Friday, January 28, 2011

Duncan Cover

George Will calls him “the Obama administration's redeeming feature”, based on changes he has proposed to the American public education system. The person in question is Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education – which is to say, secretary of a department that shouldn't exist at all. In some ways, public education is one of the last holdouts of states' rights... along with capital punishment, I guess. But in other ways, it has been enveloped and taken over by the federal bureaucratic blob, of which the Department of Education is the very heart. And is this all the fault of liberals, socialists, culture warriors, and “agents of change”? Think again. Can you say “No Child Left Behind”? Yes, as usual, whenever one party decides to expand governmental powers, the other party can't wait to latch on and distort those powers to serve their own agenda. It's an endless cycle of expansion, distortion, protest, further expansion (as opposed to extermination, which ought to be the case), further distortion, further protest, ad infinitum. And of course, there are always “special interests” involved – which means, interests other than those of the American people. Well, the special interests are Americans too (usually) – but they almost invariably are working against the interests of the majority. And this, of course, calls into question the very idea of democracy – or, at least, the extent to which true democracy can coexist with big government (my feeling is, it can't).

But let's give the secretary the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume, for example, that he really means it when he expresses concern that many Americans have given up on improving bad schools... that only four members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have dropout rates higher than America's... that American businesses are moving their operations overseas simply because “we go where the smart people are”, to quote one executive. Or more precisely, they go where the educated people are. I don't think anyone buys the notion that Americans are inherently stupid; what's more likely is that the public schools make them that way. Or at least they make them into underachievers.

But what is the federal government's role in all this? “Duncan knows that Americans are uneasy about any national education standards that might emanate from a Washington they distrust...” What a remarkable admission! And from a liberal who works for a liberal administration. You don't suppose that Americans are finally starting to get suspicious about the real agenda of the public education cartel, do you? I mean, you can only chalk up so much of the problem to incompetent teachers and greedy unions; funding levels certainly can't be the problem, since public education funding has been, to say the least, extravagant for decades. Well, what is it, then? I mean... if, say, an enemy government, like the Soviet Union of old, had secretly taken over our public education system in order to turn out ignorant, helpless serfs (but with a gigantic sense of entitlement) and thus severely compromise the United States militarily and economically... well, there would be cause for concern, wouldn't there? I mean, wouldn't the actions of any homegrown collaborators with this program have committed what amounts to treason? And yet, that's exactly what has happened in public education over the past few decades; it's not just an accident or a side effect. They really are intentionally turning out ignoramuses in order to increase the power of social change advocates, create and maintain a reliable voting bloc for the liberals/collectivists, and extend the grip of the federal bureaucracy, especially the part dealing with social welfare, on the populace. I mean, you can't have a “people's republic” without having a great, gray mass of the uneducated who depend on the government for everything. So how do you maintain the illusion of an “educated populace” while seeing to it they come out stupid and ignorant? Simply by warehousing children in public schools for 13 years (on average), and handing out diplomas for breathing. But even so, note, we have a dropout rate that is a cause for concern. (Well, it might be, or maybe the dropouts are the smart ones, who have caught on to the scam.)

In any case, Duncan is concerned, and one might ask why. In other words, if he's really with the liberal-collectivist program, he should sit back, satisfied, and see the “failed” public education system as a success. But since it would never do to admit this, those successes have to be represented as failures. Or, if he genuinely is concerned, then he's not with the program, and it's amazing that he's managed to keep his job up until now.

Is this an extreme, “paranoid” point of view on the matter? Recall, if you will, the fate of Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system, who resigned last October. She had been, when hired, “promised wide latitude and significant authority in decision-making as well as strong mayoral support for her proposed initiatives”. But trouble arose when those initiatives included things like “seeking to purge public schools of teachers and principals whom she considered to be incompetent”... closing schools due to excess capacity... “a plan to add early-childhood programs, gifted and talented programs, art and music classes, and special education services”... seeking to “renegotiate how the school system compensates teachers”... “end(ing) teacher tenure and promot(ing) 'merit' pay”. In other words, she was a revolutionary, attacking a system as impacted and frozen in time as the Ottoman Empire. Needless to say, she ran into, let's say, a bit of opposition from the powers that be, particularly the teachers' unions. [Note: All quotes regarding Rhee are from her Wikipedia entry.]

But here was the last straw... and the one that made national headlines because it was so unbelievable: “Rhee fired 241 teachers, the vast majority of whom received poor evaluations, and put 737 additional school employees on notice.” And get this: “Of the dismissed teachers, 76 were dismissed in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act because they lacked proper teaching certification.” (Bush was right! Just kidding.) The irony being, the NCLB Act was just the sort of thing liberals claim to like – it's all “for the children”, etc. But when it comes down to cases, forget about it – it's jobs that count, not education.

So what was the bottom line to all this? “Rhee's actions... earned her applause from 'school reformers' nationwide, as well as the scorn of teacher unions and community activists." Now, notice a subtle bit of wording here. “School reformers” are on the opposite side of the issue from “community activists” -- which, I guess, means that community activists want the schools to stay just as they are – which is actually true. The reason is that the “activists” are on the side of collectivism and fostering dependency and reliable voting blocs, whereas the reformers are on the side of educating people to the point where they are able to think for themselves and be self-supporting -- a very politically-incorrect notion in this day and age. Why, it even smacks of elitism... racism... "hate"! (It would be interesting, some time, to trace the point at which those two impulses diverged, historically.)

Well, it's not hard to see how that degree of hostility, opposition, and push-back would cause a person to resign their post. It's probably a miracle that she held on as long as she did, but she strikes me as a “tiger lady” and very persistent and determined (based on a radio interview just after her resignation). In any case, she was... well, not defeated, exactly, but certainly discouraged, by the Forces of Stupid, and, I suspect, resigned in order to apply her efforts in a more fruitful direction. She had, I suspect, basically despaired of doing anything significant to improve the D.C. public schools -- the liberal heart of the liberal beast -- because she came to realize that no one cared (except her)... that everyone was perfectly satisfied with things just as they were... in other words, with a high-paying sheltered workshop for incompetents combined with a fast-track mechanism for replenishing the ignorant, dependent underclass. This – the combination of these two factors – is, in fact, the dream of all liberals. True reform is the last thing they want. Even the idealism of the old-time progressives has foundered on the rocks of collectivism and political correctness. I mean, the progressives of old, even if they were mesmerized by John Dewey, would probably not have knowingly turned out ignoramuses, doomed to a life “nasty, brutal, and short”, characterized by joblessness, violence, and addiction. Would they? I get the feeling they wouldn't -- at least not knowingly. But that was then, and this is now. The main bulwark of the liberal establishment in our time is the lumpen proletariat... so what could one expect but that they would spend as much time and money as need be perpetuating said proletariat? It makes perfect sense, given their agenda and their goals.

And as to Duncan – well, I hope he's sincere in his concerns, because that would be somewhat respectable, at least. But if so, he's working directly against the true agenda of his administration, his party, and liberalism in general. And maybe that's why they keep him around – to provide camouflage.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Tea Party in Kabul

The “tea party” is not dead yet, despite efforts by the left, liberals, progressives, Democrats, mainstream media, etc. to blame it for the Tucson shootings... and the strange new respect for “civility” -- which means, if you don't agree with us then shut the hell up – among formerly firebrand liberals like Barack Obama. As always – and this is part of human nature on the political side – the people in charge always favor law and order, “civility”, unquestioning obedience, etc.... no matter what their professed principles happen to be. Yesterday's street-marching, sitting-in protester is today's power-suited stuffed shirt... 'twas ever thus. Try to keep your political and moral “purity” in Washington, DC – it's only the very rare, very exceptional human being that is capable of such a feat. The rest fall to the usual blandishments of money, power, sensual pleasures, shows of superiority, and all the rest of it. It's not about political conviction, party, belief, or creed – it's the system itself that corrupts, and the corruption will not end until the system itself is deconstructed and replaced with something closer to the founders' intent.

With that as an opening statement, let us take a brief look at Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the “rising stars” of the Republican/conservative contingent in Congress. He has declined to join the Senate Tea Party caucus, and is “not even sure there's a need for one” -- based on the premise that the tea party's strength “comes from its grass roots... it is not a political organization [tell that to the MSM!]... it is a movement of everyday citizens from all walks of life.” So far so good. And: “My concern is a Tea Party caucus could intrude on that.” Well, yes. Because any organization that consists of part citizens and part politicians is going to wind up being run by the politicians for political purposes – which means, primarily, the acquisition and retention of power at the expense of principle.

I commented a while back that the Republicans reaching out to the “tea partiers” by setting up this caucus was like a degenerate, disease-infested old man proposing marriage to a young, virginal girl. Clearly, the Republican mainstream is only interested in the tea party to the extent that it can enhance their fortunes – which means votes and contributions. But by co-opting it they also accomplish a much-needed defusing of its agenda. You get welcomed into the inner sanctum, but they you have to play by inner sanctum rules, or risk being tossed out into the stormy night. So Rubio seems to be on the right track with his skepticism. He's trying to help the tea partiers retain their purity even in the midst of the massive moral dumpster of Washington politics.

So... the fate of the tea party in this regard has yet to be determined. The fact that people are still talking about it as a distinct entity is encouraging... but how much influence, if any, it will actually have on the legislative agenda is another matter.

But we're not finished with Rubio yet. According to a previous article, “Rubio was among freshman senators invited to accompany Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last week on a high-profile trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they dined with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and met with Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.” This was considered a bit suspect by conservatives because of McConnell's position at the very heart of the Republican establishment. But the real scandal is that Rubio saw fit to sit down to dinner with a corrupt puppet -- who represents our dismally-failed foreign policy -- and a somewhat lunatic, hyperactive general, who represents the American Empire-building war machine. You don't sit down and break bread with these clowns unless you're already pretty darned committed to supporting them and their cause (or whatever it is). And as I've pointed out on a number of occasions, support for the twin wars and a “muscular foreign policy” is the Achilles heel of the tea partiers. You can expect it from the Republicans, and certainly from the neocons, since they basically invented both things... and you can expect it from mainstream conservatives. One might have hoped that the tea partiers were a bit more enlightened on the matter, and had a better historical perspective – but it was obvious, all along, that this was not the case... especially when they all gathered around Sarah Palin like chicks around a mother hen, she being as extreme a war hawk as we've seen on the national scene for quite a few years. (Yeah, OK, I know it's a mixed metaphor. Mother hen... hawk... whatever.)

And what is wrong with the tea partiers being pro-war and pro-American Empire? Well, other than being in direct defiance of the Constitution (which the tea partiers claim to respect), it directly contradicts, cancels out, and neutralizes their positions on big government and the budget deficit. You can't pursue empire without big government, and you can't have big government in foreign affairs and, at the same time, small government in domestic affairs. It just doesn't work that way. And, you can't pursue empire the way we do without running up intractable debt. So if the tea partiers are opposed to big government, and to deficits, they have to oppose the wars, and campaign for an end to the American Empire (I mean a voluntary withdrawal, since the end will come sooner or later regardless). Otherwise they're just delusional – and right now Sen. Rubio seems to have fallen prey to that delusion. By sitting down with the likes of Karazai and Petraeus, he is not betraying the tea party, but may well be betraying the political and economic interests of the American people.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Out of Ideas

I've already discussed this notion that the terrorists – or whatever you want to call them – have “won” by forcing us to turn our country into a police state. My point was, how can they consider this a good outcome if they see nothing wrong with a police state? The Taliban in Afghanistan exerted a degree of control over the citizenry that the Maoists could only dream of. Nor have they “won” by making us feel, and act, less like “ourselves” -- because, again, they have no use for liberty and, as far as they're concerned, we've always been part of the colonial, oppressive, infidel Western alliance. That is, they have always found us distasteful, so if we have, of late, become a bit more distasteful to ourselves, well, that's a fairly marginal concern.

But there is one area where they can definitely, and with justification, claim that they've “won” -- but it's a bit on the abstract side, so it isn't going to impress too many people over here. And this is in the realm of moral superiority... the moral high ground... as opposed to hypocrisy, and being “no better” than anyone else – including the colonial powers of old, with all of their various instruments of oppression. You see, because we are, as I've previously discussed, an ideational culture – a nation founded on ideas rather than the traditional verities of race, creed, and ethnicity – ideas are our strong suit and our weak suit at the same time. They are our strong suit when they are, first, intrinsically valid, and, second, of general applicability to at least our own populace. They are also our strong suit when, in those instances where they are found to have validity and applicability to other societies, they are spread to those societies through peaceful and non-coercive means. In other words, there's nothing wrong with “spreading democracy” the old way – through example and through information (as opposed to propaganda)... and through genuine aid and assistance. But the down side of all this is that we, at some point, developed the idea that anyone who didn't see things our way – for whatever reason (cultural, religious, etc.) had to be forced to... or at least forced to go through the motions, pretending to see things our way even if they didn't. It was a case of “forced conversion”, if you will. In other words, our zeal to remake the world in our own image overcame the caveat that should have gone along with it -- “only if the world is willing”. Because even if our ideas are superior – not just good for us and no one else – that superiority is fatally compromised when force is used, the way charity is fatally compromised when it is taken over by the government. So while we might claim the moral high ground... some sort of moral superiority... within our own borders, the minute we try to export our ideas through force they lose all moral claims, and become just another oppressive system, as far as the objects of our exertions are concerned. So we wind up with countries around the world aping things like free elections, representative government, division of powers, etc. just to keep us happy (and mainly to keep all that aid money flowing). But do they believe in any of it? Possibly some do. But the majority seem to be gaming the system we have set up, to get as much out of it as possible without having to make any real investment – and let's face it, this is a traditional response of the “third world” to colonial incursions. During the Cold War, they gamed both us and the Soviets about equally – and some places managed to game both at once (India and Egypt come to mind).

So it would be easy enough to accuse third world governments of hypocrisy, corruption, and chicanery, but at least some of this is in response to our own hypocrisy. I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that there is more corruption in Iraq now that there was under Saddam... and more in Afghanistan than there was under the Taliban. Not that those regimes were anything to brag about – but they did manage to keep the lid on in certain respects. Even China has an agile response to corruption in high places, regularly executing people who, in this country, would, at worst, lose their job but then wind up with a book deal and a fat contract as a consultant or “commentator”.

The point is that the other side – whoever it happens to be at the time – can do us the most damage, in a sense, by exposing not only our folly (which is plain enough to see) but our loss of moral stature. And don't get me wrong – loss of moral stature on the international level is not the same as loss of moral stature domestically. The government could, in theory, continue to serve its own citizens fairly well while acting in a crude and ham-handed manner overseas. And this is not only because ideas that “work” here don't work elsewhere – although that is part of it. It's the very act of coercion... the patronizing, paternalistic notion that if only these primitive, superstitious natives could only see what democracy is all about... that corrupts and contaminates. Because those people may dimly understand some of the ideas, but what they most definitely understand is what's happening right before their eyes. We may feel like “idea people” at home around the fireplace, but in the war zone it's nothing but bombs and bullets – and that's what people see, and that's usually all they see. There was a cynical saying during the Vietnam conflict -- “When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” But of course, we weren't talking about “hearts and minds” at all, but the ability to play-act... and to smile, and bow, and grovel, and think about how to get rid of us as soon as possible. And we see much the same thing today in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of those people are really our friends? How many believe in what we are doing, and in what we (supposedly) represent? I think in most cases all they're trying to do is keep their butt in one piece, and wait until we leave (if ever), at which point they will cheerfully revert to type – whatever that is, for better or worse. We're always shocked at the speed with which a place will regress, like it was on the end of a rubber band, the minute our influence wanes. Likewise, the European colonial powers were undoubtedly a bit shocked when they saw how quickly sub-Saharan Africa reverted to tribalim. “And here I thought we'd taught the natives a thing or two.” It turns out that a few thousand years of culture is a more difficult thing to vanquish than anyone thought. Weren't all the EU members supposed to be some kind of blended, generic European by now? And yet the Germans still act like Germans, and the Greeks still act like Greeks, and so on. This must be very frustrating for the globalists and one-worlders. Even in this country, Southerns just won't quit being Southerners -- a great source of frustration for the cultural elite.

So to get back to the terrorists for a moment – are they the first group that has succeeded in seriously eroding our vaunted moral superiority? Well no – the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong did a pretty good job of it as well. And please notice that this is primarily a “relativistic” argument. Did the “Cong” treat people any better than we did? I tend to doubt it. But on the other hand, no one expected them to. There were no pretentions, and where there are no pretentions there can be no hypocrisy. The moral damage – the demoralization – that we suffer in our ill-advised efforts overseas is based on the discrepancy between our claims and the reality – i.e. the reality that they see, not the reality that we see here at home or pretend to see in the war zone. In other words, it's relative, not absolute. But ironically, it's at least partly our absolutist attitudes about our ideas and customs that leads people elsewhere to point out the discrepancies. There's nothing more annoying than a hypocritical Puritan, in other words. Normal human failure we can tolerate – but this trampling all over other people, and cultures, in combat boots, in the name of “ideas”... well, that simply can't be borne.

And it's not as though we were pure as the driven snow up to Vietnam. There have always been sharp discrepancies between our words (ideas) and our actions, in all wars and at all levels (including, I might add, our own Civil War). But in most cases we had at least clarity of purpose on our side – even if those purposes might have had a delusional quality. We bailed out Europe twice in 30 years... and G.I. Joe was busy handing out Hershey bars. OK, fair enough. If there are atrocity stories (about us) from the two World Wars, they are considered extreme deviations from the norm, and a contradiction to our entire purpose. But then came Vietnam, and things got a bit more murky. The mission, goals, and strategy were vague, and got more vague as things went along – and sure enough, this led, right down to the grass-roots “grunt” level, to demoralization and to events like My Lai. And don't think that the opposing side was not fully aware of all the “domestic politics” revolving around the war... and don't think they didn't do all they could to aid and abet the anti-war movement. But their main weapon – other than home-front opposition to the draft – was demonstration of our hypocrisy, and that we had sunk into a moral pit over there – again, relatively speaking... relative to our stated goals, priorities, and values. They didn't have to claim that they were better – only that we were no better... that we had failed miserably in living up to our alleged status of moral superiority, which gave us the right and the obligation to be the world's policeman. And in fact, another tactic that comes into play in situations like this is that, when we encounter an enemy that has no concept of "the rules of war", we tend to regress to their level -- in other words, we become what we behold. We were able to resist this moral hazard to a great extent in dealing with the Japanese and the North Koreans (and Chinese), but got sucked in in Vietnam (remember ear collecting?) and are getting sucked in in the Middle East as well -- further evidence of our hypocrisy! Now the enemy can brag that we behave as badly as they do, and that this is to our discredit (but not to theirs).

And you would think, or hope, that that one lesson (Vietnam) would have sufficed – but clearly it didn't, because here we are again, “up the Big Muddy” in Iraq and Afghanistan... and sharpening our bayonets for Iran as well. Because, well, this time our goals are clear, and we know our duty, and, besides, they attacked us, didn't they? I mean, Iraq didn't, but they could have... or they cheered when someone else did... or something. And Iran? Look what they did to our poor diplomats, and to Jimmy Carter (heh heh). And Afghanistan gave aid and comfort to the enemy – or at least the Taliban did, even though the enemy was mostly from Saudi Arabia, which is our trusted ally, even though they are the heart and soul of Wahabism, which has sworn vengeance on the infidel (us) and on the “Israeli entity”. Etc. etc. Are our mission, goals, and strategy in the Middle East really any clearer than they were in Vietnam? (At least there we could claim to be fighting communism, which is a political system, rather than "terror", which is an emotion.) Do we have any more of an “exit strategy” -- or do we have one at all? I think the point is, we have gotten into the habit of war – and when you're in the habit of war, morals are no longer an issue, and in fact ideas of any sort are no longer an issue. The only thing we use ideas for any more is as a kind of cover for our actions overseas – but the deception is so transparent that we may as well not bother. In fact, the main reason for keeping things on an ideational level is to placate certain portions of the home front – people who will do certain things for “a good cause” but not just for the old, ancient reasons of power, loot, and love of conquest. We have yet to admit to ourselves that we have become those sorts of people – even though the rest of the world is startlingly consistent in this assessment of us. (This is one reason why I think we should stay in the U.N., for example – how else are we going to get feedback?)

But as I said, this sort of victory remains abstract, and has minor diplomatic consequences at best (like Tony Blair being brought up on war crimes – if only!). It's not going to change things in a tangible way until we start paying attention to what everyone else is saying. But as it is, we're more likely to believe someone like Dick Cheney than someone like Osama bin Laden, when it comes to reasons for the “war on terror” (or the terrorists' war on us, AKA jihad). And we're more likely to continue using ideas, and delusions of moral superiority, as a cover for doing whatever we please in the world – because without those justifications, where would we be? Just another country? Just another colonial empire? Which means, no longer favored by God (assuming we ever were), and subject to the same dreary life-cycle phenomena as all other empires in history? It might even force us to take a good, hard look at precisely where we are in the classic empire life-cycle – because, to all appearances, we're over the hill and well on our way to a thundering fall. But all of this is too upsetting, so we go into denial... and continue to smoke the opium of forgetfulness and oblivion – that opium of ideas and moral pretense.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Like Father, Unlike Son

Well, it's the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War, and... can you believe it's been 20 years already? Wow, time sure flies when the American Empire is having fun. At any rate – George Bush Sr., AKA Bush I, AKA Bush 41, AKA The One With a Brain, is getting together with the old-school-tie gang to celebrate what was, I suppose, one of our finer moments, foreign policy-wise. Or war-wise, at least. We managed to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait by bombing the crap out of them as well as scooting across the desert, Rommel vs. Patton style... but mysteriously stopped just short of the Iraqi border – a move (or non-move) that was considered a bit wimpy and limp-wristed at the time. Why not go all the way to Baghdad? -- was the cry. Why not send troops after the Republican Guard and the Hammurabi Division? Well, we found out why later, when Bush's pinhead son, Bush 43, invaded Iraq in response to... well, let's just forget about the “why”, shall we? It's all too awkward... too “divisive”. And sure, the Republican Guard and the Hammurabi Division turned out to have glass jaws -- but then we had to deal with the Iraqi people, and where were those palm fronds they were supposed to strew in our path, according to the neocons? "Shock and awe" make great news footage, but there's nothing more depressing and demoralizing than being an occupying force in a country where the vast majority of people hate our guts.

But here's what gets me. According to an article dealing with the anniversary of the Gulf War, Bush the First is rightly proud of his accomplishment back then -- “he has no regrets about his administration's handling of the Gulf War... including the decision to pull out American forces even with a vanquished Saddam Hussein retaining power in Iraq”. And in retrospect, this does, in fact, seem to have been the right decision, although at the time – when I was still in my “neocon” mode, and before I realized that neoconservatism is a gigantic hoax – I was a bit put out by the... well, not cowardice necessarily, but let's call it “scrupulosity” involved. I mean, we went over there to liberate Kuwait (whether they deserved liberation or not), and that's just what we did – period. “Mission accomplished.” It was not yet time to invade Iraq; this decision had, clearly, been made at the “highest levels”, because at that point it would have been an easy enough thing to do, and it might even have worked – up to a point. But that was left for lesser men to accomplish, and pay the price for. At least someone at the time realized that chasing the Iraqis out of Kuwait and chasing them all the way to Baghdad were, let's say, two distinctly different types of operation. The minute you cross the border, you're fighting the enemy on his own soil -- a "home-field advantage" that has proven decisive down through history.

The article goes on to say that “Bush said that if he had pushed to oust or kill Saddam, he would have risked losing support from many other countries that backed the war after the invasion of Kuwait.” Can you say “coalition of the willing”, class? You know -- that group of supporters that has become increasingly disgusted with the Iraq debacle and has, one by one, taken their dolls and gone home? It seems Bush I and Co. also anticipated this problem.

And here's James Baker: If the mission had been changed from the liberation of Kuwait to an invasion of Iraq, “you would have been turning a war of liberation into a war of occupation.” Sound familiar? Baker also described the reaction of Congress thusly: “How can you spend the resources of the country on this adventure when people are going hungry and our domestic situation and blah, blah, blah.” Right. And it's funny how all those “blah blah blah's” finally caught up with Bush II, and now with Obama. To paraphrase Orson Welles -- "we will sell no war before its time."

The bottom line of all this is that Bush I and his crew are bathing in fond remembrance of all the mistakes they didn't make – mistakes which Bush II and his crew were only too anxious to make after 9/11. Is there some Freudian theme going on here? It was often remarked, after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, that Bush II was trying to somehow make up for his father's failings and short-sightedness... to be better than the old man... a better warrior, a better war president. Very possible, certainly... but it can also be argued that Bush I was not only right, but was at least his own man to some extent... that he's reasonably intelligent and has a sense of history (two qualities that Bush II has never been accused of having)... and that he knew, or had a gut feel for, what would happen if we ever tried to put “boots on the ground” in Iraq.

Of course, it can also be argued that Bush I's actions only served to “kick the can down the road”, and that we would, sooner or later, come into conflict with Iraq anyway. So he, basically, left the problem up to the next chump, er, president... who turned out to be, not Bill Clinton, but his own son. Another Freudian angle to all this! ("I always said you weren't worth a damn!") Or maybe it's just karma. Certainly both Bushes are card-carrying members of the power elite; no one has ever denied that. But even within those hallowed and exalted ranks, there survive individual differences in intellect, style, and so forth. Bush I was a pragmatist, not an idealist, and was never really with the program when it came to Reaganomics or “the shining city on a hill” or any of that other stuff. He is, was, and ever shall be a globalist and an elitist, seeking the advantage of his own class at whatever expense it might entail for everyone else. But hey, at least he's honest about it. His son, on the other hand, is not only a pinhead, but also a dupe, and easily malleable by dark forces. So which of them merits more respect? And which one turned out to have the more sensible foreign policy? The globalist or the – allegedly – patriot/idealist? Certainly, both were pursuing the American Empire as a subset of globalism, but in Bush I's case it was a more overt, unabashed operation – the “new world order” and all that. Bush II had to disguise his globalism in patriotic garb – or let's say that his handlers had to do so.

Frankly, if I have to choose between two varieties of globalist empire builders, I'd prefer the pragmatist who makes no bones about his ambitions and who actually has something to say about what happens. The alternative – the sock-puppet model represented by Bush II – is demeaning, revolting, and completely unworthy of even a dishonorable program like empire-building.

Show Me the Stupid

Two recent articles having to do with American “higher education” caught my attention recently. One, in the daily paper, was entitled “Least-demanding colleges produce 'limited learning'” -- a real shocker, that – and the other article, in The Wanderer (a Catholic national newspaper), dealt with the tyranny of college degree requirements.

Regarding the first article, it seems that “45% of students in [the]survey show skills have only marginally improved after first two years”. In other words, the skill differential between a high-school graduate and someone with two years of college was nil in these cases. So what were they doing all that time? Underwater basket weaving? Well, the “skills” in question were “critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing” -- and be honest, when's the last time you heard of a college offering courses or training in any of those things, especially in the first two years? The article goes on to mention that reading and writing requirements were modest at best, but for some reason the term “least-demanding colleges” never comes up in the text, so there's no way of knowing where the 24 schools in question ranked on the “demanding” scale. Maybe the assumption is that, based on the results, the schools must have been among the least-demanding; but that would be optimistic, it seems to me... although it is intriguing that “the schools took part on the condition that their institutions not be identified”. Maybe this was the Special Olympics of Colleges, or something.

The second article leads off as follows: “More on the iniquity of employers requiring college degrees as a screening device, making their possession a condition people must meet even to be interviewed for employment...” It contrasts the technicality of having a college degree with actually having knowledge and skills, and remarks that the injustice is multiplied when the cost of a college education is considered. It also points out that “using a screening device is an easy way out that has short-term benefits, but long-term costs”. (I might mention that the Army has grappled with a similar issue in deciding whether to require a high-school diploma for enlistment, in addition to making a satisfactory score on standardized enlistment tests.) The author then makes a radical proposal – that “people... stop sending their children to college unless there is clearly something for them to gain in the way, not of credentials, but of actual valuable knowledge and skills.” And while I see his point, it also runs the risk of reducing the whole “higher education” question to one of technological training and job skills, while forgetting “the idea of a university”, in the words of Cardinal Newman. There's no sense arguing over which is more important – training for life, or education for the _considered_ life. Most people are required to earn a living, and some of them, at least, would like to be able to do a bit of critical thinking, reading, and writing (and blogging) on the side. There should be an honored place in society for both paths... and dishonor for institutions that, through what amounts to fraud, cause people to waste their time and money (and introduce moral hazards into their lives besides).

So each article is dealing with a different facet of the same crisis. A college education is considered essential for any “meaningful” work, and yet much of what constitutes that “education” produces nothing but wasted time... and, I imagine, no small amount of demoralization, and a loss of self-esteem. What we are seeing with American colleges – which includes the undergraduate portion of universities – is a situation that is not “normal”. It's pathological and sick and distorted... and has degenerated mostly over the past few decades. There was a time when colleges represented the “liberal arts” -- learning for learning's sake. This, of course, had – and continues to have – a bit of an elitist (i.e., “un-American”) ring to it, since few were the families that could afford to send a child to college for four years simply to become “educated”. And it's not that the liberal arts idea was anything new; it began as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe. But a “college education” was something that the elite could aspire to, but the ordinary person could not, because it was a luxury. And this is not to say that the scions of the rich didn't frequently waste their college years in hedonism, dissipation, and other carnal pursuits – because many of them did. But that was their privilege because, again, not many were expected to “transition” directly from college to “the real world” and become instantly self-supporting. And I can argue that there are just as many of those types around as there ever were – but their presence is obscured by the vast majority whose situation is different. Those "average" types go into college stupid and come out stupid – but with a diploma in their hand, which they wave like a magic wand and get a job that they could have qualified for just as easily right out of high school.

And I suppose that the traditional situation prevailed, relatively intact, up until the post-World War II era. You had a hierarchy of labor – unskilled day labor, semi-skilled factory labor, skilled labor, the trades, etc. -- that had no relationship with “higher education” (and often no relationship with education beyond the 6th grade). Then you had technical and engineering schools, business schools, teacher's colleges, and all the rest of the educational infrastructure that prepared people for white-collar jobs. And at the same time, you had apprentice systems in many of the trades, on-the-job training, and what not... and in the arts, there were art schools, music schools, performing arts schools and academies, and what not. Then there was the vast portion of the populace that simply “worked their way up”, as my grandfather did (from clerk to bank president – in the same small-town bank). And then there was the military, which, for many, provided a career (and, secondarily at that time, some sort of training that could be applied in the civilian world). And then there was agriculture, which was, first and foremost, an apprentice system (the youth was apprenticed to his father), and which might include some “ag school” training. Only the “higher” professions – law, medicine, etc. -- consistently required college as a prerequisite – and there were even exceptions to that. And if you wanted to teach at the high school or college level, you had to have at least a bachelor's degree; that's only fair. But there would still have been the question of the proportion of time spent on subject matter vs. "education" -- i.e. technique. (That issue is still being debated.)

Plus, we tend to forget that, for the vast majority of Americans prior to World War II, high school (note the word “high”) was considered sufficient preparation for life, in terms of the “3 Rs” and education in general. And we also tend to forget that a high school education – again, prior to World War II and for a while after – was a real education, not just a glorified means of warehousing unruly teenagers. (Lily Tomlin's character Ernestine used to brag, “I am a high school graduate!” -- and considering her 1940s hairdo, this was a perfectly valid thing to brag about.) It is a truism that a college education has replaced a high-school education in the credentials department – but that is only because a college education in our time produces about the same level of “educated-ness” that a high-school education did in the old days. In other words, it now takes 4 more years to obtain the same results – and in most cases, they aren't even the same. High schools used to produce literate people; colleges now produce what I call the pseudo-literate – technically, they can read and write, but their writing is abominable (even with spell- and grammar-check) and their reading is limited to trash. Oh, and a high-school graduate used to be able to calculate square roots using a pencil and paper. Lots of luck with that these days! (Even the old slide rules required a bit of muscle power. When's the last time you saw one of those?)

So what created this situation? How did we get from the “good old days” to where we are now, when it comes to education? Well, a lot of factors entered in. One, I suspect, was that “a college education” became, at some point, a kind of fetish -- not to mention a sign and symbol of egalitarianism. To start with, no one wanted to hire someone with only a high-school education for a job that might require some perspective, a broad view of things, and some “background”. So this amorphous thing called “a college education” was added to the list of qualifiers for many – largely white-collar, largely business-related – jobs... and this began, I believe, well before World War II. And the effect was amplified – and even caused, to some extent – by the migration out of the agricultural sector and into the business/industrial sector that began in earnest around World War I. Suddenly the typical American was not the sturdy farmer, but the white-collar city dweller... and the qualifications for the latter were much more amorphous. So apprenticeship and training were replaced by something called “education” -- which, allegedly, prepared you to be trained for something. This is where the “four more years” phenomenon got its start, I believe.

Then you had the huge shot in the arm known as the G.I. Bill. After World War II, returning veterans were not satisfied to just go back to the family farm, or the factory, or to take on the same trade as their fathers. No – they had to go to college, in order to qualify for... what? For life in the ever-expanding, urban, white-collar world, I guess. Even the old-time white-collar training grounds like business schools suddenly started to look a bit shabby and second-rate compared to a “four-year school” and a bachelor's degree. And besides the agricultural sector started doing such a good job at producing food that only a small fraction of Americans were required to actually farm – everyone else was free to do as they pleased... which usually meant cities, factories, high-rise office buildings, etc. And on the egalitarian side, once college was no longer the province of the "elite" or the rich, everyone felt a whole lot better. Why, any ordinary Joe could go off to college, if he was just willing to invest the time and money and apply himself -- a sort of "Horatio Alger meets John Dewey" phenomenon.

So while none of these trends was objectionable per se, it did form the start of the somewhat arbitrary notion of “needing a college degree”. Professions and careers that one could have started on right after high school suddenly became college degree-based – in most cases for what I would consider vague reasons. But make no mistake, the notion was energetically promoted by the government, by business, and certainly by the educational establishment. Forget the little red schoolhouse! And the best high school or prep school in the country wasn't good enough any more – unless you wanted to become some kind of gypsy or bohemian, or trust fund brat. Now it's: Get that degree! Declare a major! And mostly – extend your non-productive, youthful years by four more. Adult responsibility now did not have to begin until age 22 or so – a scandal to the old-timers, for certain. (And, please note, ObamaCare has now extended the period of adolescence to age 26. But the grad schools beat him to it decades ago.)

So... one of the major consequences of the growing arbitrariness of a college education was that it began to lose all meaning for a substantial portion of college students. They couldn't quite understand what they were doing there because – simply – there _was_ no good reason. So how did they respond to this absurdity? Why, by turning their college years into one grand, continuous, non-stop orgy of drink, drugs, and sexual activity... a tendency greatly aided and abetted by the fraternity and sorority systems, I might add. And you can throw in, if you want, another bit of decadence, namely the domination of inter-collegiate athletics over all other activities and priorities. So we then had the emergence of what are called “party schools”, “football schools”, and so forth – having absolutely nothing to do with education (“higher” or otherwise) and everything to do with extending the teen years into the twenties. Surely, this is something only a society with more resources on its hands than it knows what to do with can afford! When I gaze upon a typical gaggle of college students or university undergraduates, I am reminded of nothing so much as the Roman mob of old – sensual, degenerate, chronically unemployed, and basically existing on the margins of society... and yet a powerful force in many ways (socially, culturally, economically).

Right about now, you might want to ask, “OK, but how do you fix this? Where do you start?” Well... I could just lamely point out that you can't unscramble eggs, and that it will take a revolution or a complete societal collapse to cause any change – and that only with considerable pain. And this may, in fact, be the case. After all, there was another “curious institution” in the country in the old days, and that was slavery – and it was only brought to an end by the total destruction of half of the country by the other half. I'm not sure that the “higher education” system is as intractable as slavery was... but it has to be close. To begin with, we would have to start at the bottom, by reforming the public schools, and by restoring our high schools to their former status – a status now enjoyed only by a select group of private schools. And this, in turn, would have to involve rounding up the leaders of the teachers' unions and hanging them by the neck until dead. Well... we might not have to go quite that far, but it would certainly feel that way, not only to the union leaders but to the rank and file. For public-school teaching has become just another government job – which means that it is not subject to private-sector factors such as pay for performance, promotions based on quality of work, objective standards for hiring and firing, etc. So how do you unwind this? I'm not sure it's possible. The only way might be to, rather than mount a direct attack, simply work on eroding the base – by aiding, abetting, and encouraging more private schools, parochial schools, charter schools, home schooling, etc. But you would then be working against what has become the primary function of the public schools, namely the warehousing of children and keeping them off the streets and out of their parents' hair. Eliminate those functions, and there's not a whole lot left; most of what is left could be accomplished in less than an hour a day. What I'm saying is that the “social function” of the public schools has long since overtaken the educational function – and totally replaced it in some instances (“inner-city schools” being the best example). The government is now in the day-care business – and anyone up to the age of 18 qualifies. If you want education, you have to look elsewhere.

But let's assume that the problems and dysfunctions, and downright viciousness, of the public schools could be eliminated. (And gimme a toke of that stuff, dude!) And let us assume that the public high schools could somehow return to their days of glory. Wouldn't this solve the “college problem”? Well, it would certainly solve some facets of it – like the fact that it now takes a college education to get people to the point a high-school education would have a few decades ago. But it would not solve what I call the fetish problem; that would take a sea change in thinking throughout our society – or at least throughout the (roughly) upper half (including the business world, for example). And it would not solve the problem of people aged 18-22 or thereabouts somehow “needing” a four-year vacation from responsibility and a four-year delay of adulthood. This would take not only a sea change in thinking, but a major alteration in what I'll call “family values” in the broad sense -- and an alteration in our whole way of thinking about growth, development, and maturity... and readiness for life. A society that thinks age 7 is much too young for First Confession, and age 14 is much too young for Confirmation, is likely to think age 18 is much too young for assuming adult responsibilities. (The question then becomes, at what age should someone be ready to assume adult responsibilities? And the default answer, in many cases, will be “never”. This, of course, plays right into the hands of the Regime, which wants nothing more than a populace of passive, ignorant, helpless serfs.)

Plus, someone is going to argue that the country has changed radically since the little red schoolhouse days. True enough – but most of the tangible changes have been technological, and those can be taken care of quite nicely – as they often are – through the ministrations of technical schools, engineering schools, and career programs and junior and community colleges. You don't need a four-year bachelor's degree to become a “techie” or a “geek”. We have to get over this idea. And as to the “professions”, like law and medicine... well, what's wrong with someone going into law or med school right from high school, but with the addition of whatever prerequisites are deemed appropriate? In other words, provide only as much of the standard college curriculum as is required in order to move on to pre-med or pre-law. But, ah, you'll say – how does someone of the tender age of 18 “know” that they want to be a doctor, or lawyer, or whatever? Well... many do, in fact. I went to college with people who declared their intention to be a doctor or lawyer on the first day of freshman orientation. (And most of them made it -- the ones who didn't wind up on a rural hippie commune in Northern California, that is.) But for those who are not as focused, they can “try out” a career field, content-wise, in a two-year program or no “program” at all – just take some courses and see how you like it. Why does it have to be four-year (or mediocre two-year) or nothing? Why can't institutions offer “med prep” or “law prep” courses with which people can “try their vocation”? Religious institutions have been doing this for centuries. Again, you take the typical four-year college career, eliminate the busywork and wasted time, and you really don't have much more than a year of quality work, if that. Anyone who envisions going into a profession should be capable of going through a trial year, after which they either go on or leave without prejudice. Imagine having settled this issues by age 19! I mean – not everyone would, but many would, and would jump at the chance.

And of course there will still be room for the true “liberal arts” types – the ones who want (and can afford) education for education's sake – and who are willing to put off the “career decision” until they have a liberal arts degree under their belt. But I suspect that, once the fetish, status, and quality factors are eliminated, this will leave a fairly small number of dedicated academic types – not the knuckle-dragging hedonists who overrun our campuses now. And the costs that society would save by eliminating unnecessary and superfluous “education” would be staggering!

Anyway, this is my vision – and “all it takes” is an enormous amount of will power and a radical, revolutionary attitude on the part of society – neither of which is likely to manifest itself at any time soon. So... the solution is there, it's available, but it won't be enacted – which means that, really, no one has anything to complain about.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Rules of the Game

The sign of a skilled chess player is his ability to anticipate moves -- his own, obviously, but more importantly those of his opponent. I imagine that this ability is highly correlated with success in the game… but it’s also highly correlated with success in politics. The essence of political activity is to promote one’s own position while at the same time being fully prepared for any and all reactions that might lead to… but also to be able to estimate the various probabilities of all the different probable reactions. The more probable reactions take planning and anticipation; the less probable can usually be written off. But all good politicians, no matter what their positions are, are quick on their feet. The ones who wind up like "a deer in the headlights" are almost bound to lose.

A successful politician, in other words, is seldom if ever taken by surprise. When someone reacts to something he says or does, he already has the next move prepared and hanging out of his back pocket, all ready to be snatched out and tossed down like a referee’s flag in football. A truly masterful politician, even when he seems to be surprised or set back by events, is able to turn things around in his favor -- as witness what Bill Clinton was able to do any number of times, even when the odds seemed to be against him. He was, you might say, a genius as making lemonade out of political lemons… or stone soup out of the stones that were tossed his way. (Of course, it also helped that he had no conscience or sense of shame.) Barack Obama, on the other hand, does not show as much innate skill -- which is why he likes to turn press conferences over to Bill Clinton -- but he does have a vast army of handlers, facilitators, and supporters ready to fill in at a moment’s notice. So while the Democratic Party seems to have its ups and downs, Obama really doesn’t, and that’s a testimony not only to his studied aloofness but to the skill of the
people who put him in office and want him to stay there. When you have the mainstream media cheering your every move, and hanging on your every word, it’s hard to make any mistakes -- or at least hard to appear to be making any. People will cover your tracks for you the way dog owners will come along behind their incontinent companions with paper towels and baggies.

So when it came to the recent shootings in Tucson, the least surprising response was that of the mainstream media, which took about one nanosecond to start blaming Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the “tea partiers”, conservatives in general, “rhetoric”, “divisiveness”, and what not. They were primed to do this… quivering in anticipation of the next disaster, and fully prepared with “talking points”. Of course, the disaster had to have certain features in order to serve the purpose. An everyday drive-by shooting in the inner city over a drug deal gone bad would not have qualified, for example… nor a killing resulting from a “domestic altercation”. But to have a Democratic congresswoman shot? Well, that was made to order. The, what I call “latent meme”, is as follows: Any violent act against a Democratic and/or liberal politician (not a total redundancy), or against a known liberal media type or operative, or against someone who promotes the liberal agenda in any way, is, by definition, an act of domestic terrorism on the part of the “extreme right”. In other words, there is no such thing as individual responsibility -- a hallowed principle of liberalism, by the way -- and there is no such thing as criminal insanity -- another hallowed principle. (There is such a thing as political insanity, however -- as Stalin could have told you.) Every act, in other words, is political -- and they really believe this! And if every act is political, then any act against a liberal or Democrat is political with names attached -- Republican, conservative, tea party, Palin, Limbaugh, etc.

Consider, for a moment, the language that had already started to permeate the mainstream press the day after the shooting. It “left Americans questioning whether divisive politics had pushed the suspect over the edge.” Really? You mean the survey of Americans on this issue was conducted, and the data analyzed, in roughly twelve hours? And then we have Sheriff Dupnik, who “pointed to the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country”. Again, really? “Consumed?” And where does a sheriff get off commenting on this sort of thing? See… whenever the words “divisive”, “vitriolic”, and “rhetoric” appear, you can be certain that it’s liberals talking about conservatives -- because liberals, of course, never indulge in “rhetoric” or anything else that is “divisive” or “vitriolic”. Which is to say, the only way to avoid being condemned by liberals and the MSM for being divisive, vitriolic, and engaging in rhetoric, is to just shut up and quit protesting against ObamaCare, socialism in general, illegal immigration, and anything else the liberals/Democrats come up with. Because, you see, in the ultimate reckoning, protest is un-American and treasonous… a position which the liberals share with, among others, Hitler and Stalin. (And by the way, one definition of the word “rhetoric” is “the art of speaking or writing effectively” -- clearly something liberals have no use for.)

But to return to our heroic sheriff, who speaks of “vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government” -- but who, pray tell, is actually advocating that? Some libertarians and anarchists, for sure… but surely not Sarah Palin, or Rush Limbaugh, “talk radio” in general, or the “tea partiers”. I mean, without government, how could we keep going to war? And those folks are, if anything, consistently pro-war. But he goes on: “Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” Gee, you think the office of sheriff in Arizona is an elective office? I sure hope so. But you have to admire the swift work of whoever supplied him with his talking points. After all, they have everything to gain, and nothing to lose if some Arizona sheriff makes a flaming ass of himself.

Moving back to the more generic level, the article (now remember, this had to go to press no more than 12 hours after the shooting) says “some politicians expressed hope that the killing spree serves as a wakeup call at a time when the political climate has become so emotionally charged.” Again, who is supposed to “wake up”? It’s more likely they want people to go to sleep… or simply disappear. I mean, the act of a lone nut with a gun should be a wakeup call for law enforcement in Arizona… but why for anyone else? And as to "emotionally charged" -- that's practically the definition of politics. And likewise: “the suspect’s exact motivation was not clear” -- well right, that tends to be true of psychotics. And here’s another gem: “It’s still not clear if the gunman had the health care debate in mind.” Oh, right -- he was clearly engaged in intense analytical labor over the health care bill for the months prior to the shooting; anyone can see that.

So much for the day after the shooting. But the next day, the media continued to pile on. Again, a very small sample: A headline -- “Do violent political images, rhetoric incite the unstable?” And: “There’s no evidence that Palin’s ad contributed to a gunman’s decision”, etc. (But we know it did, right?) And “the shooting is sparking an intense debate over whether incendiary [wow -- another scare word] political talk across the country… is a real danger, or merely vivid political rhetoric.” And -- “Many liberals… say it fuels anger and could help push some who seethe with rage over the line into violence.” In other words, conservatives had better just shut up, because there are all sorts of nut cases out there listening to them (but they never listen to liberals, right?). And -- “Images of bloody violence have been rising in political debate in recent years.” Really? Where? When? I have yet to see any. You mean the major parties have actually used “images of bloody violence” in campaigns? Or maybe it’s just the conservatives, but still… where is the evidence? And speaking of evidence, what evidence is there that the shooter was the least bit motivated by any sort of coherent political beliefs, from anywhere along the spectrum? I have yet to hear of any. But it’s still “a wakeup call”, yadda yadda. So crazy people can send a “wakeup call” to sane people. Since when? According to this view, all political debate and dialogue should be held in secret, behind closed doors, lest an unbalanced person hears something and decides to act on it. And I guess the next version of "campaign reform" will be "no campaigning at all, because of the dangers involved" -- which, I confess, would be a great blessing.

But this is what the liberals and the mainstream media really believe, and they also have a variety of more subtle ways of expressing it. How many times in the past few days have you heard the phrase, “Although there is no direct evidence of…” when applied to the killer? (I’m glad this is only a blog and I don’t have to go through the ritual of saying “suspect”.) Well, if there is “no direct evidence” then why bring it up at all? For the same reason a politician on the campaign trail might say, “Although there is no direct evidence that my opponent raped his own grandmother…” But once you say that, you plant the seeds of suspicion in everyone’s mind. If it’s being discussed, there must be something to it. If the Air Force says that UFOs don’t exist, then they must. Right? And so on. Call it what you will -- paranoia, distrust of authority, plain human perversity, “itchy ears”, whatever -- the media are expert at taking advantage of it.

Likewise, although the killer’s motives seem to have had nothing to do with any coherent political position, it’s nonetheless “a good time” to discuss the corrosive effects of “rhetoric”, “hostility”, “extremism”, and so on -- in other words to further alienate (if that’s even possible) the “radical right” from any position of influence or respect in American politics. And in this sense, it resembles nothing more than the classic “false flag” or provocateur action -- the classic example being the Reichstag fire, which Hitler used as an excuse to suppress communists and other opposing political groups. Now, not all “Reichstag fires” are intentionally set by the government -- but there is always the suspicion that many are, just based on what happens next. The Oklahoma City bombing occurs, and Bill Clinton proceeds to blame Rush Limbaugh, and the Democrats try to pass a law banning “talk radio”, or at least reviving the “fairness doctrine”, which would amount to the same thing. The 9-11 attacks occur, and we wind up invading two countries and turning our own into a police state. And now we have “Tucson” -- a name that will live in infamy, along with other alleged right-wing attacks on “the heart of America”. But it’s funny how things like the Waco massacre, which are overtly state terrorism against its own citizens, never seem to wind up in the same category. It’s good to be king -- and it’s good to be on the winning side in the culture wars.

So the bottom line (so far) -- and the one the liberals and Democrats, and their media facilitators, will adhere to in their interminable discussions of, and references to, this event -- is that even though the killer was not clearly and demonstrably under the influence of the “radical right”, his deed was nonetheless performed in the same spirit… or under some vague influence. He might have just overheard a “right-wing” speech on the radio… but that was enough, because unstable people are like that. They’re just helpless victims of their environment (another article of liberal faith). And besides, don’t forget that every human act is political, and any act against a liberal is, by definition, the political work of a conservative -- either a card-carrying one or one in spirit. And in any case, this is something that the radical right would do if it could get away with it. Yes, they are just itching to gun down as many Democrats and liberals as they can -- no doubt about it! And what’s more, they are probably cheering, and giving each other high fives, in their knotty-pine rec rooms and mobile homes scattered across fly-over country, and reveling in what happened. This notion is also on the media menu… their abundant feast of propaganda that gets trotted out at times like these.

So much for what I call the first stage -- the first move in this dreary chess game, and the most predictable. The second stage, which has also already occurred, consists of the reactions of conservative politicians and commentators to having been painted with this brush. They, believing in individual responsibility and also in the reality of insanity, contend that this guy really and truly acted on his own, according to his own delusional system and world view, and that his act was not political and not inspired in any way by “heated rhetoric”, the recent elections, the health-care debate, illegal immigration and the reaction thereto, or anything else that might make at least some sense. And they become highly indignant, and point out the Democrats’ and the media’s perfidy in even hinting at such a thing for political gain, etc. But of course none of it could have come as any sort of shock; as Limbaugh said last Monday, they simply applied a pre-existing template to the event. Fairness and objectivity don’t enter in, any more than they ever do.

But here’s where it gets a bit more interesting -- more chess-like. The Democrats/liberals and the mainstream media are betting that the American people will buy their arguments, and immediately turn against conservatives, tea partiers, Sarah Palin, talk radio, etc. Which means that those elements will be isolated and left high and dry by the process, and the liberals can then claim total victory (while honoring the shooting victims as martyrs for their cause). The irony being that this comes just a couple of months after many Democrats were thrown out of Congress on their ear -- and can you imagine if this had happened prior to the elections? The Democrats would have won in a landslide -- or so they must think. But it’s not too late! They can declare the election null and void, and demand that it be done over -- unlikely, but don't you know they fantasize about this? But they can at least isolate, intimidate, disenfranchise, and silence all opposition in Congress and elsewhere across the political scene. After this, no one on the right will dare to speak up or even show their face again for years, if ever. This is their devout hope.

And as an aside, I suspect that there are not a few mainstream Republicans who are almost as happy about all of this as the Democrats. After all, this unwashed rabble called the “tea party” managed to unseat a lot of the insiders, and then proceeded to win some elections and descend on Washington, and to be sworn in… but all to no avail, because again, they will have to stifle themselves and defer to the mainstream Republicans, who will present themselves, as always, as the voice of reason and moderation… and compromise to the point of losing their identity, or what little they had left.

So everything appears to be going the liberals/Democrats’ and mainstream Republicans’ way in all of this -- and just in the nick of time! Now the American people will see what those hateful right-wingers and radicals, and tea partiers, are really made of. They’re killers! Terrorists! And their facilitators on Fox News and talk radio have to be suppressed, banned, forced to yield “equal time”, and so on.

But this would be to underestimate two things: One, the ability of the right, or conservatives, to strike back against all of the calumny and character assassination, and two, the ability of the American people -- some of them, at least -- to see through it all. And thus we enter upon the second stage, which is the conservative reaction to the liberal reaction to, and “spin” on, the shootings -- and what do you know, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh are in the lead on this, along with Beck, Hannity, and some other of the “usual suspects”. Well, this too was predictable up to a point -- I mean, didn’t Limbaugh fight back against Clinton’s blaming him for Oklahoma City? And didn’t he manage to stay on the air through it all? And wasn’t it all more or less forgotten by the time the election of 2000 rolled around? (Either that or it was counterbalanced by Waco.) So it’s just conceivable that the second-stage reaction can neutralize the first-stage reaction… or even that the conservatives et al can come out better than before… again, depending on how the public reacts to the controversy. And by “the public”, I mean that portion whose opinions are actually subject to events rather than purely to “ideas” and theories. Those latter won’t change their minds no matter what -- they are the solid core constituency of any politician on the national level. But there is the great, gray middle that can be influenced by events, by arguments, by the media, etc. -- not that they’re all that intelligent or wise, by any means, but they do have a certain degree of flexibility. They are, in fact, despised by all true believers as being gullible, impulsive, superficial, etc. -- but let’s face it, these are the people who determine how elections come out, not the true believers on either side.

Then we come to the third stage, which has already begun but, at this writing, seems still to be in progress… and that stage involves the reaction of the establishment to the reaction of the conservatives to the reaction of liberals to the shooting. You follow that? In other words, what does the mainstream press and the commentariat make of the indignation of prominent conservative politicians and spokesmen at the knee-jerk, meme-driven, politically-motivated response of the mainstream media and liberal politicians to the shooting? And this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy, in chess terms -- this is where the possibilities start to branch out and multiply. And, as usual, it is not epitomized by anything Obama has said or may say, but by his toadies and facilitators in the mainstream media, most of whom have not yet gotten the “message” that Obama supposedly communicated the other day in Tucson -- the message of coming together in peace and without rancor or "rhetoric" (or dissent, opposition, skepticism, or any other nasty things).

Given that the initial reaction to the shooting was totally predictable… and that it happened, sure enough, just as anyone would have predicted… and that the reaction to that was largely predictable… then what is the reaction to that likely to be? In the case of Oklahoma City/Clinton/Limbaugh, it seemed to involve a slight cooling of the rhetoric. In other words, the Clinton administration pulled back a bit from direct accusations, but -- as I recall -- persisted in pushing the “Hush Rush” bill until it died an obscure death somewhere on Capitol Hill… along with the drive to reinstate the “fairness doctrine” (which had been an earlier manifestation of liberals’ attempt to control the broadcast media -- as if they didn’t already do so, by and large). In other words, the reaction to the pushback -- both from Limbaugh and the public at large -- forced the administration to rethink its strategy somewhat, and pursue it in somewhat less inflammatory terms. Of course, as far as they were concerned, the damage had been done… but even that turned out not to be the case. Limbaugh came through relatively unscathed in the long run -- for better or worse, since he became one of George W. Bush’s most ardent supporters in his (Bush’s) drive to become a war president. And when it comes to the mainstream Republican agenda, Limbaugh is basically the last man standing… aside from actual Republican elected officials, that is… most of whom probably believe in the party platform less fervently than Limbaugh does.

The question then becomes, will something comparable happen in this instance? Is it already happening? So far we have a mixed message -- a “healing” message from Obama and a more insidious, “deep thought” message from the liberal brain trust. America really is sick, and conservatism is the sickness. It’s possible that the bared fangs and claws of the liberal establishment will wind up being drawn back somewhat -- but certainly not because they have newfound respect for the conservatives, the “tea partiers”, Palin, Limbaugh, or anyone else. It will be because they have found themselves once again slightly tone-deaf when it comes to judging the mind and attitudes of the American people -- whom they still depend on, like it or not (and they don’t), for votes and for at least implicit support. It is hard, obviously, for people who believe that the East and West Coasts (and the East Coast only as far south as Washington, except for Florida) are the only parts of the U.S. that “count”. (Throw in Chicago too, if you like -- at least as long as Obama stays in office.) The rest of the country is a blighted land where it is always night, and where ignorance and “hate” reign. It is a land of blind, lurching, ape-like knuckle-draggers who feel naked without their KKK outfits, pickup trucks, guns, and Bibles. And so on. Yet, inexplicably, these people (if one can even call them that) are still allowed to cast votes -- in elections which are ultimately meaningless but which can still have an impact on the careers of individual politicians. And because of this, a certain price must be paid, and that is to pay lip service to -- or at least not show continuous hostility toward -- the backward attitudes and beliefs of these “folks”, as Obama would say. And who exemplifies these attitudes and beliefs better than the conservatives, and people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh? Sad but true -- they have to be allowed to remain at large a little bit longer… until the revolution is almost complete, at which point they can be snuffed out like guttering candles.

So far, the liberals/Democrats have played their cards masterfully. They started making outrageous accusations immediately after the shooting, and thus inciting all sorts of indignation and howls of protest from the conservatives… at which point, they immediately shifted -- or at least Obama did -- into peacemaking mode. Saith our saintly president: “None of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.” Except that all of his supporters seem to know… so what’s going on? “None of us can know… what might have stopped those shots from being fired…” Well, let’s start by taking “talk radio” off the air. And, “… or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.” Other than resentment about ObamaCare, that is. So… the MSM keep up their propaganda campaign, on a “cruise” level (as opposed to the “fast acceleration” level the first two days) while the president is all about reasoning together… which makes the conservatives, who are still indignant and furiously jumping up and down, look like a bunch of paranoid, hysterical ninnies. It’s truly a masterpiece of political maneuvering, and I say “hats off!” The question remains, however, will it work with the American public, and I don’t think anyone knows as yet.

So the next stage of this chess match -- stage four -- which is coming up soon, if we’re not already in it -- will be interesting to watch, and I suppose we won't have the final answer until the 2012 elections. It is, in my scheme, the American people’s reaction to the whiplash tactics of the liberals: accuse, wait for the reaction, then pretend to be peacemakers (and make your opponents look more hateful than ever). It is not as predictable as the previous stages; there are more subtleties involved… more nuances. It's partly a matter of economics, for one thing -- is what motivated the shooter more important than me having a job? Will the dialogue still be going on on Election Day of 2012, or will it already have been tossed down the memory hole? Or will some new crisis have taken its place? And in the meantime, has this event dealt a death blow to the “tea party”, courtesy of the mainstream media… or will they survive, and perhaps come back stronger? I doubt if the mainstream Republicans will suffer at all, because the propaganda is not directed at them; they are safely in the hands of the Regime, just as the Democrats/liberals are (except perhaps the far left and “progressives”, who are simply frustrated and impotent). Libertarians won’t be harmed, because they’re on the outer margins anyway. And paleocons? Well, since very few politicians and very few commentators represent the pure type -- and the Regime seems to have counted them out anyway -- I can’t see them being impacted all that much. No, it’s most definitely the “tea partiers”, talk radio personalities, and Sarah Palin and her ilk that have the most to lose. They’re the ones being targeted because they’re perceived as the real threat. The paleocons are too far to the right to be a threat, and the libertarians are on another wave length altogether. And as for the Neocons -- well, they have joined forces with Obama when it comes to fighting the twin wars, which is their primary agenda anyway… so there is no threat from that quarter. In fact, when one says “Neocon” one might as well say “mainstream Republicans plus blue-dog Democrats” because the two groupings are more or less identical.

And what if these events constitute a death blow to the “tea party”? I’ve said that it’s short-lived anyway… and even if it isn’t, this might actually be a blessing in disguise -- a way for the tea party to maintain its (relative) purity and independence. Because one thing’s certain to come out of all this -- namely that the Republican mainstream will shun the tea party from here on out. You can forget all about the “Tea Party Caucus” and the other efforts on the part of the Republican blob to reach out and envelop the tea partiers for its own nefarious purposes. They won’t want anything to do with them after this -- and that, at least in the philosophical sense, is a good thing. The tea party will, in other words, be protected from “politics as usual” by being ejected from the political arena and from polite company. Of course, some of the tea partiers may find that they can’t stand being shunned, and will willingly be co-opted anyway… which means they will have to turn against all their supporters and those who voted for them… which means that their time in office will be brief indeed.

Will the “talk radio” crowd be impacted? If so, can you imagine a more fitting end for a group that has unquestioningly supported all of George Bush’s follies? I sure can’t. And as for Sarah Palin -- personally I consider her one of the most dangerous people in the country… but not for the reasons usually offered. So an end, or at least a severe blow, to her political career cannot help but be a good thing. Of course, she is fighting back against the MSM attacks, which is commendable... but politically, she's dead meat. At least that's my assessment.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”… but blessed also are those who are willing to take a stand, and draw a bright line between the truth and propaganda. If this incident helps to show up the Regime for the monstrosity that it is, and helps those of good will retain their integrity, it could be a very good thing -- in that respect at least, although one would wish that the disaster had never occurred at all. A good crisis really is a terrible thing to waste, if it cannot teach us a few things… a few truths… about politics in this country in our time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


So the next Congress has started its engines -- not without a few annoying pings and knocks -- and the tea partiers are already feeling like one of those wallflowers who spends the entire junior prom sitting on a folding chair in the corner – or like that character that someone invited to the party just to liven things up a bit, but they're not allowed anywhere near the punch bowl. Yes, there's nothing like Congress when it comes to immediately reasserting the dominance of the two-party system, which really means the one-party system. A genuine two-party system would feature some real differences of opinion once in a while, not just the trivial playing around the margins that we see on a regular basis. When the mainstream media speak in hysterical tones about “third parties”, what they're really saying is that they're petrified at the thought of _two_ parties – i.e. of any real opposition to the Regime. So any incursions of independent thought into the hallowed halls of Congress have to be rebuffed without delay – once the Constitution is sheepishly read aloud, that is. (That process made me think of how much good reading the Ten Commandments to an audience of thieves and adulterers would have done.)

So the bottom line is, like they always say in the B movies, “You can go back to your homes now, folks – nothing to see here.” And this is after a ball of green slime has eaten its way through a row of stores, restaurants, and bars along Main Street. Yes, in our anesthetized society, the ultimate criterion for success is: Is everybody relaxed? Have they gotten over their fears... their excitement... their desire to live as free citizens? And if so, we can say “mission accomplished”. Of course, there will always be the occasional alarms and scares, all designed to frighten people back into the herd... but they will be designed to enhance people's faith in government, rather than erode it. Only fanatics, right-wing paranoids, and “haters” persist in believing that government is the problem, rather than the solution.

So now that the hurly-burly's done, the citizenry can return to its more immediate concerns -- our daily bread of preoccupation -- much more than the rumblings that emanate from Washington, D.C. If you live within, or near, the Beltway, it's silly to talk about the relationship of government to your life, because government _is_ your life. It's more than a job, and even more than an obsession; it's the very groundwork of your existence. But I submit that this is a form of insanity, and that people who live elsewhere are already at an advantage when it comes to having a reality-based perspective on things. What I'm saying is that the people who control our lives – or try to – actually have a much poorer grasp of reality than the rest of us do. They may be smart, cynical, powerful, whatever... but they are laboring under a titanic delusion, whereas the rest of us can, if we wish, distance ourselves from that delusion and, on occasion, sit down and figure out what life is really all about. We can at least enjoy freedom of thought, which is something they cannot do; they will not allow themselves to take that risk, because their world is, in truth, much more fragile than ours. So don't spend time regretting that you are not one of the all-powerful “movers and shakers” in the nation's capital. Remember, for one thing, that despite all the “perks” they enjoy, they are always restless – forever tormented by the desire for even more power, and frustrated when they don't get it. They are, in fact, junkies – addicts – in every bit as destructive a way (to themselves and others) as the most abject heroin addict. Do you think even one of them (with the possible exception of the President himself) is satisfied as to his or her level of power, authority, or compensation? If they were, why do they keep scrambling and clawing for more? And why do they spend the better part of each day ginning up fights with each other?

You know, nature, in its wisdom, only assigns one “alpha male” to each pack of wolves... but in D.C., everyone is an alpha male (or female)... or wants to be. And the results more often resemble chaos than any semblance of order, to say nothing of productivity or “public service”. We have created – or allowed to be created – an entire class of power-crazed human beings, and it is actually fortunate that the bulk of them are confined to Washington, D.C. and not evenly distributed across the fruited plain. Imagine the loss to civility if there were one in every small town, or every neighborhood! Well yes, there are local political types, but they don't hold a candle to the pros in D.C. It's like talking about Little League vs. the majors. And this, by the way, is why the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” model still holds. You just don't know... can't imagine... what the Washington scene is like until you become one of the “insiders” yourself. The pressures... the temptations... the money... all of the besetting sins of body and soul... they are all there in abundance. You wonder why all politicians sooner or later wind up looking like Dorian Gray – the picture, not the person; this is why. Few human beings are equipped to handle the challenges of high office in our time... and the ones who are, well... we'd just as soon they applied their energies and talents elsewhere, like becoming serial killers or something. And this is another argument, among many, against big government – that it is simply unnatural, and appeals to the worst tendencies among people, and attracts the worst of them. Every time you ask, or think, the question, “What kind of person would...?” when it comes to going into politics on the national level, be sure that you don't really want the answer to that question. And even so, if they confined their energies to the great cage fight that is Washington, D.C. It wouldn't be so bad. But no, they ride out, on a regular basis, in raiding parties, determined to reduce the rest of us to poverty and/or slavery. Which, I guess, lends a bit of irony to the fact that it is we, supposedly, who voted them into office.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


As I've pointed out many times, the political culture in this country is based on ideas -- which, if not unique in history, is definitely atypical. Most political cultures in history, and at present, are based on time-honored things like religion, race, ethnicity... even skin color (as a subset of race) and gender. (There has yet to be an entirely GLBT country, but just you wait!) In other words, political cultures and politics – and hence the public consciousness – are usually based on tangibles... things one can see, hear, and touch. But that wasn't good enough for the Founding Fathers... and it wasn't good enough for the French revolutionaries, or the Russian revolutionaries, or any of their clones over the years. And thus, “revolutionary” societies tend to be – or at least claim to be – free from all taint of racism, sexism, or ethnic consciousness. Well... sometimes it works out this way, and sometimes it doesn't. After all, even revolutionary societies typically have a dominant ethnic or racial group... and more traditional societies definitely have. In fact, one can almost say that ethnic, racial, or religious dominance is an earmark of traditional societies... so much so, in fact, that one can't really speak of “dominance”. It's more like homogeneity. In many ways, it's only the unnatural size of most countries in our time that has led to questions of dominance. If you take sub-Saharan, i.e. black, Africa, there was a time when the highest level of “government” was the tribe – and it was, by definition as well as in fact, completely uniform in the racial, ethnic, and religious sense. But then the colonialists stepped in and said, well, this simply won't do, we can't go around governing or supervising hundreds of different tribes, some no more extensive than a single village... so we'll come up with artificial borders enclosing a huge area and call it a colony, or country – and thus abominations like the Congo, Nigeria, and so on, where, if left to their own devices, people readily revert to a tribal model... with or without having first annihilated all the members of opposing tribes. They engage in hostilities they might not have otherwise engaged in, in other words – just to reclaim their birthright.

And so it is with us, in a way. We pride ourselves on not suffering under the choking uniformity of “old world”, provincial cultures... but at the same time we deprive ourselves of one of the more universal bases of identity – both group and individual -- the kinds of things that make people willing to fight, and die, and make sacrifices without having to be brainwashed or coerced. “Ideas” are difficult things to cuddle up to on a cold winter night... but we still contend that they are far superior to any other basis for political or social action, and so are willing to make the sacrifice -- the new, revolutionary kind of sacrifice. So while deracination is liberating in some respects, it is enslaving in others – mainly because it makes us slaves to ideas, and to the people who manipulate those ideas for their own purposes. And when those ideas fail, we have nothing to fall back on, having given all of that up generations ago. So a nation of failed ideas becomes a nation of alienation... and that alienation is not confined to urban areas (its natural dwelling place) but spreads out into the countryside as well. And thus, even people in isolated corners of the country find themselves under severe pressure to give up what is left of their natural identity, and trade it in for ideas which have already either outlived their usefulness, or been twisted completely out of shape. And this is why “political correctness” is so vicious – because it expects us to trade something for nothing... or simply for the sake of getting along, and not being shunned by the mainstream media and their sheep-like victims.

I referred above to “darkest Africa”, and what happened when the colonial powers moved in. But it wouldn't do to limit the discussion to that area. Please witness what happened to Eastern Europe in the post-Cold War era: the re-Balkanization of places like Yugoslavia, as well as of the Soviet Union itself. While Germany was reuniting, the Soviets were fragmenting... and in the Caucasian region, it seems that there is no governmental or administrative division small enough that it cannot be further fragmented by feuding groups. So what we are seeing in those places is a kind of re-tribalization – which may not fit nicely into the globalist view of things, but is much more natural and durable than the alternatives. And the point is, people who live in a relatively uniform country are not beset with the problems we experience on a daily basis, from our much-vaunted “diversity”. I mean, what would “race relations” mean in a country with only one race? Or “ethnic conflict” with only one ethnic group? Or “religious and/or sectarian strife” with only one sect? Think of the peace and quiet that descends when you realize that your neighbor is not going to climb into your window in the middle of the night and slit your throat because you're of a different race, creed, or ethnic group. It must be marvelous... truly. And note, we do not enjoy this level of peace and quiet in this country – far from it! The high water mark of ethnic tensions may be past (although Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic tension has certainly filled the gap to some extent), but race is as big an issue as ever, despite what anyone wants to claim. And now we have a new religious issue to worry about, as exemplified by the Islamic mosque controversy. So there is no peace in “diversity” -- nor should anyone expect there to be. The only people who harbor that delusion are people like the pacifists and Quakers, who revel in their own deracination and “quake” at any mention of racial, ethnic, or religious differences – i.e., differences worth fighting over. The Jews, at least, hold on to their tribal consciousness even though they want everyone else deracinated – culturally castrated – because they feel that it's in their best interests. Well, it's hard to blame them since they've had some unpleasant experiences with “master race” theories. But our new breed of formerly- or pseudo-Christian “peacemakers” is willing to deracinate themselves as well – for which, I suppose, they should win a cultural “Darwin Award”... and good riddance.

So the price of “diversity” in this country has been, paradoxically, to actually suppress ethnic and religious differences. We are now expected to willingly march, like sheep to the slaughter, into a great deracinating and ecumenical melting pot, where all the rough places will be made plain, and there will be no more strife among religious and ethnic groups – which means, in effect, that there will be no more religion – I mean the real kind, not just the “cultural” kind – and no more ethnicity. (Think of the loss to good eating alone!) This is, of course, very much on the mind of the Regime, which is itself extremely exclusive when it comes to religion and still fairly exclusive when it comes to ethnicity. So in this sense, it's simply the earliest stage of American history writ large – the white Protestants are in charge, just like always... but not in such an obvious way as formerly. I mean, gosh, we have a black president now! Doesn't that mean the end of racism? Well, of course not. Race is much too valuable a political and economic (read: extortion) tool to be set aside. And, our noble black president is as much a slave to the white power structure as his non-ancestors were to the man in the big house on the old Southern plantations. Make no mistake – the black man is still very much under the white boot in this world, and one black president in America is not going to change that. The most he'll manage to do is, basically, shut the black militants up until his term of office ends, at which point they'll be back in the streets and on the airwaves, complaining about what a racist society this is and how much discrimination they suffer on a daily basis. But with one of their own (even though he really isn't) in the White House, all of their militancy has to be put on hold for a while. (This might, in fact, be one of the better arguments for keeping him in office -- along with the fact that the homeless magically disappear every time there's a Democratic president.)

But at least blacks in America are allowed to maintain and perpetuate their own culture – as pathological as it is at times. Other ethnic groups are expected to check their identities at the door, and as for Catholics... well! Anyone suspected of being more loyal to the Pope than to the United States – as Kennedy (mistakenly) was – can hope for nothing better than second-class-citizen treatment. (The fact that this same criterion doesn't seem to apply to American Jews vis-a-vis Israel is the best single indicator of who is in charge of making, and enforcing, the rules.)

And it's not as if ethnic/religious identity is extinct in this country. It's certainly not extinct in Pittsburgh, for instance. But it's regarded as a bit of a throwback... a charming bit of quaintness, like the Amish. Something to take winsome pictures of for National Geographic, but nothing more. Heaven forbid anyone should start taking it seriously, and heaven forbid it should ever again start to impact politics on the national level! Then serious measures would have to be taken. So the bottom line to all this is that “diversity” is used, by the Regime, as a weapon against true diversity. For example, someone who is “diverse” is not allowed to be racist... whereas a person who is truly diverse is almost inevitably racist – at least to some degree. By which I mean, they are highly likely to believe in the the superiority of their own race and the inferiority of others – just as Lincoln did. (Yes, it's true. Wake up from your grade-school history class slumbers and check it out.) And I say that this is a natural thing, and that, up to a point, it can even be a healthy thing. Group cohesion is one of the best indicators of group health, and one of the best predictors of the survival of the group. (Hey, all you Darwinians out there -- are you with me on this?) But let's admit that it can go too far; the “master race” notion popularized by Hitler led to the deaths of millions of Germans and the physical, social, and economic destruction of their country. So along with racial and ethnic pride – and religious pride, if that's not a contradiction in terms – should come tolerance. And to be tolerant, we don't even have to feel that the other group is just as good as us, but different. We can consider them markedly inferior – but still allow them to pursue their own destiny in their own way. But it takes a stong stomach at times. We threw down the "white man's burden" and allowed Africa to be Africa -- and got characters like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe. We don't have to understand their karma in order to allow them to deal with it in their own way.

And this brings us to American foreign policy, which is blatantly intolerant, according to the above definition. But again, this intolerance harks back to the origins of this nation, and all of the hidden time-bombs of intolerance that underlay the work of the Founding Fathers. As long we were a nation of white Protestants (with a Utopian bent), all was well. But look at what happened when we were inundated with a bunch of Irish Catholics fleeing the Irish famine (which was engineered by British Protestants, by the way – just thought I'd throw that in as an ironic note). Then we found out how tolerant we really were. And did the emancipation of the slaves change the hearts and minds of all white people as to the merits of the black race? Not so much. And each racial, ethnic, and religious group that washed up on our shores faced the same wall of intolerance – either blatant or more subtle -- as it continues to do. Sometimes, in fact, it manifested itself as a kind of paternalistic condescension – the best example being the attitudes of white liberals toward blacks in our time. But that's still intolerance in the sense that it constitutes a refusal to see the other group as equals. They must, in some way, be seen as inferior, weaker, stupider... more in need of help... more in need of things like “set-asides”, affirmative action, preferences, subsidies, reparations, etc. The liberals will fight any attempt to make blacks, or Hispanics, truly equal to whites – not worse, and not better... not discriminated against, nor discriminated for. And you would think, from all their propaganda and protestations, that such a thing would be an ideal world for them – a truly “peaceable kingdom”. But it would also rob them of the most cherished part of their self image, and of their – or so they claim – purpose for living. Where would the activist or the “community organizer” be without the “underprivileged”? Where would the demagogue be without the mob? And where would the politician be without the frightened... the gullible... the passive... the impulsive... and so on? Careers and lifetimes are built on human weakness – one's own and the weakness of others. Show me a strong man working with other strong men. It happens in Ayn Rand's novels, but in real life? Very seldom. Most human transactions in our times involve power relationships, and more often than not someone is at a disadvantage. It's not that most transactions are coerced... but they are contaminated, and overly influenced by power and position. I'm not saying that the free market model is wrong, or should be abandoned; if anything I'm saying that it needs to be protected with more diligence than it is. The essence of “democracy” is not, as the high-school civics teachers contend, “majority rule”. You find that in all kinds of places. It was “majority rule” that allowed the Turks to slaughter the Armenians. No, the essence of democracy is minority rights, by which I mean, in most cases, rights equal to those of the majority. This is much tougher for most people to stomach than majority rule based on raw power (which comes either from the barrel of a gun or from the voting booth – or some combination of the two). In this country, the majority at any given time typically doesn't go so far as to practice genocide on the minority – but they do bully and kick them around quite a bit. This has become the new “American way” in our time, and it has given rise – not surprisingly – to what has been referred to as the “paranoid style” in American politics. It is not enough, any more, to acknowledge that you and your opponents have a difference of opinion as to how the country should be run. Now it's, they are also evil, and they are out to get me. Well, OK. Sometimes that's actually true; why deny it? Frankly, I think our politicians would get along much better with each other if the media weren't in the mix. The media are the real rabble rousers of our time, and the rabble they rouse is, more often than not, themselves. Listen to the “talking heads” from anywhere along the political spectrum, and you'd think that Congress would resemble a WWF cage match – but it really doesn't. Hardly ever. And the reason is that it is made up of politicians, who are, as a class, the most willing to compromise, and the least principled, people on the planet. Unlike their constituencies, I might add – which is why the political game is so bizarre. Politicians have to pretend to have principles in order to get elected... they have to pretend to share the dismay, anger, rage, and indignation (and occasionally the hopes and dreams – but it's safer to emphasize the negative) of the unwashed hordes standing before them at political rallies, or watching them on TV... but once in office, they will do anything to “get things done”. Their greatest fear is being tagged as a “do-nothing Congress”. They were sent to Washington to be “lawmakers” and, by golly, that's what they're going to do, and the citizenry can go to hell. I mean, isn't that basically the attitude? Yes, these people are morbidly obsessed about their popularity, and about their “record”, but no considerations of quality go into that obsession. And as long as they aren't punished by the voters by being voted out of office, the behavior will persist.

And yet, it would be incorrect to say that Americans, on the whole, are in a state of despair. Discouragement, maybe... helplessness, much of the time... and certainly puzzlement and dismay as we gradually, and painfully, learn that, in the present scheme of things, the average person – the “honest citizen” -- simply does not count. What counts, if anything, are the outliers... the troublemakers... the anti-social element... the ones who “act out”. And yet, even these are compromised. The ones who are not incarcerated are co-opted and made to learn what living a life of noisy impotence is like. The middle class, on the other hand, lives a life of quiet impotence... but what is noteworthy is that, up until recently, they only remained quiet because they thought that, on some abstract level, they were in charge. After all, they exercised their right to vote! What more could be asked? But now it is becoming more and more apparent that their votes are meaningless, and that voting is a pathetic exercise in pseudo-democracy. The people who are really in charge – not just the figureheads, who come and go – remain in charge no matter what. And the things that really count – that contribute to one's welfare or to one's failures – are totally out of the hands of the voting public... or the non-voting public, for that matter. So it's not just the rising tide of victimhood that is floating all political boats; it's the rising tide of _perception_ of victimhood... and this tide is rising much more rapidly among the middle class than among the traditional victims, i.e. minorities and the proletariat. Those groups are always ticked off about something, and the middle class has always been complacent and slumbering... until now. And of course, even this feeling is based on, let's admit, somewhat provincial and short-sighted considerations. Anyone with a sense of history can see that the American middle class is, for all of the erosions it is suffering at present, still enjoying a higher standard of living than most people in history, and than most people in the world right now. So for all their talk about principles, they turn out to be relativists after all. “Things aren't as good for me as they were for...” -- my parents, grandparents, whoever... even if they are only saying that in a relativistic way according to certain carefully-selected criteria. I mean, my grandparents had servants! They lived in a house with a back staircase! But they were solidly middle class. Imagine my parents having had anything like that – other than the once-a-week cleaning lady. And imagine me having anything like that. Impossible! So what does it all mean? Has there been a great reshuffling in the economic/class system? Has the working class risen up, and the middle class been pulled down as a result? Is it a zero-sum game after all? It is certainly true that the middle class has had to pay a kind of protection money, ever since the New Deal, in order to maintain some semblance of the old social order. I mean, I don't see them using calling cards, and having “at-homes” any more. But in many ways their lives are better than they were back then, and the heck with the servants. So what's the complaint? “Things should be better than they are; we should be allowed to keep more of our money.” Well, fine. But then you have to look at the suburbs of Washington, DC, which are severely stratified as to income as the result of real estate prices. What's the guy with a $700,000 McMansion going to do with the extra money he gets back if the government cuts expenditures – and hence his tax bill – by, say, 50%? (As long as we're speaking theoretically here, let's go all the way!) Why, he's going to move into the next neighborhood up the road, and into an $800,000 McMansion. That's as far as his vision takes him. And that marks him – let's admit – as middle class, a representative of the great American bourgeoisie... that group that everyone else hates and despises, and the group that now gives rise to the “tea parties” because a few of them are waking up to reality.

Now, make no mistake – I'm not saying that there is anything the least bit commendable about socialism, or “leveling”, or “progressive taxation”, or about class warfare. It's just that the alternative is not necessarily edifying. If one bases one's political convictions on aesthetics, then Soviet poster art is clearly far superior to middle-American housing, malls, and restaurants and motels along the Interstate. No, the first thing we must do when debating these issues is to hold our nose, quite worrying about bad taste, and ask, simply, do people have the right to the fruits of their own labor? The liberals say no, they don't; and the Regime says they do if they're a member of the ruling elite, but not otherwise. Militant minorities say that they have the right to the fruits of everyone _else's_ labor, based on concepts like “discrimination”, “reparations”, and so on, but where they run into trouble is when they wind up on the other side of the equation. Now that Hispanics have overtaken blacks as the preferred minority group, blacks are going to have to start paying some of the Hispanics' bills – and rightly so, since, by liberal standards, it is always incumbent on everyone else to provide for the politically-dominant minority.

And yet, through it all, there is hope. Or let's say, things haven't become totally hopeless as yet. And this is because we – or a decent percentage of us – are still capable of indignation. This attitude will, naturally, always be found more among minorities and the powerless – but, as I pointed out above, it is more and more to be found among those with a decent standard of living who see threats on all sides. If you feel that your own country is dead-set on destroying your culture, your lifestyle, your standard of living, and your values... well, a certain level of indignation is in order, don't you think? And yet this is derided by the media as “paranoia”, “hate”, and what not, because they represent the power elite, which is made up almost entirely by the ones who were indignant a generation or two ago – namely the liberals/socialists/collectivists/totalitarians. Now that we're so close to Utopia, it's considered very poor form for anyone to indulge in reactionary protests; after all, don't they want a world of overwhelming “fairness”? Well, clearly not, if what is meant by “fairness” is equality of outcomes at all costs. But the liberals don't believe in that either; any world in which they and their ideas are not dominant is unacceptable to them. So this “fairness” and “equality” thing is just a scam – just words designed to, once again, arouse the rabble.

But the significance of indignation – from anywhere along the spectrum – is that people still expect the government to serve the people, and to protect their interests. And we tend to forget what an unusual thing this is, historically – or even in the present day. Governments, above the tribal/village level, have generally been sources of oppression as far as the average person is concerned. They engender fear... and the most natural reaction is to stay out of the way – stay “off radar”. The notion that “the government is here to help you” -- well, we make jokes about it, but the fact is that people still believe it. But that makes them a rare breed, according to global or historical perspectives. So in a paradoxical sense, our indignation is a sign of our optimism – foolish tho' it may be – about government. We expect more, and we refuse to give up expecting more. Or at least – and this is the middle-class premise – we expect to be left more or less alone in order to pursue our livelihood, but then have that livelihood and any wealth that it produces protected. This, of course, is the source of middle-class ambivalence about government – it wants carte blanche to earn and invest, but a protective umbrella over anything that is earned and over any return on investment. And that's just on the domestic side; when it comes to foreign policy, the middle class is all for a “muscular” foreign policy and for “force projection”, but gets resentful when this results in an erosion of freedoms back home. (Yes, if you supported the invasion of Iraq don't complain about the TSA inspecting your poo-poo undies! The two are directly related.)

And there's another process going on here as well, and it has to do with cognitive dissonance, which I've discussed before. When the government fails to live up to its many promises (implied or otherwise), we feel that indignation is in order. But that's only on the top layer. That still assumes that our leaders want to live up to their promises... or that they made those promises with at least some degree of sincerity and/or realism. The next level down is that they don't intend to live up to those promises, and that they never did – which leads to things like the tea parties and the time-honored desire to “throw the rascals out”. But that's still just one level down, and, for one thing, assumes that the people who appear to be in charge really are. What we are seeing more and more these days, however – and one has to give the alternative media, and the Internet (and not only Wikileaks) a lot of credit for this – is that the agenda of government, and of its operatives, has absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the citizenry, except by sheer accident... and that any of the processes, and decisions, that really count are made and conducted in secret, and usually by people who never ran for office in their life. Now, again, none of this would have upset most people down through history all that much – any more than it upsets people when some of the more notorious state and local governments turn out to be rackets. Well, duh! And the Europeans are traditionally blasé about this sort of thing as well; an honest and sincere leader, or public servant, is held up as a kind of saint because he (or she) is so exceptional. But we get upset. And again, it's because of our expectations, but also because of fear. I don't think Americans have a burning desire to believe what the establishment says as much as fear of any of the alternatives. Americans overall tend to be a somewhat skeptical lot, but at the same time they are so wedded to their vision of government, democracy, law and order, etc. that any other possibility puts them in a panic.  And they are especially troubled by the idea that government can, and does, operate in secret most of the time... i.e. when it really counts.  That seems somehow un-American (even tho' anyone else on earth would accept it as the normal way of things).  Another reason for this phobic response may be that they have never seen or experienced a revolution, so as far as they're concerned government = stability, and any thought of change or overthrow is extremely threatening.  And another reason is that, as I said before, they have very little to fall back on in terms of tradition or structure independent of government -- the old, reliable points of reference like race, ethnicity, and religion have been declared taboo. So... if the Wizard of Oz – the Great White Father in Washington – turns out to be a little man behind the curtain, and an evil one at that... well, what then? Our illusions are shattered, and, with them, what little is left of our national identity... or identity as a “people”... and our identity as individuals. It has been pointed out that the most frightening thing about the descent into madness – schizophrenia – is the loss of identity... a sense of who one is, or even _that_ one is. And this can overtake a nation as well, especially if all of the traditional points of reference have been systematically excised from the national consciousness.

See, here's what all sides of the debate have to realize. We are an ideational society, first and foremost. This is what was intended by the Founding Fathers, and it's still the way things are, after all these years. But what it means is that, if you buy into the notion of an ideational society, you also buy into the notion of constant, chronic, and unending dialogue and debate, with nothing ever being settled. And you buy into a kind of relativism, where you can claim that right is on your side – but it really isn't, or at least no one can prove it. Because what do you have to fall back on? Race, religion, and ethnicity are all taboo – which really means that morals are taboo, and all we have left is “ethics” (the Quakers again). The standards and values derived from those more traditional things are not allowed into the dialogue. So all that's left is debate, and politics – which means, ultimately, relativism... which means, ultimately, raw political (and police) power. So it does no good for the liberal media to squeal like a stuck pig whenever the tea partiers hold a rally, because their ideas are no better and no worse – they're just part of the dialectic. I mean... this is the way the system is set up. I don't say it's good, or the best... it's just the way it is. And likewise, the tea partiers would have a hard time proving that the liberals were any less “American” than they are. Less traditional, maybe... less “family-oriented”... less concerned with morals... less religiously-inclined... but they believe in ideas, and that's the essence of being an American. You don't like it, move to the nearest theocracy.

Now, someone might say, “But! But! Isn't it more a matter of how much one's ideas have diverged from those of the Founding Fathers? Shouldn't that be the criterion?” Well, it might be if said Founding Fathers had included, in the founding documents, stipulations that they believed in those ideas because they were white, male, heterosexual, Protestant (or at least Christian)... but they didn't. Those documents are completely free of any of the pesky, messy, old-fashioned points of reference that have influenced people's opinions and world views for eons. They are, in fact, blueprints for a new and basically secular world in which ideas, and nothing else, rule – ideas which are, to most people, abstractions. And as abstractions, they can be infinitely interpreted, twisted and turned, until they come out in any shape, size, or color that one wishes – which they have been. So objections to the “unconstitutionality” of laws, government programs or policies, while they may be valid in the strict, literal constructionist sense, are easily trampled in the dust by the endless parade of “ideas” and “interpretations”. This is why the Supreme Court is in a curious situation – it has to constantly chart some sort of course (resembling a drunk's path home from the neighborhood bar) between literal interpretation and illiterate – I mean liberal – interpretation of the Constitution. And which is truer to “original intent” -- the words or the (presumed) ideas behind them? We have ample evidence of the latter... and some would say, well, that's what they “meant” to say in the Constitution. But if that's so, why didn't they say it? Chances are it's because even our most hallowed documents were the product of considerable and energetic debate – bordering on violence at times – with the result being compromises which often satisfied no one. And those compromises left a hole which has come to be labeled “interpretation”. And what is the basis for interpretation? As often as not, free-floating ideas – things like “penumbras” for example. So it all gets knocked into a cocked hat, and it's only sheer inertia that keeps us from descending into anarchy, violence, and civil war.

Unless... well, this is where the Regime steps in. Knowing full well that the Constitution was fatally flawed in many ways, they began, early on, heating up the fires of “interpretation” until they glowed red hot – as they continue to do to this day. John Adams said that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” We read this quote often enough, but few stop to consider its significance. It is that the Constitution is not a rigid structure, nor a checklist, nor an exact blueprint for anything (including totalitarianism). It is a structure that requires – nay, demands – interpretation on a regular basis. We criticize certain phrases for being “ambiguous” -- like “promote the general welfare”. Correct. But they are ambiguous on purpose. A moral people would have figured out, by now, what “the general welfare” is, and what it is not – to say nothing of what constitutes “commerce among the several states”, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms”, “law respecting an establishment of religion”, etc. But we're still debating those points, and many more besides. And thus, the constant churning of ideas... and issues which the Founding Fathers may have thought, in their idealism and optimism, had been settled... but, it turns out, were not. Or, we have decided that they're not, which, pragmatically, amounts to the same thing. If they were settled once, and are now not, does it mean that we were a moral people once, and are now not? The evidence certainly seems to point in that direction.

So... in our lack of morality, and our despising of Natural Law, we find ourselves in a perpetual whirlwind of ideas with little or no foundation, and no anchor points. We use words which represent solid, agreed-upon concepts... or at least used to. But we use them in new, perverted, bizarre ways – so they lose all of their original meaning and become clubs with which we can smite each other over the head, like the blind denizens of some dystopian inferno. And one might well ask, what, after all, good have all of these ideas ever done? Wouldn't we have been better off sticking with the old verities, like almost every other country – blood and soil, race, ethnicity, language, religion, culture? And, let's admit, all the potential "isms" that go with them? Haven't we paid dearly for our enamoration with ideas, and exchanged our birthright for a mess of ideational pottage? Well... the American experiment, for all of its flaws, did work out for a while. And it attracted millions of people who “voted with their feet” -- although one could question whether that was because things were so good over here, or so bad over there. But the bottom line is that you don't find very many people trying to sneak out of the United States (other than the bin Laden family and Israeli spies), whereas millions are doing the opposite, and this continues right up to the present moment. There are people who, inexplicably, want to become American citizens and thus take on their share of a titanic and intractable national debt. And they also want to be involved in our overseas follies and in all of our racial, social, and economic strife at home. They must be crazy. Or... maybe they're just captivated by ideas, like the rest of us.