What do we demand from government? Jobs? Prosperity? These days those come to mind first, but during the post World War II years we had prosperity and jobs and discontent was rampant. Did we want something else then? I came of age with the first Boomers in the 50’s and 60’s and the country’s prosperity did little to dampen our discontent. What were we so mad about? I believe we were mad because we didn’t have a good national story that pertained to our generation.
And I think that in addition to our clamoring today for jobs and a return to prosperity, mine and succeeding generations have continued the yearning for a good national story. Now we have the makings of the sort of compelling story we lacked before. The only problem, as I shall conclude, is that sometimes stories can be too satisfying, too soon.
First let’s rid ourselves of the idea that a story is essentially fiction. After all, the words “history” and “story” share the same root. This is not to say that stories and history are equally non-fictional- they may be equally fictional. Their truth or falsity is beside the point. We eagerly adopt stories of either kind to underwrite our lives.
Hitler is relevant to this discussion, as he was the most strident and successful storyteller of the generations just before mine. He told different stories to different people, and everyone believed him. He told Germans that Jews and the rest of the world generally had conspired to destroy the destiny of the German people. This story was a bestseller, so to speak. Great swaths of German society devoured it as precious mental nourishment, because it made them feel good, made them feel part of something important and justified, as an effective story does. Then he told the rest of the world that he was a ferocious megalomaniac, poised to take over and punish all states and societies that were not in his thrall. That story too was a great hit, in the sense that people followed it and adopted it as their story.
The stories told by Roosevelt and Churchill were predicated on Hitler’s story: We were the defenders against Hitler, the homicidal maniac. Of course Hitler was a homicidal maniac, but as I say my use of “story” denotes neither fiction nor non-fiction. It was Hitler’s story telling capability that put him on the map. Our mental wards are full of crazed megalomaniacs whose stories are listened to by no one but bored staff. Hitler might well have been one of these isolated souls, but as a powerful storyteller, his story became, well, “real.”
Then what was wrong with post-war America’s story? Looking back I see a few things: the dreadful Hitler-enhanced war story that our parents lived, with its heroism and triumph, was not available for us to identify with, partly because it had not happened on our soil, and partly because we were so definitively post-war. Nor could we derive self-esteem from the earlier Depression, with its tales of injustice and endurance, awash as we were in surplus. We had for our coming of age rituals- not recognition of triumph over adversity- but endless exhortations conveyed via the new wonder, TV, to spend our parents’ money on keys to popularity like Brylceem (a little dab ‘ll do ‘ya!). We were just consumers of hair grease always on the look out for new products. I think I sensed even then the potential for Tom Brokaw to slander my entire generation as something less than “great.”
A few years ago I spent the 3 hours necessary to watch a BBC documentary/mini-series called “The Power of Nightmares”. I found it fascinating as it explored the symbiotic relationship between American neo-conservatives and terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. You can watch the entire series online at archive.org. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic.
In it we learn that neo-conservatives philosophy is based on Machiavellianism. It’s the elitist mentality that neo-cons know what is good for all citizens and can morally (in their eyes) use all means necessary to reach that perceived good. We also learn that the roots of neo-conservatism come from the left.
Now that Usama bin Laden nightmare is dead the neo-conservatives need a new nightmare to justify the continued global war on terror. At first they tried to spread general fear about a retaliatory strike. This is a real and genuine fear; however, it isn’t quite enough for them. They need a face of terror–a single person. Initial indications are this new face of terror will be Usama’s 20 year old son Hamza. He already has a nickname, “The Crown Prince of Terror” as evidenced in this recent article from The Telegraph:
Hamza, thought to be the youngest of the Saudi-born warlord’s sons, has been described as the “crown prince of terror”. He featured on an extremist website to mark the third anniversary of the July 7 London bombings in which 52 people died. He read a poem called for “destruction” of America, Britain, France and Denmark.
Intelligence agencies believe he was being groomed as a possible future leader of al-Qaeda.
He was implicated in the assassination of moderate Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Well, it didn’t take them very long did it? Hopefully it won’t take 10 years, billions of dollars, and countless lives, to find bin Laden 2.0. No doubt we will begin hearing about how the son is even more evil than the parent was.
In any case, I long for the day when our troops can come home from all over the world and we can expend our resources on true defense and better intelligence-gathering rather than the expensive nation-sitting we do now.
by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital
This week saw the type of downside volatility in the precious metals market that will be remembered for years to come. For those of us who have been long gold, and silver in particular, the memories will not be pleasant. While many had been expecting a pullback in silver, when the violence did come it was nevertheless shocking. Silver shed one third of its value in less than one week. And while gold was pulled down by the general sell off in all commodities (oil, copper, coffee, etc.) the yellow metal shed only 6.5% during the carnage. Those mild losses should remind us that gold is not just another commodity, but has monetary qualities that tend to smooth out volatility. But will silver survive the vicious downturn?
Ron Paul is on fire. That is my opinion of his performance in this first GOP debate. Of course, I’m biased. Feel free to make your own judgement after watching the entire debate below. There were a few stellar moments from Ron Paul, including his answer when asked about legalizing drugs, and his answer about being the “Founding Father” of the Tea Party movement regarding Michele Bachmann.
I don’t agree with a lot of what Herman Cain says, but I have to admit he has charisma that will give him a lot of support. Expect the other candidates to start attacking him if his poll numbers go up. I think they will.
Gary Johnson did very well with a few odd moments. If I’m looking at him through social-con or neo-con eyes voting for him would likely be impossible. He did come off as a very honest “make the hard choices” candidate. Sort of like Cain without the charisma.
Pawlenty seems to be channeling John McCain a bit too much and Santorum just comes off as angry. Both seem to be going after the George W. Bush voting block; however small that is these days.
I have worked on Wall Street my entire life, and one thing I’ve learned is that large institutional investors, like pension funds and endowments, rarely veer from the herd. They manage too much of other people’s money to stick their necks out alone – if their investments go bad, at least they can point to everyone else who fared just as poorly.
For this reason, these funds are often lagging in their perception of crucial market changes – changes such as a doomed currency. While many of us are buying precious metals to hedge against the collapse of the dollar, gold and silver have been taboo investments on Wall Street for years. Fund managers are taught that gold is a “barbarous relic” – much better to stick with government bonds and blue-chip stocks. That’s what everyone else is doing.
But there are early signs that the herd is changing direction.
Following Bin Laden’s death, the scenes of celebration in America were the equivalent of the losing team in the Super Bowl celebrating like they just won the game. As Radley Balko points out, Bin Laden has already won. And all the proof we need is recognizing that we are far less free and further in debt today than we were on September 10th, 2001. Balko writes:
In The Looming Tower, the Pulitzer-winning history of al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, author Lawrence Wright lays out how Osama bin Laden’s motivation for the attacks that he planned in the 1990s, and then the September 11 attacks, was to draw the U.S. and the West into a prolonged war—an actual war in Afghanistan, and a broader global war with Islam.
Osama got both. And we gave him a prolonged war in Iraq to boot. By the end of Obama’s first term, we’ll probably top 6,000 dead U.S. troops in those two wars, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. The cost for both wars is also now well over $1 trillion.
We have also fundamentally altered who we are. A partial, off-the-top-of-my-head list of how we’ve changed since September 11 . . .
We’ve sent terrorist suspects to “black sites” to be detained without trial and tortured.
We’ve turned terrorist suspects over to other regimes, knowing that they’d be tortured.
In those cases when our government later learned it got the wrong guy, federal officials not only refused to apologize or compensate him, they went to court to argue he should be barred from using our courts to seek justice, and that the details of his abduction, torture, and detainment should be kept secret.
We’ve abducted and imprisoned dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Guantanamo who turned out to have been innocent. Again, the government felt no obligation to do right by them.
Glory to Allah! Well it appears that Osama Bin Laden is dead. He was supposedly killed about a week ago via a bomb/missile. The neo-conservatives will now be scrambling to find a new evil-doer to keep them aimed toward their goals. I’m sure they will tell us very soon who the new face of terror will be. Or how about this instead…
…how about we get the hell out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and everywhere else and save some money we don’t have?
The most likely scenario will be that we will be told how we now need to be extremely alert due to the potential for retaliation so we’ll need to send more troops and spend more money on the never-ending war on a tactic.
More thoughts to come as more information is spoon-fed to us via an untrustworthy media.