Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Asking for readers' insights on this issue . . .

What's up with Islam ?

I came across an article in City-Journal by Ibn Warraq on the use of a highly inaccurate history of the Crusades as a meme for contemporary militant Islam to justify itself.  That's my characterization of his article.  (Ibn Warraq (son of Warraq) is a pseudonym, referring to Muhammad al Warraq, a 9th c. skeptic of Islam.)  He has published several books and is active in defense of Western Civilization.

I have lived nearly two decades of my life in Turkey.  I have seen many faces of Islam.  I have seen fervor and I have seen casual disregard.  I have occasionally seen quiet certainty that Islam will take over the world, but I have never seen anger.  Whatever the peculiarities and extremes of the Turkish national experience since 1922, there has been an accommodation between Islam and the West.  The Turks may welcome or not welcome XXIst Century Consumer Culture, but they do not fall back upon the rationalizations of the rioting, righteous fringe in the process.

Why that should be so is a question for another day - historical and psychological and political, at the very least.  However, without going into a lot of details that could get me fatwa'd, I will make my point:

There seems to exist no mechanism to control the anger and violence of the rioting, righteous fringe.  The entire Muslim world lives in fear of that fringe.  Their imams will not say "no."  Their governments will not say "no."  The western governments have repeatedly refused to say "no."

And, then, pundits pose the question, "Why are there so few voices of moderation in Islam?"  The answer is that they are intimidated into silence.

The al Warraq article mentions, in passing, the excesses of Christian zealotry as an inadequate rationalization for militant Islam.  This prompted the question, "What moderated Christian zealotry?"  I don't know the answer and I wonder whether there is a prospect for some similar moderating influence on contemporary militant Islam.

My initial thought about contemporary Turkey is that there is a long tradition of political control of extremist factions.  The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph, the titular head of Islam.  Kemal Ataturk, who founded the Turkish Republic in 1923, placed severe political controls on Islam and set the Turkish military as the guarantee of that secularism.  Readers' views on this are welcome.

Will readers also, please, suggest what moderated Christian zealotry, in the form of The Inquisition, and other forms – in both Catholicism and Protestantism.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blogging's been light

Blogging has been light while I’ve been doing non- political consulting in Geneva, Istanbul and Manila. What I’m posting today is from notes made during my trip.

I've been working from notes and books I've been reading, so I've been posting "think pieces" mostly.  Please let me know how you enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another Take on the Decline of Empire

Most readers consume a blog from the top (most recent) downward, which rather discourages traditional continuity of thought.  A week ago, I posted several paragraphs on the decline of the Roman Empire, written in 1963 by L. Sprague Decamp – a writer of exceptional imagination who, in 1963, saw no parallel between Rome and the United States.  I found that failure of imagination a telling reflection upon how rapid has been the intellectual decline of the West.

Today, I post a rather long paragraph, written in 1930 by W. Somerset Maugham in a travel book entitled “The Gentleman in the Parlour,” upon the decline of the British Empire.

It is true that should the historian of the Decline and fall of the British Empire come across this book on the shelves of some public library he will have hard things to say of me.  “How can one explain,” he will ask, “that this writer, who in other places showed that he was not devoid of observation, could have gone through so many parts of this Empire and not noticed (for by never a word is it apparent that a suspicion of anything of the sort crossed his mind) with what a nerveless hand the British held the power that their fathers had conquered?  A satirist in his day, was there no matter for his derision in the spectacle of a horde of officials who held their positions only by the force of the guns behind them trying to persuade the races they ruled that they were there only on sufferance?  They offered efficiency to people to whom a hundred others things were of more consequence and sought to justify themselves by the benefits they conferred on people who did not want them.  As if a man in whose house you have forcibly quartered yourself will welcome you any more because you tell him you can run it better than he can!  Did he go through Burma and not see how the British power was tottering because the masters were afraid to rule, did he not meet judges, soldiers, commissioners who had no confidence in themselves and therefore inspired no respect in those they were placed over?  What had happened to the race that had produced Clive, Warren Hastings, and Stamford Raffles, that it must send out to govern its colonies men who were afraid of the authority entrusted to them, men who thought to rule the Oriental by cajolery and submissiveness, by being unobtrusive by pocketing affronts and giving the natives powers they were unfit to use and must inevitably turn against their masters?  But what is a master whose conscience is troubles because he is master?  They prated of efficiency and they did not rule efficiently, for they were filled with an uneasy feeling that they were unfit to rule.  They were sentimentalists.  They wanted the profits of Empire, but would not assume the greatest of its responsibilities, which is power.  But all this, which was staring him in the face, seems to have escaped this writer, and he contented himself with jotting down little incidents of travel, describing his emotions and inventing little stories about the persons he met; he produced a book that can be of no value to the historian, the political economist or the philosopher: it is deservedly forgotten.”

What I take from this is that the British Empire, too, collapsed from losing conviction and confidence.  In a great many instances, colonization was replaced by some variation of totalitarianism and kleptocracy. Former colonial powers or multi-national corporations continue to profit from these former colonies.  Multi-national institutions (United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank) continue to subsidize, enable and attempt to guide the development and governance of these regions. 

I would say that not much has changed, except what category of individual is capable of holding power.  Most of the improvements since Maugham’s time have come from efforts of the former colonial powers (in public health and education), multi-national corporate activities and the imperatives of technological development.  Very little credit can be given to the governments of most of the former colonies for doing more than accepting aid and lining their own pockets.

I would say that the major change from Maugham’s time to our own has been: 1)the re-primitivization of the major powers by decline in civics and education, 2)the  colonization of the major powers by multi-national corporations and domestic vested interests, 3)demographic changes (falling birthrates, longer life spans and immigration), 4)encroachment of government into what was once considered private life (taking the nearly inevitable corruption of government into every aspect of daily life) and 5)the loss of conviction (much as cited by Maugham, above) in the intellectual foundations of the West.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Many years ago, I issued a fatwa on Umberto Eco for his intellectual depravity in writing "The Name of the Rose" and here's an example of why . . .

On July 8, 2009, I posted here a commentary called "The Voodoo Trifecta of Nonsense" in which the interviewee, below, featured prominently.  If you have any doubt about the menace of his intellectual nihilism or wonder why I so dislike Umberto Eco, please read the entire Spiegel interview here.  Or, you can read the excerpt below and get the general idea.

SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco

'We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die'

By Susanne Beyer and Lothar Gorris
Italian novelist and semiotician Umberto Eco, who is curating a new exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, talks to SPIEGEL about the place lists hold in the history of culture, the ways we try to avoid thinking about death and why Google is dangerous for young people.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Eco, you are considered one of the world's great scholars, and now you are opening an exhibition at the Louvre, one of the world's most important museums. The subjects of your exhibition sound a little commonplace, though: the essential nature of lists, poets who list things in their works and painters who accumulate things in their paintings. Why did you choose these subjects?
Umberto Eco: The list is the origin of culture. It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order -- not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. There is an allure to enumerating how many women Don Giovanni slept with: It was 2,063, at least according to Mozart's librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte. We also have completely practical lists -- the shopping list, the will, the menu -- that are also cultural achievements in their own right.
SPIEGEL: Should the cultured person be understood as a custodian looking to impose order on places where chaos prevails?
Eco: The list doesn't destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century. My novels, by the way, are full of lists.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The absolute absence of irony here is what strikes me . . .

The following excerpt is from The Ancient Engineers, by L. Sprague deCamp.  L. Sprague deCamp is known primarily as a writer of science-fiction and science-fantasy - a colleague and contemporary of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.  This book deals with engineering in civilizations prior to the Renaissance.  In this passage, he discusses the decline of the (western) Roman Empire without ever drawing a parallel to modern American history.

This book was published in 1963 and even an author steeped in the use of his imagination, as L. Sprague DeCamp was, could not imagine what follies America would pursue in the 40 years that followed the book's publication.  It is this utter inability to imagine what has transpired that continues to strike me.  It is a measure of the failure - not of the author, so much as the ability of two generations of Americans to appreciate and defend their heritage (with special mention of Senator Ted Kennedy).

beginning on p. 246:

            Some take the view that there was no one cause of Rome’s downfall.  Instead, the Roman government, like every other, was confronted by a series of problems.  For a long time it succeeded in solving them well enough to carry on.  At last, however, as much by luck as anything else, a number of these problems piled up all at once at a time when the Western Empire lacked strong leadership.  The wonder is not that Rome fell but that it managed to keep going so long.
            The principle problem, of course, was the barbarians.  Before +400 their incursions had been only raids, destructive but not fatal.  However, in +406 the Vandals, Suevi, and Alans burst into Gaul and headed for Spain at a time when the emperors of East and West were too busy fighting each other to defend the frontiers.  A few years later the Franks, Burgundians, and others came in, settled, and refused to leave.  Although willing at first to acknowledge the Emperor’s rule, they proved too numerous to absorb and too strong to oust; so it was only a matter of time before they took over the rule of the lands they occupied.
            Another factor in Rome’s fall was that, while the Romans were almost standing still in science and engineering, the barbarians were advancing.  They were learning the roman arts of peace and war, the former by trading contacts and the latter by mercenary service in the armies of Rome.  The arts of peace enabled their lands to support denser populations, while the arts of war made them as formidable, man for man, as the Romans.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nancy Pelosi is many things . . .but stupid isn't one of them.

Nancy Pelosi's determination to bring ObamaCare to a floor vote this Saturday seems to me to be widely misunderstood.  It calls to my mind nothing so much as

Both sides are throwing all their resources into a desperate confrontation, whose outcome cannot be clearly foreseen.  Madame Speaker is clearly mindful of the manifest discontent in the electorate's voting this past Tuesday.  
She will never be in a stronger position 
than she is right now, 
so she is wisely pressing for victory without delay.

Republicans are shouting how she should take note of the Democrats' eroding support.  The  Democrats have duly noted it.  

Hey, GOP, get a clue.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obama White House War with Reality: we report - you decide!

For the Obama White House to go to war with Fox News over ACORN scandals  was bizarre, in that it should have been beneath the purview of the Presidency.

For the Obama White House to go to war with Edmunds, the perennially dorky automobile folks, for their estimate that Cash-for-Clunkers brought in only 125,000 in car sales that would not otherwise have happened (==> $24,000 for each car that would not have otherwise sold) was petty and peevish.  Edmunds did the math.  All the White House did was pout.

Now comes comic calculations of jobs saved and created by the Obama Stimulus, through creative mathematics operating upon raises given to existing federal and Quango staff.

My most favorite excerptAt Southwest Georgia Community Action Council in Moultrie, Ga., director Myrtis Mulkey-Ndawula said she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided. She said she multiplied the 508 employees by 1.84 — the percentage pay raise they received — and came up with 935 jobs saved. "I would say it's confusing at best," she said. "But we followed the instructions we were given."

My least favorite excerpt: Ed DeSeve, who oversees the stimulus at the White House, said the Head Start numbers "represent a few percent of all jobs reported" and said the problems would probably be balanced out by other errors that underreported jobs. So we don't expect any corrections to this data to meaningfully impact the total 640,000 direct jobs," DeSeve said.

I think that these behaviors should be noted.  I think that this blog is an appropriate place to note them.  This is part of American governance at this time and it should be noted and known.

Prior blog entries here have noted that the Obama Administration has concentrated its recovery funds where they will most immediately and directly improve the economic indices, rather than where they will actually promote recovery.  We've also noted that very early in this administration, the economic statistical tables were re-stated back to 1929 in order to dramatize the messianic recovery that has not materialized.

Whether this constitutes paranoid transference, corrupt governance or politics as usual, I leave to others to discern.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Headline: FDIC closes 9 banks in one day . . .Oct. 30, 2009 . . .

What you don't see behind the curtain is . . .

image from FBOP's home page
All banks were owned by FBOP Corp. of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune covered the situation comprehensively here:,0,502486.story

Excerpts: 1) Until recently, Kelly was viewed as a brilliant operator. But he had an abrupt reversal of fortune last year when the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exposed the holding company's large concentration of Fannie and Freddie preferred stock. The company unsuccessfully applied for about $500 million in federal TARP funds

2) The timing was awkward. The government shut down $4.7 billion-asset Park National on the same day that its community development arm, Park National Bank Initiatives, received $50 million from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at a ceremony in Chicago.

3) The Park National shutdown occurred after several Illinois congressmen, including Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis and Sen. Roland Burris, called the FDIC asking it to delay closing the bank for at least a week, said Marilyn Katz, a bank spokeswoman.

4) "At 10 a.m. this morning they were praising them and giving them $50 million, and at 10 p.m. this evening they'll be putting the padlock on the door," Rush said Friday evening. "There is something wrong with this picture: Wall Street wins and Main Street loses."

This story is a clear (in its muddledness) example of how the intermixing of federal interventions and private enterprise conjures tragedy and travesty, when it doesn’t conjure conspiracy and crime.
==> Michael Kelly was seen as a canny operator. He erred in trusting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred stock. The man and his company are ruined because the feds drew their line on the other side of them.
==> The holding company was reported still profitable, but could not meet capital requirements after the quasi-government entities defaulted.
==> FBOP was denied TARP funds. Again, FBOP found itself on the wrong side of the Fed’s line.
==> Intervention by local politicians was insufficient. When you play in these games, you never know.
==> Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s right-hand didn’t know what his left-hand was doing.
==> This company (nine banks) and its sole proprietor, Mike Kelley, foundered in the cross-winds of Washington politics and policy. It did not fail from lending policy. In fact, it did not fail for lack of performing loans. This was and is just a nasty, stinking mess.
==> Under Obama, one immediately wonders whether Mike Kelly didn't put his political support in the wrong place.

More details here:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News for the Blues - Stuff I Couldn't Have Made Up

from Foreign Policy : Theory of International Politics and Zombies  Bureaucrats dialogue while the zombies prevail.

from the National Security Archive: Musicians Seek Secret U.S. Documents on Music-Related Human Rights Abuses at Guantanamo  Artists seek to learn the torture playlists; are they seeking royalties?  Will the guilt of their music having tormented detainees keep them up at (whenever they sleep)?

Marge Simpson is Playboy's November playmate of the month.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rush was Right

Obama's policies fail.  There was never any doubt that they would fail . . .and they have failed.  Rush had the courage of his convictions - of the validity of economics and politics as science.  We should all have the courage of his convictions, rather than permit him to be dismissed as "just an entertainer."  Such a dismissal demeans all humanity.

Wages tumble toward 18-year low  (USA Today)

7 Months After Stimulus 49 of 50 States Have Lost Jobs
(from the House Ways & Means Committee - 2,700,000 jobs lost vs Obama's promise of 3,460,000 to be created by the Stimulus = swing of - 6,160,000 jobs)

What will the electorate learn from this?

Watch how the media slowly turn on Obama, motivated by their very own pocket-book nerves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Satire Becomes Impossible . . . No, No, Not Yet!

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Better now than later. Later it could have been construed as a political statement. Now it is patently absurd - a product of delusion.

Satire becomes impossible, again!
                     Obama wins Kentucky Derby!
                     Obama wins Car of the Year!

The human spirit rises to the occasion and finds satire still possible !


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Did the success of American government policies cause the failure of California?

Will California become America's first failed state?
This very good question was recently asked by The Guardian (UK)>link<.

Indicators (Wikipedia) of a Failed State:

  1. Demographic pressures
  2. Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples
  3. Legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance
  4. Chronic and sustained human flight
  1. Uneven economic development along group lines
  2. Sharp and/or severe economic decline
  1. Criminalization and/or delegitimisation of the state
  2. Progressive deterioration of public services
  3. Widespread violation of human rights
  4. Security apparatus as ‘state within a state’
  5. Rise of factionalised elites
  6. Intervention of other states or external factors
Of course, the article envisioned a sovereign nation but most of these factors can be seen in California. They can be seen almost anywhere. What matters is the pernicious interaction of these factors and a lot of that is present in California. Illegal immigration, La Raza - the irredentist movement agitating that California is part of "Greater Mexico," gang violence and drug trafficking acquire more importance together with the economic and political problems of the host organism - the presumed "real life" of an American state. The flight of businesses and productive families from California is remarkable and unique in the history of the state.

How about the idea that this failure began 30-40 years ago - and was concealed by major global factors.
  1. Illegal immigration providing cheap labor and lower effective tax rates(lower wage and no withholding taxes) for employers. What was the economic effect of upwards of ten million illegal immigrants sending remittances home? What did the availability of this labor do to the legitimate labor market?
  2. Capital flight from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian countries - providing exogenous demand for real estate (residential and commercial) and capital infusion.
How about the idea that the failure of California is partially explained by the success of American policies? What would that tell us?
  1. To whatever extent illegal immigration has been reduced, has life in California been improved by it?
  2. The demand from Asia for California real-estate is now not discernible. It is gone. Has economic and political stability in Asia caused the collapse of real estate in California (and elsewhere in the US)?
  3. Changes in defense spending, reducing one of the major sources of work, investment and innovation in California. Silicon Valley's boom and bust and recovery notwithstanding, California has suffered from closing of military bases and movement of defense spending to other states.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is American Politics REALLY Worse Than Ever ??? -- Part I

I have asked myself this question and now will attempt to answer it. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Is American politics worse than ever? Probably not. Buying votes with cash, coal or whiskey was a long-standing tradition. Crass corruption and trading of favors ("log rolling") were rife and unrepentant - think of the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876 and the Compromise of 1877>link<.

What, if anything, is worse than ever about American politics?
  • Civility - Nah! - There is far more civility in modern politics than there has been since the founding-fathers retired from politics. This is not all to the good. It reflects a pact among incumbents to protect each other - to their own profit and to the detriment of responsive, responsible government.
  • Educational Context - Eh - High-school graduates used to have better education in English and history than college-graduates have today . . .however, a larger percentage of the population has these diminished skills now than at any time except 1940-1980 (when the percentage of high-school graduates crested while educational content declined).
  • Literacy - Hmm - The complexity of public discourse is much simplified, compared to any previous period in American history.
  • Media Behavior  - Simplify, then Exaggerate! has always been the motto of the "yellow" press. Print media have almost always been driven by profit-pressures of advertising, so that radio and, later, television, have only maintained the same set of behaviors - seeking readers/listeners/viewers by whatever means possible.
  • Media Bias - Most metropolitan areas now have only one newspaper. The perspective of most reporting is therefore less challenged and more conformist.
  • Media Technology - The internet as a news source, Facebook, Twitter and Lord-knows-what-comes-next make news more accessible, faster, cheaper and more varied. For some, this makes a wider range of views accessible while, for others, it permits a more narrow, more parochial view.
  • Span of attention - A lifetime of news factoids and commercials has left nearly all of us with impaired powers of attention and critical analysis.
  • Power of Special Interests - $$$ - As long as there has been government, there have been special interests attempting to influence that government. The larger and more powerful the government, the larger and more corrupting the efforts of special interests. Eisenhower warned of the "military-industrial complex" that had developed out of World War II. The subsidies and rules that protect Big Ag and Big Pharm have become part of the fabric of American life. Are special interests worse now than ever . . .or are their resurgence and detriment now more visible?
Some Conclusions:

It is tempting to opine that what is worse than ever about American politics actually the failure of our education system to produce citizens with a sufficient grasp of history, civics and rhetoric - leaving voters prey to all manner of legerdemain.

One might say that American politics is no worse than ever and that our crisis, if there is a crisis, is the lack of a coherent view of the future. Those who lived through the Cold War, the Kennedy & King assassinations, the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War can tell the rest of us about lack of a coherent future. Closer to the truth is the abiding, patent, smarmy conspiracy of politicians to say one thing and do another, yielding lack of coherence the way the circus magician makes the elephant disappear before 20 guys in overalls push the empty box off the stage.

So some things are worse and some things are better and some things are just different. So what?

The answer to "So what?" is in Part II -
to be found at Memetics & Marketing, here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Presidential Legacies - Part II

The historical legacies are like a series of matryoska dolls, going back to the War for Independence. We have to begin somewhere. We’ll begin with Ronnie . . .and save the earlier administrations for a cold winter day when there’s nothing current to think about.
Ronald Reagan was nominated and elected as Governor of California, then the second most populous state (=beaucoup electoral votes), as the then-most-recent neurotic electoral reaction to Kennedy Assasination-Johnson/VietNamChaos-NixonScandal-Ford-CarterMalaise. Ronnie came and the political system seemed to stabilize. He brought a few trusted staff from California and winged the administrative process with whatever GOP talent was around. In his mind, he was President and then he was going home. That’s what he did. If readers can point to any action he took to develop or sustain his policies, or to build GOP leadership, beyond his last day in the White House, please inform us all with a comment.
Geo.H.W.Bush was a different story. He was born to the Washington game. He, his family and the family friends have been in this game since his grandfather's time. He and the folks behind him have been planning and developing talent and making use of every opportunity for more than a hundred years. That’s how H.W. could sit on Naval Observatory Hill for eight years and not go mad. >link here< He put his folks in the Reagan administration when he could and he had a regiment of his own people ready when he took his turn in the White House.
Being clever does not mean being smart. H.W. ran his administration a bit too transparently as his own. His slights and mistakes, large and small, accumulated. Ross Perot’s third party candidacy from the right cost H.W. re-election.
Bill Clinton took a Democratic Presidential nomination that no one else wanted, because the experienced Washington politicians “knew” that H.W. couldn’t be unseated in his re-election bid. Clinton was lucky and smart and canny and won. He didn’t know anything about Washington but he was a quick learner. Hillary was such a shrewish hick that on her first night in the White House she was throwing White House china at Bill – leaving the Secret Service with a novel dilemma of how to protect the POTUS. Good Old Hillary - when in doubt, be a bitch – but is it sexist to observe that men don’t throw china?
Bill was canny and clever and imagined being in power forever. Apart from some awful bits of his wife’s campaign for the Presidential nomination, actually, Bill remains a world power.
BabyBush was waiting. He was also lucky. As I wrote in an earlier post, he won the governorship of Texas through luck. >link< From there, Daddy and his friends just carried him along.
BabyBush and Cheney and Daddy’s team were very “adult” in preparation for BabyBush’s administration. Plans, personnel and appointments were in very good order from the first day of this administration.
Baby Bush and Cheney gave no thought to their legacy. They took no interest in promoting individuals or ideas to perpetuate GOP leadership. They took no interest in establishing an identity for the GOP in the mind of the electorate.
Bad, bad, bad. Both BabyBush and Cheney exploited their opportunities, packed their bags and left. The United States deserved better.
Ask yourself where we would be today, if BabyBush had put the Democrats on the defensive in 2007 with Tort Reform and interstate sales/portability of health insurance, instead of building his library. BabyBush's Bungling in the 2006 Congressional elections is discussed >here<.

Biden was likely an impetuous choice to balance Obama’s youth and inexperience. The media were hilarious in their denial of Biden’s record as a corporate lackey and his well-known gaffe-a-minute behavior. Biden was never intended to be a future Presidential candidate.

Try to imagine what, or who, comes after Obama. To ponder that is to realize how thoroughly Obama consumes the oxygen of the current political process.

The Anointed Won will give no thought to what comes after him, because it doesn't concern him! There is meager consolation that, if he wins a second term, there will be only wreckage for the Democrats to build upon and so, presumably a great opportunity for the GOP. The catch is that the GOP will have to both accept the far-left detritus as a starting point and make some clearly principled distinctions in order to remain a viable political movement. The world will be a far better place if The Anointed Won is weakened in 2010 and defeated in 2012.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The W Legacy . . .the Reagan Legacy and Presidential Legacies, in General

There is a story that, after the inauguration of John Kennedy on January 20, 1961, Dwight Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie, thanked the White Staff, got into their old station-wagon (stuffed with suitcases and souvenirs) and drove home to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I like the idea of the old general and his wife just driving home.

However, legacies are more complex. I'll give away my plot here:
  • Reagan didn't plan for a successor; I don't think he cared, but Daddy Bush was there to pick up the opportunity.
  • Clinton thought he would go on in power forever, in one form or another.
  • Baby Bush didn't plan for a successor; he didn't care, either.
  • Obama came into office thinking he, too, would go on forever; we'll see how he changes when he realizes he won't.
I like Baby Bush for the villain of this particular blog, but you'll have to read
down to find out how and why.

Ike left Richard Nixon in the wings, but between the stuffed ballot boxes in Illinois and Nixon deciding to lose, rather than make a fuss,there was JFK . . .and then the assassination and LBJ's disastrous application of legislative prowess to the executive branch . . .and then Nixon's return, disgrace and resignation, leaving Gerald Ford . . .and then the un-Republican Carter . . .and un-Carter Reagan and his VP, H.W. "Daddy" Bush . . .then the un-Bush Clinton elected because of Perot's third-party candidacy . . .and "Baby" Bush . . .and Obama.

I'm reminded of H.L. Mencken's statement: The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

However, all of this is a digression. Today I am contemplating legacy in terms of staff and leadership. In Biblical terms:
  • Ike begat Dick and Dick begat Ford.
  • JFK begat LBJ.
  • Reagan begat Daddy Bush and Daddy Bush (with an interruption) begat Baby Bush.
The discontinuities here are Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Obama.

Legacies take several forms:
v The received legacy – talent that occupies the upper echelons of an administration
o The non-political appointments of the preceding administrations which are held over. Federal judicial appointments are the clearest example, but there are many.
o The pool of talent of the incoming party, from which political appointments will be made. For example, Dick Cheney was chief of staff for Ford, Secretary of Defense for H.W. (during the 1st Gulf War) before he was BabyBush's Vice President.
v The bequeathed legacy – what is left behind as an administration exits the Executive Branch
o The political talent that is permitted to develop and is bequeathed to future administrations.
o The non-political appointments which are made. Again, judicial appointments and inspectors-general are good examples.
o The identity that the administration and party leave in popular opinion when that administration departs. These days, this is called “branding.” BabyBush's bloated budgets and erratic leadership bequeathed no coherent branding. The Anointed Won's brand is "Change we can believe in," if you can continue to believe it.
o The issues that are dealt with – resolved or kicked far enough down the road that the subsequent administration does not have to confront them, if they choose not to. Examples of this type are difficult to recall.
o The issues that it fails to deal with, which are then passed on to the next administration. Iraq and Iran are two of many examples. Social Security is another.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Untold Story of Geo.H.W.Bush and Ronald Reagan

While it is difficult not to guffaw at this story . . .and to dismiss it as gossip . . .what I am describing was a fundamental dynamic of 12 years of American history - the eight years of the Reagan Presidency and highly formative of the subsequent four years of H.W.'s Presidency. Surely, too, W's impressions of the presidency were affected by his father's experiences.

Geo. H.W.Bush was the son of a senator. He went to Phillips Exeter and Yale. He gave heroic service as a pilot in WWII. He campaigned for the GOP nomination in 1980 and lost to Ronald Reagan. Reagan invited him to be the vice-presidential nominee.

And, they never talked to one another again.

Geo. H.W.Bush was the first Vice President to occupy the new V.P. Residence on Naval Observatory Hill in Georgetown. For eight years, his one sworn duty was to call the White House to see if Ronnie were still breathing . . .and his duties were done.

I'm not a fan of H.W. He had a major role in The Bay of Pigs while he was at the CIA. I suspect that his talents were mostly mediocre and that he successes in life were rewards for reliability and family connections. However, as a pilot myself, I find his war record and his reluctance to exploit his war record for political gain to be impressive.

Regardless, my point here is:

H.W. wasn't ever invited to the White House for eight years, not even invited to the state dinner when Queen Elizabeth II visited the Reagan White House.

Imagine how you would feel, sitting up on that hill for eight years with nothing to do, as Vice President of the United States!

Also, imagine how it felt to be sitting at lunch with some Washington character and get the call that the President had just be shot . . .by the son of the man sitting across from you! Talk about wanting to bury an incident!

Reagan recovers and, still, eventually H.W. becomes President.

I think that a great deal of H.W.'s impetuousness during his single term as President stems from eight years of humiliation.

I also think that the press showed uncharacteristic gentility or altogether characteristic stupidity in failing to comment on Baby Bush's immediate appointment of Daddy's State Department press spokesperson, Margaret Tutwiler, to be ambassador to Morocco (and, later, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs). That's how that family deals with family secrets; all the more reason to respect and sympathize with Barbara Bush - to bear five children and support that man, to live with this sort of thing and have it abetted by her son.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Support Democracy in Iran !!!

I do not know how to support Iranian democracy at this moment. I do know that we must - as a moral imperative, as well as a hope to avoid war soon and a nuclear confrontation sooner or later.

The anecdotal news from Iran is blood-curdling, hard to verify and likely true.
The Obama administration should be doing a lot. The world press should be giving more attention to Iran.

Hillary Clinton should be making big noises here and there's nothing but Bubba bringing back babes from North Korea to a welcome choreographed by LA public-relations firms. The situation in Iran is reminiscent of Bubba's inaction in Bosnia while Muslim women were dying of dehydration tied to beds in Rape Motels.

The details are appalling but ineluctable, making these questions clear and obvious:
  • Why all this silence?
  • What does it cost us to protest these travesties?
  • What does it cost our souls to fail to protest these travesties?