Monday, February 23, 2009


Chris Hedges, never to be missed, reports that retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence (as it were), has testified before Congress that the latest and worst threat to national security is – wait for it – Us.

This is refreshing, if not altogether candid. I suppose it would have been too much to expect that he might have named the malefactors of great wealth on Wall Street or the Identity Politics masterminds who have, in one way or another, divided up the nation’s resources and treasure as if the nation were a large stuffed bird at a free-for-all buffet.

Nor would anybody expect him to suggest that the Beltway braintrust was in any way responsible.

The threat is due to the financial crisis – the cause of which is apparently not in his department. Mistakes were made, but not by us – in the fine phrase that is the title of an acute new book by Carol Tavris and Eliot Aronson.

Rather, the Beltway braintrust – in something of a half-bright lightning bolt of insight – perceive, as through a glass darkly, that “the deepening economic crisis” might set off “a return to the ‘violent extremism’ of the 1920s and 1930s”.

Ya wouldn’t want that, would-ja? Ya wouldn’t want people actually letting ‘Washington’ know exactly how they felt; exactly what they thought of being sold down the river, or led down the river; exactly what they felt about being reduced to a herd of donkeys, providing the uncomplaining backs that would carry the lusts and ‘visions’ of greed-besotted financiers and radical revolutionary ‘advocates’. Pander to the Identities in exchange for ‘support’ (not sure about the votes) while collecting cash from corporate PACs – I wonder if that’s the party that’s over. I mean – in addition to the postwar American predominance of the world.

And the idea that you can keep your citizens in a stupefied and acquiescent state of satisfaction by giving them more credit with which to buy foreign goods, while getting rid of ‘dirty’ ‘masculine’ industrial jobs and letting other countries make the stuff (and reap the profit from the sales). An idea sold to Us with – alas – a shelf life of just about thirty years.

They’re hoping – there in the Beltway – that nobody remembers the Bonus Army, the vets of the Great War who came to Washington in ’32 looking for an early payout of the bonus promised to them for their service. Twenty thousand of them on Anacostia Flats.

‘The powers that be’ there in the sacred Beltway were apparently more fearful of the example of what ultimately happened to the Czar’s government than of the dangerous tactic of shooting down one’s own people when they come to the capital (which the Czar’s government had done in 1905). They disregarded the D.C. police chief who was sure he could disperse the vets with some reason and a modest show of military force in the background.

They sent in Douglas MacArthur with four squadrons of cavalry, four companies of infantry, a machine gun company and six tanks, which assembled – charmingly – near the White House. With Major Dwight Eisenhower as second in command, and George Patton among the officers, the force worked its way down Pennsylvania Avenue and then invaded the Flats, burning the tent encampment there and tear-gassing vets, women and children. This is what happens when a failed governing elite realizes it’s been found out.

No surprise then that there’s that new Northern Command, with troops assigned whose operational area is the country itself.

Alas, if it eventually planned to deploy the Army – all else having failed – to ‘let women feel safe and totally fulfilled’, as the flaks of the Second Wave would put it, things have changed now: the forces may well be deployed to protect the Beltway banditti and panderers when the citizenry finally put two and two together. Beltway gatherings nowadays must resemble those gaggles of animated mucus-germs in the commercials, just as they begin to realize that the super-medication is heading toward them.

But how many people will remember the Bonus Army or any of that long, sustained struggle for workers’ rights from the 1880s to the very beginning of World War Two and beyond? Is it ‘violent extremism’ to try to achieve decent wages and a chance to improve yours and your children’s chances? Perhaps ‘violent extremism’ is the Beltway version of the old Politically Correct ‘backlash’: if you don’t agree with what we’re doing then anything you say is just ‘backlash’ and sour apples.

The Beltway has been pandering to the Advocacies of the Identities and the PACs for so long that I don’t think it is prepared to actually deal with citizens, let alone The People. And like those Macbeths, I think the Beltway crowd are feeling scared because they know what they’ve done, and for how long they’ve been doing it.

At the Army War College – where theoretically they’re being paid to rethink yet again just how the US military might, perhaps, some day, again win a war – they spent a good deal of time talking about how they might have to conduct operations “inside the United States” in case of a “violent strategic dislocation” and – wait for it – “purposeful domestic resistance”. Resistance to what? An earthquake? Government help after a hurricane? Read the document (link in Hedge’s article) with a Soviet citizen’s eye.

It’s always a danger that a failed military will seek compensation for its failure by ‘conducting operations’ against civilians; We may recall that the same French Army that turned in so unhappy a performance at Sedan in 1870 proved more than equal to the task when turning its primitive machine guns on its own citizens in Paris the next year. The Seventh Cavalry, alas, considered that it had avenged the great battle where Custer’s mistakes got his command wiped out, by lining up unarmed Indians alongside trenches in 1890, using Gatling guns to mow them down so that they’d fall into the trenches, and calling it the Battle of Wounded Knee. There were Army casualties – hit by ‘friendly fire’. The fog of war, no doubt. There were no Indian families left to ‘notify’.

Perhaps, though, the Army is concerned for ‘bread riots’ – such as started the avalanche that brought down the French monarchy.

Defending “basic domestic order and human security” is a phrase far too freighted to be accepted at face value. If the government has failed hugely at all its basic tasks, then the solution – ideally – would be for the government to start succeeding at its basic tasks, and pretty damned quick. That would be true ‘leadership’ – and it would start, as all good military and political leadership must start – with the government ‘leading’ itself, mastering itself so as to competently discharge its basic responsibilities, the ones that it was hired for under the Constitution.

It would be easier, of course, to simply protect itself against its own people by assaulting them.
But the world has been down that dark path so many times before. Cheney’s walk on ‘the dark side’ may turn out to be a march. Against Us.

That is the fierce urgency of now. We need to help this debased Beltway do the job We hired it for. And We do that by letting it know just what it is that We expect from them, and no less.
I think Obama is capable of moving the Augean Beltway herd in that direction, if he has the support of The People.

If We fail in this, the alternatives rapidly descend into a darkness and an abyss that the Founders knew waited just beyond the ring of the Constitution’s campfire, out there in the darkness that claimed so much hopeful light in the few millennia since humankind first began to organize itself for large benefits and common purposes.

Talk about your rendezvous with Destiny …

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So now they’re going to reconsider whether to allow photographs of military coffins returning from the war in the East.

As everybody knows now, the Pentagon was involved in ‘spinning’, and in a particular manner: by preventing people from seeing anything that would suggest a vision of events different from what the Pentagoons wanted them to think. It’s all rather manipulative and therefore, willy-nilly, antidemocratic and sort of elitist: ‘we’ want you to ‘think’ this way, we don’t want you to think some other way, and we don’t trust you to come to our conclusion on your own.

And on the further end of that spectrum: ‘we’ know what’ s best for the country, you probably don’t and couldn’t figure it out if you tried, and since it’s all in a good cause, then ‘you’ should just not-think and maybe ‘go shopping’. The upshot is that We should leave the military and the rest of the government alone and let them do things their way. As if it were ‘their’ government, and not Ours.

With serious reporting going the way of the dodo, with education slipping badly, with youth being … well … youth, and with so many of Us now worried about Our own financial survival, it seems a sure bet that the Beltway banditti are going to keep on keeping on, and We are not to interfere.
But it’s been that way for quite some time in these parts.

After all, We’ve been in the middle of a carnival of ‘revolutions’ for 40 years. And like all revolutions, the masses are presumed not to ‘get it’ and not able to ever ‘get it’. Or if they do manage to get it, not to be able to sustain the momentum and keep the revolution in business.

Lenin saw this, and Stalin pretty much gave up on the whole idea of ‘revolution’ and just hunkered down to the business of running a growing empire – at which he was frighteningly good. Poor silly Hitler, that flash-in-the-pan. Stalin knew what it took to ‘build’, and he could work on it with a patient ruthlessness that completely escaped the manic Fuhrer. Hitler was the raging wildfire, but Stalin was the glacier.

Our own ‘revolutions’ have been hampered by the inability to follow Stalin’s path with sufficient ruthlessness. This is the result both of the surviving American political and constitutional limitations on the imposition of revolutionary agendas, and of the revolutions’ own inability to fully ‘own’ what it is they are really up to. Identity Politics requires your ‘identity’ to be that of your ‘identity’ and not of your country. To be fully committed to your ‘identity’ and to your ‘country’ (including all of those citizens who are not your ‘identity’ and perhaps are your ‘oppressors’) is not something most folks can pull off. It would be nice if everybody could, but humans (the memo says you shouldn’t say ‘human nature’) aren’t as a rule that robust, and can’t sustain such a complex stance over time and under pressure.

But over and above her one big political Revolution, America has seen ‘revolutions’ and ‘revolutions’. The auto, the radio – these were scientifically based: the reason that the Model-T transformed American society almost overnight was that the damned thing worked and people liked it. Ditto the radio back in those remarkable ‘20s.

The later Sixties and the Seventies gave Us something else altogether. These were not so much scientifically-based changes based on new and useful inventions. These were ‘paradigm’ changes based on assumptions that nobody could prove or disprove quickly and easily.

That’s what a serious revolution is: it’s a power-play to force people to look at things another way. Whether the new way of looking at things is better than the old way … the whole idea, as Lenin and Goebbels saw, is to prevent anybody from asking that question.

You can ruthlessly control what people see and hear; you can ruthlessly control what they say and write and – if you’re Mao – even what they think; you can wreck some people who try to retain their independence: and you can wreck them twice over: destroy their lives and then ‘spin’ it so that their lives look ‘evil’ or ‘revisionist’ or ‘deviationist’ or any of a hundred other epithets that Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and their lesser demons tacked onto people’s reputations as a way of wrecking their lives in a way useful to the State.

You have to do this. You are trying to peddle, to push, to force, to impose – as a certainty that is beyond question – a ‘vision’ that possesses no immediate, perhaps no inherent, attractiveness to the citizenry.

Is ‘war’ the best response to terrorism? Is it one We can afford? Can the Pentagon and its procurement programs and the forces as currently construed provide for the type of forces required for the 21st century challenges We will face? Or might it be that as a former hyperpower We will be perceived to be in decline by the world’s nations and peoples, so that Our forces will now be faced by challenges that will not so much require Our intervening in other peoples’ affairs but rather require defending Our own?

Can this nation remain a world-class economy if it makes nothing that it can sell to other peoples? Can this nation support itself as a world-class economy of 300 million souls merely by ‘developing’ knowledge and ideas? And even if it can, can it remain a democracy and also offer a decent life to all its citizens? Can it become a ‘knowledge and service society’ and yet avoid becoming some 21st century revenant of an aristocrat-helot state?

Is ‘gender’ merely a social construct that can change just as quickly as people can change the way they look at it? Is it merely a matter of how you ‘look’ at it? Or does ‘gender’ represent something deeper, something with a life of its own, something that is going to be what it is regardless of what mind games people try to play on themselves and each other? And even if ‘gender’ is nothing more than sociological silly-putty … is sex?

It’s impressive that Eric Holder amplifies Obama’s exhortation to start ‘looking’ at the issues that face Us. And the fact that Holder uses blunter and bolder words to describe the situation – such as his use of ‘cowardice’ in describing the American approach to racial matters – is a breath of fresh, if almost bracingly cold, air. We have been in the hot-house of Political Correctness for so long that We have lost the ability to handle ‘being outside’. Generations have been raised in that hot-house. And even those cohorts of the citizenry who remember being told to ‘go outside and play’ – the order thus empowering them to ride bikes without helmets and drink water from garden hoses - have in far too many cases yielded to a life in the hot-house.

Holder is right that We have become a "nation of cowards" when it comes to "race discussions". He neglects to mention, but it's essential to recall, that Our "cowardice" is not simply a failure of moral stamina or of moral courage. The age of "sensitivity"and the conformist and Alice-in-Wonderland impositions of Identity Politics as Congress truckled to pressure groups, resulted in self-censoring by the public: you kept your mouth shut if you weren't prepared to all-hail the Politically Correct line (just as Goebbels and Lenin had anticipated). Otherwise, you could wind up being the object of mau-mau tactics by a 'sensitive' media; or being subject to serious employment problems; or even finding yourself hauled in front of a civil or criminal court.

But Holder is still right. Although 'prudence' may be a major factor, the repressions and 'impossible things' demanded by Political Correctness have resulted in a baffled citizenry that is unable to speak truth, or even recognize it, let alone distinguish truth from the sleazy, exaggerated hard-sell of this or that 'reform'.

It’s not just that there are issues going back decades that need to be ‘talked about’ because they were never talked about before. It’s not just that.

It’s that We need to be able to get back into ‘talking’ mode, into ‘questioning’ mode – so that We can get a grip on the great Ferris wheel in the Beltway that is now careening out of control.

A People in a democracy are held accountable for what their government does. You can feel sorry for the masses of Russians – soldiers and civilians – thrown into the maw of Communism, from the sweat of whose brows that monstrous madness extracted the resources to afflict the world.

But We were born into a democracy, a Republic. We are supposed to exercise the control over its government. We appear to have lost the ability to do it – and just at the time when Our resources are being plundered from within just as Our forces are stretched thin on foreign fields.

There’s much to be done.

Learning to see the truth, and to distinguish reality from fantasy, is a start.

But We’ll need to be ready for what We’re going to see.

If Obama has a task on his hands as great or even greater than Lincoln’s, then We have a task on Our hands as great or even greater than the generations that built the nation and saw it through its glory days.

It has come to this. It stuns to think how far everything has fallen in the space of three or four decades. But the task ahead is clear.

And cannot be avoided.

We shall have to see those photos. We shall have to look at the price-tags now, in every respect.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Robert Marquand of the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ reports on something that has probably escaped Our recall; it probably escaped Our attention when it happened.

In 2002 – under the urging of Jesse Helms – Congress passed a law “enabling United States forces to unilaterally storm into peaceful Holland to liberate American soldiers held for war crimes”.

Think about this for a minute.

A law authorizing the unilateral invasion of another country is a law authorizing an act of war. Congress, on top of everything else – the Patriot Act, the Authorization to Use Military Force – legislated approval for an act of war against … Holland.

And, as is now standard procedure in Congressional skullduggery these days, the Bill is actually given a 'sensitive' title: the "American Service Members Protection Act". They might has well have gone the whole way and named it - as in sex offense legislation - after somebody: the Joe Smith Protection Act or the GI Joe Protection Act. Whatever. It is a sleazy way of sliding this poison blade into the public law and the public consciousness. And wasn't one of Hitler's first Acts entitled "An Emergency Act for the Protection of the German People and Nation"? What was not to like?

And what would Holland have had to do to merit this invasion? The International Criminal Court (ICC), sitting at the Hague, would have to detain US troops for war crimes. That is something that happens to other countries, the ones whose troops commit war crimes for bad reasons.

Of course at that time the ICC wasn’t actually set up, and it would only have jurisdiction over signatories’ forces.

But amazingly, that didn’t stop Congress from legislating the first war in America’s history to be started because an International Court might possibly have the temerity to prosecute war crimes.

There are two possibilities: Congress knew that they were passing such a bizarre law even though the triggering-situation was impossible. Or Congress did not know that the triggering-situation was impossible.

If Congress did not know that the triggering situation was impossible, then they were treacherously negligent in the amount of ignorance into which they allowed themselves to fall. With staffs and ‘experts’ numbering in the thousands, hired precisely to advise them, the Congresspersons would have absolutely no excuse for not-knowing that the scenario that Helms presented to them was impossible.

If, on the other hand, Congress knew that they were passing a bill authorizing war despite knowing that the triggering-situation they chose could never happen … then I would say that such behavior is cause for Our profound concern.

Did they know that war crimes were going to be committed? That the whole war itself might be construed as a war crime? Did they assume that war crimes would be committed by Our troops? Torture? Did Cheney tell Helms to get this passed as a pre-emptive 'solution' to war crimes because he intended that war crimes would be committed? Why else would a country do something as historically weird as legislatively authorize a war against international justice-keepers before engaging on its chosen war? Not even the Soviets went this far.

I had mentioned in recent Posts that this country and its citizenry over the past few decades have lost their capacity for ‘seriousness’ and had no justification for considering themselves as ‘serious’ about discharging their responsibilities. We have lost not only the appearance of ‘gravitas’ and the reputation for ‘gravitas’, but We have lost the actual capacity for it.

Here is the United States Congress knowingly passing a ‘fake’ law – making a ‘fake’ threat of war against an allied nation – and thereby committing the full faith and credit of the United States of America to what is in effect a publicity stunt.

Had they no concept of how serious a matter ‘war’ is for a nation? For this nation?

Had they no awareness of what a monstrous ‘message’ they were sending to the rest of the world and its governments?

Had they no concern for the precedent they were setting, not only in national legislation but in international law and in the legislative agendas of other nations around the world?

Has legislation descended to this? To some sort of ‘show’?

Yes, I think it has. And I think that what has been going on in this country for 40 years has brought it about. In their brandishing of ‘deconstruction’ in the service of winning political space and ultimate power for their ‘revolution’, the Second Wave Feminists led the way for Identity Politics to disregard the validity and legitimacy of any laws or principles that stood in the way of their demands; that stood in the way of their ultimate visions of revenge and political supremacy. ‘Law’ and ‘Justice’ were derided as tools of ‘oppression’ and as nothing but the phony ‘abstractions’ used by the ‘oppressors’ to 'oppress' ‘the oppressed’.

Although Congress would never willingly part with its ‘authority’, it began to debase itself bit by bit, as it deferred time after time with a straight or ‘sensitive’ face to assorted rants and demands. ‘Laws’ were passed without thought or foresight or even deliberation, simply to placate or pander to this or that ‘Identity’, this or that part of ‘the base’.

And since the revolutionary mindset of deconstruction saw all law-making as merely a form of oppressors’ charade, as play-acting, the pols began to accept that toxic position themselves. And of course, if the law-making was a ‘charade’, then so were the law-makers. Debasement was underway.

And the theory of revolutionary agitprop, taken straight from the playbooks of Communist and Nazi political agitation, held that the only use of ‘law’ was to ‘send a message’. Rationality, justice, fairness, proportion, precedent, consequences … none of these were allowed to influence the passage of laws that were sending the Politically Correct ‘message’.

This had taken root long before 9-11. As early as 1994 Joe Biden defended his Violence Against Women legislation by admitting that “it may be a bad law, but it sends a great message” (parts of the law were later found unconstitutional). Even now, Senator Leahy’s Judiciary Committee has said that it will re-consider aspects of sex-offender legislation that are incoherent, conflicting, unworkable, greatly vulnerable to effective constitutional challenge, and– even in the eyes of law enforcement and public safety officials – largely incapable of achieving their stated legislative aim of increasing the safety of children. In addition, by the by, to introducing eerily Soviet concepts of law and jurisprudence into the heart of American practice.

These laws were passed by Congress with substantial majorities – although, probably, with very little serious thought, let alone deliberation.

I’m thinking that the one large reason Congressional Democrats went along with the stunning legislation of the Bush-era Unitary Executive was that they were by then known to their Republican colleagues as having passed large numbers of verrrry iffy laws simply to ‘send a message’. When the Bush-era legislation was slapped onto their desks, they were already in the habit of ‘sending messages’ and really didn’t have a solid ground on which to refuse the Republican ‘message’ in the service of a Unitary Executive’s increasing grab for power.

And by 9-11, large swaths of the public were used to it all, and even thought that it was a good idea. And this was in addition to large swaths of the public who still might entertain the ‘quaint’ belief that Congress doesn’t pass laws unless it has carefully considered them.

Careful and deliberate consideration ‘went away’ a long time before. Indeed, Brown v. Board of Education probably had the lethal if unintended consequence of validating what the ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’ politics of the later Sixties would bray: that ‘deliberation’ and ‘deliberateness’ were merely ploys to keep the ‘oppressed’ in a state of ‘oppression’ by the ‘oppressors’. Easier to demand with the French Revolution: Ecrasez les infames. No wonder We’ve fallen so far from the ideals of the Framers.

So to 2002. A United States Congress passes a law that it either knows is unnecessary or doesn’t realize is unnecessary: Authorizing an act of invasive war against an allied nation.

But what the hey? That’s what they thought there in the Beltway. It’s just for ‘looks’. It’s just a play ‘to the gallery’, to give the folks back home, the ‘voters’, a sense that their elected representatives were on the job and earning their pay and perks. Oy. Ach.

It’s not about ‘war’. It’s just about ‘the message’. Nobody’s supposed to take it seriously.

Well … so much isn’t taken seriously anymore.

And the consequences are serious. And will get more serious.

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Monday, February 16, 2009


In the preceding Post I had mentioned the report by the’ Washington Post’ about troops in Iraq – the article refers to Mosul – going to salons for manicures, pedicures, and … whatever.

Just a couple of further thoughts.

The photo accompanying the article is artfully staged. Almost too much so. It is taken from behind the soldier sitting in a big salon chair, looking over the shoulder and toward the salonista who is giving a pedicure. Although the soldier is named, it is not possible to see the face, although the combat camouflage top is neatly folded over the back of the chair so as to display a gritty American flag patch. Clearly this is no accidental photo.

That might help since he is … a he. This is too clever by half. Apparently it was decided that a photo of a female in military camouflage getting … whatever … done in a styling salon – that would have ‘sent the wrong message’, which is to say it would have been a photo version of what the Beltway tries always to avoid in words or pictures: telling a truth that isn’t supposed to be told or shown.

Instead it’s a male. We are to infer that Hey, the guys are doing it, so it’s … you know, OK and whatever.

Funny but I can’t recall – in all the newsreels of all the wars for which newsreels exist – ‘salons’ in the combat area. So-called ‘combat barbers’, giving their buddies a quick buzz outside a tent and not far from a slit trench, to take off all the hair that gets in the way of combat … there’s that. But hair-and-manicure salons … no, can’t say I’ve ever seen that. Pershing, Patton, even that primping primadonna MacArthur … nope, not on their watches. (Although if you were to tell me that MacArthur brought along his own favorite personal barber, I’d believe it.)

Perhaps before photography … Grant? Sherman? Bobby Lee? Although Lincoln clearly didn’t think it was so very important to get styled, from the looks of some of the photographs that he sat for. (Although if you were to tell me that Custer brought along his own favorite personal barber, I’d believe it.)

A major, replete with her double-last name, but apparently not an ‘official’ spokesperson, opines torturously that “If not a need, there’s certainly a demand”. Indeed? So the military is going through all of this … to fill a customer demand? I mean – it’s not even providing adequate medical care for casualties, but it’s going to expend money and resources, and run the several risks in regard to security and the image of its fighting-forces … just to be customer-friendly?

The troops are demanding styling salons? The males?

Has the Pentagoon Imperium come to this at last?

There are various possibilities. Perhaps ‘the troops’ – male and female – really are demanding styling salons. But if that’s true, why would the Army simply yield to such a … non-combat-related demand?

Or perhaps: the Pentagon wants Us all to think that ‘war’ ain’t so bad or so tough, and maybe also that We are ‘winning’ so much over there that – wait for it – We can afford to set up styling salons for the troops.

So then, too, maybe it’s a recruitment thing: if potential recruits see that they won’t have to give up styling and manicures and pedicures, then they won’t hesitate to sign up for combat. Hmmm … but something about that doesn’t quite make sense – help me out here.

So the military is reduced to being ‘consumer-friendly’, treating the troops like ‘customers’? There have been so many horror stories you hear about recruit-training in all the Services over the past two decades – ‘time out cards’ and restrictions as to how much ‘pressure’ or ‘stress’ or even ‘noise’ drill instructors can make, lest they frighten the recruits. One presumed that the Pentagon was planning to distribute the same instructions to any potential enemies, although back in the ‘90s the list wasn’t really imagined to be very long.

This isn’t good. Just as the world is regressing back to the Great Power frakfest of a century and more ago, and just as war is regressing back to the in-your-face frakfesting of 40 and more years ago … the Pentagon is unveiling its style-friendly designer combat forces. Strike Force Valley Girl ... oh my.

Why would the Pentagon risk this? In a part of the world where toughness is valued, and in the military setting where part of an enemy’s calculation as to whether to attack you is the toughness and resilience of your troops themselves … the Pentagon unveils styling salons for the troops, and allows a male to be photographed getting his tootsies polished? From a purely military point of view: say it ain’t so.

Perhaps strategy and military thinking has changed for … some reason … since the last time We won a war … or at least got through one, showing that We could take it.

The military has changed, it’s clear. Nor do I use that phrase in the Sixties’ sense that anything that has ‘changed’ must be better. The chances are that few vets who finished up before the end of the Gulf War realize exactly what’s happened. It was bad enough that the generals weren’t always up to their job – as Vietnam certainly demonstrated. But that goes with the territory in any military.

Since the end of the Gulf War the military has been given over as a playground for two lethal and corrosive forces. The Right gave it over to the war-happy Fundamentalists, who themselves were pawns in the hands of their neocon handlers, and they were convinced that the military could re-shape the world according to the Fundamentalist-neocon image. The Left gave it over to the cadres of the Second Wave and their queasy but grand plan to reshape the military and then the world according to their vision.

Neither the Fundamentalists nor the Feminists had the military’s best interests at heart – both were pursuing their own addled visions. And they’ve had the run of the place for more than 15 years.

The Fundamentalists figured God would make everything work out; the Feminists figured that the inevitability and rightness of their vision would make everything work out. The military was subjected simultaneously to the forces of religious fanaticism and revolutionary fanaticism; the inevitability of the triumph of God’s will and the inevitability of the triumph of the ‘revolution’. Neither vision was securely anchored in a mature appreciation of reality, neither was primarily interested in the well-being of the military.

After all, the Fundies and neocons figured that there was now only the one hyperpower and so there would be no opposition; and the Feminists figured that war would soon be like ‘Star Trek’ and so the ‘old’, ‘masculine’ military could be allowed to wither away as their ‘new’ military was put together in the service of the world-women’s revolution.

Somewhere in there, America ceased to be a ‘serious’ military nation. The need to pander to domestic political constituencies, and radical ones at that, reduced America’s conception of its military to the level of the excited damp-dreams of each Party’s ‘base’.

Nor have Events worked out according to either group’s plans.

But History, always dynamic, has moved on, producing a return to Great Power politics and gambits, in a world increasingly short of resources. That will demand strenuous and bloody exertion even to achieve modest objectives. And as America’s reputation as a ‘serious’ nation is joined in decline by America’s financial clout, then it will take diplomatic chops on a par with Talleyrand to effect any substantive American goals without recourse to arms. That’s going to be dicey, given the condition of American diplomacy and the bad mood that most of the world is in.

Or maybe it’s a PR thing – not really intended to connect with military operational concerns but rather something nice for the folks back home. If the Pentagon thinks that folks back here are going to feel good just because there are styling salons in the middle of a war zone … then the Pentagon does not have a high opinion of public opinion here.

But then maybe a lot of folks here would feel better over such a flimsy feel-good scam. And if that is the case – if a large fraction of the American public will figure everything’s OK with the war because they’ve seen some ‘troops’ in a styling salon … then We are in a heap of trouble. Trouble that’s deeper than the failing war and the prospects for the current military’s successful operations.

Another, darker thought obtrudes: perhaps the female troops are demanding styling because they actually do need it - as a ‘stress reliever’, one without which they cannot perform their duties. Is that possible? Are styling salons now to be required for successful military operations?

Perhaps, back in the days when certain politically correct ‘experts’ assured eager pols that in the near future war was indeed going to resemble Season One of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ so whatever the Second Wave and its sensible-shoe war-gamers wanted for Christmas could be freely granted … perhaps back then the concept of styling salons at the front could have been imagined. But now? Over there?

Is this is the result of a feminist game-plan unfolding according to its own schedule – regardless of the situation that the military now finds itself in? Is this an unpleasant reality stemming from allowing females in combat areas … a reality that Political Correctness had chosen not to imagine – or allow to be discussed until things got sooo bad that something had to be done?

Nor does it help that an awful lot of voters are too young to remember what real combat in a shooting war is like and might well imagine that Yeah, sure, styling salons are part of war and combat. And maybe they’ve seen ‘Star Trek’ re-runs.

We have a ‘hollowed out’ military again. This time it’s not because the government has allowed the forces and the equipment to go to seed. Instead it’s because the competence of the forces has officially been degraded by the imposition of Politically Correct policies that are allowed to override the military realities of a rapidly changing, increasingly dangerous, increasingly ‘old fashioned’ world.

That hoary Political Correctness is a Bubble as old as the economic Bubble that has been spun around Us all since the early 1980s.

The economy has not been the only Bubble that the American nation has been playing with. And the economy probably won’t be the only one to burst.

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Friday, February 13, 2009


I had mentioned in recent Posts about my concern now that Justice Ginsburg is ill.

I have read her Dissent in the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Carhart.

It prompts a few thoughts.

She makes approving reference to the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey. There, she notes, the Court “restated and reaffirmed Roe’s essential holding … It recognized the right of the woman to choose to have an abortion before viability and to obtain it without undue interference from the State.”

She then goes on to note that “Second, the Court acknowledged the State’s power to restrict abortions after fetal viability, if the law contains exceptions for pregnancies which endanger the woman’s life or health”. [italics mine] I would point out here that We face the same difficulty as exists in handling such problems as ascertaining the actual existence of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder): the definition of ‘health’ has now expanded so much in the past twenty years or more that a) the slightest emotional upset b) reported as an incorroborable fact by a patient seeking this or that medical outcome, is now legally and professionally acceptable instance of a ‘health’ issue. This, in effect, means that the ‘restriction’ requiring a ‘health’ issue for a post-viability abortion is not really any restriction at all.

So when a few lines later Ginsburg intones that “of signal importance here, the Casey Court stated with unmistakable clarity that state regulation of access to abortion procedures even after viability must protect the health of the woman”, she is not being entirely upfront. By gaming the current working definition of ‘health’ she and to some extent the Casey Court try (successfully) to have their cake and eat it too.

She goes on: “The Casey Court described the centrality of the decision whether to bear … [Ginsburg’s ellipsis] a child to a woman’s dignity and autonomy, her personhood and destiny, her conception of … [Ginsburg’s ellipsis] her place in society”. You can start to see why Marriage and Family is such a target of the Second Wave (and perhaps follow-on cohorts).

She is upset at the Carhart decision. “Today’s decision is alarming. It refuses to take Casey and Stenberg [another ‘health’ affirming case] seriously.” We can perhaps see why.

Once again, she piously insists that the Court is now “retreating from prior rulings that abortion restrictions cannot be posed absent an exception safeguarding a woman’s health”. This is the type of gaming that you wind up with when first you practice to deceive. The functional definition of ‘health’ permits all manner of non-life-threatening and even non-serious ‘grounds’ for abortion while her stance demanding ‘health’ would to all appearances be the ‘high ground’ and quite ‘reasonable’ and even – though the Wave would never endorse the use of the word – ‘moral’.

And of course, as in the old Goebbels-Israeli playbook, Roe has now established ‘facts on the ground’; so many such ‘facts’ that you can now claim that what might actually be an effort to try to cure the deceptiveness in the terminology can be labeled “retreating” from precedent.

Stunningly, the Casey Court acknowledges blithely the deeply flawed legal reasoning of Roe but then goes on to assert that so many women have come to rely on Roe that it wouldn't be nice to fix things at this point. How can that be? How many women can actually say that they have built their lives around Roe? How can you build your life around what is - on the face of it - a rather rare possibility: that you would have a serious life-threatening problem in the first trimester? Or is there more going on that the Court would rather not talk about, or have Us talk about?

She takes Us down the historical path. “There was a time not so long ago when women were regarded as the center of the home and family life, with attendant special responsibilities that precluded full and independent legal status under the Constitution”. Unwittingly, she reminds Us of just what has been lost – thrown away, actually – in the past few decades. Families are no longer the sustaining and nurturing environments that anchor the upbringing of children, with consequences for society that can no longer be hidden or ‘spun’ away. Nor, for that matter, is Marriage a sustaining and nurturing matrix that would ground the interpersonal commitment and the lives of two adults.

In that regard I return to what I was saying in the recent Post “Crumbling Utopia” about the marriage situation in the immediate postwar period of the 1940s and 1950s. Somehow the ‘spin’ is that the husband was out having all the fun in the world by being in the world, while the wife remained chained to the kids and the home that was the locus of their upbringing. The home was “Dachau” in Betty Friedan’s nightmare vision, the husband was the Nazi guard, and the wife was a “concentration camp inmate”.

Working on that strategic ‘appreciation’ of the situation, the Second Wave insisted that such ‘camps’ be broken up immediately (and the guards punished for their crimes). Duly done by the Dems and later by all the pols, courting the ‘women’s’ constituency.

But the novel and the film “Revolutionary Road” both indicate that the husband was just as frustrated by his ‘job’ as the wife may have been by the family life. There was something in ‘the job’ or else in the expectations of the postwar males and females that led to a frustration and boredom that they were unable to handle. That or something like it was far closer to the actual strategic situation.

But noooo … that was too complicated for the Wave. And anyway, in politics, you don’t get very far if you don’t paint bright, simple pictures. Ditto in revolutions.

So now the ‘women’ are ‘liberated’, at the expense in far too many instances, of Marriage and Family. And now We are bethumpt – decades, almost half a century, later – by continuing complaints that ‘women’ are dissatisfied and unfulfilled. This, of course, can only be due to the ongoing machinations of ‘patriarchy’. The possibility that the problem lies with the challenges of conducting decent human living in an advanced capitalist society couldn’t possibly be the Correct answer. The possibility that the entire Second Wave ‘vision’ and strategy and ‘agenda’ were massively flawed from the get-go … Nope, that can’t be it.

So, the upshot – I would have to say – is that We have been inveigled into trying to run a society, a culture, and a civilization without the institutions of Family and Marriage. Which no other world-class civilization has ever attempted. And so far it doesn’t look like We are succeeding.

But Iraq looks like that too, and so does Afghanistan – and they’re going to work out eventually, right? Stay the course.

At this point, the National Security State and the stubborn clinging to a hopeless war in Vietnam pale in comparison to the frakkery brought down onto Our heads by the Second Wave’s ‘revolution’, assisted by a Beltway that had fallen into a politics of bribery and pandering rather than deliberative courage. Who in the Beltway wants to discuss that?

Nor do I for one moment imagine that all the women in this country are behind the Wave, nor do I forget the vast amount of damage done to lives, to Our society, and to Our viability as a civilized enterprise.

She takes the Court to task for invoking “an antiabortion shibboleth for which it concededly has no reliable evidence: Women who have abortions come to regret their choices, and consequently suffer from severe depression and loss of esteem because of their fragile emotional state and because of the bond of love the mother has for her child”.

Suddenly, ‘anecdotal’ evidence – the telling of one’s personal ‘story’ – is insufficiently evidentiary. Although in the assorted Domestic Violence, Violence Against Women, and sex-offender legislation such ‘stories’ constitute the vast body of ‘evidence’.

Worse, the Politically Correct approach takes the Court and all of Us right into the maw of Nature itself. Surely if Nature evolved things such that the woman would be the bearer of the child, then any woman is going to have – ‘naturally’ – powerful, built-in, hard-wired connective capabilities focused on children she bears or is carrying. Does the Wave seriously imagine that court decisions or legislation will override or neutralize or nullify eons of such evolution? Must We not at least expect a verrrry significant amount of pushback from a woman’s own psyche, from the eons’ worth of evolved predisposition, even if her conscious desire at the moment is going in a ‘non-child’ direction? Have We abandoned all pretense or scientific skill, such that We cannot even entertain the possibility – probability – of such situations arising?

I wonder if in a way the Second Wave’s ‘revolution’, built around abortion-on-demand however much that might be denied, is trying to achieve the same magnitude of imposed-change that Marx and Lenin tried to impose upon human nature with their insistence that , really, human beings like living in huge, impersonal collectives and being assigned the resources the State thinks they need?

If that or anything even somewhat similar to that is what is now going on here, then the Wave’s ‘revolution’ is doomed to the same ‘success’ as the USSR; and, as a society, a culture, and a civilization, so are We. This would not be good.

Nor is it sufficient for Ginsburg to simply quote Supreme Court cases against the awesome fact of Nature: “United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 595, 533, 542, n.12 (1996), (State may not rely on overbroad generalizations about the talents, capacities, or preferences of women; such judgments have … impeded … women’s progress toward full citizenship stature throughout our Nation’s history” [all ellipses Ginsburg’s]. So Nature has been put in its place by the Supreme Court. That’s not a bit … ummmm … activist?

Sure, there’s no law that says a woman must have children; but it would be hugely prudent to presume that the vast majority of women are going to roll that way, unless Evolution is a joke or a myth – but that’s what the Fundamentalists say, not the ‘progressives’ … or have I not gotten all the memos?

And prudence would dictate that We would want to try to work with Nature rather than against it, since it’s going to play out Nature’s way anyhow. To insist otherwise is to impose a Political Correctness on Nature – and once you try to use your ‘revolution’ or your ‘revolutionary politics’ to do that, then you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt; you are in the position of issuing, in Lincoln’s pithy metaphor, “the Pope’s bull against the comet”. And you’re going to create a blast-zone big enough to ruin a whole lot of other lives in the process. But, to use Chris Floyd’s acute phrase, “only for noble, progressive ends, of course”.

(Can it be surprising that a Supreme Court that saw itself sufficiently ‘empowered’ to tell Nature what it could do or should do would then think it wasn’t such a big deal to interfere in the electoral process as it did in Bush v. Gore?)

We might have expected Congress to try to provide some adult supervision here. But no. When the history of this once-viable civilization comes to be written, it may be described in the post-mortem report as ‘died of the need for viable electoral majorities’.

Although, again, I’m not really sure how many folks – even ‘women’ (using the term in the best possible sense) – go along with the real gist of the Wave’s revolution. A revolution which has now been around so long trying to patch up in this session the consequences of the legislation and decisions it got in the last session, that it seems like the ‘normal’ state of affairs.

So in those Sixties when it was becoming clear that the West’s nations were recovering from their postwar damage, when the world’s nations were starting to develop their own economies, when it was clear that We would have to provide jobs for Our workers in a situation now where there would be much more competition for fewer jobs ... the pols gave into the Wave’s ‘demands’ and went and pretty much doubled the potential number of jobs that needed to be provided, while deconstructing Marriage and the Family … this was a coherent, competent long-range national strategy?

And in best Beltway fashion, a ‘theory’ suddenly popped up that would ‘justify’ it all: We wouldn’t need to retain Our own industrial capacity (so ‘male’ anyway) because We would become a ‘service and idea’ economy. That’s worked so well. The ‘jobs’ and the ‘work’ would simply require tap-tapping on keyboards and ‘generating’ reely reely great ideas that the rest of the world would ‘buy’ from Us.

A very ‘woman-friendly’ world it would be. Just as ‘war’ would be a Star Trek push-button affair and ‘women’ could do that even better too. Wheeeee! The ‘Washington Post’ now reports that female (and even male) soldiers are enjoying manicures and pedicures and getting their hair done, because apparently there’s a ‘demand’ for it; salons have been introduced on bases in Iraq.
Of course. No doubt potential enemies in that un-evolved part of the world will be suitably impressed with the prowess of the American fighting-person and will think twice before opposing US forces . The salonnierres are hired from among the local population, which demonstrates that ‘force security’ has been redefined in an other-than-upward direction. But the local salonistas may not give massages because that could lead to ‘sexual contact’ – which is one of the few nods to Nature that We’ve seen in American policy – foreign or domestic – for quite a while. If there is no saint for keeping-a-straight-face, then the saint-happy Kathliks better make one – We are going to need the help.

Well, here We are decades later: no industrial base and war back to the old slog-carry-and-shoot under conditions of alternating boredom and terror. And since We are now often ‘occupying’ countries, and seen as ‘invaders’ rather than ‘liberators’ there’s going to be the added weight of having to do things that We hung German and Japanese military folk for, back in the day. And the money’s running out – and there’s no obvious way to replace it, except to print it, at which point We will so debase the currency that the world’s nations – as they already are considering – will stop using the dollar as the planet’s reserve currency.

For decades the Dems bribed freely: the Identities got all their demands met with no regard to consequences, while the bankers and big-money interests got deregulated so they could make even more money. The ‘strategy’ lasted for a couple of decades, but now is now.

Meanwhile, back in the White House, the Dems are wondering if they really want to divest the government of the Bushist Imperium’s Unitary powers. After all , if there’s one damp-dream that even John Rawls didn’t dare let himself imagine, it was that his ‘elites’ – those who did ‘get it’ – would not only infiltrate the courts but would actually wield the police and impositional authority of a Unitary Executive that was coming more and more to resemble a Soviet central-authority or a Czarist absolute monarchy. And the USSR not even 20 years in History’s dustbin! That’s where ‘revolution’ will get you if you’re not paying serious attention.

And just what is the freight packed into “full citizenship stature”? May We presume that what they really mean is that they want to be like ‘men’? Is that what they think ‘men’ have. It’s like the old Eddy Murphy skit where he puts on whiteface, walks around ‘as a white man’, and finds that everything goes his way and he doesn’t have to pay for anything or lift a finger. This isn’t about ‘citizenship’ at all.

Ginsburg asserts “this Court has repeatedly confirmed that the destiny of the woman must be shaped … [Ginsburg’s ellipse] on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society”. You can see why the Wave is not partial to religion. And when it’s only ‘you’, just what ‘spiritual imperatives’ can there be? Don’t you sort of need … God? Some sort of God? Except for the New-Agers, but are We to understand that this Wave is receiving benefit of clergy from New-Age stuff? And the is the Court accepting such guidance from New-Age frakkery as well? Oy.

And do men get a chance – have they ever gotten a chance – to shape their own lives on their own conception of their spiritual imperatives? Have men ever had a chance to live like this? Aside from dreaming about it in bars and frat houses? Aside from watching their ‘betters’ do it?

Has this entire ‘revolution’ been built on the female equivalent of a college-dorm bong-fest dream-sharing?

That might explain at least part of the remarkable fall-off in genuinely spiritual comprehension and even mature thought-processes among the citizenry (and , it would appear, the Court).

Wall Street, I think, was not the first major societal institution to take Us for a ride.

And We really are on a ride now.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Sam Tannenhaus has a piece on ‘The New Republic’ site: “Conservatism is Dead”, in the February 18, 2009 issue.

I’d mentioned not long ago that there is a movement among formerly ‘liberal’ (and I don’t think it’s an accurate moniker) publications that had since Bush’s or even Reagan’s accession cozied up to the Right: now they’re trying to make nice.

In this instance TNR will demonstrate its bona-fides by declaring ‘conservatism’ dead .

Tannenhaus mentions “the harshly punitive ‘culture wars’ waged against liberal ‘elites’”. I hold not brief for the Right, but how anybody can read the writings of the Second Wave in its heyday, or the extensively (if incoherently) laid out plans of John Rawls for ‘elites’ and their judicial allies to trump constitutional rights … how can anybody read that and not imagine that ‘war’ was implemented, if not declared, by the ‘liberal elites’ (not my term) long before somebody on the Right in the early 1990s actually adopted Bismarck’s ‘culture war’ phrase and tacked it onto what had been underway here for almost a quarter of a century? All those Reagan Democrats started voting for Reagan as early as ’76, and certainly ’80 … so they, at least, realized something was up all the way back then.

Anyhoo, my main purpose here is not to refute this or that in Tannenhaus, whose article offers much food for thought.

He mentions Edmund Burke, whose conservatism was based “not on a particular set of ideological principles but rather on distrust of all ideologies”. Two points come to mind.

First, I’m not sure it’s the ‘ideology’ that’s the problem; I think it’s the ‘ideological mindset’ in human beings that will raise up any set of ideas as a conceptual Golden Calf and thence engage in the most regressive and primitive rigidities and immaturity of thought (and action, oy) in order to sustain their Bubble as to that ideology’s omnipotence. Inside every human there is a reptilian and primitive element waiting to be allowed to be given the steering wheel and take itself out on the highway. Inside every society there is a herd waiting to be allowed to shuffle around in a bunch and perhaps stampede.

This is not a proof for the fatuity of a democratic politics, or a genuine conservatism, or a genuine liberalism, but rather a proof for the importance of a democratic politics. If a deliberative citizenry does not support itself as a commonality and its individual members, by its adherence to reasonable, deliberative processes, then it will undermine itself even as it allows its individual members to yield to more primitive processes.

Second, while ‘ideology’ is indeed something to be avoided, that does not mean that human beings, or a polity, especially a democratic polity, can dispense with an overarching and undergirding consensus, a web of (provisionally but purposely ‘privileged’) ‘answers’ to those burning questions at the heart of the human enterprise, which lie beyond the scope of governmental policy or ‘scientific’ proof. Perhaps, in America’s case, built upon the Christian (not in the Fundamentalist but in the classic sense) worldview.

If the citizens as human beings are not grounded in some Beyond, then they will be at the mercy of any ‘government’ and its ‘elites’ (of Left or Right or both). A citizenry cannot function as The People if it is not first grounded in something Beyond the government it is supposed to manage. If citizens are not grounded in an adequately comprehensive Sense of their own nature as human beings, then they cannot with any hope of success function as The People. Hence the de-Godding pursued by the Left for the past umpty years has proven even more lethal than the repellent ‘Godding’ pushed by the god-addled, powers-that-be worshipping Fundamentalist Ascendancy.

Tannenhaus notes acutely that “most of the most sophisticated founders of postwar conservatism were in many instances ex-Marxists, who moved from left to right but remained persuaded that they were living in revolutionary times and so retained their absolutist fervor”.

I’ve always been suspicious of persons who were once rabidly ‘A’ and then suddenly were rabidly ‘anti-A’ without any pause for serious inward thought. The Nazi judge, Roland Freisler, great proponent of ‘the law at war’ – that concept that he used to justify doing whatever the regime wanted – has always frightened me: he had been a rabid Communist one month and the next was a rabid Nazi, and such a profound and utter change, instantaneous, gave him not pause for thought or doubt at all. People like that, even more than ‘revolutionaries’, seem to me to be possessed of a profound interior moltenness that betokens unboundaried and rabid ‘enthusiasm’ for whatever catches their devotion.

And then of course there are all those first-generation neocons of the 1960s who were 'former' Communists and Leftists who suddenly became avowed right-wingers and 'conservatives', bringing their 'revolutionary' mindset and heartset to the Republican-conservative camp.

Such persons as Tannenhaus describes are also indeed ‘revolutionaries’ – by temperament. They ‘need’ revolutionary activity in order to feel alive; they need to see themselves as ‘being in’ a revolution in order to feel any meaning or purpose; they aren’t reluctant revolutionaries – adults with otherwise successful lives who must for a while put away such things for the sake of a cause. Rather, the ‘temperamental revolutionary’ needs to structure all experience as ‘revolution’ – with him or herself involved in the thick of it – simply in order to maintain a coherent sense of self and of life-purpose.

Too many of this type of folks are not healthy for a democratic politics. And for a democracy to ‘valorize’ and ‘privilege’ this type – under the aegis of Left or of Right – is not going to end well. And for a democracy to de-valorize less arbitrary and ‘excitable’ types as insufficiently ‘sensitive’ or insufficiently ‘patriotic’ is also not going to end well at all.

So you can see where things went seriously awry in the mid-Sixties: both the non-conformist sex-and-luhv googoos of the Flowery counterculture and the fire-eyed ‘revolutionaries’ of the SDS (whose female contingent later split and went into feminism proper), held themselves as far more ‘alive’ than the fuddy-duddies of the ‘50s and before. And they both did not so much refuel a flagging democracy as provide a violent explosive super-burst that made it impossible to steer the thing at all. But that was OK – ‘steering’ was for fogies. It was about this time that America, I would say, ceased to be a ‘serious’ nation. And, really, how can it be said that We have since recovered?

So from the 'Left' you had revolutionary mindset, heartset, praxis, and agenda masquerading as 'liberal' and as 'liberation', and on the Right you had the former Reds of the 1930s with their revolutionary mindset, heartset, praxis, and agenda. What chance did a dem,ocratic politics have once that toxic synergy and feedback-loop got started?

Tannenhaus also notes Burke’s insightful point that “The task of the statesman is to maintain equilibrium between the two principles of conservation and correction”. Alas, the Dems were in no condition to maintain equilibrium, vote-addled as they were in the later Sixties, and by the time they realized just what it meant to be supporting ‘revolution’, it was too late to back out.

Hence, in my vision of things, they took to pandering to the revolutionaries (and their Identities) while enwhoring themselves to the corporate biggies who paid into the PACs and who represented the only chance of keeping up at least the appearances of a functioning economy, especially since the postwar economic hegemony was fading by the early Seventies and nobody knew how to hang onto it or revive it. The Identities were given the Bubble of ‘the dream’, the corporate biggies were allowed to start running economic Bubbles, the citizenry were lulled with the trickle-down effect of these Bubbles, and the whole country was Bubble-icious for a couple of decades. And now at least one of those Bubbles has burst.

Which perhaps might start a trend. It is to be hoped.

“Movement politics” – the earlier euphemism for ‘revolutionary politics’ which was later replaced by Identity Politics – “most clearly defines itself not by what it years to conserve but by what it longs to destroy”. Yes. And this is not the spirit best suited to a democratic politics. Which is why We are seeing and feeling less and less democratic politics, and have been doing so for quite some time. If you get the sense that the trusty old institutions and processes you learned about from American history are no longer ‘working’, well – it’s true. But there’s no mystery about it: We no longer have a working democratic politics and working democratic institutions because ‘revolution’ and ‘movement politics’ became the order of the day decades ago.

And while few of the pols on Capitol Hill are ‘revolutionaries’, they are all pols and they have learned – several generations of them now – to ‘pander’ to ‘revolutionary dreams’ (even as they do whatever it takes to protect those corporate biggies who pay into the PACs).

Wanting to ‘destroy’ things is not something that occurs naturally in a democratic politics. It occurs in imperial politics and revolutionary politics … and so again We can see that democracy has been taking torpedoes on both sides for a long time now. And why it was so easy for this country to slide into its lethal frakkery on the Eastern Front: there was no ‘opposition’ because there was no opposition party, let alone anybody among the pols who still operated on ‘principles’, those things pooh-poohed both by chicken-hawk ‘realists’ and by the cadres of the Second Wave and their spawn. Feh.

William F. Buckley, Jr.’s self-assumption of the term “radical conservative” was not helpful. If he meant ‘radical’ in the classical, Latin sense – from the roots or fundamental – then he might have been OK, so long as he didn’t imagine that being so close to the ‘source’ deputized him to break any laws or principles of thought or decency in order to achieve his goals. But in any case, the word ‘radical’ by the mid-Sixties was simply a lazy way of saying ‘revolutionary’, and that was a reality nobody wanted to really face up to.

In that regard, I can’t help thinking of the movers and shakers of Germany there in the early ‘30s, barons and capitalists and business moguls and so forth, all convincing themselves that Hitler wouldn’t be so bad – even if he had been talking about ‘socialism’ and ‘revolution’ – because they could handle him, could manage him; ‘We’, said Franz von Papen, ‘are hiring him’. Yah. That worked so well.

Conservatism, as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. pointed out, was originally concerned “for the social and moral costs of unchecked industrial capitalism”. It had a sense that government had a responsibility – one might almost say a God-given responsibility – to care for its people; in England, certainly, this was a characteristic charge assumed from the monarchy by the Parliamentary power as England’s political governance changed, and not a bad one. And as devious and shrewd as they were – Disraeli and Shaftesbury and others – they still held themselves as ‘Christian gentlemen’ and as responsible before God. Nor were those empty words.

We’ve come a long way. And not the good way. Instead, the Beltway. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

“Do the institutions of the state provide the bedrock of civil society?” This was the question the conservatives asked in the mid-Sixties. No doubt, humanity made great strides 10,000 years ago when it had sufficiently mastered the ability to provide food and shelter, and even a little extra; with those essential necessities provided, and the anxieties as to their lack receded into the background, amazing developments began to blossom.

So there is a sense in which the stable maintenance of necessities and the sustaining of both a sufficient stability to assure reliability and a sufficient flexibility to assure change safely, are necessary for the further flourishing of a society.

But those things are not sufficient in and of themselves to generate or nurture that flourishing. Human beings rely on their government, but they can neither be reduced to complete identification with their government or defined by their government.

The danger of the increasingly centralized and involved government is that it will get the idea that it is the source and origin of all its people’s lives. Instead of being their servant it will become their master.

How the Right is going to recapture the sense of responsibility before God for the moral and social welfare of the citizenry while retaining its clubby and cozy connections with the financial elites is as difficult a question as how the Left is going to seek better conditions for the whole citizenry without alienating the Identity bases with which it is now ensnared.

If neither Party is going to be able to solve its problem , then We are going to have to come up with another Party.

While We've still got a country.

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Larry Beinhart has an article on Alternet: “The Right’s Jack Bauer Fantasy”.

The main point of his text, and a very good one, is that Fox’s TV show “24” used as its engine of action the insidiously complex ‘ticking bomb scenario’: if you know such and such a catastrophe is going to happen, but you don’t know exactly when and where so you can stop it, but then you capture somebody who does know, but he [curiously, always a ‘he’] isn’t telling, then can you torture him to find out?

This is the type of ‘problem’ tailor-made for the college bull session on a hazy, beer-or-bong-befogged night. For overeager young philosophy professors, it’s also one of those Day One ‘questions’ by which you hope to lure the attention of your Philosophy 101 students and prove to them the coolness and ‘relevance’ of philosophy (and of yourself, an economical two-fer).

The chances of all of these elements coming into play in one instance are – like ‘recovered memory’ – technically possible but improbable to an astronomical degree. Given the nature of definition ‘creep’, there’s a much greater chance that would-be torturers are going to define-the-emergency-down, so that what started out being approved ‘for emergencies’ is going to wind up as the default procedure for daily operations (much like the child-protection and sex-offender laws, not irrelevantly).

And the professionals themselves in military intelligence are clear and concise in their insistence that when torturing, you stand a far greater chance of being told what you want to hear by a terrified but still calculating human being who simply wants the pain and the terror to stop. That type of bad intel can get a lot of good people killed, and wreck military missions tactically and strategically.

The fact that We slid into this whole hideous habit – which many citizens still support – is the result of a number of factors corroding Our most mature capabilities over the past decades. For one thing, a monstrous failure in education, in preparing students to think critically and analyze and assess, has developed at all levels of schooling from Kindergarten to post-graduate professional schooling.

This development, this devolution, is the result of some awful synergies. Americans have always been a little antsy when it comes to ‘abstract’ thinking, going back to the frontier experiences of doing whatever ‘works’. America’s only ‘School’ of philosophical thought, the Pragmatism of the later 19th century, precisely erected this national tendency into a Plan, a Philosophy, insisting that only what ‘works’ is ‘true’. Such an approach acknowledges and accepts no ‘sides’, no limitations as to what might prove itself useful and thus ‘true’. By the time it was officially expounded, Americans had been doing things that way for centuries, and it explains not only some of the outrageous actions – such as poisoned blankets as gifts – perpetrated on the Indians, but also the complete lack of remorse or any sense of wrongness evinced by the perpetrators of such a gambit.

The Second Wave of feminism, trying to play to its ‘strengths’ while attacking what it perceived as ‘male’ weaknesses, insisted that ‘feeling’ and ‘intuition’, rather than ‘abstract thoughts’, were the proper core of human deliberation; you ‘assess’ and ‘analyze’ with your ‘feelings’, not your ‘mind’; feelings are ‘real’ and abstractions are – well – abstract.

This is a hugely dangerous path to take. Political dynamics based on ‘feeling’ to the exclusion of any careful and rational analysis lead far too easily to mob-action – even if such mob action is the unthinking ‘support’ of a ‘Leader’ … and the approval of whatever he does to do whatever it takes to do whatever is ‘necessary’. You see where this sort of thing leads.

It was the genius of the Framers that they constructed a hugely calculated machine, based on ideals and reasonable assumptions, precisely to prevent both the tyrannical and the mob-bish urges in human affairs from gaining control of the processes of government.

But things get even worse when the particular ‘feelings’ abroad among the citizenry, and – worse – nurtured by government and ‘press’, are fear and the desire for security and for vengeance. When these become the primary emotional key in which the public mind is cast, when these become the primary and default positions in the public’s processing of such ‘information’ as comes its way, then a terrible reaction is catalyzed: in addition to the infatuation with what ‘works’ and the aversion to ‘abstractions’, there arises the visceral, primitive dark-hot urge to act with no regard to consequences – to others or to oneself.

Beinhart quotes the words spoken by Burt Lancaster’s character in “Judgment at Nuremberg”, an honored judge who allows himself to slide into the trough of dispensing Nazi justice. Speaking of the temper of the times in Germany of the early 1930s he says: “Above all there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, fear of ourselves … There are devils among us … Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed.”

Speaking then of his own descent into the maelstrom, Lancaster’s judge goes on: “What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights?”

Today you can insert any of the current buzzwords and the fatal question rings eerily true: who cares if a few of this or that 'lose their rights' .. it is after all an 'emergency' and anyway, 'the public' (Our current equivalent of 'das Volk') needs it.

Even by its own admission, the Second Wave assault on reason and thinking and critical thought, on deliberation and prudence, was based on ‘fear’, the fear reputedly rife among ‘women’ (and I am not hereby acknowledging that the Second Wave speaks for all female citizens, let alone all females on the planet) … fear of sexual assault, fear of meaninglessness, fear of fear itself. Only later has the major key been changed to ‘assertion of rights’ (so-called); it started with fear, and – as the Goebbels playbook calls for – fanned that fear and then raised up politically useful targets for it.

Emotion rather than thought, fear rather than confidence … this was not the recipe for a democratic politics, but rather of an incipient fascism, no matter what name it chose to go by.

Of course there are ways of dealing with such ‘fears’ in a democracy. But it was precisely to overturn the deliberate processes of democratic politics that the Second Wave’s ‘revolution’ was committed. Just as Goebbels was committed to overturning Weimar, constitutional process, and any government in Germany but that of Hitler and his Party.

Aristotle noted somewhere (in the ‘Poetics’, if memory serves), that audiences who watch tragedies “purge their emotions by pity and terror”. This ‘purging’ is a result of watching a tragic drama, but that does not mean that pity and terror constitute the meaning of the tragic, dramatic action. The meaning is to be found in watching unfold before you in the experiences of the characters an awful consequence, clearly predictable and avoidable, if only the characters had been able to stop their drift along the path.

But in the tragedies they do not, often cannot – even though they might know and see that to indulge their passion and emotion rather than their deliberation will bring them to ruin.

So Beinhart fails when he sees fear-mongering as a tool only used by the Right. The hugely – and lethally, I think it will come to be clear – influential revolution of the Second Wave has been deploying fear, and playing upon fear, for decades now.

And its emphasis on the precedence of ‘feeling’ over thought (shrewdly re-named by revolutionary parlance ‘abstraction’) has already raised several generations of professionals – especially lawyers and judges – who are committed to a law somehow based on ‘feeling’ rather than on thought, or even on precedent or reasoning.

Beinhart goes on to name a few names: the execrable Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge; John Yoo, still getting paid at Berkeley for teaching law; and Alberto Gonzales. But with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent medical difficulties, and the consequent eruption over concern as to who will replace her on the Court if it comes to that, then I think a close look has to be taken at judicial philosophy.

I’m not proposing a ‘litmus’ test as to whether one supports abortion, or what one’s particular thoughts are as to what constitutes ‘gender equality’. I am suggesting that the Senate, and ideally Obama himself, needs to look at the basic legal philosophy of the candidates for the position. If they subscribe to the position of John Rawls – that not even constitutional rights outweigh the proper ‘elite’ vision of justice and that it is up to judicial ‘elites’ to impose that ‘justice’ on the country regardless of the Constitution – then I don’t think they are adequately educated for the job the Constitution sees them performing.

Don’t forget: Rawls and the whole ‘revolutionary’ approach to change in America is a form of anti-constitutional, anti-democratic government-by-imposition. We are reaching here the same situation as with avowed Communist Party members who might have wanted to sit on the Court: if you truly believe that stuff, then how can you possibly be properly disposed to sit on the Court and adjudicate according to the Constitution when your revolution’s entire object is to do away with the Constitution?

Is it that really different from having Nazis in the Reichstag when the entire objective of the Party was to abolish Weimar and impose its vision for Germany?

With the matter of Ginsburg’s possible replacement now coming to the fore, I think We have to face what up to now – for the past 40 years or so – has been merely an oft-used turn of phrase: the Second Wave, if not all of Identity Politics, has not been a form of ‘politics’ but of ‘revolution’ – and a revolution against the Framers’vision and the Constitution at that.

It no longer suffices to look at 'radicals' as simply a beefed-up version of 'non-conformist' or as simply 'very countercultural'; rather, it's time to realize that 'radical' as it was used then and still is used now is merely a euphemism for 'revolutionary'. It no longer suffices to look at ‘revolution’ with the groovy glasses of the Flower Kids and the counterculture. We’re not talking about nudity-as-liberation and eating without utensils as ‘authenticity’ here; we are talking about a sustained and deliberate and concerted effort to supplant the capacities and competencies required for the deliberation that is essential – for citizens and legislators as well as judges – in the Framers’ Constitutional vision.

This is no longer ‘cute’ and no longer simply ‘weird’, as it all may have been even as late as 1969. The ‘revolution’ has proven to be … a revolution. The fact that guns and marching columns have not been involved merely serve to mask the true nature of what’s happening. And what has happened.

Lancaster’s judge concludes later with words to the effect that in the beginning nobody imagined it would turn out like it did. Ach. But it did.

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Monday, February 09, 2009


That phrase comes from the old ‘Victory At Sea’ series. It referred to the American bombing of Japan starting in ’44 as the island airbases within range of the Home Islands became operational.
McClatchy reports that state and national pols from the great state of South Carolina are fixin’ to pass a law that if Guantanamo detainees come to the Charleston Navy Brig, why they’ll shut the electricity off to it (not to the entire Base, mind you, since the Yankee Navy employs a whole passel of red-blooded patriots in town, and the Yankee military is one of the State’s biggest employers).

Charleston, you may recall, fired the opening shots in the Civil War, cannonading Fort Sumter on a fine April morning in 1861 – and with great gusto. It later made a lesser – if less egregious – mark in history when General Sherman, fresh from the capture of Atlanta and his march through the great State of Georgia to Savannah, started making his way up the coast. The good citizens of Charleston had their remaining slaves take all their valuables, good furnishings, good silver and flatware up to Columbia, the State capitol, figuring to outfox ‘Uncle Billy’ and his bhoys, who were no doubt coming now to repay the compliment of 1861 with fire and iron. Alas, the bringer of war – kind of foxy himself – bypassed the makers of war and brought war inland up to Columbia, razing the place – and all the Charleston crockery to boot.

It’s that sort of place. A North Carolinian, in the brouhaha leading up to that terrible War, reflected morosely that his State was “a vale of humility, situated between two humps of pride”, the other hump being Virginia, home to Richmond and now bedroom to the Beltway. What evah is a body to do?

Now comes a sizable delegation of legislators in the matter of the great War on Terrah. Or Terr-er.

Having plumped for the whole thing, having cheered the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act and all the other pomps and works for which History is fixin’ to hold somebody responsible, South Carolina is yet again faced with the prospect of a great War ‘coming home’. And again, they don’t much cotton to it. What evah shall they do?

They will legislate and pass a law. No gimlet-eyed stiff, upper lip for them. No sir! To the inkwells! To the touchpads! To the klieg lights! To the South Carolinians, as to their predecessors the Japanese, ‘war ‘ is something that happens to other people.

Nor are they alone. The good citizens of the great State of Kansas, specifically of the County of Leavenworth, situated therein and duly constituted, are equally shocked, shocked, at the thought that their ‘war’ might take up residence. They are home to a lucrative spread of military installations, not the least of which is the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, where the Army goes to learn how to fight and win its wars (the curriculum is yet again in the process of revision, as we speak).

The good burghers also enjoy the employment opportunities afforded by several houses of incarceration within their jurisdiction. There is a county lock-up, a State lock-up, the big and semi-famous Federal lock-up known colloquially as “Leavenworth”, and a private-enterprise lock-up to handle inmates from States whose own zeal for righteousness and justice has overtaxed their brick-and-bar facilities.

And there is the military’s Disciplinary Barracks, a prison for all those caught in the quite possibly unconstitutional toils of the military justice system. That facility, recently moved into a Supermax complex when the old 19th century monstrosity was finally replaced a few years ago, was until 2001 proud of housing ‘the worst of the worst’, such as pudgy, soft-fingered Air Force Master Sergeants who, being ‘military’, were more dangerous than any other criminal in the country because ‘they knew how to use guns’. The thought of such personnel posing more of a danger than any 1st-year gang member can only bring a rueful smile to those who are familiar with military hyperbole, which to the military mind is almost indistinguishable from truth. Which is a trait the military now shares with the polarized Right and Left in the country.

But now, suddenly, the hapless inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks (its formal title) are demoted to just hapless-inmates; the ‘worst of the worst’ have suddenly been discovered to be a motley of teens, wandering Uighurs, and various bearded folk from what were supposed to remain far-distant battlefields – or, at least, ‘theaters of operation’.

Having demonstrated that it is utterly unable and unwilling to have to defend its actions in any civilian court, and faced with an increasingly restive military lawyer corps that is beginning to get fits of the vapours from thinking far too much about ‘abstractions’ and ‘concepts’ such as ‘Nuremberg’ and ‘war crimes’, the jailors are now in a quandary: How do you let go of a wolf you have not only trapped and shackled but have grabbed by the ears? How back away now? And who’s going to take the wolf off your hands and ‘home to their place’? Without your own pretty face getting bitten off in the process?

But if there’s one thing America has in abundance after 40 years of Left and Right demonizations, it’s prisons. And that’s why now the burghers and solons of these prison locales are looking out and up with about the same mixture of surprise, apprehension, and irritated confoundment as the Tokyo denizens who looked up to see Billy Mitchell’s B-25s coming in over the rooftops: This – is happening – to us? Do they know who we are? And the classic whine: Why usssss?

Suddenly the good patriotic folk are thinking of States’ rights and the heartless intrusions of a ‘fedril gummint’ which they had heretofore known only as a friendly and reliable cash-cow, delivering paychecks and subsidies with an inspiring regularity; an affable donkey, a mule faithfully schlepping the bounty of the public till to those shrewd enough to have gotten on the ‘good’ list.

Yea, these be strange times, and We shall see strange things.

In what has to be construed as a definitive proof of the existence of a God Who Laughs to Scorn, well-coiffed and well-shod solons known for their jingo, macho, kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-it-out support of the frakkery on the Eastern Front are now buzzing about like overstuffed bees, essaying a stentorian bray to the effect that nobody is going to bring the war into their back yard. Harrrrrrumph!

It’s one thing to have a bunch of chained unfortunates safely warehoused in this or that well-walled facility, where their years of rot and vegetation can be made to manure the rich pastures of local emolument, and where their bedraggled and dispirited and disoriented families can come to visit and have to spread some cash at the local strip-malls and fleabags. It’s another thing to have folks who – if the stories about them be true – are connected to distant, very unhappy, and very resourceful associates and relatives, who might themselves decide to pay a visit.

And who knows whether such stories about them are indeed true? The fog of war, alas. The thing that gets kids in uniform killed and generals given a free pass to come up with further nebulous theories about the properties and dynamics of fog. But always over there. Somewhere. Somewhere else.

Curiously, in the august halls of the Senate, the execrable Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is not one of the pack, allowing his stable-mate, Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to do that thing with the snorting and the stamping of the hooves and the flaring of wide nostrils and the shaking of antlers, horns, or large floppy ears.

And thereby hangs Graham’s tale, as it were. He is up to his own floppy ears in the equally execrable military justice system, being a general in its Reserve and a former Judge on what must be formally termed, and with a straight face, its ‘appeals’ court. The military’s attorneys, now combining the famous characteristics of that trade with all the worst elements of the professionals-in-the-military conundrum, are – as said previously – thinking very much of ‘Nuremberg’ and ‘war crimes’. And not in the abstract, but as something that may yet happen … to them.

With a few honorable exceptions who are trying to actually defend their clients, the JAGs are most solicitous of supporting this President as they were the prior specimen. And therefore at this point they would very much like someone to take the ‘wolves’ off their hands. The less the JAGs are seen near these folks, the less chance that people might start wondering just what the JAGs’ role has been in this whole dark and unholy mess. I’m waiting for DVD copies of ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ to start disappearing from shelves and catalogs in the name of ‘national security’; my bet is that they have not been available at military PX’s and Exchanges for quite some time.

The war, if not yet Nuremberg, is coming home.

It is becoming repugnant, what is happening now. Although the war has been coming home in the form of dead and wrecked veterans for years, only now, and for this, are the pols rising up on their hind legs.

The dead can be buried. The wounded can be clucked ruefully about over coffee at the local diner. But the ‘enemy’, now the ‘enemy’ is coming. What do you do with them? What do you do with what you have done to them?

In a way, it’s like the national undercurrent of unfocused concern over what to do with the more-than-Soviet percentages of imprisoned citizens now starting to ‘come back’ into ‘polite society’? You can’t – yet, anyway – ‘civilly confine’ all of them because of what they ‘might do’. What now then?

There’s something of Cavafy in all of this, in all of this bustling and braying. But he saw, as We must sooner or later come to see, that “the barbarians were, somehow, a solution”. A solution to a vast national failure – not in war, but deeper than that.

Much, much deeper.


Daniel Nasaw reports that this has now broadened to a wider Republican Congressional groundswell.

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On Counterpunch, Kim Niccolini discusses the recently-released film “Revolutionary Road”.

Her point is that the film was passed over for any Oscar consideration because we are in a Depression-type time, and Hollywood – as it did once before – is looking to stories of “the indomitability of human will” and ‘stories’ that will end well; sort of an uplift, feel-good type of thing.

Hollywood did this before during the Great Depression – think of Fred and Ginger and the confections of Busby Berkeley. Of course, Warner Brothers, which did the Berkeley films, also did a bunch of gritty, pre-noir films about hoboes on the rails and scrappy kids orphaned or kicked to the curb and forced to live on the streets and the rails. And then there’s Louis B. Mayer, whose MGM, with the Andy Hardy series, cast a golden (though black&white) patina over the awful times that were in ’39 just recently passed.

Niccolini is on to something with her insight about the Oscar preferences. It’s time to put a happy-face on things. Although a ‘stiff upper lip’ might be more useful, but the ‘lip’ went out when the feel-good ‘happy face’ of the 1970s burst upon Us (along with pet-rocks) to show the world how ‘sensitive’ the new, Second Wave, barely post-Flower Child America had become. Sigh. Wheeeeee!

But her analysis, I would say, fails. And it fails precisely because she is bound by the conventions of Politically Correct Doctrine (which it appears the Second Wave’s aging bosses and bossettes are going to hang onto longer than the Pentagon Whiz Kids hung onto the ‘domino theory’ in Southeast Asia).

The film, faithful to the novel, limns expertly, achingly, and mercilessly the souring of a marriage between two ‘bright young things’ of the immediate postwar era, the late ‘40s and the ‘50s. The claustrophobia, the stifling of emotions – intrapersonal and interpersonal, the abandonment of possibility and ‘potential’, all the while keeping up appearances for the kids and the neighbors in the freshly built, new ‘suburbia’. There is conveyed a palpable loneliness, “but it is loneliness that verges on the potential for violence”.

The Soviet-reader’s eye is drawn to the excessive “verges on the potential for violence”. Why not ‘verges on violence’? The extra implicit qualifier “verges on” overloads the circuit covered by “the potential”. But it does serve to add a little more distance and deniability, while hitting home with the ‘correct’ note of ominousness: marriage, family, ‘home’ … are all pathways to “violence”.

But then, of all the things connected to human living, just what doesn’t ‘verge on the potential for violence’ of one sort or another? There is no such thing as a fireproof building. Or a safe warship: when you’re bouncing around on the vast ocean in a steel container chock full of flammable fuel and explosives, on an ocean that can turn into waved taller than a small office-building, then your whole life ‘verges on the potential for violence’ even on a sunny day in the South Pacific in peacetime. We are dynamic and complicated beings ‘to the max’. It’s the way we roll. (Let me say straightaway: the key is to master the ‘potential’ and contain it and Shape it constructively; ‘violence’ is indeed ‘natural’, but it is not ‘ideal’ for humans, not at the higher end of our range).

This, Niccolini then asserts, is the heart of the darkness: “the man who kills his dreams to bring home the bacon and the woman who forfeits her freedom to take care of home and family”. That’s what it’s all about.

This, of course, was precisely what Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ was all about in ’65. That it was the institution of marriage and the demands of sustaining a ‘home’ for the children that had revealed ‘marriage’, ‘family’, and ‘home’ to be a concentration camp. For women, anyway; Niccolini herself is equally sympathetic to the male, husband character – which is some consolation, but it was Friedan’s vision that was vigorously pumped into the minds of pols and media in ’65 and subsequently. The ‘men’ were the Nazis and the ‘women’ were the Jews. Ach. Oy.

Niccolini, then, reflects the ‘progress’ made (in some quarters anyway) in the past 40-odd years: the institutions of ‘marriage’ and ‘family’ are toxic to both men and women. The institutions are the problem. Ecrasez les infames! Which has been pretty much the program, lo these past 40 long years. We are informed by Our self-anointed ‘betters’ and ‘elites’ that the vines will be much better off without any Trellis at all, thank you; they are quite capable of fending fruitfully for themselves.

Yah. We can soooo see that all around Us, forty years on.

Just what did go wrong in the immediate postwar era? Is the Friedanian (wheeeee!) analysis accurate? Sufficient? To Shape human lives and sustain a society and a culture?

The youngest cohort would have been about 20; born in the mid-1920s and many but not all of them too young for service in the war. But veteran or not, they had been children in the Depression, which lasted right up until America became the great arsenal of Democracy; they knew poverty and hunger and the gnawing anxiety that affected all but the very rich in the early ‘30s. The vets would have had the added complex experience of war’s terror, the boredom of quotidian military life, and perhaps the excitement of getting ‘leave’ or a weekend-pass in foreign venues.

The women – those who did not have military experience – would have lived in the rigorous and somewhat Spartan ‘homefront’ world of America At War (real War, I might add).

Then ‘We won’ and were on top of the world. Money flowed, the status and prestige of being ‘American’ – the people that was ‘right and very clever’ and very, very powerful. The world beckoned, the future beckoned, free of Depression and War. Cinemascope and Technicolor and Panavision brought marvelous vistas and presented possible ‘scenarios’ for a ‘fulfilled’ and ‘successful’ life, even before TV really got going, and long before TV got color. ‘Adulthood’ was modeled by the still-impressive film stars of the ‘30s and ‘40s, and the newer generations of postwar stars, Lancaster and Peck and Douglas (Sr.) and Widmark, but also Clift and Brando and Dean.

And there was ‘suburbia’, made possible by the calculated ‘privileging’ of the auto as literally a vehicle of liberation pure and simple, and of owning one’s own home, and getting away from the increasingly gritty reality of the now-declining postwar cities. And parents who suddenly seemed so fuddy-duddy, whose ‘old fashioned’ discipline and doggedness, unrelieved by excitement, seemed a colorless relic of a bygone era.

So the sky was the limit.

But of course, marriage imposed its own demands; commitment always does shape one’s range of options. And ‘children’ most certainly so.

Never before had a generation of new married couples had to face such a divergence, such a bifurcation, of their possible future: ‘the sky was the limit’ as individuals, and maybe everybody could live like they do in the movies, and didn’t ‘we’ deserve it after ‘all we’ve been through’? Yet to sustain a solid base for the nurturing of children imposed certain operational limits.

It’s the difference between operating as a hunter-killer destroyer, free to range over the open sea on your own looking for ‘subs’, and being a convoy escort, constrained by the responsibility for shepherding slow merchantmen and troopships.

I suppose an immature naval officer, finding himself with his first command and ‘stuck’ on convoy duty, might – with a bit of imagination – see himself as bethumpt as truly as a ‘concentration camp inmate at Dachau’. But that would be a bit of self-pitying self-indulgence, bordering on the histrionic if he let himself go very far along those lines.

Of course, the naval officer is part of a much large common – and organized – effort, part of a ‘team’. The postwar new-adult cohorts may well have had their fill of the ‘Spartan’ life of deprivation and ‘teamwork’ and hoped for a chance to live in Technicolor and Panavision and Cinemascope, ‘on their own’.

When the kids and the whole marriage ‘thing’ got in their way, as was rather predictable if anyone had taken a moment to consider beforehand, they stuck to their posts but it took its toll. Until Friedan put it in a Technicolor nutshell and called the whole marriage-and-family thing ‘a concentration camp’, “Dachau”.

I think it was more of a massive disappointment with the impossibility of a ‘total’ fulfillment of a pre-adult ‘dream’, and the utter unavailability of any guidance as to how to navigate the divergent complexities, that so baffled those cohorts in the ‘50s, and created the deep and toxic pool of frustration which the Second Wave was able to spin for its own purposes once Friedan had set up the paradigm of the ‘concentration camp’ and all its pomps and all its works.

Easier to blame ‘institutions’ as was so popular in sociology at the time. Easier to blame ‘men’, as the Second Wave quickly started to do, in their vigorous bid for a ‘constituency’ (“women”, by which I do not gratuitously include all females in the country) which they could then deliver to the vote-desperate Democrats of the late Sixties, in exchange – of course – for whatever it was that the Wave ‘demanded’.

The problem, though, was not in the institutions. It was in the inability of postwar American society to provide any help to young adults in mastering the command-challenges of choosing and sustaining among competing possibilities: personal freedom and the achievement of interpersonal commitment and the nurturing of the next generation. And as them Kathliks kept saying, there is a certain fulfillment, very genuine and very powerful, that comes from achieving and sustaining interpersonal commitment.

But the ‘solution’ of the Second Wave was to demand a society and a culture and a civilization without Marriage or Family – a feat never achieved in recorded history on a large scale. And also without any ‘Beyond’ or any ‘abstractions’ (virtues, ethical and moral constraints, ‘religious’ or spiritual constraints) that would interfere with the agenda, with ‘the dream’ as Teddy Kennedy would piously bray.

And, in addition, a society and a culture and a civilization that did not recognize any difference between the male and the female of the species – except when the Advocacy demanded such recognition, at which time such recognition had to be immediately rendered. “Equality” of possibility meant having ‘totally’ identical options as ‘men’. And ‘men’ being so footloose and fancy-free, then clearly interpersonal entanglements were not what ‘liberated’ women or anybody else need burden themselves with.

O brave new world! O frak! This is not ‘adventure’; this is not ‘creative vision’. This is a society-wide, self-destructive binge more baseless than any beanbag adolescent male on a motorized skateboard trying to jump obstacles.

And to dwell within such a ‘vision’, and to console oneself that it is cutting-edge and creative, is to live within a double Bubble.

And a Bubble world it is that We have created. And a Bubble We as a nation and a people have become.

I say: Let the utopias of the '50s crumble, and the Second Wave unisex utopia as well. And then We can get around to trying to make a better reality, with what's left to Us now.

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