Monday, May 03, 2010

OBAMA AT ANN ARBOR: NICE IDEA BUT

At U/Michigan’s graduation Obama tried to pull off a verrrry complex maneuver: to urge the upcoming generation to get beyond radically polarized politics.

As they used to say: from his mouth to God’s ear.

And it’s encouraging to see the Bully Pulpit used to try to inject some sanity and common sense into what has become a carny midway and – is this insensitive? – a freak show on all sides.

I’ve linked to the text of his 9-page speech here. What I’m going to do is to proceed along the text and make some comments where I think they’re useful.

As it turns out, I’m going to wind up saying things I’ve said before. That’s not because I’m a one-note, but rather because this speech of his actually is trying to address (without admitting too much) some of the genuinely substantive issues that have bethumped the nation for the past several decades. And so have I.

So, without further ado, let’s to it.

“It's just sometimes all you hear in Washington is the clamor of politics. And all that noise can drown out the voices of the people who sent you there.” Well, yes. That’s built into politics. Although in a representative democracy, no matter how insistent the myriad voices, you’ve theoretically got the elected Members of Congress who will listen to all those voices and then distill their content so that a useful deliberation can be conducted there on Capitol Hill. But if the Members lose – or cast off – such a competent political method – for whatever purposes and objectives – then the whole system starts to go wrong in the heart of its machinery.

“We've got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story-- which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make their arguments as outrageous and as incendiary as possible”. And it’s been this way for decades. Suppose that they’ve all realized that it’s more in their interest to distract people with the appearance of action (all the telegenic fireworks) than trying to deliberate, especially if they’re going to try to deliberate about essentially impossible initiatives that – for whatever purposes – they’ve already decided to let loose in the country.

“Now, some of this contentiousness can be attributed to the incredibly difficult moment in which we find ourselves as a nation.” Nice, but toooooo clever, and frankly almost sleazy under the circumstances. This “contentiousness” was injected into the system decades ago, when the Maoist revolutionary Method was wedded to the in-your-face attitude of Boomers who had then gone and become cadres in, among other things, a stunningly corrosive and negative anti-male radical feminism. * In a ‘revolutionary’ approach you are clearly on the side of Good, and since you are working against an entrenched Evil then all stops must be pulled in the effort to subvert and supplant your Evil (pick one: enemy, opposition, rival). Which is hell and gone from any method of a Constitutional, democratic politics.

“The fact is, when you leave here today you will search for work in an economy that is still emerging from the worst crisis since the Great Depression.” Well, this is a verrrry optimistic spin and certainly not yet an established fact. We may very well have not yet bottomed out, so to say the country is “emerging” is kind of premature. And whether, presuming that the country is indeed emerging on the other side of the catastrophe, things will return to the pre-catastrophe levels of affluence and lifestyle is another question altogether.

For that matter, the Beltway may indeed have been the source of a world-historical ‘deconstruction’ of the Western era of world history that surpasses anything dreamed of in the cadres’ philosophy (which, in best Boomer style, assumed that you could perform quick, deep and dangerous heart surgery on the goose that laid the golden eggs without disrupting the egg supply).

“You live in a century where the speed with which jobs and industries move across the globe is forcing America to compete like never before.” This gets neoliberalism off the hook, and the Reagan-Clinton era strategies of collecting their reliable swag from PACs in return for allowing corporations to off-shore the heart of the vast American productive strength, thereby undermining (those white, working, male) unions while deconstructing the ‘quaint’ and ‘oppressive’ macho Industrial culture and its values in favor of more ‘sensitivity’ and – vaporously – more ‘knowledge’.

Which would lead to the reduction of (most of) the Citizenry’s economic future to a short-order serfdom, tending to the whims of a ‘knowledge elite’. Which incidentally permitted a fat fraction of the business-school graduates to earn increasingly huge bonuses simply by proving themselves adept at off-shoring and ‘cutting the fat’ (read: workers) from whatever industries and businesses these red-suspender vampires got their teeth into.

“And as our world grows smaller and more connected, you will live and work with more people who don't look like you or think like you or come from where you do.” This gets ‘diversity’ (a key trope of the cadres) off the hook and justifies its top-heavy frakkeries (there is a goodish insight at the heart of the thing, but then they went and tried to erect it into a philosophy of government and a business plan – oh, and a philosophy of military operations).

Nor is it very enlightening to spin Our economic indenture to Chinese banks and sovereign wealth and Our general status as the world’s largest debtor as mere forms of “connectedness”.

“And all these changes, all these challenges, inevitably cause some tension in the body politic. They make people worry about the future and sometimes they get people riled up.” Again, a sly way to consider the incoherent and profound gambles masquerading as the ‘liberal’ agenda enshrined in the Awful Age 1972-2000 as mere ‘change’ and as ‘keeping up with the times’ – so let’s not look back and Kick Tire because it was all just ‘reforming change’ and at this point Why point fingers?

(Surely you don’t think Obama is avoiding genuine Tire-Kicking of the Bush 2 administrations out of the kindness of his Lincoln-esque heart? He’s trying to get Us out of the habit of Kicking Tire for fear We won’t stop at 2000 but instead will exercise Our theoretically sovereign Citizens’ authority and keep looking even further back. And, face it, while the egregious Bush Gang took the heat for injecting profoundly anti-Constitutional and frankly un-American methods and content into Beltway power, yet it has to be admitted that such power can serve the purposes of any subsequent Administration, especially in some other adumbration of ‘a good cause’.)

And this is also a sly way to dismiss the deep, wide, and profound public unease at both the content and methods of the Awful Age ‘changes’ as merely fuddy-duddy fear of change, and/or as the “backlash” of an entrenched white male patriarchal oppression and so on and so forth fill in the blanks. There was hugely good reason to fear not only the content of many of the Awful Age changes, but also the revolutionary methods by which they were spun and injected into the nation’s politics and laws.

“But I think it's important that we maintain some historic perspective. Since the days of our founding, American politics has never been a particularly nice business. It's always been a little less gentile during times of great change.” Neatly, he again tries for the high ground by trying to urge “historical perspective”. But while American politics has always tended to be bumptious, that bumptiousness took place within a genuinely deliberative and debative (if I may) politics; which was precisely not the revolutionary method of the cadres’ politics, which were to suppress public deliberation (and accurate information) while imposing the agenda on (alas tooooo eager) politicians and press. (And, of course, I hold no brief for the Fox News approach, which is simply the Right’s copycat version of the same manipulative and dishonest ‘spinning’ in place of accurate information.)

And again with the ‘change’ trope, as if that’s all it was.

“There was even a caning once on the floor of the United States Senate -- which I'm happy to say didn't happen while I was there. (Laughter.) It was a few years before. (Laughter)” [audience responses included in the text of the speech] I note this merely to acknowledge a bit of a pleasant surprise. Obama here refers to the caning of Massachusetts Senator William Sumner by North Carolina Representative Preston Brooks on the floor of the Senate in 1856 (it was about slavery, which Rep. Brooks took rather personally). I’m pleasantly surprised to see that anybody in the audience actually got the reference – especially since a large percentage of college grads can’t even place the American Civil War in its proper century, nor name 3 politicians or generals involved in it. But maybe the University, given advance notice, sent out a quickie email to the grads beforehand, so they wouldn’t just sit there scratching their heads when the punch line landed in front of them.

“Moreover, democracy in a nation of more than 300 million people is inherently difficult.” Well, it was difficult in a nation of 180 million in the late Sixties, which was precisely why the cadres and their political enablers didn’t want to waste time with it. Better to pull the wool over the public eyes, impose a stifling and dishonest Political Correctness (the term itself comes from the lexicon of the Leninist playbook), and simply strike a dark bargain between the cadres and the vote-hungry, short-sighted politicians, thereby doing an end-run around The People and deliberation and ‘democratic politics’.

“So before we get too depressed about the current state of our politics, let's remember our history.” Nice, but tooooo nice. Throughout Our history, the differences – and the Content of many of them was substantial and substantive – were tackled through the Method of deliberative and democratic politics. Which is no longer the case, and hasn’t been for about 40 Biblical years. Such that at this point the entire sitting political class has spent its professional political career (don’t get me started) doing something hell and gone from deliberative and democratic politics.

But I really do agree with him: LET’S REMEMBER OUR POLITICAL HISTORY. And, I would add, the Ideals and Methods that lie at its very heart.

… our experiment in democracy has worked better than any form of government on Earth. (Applause.)” Whistling by the graveyard. What made Our “experiment in democracy” work so amazingly – and what constituted the true ‘genius’ of the American tradition and its Founding Vision – has been deconstructed, subverted, undermined, and side-stepped. And has been for so long now that it no longer operates as it did. Or as it should – IF We are to remain heirs to a living American tradition.

Our “democratic politics” is in no better shape than Our world-class productive economy, which – as you may recall – was broken up and shipped all over the planet while We were distracted by the numerous soap-operas that have become the staple of “news” now. Oh, and distracted by the cheap credit and borrowed cash – procured for Us through “the full faith and credit of the United States” that enabled Reagan to burble that it was “morning in America again” and enabled Clinton to pretend that you can indeed gut the goose and still keep the golden eggs coming. The party – be ye not deceived – is so very over.

“On the last day of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was famously asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got -- a republic or a monarchy?" And Franklin gave an answer that's been quoted for ages: He said, ‘A republic, if you can keep it.’ If you can keep it.” [not a typo; Obama repeated Franklin’s punch line for effect] I’m glad this old chestnut made it into the speech. But I’ve been watching pols use it for decades – to the great amusement and flattered feel-good of the crowd – precisely as We have been in the process of not-keeping it.

“Well, for more than 200 years, we have kept it. Through revolution and civil war, our democracy has survived.” And again … We didn’t really keep it through Revolution, since during the Revolution We weren’t formally the United States. But perhaps this is a revealing slip: perhaps Obama is actually thinking of what was indeed ‘revolution’: those cadre-cored revolutionary agitprop Ideas and Methods of the past 40 years.

“Through periods of great social and economic unrest, from civil rights to women's rights, it has allowed us slowly, sometimes painfully, to move towards a more perfect union.” Sooooo much not-so here. The sly effort to cast “women’s rights” – the core agenda of the largest element of the revolutionary radical-feminist cadres for 40 years – as just a continuation of the Black Civil Rights struggle, “so nobly advanced” to 1865, and then left grossly unfinished from about 1876 to 1965. But whereas the country (except the Old South) saw a genuine justice in eradicating in the 1960s Slavery’s nasty offspring, Jim Crow, yet there was no such general consensus about the far more vaporous excitements cobbled together in the minds of radical-feminism (to whom, if you recall my recent Post on Alice Miller, American family life for women and children was the equivalent of being a prisoner in Dachau).

At this point, of course, the exhortation toward a new national historical awareness is most certainly NOT expected to apply to those agitations and their Long March into national policy; rather, the Beltway and the cadres are hoping that an already sorely-bethumped Citizenry, especially those too young to know otherwise, may simply accept their ‘fait accompli’ as ‘the new Normal’. If ‘Titanic’ had taken long enough to sink, perhaps an entire new generation of passengers would have been raised aboard, assuming that it was merely normal that all great ocean liners leaned to starboard 35 degrees and sort of slanted down towards the bow.

Further, the Beltway’s original, awful mistake is here evident: that you can preserve “a more perfect union” simply by attempting to impose your idea of that state of more-perfection, even though you have had to ride rough-shod over the essential dynamics of that perfect-union in order to do it. This is akin to believing that you can impose democracy whether the target community wants it or not.

(And you can see then how lethally a baaaad idea can migrate and mutate to increasingly frakkulous effect in a system such as the Beltway: having tried to impose the end-state of a “more perfect union” upon the Citizenry of the United States (and having deluded themselves into believing that they succeeded), the Beltway best and brightest – no matter what their formal Party affiliation or ideological hue – figured that they could do it to a foreign people (and can you say Iraq War?).

“At a moment when our challenges seem so big and our politics seem so small, how will you keep our democracy alive and vibrant; how will you keep it well in this century?” Nice phrasing and an accurate insight. However the very fact that Our politics are now indeed “so small” is a diagnostic indicator that this democracy of Ours is no longer healthy nor vibrant, and thus the matter of keeping it going is actually far more ominous a challenge than Obama lets on.

Indeed, the Beltway Bear is now so thickly engorged that there is every possibility that its head cannot be extracted from the national milk can – which in any case has been drained dry.

“On the fourth panel of the Jefferson Memorial is a quote I remember reading to my daughters during our first visit there. It says, "I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but...with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times." Well, again, a sly effort to justify the wrack of the past 40 Biblical years by implying that it was all just a marvelous effort at keeping up with the times (and thus of course that if anybody has any doubts about any of it, then they ‘just don’t get it’). For the past 40 years, and from the Left before from the Right, there has been a sustained (and Beltway-enabled) assault on not only the Constitutional ethos but on the very fundaments of democratic politics.

“The democracy designed by Jefferson and the other founders was never intended to solve every problem with a new law or a new program. Having thrown off the tyranny of the British Empire, the first Americans were understandably skeptical of government. And ever since we've held fast to the belief that government doesn't have all the answers, and we have cherished and fiercely defended our individual freedom. That's a strand of our nation's DNA.” Well, again. He’s trying to strike a note of governmental humility by piously bleating, and rightly, that the Framers never intended for government to have every answer. He’s right. But he’s not complete: the Framers were rather convinced that government – on its own initiative and by riding roughshod over the majority of the Citizens – is probably going to come up with some very baaaad answers indeed.

Apparently, as well, We need no longer retain any skepticism about ‘government’ since We are now free of the British Empire. If THAT had indeed been the Framers’ thought, then they would have considered everything hunky-dory after the Brits gave up in 1783. But of course, they didn’t – and thus the marvelous Constitutional instrument and its ethos in 1787.

And if he’s serious – as he damned well should be – about skepticism being part of Our national DNA, then he should know what happens when you mess with the DNA, especially because you precisely want to avoid, muffle, undermine and otherwise disable that skepticism. When you’re pulling off a revolution – the most efficient of the Great Revolutionists of the past century realized – the last thing you want is for folks to be skeptical. Indeed, the massacre in the Katyn forest was carried out by Stalin precisely to ensure that no skeptical leadership would survive to oppose his postwar plans for gobbling that country up.

“ … American democracy has thrived because we have recognized the need for a government that, while limited, can still help us adapt to a changing world.” Sooo true, but the devil is in the details – specifically in just how you define that “limited”. Does anybody really believe that this government now is “limited” in any tolerably safe sense?

For that matter, how can you keep a “limited” government when that government has subscribed hook, line and sinker to the limitless corrosive dynamics of ‘deconstruction’? Once that universally solvent acid is applied liberally to the Constitutional fabric and machinery, then there is no stopping it. It dissolves the limits like acid eating its way through watertight compartments or firewalls.

The combination of revolutionary Method and ‘deconstruction’ has created the conceptual equivalent of The Borg. If resistance is not few-tile (to use the Borg and Picardian pronunciation) then skepticism and widespread deliberation is utterly and absolutely essential. (I see the Beltway, at very best, as those Weimar-era honchos who embraced the upstart Hitler’s dream of becoming Chancellor because – they complacently assured themselves – “We are hiring HIM”. Ja! Within a month, the canny Crapster had eliminated his erstwhile masters and embarked Germany on its date with doom.)

And no small part of the “change” in “changing country” and “changing world” is precisely the strategy to effect the change itself, pushed by its revolutionary advocates and embraced by addled pols who figure that they can without Consequence or even much Effort let slip the Dogs of Deconstruction and yet keep them on a leash.

“But the other strand is the belief that there are some things we can only do together, as one nation -- and that our government must keep pace with the times.” And again. We have done nothing together “as one nation” since about 1968, and in light of the monstrous presumptions about one half of the population – ‘men’ – loudly and frequently asserted by the self-designated cadres of the other half it is utterly impossible to imagine how any sane person could have imagined otherwise. And when you start ticking off the list of further Identities in the Identity Politics bullpen, it’s simply even more incomprehensible how anyone could expect national unity to survive.

Except in those cases where ‘fear’ – of ‘attack’, of ‘evil’ – and the ensuing emotional high of ‘war’ could operate at the most primitive levels. Which would of course let slip within Americans the dogs of primitiveness – as perhaps has become more unspinnably obvious these past years.

And again with this “keeping pace with the times”. This reminds me of McKinley’s diabolically clever strategy of forcing events through his own machinations, and as those schemes had their intended effects, he could then claim “merely to be guided by events”. Thus he forced Spain into a situation where she could not possibly placate his diplomatic demands, and thus he was able to shrug his shoulders, claim that it was Events and History (the Marxist excuse!) and God Himself who was forcing him to start war with Spain and – in fear that Spain would surrender before his occupation army reached the Philippines – grab as “spoils of war” that archipelago and all its peoples, who did indeed greet the Americans as liberators … until they found out that the Americans had come not to liberate them but to occupy them.

Obama is here giving sly voice to the Beltway belief that its will is actually the tide of History and of “the times”; nor must you let yourself think that it was only some neocon whackjob in the Bush 2 Gang who thought that henceforth the Beltway would make history, and the rest of the world’s schmucks could stand by to find out their seating assignments.

“Now, this notion -- this notion, class, hasn't always been partisan. It was the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.” Once again with the shady and selective history. What has been going on since 1968 is not something that the people couldn’t do for themselves; it is something(s) that the people never had a chance to think about (lest perhaps they think it a baaad idea); the government in 1968 and subsequent did not take the part of Lincoln, but of Lenin: it embraced a Vision hell and gone from what the Citizenry might have contemplated, and simply set itself to imposing that vision.

The peculiarly and bathetic American twist was that whereas Lenin saw himself as a revolutionary and no bones about it, the Dems and then the Republicans as they all morphed into the gelatinous and toxic Beltway all tried to convince everybody that they were ‘liberals’ and enablers of an even more genuinely democratic politics than the country had ever had before. And to make it easier to live with themselves, they actually began drinking their own Kool-Aid: they think they are world-historical instances of genuinely democratic liberators, foreign and domestic. Phooey.

And then – again with sly selectivity – he ticks off some stuff that the feds did that nobody else could: the transcontinental (the text says intercontinental, but … that’s the trouble with having kids write your speeches for you) railroad and the land-grant colleges (Lincoln), the national park system (Teddy Roosevelt), the interstate highway system (Eisenhower, who got the idea from Hitler), and – a quick slide-by here – LBJ’s Great Society.

Obama slides by this last one since it’s getting a little too close to those anti-democratic ‘impositions’ in the service of this or that Identity that he would like everybody to accept and fuhgeddabout. Gee, that’s swell!

As for Deconstruction, Multiculturalism, Identity Politics, gender politics, and all their frakkulous spawn … as was said heretofore, so must it be said again: Fuhgeddaboutit.

(You could, if you wanted to, take any standard analysis of Marxist-Leninist praxis, substitute the word ‘gender’ for the word ‘class’ whenever it appears in the text, and have a pretty reliable guidebook as to how the cadres of radical-feminism would go about doing what they were certain they had to do. Do you think that ‘History’s laws’ are going to guarantee the radical-feminist dampdreams and their paradise any more surely than they did the Marxist-Leninists’ dampdreams and the workers’ paradise?)

“But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad.” Sigh. After the past 40 years it’s not hard to see why an awful lot of folks might think that way. Local government at least has a fighting chance of supporting a democratic politics, since at that level the citizens have at least a fighting chance to keep an informed eye on things.**

But the bloated bear of Beltway government – at that distance the voters haven’t got a prayer of penetrating beyond the “fog of government”, that miasm of lies, misdirection, avoidance, secrecy and all the other panoply of the compleat government when it has grown beyond its People. And to the extent that government has now over the decades managed to immunize itself against efficacious public oversight then it has indeed morphed into something inherently baaaaaad.

But then he starts to get kinda edgy – and We should most surely take heed: “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us. We, the people -- (applause.) We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny.” We are indeed rightly conceived of as an army of occupation and invasion by a disconcerting percentage of the world’s peoples.

But here Obama – stunningly, like Goebbels in his Sportpalast Speech of February 1943 – seeks to invite (although only after the fact) the people into accepting responsibility for what has been done in their name. In 1943 in Germany the idea was to create a Blutbund – a bond of blood – between the German people and the Nazi Government; willingly complicit now in the deeds of that Government, then the people too would have a stake in a total war to the ultimate end.

Ach.

Now, after 40 years when this, that, and every other thing has been done in such a way as to sidestep, demean, undermine, deconstruct and otherwise subvert the authority of The People, Obama would very much like Us all to own this bloated Beltway Bear and all its pomps and all its works as Our very own. Engorged on Our last supply of milk, the Bear would now like to hide behind Us.

Oh puhleeeeeeze.

Shrewdly, he doesn’t let that fact stay ‘abstract’: “Government is the police officers who are protecting our communities, and the servicemen and women who are defending us abroad. (Applause.) Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. (Applause.) Government is this extraordinary public university -- a place that's doing lifesaving research, and catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small. (Applause)” Once you get beyond the now discouraging Applause, you realize that this is a stark play for soapish ‘feeling’.

The police may well be invading your home without evidence and depriving you of access to property and even liberty (domestic violence law); the military (don’t let’s get started on the feminists in the military stuff) is occupying and shooting up far more of the world than they are ‘building’; I thought we got rid of national speed-limits because they didn’t work (or is Obama trying to hide the Beltway Bear behind local and State government?); mine safety standards were relaxed as a Beltway sop to PAC-paying corporations as were the oil companies (many recently dead miners and the still bubbling oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico … he’s using these as feel-good examples?); government funding for universities has hugely compromised their independence (on top of the cadres of Correctness, diversity, genderism and all the other –isms, multiculturalist denigration of all things American, and on and on); and they catalyze economic growth merely by adding more hungry mouths to be salaried in the bloated ‘knowledge’ sector – whereas the golden goose of the ‘industrial’ sector is now dead and taken its bankable eggs with it to that golden-goosey Valhalla where it will await rebirth in a country serious enough about its national life to nurture it.

“So, class of 2010, what we should be asking is not whether we need "big government" or a "small government," but how we can create a smarter and better government. (Applause.)” Again with this truly discouraging Applause.

Obama might have headed into the peroration ala JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”. But of course, less than a decade after JFK delivered that ringing call, the Dems – under the leadership of his frakkulent baby brother – had not only abandoned it but turned it upside down.

And it would be that turning of the now-separate Identities in upon themselves, and against each other and against any sense of national commonality, and thus rendering those Identities dependent on the federal government that became one half of the permanent electoral strategy of the national-level pols (the other was selling themselves through PACs to whatever corporations would pay the price of purchase).

And how at this point to create a smarter and better government? Voltaire’s advice – “Ecrasez l’infame!” – is too simplistic. Simplistic impatience – witless or deliberate – has gotten Us into this mess, and as no democratic politics can survive by relying on it, so no democratic politics can be saved or restored by relying on it.

Probably every national pol who has been sitting more than two terms should be turned out forthwith. That will at a stroke undo the Augean honeycomb of pandering, purchased legislation, shallow politics of distraction and appearance to prevent any politics of substance, and the overall stench of an undiselectable nomenklatura that now pervades the entire Federal structure.

To the objection that the nation would lose so much “experience” I would simply say that that experience is so toxically tainted that it cannot be maintained without the acute danger of re-infection.

His second bit of advice: “Now, the second way to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate. (Applause.)” Well, that was mentioned 40 years ago – but the Dems would rather not think back that far … about anything.

Worse, the incivility is itself part of an infantile and primitive politics that was precisely the goal of the Left’s advocates and revolutionaries and the Right’s neocon and fundamentalist world-beaters. You didn’t want a mature democratic politics because then The People would ask questions and take up time and might in the end decide not to give you what you wanted; better to do an end-run around them, buy a vote-or-cash-addled pol or two or ten or hundred, and use the Federal route to sidestep all the pesky ‘local’ venues (called “States” in the Constitution, but that was “quaint” and the times they were a-changing – as the songster sayeth).

So if Obama is recommending a return to a democratic and mature politics (where the Citizen is mature and their common competence is well-practiced and thus mature) … if he is recommending that then he does these grads no service by understating exponentially the magnitude of the task.

And if he is simply recommending ‘civility’ without maturity, then he is looking merely for a Citizenry that resembles nothing so much as the Children of the Corn – and you can’t maintain this Constitutional Republic (or restore it) with Citizens like that.

Sounds nice, but again, more frosting than cake (and the kids needed meat and vegetables in the first place anyway).

NOTES

*As always, when I use the term ‘radical feminism’ I am distinguishing it from moderate feminism. The radical-feminists were the ones who ‘organized’ themselves along the lines of Maoist cadres in order to wage a genuine ‘revolution’ in behalf of their conception of The Right Order of Things, and to do a Long March through the institutions to subvert the vaporous but allegedly sempiternal and ‘hidden’ “patriarchy” which, neatly, was said to have so thoroughly infused all of the structures of Western (and world) civilization since just after (or before) the beginning of recorded human history that any attempt to root it out would require the ‘deconstruction’ of just about every aspect of Western (and American) civilization and culture – which entire programme, however, had to be insistently appreciated not as an assault upon Western and American culture, society, and civilization but rather merely as a ‘liberal reform’ of them. And the Parties – and later the Beltway after their frakkery had melted and fused them into an indistinguishable lump – signed on to all of it.

**For those harboring warm fuzzies for the Framers’ view of either the (necessary but dangerous) “central government” or the (ditto) military, let it be recalled that those learned and wise gentlemen entertained so great a degree of caution towards both that they didn’t even want the military inflicting courtsmartial on troops except in time of actual war.

The text of the 5th Amendment is grammatically as clear and precise as it could be: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger …”

By 1858, a generation that was gearing up for civil war decided that they knew more than the Framers. In Dynes v. Hoover the Supreme Court doubted whether when the Constitution granted Congress the right “to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces” it actually implied that Congress would thereby have the right to deprive citizens of their rights in trial.

But not to seem too wedded to formalities, the Court held that the jurisdiction extended beyond the written articles established by Congress to include any actions traditionally held to be punishable in the service.

The Court, however, carefully avoided the glaring grammatical fact that the 5th amendment phrasing and grammar was clear as a bell in denying the court-martial right in capital or infamous (presumed to mean ‘felony-level’) cases.

In 1866, in Ex Parte Milligan, Lincoln-appointee David Davis opined that “civil law and martial law cannot exist together; the difference is irreconcilable” and that “no graver question was ever considered by this Court”. He admitted that military life has its peculiar “emergencies” and that serving troops give up their right to be tried by civilian courts” (but doesn’t get into whether that could conceivably apply to draftees).

He also observes that the country has no right to expect that it will always be ruled by wise, intelligent, and honest men, “sincerely attached to the principles of the Constitution … Wicked men, ambitious of power, with hatred of liberty and contempt of law, may fill the place once occupied by Washington and Lincoln”.

Both Davis as Chief Justice, and Chase in his Dissent, simply ignore and do not even include the Key Comma in their quotations of the Fifth Amendment; they knew what a bombshell it was and didn’t want to go near it.

In 1895, in Johnson v. Sayre, (the military justice thing has been up before the Court a lot more than its goo-goo eyed supporters would have you believe) the Court simply declared that there were “two ways” of reading the Key Comma (which it admitted did indeed exist): you could read it in such a way that it meant something and that it should be construed by the accepted rules of grammar, or you could read it as merely some odd thing accidentally put in for no real reason at all. Having thus re-written the rules of English grammar (talk about activism!) the Court then proceeded to choose the second way: the Framers just sorta stuck it into the text for laffs. The Framers!

You can follow the checkered legal history of military justice in a couple of Posts I did several years ago here and here. It gives you a stunning idea of how profoundly concerned the Framers were about government (even Constitutional government); how liable it is to slip its leash, and even if you construct so marvelous a machinery as the Constitution you can't be sure it won't be subverted by the dark forces alive in the nature of human beings. And how indeed the government over the course of time made "changes" precisely in some of the most vital areas, and by using reasoning that you could drive a truck (or a 20-mule team) through.

The military's ultimate solution, by the way, grudgingly implemented in 1950 at Harry Truman's insistence, was to borrow Stalin's 1930s idea of promising whatever golden promises you wanted to so long as you owned all the 'players' in the game; your 'wholly owned players' would ensure that your objective in any case was realized, while mouthing the proper pieties.

Thus the 'Grand Jury' equivalent in the military system today is an officer subordinate to the general officer who decided to bring the charges in the first place. The results are, by amazing coinicdence, conviction rates just south of 100% (if you factor in the plea bargains by defendants who know they are doomed to a rigged game to begin with).

"Optimism" is probably not the best approach here.

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2 Comments:

Blogger James said...

Well done. It is really the same speech over and over again. Very 'programmatic.'

4:58 PM  
Blogger publion said...

Nicely put! Once you presume yourself Deputized by God then it’s wayyyyy too easy to let your government indulge itself in the sempiternal predatory governmental vice of masking its engorgements in God’s Will and the ‘benefit’ of its Citizens.

It worked for a while – during the era of mass industrial-age armies of the West when Europeans and Americans could simultaneously overwhelm ‘the natives’ and ‘Christianize’ them (McKinley) or could lustily jump into a war “to end war” (Wilson). But those days are gone (like so much else).

Resistance to Our ‘mission civilisatrice’ is no longer lodged with spears and blowguns and robustly tossed coconut shells, but with weaponry and communications devices and concepts that the West has spread throughout the Third World. And as the Germans discovered twice in a quarter-century, when people choose to resist your invasion and occupation, and are willing to lose their lives to do it, then you aren’t going to have any long-run success (the Brits discovered that here in the later 1700s, by the by).

Americans may do well to watch Warner Brothers marvelous “Casablanca” (1942), and that stunning, tear-bringing scene where the Nazis try singing one of their favorite national songs in Rick’s nightclub and the entire corps or club-goers rise up to sing ‘La Marseillaise’ – only this time … Americans aren’t the club-goers. THIS is what is being done in Our name – and the peoples of the world hold Us responsible.
Take that to prayer.

I am presuming no specific answer or response.

6:52 PM  

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