Sunday, January 31, 2010


In my immediately previous Post I had looked at the excellent Glenn Greenwald as yet a regrettable example of what happens when acute thinkers have to observe certain ideological boundaries in conducting their examination, whether for employment reasons or to keep their creds among a certain key demographic.

Greenwald, I had noted, was veering perilously close to a “last ten years” approach to the many profound ills now facing the country, as if it was all the fault of Bush the Egregious and his pack of ideological whackjobs; as if the ideological whackery of the past forty Biblical years of ‘liberal revolution’ and all its pomps and all its works were really just a bunch of ‘reforms’ with no downside (and consequently, the liberal-revolutionistas fondly hope, will be considered to be ‘the new normal’ by generations of American youth who have known nothing else and hordes of immigrants (legal or otherwise) from poor countries who have known only poverty and are just happy to be here).

Henry Giroux, an acute and perceptive and concerned academic who currently holds a Chair at McMaster University in Canada, writes often about the serious problems facing higher education – and he’s always well worth the read.

On the Truthout site he writes about the radical but deeply committed educator Paulo Freire, who tried to improve education in Brazil in the early Sixties, was exiled by the military junta in 1964, and continued his efforts – writing some hard-hitting books including “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” – until his death in 1997.

I want to look at Giroux the same way I looked at Greenwald: both for the tremendous value of the insights and ideas (many of them Freire’s) and for the substantial limitations placed on Giroux’s analysis either by his own ideological loyalties or by his professional need to keep his union card among Canada’s stunningly PC academic ‘elites’.

“Most schools and colleges”, he says at the outset, “are now dominated by conservative ideologies, hooked on methods, slavishly wedded to instrumentalized accountability measures, and run by administrators who lack either a broader vision or understanding of education as a force for strengthening the imagination and expanding democratic political life”.

As if decades of the Revolutions of the Identities – radical feminism, multiculturalism, diversity quotas, Political Correctness’s oppressive censorship of dissent and even skeptical inquiry (to avoid ‘harm’ and to be ‘sensitive’, doncha know?) – as they made their Long March through the academic institutions either didn’t exist or have had only the most beneficial of consequences and led only to the most utterly phantasmagoric best-case outcomes.

Surely the ‘Correct’ ideologies (you can hardly call them ‘liberal’) with their encourage-the-cadres rather than form-and-inform-the-students methods, their rigid adherence to quotas and thus to numbers (so ominously similar to Vietnam-era Pentagon body-counting), and their arcane manipulation of statistics to show how successful they are … surely all these are part of the lethal miasm that most surely does, as Giroux rightly sees, infect the universities and profoundly oppress their students.

And I am not about to accept that ‘conservative’ (however that is defined) administrators – with (perhaps Giroux wants to say) their adherence to some form of fact-based teaching and the expectation that students will exert themselves responsibly to learn – are worse than the equally stifling (and hardly genuinely ‘liberal’) Politically Correct faculty cadres for whom ‘facts don’t matter’ and whose visions are comprised of lethally fatuous anticipations of ‘revolutionary transformation and transgression’ and the near-term erasure of all the ‘oppression’ of men and the Western tradition and Western civilization and all their pomps and all their works.

But I most heartily endorse the goal of “understanding education as a force for educating the imagination and expanding democratic political life”. Indeed, the latter goal is utterly indispensable if We are to maintain the Republic; The People must be as competent as possible, in terms of a well-grounded education (but also a personal Maturity that encompasses achievement along the psychological, emotional, moral, and spiritual axes of the human Self as well).

To that end a well-mastered power of Imagination is hugely valuable, to envision how things might be or could be or how they should be (ah the nuances of verb moods – a shame that English departments have burned the grammar books for the agitprop PowerPoint and ‘personal stories’!)

But Imagination is like a fire-hose: it’s only as effective as the firefighter controlling it. Otherwise the pressure of all that water is simply going to whip the hose – and its stream – around aimlessly, and dangerously. As happened to the Boomers, who sorta thought that if you were either mellow enough or outraged enough then your imagination would just automatically (‘naturally’ they might have said) show you the way to proceed. No tedious ‘thinking’, ‘analyzing’, or ‘calculating’ or ‘weighing of options’ or – the horror! – serious, sober and deliberate (auuuggggh!) consideration of ‘consequences’, especially of the unintended or pooh-poohed kind.

To the extent that PC – as content and method – has succeeded in the universities and seeped out to the wider public, then a) the Iraq War, b) the deregulated financial sector and its catastrophic meltdown, and c) the increasingly obvious downsides of Multiculturalism’s unfettered immigration and Radical Feminism’s ‘war’ on ‘men’ and Governance Feminism’s waging of that war through government regulation and Congressional legislation and the perversion of civil and criminal law … then all of the foregoing indicate that a huge transformation has indeed been achieved.

Although its consequences appear to be not as Totally Great as had been advertised when We were stampeded into buying the whole Program. Imagine that.

Who knew?

A bit confusingly, Giroux goes on to indict (and with no little justification) “the market-driven logic of neoliberal capitalism”. But again, his against-the-conservatives (however defined) stance undermines his footing here. Neoliberalism is, as the name says, a ‘liberal’ monstrosity, cobbled together like a Frankenstein’s monster by the Clintonistas in the 1990s because it offered a reely reely slick and kewl way to expand Tip O’Neil’s treacherously shrewd political strategy from the mid-1970s: pander to the Identities through the ‘culture wars’ while collecting cash from the corporations through the PACs (which Tip had invented for the purpose of shaking down the Big Money without having to walk around in the middle of the night to get stuffed suitcases from bagmen in raincoats).

So Governance Feminism got to play with the Constitutional ethos by gutting jurisprudence in the name of ‘sensitive reform’ and the corporations got to pay to play, and also call the shots of the games they devised.

Giroux’s somewhat 1960s’ approach to ‘capitalism’ and ‘big business’ – that they are creatures of the Establishment Right and the rich – is now a thoroughly inadequate map to the present realities of American politics: the Left-liberals are as soused with power and greed as the Right-conservatives; the Beltway has coalesced into an Augean Stable full of hefty, well-fed, crap-filthy oxen.

Dr. Hercules to the Stable stat! Paging Dr. Hercules …

He is right to note that there seems to be no public interest in genuine higher education, either by the public or by the government.

He’s right, but for reasons he can’t go into: neither the National Nanny State of the regulatory-preventive ‘liberals’ nor the National Security State of the patriotic, law-and-order ‘conservatives’ really have any need for a genuinely educated Citizenry, able to think, analyze, and deliberate. The Nanny State wants helpless children and ‘victims’ that it can assuage, and the Security State wants jingo-happy cannon-fodder. The corporations are looking for workers elsewhere and really don’t care any longer; they’ve gotten out of town while nobody was looking and Congress was well-remunerated to let them do it. (And how now to fix it without admitting you let it happen to begin with? And were well-paid for it?)

He bemoans the loss of “excellence” as an educational concern – and that is a perennially valid issue, but surely that is a consequence of the Left’s insistence that there should be no ‘standards’ and that it’s not whether you are capable but whether you ‘try’ … and anyway ‘achievement’ is such a macho-male sorta thing and that’s all over now. Grade inflation is as much as function of ‘sensitivity to self-esteem’ as it is a funds-besotted university seeing its students not as wards but as ‘consumers’.

His assertion that this is all because of “the corporate demand that public and higher education provide the skills, knowledge, and credentials that provide the workforce necessary for the United States to compete and maintain its role as the major global and economic military power” is – again – kinda Sixties. The corporations began long ago (coupla decades anyway) getting out of town, moving their operations and even their cash-flows overseas.

So they only need just so many potential ‘executives’ and ‘knowledge workers’, allowing for the Politically Correct proportion of ‘diversity’ hires – women and all the other minorities. If there’s a ‘glass ceiling’ that ‘women’ face now, it’s not because of macho stubbornness as it is that while this and that variant of Feminism was waging its wars against ‘men’, the corporations got out of town quietly and tastefully. The real question is why feminists who claim to be concerned for women’s future – for which employment and jobs are essential to their recent ‘liberations’ – weren’t and still aren’t really concerned with neoliberalism’s pissing away of the industrial infrastructure of the nation (a stunning treachery by the elites that nobody dares to contemplate at this point).

Echoing Freire, Giroux asserts solidly and finely that pedagogy must be understood “as a deeply civic, political, and moral practice – that is, pedagogy as a practice for freedom”. I heartily agree.

But universities have been agin’ freedom since the earliest campus speech-codes of the 1970s; in Our modern American reality nowadays ‘freedom’ can only be exercised if it is Correct, and Correctness doesn’t require ‘independent thought’ – indeed, just the opposite: Correctness requires mastering the Party line and internalizing it (lest even in your sleep you might mumble something against Stalin in your bedroom and your voice be overheard by the watchers in the night).

Puh-leeeze. Universities haven’t been about ‘freedom’ in this country for quite some time. Correctness doesn’t need ‘freedom’ – only the appearance of freedom. That’s why ‘spin’ and ‘story’ are so important now, and ‘substance’ and ‘reality’ are considered passé.

And worse: now that there are cohorts upon cohorts of under-parented, under-socialized, under-Shaped kids coming along – whose ‘parents’ themselves have emerged from their own childhoods equally unripe – then how else to keep any civic order at all except by Regulation, Prevention, and using ‘education’ to compensate for the lack of parenting with “the narrow regime” of Indoctrination into Correctness? The Regulatory-Preventive State – and from the Left! – is now an outcome guaranteed by the success of the Left’s own core agendas! Conceptual incoherence can so often lead to hot ironies! Or maybe it was planned all along.

Kids are now coming along – and have been for several decades and age-cohorts – who are weak in a Sense of and Shape of Self because they have been ‘raised’ (however defined) by parents who themselves are much more hands-off in Shaping their children. And they are rudderless because not only their parents but their surrounding American society is Shapeless, far too fluid and – due to the needs of the ‘revolutions’ to preemptively undermine any grounds for opposing their agendas – bereft of any solid tradition or cultural norms. (Thus, through the anti-Constitutional and anti-cultural workings of Governance Feminism, the Shape must be provided in the form of government policing and the Regulatory-Preventive State; the weak and invertebrate young (many of them now approaching fifty) Citizens have no Shape and interior Self-Mastery of their own. This is a recipe for Constitutional catastrophe to the American polity.

So … Yes, We are in dire need of Freedom, and that means the internal individual Shape and Structure strong enough to ‘platform’ the practice and exercise of Freedom. In naval parlance, there’s no use having a big gun if you have installed it on a ship too small, light, or poorly constructed such that when and if your crew is even able to fire the thing, the ship itself is too fragile to absorb the recoil and immediately blows itself over. That sort of thing.

So if “too many classrooms now resemble a ‘dead zone’ where any vestige of critical thinking, self-reflection and imagination” are absent, then Indoctrination into Correctness is a major culprit. And if then the students are soused outside the classroom by “the corporate-driven media culture” then you also have to acknowledge that the Advocates and cadres of Correctness are now corporate-level entities themselves, and push the media to exemplify and ‘valorize’ Correctness as well as that equal if older demon, Consumerism. (Advertisers don’t need you to ‘think’; they need you to ‘buy’ – right now!)

And at this point, We have become a debt-and-consumption-driven economy rather than a productive one – a consequence of both Reaganomics and neoliberalism. So no Consumerism, no economy. And where does THAT leave Us?


And this need to ‘sensitize’ even elementary-age students, as well as to compensate for an upbringing they are not receiving from frazzled or ‘liberated and empowered’ parents (or whatever simulacrum of ‘family’ that it is their lot to be born into) means there’s no time for reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic (which in any case are so ‘male’ and ‘abstract’). And ‘study’? And ‘homework’? Come, come now.

Giroux gloriously quotes Freire that “literacy was not a means to prepare students for a world of subordinated labor or ‘careers’ but a preparation for a self-managed life.” And further, that such “self-management” could only occur when people have fulfilled three goals of education” which are 1) self-reflection, 2) an understanding of the world in which they live, and 3) to help set the conditions for producing a new life. Yes and yes.

But 'self management’ can also be seen as ‘self mastery’ – sort of like a Master and Commander. And ‘mastery’ is up on blocks in the national garage along with ‘excellence’ as being too macho and a vestige of the habits of ‘domination’ and ‘oppression’.

And you will need a Shape and Structure within the Self, at the core of the Self. ‘Sensitivity’ is all well and good but by itself it makes you kind of invertebrate. And if Correctness is your only ‘shape’, then, in terms of the Self, you have an exo-skeleton rather than an endo-skeleton and you will need a shell to hold together your mushy insides. Like a giant bug.

This is ‘liberation’? This is ‘empowerment’? This is human maturity and fullness?

More ominously, from a Western and genuinely Humanist point of view, and from an American Constitutional point of view, and a democratic point of view, you will need a government to give you your Shape – and THAT is so hell-and-gone from the American Founding vision and from Freire’s predecessors here like John Dewey, that all hope of sustaining a Republic “of the People, by the People, and for the People” is gone. And that Founding vision will indeed “perish from the earth”. O brave new world, to have such people in it! (A quote, of course, from the Bard – dead white European male that he is.)

And ditto do I support Giroux’s echoing of Freire when he says that “pedagogy at its best is about neither training, teaching methods nor political indoctrination [Political Correctness!] … but a political and moral practice that provides the knowledge, skills, and social relations that enable students to expand the possibilities of what it means to be critical citizens, while expanding their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy”.

Yes indeed! But you’re not going to get competent citizens from Indoctrination and the rote-memory of the current party-line, whichever ‘party’ it is.

And you can’t have a ‘substantive democracy’ only by imposing an elitist ‘outcome’ by those cadres ‘who get it’. Such a democracy requires a democratic process that will more slowly but deliberatively achieve a consensus. The democratic PROCESS is itself – as they like to say now – ‘performative’; it forms the deliberating individuals even as it seeks a certain desired outcome.

The whole problem with Our decades-longs ‘revolutions’ here is the same problem Freire ran into: you can’t impose this quickly. In his as well as the ‘revolutions’ eagerness and urgency to ‘get to’ such a glorious and good outcome, they threw the ‘baby’ of deliberative competence out with the bathwater of deliberateness. Too slow! So the revolutionistas screamed – the ‘evil’ we are seeking to eliminate is so baaad that we must impose the outcome through the efforts of our own cadres! The people – sheep and cattle that they are – will learn to accept ‘the new normal’ later. Or not; they’ll die off and the revolution will raise the young so that there will be no doubt or dissent.

Such ‘transformation’ – they transformed The People into sheep and cattle. This is progress?

Freire got mixed up with ‘revolution’ in the political sense, not wishing to be merely an ‘intellectual’, removed from the exciting – and arguably ‘moral’ – responsibility to create change for the good immediately, by imposing ‘transformative change’ root and branch.

This, I think, was where ‘liberation theology’ in his native South America started to go a bit off the rails in the Sixties: ‘God’ required ‘revolution’. It may well have been the only way to struggle against the political tyrannies of the assorted strong-men and juntas of that time and place .

But to import that paradigm into a mature and grounded democracy such as America (however imperfectly) was … THAT was fatuous and lethal frakkery.

And it has borne Us monstrous consequences.

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Friday, January 22, 2010


Glenn Greenwald, over on Salon, has a meaty piece about the national public reaction to the Christmas attempt by that gentleman who wanted to blow up an airliner using his underpants.(Which makes the Japanese use of military airplanes to blow up the battle fleet at Pearl Harbor seem not only thoroughly professional but – well … serious, in a grown-up kind of way.)

He makes some excellent points, but he also demonstrates the problem with even good writers, reporters and commentators who for whatever reasons have to keep within certain ideological bounds: unable to ‘notice’ certain causes, their resulting analysis is inadequate, and thus any solutions based on the analysis are going to be flawed, and the solution will not work – and the problem will go on.

Greenwald generously and rightly applauds David Brooks at the ‘New York Times’ (and I am no fan of Mr. Brooks) for Brooks’s observation on “the childish, contemptuous and hysterical” national reaction, which – Greenwald acutely adds – was “egged on, as usual, by the always-hysterical American media”.

The media, of course, have become addicted to the sustained and professionally managed agitprop of the past four decades or so. From the vistas opened up in the era of the first phase of the Civil Rights Movement, when news cameras brought home to every American just what the frak was going on in the Jim Crow South, and through the Vietnam War era when they did ditto as to what was going on in a foreign war touted as necessary for democracy, the media became hooked on the viscerally and visually gripping.

When the assorted Advocacies of the newly-erected Identities, borrowing those brutal but brilliant leaves from the Goebbels playbook (taken home by Americans as spoils of victory), began to stage assorted agitprop scenes literally made-for-TV to demonstrate the ‘outrages’ for which they demanded the immediate granting of their assorted demands and agendas, the media found it hard to say No.

There were all the elements that made both soap-opera and disaster footage so gripping, and after all it was all in a good and ‘liberal’ cause. Good business, good ‘ethics’, and – truth be told – it was intoxicating not to simply ‘record’ history, but actually to ‘shape’ it. Wheeeee.

After several decades of ‘victims’ and ‘stories’ – buttressed by shows such as Jerry Springer and Oprah – the media were not only addicted, but now so compromised by ‘advocacy’ that they couldn’t get off the stuff.

And when the ‘conservatives’ took to using the same playbook, hoping to reproduce the prior decade’s success of the ‘liberals’, all the media could do was to accord the whackery of the Right the same worshipful attention as they had accorded the agitprop of the Left.

Hysteria sells.

Greenwald very rightly limns the symptoms: “A citizenry has been trained to expect that our Powerful Daddies and Mommies in government will – in that most cringe-inducing, child-like formulation – Keep Us Safe”. And when it appears that Government has failed in such parenting, the response “is an ugly combination of petulant, adolescent rage and increasingly unhinged cries that More Be Done so that nothing bad in the world ever happens to us”.


As I have been pointing out as recently as the immediately preceding Post on the defeat of Martha Coakley’s Senate bid up in Massachusetts, Americans have become much more childish (not the same as ‘child-like’); nor has it helped that Political Correctness forbids such Judgmentalism, Ageism, and Elitism and just plain outright discrimination.

But any judgment is in a way a form of discrimination – it’s a sign of discriminating taste or prudence to avoid large puddles while driving, either to avoid dirtying the wax job or avoid wrecking the wheel assembly on a pothole hidden beneath the calm dark surface of the water.

Adults have to make judgments all the time; children mature by learning how to judge – to discriminate – accurately and wisely. Otherwise they wind up doing stupid and sometimes dangerous things; it’s a hallmark of immaturity that one cannot make the type of judgments that enhance life (one’s own or others’) and indeed cause damage to that life or those lives. A husband and father still doing teeny-bopper snowboarding or skate-boarding at an age when his reflexes and muscles aren’t what they used to be … is still not quite ready for primetime.

But of course, once you’ve made commitments – including the huge commitment of making a baby or three – then you’re in primetime whether you really want to be or not.

The recent national solutions have trended strongly not toward increasing maturational competence to face an increasingly complex world, but rather to reduce the urgency of maturity by reducing the consequences of immaturity … and calling that ‘realistic’, ‘progressive’ and ‘normal’. Thus the now semi-permanent national buffet at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

(The Left side of the table, of course, is matched now by the Right, which is convinced that one can export Democracy at the point of a bayonet, blow up the locals, grab their valuable resources, and expect to be greeted as liberators – and to react with petulant dismay when the locals respond with counter-violence and – on top of that – have the temerity to stymie the multi-trillion dollar military which is this nation’s last claim to planetary primacy.)

These are, really, the types of things you expect to observe – with a politely straight face and compassionate but tastefully distant gaze – in the day-room of any secure haven for the permanently or temporarily unhinged.

In addition, of course, there is now the confluence of both streams, such as in the Left’s support for military invasion in order to “stop anything bad in the world” from happening to any other country’s folks where – nicely – the US government feels their pain. When two such roaring fires of frakkery as Our present Left and Right burn toward each other, We are looking at a conflagration of flaming frakkery that will make the Great Chicago Fire (wiki it if you have to) look like a small-town garage going up out on the county road.

So how to “demand that genuinely inept government officials be held accountable” when an increasingly inept (by reason of immaturity and civic incompetence) Citizenry expect no such consequences to apply to them? (Which is not to imply that the Consequence God will allow them such an extended paid vacation.)

Ditto when Greenwald sharply connects the dots between children lying in bed scared of night-monsters and adults lying in bed scared of “scary Muslim monsters”. And that the adults now want to be protected by government just as the child wants to be protected by its parents (or by whatever modern simulacrum applies to its domestic situation).

The Regulatory-Preventive Nanny State doesn’t want Citizens, it wants Children. Just as the Rightist National Security State doesn’t want Citizens, it wants obedient pawns and patriotic fundamentalists.

There is a jingoism of the Identity-besotted Left as there is a jingoism of the Nation-besotted Right. Both seek to control those who ‘just don’t get it’ or don’t own enough to count in the wider glorious vision; and who don’t belong to the society of whichever elite cadres possess like frenzied but determined mandarins the One True Path to the bright, sunny uplands of supremacy, however defined.

Greenwald quotes John Adams, and nicely so, to the effect that “Fear is the foundation of most governments, but it is so sordid and brutal a passion and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable …” [italics are GG’s]. And I would add that such fear makes people vengeful and so agitated that they stampede like a herd of spooked cattle.

Greenwald continues the quotation: Adams (writing in a now far-distant 1776) is confident that “Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution founded on it”. Well, that was then.

But such Fear has been the staple of American ‘progress’ for four decades now: each Identity provided sustained agitprop vividly asserting that its particular demon-enemy was fearfully and uncontrollably and incorrigibly evil and that in order to alleviate the fear (and the pain) and to bring ‘closure’ and make the Identity ‘safe’ then the government must do ‘whatever it takes’ and achieve such Safety by ‘whatever means necessary’ (to use the charming if ominous Israeli phrases). I need only mention the term ‘sex offender’, for example, to demonstrate precisely what I mean here.

But Greenwald rightly observes with Adams that “political leaders possess an inherent interest in maximizing fear levels” – which no doubt explains why the Identity nightmares have received the sustained support of government at all levels, despite the monstrous threat of simultaneously an engorged government control authority and an increasingly fearful and incompetent Citizenry. The less competent and helpless you feel, the more you are going to feel the pressing need for ‘protection’ – and that old devil Government is always willing to step right up and promise it to you … and you don’t even have to sign on the dotted sulphurous line; you simply have to look the other way as this or that person or group is taken away. Ja!

Of course, all of this is hell-and-gone from Adams’s vision – but he’s only a Dead White Male anyway, so what’s the problem? He ‘just didn’t get it’.

Greenwald makes the fine assertion that “the American Founding was predicated on exactly the opposite mindset … the Constitution is grounded in the premise that there are other values and priorities more important than mere Safety” [that whole last clause underlined in GG’s text].

This is not because the Founders were chimpish males who didn’t care about anybody’s safety but their own; it’s because the Founders were well aware that the most eternal predator in human history is Government, and against its own population even before against others. And as in the best B-level horror fliks, the Founders established the strongest possible protections against the King of Vampires, the strongest and sturdiest wall to keep that monstrous Kong from breaking loose into the village.

It was the abiding fear, I think, of the Founders, that someday the door would be opened and the Thing invited in eagerly, the gate unbarred and the Thing enticed into the light of the hearth-fires. For profit, for a change, for laffs – who knows?

Better to let criminals evade capture, the Founders thought (and Greenwald observes) than to let the Thing invade home and hearth, heart and mind, exerting its baleful and inevitably violent control over the society and culture that is the true heart and health of the country.

But the Founders ‘just didn’t get it’, it was snarkily hooted, and not simply by unwashed villagers in their cups down at the local watering hole. In fact, not by the great unwashed at all but rather by the self-proclaimed elites, basking in the blinding golden beam of Government’s shrewd and shrewdly generous approbation, which made them appear – to hungry but undiscriminating cameras – as rather golden beings and creatures of light themselves.

Those who stubbornly opined that the gold was only gilt were hooted down. And the band played on.

The Founders thought the way they did “because certain values – privacy, due process, limiting the potential for abuse of government power – were more important than mere survival and safety”. You say this on Oprah or if you said it on Springer, you could quickly find yourself the object of wails and screams of offense and outrage … and never invited to make public comment again. Your insensitivity would earn you the virtual universe’s equivalent of a colored Star to be affixed to your clothing and your very soul; or the great crimson letter “I” for Insensitive (or Incorrect, perhaps – take your pick).

Princess Amidala’s wry observation that democracy ends with applause (if I recall that flik correctly) may well be updated by not-too-distant historians: it ended here with screams of ‘pain’ and vengeance and cries for Safety and Protection. And, to keep this thread going a little bit more, thus will pass Democracy, son of Constitution, screaming and wailing and afire from the fire set by himself, until he plunges from the pinnacle of the once-great City, into the hordes of enemies that his own profoundly embraced weakness lured to him and to his people (Denethor, as eulogized by Mithrandir in LOTR 3).

And when I use the word ‘weakness’ I am not implying that We should take the path of endless military conquest or ‘nation-building’. The weakness I am referring to is a national maturational and moral weakness, which even in the LOTR scenario was the deepest cause of Denethor’s awful situation.

Anyway, the military is now so ‘sensitized’ by decades of trying to remake itself (at the Beltway’s behest) as an employment opportunity for whoeverrrrr rather than an agency that must play according to the awe-full rules of Ares Ferox et Atrox that Our days of military sufficiency are sharply numbered. Unless We uncork the nukes and threaten the Mother of All Tantrums … but that way – I hope many can still see – lies madness and an end to all things.

And it is “a central calculation of the Constitution that we insist upon privacy, liberty and restraints on government power even when doing so means we live with les safety and a heightened risk of danger and death” [italics GG’s]. Can you picture what would happen now to anybody who suggested in a telegenic venue that this country needs less safety and more courage? Let me propose this scenario to you: such a person would get as much of a verbal thrashing as a person in 1973 suggesting to an Identity Politics sobfest that all of you should “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

How’s them apples? Teddy Kennedy managed to do all his favorite constituencies a world-historical favor by hiding behind his portentous bulk the truly shocking fact that to the causes and ‘dreams’ he was supporting his late brother’s most fundamental vision was gall and wormwood.

And you wonder how the country of MLK and JFK, let alone the Founders and Lincoln, so quickly wound up swilling Chardonnay at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, sandwiched in between the Easter Bunny and a passel of Tooth Fairies?

As Greenwald notes, nowadays it’s “only Government-provided Safety, not the Constitution, [that] matters”.

Indeed, he quotes certain Government types: Michael Chertoff “demanding that we stop listening to ‘privacy ideologues’” – so if you cling to the Constitutional vision you are some sort of whacko “ideologue” now; but haven’t the ‘governance feminists’ been saying the same thing for decades? After all, ‘men’ can hide their ‘violence’ behind Constitutional privacy protections, especially in home and hearth and – not to put too fine a point on it – bedroom. (Not even Adams could have had so gruesome a nightmare as to imagine that, I bet.)

Face it, the Constitution and the Constitutional ethos were undermined the minute that the most important identity in this country was not that you were American (itself a many-faceted, chiaroscuro potentiality) but rather that you were a this or a that, a male or a female, a victim or a perp, good or evil. There’s no getting around that stark, lethal reality. Whether such a consequence was unintended, intended as an acceptable loss, or ignored in light of the 'good intentions' of the Identity Politics crowd ... now you're just quibbling about where the deck chairs go on the Titanic.

Worse, Greenwald concludes with the probably accurate advice that “talking to one’s friends and co-workers is not a reliable way of gauging public opinion on an issue”. Especially if you or your co-workers are under the age of 55 or 60. Because the kids in all the birth cohorts that reached even a modicum of consciousness since 1965 or so have been brought up to accept as ‘the new normal’ the proposition that the greatest enemies are those who cause (fill in the blank) ‘pain’ and those monsters are among us, masquerading as ‘normal’ and ‘good’ folks, but are really – no, not Communists, but rather – (fill in the blank). And those cohorts have grown up accordingly in a civic polity fractured in theory (Identity Politics) as well as in practice.

So that now the only thing that remains to unite ‘Americans’ is fear, threat, and war.

And if you sow that wind, you will reap the whirlwind – Churchill saw that, watching the German people look the other way (or applaud and cheer deliriously) as the little whackjob with the mustache promised them Primacy and Security, and that if they followed him they would get just what they deserved.

And so it came to pass.

So Greenwald has accomplished much in this piece. And I commend him for it.

But those of a genuinely liberal, or American bent, cannot simply reduce all of Our present frakkulous condition to “the past ten years”. I am saying that you have to go back forty years just to have a reasonable grounding in the causes of this mess.

And for a solution, I am going to repeat what I said in the immediately previous Post: the first step would be for Americans to realize that the greatest being in God’s Creation is not The Child but rather the mature, competent, fully human Adult.

After all, you don’t go for a sunny walk in a big field full of acorns and saplings; you go for a walk in the forest, where there are trees (which are much better examples of Treehood and Treeness than are the seedlings, nuts, acorns, and so forth).

And it is utterly and urgently essential that We see that.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I have to say a few words because this strikes me as one of the moments that is more than just a Straw in the Wind and may actually constitute a Clue as to what’s starting to happen.

Alexander Cockburn certainly puts it succinctly in the title of his article on the Counterpunch site today: “Coakley Loses and a Good Job Too”.*

The ‘good job too’ bit is from the always-marvelous Gilbert & Sullivan. The operetta was “Trial by Jury”, and the particular song is a send-up of lawyers (England of the 1890s) who are merely in it for the money, climbing the ladder by hook, crook, or judicious marriage to “a rich attorney’s elderly, ugly daughter” who “may very well pass for forty-three in the dusk with the light behind her” (no genderist snark intended here).

As he recounts lyrically his rise to status, position, and fortune – when “the Briefs came trooping gaily” (no sexual orientation snark intended) – he confides to the audience: “It was managed by a job, and a good job too!”. “Job” as it is used in the lyrics means “scam” in modern usage.

In that sense of the word, Coakley stands for much of what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the past forty years.

And let me put in this pre-note: there are now several cohorts of adults (chronologically, by age, at least) in this country who have never known this country as it was – in its strengths as well as its deficiencies – before the late Sixties began to do their work. A youngster born after 1958, say (and now 52 or so), does not know the country as it was in that distant era: productive, grounded (as much as a consumer-capitalist country, or any bunch of human beings en masse, can said to be grounded), and possessed of a certain Shape – internally, in substance, as well as in appearance – making its way in the booming, buzzing, chiaroscuro Vale of Tears and Possibility that is this ‘world’ of human beings.

The individual person had a certain Shape, whether socialized into that Shape by conforming to some extent to the culture around him/her, or – less often but still not a rare occurrence – internally, by forming the Self on the Trellis of the culture, ‘internalizing the best values’, and thus fortified conducting life. And not simply for him/herself, but also participating among the society of others similarly formed. And not simply participating with other adults but helping to pass on and Shape their children, who were expected to develop themselves along some sort of Trellis into a worthwhile Shape.

And of course, this dynamic – over the course of generations – would yield also the utterly indispensable substrate of a Republic, and certainly the American Constitutional Republic: a society of mature and competent Citizens who would ground their government, which in Lincoln’s pithy but splendid phrase, was a government that existed not on its own authority nor operated on its own whims, but rather existed “of the People, by the People, for the People”.

All that was swept away as the Sixties and the Seventies – through their assorted ‘revolutions’ and deconstructions and ‘creative destructions’ – by unforeseen or intended consequence – pulled the whole vision and foundation apart. Instead of a symphony (or at least a decent high-school band) the whole American thing dissolved into a cacophony of individual instruments, and even players, blasting away in the sure and certain belief that their instrument, or their individual energy alone, could carry the entire burden of the symphony’s complex score and melody. And in many cases, the kazoo or even lesser instruments, were ‘valorized’, tootling away, often without any music score in front of them, but sorta just riffing.

And all of this was considered ‘good’, in the sense of Genesis: a new ‘creation’, made not by God, of course, but by the myriad excitements and illuminations and inspirations of those myriad ‘players’ and instrument groups.

And it was a Politically Incorrect ‘sin’ to imagine that what one was then hearing was ‘cacophony’. Rather, if you just trained yourself to forget what the Music used to sound like, then you could ‘get it’ and imagine that you were hearing not a cacophony but rather a whole new type of music, one without melody or structure but – of course – even better.

And if you had the ill-grace to observe that it still sounded pretty much like a bunch of kazoo-playing kids just killing time (and wrecking the whole experience and concept of Music) then you ‘just didn’t get it’ and were a fuddy-duddy, a dinosaur whose time was now past and the best thing the country could do was to wait for you and your kind to die off and let the brave new world tootle away (not in a march formation or in step let alone in tune) down Main Street into the broad sunlit uplands of total liberation and sensitivity.


I’ve been watching this non-parade for decades now, and its excited but ungrounded visions and its “Dream” (Teddy Kennedy’s shrewd casting of what was happening) have led to all sorts of unhappy consequences (and can you say Iraq War and Af-Pak and deregulated financial sector?).

The Democratic Party – as I’ve often said before on this site – embraced the whole Thing back in the late Sixties, desperate to find (or create) new voting blocs to replace the Old South that had been repelled by that hugely impressive first phase of the Civil Rights Movement (that ended with Watts in July, 1965); and to replace the white working class blue-collar folks who had grave misgivings about turning life upside down by claiming that immaturity was the new maturity; and then ‘men’ as the radical feminists took over the women’s-liberation movement and (having read Mao and his great-grandfather Rousseau) planned a Long March through American institutions to erase the infamy of ‘patriarchal oppression’ and ‘men’ in general in order to replace it all with Sensitivity and ‘knowledge workers’ (and I hold both sensitivity and knowledge in very high esteem as essential to every human being).

Meanwhile, 1970 or so saw the end of the easy American dominance of industrial and economic strength based on its own amazing productivity and its own resources. Competition from newly developing countries and countries finally recovering from the wrack and ruin of World War 2; the inability not only to pump the majority of the world’s oil but even to supply America’s own needs for ‘black gold’; and an increasingly ‘abstract’ nature of American wealth as actual gold-reserves were no longer considered the basis of national and international economy.

Corporations large enough to do it and connected enough to induce the government to let them do it began to outsource; other corporations found themselves unable to compete with rising productivity from other nations whose governments were carefully shepherding their nation’s industrial policy; the dollar began to feel a little queasy as it traced a dizzy path in the ether of ‘international finance’.

A simple recollection of warning signs in the 1970s might remind Us just how things began to slide (beyond the wholesale and gleeful ‘deconstruction’ of American culture and values): in 1971 Nixon abrogated the 1946 Bretton Woods arrangements and floated the dollar (recall now that today anybody under 50 watching “Goldfinger” (1963) would have no idea what was so important about “Fort Knox” or why the evil Auric Goldfinger wanted to grab the “sixteen billion dollars in gold, the entire gold reserves of the United States of America”); instantly there was a ‘sugar shortage’ followed by a ‘beef shortage’; in 1973 oil-producing nations that had previously allowed themselves to be managed by American and British oil corporations formed OPEC, and there were ‘gas shortages’ – the price of gas went over fifty-cents per gallon at the pump (We were told it was temporary and not to worry); in 1978 Chrysler had to be bailed out because it couldn’t compete profitably; by 1979 European upscale cars like Audi were becoming the status symbols for American drivers who had ‘made it’, replacing Cadillac and Lincoln.**

The 1980s didn’t make things any better. Reagan used Nostalgia to assure Americans that the 1940s were back again; but it wasn’t “morning in America” again, it was two in the afternoon and the days were getting shorter on top of that. His solution to Our financial problems was to start borrowing: it was on his watch that this country quietly slipped from being a creditor nation to being a debtor nation.

But politically, it was brilliant: the fake money kept the older Americans thinking – if they were willing to accept the illusion from that Great Illusionist – that the country was still wealthy; it also served a purpose on the Left, allowing the assorted ‘revolutionaries’ to crow that you could have all their favorite deconstructions and still be rich as sin even as they let the productive capacity of the nation slide away since it was all based on “Industrial Age, macho culture” anyway and they would replace it with a ‘woman-friendly’ knowledge economy that the chimpish males were too lumpish to master.

And in the 1990s, as things got even more queasy and shaky, credit was expanded – cards and loans and then finally mortgages. All to give people the (hugely illusory and false) sense that the country was still wealthy and on top and Number One.

Worse, the ‘revolutions’ had undermined the entire structure of a well-informed, deliberative politics and the type of Citizenry needed to participate in such a politics and ground the government. Revolutionary theory doesn’t want to deliberate; it wants to impose. But in a non-shooting revolution, in a long-standing democracy, you can’t just follow Lenin’s and Stalin’s path and liquidate those who dissented or had doubts. No, you had to follow Goebbels’s path to achieve Mao’s goals: you had to manipulate public opinion, soften the public mind, soften individual minds, and make sure that your own cadres’ voices were the only ones who could pass out the Correct line.

As ‘governance feminism’ began to move beyond the support of ‘advocacy journalism’ and actually make inroads in elite academic institutions and government bureaucracy, the Regulatory and Preventive State began to take shape behind the façade of ‘sensitivity’ and ‘concern for victims’; political debate gave way to shouting matches, the purpose not being to inform the Citizenry but to outshout the opposition and spackle up your cadres; education became less a training in critical analytic and evaluative thought based on a careful assessment of realities, and instead became a drill in the Correct mindset by which to make ‘reality’ whatever you wanted it to be (under the guidance of the Correct cadres, of course); justification for ominous public policy change was sought by stampeding public feelings rather than careful deliberation. And that was from the Left.

The Right responded by developing its own ‘bases’, mimicking the Identity Politics of the Left, and deploying those same manipulative Goebbelsian techniques and that same either-or, fundamentalistic mindset that the Left – oy gevalt! – had introduced into the mainstream of American politics the decade before.

As Lincoln might have prayed, echoing the concerns of a lone traveler caught in a powerful thunderstorm out in the dark woods at night: Oh Lord, if it’s all the same to you, a little more light and a little less noise! But ‘noise’ was all that political debate had become.

Nixon had come up with the concept of ‘the Silent Majority’ in the late Sixties. He was trying to get at the reality that while the noise was coming from the revolutionary cadres of the Left (rapidly becoming revolutionary rather than ‘liberal’) the great substrate of American culture, the working class, were by nature and temperament not ‘noisemakers’, but simply put their heads down and – not to put too fine a point on it – worked and produced, steadily and efficiently. And raised their kids and hoped for the best.

But the advocacy media had also become addicted to sensationalism, and there was nothing like a well-honed cadre for the agitprop street-theater in front of the cameras to make the evening news look both jazzy and ‘with it’ and ‘concerned’ – a hat trick!

Anyhoo, back to Coakley: Teddy Kennedy held the Massachusetts elites (though never the mass of its voters) in his beefy paws (increasingly well manicured as he achieved ‘senior status’) to the end. And the Identity Politics and all its pomps and all its works became “The Dream” (Martin Luther King’s noble phrase) and Teddy styled himself as the Old Warrior, fighting for that Dream (a dream hell and gone from Martin Luther King’s when you compare them).

Teddy finally went wherever it is he has gone (after a final shrewd effort to fix the Judge by sending Obama to the Pope asking for prayers last summer – the President as Postman … or perhaps Bagman). The aging feminist elites began to issue a spate of ‘victory-lap’ histories trying to spin their ‘revolution’ as hugely successful and ‘transformative’ (and who can deny that the country – in the past 40 Biblical years – is not indeed ‘transformed’?)

But Teddy was wrong on most actual things and the assorted revolutions of the assorted Identities of Identity Politics and all their deconstructions and all their pomps and all their works have borne huge negative consequences, if anybody wants to look around.

The Democratic – and Beltway – solution has been to amp up the kazoos and start distracting wars – both to keep the public mind off what’s actually going on around them and to provide some sense of a ‘national unity’ that has become so ‘deconstructed’ that the only thing left to unite Americans as a society and a People is an attack and War. (And that overall political strategy cannot end well.)

Martin Luther King’s appeal to American traditional values and religious and spiritual ideals, Lincoln’s appeal to The People – all of these have been ‘deconstructed’ and can’t be publically embraced. What’s left but War and the primal appeal to the beserker glories of military adventure? This is ‘progress’? This is ‘liberal’? What has happened to Us?

When it comes to the economy and the usefulness of ‘service jobs’ instead of the old-school ‘industrial jobs’ – take a look around and compare a Bell Telephone or General Motors employee of 1955 with a Wal-Mart employee or cell-phone seller of 1995 or 2005 or 2010.

The working-class – whether the purportedly chimpish, lumpish ‘males’ or the women in UAW windbreakers – saw it all. And, I think, they very much resembled what Flannery O’Connor had said about Southerners in the late 1950s: we still have enough values to know the freakish when we see it. The whole idea of Political Correctness was that you were not ‘judgmental’ enough to say the emperor had no clothes, and to really ‘get it’ you had to train yourself to see clothes on the emperor even when there were none there; facts, after all, don’t matter – as the cadres always say.

Such massive and sustained illusion has never been the hallmark of the American working class, or of workers anywhere. Even Lenin – watching the Russian workers overthrow the Czar – had to come back half a year later with his own Red revolution TO OVERTHROW THE WORKERS. They, after all, ‘just didn’t get it’ and would need the impositions of his Party cadres in order to see their lives fulfilled.


So along comes Coakley – not only a poster-person for all the Revolution of the past 40 years but also a poster-prosecutor, enforcing and enabling the Long March to the Regulatory and Preventive State, where the government can do whatever it wants if it thinks it’s a good idea; the Citizens don’t know what’s good for them … they should just trust the government to be ‘sensitive’ and always right. This is about as far from the American Constitutional vision as you can get without actually hoisting up the Red flag.

The local paper of record – the ‘Boston Globe’ – long enwhored to Teddy and the ‘liberal’ status quo, gave its all to make it seem as if Coakley were a shoo-in (the feminist revolution and Identity Politics were now a ‘success’ and ‘the new normal’, right?). All the Correct elites exerted themselves, consuming vast quantities of Chardonnay – even in plastic cups – to turn out for and tune into the Goddess of … Democratic-hood, if not Democracy.

But – mirabile dictu – the working class had had enough and were finally willing to say it. And there was, I think, no Teddy to place his fat though well-manicured thumb on the electoral scales.

So I would have to say: Wow.

So much more remains to be done (as Ike said in his Farewell Address). I am not yet ready to embrace ‘the Republicans’ – since that Party has also sunk into its primitive ‘bases’ and into primitive politics of Either-Or and of Demonization (as radical feminists demonized ‘men’ Roger Ailes got the idea to demonize ‘liberals’ and sought benefit of clergy from the whackjob Fundamentalists, who were happy to put aside their literal Bible snippets to climb into bed with the divorced and un-religious Reagan).

The country desperately needs, I would say, a ‘mature politics’ before anything else.

The Regulatory and Preventive State needs victims and children, not Citizens. The corporate State needs obedient serfs, not Citizens. The nationalist Rightist State needs ‘patriotic fundamentalists’, not Citizens.

None of the major political positions on offer these days requires the services of Citizens, nor does the Beltway really care to deal with The People.

I would make this suggestion: as an absolutely essential pre-requisite for utilizing what may be modern America’s equivalent of Europe’s 1989 Moment – the beginning of the end of a stifling Political Correctness … as an absolutely essential pre-requisite for that, Americans must begin to accept that the most glorious being in God’s creation is not the Child (!) but the mature, competent Adult.***

And that every American and everybody who aspires to American ideals, must dedicate him/herself to achieving that condition.

So that an increasing number of them (and there are many already here) may create the critical mass that can demand and reintroduce a mature, responsible, democratic politics.

And then We can see what We will do – as best can be managed – with America’s frakkingly weakened situation, domestically and internationally.

In order that We might – as Lincoln put it – “achieve a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations”.


*As I am writing, this article is the lead article on the Counterpunch site, therefore it has no individual URL of its own. Should you follow the hyperlink above and not see the article right in front of you, just look at the list of articles to your left as you look at the screen.

**You can find an excellent series of articles on the industrial de-velopment of the US in the past 40 years in the January-February issue of ‘The American Prospect’ magazine, here. And you can find an excellent analysis of the failure of the Clinton 90s’ New Democrats and neoliberalist economic and industrial policy here.

***In the long and far too cheerible history of the past 40 years’ worth of ‘valorizing’ youth We have seen the Boomer ‘Youth’ – fount of wayyy too much uninformed and unshaped energy and ‘confidence’ – then give way to ‘the Child’, that grossly under-examined Image and Symbol that serves numerous ulterior purposes.

While all the panoply surrounding ‘the Child’ ostensibly proves what a sensitive and caring (thus ‘female’ rather than stereotypical macho-chimp) nation America is, it serves as well to a) distract Americans from the rather disconcerting fact that feminism in its most radical but also most politically connected variant requires abortion on demand in order to assure the ‘equality’ of ‘women’; b) provide a telegenic cover for the ominous police-state strategies and policies accompanying the expansion of the Regulatory-Preventive Nanny state; and c) provide a verrry useful distraction for far too many Americans who should be looking to their own individual maturity as persons, adults, and Citizens, rather than too easily applauding themselves for their ‘concern for children’ (which in any case does not extend to Iraqi or Afghani ‘children’ nor will it – I imagine – extend to ‘the children’ in any other targeted country).

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


In the ‘New York Times Book Review’, David Holloway reviews a book about Werner von Braun*, the now-deceased brilliant German scientist who spent his late 20s and early 30s building rockets for the Nazi government of his native Germany, and then after 1946 entered a new life as America’s premier rocket scientist, the key genius behind the 1969 Apollo landing on the moon.

Holloway is not impressed with the depth of Biddle’s book, and I am not reviewing the book here. Rather, Holloway discusses major points raised – if not well handled – by the author in his book. And those points get me to thinking.

Born in 1912, WvB was fated to enter into the first flower of his talents as the Nazi regime took power. By 1937 the brilliant and also ambitious young scientist was working on the rocketry program for the Third Reich; a special site was set up at Peenemunde on the Baltic where the rocket-men were tasked with developing their vision into a workable military weapon – by 1944 their V-2, the world’s first ballistic missile, was operational and launched against an England that had rather imagined by that point that it had seen the last of German aerial bombardment as the Reich tottered in the roaring Allied whirlwind that its wars of choice had created.

Biddle is outraged that WvB managed to make a clean get-away from the consequences of his participation in the Nazi project. The Western Allies, already acutely aware in 1945 that the Soviets were poised to take over as the Number One Enemy of the West, eagerly granted indulgence to WvB and others, bringing them to the United States where they were given every resource to continue and advance their rocket projects.

Nations up against what they perceive to be great and dangerous challenges have been known to make certain trade-offs between morality and national security. The United States was a great nation and it perceived the Soviet threat as potentially mortal.

Biddle points to the fact that WvB eagerly participated in the whole Nazi rocket project. Not only did he work for the Nazis, but he had joined the Nazi Party and had accepted rank in the SS. I can’t imagine how else WvB’s ambitions could have been realized: he saw how the surf was rising and made sure he had his board well-positioned. From a career and ‘business’ point of view, he made the right tactical choices; surely We have seen many businesspersons who decide to go along to get along. Persons of conscience – standing at angle to the kingdom of this world – rarely go far; Leo Durocher was not quite accurate when he opined about his baseball business that “nice guys finish last” … in business (and in the military, and organized religion and any large organization) persons who are not reliably ‘team players’ don’t go far.

The SS membership was honorary for all practical purposes; WvB commanded no troops, gave no orders, conducted no operations in the field. In the uniform-happy German culture of that era, his SS uniform was a perk that would also ensure his standing when it came time to stand up for his program.

There was slave labor at Peenemunde, and many of those forced laborers died in the ruthless Nazi discipline required to achieve so much so quickly, and in a situation that after 1942 began to deteriorate with ever-increasing rapidity. It was impossible that WvB did not realize that, any more than scientists at Los Alamos were unaware that their marvelous adventure and herculean exertions were going to result in a bomb the likes of which the world had never seen. Some of them, as the Thing neared completion, had qualms – but Major-General Groves, military overseer of the Manhattan Project, would be in no mood to sit still as they rehearsed their concerns; there was, after all, a war on and Victory was a stern taskmistress.

WvB could have refused early on to pursue any of his talents; perhaps he might have survived. It was equally possible that the Nazis would have made life difficult for him, and lethally painful for his family. That’s what desperate governments do when individuals attempt to stand against their plans as a matter of conscience.

As the regime’s support for the Peenemunde program characteristically waxed and waned with the Fuhrer’s ever-changing priorities and excitements, WvB went to bat for the program, gaining increasingly scarce funding and resources for what Hitler began to envision as his ultimate Vengeance Weapon.

Biddle further takes great umbrage at WvB’s shrewd – almost cocky – reinvention of himself here in the New World. No tears – not even Speer’s marvelously calibrated crocodile tears – for his Nazi period. In America he was building a new life and a new persona, the government saw no reason to complicate its problems by noticing his past, and the Communist threat covered a multitude of sins.

Craftily, although he was neither the first nor the last to do so, WvB did not simply flaunt a cocky personal arrogance. He justified his past by claiming that the scientists were ‘apolitical’, simply trying to further the cause of ‘science’ and of ‘knowledge’. Which is what scientists do, although in the modern world’s institutionalized and government-supported scientific establishments, your career as well as your funding depend on finding only such ‘truths’ as are useful to the government and don’t interfere with its political plans.**

It’s not just a question of your own ‘politics’ as a scientist; there’s the deeper problem of just what use your work will be put to by the government. Or, to really drive the point home, by the corporations that pay your salary and grant your funding, say in the Big Pharma field or those psychologists over the past century who have put their skills in the service of ‘advertising’, the better to manipulate folks into purchasing this or that. The current crop of military psychologists who put their skills into the service of ‘extracting information through sharp methods’ are only the freshest tip of the iceberg. In war as in business, everybody who can help the cause … had better do so.

So what happens when all you want to do is make a career for yourself and get paid for doing what you love to do and support your family as well? Are you supposed to say No because quite possibly – perhaps even probably – folks with other plans will take the fruits of your well-paid labor and do distasteful or even immoral and outrageous things? One is reminded of St. Peter’s splendidly acute question to Christ: Lord, if all these things are required, who then can stand? In other words: Lord, it’s almost impossible to find many folks who haven’t crossed your line in the theological sand at some point – including us, the disciples!

Holloway points out what the book is unable to come to grips with: is it possible that WvB and his cohorts transmitted to the American scientific establishment a sort of moral infection that had piggy-backed over here the Nazi work that those German scientists brought in their baggage?

That, I think, would imply that the American government was rather pristine and morally un-conflicted before the ex-Nazis ever got here and the American professoriate and research community were moral paragons, at least to the extent that they were willing to put their careers on the line for matters of conscience and morality.

If the government and science establishments of the present day are used as a baseline, then if they were paragons in 1946, WvB and his colleagues brought to these shores the most monstrous ‘infection’ that this country has ever experienced.


*”Dark Side of the Moon”, by Wayne Biddle. W.W.Norton

**You may recall a decade or so ago, those hapless American researchers who, having studied all of the previously published research on the matter, noted matter-of-factly that none of the research and studies that they evaluated actually established beyond reasonable doubt that there were long-lasting negative effects to all sexual encounters between children and adults. Even their own report – technically a meta-study, a study of the studies – spent a quiet few months making the rounds in the professional journals, until ‘advocates’ suddenly got wind of it, made the necessary phone calls and sent the necessary faxes to the media and the Beltway, and Congress erupted in a furious Resolution to the effect that such ‘findings’ were not politically allowable, and no scientist or researcher who wanted to keep funding and a job should ever suggest any such thing ever again.

One recalls Stalin’s official endorsement of the thoroughly discredited and inaccurate genetic theories of Trofim Lysenko; Stalin went so far as to make any scientific dissent to Lysenko’s thoroughly misguided assertions illegal in 1948, and for some years thereafter scientists who dared to dissent from the politically-governed ‘science’ were fired and even imprisoned. As the 1930s American book title warned: It Can Happen Here. And apparently has.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


John McWhorter makes an excellent point in an Op-Ed: he’s not sure that the term “Negro” is so very bad (noting particularly the verrrry proper United Negro College Fund).

He’s making the point in regard to the Obama ‘racist’ remark by Harry Reid. I’m not getting mixed up with it, nor am I implying that Harry Reid is somebody for whom I entertain a great deal of respect.

But in the process, McWhorter raises the whole subject of what is apparently now called (I didn’t get the Memo, but then it seems that the recipient-list for these things is always restricted) “African-American Vernacular English”.

I’m not going after AAVE specifically. But I want to make this single point: the complexity of any language is in some ways a very strong indicator of how competent that language is in giving its speakers a more comprehensive vocabulary of Reality.

Words and constructions function like pixels in a TV screen: the more you have, the higher the resolution of the picture you see; conversely, the fewer pixels, the fuzzier and less clear the picture.

So any language or variant or sub-language that ‘simplifies’ in the wrong ways is going to give its users a fuzzier and less-clear picture of Reality, putting them at a significant disadvantage from the get-go.

Think of radar: once the Brits had it with Chain-Home in 1940, then they could ‘see’ the Luftwaffe formations arranging themselves over their airfields in France for their attack missions over England. Once see-through radar was developed, that could penetrate cloud-cover, the Allied bombers had a much clearer and more reliable ‘view’ of the ground even at night. Ditto even up to now, where satellite-mounted cameras with tremendous resolution and even infra-red and thermal imaging can ‘see’ through all sorts of cover to get a ‘picture’ of what’s actually going on out there and down there.

So too with language: the many tenses of verbs (and think of Latin and Greek) enable a language-user to swim in Time, acutely aware – like a whale or dolphin – of the many nuances of water at different depths and temperatures. The moods – Indicative and Subjunctive – also enable a language-user to distinguish between what Is and what Might Be or Ought to Be (but isn’t at the moment) – and these are crucial distinctions not only for ‘better language’ but for giving ‘voice’ to mature human capacities of perception and analysis.

Grammar such as this is not a ‘class’ matter – like having an aristocratic Brit accent instead of some Cockney trash-talk. It is a matter of having far more advanced abilities to analyze and comprehend, which of course grant a much better chance of conducting accurate and useful deliberation, not only in one’s own mind but also when deliberating with others equally capable.

Nor is this merely a ‘professional’ language, a mystical argot spoken only among certain highly-specialized mandarin-elites who hold the mysteries of this or that area of study or knowledge (like listening to military officers or engineers or serious football fans or the electricians or plumbers working in your house or the mechanics working on your car). No, this is the basic language that Citizens must master in order to conduct their Business, which is to be The People who are employing a government now as unruly as any plumber-or-electrician from hell working on the vital mysteries of your house.

Grammar sort of got tossed in the late Sixties, when it was assumed – with poor Rousseau – that humans are ‘naturally’ good and it is ‘society’ and all its pomps and all its works that deforms humans.

To which the response can only be – and should ever have been – a polite but firm Phooey.

But no. ‘Grammar’ went away as being ‘elitist’ – so much so that (the hell-hot irony!) now only the self-proclaimed ‘elites’ can analyze and deliberate, on the basis of which they firmly believe that they – and not the Citizens – are the only ones who should have a say in how the country is run and what Shape American society and culture should take.

To which the response absolutely must be a vigorous and sustained Phooey.

In the Sixties’ witless but vigorous effort not to ‘discriminate’ or be ‘elitist’ not only were the vital competences of language tossed out, but language incompetences were raised up as golden idols of ‘naturalness’ and ‘authenticity’. Leading to a whole lotta incompetence, rendered far more treacherous for being mistaken for ‘naturalness’ to which its (greatly under-developed) users could lay claim as a ‘right’ and a ‘heritage’.


Nor am I merely thinking of 'Ebonics'; the old Valley Girl blase 'whatevvverrrrrr' and 'like, ya know' and 'I'm like - and then he's like - and then I'm like .... ' and so on and on - are not what the serious civilization should be aiming for. It's not simply a matter of a langugage being 'expressive' as opposed to being effective at understanding; both of those tasks are important, but before one can 'express' one must 'have' ... and if there's nothing worth expressing then an 'expressive' language is going to be an exercise in futility, no matter how enjoyable and no matter how many 'customer-addled' universities now willingly enwhore their authority as instruments of higher education in order to keep their customers 'happy'.

That has to change.


Friday, January 08, 2010


Mary Daly, feminist theologian who broke into the bigtime in the late Sixties, has died.

Her photograph (print edition only) shows a Roman-consul type of haircut that on first glance might have given you un-Correct thoughts, but mercifully she and the ‘Boston Globe’ have spared you the anguish: she had declared herself a lesbian.

Well, no problem with that particularly. There are lots of gay theologians – and few who came out as early as she did – everywhere, including Boston College, her initial base of operations.

Her sexual orientation is not at issue. I myself am of the strong opinion that orientation is not a matter of choice in the first place, and is somehow an operation of Nature (and, I will say, of God’s mysterious Plan, Will, Providence, and – yes – Love).

What one does with that orientation is a separate issue, and everybody can go back and forth on that huge field of possibility.

But there was always something about a particular element of what she did in her classroom praxis that disturbed me: for a while she forbade ‘men’ from taking her classes in ‘feminist theology’ (this was in the benighted era before ‘women’s studies’ and the ludicrously named ‘gender studies’ (where one entire gender is off limits for study, though always available as a conceptual piñata).

It got me to thinking and wondering, and increasingly so as the ‘gender wars’ intensified over the decades and it seemed that the best of ‘elite’, ‘liberal’, and ‘progressive’ though held that the interests of ‘women’ and ‘men’ were not only antithetical, but that ‘men’ were the natural enemies of women … and they and their traces needed to be expunged from culture and society.

Strange indeed, considering that the two genders had gotten along with so many notably constructive and productive results over the course of millennia. Nor could I accept that the mythical ‘patriarchy’ had simply repressed more than one half of the human species thoroughly, coherently and consistently over the course of those millennia (how could they, really, since feminist orthodoxy also held men as being such brutish and primal lumps?).

Nor – noting the remarkable competences of the female of the species – could I accept that for all those millennia most ‘women’ – sort of like the European Jews – simply didn’t fight back, a sempiternal and universal example of the Stockholm Syndrome avant la lettre, if not of outright slave mentality.

Men, it seemed to me, were never considered by the majority of females, by ‘women’ if you wish, to be implacable and brutish enemies. Which is not to say that there are not some lumpish and brutal examples of the species, but then Lucrezia Borgia was no prize, nor the assorted females over history who – say – served in the SS or egged on the Iron Guard or played according to their lights and capabilities the many dark and sometimes lethal games of which human beings – at their less evolved levels – are so indefatigably capable.

Men and women were not rivals in some long, life-and-death stakes game.

Then it came to me: men and lesbians are, at least from the point of view of the radical lesbians.

At one point, now more than 15 years ago, I read Christina Hoff Sommers, who in her book “Who Stole Feminism” broached the same thought: she noted the curiously “lesbian core” to much of what past for mainstream feminist thought (especially in its radical variant).

The thought stuns: is it possible that such a radical lesbian-core has determined the thought and praxis of much of what passes for mainstream feminist thought, especially in those formative years when ‘gender studies’ were suddenly erected in universities and ‘governance feminism’ began to impose its stunningly anti-male virulence into matters criminal, domestic and even military?

Is the ‘gender war’ really not between ‘women’ and ‘men’ but between radical lesbians and men, with the lesbians actually doing most of the warring? Using ‘women’ as merely the cover or – like shrewd bank-robbers – as shields and ‘covers’?

And has the government actually indentured its authority – perhaps its legitimacy, most certainly some of its integrity – to such a noxious and treacherous gambit?

Is this possible in these oh-so-modern times?

Could this have happened – is it going on still – under Our very noses?

Is it possible that what fuels the ‘visions’ of ‘empowerment’ are to some extent a radical esbian dampdream along the lines of Amazonia and the Xena-Gabby axis: that ‘women’ can actually form a perfectly competent and self-contained society all by themselves, thank you very much, with the subset of a subset - those artistes formerly known as ‘mannish lesbians’ - providing the security and heavy-lifting and the rest of female-kind providing – as it were – ‘the women’?

Not that this vision promises much for the heterosexual female, a dynamic that has raised its head in the what passes for a military now, where ‘straight’ females have been enticed by the hugely deceptive advertising that the military is simply an employment opportunity to which all females have a ‘right’ and which can be subjected to all the feminist-inspired restrictions imposed by government employment and anti-discrimination laws so as to make the ‘employment experience’ as enjoyable as it is on the campus of Google or the Beltway.

(Although, in a marvelous irony, the lesbians in this scenario have failed to appreciate a vital aspect of the Xena imaginarium: there are very real and implacable gods of War and Combat who have to be dealt with on their own terms, and will take no orders from ‘feminist-friendly’ pols standing at the edge of Combat’s yawing, frothing abyss to issue ‘regulations’ as Canute once storiedly stood at the water’s edge, waving his scepter to impress and order the tides.)

Is it at all possible that such a Looking-Glass deformation could take place in a 20th century Western nation? In the 'world hegemon' - as it once styled itself?

Folks were asking themselves the same question in Europe in the early 1930s, and assured themselves that horror and frakkery on the scale imputed to the Germans was simply unthinkable after centuries of hard-won civilization.

Worse, that what Hitler was doing in Germany, and Mussolini before him in Italy, was seen as ‘good’, as an imposition of order on chaos that would ultimately benefit their own people and – hopefully – the rest of the civilized world. ‘Progress’ most genuine, and the world would be the better for it.


I wonder.

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In ‘The New York Review of Books’ for 12/27/09 Ian Buruma reviews a bunch of books about life in France under the German Occupation.

That phenomenon – living under Occupation – has always attracted my attention.

There’s a natural human tendency to want to avoid the largest challenges, the largest ‘insults’ (as the psychologists say) to Our sense of what is right, what is safe, what is normal (however We define that), and what is reliable and predictable.

You couldn’t really get through life unless you filtered out the majority of the sources of anxiety in this booming, buzzing, and not at all ‘secure’ existence that is human life in this vale of tears.

The trick, I suppose, is to filter out the frights that are not immediately relevant, thus leaving yourself free to deal with the causes for concern that pose credible obstacles and threats, whose more or less successful ‘handling’ will yield a little more peace of mind, a little more security and safety and predictability and reliability and even comfort – possibly even ‘happiness’. Or at least a sense of satisfaction deep down that you have met a challenge and have dealt with it well enough, or continue to deal with it well enough.

For yourself and for those others who you can – or by obligation must – include under the umbrella provided by your commitment and your skills.

In a way, a healthy society can be seen as a collection of such umbrellas, kept up and kept functioning, providing together a continuous and relatively effective web of ‘cover’ from the hard rain that always falls on humans, but that at times falls in particularly heavy amounts.

Far too often, I think, humans take an easier and lower road: they simply filter out whatever initially repels or frightens them, settling for a less frightening life experience.

And consequently settling for a less intense life experience and self-experience.

And consequently settling for a less fulfilled life for all the others who won’t fit under such a shrunken umbrella.

And assuaging any further anxieties arising from that trade-off by calling the resulting deformity ‘normal’ and trying to go on from there, on that shrunken basis.

In that sense, the experiences of the French folk under Nazi Occupation are not simply a ‘history’ that happened to ‘other people’ ‘long ago’, but rather they constitute a vivid (not to say always bright) example of what all of Us are do, not simply in facing ‘Nazis’ or ‘evil’ but simply in facing the perennial human challenge – as the Buddhists put it – to Be Yourself in the Present.

You could probably build an entire life around that axial advice: strive always to Be Yourself in the Present.

I’m not going to get mixed up here with Machiavelli’s advice to hide your true self; except to say that Machiavel doesn’t worry enough about the consequences to the development and maintenance of a genuine Self when you spend a lifetime not only hiding it and dissembling other, lower, less genuine sub-selfs, but also have to actively suppress the genuine Self in the process. Machiavelli was giving advice to rulers (and, alas, politicians) not trying to help people actually and genuinely develop their best potentials.

Nor am I going to commit the modern American error of mistaking whatever the hell it is you sorta wanna do with your life (and your ‘self’, something omitted from most current trendy conversations) and what you’d like to do and desire to do, and what your ‘dream’ is (a frakkulous concept that, after the Dems and Teddy K got through with it, should have been buried with him) for what is your Genuine Best Self and what are your Genuine Post Potentials.

The key is to take that Buddhist maxim and then define accurately, both widely and narrowly enough, the parameters of that ‘Self’ and that ‘Present’.

That Present must take into account the full, Vulcan-chess spectrum of Life’s ‘Board’ or – more accurately – Boards: the bottom Board of life as it is when lived at its most primal and obvious and material possibilities, and the next higher Board of life as it can be when it is lived by human Selfs living toward their best potentials and capabilities, and then the highest Board – where the Beyond and its Presences not only exist but interpenetrate the lower Boards, seeking to assist those who are seeking Their assistance.

That Self must take into account the full complexity of an entity designed to ‘play’ that Game on that complex and multiple Board: a Self holding within a spectrum of potentials from the most primal to the most sublime; a Self capable of platforming the mysterious mixture of individual human and profoundly divine spark as that dynamic mixture exists and operates at the very core of the human being (itself a mysterious and profound mix of the material and the spiritual, matter and spirit); a Self capable of operating – with increasing competence, if such is sought – on all the Boards, and is not simply trapped on the basal Board, in all its dark Flatness and queasily insufficient Emptiness.

Which sort of takes the maxim beyond where the Buddhists went with it.

But nowadays – as opposed to the joyful primalities of the Flower Days of the Sixties – not even the Buddhists get much respect.

The new ‘liberal’ is ‘secular’, thoroughly committed to the assurance that ‘religion’ will continually yield to the ‘secular’ as a developing hallmark of ‘post-modernity’ (the ‘moderns’ of the early and mid 20th centuries had incorporated ‘religion’ into national cultural development; the ‘post-moderns’ of the Seventies and onward have dropped ‘religion’ from the list of desirable cultural traits, as they have dropped the Beyond from any list of existing realities).

It is necessary to carry out such ‘creative destruction’ in order to pry open sufficient cultural ‘space’ for a whole lotta things that the Revolutions of the Identities want, but that can’t be squared with any existing religious belief.

This in effect reduces humanity from the sublime if still imperfect awareness of the elegant and powerful and reality of the Three-Board Game to the Flat and reality-challenged strictures of the basal Board. And perhaps also from basal-Board chess to merely checkers. And they call this progress.

Just as the world was starting to shake off the basal and primitive materialism of Communism in the USSR, a basal materialism was taking grip here.

Just as the Communist revolution presented itself as a ‘liberation’ for the people, so too the Revolutions of the Identities over here presented themselves as ‘liberations’ and ‘empowerments’.

Just as the Communist revolution denied the existence of a spiritual and considered religion an enemy yet then demanded a genuinely religious type of belief in its visions, so too the cadres of the Revolutions of the Identities wield their certainties and visions like any other Fundamentalists, whether Bolshevik or religious.

But the human being – under pressure of life’s challenges – can be catalyzed into an awareness of the higher Boards of existence, and this in turn can catalyze the human’s awareness of his/her own spiritual and beyond-material potentials and capacities.

Because they are there.

Because the human has always been designed to participate in this complex and elegant multi-leveled Game, on these multiple Boards where the moves and pieces can interact not only flatly and horizontally, but vertically, and where the Other side – by no means an Opponent – also plays pieces on all the levels.

The secularization thesis fails utterly to take into account this elegant complexity of both Existence and of Human Being, and of human beings. Consequently the thesis, seeking to impose its visions, is by operation of its own terms a regressive phenomenon, ‘deconstructing’ a human progress toward Genuineness and Fullness that had been achieved only painfully and with much blood, sweat, toil, and tears over the course of millennia.

And yet, in this country today, the ‘elite’ line is that secularization is both the wave of the future and the most accurate assessment of Life’s realities and humanity’s possibilities.

The country has been hijacked by secularists (talk about fundamentalistic terrorism!) and then doubly whacked by the responsive fundamentalistic agitations of a religiosity that still doesn’t comprehend the subtle Elegance of the Boards, and is itself limited to the basal Board, although that Board as constantly invaded and over-trodden by legions of fur-feathered, sword-wielding fiery angels whacking whomever is ‘against religion’.

Between the callow elite enablers of secularism with their gaga wish-pictures and demands for the Liberational Paradise and the fiery Fundamentalist angels reproducing the most primitive concepts of how Existence’s highest Spirit operates in the world … it’s enough to give you a new respect for the frightening clarity of Hieronymous Bosch.

Thus to Occupied France.

The greatest challenge in an Occupation is the moral. And in that, the historical Occupation speaks to all human beings.

How much can you ‘go along to get along’ with some Thing – even for the satisfaction of the most basic and urgent physical needs (food, shelter) – before you wind up betraying not only others but your own best Self, before you wind up cooperating with the regressive and primitive?

Of course it was the genius of the early Occupation that the Nazis spun themselves as nothing more than a change of management, and perhaps an improvement actually – given the cacophony and inefficiency of the later Third Republic.

And it was their further genius that they had made themselves sufficiently frightful elsewhere, though keeping up the appearances of respectful bonhomie with the French citizenry, that the French were initially lured – as perhaps any civilized people might first be – into hoping for the best and going-along to get-along.

‘Politics’ since 1918 had become far too polarized to achieve much of anything; much noise, little light, less achievement – and the French were already morally cowed by the ‘clarity’ and ‘simplicity’ of the Nazis’ solution to this problem in post-1919 Germany.

And the Nazis were so ‘sure’ that they were not only the wave of the future but a good and liberating wave as well … how could you not be awed by the presence of such an energetic force?

And Hitler – as diabolic if not more than any of History’s earlier monsters, certainly in the West – did not overtly attack the religiosity of the people: so long as they kept religion confined to ‘religion’ and out of politics, then the Nazis weren’t much exercised about things at all.

But if ‘religion’ started to shade over into a judgment about what was going on outside the church building, if it started to interfere in ‘the political’ … well that was a different thing altogether. There would be consequences. Religion is an opiate, not a catalyzing font of judgment on the things of this basal Board. Religion is private, politics is public – and God help anybody who tried to mix the two.

Thus the French people staggered on.

Some cooperated fully, either because they felt that the Germans actually had found a better way to conduct a nation or because they figured that when the basal Board is so powerful as to seem all that there is, then its rules – however primitive – were the rules of the game now and – as they say now – ‘it is what it is’.

Some were repelled, but could only muster an aesthetic response: so dreadful, really, to have to listen to them gutter and grunt as one is trying to restore one’s sanity by visiting a gallery – it’s a crucifixion to always have a headache!

Some sought consolation and security in the fact that they were not the ones required to wear a yellow star (yet they starved too when Germany began draining France of foodstuffs and raw materials to keep its own Master Volk fed and clothed).

Some took the route of armed resistance (far fewer than later claimed, and many of them Communists).

Some realized that the unleashing of violence in any form was going to undermine an already-threatened human-ness.

Some were stunned by so clear and vivid a spectacle of human primitiveness, either in the German violence – however velvet the glove over the iron hand – or in the capacity for psychological and emotional self-subversions displayed by many of the French.

The Germans were eager to have their regime quickly accepted as ‘normal’ and can any Americans now, except the young or the truly benighted, fail to appreciate government-sponsored crash-programs to establish ‘the new normal’? What was Political Correctness (itself a term borrowed straight from the Communists) except the government-supported effort to prevent public discussion or the public expression of doubt about profoundly and hugely dubious ‘reforms’ that, instead, were to be accepted as ‘normal’ instantly and without question – if you wanted to be considered Correct, and as being one of those who were ‘with it’ and not one of those who ‘just didn’t get it’.


And the Beltway has demonstrated its inability to perform even the most basic of governmental functions, let alone go around trying to re-design the culture and societal foundations themselves.

Indeed, there was a necessary – but so small – Resistance that Americans (and perhaps too many of the French) have never really appreciated: the Resistance not of blowing up trains and bridges, but rather the Resistance to the insidious lure of ‘the new normal’, to the-Germans-are-here-now and it-is-what-it-is.

I’m not calling this a ‘moral Resistance’ – because any violence has to be morally justified if you are not going to destroy your integrity when you cause it.

I’m calling this a Resistance that recognized the Moral: a Resistance that recognized the insidious lure for what it was, and grasped the lethal, leprous consequences to individuals and to their society of embracing it.

Because no entity that participates in the treacherous undertows that beset the basal Board – individual, society, government – can ever completely be relied upon to keep itself free of those treacherous consequences to integrity and the higher human capabilities that define the Human as spirit as well as matter.

For that reason even the most dedicated Resistance fighters, especially as the power of the Germans began to wane, and even DeGaulle himself, distinguished between la France eternelle and that other France, the one that was complicit in the surrendering of French Jewry and enwhored itself to that ‘new normal’, actively, insidiously, treacherously, violently in the widest sense of that term, and to its profound detriment and disgrace.

That was the existential failure of so many in the Occupation.

Twenty years or so later a proponent of Liberation Theology referred to the Church as She and the Church as It – and he was deploying the same insight in considering the Catholic Church: a shining ideal possessed of vibrant and resilient conceptual strengths and visions, and an ‘organization’ heir to all the weaknesses and treacheries and self-betrayals of the basal Board.

Yet the two exist together, since that basal-Board is an essential part of the Game.

That is the remarkable tensiveness of the ‘Vulcan Chess’ vision of the Game: several Boards, interactive, and all essential – giving play out of necessity to the Matter and Spirit of which this entire ‘world’ and all of its inhabitants is composed.

And in this Game, there can be no ‘spectators’.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010


It’s been a week or so since the big dustup over pregnancies in the war zone that is Northern Iraq.

As reported on December 21st, the Major General in charge up there issued a General Order intensifying the punishments, including court-martial, for female soldiers who get pregnant and for the males who impregnate them.

A brouhaha ensued. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and several female Senators were “outraged” (but of course) and the Senators wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Army which they also released quickly to the media.

In the long slog that has been the women-in-the-military story over the past 20 years, there are moments when the ‘fog of advocacy’ lifts and suddenly you can see clearly the most crucial and fundamental aspects of the situation.

This, I would say, is one of those moments.

And the manner of it is on this wise:

The December 21st article on the Truthout site (link above) is nicely done and worth the read; there are follow-up articles here and here.

The main objection from the usual suspects is about “the limitations it places on reproductive rights and personal privacy”. Let’s make it clear right now: to what extent abortion and sex is purely a matter of ‘rights’ and ‘privacy’ (for the woman, not the dyad) is a still-contested issue in American life generally, and I am not getting into it here.

What’s at issue here is governed by the stern, lethal, and utterly unspinnable realities and consequences that flow from combat operations and war (which, I will also add, are so powerful as to exert their pressure on every aspect of military life, whether in ‘peacetime’ or ‘wartime’, whether ‘at the front’ or ‘Stateside’).

Here is a combat commander operating in the face of the enemy. Worse, it’s not old-fashioned historically conventional war such as World War 2, but rather a 4th Generation War (4GW) in which insurgents or resistance fighters blend in with the civil population and wage asymmetrical operations against a classically organized military force.

The classical force labors under many disadvantages: it is not on its own home territory; its supply lines are fragile; by virtue of being in someone else’s land – especially if the government of that country did not declare war – it is seen as ‘the invader’ almost by default; and since its defined ‘enemy’ is not an easily identifiable classically organized military force, then the foreign force is going to wind up shooting all sorts of people, and can never go outside its fortified encampments without worrying about every single local and ‘native’ whom it encounters.

It’s a terribly stressful kind of war for troops and it is rarely a winning proposition (as We are now finding out).

This Commanding General (CG) is thereby confronted with a hellish problem: he has to keep as many troops available as possible, in a situation where – given the oppressive and frightening frustrations the troops are facing in their daily operations – the temptation for an individual to find an easy way back to safety is intense.

The CG has to prevent the loss of soldiers while simultaneously encouraging and supporting the troops who are trying to do their duty.

The military has always faced this problem with certain regulations: a soldier can be punished for making himself unavailable for duty. So if a soldier shoots himself or otherwise harms himself, then he is a direct threat to the combat readiness and the morale of his fellows; he can and will be punished in the military discipline system. The assumption is that you are in the military – whether drafted or volunteer – and you are now therefore, to some extent, ‘government property’.

And when I say ‘government property’ I actually mean that you are in an organization now answerable to the stern and implacable realities of War and Combat; you are no longer in the ‘safe’ world of peacetime or civilian life ‘back home’. You are, in a most real sense, operating in the jurisdiction of Ares Ferox et Atrox and the other gods of war, and in a very real sense you are their property and have to play by their rules. And that goes for the General as well as for all the troops.

Now to this unholy stew add the female element. One way that a female can wind up hors de combat (unfit for combat duty) is to become pregnant. While males can find various ways to release their sexual urges, females seem most frequently to rely on the heterosexual sex act, which – alas by Nature’s decree – can wind up with the female ‘stuck’, as it were, being pregnant (with a baby, a fetus, a blastocyst, a parasitical cell-cluster, or whatever you choose to call the phenomenon often resulting from the completed sex-act).

So a female can wind up – intentionally or not – hors de combat, depriving the CG and the other troops of a needed member of the force.

And there’s always that moral hazard thingy: a female might decide to use the ‘fog of intention’ to her advantage in order to get out of duty: she can intentionally get pregnant and force the command to give her a ticket out of the battle-zone (just as a male could shoot himself or harm himself, but for the male it is too clear that he has done it intentionally, which need not be the case with impregnation).

And then if the troops see or infer that a lot of females are ‘getting out’ of the challenge and the stress, then the CG has a morale problem as well as an operational (manpower) problem: he’s not only lost a soldier (or several) but he’s got a whole lotta demoralized soldiers who are seeing somebody get out of her responsibilities, responsibilities which – in the third place – they who are left behind and still on duty are going to have to fill.

This was a problem thoroughly forseeable decades ago. Short of the military trying to stem the human sexual urge (especially when the humans are under pressure, and aren’t necessarily operating at the peak of their maturational potentials to begin with) then the problem would be to keep the matter and anti-matter of male and female from – ummmmm – coming into contact. Thus you prevent the – ummmm – explosion and you avoid the whole insuperable mess of trying to stamp out sex among youth on the battlefield, deciding between he-said/she-said, and constantly having to rejigger operational plans to make up for suddenly unavailable troops.

But no.

The feminists wanted women in the military and the pols were eager to pander, hoping to ingratiate themselves to that reputed 51% of the electorate demographic comprised of all the females in the country.

The feminists had their own internal constituencies. There was a small group of military lesbians, the artistes formerly known as ‘mannish lesbians’, and they saw how the rising tide of general feminism might provide just the waves necessary for them to surf over the specific and ‘traditional’ objections to the total participation of females (their kind of females, anyway) in the operational forces; if they could sail over those objections they could do more of the ‘guy stuff’ that they sorta always liked to do. What was not to like?

Then there were the vast amounts of heterosexual females who, as a consequence of assorted feministical initiatives aimed at ‘liberation’ and ‘empowerment’ were going to need steady employment to be single-moms, freed from the hated ‘man’ and the fuddy-duddy constrictions of Marriage and Family and so forth and so on.

The solution was to declare the military to be just another ‘employment’ opportunity (sort of Apple or WalMart with a stricter dress code) where according to various federal regulations and laws ‘discrimination’ based on gender could not be tolerated. And that females – as citizens – had a ‘right to serve’, with no further questions asked or objections raised. That’s the nice thing about ‘rights’: you never have to explain them, and can dismiss any doubts or objections without ever having to refute them or even face them. Neat.

In other words, the feminists treated the military as just another corporate venue – long the territory of the evil patriarchy – which was going to have to buckle under to the feminists’ agenda as those demands were supported by the vote-addled pols.

That the military actually dwelled somewhat in the realm of War’s awful gods, that there were Consequences and Demands exerted by military operations that must be sufficiently addressed or disaster will ensue, that these implacable realities had to be given primacy in any approach to military change … this to the feministicals was ‘thinking too much’, and proof that ‘you just don’t get it’, and clearly a sign of a nothing more than a ‘poor attitude’ (as if nothing but a ‘better attitude’ could turn back the rising waters in a sinking ship).

This is clearly visible in the two most formidable expressions of ‘outrage’: those by the president of NOW and by the four female Senators. Said the NOW president: “It is not up to the United States military to determine when and how often women will become pregnant, or determine whether a women [sic] carries a pregnancy to term or not”.

The first thing to notice about this comment is that it presumes the setting of civilian life in domestic American society. This comment, then, is standard NOW boilerplate that could be issued at any useful juncture as a press release. But even in ‘civilian’ life in this country nowadays there is some question as to just how accurate that assertion is or can be.

Which leads to the second thing to notice: the situation at issue is located in an active battle-zone. Not to put too fine a point on it: the military in this venue most certainly DOES have a right to say a whole lotta stuff about who can do what.

Especially since the females have signed up as volunteers.

But of course, the young females had been led by their feministical ‘liberators’ to believe that military life was nothing more than a government-sponsored job opportunity, or maybe like college only the government pays you to go.

And under no circumstances would the military – any more than any other American employer now that ‘gender’ was a federally-overseen ‘minority – dare to interfere with their ‘liberatedness’ or ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’ or any other such stuff. As is far too prevalent an assumption among younger generations nowadays, the ‘employer’ would fulfill its responsibility to provide a regular check, and the ‘employee’ would follow the Prime Imperative to ‘Be Her/Himself’; any further demands by the employer would constitute ‘oppression’ and prove that the employer ‘just didn’t get it’ and would also lead to ‘discrimination’ complaints.

Thus the feministicals brought their slick playbook and game-plans to the military ‘field’ and figured to mop up just as they were doing everywhere else. They had an eager-to-please Congress, a cooperative media that would do anything either to be ‘liberal’ or to batten on the soap-opera ‘crises’ artfully contrived and fed to them by feministical PR agents.

Their basic scam was: It’s all in how you see it – and you can change how you ‘see’ because there is no reality ‘out there’; there is no What you see out there, but instead only a How you see; so you can ‘get it’ and change How you see and thus change What you see. Or else you can ‘just not get it’ and insist that there are some Whats ‘out there’ that are real on their own, independent of any human (and politically motivated) mind-pictures about them.

So for example, the key that night wasn’t whether the Titanic was sinking; it was how the captain and crew and passengers chose to ‘see’ the events around them, as individuals and as a group (or perhaps as differing and competing groups). Anybody who kept insisting that the ship was filling fast and sinking would be simply ‘stubborn’ and – if he kept blaring out an alarm – ‘shrill’ … truly elite thinkers and those who ‘get it’ remain ‘open’ to all possibilities. So the ship’s deck isn’t really tilting at an increasing angle … everything’s on the level depending on how you hold your head.

You may quickly say that the sinking of a ship is an ‘extreme’ example, and that in ‘normal’ life things are much more ambiguous and complicated. In terms of ‘normal’ life – let’s say land-locked life – that may well be (although the very warp and woof, the fundaments of society and culture in this country, have been wayyyy too manipulated as if they were child’s play-dough, I firmly believe).

BUT that’s precisely my point in this Post. War IS an extreme situation: there are consequences; those consequences can be lethal; those consequences also enjoy an existence and power independent of how any human individual or group wishes to ‘frame’ them; those consequences demand accurate responses to the challenges they pose, often without giving much ‘lead time’ to make decisions.

Now I’d say that the characteristics I have just outlined are also much more active in even ‘land-locked’ and ‘civilian’ life than so-called elite thought has been willing to grant these past 40 Biblical years and more. But for the moment, let’s just stick with this CG and his troops in the war-zone and the military setting. And the ‘outraged’ harrumphing of the usual suspects.

Soldiers have always been held responsible for any action that resulted in the individual becoming hors de combat and that could reasonably be ascribed to individual intent and action. But what hasn’t been widely known is that for decades now females in the Services could get a ‘free pass’ to a discharge at any time if they became pregnant; while a male who – say – shot himself in the foot in the hopes of ‘getting out and going home’ would be charged, the pregnant female – with no questions asked – would be allowed to determine if she were to be given a discharge.

It’s no way to run a railroad – or a military; which perhaps is why the American corporation and certainly the American military are not ‘producing’ much ‘product’, especially in the military setting where that indispensable product is known as ‘victory’.

But the president of NOW, according to the report, is confident that the order would be overturned [which turned out to be almost immediately true] “by an administration for whom the female vote is crucial” … and there you have it. The whole thing is driven primarily by political expediency and pandering, and not by any serious assessment as to whether the ‘demand’ by the feministicals is compatible with the complexity and rather uniquely ‘real’ nature of the difficult world the military has to operate in.

The Letter of the Four Senators demonstrates all this clearly enough: “While we fully understand the demands facing both commanders and service members in Iraq, we believe this policy is deeply misguided and must be immediately rescinded”.

To which the only reasonable response must be something akin to: Phooey.

As outlined in the Post so far, it is clear that the four Senators – and they are hardly the only pols on the Hill to feel this way – either know nothing about the “demands facing commanders and service members” or they don’t want to know.

They do not know and certainly do not “understand” and most certainly do not “appreciate” either the problems besetting commanders facing the ruthless consequences of complex and losing war or the problems bethumping youthful troops, male or female, facing their own military duties with a less-than-fully-mature life preparation.

And the pols never have. This mess has been brewing since the beginning of the feministical full-court press for women in the military that started with the vastly overblown “harassacre” of the Tailhook incident 20 years ago.

The Senators merely bloviate the same grossly inaccurate and insufficient assertions that the feministicals in and around the Beltway have been pumping into the public reservoir for decades: “the threat of criminal sanctions in the case of pregnancy goes far beyond what is needed to maintain good order and discipline”. Apparently not.

For decades the simplistic solution was expressed in the mantra “it’s the command’s responsibility”, meaning that it was the commander’s job to keep mostly youthful males and females apart when thrown into constant close proximity under conditions of either boredom or stunning combat pressure. The ‘kids’ were not to be held responsible; it was the military commander’s job to be mature for them, but without using any sort of restrictive authority that would ‘oppress’ them and interfere with their ‘rights’.

Shrewdly, the Letter of the Four Senators gives utterly no indication of just what magical wisdom they have that the military does not have which will square this intractable circle. They are content to go on public record for their constituent peanut-gallery as being “outraged”; they have no idea what the solution might be, don’t want to know if they have set the military an impossible problem of squaring a circle, and they simply want to gather votes from their press release.

It’s really no wonder the country (let alone the war) is in the condition it’s in now.

If a female joins the military and doesn’t see pregnancy as interfering with her military responsibilities, or doesn’t propose to forego ‘sex’, then just what can be done under present ‘political’ conditions? You can’t assume (or credit claims) that the vast majority of sexual-encounters in the military are ‘rape’ (even as that term is so broadly over-defined now). You can’t simply blame the commanders, although shrewdly, since these ‘men’ are also ‘the troops’ neither NOW or the Four Senators are going to strike up their signature anthem about ‘male sexual violence’.

And so if neither the ‘women’ nor ‘the troops’ can be blamed, the ‘commander’ is the default target.

It is the highest and most treacherous form of duplicity when these four ladies then conclude their brief (and glaringly insubstantial) Letter with the pseudo-intellectual judgment that “the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished simply for conceiving a child” is one that “defies comprehension”.

It is perfectly comprehensible IF We accept that once one has joined the military, then one’s ‘identity’ as ‘service member’ overrides all other ‘identities’ that one might bear. BUT of course, that is precisely the corrosive and fatal problem with Identity Politics: one’s Identity as a member of one’s ‘group’ (racial, ethnic, gender, and so forth and so on) must override all other sub-identities, and that – although the feministicals would rather not be caught saying so on the record – includes one’s volunteered-for identity as service-member and soldier.

The problems are huge. But they are not now nor have ever been unforeseeable.

Even twenty years ago there was a solution, though hardly a perfect one: keep the males and females separate, in all-male or all-female units. In a stroke, the pregnancy (and sexual assault) problems would decrease exponentially.

But that was absolutely opposed by all the feministicals two decades ago.

In part, this was due to the ‘Mainstreaming’ approach to ‘rights’, evidenced with such stunning clarity in New York City’s experiences with public toilet-kiosks: the hugely useful (and needed) public kiosks had worked well in Paris and NYC was going to get them. But then the disabled ‘advocates’ said that since the kiosks could not accommodate the turning radius of a wheelchair, then the City couldn’t get them. This, although less than 4 percent of ‘the disabled’ are wheel-chair bound and the whole population is in need of public rest-rooms. The City sought to compromise by offering to deploy special kiosks: No, said the advocacies, either wheelchairs (made to stand in for all of ‘the disabled’) can use them or you can’t have any at all.

So no kiosks.

Ditto public transit: although all major systems offered a special on-call transport service for those who needed it, the advocacy insisted that ALL buses and trains AND their stations must be capable of handling the occasional wheel-chair passenger; the advocacy insisted on this ‘mainstream’ approach and would accept no special services. And so dozens if not hundreds of billions are still being poured out.

So too here: one proferred conceptual justification was that women were not to be seen as ‘special’ because they had just as much ‘right’ and ‘competence’ for military employment as anybody else (read: males, the only other elses around).

And there were also the rumblings about how the Supreme Court had struck down the Jim Crow South’s “separate but equal” arrangements in public education. Although the question in the military was not whether the ‘minority’ (women) would receive equal treatment but rather whether they could with equal competence, reliability, and ease meet the demands of War and Combat (not simply the demands of ‘patriarchy’, as the feministicals would like to spin the thing).

Thus, the report quotes one woman, Katie Hoit, who deployed the classic little-sister-at-the-breakfast-table name-calling, taunting Cucolo for being so “naïve” as to think that “he can solve the pregnancy problem by banning it”. Well, if it’s a problem, the CG on the scene very well has to deal with it. And if Hoit is correct that ‘banning’ the behavior isn’t going to make it go away, then this is indeed a behavior that cannot be permitted into the already complex and stern equations of field-combat in the first place – if you can’t control this variable, then you can’t let it into the working equation in the first place.

But the feministicals would not permit gender-specific units. I have always thought that beneath the above-mentioned ‘justifications’ there has lain the clear awareness, shrewdly concealed from those who ‘just don’t get it’, that on the whole ‘women’ and ‘females’ could not really carry the load in combat and that any gender-specific unit in any service would rather quickly demonstrate that to all but the most ideologically-blinkered eyes.

So they couldn’t allow it. But they also couldn’t say just WHY they couldn’t allow it.

And here We are today.

This same woman then attempts to deploy the classic feministical gambit of speaking in terms of logic in order to get to an illogical conclusion: “If you can’t enforce the rules already at hand, why attempt to take the next step?”

The CG’s problem is that he can’t actually do what’s really required: get all the females into A) gender separate units, perhaps followed by B) getting them out of the combat zone – though this is hugely difficult in a 4GW setting.

He is faced with a dangerous fire but is not permitted to put water on it, while also not permitted by the Beltway and his truckle-addled military superiors to actually SAY that he is not permitted to put water on it.

So he has tried the next best thing – which is a distant distant ‘next’ though that’s not his fault.

And he has gone out of his way to gild the philosophic pill, laying on compliments to “my female soldiers” with a trowel, larding his comments like frosting on a cheap wedding cake.

But the problem in a nutshell, I would say, is right there in his seemingly rote comment about “female soldiers”: there are two ‘identities’ in that phrase, and the HUGE and PRIMARY question is: which of those two identities takes precedence in the military setting?

No military commanders dare to offer an answer, since their political bosses (and bossettes) refuse to acknowledge that there are indeed two separate (and competing) identities here. LET ALONE would the feministicals care to admit publicly that in their theology the ‘female’ identity ALWAYS trumps any other, including the ‘soldier’ identity.

So the fire burns merrily on because the City Council has refused to allow the Fire Department to use water and also refuses to allow that grossly treacherous fact to be made public.

You can do stuff like that in our modern American reality. And get away with it.

And that has to be most outrageous news of all.


I can’t help but think that the relationship between the feminist agenda (of the Left but certainly not Liberal) and the military-industrial complex (traditionally viewed as of the Right, but not genuinely ‘conservative’) has to be far more complex than We usually notice.

In the feministical dampdream, the military is going to be one of the largest and most reliable ‘employers’ for all of those females ‘liberated’ from ‘men’ and ‘patriarchy’ either by feministical advocacy or by sexual orientation or by both.

But since that is true, then the feministicals are going to need the military to stay in business, and that makes them functional bedfellows (bed-persons ..?) of the military-industrial complex, which exists only because of the size and reliability of the defense budget.

So what is good for the military-industrial complex shall be, by simple operation of the dynamics involved, good for the feministicals.

This means, among other things, that whatever the current military (mis-)adventures, the feministicals will have to ‘spin’ their ‘view’ in such a way as to make their own constituents look good and useful, which cannot be done without making the military operations look good and useful.

And that approach doesn’t hold much promise of the type of accuracy and realism necessary for Us to deploy Our forces wisely in this almost freakishly complex new world. The New World Order of a scant 20 years ago – with the US presiding over a world brushing off the dust of the Soviet implosion – is already passed. The post-9/11 world of Bush 2’s frakkulous strategic grasping and military misadventures on top of a colossal economic collapse has left the US in a far different, and worse, position than it enjoyed less than 20 years ago.

Worse, through the actual success of the fractious objectives of Identity Politics, American society and the American public – the Citizenry and The People – retain only a shadow of their former coherence and strength.

It is no consolation to recall that in 1989 the strategic thinker William S. Lind and several military officers co-authored the study entitled “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation” wherein they listed among the characteristics of a new type of warfare “collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him … targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture”. [Italics mine.]

Given the tremendous (and hardly positive) consequences of then-20 years and now-40 years of ‘culture wars’ that have wracked this nation, any potential enemy’s work in this regard has already been done for him; We did it to Ourselves.

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