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Dead in the streets as the rabble is finally aroused? No, the cultural war was lost long ago.

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Some bloggers use pseudonyms to keep their identities secret, kind of like the pamphleteers in eighteenth-century America.  This protects individuals from retaliation for having unpopular views, and it prevents controversial ideas from being suppressed.  Heck, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Mark Twain used pseudonyms.  In the McIntyre case the Supreme Court struck down a law that required pamphleteers to identify themselves, saying there was a right to anonymity in a democracy.  (See United States Supreme Court.  No.  93-986 - Joseph McIntyre, executor of estate of Margaret McIntyre, deceased, Petitioner v. Ohio Elections Commission.  April 19, 1995.)

Which brings me to the web log "Whiskey Bar."  I dont know who the author "Billmon" really is, although I suppose if I looked hard enough I could find out. 

He sure has some interesting things to say.  This below has to do with the proposed amendment to the constitution to ban "gay marriage" (leaving us only with morose marriages?) that was called for by George Bush this week. 

Site Name: Whiskey Bar
Description: Free Thinking in a Dirty Glass
Site URL: http://billmon.org/
Entry URL: http://billmon.org/archives/001111.html

Here's what caught my eye:


Ever since the red-meat style of politics came of age in the early 1980s, the Bushes have kept guys like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove on the payroll to do their dirty work -- just as most wealthy families have servants to take out the garbage and feed the dogs.  And all along, they've peddled the same pose: "It's not that we want to pander to the yahoos, but we have no choice.  Politics is such a coarse business."

Now this is roughly like the schoolyard bully saying, "I didn't want to smash your face in, but I had no choice.  I needed your lunch money."  Over the years the Bushes - and their faithful family retainers - have developed a kind of proprietary interest in the White House, to the point where Peggy Noonan could rejoice even before the 2000 election in the family's looming "restoration" -- as if the Bushes were the Bourbons and the Clintonites a rabble from the slums of Paris.  Which, come to think of it, isn't too far off the mark...

But the end result is kind of an inverse form of noblesse oblige, in which a familial duty (or compulsion) to public service creates an obligation to do whatever is necessary to hold on to power -- instead of the other way around. 

However, the will to power is now leading George II and his ministers into deeper and deeper social waters.  Gay marriage ain't the pledge of allegiance, and ACT UP ain't the ACLU.  The Rovians, I think, are risking (among other things) some fairly spectacular protests at their convention in New York this summer, which may tax even the NYPD's ability to maintain a speech free zone around Madison Square Garden. 

This no doubt, will whip the faithful inside the hall to even higher heights of cultural frenzy.  This may be a great tonic for the base.  But it could really alienate the rest of the country, especially if it were to turn violent - just as the 1968 protests in Chicago tagged the Democrats as the party of chaos and conflict. 

Would such a display hurt Bush, or ricochet back against the Dems?  I don't know.  But our Kennebunkport aristocrats may want to reflect on the fact that the Bourbon restoration only lasted a relatively brief 15 years, before that Parisian rabble put their old cockades back on and ran the dynasty out of town - this time for good.


Well, my friend Ric in Paris will get a kick out of this observation that the Bush dynasty is quite clearly parallel to the Bourbons.  I think that may be a stretch, even if Peggy Noonan, who wrote Reagan's speeches and now writes for the Wall Street Journal thinks the Democrats are much like the rabble in Paris who so hated the rightful monarchy of the time. 

Yes, George the First (Bush, not the German-speaking Hanoverian one in early eighteenth century England) did have his own little cultural war calling for a constitutional amendment to carve out an exception to the first amendment of the Bill of Rights regarding free speech - that is, Bush the First wanted an exception to free speech that would make burning the flag in any protest a federal crime.  That didn't fly.  Oh well. 

Indeed, our George the Second has decided to plunge into deep social waters, as this fellow points out.  This time it is another "carve out."  But this time a specific group of citizens would be told certain rights will not ever be granted to them, by any legislation or regulation or fiat.  The "meta-law - the constitution - would be changed.  It would be changed to exclude this class of people from certain rights.  One would be hard-pressed to recall any previous change in the constitution that called for specific exclusion from rights and privileges, as previously on matters of race and the rights of women, the changes were for inclusion.  How odd. 

Well, this is a cultural war, isn't it?  And Bush the Second says he is a "war president."  It fits. 

This much more specific that saying you cannot burn the flag when you get grumpy, and yes, could well provoke some unruliness in New York at the Republican Convention this fall.  That would be interesting.  Mayor Bloomberg is not likely to do what Richard Daley the Elder did in 1968 in Chicago - send in the police to smash some heads.  I suspect he knows better. 

Yet something is in the air.  Violence? 

Out here in California our governor has something like that in mind.  Last Sunday, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was worried about the potential for violence because of the controversial marriages.  "All of a sudden we see riots and we see protests and we see people clashing.  The next thing we know is there's injured or there's dead people," he said on NBC's Meet the Press. 

Since nothing like that is happening one assumes such statements are offered to make something like that happening more likely.  Consider it a suggestion from Arnold to his conservative base.  Dead people.  He's asking his conservative base to think about it. 

Well, Bush is saying he really didn't want to do this "amend the constitution" thing, but he was forced to.  What forced him?  Events in San Francisco (with that uppity bobo, pretty boy mayor out there) - and events in Massachusetts (with those "activist judges" who think the constitution trumps the will of all the people so appalled by perversity being rewarded with the rights and privileges of marriage). 

Damned bobo (bourgeois bohemian) liberals!  See Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Simon and Schuster, May 2000) by the conservative columnist David Brooks of course for that. 


Too there is a minor problem with the Bush claim that he was really forced to do this, only recently, by the San Francisco mayor and those Massachusetts judges. 


See Bush pledged to back ban in Nov., Musgrave aide says

Bill Straub, Scripps Howard News Service, February 28, 2004


WASHINGTON - President Bush pledged to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave that he would support her proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage three months before he made Tuesday's public pronouncement, according to Musgrave's top aide.


The White House has said Bush made the decision only after officials in San Francisco and New Mexico presided over same-sex marriages.


Oops.  He kind of wasn't telling the truth again.  Oh well.

Anyway, the younger Bush wanted his war with Iraq and he got it - not nicely and at the cost of now being called a fraud about his public reasons for it, and at the cost of the good will of most of the nations of the world, and at the cost of our dead and maimed, and the thousands and thousands of Iraqi folks who had to die.  Just so he wants his four more years in office, and if that means cultural war to punish the gay folks, so be it.  And just so with the economy - tax cuts for the wealthy and reductions for those in need, as with this week's call for reductions in social security payments to the elderly to finance ongoing tax cuts.  And just so with the environment too. 

Its war.  And the monarchy gets what it wants. 


"Billmon" above suggests Bush "may want to reflect on the fact that the Bourbon restoration only lasted a relatively brief 15 years, before that Parisian rabble put their old cockades back on and ran the dynasty out of town - this time for good."


That's not going to happen.


We have nothing akin to the Parisian rabble that lopped off the heads of the Bourbons.  Our "rabble" is sedated - quiescent, passive, happy in their SUV's and then home in front of the television watching the last episode of "Sex in the City" on HBO.  Well, the maybe the word for our rabble is "moribund."

Oh yes, the concluding episode of "Sex and the City" that the whole country was buzzing about?  Carrie has run off to Paris but ends up rejecting Aleksandr - the self-centered Euroweenie artist played by Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Her first true beau, the ultra rich businessman Mister Big, flies over from New York and they meet fortuitously in the lobby of the Plaza Athénée (hôtel de prestige, Paris 8e. Situé avenue Montaigne) - and with the obligatory long shots of the sparkling Eiffel Tower he proposes to her on the Pont des Arts, (view south to the dome of L'Institute de France) - and then they fly back to Manhattan to connubial bliss, one supposes.  No revolutionary rabble to be seen anywhere. 


That's our collective fairy tale.

Nope, the cultural war was lost long ago. 




My friend Ric in Paris did, by the way, comment -


The restoration monarchy was 'rightful?'  Was it elected by somebody?


How's that quote go about the monarchy never being able to learn anything?  Is it 'parallel' enough?


As for we rabble, last week it was lawyers and magistrates in their black gowns out in the streets demonstrating against some stupid government proposal - I can't remember which stupid proposal because there's a new one every week.  This makes it nine since the beginning of the year.  Demonstrations number many more, because some concern last year's stupid proposals.


There'll be another stupid proposal soon.  José Bové got busted again today.


Ric points out José Bové - the pipe smoking Roquefort cheese magnate-activist who studied economics out here at Berkeley - got himself busted again.  Yeah, well, that is what he does.  (I see nothing yet on the news wires.)


Ric comments on Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal speaking of Bush (père et fils) and alluding to them as "rightful monarchs" - but Peg is only echoing the intellectual hero of all conservatives, Edmund Burke, who in the aftermath of the French Revolution gave that famous, stirring speech to Parliament defending the late and now significantly shorter Marie Antoinette as a wonderful, noble woman who would be missed terribly.  I think Noonan's idea is that the Bush dynasty was really chosen by God - and not by any benighted voters in Florida or even, really, by the US Supreme Court.  God chose him.  Kind of like the French kings.  Well, that's her view. 


And no, monarchs learn little from experience - no need.  That's for the common folk, the rabble.


And Ric notes the Paris rabble is still there.  Endless demonstrations.  Sigh.


We over here don't regularly do such things, even during a cultural war.





Footnote here is what Burke said about Marie Antoinette -


Edmund Burke (1729-1797), born in Dublin, Ireland, was a member of the British House of Commons.  After the French Revolution, Burke became an important critic of the Revolution and the effective founder of modern conservative political ideology.  Although he had serious reasons for his politics, there is also an element of nostalgia about in his perspectives.  In this brief speech he laments the death of the Queen and the passing of an era.


It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision.  I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy.  Oh, what a revolution!  - and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall!  Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers!  I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.


But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.  Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom!  The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone.  It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. 


Edmund Burke 1793


This, by the way, is pretty much how Peggy Noonan sounds when she talks about her former boss, Ronald Reagan.