Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Power is a Feeling

As the “Occupy” movement seems to gain momentum and spread to the remotest parts of the fruited plain, I keep having to deal, on a daily basis, with vivid feelings of deja vu. Wasn't there some other movement fairly recently that behaved in the same way? Oh yes – the “tea party”... and while it hasn't quite yet been absorbed into the Republican Party blob, it stands in imminent danger of being so – the question (for the Republican establishment) being, do they “need” the tea partiers or can they get along just as well (if not better) without them? And while the tea party movement may have receded a bit, the tea party idea, or set of ideas, still has enough traction to occupy some of the attention (or annoyance) of the Republican establishment. But will it make any difference in the long run – and particularly in the 2012 elections? Will the candidates elected under the tea party label in 2010 remain under that label, or will they have sold out? And, will new candidates claiming that label come into view? And will the tea party movement have any impact, however slight, on the Republican nominating process? (My guess is a resounding “no”, since the nominee of choice seems to be Rockjaw Goodhair, who has nothing whatsoever in common with the tea partiers.) All of this is, of course, contingent on Obama continuing to pursue his collectivist/socialist/totalitarian programs, which he shows no signs of letting up on – indeed, he continues to aggravate the situation, on the assumption that his base is secure and hoping that the “undecideds” will finally see the light. Plus, he knows that the Republicans are pure evil; he says so every chance he gets. His main problem is convincing everyone else of the fact – everyone but his base, that is, who already feel that way because they always have.

Obama is in a peculiar position, in fact – a “man of the people” and yet he feels constrained to pronounce a good portion of those people fools and ignorant dupes – and their duly-elected representatives fear mongers, haters, bigots, etc. It seems to me that a politician ought to take a bit more of the high road than to just automatically call anyone who disagrees with him on any issue an idiot – but that's apparently what plays well among his base, so he keeps it up. And the fact that he does so in that resonant, Martin Luther King-wannabee tone, rather than in the whiny way Bill Clinton always used, certainly helps. Clinton always took everything personally, including any kind of political opposition... whereas Obama at least presents an image of not being so thin-skinned. He basically lets things roll off his back – or, better yet, ignores them – whereas Clinton was an easy sucker for any kind of political bait that was thrown his way. So in that sense Obama is a better politician – but he still takes the low road much too often.

But let's get back to the “Occupiers”. They feel their star is rising... it's springtime in America (even though it's fall)... those of like mind across the land are getting up in the face of the oligarchy, the corrupt, the exploiters, the robber barons, and so on. (And never mind that their man Obama is one of the Regime's loyal servants!) But there is already an air of futility... of the pathetic... about the whole thing. The “Occupy” movement represents – if not strictly in the economic sense, then certainly in the socio-political sense – the rabble. These are the people who, for instance, supported Obama because they expected him to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan – which already shows you what their delusional quotient is. They believe, as I've discussed before, that “the people” still have a voice – surely another delusion, but at least one that runs across the political spectrum, since few people from anywhere on that spectrum have given up voting. They have – as has been pointed out – more of an “anti” program than a program... and I don't claim that that's an entirely bad thing, at least not in the early stages. I don't fall for the notion that you have to have answers before you start asking questions – or an alternative plan before you're allowed to protest the way things are now. This is a rhetorical scam perpetrated by the establishment in order to avoid confronting the issues. But it seems to me at this point that the Occupiers are running out of their no-program grace period.

I also suspect that the Occupiers' tent cities will disappear with the first snow fall. Ever wandered around lower Manhattan on a bitterly cold and windy winter day? All you can think about is where, and how soon, you might be able to get indoors. But that's not going to discourage anyone at this point, because “the people” -- the “99%” -- are on the rise! To the barricades, mes amis! And it's this intoxication with... not with real power, but with imagined power... that so energized past movements – not just the tea parties, but the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam War/anti-draft movement. The trajectory is familiar; we've seen it all before. And the main differences among these various populist outbreaks is how they are resolved. Either the issue goes away, or the movement disperses, or it gets co-opted and absorbed into something else... there are many ways in which the waters become smooth again. The civil rights movement, for example, actually accomplished many of its goals – its original goals, that is, which included equal rights as opposed to affirmative action, which was added on later as a way of upping the ante and keeping the movement in business. Civil rights activity since blacks gained equal legal rights has been focused primarily on the attainment of equal (or greater than equal) outcomes – a demand that even the federal government, even under Democratic administrations, finds tough to meet. So the civil rights movement did not perish from its own success, but at least became relatively defused bordering on the anemic... and ridiculous at times. (Compare, if you will, the gravitas of the likes of Dr. King with that of Al Sharpton. 'Nuff said!)

Then you have the anti-Vietnam War and draft movement (and I conflate the two because I am increasingly convinced that neither would have existed without the other) – and the way the Regime dealt with that was to (1) end the war, and (2) end the draft. How clever! And I think they realized, on some level, that there are very few true pacifists in America... that everyone has some idea about the kinds of wars worth fighting. For the Democrats, this means any war presided over by a Democratic president – even ones he inherited. And for the Republicans, it means any war supposedly intended to “spread democracy”, or “defend the American way of life”, or support Israel. So yeah, it's hard for any genuine pacifist movement to gain traction in this country, since the vast majority of our leaders, as well as of our citizens, is pretty much willing to go to war at any time, in any place, and for any reason. And the traditional concept of “just war”, to which the Vatican keeps trying to introduce American leaders, gets lost in the shuffle.

Let's put it this way. How many American politicians have been voted out of office, or not voted into office, for being against war – either war in general or a specific war or wars? Versus how many have been voted out of office, or not voted in, for being pro-war, or in favor of starting or continuing a specific war or wars? You do the math. I think you'll find that being against war of any sort is a non-starter for anyone seeking office on the national level. And the U.S. is certainly not unique in this sense, except for the fact that our wars are almost invariably ideational in nature, i.e. not designed to increase the general welfare of Americans one iota (even though this is at the top of the list of rationalizations).

But the “Occupiers” don't really say anything about war, do they? This is because they don't want to say, or imply, anything against Obama, whom – on some mysterious level – they still believe in. And they certainly don't say anything against big government, because they see that as their principal weapon against the predatory behaviors of Wall Street. So let's see... not against Obama, and not against big government, even though both are the abject slaves of Wall Street. See how hopeless their cause is already? I mean... at least in the case of the civil rights movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement, there was a line of logic and reasoning behind it, and some notion as to what should change and how. There was, in other words, a vision; the criteria were operational and feasible. But the Occupiers have no discernable program – and neither do the tea partiers, for that matter. The tea partiers are hobbled by that fact that they like big government at least half the time – when it's waging war overseas and abominations like the “War on Drugs” on the domestic front. So, just like the Occupiers, they want someone – Superman, I guess – to go in and, with surgical precision, remove all the parts of big government they don't like, and keep the rest intact. And what's funny, of course, is that the tea partiers and the Occupiers want almost the exact opposite things excised or left alone. So I guess if they joined forces either nothing would change or everything would change... but that's not going to happen.

Now, allow me to shift gears a bit and talk about the reception the Regime and its organs have given to these respective movements. To begin with, the mainstream media – the barking dogs of the Regime – are treating the Occupy movement with total respect and diffidence, whereas they couldn't find enough bad things to say, often enough, about the tea parties. Now, does this mean that the Regime is “pro” the Occupiers while being against the tea parties? Don't be silly. All it means is that they see absolutely no threat from the Occupiers, whereas the tea parties are a bit disturbing. And why is this? It's because the Occupiers are, as stated above, rabble – by and large. Fairly or not, they are seen as the same people who complain about everything else... the chronically dissatisfied, chronically outraged and demanding, by and large infantile, and hopelessly powerless. Perennial losers, in other words – with clothing and grooming choices to match. When the Occupiers start hollering through bull horns, all the elite in their high, blue-tinted towers hear is a faint buzzing. The tea party, on the other hand, is made up almost entirely of white, middle-class people – the very people the Regime depends on to provide not only labor and support (and votes if needed) but also to remain silent. While it's true that the Regime is, over time, depending less and less on the middle class as a source of transferable wealth, they aren't quite ready to put them all in camps yet – but they are most certainly not ready to put up with the complaints that follow when the scales fall from the middle class's eyes. So it's the middle class – contrary to almost any socio-political theory out there (with George Orwell being a notable exception) – that must be kept down... kept content, and distracted, and wed to ideas that benefit not them but the Regime. There are plenty of games and circuses – and addictive substances – for the proles; we don't care what they think. Whereas the war on the middle class is, as much as anything, a war of ideas – mainly that any ideas that didn't come out of a middle-school social studies textbook are most unwelcome. The matrix is designed for the bourgeoisie.

So the media, following the lead of the Regime, practices benign neglect when it comes to the Occupiers – looking on in a paternalistic way wherever the tent cities spring up. But when it comes to the tea party, it's total war all the time: These people are evil! Reactionary! Haters! Racists/sexists/homophobes! And all the rest of it. And this is despite the fact that the tea partiers are not really against big government, as I pointed out above. We're talking about what happens when some members of the middle class wake up to the truth about their situation, and about the system. And granted, they are only half awake, and know only half the truth at best – but that's enough to threaten the Regime, and thus to energize the media.

But aside from the media, how else is the Regime responding? One way is through law enforcement – and I guarantee that if the tea partiers were setting up tent cities in public (or private) parks across the land, there would be plenty of push-back on the part of federal, state, and local troops and police. But as it stands, benign neglect seems to be the policy, nearly always – and again, it's because these people are no real threat. The Regime can pretend to look on benignly, the way an indulgent parent surveys the antics of a two-year-old... because the situation is completely under control, not only physically but politically and psychologically. There will be no revolution from this quarter -- not now, not ever.

But now, you might ask, if the Occupiers are not a threat to the Regime, but the tea partiers are, what else is, or would be, a threat? How can one determine where the Regime has vested interests? And the best place to start answering these questions is, once again, with the mainstream media. This is the topic I'll deal with in my next post.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Curse of "Inevitability"

As I've indicated before, the mainstream media have clearly already picked their man in the race for president – on the Republican side, that is... the Democrat side being trivial. That man, of course, is Rockjaw Goodhair, aka Mitt Romney... and the reason he's the people's choice (the people who work in the media, that is, who are all that count) is that he's the least threatening to their agenda, and he doesn't cause a one of them the slightest pang of conscience. And ironically, even though he belongs to what some consider a “cult”, he appears the least religiously-motivated of any of the top-tier candidates... compared to whom the likes of Perry and Bachmann are Bible-thumping, perspiration-streaming, tent-meeting rabble-rousers.

But as I've also pointed out recently, the MSM will only make a choice of this sort predicated on who is likely to win, because Job One is to protect their candidate – namely Obama. So the dynamic of this is as follows: If Obama were in real trouble, which he is not, then they would be supporting one of the more conservative, “extreme”, marginal, “radical” Republicans, i.e. one of the less-electable ones. But since Obama is not in real trouble, and can still beat the pants (or pantyhose) off anyone in the Republican lineup, they can afford to be... scratch that... to _appear_ moderate, centrist, and reasonable in their support of someone like Mr. Goodhair.

Now, please bear in mind that by “support” I don't mean anything like actually coming out and declaring for a given candidate; nothing that proactive. No, what I mean by “support” is engaging in non-stop slander, dirt-digging, and character assassination of everyone else except the preferred candidate. In other words, attach all kinds of “negatives” to everyone else, so the one they want will be the only one left standing without a thick coating of fecal matter oozing down their bodies.

But... why should the MSM ever be “reasonable”, you ask? Aren't they already known for being wildly biased in favor of liberal/Democratic candidates? True, and they will never couch their hypocrisy in anything but terms like “We vastly prefer the Democratic candidate, but must reluctantly observe that the least amount of catastrophic damange will be done to the United States if the following non-Democratic candidate should be elected.” Talk about faint praise! If, on the other hand, they feel like emulating Rush Limbaugh's “Operation Chaos” and advocating someone showing a sharper contrast with the Democratic candidate... well, wouldn't their hypocrisy show through, bright as the Sun? It might – but we forget how subtle they can be. They can always find “a good reason” for hard-core Republicans to vote for any given candidate, no matter how unelectable he or she might be. How much, for example, maneuvering by the MSM did it take to get Bob Dole nominated for president in 1996? He won out over more credible (OK, photogenic) (OK, more lifelike) candidates who might have been able to beat Clinton, who was in a bit of trouble. And! Not to forget, Ross Perot wound up with 8.4% of the vote – and did the media do anything to stop him from running? Not a bit of it. Perot's total plus Dole's could have put Dole closer to Clinton than Bush was to Gore in 2000 – and Bush won!

I think the only Democratic candidate the MSM have ever totally given up on during the campaign was Jimmy Carter in 1980 – they knew he had fouled his own nest so many times that he was a lost cause, even against a “right-wing radical conservative” like Reagan. Plus – in their sly way, I think they were hoping Reagan would make such a mess of things and turn so many people against him, and against conservativism in general, and against the Republican Party, that the Democrats could come back in 1984 and establish a dynasty that would last 1000 years. And just to show you how badly that strategy turned out, the Democrats ran Walter Mondale in 1984 – an act of despair comparable to the running of Bob Dole in 1996.

Admittedly, this is a far-from-complete analysis... and the situation is often way more complicated than implied. But I just want to point out that the MSM have a very large spoon which they're more than willing to dip into any pot – Republican ones included – in order to influence elections in favor of their agena. And the spoon this time around seems to be coming up with a thin, flavorless broth with Rockjaw Goodhair's name on it – hence the plaint, “Waiter, there's a Goodhair in my soup!”

OK, that was a cheapie, but who could resist? But! The point of this whole meditation is that if anyone, including the MSM, declares a candidate to be “inevitable” too early in the game – and let's all agree that over a year to the elections is way too early – it can place an undue burden on that candidate and offer breathing room to all the others. From here on out, Romney is going to have to be perfect... flawless... totally in command... unflappable. His image has already been built for him by, ironically, his enemies – and they are expert at setting the bar impossibly high. They have arranged things so that he seems inevitable (if not invincible), but have included some delayed-action fuses... some land mines... in the mix, as they always do – to be set off at just the right time down the road.

And, after all, how much of a guarantee is inevitability anyway? Let us recall, for example, that, a mere four years ago, there were two inevitable candidates aspiring to succeed George W. Bush – Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Oh sure, they had rivals, but they were each riding, or so it seemed, white steeds to victory. But then things started to unravel a bit – because, as I said, they had time to unravel. Giuliani had a conniption during a debate over something Ron Paul had said – for which we should be eternally grateful to Dr. Paul, by the way – and then decided to base his entire campaign on the votes of expatriate New Yorkers living on the East Coast of Florida. Fail! Hillary, on the other hand, discovered that people were starting to notice the decaying corpse of her husband – or of his administration – hanging around her neck. Too late for a divorce! Darn! And then she had to confront the Black Messiah – the man who walked the hills and valleys of America promising to heal all wounds, fill all bellies, and make the rough places plain. Compared to which, John Kerry promising to raise Christopher Reeve out of his wheelchair was a cheap parlor trick.

So, by declaring a candidate “inevitable” the media effectively set him up as a target – and they, and anyone else, have 12 whole months to take aim and fire. Not that they will take the lead, mind – he's been chosen for a reason, as detailed above. And I'm sure they have someone else in mind just in case: “Regrettable that no truly moderate Republican candidates are in the running now that Gov. Romney has retired from the field”, etc. It's kind of... well, it's kind of like walking into a rug store. Which rug are you going to be interested in buying, one that is lying neat and unsoiled on the stack, or the one in the middle of the floor that people are tromping on with their muddy shoes day in and day out? You get the idea.

Anyway... it's all part of the fun, and it is instructive how the media have a way of hedging their bets on these things... not unlike the way the biggest Wall Street firms donate generously to both major parties. It's more important not to make enemies than to be seen as anything but a manipulative, scheming, calculating hypocrite.

The Semi-Triumph of the Will

George Will didn't quite hit one out of the park with today's column comparing the tea partiers with the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but he came awfully close. He rightly describes OWS as a progressive movement, according to which people should have a perpetual right to support by the state regardless of their contribution (even Lenin didn't believe in that sort of nonsense), and the government should provide, basically, everything else required for the good life. (This, I hardly need point out, has been the basis for European government programs and policies going back as far as World War II, and we see the result quite clearly in today's headlines.) He characterizes another OWS demand as “forgiveness of 'all debt on the entire planet period'” -- which leaves one wondering, what if this jubilee year really came? Would anyone, from that point on, even assuming they had the resources, ever be willing to loan any money to anyone ever again? Seems unlikely. If we forgive all debts, then we effectively forbid all loans and all borrowing... and it's hard to see how that degree of Puritanism would yield up a net benefit to the human race. Surely there has to be an acceptable in-between point... something like what Kiva is doing, for instance.

Will refers to OWS as a “countermovement” to the tea party – although I have pointed out that, in many respects, they are opposing the same thing. The problem is getting them to realize it. On the other hand, the OWS crowd's visceral opposition to work for pay, higher education having to cost anything, and -- implied -- property in general (when held in quantities exceeding those required for mere survival) would not sit well with most tea partiers, who are solidly middle-class with values attached. And I don't suppose the tea partiers' adherence to conventional religious creeds would sit well with the OWS crowd, which, I suspect, has an unnaturally high incidence of atheists, skeptics, pantheists, and the like. When it comes to war, the picture is bit less clear, since the OWS folk don't seem to say a whole lot about war per se, and yet surely they realize that it's war that keeps most of the corporations they are protesting against in business. The tea partiers, on the other hand, like war for war's sake, no matter which president is in charge – as witness their stunning silence on the matter of Obama's having embraced the role of a war president.

And yet, as I said, there is a common ground... or there should be. But neither side sees the big picture enough to realize it. Even George Will doesn't realize it, or so I suspect. What he sees are “the tea party's splendid successes” -- I'm not sure how “splendid” they've been as yet – and that the OWS movement may be paving the way for a conservative reaction, the way the anti-Vietnam War movement supposedly paved the way for Nixon's election in 1968. Well... but you'll notice the hand-off of the Vietnam War from LBJ to Nixon was slicker than greased bear crap on glass... and I suspect the same will happen if a Republican should replace Obama in 2013, vis-a-vis both the wars and the economy. They're all working for the same master now – a fact that Mr. Will doesn't seem willing or able to perceive.

But in the meantime, he does aim some pithy observations straight at the progressive heart of OWS – and they hit the target. “(OWS's) meta-theory is... clear: Washington is grotesquely corrupt and insufficiently powerful.” Ouch! This statement could be made of the tea partiers as well, of course; it's not about size of government but its priorities. And how about this: “Government of the sort progressives demand... is not just susceptible to corruption; it _is_ corruption.” Wow. One doesn't often hear it put that way... and it's probably because progressives' good intentions tend to defuse criticism – at least early on. But in the long run, every “progressive” program turns into just another tentacle of government, with all the bureaucracy, corruption, finagling, and waste of any other government program without such benign pretenses. What has the FDA done for you lately? It's probably keeping you from drinking the beverages you'd like to drink and eating the foods you'd like to eat, taking the supplements you'd like to take, and undergoing the medical treatments you'd like to undergo. It is, in short, totalitarian – and progressives have nothing, in principle, against totalitarianism, as long as it's for a good cause. The supreme irony of this is that progressivism is a subset of populism -- which supposedly believes in the wisdom of the common man. And yet every government program or policy ever dreamed up by progressives implies just the opposite -- that the common man is an idiot, and a sheep, who needs constant attention and guidance in order that he might not destroy himself.

But really, as I've said before, there are no degrees of freedom left for the tea party, OWS, or any other movement to operate in. All the cards have been taken off the table – which is why the administration and its state and local appendages have shown so little concern. Oh sure, the mainstream media have kept up a non-stop diatribe against the tea party ever since it was named... but that's just their job. The fact that the Regime, and its servants in government, have ignored both it and OWS is the best indication that they feel they have absolutely nothing to fear. (You'll notice, by the way, that they have not yet come to the point of ignoring threats from “third parties” -- they still fight like demons to keep them suppressed and in check... which tells you something about how much the “two-party system” means any more. When third parties are as good as outlawed, that means that there aren't two major parties, but only one.)

So... all I'm saying is, don't get too excited about either the tea party or its left-wing, through-the-looking-glass doppelganger. They are no wiser than any two of the blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like. That they each suspect that something is terribly wrong is commendable, no doubt – but, in the tea partiers' case, they have already been at least partially co-opted and absorbed by the Republican blob... and who knows, the OWS crowd may suffer the same treatment from the Democrats before long. Unlikely, you say? But you'll notice that they never blame Obama or the Democrats for anything that's going on; only big business. Problem is, Obama and the Democrats are the servants and enablers of big business, every bit as much as the Republicans are. But again, that is part of the big picture... way too big to be seen by people camped out in Zuccotti Park.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No, Pat, No!

I often fancy that I'm engaged in a friendly debate with Pat Buchanan, regarding issues near and dear to paleoconservatism. Of course, the truth is that he doesn't know me from Adam, although we have had eye contact once or twice at the Latin Mass at Old St. Mary's on the edge of Chinatown in Washington, D.C. And the point – that I have made on many occasions – is that he is right 99% of the time, and I would not say that about very many other human beings, the late lamented Joe Sobran being another example. Where Buchanan is “wrong”, or slightly off the target, it's usually based on his admirable patriotism, which occasionally seems to edge into nationalism. But he is under no illusions that our constant overseas meddlings are anything but destructive to our economy and our national life; that is not the question. It has more to do with what I call “nostalgia for a past that never was” -- for a nation that, at one time, stood for what it should still stand for. But in fact, I see our history as one that was flawed from the start – which contains within itself a “heart of darkness” that is a compounding of secular humanism, deism, the revolutionary spirit (i.e., revolution for its own sake), Freemasonry, and a marriage of Enlightenment idealism and Puritan fervor... with, early on in our history, an overlay of Manifest Destiny, “making the world safe for democracy”, and all of the follies that have followed. America may, in fact, be the first purely ideational society in history... although it was followed fairly closely (if less durably) by France, and much later by Russia, China, and their various clones in the Third World.

And an ideational founding really is radically different from a founding based on what I call “the eternal verities” -- race, ethnicity, and religion. What it means, for starters, is that the entire nation becomes infected with a kind of missionary zeal, and that self-defense takes second place (at best) to the spreading of ideas – and to their implementation, no matter how difficult cultural differences make it. Note, for example, the irony in our use of words. We call wars on behalf of ideas “defense” whereas most nations call wars on behalf of race, ethnicity, and religion “war”. You'd think it would be the other way around.

Now, in France's case, the revolutionary fervor was pretty much snuffed out by the time of Napoleon's ascent, and it became just another empire-building state (but with the founding myth and language unaltered), and enjoyed awe-inspiring success, at least for a while. (And has any nation worshiped a spectacularly-failed leader the way France worships Napoleon? I don't think so. This is another example of how an obsession with ideas separates people from reality.)

But the ideational motive did triumph, for many decades, in the case of the Soviet Union, which made extreme sacrifices in order to spread communism world-wide – and this, ironically, in the face of Stalin's fight with Trotsky, the hard-core internationalist, which Stalin won. And Cuba – a Soviet clone – made sacrifices in order to spread communism in places like Angola. Even China, as much of a basket case as it was in the Maoist era, managed to lend considerable support to fellow communists in Vietnam and Korea – and elsewhere in East Asia. In the meantime, we were busy spreading “the American way” through whatever means necessary, starting in earnest in World War I and continuing right up to the present day. (Imagine! Nearly a century already of trying to spread the American way – and, by and large, failing – and never learning the slightest lesson from the experience!)

So what I'm trying to point out is that “ideas” trump welfare – of the domestic sort, that is. (And the spread of ideas trumps considerations of individual liberty – as can be seen every day in this country.) And this is not, actually, a brand-new phenomenon, as witness the Crusades. There again, extreme sacrifices were made for the sake of an idea – but at least that idea was based on faith of the religious sort, vs. faith of the purely secular sort which is the dominant force in our time, thanks to the “Enlightenment”.

What makes men willing to die for ideas that have no bearing on eternity? It's a mystery. What I will say, at least, is that it's a co-optation, or short-circuiting, of higher impulses – motives that should be directed toward spiritual ends are misdirected, instead, toward purely material, secular ends – and not even those directly benefiting the actor, but benefiting other people. Again, I say that the Regime uses things like this to exploit people. They set up things like “spreading democracy” as a secular religion, and expect people to adhere to it the way the crusaders of old adhered to their faith. And the damnable thing is, it works! At least often enough for the abomination to persist.

So with all of that in mind, let's look at what Pat Buchanan has to say in a column from last Saturday. His point is that, with the major parties deadlocked in terms of budget issues – what to cut and what to maintain – the only option left on the table is to cut defense. (I call it “war”.) He even says “the Pentagon will be first to ascend the scaffold”. Great imagery there! Right out of “A Tale of Two Cities”. Problem is, it ain't gonna happen – not in any serious way. His point is that the Republicans are going to hold the line on new taxes, and the Democrats are going to hold the line on entitlements. No argument there. So what's left? Defense! But hold on a minute. We didn't get into this fix by passing balanced budgets every year. Au contraire, we borrowed trillions in order to “balance” input vs. spending... and there is no sign that it's going to stop. Has anyone told us that they're not going to buy any more of our debt? Not that I'm aware. They know that this is the best way to acquire a death-grip on our economy and foreign policy.

OK, so “defense already is scheduled for $350 billion in cuts over the decade”. Whoop-de-do! That is so totally chump change... and not to forget, most of the time the “defense” budget doesn't even include the costs of ongoing wars! And – even if we do pull all the uniformed troops out of Iraq, there will still be a mercenary army there, working for the CIA, with a budget that is top-secret. In other words, any funds that are allegedly taken from defense will be kicked right over to “intelligence”, and life will go on. (Although, it must be said, the mercenaries are probably better at their job than our uniformed troops are at theirs; for one thing, they don't have to abide by the Geneva Convention.)

See... it always amazes me that no one ever asks where all the wealth goes. It's like someone in a boat that is filling up with water not even vaguely entertaining the idea that there might be a hole in the hull. We are, supposedly, a “prosperous” country, blessed with endless natural resources, “human capital”, and plenty of good, old-fashioned American “get up and go”. And yet all we hear are cries and moans of complaint and discontent. We're on a weird kind of starvation diet – the kind that makes you fat but leaves you malnourished. Conservatives blame it on the parasites – the tax receivers and entitlement junkies – and that's partially true. But there are much larger and more powerful vampires sucking our blood on a daily basis. Some are on Wall Street... some are in the armaments business... some are in the international financial cartel... there are many sources of our discontent. But we soldier on, believing in our “divine mission”, even if our leaders don't and view those who do with contempt.

And then there is the so-called “supercommittee” -- a body which apparently has awesome powers heretofore not witnessed within the Beltway. Either they come up with some cuts, or defense gets chopped! In other words, defense is being held hostage. Yeah, right. What Pat fails to mention is that the Republicans are as immovable on defense as they are on taxes – even more so, frankly.

But here's the key line in the column – and there is always a key line, and it's always easily overlooked. Among the dire consequences of a defense cut is “a 'hollow force' unable to meet America's commitments”. Well yeah, gee whiz, we can't have a “hollow force”, now can we? But that's not the key. The key is the term “America's commitments”, and it begs the question, to whom? And why? And, did the American people agree to any of this? And, if it means the destruction of our economy, do those “commitments” still hold? Are they to be honored, no matter what – right down to the last man and the last dollar? See, these are questions that are never – and I mean NEVER – asked... on the floors of Congress or anywhere else. At what point do those “commitments” become null and void? When we're bankrupt? (In which case, they already are null and void.) Or, when we cease to exist as an economy (coming soon to a theater near you)? Or when we cease to exist as a society? Sooner or later, someone has to say “game over!” and declare all “commitments” null and void.

But here's where I differ with Pat Buchanan. He thinks that defense cuts will be the only thing left. “America approaches her moment of truth.” The alternative is to raise taxes – not only on “the rich” but on everyone. And my point has been that raising taxes on “the rich” doesn't work, because “the rich” are smart enough to avoid taxes. So raising taxes on the rich really means raising them on the middle class, who are not smart enough... and thus we revert to the Clinton era, where anyone who wasn't feasting on cat food at least once a week was considered “rich” for tax purposes.

Along similar lines to the “commitments” issue is Buchanan's statement that “... the United States must retain a surplus of power to defend all of its vital interests and vital allies...” And what, pray tell, would constitute a “surplus of power”? We already spend more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined; is that enough? Isn't there a point at which the term “overkill” becomes relevant? And when it comes to “vital interests” -- that's usually a code word for oil. But the last time I looked, all the oil-producing countries on Earth were perfectly willing to sell us their oil for the right price, so why is this a “defense” issue? And as to “vital allies” -- well, once again, for the 1000th time, there is no such thing as a permanent alliance; it's all a matter of politics and pragmatism. And who are these “vital allies”, anyway? The only one I can think of that is always described that way (if not as an “eternal ally”) is Israel, and frankly, the best thing that could happen to our foreign policy and our economy would be to cut them loose.

So what does Pat propose as a means to cut defense? What he talks about in the column is pulling troops out of places like Europe, South Korea, and Japan. Funny he doesn't mention Iraq or Afghanistan – but he has criticized overseas adventurism often enough, so I'll let that pass. And yes, he does have the big picture, but maybe not quite big enough. My point has always been that we're no longer even fighting wars over “ideas” -- for which one could gin up some small amount of respect. No, now we're fighting either on behalf of other countries or entities, or on behalf of our own war industries. In other words, we're fighting for the lowest and coarsest of reasons, despite the hysterical pronouncements of the Evangelicals and Neocons. The Evangelicals have been tools and dupes of the Regime, and the Neocons, basically, _are_ the Regime – or an important arm thereof. I don't think they believe in ideas any more than anyone else... but it's the language in which they feel they have to speak.

The other flaw in Buchanan's argument is one of premise. He seems to think that our government, and our wars, and still under the control of sane people... and that they will make sane decisions when the chips are down. But I think we've had more than ample time to come to the firm conclusion that our foreign policy, and our military, are under the control of lunatics – either that or traitors.

Let me explain. If our foreign policy is doing absolutely nothing to enhance the welfare of the American citizen, and yet is spending him, and the economy overall, into bankruptcy, then something is seriously wrong. Either the people in charge are working for someone, or something, other than the American people – ample justification for a treason charge – or they are totally deluded in their notions of reality. If there's a third possibility, I don't perceive it. If our leaders are sane, then they must be working for someone else, because they certainly couldn't be working for ordinary Americans or their interests. If they're insane, then it really doesn't matter who they're working for, or who they think they're working for, because the end result is disastrous either way.

And the question arises, which do we prefer? Sane but cynical, corrupt, and evil people running the nation, its economy, and its people into the ground for the sake of someone, or something else? Or certifiably insane people who are doing what they consider the right thing? And here I have to comment that even when the overall trend is one way, elements of the other can enter in. For example, the armaments makers can be considered simply cynical and greedy, whereas the Neocons are motivated by both power and ideas... and the Evangelicals are motivated purely by ideas (which are wrong). So, if one is motivated entirely, or largely, by ideas, and the result is failure every time, then the persistence of those ideas has to be considered insanity – which means that whereas the Neocons are half-crazy, the Evangelicals are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs... and sure enough, this is what we see whenever we read or hear pronouncements from either group. And yet I say that the topmost layer is anything but crazy... especially the portion of it that resides somewhere off our shores. The Regime may be cynical, but it's in no way crazy; they know exactly what they're doing, which is why I'm always skeptical when I read about all the alleged economic woes of Europe. Since that is where the Regime's power base is, I suspect this economic crisis is nothing but an elaborate act designed to, among other things, open a new spigot to more speedily drain blood out of the American economy and taxpayer – and sure enough, this process has already begun. Whenever you read that the IMF or the World Bank is going to “participate” in some bogus cliff-hanging, lifesaving scheme on behalf of European banks or economies, you can be sure that “World Bank” and “IMF” are code words for “the American taxpayer”. So we will be bled white long before any form of sanity gains the upper hand – and I don't expect it to happen even then.

See, if you disallow sanity and/or patriotism from the motives of our leaders (not to mention their masters in Europe and elsewhere), then all bets are off, and no one can expect any policy decision to be reasonable. Which means, overseas bases will not be closed, and we will continue to borrow. And yes, eventually taxes will be raised on the middle class, disguised as taxes on “the rich”. And defense, rather than suffering drastic cuts, will remain untouchable... or, let's say, the defense/intelligence cartel will remain untouchable. And all of this is a perfectly natural, predictable stage in the decline of empires; it has happened any number of times before in history. While the citizenry collapse from hunger in the streets, the armies remain strong and spread across the map. I'm sure there are cases in history where the armies even survived after the home country had vanished – such is the durability of armies, which can at least live off the land wherever they happen to find themselves. And this is how it is going to be with us – for one thing, we are the Regime's fighting force; there is no other. And so they will do whatever it takes to keep that force in the field, while draining the life blood from its home nation; they won't be finished with us until the last soldier is killed by the last IED... but by that time, the U.S. will be a barren waste. And, as “fast-forward” as world events seem to move these days, this particular denouement may take quite a while to occur – not centuries, certainly, but possibly decades. But the plan is in place, and the mechanisms are operating... and our politicians and leaders have been bought, bribed, threatened, or deluded into submission. And no amount of “tea partying” or “Occupying Wall Street” is going to turn back the tide; it is way too late for that. If the American people has stood up decades ago, there might have been hope... but, again, the ideational nature of our society has, among many unfortunate consequences, a way of causing people to worship government in a way other societies would find insane and laughable. To lose faith in government! Not only is this not the American way, but it seems to contradict all of the most closely-held premises on which the nation was founded. Surely government of, by, and for the people cannot turn, overnight, into government of, by, and for someone else? But as I've pointed out before, this did not happen overnight. The realization of it might have happened overnight for some people, but the transfer of power and resources from the people to the ruling elite has been going on for many lifetimes. And we might have awakened to all of this sooner if we hadn't been hypnotized by “ideas”. But hypnotized we were... and now that a few of us have awakened, we find ourselves wandering through a landscape in which most people are still hypnotized. They are living, comfortably and secure, in the Matrix, and the rest of us are strangers in a strange land – one that we were born in, and yet it has turned into a monstrosity before our eyes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Did "The People" Ever "Have" America?

Surely you will indulge me for a moment while I present a take-off on “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants. (It's more fun if you listen to the original on YouTube and read these words at the same time!):

Tea party man, tea party man
Doing the things a tea party can
What's he like? It's not important
Tea party man

Is he a fool, or is he a schmuck?
Maybe he's nothing but a hockey puck.
When his house is underwater does he get wet?
Or does the bank get him instead?
Nobody knows, tea party man

Wall Street man, Wall Street man
Wall Street man hates tea party man
They have a fight, Wall Street wins
Wall Street man

Neocon man, Neocon man
Size of the New World Order man
Always blind to a smaller man
Neocon man

He's got a watch with a minute hand,
Millennium hand and a Zionist hand
When they meet it's the Promised Land
Powerful man, Neocon man

Person man, person man
Hit on the head with a frying pan
Lives his life in a garbage can
Person man

Is he depressed or is he a mess?
Does he feel totally worthless?
Who came up with person man?
Degraded man, person man

Wall Street man, Wall Street man
Wall Street man hates person man
They have a fight, Wall Street wins
Wall Street man

Well, that was fun. And as you can see, I didn't even have to change some of the verses. The point being, we're in a situation where a number of different gangs who barely speak to each other dominate the political scene. We have the “tea party”, “Wall Street” (which represents the money power – i.e. the international finance facet of the Regime), the Neocons (who represent the political/foreign policy facet of the Regime and who are inseparable from Israel), and then the average schmo who doesn't know what to make of it all, but mainly doesn't want to get involved. And why should he? He suspects, on some level, that he is totally powerless, and has decided to adopt that as this baseline and spend his time on more productive pursuits. The tea partiers, on the other hand, persist in believing that “the people” somehow have a voice in how things go – in how the country is run. So Wall Street and the Neocons, who make up a large part of the oligarchy, look down with barely concealed contempt on the ordinary, non-committal “person man” types, and laugh at the exertions of the tea partiers.

But now a new element enters the scene (and there was no room for them in the song) – namely the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, AKA (by some people looking for a buzzword) “leftist tea partiers”. And they're on to something to the extent that both the tea party and the OWS types are populist movements, dedicated to the proposition that “the people” still have a voice... or ought to. The problem is that they have wildly differing conceptions of what constitutes “the people”. To the tea partiers, “the people” refers to an increasingly-disenfranchised and stressed-out middle class, who see the economic flood waters rising enough to get their feet wet, and also see that their values are under constant attack. And – the more perceptive among them realize that there is a connection between the two. To the OWS gang, “the people” refers, I guess, to themselves – a rag-tag bunch of humanists, leftists, populists, graduate students, etc. who don't feel disenfranchised because they never felt enfranchised. They are trying to reclaim something that, in fact, they never had... whereas the tea partiers are under the illusion of having, somehow, “had” America at one time, but no longer.

Now – why can't these two groups join forces against the oligarchy? Well, it's because they don't share the same core values; all they share is the suspicion that something is terribly wrong. But the tea partiers are hesitant to blame Wall Street and big business, etc. because they grew up thinking that those entities exemplified the American Dream... and that any boy (or girl) born in a modest bungalow in Levittown could grow up to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The OWS types have, at least, never trusted Wall Street or big business, and even if their distrust might have been ill-founded at one time, it's perfectly reasonable in these times. But they also have little or no regard for private property, and probably little regard for religion or traditional values – so the gulf between them and the tea partiers would be a very tough one to bridge. And besides, despite the fact that Wall Street and the government are, for all intents and purposes, a single entity, they persist in believing that government is the cure for all human ills. I don't think you'd find many libertarians among the OWS crowd – could be wrong, but that's what I suspect. And by the same token, you won't find many libertarians among the tea partiers; they too think that government is the cure for... if not all human ills, then a great many. When they say they want “smaller government”, they don't mean so small that it can't go out and defend traditional values in the fashion of Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

What I'm trying to say is that the Wall Street protesters and the tea partiers share the same ambivalence toward government. They don't like what it's doing now, but believe that it can be set upon the path of virtue. And this, as any libertarian can tell you, is a fatal misconception. And what the Regime is highly skilled at is taking advantage of these ambivalences and co-opting the people who suffer from them – offering to fix whatever ails the nation but then turning around and using the power granted to them by the people against those same people. The OWS types are just the latest in a long line of progressive movements – and the progressives, after all these years, continue to moan and groan about what a monster the government has become – when it is they, and their views, who have as much to do with the growth of government as anyone. The tea partiers, on the other hand, think big government is just groovy when it comes to “force projection” and a “muscular” foreign policy, but resent it when the same resources are turned back on them on the home front. And just try telling either of these groups that they can't have it both ways! It's impossible. So they just march on, and rave on, and the people in charge chuckle and shake their heads.

But there is one question plaintively asked by these groups that bears some thought. They both ask, on a regular basis, how “the people” “lost America” -- as if “America” (whatever that means) was, at one time, something that “the people” had, or possessed. Now, certainly if one reads the founding documents and other historic pronouncements, it does give the impression that the people's voice was intended to count for something – although one can question whether this country was ever intended to be a “democracy” in the radical or literal (as in “rule by the people”) sense. I think the term, “consent of the governed” expresses it better; after all, radical self-rule would be hard to distinguish from anarchy. So what does “consent of the governed” imply? At the very least, it should imply that people elect representatives to governing bodies who share their values and priorities, and are willing to promote those values and priorities in the process of governing. In other words, we don't vote for Dr. Jekyll and wind up with Mr. Hyde in Congress – which is what happens more often than not under the current system. I've discussed before how big government corrupts those who are part of it, even if they did, at one time and in all sincerity, promise to work for the benefit of their constituents; the temptations and pressures that impinge upon crossing the Beltway are too overpowering for all but a very few secular saints to deal with.

The main point is the both the tea partiers and the OWS crowd act as if the transfer of power from the many to the few is a recent event – the implication being that anything that happened that recently should be relatively easy to undo. What I say is that, while public figures were mouthing words about democracy and representative government, the Regime was gaining strength and gradually taking over... and I don't think this is a recent trend at all. One has to trace it at least as far back as the Civil War, and probably to the Mexican War. And speaking of war, when was America's last “good war”? Some will say World War II... possibly Korea. Me, I nominate the War of 1812. Every war since then has been, to a greater or lesser degree, a racket, and has been started primarily to benefit those in high places – politically and financially. And I would say that the degree to which the people “rule” is negatively correlated with war – the more wars we fight, and the greater a portion of our resources and productivity that goes into them, the less the people have any voice in things. When, for example, is the last time the American people actually voted yea or nay about getting into a war? The answer is that they never had that opportunity. And if a choice of this magnitude is kept out of their hands on a recurring basis, how much power do the people have? Very little, I'd say. So what does that tell you about what has become an economy based on perpetual war, with the required political, propaganda, financial, and “intelligence” infrastructure? It's the biggest single piece of the economy and it has a larger impact on national life than any other factor – and yet the people have absolutely nothing to say about it one way or the other. To the average schmo -- “person man” -- war just happens, the way recessions just happen. To the middle-class tea partier, dropping real estate values just happened; he doesn't know why and no one can (or will) explain. So what they are all faced with is an increasing frequency of events that make them feel helpless – but unlike the Great Depression, which featured a kind of universal fatalism, people now have at least developed some modicum of skepticism. They're not sure that everything they are told by the government is true – and that is certainly the beginning of wisdom. But it is also, I suspect, way too late – which is why the tea party protests and the Occupy Wall Street protests are exercises in futility. Not only has the horse escaped from the barn, he's been rounded up and turned into dog food – and yet people persist in thinking that if the barn door is made secure, the horse will somehow be reconstituted and come back to life.

The “bottom line” to all this – if there even is one – is that, on some level, the concept that “the people rule” is not only an illusion now, but it always has been. Like the new car that starts losing value the minute it's driven off the lot, vested interests started to erode the people's power from day one – and the Civil War proved how far that process had progressed in a mere “fourscore and seven years”. And yet, the illusion persisted, and continues to persist right up to the present day – as witness the efforts of the Progressives, the left during the New Deal, the anti-war movement during Vietnam, and the people currently protesting Wall Street or big government. And this is not to say that the Progressives accomplished nothing, or that the left (including the labor movement) didn't have some impact on New Deal programs. If fact, rumor has it that the New Deal came about as a way to head off revolution – which, if true, shows you how much has changed just since then. Imagine entertaining the thought of a “revolution” of any sort these days? The last one of any significance, I would say, was our own cultural revolution of the 1960s, which was relatively bloodless... but the funny thing is, although it did change the face of America, the power structure remained completely intact. Things had gotten to the point of almost complete consolidation at that point – more than in the New Deal era, even, and certainly more than in any earlier era. The possibility for change – real change – had pretty much vanished by the post-war era, for the simple reason that – I'll say it again – the war enabled the power structure to consolidate and tie up all the loose ends, and the result was the Regime as it stands today.

So this notion that “the people” (of whatever stripe) once had, or owned, America but somehow lost it along the way is misguided, and a source of considerable frustration. What we have lost is not America but our illusions – and even that has been a gradual process that not everyone has shared in. Most people just keep their heads down and try to stay out of the way. The reason that the “tea party” is so dramatic is that it consists of people who were non-boat rockers from birth, but who have finally gotten fed up. And yet, the notion of a middle-class revolution is a contradiction in terms; they don't have the persistence or – dare I say it? -- the capability for violence that must always be part of a successful revolution. And that motley crew down on Wall Street... well, they're about as effective as the freakazoids who come out to protest at G-20 and IMF/World Bank conferences. And to suggest to either group that they might find common ground with the other... well, you'd get every expression of revulsion and disgust ever invented. It would be “those long-haired, pot-smoking, oversexed hippies” all over again, on one side... and “those bourgeois, uptight, square churchgoers” on the other. Ne'er the twain shall meet – and yet if they did, what a bonfire we could have!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hankerin' for Trouble

I can't believe that I'm the only one who got mightily tired, years ago, of Hank Williams Jr.'s Slim Jim-, Jack Daniel's-, and testosterone-fueled bellowing of the Monday Night Football theme song all during the NFL season. Well, fortunately, he seems to have blown his major (only?) paying gig by running full-tilt into the PC juggernaut. The offense in question was... well, that's the question, actually. What, precisely, was his offense? And this is not to say that there had to be one; after all, if just about anything can send the thin-skinned American political class into a high hover, this is doubly true in election season – and yes, sorry to say, that doleful season is already upon us.

So anyway, here's what our man Hank is supposed to have said, referring to a golf game between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner: ''It'd be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.'' OK... first of all, you don't play the “Hitler” card anywhere within 100 miles of the nearest Jew, living or dead. But aside from that, my first question, on reading the quote, was “which is which”? Are we to automatically assume that Obama = Hitler and Boehner = Netanyahu? The assumption, of course, is that Hitler and Netanyahu are polar opposites, which... well, let's just say we could have an interesting discussion about that. And the further irony – which I'm sure escaped Ol' Hank entirely – is that Obama and Boehner are both working for the same boss, namely Netanyahu. So he actually said, at one and the same time, both more and less than he intended to say. Not a bad night's work, and certainly more interesting than hearing the Monday Night Football theme for the umpty-umpth time.

But actually, Hank did offer an immediate “clarification”, in the best political tradition. Obama and Biden are apparently “the enemy” -- which I guess means Boehner/Netanyahu is the friend. I guess there's no room in Hank's philosophy for the possibility that they're all enemies -- of normal Americans, that is -- whom Hank supposedly speaks for.

See why no one who makes a living singing should ever be asked to talk? It's a train wreck waiting to happen, every time. But ESPN did its bounden duty, and instantly pulled Hank's intro song from the program – which must have been a great relief for the fans, one which I would have shared if I were able to pull in ESPN on my rabbit ears.

So... well, I guess Hank has already apologized to Obama. But is he going to apologize to Boehner? I'd think that he would. But let's return to that golf match for a moment. I have to admit I felt a certain frisson of horror when I saw the O-man and the B-man exchanging Bozo the Clown grins across the green. That voice that always lies just below conscious awareness suddenly spoke up: “There is only one Regime. There is only one party.” I could never look at Boehner the same way again – although I was never a fan anyway. (No white man is that color, I'm sorry...) And I have to give Hank credit for at least representing the chronic bewilderment of the vast lower stratum of American society. They don't understand politicians, or why they do what they do; those sorts of speculations are left up to someone else. And they don't understand what a black guy is doing playing golf instead of basketball – and how someone who is supposedly his sworn enemy during working hours can get all giggly and wiggly when in his august presence o'er the greensward. Yes, these are all puzzling things; Hank got it right. The only thing he did wrong was to point it out in public and use some unfortunate names for comparison. After all, only liberals are allowed to compare people to Hitler; when anyone else does it it's racist, anti-Semitic, blah blah. Oh well, he'll learn. Free speech is a thing of the past in this society, but it's perfectly acceptable to retain the delusion that it still exists.