By Professor John Frary • April 7th, 2014 •
Orlando Figes, a well-regarded British specialist in modern Russian history, published The Crimean War: A History in 2010. It contains information relevant to the current crisis which has been neglected. Having seen no reference to this information in the essays and columns by sages and prophets infinitely more qualified than myself, I feel an urge to pass this information on.
Four years ago Figes concluded that “The loss of the Crimea has been a severe blow to the Russians, already suffering a loss of national pride after the collapse of the Soviet Empire.” Here’s some background to this observation. For reasons unknown to me General Secretary Khrushchev transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR in 1954. That was not particularly relevant as long as Ukrainian SSR was a Moscow puppet, but the disintegration of the USSR and Ukrainian independence meant that the region passed outside Russian control. To convey the significance of this Figes quotes a passage from a poem by a nationalist poet:
“On the ruins of our superpower
There is a major paradox of history
Sevastopol—the city of Russian glory—
Is...outside of Russian territory.”
The poet’s reference is to The City of Russian Glory: Sevastopol in 1854-55, by Evgeny Tarle, a leading historian of the Soviet era. The book was published to celebrate the centenary of the siege of Sevastopol by the French, British, Turks, and Sardinians. Tarle’s book “...glorified the patriotic courage and resilience of the Russian people led and inspired by the example of such heroic leaders as [admirals] Nakhimov and Kornilov, who laid down their lives for the defense of Russia against the ‘imperialist aggression’ of the Western Powers..”
Figes tells us that “Pride in the heroes of Sevastopol, the ‘city of Russian glory’ remains an important of national identity In August 2006 the remains of 14 Russian infantrymen from the Vladimir and Kazan regiments were discovered on the site of the Battle of Alma along with their knapsacks, canteens and crucifixes. The bones were reburied with military honors and there were plans to erect a chapel on the site.
“Memories of the Crimean War continue to stir profound feelings of Russian pride and resentment of the West. In 2006 a conference on the Crimean War was organized by the Centre of National Glory of Russia with the support of Vladmir Putin’s Presidential Administration and the ministries of Education and Defense. The conclusion of the conference, issued by its organizers in a press release, was that the war should not be seen as a defeat for Russia, but as a moral and religious victory, a national act of sacrifice in a just war; Russians should honour the authoritarian example of Nicholas I, a Tsar unfairly derided by the liberal intelligentsia for standing up against the West in the defence of his country’s interests.”
In the nineteenth century Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855) was the ultimate symbol of tsarist despotism among the liberals in Russia and the West. He was the “gendarme of Europe” ready to intervene with military force against any popular uprising anywhere. He was no “friend of the Jews.” He stood as a perfect symbol of the reactionary regime destroyed by the Bolshevik revolution. Nicholas I’s portrait now hangs in the antechamber of Putin’s office.
This is what Orlando Figes wrote in 2010: “Nationalists have actively campaigned for the Crimea to return to Russia, not least the nationalists in Sevastopol itself, which remains an ethnic Russian town.”
There’s plenty of grounds for guessing that Putin’s Crimean annexation is motivated primarily by domestic politics rather than foreign policy advantage. If this is correct, it’s reasonable to guess that the American and European responses have only enhanced his popularity among the nationalists.
Readers interested in National Glory of Russia center can find it at www.cnsr.ru/projects.php?id=10. One item that caught my eye is a photo from November 2003 captioned: “ Members of the Board of the Center of National Glory of Russia await the arrival of Lyndon LaRouche, a distinguished U.S. economist. Left to right: A. Melnik, President of the Center; V. Yakunin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; A. Volodin, Professor at the Moscow State University; O. Atkov, cosmonaut, Hero of the Soviet Union.”
The site’s summary of the distinguished economist’s distinction: “Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. is an eminent US economist. Born on September, 8, 1922 in Rochester, NH. His father was a light industry technician and advisor on footwear production in a major corporation on footwear production. Mr. LaRouche graduated from public schools in Rochester and Linn, then from the Boston North-Eastern University, interrupted for military service, and afterwards got fixed up in a job at his father’s corporation. In 1994 he was elected member of the Moscow Universal Ecological Academy. Married twice. His present spouse (since 1977) Helga Zepp LaRouche was born in Germany and now lives in Virginia.”
“In 1971 Mr. LaRouche founded an international news bureau known as “New Solidarity”. He is co-founder of several US influential economic associations. He participated in the US delegation at Gorbachev-Regan 1982-1983 negotiations over Strategic Defense Initiative. In 1988 he predicted the inevitable collapse of Soviet economic system. Today he predicts collapse of the world finance system, at least in the form in which it exists today. The potential for escaping the crisis he sees in Eurasia, and, above all in Russia. His estimation of President Putin’s foreign policy is strongly positive; Mr. LaRouche welcomes President’s wish cooperate with Asian countries.”
“He actively criticizes George Bush Jr., calling the American financial system “a global nightmare”.
“He was a Member of Congress from Virginia, where he has been living since 1983. Presently he is taking an active part in Presidential elections.”
Tsar Nicolas, Vladamir Putin and Lyndon LaRouche conjoined. I'll have to think that one through :-)
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PROGRESS FOR NEW YORK, VORSCHADENFREUDE FOR JOHN FRARY
“Schadenfreude ist die beste Freude.”—Austrian adage.
I’d argue that Vorschadenfreude is besser still and I speak as a man who anticipates a banquet of this sinister but delectable sensation in New York City, even as these words scroll across the screen.
Before we get into the treats we can anticipate; let us be clear that Bill de Blasio sees himself as the Duce, not the Fuehrer, of New York’s Progressive Revolution. He may have been born Warren Wilhelm in 1961 but he shed his Warreness and Wilhelmheit long ago and now glories in his Billity and Blasiocity, especially the latter. His inaugural speech praised New York as the “the city to which my grandparents were welcomed from the hills of Southern Italy.” He spoke glowingly of “all my family assembled today -- from all around this country, and from Italy.” Either he had no paternal grandparents (a biological mystery) or New York doesn’t welcome Krauts. That question awaits clarification.
Herr Wilhelm recognized that “a city government‘s first duties: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean; to ensure that those who live here and those who visit can get where they need to go in all five boroughs.” but nobody in New York or anywhere else in the country is looking forward to dazzling displays of executive efficiency and economical administration. Back in September the New Yorker noticed that the Democratic nominee “had little in the way of real management experience”(i.e., a teensy, tiny itsy bitsy teenie weenie microscopic management history.)
Warren will preside over a $70 billion budget and a workforce of 300,000. We all understand that garbage collection and snow removal are boring. Progressive opinion is not galvanized by the prospect of New York’s subways running on time. Social and economic revolutions are what revs their engines. Still, revolutions ain’t what they used to be. Lenin’s little fracas swept away the entire tsarist “Table of Ranks", the 85,000 bureaucrats that high army officers that ran Russia. Herr Wilhelm’s Progressive Neue Ordnung will leave 99.08% of New York’s municipal workforce in place, and 99% completely undisturbed.
While the advent of the de Blasio regime excites progressives as a harbinger of a national liberal revival, reactionaries contentedly contemplate the prospect of a plodding, ossified, municipal apparat serving itself and neglecting the public. Early signs of incompetence have been encouraging. The New York Times noticed this problem on March 6 when it admitted ”Mr. de Blasio’s first two months in office have in some sense been marked by frustration and disillusion...among certain progressives who have seen their worries that he would be a weak manager confirmed.”
The NYT’s March 6 essay, entitled “How de Blasio’s Narrative Got Hijacked,” labored to ameliorate the effects of deBla’s first two months of wallowing and blundering by offering a variety of more or less plausible excuses.
Reactionaries (e.g., Me) already savoring the delicate pleasures of Vorschandenfreude can only be pleased by the column’s final paragraph: “But faith in political figures is also circumscribed by history, or the commonly held understanding of it. Mr. de Blasio has become a national political symbol of what progressive governance might or might not be able to accomplish in a city where, during the past half-century, progressive mayors — John V. Lindsay, David N. Dinkins — are widely believed to have failed. On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories.”
“Widely believed” is good and “On top of everything else, there’s the strain of countless memories” is even better. Those countless memories (a.k.a. actual experience, a.k.a, facts, a.k.a. reality) have repeatedly and relentlessly laid waste the Progressive narrative and blighted Progressive dreams.
“Municipal socialism” in the U.K. and U.S. once referred to administrations that overcame corrupt political machines, cleared slums, improved public services, and made the sewers run on time. De Blasio’s municipal socialism has grander aspirations. It aims “to put an end to economic and social inequalities.” It points “to a new progressive direction in New York.” It promises to tax the rich, close gaps, up-jerk the undertrodden, and transform lives. He will expand the Paid Sick Leave law to include 300,000 more New Yorkers “because no one should be forced to lose a day‘s pay, or even a week‘s pay, simply because illness strikes.” He’s going to require big developers to build more affordable housing; stem the tide of hospital closures.
These parts of his program avoid tax increases by imposing costs on private businesses. The key to Bill’s egalitarian vision, however, is a tax increase on the rich to fund cradle-to-kindergarten education. You see, on the one hand you lower the incomes of the rich a tad closer to the middle class while on the other gather the whelps of inadequate or negligent parents into day-care camps and transform them so they enter regular grade school raring to go and all set to rise to the middle class through a government-induced fervor for educational advancement.
None of this will happen of course, hence the Vorschadenfreude induced by progressive expectations. Governor Cuomo claims the state can fund pre-K without any tax increases, de Blasio promises to push to raise taxes anyway. Presumably he aims for the leveling effect.
Cuomo had already acknowledged the revenue loss to his state owing to millionaire migration but de Blasio seems unaware that millionaires own stretch limousines, personal jets, and yachts, which will enable them to drive, fly or sail away from New York City at will.
Vorschadenfreude aside, we mustn’t overlook the New York Times’ acknowledgment of “frustration and disillusion among centrist Democrats” This seems to imply that the de Blasionics are extremist. If you are not “centrist” what else could you be?
If the approval ratings for this progressive/populist// buffoonist are in a free-fall after two months what can we look forward to four years from now—assuming he has not long since fled to Cuba?
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014, PART II
Bill di Blasio’s election as mayor of New York provides connoisseur of imbecility with a banquet of Lucullan proportions, far exceeding the light snacks provided by savoring the hi-jinks discussed in Part I.
Progressives welcome this hopeful harbinger of liberal revival, while observers in full possession of their mental faculties wonder how a secular preacher with two years’ managerial experience will direct a workforce of 300,000 with a budget of $70 billion. Since the polls point to a declining public trust in the government’s competence and mounting dissatisfaction with Obamacare’s operations, you might have thought that a demonstration of simple managerial competence would be a necessary part of any liberal revival.
Apart from his two years leading a small executive staff as Regional Director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey and taking part in outreach to residents of substandard housing the new mayor has worked as a political organizer at the Quixote Center in Maryland; engaged in unknown activities on behalf of a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America; labored as an aide to famously ineffective Mayor David Dinkins, served as a member of a Community School Board, managed Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign in 2000, sat as a New York City Councilman from 2001 to 2009; and became the New York public advocate 2009. Bill’s accomplishments between 2001 and his move to Gracie Mansion are a closely held secret, revealed on a strict need-to-know basis.
It should be plain that unless he fills all the important positions with Bloomberg hold-overs or Giuliani re-treads New York City faces four years of administrative bungling and financial crises. We can’t criticize the commentariat’s neglect of this prospect too harshly. No one expects managerial competence from America’s political CEOs. All the same, it should have shown a little more awareness that the mayor’s office has a lot more to do with collecting garbage than with designing social revolutions.
Mean-spirited reactionaries (that’d be me) can look forward to more than liberal municipal disasters from the Di Blasio phenomenon. He promises to become a masterpiece of parodic performance art. He has had three legal names: Warren Wilhelm Jr., Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm and now Bill de Blasio. The political improvement is pretty clear. Warren is distressingly WASPish. Wilhelm is a bit too German for a city with a tiny German presence, and some of Al Sharpton’s followers might think they detect a Yiddish sound.
In 1994 he married an Afromerican. Better yet he married an Afromerican Lesbian. This twofer could not have been easy, especially since sexual identify is genetic and only bigots think it has a voluntary dimension. Anyway it seems to have yielded significant political benefits. We read that his son so impressed New York’s more imbecilic voters with an “Afro” that makes his head look as if it’s exploding that the campaign took off with the slogan “Go With the ‘Fro!”
That slogan rather obscures his political roots. A September 2013 New York Times report found that Hizzoner returned from Nicaragua in 1988 “with a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.” In 1990 he told a Nicaragua Solidarity Network meeting that his vision of society was. “Democratic socialism.” When pressed during his mayoral campaign about the quote he dismissed it: “That’s not a quote from me, that’s someone’s notes.” The Times replied that “The notes were, in fact, written by him; a copy is kept at the New York University archives and was reviewed by the Times.” Cornered he explained that “...it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the values that I have put forward I think have been consistent over the last quarter-century or more.”
The thing that’s especially interesting about Bill de Blasio ’s socialist self-identification is the number of liberals who decline to make a distinction between liberalism and socialism. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz described the mayor as “one of the nation’s most liberal elected officials” who “delivered an unabashedly progressive inaugural speech” adding that “It was the kind of speech not often heard in national politics since Bill Clinton redefined the Democratic Party as New Democrats.” Liberal witnesses seem committed to the words “liberal” and “progressive” when describing the man, yet they decline to explicitly equate liberalism with socialism. Most grow indignant when Tea Partyers call Great Obama a socialist.
The question grows more vexed when we witness Bill C. officiating at Bill de B’s inauguration. Clinton, after all, is supposed to be the very image and model of a moderate, pragmatic Democrat; hardly a liberal at all and certainly not a socialist.
While we wait—patiently, patiently—for an explanation of this puzzle we must consider what kind of socialist Warren/Bill aspires to become. Apparently not one like François Hollande. Although he has never made this explicit we have reason to believe he prefers socialists with military uniforms, censorship, secret police, prison camps, bogus elections and mass expulsion of uncooperative citizens. Apparently it does no harm it they hate America and capitalism. We come to this bold inference from the fact that de Blasio honeymooned in Cuba in 1994 and joined a Sandinista support group.
Does Bill approve of socialists like Carlos Franqui and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who began by supporting Fidel and ended in exile along with ten percent of the whole Cuban population? No way to know if he has even heard of them, or has any desire to hear of them.
We don’t expect Bill de B to don fatigues and take the title Commandante, but what should we expect? His inauguration address included this line: “Let me be clear: When I said I would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” This seems clear until you subject the passage to a close reading. It may mean that he plans to take dead aim at A Tale of Two Cities, the Charles Dickens novel. It’s hard to make sense of the use of the noun “tale” otherwise.
Never mind the pedantic objections, this “unapologetic liberal” pledges to raise taxes on the rich to fund pre-school education, expand affordable housing, and end the"stop and frisk" searches in high-crime areas, and Ray Kelly as police chief. He expects these steps to reduce inequality by making the rich less rich; yank up the down trodden by transforming their whelps before age five, expand the government’s successes as Landlord (Landlady? Landlordy?); and stop pretending that Afromerican juveniles are more likely to pack firearms than Chinese students or Hasidic rabbis.
The Revolution has begun with a promise to ban New York City's iconic horse-drawn carriages and advances with bungled snow-removal on the Upper East Side. If Cuomo allows him to raise taxes on the rich significantly the rascals will climb into their stretch limousines, their private jets, their yachts and drive, fly, or sail away. The pre-kindergarten education will become another public education flop. The affordable housing will turn into instaslums. Crime will increase. The horses, lacking pensions, will meet their ends at the slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico after the modest businesses of their owners have been destroyed.
All this and more will prepare the way for another liberal revival, after the brief interval required for progressives to forget their past failures.
THE AXIS OF IMBECILITY IN 2014 PART I
I don’t have the actual figures but I readily concede that Elizabeth Warren, PhD, Wendy Davis, JD, and Bill De Blasio, MA all scored somewhere north of 85 on their IQ tests. The imbecility of which I speak is an attribute of their fans. How else to explain their enthusiasm for the former Cherokee, former German-American, and former Republican brunette whose respective goofy mendacities are displayed in giant flashing neon letters for all to see?
Seriously goofy. Even if we accept Senator Warren’s claim that she is, or believes she is, 1/330th, or 1/16th or a quarter Cherokee, what of that? I’m told I’m one sixteenth Norwegian but I don’t have a single Norse attribute, apart from coloring. I don’t crave herring. I prefer fedoras or homburgs to horned helmets. I’ve never dreamed of sailing up the Kennebec in a long boat to plunder Waterville and molest the Colby co-eds. Oddly, my coloring is closer to Senator Warren’s than it is to any full-blood Cherokee I’ve ever seen. Yet she persistently claimed a biological heritage without any anthropologically significant cultural attribute. It is widely assumed among Howie Carr’s listeners and other malicious right-wingers that she claimed Cherokeeness for a diversitarian employment advantage.
It’s difficult to prove motive without confession, but since there’s no solid evidence that a fuzzy feeling of Indianity improves a professor’s legal or economic insight we are entitled to wonder why she felt the need to feel Indian in the first place.
We can ask the same question about her now-forgotten claim to having been the intellectual fairy godmother of the now-forgotten Occupy Wall Street blisters. Apart from the plain fact that the OWSers’ inspiration actually came from a gang of neo-neo-neo-quasi-semi-demi- Marxoid cranks and crackpots identified with Adbusters magazine up in Canada, why would a Harvard professor want to identify herself with a rabble of public nuisances?
Warren’s lively imagination is not confined to speculating about the deeper meaning of ancestral cheekbones, she also hears voices inaudible to lesser mortals, e.g. “We have heard the claim that our country’s future must be one of narrowing opportunities, a world in which those who are born into wealth do well but those born in poverty have little chance to escape …” She did not disclose where she heard this claim and no one has been able to supply a citation.
The professor’s attentiveness to voices in the air is more than an inclination. It’s a settled habit. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 she informed the faithful “The Republican vision is clear: ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In a July 2012 e-mail she explained that “The Republicans have given their vision about how we build the future. They said, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” In 2013 she told the Senate Banking Committee that the “In other words, [the Republican] vision is, ‘I got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” She seemed to have kind of corrected herself on the senate floor when she told those present that “We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, ‘I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.’ ” But last month she went back to her vision of a Republican vision invisible to Republicans when she told an audience of public sector unionists that “The Republican vision is, ‘I’ve got mine and the rest of you are on your own.’ ”
Howie Carr, who collected these quotes, has never heard any Republican say anything like this and neither have I. Nor has anyone. All this may reveal a disordered and deluded mind in need of treatment; or it may show a populist professor pitching blather to the rabble in the union halls and faculty lounges. Either way it is evidence of imbecility among the enthusiasts who yearn for a President Elizabeth Warren.
We are not surprised to learn that Sen Wendy Davis joined Senator Warren as a guest speaker at a recent Democracy Alliance Walpurgisnacht. Davis as the Great Blonde Hope of forlorn Texas liberals, ardent feminists everywhere, and the Democratic Governor’s Association. In March 2013, she announced her intention to run for re-election to the Texas Senate. On June 25 she leapt to national fame and became a feminist hero by filibustering an abortion bill. On October 3, with promises of money and support flowing in, she announced her run for governor of Texas. As Sen. George Washington Plunkett would have said: “she seen her opportunities and she took ‘em.”
Depending on who you read, Windy Wendy attempted to block legislation “that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion mills to meet the health and safety standards of hospitals, and ensure that the physicians in charge of abortion clinics have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; OR she simply “filibustered against abortion regulations.”
Never mind that the filibuster failed. Never mind that the law passed and survived judicial review. Windy’s achievement still stands: the woman gassed steadily away for eleven hours, making her a heroine to our national media. Add her compelling personal story (as summarized by Time and cited by Ann Coulter): “an absent father, a sixth-grade-educated mother, a teen pregnancy, followed by life as a single mom in a mobile home, then community college and, at last, Harvard Law School" and she becomes a candidate for governor. As she told NBC “I’m a Texas success story. I am the epitome of hard work and optimism.”
Her dramatic story shortly began to appear “a little more complicated”. She wasn’t really a teenager when she parted from her first husband. Her trailer park residence lasted a few months. Her Harvard education was financed by a second husband, whom she left as soon as he paid off the last of her college debt. Her voluntary surrender of her children to her second husband’s custody marred her single-mother drama. Ann Coulter reacted to these revelations like Belisarius’s Hunnic mercenaries who felt “the gods had served up a feast for their pleasure.” when they came upon a straggling band of tired, undisciplined Vandal tribesmen.
The right-wing blonde terrorist summarized the fibs and lacunae in the Windy Saga and concluded that the feminist heroine’s second husband, Jeff Davis, “should run for governor! He's the one who raised two kids, including a stepdaughter, while holding down a job and paying for his wife's law school. There's a hard-luck story!”
Even so, a “gilded and frescoed” resume is neither novel nor particularly scandalous. Such “improvements” are an established American custom, although it’s puzzling when a politician does it since his or her resume invites far more scrutiny than the layman’s little lies. Coulter makes a persuasive argument that Jeff’s conduct deserves more praise than Wendy’s, but the woman does not make an idle boast in saying “I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I've been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance.”
Wendy’s behavior as a gubernatorial aspirant, however, is not characterized by hard work and perseverance. It throbs and pulses with evasions and mendacities so flapdoodlious that she may be seen as the epitome of a reptilian politician. Faced with questions about her personal drama she first plays the bold up-front Texas gal: “You’re damn right it’s a true story.” Next, she forbids Republican cads to speak of the same personal life which she made her principal political pitch. Finally, she allows that “My language should have been tighter”
I need hardly say all the errors or misrepresentations in her life story were deliberately contrived to make it more striking. None of her mis-speakings (mis-spokage?) made it less dramatic. She had a pretty good story, but over-egged the pudding and then fell into it.
And on it goes. Having made her name and fame as an abortion advocate, she now avoids the subject as much as possible. She wants those “Mexican” votes, but the “Tex-Mex” voters don’t necessarily want abortion. When television anchorman Jorge Ramos asked Davis “When does life start? When does a human being become one?” She replied, without answering: “You know, the Supreme Court of course has answered this decision, in terms of what our protections are.”
“Answered this decision?” What on earth does that mean?
As a state senator from Fort Worth Davis tried to ban gun shows from municipal property. As a state-wide candidate she aspires to be the first Democrat elected governor of Texas in a generation to expand gun rights. And to drive the point home she appears at a rally holding a shotgun with same ease and familiarity as Mike Dukakis once showed as a tank commander.
She launches her campaign by telling the world that she is with eight-square and 400-percent in favor of lavishing more money on education, then vows that she will veto a state income tax to pay for public schools.
It will get worse, until nothing will be left of her campaign but a vacant pair of red sneakers. Her most devoted fans will remain true to her until the end and then forget she ever existed.
The next object of our investigation will be Warren Wilhelm Jr.
WINDY DAVIS - A CLASSIC IN WEIRDNESS
BRISTOL PALIN TWEET: “Gosh, children are sooo inconvenient, huh? I’m glad my mother didn’t put motherhood on the shelf when she was elected to City Council, then became our mayor, then governor. I know you would rather think about Wendy Davis, so let’s get back to her. She’s more your type of woman. She left her kid, husband, made it into a false ‘made-for-tv-movie-type tale’ and then demanded that Texans have the right to kill babies. That’s the woman you libs can really get behind!”
WENDY RESPONDS IN AN INTERVIEW: “I think there obviously is a threat that people across Texas are connecting with me and connecting with the reality of my life story. With all due respect to Ms. Palin, of course, nothing that was said in that tweet is true. I’m very proud of the mother I have been to my daughters. I have always been and will always be the most important female in their lives. They are the most important thing to me and I’m very proud I’ve been able to be a role model, a friend, a mother to these two beautiful girls I’ve raised.”
1) She was a good mother up to the day she decided to turn them over to her second husband.
2) There being no step-mother, it follows that she was the most important female in their lives.
3) Surely, not as important as her career. Otherwise, why ditch 'em?
4) A role model? Does she mean abortion or abandonment for their children?
5) She turned them over to her husband to raise!
6) She called her daughters “thing(s)” :-) Oh well.
Here's a better grade of Texan: Francis Augustus Hamer (March 17, 1884 – July 10, 1955) was a Texas Ranger, known in popular culture for his involvement in tracking down and killing the criminal duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934. In a career that spanned the last days of the Wild West well into the automobile age, Hamer acquired legendary status in the Southwest as the archetypal Texas Ranger. He is an inductee to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame.
Hamer fought in nearly 100 gunfights during his career as a lawmen in the Southwest and is reputed to have killed fifty-three men. He was also wounded in action seventeen times and left for dead four times. J. Edgar Hoover rated Hamer as being "one of the greatest law officers in American history." Furthermore, several Texas governors regarded him as "the best, most fearless and most effective peace officer Texas has ever known."
No word on whether he ever wore red shoes.
THE INFAMOUS EFFING F-WORD AND A MAN WITH A MISSION
By Professor John Frary • January 8th, 2014 •
“Variety,” the entertainment weekly recently reported that the dialogue in Martin Scorsese’s new film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” employed the infamous F-word 506 times, exceeding the total in Spike Lee’s 1999 “Summer of Sam” by 71 blurts. My computations show that the laurels nevertheless belong to Spike. His magnum opiate produced three F-words per minute of running time while Martin managed only 2.81. The white racists at Wikipedia who do the counting concealed this fact. I feel that it’s my duty to reveal it.
This report set me to thinking about the two insider campaign histories by John Heileman and Mark Halperin. Their “Game Change” on the 2008 presidential campaign and “Double Down” about the 2012 campaign. The authors tell us that the first is based on more than 300 interviews with more that 200 people, and the second on more than 500 interviews with more than 400 individuals.
The arduous job of sifting through all 918 pages in the two volumes for an exact count is best left to younger and fitter Wikipedia wizards, but my own swift survey prompts me to propose one of these two works as the non-fiction Effing record setter. Take, for example, page 279 of “Game Change” where Senator McCain addresses his wife as follows: “F**K YOU. F*C*, *UCK, feek, fie, fo, fum, fum, fack, fu, eff!!” (Unless you know what I mean). The senator is depicted with both digitae infamitae thrusting like pistons as he barked these intimacies in Cindy’s face. He was annoyed that she interrupted him.
On page 64 of “Double Down” we have Robert L. Gibbs displaying the eloquence that earned him the post of Senator Obama’s communications director, then of White House Press Secretary: “This is f-ing unprecednted”...It’s f-ing bulls..t”...”He f-ing doesn’t deserve this”...”We can’t f-ing win this election if we can’t f-ing trust each other, and we’re letting him f-ing down.” Gibbs was reacting to a press leak that revealed his president’s innermost thoughts.
Heileman and Halperin are in no way responsible for the language recorded in their works. They faithfully report the way our politicians and political hacks routinely speak among themselves, out of ear-shot of the simple-minded multitude. This is in keeping with their image of themselves as warriors meeting in “war rooms” to plot strategies and tactics. They speak like the rough, muddy soldiers in the trenches speak—warriors like themselves.
In reality they are speaking like contemporary Middle School girls.
Conservative commentators pretended to be scandalized when V.P. Biden characterized the Affordable Care Act as a “B.F.D.” Liberal commentators were equally disturbed upon hearing V.P. Cheney recommend a course of action to Senator Leahy which involved the verb form of the same word. If the public was really scandalized it can only be because they thought it was unseemly for American vice presidents to ignore open microphones.
The plain and sober truth of the matter is that the effing f-word has become as common in contemporary American discourse as throat-clearing. If politicians use it more often than the general public it’s only because they work harder at it. Either way the word no longer deserves the traditional description, “salty” or “colorful.” It’s no more flavorful than sputum and no more colorful than expectorating.
With a view to an appropriate cultural adaptation, I contemplate a project that may occupy the remainder of my mortal days, a reverse bowdlerization of our major literary works. I’m remembering a bright young student to whom I recommended Orson Welles’s “The Third Man.” She reported back that she was unable to watch it. It was in black and white. The girl could not adapt to a presentation she found bafflingly unfamiliar.
The total absence of the ubiquitous f-word in the great classics of the past may well have the same effect on future students. While the tastes of the Victorian Era inspired the philanthropist Thomas Bowdler to publish “The Family Shakspeare,” revised and expurgated to eliminate any hint of smut in the Bard’s works, the time may soon come when we will have to adapt Shakespeare to contemporary tastes in order to make them accessible to our youth’s constricted sensibilities.
Here’s an example of a Hamlet Soliloquy fraryization:
“To be, or not to be--that is the f-ing question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The f-ing slings and arrows of outrageous f-ing fortune
Or to take f-ing arms against a f-ing sea of bullsh*t
And by opposing f-ing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say F–K
The heartache, and the thousand f-ing shocks”
Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” is also worth adaptation :
“It was the f-ing best of times, it was the f-ing worst of times, it was the f-ing age of wisdom, it was the f-ing age of bullsh*t, it was the f-ing epoch of belief, it was the f-ing epoch of incredulity, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Light, it was the f-ing season of f-ing Darkness, it was the f-ing spring of f-ing hope it was the f-ing winter of f-ing despair....
I ask you, could Robert Gibbs do better?
POLITICS AND PARANOIA
By Professor John Frary • December 11th, 2013 •
Double Down, the insider account of the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heileman, gives “Birtherism” a good deal of attention. Indeed, the certainty that Barack Obama is foreign born is even more widely spread than the conviction that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dressing “freon fruit” (to use Truman Capote’s insider’s phrase). From their account Donald Trump’s sudden prominence as a possible candidate is largely traceable to his emergence as the Big Birther in the presidential scene.
His political fade-out pretty much disposed of Birtherism as an active issue. The belief continues just beneath the surface because it is so satisfying in so many ways. It fits the suspicion that our president is some kind of a Muslim-Marxist-Kenyan-Leninist subversive. Quite apart from any anxieties about alien infiltration of the Oval Office, there’s a special appeal in the prospect of a speedy ejection of the national pest through judicial action.
H&H follow the common liberal assumption that political paranoia is a right-wing populist phenomenon exploited by cynical right-wing politicians and publicists. George Orwell had a broader perspective, e.g., “I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” Intellectuals and the well-educated are by no means immune to the pleasures and satisfaction on paranoid fads, follies, and fantasies.
Noel Pemberton Billing (1881-1948) was no ordinary man.. He was not an intellectual, having run away from home at age 13 and worked a number of jobs, including boxer and mounted policeman in South Africa before moving back to England and becoming a lawyer. He subsequently blossomed as a pioneering aviator, inventor, publisher and member of parliament. He also acquired considerable fame as the man who exposed the Kaiser’s evil schemes for the sodomite subversion of English society .His journal, Imperialist, revealed, for example, the existence of the Mbret of Albania’s “Berlin Black Book” which contained the names of “47,000 highly placed British perverts.”
As we all know, the Mbret of Albania was Prince Wilhelm zu Wied, selected by common agreement among the Great Powers to pretend to govern Albania. It is perhaps less well known that Wilhelm was promoted to king from the rank of captain in the German General Staff. It’s easy to see why Pemberton Billing became convinced that the Mbret was fronting a plan for “exterminating the manhood of Britain” by luring men into homosexual acts. The vast scheme incorporated more than the vile agents stationed near the Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. It included the defloration of children and schemes for entangling wives of prominent men in lesbian ecstasy so that they disclose state secrets.
When Pemberton Billings, MP, published "The Cult of the Clitoris" in the renamed Vigilante implying that the actress Maud Allan was a lesbian tentacle of the conspirators she sued him for libel. He won the suit and won re-election. So there you are.
The principal executives of Himmler’s Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, RSHA) appear to have accepted the National Socialist beliefs about the Jewish enemy in full or in part. Most of them were well educated. It’s recorded that the French university humanities faculties were predominately anti-Dreyfusard in the day.
Hebrew-hatred appears to go back as far as Hellenistic times. It may be argued that the problem of Anti-Semitism may reflect a deeper problem - paranoia itself. Accept that paranoiac fantasies and conspiracy theories serve some deep human needs. Accept that they are not aberrations but integral to politics. Then it’s easy to see why Jews answer the need. All conspiracy theories rely on connecting the dots, and there are always enough Jewish dots to connect in order to complete the design.
The Armenian disapora provides a fair number of dots, so we should expect some kind of Armenian conspiracy theories as well. Google and ye shall find. The Turks, of course, are particularly sensitive about the Armenian conspiracy to misrepresent the gentle removal of cheerful Armenian families to places of safety and prosperity by the benign Young Turks.
There recently emerged a novel convergence of Armenian- and Jewish-centered paranoia. This is the theory that the Döonmes, or Crypto-Jewish bourgeoisie, conceived of and carried out the mass slaughter of the Armenians, who were their rivals for financial control of the region. The Döonmes are descendants of the Sabateans, followers of the 17th-century Jewish mystic Sabbetei Zevi, who converted to Islam. They have Jewish blood. That’s all you really need to know if you are a Moslem hot on the trail of the Enemy, or a secular Turk anxious to deflect blame for a genocidal atrocity you denied ever happened.
THE NEW OBAMACAR PROGRAM
By Professor John Frary • November 23rd, 2013 •
Word reaches me from thepeoplescube.com, one of the nation’s more reliable news sources, that the Administration is launching a new initiative: ObamaCar. White House Spokesmammal Jay Carney explained it in a recent press conference: "Too many Americans are driving substandard cars. In fact, there are a lot of Americans who don't even have cars. That is why the President, by executive order, has initiated the ObamaCar Program."
The new program will see that all Americans, regardless of age, place of residence, or occupation will be required to purchase a vehicle suitable to meet the standards mandated by ObamaCar.
However, Carney was quick to point out that this did not mean that anyone would be forced to give up their favorite ride.
"If you like the car you are driving now, you can keep your car. Period." Carney read from a prepared statement by President Obama. "Nobody is going to take it away from you. Period."
Owing to recent messages from new-found friends in Nigeria I’m in a position to offer an even more exciting opportunity. This should interest the 11 percent of the population identified by a November 20, CBS New poll as saying that the ObamaCare roll-out is going well.
The first offer provides an opportunity to acquire transportation on a grand scale. Check it out. First come; first served:
I am Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance in Nigeria.I sincerely
need your very kind assistance to claim and receive fund worth Eighteen Million,
Five Hundred Thousand Us Dollars (US$18,500,000) Source:The sum arose from
over-inflated contract awarded by Nigeria Ministry to a foreign firm. We have
fashioned out a foolproof plan to successfully transfer the funds to an account
belonging to a foreigner for investment purpose, i want to front you as the
beneficiary of the fund and 25% will be your compensation for this assistance.
I assure you that there is no risk involve in this transaction because we will
perfect the transaction in a way that there will be no trace of the funds to you
after the transfer. Please keep this transaction safe and confidential because
my colleagues in the Ministry have trusted me in getting a foreign partner for
the transfer of the fund.We intend to invest our own share in any profitable
business in your country based on your advice because our economy is not good
enough for investment. Please If my proposal is acceptable to you, reply as soon
as possible. I await your urgent response.
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The second opportunity comes to you from Mr. Tony Oby of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who informs me that I have $5,000,000 waiting for me. All I have to do is contact Mr. Dennis Melcher, the Fund Fiduciary agent/ Intermediary representative at 1-256-529-4644. Dennis also had an e-mail address: email@example.com. This is not the sort of thing that interests a conservative, so I’m making it available to any liberal Democrat who hankers after a really nifty, costly car. Just tell Dennis that John sent you. If you have a problem making your desires and authorization clear to Dennis then get in touch with Mr.Tony Oby at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tel:+234-8182351187, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just follow the instructions from whichever party you choose to contact. What could go wrong? You can expect these funds with the same certainty that you expect ObamaCare to reduce American medical costs, i.e., with the same certainty that you might expect of any government program to reduce the costs of anything or to come in under budget.
As I’ve said, first come, first serve. Act now. Fear not. Credulity is a terrible thing to waste. Remember P.T. Barnum’s famous dictum: “There’s a millionaire born every minute.”
HOW TO SPOT A LYING SOB AND OTHER MATTERS OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
By Professor John Frary • November 16th, 2013 •
The Honorable William S. Cohen and Alan Simpson had a conversation at the Collins Center for the Arts on November 7. Bill Cohen followed Maine’s tradition of political moderation by not saying anything particularly interesting or original. Wyoming’s former senator was a lot more interesting.
For one thing his feet are phenomenal. Never seen the like. They were up on the stage at eye level directly in front of me. Prodigious fifteen and half, triple-H shoes—couldn’t take my eyes off them. I only mention this because the journalistic convention has long been to remark on his towering height and sharp wit. This is accurate on both counts. When he spoke to me he had the aspect of a man looking at something down a well, and he fetched some well-deserved laughs during his talk. All the same there are other tall senators and a few can be quite funny, but none among them have, or ever had, feet the size of coal barges. This seemed worth mentioning.
The title of the 2013 Cohen Lecture was “The State of Our Nation: Hardball vs. Civility” but Alan Simpson seemed more inclined to mixing hardball AND civility. When I explained to him how I saw myself as a beacon of benevolence spreading good will everywhere he replied that he, in contrast, enjoyed “p***ing people off.” And during his talk he suggested that members of his audience call Mike Michaud a “lying son of a bitch.”
He was not explicit in this but the implication was clear. Senator Simpson told his thousand listeners that “...when you hear that wonderful phrase from your elected official standing there in the beauty of the glare of the camera: ‘I know what the problem is and we can get it done without touching precious Medicare, precious Medicaid, precious Defense, or precious Social Security. Then, you should get up and say, ‘You, sir, are making a terminological inexactitude, you lying son of a bitch.’
Rep. Michaud is on record saying that he had “authored” a constitutional amendment to preserve Social Security in its present state for all eternity. I’m sure he wasn’t lying when he says he authored a constitutional amendment. Anyone can author a constitutional amendment. Take a pencil and a piece of paper and the job is done in seconds, minutes at the most. The terminological inexactitude lies in the reassurance that there’s no need to change anything ever as long as we don’t want change.
I deduce this: that the Wyominger does not believe that tact should replace fact or civility swallow truth. Some disagreements arise from conflicting theories or experiences; other result from a collision of sincerity and mendacity. I suppose a good rule of thumb is this: we are free to call a man a lying SOB when he knows he’s lying, but if he’s merely wrong we are not allowed to call him a damn fool.
Civility, all by itself, is no panacea. In some cases, as we have seen, it’s not even desirable. So what other solutions are available? Cohen and Simpson agreed that Americans should demand that elected officials work together to make the hard choices needed to avoid burdening the young and still unborn with an unsustainable burden of debt. Sounds good in the abstract but there a number of practical problems.
The conversationalists agreed with Olympia Snowe’s Fighting for Common Ground that the expense of getting elected seriously distorts the political process. Senator Simpson told us that “dialing for dollars” can take whole days out of a congressman’s week. He cited the man who spend a hundred million dollars on Romney’s behalf last year as an exemplary scandal.
They agreed that the partisan divide in Washington is not a purely local phenomenon. It is driven largely by the ideological divisions in the electorate. That is, a conservative minority enforces conformity on the Republican congressmen and a liberal minority does the same to Democratic congressman. The problem is exacerbated by the gerrymandering that groups voters in congressional districts along ideological lines.
The Wyoming Big Foot stressed personal integrity as vital to resolving differences and crafting compromises. This seems self-evident. Bad faith makes negotiation impossible.
The 2013 Cohen Lecture was enjoyable in parts, thanks to Alan Simpson’s wit and feet, and it was interesting. I’m glad I attended but it offered no solutions to anything. It was a diagnosis, not a prescription.
How would this elusive entity called the “American People” go about demanding “that elected officials work together to make the hard choices” if conservative and liberal voters have hard choices in mind which collide with each other? Isolate the ideological voters from the process and you eliminate a majority of the voters who actually pay attention to politics. If Americans really want to curb the influence of Big Money then all they have to do is give up one cup of coffee a week and donate the money to the political party of their choice. The money generated would far exceed the special interest cash now supporting candidates. Not going to happen. They’ll go on drinking their coffee.
Simpson made two things clear about the difficulty of making those”hard choices.” First, he explained why President Obama rejected the plan proposed by his own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka, the Simpson-Bowles Plan)—its hard choices were too hard. Second, he made it clear that the American people had approved of the vast increases in unaffordable entitlement programs financed through endless borrowing.
Here’s something the two senators neglected to mention: the automatic increases built into our national debt were built in back in the good old days when they served in a Congress where civility and good fellowship prevailed.
By Professor John Frary • October 26th, 2013 •
It wasn’t long ago when the phrase “going postal”—inspired by a number of post office massacres—was widely used to describe people driven to violent crime by work conditions. I remember remarking to my students in those days how odd it seemed to me that you never heard the phrase “going professorial.” My affected puzzlement was always a prelude to a vivid description of how professors suffered from reading students’ sloppy, ignorant, thoughtless, ill-written essays.
I garnished these bitter digressions with my features contorted into expressions of brooding menace, hoping that fear might incite some actual work among the laggards Nevertheless, it truly puzzled me that no professors ever seemed to snap and run amuck, slaughtering whole classrooms full of students. The provocations were severe and numerous. The consequences of such outbreaks, although tragic, might actually have proven beneficial.
Let’s reflect on these observations as we consider the strange case of Dianne Reidy, an official reporter with the Office of the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. On Wednesday, during the vote on the compromise which raised the debt limit, ended our government’s shutdown and liberated Mount Rushmore, Ms. Reidy seized the microphone and launched into a tirade while the presiding officer hammered frantically with her gavel. Two members of the security staff ended her rant after about thirty seconds and hauled the agitated woman off to the local looney bin for “evaluation.”
No one disputes that her behavior was inappropriate, but we must remember that this poor woman held a position which obliged her to keep a verbatim record of the proceedings of the House. In brief and brutal terms she had to spend endless hours recording the ignorant, sloppy, ill-considered, clumsy, ungrammatical, blatherings of the 450 pests cruelly inflicted on her by America’s thoughtless voters. My experience as secretary of numerous academic committees has given me some idea of Dianne’s pain, but I had to deal with meetings which rarely exceeded a dozen people. I have never been present for a session of the House of Representatives but I’ve listened, or half-listened to dozens of speeches and oratorical fragments and have long since recognized that twenty-first century American standards of political rhetoric are lower than snake spit. It’s painful enough to listen to them; imagine the endless dull pain of recording the speeches line by line and word by word.
Dianne Reidy’s delirium produced thirty seconds of oratory on all fours with some of the codswallop she had been forced to record.. According to one source she said: “This is not one nation under God. It never was. The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under god! It never was. Had it been, it would not have been! The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons!”
Setting aside their incoherence and the sufferings that provoked it, her brief remarks move us to an examination of paranoia and politics. There’s a long and involved history behind Ms. Reidy’s Freemasonicphobia. It has preoccupied fevered minds since the 19th century and flourishes undiminished even now. Over my years as a chalk-smeared academic foot-soldier I discovered four devout Mason-bashers in my classes; one was Syrian, two were Serbs and one was a Macedonian. The Syrian was convinced that the Masons were fronting for the Jews (or maybe it was the Jews fronting for the Masons—his description was not entirely clear). The Serbs and the Macedonian all agreed that the Masons were using Albanians for their vile and devious ends. All four agreed that the CIA was an instrument of the Masonic Enemy.
Next month brings the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and this will surely produce renewed exposes of how the Masons organized the whole thing. And, in case you were wondering, the Ku Klux Klan was also founded by the Masons, or perhaps you had not heard that its founder, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a member of the order as well as a KKK charter member?
My theory is that Dianne Reidy was so bewildered from listening to the ninnies whose words she was hired to record that she found it impossible to believe that her country was really under their control. Driven off balance, she found a kind of desperate consolation in the belief that our nation’s affairs are directed by a secret conspiracy. It may be diabolical, but at least it’s intelligent.
WINDY DAVIS, SUDDEN TEXAS SENSATION
“These sneakers are made for walkin’
And that's just what they'll do
One of these days these sneaks
Are gonna walk all over you”
—Apologies to Nancy Sinatra
Sen. Windy Davis, the blonde who made pink sneakers famous, has ignited the hopes of liberal Texans by declaring her ambition to walk all over Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner next year.
Senator Davis suddenly vaulted to national attention and grew to colossal size by talking continuously for eleven hours in the Texas senate chamber. We need attach no importance to the fact that the abortion bill she filibustered against is now law in her state. It was her ability to gas away until well after sunset that impressed her national following. It was the quantity, not the quality, of her rhetoric that made her famous. As for content, it was enough for them that she believes abortions are good things and we need more of them.
Danny Kanner, my new friend at the Democratic Governor’s Association, sends word that he is “still buzzing from the excitement around Wendy Davis’ big announcement last week.” He’s amazed at the outpouring of support from people in Texas and across the country. Danny’s excitement moves him to transports of vivid and original rhetoric about an underdog taking on power players with lots of money who are stooping to new lows to smear.
Oh, and the word “fight” also appear in the DGA message. “Staying on message” always involves the words excite and fight. Any messenger omitting either would be instantly dismissed, barred from the profession and condemned to a life of crime, or worse, useful work. Danny, never a man to neglect the obvious, also foresees “one of the ugliest campaign’s we’ve ever seen.” For example, “Just last week, Texas Right to Life launched attack ads against Wendy in both English and Spanish.”
I confess I’ve become so jaded by political low-jinks that attacks by abortion opponents on abortion promoters leave me unmoved. What’s more interesting is the news that these dastardly ads are in Spanish as well as English. This explains why Windy’s official announcement speech made no mention of her pro-abortion filibuster. This event excited the EMILY’S LIST crowd and excites affluent liberals across the nation, but Latinos are a good deal more child-friendly. So Windy spoke instead of her May 2011 filibuster aimed at blocking a bill that would cut $4 billion from public school education. Advertising a commitment to education as an engine of mobility is more agreeable to the Mexican-American voters on whom the Democrats rely to turn Texas their way.
This artful dodging, by the way, counts as strategic genius among practitioners of the dismal profession known as political consultancy.
As noted above, the content of filibusters interests people far less than the length, physical endurance, and the paraphernalia that may accompany them. We turn to Windy’s announcement for actual samples of her rhetorical vivacity.
“Texas deserves a leader who understands that making education a priority creates good jobs for Texans and keeps Texans on top. Texans deserve a leader who will fight this fight for our future....We’ve waited far too long for a governor who believes that quid pro quo shouldn’t be the status quo...Our future is brightest when it’s lit by everyone’s star.”
It would be unkind to belabor this tiresome drivel. It’s not much worse, or different, from prevailing standards of American political palaver. Texans are no doubt as enured to it as Mainers. More importantly, a recent poll in the Texas Tribune shows that many African Americans and Hispanics favor a school choice policy the Teachers’ Union opposes. Windy, like nearly all Democratic politicians everywhere, has tied her hopes for victory to support of the educational unions. So it was that Eliot Cutler attacked the Maine Educational Association at the beginning of his Independent campaign in 2010; while the Democratic Party nominee has the whole-hearted support of the MEA.
Windy Davis’s experience as a student who rose through the ranks of community college to graduate from Harvard Law should have given her some special and entirely unique insights into how higher education really works. Perhaps it did, but she will have nothing to offer other than re-iteration of the Vending Machine Theory of Education: Put money in and out comes education. A large part of the public believe this theory. The educational status quo profits from it. Windy Davis’s political calculations dictate support for it.
Whatever her future as a candidate for governor of Texas, the only original and interesting thing about Windy Davis are her pink sneakers.
WEED WARS IN MAINE
It’s generally agreed that the cultivation of marijuana and beards are the most flourishing branches of agriculture in Franklin County, where I make my home. Bussy York’s Sandy River Farms can boast of steadily breaking even for over a century, but the general farms of my youth have mostly disappeared. Bussy is a man of infinite resource, ready to try every novel idea, from corn stove pellets to certified organics. He even has a corn mazes, which he claims 4,000 people entered last year. He refuses to disclose how many people exited. This is why I’ve never entered it myself and also why I wonder whether he cultivates a weed patch back in his woods somewhere. I make no accusations here. I only acknowledge ignorance of the full range of his enterprises.
I don’t know if Rob Kampia, co-founder and executive director the Marijuana Policy Project, has any idea of where Franklin County is or what goes on here, but he does know that Maine is likely to follow Colorado and Washington in legalizing the weed he loves. Ron showed up in Maine just last week to assess the political prospects, concluding that legalization is a certainty by 2015, if not next year.
His optimism is not without empirical foundation. A 59 percent majority passed the citizen's referendum in 2009 that expanded the medicinal marijuana law in Maine to include pot dispensaries. Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) submitted a legalization bill in 2011 which was voted down in the House 107-39. She tried a second time in May 2013 but her bill was rejected by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. In June a bill to place the legalization question before the voters was narrowly rejected in a 71 to 67 vote in the full House.
These votes have not followed strict partisan lines. Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), my home town representative supports legalization, arguing that "People have legalized it [pot] and the government has recognized it." Harvell believes that the legalization of pot would allow a shift in resources to the fight against harder drugs. Republican Rep. Deb Sanderson, who played the key role in legalizing medical marijuana, is cautiously inclined to allow the voters the final say.
Some people might call me the Republican path finder on the issue—if there was any evidence that anyone actually followed the path I laid out five years ago. No sign of that. Apparently they all found their own paths.
When I ran for Maine’s second district congressional seat in 2008 I was invited to speak my piece on a Bangor talk radio show. A listener called to ask (or DEMAND) to know whether I favored legalizing the weed. I had not planned to make it an issue, or even mention it, but felt free to say I did. The fellow sounded a bit disoriented by my answer. I suppose he expected an indignant denial from a Republican.
Understand, running as an unknown without further political ambitions in a year that promised a Republican electoral disaster I felt free to speak my mind on any question that came before me. That is, I treated all issues and questions as policy questions, never as “campaign questions.” (And why not?)
I hadn’t given much thought to the issue, but I remembered a 1994 symposium in The National Review with half a dozen lawyers, lawmen and bureaucrats who had fought in the government’s War on Drugs. All agreed that they had wasted considerable chunks of their careers on a futile project. They admitted defeat, concluding that the war was not winnable. Then in 2008, I read an article by a high-ranking Mexican police officer who praised his country’s incumbent president for some conspicuous successes in his war on drugs and concluded that it would make little or no difference in the long run.
These articles hardly made me an expert on the drug war, but they supported more general principles of economic behavior. They work like this: if you arrest the producers, wholesalers and retailers, but demand remains unaffected, the price must go up. Since cost of growing weeds is negligible, profits go up when prices go up. When profits go up more growers, wholesalers and retailers are drawn into the business. Your success equals your failure.
Rep. Mike Michaud, my opponent, knew less on the subject than I and had no curiosity about the policy issue. He knew exactly the right answer. He said he opposed legalization because of the danger to the little children. Concern for the little children always plays well.
I proposed that marijuana be legalized, regulated as carefully as alcohol, and taxed. Children are not allowed to guzzle booze. Some manage to get a hold of some now and again. It is told that when I was three years old I went around the living room after a cocktail party guzzling the dregs of highball glasses and got seriously sozzled as a result. This and similar incidents don’t show the need to revive Prohibition. They only show that little boys get into mischief. This may produce comedy or tragedy. Regulation of little boys is the eternal mission of adults and they have no hope of one hundred percent success. All I can suggest is that is easier for a child to sop up the dregs of highballs or beer bottles than to inhale their first joint.
Mr. Kampia is hoping the legislature will pass a legalization bill in 2014. If that doesn’t happen his group will initiate the petition and referendum process to secure its objective. I understand the man’s desire to avoid the expense, but I prefer a referendum since I believe that authorizing a change in social attitudes requires more than legislative maneuvering or judicial rulings.
The Franklin County Agricultural Fair took place immediately after I “came out” for legal pot, and I tried the idea out on a couple distributing religious literature. Their agreement was immediate and enthusiastic. They took me across the exhibition hall aisle and introduced me to man distributing little Bibles. He was no less enthusiastic, explaining that taking pot had staved off his brother’s death from AIDS for over a year.
Not long after I gave a speech to Maine’s Christian Civic League in which I explained my reasoning. The applause was polite rather than enthusiastic and some attending agreed that alcohol was, indeed, more destructive than pot. They wished Prohibition had succeeded but understood that it was a lost cause.
That same week I addressed the happy, drowsy multitude spread over Farmer Brown’s field in Starks. This is the site of Maine’s “Hempstock”—an annual multi-state gathering of potheads tolerated by local law enforcement. I explained that, moved more by hunger than a narcotic urge, I had once consumed a tray of marijuana brownies while my host was away. I found the experience so unpleasant that I went to bed, where I dreamed chaotic and idiotic dreams devoid of sensible plot, plausible characterization or intelligible dialogue. I never repeated the experience. More, I told them what whenever I found myself invading a pot party I found myself listening to inane and boring babble.
I told them that thirty years ago I would have said, nip the cannabis in the bud, and fifteen years earlier I would have said turn back the rising tide. But now that war has been lost. Further damage to civil rights, to the liberty of people to be their own potty selves, and to the taxpayer who funds the futile war could not be justified.
The crowd seemed to like the speech well enough and some were even able to follow and understand it.
A prediction: if Michaud is elected governor in 2014 and if a referendum approves legalization, then his concern about the little children lighting up will disappear.
FOOD TYRANNY AND THE FARMINGTON FAIR
The Franklin County Agricultural Society’s 173rd Annual Exhibition just wrapped up Farmington Fairgrounds. Any citizens suffering from serious cholesterol deficiency would have been well advised to make it over there and load up. Friendly vendors were waiting with a huge range of merchandise guaranteed to solve their problem. They sold mini-doughnuts, maxi-doughnuts and regular size doughnuts in a wide choice of flavors. Bacon, eggs and sausages were available in a number of establishments. Generous portions of French fries, fried clams, fried chicken pieces in various forms and sizes were available at reasonable prices. If it can be deep-fried it was available for purchase. No intravenous cholesterol is available yet. Maybe next year.
Prowling around the fairgrounds and engorging my share of these goodies, I gave some thought to the Great American Obesity Crisis about which we hear so much these days. There’s no disputing its existence, nor my own contribution to maintaining it. It’s not simply a cholesterol problem. It’s a gluttony problem that has arisen from our biological evolution and economic progress. Our ancestors regularly faced conditions of food scarcity promoting the instinct to eat when food was available and the capacity to store nutrients as fat as a protection against lean times. I’m thinking in particular of an anthropologist’s account I read years ago about how the Comanches “harvested” buffalo before the Spaniards populated the plains with horses. If they could manage it they’d drive a whole herd over a cliff. Then they would gorge on the corpses, having no choice but to leave most to the remains to rot.
Economic progress has eliminated regular cycles of famine and malnutrition while increasing leisure time and enormously reducing the amount of heavy manual labor. And government welfare programs like food stamps and school lunches provide plentiful food. It’s simple; we are not naturally designed for conditions of such plenty.
A column in The New York Times by Frank Bruni set me to thinking about the Farmington Fair food offerings. Frank wrote about this visit to Costco, where he found cashews and chicken thighs being sold in large lots. He concluded from his visit that "Costco as much as anything else is why the land of the free and the home of the brave is also the trough of the tub o' lard, our exceptionalism measurable by not only our G.D.P. but also our B.M.I. That's body mass index, and our bodies are indeed massive."
In offering this conclusion The New York Times columnist seems to adopt the common liberal habit of finding the source of a problem in insufficiently regulated big business. So we read frequent condemnations of Big Food as the culprit. A visit to the Farmington Fair reminds that Little Food, Tiny Food, and Pygmy Food do their part as well. There are no salad booths at the Farmington Fair.
The hope that replacing Big Macs with Minuscule Macs, displacing Burger King with Kale King, serving tofu wings at KFC or offering bird-seed pizza at Pizza Hut is going to produce a slim and svelte America is fantasy, and it’s not even a glorious fantasy. It’s a depressing prospect that only food cranks and masochists could anticipate with pleasure.
But what bothers me, and should bother us all, is the growing tendency of Big Government Liberals (is there any other kind?) To see big corporations as tools for controlling the American people. It’s true that most Americans have grown accustomed to a degree of government control over their lives that their grandparents and great-grandparents would never have tolerated, but we still resist government programs that dictate the details of our daily lives.
Those among us who believe that our government has the job of making better (and, in this case, slimmer) Americans seem intent on enlisting Big Business in that cause. This fits into a trend of weakening, if not entirely eliminating, the burden of individual personal responsibility.
I’m not advocating the propagation of diabetes, strokes, and other disorders influenced by diet, but it pleases me to think of the food vendors at the Maine’s fairs as island of sturdy resistance to government encroachment on private lives.
A STRAIGHT FLUSH IN COLORADO
Any grammar school math textbook will tell you that the odds against drawing a straight flush with a five-card hand are approximately 72,192 to 1. According to my calculations, the odds against a couple of plumbers flushing a pair of Colorado senators down the political drain are comparable. Yet poker players sometime lay down straight flushes and plumbers, it seems, sometimes flush senators.
Last March Colorado’s Democratic legislature passed a gun control bill. The state’s Democratic governor promptly signed it. Consequently Colorado now requires back-ground checks on all private gun sales and prohibits magazines holding more than fifteen rounds. This legislation was inspired in large part by the massacre in the town of Aurora, but there’s no good reason to believe that it will have any detectable affect on gun violence. Nor is there any good reason to expect the legislators who voted for the restrictions to attempt to evaluate actual results. Legislators are usually content with laws that sound good, regardless of whether they do good.
Political consequences are a very different matter. Those always interest our politicians deeply and the sudden termination of the senatorial terms of Angela Giron and John Morse are widely held to upset the hopes of the control freaks. They had counted on Colorado becoming the thin edge of the wedge for their effort to extend gun control legislation in the western states. Democratic electoral victories invited the effort and legislative victory followed.
King Pyrrhos of Epirus would have recognized the quality of that victory. He decided to abandon his Italian ambitions after two battlefield victories proved insupportably costly. The recall elections on September 10 left the legislation in place, but ended the hope of similar legislation elsewhere. Senator Giron anticipated this result when, on August 28, she told The New Republic “For Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), if they lose even one of these seats, they might as well fold it up. And they understand that.” MAIG’s sponsor, Mayor Bloomberg, showed his understanding by donating $350,000 to defending the senators. One account has the liberal gun-control zealots outspending the recallers 8 to 1, another source sets the ratio at 10 to 1, yet another 6 to 1. The New York Times rather evasively reported that “both sides” spent a total of about $2 million. Enough to say that the control-nuts outspent the gun-nuts by a wide margin.
What ever the truth of the dollar figures, the election results on September 10 were 51% against Morse and 56% against Giron. The Democrats still control the Colorado Senate, although their margin is down to one seat. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz dismisses the outcome, attributing the results to “voter suppression, pure and simple.” She inevitably pointed accusing an finger at the NRA, the Koch brothers, “outside money.” It’s true that the NRA donated a few thousand more than New York’s mayor, but NRA membership dues in Colorado were more than enough to cover the donations made, so it hardly counts as outside money. No one has so far given a figure for the alleged Koch dollars.
Debbie’s push-button “analysis” is of no account. Even faithful Democrats know that the woman’s only qualification for her chair is her resolute determination to “stay on message.” Apparently it’s the only talent she possesses—as long as the messages stay short and simple. If she did not lead the national Democratic Party and I did not disdain misogyny is all its dreadful forms, I would dismiss her as a bimbo in a fright wig, but let us pass on to more serious subjects, and people.
The plain fact is that Victor Head, his brother Adam and an electrician named Ernest Mascarenas are more consequential this month than the DNC chair. They alone initiated the process. Their recall petitions were what drew the money to the race. Victor had returned from working as an auto mechanic in Wyoming to help in the family plumbing business in Pueblo after his father fell ill. When he heard that Pueblo’s Senator Giron was holding a town hall meeting, he circulated flyers to notify local gun club members of an opportunity to demand an explanation. Dozens of people showed up but Giron cut the discussion short. This annoyed Head so he distributed another round of flyers for the next public meeting. The senator, sure of her support in an overwhelmingly Democratic district simply refused to discuss gun control and barred Victor Head from the room.
Big mistake. This arrogance provoked Head and his friends and triggered the recall effort. It probably helped make it a success as well, since Colorado’s political tradition, rather like Maine’s, dictates that legislators listen to the citizens who choose to show up and hear them out. People are more willing to lose if their arguments are heard than if they are ignored.
Sean Trende, Senior Elections Analyst for RealClearPolitics, and co-author of the next edition of The Almanac of American Politics admits that he had had no interest in writing about the disorganized amateurs and their recall petition campaigns in two solidly Democratic districts. Yet the grassroots organizers in both Pueblo and El Paso Counties researched the state constitution’s recall provisions, stuck to the law, gathered volunteers, got the word out and collected 13,000 in the short time available. The generally accepted rule of thumb in Maine is that 18% of the petition signatures turn out invalid. Only one thousand of the recall petitions proved invalid—less than 9%. Denver pollster, Floyd Ciruli, described the result as a “miracle.”
Responding to the preposterous whining about voter suppression Trende has this to say: “It is true that the recall didn’t have Colorado’s accustomed voting by mail and turnout was low, but it was a free and fair election in which people could go to the polls and vote their preference. That’s generally what we consider democracy.”
It appears that the Colorado GOP organization had no role in the petitioning effort. It had never even attempted any kind of recall campaign and was not drawn by something so irregular and improbable. It was after the plumbers plumbed the depths of hostility to the control nuts that existing organizations took a hand in the recall campaign.
Having recently read Mark Zucker’s This Town I was interested to see Kurt Bardella being quoted as president and CEO of Endeavor Strategic Communications, which consulted with the recallers. He appears in the book as an eager go-getter with no serious political conviction but a serious appetite to be a player. The grass-roots types, impelled by fiery conviction, would have found him an odd specimen if they had met him. Never mind, his e-mail to the Daily Caller News Foundations is very much to the point: “Here’s the bottom line. What happens in one week will have significant implications for the overall debate on gun-control. … Lawmakers at every level of government see Colorado as a bellwether as to whether they can risk pursuing a more aggressive gun-control agenda. A successful recall in the face of the significant dollars spent by Mayor Bloomberg would represent a crushing personal blow and would raise legitimate questions about his effectiveness and viability in this debate.”
He should have folded.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
SHOCKING REMARK AT GUBERNATORIAL FUND-RAISER
A recent report that Maine’s Governor LePage claimed Barack Obama hates white people brought international attention. The alleged statement took place during an Aug. 12 fund-raiser at a camp on the shores of one of the beautiful Belgrade Lakes, made more beautiful by the elegantly waxed mustache of our genial host, John Fortier. I avoid the company of bigoted Cancer Cossacks and generally make it a point to select a self-designated Free-Smoke Zone on the fringes of gatherings. Consequently I have no testimony to offer regarding the alleged gaffe.
A zealous reporter from the Portland Press Herald called me on August 13 seeking to confirm the story. I explained my inability to help one way or another. He had the guest list and planned to troll the name looking for a witness, but asked me for help in easing his task by suggesting the name of some sincere, reliable, straight-arrow politician or operative he could get ahold of directly. I had no such a one in mind but suggested that if he found such a politician he could look forward to a Pulitzer Prize at the next judging.
We parted with expressions of mutual esteem. A day later I heard from Bill Reid, the man who drove me to the event, that he has no recollection of the alleged remark. Bill sort of qualifies as a politician. He serves on the school board and has served as New Sharon selectman. “Politician,” however, is hardly an adequate characterization. He is, or has been, a professor of philosophy, a crafter of hand-made pocket knives, a shepherd, a drover of meat rabbits, a dealer in used books, a janitor, a military policeman, a Thoreauvian, a Pyrrhonist, a janitor, president of the Western Maine Blacksmith’s Association, a librarian, and a Libertarian, among a number of other things.
The one thing Bill is not, is guileful. He sat a fourth part of stone’s throw from the governor throughout the event. If he says he heard no such a thing, he heard no such a thing. That may not be definitive since Bill is often inattentive to inconsequential matters, especially if he’s busy explaining something to somebody.
I happen to know that on that Monday Bill’s mind was stirred, a perhaps blurred, by story far more shocking than the off-hand remark attributed to Paul LePage. A couple of Democratic legislators had told me the previous day that they heard Mike Michaud said something weirdly out of character and off-message at his August 10 gubernatorial fund-raiser.
According to them the Democratic candidate for governor was cruising smoothly along; speaking about getting Maine on the right track, forging a path together, working together, honoring hard-working Mainers, working together, bi-partisan bliss, civility, lots of free stuff, working together—all the usual—when he seemed to lose his place in the script, stammered a bit and blurted out something which sounded suspiciously intelligent.
He said that, of course, there are a lot of Mainers who wouldn’t do a lick of work as long as they could make some kind of living on welfare.
He quickly recovered, saying that he knew hard work doesn’t guarantee success. Sitting inertly in the shadows of the congressional Obscure Caucus, he said, may guarantee success but not everyone can hope to get elected to Hibernation Heaven, so he aimed to speak for hard-loafing Mainers as well.
The two Democrats I spoke with asked that their names be withheld for fear of being suspected of having the ability to recognize intelligent ideas.
“Yeah, he said it,” one of them told me. “It was one little thing from a speech, but I think most people there thought it was totally out of character for Mike to say anything intelligent. He’s a regular guy.”
Ben Grant, Maine Democratic Party chairman, said he wasn’t there but doubted the candidate said anything intelligent. “Mike’s a regular guy,” Ben told me. “He never departs from the straight and true path of comforting and familiar cliches. Even if he wasn’t a regular guy, he’s too nice ever to alarm the base with unfamiliar and puzzling things like ideas, agendas, policies---stuff like that.”
Another lawmaker who attended the event—Troy Jackson—said he didn’t hear the comment. Senator Jackson, who is running for Mike’s Second District Congressional Seat, said that if Michaud made an intelligent comment he wouldn’t have been able to recognize it anyway. Some people think Troy is even more regular than Mike.
The Democratic candidate’s director of communications issued a statement that said, in part, “It seems farfetched for you to insinuate the Mike isn’t a regular guy.” He went on at some length about how much Mike Michaud enjoys riding around on a fork-lift—a regular guy-type thing.
Staffers confirmed Michaud’s comment but said they support the representative’s genial personality and admired his firm hand-shake.
“If the representative did in fact say something intelligent, it raises questions about his qualifications to be the Democratic nominee“ said Mark Mooshine, a political scientist at the University of Maine in Beans Corner. “It certainly sounds intelligent ” he said. “But does it hurt him? Given that it’s Mike Michaud, I don’t necessarily think so.” Prof. Mooshine listed some examples of the representative’s consistently unintelligent statements. He claimed he read all 2700 pages of the Affordable Care Act before voting for it. He has boasted of authoring a constitutional amendment to freeze social security in its present state for all eternity. He endorsed John Edwards for president in 2008. He voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Prof. Mooshine pointed out that no one in this galaxy has read the ACA all the way through; no congressional committee or state legislature has ever heard of his amendment; no Democrat even remembers the name John Edwards since his trial. The ACA is turning into a train wreck of colossal proportions.
“With a record like that,” said the professor, “ who’s going to believe Mike Michaud said something intelligent?”
THE DIVERSITY JUGGERNAUT
Any readers who heard that story about the professor of Creative Writing and Celtic Literature at Iowa State University in Ellipse who set fire to the president’s desk, raped his Rottweiler, and was instantly expelled from a tenured position should dismiss it as an obvious fraud. Tenured professors are never instantly dismissed. They might be shot by the campus police; instantly incarcerated, or instantly fitted for strait jackets; but instant dismissal from a tenured position is never a possibility.
It’s true, however. that charges of racism would produce a more expeditious departure than arson and forcible bestiality.
I thought of this almost twenty years ago when I decided to wage an overt guerilla insurgency against Middlesex County College’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Campus Diversity (AHTFoCaDi) and aimed to inflict collateral on Affirmative Action and Afrocentricity along the way. So I prepared myself for employment termination by calculating my income before retirement and contacting a lawyer about pro bono work on behalf of academic freedom.
This was good psychological preparation but proved unnecessary. Sure, word reached me that I had been pointed out as the “biggest racist on campus”; several black students approached me to assure me that they didn’t think I was a racist. One kindly and cautious older woman told me she didn’t know about the racist stuff, but felt I had always been fair to her.
So the inevitable slanders went on out of my sight, but there was never any kind of confrontation or official response.
To tell the truth, I had a lot of fun at the expense of the AHTFoCaDi. The best of it was when I attended one of their open forums and asked the assembled leadership for their definition of Diversity. The response reminded me of a story I read about an 18th century British peer who occasionally entertained himself with dinner parties to which he invited a flock of people with speech defects. After his guests had lubricated their livers with generous servings of spiritous fluids he would throw out a question for general discussion and settle back to enjoy the stuttering, lisping, Spoonerisms and general gabble.
Before this forum I had always thought ill of that sadistic SOB. Afterwards I began to appreciate his nastiness a little more. The Task Force chairman brought an end to the confusion by saying that his group had found it impossible to resolve the diverse views on a definition so proceeded without one. Not long after I read a report from a UMass Amherst diversity committee which ruled that a consensus definition would itself violate the sacred canons of Diversitarianism. So they enthusiastically endorsed what they declined to define.
What I found most instructive about the AHTFoCaDi conflict was the reaction of the MCC community. The Task Force initiated its work by composing a diversity questionnaire for the faculty. Only about a third bothered to respond. Almost half the respondents dismissed diversitarianism as irrelevant to teaching math, physics, engineering, and so forth. The rest explained that they spoke LOUDLY and clearly for the benefit of foreign students, or acted on the belief that Korean culture held that it was impolite to look people in the eye and so on. The Office of Institutional Research “analyzed” the results and printed 330 copies of its report, enough for every member of the faculty. These copies were made available to interested faculty in the College Assembly office. Since this office was a step across a corridor from my own I was able to monitor circulation. I got one copy. An ally got a copy. Some unknown person got a copy. That was the total circulation.
This fit my observations of the Task Force’s open forums where I was usually the only member of the academic faculty present.
Indifference, however, is not the full story. After the first encounters I kept a count of persons who sidled up and told me in a low voice that they agreed with what I was saying and writing. I was not always clear about what they agreed with, I was saying so much, but that’s not the point. The point is they felt constrained. Only three faculty members ever wrote letters of support in the school newspaper.
At the end of the second semester’s steady sniping at the Diversitarian Dogmas, the faculty union president invited me to address her membership, because I was saying things “nobody else had the guts to say.” She was particularly concerned about the imposition of “diverse learning styles” rules on her members.
There’s more. One evening I attended the Board of Trustees meeting for a bit of sneering and jeering. No questions or objections were raised by those present. After adjournment three out of nine members separately expressed support for my criticisms.
And still more. As I was leaving the president’s chief henchmammal detained me with a request to visit Her Excellency in the presidential lair. This was interesting. My spies had told me that some of the president’s staff had discussed ways and means of getting rid of me. Her support for speech codes to protect students from a “ hostile learning environment” had prompted me to write some letters to the school newspaper which were by no means respectful of her intelligence, character, or courage.
In the event our meeting could not have been more cordial. She began our interview by sliding an ashtray across her desk and inviting me to light up. She wanted to talk to me about chairing a committee on diverse learning styles. I objected that faculty committees were mere associations for masticating the atmosphere. She explained that she wanted me to act as a burr under the saddle. I interpreted this as a request to torpedo the thing and consented.
If all this is representative we must conclude that the academic diversity fad flourishes simply because the faculty and administration submits to the politically correct zeal of a hand full of enthusiasts. There’s no real enthusiasm for it.
The “Suck Up City” BoodleSphere - A TOUR
of THIS TOWN with MARK LEIBOVICH
This town is not my town or yours, dear reader. It’s not Washington, D.C. entire. It’s their town; the BoodleSphere inhabited by the lobbyists, lawyers, influentials, Formers, Will-Becomes, and Wanna-Becomes enjoying a prosperity unknown to the inhabitants of my town and yours. Its topography incorporates K Street, Georgetown, the District’s gold-plated suburbs and luxurious estates in its environs. Its customs are refined and its manners a model of civility amidst the ideological passions that trouble the rest of the country.
This Town, by Mark Leibovich, The New York Times Magazine’s Washington correspondent, has been justly described as an anthropological study of the BoodleSphere. Although he displays a very pretty wit alien to most anthropological works his methods correspond to the most rigorous tenets of that science. He mingles with the community and participates in its rituals but preserves a non-judgmental detachment in his descriptions.
When reading Leibovich’s account those of a populist disposition will think thoughts involving “Pitchforks. Tar, Feathers,” in the words of Powerlineblog.com’s Steven Hayward., The more passionate may begin to dream of the gallows and the guillotine. This does not contradict the objectivity of the author’s examination. An objective anthropological description of the table manners in a tribe of cannibals might also excite disgust among the laity, even though that is not the social scientist’s purpose.
The book first attracted attention by the pre-publication leak of a White House memo Leibovich got a hold of entitled “The Magic of Valerie” a primary source for demonstrating an integral feature of This Town illuminated in a chapter entitled “Suck Up City.” Some excerpts:
“Valerie has an enormous capacity for both empathy and sympathy. She balances the need to be patient and judicious with the desire to get things done and work as hard as possible for the American people from the White House.”
“To know what both drives Valerie Jarrett and why the President values her opinion so much, you benefit greatly from really getting to know the woman.”
“Valerie is tapped in to people’s experiences, their good times and bad. She knows from her own life what it is like to believe and strive for your dreams.”
“Valerie expects people to work their hearts out for the President and never forget where you work and the magnitude.”
“Single mother, woman working to the top in a competitive male dominated world, African, working for change from the grassroots to big business.”
The practical purpose of the memo was to equip West Wingers with suitable talking points in the event they were interviewed for a profile of Valerie Jarrett, but the spirit reflects that of any well-regulated royal or dictatorial court. Appropriate parallels spring to the mind almost unbidden, e.g., “Louis XIV is someone here who the courtiers inside Versailles know they can trust (need examples);” ”Emperor Caligula is the perfect combination of smart, savvy, and innovative;” “The magic of Martin Bormann is his intellect and his heart. He is an incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful person with a unique ability to pinpoint the voiceless and shine a light on them and the issues they and der Fuehrer care about with the ultimate goal of making a difference in Jewish lives;” “To know what both drives Lavrenti Beria and why the General Secretary values his opinion so much, you benefit greatly from really getting to know the man.”
This Town has achieved something almost unheard of, warm praise from Left and Right alike. Daily Kos, The New York Times, The New Republic, New York magazine, The Washington Post, Salon.com, Slate.com, Buzzfeed, Politico and Margaret Carlson on Bloomberg have all bestowed their accolades upon it. A random selection: “Washington in all its splendid, sordid glory… brilliant portrait [of] its big mouths, big shots, big machers, and big jerks....rollicking fun and sharply written....a wildly entertaining anthropological tour...a very funny book about how horrible his industry [the media] can be...Uncommonly honest.... a master of the political profile… source material for your book about what’s wrong with these horrible people.”
This Town is enriched with a caste of dozens. There we find Walter Isaacson, the Aspen Institute president, who earns one the book’s best lines; Ken Duberstein, who “spent six and a half months as Reagan’s chief of staff and twenty-four years (and counting) dining out on it;” Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who has “the charisma of a dried snail;” Evan Bayh, “the perfectly represented face for the rotted Washington establishment” (Glenn Greenwald on Salon.com); Haley Barbour, the former RNC chair, Reagan aide and governor of Mississippi who is so successful as a lobbyist that “he’s paid retainers for no service at all—just to keep him from joining the other side”; Haley’s “drinking buddy” Terry McAuliffe, “a political money man [who repositioned] himself as a more serious ‘Democratic businessman fighting for Democratic Causes and Creating Jobs’ as his website says;” Tammy Haddad, the “full-service convener of the Washington A-list;” Bob Barnett, “a signifier of Washington’s special tolerance for conflict of interest;” Chris Dodd who, “whispering 'I will ne'er consent' - consented - to becoming a lobbyist for $1.2 million a year. The easy transition of the Obama crowd from purifiers to boodlers receives full attention.
Leibovich’s description of the cursus honorum in the BoodleSphere is summarized in this paragraph: “Journalists become People on TV or go into public relations or lobbying; politicians and staffers become lobbyists or consultants of commentators, lobbyists run for office or go back into the government to “refresh their credentials,” or earning power, before taking their rightful place back in the retainer class.”
All this, including celebrations of the author’s undeniable charm and wit, are covered by the commentariat across the ideological spectrum. I take it upon myself to draw attention to some neglected observations and ideas. My impression, and it may be my own alone, is that he divides the inhabitants of the BoodleSphere into two unequal parts: people he finds interesting and those he finds uninteresting.
Harry Reid, for example, interests him because his cynical maneuvering for power advantage is almost unpolluted by hypocritical posturing and posing, and because he finds his determined rise from deep childhood poverty impressive. Kurt Bardella, who may be the Hill’s most effective press secretary, receives the better part of a whole chapter. “Bardella is not the classic guy you can root for. He activates your radar and not in a good way. He laughs too much and too hard. He hangs out in cigar bars. You suspect you are being worked....I liked him instantly.”
Young Kurt’s charm lies in the transparency of his ambition, his feverish energy, and the naive enthusiasm he brings to the difficult job of getting ahead in the BoodleSphere. Leibovich identifies him an example of the new cohort of young people lured to Washington by the glamor of the West Wing rather than by stirring calls to idealism from such as JFK and Ronald Reagan.
His origins are even humbler than Harry’s. They are not known exactly since he was found on the steps of a church in Seoul, Korea. His German first and Italian second names come to him from adoption. How could he not be interesting?
Leaving aside the other examples of persons Leibovich finds interesting, Tom Coburn demands our special attention. Although none of the liberals who praised the book seem to have noticed it, the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, known to the archliberal columnist David Sirota (who is never interesting) as an “archconservative demagogue”
“Known as ‘Dr. No,’ Coburn has built a Washington reputation on displeasing the constituencies politicians spend most of their time trying to please; special interest groups, local entities looking for funding, party leaders, Republican activists, and often his colleagues...Coburn doesn’t care. ‘Caring’ is a Coburn market inefficiency..”
“Coburn’s ‘disappointment with his colleagues is palpable. He insist’s they’re ‘wonderful people’ albeit clueless and cowardly. He has prescribed a ‘spinal transplant’ for 70 percent of the chamber. Or, moving down the body, he has diagnosed his colleagues as having ‘reproductive organs the size of BBs’ and to be 'generally lacking in gonads'.”
“Both D.C. and Las Vegas feed on human weakness", Coburn explains. They’re addictive culture - to gambling in Las Vegas and to power in D.C. Both places reward hustlers. ‘You think you can get something for nothing....Both Washington and Las Vegas are something for nothing cultures.”
“As a physician who has treated drug addicts, Coburn compares the craving for power to dependence on morphine. Like morphine, power ‘dulls the senses, impairs judgement.’ and leads politicians to make choices destructive to their characters and our democracy.”
“Another favorite Coburn invocation is what C.S. Lewis called the ‘Inner Ring.’ In his essay of that name [Lewis] describes the human craving to be a part of an elite circle of Inner Ring. Coburn applies the notion to Washington. Politicians become obsessed with the Inner Ring, the place where decisions are made where one is privy to the information that allows them to be ‘in the know’....Washington today affords a democratized Inner Ring. One needn’t be an elected official, or hotshot lobbyist, or TV pundit to be, or to feel “in the know, to achieve do-it-from-home insider status.”
In looks to me as if Leibovich used Tom Coburn to summarize his own view of the ThisTownies. I’m convinced that Coburn has become Leibovich in the last two sentences.
Here is a bit of Coburn wisdom that conservatives, libertarians and liberals alike should keep in mind. “Back in his Senate office, Coburn became most animated on the subject of political psychology. His next book, he says, will be on the power of ‘anxiety, worry and fear’ in Washington. These emotions led politicians to cling to the safest, most conventional methods of staying in power. In contemporary Washington, he says, the easiest way is to embrace rigid partisanship. This he says, ‘usually signals a deeper faith in careerism than in conservatism or liberalism.’”
Coburn has been a favorite target of Harry Reid, whose office has (among other things) accused him of being a racist because he wanted to offset funding for the Justice Department to investigated hate crimes and of not caring about feeding the Little Children lethal food. On the other hand, “Harry Reid loves Lott: he views him as just the deal-maker pragmatist today’s Senate craves. ‘I miss Trent Lott,’ Reid is always saying.” When Lott first became majority leader in 1996 Coburn talked to him about a government reform initiative, but the supreme pragmatist shot him down---- there would be plenty of time for that after election day. Coburn: “Trent was essentially saying that staying in office was more important to him than anything else. It was amazing to me that he would actually say that.” NB: Coburn didn’t say Lott’s priority amazed him. What amazed him was that Lott stated it openly.
Liberals reading This Town will ponder another hundred pages of rules and regulations to contain the sins of the BoodleSphere. Leftists will see that the only solution will be to curb or crush corporate capitalism. Libertarians will dream of the Great Cleansing.
Conservatives like Coburn will simply do their duty as they see it, free of the delusion that there can be a decisive and definitive Endloesung.
HEROIC POLITICAL WEINERS
Say what you like about America’s politicians; they are all heroes. We know this because they tell us about their heroism over and over. Maybe they don’t say this about their rivals for office, but they do say it about themselves. Examine their ads, their campaign literature, their memoirs and you will read about how they fight for their constituents, for their states, for the People, for the middle class.
They fight on the beaches, they fight in the fields and in the streets, they fight in the hills and on the campaign trails, they fight in state legislatures, in Washington and in the press; they never stop fighting. Take their words literally and you’d expect the legislative halls to be a bloodier shambles than Homs or Kandahar. You’d have to conclude that the world hasn’t seen a more bellicose bunch since history drew the curtains on Assyria and Sparta. As a matter of fact, Olympia Snowe invokes her Spartan heritage to show what a fighter she is. She used to fight for Maine. Now she fights for moderation.
True, there’s some testimony that contradicts this picture of universal political heroism. This Town, a new book about Washington by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, has a chapter entitled “Suck-Up City” and lots to say about sycophancy, obsequiousness, favor trading, and bi-partisan lobbying firms in the nation’s capital but nothing at all about hand-to-hand combat or any other activity that we commonly think of as fighting.
Still all our politicians talk all the time about fighting, so we must believe them.
The most recent demonstration of heroism comes from Anthony Weiner, candidate for mayor of New York. Weiner (I’m not going to make any juvenile fun of his name. Weiner, Weiner, Weiner, Weiner---that’s all I’m going to say on the subject) is coming under heavy pressure to drop out of the race because of fresh revelations about the indelicate displays of his not-so-private parts.
Unintimidated, Anthony has a new ad advertising his heroic devotion to public service: I quote in full: “You know, sometimes people say to me, ‘This campaign is pretty rough. You may want to quit.’ I know that there are newspaper editors and other politicians that say, ‘Boy, I wish that guy Weiner would quit. They don’t know New York. They certainly don’t know me. Quit isn’t the way we roll in New York City.”
What a guy!—clearly a man inspired by his city’s traditional toughness and fighting attitude.
This kind of courage is not a monopoly of Democratic politicians. Consider the example of Todd Akin, He was the Republican nominee against Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill. This was thought to be an easy Republican pick-up until Todd made an idiotic comment about rape. A lot of Republicans urged him to step aside to make room for a candidate who could actually win. Nothing doing. Todd was no quitter either and told the world so, another a fighter. I guess his defeat makes him a tragic hero.
Some cynics believe that these guys are a couple of clowns inspired by a tireless lust for political office and power. They have never admitted to any such thing. It appears that they don’t care a fig about such trifles. Public service is their only motive for running, as they’ve made clear time and time again. Anthony tells us that “citizens, when they come up to you, and they want to talk you about a situation on their block, or at their child’s school or something going on at their job site, that’s what this campaign is all about. And I’ll never forget that.”
See what I mean?
Admittedly, it’s a little jarring when we hear the same politician deploring partisanship while talking about fighting in the same speech but we mustn’t let that diminish the gratitude we should feel about living in a Republic where a heroic political class fights, fights, fights for us around the clock day in and day out.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LET’S NOT HAVE A NATIONAL CONVERSATION
I’m using this space to announce the formation of the National Alliance for Voluntary Political Aphasia and Deafness. A mere $52.00 per annum, less than the price of a weekly latte, entitles NAVPAD members to shut up and ignore any and all National Conversations for a full year..
The basic charge allows members to evade The National Conversations on Public Health and Chemical Exposure, The National Conversation On Writing, the Wilson Center/NPR National Conversation about Thoughtful and Challenging Explorations of the Most Significant Problems Facing the Nation and the World, The National Conversation to Shape Journalism, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Conversation on Public Service and many other annoying diversions from really interesting and productive conversations about weather, sex, beer, sports, cats, dogs, and recipes.
President Obama’s initial contribution, that “a jury has spoken” was to the point and cannot be repeated too often. Abigail Thernstrom, vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, approved: "Mr. President, you said what should have been said: A verdict has been rendered. Leave it at that." Of course he couldn’t leave it a that, no more than he could directly criticize those determined not to leave it at that.
His observation that it’s not “particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations” is incontestable. That "They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have” is equally incontestable. Neither reservation will have the slightest impact on the national conversation he proposes. All the contestants in New York City’s September Democratic primaries have pronounced guilty verdicts on the Florida jury’s not guilty verdict and he will criticize none of them for it.
He advises us that "On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there's the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?" That’s all very nice, but it would have more authority if it did not come from a man who spent many hours in church listening to racist sermons without raising any objection known to man.
We must not make too much of our president’s rhetorical ambiguities and evasions. He’s simply following the rules of his trade. He did not originate the national conversation disorder. He didn’t make its rules.
The rules are well known. The conversationalists and dialogicians will round up all the usual suspects---racial profilers, stand your ground legislators, white racists, neighborhood watchers, gun owners, racist police, racist courts, hoodie-haters, Tea Party terrorists. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz will not be overlooked. And remember this; no defense is permitted. The conversationalists will condemn any defense as prima facie evidence of racism.
We can expect putrid torrents of mendacity, political calculation, paranoia, inane placards, accusations of insensitivity, demands for apologies, exhumations of dead racists, bizarre historical analogies, demands for this NOW!, demands for that NOW! and Al Sharpton.
Al Sharpton! There’s a huge section of the American public who will recoil from a national conversation on race, or any other subject, that features Reverend Al. Yet there he is, front and center with the president and other eminent national lecturers. Few liberals seem ready to defend his past, but most have no problem forgetting it. Others have clearer memories.
It’s important to keep in mind that only Whites who bemoan institutional racism, white privilege, the history of Jim Crow laws, and white racism past and present may participate. All others must shut up.
The worst of this lecture fest, this national monologue, is this: nobody can admit to boredom. We know what boredom is. We have all experienced its horrors and understand that prolonged, predictable monotony induces it. We know it’s impossible for millions of Americans who have listened to the same litany of whining and accusation year after year not to suffer from it. The Trayvon Martin uproar and all that surrounds it contains no novel element. And yet, an open admission of boredom is absolutely guaranteed to produce outbursts of incandescent indignation.
As a thought experiment let’s consider a few preconditions which must we must meet if we are to have a serious national conversation arising from the Florida tragedy. Here’s ten facts which require general acceptance.
1. The Anglo-American legal tradition allows the accused to defend himself and his lawyers to represent his interests in an adversarial contest. An acquittal is not in itself a crime unless illegally obtained.
2. The not guilty verdict was the decision of the jury. They are the logical object of the rage against that verdict.
3. The Democratic candidates in NYC and others who condemned the verdict were not present at the trial.
4. A million tweeting twitter-birds, a thousand agitated celebrities, and hundreds of ambitious politicians do not constitute a legal jury, despite their imposing numbers.
5. The issue provides political opportunities and advantages for liberals.
6. FBI records released this month show the bureau found no evidence that racial bias was a motivating factor in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
7. Sanford Det. Chris Serino, told agents that he thought Zimmerman profiled Trayvon because of his attire and the circumstances — but not his race.
8. A comparison of the number of blacks killed by whites for the year prior to the verdict with the number killed after will determine whether it signals “an open season” on young black men.
9. It’s primarily the responsibility of the liberal commentariat to explain double jeopardy to the idiots demanding that George Zimmerman be retried by a higher court.
10. Zimmerman said that Martin laid in wait and jumped him. No witness claimed to have seen how the fight started, and no physical evidence was inconsistent with Zimmerman’s account.
This is not a complete list of preconditions, but none will be met and that will suffice to make the point.
A handsome certificate of NAVPAD membership is obtainable by sending $52.00 to Festung Frary, 355 Red School House Road, Farmington, ME 04938.
WEINER'S UNNATURAL ACTS
Anthony Weiner’s first wide-spread media exposure came in June 2010 when he was attacked by an angora goat on national TV. No one ever tried to determine if Lancelot was a Republican, goats don’t generally register. The media and Caprinian psychologists assume that he was simply annoyed at being conscripted for a photo-op, as who wouldn’t?
Although the New York politico bled a little, press coverage treated the event more as comedy than tragedy. All the same upon reflecting that the word tragedy is derived from the Greek word for “goat song” we have to think a bit. And we can’t help think a bit more in light of the man’s subsequent twitter displays.
He was not, as you might have guessed, born under the sign of Aries, the goat. Anthony is a Virgo. His horoscope seems to offer hope. It reads, in part: “2013 brings you sweeping change and intensity... If you're not already a powerful public speaker... get ready to discover your latent potential to sway the masses...Jupiter continues to bring the potential for great promise and recognition to your career zone this year.” Anthony can only be encouraged by that old adage about his natural constituency: “The masses are asses.”
These are deep waters. It’s time for your investigator to paddle for shore.
We are on solider ground when we consider the circumstances of the 2010 comedy. Representatives Weiner and Chaffetx (R-Utah) had set out to terminate the notorious mohair goat subsidy, a perennial favorite of those who labor to contain government waste.
In 1954 Congress enacted the National Wool Act creating a price support and loan programs for wool. This included mohair shearings from Angora goats. Mohair was especially important to national security, since mohair blends were needed to make dress uniforms capable of taking those razor-sharp creases so vital for morale. In 1960, after the U.S. military adopted uniforms made from synthetics, wool was removed from the strategic materials list.
The mohair goat subsidies, originally enacted in the name of national security remained.
Thirty-five years later the subsidies were eliminated by the first Republican congress since 1954, perhaps because someone noticed that large quantities of mohair wool subsidized by the US taxpayers were shipped to the Soviet Union so their soldiers could have razor-sharp creases.
A few years later they were reinstated under pressure from Angora goat ranchers. In 2001 Angora goats were receiving $750,000 from the federal government. This was the trifling sum that Weiner and Chaffetz hoped to save.
There are only 6,000 angora goat ranchers, but 84% of them are in Texas. Republican and Democratic congressmen from Texas have one thing in common. They are all goat-lovers. Utah also has goats, but they are primarily for milking. If there are goats in Brooklyn they have been keeping out of the public eye. No surprise to find congressmen from Utah and Brooklyn taking a stand against this absurd subsidy.
No surprise that their amendment was rejected. The explanation is well known to students of congressional politics. The millions of Americans who support these ranchers pay trifling sums. The ranchers receive significant sums. The angora hacienderos get thousands. The humbler herders get hundreds. Intensity is on their side in both cases.
A fundamental, eternal and immutable rule: When governments create programs they create constituencies. A corollary is that these constituencies will organize themselves to defend the program. It matters little whether or not the original goals of the program are being met. It doesn‘t even matter if the program turns out to work against the original goals. The beneficiaries’ goal is to continue to benefit.
Those who receive the subsidies will suffer from their termination. Those who pay a fraction of a cent every year to sustain them feel no loss.
More broadly cutting is painful for both the sheared and the cutters. Spending brings pleasure. There was a time when tightwads like Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge would recoil with loathing from deficit spending, but now that John Maynard Keynes has explained that deficit spending can be a positive thing deficit pangs have lost their effect.
There are still politicians, mostly out of office, who proudly claim the name “deficit hawk.” Olympia Snowe, in her recent book, touts her support for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Troll carefully through the volume and you will find no boasts about any cost cutting measures she sponsored.
Sen Alan Simpson is a hero among the hawks. When he was a senator he voted against the Weiner-Chaffetz amendments. I infer that Wyoming’s got goats.
It’s clear Cutting is an unnatural act. More unnatural, in fact, than displaying your wedding tackle on the Internet.
WHAT ABOUT PAUL LePAGE?
On July 2 Maine’s governor pushed a button that produced, and will continue to produce, waves of incandescent fury. He said he intends to run for re-election. Maine’s Left was sorely afflicted by Bush Derangement Syndrome a few years back, but the re-election of Paul LePage will, in comparison, make BDS resemble a fleeting local rash or mild hangover. In the fevered minds of Maine’s Left, Paul LePage relates to George W. Bush as the statue of Ozymandias relates to a Kewpie doll.
This is easily understood. After suffering under presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II they had to accept the possibility of a Republican, even a conservative Republican president, but a conservative Republican governor of Maine is an unendurable violation of the Natural Order. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.
They may have to. A PPP poll this year shows LePage losing against several possible candidates in a two-way race, but winning every likely three-way match-up by at least 5 points, assuming Eliot Cutler runs as an Independent. Maine has gone blue in every presidential race since 1984, but no Democrat has won a majority of votes in a state-wide race since 1982. In 2010 their candidate managed to get just 19%. Their 2012 U.S. Senate candidate received just 12.8% of the vote.
These distressing blow-outs all resulted from independents running. So they have an Eliot Cutler problem and fund-raising letters now being sent out by the Democratic State Committee all feature denunciations of Cutler as a spoiler. Cutler, like Angus King, is a former Democrat turned crypto-liberal. Back in 2010 he denounced the Maine Democratic Party as a tool of special interests, singling out the Maine Education Association in particular. He was endorsed by the editors of all of Maine’s daily newspapers.
Towards the end of the 2010 contest the Democratic leadership foresaw the Libby Mitchell disaster and tacitly sidled up to Cutler. Now they are counting on Rep. Mike Michaud and are desperate to deter Cutler. Neither has formally declared. Both have “exploratory committees”. I foresaw a Michaud bid when I read a Down East magazine profile of Severin Beliveau of Preti Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios, one of Maine's largest law firms. The profile quoted him casually suggesting that the Democrats might do well to run a “moderate” like Mike Michaud for governor. I know Severin. He’s the state’s biggest mover, shaker and fixer. He does not make casual, off-hand suggestions.
Michaud was re-elected by 55.7% in Maine’s 2012 second district congressional race. Kevin Raye, the moderate Republican senate president, tried to make much of Mike’s membership in Roll Call’s “Obscure Caucus.” This was a wasted effort. Obscurity is the man’s greatest asset Another candidate might have problems with Mike’s absurd claim that he had read the entire Affordable Care Act, his warm endorsement of the odious and bogus John Edwards in the 2008 presidential primary, his letter to the judiciary committee urging impeachment of Dick Cheney, his futile posturing about revising NAFTA. None of this matters. Maine’s media will remember none of it.
Mike will run as a warm hand-shake attached to an amiable smiley-face.
Devout liberals, rejoicing in their sophistication, will prefer Cutler, a well-educated wealthy lawyer with international connections, over Michaud, an ignorant hack vaulted from a fork-lift saddle to the Seat of Power. Some will remember that when he served as a state senator with a large conservative “French” Catholic constituency he stood for the sanctity of life. His position on that issue has since grown purposefully obscure. In my 2008 Maine Public Broadcasting debate with Michaud, Jennifer Rookes, one of the moderators, pushed and pushed for clarification but got no satisfaction. Cutler stands four-square for abortion.
Paul LePage appears to have a firm grip on the 38% of the vote he won in 2010. His repeated “gaffes” support his insistence that he is no politician. Real politicians express themselves freely only in private conversations. His purported concern for future generations rather than future elections is far from unique but gains plausibility from a demographic analysis which appeared in The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest newspaper.
The gist of it was that Maine today has a population that is 58% above retirement age or below adult age, so the state is supported entirely by the efforts of the 42% of those residents of working age. Or at least those who are of working age and working. This rates as the worst Producer to Consumption ratio in the US today, but far worse numbers are on their way. Absent a sea change in birth rates, death rates or immigration, 83% of Mainers will be in the non-Productive category by 2030, leaving just 17% of the population to produce all the goods and services needed by the 83%.
Absent those phantom sea changes, an invigorated economy which retains its youth and attracts immigration offers the only hope for preserving Maine’s “famous independence”. With only 17% of the population supporting themselves and everyone else, our state will have only three other options: 1) Revert to territorial status and become a congressional dependency; 2) Ask Texas to annex us; 3) Cede Portland with a coastal strip stretching to Camden (an excrescence of suburban Bergen County on the Maine coast), to Massachusetts while the rest of the state is annexed to the United States Department of the Interior as a national park.
The Democratic Governor’s Association has been running “Petitions” on all the political websites, Left to Right, condemning the governor’s “extreme right wing agenda.” The Internet allows the DGA to do this cheaply for visitors to these sites with Maine IP addresses. LePage takes the line that he has the next generation in mind, not the next election. That may sound like commonplace political rhetoric, but it’s consistent with my personal knowledge of the man and consistent with the agenda he has consistently pursued: tax reduction, regulatory rationalization, containment and reform of the welfare system, overhaul of our costly and inefficient system of public education, reduction of the state’s pension obligations.
Nearly as I can determine the Maine Democratic Party agenda is to spend (sorry, invest:-), enlarge the government’s operations, solicit federal funds, expand the public education empire down to the cradle and up to the coffin, and eject Paul LePage from the Blaine House. True, I speak as a mean-spirited partisan but am prepared to consider the Democrats’ agenda in a fair and balanced fashion if they present one.
COOLIDGE AND VASELINE
This year some Mainers celebrated the 141st anniversary of the birth of Calvin Coolidge and Vaseline. Governor LePage drew attention to Vaseline’s advent with a ribald quip involving state senator Troy Jackson, Maine’s taxpayers, Robert Chesebrough’s useful invention and a painful, unhygienic, and smelly sexual practice which this genteel blog declines to identify. This quip has drawn national attention. Our governor’s explanation in May for his veto of a bill to expand the state’s Medicare expansion received no national attention and a lot less attention in Maine than his description of Troy Jackson’s political technique. He explained “Calvin Coolidge said one thing that stuck with me: ‘It’s always more important to beat bad public policy than it is to pass good public policy.’”
That quote reflects a position LePage took during his campaign and one which he has adhered to since. It also reflects the fact, to which I can personally attest, that his extensive library of historical and biographical volumes includes three recent books about Vermont’s gift to the United States. He has found the time since his election to read Amity Shlaes excellent biography of the man.
Paul’s repeated insistence that he is not a professional politician is confirmed by his most recent “gaffe.” Cal, by contrast, was an experienced and skillful politician. The man managed to turn his shyness and laconic habits into assets. If our governor had paid closer attention to this aspect of the man’s career he would have found useful counsel in this observation: "I don’t recall any candidate for President that ever injured himself very much by not talking." Careful research discloses that Plymouth Notch’s most distinguished son never once discussed petroleum jelly in any of his public speeches or private conversations.
Expanding on the old saw that if you can’t say anything nice about someone don’t say anything at all, Calvin Coolidge sometimes said nothing at all. When visitors showed up in the oval office with requests and demands he sometimes sat puffing on his cigar in absolute silence until they simply ran down. In fact, he noticed that if he said yes or no they would go on for another twenty minutes. Better to listen, puff away, and say nothing at all.
Still, if our state’s chief executive deserves criticism for his untimely introduction of the Vaseline motif, what should we make of those outraged dimwits who consider his tactless sally more important than the budget? We understand the Democrats’ eagerness to shift the discussion away from tax increases, but why would our media think that indiscretion more important for Maine and its economic future?
Let’s leave that mystery unresolved and give some thought to why the governor thinks Calvin Coolidge is worth quoting and reading about. A famous writer expressed the liberal view of the man when she heard that he had died (1933): “How could they tell?” In that view he didn’t do anything or, worse, all he did was reduce the deficit and reduce taxes. This view seemed set in stone by 1940, after which almost nothing was written about him for more than forty years, only two books altogether.
Then Ronald Reagan shocked the academic community by ordering Coolidge’s portrait mounted in the place of honor in the White House. Subsequently a dozen new books appeared, most of them favorable. The JFK Presidential Library held a symposium on his administration in 1998 and another in 2010. Numerous articles and academic papers have appeared since 2000. Coolidge by Amity Shlaes, published this year, is the best and most complete biography so far. Her laudatory conclusions have scandalized liberal reviewers. They figured Cal had been forever embalmed and entombed sixty years ago. Historical revision and reinterpretation of the subject are about as welcome to that conformist crew as gay marriage is to traditional Christians.
Governor LePage’s interest in, and respect for, the Coolidge legacy is easily understood. The president lowered the national debt from $22.3 billion in 1923 to $16.9 billion in 1929, while reducing the top income tax rate from 73 percent in 1922 to 24 percent by 1929. By 1927, 98 percent of the population paid no income tax. He also eliminated a number of “nuisance” taxes, such as those on cars and theater tickets. He met with his Budget Director, Herbert Mayhew Lord from Rockland, Maine, 202 times to comb through the budget again and again, reducing it from $5.1 billion in 1921 to $3.3 in 1929. The pair relentlessly worked their way from the big ticket items down to the cheese-parings. For me General Lord’s masterpiece was the decree restricting civil servants to one pencil at a time. They had to turn in the stub to get a new one. This may not have saved much money, but it set the right tone.
Paul LePage clearly shares Coolidge’s understanding of an enduring problem at all levels of government which the Vermonter summed up in these words: "It is necessary to watch people in Washington all the time to keep them from unnecessary expenditure of money. They have all lived off the national Government so long in that city that they are inclined to regard any sort of employment as a Christmas tree, and if we are not careful, they will run up a big expense bill on us."
The fact that President Coolidge kept a copy of the Constitution on his bedside table must also appeal to our governor. I don’t know what he keeps at his bedside, but I do know that he has read the Federalist Papers. Any elected official who takes his or her oath to uphold the Constitution seriously should do the same. They don’t. Indeed, the question of how many have actually read the Constitution the take an oath to uphold deserves serious exploration.
My own inquiries into that question have not been encouraging....
POLITICS AND IDIOCY AGREE AS WELL AS HAM & EGGS
“It is only in politics that we find the ambitions of a Napoleon combined with the intelligence of a village idiot.”—Rep. Lance Harvell.
A NOTE TO MY READERS: Some may object that what I term idiocy is mere silliness. I don’t deny the merit of this objection. It’s just that I generally prefer the harder or hardest words, as a deliberate antidote the plobby, blobby, squishy euphemisms and evasions which etiolate contemporary American political discourse.
Rep. Harvell’s aphorism conveys a major truth which requires only minor qualification. It sometimes happens that it is the ambition that induces the idiocy, and it often happens that politicians of average intelligence and expansive ambition deliberately adopt the manner, diction, and cognitive style of the village idiot. In many cases village idiocy is embraced as a means of capturing the village idiot vote in service to the modest ambition of snaring a job.
Consider the emergence of an Axis of Asses, so far including Anthony Weiner, Mark Stanford, and Johnny Edwards, with Eliot Spritzer, among others waiting in the stables while eyeing the starting gate with lustful eyes.
All are following well-trodden come-back trails. Among disgraced Democrats the trail begins with psychiatric rehab treatment. Anthony W. reveals that he visited a Houston psychiatric facility following his resignation from Congress in 2011. He tells the New York Daily News that the Center was critical in his “journey” to becoming a “new man.”
Republican comeback trails normally begin with religious rehab. So Mark Stanford tells us “I am an imperfect man, saved by God’s grace.” Edwards, aiming at Southern votes, adopts a similar line telling us “I don’t think God’s through with me. I really believe he thinks there’s still some good things I can do.” It remains unclear whether he believes God wants him to make more millions as an ambulance chaser or recover political office.
The New York Times, which serves in God’s place for many liberals, seems to offer its Grace in a an article speculating hopefully about a “second act” for Spitzer. Eliot, we remember, stepped down as governor amid the allegations he was a "john" consorting with expensive call-girls. Yet we read “he has not ruled out running for office again.”
(I take this opportunity to protest against the use of my Christian name to describe call-girl clients. Surely “eliots” has a better claim to serve that purpose.)
I’ve not had a chance to ask God about his purported extension of Grace to Mark, but it would have been more telling for him to have said, “I’m a ridiculous man and God has never made his position on ridiculousness clear.” Remember, all these men made themselves ridiculous by the acts which interrupted their careers; and more ridiculous by their idiotic attempts at denial, evasion, cover-up and, finally, apology.
The news that Weiner sought treatment for “compulsive behavior” from mental health professionals raises a serious question: Why are there no treatments for the compulsive urge for political power? Houston’s Gabbard Center specializes in treating “professionals who are in personal or professional crises.” Isn’t it time to consider the mass of evidence suggesting that the professional pursuit of political office is in itself a debilitating compulsive behavior disorder?
Here it’s apposite to recall Doctor Johnson’s summary judgement on sexual couplings: “The position is ridiculous, the pleasure is fleeting, and the expense is damnable.” This seems an appropriate parallel. The political positions adopted are more often ridiculous than not; political victories are almost always fleeting; and complaints about campaign costs are heard on every side.
More, it is obviously addictive—always a sure indicator of compulsive behavior.
Let’s dive deeper into the matter and consider some common idiocies that appear with monotonous regularity during campaign for office—all palpably obvious.
The time is gone when a politician like Lincoln could cheerfully admit that he wanted to make a name for himself. No politician is ever heard to admit to personal ambition these days. The standard explanation of their lust for public office is the desire to “give something back.” This would be plausible, if we had evidence that they avoided legal tax deductions, regularly made large charitable deductions, and left office poorer than they entered. But who bothers asking?
It became obvious to all before Labor Day in 2008 that Rep. Tom Allen’s campaign to replace Senator Susan Collins was doomed to defeat. Still he and his staff continued to foretell an upset right up to the day that it was spurlos versunkt. How idiotic are such stark denials of the obvious? Yet they are so standard that candidates who frankly acknowledge the unlikelihood of victory are scorned as incompetent campaigners.
Then there are the tyro candidate’s promises of “leadership,” as if a greenhorn joining a crowd of 434 congressmammals, many of them with years of experience and all endowed with robust egos, would be accepted as a leader. They’d stick him in a corner somewhere and, to use a phrase from P.G. Wodehouse, put a green baize cloth over him like a tiresome caged parrot.
And speaking of parrots, how often do we hear vows to “fight” in political speeches and literature. Candidates repeatedly (repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly) swear to fight for the middle class, for their constituents, for justice, for this, for that. If we took this bellicose talk seriously we would expect to find the halls of Congress a bloodier shambles than Kumar Province.
When I ran for Congress I took a solemn oath never to ask for or give an apology. This was not meant to apply to obligatory courtesies if I had inadvertently trod on some grandmother’s toes or overturned some young mother’s baby-carriage. It referred to the relatively recent practice of demanding apologies for some “insensitive” remark. We’ve seen far too much of this and we will hear more. There’s no defense against such charges. A candidate will only look ridiculous if he insists “I am too sensitive.” He or she can only lie in wait for a counter-gaffe.
This list of standard idiocies could be prolonged but that would be wearisome and pointless. Any reader will have examples he or she can add at will.
OLYMPIA SNOWE’S MANUAL FOR MODERATES: PART I
Olympia Snowe’s Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress is no capo di lavoro of literary style or political thought. Its prose is insipid and its ideas are banal. Yet it has some ephemeral significance as a bipartisan manifesto. It also provides an insight into the intellectual shallowness of a successful politician much admired by the muddy stream media.
The book is central Maine’s famously “fiercely independent” senator’s new mission to "give voice to the frustration of more than 90 percent of American people who think Congress is way too partisan” and she stands out as America’s foremost exponent of bipartisanship. She’s a senior fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC),, a board member of The National Institute for Civil Discourse and the University of New Hampshire’s Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy, a member of Main Street Partnership and the Campaign to Fix the Debt, and the founder of Olympia’s List, as well as an admirer of the center-left Third Way think tank and The Village Square of Tallahassee, Florida. Combined with her book this must constitute the most comprehensive portfolio of civility/compromise/moderation/BiPship credentials held by any living American.
I’m the most civil man now living on Red Schoolhouse Road, Farmington, Maine. Edmund Burke’s aphorism “All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter” seems self-evident. John Frary is universally recognized as a beacon of benevolence amidst the most incendiary disputes. Principles interest me more than party.
Yet, I regard Olympia Snowe as a vain, shallow, self-serving, and useless as a guide. This needs some explaining and her book provides all the evidence needed to justify these opinions.
First, and above all, her claim to speak for over ninety percent of Americans is plainly silly. Nobody can make that claim. A 2012 Gallup survey reports that “Political ideology in the U.S. held steady in 2011, with 40% of Americans continuing to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. This marks the third straight year that conservatives have outnumbered moderates, after more than a decade in which moderates mainly tied or outnumbered conservatives.”
This introduces to another of her book’s fallacies, one shared by most moderation-mongers; that partisanship is primarily a congressional phenomenon fostered by organized ideologues. In fact, Washington’s divisions are a reflection of national divisions. The ideological interest groups are media for articulating these divisions. Maximizing congressional isolation from public opinion is a sine qua non of Snowe’s BiPship agenda.
She repeatedly neglects to identify any of the ideologues who stand in the way of compromise and BiPship. Bella Abzug and Ron Dellums, for example, appear only as a feminist and an African-American respectively. There’s no hint that their unalloyed Stalinoid Castrophilia bothered her. Her book mentions them only because Rep. Hebert, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke contemptuously of them. There’s no explicit assertion that the uncivil chairman was a knuckle-dragging Louisiana red-neck. Readers are left to decide for themselves.
Her refusal to name names and assign personal blame for the ideological divisions she deplores is a tribute to Snowe’s civility. The woman is a moderate in promoting civility as she is in all other things. Did she ever notice Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) at its shrill peak? Does she think the routine accusations of racism against her party and colleagues strain civil discourse? No hint of it. Did she think her colleague Charlie Rangel was a tad uncivil when he said tax-cuts were a “code word for racism.”? Since this was directed at President Reagan’s policies and she has nothing but kind words for the man, you might think so. But you would think wrong.
Check the website for the National Institute for Civil Discourse (http://nicd.arizona.edu) and you will find no mention of BDS or the liberal deployment of racism charges. It includes an article critical of Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated charge that Romney evaded his taxes, but gives no coverage to the Obama campaign’s demonization of Mitt as a callous plutocrat. Class warfare tactics employed by both sides appears to be too tricky for consideration. On this evidence, some may conclude that the NICD is simply too civil for effective civility-enforcement,
Others may argue that it is too ideological, i.e., too liberal. The organization gives prizes for essays about civil discourse, most recently for civilly discoursing on civilizing in the gun debate. All three proceed from the assumption that debate concerns only “gun violence.” None show much awareness that the debate includes Second Amendment rights.
Stephen P. Konieczka’s essay concludes by considering opportunities for, and challenges to, “fostering, focusing, and facilitating civil discourse (s) about everyday violence with guns.” It provides lots of statistics on gun violence, none on the defensive use of guns.
Sarah J, Read’s essay “look[s] at how a society can build the trust needed to navigate the difficult issues of gun violence.” It has a quote about NRA “true believers” but recognizes no gun control true believers. In accordance with the NCID’s general tenor, she seems to assume that we must look to academia and established media as objective judges. So we read that “The Kettering Foundation and Public Agenda's “Don't Count Us Out” report indicates that the nation's universities are one of the few institutions that retain sufficient public support to lead this type of effort. The recent ‘Open Letter to President Obama ‘ that was recently signed by over 280 college presidents indicates that they may be willing to do so.”
Regina Kelly's essay “focuses on how media coverage of events like the January 8th, 2011 Tucson shooting make it difficult to talk about gun violence among people with different views.” It sure enough is difficult but her problem is the way that revelations about Loughner’s mental instability shifted the discussion away from “The issue of whether political vitriol may have influenced Loughner...” Some of us may remember that liberal journalists should an immediate urge to blame the tragedy on right-wing agitators, Sarah Palin in particular. Regina Kelly does not. Her failure to factor in this reflexive reaction suggests that she has an ideological mission.
In any case, the criticisms made of Rep Gabby Gifford fall far below recognized historical standards of vitriol. Kelly may know Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) top to bottom, but she doesn’t know much about the history of political vitriol in this or any other country.
These three essayists may have academic credentials for discussing dialogue, but I personally would not care to spend much time dialoguing with them.
Here’s a sample of their ghastly prose: “...binaries ignore the fact that issues can be interrelated. How issues of difference are interrelated in public discourse and how such positioning affects the atmosphere of public conversations is an abiding concern of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), as prescribed by socio-linguist Norman Fairclough. In Analysing Discourse, Fairclough calls our attention to how differences can be “accentuated” or “negotiated . On the “accentuation” side of the spectrum, “difference, conflict, [and] polemic” are underscored; discursive representations emphasize “a struggle over meaning, norms, [and] power”
MODERATE MUSHMONGERING IN MAINE
Senator Olympia Snowe (BiP-Maine) is, by common consent, America’s Queen of Moderation, our Bipartisan Pathfinder. This has worked very well for her with Maine’s voters and the editors of the New York Times. She left the United States Senate of her own volition but continues as senior fellow of the Bipartisan Policy Center and plans to use her insider's knowledge to "give voice to the frustration of more than 90 percent of American people who think Congress is way too partisan." Her solutions are set forth in Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress.
Full disclosure: She once invited me over for cookies. I left the last one on the platter, to show my moderate appetite.
One of the BiPper conventions is that America’s most urgent problem is partisanship; not a bloated, ungovernable bureaucracy, unpayable budget deficits, uncontainable entitlements, and pervasive incompetence. If we can only get along all these problems will solve themselves.
It’s not quite right to call Olympia a Republican in Name Only. After all, being bipartisan requires regular doses of semi-demi-quasi-Republican palaver. The woman knew how to speak fluent Republicanese to a Republican gathering. She even praised my congressional candidacy on occasion, even though she was unable to pronounce my name correctly and failed to recognize me when I stood a yard away from her. Better then that, she donated $2,000 to my campaign and has often provided modest financial assistance to the GOP organization and candidates. These discreet gestures of party solidarity never included criticism of the Democratic Party or a harsh word about liberalism. She has hard words for this dreadful thing called “ideology” but gives no clue that she recognizes the existence of a liberal or progressive ideology.
In 2012, before her decision not to run for re-election, she made an effort to “reach out” to the most right-wing elements in the party. I was invited to a private meeting in Auburn which included members of the Franklin County tea party organization and even an ardent fundamentalist. The discussion was polite if a little tense. She seemed a bit defensive. Nothing memorable was said. I left early, surfeited with boredom. There’s no telling what she expected from such meetings or whether they played a role in her decision not to run.
There’s a moderate melange of issues and attitudes common to all those who aspire to the title of moderate; it being understood that the established media alone holds the authority to award that honorific. One of these is “independence” or “fierce independence.” Independence from the Republican Party is highly esteemed. Independence from the Democratic Party not so much. This is routinely achieved by criticism of “ideologues” in the Republican Party, but doesn’t necessarily require criticism of its actual nominees. It is enough to avoid defending them. When Bush Derangement Syndrome was at is furious peak Maine’s moderate senators could have spoken up for civility by announcing that although they didn’t support all of his policies they didn’t believe that the president was an improbable mixture of Machiavelli, Professor Moriarty and Mortimer Snerd in service to Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex. They chose not to. That exercise in moderation offered no advantage. It would simply have diverted left-wing rage in their direction.
Moderation on the social issues is an indispensable element in this melange. An argument can be made for eschewing emphasis on them, since their resolution lies in the culture itself. Government has only limited control over the culture. Governor LePage, for example, holds traditional views on the social issues but never made them central to his campaign. He once confessed to me that he had given up trying to make sense of lavender passions when his brother’s boyfriend had an affair with his mother.
Moderate mushmongering rises to its apogee on the abortion issue, by identifying “choice” as the only possible moderate position. In fact, there is no such position available. You have a collision of values. One side places the highest value on liberty, the other on the sanctity of human life. Although both evoke strong emotions, there is no compelling logic for identifying one or the other as moderate. In the narrow terms of purely political pragmatism the issue remains muddled. Public opinion seems to be moving generally in the pro-life direction, but we now have millions of citizens who expect politicians to reassure them that they made the right choice. Those who suffer pangs of guilt or doubt are likely to be especially grateful for such reassurance.
Fiscal conservatism paired with social liberalism makes a nice straddle for the mushmongers. So Senator Snowe has been a great and consistent champion of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. She knows that it has no chance of passage and that no politician will oppose it on the grounds that unbalanced budgets are a good thing. It has the additional advantage of finessing the issue of raising taxes. She has long exemplified the approved moderate technique of demanding a balanced budget while boasting of the money they have extracted from that budget for the benefit of their constituents. We understand their reasoning: spending is easy, cutting is hard.
Conservatives and libertarians suspect that Maine’s former senator always favored taxing the rich as central to her budget balancing enthusiasm. If I’m reading her FEC reports correctly she has parked most of her considerable personal fortune in tax-free municipal bonds. I take this as evidence of a sincere desire to tax the rich, paired with an equally sincere desire to avoid such taxes.
Maine’s economy depends heavily on small businesses and Mainers have a provincial distaste for big business outsiders, so it’s no surprise to find that senators Collins and Snowe earned perfect hundred percent ratings from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). In this their voting is completely in line with both official Republican views and personal political advantage. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who’s a progressive in Washington but a pragmatist is Maine, earned a 29 percent NFIB rating in the 111th Congress. Rep. Michaud, a Blue Dog Democratic whose short leash is held in the manicured hand of Nancy Pelosi (NFIB 17%), earned the same. Rep. Barney Frank, who is a liberal everywhere and at all times, the same again. Keep in mind that some NFIB issues require government expenditures. You see, there really are some differences between Democrats and “RINOs.”
When assessing Maine’s “moderation” we must set Barack Obama’s 56% win in 2012 beside the fact that no Maine Democrat has won a statewide race since 1982 when Joe Brennan was elected governor with 62% of the vote, two years before Reagan carried the state with 60%. In 1986 the Democrats’ nominee won just 30%. Brennan sank to 44% in a comeback attempt against a Republican incumbent in 1990 and sank to 34% in 1994. The Democrats’ 1998 choice managed to get just 12%. In 2002 John Baldacci. running as a moderate Democrat, managed to get 47%. After governing as a Democratic Democrat he sank to 38% in 2006. In 2010 Libby Mitchell, the candidate of the Democratic Party and the Maine Educational Association, won 19% of the vote.
During the same period the highest Republican gubernatorial total was McKernan’s 47% in 1990 and the lowest was 19% in 1998. Apart from Brennan’s first election the only candidate to win a majority during this period was the Independent Angus King, a beneficiary of the 1990s’ boom times, who won with 59% in 1998.
Just to confuse matters a bit more it should be mentioned that Susan Collins lost to Angus King and Joe Brennan in 1994 with just 24% of the vote, then went on to win the Senate election over Brennan (49 to 44 percent) in 1996. She beat Chellie Pingree 58 percent to 42 percent in 2002 and buried Tom Allen with a 61.5% win in 2008. All three of her victims were easily identified as Portland liberals. It is generally understood that the only reason Portland is not a sister city of Hanoi is because Burlington, Vermont got that honor first.
Collins spoke at the Maine Heritage Policy Center anniversary banquet and, in 2008, advertised on AsMaineGoes.com. Snowe avoids those conservative associations. This accords with the general opinion that Collins is either more, or less, moderate, more, or less, in the center (the criteria are far from clear) than Snowe. Olympia’s majorities---60% in 1994, 69% in 2000 and 74% in 2006 - have been higher than Susan’s, but her opponents have been much weaker. The last of them told me they abandoned the Democratic Party because of its extreme right-wingery.
Neither Republican has ever said that 50,000,000 abortions were a fine thing and there ought to be more of them. Some may see this as evidence of moderation. Both voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Act. Both voted for the Unborn Victim of Violence Act. This seems to imply a belief that a “partially born” whatchamacallit does not qualify as a victim, but an unborn whatchacallit does. Perhaps the distinction lies in the fact that in the first case a living woman retains the right to a post-natal abortion, while in the second she has no such right since she is dead. This has never been explained and probably never will.
We can conclude three things from this survey: 1) the Democratic label cannot guarantee a decisive electoral advantage in this allegedly blue state; 2) the moderate, independent, bipartisan labels do confer advantages; 3) there are no reliable criteria for distinguishing between a moderate and a mere opportunist;
Angus King won election to the senate in 2012 by projecting the bipartisan image and now Eliot Cutler. who ran on the slogan “Independent just like Maine,” has announced his intention to run again in 2014 following the same path. In 2010 he denounced the Maine Democratic Party as a tool of special interests, singling out the Maine Education Association in particular. His present announcement makes no mention of the Democrats allegiance to any particular special interests. Indeed, his announcement includes this paragraph.
“I’m excited to tell you that Brandon Maheu of Fairfield will join our team this summer as Field Director. Brandon is an impressive young man who is one of the most respected political organizers in the state. Last year Brandon helped Maine Democrats regain a majority in the House of Representatives by building and managing a campaign effort that picked up an additional 15 seats across the state. He is a great addition to our bipartisan campaign team.”
I never cease to be amazed at how often politicians announce they’re excited and by what excites them, but that’s beside the point; Cutler’s excitement at recruiting an agent of special interests seems a little odd, but the bipartisan team reference can be supported by his employment of “former Republican state chair Ted O?Meara.”
Ted’s achievements as GOP chair are as mysterious as the disappearance of Judge Crater. I’ve yet to find a veteran activist who has any memory of his tenure. His moderate credentials are, however, readily accessible. He was Snowe's chief staff person in Maine during her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives and then served as executive assistant to Sen. William “The Straddler” Cohen for eight years. Building on this resume, he became director of marketing and communications for Blethen Maine Newspapers, then abandoned that sinking ship to became director of public affairs consultancy for Pierce Atwood, one of Maine’s largest law firms. He was active in the “Fed Up With Taxes” ballot initiative in 2008 and in Olympia’s 2006 re-election campaign. When Pierce Atwood laid him off in 2009 he started his started Ted O'Meara Communications.
The Fed Up With Taxes ballot initiative overturned the Democrats’ $75 million of new taxes on beverages and health care claims. This made me an unacknowledged ally of Ted, since Maine Taxpayers United, of which I am a board member and chief financial contributor, also opposed the bill.
It’s always a good idea to be cautious about attributing motives, but we see here an example of how difficult it is to distinguish an opportunist from a moderate. It’s enough to observe that Ted O’Meara’s career path is completely compatible with that of a professional political hack. Every line of his resume helps promote his business as a communications consultant and service on a winning Cutler campaign will do him no harm. If Cutler loses he will still have a new line on his resume and new contacts.
The other members of the Cutler Team named so far are professional fund raisers and communication specialists. There is nothing interesting to report about their ideological predispositions or past political involvements. It’s enough to note that their careers will not suffer from association with a wealthy candidate with solid fund-raising credentials.
The Cutlerites kept his 2010 organization alive through OneMaine.com which speaks a patois common to all mushmongers: “ work together...civility... common interests and shared purpose...share ideas...move Maine forward...big tent...more effective and less partisan...pragmatic, sustainable solutions...working across the aisle...”
Eliot Cutler will produce some position papers when the time comes in order to entertain the editorial boards and good government busybodies. The voters at large will be deluged political ads containing the same quality of mush as the One Maine website.
The moderate candidates and their supporters will repeatedly accuse Paul LePage of insufficient mushiness. They will be right. He can’t control himself and doesn’t wish to. This may work.
IMPEACH OBAMA! - ?
A January survey of Texas voters conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 67 percent of Texas Republicans, and 39 percent of Texas voters overall, said they favor impeaching Obama.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the oversight committee’s subcommittee on national security, thinks President Obama may face impeachment over his administration’s response to the Benghazi attack. Leftist pundits Jonathan Chait and Michael Tomasky have predicted a Republican push for impeachment.
Those convinced that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, or a crypto-Muslim, or a crypto-Marxist, or even a Marxist Moslem Kenyan) dreamed of impeachment long before the current scandals boiled over. They might as well relax. Impeachment is not even remotely possible.
Chaffetz is frustrated by the administration’s obstruction of his investigations, but was quick to qualify his remarks: “It’s a cover-up. I’m not saying impeachment is the end game, but it’s a possibility, especially if they keep doing little to help us learn more.” Chait, Tomasky and their kind have no persuasive defense of the Obama administration so they hope that the GOP will damage itself by overreaching.
Even though talk of impeachment will escalate as the scandal controversies escalate, the preconditions for a Nixon-like departure do not exist and cannot come about. On what grounds could the impeachers charge the president? The standards for perjury have clearly become less clear since Bill Clinton’s dodged them. Sure, there are powerful grounds for suspecting that he’s the Anti-Christ, but is that an impeachable offense under the Constitution? I foresee problems with the prohibition against a religious test. Does deceiving the American people come under “high crimes and misdemeanors? Maybe, but the line between managing the news and deception has become extremely fuzzy.
As the Watergate drama unfolded most conservative pundits searched for excuses, but a few among them became increasingly critical. George Will, the Washington columnist for the National Review at the time, regularly exposed the Nixon administration’s lines of defense as lies and evasions. Will took a lot of heat from conservatives at the time, but many conservatives liked Nixon because of his enemies, rather than for his policies. They had no enthusiasm for his foreign policy of detente or his recognition of communist China. His experiment with wage and price controls offended their most basic economic beliefs. The cost of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs bloomed during his administration.
Some on the far, far left are enraged at Obama’s continuation of the national security policies established under Bush, but liberal mainstreamers are pleased and excited by his expansion of governmental power. And they hate his enemies with even more enthusiasm than conservatives hated the liberal enemies of Nixon. They will never turn against him.
Some liberal pundits are displeased by the IRS scandals and the Department of Justice investigations of journalists, but they typically soften this by attacking conservative critics.
In February 1973 the senate Republicans all voted for a senate select committee to investigate Watergage. Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn), the committee’s vice chairman, asked the key question: "What did the President know and when did he know it?" Obama can not be impeached unless some Democrats support impeachment. There are no revelations, no crimes, which could possibly motivate a significant number of Democratic congressmen to support impeachment. Basic electoral arithmetic tells them that their party has no hope of a majority if they can’t count on 90% of the Black vote in a large Black turnout. Common observation has shown the racial solidarity will keep that bloc loyal to the first black president.
The Democrats have zealously promoted racial paranoia for years in order to motivate the Black vote. White liberals themselves have already been caught in the blow-back from this, and support for impeachment would invite it on a grand scale.
So, no; there will be no impeachment.
FOOLS DEFENDING OBAMA?
"SHUVAEV DEFENSE” VARIATIONS. When General Dmitrii Savel’evich Shuvaev, Czarist Minister of War, heard that the cabinet might face charges of treason in the Duma (Russia’s parliament) for its mismanagement of the war effort, he replied indignantly: "I may be a fool but I am not a traitor."
E.g., “there’s no evidence that anyone in the White House had any involvement in — nor even any knowledge of — what was going on within the agency’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.”
“Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast. You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it, and it’s a difficult situation.”—David Axelrod.
"...it seems that there weren't actually any scandals, just the usual confusion and low-level mistakes that happen all the time, in any administration."—Paul Krugman.
“The I.R.S. is an independent agency.”—Jay Carney. The president can’t be expected to know what they’re up to. It's not independent, by the way.
“I do not know why that was or was not done. I simply don’t have a factual basis to answer that question....I don’t know what happened there, I was recused from the case...I don’t have a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked, because I was recused....I don’t know. I don’t know. . . . I would not want to reveal what I know. . . . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. . . . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”—Attorney General Holder.
THE GEORGE MCCLELLAN DEFENSE---Taking Action is Risky:
"To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on the ground, I think would have been very dangerous.”
“It would have been risky just to send in a military jet to try to scare off the insurgents given the number of surface-to-air missiles on the loose in Libya.” This should be obvious. Every time you deploy forces where there are enemies you are taking the risk that they might shoot back.
THE HO HUM DEFENSE: Nothing going on here, just the usual scandals:
“Washington’s need for periodic scandal is almost biological.”
“The administration has provided over 25,000 pieces of documentation to Congress, which has already held 11 hearings on the matter.”
“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s old news.”
“The scandals are falling apart.”—Ezra Klein
“These scandals aren’t any fun.” Jacob Weisberg
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
“Benghazi hearings revealed nothing new...Let’s put this behind us.”---JohnKerry
"Benghazi was a long time ago.”---Jay Carney:
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACKING MUST WAIT UNTIL MONDAY:
It would have been "very difficult, if not impossible to rescue the U.S. embassy officials. We had no way of knowing how long the siege would lasts of how it would turn out. It was prudent to do nothing until after it was all over—if then."
"There were too many imponderables, unpredictables, and uncertainties. All we can say for sure is that sending aircraft overhead and sending in a small group of special forces wouldn’t have made any difference."
"There was no time for proper planning and preparation. There just wasn’t time. Who knew the terrorist would get up to no good on September 11. There were 365 days in 2012."
ACHTUNG! RIGHT-WING MENACE:
The circumstances of the AP wiretapping, the Benghazi tragedy, the IRS abuses are unclear and it’s hard to decide who is really responsible: but Republican political motives are completely clear and we know what they are up to:
Rush Limbaugh is a national menace. He must be stopped.
Fox News is unfair and unbalanced.
CBS News executives see Sharyl Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the Benghazi issue.
Barack Obama is incapable of doing mean things. Only paranoid right-wingers could even believe this. It’s not as if he learned politics in Chicago.
Anyway, what’s the matter with Chicago politics?
The prospects for the 2016 presidential election could be impacted. There are obvious political undercurrents. As the most popular Democrat Hillary Clinton should not criticized by right-wingers. That would be playing politics.
All this chatter about national security mistakes and the lack of government transparency is a diversion from the real problem—political divisiveness.
“Partisan Politics Dominates House Benghazi Hearing.”
We need to talk less about attacks on American diplomats and IRS harassment of conservative groups, more about Republican attacks on the Administration and harassment of Jay Carney.
There was no conspiracy to hide the truth, but there is an organized conspiracy to make Obama resign. This is a known fact. Rachel Maddow said it.
All this loose talk about terrorism is diverting attention from right-wing hysteria.
HEY! Republican sources in Congress oversold tendentious paraphrases of administration e-mails as verbatim quotes.
The I.R.S. was a victim of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC
Nothing and no one will ever be as bad as Tricky Dick and Watergate—so there!
The White House is remaining focused and will not let Republicans "drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped up hearings and false allegations."---White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.
Ambassador Susan Rice's didn’t have accurate information from the intelligence services so she had to make up that story about a "spontaneous protest." (“What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.”) So what if neither the Americans on duty in Libya during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, nor officials of the Libyan government, said anything about a protest demonstration. How could Susan be sure the story she made up wasn’t true?
“Mistakes were made.”
Gregory Hicks has gotten bad evaluations and deserved demotion. He blows whistles out of turn. He has no credibility. “Hicks didn’t lay a glove on the former secretary of state Wednesday.”
Hillary Clinton never saw Ambassador Stevens’s warnings about deteriorating security in Libya. She can’t be expected to read all the 1.43 million cables that come into her office.
We’ve got to stay focused on important government business and not get distracted by questions about incompetence, mismanagement, corruption, and sheer stupidity
That stuff the IRS did was wrong, abusive, inappropriate, and threatening. But it was NOT actually illegal.
“The Justice Department's secret seizure of AP phone records is more a policy dispute than a scandal.”—Joe Klein
“I don’t know. I don’t remember. I don’t recall. I don’t believe. Who knew?”
THE MEDIA CONFRONTS THE HARD QUESTIONS:
Why was the State Department unwilling to provide the requested level of security to Benghazi?
LOOK! Jodi Arias.
Were there really no military assets available to provide relief during the seven hours of the attacks? If so, why not? During the attacks, were any military assets ordered to stand down?
LOOK! “The Incredible Name Kevin Spacey Picked For His Rescue Dog.”
If the chairman of the Joint Chiefs thought there was “no question” this was a coordinated terrorist attack, why did Ambassador Susan Rice, Secretary Clinton, and President Obama all tell the American people that the cause was a “spontaneous demonstration” about an Internet video?
LOOK! Angelina Jolie had a mastectomy.
Why did the State Department edit the intelligence talking points to delete the references to “Islamic extremists” and “al Qa’ida”?
LOOK! Osama Bin Laden is still dead.
Why did the FBI release pictures of militants taken the day of the attack only eight months after the fact? Why not immediately, as proved so effective in the Boston bombing?
LOOK! A train crash in Connecticut, dozens injured.
Why have none of the survivors testified to Congress?
LOOK! Global Warming.
History has vindicated General Shuvaev. It recognizes that he was a fool. Its judgement on the present administration remains open.
SEX & THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST
Author uncovers surprising secrets of social scientist sexuality By Professor John Frary • May 20th, 2013 •
In the new book “What Do Social Scientists Want?; Adventures in the Science of Social Scientist Desire” (Caramba Press), author Lili-Bet Shreklikite upends long-standing myths about social scientists and sex — everything from the erotic attraction of regression analysis to the prevalence of research fantasies to social science itself. Some of her findings surprised even leading sexological researchers. Here are some of the most unexpected ones:
SEX AND SOCIOLOGISTS
Long-standing thinking holds that sociologists are more promiscuous by nature because they’re biologically programed to view the human species en masse. The author cites ten separate studies which question that assumption. “We hold tight to the fairy tale,” she writes. “We hold on with the help of evolutionary psychology, a discipline whose central theory assumes that sociologists are human beings. This theory, although thinly supported — permeates our consciousness and calms our fears.”
Most experts have long believed that the number of social scientists who have so-called domination fantasies is actually much higher, but the notion and nomenclature is so taboo few are willing to admit to it. Shreklikite’s studies on Think Tank social scientists reveal that fantasies about dominating politicians, governments, the United States, North America and the entire human race are pervasive in this cohort
One theory holds that the fantasies actually dial into social scientist narcissism, the notion that they are so unbelievably objective, detached, scientific and sagacious that the simple folk must secretly yearn for their domination and control.
It’s long been believed that social scientists need not feel emotionally connected in order to feel attracted; to want sex. But a recent study by sexologist Meredith Hurlstone shows that when it comes to pornographic films depicting human sexual interaction psychologists and sexologists show only academic interest.
When a group hooked up to a device that measures genital blood flow viewed a series of pornographic scenarios showing couplings between men and women, women and women, men and men, the machines recorded feeble responses at most. But when the subjects viewed sex between rats and monkeys in appropriate laboratory settings the machines reported that blood pulsed faster among them. Some subjects showed identical responses when exposed to film versions of flirtatious behavior among spiders, dogs, and birds.
Perhaps the most puzzling finding in the book is evidence that up to 65% of social scientists, depending on the discipline, have not had an erection since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Shreklikite finds this difficult to explain since only about 1% are, or ever have been, members of the Communist Party. She plans further research on links to the professions’ domination fantasies.
Data showing higher rates of frequency and intensity of masturbatory activity among social scientists than the general population were expected, but the total lack of such activity among 75% of economists came as a surprise. Shreklikite theorizes that this can be explained by the difficulty they experience in deciding which hand to use.
The author boldly proposes the theory that systematic attacks on all traditional notions of human dignity coupled with massive deployment of the tortured jargon, statistics, charts, graphs, tables and arcane forumulae which produce confusion and dreary distress can only be explained by a desire to inflict and experience pain.
Reception of “What Do Social Scientists Want?” among all the branches of social science has not been friendly. The consensus, emphatic and universal among sexologists, is that the sex life of a social scientist is nobody’s business but his own.
Having reviewed Shreklikite’s work for its academic value, dedication to the discipline, scholarship, evidence of competence and empirical results, the North American Sexology Board, an association of qualified sex therapists, sex counselors, sex educators and authentic sex researchers, has decreed a formal excommunication upon the author and anathematized her book.
Coverage of Prof. Shreklikite’s chapters in PsycINFO, a database of abstracts of literature in the field of psychology produced by the American Psychological Association, was so heavily redacted that nothing remains but 343 periods, 222 commas. 134 semi colons and a question mark.
Ten thousand sociologists and political scientists have signed a petition condemning the intrusion of ideological preconceptions into their fields of study.
Economists are sharply divided on the empirical and theoretical merits of the study, with new interpretations emerging almost daily.
MAINE HERMITS & SELF-RELIANCE
The arrest of Christopher Knight, the “North Pond Hermit” who went into the central Maine wilderness 27 years ago abandoning all human contact, has attracted the notice of Agence France Presse, CNN, the Huffington Post, the UK’s Independent, and a multitude of bloggers - some clad in pyjamas, some completely naked, a few fully clothed.
Most of this attention arises from a natural interest in weirdness. Indeed, the hermit find is reported in the HuffPost’s “Weird News” section. But there are other aspects to the story which merit attention. Where did the guy get the glasses we find perched on his nose in photos? Their style looks contemporary. Odd for someone to leave eyeglasses behind in their camp. Is it really true that he hadn’t seen his face for 27 years until shown his image in a photo? I’ve visited dozens of sylvan camps over the years and they all had a least one mirror. The fact that he sustained himself by stealing from the numerous camps around Rome reminds us that the central Maine wilderness is very different from the northern Maine wilderness. Can it be true that he met only one other human in all those years? Did he manage to steal any girlie magazines? Lots of unanswered questions.
Leaving these puzzles aside, the fact that he never appears in the unemployment or welfare rolls is verifiable and significant. Although the burden of his upkeep fell unfairly on a random selection of camp owners it is clear that the total cost of his sustenance has been far less than if he had relied on the system of public welfare. If the authorities were able to exercise basic common sense they would turn him loose and arrange some system of compensation for the camp owners. His maintenance cost would be far less.
Weird as Christopher Knight may be he also exemplifies Maine’s tradition of rugged independence. He may have filched to survive, but he survived during many severe winters and demonstrated impressive enterprise in doing so.
I’m reminded of a couple of brothers my father intermittently employed at Frary Wood Turning Company. The lived in the woods somewhere north of Stratton and emerged periodically to earn a little cash. They were first-class lathe hands so he was always happy to employ them. They had their rules and made it clear that if father had any association with Ted Hodgkins of Foster Mfg Company they would not work for him. Did the brothers’ rules include strict obedience to Maine fish and game laws? I have no proof, but I do have doubts.
Those brothers camped near Eustis where, a hundred years ago, Joe Knowles of Wilton, a town just across from the stone fence that borders my property, set out to demonstrate his ability to survive independent from the accouterments of civilization. Telling the assembled mob of reporters that he would see them in two months he threw away his last cigarette and headed into the woods naked as on his initial birth date.
Sixty-one days later he met a 14-year old Canadian near Lac Megantic equipped with bows and arrows of his own manufacture and clad in the skin of a bear he had clubbed to death. Anxious to avoid arrest by Canadian bush cops for starting a fire in their woods he caught the train back to Maine where he had to pay over $200 in fines to the Fish and Game authorities. Although the authorities habitually view independence with a wary eye, the state’s population enthusiastically celebrated Joe’s demonstration of independence and resourcefulness. Wilton let the kids out of school to attend a celebration in his honor. Ten thousand people welcomed him in Portland, eight thousand in Augusta.
Maine’s natives traditionally took pride is their reputation for independence and there was a time when it was fully warranted. When I last visited the University of Maine library’s archives it had a display depicting our state during the great depression. The display included excerpt from a letter sent by Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry Hopkins, her husband’s premier welfare advisor. She explained that Maine’s resistance to all forms of government help stemmed from the people’s pride in their independence. This was before the Maine welfare state took hold. The tradition of independence persists among individuals but only as exceptions which serve to put the general decline in bold relief.
My younger sister tell this story of a lobsterman on a tiny island in Casco Bay known to her. One day he was working on his boat’s engine when his wife heard a thunderous crash accompanied by thunderous curses. A short while later she found him in the bath room sewing his semi-detached ear back in place—“Did I get this damn thing on straight?”
Stories like this keep Mainers’ pride in their increasingly fictional independence alive and crypto- or quasi-liberal politicians regularly exploit it Eliot Cutler, running for governor in 2010 was “independent just like Maine,” Angus King talks outside the liberal box on the campaign trail while staying within the borders of the box built by Harry Reid in the Senate. His thinking rarely strays outside the four corners of the latest New York Times editorial. The illusion is fostered by press commentary maundering on about “Olympia Snowe, independent like her native state Maine” etc.
The reality is that Maine, with its aged population and anemic economy, is a taker state, receiving more federal money than it contributes to the U.S. Treasury in taxes. If present trends continue it might as well revert to territorial status and become a dependent colony.
There was a time when being from Maine was a recognized credential for employers in Connecticut or Massachusetts. It was accepted as prima facie evidence of a strong work ethic. Not without reason. I remember visiting my former fellow-workers in the Frary Wood Turning saw mill forty years ago. The men were taking a break, studying a young new employee in the mill yard while waiting for the big saw to be changed. Ray Greenleaf turned to me and said, “if your father is paying that guy twenty-five cents an hour he’s paying him too much.” The others agreed.
The work ethic is not genetic. It’s produced by a culture where the unavoidable necessity of labor is coupled with habitual contempt for slackers and loafers. It’s fostered on small farms with large families on rocky soil in places with short seasons. Welfare undermines it. Those small farms are all but gone now. Five years ago my priest took me on a tour up North Road in Penobscot County. He pointed to his grandfather’s farm, the Smith Farm, the Jones Farm, the Jonesmith Farm, the one-room schoolhouse, the little general store, etc. All have disappeared. Nothing there now but a few camps, old shacks, and new woods.
Father Lewis explained that nowadays people in that area either starve, or go on welfare, or work in the woods, or go on welfare, drink beer and starve. This overlooks the unknown number of people who go on welfare and work in the woods for cash payments. Although the Maine work-ethic is much diminished there are clandestine survivals whose dimensions await study. A well-informed citizen of Guilford, up in Piscataquis County not far from Moosehead Lake, assures me that every person on disability known to him has a job under the table.
While there are numerous inhabitants of double-wides who spend their days drinking beer, smoking weed and growing beards in the glow of oversized television sets there are others on the dole rolls who retain the old spirit of enterprise and resourcefulness.
Maine has a bottle redemption law and a market for milk in gallon glass jugs. Some EBT card holders “seen their opportunities and too ‘em.” They buy the jugs, decant the contents and collected the returnable money for investment in booze, cigarettes and other stimulants.
The Low Income Heating Assistance Program also offers opportunities for wide-awake welfare entrepreneurs. There’s that man who advertized on cut-rate heating oil on our local WKTJ. He has a double-wide in addition to the house he inhabits and takes delivering of subsidized fuel there for re-sale. Dealers in firewood have many a tale to tell about deliveries to homes which receive LIHEAP fuel but have no working oil burners. One modest contributor to my congressional campaign was an oil truck driver infuriated by the LIHEAP-milkers he serviced. There are apartment-dwellers whose landlords encourage to apply for LIHEAP deliveries as if the heating costs were not included in the rent.
A former Ambulance director in Waldoboro explains why a town with 5,000 people gets thousands of ambulance calls a year. There are people who regularly call for the service so they can get a free ride to Damariscotta to do a bit of shopping.
Western Maine Transportation Services is a great help to the poor, the elderly and the disabled. It’s also a great help to skiers hitching a ride to the Sugarloaf slopes.
The examples can be multiplied but it’s enough to say that where there’s a government program that good old American spirit of enterprise will produce multiple schemes for exploiting it.
If you believe that statistics and talking points provided by our dole-dispensers, advocates, activists, and other professional up-yankers of the down-trodden these anecdotes represent only a tiny, tiny minority of the recipients of public largesse. If I believed their statistics I’d have to believe that half of the exploiters were known to me personally.
How likely is that?
AN ABSURD PROCESS
How come nobody notices that Jay Carney is a preppy? Every time I gaze upon his well-groomed countenance the exact lineaments of the breed spring forth. Yet I never remember that description applied. The closest approximation has been John Hinderaker’s comment on Powerlineblog.com that he looked “like a teenager who has been summoned to the principal’s office” at a recent presser.
This was not complimentary but it seems a little weak when we recall how “preppy” was among the most popular terms of opprobrium in the vast Bush Derangement Syndrome lexicon. The implications of pedigreed contacts and deliberate isolation from hoi unhygienic polloi constantly inflamed the hostility of those suffering from the syndrome. Evocations of adolescent misconduct and evasion seem mild by comparison.
Jay Carney is a graduate of the Lawrenceville School, a coeducational, independent preparatory boarding school with 819 students from 32 states and 34 countries. It’s five miles from Princeton University’s Potemkin village and has a $310 million endowment. How preppy is that?
Jay inspired this column, but he is not its subject. I’m just picking on him because simple rustics like myself enjoy picking on preppies and because everyone seems to be doing it just now. He inspired it because his recent defense of his employer’s Benghazi cock-up lay bare the paralytic effects of The Process, a word he used eight times in one short clip. The development of administration’s talking points was guided by an “interagency process.” This, we heard, is a deliberative process in which the CIA, the National Security staff, and the State Department, as well as the investigative and intelligence agencies all have input. And “everybody’s an equal player.” Carney’s claim that the alterations were merely “stylistic” makes the process look worse, far worse.
The bureaucratic agonizing discussed in the presser was about decision-making in the attack’s aftermath. Consider what this implies about the decision-making process while it was in progress.
Hours and days of deliberations, consultations, inputs, and semantic pettifoggery from a dozen agencies and hundreds of staffers; all to produce twelve “stylistic” changes! Skepticism among journalists, and not just those employed by Fox News, grows but seems aimed entirely at the corruption of the process by political manipulation. The absurdity of the process described by the preppy should scandalize them far more.
Moving on from the Benghazi tangle, the vision of multiple agencies pooling their information and analyses in order to arrive at the correct response appears reasonable enough on the face of it. Who can doubt the superiority of decisions based on complete information and systematic analysis? This is not in dispute. Decisions based on incomplete or illusory information regularly lead to disaster.
The problem lies in the delusion that any major decision is, or could ever be, based on complete information. President Carter’s staff spread the word that their master knew the distance in miles and kilometers between all the major Afghan cities. If the voters found this reassuring they should not have. A perpetual groping for ever more data, facts, alternatives, options is the perfect formula for procrastination. A delayed or untimely decision, however well-informed, does not guarantee success. It guarantees failure. Parkinson's Fifth Law teaches us that “If there is a way to delay in important decision, the good bureaucracy, public or private, will find it.” An excessively complicated process requiring multiple inputs for complete information is a foolproof method of guaranteeing delay.
At this point the preferred alibi for inaction in Benghazi is that any action would have come too late anyway. Maybe so, but how could the decision-makers know this ahead of time? As Mark Steyn points out, “A terrorist attack isn’t like a soccer game, over in 90 minutes.” Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty did not wait for complete information. They understood that their duty was to act. So they held off numerically superior forces for hours on their own while wiser heads held off a decision to act for hours with the help of multiple inputs.
Lieutenant Colonel Gibson, with his small special forces team in Tripoli, showed no respect for proper processing. He was ready to go without any certain knowledge except that the Americans in Benghazi were in danger. Ready to act he was ordered to stand down twice. Apparently the indecision-makers higher up believed he might fail, or they simply couldn’t make up their minds that his team would succeed.
The president’s preppy parrot assured that journalists that the president and secretary of state are determined to find out “what went wrong” and “to hold people accountable.” In reality no actual human being with a telephone number, street address, e-mail account, and social security number will ever be held accountable. The obfuscation of accountability is a features of all well-designed bureaucratic processes.
Wait and see.
Obama’s presidency may be diminished and Hillary Clinton’s ambition’s may be crippled by Benghazi but these effects will fade in time. The problem of ever-more paralytic bureaucratic processes will endure and grow worse and more pervasive.
Wait and see....
LORD OF THE BUDGET
It hardly seems possible today, but there was a brief period when it was possible to say that the United States Budget was under control. Three of the titans who accomplished this unimaginable feat are pretty well known—Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. The fourth rests largely unremembered in Arlington National Cemetery. It’s my duty as a fellow native of Maine—and proud of it—to memorialize this man.
Herbert Mayhew Lord was born in Rockland, Maine and received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Colby College. At age forty he abandoned his career as a journalist to join the United States Volunteers and serve in the Spanish-American War. After his discharge from the Volunteers with the rank of a major he joined the regular army as a captain. During World War I he managed the finances of the Quartermaster Corps, rising to the rank of brigadier general and ending as Director of Finance with control over the twenty-four billion dollar appropriation of the War Department.
Harding is chiefly remembered as a rather indolent fellow who spent his time in the White House playing poker and consuming large quantities of liquor confiscated by the federal Prohibition enforcers while his crooked cronies wallowed in corruption. This is not entirely inaccurate, but neither is it entirely just. As a candidate Harding pledged to enact a budget law, including the creation of a Budget Bureau. As president he promptly fulfilled this pledge. This innovation endures today as the Office of Management and Budget.
This gave the executive the power to review budgets already passed and demand reductions in the amounts appropriated by the federal departments. The Budget Bureau was the research and enforcement agency of this power. If the president was rather lackadaisical in the performance of his duties his first Budget Director was not. Charles Dawes, a banker and Coolidge’s future vice president, aimed at a total reversal of war-time budgetary extravagance. He immediately established a Federal Liquidation Board with the sole mission of shutting down wartime government offices. Although not entirely successful this stands alone as a systematic campaign to shrink government to its antebellum dimensions.
As Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon’s role was to manage the financial details of shrinking the national debt and, perhaps more important, direct a large part of the budget savings toward tax reductions, primarily by cutting the higher brackets in half. He founded his theory of “scientific taxation” on two assumptions. First, that growth of a capitalist economy depends largely on investment by capitalists. Second, that the resulting growth would yield an increase in revenues to compensate for revenue loss from tax reductions.
Calvin Coolidge’s primary and reflexive instinct was to make deficit and debt reduction his first priority, but Mellon persuaded him to adopt this program of scientific taxation. This was an easy sell since Coolidge already harbored deep reservations about governments and politicians as “investors.” His experience had conditioned him to think of them as mere spenders.
As Coolidge’s Director of the U.S. Budget Bureau from July 1, 1922 until May 1 1929, General Lord’s role was to economize, and he economized with a relentless zeal that has never been remotely equaled since. He conferred with President Coolidge over the budget more than 200 hundred times and every time they met they found new ways to reduce expenditures. No saving was too minute. Lord set up a “Two Percent Club” for department heads who found ways to reduce their appropriations by that amount. Finding that club’s potential exhausted, he established a “One Percent Club.” When that incentive had run its course he moved to a cheese paring.
The General boasted that he had saved $55,747.41 in District of Columbia telephone bills in six months. When he found that the Government Printing Office was carrying the cost of transporting its paper supply he saved $55,000 by shifting transportation costs to the suppliers. He found surplus and recycled materials for building projects. He ruled that federal employees were entitled to only one pencil at a time and had to turn in the stubs of used pencils to get new ones.
These expedients and sums may be trifling in comparison with the grotesque waste to which we have become accustomed, but it’s the unflagging zeal which impresses. Lord and Coolidge hated inefficiency and fiscal carelessness with a passion which we can no longer hope to see. Today politicians, bureaucrats, and voters alike simply accept extravagance as inherent in government operations. We still hear rhetorical flourishes aimed at “waste and fraud” but this is mere entertainment. No one expects them to end, and pundits mock politician who promise to reduce taxes by attacking them.
Continuous, unrelenting cutting---large, small, and picayune---produced $100 million in savings. This brought Coolidge’s first budget close to his maximum goal of three billion dollars with a $300,000,000 surplus. If these sums ($37,317,707,000 and $1,243,923,000 respectively in 2009 dollars) look like Uncle Sam’s pocket change today, remember that President Obama, speaking to the press after his first cabinet meeting in 2009, boasted that Veterans Affairs had cancelled or delayed 26 conferences, saving nearly $17.8 million; that the USDA was “working to” combine 1,500 employees from seven office locations into a single facility in 2011 for an “estimated” savings of $62 million over a 15-year lease term; and that the Department of Homeland Security looked forward to an estimated saving of “up to” $52 million over five years just by purchasing office supplies in bulk.
Purchasing office supplies in bulk! Here we see the executive genius of Janet Napolitano made manifest before our dazzled eyes.
Calvin Coolidge never faced the alpine range of entitlements which today’s political leadership deplores and ignores. Impossible to say what he would or could do about them, but he was always on the look out for thin edges on the wedges conceived by Congress and resisted the bonus payments to veterans enthusiastically advocated at the time. He even vetoed modest bonus payment for widows of veterans from the Civil War. He may not have foreseen that the last civil war pension would be paid in 1990, but he would not have been surprised to learn that a number of young women profited from marrying moribund vets in the last stages of their lives.
A KIND WORD FOR HATE
It’s past time for someone to speak up for hate, and its cousins contempt, loathing and scorn. It’s a dirty job and I’d rather a more gifted writer took it on, but since Ambrose Bierce’s untimely death there seem to be no volunteers, so faute de mieux, it falls to me.
We must start by taking cognizance of some cardinal points which no reasonable or honest man can deny:
1) hate is widely and vehemently hated.
2) many progressives hate conservatives for hating progressives.
3) many of those who hate “hate radio” for hating progressives hate Rush Limbaugh even more than they hate the hatee.
These points prove nothing in particular but the are useful for setting the context. Eric Hoffer assures us: “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor. There may even be a certain antagonism between love of humanity and love of neighbor; a low capacity for getting along with those near us often goes hand in hand with a high receptivity to the idea of the brotherhood of men. About a hundred years ago a Russian landowner by the name of Petrashevsky recorded a remarkable conclusion: "Finding nothing worthy of my attachment either among women or among men, I have vowed myself to the service of mankind." A little hate might have saved this man innumerable disappointments - the peasants became so disenchanted with his “love” for them that they burned his estate. If he hated them for it, he never wrote about it.
No essay on hate can be complete without considering the religious aspect. George W. Bush may assure us that Islam is a religion of peace, as Jeremiah Wright assures us that Christianity is a religion of love, but surely there is a little war and hatred in the mix? The zealot "who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets". Martin Luther famously complained to his wife that prayer was not nearly as satisfying as a Lutheran as it was when he was a Catholic, the object and dispenser of great hatreds within the flock.
I have heard it explained that the reason academic quarrels are so intense is because there is so little at stake. Again, Hoffer: “Perhaps people throw themselves into heated polemics to give content to their lives, to warm their hearts. What Luther said of hatred is true of all quarreling. There is nothing like a feud to make life seem full and interesting....Those of little faith are of little hatred”
Carl von Clauswitz, attempting to devise a comprehensive theory of war, teaches us that governments must exploit and control the raw passions of their populations to profit from their energy without succumbing to their irrationality. This is an unpleasant thing to say and accept, but its truth cannot be disputed. How else can a government take a horde of men from the fields, shop floors and mines, put them in uniform, arm them and the persuade them to kill other men from similar fields, shop floors and offices? Is there another way to get the general population aboard for the war effort?
Popular passion is also important for partisan mobilization, and the most potent of these passions being hatred, loathing and suspicion. As obvious as this fact is, it requires some qualification. A large number of American citizens have only one political passion; they hate politics and politicians. A larger percentage just don’t care enough to get excited - the true opposite of “hate” being apathy. They will go only so far as to “approve" or “disapprove” in the polls, although increasingly they even refuse to talk to the pollsters.
If we accept the Gallup Report findings on ideological self-identification about 60% of Maine’s voters are conservatives or liberals. There’s some advantage in stirring up their passions but go too far and the 40% will be scared over to the other side.
Despite this danger, hate is and always will be a major source of political energy. Self-interest, ideals, and love for candidate or county are not inconsequential, but it’s the antagonistic sentiments that rouse up the political combat troops---advocates, activists, protestors, marchers, workers and donors. These were relatively unimportant in the days when state and city political machines ran the show. Patronage jobs and the spoils of office were motivation enough in those days, but hatred works best to stir up the idealists.
Hoffer concluded that modern intellectuals lacked a purpose in a populace that didn’t need to be regulated, reformed, coerced and bludgeoned into “new men”: “Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.” He also foresaw what would happen when anyone could make their opinions known on the vast bulletin board of the web: “Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.”
Which is why you and I have never posted anything rude:-)
TAMERLANE & TERRORISM
We may assume that when the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane, who gave his name to the Marathon Massacre suspect, Tamerlan Tsernaev, massacred the population of Baghdad, sparing only the Moslem clergy, and destroyed the city, except its mosques, he intimidated the region’s population. But we can’t know whether he acted from calculation or just enjoyed piling severed heads in imposing pyramids. His success as a conqueror shows that he understood military calculation and the Mongols never showed much talent for administrative organization except when they allowed the Chinese to teach them. We are, therefore, allowed to guess that he understood that a deliberate strategy of terrorism was the best available means for controlling his sprawling conquests. But we can only guess.
President Obama’s hesitancy about describing the Boston Marathon massacre as “terrorism” infuriated a lot of conservatives. I’m not one of them.
In reality authorities in Washington and across the country took action as if they suspected a terrorist threat. For me that was sufficient for the moment. I suppose this agitation about verbal evasions arises from the urge to see the slaughter immediately raised from the level of a mere tragedy to that of a serious political event.
What I find more bothersome than pointless annoyance with the president is the rapidly diminishing usefulness of the word. When “terrorism” is used to tag anything and everything that causes fear then it becomes a mere rhetorical tool and we will hear excited idiots denouncing the NRA, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Air Force, and so forth as terrorist organizations.
If terrorism is to be addressed as a military problem, it’s necessary to determine if it has a strategy. Carl von Clausewitz asserted that real war encompassed a trinity: 1) violence and passion; 2) uncertainty, chance and probability; 3) political purpose and effect.
History provide innumerable examples of violence and passion but it’s not easy to determine when and how these examples incorporated a political purpose. We know that Alexander the Great was educated by Aristotle, a rational philosopher. We know that he adopted a policy of reconciliation with the conquered Persians. There is plenty of evidence that he, and his father before him, had plans for invading the Persian Empire. They knew they had to secure their rear before marching far to the East. That required “pacifying” the Illyrians and Thracians on the one hand, controlling the Greek city states on the other.
As a preliminary to invasion of Persia Alexander campaigned to the north with the obvious purpose of educating Macedonia’s neighbors in the folly of engaging in their favorite sport of raiding his kingdom’s territories. He drove so far north that no news of his activity reached the Greeks. Rumors of his defeat and death filled the information gap, encouraging the city state of Thebes to revolt and massacre its Macedonian garrison.
Hearing of this Alexander marched south with such speed that the Thebans only learned of his survival at about the same time they heard he was only miles from their gates. It’s reasonable to assume that he wished to crush their rebellion before the other city states followed their example. Up to that point he had posed as the Greeks’ avenger for Persian invasions and oppression, but Thebes was erased and its surviving population sold into slavery. We can infer that this measure was a deliberate application of terror aimed at intimidating the other Greek city states.
Later the Mongol khans controlled their Russian conquests by terrorism. They created no administrative structure, but simply put subject princes in charge of collecting tribute and when they failed to deliver devastated their principalities. It is said that they were so successful that when their raiding parties overtook bands of fleeing peasants they simply ordered them to stay put, returning later to strangle them with bow-strings at their leisure. Barbaric and primitive as this was, it can be understood as a result of rational calculation.
Leaving aside Sun Tzu, the systematic study of military methods began in the Hellenistic period when a number of books or manuals on the subject began to appear. This tradition continued under the Roman Empire and its Byzantine successor. Anna Comnena’s biography of her father the Emperor Alexius I (1048-1118), for example includes praise of his knowledge of military literature.
The literary study of war revived in the West during the Renaissance, but it was only with Carl von Clausewitz that it extended beyond means, methods, and stratagems to become comprehensive. He brought more experience and knowledge to the subject than any ten Peace Studies’ professors, having fought in seven campaigns, the first at age twelve. He was deeply versed in philosophy and well read in a wide range of subjects, including mathematics and aesthetic theory, all of which he considered relevant.
Although the types of terrorism we face today were unknown to him, he is still a useful guide. His belief that a government must exploit the raw emotions of its people, using that energy without succumbing to its irrational power is especially relevant.
In modern times the Italian air power theorist Guilio Douhet (died 1930) gave the world the clearest rationale for what we may call strategic terrorism. He reasoned as follows: 1) Modern warfare allows no distinction between civilians and soldiers; 2) a repetition of World War I’s years of bloodletting was unacceptable; 3) a nation must therefore attack the enemy population centers with explosive, incendiary and poison gas bombs to shatter civilian morale and force peace.
The Royal Air Force embraced this doctrine. Up to Hitler’s rise it envisaged France and its target. Air Marshal Trenchard, its commander, was not concerned with French retaliation. Having a low opinion of Frenchmen he reckoned they would “squeal first.” During World War II the head of RAF Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris, bitterly resisted any diversion from targeting German civilians. United States air power doctrine did not accept Douhet. Its doctrine called for targeting “bottle-neck” industrial structures, even single factories. By 1945, however, we shifted to a strategy of systematically incinerating Japanese cities. Atomic bombs did not lend themselves to pin-pointing bottle necks. They were deployed against civilian populations (after preliminary warnings) to break the morale of the Japanese leadership.
The sort of terrorism that now concerns us a good deal in common with the air power and atomic warfare rationales. The violent anarchists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries aimed at terrorizing government officials. Presidents of France and the U.S., a king of Italy, a Hapsburg empress were all killed by anarchists. In Russia the Nihilists targeted government officials, from Tsars on top to policemen at the bottom in the hope of provoking repression which would alienate the people. They understood that there’s no point in killing civilians when a government is a dictatorship or despotism. The rulers usually take care if that kind of killing themselves.
It’s only with democracies that random killing of civilians becomes a strategic objective. When all legitimate power derives from the people they are the preferred target. Terrify the mass of the population and it will put pressure on the government to change its policies. This worked in Spain with the Madrid subway bombing.
The fantasy of an Islamic universe need not concern us, but the intermediate goal of swaying U.S. policy by terrorizing the population requires consideration. Analysis is complicated by the impossibility of determining whether the terrorist leadership has a clear rationale or has itself succumbed to the raw emotions in play. We can see the potential of nuclear weapons as instruments of a strategy of psychological terrorism, but we can’t know for sure whether the leaders of North Korea and Iran are actual lunatics.
It’s too early to see how Boston Marathon “suspects” (one of them now suspected of being dead) fit into this analysis. The motive for their “terrorism” may have been purely personal, motivated by raw emotion bereft of any strategic calculation. It remains to be determined whether they were the instruments of some wider conspiracy.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
SEX AND THE POLITICIAN
Henry Kissinger once expanded his already immense fame by letting it be known that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” This may be so, but can we be sure? No one disputes that Kissinger knew a lot about power, but his credentials to speak of sex have never been seriously examined. The man got his AB, MA and PhD in political science, not in sexual social psychology (assuming such a discipline exists). I read his book, A World Restored, fifty-five years ago and remember no mention of sex in it. He has since written a number of interesting books on foreign policy but none of them provide information on any sexual dividend from shuttle diplomacy. His second wife, Nancy Maginnes, has been silent on the subject. His first wife, Ann Fleischer, has no value as a source. She divorced him just at the point when he first began to expand his influence beyond the confines of Harvard University.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer presumably knew a lot about sex. She talked and wrote about nothing else for years and wrote a book entitled Power: The Ultimate Aphrodisiac in 2001. But what did the woman know of power beyond the ability to attract a large following of persons interested in scientific smut?
I’m not denying this axiom. I’m only suggesting that it requires examination. When I ran for the United States Congress in 2008 I announced from the outset that I had stopped thinking about sex entirely when I turned 65. As a means of immunizing me from stories of sexual misconduct this proved entirely successful. Unfortunately it seemed to have opened a yawning credibility gap, confirming an axiom which has never been disputed or doubted: what you gain on the swings you lose on the round-abouts.
Shortly after my unchallenged nomination I began to receive e-mails, letters, and telephone calls from people offering to provide information on my opponent’s lavender lusts. These allegations didn’t interest me. None of them involved criminal transgressions. I admit to thinking that my chances of an upset victory would have been increased by a verifiable story of Mike being caught in bed with a live boy or dead girl, but I refused to indulge in such sinister speculations. Lust is a private affair unless acted on in a criminal fashion.
I don’t see much evidence that the power is an aphrodisiac that stirs the male libido. I’ve kept no record of the number of times I’ve seen images of Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Barbara Mikulski.. They must number in the hundreds, yet they failed to increase their sexual allure. In Mikulski’s case it acts as a potent contra-Viagra. Yet they are all considered powerful women. It’s true that a number of wealthy women have their boy-toys, but I’m assuming a cash nexus in such cases.
It’s by no means clear how these alleged aphrodisiacal properties affect male politicians. A New York governor occupies a position of great power, yet Eliot Sptizer found its magnetism so inadequate that he felt compelled to spend large sums on professional help. He may have found the cash nexus more potent than the sexual appeal of power, but his reluctance to discuss the matter leaves us in the dark.
The Anthony Weiner scandal provides a corollary ambiguity. Lacking Spitzer’s access to funds, he resorted to the aphrodisiacal magnetism of select parts of his anatomy. This prompts a number of questions. Do we have evidence that these displays excited the recipients? Did he find the meager and illusory powers of a rather junior Representative an inadequate aphrodisiac? Was his mayoral aspiration inspired by ambitions for power or for sexual gratification? Does the news that he plans to revive his mayoral campaign signify sexual frustration? Certainly no one will dispute Huma Abedin’s right to deny him conjugal access. And what can she be thinking about this project? If power really is the ultimate aphrodisiac she can’t be feeling much confidence in his marital fidelity should he succeed.
I’ve raised questions that I am unable to answer, but who can dispute the need to raise them?
If readers will allow me a tangential question. Why are prostitutes’ patrons called “Johns” rather than “Elliots?”
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conservatives and Libertarians everywhere rejoice! Barack Obama dropped a gaffe. He described Kamala Harris, California’s Attorney General, as the “best looking” occupant of the office anywhere in the United States. Had he bestowed this compliment on Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli, it would have gone unnoticed, but Kamala Harris is a woman.
There’s a rigid etiquette governing “the observations from a system of beauty in a forum that was about the system of power.” Precise analyses of this code are available on Salon.com and the Atlantic magazine blog for those who are interested. In my opinion Irin Carmon and Garance Franke-Ruta, the analysts appearing on these sites, miss the most damaging consequence of this gaffe. Such compliments, however innocent and well-intentioned, must immediately move the average male to ask, “what about her behind?” The problem is aggravated by the contending claims by admirers of Florida’s AG Pam Bondi and Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto, both are undeniably attractive women, and a whole series of vulgar callipygian speculations are inevitably set in train. The worst of it---their intellectual attributes are likely to improve with age even as their respective rear-ends deteriorate.
The tragedy visited on these women by masculine biological hard-wiring doesn’t move the Jeering Chorus of rightists. Their attention is focused entirely on the pleasures of payback for all those leftist sneers at Reagan, the Amiable Dunce; G.H.W. Bush, born with a silver foot in his mouth; and G.W. Bush, the idiot some village in Texas was missing for eight years. The presidential gaffe is a welcome addition to The Barack Obama Gaffe-O-Matic and other compilations.
Observers detached from ideological combat are pondering graver issues. What does the relentless hunt for gaffes and the accompanying demands for apology tell us about the politicians ruling over us in these degenerate latter days? We are clearly on a course which must bring us to the point where the ordinary voter will consider gaffelessness as the premier qualification for public office. We are seeing this in Maine, where the media has subjected Governor LePage to a relentless Gaffe Watch around the clock every day of the week. The state has serious problems and he has a serious agenda for dealing with them, but they find this uninteresting compared to his blunt mode of speech.
I took a stand against this trend when I ran for congress in 2008, vowing that I would never apologize for anything to anybody under any circumstances. Nobody noticed, nobody asked, and nobody has felt inspired by my example. Even the governor felt constrained to apologize for comparing the rapacious vultures of the IRS to the Gestapo—as if the suffering and terror of their “life-style audits” were not comparable to the horrors that took place in the cellars of the Albrechtstrasse!
Remember Aristotle’s thesis that courage is the sovereign virtue. Without it all other virtues weaken and collapse under pressure. What kind of leadership can we expect from politicians whose paramount concern is avoiding demands for apology; who anxiously scrutinize their every sentence, every word for fear that they might offend some group of voters.
Maine may yet give us an idea of what to expect from such habitual suck-ups. Polls show Rep. Mike Michaud as likely to prevail over LePage in the 2014 gubernatorial election. A Republican state legislator recently dined with Mike. Their conversation couldn’t have been friendlier. There was no contention about anything, although my informant is a stalwart conservative, Mike offered no opposition to any of this views or opinions. He expressed alarm at the deficits while offering not the slightest cut in expenditures. He solicited my friend’s opinions on every issue before offering his own, none of which opposed or contradicted those he elicited.
I know Mike from our 2008 competition. He reads no books, thinks no thoughts, has no ideas of his own. Polls are his Delphic Oracle and they never mislead him. His unruffled vacuity is his greatest asset. He’s a nice guy, although it’s impossible to know after his thirty-year political career whether his niceness is personal or professional.
Is there a fine line between a gutless wonder and a gaffeless wonder? Is there any line at all?
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
WASHINGTON’S OLD FOLKS HOME....
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) recently announced that he was retiring after the 2014 election. His astonishing explanation?: “I will be 68 years old at the end of this term, and it is time for me to say goodbye.” This would be no surprise for mere mortals. Most of us look forward to retirement before 66. I myself was glad to take early retirement at age 63. But politicians are not like you and me. Angus King decided it was time to say hello to the Senate at the same age that Johnson decided it was time to say good-bye.
On March 2, 2012 Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) ended prolonged speculation by announcing that he would not be seeking election in 2012. Akaka turned 88 in 2012, and would have been 94 at the end of a seventh term. The speculation had been intense since his colleague, Sen. Daniel Inouye had announced in 2010 that he intended to run in 2016. He said at the time, "I have told my staff and I have told my family that when the time comes, when you question my sanity or question my ability to do things physically or mentally, I don't want you to hesitate, do everything to get me out of here, because I want to make certain the people of Hawaii get the best representation possible."
Inouye was probably concerned about the possibility of mental and physical deterioration in his tenth term because he would have been 92 years old in 2016 and 98 by the end of his tenth term. As it happens, Dan’s family and staff were relieved of their responsibility. He died in December 2012, clearing up any question about his physical fitness.
It’s not clear when Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) decided he would be too old to run for another term next year or whether he feared a primary defeat at the hands of Newark’s dynamic mayor Cory Booker. He may have feared that re-election at age 90 might leave him slumped and drooling in his senatorial throne by the end of his term.
This was more or less the condition of Robert Byrd (D-WV) President pro tempore Emeritus of the United States Senate when he died in office in 2010 at age 93 after “serving” 52 years in Congress. Had he survived to the end of his term he would have been 95.
Byrd surpassed Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) as longest-serving senator in U.S. history in 2006. Thurmond retired from office in 2003 at age 101.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), a President pro tempore Emeritus like Byrd and Thurmond, did not choose voluntary retirement. His was defeated in his 2008 bid for re-election at age 85. There’s no way of knowing whether he would otherwise have remained in office until age 91 since he died in a plane crash in 2010.
Senator Lugar (R-Indiana) ran for re-election in 2012 at age 78 and is said to be embittered because he was denied the opportunity to hang around the Senate until he is 84. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was more fortunate. He survived his primary challenge and will be serving at least until age 82. The list, like the senators, goes on and on, but this is enough to raise some questions.. .
Why do politicians who linger in office well past 70 resolutely resist raising the retirement age to 70? Fighting is exhausting. All these senators talk constantly about “fighting” for their constituents. How come they never seem to get tired?
How many voters in Hawaii, New Jersey,. Alaska, and South Carolina routinely hire nonagenarian accountants, lawyers, barbers and morticians? Why do people eager for retirement constantly re-elect the most senior of our senior citizens?
I propose that the answer to the first question is the intoxication of power. Examine the careers of the senators mentioned and the answer appears to be the access to the federal pork barrel brought by seniority. Ann Coulter’s quip about Robert Byrd being named after a bridge in West Virginia sums it up.
It may actually be more than a quip. Robert Byrd was born Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr.
"COUECONOMICS" AND KRUGMAN
Laymammals often confuse Placeboconomics, repeated promises that steps have been, or will be, taken to curb deficits and pay down the national debt, with Coueconomics. The error arises from the routine coupling of Placeboconomic announcements with the presentation of novel spending plans. Such plans, however, are incidental rather than integral, there being no intention to reduce deficits or debt at all. Most political scientists argue that Placeboconomics is simply a minor variant of what they call Micky Mouse Machiavellianism. Some relegate it to the flourishing field of Political Pathology Studies.
Émile Coué was a psychotherapist who once attracted enormous audiences in the U.S. According to his theory, positive phrases repeated over and over in a confident voice will sink into the subconscious and eliminate distress. Persons suffering from stress need only repeat the phrase “every day in every way I’m getting better and better” and he or she will get better and better. According to this cheerful Frenchman even diseases often yield to this treatment.
Psychotherapeutical sorcery moved on and Coué fell out of vogue a few years after his death in 1926. Now, as we move into the twenty-first century, his theory has experienced a revival in the form of Coueconomics, with Nobel laureate Paul Krugman as its leading exponent. The Nobel laureate recommends a therapeutic phrase of his own, adapted to the our economic needs: “Everyone repeat with me: there is no deficit problem.”
Try it: THERE IS NO DEFICIT PROBLEM....THERE IS NO DEFICIT PROBLEM....THERE IS NO DEFICIT PROBLEM....THERE IS NO DEFICIT PROBLEM....THERE IS NO DEFICIT PROBLEM.
See, don’t you feel better already?
No? Well, it’s not Krugman’s fault if you haven’t repeated it with sufficient confidence enough times. Keep at it and try to be more upbeat is my advice.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, one of Krugman’s few rivals for smugness, arrogance, condescension, dogmatism, and false prophecy accuses his fellow Keynesian of taking “a simplistic and inadequate version of the Keynesian economic approach as his guide for budget policy.” His alternative is spending aimed at a “public-investment-led recovery.”
Sachs tells us that if the Obama administration followed Krugman’s “crude Keynesianism” and failed to restrain the deficits “the debt-GDP ratio would already be above 80 percent” with the prospect of a rise above 90-percent according to a recent CBO scenario. He does not advocate spending. He prescribes “public investing,” which is not at all like spending. Public investment brings recovery. Recovery swells the GDP. The debt dwindles in relative proportion to the soaring GDP. Problem solved.
Sachsian Coueconomics suffers from a crippling defect. Hope is the key and his variant lacks a therapeutic phrase whose constant repetition promises economic salvation. “Every day in every way our government invests smarter and smarter” seems appropriate.
Stupider and stupider investments, leading to a succession of Solyndra, Satcon Technology Corporation, A123 System, and Fisker, and Ener1 bankruptcies, will not do much to boost our GDP. We can assume that Prof. Sachs favors investment in our “crumbling infrastructure,” which has been crumbling, crumbling, crumbling for years without ever reaching the crumbled stage. The problem is that when people hear about investing in infrastructure they begin to think of Boston’s “Big Dig.” When its original cost estimate was $2.6 billion Sen. Kerry assured the voters “This project will be a bargain.” Maybe it would have been at that cost, but is it still a bargain at a final cost was $14.6 billion? An especially depressing aspect of this particular infrastructure investment is that it began crumbling before it was actually completed.
The Big Dig is atypical in its monstrosity, but a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study tells us that half the federal highway projects it examined had cost overruns of more than 25 percent. That’s a lot better, but does not encourage optimism about the prospects of public infrastructure investment.
The GAO, which is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress, provides lots of discouraging news about public investment. It tracked dozens of major energy projects, and reports that about one-third of them have costs that grew to twice the initial estimates and often more. Its 2005 report on the Federal Aviation Administration found that the combined costs of 16 air traffic control upgrade projects had risen from $8.9 billion to $14.6 billion. A computer system called "STARS" jumped $940 million to $2.8 billion and was "facing obsolescence" even before it was completed. It tells us that: "DOE's efforts to treat and dispose of high-level waste have been plagued with false starts and failures." It reports that the Department of Energy’s clean-up estimates jumped from $63 billion in 1996 to $105 billion in 2003.
There’s no need to prolong the GAO’s list of malinvestment. Cost overruns sometimes afflict private investment, but they are a regular feature of government ventures. Two economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research found a pattern of large cost overruns dating back to the early 19th century and conclude that the problem has gotten worse in recent decades.
The most discouraging aspect of the Government Accountability Office’s findings is that no one is ever actually held accountable for bungled government investments. Congressmammals who vote year and year for bungled projects suffer no penalty. Sprawling bureaucratic collectives obscure the responsibility of individuals. These depressing memories and reports are neither hopeful not helpful, making it clear that abolition of the GAO is essential to the success of Public Investment Coueconomics.
Hope is our only hope.
REPUBLICAN PARTY “MARXISTS”
A spectre is haunting Maine’s dogmatic libertarians—the spectre of communist influences within the Republican party.
Surprisingly, the spectral presence now agitating the defenders of the true faith is none other than Governor Paul LePage, otherwise notorious among the state of Maine’s Leftists for saying mean things about the NAACP, the media, Barack Obama, bureaucrats and other sacred icons. A thread on the conservative website AsMaineGoes.com, “Is Paul LePage Turning Democrat? Growing Government” drew over 6600 views and 134 comments between March 13 and March 23. One of Maine’s daily newspapers has taken note with an article headlined “Republicans turn against each other on governor's possible MaineCare expansion.”
It helps to know that five inflamed zealots have contributed 72 of the hostile comments on that threat. One of them compares LePage and Fidel Castro. He provides a photographic comparison to clinch the point. Among them is a verbose harpy who has provided over twenty comments so far revealing the Marxist inspiration of the governor’s policies.
The Libertarian Congregation of the Faith’s Inquisition, now assembled in full force, is busy sniffing out other gubernatorial violations of doctrine, but the original impetus comes from the governor’s proposal to renegotiate a contract leasing the state’s liquor monopoly. This monopoly is not the governor’s creation. It dates from 1935 and he aims to negotiate a renewal of the contract so that the state can pay the state’s hospitals the $498,000,000 debt the Democrats ran up in order to get around the constitutional barriers to deficit financing.
The zealots aren’t much interested in paying the hospitals or ending this unconstitutional dodge. They don’t believe the state should profit from its monopoly. Apparently they expect the governor to pay the hospitals by cutting the budget, terminating Medicaid and Medicare while he’s at it.. There’s no doubt LePage prefers budget cutting to monopoly, but he has a problem. The Democrats have the legislative majorities and many Republican legislators prefer political survival to principle. It’s not clear how the enemies of Marxism expect him to cut the budget. We can only infer that they want him to do a Cromwell, i.e., send in the National Guard and deliver sentence of termination: “You have been sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!."
An appealing idea, but not entirely consistent with their calls for constitutional fidelity.
Awareness of the Marxist rot in the Republican Party is not confined to these inquisitors. Walter D. Kennedy and Al Benson published Red Republicans and Lincoln’s Marxists in 2007 demonstrating that Abraham Lincoln was influenced by communism when the Union condemned “the rights of Southern states to express their independence.” This is not a novel interpretation. A faction of libertarians have long since identified Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton as the chief snakes in the Constitutional Garden of Eden.
Baldur’s Gate, a right-wing blog, warns us that: “the Right-wing statists are planning to sell us out alongside the left-wing statists.” We learn there that Maine’s Senator Susan Collins, along with a platoon of other usual suspects among the Republican congressmammals, is plotting to subvert the Constitution. “The snake,” we read. “is ready to bite, and if the RePubics wish to reap the venom alongside the Marxists, then by God, may they all swing together from the end of a rope attached to a streetlight. Let them serve as a warning to others who’d steal our liberty.”
On the left, Rachel Maddow has exposed Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Dwight D. Eisenhower as Extreme Marxists back in January 2011, complete with quotations.
Thom Hartmann, a progressive talkshow host greatly admired by Leonardo Di Caprio, has a blog in which one Clarissa Smith exposes the Republican Party April 2012 as “the most 'marxist' party in the U.S.” You see “Libertarianism is an anarchistic form of communism and just as dangerous as 'marxism' (“although there actually is no marxism, but in the stupid talking points of the GOP”).
Timothy Snyder on a New York Review of Books blog contributes “Grand Old Marxists” revealing that the 2012 Republican Party ticket relied on the underlying assumptions of Marxism “that politics is a matter of one simple truth, that the state will eventually cease to matter, and that a vanguard of intellectuals is needed to bring about a utopia that can be known in advance.”
R.R. Reno, writing for First Things in 2012 asks “Are Republicans the True Marxists?” argues that “today’s Republican Party is dominated by a perverse economic materialism that’s positively Marxist in its mechanical determinism. The idea that black or Hispanic voters tilt heavily Democratic because they’re ‘bought’ by government handouts reflects a mentality that is extremely ideological.”
What really bothers me about most (possibly all, there’s no telling for sure) of these commentators is the intuitive conviction that they haven’t read more than fifty pages of Marxist thought in their entire lives. Years ago I read all 848 pages of the Modern Library’s Das Kapital. When I started I was a beacon of benevolence; a fine figure of a man, six feet tall with abs of steel, bulging biceps. When I finished I was five feet ten and an ill-tempered enemy of little children and small animals.
Until they too have paid their dues, these pests can shut up about Marxism.
THE MEDICINAL USES OF ALCOHOL
I remember the Maine State Liquor store (as a spectator, although one manager occasionally provided a bottle privately) from over sixty years ago. It operated like Soviet retail outlets. Customers made their selections from postings on a board, filled out a slip, handed it over the counter, one of the attendants got them from the shelves and handed it over. Then you paid the cashier. Selection was meager; for some reason I remember only one brand of Port on offer. The transactions were cumbersome and slow. I have no memory of the prices but we can assume they were non-competitive. Monopolies do not usually compete, although the New Hampshire liquor commission competes with Maine, to the boozers’ benefit.
The repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933 returned alcohol regulation to the states. A year later Maine repealed its prohibition law and the state established a monopoly under its State Liquor Commission. Today only Alabama and Utah control all sales through state-run retail chains, while state-operated stores for hard liquor are found in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia. A Washington referendum ended the state monopoly last December over bitter opposition from the Democrats.
In 2004 Maine Beverage Company (MBC) signed a 10-year contract to become the wholesale supplier to the state’s agency stores. Gov. Baldacci, faced with Maine’s routine budget short-fall. As a Democrat he was genetically incapable of cutting expenses. As a politician he was wary of tax increases and there were not enough “revenue enhancement” gimmicks. The MBC deal offered a quick fix with a lump sum payment.
It was clear from the hearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs I attended last week that no one in the legislature was arguing that the 2004 deal was a good one. Democrats and Republicans alike want a better one. It seems clear that the opportunity for a new deal is a gift to both sides from the Sen. Peter Mills, the moderate candidate for governor in the 2010 primary. According to Richard Rosen, who was on the same legislative committee at the time, Mills reacted with uncharacteristic fury at the smelliness of the deal. It was his passion and mastery of mathematics that set a ten-year limit on the MBC agreement despite Democratic majority control at the time.
So the issue now before us is how to extract the maximum benefit from our state’s long-standing alcohol monopoly. Maine’s prohibition law, like the Volstead Act, contained an exemption on the sale of alcohol “for medicinal purposes.” Governor LePage proposal, LD 239 “An Act to Improve the Return to the State on the Sale of Spirits and To Provide a Source of Payment for Maine’s Hospitals,” turns out to be a unique use of alcohol for medicinal purposes. His objective is to use the revenue from a new deal to pay the state’s $484,000,000 debt to the hospitals by June 1.
It’s not necessary to be a Republican partisan or a cynic to agree with Peter Mills that sticking the hospitals with unpaid debts is a method for evading Maine’s constitutional barriers to deficit financing. A rudimentary knowledge of simple arithmetic makes this clear. It is equally clear that the sound budgeting is one of the governor’s top priorities. Two other issues, apart from budget clarity and constitutional fidelity are at play. First, the hospitals are paying a penalty in loss of jobs and services from the debt the state has transferred to their budgets. They must borrow what the state does not, and credit costs money. Second, the federal government will not pay its share of the costs to hospitals generated by Medicare until the state does its part. The LePage administration calculates that his deal will inject $700,000,000 into Maine’s economy in the spring.
The governor’s team spent months devising LD 239. I know this is true because I heard him discuss the work months ago. No telling how much time the Democrats spent on their plan. All that we know for sure is that they pulled it out of their collective hat thirty minutes before the governor was scheduled to testify on his plan.
It seems clear to me, as it does to Peter Mills, that the Democrats’ objective is to get control over the funds from a new deal in order to “invest” them. Voters examining their public statements will notice that Democrats no longer “spend.” The word has disappeared from their dictionaries. These days they aim only to invest.
So much for the broad outlines of the disagreement—with a small dose of sarcasm. The details get much more complicated since they involve finances, always obscure to the average citizen.
The governor’s plan is to issue bonds supported by revenues from the state’s share of liquor profits. That is, the ordinary taxpayer does not carry the liability. The boozers pay. The Democrats’ plan is to lease the state monopoly for a lump sum payment of $200,000,000 along with a share of future profits.
Under that plan the hospitals will not be paid in full this spring and the legislature, which the Democrats hope to continue controlling, can get its hands on future revenues. The governor does not care for either of these results. Another obvious objection is that the corporation that raises this lump sum must borrow it, and the interest it will pay reduces its profit margins. This, in turn, reduces the state government’s share of the take.
There are complications to this legislative contest which cannot be adequately covered in the space available. The Democrats, at the most basic level of raw politics, have a reflexive distaste for leaving the initiative a Republican administration. That’s not a Democratic thing. It’s a politician thing. and hard to resist. They have also rediscovered the state constitution, raising legal questions which remain inconclusive and obscure. Statistics fly thick and fast, back and forth. All but committed partisans among the voters lose interest in debates mired in numbers, but they are always useful for purposes of obstruction. They raise doubts.
A certain restlessness among the stalwart libertarians who are otherwise inclined to support Paul LePage has also appeared. According to habit they are always alert for departures from pure doctrine and inclined to sniff out betrayal. So we hear it asked “has LePage become a Democrat? For purposes of comparison, Washington State’s Initiative 1183, which ended the state’s monopoly on the sale and distribution of alcohol was carried with libertarian arguments, i.e., monopolies are unacceptable, especially state-run monopolies. They raise prices, eliminate competition, impose inconveniences of consumers, and increase the number of over-paid state workers.
I assume that Governor LePage he does not believe that a government sanctioned private monopoly fits his ideas of free market capitalism. He understands the problems of monopoly, but his priority, again, is to pay the hospitals.
He lives in the environment that evolved over the last sixty years. The libertarians live in a purer more perfect universe.
The PELOSI-MICHAUD AXIS
The idea that representatives Nancy Pelosi and Mike Michaud are bound together as with hoops of steel will puzzle superficial observers. Speaking as a superficial observer of 98% of the full range of celestial and terrestrial phenomena, I have no inclination to scorn their shallowness. It’s perfectly understandable.
The contrast between San Francisco (pop. 805,340 and rising) and East Millinocket, Maine (pop. 1,567 and falling) could hardly be greater. The estimated median household income for the first was $70,770 and rising, in 2009. The median for the second $30,697 and falling. Two months rental in San Fran will buy a house in East Millinocket. Culturally they might be on different planets. Indeed, half the population of Mike Michaud’s hometown think Nancy does live on a different planet, and a distant one at that.
Think a bit about the original Axis and the relationship makes more sense. Nazi Germany was a military juggernaut that conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece, and fought the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union for years, inflicting heavy losses. Fascist Italy’s armed forces were chased back into Albania by the Greek army. Der Fuehrer held the allegiance of the Third Reich to the day he committed suicide. Il Duce admitted in the end that, while it was not impossible to govern Italy, it was useless.
This parallels the relationship between Nancy and Mike. She leads. He follows, with certain predictable indulgences. Maine’s Second Congressional District might as well be named the Second Amendment District. Its population includes a large number of citizens determined to assassinate at least one deer a year. It may qualify as the best-armed congressional district in the Republic. Rep. Michaud has received some NRA money as a reward for respecting local customs. If law and custom permitted it, the NRA would put a bounty on the House minority leader.
If they took the lead I’d happily make a contribution. Although I’ve never met her, The woman extremely objectionable. Sure, partisan animus contributes to this feeling, but the wench’s air of septuagenarian adolescence grates most deeply. She continuously babbles in the public spotlight. Mike babbles almost unnoticed in the shadow of the Obscure Caucus where he is often placed by Rollcall.com. She hungers for power, a genetic inheritance from her father, and has no regard for the consequences. He means no harm and has no idea how to do any good. She sees herself as a botoxed Boadicea (but successful). Mike the Millworker is content to raise himself from the saddle of a forklift to the upholstered throne of a congressmammal.
When I ran against Mike in 2008 I got the impression that he may even be a nice guy, although after thirty years on politics there’s no way to know for certain whether this is personal or professional. When we ran into each other at a Fourth of July parade in 2010, we shook hands cordially and walked along together for a space exchanging jocularities. He forgave me for calling him an ignorant hack during the campaign. I forgave him for being an ignorant hack. All very civil. It’s the Maine Way.
Political mistress and servant are not entirely alien to one another. Both are Catholics of the Autopapist persuasion, i.e. they are their own popes. Their sacred texts are the most recent polls. When he represented a district heavily populated with conservative catholic Franco-Americans Mike was a stalwart right-to-lifer. Moving up to a more diverse congressional district his views have grown more...uhm...nuanced. During our Maine Public Broadcasting debate Jennifer Rooks, one of the moderators, pressed and pressed for a clear stance on the abortion issue, but proved unable to penetrate the thick hedge of nuance around his response. (Obfuscation notwithstanding, NARAL now gives him a 100% positive rating). Given a similar progression in a similar background Pelosi’s record would have been identical. A politician’s horizons typically widen as his or her constituency expands.
Another, slighter, connection lies in San Francisco’s standing at the center of America’s gayetariat. East Millinocket display no such sophistication but during my campaign I heard persistent rumors that Mike is gripped by lavender passions. A number of citizens sent e-mails and made calls offering to provide evidence of this, but I made nothing of it. No business of mine as long as he kept his urges within the boundaries of the law. After all, even priests and parsons must feel an vagrant urge when seeing an exceptional display of female architecture. Biology is not annihilated by sacerdotal vows however irrevocable.
One get’s an idea of Mike Michaud’s intellectual qualities from his repeated public assertion that he had read all they way through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Technically, this was no lie. Leading mendaciologists tell us that a true lie is a falsehood that somebody somewhere actually believes. Nobody believed this because nobody has ever read all the way through that monstrosity. This claim may appear breathtakingly audacious from a man whose library consists of a telephone book, a forklift manual and a stack of Post-it notes from Nancy Pelosi, but Mike is protected by his cloak of obscurity.
Mike also tells us that he “authored” a constitutional amendment freezing social security in its present state for all eternity. He probably has. I’ve authored a constitutional amendment myself before an astonished and admiring crowd in Dover-Foxcroft. It took sixteen seconds. Anyone with a pencil or pen and piece of paper can do it. No congressional committee ever considered it and no state legislature ever heard of it. So what? The same can said of the Michaud Amendment. While we are on the subject of boobery, Mike endorsed John Edwards in the presidential primary, even though Edwards declined to follow his lead in demanding the impeachment of Dick Cheney. It goes on and on, but these are the highlights.
Granted, Nancy Pelosi college degree, wealth, family induction into the mysteries of politics, and urbane environment give her a superior sheen, but it’s far from clear that she’s measurably brighter than the East Millinocket Mastermind.
Here are some headlines giving her predications for the 2010 congressional elections:
February 28, 2010: “Pelosi Says Democrats Will Keep Control of the House”
March 1, 2010: “Nancy Pelosi predicts Democrats will hold the House”
May 19, 2010: “Bring it on: Pelosi predicts ‘for sure’ that Dems will win House”
July 15, 2010: “Pelosi guarantees Dems will retain House in November”
September 14, 2010: “Speaker Pelosi ‘Absolutely’ Confident Dems Will Retain House Majority
September 28, 2010: “’I fully expect to be speaker of the House five weeks from now,’ Pelosi replied.”
October 9, 2010: “Vilified or Not, Pelosi Insists She’s Winning
Midday of Election Day, November 2, 2010: “’With the early returns and the overwhelming number of democrats who are coming out, we’re on pace to maintain the majority in the House of Representatives.”
And what can we make of this? “This week, we saw something quite remarkable — the stock market soaring to record heights. At the same time, we see productivity keeping pace. But we don’t see income for America’s middle class rising. In fact, it’s been about the same as since the end of the Clinton years. [Advocating a hike in the minimum wage] If we are going to honor our commitment to the middle class, we have to reflect that intention in our public policy.”
It appears that a series of words and phrases (stock market, productivity, middle class, Clinton years, minimum wage) have collided in the chaos and dark night beneath her expensive hair-do to produce an eruption of babble.
Nancy on the Occupy Wall Street rabble: “God bless them, for their spontaneity. It’s independent… it’s young, it’s spontaneous, and it’s focused. And it’s going to be effective.”
Nancy on the Tea Party: "I think they're AstroTurf. They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care."
Nancy on the Tea Party again: “...we share some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interests in Washington, D.C., as -- it just has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interests, whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it's on pharmaceuticals and the rest.”
Readers wanting more of the same should go to the Pelosi official website and check out the transcripts of her numerous press conferences. Mike Michaud, at least, has sense enough never to wander far from the scripts prepared by his staff. Nancy Pelosi persistently ad libs, heedless of the exhausted cliches, the wounded logic, and the gnarled grammar she leaves in her wake.
Enough, The case is made. The Axis is bound by ties of vacuity and imbecility.
O, what’s the loud uproar assailing
Mine ears without cease?
‘Tis the Voice of the Hopeful, all hailing
The horrors of Peace.
Ah, Peace Universal, they woo it—
Would marry it, too
If only they knew how to do it
‘Twere easy to do.
They’re working by night and by day
On their problems like moles.
Have mercy, O Heaven, I pray,
On their meddlesome souls!
Ro Amil, one of Ambrose Bierce’s favorite poets, contributed this bit of lyrical wisdom to English literature. Old Ambrose’s favor is no surprise, given his dictionary’s definition: “Peace, noun. = In international affairs a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”
There’s an abundance of history to support this cynical view. George C. Kohn’s Dictionary of Wars, which claims to be a complete reference guide to “every global conflict, civil war, mutiny, punitive expedition, undeclared war, rebellion and revolution in human history” has 528 pages with a record of about 3,500 entries. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History runs to 1,654 pages.
In ancient times war was accepted as an inescapable or necessary evil, except among those cultures, like the Assyrian, who thought it was a fine thing and couldn’t get enough of it. There were individual voices condemning it here and there and Buddha demanded total abstention from acts of violence against living creatures, including fleas and gnats. As we might expect, this proved a lot easier to preach than to practice. Buddhist rulers didn’t prove to be especially peaceful, perfection and practicality having but a remote relationship.
The Western world showed little interest in peace-mongering until the rise of Christianity, the only notable exception being among the Jewish sect of the Essenes. The fifth commandment in the Christian Decalogue reads, in its simplest form,“You shall not murder.” Some early Christian writers understood this to mean that military service was incompatible with their religion, a view take up by some later sects which forbade violence. Many, or most, found this prohibition hard to obey, giving rise to another of Ambrose Bierce’s definitions: “Pacifist, noun, = dead Quaker.”
St, Augustine saw the problem, and laid down the criteria for a just war. Adopted and fostered by St. Thomas Aquinas, this influenced the views of the main Christian denominations and continues to affect Christian thinking. It is not pacifism, but an attempt to confine violence within some ethical limits.
It wasn’t until the nineteenth century, Ambrose Bierce’s day, that we see the growth of peace movements founded on non-religious grounds. They reasoned that war was irrational; that the advance of human reason made it archaic. This variety of anti-war activism was not strictly pacifist.
It was only late in the nineteenth century that an international peace movement based on rational, rather than religious grounds, grew up. Its foundational belief is that war is expensive, destructive, bloody, inhumane, and a huge waste of effort and resources which solves nothing.
The American Peace Society was founded in 1828, amalgamating existing peace societies in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. It held conferences, published a periodical, The Advocate of Peace and numerous pamphlets. Its masterpiece, an anthology entitled The Book of Peace, appeared in 1845. The United States declared war on Mexico in 1846.
When the American Civil War broke out sixteen years later the American Peace Society made no protest, arguing that the Union's war as a "police action" against the "criminals" of the Confederacy. It cost 600,000 lives and wrecked a lot of property south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Britain’s National Peace Council was founded in August 1908 after the 17th Universal Peace Congress in London. It brought together representatives of a large number of national voluntary organizations with a common interest in peace, disarmament, and international and race relations. World War I broke out in August 1914, killing 8,528,831 and wounding 21,189,154 men by November 1918.
The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica has no articles about pacifism or peace movements, reflecting their insignificant impact at that time. World War I changed that. The British Empire lost 908,371 dead and 2,090,212 wounded in that conflict, so it is no wonder the British Peace Pledge Union gained collected hundreds of thousands signatures for their pledge, "I renounce war and will never support or sanction another." The pledge movement began one year after Hitler came to power, and five years before the start of World War II
In sum: “Peace movements are not the answer.”
But wait! What about the dream of the Department of Peace Enthusiasts (DOPE)? Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich pioneered this scheme with a bill in the last Congress and it has reappeared during this session in H.R. 808, the “Department of Peacebuilding Act of 2013,” proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) with seven co-sponsors, including Maine’s Chellie Pingree. We aren’t talking about a mere movement here, we are talking about a mighty federal bureaucracy.
The new department will be tasked to make peace-building a “strategic national policy objective". HR 808 has 18 sections under four titles. Are we excited yet? If not think about this, the Secretary of Peacebuilding will have under his command an Under Secretary of Peace, an Assistant Secretary for Peace Education and Training, an Assistant Secretary for Domestic Peace Activities, an Assistant Secretary for International Peace Activities, an Assistant Secretary for Technology for Peace, an Assistant Secretary for Arms Control and Disarmament, an Assistant Secretary for Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, and an Assistant Secretary for Human and Economic Rights.
Seven Deputy Dogsbodies seem hardly enough when one considers the SecPeBu’s job description. God asked Jesus to do less with twelve apostles.
The SecPeBu will work proactively and interactively with each branch of the Government on all policy matters relating to conditions of peace; serve on the National Security Council; seek participation in the development of policy from private, public, and non-governmental organizations; monitor and analyze causative principles of conflict and make policy recommendations for developing and maintaining peaceful conduct; develop policies that address domestic violence, including spousal abuse, child abuse, and mistreatment of the elderly; create new policies and programs and expand existing policies and programs that effectively reduce drug and alcohol abuse; develop new policies that effectively address crime, punishment, and rehabilitation; develop new approaches for dealing with the tools of violence, including handguns, especially among youth; implement nonviolent conflict resolution education and training for victims, perpetrators, and those who work with them; support effective police and community relations.
He will also develop new policies to address violence against animals; school violence, gangs, racial or ethnic violence, violence against gays, lesbians, and the transgendered.
And he will assist in establishing community-based violence prevention programs, counseling and peer mediation in schools. He will advocate on behalf of women victimized by violence, promote racial, religious and ethnic tolerance. Create peace projects, facilitate the development of conflict resolution at a national level and thereby inform and inspire national policy.
Those are only his domestic responsibilities. Internationally, he will be involved in human rights, the de-escalation of unarmed and armed international conflict; participate in the training of all United States personnel who administer post-conflict reconstruction and demobilization in war-torn societies; sponsor country and regional conflict prevention and dispute resolution. He will create task forces, develop plans, counsel, advocate, exchange, encourage, provide, establish, administer, strengthen, facilitate, consult, report, advise, address, implement, study, recommend, cooperate, commission, maintain, establish, and work with this that and the other, it doesn’t matter what. The flock of verbs is enough.
What we have here is the Liberal Mind in full flood. Every thing is about everything. “Education” can cure every problem, except teaching American undergraduates the distinction between its and it’s, or between there and their. They call Social Sciences from the vasty deep. They erect an elaborate bureaucracy which will inevitably find itself tangled in conflicts with rival departments which will defy resolution. They envision a vast reservoir of jobs opening for their own kind. No conservative could possibly take this flapdoodlious agenda seriously.
Kucinich’s bill attracted over 60 supporters, all Democrats no Republicans. Here we see the true partisan gulf: inanity and gullibility versus at least the rudiments of realism.
IN MEMORIAM: THE OLD FARMINGTON DINER
The Farmington Diner, across the road from Hippach Field and adjacent to Georgie’s Famous Hot Dog Stand, was a feature of my distant youth. In October 1957 it was the scene of the famous Farmington Diner Horror in which I figured as victim. In those days the diner was the sole locale for Farmington’s night life, which ended at 11:30 pm, when it closed. I had stopped late one night to buy a pizza, having lubricated my liver with about a gallon of beer. On my way out Ron Pratt waylaid me to perpetrate an atrocity of unparalleled malice.
Taking advantage of my befuddled state, he advised me in urgent tones that my pizza was upside down. Without pausing for thought I flipped it over at once. In truth, it wasn’t much of a pizza, but having it mashed up did not improve it. And this from the captain of the football team on which I served as a tackle! Ron is still with us. He’s forgotten his base treachery, I have not. He’s probably never heard of the old adage that revenge is a meal best eaten cold. He will repay some day.
The diner left us three years ago, depriving the population and transients of all hope of ever again getting a plate of fried pickled tripes in my old home town. The structure was removed to make room for a large new Rite Aide store. Georgie retired from the hot dog business years ago and the sled dogs he penned behind his establishment no longer bay through long nights. Hippach Field, the last structure remaining from the Abbott School, which once attended to the educational needs of miscreant students expelled from other prep schools for misbehavior, still stands as a town facility.
The Farmington Diner actually acquired a measure on national fame when the New Yorker mentioned in a 1978 article. My older sister, a subscriber, showed this to the owner. He greeted the news with indifference, pointing out that he didn’t know anybody in that city. Its standing as a local institution, now sorely missed by many, stemmed from its unique atmosphere. Conversation were general, resonant with the state’s tradition of free flowing raillery. It was no place for man or woman who couldn’t take a joke, but strangers - truck drivers, Canadians, skiers on their way to Sugarloaf or Saddleback, Summer Complaints heading up to the Rangeley Lakes, transients of all sorts who wandered in—were readily included in the back and forth.
Several of our local millionaires, a Chinese man of unknown antecedents, retired and employed mill workers, a couple of carpenters, two state legislators, a drunk house-painter (when he wasn’t serving time at the expense of the county) mingled freely. Some among them were initially rather startled when I first showed up a bowler hat, necktie and boutonniere, but they soon adapted.
It was there I first me a fellow under a baseball cap adorned with smut and cob webs dressed in blue work clothes that smelled a bit like a crank case. He showed a ready wit, a gregarious nature, and an innocent fondness for flattering the ladies. This was Charlie Webster, the former Republican senate minority leader and primary candidate for governor who became state party chairman and architect of the 2010 GOP take-over of the state legislature.
Thanks to this meeting I have since benefited from extensive tutorials on Maine’s retail politics, along with introductions to Maine’s cast of political characters, many of them idiots and some evil.
The Diner is situated on the low-lying Farmington Intervale which the otherwise tranquil Sandy River regularly floods during the spring thaw. Charlie told me of a time when he was called upon to fix the establishment’s oil burner following one of those inundations. The cellar was still partly underwater, with a lot of potatoes, turnips, beets and whatnot floating around. Next week it was offering New England boiled dinners at a cut-rate price. Made him wonder. Makes we wonder as well. The place was better known for its low prices than high quality. My usual fare was a safe BLT and coffee. The pies were also pretty good and usually quite hairless.
Our regular waitress had the fastest coffee pot in New England and our cups had no bottom. Habitual patrons of Starbucks would have found the place as alien as the regulars would have found a five-dollar cup of coffee. No lap-tops were ever seen there and although a couple of elderly professors frequented the place, the University of Maine, Farmington crowd never included it in their restless quest for diversity. Having rotated in academic circles for most of my adult life, I found this another attractive feature.
These days my home town has quite a decent Thai restaurant and the Homestead Restaurant features some adventurous dishes without being silly. The Brickyard Café has captured about half the old breakfast crowd and the quality of the fare is undeniably superior. But the Farmington Diner social circle is gone. I haven’t seen the drunk house-painter since it disappeared.
ABE LINCOLN - SATIRIST
LINCOLN: “Judge Douglas has sung paeans to his “Popular Sovereignty” doctrine until his Supreme Court cooperating with him squatted his Squatter Sovereignty out. [Uproarious laughter and applause]. But he will keep up this species of humbuggery about this Squatter Sovereignty. He has at last invented this sort of do nothing Sovereignty—[renewed laughter]—that the people may exclude slavery by a sort of Sovereignty that is exercised by doing nothing at all. [Continued laughter]. Is that not running his Popular Sovereignty down awfully? Has it not got down as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death. [Roars of laughter and cheering].”
Savor this paragraph from Lincoln’s rejoinder in his sixth debate with Stephen Douglas. We never have, and never will, hear a debate in these degenerate times where a candidate gets four laughs in the space of a single minute. Douglas got off some good ones during these famous exchanges, but nowhere nearly as often as his opponent.
People who know Lincoln’s eloquence only from the short, solemn, and majestic addresses at Gettysburg and upon his second inauguration never get a taste of the man’s ready wit; or his ability to develop a clear analytical argument. It was these debates that made a provincial legislator and one-term congressman a plausible presidential candidate. He lost his bid for a seat in the United States Senate, but it was his rhetorical performance against the nation’s most famous Democrat that gave him his national status.
It is inconceivable that a contemporary American politician could achieve prominence by analytical clarity, forceful presentation and wit in debate. Modern debate formats and public taste both forbid it. While both nineteenth century candidates began their presentations by enjoining their audiences to restrain themselves, both played for laughs and cheers. These days the rules treat loud and raucous reactions from the auditors as indecorous.
And it is recognized that wit must be strictly rationed. Columnists and those who write letters to the editor are allowed sarcasm, verbal brickbats, and rhetorical harpoons, but candidates and incumbents must avoid anything that may grate on tender contemporary sensitivities. That ribaldry about “squatting out” squatter sovereignty would excite scandal. Candidates are allowed a jibe or two in debate, and probably prepare a few ahead of time, but Joe Biden’s smirks, head-shakings, and eye-rollings represent the outer limit of what passes for sarcastic wit these days.
This is all pretty depressing, but what’s most dispiriting is the promiscuous deployment of words and phrases identified by professional focus interviews. My dentist advises me to avoid listening to political speech lest I end by triturating my teeth to a fine white powder from continued exposure to the phrase “America’s working families” Apart from the infuriating insincerity and monotony there are my feelings as a retired person. No one cares about America’s loafing families and inert individuals. Oh no. Never a kind word for us.
Today complete transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates are readily available in recently published books. In the year 2168 anyone looking for the Obama-Romney transcripts will find them buried deep in some Library of Congress hard drive, but no one is likely to take the trouble to look. Does anyone even care about them today, a few months after the event?
In sum, the forces of rhetorical correctness, spearheaded by the mass media, exploited by political hacks, and condoned by candidates have taken the life out of public political discourse. These days political speeches don’t communicate ideas, they “send signals” which officious political semioticians take upon themselves to interpret for an indifferent public.
This brings to mind a visit to the Museum of Modern Art avant garde photography exhibition. I observed the other viewers for half an hour and can authoritatively report they spent more time reading the attached explanations than looking at the photographs themselves.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LEGISLATING WHILE S T U P I D
You don’t know Ray LaHood and he doesn’t know you, but he cares about you, each and every one of you.
Ray is the Republican congressmammal appointed Secretary of Transportation by President Obama who tendered his resignation this week after 4 years of “lifting the profile of distracted driving as a national safety concern”.
He has spent all but six years of his life on the government payroll and has driven around a lot when not flying on airplanes, but had no other experience of transportation issues and no executive experience at all. A lesser man might have been content to spend his first year in office learning how a department with a budget in the billions and a staff of thousands actually runs; who and what works well, who and what does not. But Ray was a man of wider imagination and grander vision. He aimed to “put an end to distracted driving” in the United States. End it. Wipe it out. Extinguish it. Distraction termination. A man with a vision don’t need no stinkin’ expertise.
I am acutely aware of the menacing epidemic of distracted driving myself. For example, during my 2008 campaign for Congress in Maine’s second district, I was being driven up to Presque Isle by a college Republican. Having dozed off for a space, I woke to discover the lad hurtling along at 90 miles an hour while reading his Blackberry.
Ray, when challenged, is accustomed to invoking some real-life human tragedy to support his grand goals. For example, “Just ask Amanda Tiddlypush who lost her son Teddy Tiddlypush in a crash on March 18, 2008 caused by a cell phone driver - so we need to act.” I invite him to place “Just ask John Frary, who suffered a moment of terror caused by a Blackberry operator on August 8, 2008" on his website if he wishes. My terror may not be as effective as a mother’s grief and I have no children, but I do have cats.
Let me add here that I have never in my life used a cell phone while driving and have been rear-ended twice after coming to a full halt in order to give my full attention to superlative examples of feminine architecture that happened to be passing by. I need no tutoring on the perils of driving while distracted, although I’m not so sure about the rest of you.
Secretary LaHood is very respectful of the United States Constitution. After all he took an oath to uphold it, as required by Article VI. He is happy to let the state legislatures pass laws against driving while distracted, but if they fail to act according to his wishes he stands ready to pitch the Tenth Amendment overboard. No sense in sacrificing lives out of misplaced respect for a quaint document written by old white guys with weird hair and funny clothes.
I’m certain he’s as devoted to the Constitution as any congressmammal or federal bureaucrat, but if it gets in the way of curing national epidemics (obesity, pot-puffing, xenophobia, homophobia, patriotism, whatever), he’d say to hell with it.
Fortunately, Maine’s Democrat legislature had already acted to relieve Ray LaHood of some of the burden of his titanic project by passing “An Act To Establish a Distracted Driver Law” imposing fines for activities “that actually impairs, or would reasonably be expected to impair, the ability of the person to safely operate the vehicle.” The wording is general but the specific target is the cell phone.
Does this go far enough? I say no. I’m thinking, for example, of the threat posed by mothers with young children aboard. How many times have we seen them on the road cooing at and caring for their whelps while in transit? Grandmothers are even worse. There can be no safety on our high ways until we have laws requiring that these infant distractions be stowed in the trunk for the duration of the journey.
The inadequacies of Maine’s law, and much else besides, brings to mind another national epidemic, “legislating while stupid.” Maine is well positioned to be a leader in addressing this national epidemic and I have taken the initiative by drafting my own “No Brainer for No-Brainers Act.” A couple of Republican Representatives have taken an interest in the work and we hope to see it introduced in the 125th legislature.
All that remains is to secure agreement on appropriate punitive measures for violators. Initially my thoughts ran along the lines of sharpened stakes or silver bullets, but some Namby-Pampies think these penalties excessively severe. Compromise is essential to legislation in a democracy so I’m prepared to consider alternatives. Posting the malefactors next to running water for prolonged periods during black fly season appeals to me. It has the advantage of being cheaper and involving a negligible carbon foot-print.
"Dirigo", the Maine state motto, is Latin for "I serve"
MORE VOTERS!! MORE VOTERS? MORE VOTERS?!!
On December 10 last year more than a hundred civil rights groups organized as the Stand for Freedom coalition gathered ten to twenty members each to march in New York City to protest voting restrictions.
A number of commentators expressed surprise, and even disdain, to find the Communist Party U.S.A. marching shoulder-to-shoulder for voting rights along with representatives from the NAACP, ACLU, SEIU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the Hispanic Federation, the United Federation of Teachers, the Action Network, NOW, among many others.
Nearly as I can determine no moderates, middle-roadsters, non-ideological liberals, standard New York Times scribes, or other commonsensical, pragmatic leftists expressed surprise at the CPUSA participation. This in itself exposes the critics as a gang of far-right radical rightists, extreme ultra-conservatives, and tea-drunk anarcho-totalitarians. The Up-Standers’ declared purpose was to protest denial of the vote to convicted felons and undocumented aliens, impediments to the civic work of Chicago’s electoral resurrection men and, worst of all, efforts in more than thirty states to restrain eager voters of uncertain antecedents. In sum, the coalition’s mission is maximization of voter participation.
No group has worked harder at this mission than the communists. The historical record is clear, the evidence prodigious. Consider the 1982 parliamentary elections in the Peoples Soviet Republic of Albania in which 100% of registered voters participated, all 1,830,653 of them. All voted for the Democratic Front with only nine blank or invalid ballots cast. It was subsequently discovered that prime minister Mehmet Shehu was an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Soviet KGB, and the Yugoslav intelligence service, which explains one of the blank ballots. The revelation that the foreign minister was in the employ of the British Secret Service explains another. Their abrupt departures from the census count and voting roles helps explain why there was only one blank vote Albania’s 1987's 100% turn-out.
The 2009 North Korean parliamentary elections were no less impressive, with participation by 99.98% of all registered voters and 100% support for the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland. Compare that the 57.5% of all eligible voters who turned out for America’s 2012 election!
Last year’s municipal elections in Cuba were only slightly less impressive, with 91% participation and 9.3% blank and null votes. The less impressive result can explained by the relative youth of the nation’s communist democracy. It should be explained here that the Cuban elections take place in two phases, with election of delegates to the Municipal Assembly followed by election of deputies to the Provincial and National Assemblies. This resembles Lenin’s “democratic centralism” concept, by which the lower bodies choose the higher while the higher bodies tell the lower whom to elect.
The communist states all prohibit any actual campaigning. The Cuban Ministry of External Affairs has explained that the absence “of million–dollar election campaigns” avoids the “insults, slander and manipulation” which are so offensive to America’s non-ideological moderates.
Some may wonder why it is necessary to have any elections when the population is so clearly almost unanimous in approving the existing order. This is easily explained. When a government exercises unlimited power over the lives of its citizens it needs to legitimize that power by the consent of the governed, i.e., the more government, the more consent it needs. There’s the problem that agitates the Up-Standers. Last year 126 million American voted while 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots. Obama’s total of 61,911,000 votes was far greater in absolute numbers than Kim Jong-il’s, but the Dear Leader’s vote was virtually unanimous while our president received support from less than 30% of the nation’s 219,000,000 eligible voters.
This is why Up-Standers call, in part, for “the legislatures and governors in every state to repeal every voter suppression measure and pass and implement measures to increase voter participation...” Eager to increase the government’s power to tax, regulate, mandate, educate, medicate, prohibit, nudge, and guide they need lots of consent. Participation means consent and it is immaterial if the lazy, indifferent, confused low-information, high-delusion, no-memory voters they are eager to include in the electoral process know less and less about their government in proportion to its enlargement.
They have not yet reached the stage of pressing to lower the voting age to sixteen according the Cuban practice, but this is a logical extension of their efforts. Lani Gunier, a tenured Harvard professor nominated by Bill Clinton for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993 wrote articles proposing this step. Bill subsequently repented this nomination but the idea is still with us.
For example, Susan Maas, a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor, published an article in October 2012 entitled “It's time to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds.” In it she affirms “I've always felt strongly that we need to expand political participation, not decrease it.” She argues that her 13-year old son knows more about political issues than many voters she has met going door-to-door on behalf of a candidate she favors, and affirms that while 13 is “probably” too young, asks “why can't the many bright, engaged, aware 16- and 17-year-olds we know weigh in this November?”
Why not indeed? If we want expanded political participation for dimwitted, indifferent, and oblivious adults then why not for the prodigies Susan has in mind? More, why is 13 too young if our objective is to expand participation?
GUN FUN, MATH MIRTH
As the Gun Nuts and Control Nuts engage in furious forensic affray, we have inevitably reached the point where there are studies of the studies on gun violence studies attacking contrary gun violence studies. While this gives pain to the handfuls of seriously apolitical researchers and policy wonks, it affords some entertainment to those of us gifted with a perverse sense of humor. Never mind mirth and fun, perhaps even cute goes too far, but there are surely opportunities here and there, now and then, for a slight exercise of the risible muscles.
Prof. Philip Cook, director of Duke University’s public policy institute and a member of the apolitical National Consortium on Violence Research, tells us "Many of the basic statistics about guns are in wide disagreement with each other depending on which source you go to."
Iowahawk’s sharp aquiline eye has discovered that patients in the clutches of the British National Institute of Health are five times more likely to die from mistreatment than Americans have of shuffling off this mortal coil to the sound of gunfire.
And what about the data suggesting that more Americans are doomed to die from hand and foot violence than from “assault rifle” assault? The FBI reports that in 2010 745 Americans died from fist-and-foot attack while only 358 were shot to death by rifles. Consider the implications. Taking one estimate at random, there are 300,000,000 privately owned firearms in the United States while the Census Bureau estimates that there are 312,780,968 people. That means approximately 1,252,123,872 unregistered and unregulated hands and feet—a terrifying figure.
Dig deeper into the statistics and they look a little better. The FBI recorded 16.8 million fire arms applications in 2012 while the Census Bureau reports a population increase of 2.25 million people resulting in an increase of 9,000,000 possibly lethal hands and feet. But not a lot better when you consider that 43.8% of those purchases were for rifles. Then the ratios seem less encouraging: 7,362,138.3 rifles against 9,000,000 of the far more dangerous extremities.
Daniel Greenfield (aka, Sultan Knish), one of America’s deepest thinkers, points to another neglected danger in a December article entitled “Time We Had a Serious Discussion About Assault Vehicles”, which deals with yet another threat to American lives. There’s been a sharp increase in motorcycle-related fatalities in the last ten years. The 1994 death toll was 2,350. Last year it rose to 4,500. Not only is their higher than the loss of life owing to rifles and even to hands and feet, it points to a future holocaust. Employing the statistical methodology pioneered by the Reverend Thomas Malthus and perfected by Paul Ehrlich, America’s most famous Schmetterling jaeger, we forecast 6,840 deaths by motorcycle in the year 2022 with something like 60,000 for the decade.
The control nuts tell us data from the U.S. Department of Justice for 2008 show that 436,00 of the country’s violent crimes were committed by miscreants “visibly armed with guns” and there’s not reason to doubt it. On the other hand a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology produced data that U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year. This seems to imply that a gun-free America might have suffered 1,425,883 gun crimes a year.
We must recognize that a gun-free America would actually be a country where obedient citizens, respectful of the law are gun-free. The “sensible gun control laws” under consideration can only affect the 70-80,000,000 adult gun owners estimated in a 2010 survey. How could they affect our miscreant population? The penalties for robbery, assault, rape, and murder are far more severe than those proposed crime for merely owning unregistered firearms. The criminal classes aren’t likely to swap their firearms for bludgeons, stilettos, ice-picks, hatchets, and chain saws simply because the authorities threaten them with fines or a year in jail. They will remain armed.
Studies proliferate and collide; tables of statistics clash by day and learned professors labor by night to refute yesterday’s latest report. I provide some select examples of the turmoil, computed a few totals of my own. Computations of costs of enforcing the gun laws under consideration have not appeared. The control nuts dodge this question, despite its importance.
A recent Fox News poll asked a thousand registered voters a question which suggests the dimensions of the problem. Asked "If the government passed a law to take your guns, would you give up your guns or defy the law and keep your guns?" 65% said they would “defy the law.” This gives us only a very rough estimate of how many citizens will face arrest, trial, fines and jail sentences in order to achieve the disarmament of which the control nuts dream.
We may have the first useful set of numbers on the dimensions of the enforcement problem by April 15, 2014. That is New York state’s deadline for registering all those menacing-looking “assault rifles.” Officials estimate there a million of them in the state. They admit that they don’t really expect all of them to be registered. Second Amendment enthusiasts are organizing a boycott. They expect tens of thousands of resisters.
So, when this deadline comes and goes we will, at last, have the first statistics giving us some idea of the number of citizens likely to be arrested for committing the victimless crime of owning an unregistered rifle that looks scary....
"TOYS of PEACE"
This item appeared in a London newspaper in March 1914: “In the view of the National Peace Council there are grave objections to presenting our boys with regiments of fighting men, batteries of guns, and squadrons of ‘Dreadnoughts.’ Boys, the Council admits, naturally love fighting and all the panoply of war...but that is no reason for encouraging, and perhaps giving permanent form to, their primitive instincts. At the Children’s Welfare Exhibition, which opens at Olympia in three weeks’ time, the Peace Council will make an alternative suggestion to parents in the shape of an exhibition of peace toys. In front of a specially painted representation of the Peace Palace at the Hague will be grouped, not miniature soldiers but ploughs and the tools of industry...It is to be hoped that manufacturers may take a hint from the exhibit, which will bear fruit in the toy shops.”
This very newspaper article inspired a short story by H.H. Munro entitled “The Toys of Peace.” Influenced by the Peace Council, Mrs. Eleanor Bope instructs her brother Harvey to bring her sons Eric, age eleven, and Peter, nine and a half, some peace toys for Easter. Doubtful but obedient Harvey presents the lads with a model of the Manchester branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association, a municipal dustbin, a school of art, a public library, a wheel barrow, and a ventilator for ventilating sewers. There are also lead figures of John Stuart Mill, Robert Raikes, the founder of Sunday Schools, the poetess Mrs. Hemans, an eminent astrologer, and the man who introduced the penny-postage system.
Eric and Peter show no interest, they had been hoping for Albanian irregulars in colorful uniforms, and spoke listlessly of doing their lessons on the Bourbon period in France. Harvey sternly instructs them to play with their new toys, then leaves them to it for a while.. After thirty minutes, returning to see how they were getting along, he discover that the municipal dustbin had been converted into a fortress. The inventor of Sunday Schools stood in for Louis XIV and John Stuart Mill had become Marshal de Saxe.
A bit of dialogue: “Louis orders his troops to surround the Young Women’s Christian Association and seize the lot of them. ‘Once back in the Louvre and the girls are mine,’ he exclaims. We must use Mrs. Hemans for one of the girls; she says ‘Never’ and stabs Marshal Saxe to the heart.”
“The soldiers rush in and revenge his death with the utmost savagery. A hundred girls are killed (Bertie splashes red ink all over the building) and the surviving girls are dragged off to the French ships. ‘I have lost a marshal,’ says Louis, ‘but I do not go back empty handed.’”
Regretfully, Harvey concludes that the experiment had begun to late.
And there we have the lesson for our progressives. If nine and eleven are too late, then start the whelps at three and four. Next to universal health care, President Obama’s top domestic goal in his first term was government financed pre-school for all three- and four-year-olds, regardless of family income. Obama promised his supporters at the National Education Association that he will spend billions on his “Zero to Five” early childhood education initiative, while assuring taxpayers of a $10 return for every dollar spent on the program.
A glorious and glittering prospect: invest a hundred billion, get a trillion back, our deficit problem disappears. It’s mysterious to me, if no one else, that his inaugural speech made no mention of this grand project, even though the deficit got a passing reference.
Maine’s Democrats announced the agenda of their new legislative majority on January 9. Although sketchy of specifics they promised to establish a Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future and declared that they intended to take “specific action” expand early childhood education. Justin Alfond, the Senate President explained that “Beyond being the right thing to do, early childhood education is an economic booster. The studies have been done, and now it’s time for action.”
Young Justin was a day ahead of the Heritage Foundation’s study of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Head Start Impact Evaluation Report and twelve days ahead of the Brookings Institution’s study of the same report. The verdict of the Foundations’s conservatives: “HHS has released definitive evidence that the federal government’s 48-year experiment with Head Start has failed children and left taxpayers a tab of more than $180 billion. In the interest of children and taxpayers, it’s time for this nearly half-century experiment to come to an end.” The verdict of the Institution’s liberals: “Although the Head Start evaluation report includes findings derived from relaxed statistical standards and was badly delayed, the quality of the study shines through and the message is clear: Head Start isn’t doing the job the families it serves and the nation need.”
In light of the HHS Report the Heritage people propose abandoning the program while the Brookings analysts urge revision, reform, improvement. They don’t suggest spending more money, but one can’t help but harbor suspicions.
I’m guessing the progressive hopes for the future lies in the “Zero” part of President Obama’s original vision. If you can’t instill some useful “skill sets” at age three go for the cradle. As for Maine’s Democrats, no need to guess. Their stated ambition to set Maine on the path to prosperity (something they oddly neglected to do during their previous thirty-five years of legislative domination) requires lots of money. Maine faces a $300,000,000 budget short-fall. Their hope for revenues commensurate with their ambitions rests on that ten-to-one return on early childhood education investments.
BIRD-BRAINED FUN WITH FIGURES
“Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.”---Proverbs i. 17
If the ancient Hebrews’ assessment of avian intelligence is correct, we must conclude that describing hordes of voters in Maine and across the country as “bird-brained” is a gratuitous insult to birds. I refer here to those voters who are fetched by promises to tax the rich. The historical record couldn’t be clearer. All schemes and promises to tax the rich end with tax burdens on the general population. Yet, once again, we witness the Democrats spreading in the net in the sight of Low Information, High Delusion, No Memory Voters.
The federal income tax started in 1913-1915 at 7% on taxable incomes over $500,000. The Anti-Saloon League backed it because they wanted a replacement for the 30% of federal income derived from liquor taxes. Those favoring lower tariffs wanted a replacement for taxes on imports. The envious wanted to sock it to the rich. Progressives like all transfers of power from the private sector to the state and all measures that promote equality. Everyone unaffected rejoiced at the idea of someone else paying for government.
Forty years later a 22.2% rate kicked in on incomes over $4,000. No one had ever promoted the federal income tax as a means for taxing the middle class. Yet it happened.
In 1969 Maine instituted an income tax with bi-partisan support. Its top rate was set at 6% on incomes over $50,000 ($293,943.47 in 2010 dollars) and the simple folk rejoiced that the rich would be compelled to pay their “fair share,” while those with incomes between $2,000 and $5,000 got off paying a paltry 2%. By 2010 it was taking 8.5% on every dollar over $19,749 for individual tax payers and $39,549 for couples.
I don’t suppose a joke with a statistical punch line ever really works, but I’ll do my best. Maine’s top rate of 8.5% in 2010 hit people making $3,100 in 1969 values. See the humor? There was no higher rate for people making $300,000. In 1969 those people paid 6%. Hold on, it gets better.
At that time New Jersey’s top rate was 8.97% on income over $500,000. This is even funnier when you realize that NJ, with a 2008 per capita median of income $64,470 spent $6,197 per capita on its government while Maine with a 2008 median income of $46,419 spent $5,943.
In 2006 the Brookings Institution published Charting Maine’s Future, An Action Plan for Promoting Sustainable Prosperity and Quality Places. It contained lots of bright ideas and projects for the government to direct the economy in desirable directions. The Democratic governor hailed it “a blueprint for Maine’s future.” Copies were given to all our legislators. The press praised it.
No one has mentioned it for years, but what interests here is its conclusion that Maine’s income tax was inordinately high, kicked in a the maximum too low and hobbled economic growth. It also explained that Maine’s tax structure violated all the primary criteria for a rational system of taxation.
So the Democratic governor and legislature sprung into action. They passed LD 1495 with a flat rate of 6.5% rate below $285,000 and 6.85% above $250,000 while imposing sales taxes on about one hundred services previously exempt. When Brookings proposed lowering the income tax it also proposed establishing a non-partisan efficiency commission to finance the revenue loss through governmental economies. The Democrats found that unappealing, preferring to shift the tax burden. The major selling point for LD 1495 was the argument that it would fall most heavily on flatlanders, rusticators, transient terrorists, extraterrestrials and other trespassers on the sacred soil of the state of Maine.
The voters were not convinced. They had no problems about sticking it to People-from-Away (“Massholes” in our local patois) but they noticed the new sales taxes they would be paying themselves and buried LD 1495 under a “People’s Veto” by a two-to-one margin in June 2010.
November brought in Gov. LePage and Republican legislative majorities. They enacted most of the income tax reforms suggested in the Brookings Report, including a fractional reduction in the top marginal rates. Two years later the Democrats attacked the “tax cuts for the rich” for which dozens of Democratic legislators voted.
Now the Democrats are back in the majority with nothing to say about a looming budget hole of $300,000,000 and nothing, so far, to say about taxing the rich. Ex-Democrat, ex-Independent, and now lone-wolf (some prefer “ lone-weasel”) Republican Sen. Tom Saviello proposes to restore the previous marginal rates on the rich. This has brought him a great deal of local media attention and praise from liberals. In their excitement they have paid little attention to Saviello’s estimate that this will bring in a paltry $5,000,000 in revenue.
Now let’s consider Adjusted Minimum Tax, a masterpiece of soaking the rich legislation. The first version was passed in 1969 targeting 155 wealthy individuals who had paid no income tax in 1968 owing to write-offs and deductions. In 2006 more than three million taxpayers were hit by the AMT. In 2007 that number was set to rise to 23,000,000. In Maine the numbers were set to jump from 12,987 to 85,000. A director of the Brookings Institution testified before Congress that “The AMT violates virtually every principle of tax policy. It is not fair, it penalizes married couples [and] includes nasty bracket creep.”
The tax has all these characteristics before 2006, but it was the prospect of 85,000 startled and infuriated voters being AMT-ized that galvanized Maine’s congressmammals into attacking its injustices. In that year Maine was second only to Vermont in total tax burden so those claiming those deductions were about to get a nasty shock; a nasty shock which could produce retaliation at the polls.
On January 9 the National Taxpayer Advocate issued her report to Congress. Her remarks on AMT is worth quoting in full:
“Despite urgent “patchwork” revisions the AMT is still with us. On January 9 this year National Taxpayer Advocate issued a report that the AMT is still extremely burdensome for taxpayers, and will continue to affect many middle and upper-middle income taxpayers, who presumably were not its intended target. At the same time, the AMT does not affect many wealthy taxpayers, who still manage to pay no income tax. One projection estimated that about 7,000 millionaires reportedly paid no income tax in 2011.”
“Taxpayers spent about 18 million hours for the 2000 tax year (the most recent year for which we found data) completing and filling out AMT tax forms and determining whether they owed the tax. The AMT requires millions of taxpayers to essentially compute their tax liabilities twice – once under the regular tax rules and once again under the AMT rules – and then pay the higher of the two tax amounts.”
“The National Taxpayer Advocate reiterates her longstanding recommendation that the individual AMT be repealed.”
Notice “long-standing.” Savor “reiterates.” Are you puzzled about congressional reluctance to get rid of this mess? If you are you’re being silly. It brings in too much revenue to be abruptly discarded. Fairness has got nothing to do with it.
Still there are voters fetched by dreams of taxing the rich so they can count on getting government goodies without paying themselves.
I wonder. Are the birds watching this? Do birds have a sense of humor?
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS BEER
“There’s a big difference between waking up and coming to.”----Stuart Taylor
The restless hunt for stimulants across the whole range of human time and space is beyond question, dispute or even doubt. The historical record on this is as clear as anything in history can ever be.
It is strange that cultural anthropologists have never drawn the obvious lesson from this. They all seem to assume that agriculture began when game and wild gatherings began to run out. Yet it is plain silly to assume that the universal desire for stimulants can only have post-dated the beginnings of agriculture.
Prior to the miracles of modern chemistry all stimulants were the products of agriculture. Nobody ever got a high from an animal product. Bread must surely have been a by-product of grain cultivation for brewing purposes. Logic and common experience demonstrate that civilization began with beer.
This insight came to me when I read that the Guinness Book of World Records established that the predatory crown goes to a cat that assassinated nearly 30,000 rodents while in service to the Glenturret distillery in Scotland. It is not possible to estimate total tonnage of grain preserved for distillation and preserved from rodent consumption and pollution by this heroic feline, but it must have been considerable. All who have enjoyed this fine single malt scotch owe a debt of gratitude to this furry killing machine.
It is no wonder that cats enjoy a higher esteem among beer- and grain spirits-distilling cultures like the British than among the wine-bibbing nations.
The Egyptians saw this most clearly. They worshiped cats; mummified them by the tens of thousands, shaved their eyebrows when their house cats died; and put cat-killers to death. Archaeological evidence shows that they drank beer. The sequence of events is obvious. They discovered fermentation. Cultivated grain for that purpose. Stored it to provide a continuous supply, Rats showed up in hordes. There is no archaeological evidence of rat-traps or rat poisons. Salvation arrived in the form of the felis domesticus. Gratitude led to adoration. Couldn’t be clearer.
American history provides ample evidence to demonstrate the importance of spirituous stimulants. The temperance movement made great progress in reducing total consumption per capita, but when persuasion turned to coercion through the 19th Amendment, it was revealed that there was a vast population beyond the ranks of habitual drunks who required a regular supply of stimulants and was prepared to violate the law to get them.
My father’s experience provides an instructive example of this. He transferred from Yale to Harvard for just this reason, In those days there were jugs on sale with warnings on their labels instructing purchasers not to follow a set of steps which would result in alcohol. He had filled his bath-tub with this fluid and was happily awaiting the result when the Yale authorities authorized the New Haven police to raid the dorms. My father pulled the plug and immediately applied for transfer, on the grounds that the Harvard authorities would never allow the Cambridge police to invade their campus. And, in fact, they never did until the 1960’s.
The devotion of the prohibition generation to potent fluids was confirmed at my father’s 50th reunion when a long-time bar keep at a Harvard drinking institution celebrated his retirement. When asked which class was the hardest drinking, he identified that class of 1926, pointing out that several of the old fellows had just been taken away in ambulances as a result of their celebrations.
There are clearly some lessons to be learned here, although I’m not entirely clear what they are.
Blame Boehner? No, Blame Woman:-) / for the Demographic Cliff
What mighty ills have not been done by woman!
Who was ’t betrayed the Capitol?—A woman!
Who lost Mark Antony the world?—A woman!
Who was the cause of a long ten years’ war,
And laid at last old Troy in ashes?—Woman!
Destructive, damnable, deceitful woman!
----Thomas Otway: The Orphan. Act iii. Sc. 1.
If we fight our way out from the trees, the tangled undergrowth and thick pucker brush to take an overview of the forest, we will see that the future is not controlled by Washington. It’s ultimately controlled by the Women. This will strike many as a shockingly novel or perhaps misogynist and unjust idea, but stop and consider. Women are not giving birth to enough future taxpayers to pay the bill for the nation’s entitlements. They are not only responsible for the taxpayer-deficit problem, they add more than their fair share to entitlement costs.
Men do what they can to make an early departure from the dependency rolls. They smoke more, drink more and commit suicide more. They crash their cars, get shot, ram around on motorcycles, fall off cliffs and out of fishing boats far more frequently than members of the Enemy Sex. They have an exclusive monopoly on Death-by-Russian-Roulette. Women selfishly persist is surviving over five years longer than men, regardless of the expense. More, whenever and wherever a man sets himself on a course of action with promising prospects of timely mortality some woman—mother, wife, sister, or girl-friend—inevitably shows up to rain on his parade and dampen his enthusiasm.
Some may object that men have an equal say in reproduction. I’m not buying it. Over the years I’ve known any number of young couples where the wife wanted children; the husband not so much. Result: children.
I made an effort to keep up with the twists and turns, winners and losers, supporters and opponents, gripes and gloats generated by the fiscal cliff drama but grew so bored that my pulse almost stopped. Why bother? The “fiscal cliff” is a mere ditch compared to the demographic abyss that yawns at our feet
The fiscal cliff crisis has been resolved. Nothing fundamental has changed. The hullabaloo it generated served only to demonstrate the helplessness of leaders who have no idea how to lead.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sums up the whole show. "With millions of Americans watching Washington with anger, frustration and anxiety that their taxes will skyrocket, this is the best course of action we can take to protect as many people as possible from massive tax hikes." There you have it. Congress has acted to protect the American people—from Congress.
Leaving aside the question of the women’s guilt, the wider point is that it is a delusion to imagine that our future is in the hands of the political elite. They may impose higher tax rates on the “rich” but who is fool enough to expect the rich to react by saying to themselves “the government wants us to pay more, we must obey.” They will seek every legal means to minimize their tax liability. The effect on the tax revenues, investment, and economic activity is categorically unpredictable.
Never mind the 2% or 5% or 10% most affluent; the American economy is created by millions of Americans including small children with small allowances, all acting primarily in their own interests. Politicians, who don’t even read the legislation they vote for; who show no ability or even desire to control the government itself, only pretend to guide the nation.
The I.R.S. guesses that nearly $500,000,000,000 of income it is “due” goes uncollected and has no way of solving the problem. Nobody knows, or can ever know, how may people are abusing and milking the multiple welfare and entitlement programs. The belief that Obamacare is going to both improve medical care and reduce its cost is less plausible than the evangelical belief in the Rapture. Practically the whole history of government cost projections has been a history of cost overruns.
There is no plan for dealing with the trillions of dollars due in debt and entitlement payments. It has been universally agreed by tax experts, both left and right, that the I.R.S. tax code is a hideous mess, “a disgrace to the human race” in Jimmy Carter’s words. The new legislation has just made it still more complicated. Economic and political developments in China, India and the European Community will have an enormous consequences for our future. Decisions made in Washington will have only minimal effects on those developments.
Powerful governments controlled by men—Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, the French Third Republic---have made strenuous efforts to spur the birth rate, all with negligible results. Men may propose; women will dispose.
Out of respect for our patroness, Lucianne Goldberg, I close with the words of Thomas Otway in a more tolerant and tender mood:
O woman! lovely woman! Nature made thee
To temper man: we had been brutes without you.
Angels are painted fair, to look like you:
There ’s in you all that we believe of heaven,—
Amazing brightness, purity, and truth,
Eternal joy, and everlasting love.
Venice Preserved. Act I, Sc. 1.
THE HOMOPHOBIC VOTER AND GAY MARRIAGE
Although Maine’s mill towns voted heavily against gay marriage this November, information from my informants at the Verso Paper Mill in Jay suggests that there’s a thick stratum of sentiment that favored the idea. I speak here of bitter homophobes who wish see the gayetariat suffer from marital bondage. Some speak plainly of wishing gays to suffer from the same unblissful domesticity that torments them.
There’s an abundance of history which supports their hopes. An unknown sixteenth-century Englishman sums up their view in blunt and brutal terms:
“To hang or wed; both hath an hour;
And whether it be; I am well sure
Hanging is the better of the twain
Sooner done, and shorter pain.”
Move on a century and you will find a character in Shakespeare’s All’s Well that End’s Well sneering that “A young married is a man that’s marred.” Other seventeenth century writers passed equally severe judgments on the institution. A sampling:
“There may be good, but there are no pleasant marriages.” La Rochefoucauld.
“Marriage is good for nothing but to make friends fall out.” Thomas Shadwell.
“Advise none to marry or go to war.” George Herbert.
“Every man plays the fool once in his life, but to marry is playing the fool all one’s life.” William Congreve.
“If I were married to a hogshead of claret, matrimony would make me hate it.” John Vanbrugh.
The last remark is attributed to a man passionately devoted to claret. That century may seem especially critical of wedlock, but durable proverbial wisdom has often been equally hostile. A Greek proverb, “Marriage is the only evil that men pray for,” seems to have descended form the fourth century, when Philemon advised that “He who would marry is on the road to repentance.”
This proverbial wisdom spans both time and place. Spaniards were warned that “Marriage is reaching into a bag of snakes in the hope of catching an eel.” Pious Poles were advised “Before going to war say a prayer; before going to sea two; before getting married say three.” Russians felt that “No matter how fiery love may be, it is cooled by marriage,” a sentiment shared by the Scots who predicted that “A dish o’ married love grows soon cauld.” The Irish also took a stand-offish position: “If you marry at all, marry last year.” The Dutch: “In marrying and taking pills it is best not to think about it too much.”
Germans, true their reputation for thoroughness, give marriage a thorough going-over: “Marriage is a school in which the pupil learns too late.” “Marriage is fever in reverse: it starts with heat and ends with cold.” “Marriage is the hospital of love.” “If you want a good year, marry; if you want two, refrain.” Summing it up pithily: Ehestand. Wehestand (Wedlock. Woe).
Advocates of gay marriage speak of “caring and committed relationships” with such monotonous regularity that the phrase is slowly melding into a single polysyllabic word but Ambrose Bierce identifies the core of the problem with caringandcommittedrelationships in his definition of marriage: “The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two.”
Although I doubt that many hopeful homophobes at the Verso Mill are familiar with Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, one of its characters probably sums up their wicked expectations: "I know not ... whether marriage be more than one of the innumerable modes of human misery. When I see and reckon the various forms of connubial infelicity, the unexpected causes of lasting discord, the diversities of temper, the oppositions of opinion, the rude collisions of contrary desire where both are urged by violent impulses, the obstinate contests of disagreeable virtues where both are supported by consciousness of good intention, I am sometimes disposed to think, with the severer casuists of most nations, that marriage is rather permitted than approved, and that none, but by the instigation of a passion too much indulged, entangle themselves with indissoluble compacts."
And yes, I have been married. Twice. http://fraryhomecompanion.com/women.html
MAINE’S MURAL MAJORITY AND THE BLAINE HOUSE BRUTE
Fortunately it has now subsided into feeble simmering, but many feared that the early 2011 eruption of outrage in the Pine Tree State might evolve into something like the bloody 1835-1843 Dismailian Mural Wars.
For those unfamiliar with history of the nineteenth century tragedy, the circumstances were as follows. In April 1835 the Grand Vizier of the Sultanate of Lower Dismailia happened to be visiting the Ministry of Marital Felicity when he spied a mural which appeared to incorporate seventeen images of his most annoying ex-wives. Incensed, he ordered its immediate removal.
Nothing happened for several days, then pro-mural elements began to protest, on by kinsmen of the seventeen rejects. Modern researchers have found no evidence to suggest that these women had ever showed an interest in murals, or art of any kind. It’s inferred that they were motivated by resentment toward their ex-husband.
Be that as it may, the mural issue soon began to inflame tempers all over the sultanate. The Grand Vizier only made matters worse by describing the pro-mural agitators as a bunch of idiots. Anti-mural crowds friendly to the Grand Vizier soon gathered to demand the destruction of every mural in the sultanate. The pro-muralists took up cudgels in the defense of murals. The anti-muralists took up edged weapons in response. Both factions began to arm themselves with muskets and artillery. The Dismailian Art Critics Collegium shut its doors and its members fled to Switzerland.
The Grand Vizier protested that there were more important issues. There was the five-year drought in the Dismailian Delta, the ten-year war with the Kabuka of Hocsuntleonis, the huge unpaid loan to the Rothschild Bank. It was too late. Nobody cared; nobody listened. Eight members of the House of High Panjandrums urged the Sultan to throw the Vizier under the rickshaw. The Sultan acted promptly, abbreviating the Grand Vizier by a head’s length.
It was too late. A violent civil war broke out between the Muralodules and Muraloclasts. It raged on for eight years. Half the population of the Dismailian Delta died of starvation. Hocsuntleonis overran six border provinces. The sultanate declared bankruptcy. Still the Mural War raged on until the Muraloclasts were finally crushed amid scenes of hideous bloodshed.
The fatal mural? It hasn’t been seen in 168 years and nobody seems to care.
Events that brought Maine to the brink of a similar tragedy suggested worrisome parallels. Paul LePage, the new Republican governor, is dedicated to correcting conditions which make Maine highly competitive in Forbes magazine’s contest for the state most inhospitable to business. Some businessmen brought a mural displayed in the Department of Labor waiting room which they deemed a 60-foot-long rectangle of anti-business propaganda to the governor’s attention. He ordered its removed, arguing that the Department of Labor was not intended to be a department of labor unions.
Liberals, already agitated by Maine’s election of a Republican governor - an offense against the divine order - saw this as a blot on the twenty-first century, a preliminary to the destruction of art in the State of Maine, the first shadow of the dark night of fascism, and the initial step in a sinister scheme to liquidate unions. The New York Times wrote a scathing editorial. Jon Stewart jeered. The Hartford Courant sneered. A well-known Maine columnist drew a parallel to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
The Portland Museum of Art issued a statement saying that LePage had tarnished the state's reputation as a haven for artists: "The historical role of Maine as muse and refuge for generations of Americans is called into question by this single action." The Maine Curators' Forum, a consortium of curators and directors from museums, colleges and universities, art centers and galleries called LePage's action a "direct affront to our values as arts professionals."
These incandescent reactions were stimulated by the timing of the governor’s decision. Scott Walker, the Darth Vader of Union-Busting, had just inaugurated a vile scheme to limit public service unions’ bargaining rights and increase public workers’ contributions to their health care and pension funds. And LePage, working with his new State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, was intent on similar contributions from Maine’s government workforce.
Inevitably there were sightings of the Koch Brothers’ Death Star looming over Maine. Nobody was able to detect a dime of Kochtopus cash circulating here, but the absence of evidence can be taken as conclusive evidence of their diabolical cunning.
The governor responded to all this his with customary brutality, remarking that he would "laugh at the idiots," threatening protests. The question of whether they were idiots or not was lost in the indignant response. Eight moderate Republican senators signed a letter rebuking the governor for his tactlessness and affirming their own gentility. Three of them lost their seats in November 2012 after the Democrats launched a TV and direct mail condemning them as Paul LePage’s “rubber stamps.” Gentility, it seems, must be its own reward.
The inevitable law suits have come and gone. The governor’s habitual bluntness had provided other diversions. There is still the occasional letter to the editor referring to the mural crisis by persons who have never seen them, never knew about their existence and never cared until their removal blotted the twenty-first century.
And the mural? Word reaches me from an investigator named Marc Spade that it is now residing in California under the SEIU Mural Protection Program disguised as a huge table-runner.
NB: The Blaine House is the official residence of Maine’s governor, deeded to the state by James G. Blaine, variously known as the “Plumed Knight” and the “Continental Liar from the State of Maine.”
DOGS, CATS AND SHIPWRECKS
Pusuke, a Japanese dog, died last year at the age of 26 years and 8 months, Guinness reckons she’s was the world’s oldest dog.
And speaking of survivors I just learned that Oskar, the Bismarck’s ship’s cat, survived the battleship’s sinking along with 115 out of 2200 crewmen. Oskar was rescued by the HMS Cossack. The destroyer was torpedoed and sunk six months later with the loss of 127 crewman. Oskar was taken off a piece of floating debris by crewmen of HMS Ark Royal. Three weeks later the Ark Royal was sunk by another U-Boat. Oskar was saved with most of the crew.
After that Oskar was kept in a POW camp until the end of the war—or else I just made that part up
Speaking of shipwrecks, my 2008 kamikaze congressional campaign left me without savings, without credit and without regrets. Reasoning from the evidence available to me I reckon mine was the only serious campaign anyone, Republican or Democrat, ran that year. News that a number of political professionals regarded it as mere buffoonery or, better yet, “weird” only confirms me in this view. An obscure retired academic drudge running in a disastrous Republican year against a three-term incumbent I had no reasonable prospect of victory and was therefore free to say exactly what was on my mind. And that right there is weird in the eyes of the buffoonery merchants who run for office and collect large consultancy fees for promoting feckless political careers.
Last December I received an unexpected dividend from my efforts. I appear as a character in a book by Harry Turtledove, an author I’ve often enjoyed in the past. I met Harry when he came from California with his charming daughter to lodge at Trebor Mansion Inn in Guilford in order to gape at the birds that frequent northern Maine up around Moosehead Lake.
Although no kind of bird-nerd myself (can’t usually identify any fowl smaller than a turkey or an ostrich) Harry and I share some interests. We were both trained as Byzantine scholars. We are both refugees from academia. We share some views about politics and professors. Some time after our feast of reason and flow of soul together he sent an e-mail requesting permission to use a Frary character in his new publishing project. I consented on two conditions. First, that he deduct a hundred pounds from my somewhat voluptuous contours. Second, that all my cats survive the catastrophe that his story describes. He agreed and the first volume of his trilogy includes scenes in Maine, with cats.
The Trebor Mansion Inn (www.trebormansioninn.com/ ) and Guilford appears under their own names. The innkeeper and I appear under pseudonyms. It’s The End of The World As We Know It, entitled SUPERVOLCANO: Eruption by Harry Turtledove. This is the first of a three part blockbuster about a supervolcano under Yellowstone Park erupting and destroying most of the western US, not to mention bringing winter to the rest of the planet for several years, along with a nuclear war in the Middle East and a serial killer who preys on grandmothers.
I don’t appear as a serial killer—at least not yet—but as a distinctively dressed retired professor and unsuccessful congressional candidate who turns up in a horse-drawn sleigh as the perceptual snows close in on Guilford trapping a rock band on its way to Greenville. OK, I’m not all that familiar with horses, sleighs or rock bands, but I figure I could adapt if I had to.
Too early to say how my character will develop in the subsequent volumes and I’m not expecting to play a central role as the trilogy develops. But friends who have read the 2nd book inform me that I have become The Law north and west of I-95 in northern Maine, so I bought the second volume last week, eager to find who I've executed in the opening weeks of my dictatorship. I've got a little list and want to find out who Harry missed.
I have the satisfaction of knowing that although Mike Michaud (D-Me) may continue to vegetate in the halls of Congress for thirty years he will never appear as a character in anybody’s novel. Picturesque professors with important looking hats make good material for a novelist. Hatless fork-lift jockeys have no literary value.
Word reaches me that Harry is hoping to sell the movie rights to Supervolcano, so I have the prospect of making some small impact on the silver screens of the world. There’s a thread on AsMaineGoes.com speculating about what actor would be best suited to play the professor in such a movie. There have been some odd suggestions, including Jack Nicholson, but this runs well ahead of events. There’s no telling whether Hollywood will have the sense to take the option or the wisdom to take advantage of such a valuable fictional property.
I should point out that although Harry and I both qualify as Byzantinists, he alone qualities as a scholar. His translation of the Chronicles of Theophanes, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press was a major contribution to the field, whereas my contributions have been meager and inconsequential.
THE HORRORS OF MATHEMATICS
There are no survey statistics available on the appeal of audio-visual courses entitled “The Joy of Snow-Shoveling” or “The Joy of Rolling Around on the Floor of a Chicken Coop” but my intuition is that they would have limited commercial prospects. “The Joy of Mathematics” may do better, but surely not much better.
We all know someone who has experienced the joy of Fibonacci Numbers (don’t we?) but we also know many more who have agonized over high school Algebra, ground their teeth in frustration while computing their income tax liabilities, dodged the dismal drill of balancing their check books or abandoned all hope of house-hold budgeting in despair. No need to prolong the casualty lists; we know that millions of people suffer from math in one way or another every single day.
The warm joys of Hope spring eternal, but cold, merciless, unfeeling math always lurks in the shadows poised to blight that cozy warmth. Many rejoiced for years in the hope of easy money from Bernie Madoff’s investment scheme, but in the end their hopes were drowned in the icy red ink of mathematics.
Hope won a victory over simple arithmetic in November 2012, but how long will its triumph last? Math tells us that when the federal government takes in $2.67 trillion while spending $3.76 trillion, and year after year charges the taxpayer $6 for every $10 of government services, we are on an unsustainable fiscal course. Hope tells us there’s no problem, the Federal Reserve will buy all our paper. “We owe it to ourselves.”
Math tells us that President Obama’s plan to increase taxes on the upper 2 percent will cover the current deficit for just eight days. Hope, speaking through the mouth of the liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz, assures us that the rich have plenty more to tax and can be relied to continue amassing wealth, presumably because they love paying taxes.
Math tells us that the fiscal cliff “sequester” would cut less than 3 percent of federal spending over the next decade. Hope says let’s talk about taxing the rich.
Math tells us that all the possible tax increases and spending cuts produced by going over the “fiscal cliff” would reduce the current deficit by less than a third. Hope replies, let’s talk about taxing the rich.
Demographic arithmetic tells us that in 1965, when Medicare was created, the average life expectancies of men and women at age 65 were another 13.5 and 18 years respectively, while today they are 19 and 21 and rising. And when the social security program first started paying out in 1940 most patriotic men could be counted on to die at 61.4 years and patriotic women at age 65.7. In 2008 they were lingering on until 75.4 and 80. Hope replies: demographics be damned, the voters like Medicare and deserve early retirement.
Hope assures us that if cuts are needed there’s plenty of money to be had in the defense budget. Math tells us that defense accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget. Cut it all and we still have a trillion-dollar deficit. Hope persists in pointing to the waste in defense spending. Math says sure there’s waste but a report by the Institute of Medicine estimates that as much as $750 billion is wasted in the U.S. health care system each year, more than the Pentagon spends in total.
Enough. The case is made. Math is horrible. It’s heartless, uncompromising, immoderate, and pessimistic. Hope makes us happy. Math makes us sad. And so, the two have been in perpetual conflict down through the centuries.
Some really depressing news. Math has always won.
Custer's Last Twinkie - An Opportunity for Obama?
On June 25 we will be celebrating the 136th anniversary of George Armstrong Custer’s philosophic victory at Little Big Horn. It’s true that George suffered a severe hair cut along with the 265 men under his command, but he certainly showed chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse that he wasn’t about to be intimidated by 10,000 Sioux.
We can’t know how many people will celebrate the 136th anniversary the philosophic victory by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union in 2148, none of us will be among the living by then. But I’d sure like to know.
For an Administration who's motto is "Never let a good crisis go to waste", the question arises: WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA NATIONALIZE TWINKIES?
We know that the Democrats are very pleased results from the government take over of General Motors and Chrysler. They’ve boasted of this achievement for months. It saved the UAW, sheltered thousands of employees from strenuous competition, and helped Obama take Michigan and Ohio this November.
And it was easily done. Really. All they had to do was spent billions of dollars the U.S. government does not have. There’s no visible obstacle to spending more money the government doesn’t have. The Federal Reserve still seems willing, maybe even anxious, to pump more paper into the economy. We now have Government Motors, so what’s the obstacle to Government Cupcake?
Surely New Jersey’s Governor Christie, displaying an unexpected sensitivity to comments about his voluptuous contours, is taking no position on Twinkies one way or another. Maine's Governor LePage is determined to resist ever-bigger, always-growing government. Mayor Bloomberg, yearning to make himself the National Dietician, will be displeased. What of it? The government take over of GM and Chrysler had its critics as well. Obama went ahead anyway and now he’s been elected to a second term. Why not build on success?
It’s true that a Twinkie Take-over involves fewer workers, but that just means it will be less expensive for the government to buy it. Analysts are guessing that the corporation has assets worth $2,400,000,000 to sell off; a pittance; less than one tenth of one percent of the 2013 federal budget. Our government will spend $2.4 billion tomorrow before lunch.
Nay-sayers will doubt the president’s ability to manage 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers with 5,500 delivery routes, 570 bakery centers and 18,500 jobs involving 372 collective bargaining agreements and 80 different health and pension benefit plans. Silly talk. The man has been managing the world’s most expensive government for almost four years, and look how well that enterprise had been doing. Directing Hostess Brands is less than trivial compared to directing our national health system
And the president can call on the nation’s best talents to share the managerial burden. General Petraeus, for example, has just become available. Nancy Pelosi, disappointed in her ambition to return to the House Speakership might be interested—assuming she’s not too busy trying to figure out what’s in the Affordable Health Care bill she helped write.
I myself have never eaten a Twinkie, Ding Dong, or Ho Ho in my life, although I have vague recollections of a Devil Dog or two in my remote past. The fact remains that millions of Americans view the Twinkie as a national icon, much like the Bald Eagle, “The Sopranos” show, and Baseball. Surely a government that can protect the Bald Eagle can protect the Twinkie.
There are sill larger issues. A recent Pew Research survey reports that a large percentage of American youth have a favorable view of socialism as an alternative to capitalism. Read the literature and you will see that the case for socialism today rests almost entirely on analysis of the failures of free market capitalism. There’s almost no literature pointing to the successes of socialism as models for the future.. There aren’t any. These youngsters are entitled to examine at least one successful socialist enterprise. A National Peoples Twinkies Corporation may provide just such an example.
Or maybe not. It would be educational either way.
Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at: email@example.com
Target Rich Environment: The Farmington Boob Crisis
By John Frary • Apr 17th, 2010 • Category: Opinion
I’d like to start by making four points completely clear.
First, I support the right of boobs to air their opinions in public places.
Second, I have a reflexive dislike for the incessant promulgation of laws, ordinances, rules and regulations. I reckon half the population has something annoying in mind that they would like to see stamped out or restricted. Sure, I myself have sometime considered the advantages of an ordinance forbidding pea-brained bimbos from loitering in Meeting House Park Friday noons with intent to annoy . But if everyone got their favorite nuisance regulated society would be immobilized and half the population employed in policing the other half. In short, a couple of incidents, however objectionable to some people, are not grounds enough for yet another ordinance.
Third, I stopped thinking about sex entirely when I turned sixty-five so it does not personally concern me if some women choose to present themselves in public with bare breasts. For all I care they can go about bouncing, jouncing, jiggling, flopping, and sagging at will.
Fourth, although it may be my right, I wish to assure my fellow townsmen that I have no plans to bare my aged, pallid, paunchy, hairy, mole-studded naked torso to the public view. To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence “a decent respect for opinions of mankind require that” I spare them this gruesome spectacle.
The issue at hand seems simple enough at a superficial glance. Men are free to wear bras and have breast enhancements, so women should be free to expose their torsos to the warming rays of the sun. But unless you are fanatical enough to equate equality with uniformity and ignorant enough to believe that equality and equity are synonymous you will see there are complications.
Consider. The exhibitionist-in-chief has announced that men are “welcome” to the Meeting House Park display, but only if they don’t gawk or leer. Leaving aside the question of where she gets the authority to decide who is welcome to a public place she pays no taxes to maintain, we must wonder about her rationale for welcoming men but excluding boys from the show.. When I was a smutty-minded juvenile of 12 or 13 this would have been a gala event.
More significantly, our heroine shows a baffling ignorance of the male’s biological hard-wiring. I propound no theory, but I submit that gazing, gaping, and gawking at external female physical attributes is intrinsic to the male mental constitution. Can this woman be ignorant of the billions of dollars men spend examining these attributes? Is she unaware of surveys showing that 80% of men admit to viewing pornography while 19% admit to lying on surveys? Does she take no satisfaction from this thriving part of the green jobs sector? It has a lower carbon-footprint even than higher education, e.g., there are no dormitories for the women on display.
It is udderly futile and contradictory to forbid leering while advocating naked nipples. The gaping male is a constant menace to an attractive woman whether she is sitting, standing, walking, running, kneeling, squatting, bending, or laying prone, face up or face down. And if there were none but homely women in the world, the relentless male gaze would study them with equal intensity.
More, there appears to be no part of a woman’s body, hair to toes, that men do not take pleasure in studying and no part which fails to attract some variety of fetishist. I’ve never actually heard of an ear fetishist, but I feel certain that somewhere in our great Republic there are men gloating over their collections of stolen ear-rings.
Strict Moslem clerics, dedicated to keeping the male mind focused on Allah, have a clear sense of male biological imperatives. Cover the female body and the male leers at her hair. Cover her hair and the male fixes his lascivious eyes on her face. Cover her face and her eyes becomes the focus of forbidden desire. Only a total veiling, coupled with the promise of a whole platoon of virgins in the after-life serves to turn the male mind from thoughts of sex to thoughts of Allah.
That’s the way it is, has been, and ever will be. No legal sanction exists which will end it, although women can defend themselves against most overt leerings and droolings by contempt and disdain. Men rarely have the courage to defy them unless they are protected by a herd. But this is only possible because the culture supports women in disdaining unseemly excesses of the male gaze.
A woman who claims the right to a leer-free exhibition of her balcony is deluding herself by imagining that one part of the culture’s restraints can be freely discarded while the rest will remain intact for her convenience. A civilization’s culture is nearly as complex and interdependent as the physical environment.
A brief note wishing you a Happy New Year and my thanks for your support. If I did not deliver the victory we hoped for, I hope I won and retain your respect.
I recently ordered a book by Prof. Fred Kaplan, The Biography of a Writer. about the writings and speeches of President Lincoln. I am particularly struck by his judgement that in contemporary political discourse "a use of language that respects intellect, truth, and sincerity has largely been abandoned."
Just yesterday a stranger approached me in the Farmington Hannaford’s to thank me for "telling it like it is." This is happening pretty regularly and I take more pride in this than I would in an electoral victory based on evasions, mendacity and elusive promises.
I’m not claiming that there is any Gettysburg Address in me and I acknowledge that my style of writing is not to everybody’s taste. But I can claim that the style is my own, that I spoke the truth as I have understood it and that I showed respect for the intelligence of my readers.
Our contemporary political culture is taking us along the same path as the European welfare states, a path that leads to inevitable social and fiscal disaster. There is no need to debate this. Future developments will resolve the question.
I doubt that they can avoid this fate. I believe our Republic may yet succeed in steering away from it. If the State of Maine can alter its course, then so can the United States. It is clear that in 2010 flights of chickens will be coming home to roost in Augusta—along with turkeys, vultures and do-do birds. There can be few gimmicks left to shoo them away at last.
At present I am working for Lance Harvell’s victory in the special election to replace Janet Mills here in Farmington. This will not alter the balance of power in the Maine House, but a decisive win will point the way to a reversal of party fortunes two years from now.
Persistence, eternal persistence, is the lot of those determined to arrest the aggrandizement of government. The forces that drive that aggrandizement can never be extinguished.
In the end it is not a question of victory. It is a question of duty.
Again, my thanks and best wishes for a Happy New Year for you and yours,