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The Speech

It's finally getting to him. This feeling emerged while listening to the speech and how it separated those who have deep disagreement with him and those who are "defeatist." This is a typical ploy when the going is tough. And President Bush sounded more a leader than most of the times he speaks in public. When he's off he looks like Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine fame; perhaps they came from the same family tree, I'm not certain.

He's definitely right about this: We're in there and we can't pull out anytime soon. For inflicting this on the American people we think his power should be diminished or, at least, the political party that has supported him through the years should be removed from the scene.

President Bush made it sound rosy enough. He was, at times, convincing. Nothing new was said except he is more contrite now, as long as you aren't defeatist. Heaven help those who are defeatist. They may get their e-mail zapped. As we have said again and again, false pride does not stand in the way of wanting the policy to be successful. If it turns out the way President Bush outlines the situation then he goes up in esteem and his party is safe for the rest of the decade. And who would not want a wonderful, stable democracy in Iraq?

The problem is that President Bush has been played a fool throughout this whole ordeal. The potential allies in Europe bugged out. They have experience in the Middle-East and they watched Bush walk right into a firestorm. And now every group, insurgent or terrorist or, in fact, elected official is simply waiting the day the U.S. leaves the area. Here's what President Bush did not say:

  • Almost literally no one in Iraq fought for their own freedom. Democracy has been handed to them on a silver platter. And we know what happens when something is given to people. It has no meaning or value.
  • The culture has no experience with democracy. It takes years of experience to get the good habits that will prevent the fatal factionalism that Madison and that crew were so worried about.
  • The many who ruthlessly seek power now have the opportunity to do so. Those, in other words, who will steal, kill, lie, bribe, and collude in order to gain and hold onto power.
  • The insurgency can't be stopped until the borders are sealed and the Iraqi police/military force come into their own. And how many of those forces will go over to the insurgency at the first chance? Perhaps more than a few.
  • No one in that region wants a sterling democracy in their backyard.

There are many more reasons. Yet, if the President succeeds in his adventure it will be a truly historic moment.

He tied this to the war on terrorism. Personally I feel no safer with a war raging in Iraq. And I don't believe the terrorists are being killed. I believe they are being trained in combat skills; something their training camps, for all their rope swings and climbing walls, could never provide.

Are there defeatists? Are there people who just hate America and want it to fail? Yes, I believe there are. But, there is also the Socratic need to provide an "opposite view" so that the picture is clearer and people don't descend into the mythology that many tyrannies fall into. The President of the United States, Congress, the Supreme Court and other powerful institutions are criticized precisely so there won't be lethargy in the citizens who are constantly spoon-fed a fabrication. The critic, after all, doesn't have the ability to call up the generals and order an attack. And the critic is doubly-energized in a frightening environment that now exists in the U.S. where citizens are afraid to question the government and obeys it when it says, "Yellow alert, buy duct-tape!"

December 18, 2005

"A Republic may be converted into an aristocracy or oligarchy as well by limiting the number capable of being elected, as the number authorized to elect."
-----James Madison

This is a relevant quote when one ponders on his or her chances of being elected to any local, state, or federal office. It would be a task that would require what only a tiny minority of people have: Charm, good looks, money, no major skeletons in the closet, and a supporting spouse. And we know that some of the most infamous criminals in history possess these very attributes.

The important point, the relevant point that Madison was suggesting is precisely this: If members of the democratic polity feel that they will never have a chance to serve the Republic, then they will either quit on it or slavishly support it like a love-sick puppy. In either case, the Republic falls or we should say, fails, and by the time the people are alert it is too late. Too late. What a horrendous thought at this stage of the game.

And the lack of outrage among the people tells my gut it is too late. The people are busy betting on games, going to Indian casino's, laying down the tracks of treachery for some slight twenty years ago, laughing at life, trying to avoid the confrontation that will make them feel small and dozens of other things. They feel the Republic is not theirs so they have lost interest. And this is much more catastrophic then Iraq.

It's likely that America will start to resemble the Europe that emerged out of the medieval period, after the Crusades. Once Europe was a Power the social relations froze and weren't thawed until the democratic revolutions. And it was much more democratic in those days in this sense: Those in power understood that their power was dependent on the working of all other parts of the society. Now, the powerful have no such illusion. They have no such connection.

That, of course, is only one aspect of it. Many people do run at the lower ends of the Republic. You might even say that the lower ends of the Republic, save it. That would be saying a lot. But, when I see a housewife, for instance, or a middle-class store owner on the city council or on a county board, it makes things seem plausible. Yes, often the housewife or the business owner are indicted for corruption, but more often they are doing the work of the people. A local board or city council can see with their eyes what the problems are. There are too many homeless people or traffic is in gridlock, or sections of the city are dying for lack of money. Most local politicians and people can see, smell, hear, and taste the problems that surround them. How is this possible in a huge nation-state like this?

Since most of the problems at the federal level are too complex for even those elected to high office; especially those elected to high office, we rely on experts and scholars to tell us what is wrong. This is one thing the framers of the Constitution did not foresee. They figured human beings have an instinct to solve problems because everyone lived in close proximity to everyone else. This is hardly the case now and one reason why people, at large, seek some form of community through the internet or television; something, anything to connect them to a representation of the society that claims them. So, on the one hand, incredible mediation at the expert level between the citizen and the politician and on the other huge fabricated communities through which the people are fed an incredible array of pap. This, I would say, is an awful disconnect that results in the corruption of the system as a whole.

Many people assume we live in an oligarchy. Some prefer it as long as their lives are good. But, it will only be a matter of time before the oligarchy lives at the expense of the people and while they have stupendous Roman holidays, the people wallow in a degraded life.

We are still in the habit of comparing our lives with less robust economies and, in fact, "the way they lived in history." This is not the thing to do. A citizen should live in the utter present and compare his life to the richest life and poorest life and see where life connects between them.

December 5, 2005

Politics is an awful green room filled with the moans of the dying. There is no joy there. It is either about stabilizing power or overcoming it. It is a ceaseless battle that we try to subdue in ourselves but see out in front of us like the vision of an ancient army climbing over the hills we have played in as kids. No person of good sense wants President Bush to fail in Iraq. But no person of good sense wants to see his misdeeds go unpunished. And they are punished by taking power away from those who have fostered the policy and who keep claiming the emperor has beautiful raiment.

And so the thing is irrevocable: The Bush Presidency is dead and nothing will revive it, including the sweet ass-kissing types who stumble over their words in defending the man. We are in a period of transition. President Bush is a dead duck. No one believes him. No one listens to him. This is the saddest event a president has to suffer. And yet, even at this late date, we want things to work out.

An administration that starts to resemble the KGB by planting stories in newspapers is shamed from the get-go. And good luck when it tries to retrieve its credibility. I view the present administration as paranoid, ignorant, inexperienced, without any type of leadership. And yet, even now, I want the policy to succeed.

A more reflective question is this: Why have the baby-boomers produced such awful leaders? And it goes back to the excess of the 60's-70's, to the disaffiliation of the time, the alienation, the fear of atomic war, the grotesque visions fostered by dope and loud music, the total turning off to intelligence, "intellect," and the embracing of cult thought, of shadowy mythology and the rest of it.

It's a putrid mess and our fuming intellectuals will not save us. Don't fear taking the heels of the leaders and holding them to the ghastly fires of truth. Only a populist movement enraged by what has happened to the democracy will save it at this late date. And, by the way, the rest of the world is rubbing its hands waiting for our fall. Americans carry around them the fallacy of some type of invincibility but it's a terrible illusion by inexperienced, ignorant people. We must see ourselves as better than we act at the present time.

And what, eventually, happens? The culture experiences a catastrophe that puts it back to square one. The values become bottom-line, there is no or little discretionary income, everything goes back to the beginning. And then there is building upward, over time, through very tough times and it disciplines one generation and fosters the resentment of the next generation. It's an archetype for a democracy that can not afford to have the barbarism, ignorance, alienation that this one is currently carrying.

What one doesn't want to lose is the beautiful foundation of the culture: The belief in options, in new horizons, new visions, outrageous ideas and imagination that will help seed the future.

We are the oldest democracy; but we are the newest one as well when we learn with every new generation that democracy fosters great aspiration in new people, on the Earth for the first time. Much of the filthy past slides from them and they see a magnificence that can be theirs.

December 1, 2005

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Previous Events:

Post-election 2004

Election 2004

On Political Culture

On the Debates

War on Terrorism

The California Recall

The Progressive Era

What is a perfect President?

On Political Culture

On JFK Assassination

The Clinton Bubble

The state of things


Affirmative Action

Liberals and Nuders

The Trent Lott Affair

Why the Democrats are in Trouble

The Uncertain Decade

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