it’s going to be very difficult to, at the same time, shield the other side from any suspicion.  Add to this the fact that the “Resistance” and the anti-Trump Republicans have been in cahoots from the beginning -- at least since the legendary escalator ride which kicked off Trump’s campaign.  (We have only to recall the number of mainstream Republican politicians who openly declared that they would rather lose the election to Hillary than have Trump elected.)  The age-old saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has never applied more strikingly than it is doing in American politics, right now today, before our very eyes.  For -- think about it -- the one thing that all of the opposition agrees on is that Trump has to go.  Stranger alliances have been forged in times of existential peril, the best-known example being the alliance between us and the Soviets in World War II (although even that has to be “nuanced” in that a substantial part of the administration and the Deep State of that era had already been mesmerized and co-opted by Uncle Joe Stalin long before the war broke out). 

The mistake would be in assuming that there is an unbridgeable divide between the “left” and the “right” in American politics -- between “socialists” and “capitalists”, or between “collectivists” and “free market” advocates, etc.  What they have in common is more important than their -- usually superficial -- differences.  They are all pretty much globalists, for one thing -- and they are all still committed to the notion of the U.S. being the world’s policeman, although what, and whom, needs policing is still a subject for debate.  A “vigorous foreign policy” is something that they pretty much all agree on -- for, again, slightly different reasons.  And they are all pretty much statists; domestic policy debates generally boil down to how much socialism, how much collectivism, and who has to make way while still paying for it all by way of taxes.  But it’s a matter of degree rather than kind; no one dares ask the tough questions, most of which amount to “Is this any of the government’s business?”  The implicit answer is that of course it is; all of the political turmoil occurs at the margins -- in the gray areas, of which there are fewer and fewer.  (If wedding cakes can be politicized, nothing is safe.)  And to give up America’s preeminence in world affairs -- its hegemony -- well, that’s not up for debate either.  Way too risky.  Way too much at stake. 

And it’s not even as if Trump & Co. have taken any major steps to alter the basic premises or the trajectory of our foreign policy, because they haven’t.  There were some hints, during the 2016 campaign, that they might -- but those hopes were soon quashed, and the last dying gasp was heard when John Bolton was appointed National Security Advisor.  How “America first” can survive or mean anything when the administration is full of people who never met a war -- or “police action” -- or whatever -- they didn’t like is beyond me. 

And -- getting back to domestic policy -- the question is never “whether” but, again, “how much”.  Has a single federal agency been disbanded since Trump took over?  That would be a “whether” issue, but so far his batting average is zero.  The departments of education, labor, commerce, etc. are alive and well, and as meddlesome as ever.  And Trump’s attempts to de-fang some of the more obtrusive agencies and programs invariably run up against the courts, which are, one might say, the deepest part of the Deep State, while being the least hidden.  The Executive Branch, which supposedly “runs the country”, only runs as much of it as the courts allow it to -- which is typically the least important parts.  Everything that really counts has to wait upon the pleasure of the various circuit, appeals, and district courts, which are the real power centers of the Republic.  (Notice how I didn’t mention Congress in all of this, and for good reason.) 

So I say again -- the presidency in our time is, in many ways, DOA.  A new administration takes over and immediately starts begging and pleading with Congress to approve its “program”… and then what little actually gets approved is subject to court decisions, which typically render the bulk null and void.  This is what “separation of powers” amounts to these days, boys and girls -- a lot of vain hope and delusion, endless posturing and acrimonious debate, and what little gets all the way through the meat grinder is a gray, tasteless mass of incoherence which, nonetheless, requires a vast army of bureaucrats, AKA the Deep State, to “implement”.  And I suppose that the task of implementing something that barely exists, and from which all vestiges of principle have been removed, is good enough to keep this army employed -- and generously compensated, which is why the D.C. area is the wealthiest in the country.  One might say that any nation where the capital is rolling in wealth while the rest is scrambling to put food on the table is a nation in serious trouble.  Well, it’s that realization that energized much of Trump’s support, and continues to do so -- but how much he, or anyone else, can do about it is doubtful. 

And yet the multi-ring circus goes on without pause -- and, as the saying goes, the less there is to fight over the more ferocious the fight becomes.  Hence the current struggle, which -- when you get right down to it -- is, basically, about scraps.  That’s in the practical sense.  In the symbolic sense it seems to be about pretty much everything, and the best evidence for this is the number of people who are willing to stop at nothing, and put their reputations on the line, to erase Donald Trump from public life.  In this it bespeaks a much deeper agenda -- deeper than the Deep State.  But its outlines are becoming more clear as the struggle rages on.      


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Trump's Game

He could fire them all.  Close down the investigation.  Bust all the Obama holdovers down to buck private, or simply get rid of them.  But he doesn’t, and the question is why?  They constitute a chronic thorn in his side… a stone in his shoe… a speck in his eye.  The irritation and aggravation must be tremendous, and yet he puts up with it.  So… assuming that he’s not oblivious and completely out to lunch, the question remains. 

Oh, we can’t assume that, you might say?  My answer is that anyone who can not only survive the rough-and-tumble world of New York City real estate but make a fortune there can, basically, handle anything else the world might dish out.  For decades, he’s been dealing with state and local officials of varying levels of competence (my guess is mostly low), with a regulatory structure than would make the FDA green with envy, with bankers, and (out of sheer necessity) with the Mob.  If the average Congressman were parachuted into that environment they’d last about as long as a paper airplane flying into Kilauea.

So “fugeddaboutit”, as they say Trump’s home town -- this guy is the toughest of the tough.  He has to be -- and the best evidence is that he’s survived and prospered in, arguably, the toughest town on the planet, compared to which Washington, D.C. is the Land of the Lotus Eaters. 

So, again, what’s his game?  Theory #1, which is pretty much the conventional wisdom, is that it’s all about political impact.  A field littered with the remains of slain enemies might look good to Trump’s hard-core supporters, but it could turn off a lot of people who voted for him and, this year, are likely voters for Republican candidates.  Ironically, in this respect Trump is showing more consideration for the Republicans than they’ve ever shown for him; he really wants them to win in November and doesn’t want to spoil their chances -- which is more than you can say for most of them two years earlier. 

Of course, you could say that his main motivation for supporting Republican candidates (or for staying out of the way, as the case may be) is that he knows that if enough Congressional seats are “flipped” in November his impeachment is going to instantly become Job One (as if it isn’t already).  And as circuses go, that would make the Mueller investigation look tame and downright boring.  Well yes, that certainly has to be on his mind.  But he’s under the impression (not shared by most Republicans) that what’s good for him is good for them, and vice versa.  He’s being a team player, in other words -- but on his own terms, which is probably why he’s still getting so much resistance from the Republican mainstream. 

Rush Limbaugh is, as far as I know, the originator of Theory #2, which is that Trump actually prefers being seen as the victim -- as David to the Opposition’s Goliath.  Or, I would add, being seen as someone who can get things done despite their best efforts -- almost like relegating them to side-show status.  If you think about the various voter groups out there, it makes sense -- his hard-core supporters seem to be more firm than ever, and the “gray middle” is even starting to appreciate his endurance, according to some of the polls.  On the other hand, to fight back -- to topple Goliath -- would, again, please his core but might cause everyone else to retreat in dismay.  Plus, paradoxically, the closer his enemies believe they are to victory, the more deranged they get.  You’d think they could start to relax a bit at this point, the way a football team will put some of their second-string people in when they are way ahead in the fourth quarter.  But this is not happening, and all I can imagine is that frustration is mounting that, as day after day goes by, Trump remains in the White House, and when they hear the words “President Trump” it’s as if someone was pouring a bucket of burning coals on their heads.        

Now, please note that these are not mutually exclusive theories -- they can both be true, and can be working in a symbiotic manner.  He holds off on punishing his persecutors, which should be seen as a show of loyalty to the party and its candidates, while at the same time garnering support from people who see him as a victim of  the many-headed hydra known as the Opposition.

And then there’s Theory #3, which is, again, perfectly compatible with the first two.  The longer this investigation/farce/witch hunt lasts, the more obvious it becomes that there is profound corruption at at least the senior levels of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the various intelligence agencies.  Their credibility suffers more each day, and it’s a wonder there hasn’t already been an uprising from the ranks in favor of stopping all this nonsense.  (I understand there is plenty of “murmuring” going on, however -- and that’s at least a start.) 

Now, one could say (as many have), what good does it do the country for all of this corruption to be exposed, and thus for the organizations in question to be weakened?  But don’t the corrupt aspects of these operations deserve to be exposed?  And as far as “weakening” is concerned, that’s like arguing that removing a tumor “weakens” the patient and that it should, therefore, have been left alone and allowed to continue to grow.  Better to have these outfits suffer a few blows but then given the chance to recover and regain not only their integrity but a sense of their actual mission (as opposed to the current one of deposing a president, which, it seems, is taking up all of their time these days, to the detriment of who knows what sorts of far more important work). 

So yes, the organizations are being exposed, but so are many individuals, who, as I’ve said before, are becoming more fanatical every day and getting to the point where they’re willing to pretty much put it all on the line for the sake of this crusade.  And many have already fallen by the wayside, while Trump is still on the defensive; imagine what would happen if they finally ran out of ideas and had to deal with a still-intact, and re-energized, Trump and his administration?

This brings me to Theory #4, which is also compatible with the other three.  I call it the Rope-a-Dope Theory, and if you’ll recall the famous strategy of Muhammad Ali, it involves sitting back and taking non-lethal blows, and letting your opponent tire himself out, at which point you come back to life and finish him off.  This is not the same as the sheer accumulated degradation of Theory #3; it’s a pure matter of energy and will.  (Robert Mueller has to sleep sooner or later, right?) 

So we see signs of each of these theories pretty much every day in the news.  Trump is playing the victim, but a strong one.  He’s doing his best to prevent political catastrophe.  And he’s using the best weapon he can against the Opposition -- namely, allowing them free rein -- in other words, allowing them to prove to the American public what sorry specimens they are (and, by implication, what sorry specimens any politicians rooting for them are).  As his enemies grow more and more deranged and desperate, Trump can come off looking downright cool and rational -- even if still feisty and a back-talker.  If he had tried to pay the Democrats to make Stormy Daniels the new face of their party, it would have been considered sheer lunacy -- but now that they’ve done it to themselves, well… it just represents even more sinking into the muck.  And they’re not finished yet, you may be sure.  But then neither is Trump. 

So yes, it’s a game, and it’s for keeps, and it’s worth our attention because it offers a rare opportunity to see the true power structures and relationships of the government and its facilitators in the “private sector” exposed as seldom before.  We have a chance to meet the Deep State, up close and personal.  And if they’ve taken the gloves off, they’ve also doffed their accustomed masks, and that is a remarkable thing indeed -- seen perhaps once in each generation, if that.  The very fact that they are willing to risk so much tells us that there is a lot to risk -- much more than the average citizen could ever have imagined. 

And!  Unlike certain other “crises” involving certain other presidents over the years, this doesn’t even seem to be having much impact on Trump’s pursuit of his agenda.  Richard Nixon was distracted, to put it mildly, for many months by Watergate, and Bill Clinton had no problem dropping everything to defend himself against impeachment.  But both of those episodes had a predictable outcome -- Nixon’s downfall and Clinton’s survival.  In this case, the outcome is not so certain, and that’s what makes it interesting (kind of like a close election, come to think of it).  I doubt if Trump uses up very much of his day worrying about these matters; he’s got better things to do, and he is, in fact, doing them -- to the extent possible given a comatose Congress and a hostile court system.  Someday even his enemies may be forced to say, “Never have so few accomplished so much against so many.”   

Thursday, May 17, 2018

It's Springtime for Trump and America!

Actually, it's the second springtime since the White House was taken over by this strange orange guy who, according to the media, everyone hates and no one likes (except the usual deplorables), and yet no one has been able to do anything about it as yet.  Which is kind of remarkable considering the magnitude, breadth, and depth of forces arrayed against Trump.  Think, now -- has it ever happened before, in all of American history, that the entire government outside of the White House (and possibly excepting some of the military) has been arrayed in open opposition to, and defiance of, the president?  Including the vast bulk of the Executive Branch, which he is supposedly the head of?  I'm not sure how many people are fully aware of how exceptional -- and unsustainable -- this is.  It seems as if "something's gotta give" and yet we go along, one day after another, living with this impossible but very real situation (which, by the way, must have our “allies” quivering in their boots and our enemies helpless with laughter).  As I've observed before, if this is a coup d'etat it's not only the slowest one in history but the least competent.  But I know, they all want to make sure it's “legal” -- that it doesn't create a “Constitutional crisis”, as if we're not already in the middle of one.  (Any time the entire federal government is arrayed against an elected and sitting president, we have a Constitutional crisis; let‘s not quibble on that point.)

But it's easy to overlook the benefits (if that is the word) of all of this – the long-term “lessons learned” for anyone with a modicum of awareness and reasoning power.  One is that journalism is dead – and has been for quite a while.  Another is that “comedy” is dead, as is “entertainment” in general.  Another is that the “Deep State” really exists and that it can exert a considerable amount of influence through sheer inertia (and there's nothing like the federal government when it comes to inertia; they pretty much invented it).  Another is that the Constitution is dead and buried, as is the rule of law.  (Regarding the latter, Robert Mueller’s rule of thumb seems to be “You show me the man, I’ll show you the crime.”  In this he shares a view of “justice” with Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s top henchman.)  It has also become obvious that “separation of powers” is no more meaningful or reliable than a game of paper, stone, and scissors.

So in a sense it's refreshing – a relief in a way.  We can finally get down off our high horse of superiority (moral and otherwise) as a nation, society, and culture and admit that we're just slobs like everyone else – impulsive, delusional, greedy, wrathful slobs.  Now the rest of the world, which has been saying for decades that we're no better than they are, can claim vindication.

But both within that context and in a broader sense, it now seems that what we fancifully term “democracy” has been fatally damaged.  Our election process, which has always been considered a pillar of our supposedly democratic system, has been called into question regarding its integrity and its vulnerability to influences both internal and external.  Starting with primary campaigns and extending through the election campaign to the result, and the reaction to that result, the whole thing seems about as substantial as a decaying scarecrow dressed in rags that is buffeted about by anything that comes along, from a gale down to the mildest zephyr.  This is, in fact, fodder for the argument not just that we need to “clean up” the election process, but that we should do away with elections altogether, at least at the national level.  If the system is that vulnerable, in other words, it might be better to do away with it and simply appoint a committee of wise men (assuming there are enough to form a committee) to appoint a president... or, perhaps, to simply eliminate the office altogether.  (But then what would replace it?  I supposed we could create some sort of figurehead post that has no real power, and let the government pretty much run itself.  Oh, wait – that's what we have now.  But it does seem to be working, after a fashion.  Let's give the Deep State that much credit, at least.)

Once in every generation an event occurs that is widely described as a “loss of innocence” for American society.  The Vietnam war, especially when lumped in with Watergate, is one example.  Then we had 9/11.  And now we have the Trump debacle – and it's becoming more clear, with each passing day, how it will end, even though specific details have yet to be worked out.  And along with each loss of innocence there is the general understanding that now we've learned our lesson:  “Never again!”  And yet we invariably wake up the next morning, wide-eyed and virginal like Doris Day, with nary a hangover, and no memory, and blunder at full speed into the next folly.  So no, we don't learn, and yet each experience deposits another layer of corrosion, demoralization, and decay.  We've never recovered from Vietnam, and we're still fighting the “War on Terror” that began in earnest on 9/11... and I don't expect that we'll recover from the Trump Era either; we will be permanently scarred as a nation and a society.  And it's not just because of the “lessons learned” cited above.

There is nothing new about the idea that we are not masters of our own fate (socially, economically, and politically) – that there are things -- people and powers, unseen and nameless (and, needless to say, unelected) -- who are really in charge.  And by this we mean not in total and complete charge of everything down to the gum machine at the corner convenience store, but everything that counts.  And there is also the idea – equally as old – that these controlling elements, whoever and whatever they are, are not confined to nations, but are international, i.e. global, in their reach and in their concerns.  And those divisions and distinctions (nation, race, creed, ethnicity, etc. -- now including gender) that mean so much to us mean little or nothing to them – that they are, if anything, an annoyance and something that would it be well to get rid of. 

These are age-old suspicions and the basis for what are derided as “conspiracy theories” (as opposed to the endless stream of propaganda put out by the Regime, which we are expected to believe without questioning or hesitation).  Well, yes – we are talking about conspiracies, and we are also talking about "theories" insofar as solid and conclusive data are hard to come by.  But in most cases, the facts we do have, plus the ability to link them up in a logical way, plus plain common sense, are sufficient to come up with at least a tentative model as to what is going on – who's in charge (or, at the very least, who isn't), how things are really done, and perhaps even the motives of the ruling elite (assuming they go beyond simply raw power and money – which is an assumption that may not always be justified).  And of course there is the natural human need for coherence – for structure – for evidence of an orderly universe.  No one wants to live in a state of perpetual chaos – that would be a symptom of severe mental illness, and the last time I checked there weren't that many people who relished being in such a chronic state.  (The last hippie who relished that life style was recently seen wandering aimlessly through the forest near Eureka Springs, Arkansas.)  So we attempt to impose order – and that drive to impose order can be given credit for all sorts of things... like civilization itself, philosophy, economics, science, and, yes, politics.  The difference, perhaps, is that politics usually amounts to an attempt by one person or group to impose their notion of “order” on everyone else – witness The New Order of the Third Reich, and Bush I's New World Order (how's that coming along, by the way?).  Not to mention the words “Novus Ordo Seclorum” which appear on the dollar bill – a currency being, among other things, a sign and symbol of an ordered economy. 

Another way of looking at it is that conspiracy theories, so-called, thrive on incomplete information -- missing data and information that is regarded as unreliable or manipulative -- propaganda, in other words.  If we knew all there was to know about a given event, there would be no need for a theory, “conspiracy” or otherwise.  If an event just comes out of the blue -- seemingly random -- then it’s hard to know where to begin in terms of developing an explanation or theory.  (Witness the frequency with which crimes are committed “for no reason” -- at least for no reason that anyone can discern, except perhaps for the perpetrator, and if he’s dead it’s pretty much a lost cause.)  So, basically, conspiracy theories grow and thrive in a sort of gray area of information -- just enough but not too much.  In this they are not unlike scientific theories, which attempt to fill in some sort of structure when all available data have been exhausted.  (Note, by the way, that Evolution is still technically a theory, although it is almost universally marketed as fact, or as “settled science”.  But I digress… )

So there is nothing new or novel about a desire for order – for structure, even in everyday life.  (See what happens when the buses, trains, and airlines don't run on time.  People get upset.  Things that seemed reliable now seem out of control and chaotic.)  Likewise, there is nothing new or novel about the puzzlement and dismay that occur when orderly existence is threatened or disrupted.  The difference is that whereas some people accept disruption and chaos with resignation, the way they would accept a natural disaster, there is an alternative point of view that contends that disruption and chaos are, far from random and unpredictable, nearly always part of a plan – that they are not accidents but are imposed on us by higher powers for their own purposes.  And we see evidence – usually revealed far after the fact – that things like stock market “crashes”, depressions, recessions, inflation, etc. are not universally negative – that they benefit some people... some quite handsomely.  Then the question arises, were those who benefited just lucky?  But you take a look at who they are and the positions of power they occupy, and you have to imagine that the notion that the event in question was entirely accidental and unpredictable is far more fanciful than the notion that it was, at least in large part, part of a plan, or strategy, or conspiracy.

What I'm saying is that so-called “conspiracy theories” are far from unreasonable, despite the criticism heaped on them by tools of the Regime.  But if you accept that, the question remains, what does it have to do with events of the day, i.e. the Trump maelstrom?  Well, what would it look like if those in charge – call them the Regime, or cabal, or ruling elite --  decided that, for whatever reason, Donald Trump should never have been elected president, he shouldn't have been allowed to take office, and now that he has it's vitally important to remove him from office as soon as possible?  Skipping over the question of motive here, as important as it is – what would the result of said decision be?  You would expect anyone who was, either knowingly or unknowingly, working for the Regime to spend every waking hour participating, in some way, in the effort to depose Donald Trump.  Furthermore, you would expect them to work together and cooperate in a remarkable way – to establish a kind of symbiosis that puts all previous political alliances to shame.  And – this is key – you would expect them to, day after day, week after week, and month after month all appear to be working off the same script – to not only be doing the same things but saying the same things, word for word in many cases.  That’s what one would expect, and -- lo and behold! -- that’s exactly what’s happening.  

But now we move on to a more subtle matter.  Given that there are millions -- tens of millions -- of people actively and vociferously opposed to Donald Trump and all of his works... and that a goodly number of them are willing to take time off work (assuming they have jobs, which may be a stretch) to fill the streets, chant, protest, carry signs, and so on... are they all doing what they're doing for the same reasons?  By which I mean, for the reasons they think, because my theory is that they are all, ultimately, working for the same entity, namely the Regime, which, among many things, is profoundly globalist in its origin and purpose, and perceives Trump as an existential enemy of globalism -- although, frankly, you‘d never know it from his foreign policy.  And after all, mobs are, almost by definition, mindless and acting primarily on the basis of impulse and mass hysteria -- if not a simple desire to escape the boredom and dreariness of their existence.  And yet they are invariably equipped -- by someone -- with tools like signs, banners, or -- in more extreme cases -- weapons.  And they are encouraged and coached, by minor demagogues operating at street level, to mouth words -- to chant -- and especially to fit any notion they might have into that ubiquitous 11-syllable format (you know, the one that always begins “Hey hey, ho ho“).  And do they just materialize spontaneously wherever the focus of that day's protests is?  Far from it -- they are marched, bused, even flown in for the occasion.  Who organizes all of that?  Who pays for it?  In some cases, we know the answers; in others it's as mysterious as those "large character posters" that used to appear on walls in Maoist China.  There is a point beyond which -- if one gets past those leading the chants and those standing on a wall with a bullhorn -- the controlling element becomes invisible... just fades into the mist.

So we have, basically, the questions of what motivates these people subjectively (i.e. in their own opinion), what motivates them objectively (i.e., the real, deeper motivation, but still personal), and then who is exploiting them, and what is their motivation?  Let's admit that most of the people who take to the street on a regular basis to protest the existence of Donald Trump are not deep thinkers.  They've been fed a laundry list of things to hate about Donald Trump -- but the fact that they so readily cling to it and adopt it as their own says a lot about their fears, insecurities, paranoia, and desperate need for social approval -- for belonging.  And believe me, their puppet masters in the ruling elite know about this; they are under no illusions as to the level of sophistication of the mob.  In fact, the last thing they would want is to have people actually start to think; much better to have them available to mindlessly chant slogans. 

But the question remains, what is the source of all of the -- at times almost demonic -- energy behind the "Resistance"?  It's not as if presidents and administrations have not, in the past, come under fire for any number of things, but it seems to me that there was always a grain of truth there somewhere.  In other words, the protesters basically knew what they were talking about, and the magnitude of the protests was reasonable given the magnitude of the problem.  We can say this about, for example, protests against the Vietnam war and civil rights marches.  But this time around, so much of the rhetoric seems totally out of proportion and unhinged from reality.  It is "full of sound and fury", but not much else. 

Now, if you surveyed a few of these protesters on any given day, and asked them if they were committed to globalism and protesting on behalf of elite globalists, most of them would probably give you a blank stare.  "No, it's because Trump is.... (insert insult of your choice)."  Or, "He's ruining everything" -- but what, specifically, they might be hard pressed to say.  Or, "He's destroying the country" -- OK, what part of the country is he destroying?  Or what aspect?  Or, "He's destroying democracy and introducing fascism" -- but the last time I checked people were still voting, and I've already discussed what a lousy job he's been doing if he's serious about being a fascist dictator.   

So it just doesn't add up, and what I suspect is that what I referred to above as objective motivation may provide at least part of the answer.  Because we are a deeply troubled, dysfunctional society on many levels, and that pathology both percolates up from the citizenry and trickles down and impacts them in their daily lives.  Whenever someone quotes that old chestnut "lives of quiet desperation", I have to say, whaddaya mean "quiet"?  We're getting noisier all the time, and desperate people naturally look to their leadership for either salvation or blame -- savior or scapegoat, this is the lot of the politician in our time (and probably any other time as well).  And even if the leader is a figurehead, he's still expected to perform those functions; the people who voted for him as a savior may turn against him and make him a scapegoat, and the people who didn't vote for him will declare him a scapegoat the instant he takes office (if not before).

At this point it bears mentioning that those whom everyone sees as the leaders of the opposition -- the high command, if you will -- are tools as well, and none more than the leader of the pack, Robert Mueller.  He stalks through the corridors of power daily, craggy as an Old West gunfighter (have you ever noticed that he’s always photographed from ground level, as if to emphasize both his physical and moral stature?), and clearly sees, as so many others do (James Comey, for one) that it’s his patriotic duty to rid the country of this boil… this tumor… this invasive alien life form named Donald Trump.  And the law and the Constitution won’t be allowed to get in the way!  And for that, he and his colleagues are willing to put everything on the line -- respect, reputation, career if need be.  So yes, they are making sacrifices, but they are also victims of the Regime, which cares not for their hallowed reputations or for anything else.  To the Regime, they are mere tools… operatives… middle men.  And expendable, as shown by the number who have fallen by the wayside, mourned by few, and undoubtedly with more to come. 

And again, the ruling elite -- the people who ultimately control the mob, and who control the visible high-level players -- don't fall for any of this.  They care not for the neurotic alienation of the mob, and they care not for the delusions and grandiosity of the middle men; they are not impacted by mere human foibles.  A cooler-headed bunch cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.  (Think of them as a cross between Swiss bankers and robots, and you’ll be getting a bit closer to the truth.)  All that matters is the agenda, and they will do whatever it takes to further it... and being master manipulators (if they weren't, they wouldn't be in the position they're in) they will exploit any sort of weakness, and in fact aggravate it and amplify it in pursuit of their goals.  So yes, the mob is their victim, and if Trump becomes their victim as well the mob will rejoice because they will see it as their personal victory.  But the real victory will belong to the elite, and the mob will be in for some unpleasant surprises when the real agenda starts to unfold.  Who will provide the signs, slogans, and "talking points" then?            



Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Enemy Within

It's about guns. No, it's about mental health. No, guns! No, mental health! And so on – the endless, swirling whirlpool of blame and accusation, insuring – as always – that rational discourse has been left behind and that any “solutions” will be both wrong-headed and ineffective. (But what counts – as the Obama administration taught us – is rhetoric, not actual results.) 

I'm not going to attempt to propose a solution to the school shooting plague, but will simply offer a few points for consideration.

#1, is the phenomenon new? Not brand new, in that incidents of this sort do appear in the historical record going back quite far. But yes, new in frequency and magnitude. And is this, in turn, a product of our fast-forward, media- and Internet-based society (and the hybrid of these, namely social media), which has, at long last, achieved the “global village” of Marshall McLuhan's dreams (or nightmares?). Because in that global village, information spreads as rapidly as it did between busybodies and gossips in the traditional village – except out in plain sight, and amplified. As such, it partakes of many of the qualities of mass hysteria, and in that sense naturally feeds on itself, grows, reproduces, morphs, and stimulates stable and unstable minds alike. And that, in turn, leads to not only “copycat” incidents, but copycat thinking, which is expressed, more often than not, in the social media, which offer the appearance of anonymity but which are, in fact, the digital equivalent of posting a sign in one's front yard. Combine this with the promise of instant fame (which has ever appealed to losers) and you have multiple accidents waiting to happen. 

So we have not only the copycat phenomenon, but also the gradually growing social acceptance of this form of “acting out”. Social acceptance? Surely not, in view of the universal condemnation of such acts. But I'm not talking about normal society here; I'm referring to a subculture made up of countless moody, isolated “weirdos” -- a fellowship of the bullied, rejected, and generally shat-upon – and we know it exists because we've seen ample evidence. And the operating base for that subculture is, again, the social media. In those circles, school shootings are seen as a form of justice – of getting even, of standing up to authority (both adult and that of the “in crowd” -- the popular kids – the cliques), of asserting oneself against an unjust and cruel world. Witness, even, the frequency with which the shooters (the ones who survive, or the ones who leave their thoughts behind in some form) say that their victims are better off dead – presumably because no one should have to put up with the offenses that the world dishes out on a regular basis. So they were doing their victims a favor by taking them out of this world. Deranged thinking? Certainly – but, seemingly, becoming more common. Combine that with delusions of grandeur – of a “superiority complex”, if you will, and again, it's just a matter of time. 

To this we might add – paradoxically, perhaps -- a more general phenomenon or trend, namely the erosion of individual self-esteem. And this seems wrong on its face, since if the public schools represent anything in lieu of academic standards, which have long since been left by the wayside, it's the unremitting obsession with, and provision for, self-esteem, “inclusiveness”, and all the other ways of describing the morphing of the public education system into a gigantic sociological octopus. The problem is that, clearly, these programs don't work – at least not for the real outliers, the truly marginalized. They work for the ones who are already in the system in some way – not necessarily whole heartedly but enough to be amenable to persuasion and manipulation by “agents of change” (teachers and school administrators in this case). But for the true rebel – the true outsider – these efforts will invariably come to naught, because those in question have already, on some level (consciously or otherwise), declared themselves to be non-players, bad citizens, and rebels – and if you survey the writings of many of the school shooting “perps” you will find this attitude in abundance. 

Another way of putting it is that these people do have self-esteem – but of a markedly different, pathological, and dangerous type. It goes beyond simple sociopathy, which is about being a rebel and a “badass”, and extends into hatred, resentment, and a desire for revenge – for “getting even”. (Please note that most of these shooters don't seem to have any other notable accomplishments – nothing that would merit being listed in a yearbook, say. Oftentimes the sort of hostile energy that motivates shooters is the same kind of energy that can, in some cases, be channeled into something more constructive and/or creative – but that would require some sort of talent, which these shooter types seem to lack.) 

Then there is that old stand-by, morals and morality – both of which have been expunged from public education because they are insufficiently inclusive... and, after all, “it's a matter of opinion”, as the cultural relativists never tire of saying. And heaven forbid anyone should start talking about morality in a public education setting; who knows, it might constitute a “trigger”; it would certainly be readily identifiable as some sort of “hate”. Not to mention which, how many public school teachers in our time would even be comfortable teaching morals, or even ethics, when it's much easier and less threatening (to their own self-esteem) to stick with “niceness” and “consideration for others”? 

But again, the rebel – the badass – is only going to sit in the back row of the classroom and laugh at such foolishness. He knows these people are all hypocrites! And his sense of superiority dictates that he devalue them not just to the point of not caring whether they live or die, but being willing to help matters along. 

But – one might say – isn't the home where morals are, or should be, taught? Certainly. And that should be reinforced – or at least not directly contradicted – by the educational system. And yet too often we find the opposite, and I'm trying to think about at what point the public schools, and their “agents of change”, came into direct opposition with the values of families and the home. I suspect it was at about the time when the “60's” types got their teaching degrees and spread out across the land like a plague, determined to subvert American culture in all of its forms, because, after all, American culture had treated them shabbily and it had to go – and any totalitarian worth their salt will tell you that the program has to begin with the young, and the younger the better. “Anyone over 30” is a lost cause... and if you're going to be a rabble rouser, the most amenable rabble to rouse are people of high school and college age. 

But this argument assumes that the home and family remain a redoubt of proper training, ethics, and morality – but that would be a mistake as well. Lest we forget, the same “60's types” who signed up as agents of change are also the ones who raised the next generation – and are, in fact, the grandparents of the current generation of high school- and college-aged individuals. So we have, basically, a generation, or the second generation, raised up in a moral vacuum and then sent off to the public schools, colleges, and universities where that moral vacuum is even more complete, permeating, and insidious. And then we wonder where school shooters come from. They are, basically, externalizing their inner demons, which in earlier times might have been suppressed either totally or sufficiently by the collective influence of family, school, and community. But there are no such inhibitors now – it's as if we have a landscape of human nuclear reactor cores with missing control rods; there is nothing preventing the occasional meltdown. 

So yes, it's not about guns. Guns have always been with us, although it could be argued that “assault weapons” and the like have not, but those are an aggravating factor rather than a cause. And I'll even venture a guess that more American households 100 years ago – or 200 – had at least one gun on hand than is now the case, percentage-wise. There was certainly at least one gun on every farm... and at least one in the home of every hunter... and that included a goodly proportion of the citizenry back before mass industrialization and migration to the cities. And where are guns considered a problem, by the way? In rural areas, or the suburbs? No, in the cities, of course, where, allegedly, no one “needs” to have a gun but so many do. 

Is it, then, “mental health”? Well, yes – if you include under that heading being something other than a moral imbecile. And if you take into account a collective pathology which is more obvious than ever in society, namely the acceptance and depersonalization of violence. Acceptance? Yes – in fantasy mode, via video games and the Internet, where one can plow through platoons of enemies with weaponry that the U.S. military can only dream of. But wait, that's just “fantasy”, right? And everyone knows the difference between fantasy and reality, right? The problem is, a growing number of our citizens, particularly of the young type, don't. Their fantasy worlds constitute so much of their reality that when they're confronted with real reality, their fantastic thinking doesn't turn realistic, but remains in charge. 

Think about it. Is the human brain, especially the youthful human brain, really able to make this sudden, violent, many-times-a-day transition between fantasy and reality? Look at the screen... then at the world... then back at the screen... then back at the world... and so on, many scores, or even hundreds, of times per day. Isn't that expecting a bit too much of our perceptual and cognitive abilities? What “works” in one world (uninhibited violence without consequences) ought to work in the other as well, shouldn't it? Does anyone ever point out, to young people, the flaw in that thinking?

I recall a phenomenon that was pointed out by military psychologists back during the Vietnam era. It was sometimes referred to as the “cartoonization” of not only the enemy but also of non-combatants. And this was way before the advent of “realistic” video games or the Internet; all we had was TV and Pong, basically. And yet even back then, there was a tendency for young men in uniform armed with powerful weapons to see others (pretty much anyone not in an American uniform) as non-human... as no more than scuttling little creatures who could be picked off at will in a sort of grotesque form of target practice. While not claiming that this was a typical attitude, or even terribly common, we cannot ignore events like My Lai as examples. (And as someone said in the recent PBS series on Vietnam, there were “hundreds” of My Lais.) 

Now of course, the notion of the enemy as “the other” is pretty much universal in warfare, and has been reinforced by military and civilian leaders from time immemorial. But along with that there has been a tradition – not always honored but persistent – that civilians, i.e. non-combatants, were off limits. You don't have to hand out Hershey bars, just don't kill 'em. So when did this basic, and I would say honorable, premise, start to erode? We can point to the concept of total war, which is, again, not all that new – but which reached a kind of peak in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was one point at which “Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out” could have been declared the unofficial motto of our foreign policy. And of course there are always justifications – and they may even have some validity. But justifications don't change facts. And they don't change the demoralizing effects of war – not just on the direct participants but on the civilians back home. (We always fancy ourselves as being so smart by confining our wars to overseas actions, ignoring the long-term impact on veterans and on our society in general, not to mention the corrosive effects on politics and economics.) 

But what does this have to do with school shooters? Well, let's not assume that they're stupid; in fact, many of them appear to be quite intelligent – mad scientists minus the science, if you will. And believe it or not, they might actually have done some reading and know a bit about history – with or without help from their official government teachers. So in a mush-brained kind of way, don't they have a right to reason that if something is OK for the government to do, then maybe it's OK for them to do as well? Think about the Waco massacre, and other causes that agitate the so-called “far right” -- who has more moral sense, the people who perpetrate these things or the people who protest? 

But wait! There's more! What about abortion? It's one thing to look upon “collateral damages” which is another way of describing the deaths of thousands of civilians (perhaps not all innocent, but certainly innocent until proven guilty) in places like Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria – but death in the womb (or barely outside of it) in neat, orderly, sterile hospitals? And consider that, as has been pointed out, everyone born in the U.S. since Roe vs. Wade is a survivor of a massacre which is still going on. Now, once again, don't assume that these young people are stupid; on some level they realize this. They know it, and while they ought to be grateful to their parents for not turning them over to the mercies of abortionists, they also have to feel that “There, but for the grace of God...” Or if of a non-religious bent, they were just plain lucky. So they survey the landscape and see that everyone else of their age – or approximately so – is also a survivor. Are those others more or less deserving? Maybe some of them should have been aborted. Maybe I can step in and fix things where the abortion industry failed. 

Fantastic thinking? Delusion? Grandiosity? Certainly. All too common? Certainly. But we have paved the way through a thousand decisions, many of which seemed minor or inconsequential at the time – or not even like decisions, just casual choices. “Practical” or “sensible” choices. But to quote a great Greek playwright, “The boys throw stones at the frogs in play, but the frogs die in earnest.” Our “stones” are what is called social experimentation, and the “frogs” who die psychologically are youth, i.e. the victims of said social experimentation. We are so shocked when a young person “acts out” in a violent way, when in some sense he is merely doing the next thing in a perfectly logical chain of reasoning (or anti-reasoning). Our social, supposedly benign, sub-clinical pathology has become his malevolent clinical pathology, with dire consequences. So yes, “the enemy is us”, but until we realize and admit that, and do what is required to remedy the situation, we can't expect the Era of School Shootings to come to an end, no matter how many march and protest and petition those in charge.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Worst Fascist Dictator Ever

The opposition – which seems to be pretty much everyone, at least everyone who has a voice – seems to be of one mind on one thing – i.e. the only thing they are capable of thinking about these days – namely that Trump is a fascist dictator. Not an aspiring one, mind – or one under construction – but already, just over a year in office, a full-blown dictator in the footsteps and image of Hitler and Mussolini (and a few lesser lights, like... Pinochet, I suppose, or Franco... or whoever runs Latin American countries when they aren't being run by socialists or communists).

Well, if this is true – and try convincing any of them that it's not – then Trump is surely the most failed fascist dictator to ever come down the pike. I mean, think about it – think about all the areas in which he has failed when his supposed role models have succeeded:

  • He hasn't made the trains run on time, a la Mussolini. Hell, he can't even keep them on the tracks.
  • He hasn't come up with the American 21st-Century equivalent of the Volkswagen.
  • He hasn't constructed any gigantic stadiums in which to hold mass rallies.
  • He hasn't yet nationalized any major industries (or minor ones – not even kettle corn stands). Traditionally, this would start with mines, fossil fuels, and defense industries – but no, not a peep. This puts him way behind Obama, who at least managed to nationalize health care.
  • He hasn't taken over radio... or television... or the Internet (which his predecessors would have done in a heartbeat if the Internet had existed in their time).
  • He hasn't turned the film industry into a propaganda apparatus for his administration and his personality cult.
  • He hasn't taken over the print media or the publishing industry.
  • He hasn't imposed censorship on music or the arts (but “not yet!” cry the opposition).
  • He hasn't issued stamps with his picture on them.
  • He doesn't have a hand-picked imperial guard. All he has is the same old Secret Service with their boring suits and skinny black ties, and the White House police with their boring uniforms (which Nixon tried to change, but the pushback was just too overwhelming).
  • He hasn't designed a new American flag, or uniforms for himself and his senior staff.
  • He hasn't come up with a new title for himself.
  • He hasn't come up a distinctive salute, or a substitute for “hello” and “goodbye”.
  • He hasn't established a youth movement named after him.
  • He hasn't established institutions where elite members of the military can breed with racially pure women in order to produce new members of the master race.
  • He hasn't taken over Czechoslovakia or half of Poland (or anywhere else, for that matter).
  • He hasn't built any new palaces or mansions with taxpayers' money.
  • He hasn't cleansed American society of any particular racial or ethnic group (but “not yet!” cry the opposition).
  • He hasn't built any concentration camps (but “not yet!” cry the opposition).
  • He hasn't managed to take control of the legislature, or, failing that, dissolve it, and throw anyone who objects in prison.
  • He hasn't managed to take control of the judicial branch at any level and bend it to his whims.
  • He hasn't managed to put his hand-picked lackeys in charge of states, cities, and localities.
  • He hasn't managed to declare illegal all political parties but his own.

And the list just goes on and on. Not only has he failed to take control of key elements of the government, the media, and the culture, and turn them into a unified propaganda apparatus, he has to deal with dogged resistance, hostility, and what amounts to sabotage from those quarters. And it all goes unpunished! He has to deal with the “deep state”, with the intel community, with the media (especially the “entertainment” sector)... with resistance from the judiciary, and hostility from his own political party. So where are all the arrests and detentions? Where are all the “night and fog” operations? Hasn't he ever heard of martial law? You'd think with all the resources at his disposal he could start asserting himself instead of coming across as a 6' 3” Bobo Doll.

The only part of the government that is not lined up in a monolithic way against Trump is the military – and even then, as retired generals in his administration fall by the wayside, we see that even that might be a mirage. Whereas once the military could be counted on to have, at least implicitly, an “America first” attitude, and to be basically conservative in outlook, that has all changed, I would say, in the years since the Vietnam debacle. Now the uniformed services can be globalists with the best of them, and in terms of social attitudes, two generations of brainwashing by the “agents of change” have taken care of that issue as well. (I well remember when the Army started running out of days, weeks, or months upon which to pin some commemoration or cause or ribbon color – and said causes almost invariably had a decided liberal or progressive taint.)

Far from being large and in charge, Trump is... well, he's not even a figurehead; at least, not one that anyone besides his core supporters recognizes. He is, basically, the uncrowned ruler of a country that doesn't exist – a pretender to the throne, if you will. The U.S. exists, of course, but it hasn't accepted him as leader... whereas the country he thinks he's in charge of is a figment of his fevered imagination. So he becomes little more than the naked emperor of song and story – and the amazing thing about it is that most things pretty much continue on as always, despite this unprecedented and grotesque situation, which is more than you can say of Germany, which started falling apart once Hitler retreated into his reinforced bunker beneath the streets of Berlin. But the Germans were authoritarian, you see – and could no more live without der Fuehrer than a bee hive can live without its queen. We at least enjoy some vestiges of individual autonomy, although it's fast disappearing.

But wait! There's hope! He may yet do something that justifies his opponents' image of him – if he can only get the Washington, D.C. government to grant him a permit for a military parade. Now that would be good, old-fashioned fascism in its finest form! (It would also be communism in its finest form, but we don't want to mention that to the opposition, since they have new champions in Kim Jong-Un and his sister. Who knows, they might get “triggered” by such a statement and have to undergo grief counseling, or raid Toys “R” Us for teddy bears and Play-Doh before the place closes.)

So anyway, the bottom line on all this is that so far, at the point in his administration when Hitler and Mussolini had already piled up major achievements, Trump is pretty much dead in the water. He seems helpless against the opposition, and they seem to grow stronger and more vocal – and more radical – with each passing day. They continue to strike down, resist, and filibuster every one of his initiatives, and subject him and his family to the equivalent of cavity searches going back decades.

And let's admit – to give credit where credit is due – that the staying power of the opposition is much greater than anyone could have anticipated. And think of the self-sacrifice involved! The comedy sector of the entertainment media has closed its doors and been repurposed as a 24-hour propaganda machine. Journalists have given up on journalism and turned into anti-Trump apparatchiks who pursue Trump like hounds, in a non-stop hate fest. Caring not for the respect of the “deplorables”, they have taken to the streets, both literally and figuratively, in order to further the cause. It's enough to put a lump in one's throat (or maybe it's just a rising gorge).

And yet this is not unprecedented – they are reliving the glory days of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, when it was, as now, one man against the world. There is nothing like a worthy cause to make the ruling elite and their servants stand up as one man and pit everything they have against what they see as an existential threat.  And they may, in fact, wind up winning what has become a war of attrition; sometime sheer persistence and fanatical energy do win out (and the elders among them have the Vietnam protests to look back on as a model).  

So -- Trump had better up his game before it's too late. He shouldn't have to put up with this BS! Certainly no self-respecting despot of the past would have; why now?

Yes, it's true that the sheer pressure and hostility would have forced a lesser man out of office by now – but then none of Trump's Republican primary opponents would have created this sort of opposition, because they were -- by and large -- bland, harmless, non-threatening empty suits. And – most importantly – members of the establishment... the anointed ruling elite. They would have spent a good part of each day apologizing for not being as compassionate and humane as the Democrats. No, it took Trump to start a revolution... and regardless of how it all comes out, I say that it's a good thing, in the sense that now the American public no longer has any excuse for being ignorant as to who's really in charge, and who's really running things.

  • Clue #1 – It's seldom, if ever, the president (definitely not since LBJ chose not to run for re-election in 1968).
  • Clue #2 – The “deep state” does exist, and it has always existed, but it's not in charge either; it serves as the support system for whose who are.
  • Clue #3 – The intel world – the FBI, CIA, NSA, and so on – have not just recently been politicized. They have always been political, and have always been working for the Regime, and either for or against whoever is nominally in charge, i.e. the president. The legendary J. Edgar Hoover, in particular, gave orders much more often than he took them. Plus, they're perfectly capable of giving any president the “mushroom treatment”, as they seem to have done for – at least – George W. Bush. Do you really think they tell Trump what's really going on in that daily briefing? Please. They throw him a few dog biscuits then exchange high-fives as soon as they get out the door.
  • Clue #4 – Judging by the stock market, some parts of the U.S. commercial sector seem to like Trump's (not yet accomplished, and barely started) program. (Let's hear it for hope and change!) Big business has mixed feelings, and the international banking and financial cartel has stayed strategically silent. (They don't care who's president anyway. To them it's just noise level.)
  • Clue #5 – The globalists at the E.U. and elsewhere are pushing back in a big way, and George Soros, who is the sugar daddy of the opposition, is waging, basically, a one-man war against Trump. (After all, there's only room on this planet for one fascist dictator.) And the U.S., by the way, is just one of Soros' many targets; he attacks whenever, and wherever, he sees a rise in nationalism (AKA “fascism”) and whenever religion shows any sign of sneaking back into politics. On the latter point, the U.S. is going to be a tough nut to crack, but you can be sure he won't stop trying.
  • Clue #6 – Religious leaders are not cozying up to Trump even as much as they did to Obama, to say nothing of “W” or Reagan.

So basically, history is in a kind of holding pattern while people wait to see how this all turns out. No one out there in the wider world wants to commit to Trump to any degree, because what happens to them if Trump winds up thrown out of office (and perhaps into jail)? Talk about losing face, and guilt by association! Foreign policy-wise, both allies and “enemies” also seem to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Even Israel is not showing as much positive regard for Trump as they showed hostility toward Obama. (Good thing we have the Deep State and the military, which just keep slogging along with or without orders from the top!)

And in fact, that's another revelation which has come out of all of this – namely that we don't even need a president. If the one we have is incapable of getting anything significant done, and if no one takes him seriously or follows his orders (not to mention “guidance”), and yet things just keep perking along – well, you see what this means. The presidency is obsolete. But it took a president with all sorts of authority, but no real power, to prove it.

Plus, as a sign of the times, the states are starting to reassert themselves as autonomous, independent entities, complete with their own drug policies, environmental policies, immigration policies, and even foreign policies. This can be seen (how can it not?) as eroding the power, prestige, and scope of the federal government – a trend which I personally am all in favor of. (Is it possible that some day the United States will go back to being united states, rather than a hodgepodge of politically useful but arbitrary administrative divisions?)

The next time the question of the Electoral College comes up, as it does every four years, we might also consider throwing into the mix the presidency – as in, let's quit pretending that we need it. Or – better still, perhaps – turn it back into the office as defined in the Constitution, and nothing more. And while we're at it, turn the White House into something useful, like a daycare center (which, actually, the opposition claims it already is). I think a dash of reality of this sort might be downright refreshing. Besides, if we eliminate the presidency, we also eliminate the opportunity for someone to actually succeed in turning the U.S. into a fascist dictatorship. Because, after all, there are plenty of contenders out there, and they would enjoy a lot more support than Trump has.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"You Oughta Write This Down"

Thus, the heartfelt plea of a close acquaintance some years back, in response to one of my typical bouts of ranting, raving, free association, subtexting, speculating, lampooning, and what not. Not a bad idea, but I wasn't especially attracted to the option of self-published (how else?) books... or of submitting material to periodicals with which I felt some compatibility -- although I did submit the occasional letter to the editor, some of which wound up in print – and I even had an article published (in two parts) in the magazine of a religious order, on the topic of Faust and Frankenstein, of all things. And pamphleteering pretty much went out when the Internet came in – but that was the answer: a blog! Finally, an outlet for all of this pent-up energy (intellectual and otherwise).  And the blog format makes it easy on the prospective reader, since it's free and perpetually available at the touch of a key. And besides that, it offers opportunities for feedback and comments... or for being totally ignored... or for anything in between.  And, oh yes, it can be hot-linked from any social media platform, which is pretty much essential in this day and age.  

I don't think I expected this blog to be so heavily weighted on the side of politics and current events as it has turned out to be, but we do live in interesting times, after all, and the hits just keep coming, as they say. I have ventured into culture, history, sociology, and the arts now and then, along with some introspective meditation, but current events are just too seductive to stay away from. And as for politicians, well – I can hardly do better than their own perpetual self-satire, but that doesn't mean I'll stop trying.

The one rule (aside from passably good grammar, spelling, and editing) that I have tried to abide by all this time is to not be part of anyone's echo chamber, and to not simply parrot what someone else has said – no matter how wise or impressive that may have been. Basically, if I can't bring something new to the discussion, I don't get involved. As I've said on more than one occasion, “Why do I always have to be the one to notice this, and bring it up?” -- referring to a certain point of view, nuance, or alternative to the conventional wisdom or the non-wisdom ginned up by the media. Of course, it could be argued that a person who is constantly coming up with “different” ways of seeing things might suffer from a touch of lunacy. But in my own defense, I have to mention that in a surprising number of cases, something I bring up in a blog post shows up on an editorial page or in a periodical soon afterward – in a few cases on the very next day.  And by a non-lunatic!  So I find that reassuring.

I've also tried to maintain what I call a hybrid libertarian/paleoconservative/traditional Catholic point of view, which is like walking a tightrope at times since there are significant differences among the three world views (especially between libertarianism and the other two). But there are areas of compatibility and opportunities for dialogue, so I find it a fruitful area to work in. And I also take, as points of reference or of validation, the writings of some of the best, wisest, and most insightful thinkers of our time, the most prominent examples being Joseph Sobran, Pat Buchanan, and E. Michael Jones.  I also attempt, from time to time, to restore a modicum of dignity to the English language, in the spirit of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Joseph Conrad -- when I'm not shamelessly flinging slang terms around, that is.  

Style-wise, I don't pretend to be scholarly or to present air-tight arguments. I do not prepare journal articles or legal briefs, in other words. It's a little more like free association, quite frankly – but I try to keep it coherent and see that it adds up to something (unless all I'm doing is asking questions to which there seem to be no satisfactory answers – yet).

I'll go further than that. I find that blogging is also a way to explore and develop one's thoughts about things – to work through facts and ideas in a (hopefully) logical, if not entirely linear, fashion, and thus to “add value” and come up with something new – not only for the benefit of others but for my own as well. And thus I've always had two symbiotic goals – one to develop and clarify my own thinking, and secondly to share it and thus – or so I hope – help others develop and clarify their own thinking, even if by opposing it to something I have written. Growth through dialogue, if you will. Oh, and I hope to be amusing now and then as well; there are so many occasions in our time when you either have to laugh or cry, and I generally prefer to come down on the side of laughter.

Thus, a few random thoughts on the 10th anniversary of this blog – yes, the first post was on March 14, 2008, and this will be the 943rd post. And the best, almost miraculous, thing is that they are all still available for your leisurely perusal, should you have an idle moment to spare now and then.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Marching Through the Heart of the Deep State

I attended the March for Life in Washington, DC on January 19, as I have pretty much every year for quite a long time – since my oldest kids were in strollers, and that's a long time. The theme is the same every year, of course – but there are always variations in the details, like the location of the pre-parade rally, who the speakers are, the weather (of course), various participating groups, and the overall “vibe”. And maybe it's just me, but it seems like the crowd is getting younger every year – countless groups of high school and college students from all over the country, as well as families, church groups, and pro-life organizations of all sorts. There are senior citizens (ahem!) in attendance, but this notion – popularized by the mainstream media – that the only people who show up at these marches are ancient geezers who can barely walk, and who are the last holdouts for a lost cause, is just not borne out. The overwhelming impression is one of youth – excited, energized, loud and raucous at times... happy they're there and sincere in their beliefs. They are, if you will, the anti-snowflakes of our time.

So I am carried along on, or in, a sea of humanity – and I always like to turn around and look back, when halfway up Capitol Hill, to see how far back the parade stretches. This year, even though I was nowhere near the front of the parade, when I turned around I couldn't see the end of it as it stretched back along Constitution Avenue; that was inspiring.

Part of the overall “vibe” for any given March is – has to be – the reality of who is president. When a Democrat is in the White House, it seems like we're truly marching through enemy territory; when a Republican is in the White House, less so – but there is still the awareness that we are marching through the heart of the “deep state”, which is populated largely by liberals and leftists of various stripes, and who can hardly be expected to be sympathetic to our cause. It's always interesting to see, as we go past what I call the “whited sepulchers” along Constitution Avenue – i.e., offices of the federal government – how many people are looking out the windows. There weren't that many this year, but there were more people than usual standing on top of various buildings – thanks in part to the benign weather. (And no, they weren't all “security personnel” although some were in evidence.)

The speakers this year included the vice president and the president, via satellite (from just a couple of blocks away) – and the contrast with Democratic administrations could not be greater, since the latter prefer to hunker down and sulk, and ignore what's going on under their very noses. So they get to experience a “hostile environment” once in a while as well.

Among many other highlights:

  1. The TFP contingent with their long red banners, brass band, and bagpipe corps
  2. A guy dressed in a skin-tight blue “super hero” costume with two antennae
  3. An Orthodox group singing liturgical hymns as they marched (I made it a point to stick as close to them as possible since I love that music)
  4. A handful of Shriners, which I found intriguing
  5. Two eagles circling overhead as Rep. Paul Ryan spoke (wonder if he noticed)
  6. The Mall and Capitol grounds were nearly entirely accessible, unlike previous years when there were all sorts of barriers and the feeling was like being cattle in the Chicago stockyards. It would be interesting to know who changed the policy and why.

So – as usual, I'm glad I made the effort to attend, and I intend to keep showing up for as many more years as possible.