Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Over on Truthout ( there’s an 01/29 AP piece about the Watada trial. The government is dropping two counts of conduct unbecoming. Such a generous and benevolent sovereign, our military. As Ike would say: Yah.

The military justice system has been dealt with elsewhere on this site (“Bishops Bomb”, “Military Just-As”, “Military Justice is No Music” – Parts 1 & 2, “Warrior Professionals”). And the Watada case has been discussed (“Military-isms”).

As indicated in the latter Post, these General Article charges are filler, put in there to beef up the potential jail time and induce any soul foolhardy enough to want to stand up and defend himself to think again and just plead guilty. Siberia being a given, why piss Stalin off by taking up the court’s time? Say you’re sorry, get trucked back to the Lubyanka, and get ready for your long journey. Meals are provided. Be hapski. Your military defender may visit you, perhaps bring a chocolate bar for after your supper. They’ve been known to do that, you know. A glorious system, is it not? Now march.

The reporters are off the hook – they won’t have to show up and testify. But they will ‘stipulate to’ the testimony they would have provided if they had been made to come. Lt. Watada’s civilian defense counsel tries to put a brave face on it: the journalists are “shielded from the heavy hand of the government”. I don’t see how. Yes, the reporters are spared (and the media deprived of) the photogenic footage of reporters forced to testify in a military ‘court’ (yes – the quotes … they are not mean to ‘scare’ but to indicate irony, even sarcasm). Before a military ‘judge’ (ditto). (Then again, the way things are going in the country just now, maybe we should be ‘scared’, certainly more so than most of us right now.)

The reporters are off the hook. But we must hope and pray that they don’t consider themselves off the case. This war, this ‘justice’ system, the Pentagoon bosses who so cynically run it, the oily roadies who spin it … all need to have some serious tire kicked.

But the military is off the hook, too. It doesn’t have to face the prospect of that footage either. And just how much do you want to piss off the media? One of the great rings of defense around the fortress prison of military justice is precisely the media’s fawning or unthinking acceptance of this thing as a legitimate and credible system of administering honest justice. And if they go and piss off the press, then such telegenic flacks and roadies as the National Institute for Military Justice will lose the traction that their smarmy, avuncular lecture-commentary is meant to provide: Ah yes, the wonders of our system – here, let me show you just a bit – but, alas, so much is classified, or beyond the civilian mind – well, just trust us, it works fine, balancing the needs of the government and the rights of the accused to a nicety. Yah.

“They’ve already determined that he’s guilty”, reports the defense counsel. Well, of course. You don’t go and start a military operation if you haven’t yet identified and isolated the ‘enemy’ whose undoing is your tactical objective. (They tried that in the War on Terror, and look what’s happened.) These military justice ‘trials’ are nothing of the sort, and the word ‘trial’ shouldn’t be used because it confuses American and Western jurisprudence with the military operation that courtsmartial fundamentally are. A court-martial is the JAG equivalent of shock&awe, only unlike the actual field operations, the JAG version is guaranteed – think ‘shooting fish in a barrel’. But they get pay and resume notches and sometimes medals for this stuff. And so do the ‘judges’, who are also JAGs. It’s a marvelously constructed system. “What’s the Constitution among friends?” a Tammany-era pol once asked. Even more so, what’s the Constitution among officers and gentlemen?

And they are all honorable men. As the Army spokesman says: Watada’s failure to deploy “is something the military takes very seriously”. Yah. It’s dizzying to try to follow just what things the military bosses take seriously these days. Soon-to-retire generals and admirals buying weapons systems from corporate honchos who then hire them for big bucks as soon as they take off the medal-suit for the last time? Billions of budgeted dollars that cannot be accounted for by the same? Refusal to stand up, put your bemedalled career on the line and speak military truth to power when your troops’ lives are at stake? Nope. Not so serious. But a junior-officer who takes his stand against a war that was started with lies and has been continued with more lies and whose loss is being veiled by even more lies … well now THAT is serious. Harrrrrumph! Yah.

The Army also wants Watada to do at least 18 months in prison. Anything over 12 months would – the law being what it is just now – make him a ‘felon’. Imagine: serial killers, bank robbers, car-jackers, some – at least – of the ubiquitous sex offenders, murderers … and 1st Lt. Watada. The most honorable generals have decreed. Yah.

A damned shame that the ghosts of Arlington can’t speak. But then again, the Universe being what it is, just maybe they will, in their way. Listen for them. They know. And they speak Truth. And We need to hear that.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Jonathan Cohn at TNR Online has a piece on why liberalism should be proud of itself (“Proud Heritage”, I’d like to agree, but … lemme explain.

A couple of days ago I came across a quote from JFK: “We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For, a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

It hit me quietly - like a single rock in the stomach instead of like a ton of them on my head – just how much things have changed in this country since then. Can you imagine quoting that passage nowadays? Can you imagine standing up and saying this to a Congress (either House) that doesn’t want to say that the idea of the earth being only 6000 years old is kinda not a good basis on which to conduct the affairs of this Republic? That is willing to pass a unanimous resolution that to even mention in public that you can’t find actual scientific proof of the long-lasting and dire effects of sex with children merits Congressional denouncement? (And to prove just how different things are nowadays, let me say right here that I do not in any way approve of or advocate sex with such little lives).

Things have changed. And not for the better, I think. And it was the ‘liberals’ who wrought (wreaked?) this change. Cohn quotes FDR that liberals “recognized … the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization.” And, Cohn, goes on, FDR then adds: “We of the republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable.”

Well, FDR here demonstrates the American polity’s ongoing but subsurface search for the answer to the question: who should govern – the Quality or the Equality? The import being that you can be governed by those who know best (in the early Republic that would be the planters and the planter-statesmen and the college educated gentlemen) or by the mob of just about anybody – merchants, farmers, and – increasingly – urbanized and immigrant folks.

By the early 1900s Progressivism was asserting that those who could manage this increasingly complicated civilization, but of course managing it benevolently on behalf of the less capable masses who were either uneducated or too busy trying to keep a job … those “managerial Progressives” as Richard Slotkin describes them, would be not only the guides but the trail-bosses for the great wagon train of The People as it made its way across the wild West deserts of Time and History.

But of course, The People cannot have a ‘wagon-master’ or a ‘trail-boss’, because to do so corrupts each individual citizen’s ability to think things through and the common ability to deliberate together and reach a decision. As Emiliano Zapata said when that successful and patriotic leader mused upon governing Mexico: a Strong Man makes a weak people.

It was the Progressive conceit that the nation would remain healthy because the managerial Progressives would wisely shape and execute the best social policies. But that comforting imagined outcome did nothing to address the question of whether The People would remain healthy if their decision-making capacities and their individual thinking capacities and their common deliberative capacities were allowed to wither. And what might be the implications of such withering for The People, for the Republic, for the future of the nation?

The Progressives, manly and robust and bustling American pragmatists, did not allow themselves to be detained by such philosophical considerations: real men, real Americans, didn’t get “sentimental” like ‘wimmen’ or waste time on abstractions. In many ways they were mirror-images of the voracious Robber Barons: If it ‘works’, it’s true and good. “Sentimentalism” was as ineffective and downright dangerous in staying the final blow against the ‘savage Indian’ (and later the savage Filipino) as it was in staying the final blow of bracing economic competition against the obviously weak losers who could not keep afloat or alive in the eternal struggle that was unregulated capitalism. America would always be a Frontier of one sort or another, and on the Frontier you can’t afford to refuse or even delay the bold, decisive action that could save your life just because you’re squeamish about blood and feelings.

Even as the ranks of native-born Progressives were joined by newly educated and socially impassioned Jewish immigrant-children now in robust and eager youth, the unspoken conviction remained that society’s only defense against a Robber Baron elite of hyper-wealthy bosses was a dedicated and educated managerial elite who could operate the levers of public policy for the good of all. And on its good days, do battle with the already-advantaged forces of the Robber Barons, of ‘the interests’.

But whatever the intention – and in some ways the differences were certainly large – the Robber Barons and the Progressives were both constrained to shape themselves in response to the massive and monstrous flowering of economic wealth that increased exponentially in the decades between the Civil War and the Korean War. Complexity required experts to nurture it and to manage it; The People could not all be experts.

But that sensible and realistic observation was often followed – in time – by a far darker and not necessarily logical conclusion: that The People don’t ‘know’ and ‘can’t know’ enough to have an impact on American development(s), and that therefore The People no longer count as ‘players’. They are at best a wagon-train in need of a boss, at worst a herd of cattle needing cowboys to move them along in the right direction. Their future was no longer – indeed could no longer be left – in their own hands. The shape of their future, the shape and quality of their lives and their society – ditto.

The managerial mindset came a cropper sometime in LBJ’s Presidency. The war in Vietnam was not well-managed and nobody could ever feel Robert McNamara was benevolently working for the good of all; the Glorious ’65 had led to riots and – alarmingly – some new type of resurrected racial-obsessiveness called ‘affirmative racism’, and none of any of it sounded quite good. And then, in what Cohn aptly (if unwittingly) describes as “the next logical step”, a follow-on revolution was suddenly raised up, wound up, and sent crashing along the public way: feminism. And there were follow-on ‘logical steps’ as more and more nascent ‘identities’ created themselves and rushed the public space.

But ‘logical’ wasn’t the key here, and Cohn’s and the Progressives’ emphasis upon it reveals their managerial set of mind rather than any larger vision such as the political or the fundamentally democratic. “Doing good the most logical and efficient way” is the watchword of the managers, because getting things done efficiently is what managers know how to do. When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Ask the Pentagon managers.

Efficiency, as any good revolutionary knows, must brook no delays and no distractions. Intensity and concentration leading to the objective in the quickest possible time is the only allowable mode of proceeding. Nor can a revolution be questioned or doubted; its momentum, perhaps even its very validity, could be lost once the sustaining wave of the pressure of events is allowed to subside or pass by.

So the assorted revolutions went on, and nobody was allowed to speak about how fundamentally undemocratic a revolution on behalf of the people could be.

Can a revolution be ‘liberal’? No. Not in the sense of Liberalism as it was classically imagined in the 19th and previous centuries. Then, Liberalism was an antidote to monarchical or tyrannical authority, based on a respect for the individual human being and an Enlightenment faith in the power of human Reason, especially when platformed on a well-set and virtuous Character, to liberate among societies the energies latent in the ‘higher ranges’ of their members’ skills and gifts. Organized religion, to the extent that it discouraged a capacity for personal achievement and inquiry, was considered an active oppressor of persons; but there was always the ancient Christian conviction – even if in the Enlightenment it exerted only the illumination of afterglow – that there is indeed a Vertical dimension to the human self and a Beyond dimension to human existence, and that Answer would have to be made someday to that Beyond, and that – more happily – its assistance in the form of Grace might be implored for life ‘down here’.

Such individuals were worthy of and capable of thinking, coming together and conducting deliberation, and deciding. Such a Process, allowed to the remarkable human gifts so valued in the Liberal vision, would in the fullness of time yield worthwhile results to the community governed by such principles and by such a vision.

Revolutionaries share no such Liberal appreciation. People are sheep to be led by the illuminated vanguard, objectives are too important not to be ‘achieved’ in the quickest possible time, and nothing weak enough to be swept aside is worth keeping anyway. Nor can any obstruction or delay be tolerated. Revolution is a serious business, its seriousness being a result partly of its awareness of the pain it seeks to alleviate and partly a result of the primal bloodlust evoked by the awareness of the destruction it is about to inflict.

A ‘liberalism’ grounded in what has been for all practical purposes a revolutionary mindset and heart-set will be a very contorted liberalism indeed. And perhaps for that reason the Democrats turned to pandering, both to the Identities they had raised up and to the oligarchies of power and influence – “the interest” – that had quietly engorged while attention was focused elsewhere. In their deepest heart, the Democrats knew that the ‘new’ liberalism would undermine The People and the Republic; they saw no solution and into the vacuum of their ineffective power they poured the money and favors from those whose presence their difficulties had invited.

Mr. Cohn says, we should not be ashamed of the label “liberal”. But we should not be too quick to apply it (in its capital-L form) to ourselves or to those who would claim it. The present-day complex civilization poses powerful challenges to Liberalism. But small-l liberalism cannot answer those challenges; it can only appease them.

But that’s a once and future story.

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Chris Hedges sounds the alert about Christian Fascism (“Christianists on the March”, He’s always a worthwhile read.

He had a professor 25 years ago at Harvard Divinity School who then, at the age of 80, had told his students that when they were his age they “would all be fighting the Christian Fascists”. The rise of the Fundamentalist Ascendancy, in the military’s enlisted and officer ranks and among its religious (chaplains) and legal (JAGs) professionals has been noted at various places on this site (see, inter alia, “Bishops Bombs” and “Warrior Professionals”).

The present concern is that proto-fascists have now found “a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible”. This presumes that the Fundamentalists are proto-fascists. Such a presumption is hardly unwarranted. The Fundamentalist mindset and heartset share most of the characteristics of a pervasive and comprehensive immaturity (or of the maturationally-challenged, if you prefer). Persons thus afflicted do not handle stress well, such as the pressure of change and dealing with the consequences of change – whether that change be ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.

So given – on top of that – the profoundly negative economic developments in our society over the past 30 years (masked as much by conveniently distracting revolutions of the culture-wars as by Reagan-ish burblings), such persons are hugely agitated. Nor, given their core weaknesses, will their responses to those very real and dangerous developments be very ‘mature’. Instead, they will resort to the more primitive of the classic defense mechanisms, Denial, Fantasy, Projection being especially probable.

And when all this is done in groups, when a trellis is provided around which such persons and their anxieties can gather and provide mutual stimulation (‘support’ is too constructive a word to describe this dynamic), you start to see a real storm developing. Thus the role of the Bible Bhagwans who have provided (for a very large fee) just the trellis that will support – but also ensnare – these desperate folk.

Worse, if and as the economic situation worsens, then the middle-class itself will be endangered, and many persons who under even modestly good economic circumstances would be able to function ‘at the higher end of their range’ – as the social workers like to put it – will slide ineluctably toward ‘the lower end’ of that range, their falling spirits and souls raining down into the superheated maelstrom of agitated folk whose lesser range had already doomed them to the Fundamentalistic cauldron.

But such whackery – religiously formatted as it may be – is not sufficient for fascism. Fascism requires an idolatry of the State and an eager willingness to submit to it (ironically to be – in the gay argot – a ‘bottom’ to the State’s and the Leader’s ‘top’). But here too, Fundamentalism fills the bill. A shallow if vivid and jangling religious vision, it makes no more effort to plumb the heights and depths of existence than it seeks to explore (let alone master) the heights and depths and breadths and lights and darknesses of the individual human soul. Consequently, possessed of no comprehensive Vision, unable to penetrate beyond the appearances and the surfaces of this Horizontal ‘world’, unstabilized by and keel or any sail and unballasted by doctrine or sacrament or sustained theological deliberation and contemplation, the Fundamentalists scud and scutter along those surfaces, bewitched by those appearances, a true flotilla of the maturationally-damned, a plague of Sunday-boaters-from-hell. And, yielding to the ur-human need to believe in something, they raise up what they find in their shrunken world: the State.

Unlike Soviet Communism, Fundamentalism does not claim to eradicate ‘God’ and erect itself in His stead. Unlike National Socialism, Fundamentalism does not claim that it itself is the fullest manifestation of God (though Hitler shrewdly allowed such fantasies to persist in his Reich). Rather, Fundamentalism a) hides itself in the whackier, less mature approaches to the Bible’s difficult conceptual terrain, and thus arrayed in cloth of fool’s-gold, it then b) yields itself to the power of the State and the seductive, almost priapic, strength of its Leader (which starts to sound like a Rove-ian crush on said Leader, but in any case regresses the Fundamentalist societal and political vision back to the Babylonian, if not the Hittite).

Thus rather than replace “God” with the “State”, they sink God into the State by claiming that the State in whatever it does is doing God’s will. Thus the State is justified in its existence and in all of its actions (and any doubt or criticism of the State is pre-emptively not-justified). Or at least as many of those actions as conform to the fantasy that the Fundamentalists have created and draped over the State. When the State fails to conform to the actions they expect of it, they will first try to blame that on ‘subverters’ of the State and only in a last-ditch situation will they turn against the State (in which case they will need to be selecting and erecting a new idol pronto or else face the upwelling of all their anxieties, fears, and darker passions; the State (or the idol) serves to cap that gusher and tame the well of darkness for which they have never developed more mature modes of mastery).

So the Fundamentalists can be seduced and co-opted by the State and – as has developed through the workings and sleazings of the National Security State and the Reagan-ish oligarchical State – they can be made the pious (in a jangly sorta way) front behind which the promises and goals of the New Deal are undone. In this regard, Richard Slotkin in “Gunfighter Nation” discusses the early 19th-century argument as to whether the country and Americans are better being governed by Quality or Equality – by those who are ‘capable’ or by everybody since all are ‘equal’. ‘Capable’ would be a good choice, except that there is no guarantee that Jefferson’s ‘natural aristocracy’ (of talent and achievement) would not be taken over by the ‘legacy aristocracy’ of generations who simply inherit wealth and social position and political connection, or by the ‘corporate aristocracy’ of ruthless achievers who master monster corporations and become therein encased like Annikin Skywalker became trapped in the exo-shell of Darth Vader. Art follows life and vice versa.

But this site always maintains that the Fundamentalist urge to “dismantle the open society” was sucked into a national vacuum first created by the Left, by the Democrats’ fear-filled but voracious embrace of the assorted ‘Revolutions of the Identities’ after the Party realized just how much its achievement of the Glorious ’65 and the almost simultaneous conclusion of the postwar American industrial hegemony had weakened its demographic base.

Few Americans except the Southrons doubted the social value and almost-existential validity of removing the final hindering disablements then still imposed upon ‘the Negro’. Even though these were nonmaterial social and cultural issues about which ‘science’ could provide little dispositive evidence, there was a large consensus that what people around the country were seeing on television – Southron police and sheriffs caught in the act of enforcing the Jim Crow imperium – was definitely not what this country stood for nor what the American citizenry believed about itself.

Yet the premises, claims, and programmes of the follow-on Revolutions – and they followed pretty rapidly – enjoyed no such consensus whatsoever. Nor, being revolutions, presided over by revolutionaries or at least by persons operating out of the revolutionary mindset (although the fact was soft-pedaled to the point of being deceptively misrepresented), did they seek to be leashed to the necessarily long, slow civic process of genuine education and deliberation – at the end of which they might still not achieve a consensual majority among the citizenry.

Thus the end-run around The People and corrosive undercutting comprised of legal tactics employed in the ‘civil rights’ field, but ripped from the societal context of consensus which the civil rights movement (at least as it existed until that Glorious ’65) enjoyed. And thus the revolutionary zeal to stifle dissent and the open discussion of important issues through the strangle-hold of Political Correctness, which itself was presented not as the assault on democratic ethos which – willy or nilly – it truly was but rather as a noble rescue exercised on behalf of victims and in the name of sensitivity. Robespierre could have told them what they were doing: “Terror is the emanation of Virtue”. But perhaps they knew that. The Virtue of the Left fueled an assault on the open society far more sustained and procedurally corrosive than the Virtue of the Fundamentalists.

Against the perennial human need to ‘believe’, the revolutionaries of the Left (or whole-heartedly embraced by the Left) demanded a Flattened world where no Virtue, no Reason, no Tradition, no Common-Sense, and ultimately no God could judge their programmes and the results that they demanded forthwith. With the assistance of the voter-starved Democrats and a media who thought it was helping, the debatable programmes and objectives were quickly and forcefully emplaced, even as it was not permitted to debate them or even mention that no debate had been had. The People were denied access to the Truth in its most democratic emanation: public deliberation.

A vast abyss opened up, and into that vacuum there was no force to speak for ‘belief’ and for any ‘other’ world or any ‘other’ dimension to this life … except for the agitated, over-compensating Fundamentalists, whose Bhagwans shrewdly stoked and stroked them even as they delivered them into the maw of the State.

We The People cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into an either-or dilemma: either the Flattening world of the ‘secular’ Left ‘liberals’ or the Fantasizing world of the apocalyptic, State-idolizing Fundamentalists. Nor, repelled as many of Us may be by the sheer primitive violence of the Fundamentalistic ethos, should we simply rebound – like loose electrons – into the orbit of the Flatteners who created this vacuum in the first place.

We must create our own path back into the solid but fertile ground of mature belief and a civic culture grounded in a mature citizenry, in The People. And we don’t have much time for so large an order. I hold no utopian view that this can be achieved easily or fully, nor that once achieved we shall suddenly find ourselves on “the broad sunlit uplands” of perfect security and perfect freedom. The world – this life – will not hold still for such a confinement, and its wildness will always demand our disciplined but not agitated attention.

Neither Flattener nor Fantasizer be. Rather, be – as da Duke, John Wayne liked to put it – a ‘pilgrim’, and pilgrims together let us set sail to renew our world and our much-vexed Republic.

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Monday, January 29, 2007


Just a bit more on this sex-offense Script and the doctrine that underlies it. Robert Jensen has an article on the Atlantic Free Press site ( entitled “Media reform should include critique of sexual exploitation media”.

The pornography trade should be stopped. He notes, rightly indeed, that seeking to reduce “toxic” pornography is no different from seeking to eliminate toxic foods. It is harder, however, to assess the exact effects of pornography on the mind and to ascertain the pathways through which those effects are created. We are in the intangible realm of mind, not the physical and material realm of food and physiology. This is the scientific problem that faces us in these intangible affairs.

Worse, of course, is that an attempt to rapidly address the problem, and through policy and – even more gravely – through the alteration of criminal law and – even more gravely – through the alteration of fundamental requirements of Due Process … such an attempt, based on such presently meager knowledge, is not wise. In the related area of sex-offender law and policy, as noted else where on this site in the review of Eric Janus’s new book “Failure To Protect” (see "Prosec Nation" on this site), huge changes have been wrought on the basis of what even that well-disposed author acknowledges is very little knowledge indeed.

To apply the analogy of palpable problems to these intangible matters is bad science. Of course, if we assume that we are dealing here not with a scientific inquiry but rather with a revolution, and that consequently we are not dealing with principals who are seeking objective facts and actual knowledge, but are rather seeking to ram home an agenda using science as a fig-leaf to ease the sensibilities of a putatively rational public … then we can see how such large errors in formal scientific inquiry can be so widely effected, and by many whose education and profession should lead them to know better.

Equally ill-advised is the next point Jensen makes: that a “civil rights approach” to pornography is an appropriate “legal strategy” through which to address the problem. Do we have a “civil right” to be “free” of pornography? Of unhealthy – but not tainted – foods? Are we then to give the government the power that would be necessary to ensure a “risk-free” world and life for ourselves?

And as proposed by Jennifer Pozner on Alternet (“A Culture of Rape”, “… American culture and law needs to find real solutions for punishing serial rapists or, more importantly, preventing men from perpetrating such criminal behavior in the first place”. Her thoughts raise some substantive questions.

Does not ‘American science’ need first to find out as much as it can? Have we not always had laws against rape and serial rape? Do we not have the punishments? Didn’t we have those punishments in place before the wide-ranging sex-offender laws? Weren’t – according to the government statistics – sexual assaults on a downward turn since 1976, a full 20 years before the great sex-offender push of the mid-1990s.

And if we are to explore the possibilities for American culture’s “preventing” male criminal behavior, do we also deploy the awesome criminal-prosecution power of the government to “prevent” crime? Do we start down that dangerous road? Indeed, we are already well along it, and such ‘prevention’ and – let’s say it – ‘pre-emption’ has now infected foreign policy and the military posture of the government, and has led to the current ominous mess in Iraq.

Can we ‘prevent’ crime? Can the Constitution bear such an awesome load? Can we punish all crime? We have already started down that road, through the unholy alliance of revolutionaries of the Left and the neo-Puritan furies of the Fundamentalist Right. Now them Kathliks, they never figured to ‘prevent’ crime (or sin); they figured it was ineradicable – which was why it was called Original Sin. Their ethos was woven from a certain patience with the inevitable and a clear-eyed awareness that if crime or sin were to be totally stamped out, the population of the entire world would have to be imprisoned, if any government could stand long enough to implement such a program. The fact that the U.S. now holds one-quarter of all the imprisoned convicts on the planet suggests clearly that this road of criminal-law and imprisonment will take us to a very dark place. If the actions of ‘men’ are to be singled out, then almost half the citizenry is theoretically liable to imprisonment. And if the government is empowered to deploy itself against ‘men’ today, then what is to stop it from deploying against other ‘enemies’ down the road?

To ‘inform’ the American “culture” is certainly an excellent goal, if the citizenry be accurately informed and then allowed to deliberate a course of action. But that is not what is being suggested by the relevant Advocacies and it has not been their gameplan so far.

They are not pure ideologues. They are very rightly aroused by the crimes that are being committed. But anger and outrage, no matter how compassionate or in what good cause, are no basis for policy, let alone for law.

To exercise prudence in the awefull matters of the criminal law is not “insensitive and insulting to the victim and to all women”. It is the responsibility of the government to deploy its terrible power prudently against its citizenry and – in this matter – against half that citizenry. The mollification of outrage is not all there is to Justice; to imagine that it is constitutes a massively inadequate conception of the situation and such a lack will lead to monstrous consequences, as we are seeing in Iraq now.

None of this is to condone rape or any sexual violence. And ‘boyo’ behavior, and the cultural foundations that support it, do indeed need to be accurately assessed so that they can be changed. It is not only women who suffer from it; the ‘boyos’ themselves are hugely diminished and deformed by such behavior and such cultural presumptions, and so are We as The People, and so is all the world that can be reached through the levers of power that such ‘boyos’ control.

A masculinity that can produce a Washington and a Lincoln – to name but two among innumerable examples of matured manhood productively contributing to civic life, however inevitably flawed in one way or another – is surely an asset that the nation and The People cannot afford to waste. We are all flawed, male and female. It is the nature of our kind, if them Kathliks be believed. And the climb to maturity is a long, hard, staggery slog, no doubt about it. But it must be begun and sustained by all, and the more who are so engaged, then the more will mutually support the others.

This great project, this Old Frontier – this Ancient Frontier – cannot be reached through the lascivious application of the criminal law. As a matter of fact, it requires much of the resources – mind, spirit, Virtue, Truth – that have been disposed of by the very Theory that was embraced by the proto-Advocacies themselves decades ago, to the extent that any coherent and comprehensive thinking grounded their agendas at all.

So there is much work to be done, by all of Us. Nor is this a situation that can be undertaken with a certain leisure. So much of what has already been done has borne baleful consequences, in our domestic affairs as in our foreign affairs. We must fix the aircraft in turbulent flight, repair the ship while she is underway in heavy seas that will not calm any time soon. It is our rendezvous with Destiny, but a situation much of Our own making.

We must ‘own’ that, as we must ‘inhabit’ our Present and as we must People our nation. Only thus can we continue towards true freedom. But we will never reach ‘perfect’ freedom, hence never ‘perfect’ security. It is a fate we share with all the peoples of this earth. And it will be a first liberation to realize that, and a second liberation to accept it. And thus to climb together from there.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007


Gail Dines is a sociology professor specializing in race and gender issues; she is on the faculty of Wheelock College in Boston. She has an article over on Counterpunch ( She is not pleased. She was interviewed by Paula Zahn on CNN when the Nifong mis/mal-feasances were brought to light. Upon reflection, she considers herself to have been “ambushed” and “set up”.

We are first given several paragraphs that apparently are designed to show us that the pre-screen producer “conducted a thoughtful interview, unlike any I have had”. Thus she decides to do the show, attracted and reassured by the ‘thoughtfulness’, and thereby simultaneously establishing herself as someone alert to such ‘thoughtfulness’ and no doubt full of thought herself.

From this producer’s line of questioning she concluded that this would be a show dealing with “the historical and contemporary issues of violence against black women in this society”. Still, she then says it took “four phone calls” for her to finally agree to do the show.

When suddenly … in the limo on the way to the Durham court house she got a call “from a different producer” who said that the show was going to focus on race and not gender. The professor, intimating a large experience with talk-show honchos, “knew enough not to argue with a senior producer an hour before taping” and so she “simply agreed”.

Thus the ambush.

At this point in the article, she starts to share with us the views that CNN apparently didn’t want to deal with. We don’t really know though, because the professor quotes nothing of what she said on camera. Instead we are told that she asked Zahn after the show how Zahn could “do a show that once again leaves this woman stripped of her dignity and rendered invisible as a human being”. Zahn - indicating a large experience with agenda-driven talk-show guests - simply smiled goodbye.

Arriving back at her hotel half an hour later, the Professor finds she already has a passel of “hateful” emails, all – she points out – from “men”; it is a “flood” and a “barrage”. She is taken aback at such an outburst. In apparently innocent perplexity, she takes a look at the video of the show. And there it was: the show on that video is not about raceandgender but rather billed itself as “an examination of the ‘rush to judgment’ on the part of the media and society”.

But at this point, the ambushed victim wallowing stunned in the water suddenly makes sail, hoists colors and runs out her guns. And who can be surprised? Who can be surprised at her discomfiture in the interview or at her self-serving article? CNN was looking at a very significant reality, one that the Professor and her cohorts, colleagues, and accomplices - some females and some males – have been at great pains to obscure for all of the 20 years that she has been professoring and more.

There is indeed a ‘rush to judgment’ and the slow, careful, steady process of Due Process has been eroded by the superheated efforts of the Advocacy. Nor is this unintended. The whole gameplan was designed not to open room for more balance achieved through deliberation, but rather to simply quickly wrench the justice system into a stance more favorable to the programme of the Advocacy.

Of course you can’t just go and exercise such violence on the system and not expect some interference. You can’t go whacking the walls of a court-house with axes and not expect some folks to inquire as to what you think you’re doing. So you need an ‘emergency’, or a set of interlocking emergencies, that will ‘explain’ your haste and why you don’t simply go through the doors during regular hours.

Thus you have to create the emergency of having to ‘rescue victims’, and raceandgender work actually gives you a two-fer. This is how the Advocacies have carried on seriously corrosive agendas for decades now: they’ve been pretending to be the Fire Dept. Rescue Squad. It’s a wonder that it’s taken so long for the Iraqi resistance to pick up this strategy: masquerading as ‘emergency’ crews or ‘good guys’ in order to get in and do what they’re going to do.

The Professor quickly elides two substantive but different matters: a) the very acute question of the ‘rush to judgment’ that is has been an established Script in sex-offender melodrama for almost two decades now and b) the feminist complaint that the simple reality of not-accepting a self-declared victim’s story at face-value immediately is itself a collusion and a form of further assault.

The former matter has been dealt with at length elsewhere on this site. The latter has too, but Dines here gives us an instant example of all that’s going on with this raceandgender gambit in the case. First, there is the use of the word ‘victim’ without any qualifying ‘alleged’, which has the effect of presuming the veracity of the alleger’s (allegator’s?) claim(s), when actually the whole purpose of a trial is to determine – at its end – whether an act was indeed committed, which if it was committed would then and only then make the alleger a ‘victim’ for public purposes.

Second, there is the instant equation of doubt and skepticism about an alleger’s claims with some form of wrong-headed or even criminal refusal to help, which is then immediately construed as an insult to the alleger and as a ‘re-victimization’ of the alleger.

Now this type of carrying-on is a recipe for disaster in a legal system. The whole purpose of Due Process is to conduct a thorough and reasonable inquiry, sift for truth, and deliberate carefully in order to make a determination. But this is not the revolutionary’s way; the revolutionary’s way is to force one’s programme or agenda upon events, and in that work time-consuming ‘deliberation’ is the functional equivalent of cowardice and obstruction, a firefighter dawdling so as not to have to go into a burning building and rescue victims. Lenin found early on that not only Czarist-leaning judges but any judges who believed in the process of Law had to be done away with it because they were slowing down the work of his revolution. A true Soviet judge would need almost no time to determine if an accused would receive the weight of criminal sanction; many times it was simply the fact of ‘belonging’ to a certain class that constituted the ‘crime’; Stalin improved upon matters by making justice ‘presumptive’ and ‘proactive’: if you had even a moment’s access to a Westerner, then you might now doubt the wisdom of the Soviet system and why take that chance when you can be sent to Siberia to help build things?

So only then does the Professor get around to the true source of her ire: “I appeared as not just a gullible fool, but even worse, a gullible fool with a feminist agenda”. So there it is. But it’s even worse, I think: it was her flawed agenda that resulted her in taking a foolish approach to this case, and she was then caught out on the show, when it became clear not only that a) the ‘men’ in this case were not guilty and the ‘victim’ had indeed made some truth-challenged – if you wish – assertions, but also b) the media were not going to ignore the obvious this time in order to hew to the correct Script. The horror!

The Script is – and the Prof deploys it with the skill of a casino card-dealer – that the woman was victimized, that the men were boorish and violent criminal oppressors, and correct-thinking requires outrage at the men and immediate, unqualified sympathy not only with this victim but with all women-victims (the terms being for these purposes almost interchangeable). Running right by the fact that the alleger was a professional stripper and had accepted this gig at her usual rates, the Prof starts swinging her axe at something else: The show “leaves this woman stripped of her dignity and rendered invisible as a human being” and “it is the lying, black stripper and the amoral D.A.” who must be guilty. This, the Professor seems to think, should not be accepted as true even if – in this instance – it is true. That the woman “was bought and sold” precisely because she had advertised herself as a commodity is not a fact that the correct citizen notes.

But it apparently is true. And the defendants in this case – unlovely as they are – were facing serious and lifelong criminal consequences (nor would we want to accept the judicial fiction that sex-offender registry is purely ‘administrative’ and done to help keep track of you so you can be notified when ‘a treatment’, perhaps ‘a cure’, is ready).

And the defendants certainly are, to no small extent, unlovely. She quotes an email one of them sent which indicates that these boyos are in need of serious maturity: characterological, emotional, social, and spiritual. The thought that they might go on to positions of power in the military or business or law enforcement is deeply disconcerting. The thought that many of their kind, of previous age cohorts, are already in such positions is positively alarming (nor can the inhabitants of Unitary-Executive Land be discounted in such considerations).

But we cannot solve the ‘boyo’ problem by dismantling the legal and justicial protections that keep us the Republic and the democracy that we are. Nor can we much longer tolerate not only the consequences of such dismantling, but the noxious inability to see and speak Truth to the ‘revolutionary’ elements that have been whacking away (with some good intention) at the carrying-walls of our society and culture and Constitutional protections.

I am not speaking here for a return to ‘boyo’ behavior (and indeed I fear we are now in the throes of ‘boyo’ government). Nor am I speaking against actual victimization. But I am speaking against the ‘revolutionary’ solution that, duplicitously, has been deconstructing the structures and fabric of law, justice and culture for decades now while claiming to be simply a well-intentioned rescue mission in an extreme emergency. That was how the boyos in Washington City spun the war in Iraq.

We may presume that much of what Professor Dines professes is taught to students at her college, and to the extent that her material is representative of mainstream doctrine in the universities, that it is taught to many students at many institutions. And has been for quite a few years, even decades. So how many students and – far more numerously – graduates are now among us operating on the tenets of this ‘education’, conducting a life and a societal participation on that basis? And what consequences accrue from that?

The times are changing and a hard rain’s going to fall. Down with the revolution. Up with the Republic.

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Friday, January 26, 2007


Reports in the “Washington Post” ( and elsewhere that the prosecutor in the Duke Rape Case(s), Mike Nifong, is now going to be brought up on more serious ethics violations before the North Carolina State Bar. The entire 33-page complaint claims that his actions “constitute a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion”.

The matter has been discussed previously on this site (“Put Up Your Dukes”) but let’s give it another go.

The Nifong case is a firebell in the night, alerting us to not one but two fires eating greedily away at the integrity of our criminal justice system. The first fire is Militarization and the second fire is – for lack of a formal phrase - ‘Sensitivity Reforms’.

From the ‘right’ the integrity of the system is being eaten away by the military-type prioritizing of Outcome of Integrity of Process, in order to control the Outcome and make sure it’s in your favor, to ensure – in a word – Victory. This is the military way. This is also the JAG way. It is ballsy and cocky and brash and in-your-face and gives modern- day males a chance to be gunslingers like the Strong Man With A Gun Whose Violence Saves and Redeems back in those old movies. It gives JAGs a chance to notch their resumes so that they too can stand at the bar (liquor type) and brag as loud as the line officers and pilots and other heroes, even though law school meant that they didn’t – most of them – ever actually get around to serving up there where the hot lead flies.

It gives wannabes and wannabe-reelected DAs a chance to grab some of that can-do military aura. All you have to do is to declare that justice is a ‘war’ and that therefore anything that has to be done to Win that war is Good. It makes the accused your ‘enemy’, and being an ‘enemy’, well then – bringing him down is the object of the drill, right? Any way it takes. Any way at all. Integrity is too expensive a commodity to be kept in regular supply in war. “Due Process” is just another word for letting the enemy win; it’s one of those ‘townsfolk’ phrases for hen-pecked shopkeepers and bonneted old ladies. No self-respecting gun-guy, especially if he’s the Good Guy, can ever stand to let those town-types get all prissy and wussy when it comes to Making Things Right.

That’s what the militarization of justice has done. And of course, in the military justice system, the whole thing is weighted toward the prosecution. On top of all the obvious but never-admitted factors that work against any accused in the system, the military prosecutor has all sorts of built-in powers that his poor wuss-pecked civilian counterparts do not. (See "Miiltary Justice Is No music", Parts 1 and 2, on this site.)

But the JAGs, and the gummint itself, have been working to rectify that. Many a JAG gets off the active-duty gravy train only to go into civilian law enforcement and prosecution. Others become law school faculty or heads of law schools; many are judges in the civilian courts. One was the Clerk of the Supreme Court not so long ago. Working from within the system, egging on ex-military who are now in law enforcement, keeping their ship sailing squarely before the wind of anti-crime ‘wars’ that feed off assorted public anxieties yet serve ultimately only to enhance the police power of the gummint at the expense of liberty and Integrity, these types sustain and intensify the relentless termite assault on Constitutional justice.

Meanwhile, in the name of ‘sensitivity’ and feeding off the same media-stoked public anxieties, advocates for ‘reform’ of the Process loudly bring pressure to effectively dismantle by pieces the strong bulwarks set up not only to protect individual citizens from the ever-to-be-inspected power of the government, but to protect the accused from the not-always-rational passions of the public, and to protect the public itself from perpetrating primitive acts of lynch-law ‘justice’ that will deform the minds and hearts and souls of the perpetrators and that can never be undone.

In the Nifong case, the specific ‘sensitivity’ was around the now-entrenched, highly Scripted ‘sex-offender’ campaign, which itself feeds off the fuels provided by feminist advocacy and advocates for victims, as well by anti-crime advocates and assorted religious advocacies.

Nifong’s behavior – as it is now coming to light – and the very bland, matter-of-factness with which it was carried on, reveals a pattern that should frighten us all. He arrogates to himself the cocky, you-can’t-touch-me attitude of the military prosecutor, relying on the now-de rigeur sex-offender prosecution Script wherein fearless prosecutor wreaks official vengeance on obviously-guilty (they being men and this being about sex) perps, supported by outraged community baying in full cry like a Greek chorus from Hell. Long live our glorious indefatigable Prosecutors! Or, as the French has it: ‘public procurers’. Nor does he think he's doing anything wrong, really. This is the way you 'do it' nowadays; this how 'justice' is done in our modern American reality.

The Prosecutor, fed by Right and Left, has swelled to a status and power far beyond what is safe and healthy for the integrity of our criminal justice system. That he has come a cropper in the Nifong case might merely indicate, as it did in Salem in 1693, that he went and picked on the wrong ‘witches’, i.e. students of a powerful and – the hot ironies! – militarily-inclined university with more than its share of deeply ‘old-school’ alumni who ain't gonna sit by and see their male heirs put through the sausage-grinder of sex-offense justice and its Script.

Whether Prosecutor Nifong simply picked the wrong ‘enemy’ against whom to deploy the usual sex-offense Script, or whether finally this firestorm is starting to cool, remains to be seen. Much damage has already been done; significant structural elements of our traditional Justice process have been damaged, perhaps irreversibly. Twenty years worth of students have grown up assuming that this Script as it has played out in various cases constitutes one of the most essential and valuable threads of our modern civic reality.

Nor is it probable that they are far-enough matured to note on their own the ominous similarities between the rush-to-convict (sex-offenses being only the most recent instance) and the rush-to-invade (Iraq being only the first in a planned sequence paving the oil-spattered road to Hell).

There is much to consider in this case. We must apply ourselves to reflect upon it and assess it soberly. Lest we wind up like Mr. Nifong, as described by Shakespeare: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” It’s no way for a great People to go out.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Nick Bromell has an article in Salon ( He had previously had a longer article on the same subject in “The American Scholar”, later published on Alternet ( I’ll comment on the Salon article first, and then move on to the longer American Scholar article.

He is a thoroughly modern university professor in the Humanities, given to reflection and deliberation. And who cannot encourage more of it? Our modern American reality is shot through with the electric surges of Passion and sentimentality, at the expense of Reason and thought. All to the great detriment of The People and of this Republic. It’s as if – The horror! The irony! – we are being electrocuted in our own chairs … an unintended consequence, surely.

He is also a long-time pal of Scooter Libby, since prep-school daze. And on the basis of that long association, Professor Bromell is exercised by the fact that Scooter – who is himself “easygoing, tolerant, humane, balanced, modest and witty” (surely there’s a merit badge for this panoplium of virtues) – could reconcile his fine self to the demands of the Bush administration that is “precisely everything” that Scooter is not.

Well, first, that last bit is a tad overstated. They all have two legs and no tails – presumably – over there in Unitary-Executive Land. But beyond the realm of surfaces and appearances, why yes indeed – the similarities between the Bush Gang and the phenomenon formerly known as ‘decent people’ end, and abruptly.

The Professor seems headed for the old – but hardly irrelevant – questions that form a penumbra around Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”. Scooter – Jewish, by the by – was no gutter ruffian, no Party hack, no frothing revolutionary nor stiff-armed romantic nationalist. Indeed, with the exception of the Jewish bit, he sounds much like the young Albert Speer, although without the kinda gay attraction to the Leader’s personality that more accurately describes Herr Rove (remember the shape of the young Bush-butt, stuffed into its jeans, with the chaw-can making that unique bulge in the back pocket, the whole achieving a remarkable rump-ish gestalt ..? And we fancy ourselves a mature culture.) But we digress.

The Professor considers the oft-given answer of “naked ambition”. He does not reflect on the fact that a personality driven primarily by “naked ambition” and thence driven to get in bed (if we may) with such reprehensible treachery as is the quotidian ethos of the Bush Gang, can’t be quite as reely reely swell as the Professor would like to imagine. But the Professor does consider that Scooter could have made his bundle in corporate law (another playing-field of the truly virtuous) and avoided the swamplands of Washington City altogether. Yet he did not.

Considering Scooter’s need – as a child of Jewish extraction – to ‘fit in’ at prep school, yet stoutly describing much of the prep school ethos as composed of “absurd values and hypocritical institutions”, the Professor dismisses Scooter’s Jewishness as a cause. Indeed, the country has to start facing up to the passage of Time: in our national myth-memory, the quintessential “American Jew” (I do not like that shortcut word for persons who are Jewish) is the kid of immigrant parents or a very young immigrant himself, who lived on the Lower East Side of the very early 1900s, then pulled up the old bootstraps and went on to writing novels or music, or to running large business enterprises, or to running a movie studio or acting for one, all in constant fruitful contact – of alternating positive and negative valence – with others of his kind. The remaining folk to whom this general description still applies are few and far between. But Scooter’s generation may have been one of the very last for whom that script (and the condescending, still-valorized discrimination that was its bugbear) held formative power. Certainly, since the overt late-‘60s shift to exalting the U.S. relationship with Israel, the script has increasingly lost much of its accuracy.

No, the Professor thinks. The true cause is “a kind of innocence about Scooter”. And it was Scooter’s “humility to bow before a master warrior and undertake a life of apprenticeship to figures mightier than himself” that did him in, ensnaring him into a tragedy of truly Greek proportions (one would expect no less of a preppie’s debacle, no?).

Well … good grief. To consider a grade-A manipulator as a "warrior" and then want to attach yourself to him as an apprentice is both witless and dangerous enough. To assume that the will and the ability to manipulate is a sign of strength “mightier than” oneself belies a grave immaturity of judgment – or at least it did until university ‘humanities’ programs adopted the Theory that everything is equal to everything else and therefore you cannot pass judgment on anything or anyone. If Scooter is “innocent” it is of a certain fundamental moral and characterological maturity. But then, in our modern American reality, such a deformity is so widespread – either as an achievement or as an aspiration – that most do not see it for what it really is. And wrapped in the still-untattered cloak of Theory, this unlovely situation bids fair to go on.

And – when you get right down to it – Scooter was indeed ambitious. He was ambitious not just to make money and get his piece of the pie, but to affect – or effect! – History. This is the type of innocence that is the incubation phase of Hubris, and that plague has long since carried away not only the inmates of the Unitary Executive but much of the higher-paid levels of the population of Washington City.

When you’re doing it in a Good Cause, then Heaven itself demands that you carry on. Gott mit uns! And when the Advocacies flattened our Lifespace in the service of their various agendas beginning back there in the ‘70s, and there was no more Beyond and indeed no more Vertical even within the individual (you don’t wanna ‘judge’ who’s more mature than who – it’s insensitive/hateful/male/oppressive/fill-in-the-blank), then the only remaining Guarantor of the Good was the State (acting ‘in loco Dei’, perhaps as His Deputy or perhaps – like the female praying-mantis – having sawed off His head but still keeping up appearances for its own convenience). And Scooter fell right into this, went along with it, declared his allegiance to it and all its pomps, and did its work.

So to Arendt’s “banality of evil” the Professor adds the “innocence of evil”. And in a way it is accurate to describe it as an ‘innocence’: there was no desire for an Evil outcome and indeed there was every desire for a Good (however defined) outcome. But there was a willingness, and an intensely-applied calculation, to successfully deploy evil methods to achieve that ‘Good’. And there was no truly deep effort to carefully define ‘Good’.

Of course, in our modern American reality, flattened as it now is and luridly overlit by the consuming force of government and of political power, then how ‘deep’ can any analysis go? What depth and breadth and height and width can be perceived? We are at sea with a radar that only scans the surface of the ocean, able to probe neither above nor below that surface. And, granted the generations of young now schooled in this flatness – this Flatness – they may be unequipped even to perceive their lack. And our lack. And Our lack. At least Custer knew he was dealing with the ever-capable Sioux, even if he was a little off in his intel and kinda hasty in his plans.

And as Richard Slotnick so acutely and deeply documents in his book “Gunfighter Nation”, it has been the conceit of postwar ‘westerns’ that true Americans allow themselves to be lied to and manipulated by the Strong Leader With A Gun In A Good Cause, and in so doing they prove their patriotism and their manhood – or at least their man-ness. So the ‘salaryman’ of the late 19th century blended into the ‘patriot’ of the mid-20th century and after decades of assault by the Theoried hordes of the late-20th century, eagerly leaped at the chance to prove his man-ness by affecting, effecting, and otherwise even creating History in the early-21st. And the world – and now this Republic – staggers on.

The Professor wrote at greater length and breadth in “The American Scholar”, although the burden of his argument is the same.

“We should try to experience what happens to us without judging it”, intones the Professor. Gosh that takes me back. But it also – achingly – thrusts us violently into the present. It was no doubt hoped that after decades of PC indoctrination we – We – would not ‘judge’ the claims of WMDs smoking and rocking on the launch pads of Iraq. We would not ‘discriminate’ between truth and untruth, between fact and assertion, since after decades of PC indoctrination we would have inhaled enough of the fumes of Theory’s miasm to presume that there is no difference between truth and untruth because there is no Truth, and therefore no need for Thinking, and therefore no reason for Objectivity; and Reason is an oppressive guy-thing anyway.

No, rather We would allow ourselves to be stoked by the Passion for righteous revenge against the fundamentalist whackjobs who abused so many children by killing their parents and relatives and neighbors on 9-11. Left and Right, we would race together, arms locked, at the future – On To Baghdad! For all their stentorian brays about patriotism, did no one in Washington City bother to rent the DVD of “They Died With Their Boots On”? Or did they watch it just to get the melody of that regimental marching tune? And does the Marine Band now play it at White House soirees? Or when the Unitary Deciderer is going for a jog?

Speaking of his own professional tribe, Professor Bromell explains “[W]e do not maintain that there is no such thing as truth. We believe, rather, that there is no such thing as the truth, no such thing as truth conceived of as an eternal verity standing apart from power and outside the push and pull of human history.” So – as Mark Twain would say – there it was. Here is the Theory that flattens, and leads to the awefull Flatness its acolytes call ‘progress’.

We should stop using ‘truth’ as if it could have several optional and variant meanings. It’s only confusing us, just like using ‘love’ to denote both sex and Christian charity only confuses things, and just like using ‘charity’ to denote both voluntary giving of alms and the caring-respect-owed-to-other-humans confuses people. After a while, such confusions, amplified and echoing like richoeting bullets, either polarize people or discourage them from thinking about things at all. So either there is Truth, or there is no Truth. Either Truth is ‘out there' to be found as best we can manage the job and maybe even is ‘up’ there, or it is not anywhere. In which latter case there is no ground for calling something a ‘fact’ or ‘true’, and there is no reason to keep up the skills that would be able to find or explore things to sift out ‘facts’ and ‘truth’.

But if there are ‘experiences’ that one person might ‘see’ or ‘feel’ or choose to believe are true, which another person might ‘see’ or ‘feel’ or choose to believe are not-true, well then a world is created with all water and no solid ground. Hard to build a house, let alone a factory or –nowadays – an office building. I say that we call differing opinions something other than ‘truth’ such that it could be said in English that a situation holds ‘different’ or ‘opposed’ truths. This sense of what a ‘truth’ is would be better handled by the concept of ‘priority’. One person looks at a phenomenon with ‘x’ priority and another person looks at the same phenomenon with ‘y’ priority, and so we have differing, perhaps opposed, ‘priorities’. But we do not have differing or opposed ‘truths’.

The concept of Truth – for political purposes – has been dissolved because it “provokes hostility rather than understanding” and “provokes righteousness rather than tolerance”. Now I ask you: In what sort of mind would the search for Truth be perceived as a hostile act? What sort of purpose would be moved to hostility by an encounter with the search for understanding?

Has Truth provoked “righteousness” in some? Yes, the human self – due to Original Sin, the Kathliks would have said – is prone to seek certainty and then clothe itself with certainty’s authority. Fundamentalism makes its money off that fact. But Truth and the search for it, the sifting for it, has yielded great and lasting benefits. And more, the search for Truth has provided a wonderfully efficacious trellis for the wild-root vines of the human mind and spirit.

Should one ‘tolerate’ un-Truth? Not in oneself – and that task should keep one busy for all of one’s natural life, especially if one is also trying always to improve one’s ability to come closer to Truth. In others? How urgent is it to exercise violence in any form – overt or subtle – to bring others to Truth? Surely Christ in the Gospels did not use violence. Governments sorta like violence – that much we know, and a good praying-mantis might saw off the head and hide behind the body … could that be true? Hmmm.

There is no such thing, the Professor goes on, as truth “conceived of as an eternal verity standing apart from power and outside the push and pull of human history”. Well, well. Here is the great Flattener at its core: there is nothing that stands apart from power – then how can you speak Truth to power, as Fred Siegel acutely asked almost 15 years ago? If there is no high ground, no ground standing apart from “power” (and once there was also ground ‘above’ the powers-of-this-world), then on what grounds can you speak or act against the powers-of-this-world (which, in our Theoretically Flattened reality, is the only world)?

And the correct answer is: “the push and pull of human history” … or … politics. Lenin’s reduction is now truly our own. You ‘make’ truth (like the Bush Gang was going to ‘make’ History) by exerting more political clout than the other side – that’s it bare-assed and naked. And how do you get that political power if you have already gotten people out of the habit of thinking (so they can’t notice the huge holes in and consequences of your plan?) and only possibly deciding to agree with you: you whip’em up to Passionate peaks of Outrage and Anger so that they work out of their primitive limbic brain parts and not their more evolved prefrontal cortex. Oops. Did we just judgmentally call the limbic system ‘primitive’? Did we just use the concept ‘evolved’ in relation to people?

But isn’t it dangerous to have all these people running around living life out of their limbic brain-parts? It’s OK, because the vanguard elite who have mastered the Theory will lead these poor unruly sheep. Vladimir Ilyich, we heard you was dead, but that was obviously exaggerated. What does it do to human beings when they are no longer using the old prefrontal cortex on a regular basis? What does it do to a Republic? I think this: your citizens are no longer able to function as The People, and if you don’t have a People to protect, then you don’t need a Constitution, and if you don’t have a People, why then the government can take over the doing and the thinking – so lefty Theory’s eradication of the prefrontal saws off the People, and then the gummint saws off the political clout of the lefties, and … they wrote a lot of B-grade horror movies about the future 50 years ago using stuff like this.

So you get rid of Truth and the prefrontal capabilities and what happens? As if by inadvertence, the Professor reports that Lynne Cheney “worries that without the pole star of a fixed conception of truth, we will lose our bearings and descend into chaos”. Y’a think? So we are at sea in a world with no solid ground, with radars that only scan surfaces and can’t ‘see’ above or below those surfaces – or behind and beyond those surfaces, of course – and now we don’t have a fixed point to navigate by; we don’t have what Starfleet calls “prime coordinates” by which the navigation supercomputer can know where your ship is at all times, without which the supercomputer can’t even back you out of spacedock.

The Professor – leaving ‘optimistic’ in the dust and going straight for whistling-by-the-graveyard – asserts that this is the new adventure, sorta the New Frontier of our times: Theory blesses us with the adventure of trying to shape a Self, make a life, and live a common life together – without any way of knowing what’s right or wrong, except to take a vote on it – or, more likely and actually recommended, get enough people on your side mad at the other side so you can grab power and decide for everybody what’s right and wrong. Didn’t they try this in Russian a century back? Will it work any better in English now?

We will navigate by “dead reckoning” blurbs the Prof. Not to worry. What’s not to like? Yes it’s an adventure, but real manly men (and womyn) like adventure. After all, what’s a life without Meaning and Purpose and Role and Status and Identity? Adventure gives you all that good stuff. So then: underpowered (we’re only working on the limbic system), unable to scan except on the Horizontal axis, no fixed navigational reference (so – tee hee – why have compass and radar anyway, right?) … this is not the recipe for naval adventure, but rather the recipe for re-making the adventures – well, there was only one – of the “Titanic”. But like those two lovers hugging in the water just before the end, we’ll all be able to “communicate with each other”. Sigh. The wondrous gifts of the modern university. Then again, surgical air strikes and pre-emptive invasion are a form of communication too, and perhaps – if well-intentioned – a mitzvah. Who’s to say no?

But it is to Professor Bromell’s credit that he admits that upon reflection, he’s a fundamentalist too. Because since there is no Truth, then whatever he and his team decide is the most important stuff in life – well, they have to ‘believe’ that, because there’s no way that the Truth of the stuff could compel their minds to affirm its status. And doesn’t believing make them – fundamentally – Fundamentalists? Like those frothing whackjobs in the Middle East? Like those fine upstanding patriots in the Great State of (fill in the blank)?

This failure to reveal their own fundamentalistic core is, the Professor rightly admits, “a failure of nerve” on the part of “we liberals”. I’d like to tell him to speak for himself, but it looks like the ‘liberals’ have indeed for all practical purposes invited the vampire of Theory into the house, so …we all know how those movies end. To regain Liberalism with a capital “L” – that Enlightenment trust in Truth and Reason as realities upon which one could trellis a Self and a Life and a community, that trust in those two no-longer needed human ‘bits called the ‘soul’ and the ‘prefrontal cortex’, that respect for all human beings not because of their outrage or their pain but because they are created in the image and likeness of God and disrespecting them will have to be Answered for sooner or later – to regain all that is going to be a job of work. And are We up to it any longer? May it be so.

But then the “failure of nerve” is also a shrewd act of self-preservation. Because if folks are actually allowed to kick the tires of Theory, well – they may decide that this shiny jalopy isn’t worth the huge price. And then where would the vanguard elites be? And what if then folks started toting up all the damage that’s been caused? And how do you tell the troops that one of them will be the last one to die for a mistaken Theory but you hope the rest have a reeeel nice day? The Theoristi know what Nixon knew: once you admit you did wrong, then you’re done for. And who wants to join the dustbin of History? From the makers of History to being un-made by History?

No. Better to hang on – to ‘ausharren’, to ‘stick it out’ – and either help will come (although there is no Beyond from which it could stage a landing) or the elite vanguard will go on until the whole thing caves in, complaining to the end that the people were not worthy of the great Vision. Ja. That’s been tried before. And finished. And filmed – in re-creation, anyway.

So Professor Bromell has written a tremendously worthwhile couple of pieces. I can’t quite agree with him about Scooter being a noble though fallen angel, but I can respect the Prof's honesty about his own intellectual position. I hope his colleagues benefit from his example.

Meanwhile the Great Question abides: What then is to be done?

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Monday, January 22, 2007


It always hurts to see a good insight go bad. Dinesh D’Souza is looking to pin the blame for 9-11 on “The Cultural Left”. He’s interviewed by Alex Koppelman at Salon (

Souza’s starting premise, which he actually doesn’t say as such (but let me be a little generous here; he had a bad day in that interview, that’s for sure), is that the roots of 9-11 go back a way. Yes. And that the “cultural Left” had some role in that. Yes indeedy. But whether the aforesaid Left “caused” 9-11 is another question, and then whether the aforesaid Left intended to create such a wrack is yet another question. And they are all valid and good questions. So far so good.

But that’s about as far as things get before D’Souza derails. The weight of public discourse as it must be carried on in our modern American reality deforms things for the rest of the trip. Bypassing the chance to explore his perfectly good thesis, he has to recast it as ‘the Left caused 9-11’, that accusatory, black&white, either-or, gotcha, sensationalist casting of discourse that has everyone reaching for their revolvers before the ideas are even considered. Alas.

But of course, this is the type of ‘casting’ that enabled 9-11 in the first place. By politicizing public discourse from the get-go, by simplifying and sensationalizing topics through adolescent illogic and heaty rhetoric, by demanding an instant response and condemning any effort at deliberation or questioning, by insisting that all positions are ‘equal’ and that there are no grounds for any particular thought or policy to be considered as objectively true, by stampeding public opinion right past Thought and headlong into Passion … by all that and more the ability of this People and its government in all its Branches was gravely impaired and deformed, perhaps – in some of the consequences – irreparably.

And this set of ‘-ings’ has pretty much been the modus operandi of the cultural Left for decades. What this site calls the ‘Revolutions of the Identities’ were abetted by advanced-level ‘Advocacies’. And the objective of those Revolutions and those Advocacies was not reflection and deliberation nor the formulation of reasonable and consensual truth but was rather the quick emotional stunning of the citizenry (as many as possible) so that the Advocated outrage could be fumed at, and the Advocated ‘enemy’ be demonized, and the Advocated ‘reform’ be immediately enacted, supported by the police power of the State.

As has been discussed elsewhere on this site, numerous ‘Revolutions’ have been conducted in numerous ‘good causes’ over the past 40 years in this country. That’s a lot of change for a society and a culture to process; it would take quite a while to do properly, allowing the citizenry, The People, to consider and approve and adapt themselves in the most fundamental levels of our cultural and societal communion. But these Advocated Revolutions were not willing to wait that long – they were righteously impatient as all revolutions are, nor were they willing to risk the possibility that The People might ask too many questions or simply take the time that it takes to reshape a society and a culture widely and deeply. Instead, the modus operandi of each of the Revolutions was to either stampede or bully The People. The People were blitzed by this or that ‘emergency’ or ‘outrage’, by this or that ‘demon’, by this or that threat that if the Advocated position were doubted then the doubter him/herself would be ‘proven’ to be a supporter of the said ‘outrage’.

And there were a lot of Revolutions, so The People were subjected to wave upon wave of these tactics, these blitzes. And to support a ‘good’, even a ‘Good’, cause – the media joined in on the pigpile, giving up on even the pretext of objective and factual reporting and instead picking the good and the bad and the ugly for the daily and nightly melodrama of TV ‘news’; print journalism abandoned its ideals and its role as Informer of The People and began to regress to its less-evolved “yellow” form. And by 9-11 this had been going on for 35 years.

You can make a very good case that if The People of this Republic had not been slaphappy from the sustained blitzing of the Advocacies and the consequences that flowed from the policies and laws enacted under the pressure of those Revolutions, then they might have been able to pay more attention to foreign affairs.

You can make an even better case that if The People’s ability to conduct public discourse and deliberation was not blocked by the revolutionary censoriousness of Political Correctness and a sensationalist media, then This People might have been able to muster more seriousness in matters involving the deployment of lethal force and the projection of violence on Its authority – on Our authority.

You can make an even better case that if the fundamental thought processes of the citizenry were not deranged by the adolescent and primitive illogic and rhetoric that not only enabled each of the ‘Revolutions’ to crow-bar open some space for itself but also enabled each of them to demand that no doubt or even hesitation could be tolerated in the face of its self-declared ‘emergency’, then This People might have been better equipped to think things through.

You can make an even better case that if Objectivity and Reason and Truth had not been declared to be not only impossible to achieve but utterly non-existent, that if Feeling had not been elevated over Thinking, that if all of the Ideals toward which This People and this almost-chosen Nation had been imperfectly staggering all these centuries had not been declared vicious and oppressive delusions, that if all matters public and private, moral and ethical, personal and societal, had not been reduced to ‘the political’, such that many citizens felt that any effort toward Peopling the Republic was not only hopeless but utterly fatuous and maybe even evil as well … if all of those conceptual and procedural gambits had not been released into the cultural atmosphere and their toxins dispersed – amplified by the media and propelled by the power of political conniving, then This People might have been less inclined to retreat into unthinking passion and into the clutches of calculated manipulations toward the ‘vision’ of this and that Revolution and – after 9-11 – of the government. After all, how can you speak Truth to power if there is no such thing as Truth? (And thus the Democrats' awefull problem nowadays.)

None of the foregoing is to say or even to imply that all the good-intentioned folks of the past 40 years purposely sought to undermine the country. Nor even that the shrewd and calculating advanced-stage Advocates and the pols and media honchos planned to bring the country to its present situation and condition. But though utterly unintended, the abovementioned Conseqences have come; they are here. And their name is legion.

And in the hottest and most lethal irony, the Consequences – building now to a Nemesis – are confronted only by a befuddled Congress and a quite-possibly deranged Executive, watched at a distance by a Supreme Court that compromised itself with a breath-taking awefulness by installing the said deranged Executive in the first place.

Nor can we take comfort in the fact that even if – somehow, incredibly – this nation is now the ‘underdog’ in the coming encounter with the Consequences of its own actions, it will all be OK because ‘the little guy’ always wins in these David&Goliath scripts. ‘Innocence’ may win in these things, but we – We – are not exactly ‘innocent’. Nor can we hope that “God” will simply ride in and save the day because “God” is clearly trapped in ironic quotation marks and can no longer muster His former force-projection capacities on our behalf.

Perhaps it was that very perception of the discomfiture of “God” (considered by the Revolutions and their guiding Theory as an evil, oppressive fantasy cooked up to keep the oppressed from liberation) that inflamed the long-dormant volcano of whackjob Fundamentalism. And so the vacuum created by the Left when it effectively closed The People out of public discourse and then failed to provide a successful outcome to the ‘visions’ in whose urgent service its assorted revolutions had debauched The People … that vacuum was filled by the grandiose, desperate Fundamentalists, whipped into a froth by toothy, well-coiffed Bible Bhagwans who took their donations and funded a long march through the political casinos of Washington City.

But then that brings us back to the Right (our present Right cannot be called ‘conservative’ in any meaningful sense of that word). And to 9-11. Maybe we could ask if the ticket agent who let a couple of Middle-Eastern males run quickly along to catch a flight had felt a little more confident that s/he would not lose employment if the media got wind of it, maybe that agent would have stopped Atta and his squad before they ever got on a plane. Maybe if the citizenry weren’t trapped in the conundrum of ‘if you stop a non-white (however the heck that is defined here) then you are profiling regardless of your intent’ then maybe somebody somewhere might have acted on their suspicions and 9-11 might have been foiled before it got off the ground. But who in their right mind would risk losing a job if it turned out that your action had merely ‘victimized’ a ‘minority’? All interesting questions.

But of course 9-11 was just that: an event that happened on 9-11. Our current problem, the Eastern Front that bids fair to deeply derange our position in the world, is not ‘part of’ 9-11. Fewer people (and upon them be peace) were lost than troops now lost in Iraq, and if any country on the planet can absorb the loss of two elderly skyscrapers, it’s ours. No, Bush and the Gang had always planned to invade Iraq and they simply used 9-11 – awful as it was – as a pretext to start their war. Which – and for this rivers of blood cry out from the earth in witness against them – they callously and cockily bungled, lying as if the depth of your dishonesty marks the height of your nobility.

And now D’Souza’s concept seems to be that the Cultural Left caused 9-11. To which I say: there is no way in Hell or Heaven that Bush – and all his Gang and all his supporters and all his enablers – can escape responsibility for the mess we are all in now. And if there is anybody who even now looks forward to the Angels of the Apocalypse pulling up to the curb any time before we have all had the opportunity to make suitable confession and do penance, well … any such person should not be operating heavy machinery.

But that being said, if We want to consider carefully the consequences that sitting through 40 years of revolutionary blitzes from the ‘cultural Left’ and its Theory have had on our society and our culture and our ability to be The People, the indispensable People without which the lesser machinery of the government’s counter-balancing Branches will simply rock off its foundations… well, I would very strongly approve that inquiry.

D’Souza is what he is. But the situation we face just now is monstrous and it is in large part of our making. Our authority – exercised with our approval or our failure to disapprove – has created a vortex that is belching ferocious death and voraciously sucking in blood and souls.

I disagree with the Incumbent. I do not recommend that we go to the mall and shop. I don’t object to D’Souza, as far as he goes – which ain’t hardly far enough. But We are The People and we have many, many miles to go … lives still living are in need of Us, and lives now gone watch Us. Answer must be made.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007


Paul Krugman (“Surging and Purging”, comments incisively on the recent purge of corruption-probing U.S. attorneys, being replaced with Bushista reliables who will no doubt do their bit to prevent further probes of the metastasized corruption conducted with Gilded-Age voracity during the past 12 years, and especially during the well-manured growing season that has been the reign of the present Administration. Bush has barricaded himself into the bank, and is now doing everything possible to seal himself off and stave off the Nemesis that has been slouching toward him and his Gang all along.

The mainstream media may very well try to kill two birds with one stone and treat this as a melodrama, reaping profits while trying to recoup their lost credibility as resolute and resourceful seekers of Truth and reporters of the same. This melodrama approach will play well with citizens too used to spectating, and there are too many of Us in that category. Many are distracted by their own straitening circumstances, many more are debauched by the assorted distractions that have gripped public attention for so many years, and far too many are too discouraged – in the manner of Soviet citizens – to speak their mind freely.

But Bush’s nemesis is not happening ‘out there’ or simply ‘to him’. If he has treacherously or witlessly run the Ship into dangerous shoal waters, then We are all involved. It is Our Republic, after all.

If he can no longer rely on Congress to cover him, as it has done with such infamous servility up to the very last moment of the Republican Ascendancy, then he will try to barricade himself in the Executive Branch and hope that he can stave off Consequences until … well, until the clock runs out and he leaves office. This, assuming he does not try to force a victory with even more drunken tosses of the dice of War, which will either yield such a victory (impossible), or distract Us from his treachery by creating far more urgent emergencies and simultaneously give him the ‘grounds’ to use the paramilitary powers of Commander-in-Chief-in-‘wartime’ to control the very machinery of law and justice that threatens to engulf him and his whole Gang.

Somehow during the time we have been distracted by Emergencies domestic and foreign since the fall of the USSR, the Chinese have developed the ability to shoot down satellites, and now deem the time auspicious to let everybody know it. Almost all of our advanced military capability relies upon satellites, and it’s anybody’s guess if our officers and troops are capable of finding their way without a GPS gizmo to tell them just where on the planet they are. Some of our most advanced aircraft can only fly at all precisely because complex and powerful onboard computers can sustain the vasty computations necessary to keep their otherwise non-aerodynamic shapes airborne. The Gang, meanwhile, is talking about trying to knock over Iran, next door to Iraq – the job that they’ve bungled so badly already. In a less telegenic area of concern, the Chinese are just about our largest creditor.

But the recent comment of Alberto Gonzales, Attorney-General, is a firebell in the night ( Of all the wolves we now have by the ears, our own gummint – in its Executive as presently constituted – still poses the most fundamental threat. Gonzales opines to a Senate committee that the right of Habeas Corpus is not actually guaranteed in the Constitution. It is – admittedly – menlationed ‘negatively’, i.e. that ‘it’ can’t be suspended except in very particular and pressing circumstances. This, according to Lawyer Gonzales, does not mean that the right of Habeas is positively guaranteed to every U.S. citizen.

Citizens of a certain age might remember when such a comment by an apparatchik of the Executive would draw a witheringly incisive retort from a white-maned Senator who was serving the Republic while the apparatchik was still filling his diapers. But the People can look to no such Senator now. The Democrats have spent too much time pandering to the Advocacies and cannot now extract themselves from those mushy lowlands and climb back up to solid high ground even if they wanted to. The Republicans are now effectively swamp-creatures, so compromised by their collaboration with the Twelve Years that they dassn’t make any incisive retort even if they could think of one.

Arlen Specter snorted that General Alberto’s assertion may violate common sense, but Specter has been actively complicit in far too much Bushista skullduggery to claim Sam Ervin’s mantle now. And for all we know Specter is trying to pull a McCain-Graham-Warner, speaking out against dangerous dreck and then quickly voting for it as soon as the camera crews have left. One thinks of Franz von Papen, baron, who offered a certain former Austrian corporal the Chancellorship of Germany because, the baron burbled, “we are hiring him”. Evil – the Bible tells us so – has a way of turning on its would-be masters.

Nor can we forget that the Southron experience with slavery – and we cannot allow ourselves to think that those centuries’ of experience disappeared overnight – resulted into a sorta kinda preference for repression. As George Fitzhugh, a Virginia lawyer of the Civil War era, put it (and the capitals are his): “THERE IS TOO MUCH OF LAW AND TOO LITTLE OF GOVERNMENT IN THIS WORLD.” The Southron mind, like the government mind and the military mind and the JAG mind, doesn’t really change much over time. His comment, especially as an American and trained in the Law, offers sobering opportunity for reflection. Demands such reflection, really. From all of Us.

But as riveting as these proceedings may be, We are not expected to recall that our own gummint has tried to make this type of argument before. In “Reid v. Covert”, a Supreme Court case of 1957, the gummint argued that trial before an independent judge and a jury of one’s peers is not a fundamental right of American citizens. The redoubtable Hugo Black squashed that nasty bug, but we do well to remember that gummints seek to expand against the interests of their own citizens as a matter of life itself: it’s what they do. If anybody wants to think like the Framers and the Founders, this is as good a place to start as any. And it’s a heckuvva lot better than lighting incense to the shade of Stonewall Jackson.

Nor is it irrelevant to our present concerns to note that “Reid” was a military justice case. If gummints ceaselessly seek to expand, militaries ceaselessly seek to win. As Queen Victoria observed with some perplexity: “My generals would fortify the moon if they could.” For the JAGs, indeed, the only way to be ‘warriors’ and get to wear a varsity-letter jacket is to make ‘defendants’ their ‘enemy’, which from a law-school point of view is (or was) kinda icky. But ‘the next logical step’, of course, is to assure your supply of defendants by widening your writ, expanding it to as many of the citizenry as possible; assuring one’s lines of supply is a cardinal military activity – and the JAGs, after all, are military officers. And they intend to stay that way. So We do well to beware of JAGs bearing gifts.

As has been opined elsewhere on this site, Bush has not done all that he’s done by perverting the fundamental principles of military justice, but rather by ham-handedly applying them in wider theater of operations. The only good news for Us is that in doing so he’s exposed the whole racket to the possibility of scrutiny by an unamused citizenry. By all means, let Us be unamused. Queen Victoria spent a great deal of her time not-being amused, and she didn’t do a bad job, all things considered. A tad more o f her spirit, and a tad less dewy-eyed incantation before the tomb of Churchill or the flower-piles of Di might not be such a bad thing.

And closer to home, we might also recall the incisive remark made by Emiliano Zapata: The Strong Man makes a weak people. He had a grasp on the task of Peopling that has slipped from consciousness in this country.

It may seem strange that We would be seeking enlightenment from a Mexican revolutionary and a (the, actually) Victorian woman. But these be challenging times and Wisdom must be sought wherever she might be found. And found soon.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007


Chris Hedges has just published his book “American Fascism: The Christian Right and the War on America”. For Americans at this point in our history it would be a hugely valuable book for its title alone; far too many Americans no longer remember much (nor were they educated into) the dynamics and terrors of Fascism. And this on top of the natural human tendency to think that “it couldn’t happen here” – although as early as 1935 Sinclair Lewis, in a book of that name, quite vividly imagined what it would be like if ‘it’ really did spread over here. Fascism is a fundamental human dynamic – operative within individuals and within groups; it is not at all merely a phenomenon that once happened somewhere else and is now ‘merely’ history.

Furthermore, the mainstream media’s very cautious and respectful handling of Fundamentalism (which is now as “PC” a media topic as any of the ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ American PC topics) results in too many Americans not grasping exactly the nature of what this phenomenon is and the threat it poses.

And the entire concept of ‘threat’ has lost its kick in our modern American discourse. After decades of PC and the maneuvering of the various Advocacies many citizens now imagine that whatever is a ‘threat’ is merely a ‘threat’ to the interests of some other group(s). That something might actually pose a ‘threat’ to the Republic itself or to the basic fabric of the vision of the Framers … this is not even imagined. And of course, the Framers having been ‘deadwhiteeuropeanmales’ many aren’t even sure that anything they made is worth the trouble of keeping it.

All of which places us – or rather, decades ago placed us – at great risk. As it came to be accepted, even if only implicitly, by many citizens that the Republic was not worth keeping, and that therefore citizens’ participation was not effort well-expended, and as it came to seem that organized and advanced-level Advocacies were doing all the maintenance and repair that seemed to be do-able, then a huge vacuum was created when the citizens no longer Peopled (yes, I use it as a verb) the Republic and its government in all of its Branches.

Today that risk is intensifying exponentially as powerful forces are flowing, surging, into that vacuum. We are at the stage in this country where it is not prevention but repair that must be done, and quickly. This, to use a phrase of FDR’s, is a national emergency as urgent as war itself. But – I say it now – it is not ‘war’, not actually and not metaphorically. The Republic was hugely damaged by the waging of metaphorical ‘war’ (wars on this and wars against that) even before its interests and capabilities were severely degraded by the waging of actual war. What we are called to should not be described metaphorically; let us describe it plainly: We are called to fulfill our responsibilities as its citizens to People this Republic.

This may be painful and demanding: the disciplined sustaining of proximity to pain and exertion in order to achieve a large and necessarily abstract goal is not something we can confidently expect from the young or from ‘postmodern’ humans or from a consumerist and technology-saturated culture. But it must be done. We are reminded that once the berg was sighted, the officer in charge on the bridge of “Titanic” made one last and ultimately fatal decision: he sought to escape all consequences of a collision by trying to avoid the berg, thus turning her broadside to it, such that she sheered along the jagged edge of the berg and ripped herself open for an irretrievable length of her vulnerable side. Had he, instead, decided to accept that trouble was unavoidable and steered to hit the berg head-on, with his bow (the sharp, pointy front part of the ship), there is no small chance that she would have survived – albeit with a lot of shaken-up and irritated passengers – to sail into New York. It’s an advanced-level skill in life to know when some amount of consequences are unavoidable and then maneuver constructively to take some damage but still survive. It is not a skill highly prized in our modern American reality.

Hedges starts by quoting and explaining each of Umberto Eco’s “Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt”. Eco had reflected on the nature of Italian Fascism – already ‘matured’ by 1930, from which Hitler had later drawn his original inspirations for implementing a Fascist ethos in Germany. I’ll note the ones that catch my eye and add my own thoughts as to our present situation.

The cult of tradition: Given decades of PC sensitivity to potentially ‘offensive’ or – more recently – ‘hurtful’ or ‘hateful’ facts, coupled with a revolutionary impatience with and dismissal of all the pomps and works of the oppressing DWEMs who ran this country for so long, generations of American children have grown up without an adequate working connection to any overarching culture of American traditions. Into this vacuum has flowed the Fundamentalist assertion (nor can it be refuted without risking ‘insensitivity’) that American tradition is somehow an overtly Biblical tradition, and – especially – those parts of the Biblical tradition that emphasize, justify, even demand war against unbelievers. So now, as the only apparent alternative to the colliding visions of the assorted Advocacies of the Left, we have the brassy, blood-red apocalyptic visions of the Right. Both are basically visions of ‘war’ – figurative and/or literal – and neither even begins to do justice to the genuine American traditions and the genuine Founding Vision that so excited the Framers and the early generations of Americans and of assorted folks around the world.

The rejection of modernism: Deep down, both Advokists (if I may) and Fundamentalists appeal not to the ‘modern’ skills of thought and reason and analysis, but rather to an earlier, visceral, almost primal emotionalism: the truly ‘human’ act is now ‘to feel’ rather than ‘to think’. Yes, the Advokists want to generate Outrage in the face of outrages that must be fixed immediately so that the next outrage can be tackled, and the Fundamentalists want to generate belief in an urgent Bible Mission that must be started immediately so that ‘God’s Final Victory’ can be assured, or maybe induced. But neither of them want you to ‘think’ about what they want you to do. Just do it. Just ‘get it’ and do it. The modern ‘scientific’ approach to knowledge, based on the Enlightenment (that hotbed of Advokist bugbears – the DWEMs – and Fundamentalist bugbears – the ‘secularists – is rejected by both). If you ‘get it’ or if you ‘believe’, then you won’t need to ask any more time-consuming and distracting questions or do any other ‘thinking’. It will be enough that you are on-board and that you do what must be done. Ja. That was, at one time, pretty much the SS welcome-to-the-club speech on your first day at training camp. Welcome to ‘our’ world, indeed.

The cult of action for action’s sake: So if you don’t need to think, then how do you show that you’re dedicated to the cause and on the job? You ‘act’ – you do what must be done to bring about the Final Outcome. Action shows robust faithfulness; thought indicates doubt and weakness and lack of zeal for the Cause. Real men don’t think, real revolutionaries don’t think – they both ‘act’. Quickly, decisively, strongly – they ‘act’. You start to get an idea of what parts of the brain aren’t going to be getting much of a workout in the programme of either the Left or the Right. And in an American culture where fathering has gone the way of Objectivity and Thought and Reality, then young males are going to be desperate for some way, any way, to ‘prove’ their manhood, to themselves as well as to others and to ‘the world’. Unreflective action … on a personal level, on a societal and national level; it sounds like a recipe for the Iraq War. And while Learned Hand said rightly that sooner or later we have to stop considering all the alternatives and decide and then act on that decision, the kicker is How long and how well we actually do that ‘considering of alternatives’ before we stop thinking and start projecting ourselves into the world.

The critical spirit distinguishes, and that is ‘modernism’: I’m not sure if it’s childish (which may be an insult to children) but it’s certainly cognitively primitive to avoid complexity. It is then primitiveness raised to a syndrome if one not only seeks to avoid complexity, but then insists that everything in the world is really very simple anyway, so that people who complexify are both wrong and (why not?) godless and (what the hey?) evil and damnable. But human events, ‘life’ if you wish, resemble nothing so much as the surface of the human brain: deeply valleyed and mountained by innumerable cross-connections. So anyone who tries to flatten ‘life’ and events into ‘simple’ and ‘clear’ and utterly understandable phenomena is trying to lead a mountain-climbing expedition without any ropes, spikes, hammers, or protective gear. Criticism has gotten a bad rap from the Theorists of the PC militia, but we absolutely cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Down with the mindless, running-dog lackeys of PC, but let’s keep our skeptical, intelligent, robust ability to face and deal with complexity. We need all that to People the Republic.

Disagreement is a sign of diversity: If there’s one thing worse than doing the wrong thing, it’s doing the wrong thing and then erecting it into a Plan. You do this by refusing to admit you did the wrong thing, and instead come up with a Theory that proves that what you did was actually the right thing – or, at least, a good thing and not a bad thing. And it helps if you get a professor or ten from prestigious and presumably Truth-seeking universities to stroke their chins thoughtfully for the cameras. But this scam only works as long as you aren’t facing serious real-time, real-life consequences from what you went and did in the first place. As long as nobody looks too closely at the outcomes of what you’ve done, then you can make a living off of just talking and smiling and spinning and ducking and weaving and going to conferences. But sooner or later, like the passengers on any ship, either you’ll have the courage to go up on deck and have a look around out there, or else ‘out there’ will maybe come in through the porthole and knock over the Chablis and your inkpot. Constructive ‘diversity’ would be a bunch of widely different but fundamentally united human beings helping each other in a search for Truth upon which they can formulate their common life together; or, that same bunch, seeking “to achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all (persons)”. Groups that define themselves by how different they are from each other, then trying to come to the table and fight over the cloth … that’s not ‘diversity’ in any useful sense. In fact, as the consequences intensify, it’s not only not-useful but downright folly and madness.

Ur-fascism derives from individual or social frustration: It is not a good thing to ignore frustration in a society, let alone to start and impose programs that are bound to cause great frustration, and then on top of that ignore those effects that your programs are having on a lot of people. By doing that for decades of PC, the Left and the Democrats literally created the fires of confusion and the smoke of discouraged apathy among wide swaths of the citizenry, fire and smoke that were intensified all the more by being ignored (with great effort by the media) and repressed. It was only a matter of time before the Right and the Republicans saw that these smoldering fires could be used to fuel a resurgence. So on top of ill-advised Left mistakes (which undermined the People) we then got immature and downright primitive Right mistakes (which are leading the un-Peopled Republic into dark dark valleys). Nor will the Dems coming back to power be able to turn back the clock to the time before consequences took hold. Our societal choices reflect our military choices in Iraq: there are still a few moves left, but there is damage that’s been done that may never be undone – to ourselves as well as to everyone over there. Frustration needs to be dealt with honestly, and that means it needs to be admitted. For far too long, that frustration was not only ignored but belittled (without being acknowledged), and when it finally blew outwards and upwards into the middle of the American scene – with the help of this and that sorcerer’s apprentice – it took on the characteristics of just-spewed magma and flowed all over the place. Worse, the sleazy Christ-flaunting Bhagwans of the Fundamentalist movement are telling their hyper-excited followers that it’s all a good thing.

To people desperate for an identity, Ur-Fascists offer the fact that we’re born in the same country: As they used to say in Dogpatch: Gack! THIS is all they offer? That we just happened to be born in the same country? Yes, you can then put a coat of hot-wax on that thing by claiming that it was God’s will that you were born here, but basically that’s just enlisting God to endorse a much smaller script than the one He already wrote. Now them Kathliks offered an identity of being created in the image of likeness of God, which gave you a common bond with every other human being on the planet, extending backward and forward in Time, and reaching beyond Time as well. Now THAT was an identity. But it’s far bigger than any individual nation-state and to the Ur-Fascist idolaters of the State (and Fundamentalists fully qualify as such idolaters) whatever God wants has to somehow match what the nation-State wants. Like in Shinto. We’re all desperate for an identity, and a purpose, and a role, and a mission – and the sense of purpose and Meaning that all those things will give us. And the best of us will admit it and embrace what seems (perhaps with the Holy Spirit’s prompting) best able to give all those good things to us. By leaping into the vacuum created by 40 years of Left-Dem deconstructing, and stoking the primal, long-ignored passions in American society, the Fundamentalists have taken over the way the fictive Sauron set up shop in Mordor after a long exile.

The followers must feel humiliated by the wealth and power of their enemies: Humiliation is one of those really primal but unquenchable passions. Many a Madison Avenue ad-exec has probably gone to the grave without figuring how to tap into humiliation among the customer base without being blamed for reminding them of their humiliation in the first place. Humiliation creates a powerful personal Emergency: powerful negative feelings mushroom up that have to be released. But Humiliation also immediately offers a target for all those energies: your enemies. And since you are chosen by God to live in this town, then your enemies must be godless as well as being evil enough to humiliate you. And once that reaction gets going, there’ll be a hot time in that town. It doesn’t help that the Ur-Left, equally as fundamentalistic in its way, has helpfully claimed that there isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a God – leastways not in public, and will all the yokels who think otherwise please step up to be registered for the trip back to Podunk?

There is no struggle for life, but rather life is lived for struggle: Life is a long, sustained staggery journey toward what is ‘higher’, within yourself and beyond yourself and Beyond yourself. The task of each person is to be a master&commander of the self, and ease that creaky vessel along in company with other such, toward this or that (intermediate) goal, and yet always toward the Ultimate Goal (accordin’ to them Kathliks, leastwise). Such a person disciplines him/herself to embody Truth and Virtue, allowing that Truth and its power to flow in (from Deep Within or from Above), and then and only then to flow out toward others. Like the Old Testament Prophets, such a human being then becomes an exemplar and a model of Life’s/God’s energy or grace in the world, and can speak Truth to the powers of this world. But such persons do not envision life as war, nor the human being as primarily a ‘warrior’ nor a war-maker. The angels may be assigned to do that, a lot of Old Testament inhabitants were told to do that, but then Christ came along and told Peter to put up his sword. A far greater power than the sword would be drawn into the world and SpaceTime through the Landing Zone (LZ) that Christ would open with the energy generated from His own willing suffering and death. All this is far too spiritual and far too mature for already-agitated folks whose primal passions and lesser brain-areas are constantly being massaged by the nation-worshipping, mind-massaging Bhagwans of the Fundamentalist hierarchy. They shouldn’t be allowed to operate heavy machinery in their condition, but that’s the problem we’ve got on our hands now, isn’t it? They most certainly are operating heavy machinery: everything in the US arsenal.

Elitism is encouraged, and a contempt for the weak: How any bunch that claims to be Bible-worthy can purposely nurture a contempt for the weak is beyond me. But contempt for the weak is very much what the Fascists wanted to do, in order to spackle up their populations for war, to make better soldiers and more obedient civilian workers. Of course, the Dems spent 40 years raising up this and that Identity and claiming all sorts of special treatment for it based on its ‘weakness’. But that whole gambit got way out of hand and those without a Left-assigned ‘Identity’ were kicked to the curb and had to go and look for one of their own. And while they were out walking the dark highways and alleys looking for one, the well-coiffed, well-dressed, shiny-toothed Bhagwan-Vampires of Fundamentalism found them, and promised them life-without-death, and that they’d never be laughed at again. And now they are no longer ‘weak’ and hate the weakness they once were (and may still be). And in the darkness they are bound to Power and War and Violence and the sleepless, never satisfied, always grasping Nation-State. And they must call it Good. And they must call it God. Nor will they admit that they have bound themselves in a living nightmare, but rather will strike out more forcefully to make their nightmare real to others, until – no wonder they look forward to it – God comes and whacks all their enemies and takes them to Hawaii, all expenses paid.

Everybody is educated to become a hero: As if you could teach anybody to be a ‘hero’. Not even the official heroes of the country really think of themselves as heroes, nor did they plan to be heroes. But of course, it’s an indication of just how really needy these people are that on top of being God’s Deputies, and being ‘chosen’ to be Americans, they also have to be ‘heroes’. Them Kathliks used to call such people ‘saints’ but the Nation-State prefers ‘heroes’ and wisely so: there’s no use reminding folks that there is or ever was a really better alternative than the utopia of serving an all-powerful State. And in the Fundamentalist theological scheme, you get ‘saved’ by saying you were and telling a good enough story about it; that’s all it takes to be a hero. And in the PC self-esteem book everybody’s a ‘hero’ just because they’d feel bad if you didn’t call them that. Mix these two likkers and you’ve got one corrosive cocktail indeed. And so we do, now. In terms of self-image, just how many people are sober in this country right now, do you imagine? How many are faithfully waging the long, slow journey, in season and out of season, in good times and bad – as opposed to looking for twelve legions of angels to clear the road ahead and peel them a grape or sitting back under the shade of a tree and waiting to be discovered as the unknown princeling of the royal family?

Since it’s hard to keep in touch with permanent war and on top of one’s heroism, the Fascist will to power is transferred to the sexual arena: Well, what else has a guy got to do? No – wait, that’s the feminist position. But no, that’s what God put guys here for, right? To make babies and to kill other people’s babies – or former babies. Them Kathliks never did get the hang of it, but who’s gonna listen to them now anyways? Sex, sex, sex – and yet you don’t find the word passing Jesus’ lips. Maybe He was too busy. Or – no wait – bein’ God He just knew that St. Paul would be along shortly to take care of all the loose ends. Of course, if ‘loose ends’ is all that sex amounted to in Jesus’ day, then … what the hell is going on now?

There are eye-catching phrases these Bhagwans make, like for example: “We are the vice-regents of God”. Now if somebody said this out on the street, or in a City Council meeting, or even a faculty meeting (where it’s especially hard to determine the presence or non-presence of sanity) said this out loud, people would be concerned. But when a Bhagwan says it, folks are ecstatic and send him monies. But this is how desperate these folks are, how needy, and how sleazy these whackjob preachers really are. Because I’m sure that they actually consider themselves to be “vice-regents”. And for those of our viewers who have just joined the Earth-show, “vice-regent” was a rank immediately below King, assigned in the old days to those who would govern a far-distant and valuable Imperial possession in the King’s place (the land being so far away from the home country that it would take too long to get the King’s permission for everything). But .. wait. If God is everywhere and knows Everything, then what does He need a vice-regent for? Or a whole religion-full of them? And is every low-esteem Fundamentalist in the pews as equal a vice-regent as the group's Lexus-driving Bhagwan? What's going on here?

Violence is magical and holy: It was an old Kathlik maxim that whenever something reely reely reely made you feel gooooooood, then it was probably bad. Given the visceral and primitive rush we get from our reptilian brains when we get violent or are the recipients of magical gifts or get to have and to use magical powers … or get to wield the authority of God … well, a good case can be made that this stuff isn’t good for you in the long run. In fact, getting high on it will probably shorten your run appreciably, as it has ours on the Eastern front now.

“Saved at the age of 3”: OK, childhood is magical, and that’s probably why it’s not a good thing to make kids try to declare for ‘religion’ too early on: they can’t really distinguish ‘magic’ from ‘religion’ from the true Presence and Call of God. And maybe that’s why we are now faced with a monstrously large chunk of our citizenry whose religious beliefs are only one soundstage over from fairy tales. Nor is this to deny that for another large portion, the one that claims to be enlightened, there is no magic, no spirit, no wonder at all – one thinks of Garbo’s marvelously humorless Soviet apparatchik in “Ninotchka”, but without the redeeming relationship to Melvyn Douglas. Too bad, because in Kathlik thought, Douglas played a role not so different from the Holy Spirit.

"This proves that the United States was a thought in the mind of God from all eternity": For a minute - maybe it's the use of the scientific-sounding "proves" or the professionally theological phrase "from all eternity" - you think you've finally got something here, and it is - let's admit - a mighty big proof it it's true. Well it IS true. This country WAS INDEED a thought in the mind of God from all eternity. Of course, so was cottage cheese and honey-roasted peanuts and Soviet Communism and the platypus. If God is everything the Fundamentalists claim, then EVERYthing was in and on His mind all the time from the get-go. So nu?

Hedges is on to something in this book, and it’s big and it’s very serious. Our present national situation cries out for citizens capable of psychological and emotional and spiritual and intellectual and civic maturity. We are not going to find this advocated by the revolutionaries of the Left or the Right. But it is what we must muster in sufficient quantity and strength to enable a quorum of The People to exercise what I’d have to call ‘adult’ influence.

This is not a call to ‘war’, a metaphor far too easily deployed by the revolutionists of Left and Right, Advokists and Fundamentalists. It is a call to a robust civic humanity without which fulcrum the machinery of this Republic will shake itself apart – and violently.

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