Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Farewell to Thomas Jefferson

Can we get a shout out from the last few fans of Thomas Jefferson?

The evangelical rightwing establishment does not like him because he was pleased that the term "God" was excluded from the Constitution, because of his Free Thinking "peculiar" notions on religion in general along with his irreverence towards their Book, and because of his suggestion that frequent revolutions, i.e., the overturning of the sitting government, might be a necessity to maintain freedom.

The leftwing does not like him because, like his contemporaries, he owned slaves, held no sentimental notions about Africans and, like Abraham Lincoln who would come after him, saw the return of the ex-slaves to Africa as the only hope for social harmony and peace in this country, and, yes, because of his suggestion that frequent revolutions, i.e., the overturning of the sitting government, might be a necessity to maintain freedom.

Let's face it, who, in this day and age, would dare admit to liking such a man?

The left-leaning scholar and former United Nations diplomat, Conor Cruise O'Brien, makes no bones about his views on this Founding Father, claiming that Jefferson and his legacy are bound for the dung heap of history. Why? Because there soon will be no place in this country's evolving culture for a "fanatical cult of liberty." O'Brien rejoices at the prospect of the final demise of Jefferson's reputation. Here's what he wrote in his 1996 book, The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800:

I believe that in the next century, as blacks and Hispanics and Asians acquire increasing influence in American society, the Jeffersonian liberal tradition, which is already intellectually untenable, will become socially and politically untenable as well. I also believe that the American civil religion, official version (ACROV), will have to be reformed in a manner that will downgrade and eventually exclude Thomas Jefferson.

O'Brien believes that high regard for Jefferson will one day exist only in the realm of the "mystical," and that such regard "really belongs among the radical, violent anti-Federal libertarian fanatics." To O'Brien, there can be no place for people who approve of Jefferson's unflinching directive to keep the spirit of armed rebellion alive in America. Refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants? Not likely.

According to O'Brien, it is this "misguided" notion of freedom, as espoused by the resolute Jefferson, that led to the Civil War (absolute freedom means the right to secede), to independent vigilantes (including the Ku Klux Klan), and to the 1990s militia movement. All who defy the "civil authority" pose as threats to O'Brien's concept of America, and they should be dealt with appropriately.

It's hard to envision in 2008, since the militias are now toothless tigers, but in the mid-1990s, members of these groups inspired the hope that maybe, just maybe, the governed might, after all, acquire power over increasingly oppressive government authorities. Over several years, Americans witnessed disdainful government functionaries behave as if the nation had been formed for them, instead of for the people they supposedly serve.

In 1995, syndicated columnist Walter Williams raised questions about the treatment of militia groups that were forming at the time and whose members were being harassed by a barrage of federal and state agencies. Remember, this was the period of the advent and escalation of BATF and other para-military swat teams arbitrarily raiding homes and stalking individuals. It was the time of the atrocious FBI murders of Randy Weaver's wife and son, and the unforgivable catastrophe at Waco. (The term "jack-booted thugs" became a household expression to describe a most malicious abuse of government power.)

In addition, creeping, crafty legislation, such as "wetlands" laws, meted out harsh criminal penalties for many landowners out West, who were restricted from making use of their own property. Freshly minted government laws literally turned citizens into mere caretakers of land they had paid for and fully owned, while preventing them from building a house or even clearing dry brush. Williams went on to explain that "Much of the cause for increased government distrust and hate in our country is a direct result of an increasingly intrusive and abusive government."

Jefferson never doubted the possibility of such a scenario and wrote about the prospect of a government that might eventually negate constitutional law. (Actually, he lived to see it with John Adams' Alien and Sedition laws.) O'Brien, who had to be aware of such abuses, in his book shows no interest in them and, apparently, cares nothing about the grievances of certain citizens, whom he probably looks upon as "privileged." He portrays all those who actively challenge the commanders in control of government as "paranoids" and/or "racists."

Nor does he question the limits of governmental authority or the credibility of the bureaucrats who exercise that authority. He writes, accusatively, "The Jefferson who admired Shays's rebels . . . is providing those now resisting the Federal Government with clear warrant for their cause, and for the use of armed force should the incursions of the Federal Government make that necessary." Jefferson, you see, is considered a bad role model, and those who follow his "extremist" notions for dealing with government that overreaches its constitutional boundaries, should be eliminated from society.

In the 1990s, the militias became the whipping boy for those who shivered at the thought of social anarchy, and few came to plead for fair treatment of these dissidents, who might very well have been the last Jeffersonian activists. Under the aegis of President Bill Clinton, these groups were effectively exterminated through bogus smears and aggressive legal actions. Once they were unjustly libeled as having an affiliation with Timothy McVeigh, of Oklahoma City notoriety, and aggressively pounced upon by the self-appointed "anti-racist" watchdog groups, there was no restoring their image or reputations.

O'Brien had no way of knowing, at the time, in 1996, that the country was soon to see the last of these believers in what he called Jefferson's "wild, absolute, untrammeled, universal" liberty. Warning of possible anti-government anarchy, O'Brien praised Clinton's underhanded treatment of the militias. He was still fearful, however, that a spark might be ignited in the future, because, as he worried, anyone can be inspired by Jefferson's creed: "Jeffersonian liberty is an absolute, not confined by specific ideological content, and revolutionaries of any stripe, whether right or left, have equal entitlement to his blessing, provided they are prepared to kill and die for whatever version of liberty they happen to believe in."

George W. Bush eagerly picked up where Clinton left off in equating anti-government dissent with treason and sedition. O'Brien had nothing to worry about. The militias were demoralized out of existence.

Among O'Brien's main theses is the conviction that Thomas Jefferson no longer fits into the "American civil religion in its official version (ACROV)," because the criterion of race is now an essential factor in American culture. He writes, "Once the criterion of race is introduced, it becomes logically impossible to fit Jefferson into ACROV." The "cult of Jefferson" is no longer acceptable within the ACROV, even though it might indefinitely linger for some time. The American civil religion must now be "unequivocably multiracial." In this reality, claims O'Brien, "Thomas Jefferson is becoming a most unsuitable and embarrassing figure." There is no longer any place in "post-racist" America for this Founding Father, who was unequivocal in his views on race.

Sounding like an advocate for, rather than a chronicler of an emerging multiracial polyglot society, O'Brien refused to see the case from Jefferson's standpoint. Why would Jefferson not desire to retain the cultural integrity of his lineage, which had made possible the intellectual undertaking to form the republican government to which he had just spent his energies giving birth?

Another Founding Father, John Jay, gladly thanked "Providence" for giving "this one connected country to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs."

Sociologist Kenneth Clark describes still another Founder, James Madison, who was well known as a staunch opponent of slavery, writing that the Africans could not be emancipated without being removed to some "distant region beyond the territory intended for white inhabitation." Asks Clark, was Madison a "racist," or was he "insightful enough to foresee the racial problems the country faced after the Civil War until today . . .?" Did he simply wish a "better situation" for the black people?

It does not appear that the Founders would be in concert with the platitudes contained in that mawkish poem that was belatedly plunked down at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Neither of them seem to have envisioned this country's future in the hands of "huddled masses" from every nook and cranny of the earth.

Who would be likely to form a nation for a people other than their own kind? Would the Hutu be likely to expend their energies to develop a society to benefit alien tribes and foreigners? A year into George Washington's administration, the Naturalization Act of 1790 was passed, which limited citizenship to "free white persons." O'Brien informs us that "The civil religion has been implicitly or explicitly a religion of white people for most of its history." What else could it have been?

Insisting that the United States is now "officially a post-racist society," O'Brien claimed to detect, in the mid-'90s, in other Western countries, that which he called "powerful racist undercurrents." Might these undercurrents be viewed objectively as nothing more than the normal protective tendencies of a group, determined to insure that their posterity survive in the same manner as they have lived? Perhaps such undercurrents that are shared by Westerners could also be detected among any self-respecting Tutsi or Dogon, who harbor similar preferences for their respective kin.

O'Brien connected any form of racial adherence here in the U.S. with Jeffersonian recalcitrance, and predicted that such adherence would not last much longer. In fact, according to him, all struggle to maintain such cohesion is doomed. He wrote as though he believed the inevitable destiny of white societies is to evolve into multiracial and multicultural ones – a situation that these societies are supposed to strive for, rather than avoid.

So, how does one proceed to diminish the stature of a giant like Jefferson? What do you do about the Declaration of Independence, whose authorship is attributed to Jefferson, and whose resounding phrase, "All men are created equal," along with other memorable refrains, is sacred text in the American civil religion?

O'Brien first removes the Declaration from Jefferson's authorship and describes it as a work of a "collective," turning Jefferson into a mere "draughtsman." He writes: "Jefferson's demotion from the sacred status of 'author' of the Declaration would effectively put an end to the official cult of Jefferson within the American civil religion." He predicts that Jefferson should be out of the American civil religion by the middle of the 21st century. No more cult of Jefferson; no more cult of the Founding Fathers.

O'Brien is especially exercised over the ongoing regard for Jefferson on the part of liberals. "The huge contradiction within [liberal-Jeffersonian] tradition, with regard to race, renders it unfit to survive in a multiracial society." The term "liberal Jeffersonian" is a contradiction in terms, he says, and any person who labels himself as such is simply "confused." He adds, "Doctrinally, Jefferson is far more suitable as a patron saint of white supremacists than of modern American liberals."

And, with that said, he cannot resist delivering yet another calumny and smear against the militia movement: "The twin themes of States Rights and No Free Blacks in America fit the positions of the far-right militia movements like a glove." Although he can show no pattern of malevolence directed from militia groups towards minorities, the intolerant liberal in O'Brien takes delight in railing against those who might not appear as readily "inclusive" as the monitors of political correctness would prefer. In truth, the anger of militia members was directed at the white establishment whom they viewed as destroyers of the political legacy left by the Founders. Evidence of this destruction could be found in increasingly repressive laws and other measures, as well as the establishment's acquiescence to the creation of social policies geared only to pacify particular interest groups – with no concern that such policies made a mockery of individual rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Summarizing Jefferson as a "determined and implacable racist," O'Brien claims that "The civil religion of a multiracial society cannot indefinitely accept a racist as a prophet." As Jefferson is downgraded, along with the documents in which he played a major role, a new ethos must inevitably emerge.

Absorbed as he was in his multicultural mental fog, O'Brien failed to see still a bigger picture. What kind of "civil religion" could adequately and harmoniously replace the one inspired by the "cult of the Founders?" Is it enough just to eliminate Jefferson and his diabolical influence? Is this ACROV that O'Brien talks about (the new "official version" of the American civil religion that now includes race) capable of satisfying the desires and agendas of members of the new polyglot of nations now making their way to these shores from all the far-flung regions of the world? What uniting thread is likely to evolve that will win the trust and obedience of Chinese-Indian-Latino-Arab-African-Korean, ad infinitum?

In 1996, O'Brien mis-read the potential for backlash. Remember when the word "backlash" was bandied about as a threat that might come from disaffected whites? We now know that such a threat was never imminent, as whites settled into the good, comfortable life that was to bring them a seemingly endless array of gadgets, gizmos and all sorts of playthings.

With overwhelming prosperity has come an abundance of Bread and Circuses inconceivable to earlier generations. There is little chance that anyone would want to overturn all this fun and unlimited gaiety. But at the time O'Brien was writing, this was not so clear. He feared that the "cult of Jefferson" might inspire a schism, and become the center of a whites-only version of the American civil religion.

As it turned out, once the militia movement was done away with, and other dissenting fringe groups tarnished as anti-social "white supremacists," and publicly lambasted with other invectives, there was nothing more to fear. Rumors of possible discord stemming from the general public's concern over diminished freedoms were highly overstated. Such concern might momentarily have jarred the calm of a handful of whites, who looked up for a few minutes – and then went back to playing with their toys.

Some day, when the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, is torn down and replaced with one dedicated to a more "fitting" multiracial hero, O'Brien will be vindicated and, as he predicted, "the time of obfuscation" finally will have drawn to an end. It's still unclear, however, what the nature of the new "American civil religion" will be like, and just whose cult will prevail.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Loving the Emperor more than Christ

Lawrence Vance, on the Lew Rockwell site, often writes about the calamitous war policy of Washington's current rulers. Recently, he received a letter from a former R.O.T.C. member, a college student, thanking Vance for his writings. "After three years of going along with the crowd, my eyes were opened," the young man writes, and he then goes on to detail his Baptist background and his "hardcore Republican" household.

In reading of his experience with military chaplains, I found his story to be similar to ones I had heard before from other military personnel. These chaplains are the strangest "men of God." You would expect a religious chaplain to be like any other church pastor, that is, a counselor, a comfort, one concerned with the welfare of the individual seeking his advice. Not so, these uniformed martinets. These guys who wear the cross on their lapels are military recruiters first and foremost – and loyalists to the state before any commitment to a God. Many of them are known for their mean-spirited reactions towards anyone who expresses doubt about the current administration's Middle East mission.

The young writer to Vance tells of his change of heart – evolving from a blind yahoo supporter of the invasion of Iraq to an antiwar conscientious objector. He says that throughout the process of parting from the military, "I was disappointed to see that the most hateful, disrespectful, and arrogant people I encountered were the chaplains and pro-war pastors who interviewed me. Nothing convinced me more of the danger Christians face when they begin to accept Constantinian assumptions than the conduct of these 'men of God.'"

The behavior observed by this student would come as no surprise to traditionalist conservative pastor, Rev. Chuck Baldwin, who is a staunch opponent of the current regime in Washington and a fierce defender of the Constitution and its founding principles. He claims that the Christian church is in a state of "apostasy," meaning that its pastors and members have forsaken and abandoned Christ's teachings. He writes, "Today's pastors and Christians seem to display more loyalty and devotion to George W. Bush than they do to the Lord Jesus Christ. This stands in stark contrast to Christians throughout Church history."

Rev. Baldwin reminds us that the Roman Empire did not persecute Christians because they worshiped Christ. The Romans did not care which god you worshiped. The Empire persecuted Christians because they believed their god to be the One and Only God, above all other deities, including Caesar, the Emperor, who assumed the mantle of a deity. Rev. Baldwin suggests that today's Christians have placed a similar mantle on Bush, and that the "beginning of the end came when Christian conservatives began idolizing President George W. Bush." Their worship of this man is such that "they have come to accept just about any and all abuses against the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration principles, and even our very way of life." Not only have they become "robotic foot soldiers for universal and everlasting war," they "see no harm in the decimation of individual liberties, as long as it is a Republican who is stealing them."

Baldwin shows how even the long fought for pro-life positions have been cast aside, as Republican party operatives expediently give "donations" to key conservative organizations, as well as to principal church ministers. "Regardless of how the Republican Party has compromised, capitulated, and castrated genuine conservative principles, conservatives -- including Christian conservatives -- continue to refer to the GOP as 'God's Own Party,' and other such nonsense." On the whole, Baldwin charges, "Republicans are just as dangerous as Democrats. In fact, more constitutional freedoms have been lost under George W. Bush than any President (including Democrats) in modern memory."

And then there are those Christians who claim a non-involvement in politics. Rev. Baldwin has heard some say, "This President is God's man, and while we should pray for him, we should never oppose him." And there are those who offer that ultimate cop-out: "This is all part of prophecy; there is nothing we can do about it."

To these old mantras, Rev. Baldwin asks, "If George W. Bush's push to merge America into a North American Union is the 'fulfillment of prophecy' and should not be resisted, then why should we resist al-Qaida? Who are we to say what is or what is not the 'fulfillment of prophecy?'" He continues, "Most of my fellow believers who say we have no Christian duty to oppose President Bush as he strips us of our liberties, defies our Constitution, and makes a mockery of justice, will turn around and shout the loudest in support of a war against a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 and did not even pose a legitimate or imminent threat to our country." Where is the logic of "prophecy" here, he asks.

And, furthermore, contends Rev. Baldwin, if it is God's will that one should only pray for a President and never oppose him, why did these Christians raise such an outcry against President Bill Clinton? He suggests that his fellow Christians "will not be using the same mantra" of pray-but-don't-resist, if a Democrat is elected as the next President.

He appeals to Christians to "tear away the blinders" and play their proper role as citizens of this free country, and regrets that "Somewhere down the line, the Christian Right has lost track of the importance of constitutional government. They have forgotten (or never learned) the principles of liberty. Sadly, the Christian Right has allowed The Bill of Rights to become an antiquated and incidental document with no importance whatsoever to them. Beyond that, in many respects, the Christian Right has become as totalitarian in philosophy as many of the Pagan Left. One should understand that the extremes of both left and right end up at the same place: Tyranny."
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are these the end days of the extortionist era of civil rights?

No one describes better the interior workings of the leadership class among blacks than does Shelby Steele. I have my gripes with him in the crevices of certain issues, but for penetrating insights into what has motivated and driven the established black leadership and its faithful followers over these recent decades, there's none better than Professor Steele. Here he is on "Why Jesse Jackson Hates Obama" (Wall Street Journal, 7/22/08) – an excerpt:

[Jesse Jackson] could have argued for equality out of a faith in the imagination and drive of his own people. Instead – and tragically – he and the entire civil rights establishment pursued equality through the manipulation of white guilt. Their faith was in the easy moral leverage over white America that the civil rights victories of the 1960s had suddenly bestowed on them. So Mr. Jackson and his generation of black leaders made keeping whites "on the hook" the most sacred article of the post-'60s black identity.

They ushered in an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said
to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage. To argue differently – that black development, for example, might be a more enduring road to black equality – took whites "off the hook" and was therefore an unpardonable heresy. For this generation, an Uncle Tom was not a black who betrayed his race; it was a black who betrayed the group's bounty of moral leverage over whites. ...

It would be a good thing were blacks to be more open to the power of individual responsibility. And it would surely help us all if whites were less cowed by the political correctness on black issues that protects their racial innocence at the expense of the very principles that made America great.

Full article here.
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Showing their true colors

I've been saying for years that black "conservatives" are not conservative at all, but are nothing more than Republican flunkies. As in GOP lackeys. Now it turns out that they are not even Republicans.

We learn from the once consummate Republican Armstrong Williams that, after all these years of supporting just about every Republican scheme that came down the pike, he is contemplating the possibility of voting for the Colored Man, just because he is the Colored Man. Although Williams is quoted in an Associated Press article (6/14/08) by Frederic Frommer saying that he does not like Barack Obama's policies or much of anything Obama advocates, here is Williams straddling the fence, as he proves that race trumps principles.

Wasn't it those Republicans, in fact, the black ones especially, who preached so vociferously against race-based fervor? Is this yet another rule that applies only to whites? Frommer writes, "Just as Obama has touched black Democratic voters, he has engendered conflicting emotions among black Republicans. They revel over the possibility of a black president but wrestle with the thought that the Illinois senator doesn't sit beside them ideologically. "

Even the vacuous J.C. Watts, former Oklahoma Congressman, who was a political invention of a clique of white Republican operatives, and who one would expect to be ever-so-grateful for the years of undeserved sustenance, admits that he, too, is "thinking of voting for Obama." Is there no gratitude?

As millions of whites bend over backwards in an attempt to demonstrate their colorblindness and to prove their "goodness of heart," blacks are rapidly closing ranks around The Brother. On the black Republican blog, A Political Season, a blogger, Aaron, identifying himself as a "social conservative, Christian and Republican," claims that he supported Obama's primary run and plans to vote for him in November. This, despite Obama's pro-choice position on abortion. Aaron claims to be a dedicated pro-lifer. In the past, even black conservatives considered the pro-choice position a deal-breaker with any politician, but not today, and not when it comes to the Colored Man.

Whatever the differences in political commitment among these leftwing and rightwing black Obama-ites, they all share the same rhetoric – each talks about a "watershed" moment in history and the Symbolic Importance of a black man in the White House. Identity politics rule.

In truth, so many of these blacks whom the white Republicans had to settle for, in order to display some color in their ranks (e.g., Colin Powell), never moved beyond the tenets espoused by the mainstream civil rights establishment. They can be looked upon as opportunists of the moment, who are neither Left nor Right in their ideology, and are as much caught up in identity politics as the opponents they scorn.

Obama's black detractors

There is a contingent of blacks in the country, however, who are strongly opposed to Obama, but they are found on the left side of the political spectrum. Among the most dogmatic is Glen Ford, editor of Black Agenda Report, for whom Obama is not politically left enough. In stinging commentaries about Obama, Ford writes, "The candidate has been imposed on the African American polity by corporate forces in the Democratic Party, of which he is a loyal, Harvard-vetted operative," and, "He's getting help from panicked and unprincipled Black Left misleaders who contort their former politics beyond recognition in order to attach themselves, mostly uninvited, to a corporate campaign that tries to masquerade in movement clothing."

After Obama's Father's Day speech, in which he joined the vast chorus of those denouncing absentee fathers, Ford wrote, "Obama goes race-specific-negative on Black people whenever it is useful in attracting white electoral support. Otherwise, he is studiously 'race neutral.'" He called this tactic a "cynical device."

Ford claims that "African-Americans are expected to circle the wagons at the merest hint of racist threats to the candidate," and he finds blacks' attachment to Obama unreasonable. "At the commonsensical level, the entire Obama-Black folks relationship is so bizarre as to seem insane." He believes that the black leadership "has shamefully packaged Obama as a progressive, knowing full well he is not."

Obama is no man of peace, according to Ford, as he has shown in his speech before AIPAC and in his "expressed willingness to violate the sovereignty of Pakistan." In fact, he is a hawk who engages in "peace-savaging" as he "bows to imperial power and its endless expansion."

And then there's the stone-cold, unregenerate radical Larry Pinkney, former Black Panther, who, on his Black Commentator website argues against support for the candidate and the Democrats. Calling Obama "a Trojan Horse candidate for corporate America," Pinkney is unforgiving in his castigation of the current Wonder Boy, who is simply out to "bamboozle and negate Black America."

So what if he's the offspring of a Kenyan father and a white mother, Pinkney queries, ". . . as if that somehow, in and of itself, is significant or is a qualification for the U.S. Presidency." He reminds us that Obama "was raised essentially by whites," so why is he "better qualified than a politically conscious and time-tested Black American of Black parentage raised inside Black America?"

As a radical, Pinkney has little patience for the Democratic party or any other establishment party. Citing Obama's "doublespeak," he calls the candidate a "cynical opportunist," and references Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell as examples of blacks who provided political cover for wicked government policies. "Equating genuine and much needed economic, social and political change with skin color," writes Pinkney, "is absurd, cynical and enormously dangerous."

Pinkney wonders how anyone can mistake Obama for a "peace" candidate, when his positions on current and potential military engagements appear to be substantially similar to the current Bush administration. He asserts, "Obama has repeatedly stated his support for 'unilateral' U.S. military actions in other nations. He has indicated that he opposes how the U.S. is waging the war in Iraq, not the U.S. waging of this bloody, illegal, and amoral war itself."

To Pinkney, it is clear that Obama would only continue this country's "military adventurism," where "vast amounts of people in America and on this planet" are reduced to "nothing more than expendable cannon fodder." He warns black Americans not to "accept the superficial rhetoric of any candidate," including Barack Obama. "The proof of the pudding is in its taste," he contends, "not in its outward appearance."

Also writing for the Black Agenda Report is Margaret Kimberley, who charges Obama with "making a 180-degree turn because he is now the only Democratic game in town." According to Kimberley, the "change agent" is now showing his true colors and has thrown off the "thin veneer of a progressive politician." She cites Obama's flip-flop positions on legislation that legalized domestic spying and gives immunity to companies that conduct illegal telephone surveillance. She, too, is appalled by the black community's almost total support for Obama, and writes, "The level of loyalty directed towards Obama defies logic."
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Keeping the pressure on Hollywood

I suspect that by the time this is posted, actor-director Clint Eastwood probably will have fallen on his knees and begged the pardon of actor-director Spike Lee. If he's true to the code of white men these days, he might also beg forgiveness from all the blacks in the land and, perhaps, even in the world. He just might follow in the tracks of the many others who have bitten the dust after an altercation with a "person of color," for fear of being smeared with the dreaded label "racist."

But could it be that Eastwood will stand his ground and prove to be bigger than Senator Trent Lott, Senator Joe Biden, radio personality Doug Tracht, and the infamous, groveling Don Imus? There probably is not enough bandwidth on the Internet to list all the whites who have fallen on their swords in contrition, after a fearful "race" encounter.

As you know, the Eastwood-Lee fracas began when Lee made what is a customary charge against white film and television producers – that Eastwood had purposely ignored historical "facts," by not including any black faces in his two WWII films about Iwo Jima, "Flags of Our Fathers," and "Letters From Iwo Jima." Eastwood then countered with the angry retort that Lee should "shut his face."

More important than the specifics in this particular acrimony between Eastwood and Lee are the presumptions it raises. The dust-up is a reflection of broader issues that have festered over decades, as black elites strive to acquire greater influence over those responsible for Hollywood's productions – film as well as television.

The demand by blacks to have a say in what comes out of Hollywood began with the production of D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" in 1915. Since then the NAACP has been on the backs of Hollywood studios, threatening companies with boycotts, for the poor images of blacks reflected in film. Over the years, demands for less negative imagery evolved into demands for more positive depictions, and then for more numerous depictions.

By the 1980s, the NAACP was boldly threatening actions against Hollywood producers, if they did not create more places for blacks in front of and behind the camera. The organization literally played the muscle man for a constituency of black entertainers, who hoped to leapfrog over white entertainers who cannot count on the advocacy of a civil rights lobby. Many producers and studio heads were ready to make concessions and came up with "diversity casting committees," the results of which we see daily in films and on television. See here. A little intimidation goes a long way.

The general public, of course, goes along with whatever demands emanate from black elites, without protest, in a desire to keep the peace. Who cares about owners of private businesses and their right to make private choices, especially when those owners are Hollywood fat cats? And, besides, whites seem to enjoy coercing others to make noble gestures when it comes to the coloreds. It never occurs to the typical white that blacks should take financial responsibility for the production of more of that entertainment they spend so much money on consuming, instead of expecting others to comply with their demands.

In the 1960s, in his book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, Harold Cruse wrote of "the failure of the black bourgeoisie as a class, to play any social role as patron or sponsor of the arts." Instead, these "cultural aspirants" make "vocal and specified demands for integration in cultural fields where the black bourgeoisie has never paid the piper, and therefore can call no tunes." Cruse was partly wrong, as it turned out, since this clique of non-patrons and non-sponsors get to call lots of tunes.

In Spike Lee's favor, it can be said that he puts his money where his mouth is. He is one of the few blacks who goes about raising capital for his productions, while taking risks with his own resources. Apparently, he figured out long ago that this is the way to insure control over the direction and content and of one's enterprises. However, as indicated by this flare-up with Eastwood, Lee cannot break the age-old habit of the victim, who believes he has some inherent right, by dint of his "exceptional history," to place qualifications on the output of others, whether artistic or otherwise.

The NAACP and other "civil rights" monitors have never let up on their attempts to extend their influence into Hollywood's domain. Fortified by the success of open-ended and seemingly limitless affirmative action policies in other spheres of society, these watch keepers have become ever more arrogant in applying their coercive tactics. Hollywood producers have more than complied with a great many unofficial mandates, as we see from the black faces that fill the daily and nightly TV screens. Although blacks are about 12%-13% of the country's population, they are considered a necessary presence in multitudes of dramatizations produced for public consumption. As with most innovations, the first guy starts it, the next guy does him one better, and soon everybody wants to join the bandwagon. One black character will not do; he gets called a "token." So, the numbers of blacks must be increased to show genuine dedication to the cause.

After yet more harassment from black notables, in 1999, the pragmatic president of NBC, Bob Wright, issued a press release with the following statement: "Working with the NAACP and a coalition of other minority organizations, we have come up with a series of aggressive initiatives to widen the pipeline of diverse talent and raise awareness in our community on these issues."

Blacks have long been featured in TV sitcoms, those that star black actors, as well as those whose principal characters are white. They are well represented in variety shows and in commercials. They are regular faces on talk shows, are pseudo "judges," are featured in reality shows, soap operas, and are news anchors.

In various television series, blacks are the friends of choice to numberless white protagonists. In the sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle," for instance, the main character's "best friend" is a wheel chair bound black boy, and the only apparent friends of Malcolm's parents are four black men.

In the sitcom, "The King of Queens," we have a similar situation. The two main characters, a white married couple, have as their "best friends" a black couple. The four are so cozy that, in one episode, the white male "lends" his wife to his black friend.

Several times I had bumped across the program "House," a series about a medical clinic. Each time that I stopped for a few minutes to watch, the central person in the drama was a black doctor, whom I assumed was the lead character of the title. Since the story lines never looked especially unique, in fact, resembled the typical pandering to showcase black characters, I never stuck around for more than a few minutes. After being informed by a friend that a white actor was actually the main character of this show, I became curious enough to watch an entire episode.

In this episode, the black doctor, in some previous segment, apparently, had quit the medical team headed by House. The doctor is now job hunting, and is told by his former colleague, a white woman, how superior he is, and so on. In the next scene, a white male interviewer, after learning of the job-hunting doctor's "courageous diagnosis" of a patient, tells him, "You have bigger stones than I have." Get it? The entire drift was that the black doctor was an indispensable Superman.

A couple of weeks later, I decided to see if I might catch an episode of this show in which the title character played more than just a bit role. In this episode, yet another black doctor had been added to the cast. He was supposedly a Mormon, and comes up with the brilliant diagnosis needed to treat and cure a delusionary patient.

From today's TV programming, it is clear that Stepan Fetchit and Jack Benny's butler Rochester have been transformed into brilliant scientists, computer geeks, math geniuses, military strategists, and intellectual wizards of all kinds. They are four-star Generals, heads of the FBI, police commissioners, chiefs of the Pentagon, and sometimes even saviors of the world.

In addition, popping up almost everywhere are dramatizations which offer heavy-duty propaganda directed to whites – drumming in the theme of obligation to rescue Africans, even from their own black-on-black tribal atrocities. A subtext of this theme is interracial adoption.

I am no longer surprised by this persistent, heavy-handed and often clumsy promotion of black characters, or what my friend Hal calls "the heroizing of blacks for the edification of whites." Several themes seem to prevail in these story lines that are such obvious attempts to alter American sensibilities. There's the "getting even" theme, where black men get to boss white men around and sometimes even humiliate them. There's the theme that depicts black men as sex partners to white women. And there is a theme that might almost be called a crusade, that is, the drive to normalize the black male as an authority figure. In many, if not most of these productions, surly and bitter sermons are delivered about the sufferings experienced due to racism, past cruelties, white "negligence," ad nauseum.

In the 1970s detective series, "Kojak," which starred Telly Savalas, there were two episodes featuring former football player Roosevelt Grier as a bounty hunter. In neither of these episodes was there a sense of an overbred falseness or an effort to meet obligatory affirmative action mandates. Grier's presence fit the story line, as was true of the other black actors in the series, who were regulars or featured in single episodes. The dialogue between Savalas and Grier was witty, natural, and good-natured, instead of surly -- and relevant to the story's theme. There were no digressions to remind viewers of the sufferings of Rosey Grier's black ancestors.

Having intimidated feckless white producers into adapting, even if self-consciously, "positive" images of blacks, the NAACP attempts to rule on the percentage of employed black entertainers, as well as to pass judgment on the very nature of programming, i.e., the story content. In the fall of 1998, the NAACP and its minions protested the television sitcom, "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer," because of its irreverent take on slavery. After the show was canceled by the UPN television network, black columnist Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had this to say: "I've had my Negro membership card withdrawn too many times to relish saying the obvious when black folks are in a self-righteous huff over nothing. But last week, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a motion that condemned a show most of the members admitted they hadn't seen. The Beverly Hills/Hollywood division of the NAACP prevailed in its campaign to demonize a sitcom set in the 1860s Lincoln White House as 'destined to fan the flames of racial discord.' ... Are we so pathetic that we can't turn off a sitcom that insults everyone's intelligence without marching orders from the Beverly Hills office of the NAACP?"

In 2006, the president of the NAACP called the state of TV "unconscionable." Why? Because none of the networks' top sitcoms featured a black actor in a leading role. This echoed charges made several years earlier against the sitcoms "Seinfeld" and "Friends." Change your story line to suit us, or else.

As a matter of course, in the current climate, where everything is monitored, all-white casts in films and on TV are taken to task. Even the children's film "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," re-made in 2005 by director Tim Burton, was excoriated for failing to include an "interracial" cast. Burton's explanations about the integrity of the story line did not satisfy the monitors of multicultural correctness. The point of this harassment, of course, is to send signals to studios and independent producers of what they should keep in mind when preparing future projects. Apparently, producers are getting the message.

It was amusing to learn that the black actor Lawrence Fishburne complained about acting roles that could have gone to him, but were usurped by black "rappers." Thanks to the civil rights race monitors, there's no doubt that Fishburne himself, and other blacks like him, are the real usurpers of roles most certainly written by white authors with white characters in mind. It is the relentless campaign to create roles especially for blacks that has made possible the employment of Fishburne in the first place.

And then there's the indignant black actress (pardon me, "actor") Victoria Rowell, who was upset by choices made by producers to cast well-known white actresses in two films based on true stories about black female characters. Attempts to explain financial realities and star power seem to be of no avail. Would one have to explain why Angelina Jolie would be more marketable at the box office than, say, Thandie Newton, or Rowell herself?

Whoever said that Hollywood is dedicated to making true-life documentaries, or is faithful to an original book or script? What's a more ironic cliché than the line, "Based on a true story . . .?" In "Is Hollywood Whitewashing Ethnic Roles?" (ABC News, 6/4/08), casting director David Vaccari tries to explain why his studio decided to cast white characters instead of Asians for a story about the MIT whiz kid who broke the bank in Las Vegas: "We can make this movie with four unknowns or we can try to take a little license with the script." Hollywood is notorious for taking a lot of license with almost everything it produces. Just ask Theodore Dreiser.

About the fact that there is not an abundance of acting roles for coloreds, Rowell had this to say, "Unless African-American actors, Hispanic actors, Middle Eastern actors and Asian actors say no more, it's going to continue." What exactly is going to continue? The right of studio owners, directors and producers to use their judgment in how best to develop their private properties? "Civil rights" has now come to include the obligation for whites to provide venues in which the coloreds can show off their acting skills.

Throughout Hollywood history, unless he or she was lucky enough to be transformed into a Cary Grant or a John Wayne or a Bette Davis, the cry of every actor has been -- I want more roles! Where is there a more competitive profession? "It's hard for all actors," says Vaccari, "everyone wants more parts."

Guess how actors can have greater access to more roles. By becoming investors in properties of their own creation. It's a hard reality and, for some, an impossible quest. But in a world bereft of the old studio system, even the most prominent white actors can no longer attach themselves to an MGM or Paramount or Warner Brothers, and confidently wait as a battery of writers are set up to create scripts that become roles for them.

In his Guardian interview with Jeff Dawson, Clint Eastwood reflects on his next film, which is set in predominantly white Los Angeles during the 1930s Depression, and asks rhetorically, as if to himself, "What are you going to do ... Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player?" Well, yes, that's exactly what you're expected to do. So, will Eastwood eventually get with the program, as Don Imus has learned to do? Or will this contrary, cantankerous aging white man continue in his routine of disdaining that which he is quoted as calling "politically correct crap?"

Stay tuned.
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Obama passes his AIPAC test

Well, Barack Obama passed his AIPAC test. But, then again, we knew he would, didn't we?

The man who very sensibly refused to be intimidated into wearing an American flag pin on his lapel as a show of "patriotism," quickly scurried about finding a pin that combined Old Glory with the Star of David to sport in his lapel, before facing scrutiny at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. You must admit, the man knows whose intimidation really counts. (Could it be that, besides the political expediency, observations about his hypocrisy in wearing a foreign country's symbol on his suit influenced Obama's recent flip-flop decision to now wear an American flag pin, after all?)

In "It's a Mitzvah" (Washington Post, 6/5/08), Dana Milbank writes that the crowd loved Obama, giving him 13 standing ovations. In reassuring the audience that he is a "true friend of Israel" and proclaiming, "I understand the Zionist idea," Milbank claims that Obama "almost sounded as if he were Jewish." In fact, he states, "The winner of the nomination was sounding like Bibi Netanyahu as he spoke about preserving Israel's 'qualitative military advantage.' . . . As a pandering performance, it was the full Monty."

Uri Avnery, former member of the Israeli Knesset and founder
of Gush Shalom, chided Obama for what he calls "a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning." He reports that "7,000 Jewish functionaries from all over the United States came together to accept the obeisance of the entire Washington elite, which came to kowtow at their feet." And further, "The fear of AIPAC is so terrible, that even this candidate, who promises change in all matters, does not dare. In this matter he accepts the worst old-style Washington routine."

In "What should have been said to AIPAC" (Chicago Tribune, 6/11/08), Michael Desch argues that the candidates, including Obama, refuse to be truthful about Israel's situation in the Middle East. Friends tell friends the truth, he claims. "A real friend would tell Israel the hard truth that Arab intransigence is not the only obstacle to peace in the region. You would never know it from the candidates' remarks, but Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which continue to grow, make it impossible for the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own." And, "Someone who really cares about Israel would say to AIPAC, as James Baker once did, 'now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel.'"

Desch explains, "Seventy percent of Israelis are willing to trade land for peace, but they have been thwarted by an uncompromising minority. The majority does not need reflexive, unthinking support from their friends in America for everything Israel does; rather, it needs backing against the extremists on both sides of the conflict."

As the AIPAC conference ended, and the closing music played, which "could have been for a Superman movie soundtrack," writes Dana Milbank, ". . . the man with the Star of David on his lapel left the dais in a shower of hugs and kisses from the AIPAC officers."

Mission accomplished.
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The humorless Imus escapes another mess

"No white man with a radio program has talked about race more than I have over these last few months," said the whimpering Don Imus, the day after his latest faux pas concerning the black athlete Adam "Pacman" Jones. And he's right. No one has been foolish enough to think that the way to put to rest a controversy concerning race is to emphasize and hype the subject throughout entire shows. And, the foolish man proudly added, "We talk about it all the time!" And, indeed, he does. When he and his new employers, ABC Radio, sat down to plot out the new show's format, how did they come up with the idea to turn it into an excessive veneration of blacks?

When Imus returned to radio last December, after his eight-month hiatus, he came armed with two black monitors, a man and a woman, at his side, obviously, to help keep him on the correct track. These two watch keepers, respectfully called "co-hosts" (Imus has never had a co-host), are known in some benighted circles as "comedians," a designation either has yet to prove on this morning show. In fact, in its new incarnation, it's hard to listen to any more than a 5- or 10-minute segment of any part of the show. Imus has gone so overboard on the subject of race, and blacks especially, that his once playful satire has turned into nauseating pandering. He now provokes mockery and ridicule among many who once made up his faithful listener base.

In his recent "explanation" of his Pacman comments, he recited a list of blacks (whom he incessantly calls "African-Americans"), who appear on his new show as guests, on a frequent or irregular basis. Among these is Professor Debra Dickerson, whose dialogues with Imus border on the innocuous and trite. If you have ever read or listened to Cornel West, you will have an idea of what semi-coherent, hackneyed commentary sounds like. In this case, it's noisy chattering, designed to tell happy stories about blacks and their outstanding accomplishments. It's like listening to Farrakhan-lite, that is, minus the claims of flying machines buzzing around pharaonic Egypt. It is b-o-r-i-n-g!

Imus's effusive and exaggerated flattery of the comedian Dick Gregory, another recently invited guest of the show, has reached the level of the absurd. Eager to court this man whom he obviously thinks of as some sort of black icon with influence, Imus raves on endlessly about how "brilliant" Gregory is, what a "genius" he is, what a"credit to America." He plays clips of Gregory's senseless verbal meanderings, and actually interrupts conversations with other guests, in order to sing the praises of Gregory.

Gregory, who is still caught up in a 1960s time warp of rants designed to make him a Preacher and Scold to white folks, and whose shtick was already outdated by the early 1980s, comes off as a remnant of a thankfully bygone era. If he was ever funny, you certainly would not know it from the verbal flim flam he engages in today.

In his terror of making a misstep, Imus has rendered the show humorless. Worst of all, his fear is palpable. The restraints that he has placed upon himself, in order to conform to the correctness to which whites like him are now consigned, jump right through the radio. You can almost see the short leash to which he is tied.

His recent dumb comments make it clear that he's not quick-witted enough to hear what he's saying and to understand the possible implications and misinterpretations. When one lives in his terror zone, one needs to be quick on the draw at every minute, and then capable of backtracking immediately, in order to stave off charges of "racism" from the usual suspects. But his overweening desire to please makes him so hyper that he goes from inadvertently making a crypto-stereotypical remark unfavorable to blacks, to claiming that all black men are unjustly arrested and set upon by the system. Thus, the six-time arrested Pacman becomes a "lovely kid" -- on the basis of no reasoning given.

This year, on January 21, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Imus turned the show into a predictably sappy, sentimental homage. Predictable, not because he had ever devoted any time in the past to King, predictable due to Imus's current state of mind and his determination to absolve himself of his past racial sins. This was surely the day on which to do it.

The fact that he did not take this day off was most unusual. In all the years I listened to Imus, I never remember him broadcasting on a holiday. He always seemed eager to take the time off, and "The best of . . ." replays were common. But, in his present state, he could not miss this opportunity to demonstrate his reverence for the Great Reverend. It hardly did him any good, however, since the Pacman remarks set off another firestorm, with calls, once again, for his firing. Al Sharpton wasted no time in expressing doubts about the sincerity of Imus's earlier apologies and seemed poised to dive bomb into action, if necessary. Deja vu.

You might sometimes feel embarrassed for Imus's two black sidekicks, until you remember that the station is paying them big bucks to act as a kind of cover for the Crazy, Old White Man. These two have lucked out and are the end result of the NAACP's most successful campaigns – i.e., blacks being paid just for being black – a form of Reparations.

One might ask, What will some white men do to hold onto a job? Well, it's not just Imus's job that's at stake. At about the time of his first debacle last year, his wife Deirdre had just launched her very worthy line of "green" products, and had published a book on the subject. She was poised to do all the conventional talk shows, public appearances, etc. And then Imus dropped the "Nappy-headed" bomb. I don't think we want to know what went on in that household once the public uproar took hold. No doubt his abject groveling is as much an attempt to restore Deirdre's credibility, which was tainted by his intemperate remarks, as to save his own neck.

I once accused Senator Trent Lott of being the ultimate exemplar of those who engage in the White Man's Crawl, with radio personality Doug Tracht as a close second, but this baton has got to be passed to Don Imus. You just can't get any more prostrate at the feet of Political Correctness than this guy.
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Russert and the messengers of the state

It goes without saying that the death of a man as young and active as journalist Tim Russert is a tragedy and should bring no joy to anyone. But it is puzzling to see his career re-packaged in a way that makes the real man almost unrecognizable.

I did not watch the televised memorial service, but I did see clips of it on the nightly news, and observed what appeared to be hundreds of representatives of the establishment mainstream media (referred to by some as the "Drive-by Media") along with countless politicians filing in, to offer their final respects. This all seemed in order to me, since I always considered "Meet The Press" the epitome of the uncritical media whose purpose was and is to offer venues to the high and mighty political bureaucracy, so they might disseminate their biased propaganda.

Years ago, when I learned that General Electric, the massive defense contractor, owned NBC, the network that owned Tim Russert and "Meet The Press," I felt I was in on a joke. Was I really supposed to believe, during all those months of yapping that took place on that program in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, that the lack of direct, relentless probing of all those Bush administration toadies was simply inadvertent?

In "The Messenger Is the Message" (, 6/16/08), Butler Shaffer offers some observations about the owners of the "message machines": "If, as McLuhan observed, 'the medium is the message,' who are the scriptwriters of the message? There is a hierarchy of interests at work within the mainstream media that parallels the state apparatus itself. Atop this pyramid of power rest the corporate interests who own not only the political system, but the message machines."

Shaffer charges: "The message machine owners – subdivided into various radio/television networks and print media who, nonetheless have a shared interest in the message content – hire the 'journalists,' commentators, and others, to write and deliver the agreed-upon script. It is into this class of people that Tim Russert – along with other members of the fraternity who now lament his passing – was accepted by the owners. He was safe for their purposes, not the sort of person to ask unsettling questions."

Chris Hedges, in "The Hedonists of Power" (Truthdig, 6/23/08), had this to say:

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists.
• • •

And Justin Raimondo, in "Enough Already!" (, 6/18/08), describes how Russert, "an enabler of neocons," allowed his influential TV program "to function as the War Party's sounding board." He writes:

It wasn't just his sycophancy in the presence of power that motivates my little exercise in Russert revisionism – it's what was clearly his vehement hostility to anyone who challenged the status quo in any way and sought to provide an antidote to the Dick Cheneys of this world. Example number one: his disgraceful interview with GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who made opposition to the war and our foreign policy of "preemptive" imperialism the linchpin of his remarkable campaign.

In what has got to be one of the worst examples of high-handed hectoring and attempted intellectual intimidation I've seen in my lifetime, Russert tore into Paul the way he should have lit into Cheney, impugning his integrity, spending half the interview on the arcane subject of the Civil War – which Paul had never made a speech about, and obviously wasn't even a minor issue in the campaign. . . .

Oh yes, Russert did his research, all right, but he only utilized it to the War Party's advantage. He sucked up to power and was little more than a stenographer for high government officials whose confidence he coveted. He was, in short, a great journalist, at least by today's standards, and that's why the media blowhards are turning his death into a celebration of… themselves. Because they're virtually all the same – shameless, sycophantic suck-ups who will do anything to advance their careers and could care less about where it takes the country.
• • •

To return to Butler Shaffer, he reflects on the same old hacks being interviewed on news programs, and requests readers to let him know "the next time you see any of these persons interviewed on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or Fox News."

• Becky Akers
• Jim Bovard
• Alexander Cockburn
• Robert Fisk
• Amy Goodman
• Glenn Greenwald
• Chris Hedges
• Seymour Hersh
• Bob Higgs
• Chalmers Johnson
• Karen Kwiatkowski
• John Pilger
• Justin Raimondo
• Paul Craig Roberts
• Lew Rockwell

How about some real "diversity" for a change among TV's talking heads?
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Militarism has always led to war

Who knew that Senator Robert Taft ("Mr. Republican") had such strong views on the military, in general, and conscription, in particular? Taft, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1939 to 1953, gave the following speech at the Gettysburg National Cemetery on May 30, 1945. Here are excerpts:

This afternoon I wish to speak particularly about one step now proposed and supported by Government propaganda, which seems to me to strike at the very basis of freedom, for which our boys are fighting. It is the proposal that we establish at once compulsory conscription for military training in time of peace. The proposal is that we establish in this country a twelve months' continuous military training for every boy, the same military set-up which we have gone to war to abolish in Germany and Japan. Whether we become a militaristic and totalitarian country depends more on this measure than any other. It does not relate to any limited class or group. It reaches every family and every boy. It subjects boys completely to the domination of the Government for a year during their most formative period. It keeps them under constant supervision as reserves for years thereafter. The power to take a boy from his home and subject him to complete Government discipline is the most serious limitation on freedom that can be imagined. Many who have accepted the idea favor a similar Government-controlled training for all girls.

There is no doubt that the Government, and particularly the War and Navy Departments, are straining every nerve to secure the enactment of this legislation before the war ends. Secret meetings are being held in the Pentagon Building and elsewhere. On April 26 the chief executive officers of some forty or more women's organizations were invited there, and it is said they were addressed by the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, the Under Secretary of State, General Marshall, Admiral King, and other high-ranking officers. The ladies were requested not to disclose the substance of the speeches made or to identify the War Department or its officials with the sponsorship plan. . . .

We have fought this war to preserve our institutions, not to change them. We have fought it to permit us to work out our problems here at home on a peaceful foundation, not on a foundation dominated by military preparations for another war. The question of the best form of military organization should not be loaded with emotion. It should be dealt with by argument and not by propaganda. But the methods being used threaten the freedom of this country, for if they are successful they can be used to fasten upon us every kind of regulation, price control for business, wage control for labor, production control for farmers. . . .

The other arguments for conscription seem to me almost too trivial to discuss. It is said it will teach the boys discipline and that they need it. My own opinion is that we need more initiative and original thinking and less discipline rather than more. Our present Army is not the most disciplined Army in the world, but there isn't any better Army for the simple reason that the boys do some thinking for themselves. . . .

The argument that it would improve the morals of our boys has almost been dropped because of its foolishness. If there is one place where morals will not be improved, it is in the vicinity of Army camps.

It is true that there are some boys who are benefited by Army control, but to improve the few, let us not change the whole character of the American life which I believe has been the cause of success in this war. . . .

By handing boys over for twelve months to the arbitrary and complete domination of the Government, we put it in the power of the Government to indoctrinate them with the political doctrines then popular with the Government. It has all the dangers of Federal education and none of its advantages. Attempts along this line have been made with the present Army, and a large amount of propaganda sent out to be taught to the soldiers. In wartime it is bad enough; in peace-time, it would be intolerable. . . .

Military conscription is essentially totalitarian. It has been established for the most part in totalitarian countries and their dictators led by Napoleon and Bismarck. It has heretofore been established by aggressor countries. It is said it would insure peace by emphasizing the tremendous military potential of this country. Surely we have emphasized that enough in this war. No one can doubt it. On the contrary, if we establish conscription every other nation in the world will feel obliged to do the same. It would set up militarism on a high pedestal throughout the world as the goal of all the world. Militarism has always led to war and not peace. Conscription was no insurance of victory in France, in Germany, or in Italy. The countries with military conscription found that it was only an incident and not the determining factor in defense or in victory. . . .

Military conscription will be more the test of our whole philosophy than any other policy. Some say it is unconstitutional. It makes very little difference whether it actually violates the terms of the Constitution. It is against the fundamental policy of America and the American Nation. If adopted, it will color our whole future. We shall have fought to abolish totalitarianism in the world, only to set it up in the United States.
• • •

And here is Robert Taft on what "liberty" meant to him. These excerpts are from his speech to the American Medical Association on December 5, 1951:

What do I mean by liberty?

I don't like the term "free enterprise" because it seems to mean only the liberty of business, which is a small element. Liberty means your right and the right of every man to live your own life and think your own thoughts; to have those thoughts taught by others if you can find men who believe in them. Liberty is your right to spend the proceeds of your labor in such a way as you want to spend them with only a reasonable deduction for the necessary costs of Government.

It means the liberty of local self-government: the right of every community to decide on its local institutions, how its children shall be educated, what local services shall be rendered and how, the form of local Governments, all without direction by some Federal bureau in Washington; the rights of States to run their own affairs. . . .

The results of liberty in the United States, where it has had a longer sway than in any other nation, has been a constant improvement in ideas and research and methods in every field of intellectual activity, in science, in welfare, and in knowledge. It has trained people to think for themselves and cultivate self-reliance. . . . The American system, by offering incentive and reward and liberty, has steadily increased the productivity of the American workman and the American farmer, and, because of more goods produced per person, the more there is to divide, thus raising his standards of living – your standards of living.

It is not so much that you and I are free and enjoy being free. It is that millions of Americans are free, and the competition of their ideas causes the best ideas to rise to the surface and finally prevail.
• • •

These excerpts are reprinted from Robert Taft's speeches in A Man of Courage: Robert A. Taft, by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, published by Wilcox and Follett Company (Chicago), 1952.
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