Traditional American Values Are Dead and Buried?
Monday, May 24, 2010 by Staff Report
Who owns America today? … Perhaps the greatest threat to … the tea party is that they appear to be arguing a case that, for all practical purposes, has already been settled for the majority of Americans. The America of the Founding Fathers roots a modest, decentralized, and agrarian nation is gone, or is at least being pushed to the demographic margins, inhabiting the great red swath of the country’s middle. Politically, the America of today is as much a product of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson of the sprawling government programs of Medicaid and Social Security as much as the Second Amendment and its provision for nongovernment militias. Though he was speaking of … the Civil Rights Act specifically, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s comment Sunday morning on “Fox News Sunday” appears to be broadly relevant to the tea party as a viable political movement: “The philosophy was misplaced in these times,” he said. “The philosophy got in the way of reality.” Christian Science Monitor
Dominant Social Theme: It’s ovah! The blue states have won. Federal government activism is gloriously ascendant.
Free-Market Analysis: Working closely together, we Bell staffers have developed a most un-libertarian, hive-like mentality. These days, buzzing in our brains are recollections, often, of the compelling Claudius books by Robert Graves. What comes to mind, however, is not so much the pomp and decrepitude that Graves brought to life as the books’ over-riding, semi-tragic perspective that the Republic was gone and could not be brought back.
Indeed, the theme of Roman republicanism-now-lost hangs over these books and in our humble opinion lifts them into the realm of great art. Not only does Graves have an apparently thorough grasp of ancient times, but he is able to bring these times to life and to inhabit them with living, breathing creatures who are often among the most maleficent and fascinating since Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote his great character-driven plays (Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, etc.).
Graves’ insight was to utilize the Roman emperor Claudius as the narrator for these two books (I, Claudius, and Claudius the God). Who was this historical personage? Wikipedia tells us that “Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (1 August 10 BC 13 October AD 54; Tiberius Claudius Drusus from birth to AD 4, then Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus until his accession) was the fourth Roman Emperor and a member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, ruling from 24 January AD 41 to his death in AD 54. Born in Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France) to Drusus and Antonia Minor, he was the first Roman emperor to be born outside Italia.”
And further …
He was reportedly afflicted with some type of disability, and his family had virtually excluded him from public office until his consulship with his nephew Caligula in AD 37. Claudius’ infirmity may have saved him from the fate of many other Roman nobles during the purges of Tiberius’ and Caligula’s reigns; potential enemies did not see him as a serious threat to them. His very survival led to his being declared emperor (reportedly at the insistence of the Praetorian Guard) after Caligula’s assassination, at which point he was the last adult male of his family. (- Wikipedia)
It was Graves’ great fictional conceit (which in fact has some historical justification) that Claudius was among the most literate, thoughtful and generally best emperors of the generally horrid Roman imperium. Here’s a good Amazon book review by “Mary Whipple” that sums up the matter:
Arguably the greatest fictional biography ever written. December 5, 2006 … In I, Claudius, Robert Graves creates the first person narrative of Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, known in Roman history as Claudius, and widely regarded as an idiot. Telling the story of his family’s rule from the beginning of the Christian era until his death fifty years later, Claudius relates stories of his grandmother Livia, one of the most treacherous women in history, a woman who manipulated the imperial succession through poisonings, assassinations, marriages, and secret alliances. The reign of her son Tiberius is bloody, murderous, and corrupt. Tiberius’s succession by Caligula, his insane grandson and the protege of Livia, takes Rome into even more terrifying debauchery. Claudius’s ultimate succession to the throne is widely regarded as a joke.
In Claudius, the God, Graves continues the story of Claudius, who is hugely popular when he first becomes Emperor, refusing many of the numerous titles claimed by his predecessors because he believes he has not yet earned them. Gradually, we observe the truism that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His invasion of Britain, his relationship with his wife Messalina, and his attempts to control the succession to the throne show his attempts to manipulate Roman history and his own legacy. The reader develops enormous sympathy for this man who began his reign with pure motives but who was ultimately powerless to control his own destiny and that of Rome.
Characters are complex, fully developed humans, instead of cardboard, costumed ancients, and their machinations, though extremely bloody, show the conflicts that occur when absolute rule and republican sentiments contend for dominance, a conflict in which Graves says he saw parallels to World War I and its aftermath. Taken together, these two novels of Claudius constitute what is arguably the greatest fictional biography ever written. Precise historical detail creates a rich tapestry of life in the period, while, at the same time, Graves’s keen awareness of psychology leads to vibrant and believable characters behaving badly. The values (and lack of them) in the period are presented in dramatic scenes of violence and excess, and the fickleness of the masses (whom Claudius calls “the frog pool”) is both realistic and sadly universal.
Graves apparently had the ramifications of World War One and the decline and fall of the British Empire in mind when he wrote these books. In looking at the startling unwinding of what is left of American exceptionalism, especially, we find ourselves reminded over and over of Claudius’ dilemma as related by Graves the yearning for a bygone republic (the Roman republic) that Claudius shared (as Graves’ relates it) with other academics and romantics of his day.
While many items, anecdotal and otherwise, remind us of Graves’ great work, this CS Monitor article, excerpted above, is among the most startling. At least Graves didn’t CELEBRATE the demise of the Roman republic. No, for him and his protagonist, the expansion of empire can be perhaps justified or at least comprehended but never truly endorsed. Both books, but especially the first, show in great detail just what the establishment of an empire entails, with all its murder, moral, spiritual and economic degradation and degeneration.
In fact, we had to read the article in question twice to fully absorb what we consider to be its wrongheadedness. Are we supposed to be relieved, or at least satisfied that, “The America of the Founding Fathers roots a modest, decentralized, and agrarian nation is gone, or is at least being pushed to the demographic margins, inhabiting the great red swath of the country’s middle?”
Here’s some more from the article, which is actually built around Kentucky conservative/libertarian senatorial candidate Rand Paul’s recent “controversial” remarks regarding the constitutionality and appropriateness of the nation’s far-reaching Civil Rights Act of the early 1960s. (The general gist of his remarks was that from a philosophical standpoint, anyway, the federal government might have been seen as over-reaching.)
What the tea party wants … While Paul’s comments are political gaffes, they do not appear to be too far afield from tea party doctrine to the degree that such a thing exists. The battle flag of the tea parties has been the Revolutionary War “Don’t Tread on Me” banner. But the enemy to liberty, in this instance, is not the British, but the overbearing American government itself. The tea parties’ 10-point Contract From America includes “restore fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government in Washington.” As if to underscore the point, it also includes: “demand a balanced budget” and “end runaway government spending.”
Paul has been anointed to carry this gospel to Washington, and in each instance, Paul’s comments last week spoke to the desire to lessen the grip of the American government on its people in this case, business. In theory, almost all Republicans have this aim. The difference between Paul and more mainstream Republicans, however, has been his apparent willingness (or inability not to) speak the pure doctrine of Barry Goldwater libertarianism regardless of the political costs.
Paul is burrowing deep into political theory. The fundamental question he is raising is: Who should be in charge of changing the United States the government or the American people themselves? Tea party principle, as interpreted by Paul, suggests that the American people must be free to evolve on their own. In other words, business-owners should have the right to discriminate even though Paul says he “abhors” racism because the alternative is a slippery slope of government interference, leading to tyranny.
For people like Paul, the hope is problems such as racism will be increasingly exposed as abhorrent, and society will gradually change on its own without government interference. Yet on race in particular, one prominent conservative abandoned this philosophy. The late William F. Buckley Jr., founder of the National Review, originally opposed the Civil rights Act. “I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow,” Mr. Buckley said in 2004, according to The New York Times. “I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary.”
There is a “gotcha” aspect to all this that we have noted before in other American mainstream-media references to the apparent demise of Thomas Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian republican nation-state. The article’s implications are obvious: In the modern world, freedom is not free and the US federal behemoth soon to redistribute up to 40 percent of this bleeding nation’s wealth is both inevitable and apparently necessary.
At least Robert Graves had the decency not to celebrate the demise of the republic. In fact the Claudius books are nothing if not a cautionary tale as to what happens to a society that degenerates as Rome did. As for William F. Buckley, the libertarian movement in America reflects (and correctly in our opinion) an increasing Rothbardian repugnance toward this legendary intellectual. In fact, Buckley, a walking, talking mechanism of cognitive dissonance, spent his adult life celebrating free-markets while seemingly endorsing (or at least ignoring) the gamut of military-industrial activities undertaken by the Pentagon and America’s spying agencies.
We’ve stayed away from commenting on Rand Paul’s remarks directly, for the issue has blown up into a national controversy and plenty of publications have covered it. What we are fascinated with is the approach that the CS Monitor has taken to the subject by implying (regardless of the appropriateness of Rand Paul’s remarks) that he is likely standing futilely athwart the path of history and shouting “stop!”
Now we can recognize a dominant social theme when we see one (the Bell is supposed to sniff them out, after all). We are sufficiently cynical to suggest that one reason for Graves’ continued success and celebration by the powers-that-be (other than the greatness of the work itself) is that it delivers the message that empire is implacable and irreversible. And that is what this article is implying heck, stating!
We have a meme of our own to suggest. We regularly offer up the idea that the Internet is the second, modern communications’ revolution of the past 500 years, and is putting “the hurt” on power-elite fear-based promotions. The first one (initiated by the Gutenberg press) eventually resulted, one way or another, in the Renaissance, the Reformation, “these united States” and a host of other far-reaching changes. These happened despite ongoing wars and an apparent determination by the powers-that-be to roll back the transformative aspects of Gutenberg’s book-printing invention.
There are similarities between then and now in terms of the elite’s increasing dysfunction. The elite is fairly obviously applying 20th century damage-control techniques to a 21st century problem. In the 20th century, when a fear-based promotion was in danger of unraveling, the elite could bring to bear all the academic, media and governance forces at its disposal to make sure that the problem was snuffed out and credibility restored. In the 21st century, the elite has seemingly lost control of various portions of its command-and-control apparatus. The Internet is an evolving emergency, not amenable to one-time fixes.
Most damagingly, the elite’s mainstream media is not fully in control of fear-based messaging any more and thus problems that might have been quickly alleviated, linger and drastically erode the believability of what has been painstakingly created with tremendous cost and clout. Not only that, but each erosion subtly effects the rest. The ongoing degeneration of the global warming theme has eroded the ability of the elite to justify other power grabs and even to create additional promotional spin-offs as planned.
A most successful dominant social theme for the power elite in the 20th century was the whole promotion of regulatory democracy as the only logical and inevitable methodology of governance. Today, we would argue, this meme is increasingly under siege along with central banking, so-called international trade agreements and, in fact, the entire superstructure of global government.
Rand Paul’s Kentucky nomination in the US, the Tea-Party movement itself, along with the destabilization of the euro and the EU itself are signs from our perspective that the inevitability of regulatory democracy is finally being questioned by the West’s long-suffering citizens at a fundamental level. We reject the meme as enunciated (smugly) by the CS Monitor (and even by Graves himself, regretfully) that empire is irreversible and that what is once done, no matter how bad, cannot be undone, or at least rectified.
Conclusion: Since we are in a naming mood, we will call this dominant social theme (the inevitability of regulatory democracy and the expansion of the Anglo-American empire) the “I Claudius meme.” If we are correct, the insanity of current Western governance with its endless warring, destructive taxation and phony money printing will eventually go the way of Rome itself falling silent as something else evolves.
UN Swaps One Fear for Another
Monday, May 24, 2010 by Staff Report
Goods and services from the natural world should be factored into the global economic system, says UN biodiversity report … The economic case for global action to stop the destruction of the natural world is even more powerful than the argument for tackling climate change, a major report for the United Nations will declare this summer. The Stern report on climate change, which was prepared for the UK Treasury and published in 2007, famously claimed that the cost of limiting climate change would be around 1%-2% of annual global wealth, but the longer-term economic benefits would be 5-20 times that figure. The UN’s report dubbed the Stern for Nature is expected to say that the value of saving “natural goods and services”, such as pollination, medicines, fertile soils, clean air and water, will be even higher between 10 and 100 times the cost of saving the habitats and species which provide them. To mark the UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity, hundreds of British companies, charities and other organisations have backed an open letter from the Natural History Museum’s director Michael Dixon warning that “the diversity of life, so crucial to our security, health, wealth and wellbeing is being eroded”. UK Guardian
Dominant Social Theme: OK, OK, global warming didn’t work out, but now we’ve got one that will really run shivers up and down your spine the “destruction of the natural world.”
Free-Market Analysis: There are many that would maintain the larger Daily Bell approach to news and analysis is fatally flawed by its analysis of a non-existent power elite. For those who adopt this argument, the world runs on serendipity and there is no rhyme, nor reason to current events, human triumphs, disasters, etc. This is a perfectly logical “conditioned” way of looking at the world and one that, especially in the 20th century, was most understandable. But today there is the Internet, and here at the Bell we think the Internet has given serious students of the world-as-it-is an opportunity to “connect the dots” when it comes to the socio-political manipulation of Western nation-states and the world in general.
In this article we want to use the above news report from the UK Guardian, also featured yesterday on the Drudge report, to illustrate why we believe the Bell’s way of looking at the world may have something to it. (We want to “promote” our point of view in other words!) We think we have a case to make.
The Internet, in our opinion, has revealed a great deal of connectivity between some of the wealthiest funds, families and non-profits and various manipulations of industries, politics and even military initiatives. These connections are abetted by the power elite’s lack of anticipation as regards the Internet, and the maintaining and expanding of a fairly sizable paper trail throughout the 20th century one that in large part has found its way on-line. It is thus fairly easy to find out who funded what initiative and who was in favor of this promotion or that one. (We have noticed in our several decades of trolling the web that this paper trail has diminished rather markedly of late at least as it concerns Google. But the information is still “out there.”)
Another reason the elite left a paper trail is because those involved (not very many) were fairly paranoid about being accused of doing anything in secret. If one is worth literally trillions, then it makes sense to support an ever-expanding regulatory democracy because regulations can always be traduced by smart lawyers, accountants, etc. given access to enough funds.
This is the reason, in our opinion, that the power-elite feeder system focuses on symbol manipulators from the best Western universities. Thus it is, that the smartest symbol manipulators (often those with unusual mathematical aptitude) are hired by the biggest corporations and financial firms because these entities need to work around the rules and regulations hemming in the “little guy.”
The elite may take its decisions in private, but it has constructed a vast matrix of academic, political and non-profit entities that “paper” the decisions that likely have already been made. This is the reason that those in elite positions are often seen as giving speeches or disseminating policy statements that provide valuable clues to as to what is going to happen next from economic, industrial and sociopolitical policy perspectives.
The above report in the Guardian is a good example of how this elite programmatic element actually works. The UN, from our perspective anyway, is a perfect example of a power elite vehicle, one established primarily as a receptacle for the elite’s fear-based dominant social themes. These themes propose a problem anything from global-warming, to over-population, to economic catastrophe. But it is just as important to have an authoritarian receptacle providing a solution (the UN) that can further consolidate the wealth and power that fear-based promotions are supposed to generate.
In the case of the upcoming announcement about biodiversity and humans “destruction of the natural world,” we would argue that the powers-that-be are returning to the hoary global-warming promotion from a different angle. UN-o-crats are still arguing that the environment is “at risk” only now humans are creating problems through industrial EXPLOITATION rather than outright “carbon pollution.”
Being somewhat cynical (it’s true), we don’t buy either of these memes. We didn’t believe in carbon pollution causing global warming even when it was fashionable to do so. We believe even less, if that’s possible, that individual human beings are “degrading” the environment its flora and fauna in catastrophic ways, or that the UN can actually do anything about it even if it were occurring. (It is the nature of evolution to shape and reshape all living things via extinction, which is a natural process not some sort of manmade disaster.) That this latest warning comes from the same outfit that documented the “damages” from carbon pollution, is not exactly a confidence builder. Here’s some more from the article:
The UN report’s authors go further with their warning on biodiversity, by saying if the goods and services provided by the natural world are not valued and factored into the global economic system, the environment will become more fragile and less resilient to shocks, risking human lives, livelihoods and the global economy. …
The report will advocate massive changes to the way the global economy is run so that it factors in the value of the natural world. In future, it says, communities should be paid for conserving nature rather than using it; companies given stricter limits on what they can take from the environment and fined or taxed more to limit over-exploitation; subsidies worth more than US$1tn (£696.5bn) a year for industries like agriculture, fisheries, energy and transport reformed; and businesses and national governments asked to publish accounts for their use of natural and human capital alongside their financial results.
And the potential economic benefits are huge. Setting up and running a comprehensive network of protected areas would cost $45bn a year globally, according to one estimate, but the benefits of preserving the species richness within these zones would be worth $4-5tn a year. The report follows a series of recent studies showing that the world is in the grip of a mass extinction event as pollution, climate change, development and hunting destroys habitats of all types, from rainforests and wetlands to coastal mangroves and open heathland. However, only two of the world’s 100 biggest companies believe reducing biodiversity is a strategic threat to their business, according to another report released tomorrow by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is advising the team compiling the UN report.
[This] report shows that on average one third of Earth’s habitats have been damaged by humans but the problem ranges from zero percent of ice, rock and polar lands to 85% of seas and oceans and more than 70% of Mediterranean shrubland. It also warns that in spite of growing awareness of the dangers, destruction of nature will “still continue on a large scale”. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has previously estimated that species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than it would naturally be without humans.
We remember when hysteria was at its manufactured height prior to the miserable failure of the Copenhagen conference on global warming. At the time, top officials at the UN were literally claiming that the “world” was at risk and that the next few months were going to be critical in terms of humankind’s survival and life on the planet as we know it. Well, Copenhagen fizzled and life has gone on. In fact, as we have long-maintained, the effective dissemination of these fear-based promotions is foundering thanks in large part to the Internet (and also the anger and enlightenment caused by the ongoing financial crisis). People actually understand the mechanisms and are catching on to the manipulation.
Admittedly, this is non-scientific opinion, but we read feedbacks at mainstream media news sites and inevitably they are filled with comments that make our Bell articles look, well … tame by comparison. The amount of non-believers roaming the blogosphere is large, astonishingly well informed and not at all inclined to take the authorities at face value anymore. And those circulating in leadership roles at major, elite groups seem increasingly aware. Alternative news reporter Paul Joseph Watson recently pointed out the following in an article entitled Brzezinski Decries “Global Political Awakening” During CFR Speech, as follows:
At a recent Council on Foreign Relations speech in Montreal, co-founder with David Rockefeller of the Trilateral Commission and regular Bilderberg attendee Zbigniew Brzezinski warned that a “global political awakening,” in combination with infighting amongst the elite, was threatening to derail the move towards a one world government. … Brzezinski then explained another significant factor in that, “For the first time in all of human history mankind is politically awakened that’s a total new reality it has not been so for most of human history.”
Brzezinski continued, “The whole world has become politically awakened,” adding that all over the world people were aware of what was happening politically and were “consciously aware of global inequities, inequalities, lack of respect, exploitation. … Mankind is now politically awakened and stirring,” said Brzezinski, adding that this in combination with a fractured elite “makes it a much more difficult context for any major power, including currently the leading world power, the United States.”
We will stick with our paradigm until we see evidence that it doesn’t explain what’s going on in the world today. But the UN’s transparent (almost pathetic at this point) attempt to swap one global, environmental fear-based meme for another and Brzezinski’s startling admission in Montreal provide us additional confidence we’re on the right track. In fact we’ll go even further out on a limb by writing as we have before that the power elite has not yet shown it has any answers to the truth-telling of the Internet. What was secret in the 20th century is common knowledge in the 21st.
Of course, we hope we are not foolish optimists. We try to stay level headed. But so many elite memes are under attack or foundering these days that we are having trouble keeping track of them. We are also fully aware that when powerful people are being pushed the usual solution is to push back with some sort of military activity. A war in, say, Iran might fit the bill, given other economic and socio-political difficulties faced by the elite. We don’t necessarily anticipate it, but we are certainly more concerned about that possibility than humankind’s gross, planetary depredations. Here is some war news from the Western intel-analysis webiste DEBKAfile:
Obama starts massive US Air-Sea-Marine build-up opposite Iran … DEBKAfile’s military sources report a decision by the Obama administration to boost US military strength in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions in the short term with extra air and naval strike forces and 6,000 Marine and sea combatants. Carrier Strike Group 10, headed by the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, sails out of the US Navy base at Norfolk, Virginia Friday, May 21. On arrival, it will raise the number of US carriers off Iranian shores to two. Up until now, President Barack Obama kept just one aircraft carrier stationed off the coast of Iran, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Arabian Sea, in pursuit of his policy of diplomatic engagement with Tehran.
For the first time, too, the US force opposite Iran will be joined by a German warship, the frigate FGS Hessen, operating under American command. It is also the first time that Obama, since taking office 14 months ago, is sending military reinforcements to the Persian Gulf. Our military sources have learned that the USS Truman is just the first element of the new buildup of US resources around Iran. It will take place over the next three months, reaching peak level in late July and early August. By then, the Pentagon plans to have at least 4 or 5 US aircraft carriers visible from Iranian shores.
Conclusion: The difficulty with attempting to decipher elite memes and actions in the era of the Internet is that as the workability of fear-based memes has decreased, the level of uncertainty regarding elite actions and their effectiveness has actually increased. There are many ways of looking at them. Military analysts, for instance, point out that additional naval strike forces could actually be aimed at dissuading Israel from a nuclear attack on Iran. Yet, just as possibly, America may be positioning itself for a quick and overwhelming attack on Iran, one that could conceivably utilize “tactical nuclear” weapons to ensure victory. If military activities do commence in this part of the Mideast, one could conceivably see huge price hikes in precious metals, oil and other important or valuable commodities. On a more basic level, a nuclear war, even a limited one, would constitute a REAL degradation of the environment. There’s something for the UN to work on.