bookmark_borderPost-402: “Storming the Capitol” (Jan. 6, 2021)

History-making happens when you don’t expect it.

What to “make” of the occupation of the U.S. federal Capitol grounds, in Washington, in the afternoon and into early evening, Jan. 6, 2021?

My immediate impression. This will be remembered as a major, historic, ‘landmark’ moment in history. A moment ranking with the most historic of my adult lifetime so far.

As a protest, and as protests go, it was a stunning success. The occupation of central government building by unarmed protestors? Wow.

(The Occupation of the U.S. Capitol grounds, Jan. 6, 2021.)

Also a humiliation, if there ever was one, for the U.S. federal government.

The following was written about 48 hours after the event. Thoughts on context for this moment in history, how such as dramatic as this comes to happen, and then some notable scenes from the occupation.

(original: 2000 words) (updated, Jan. 9: now 3300 words.)

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bookmark_borderThe Two U.S. political hegemonies of our time

On historical trends of our time. I wrote about the general concept yesterday that eras often do not align with their calendar-numbers, with one example arguably being “the 2000s” ending Sept. 2008 with the financial crisis. (Some also argued “The 1960s” really ends with either the Nixon resignation or the evacuation of Saigon, which by calendrical dating were already in the mid-1970s, and maybe it really began about 1964, so at least that’s still a ten-or-so-year decade.)

I want to put digital pen to paper on a related topic again: The thirty-year cycle we are still (?) in.

In February 2020, I read State Dept. figure William J. Burns’ memoir (his career was from 1980 to 2014 and he rose unusually quickly; my comments on his unexplained rapid rise fill the margins of the book). I began to suspect something that had not quite occurred to me before. It was this: The USA was in a long arc that began thirty years ago, specifically in 1990-91, traceable to two landmark events (Rodney King and the U.S. decision to fight Iraq) which do not have immediate precursors at the time. The rest of this post will be an update on this idea including events of the last ten-and-a-half months. I think “2020” validates the thesis, which I published in these pages about one month before the Corona-Panic began, in a big way.

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The two events, the decision to invade Iraq and Rodney King, occurred from late July 1990 to early March 1991, only seven months’ space of time.

The two events were almost trivial in their time and are often not remembered, in and of themselves.

I myself am too young to remember either of them. In the 1990s during my own process of socialization I became aware of them as minor landmark events of the recent past.

[1.] The decision to intervene against Iraq and crush it as a regional power (apparently made by top U.S. officials in late July 1990, according to Burns who witnessed it) set up a long chain process of very-free-hand Mideast interventionism, in a way that the U.S. would absolutely not meddle or intervene or bomb or invade any place in its own hemisphere (anymore), which itself is strange to think about.

When I was in high school I believed the U.S. might invade Colombia, in response to the rebels trafficking drugs there causing trouble. Nothing like that ever happened at all. But meddling in the Midwest over much more abstruse reasons is the norm, is expected, and one hears muted criticism of it. It is a consensus position.

There became an ingrained cultural attitude that The Evil-Doers (to use what I vaguely recall as a George W. Bush phrasing) are out there, and are mainly in the Midwest, so we have to constantly meddle, and attack, and bomb, and use the map as a giant chessboard, or the Evil-Doers win. It puzzles me how this is uncontroversial.

Intervention predates George W. Bush, continued through Clinton, and began with George H. W. Bush, not that the nominal president at any given time was the decisive factor, because they’ve all done it, steadily so, and as I say, seemingly as if a Foreign Policy Prime Directive, beyond the point of possibility of dispute by good people (an enforced consensus). This was much less a story in 2020 than other years, but it never really went away. A much bigger story in 2020 was the second trend:

[2.] The decision (?) to turn to race-demagoguery with the Rodney King incident (traffic stop and arrest of a man high on cocaine) as some kind of regularized, semi-controlled, moral-hysteria process. This functions to unify the regime and its loyalists against the Bad People out there. This strategy was subtle at first but increasingly embraced by Good People, and largely as a matter of course by those born in the 1980s and beyond, especially the Good People therein. Soon the strategy was by the state itself, the state being run by Good People. It was manifestly certain that this was our reality by the 2010s.

The Los Angeles Riots followed the initial Rodney King incident a year later. The pattern was set, and would reach epidemic proportions in the 2010s, and then in May-June 2020. The latter was not the breakout of mass-psychosis that it may have appeared to be, to many, but follows a specific line back to Rodney King. The pattern was: Take a minor, local story of ambiguous nature etc., etc., inflate into national importance, garnish with lies of commission and omission as needed, and riots are okay in pursuit of The Goal (whatever the goal is — but you wouldn’t want to be on the side of the Bad People, would you?).

Even if there are distant ancestors of this strain of domestic politics (most notably, the mid-late 1960s riots), and even though the cultural energies may have been hanging around in the 1980s, they didn’t manifest until 1990-91, and they have been near-hegemonic in our discourse since then, framing our accepted reality (to use academic-esque language).

Later events were faded carbon-copies of the Rodney King case, and they kept getting trotted out, one after another, dominating domestic-news in bizarre ways, and even Orwellian ways.

This all became depressingly in-your-face by 2020, highly demoralizing given that nothing was done against them. (I should know; I witnessed some of these things at their peak, at close range. I showed up. No one knew, at first, that riots were going to happen, but people locked down for months and recently released were ready for some fun; it was the only way young people could gather, all other options disrupted or closed-off to them by the Panic-Lockdown regime(s). I saw open rioting/vandalism/fires, and looting, in front of me. I saw the police stand-down. The rumors were/are true.)

The younger half or so of the population, socialized after Rodney King, thinks it more-or-less normal that this bizarre game is effectively our Domestic Policy Prime Directive.

Some at the top have profound sympathies for their own reasons, with many of them, if not most, even talking themselves into it with the other moral-frenzy-ists.

Whatever the 2010s were, as a decade, and whatever their true beginning and end should be, they seem to me to follow a longer thread that began in 1990-91. I don’t know how much energy this thirty-year historical-cycle has left in it, the Virus-Lockdown-induced, Elite-approved riots of mid-2020, the seeming Apotheosis, and the sudden statue-toppling, all-placenames-are-to-be-replaced mania (always fight the Bad People, no matter what, and if you run out of them, just find more) notwithstanding.

bookmark_borderPost-387: A BBC podcast on the Waco 1993, Koresh cult story; podcast review and thoughts on Waco’s place in history

Losing a pair of gloves I felt particular attached to, I decided I’d be willing to retrace my steps around town. Chances were fair that I could find the missing gloves, as I had in similar cases before. I was committed. I figured the had fallen out of my pocket while I was cruising along on the bicycle.

The glove search failed.

But unexpected good thing have a way of showing up, springing from the bad. I decided to make the best of this perhaps-several-hours-long commitment to carefully and slowly retrace all my steps by listening to a podcast along the way, so as “not to waste the time.” This is how I justified the search to myself. I am not in the habit of listening to earphones in public these days, so this was a conscious decision.

I googled around for a podcast that would make my time worth it. Something new. I came to the BBC podcasts page. The top one I saw was called “End of Days.” I said, Okay, yes, this’ll do. I don’t even have a good working pair of earphones anymore. I have a few freebies from airlines. Only one earphone worked.

Gone forever though the gloves may be, those gloves did give me a final gift, one arguably even better than hand warmth, as without losing them, I’d never have come to hear this really excellent “BBC Five Live” podcast. It’s less about the 1993 Waco incident, more about the personalities involved, a retrospective after 25 years. About 4.5 to 5.0 hours of total listening time; eight episodes. Some impressions and reactions follow in this post. First personal re:Waco, then a long review of the podcast’s contents, then a brief final thought on cults as I encountered them in my years in Korea.

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bookmark_borderPost-386: Thirty Years of Mideast Intervention

It suddenly occurred to me that the endless US interventions in the Middle East familiar to us today really date to August 1990, and have, since that month and the fateful decision made in it, followed on a path set down at that time. August 1990 was the month George H.W. Bush and his foreign policy people decided on the intervention against Iraq in its local war against Kuwait. In other words, there is a traceable ‘genealogy’ of US Middle East interventions that start with the August 1990.

This idea occurred to me suddenly while reading a book called The Back Channel, by William J. Burns, published in March 2019 and recently given to me by my friend Aaron S. The author, Burns, is one of the most significant US State Department figures of the 1990s–2010s whom you’ve never heard of. The chances are fair that he could be sworn in as Secretary of State in Jan. 2021, if a Democrat wins.

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bookmark_borderPost-384: Genealogy research project

I have been spending time off and on the past few months working on a highly research intensive genealogy project. It traces my great-grandfather’s “line” (as the genealogy-ism has it) back several centuries, across New England and back to 1630s Massachusetts. Before that, limited information is available but it seems the original ancestor was a Puritan out of Lincolnshire, England.

It’s been fascinating making new discoveries and connections all along the way.

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bookmark_borderPost-382: Thirty Pieces of Silver

We use the phrase “thirty pieces of silver” metaphorically in a variety of contexts. I used it today. It is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas for which he was paid that sum of pieces of silver.

I got to wondering how much thirty pieces of silver, ca. AD 33 in the Roman province of Palestine, would be worth in our terms, today; what is a reasonable US-dollar figure to attach to it? I spent some time on this and would propose $10,000 (see below).

From a version of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper; Jesus has told the twelve apostles that one of them has betrayed him. Most are in one or another state of shock or anger. Peter, angry, leans over Judas’ shoulder. Judas, slouched over and looking worried, clutches a bag with unknown contents but about large enough to hold 30 pieces of silver.
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bookmark_borderPost-381: Southern California observations; Anaheim, Robber’s Peak, Orange

Nov. 2019: I passed through California for about five days.

(Observations about Southern California with pictures, and some springboarding off of them.)

Places I spent at least some time were: Van Nuys; the Santa Ana River trail in Orange County; Anaheim and “Anaheim Hills;” Orange (the city of); Santa Barbara. On a previous visit (late Aug. 2018), I went to Huntington Beach.

Leaving Southern California, north to Silicon Valley, I spent time in: San Jose; Palo Alto; the Stanford campus; Menlo Park; Redwood City. (Another post, maybe.)

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Friday early morning. I arrive at the airport from points east (Korea, by way of a long layover in Hawaii) and am soon on the bus to LA Union Station. Or am I? I am not. I got on the wrong bus. It was not labeled. It came to the place marked LA Union Station; I decide to take this new opportunity. and follow the shuttle bus where it goes. New destination: Van Nuys.

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bookmark_borderPost-380: Stonewall Jackson’s Way

Lee–Jackson Day in Virginia.

No doubt many are unaware of the Lee–Jackson Day holiday. The two sons of Virginia, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, have birthdays about this time (Jan. 19 and Jan. 21, respectively), a coincidence which gave rise, a long time ago, to the holiday in Virginia. It remains in effect today, even if backed by no enormous media machine.

As for Stonewall Jackson, I can think of no better way to commemorate him than Stonewall Jackson’s Way, which is a song (below), but more a musical portrait.

It is a great piece of art in that it is an effective portrait of the general, his men, and the campaigning that brought fame and renown to both.

The song “Stonewall Jackson’s Way” was originally written in 1862 and appearing in poem form but also quickly becoming a hit song. The song’s composer was unknown for years. Testament to how alluring was the legend of Stonewall Jackson, by 1862, is the fact that an northern admirer had actually written the poem/song, a fact only finally revealed in the 1880s.

The version recorded by Bobby Horton in the 1980s is good (below); Horton rightly deserves his fame as a Civil War music interpreter/popularizer.

“Stonewall Jackson’s Way” Lyrics, as sung by Bobby Horton (below, a few more comments below on the figure of Jackson, and on my feelings on Lee–Jackson Day):

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bookmark_borderPost-377: The 2020s as The Twenty-Twenties

Someone (A.R.) sent me a message saying

It’s the roaring 20s again! Quick, enjoy some alcohol before the economic collapse.

I predict people are going to use “the twenty-twenties” for the decade of the 2020s, and not “the twenties” (as for “the two-thousand[-and]-twenties,” No).

“The twenty-twenties” sounds sleek, futuristic. “The twenties” is already taken. The foregoing reasons are compelling and lead me to the conclusion that “the Twenty-Twenties” is the one.

Also this. Scholars believe Jesus was born in 5 BC, in which case our year “2020” into the 2,025th year anno domini. The number sticklers would say we’re already down to a mere four years , 11 months and some days left in the true “2020s.”

bookmark_borderPost-376: On “electoral tipping points”: 1618 (the trigger for the Thirty Years War) and the present

New Year’s Day 2020.

For reasons I don’t know, I began to re-read the classic history of the Thirty Years War by C. V. Wedgwood. In it I was reminded of a political point about that war I had forgotten, and one similar to one the US may be, today, at the cusp of.

The crisis began in 1618 because of an electoral tipping point.

There are fairly direct parallels between the Thirty Years War origin and the US institutions of the electoral college system and the nine-member Supreme Court system (see below) and fears about the ‘flipping’ thereof.

The Holy Roman Empire, a nominal political arrangement encompassing most of central Europe for most of the second millennium AD and ruled (in theory if not practice) by an emperor of the Hapsburg Dynasty for much of that time, had seven “electors” (Kurfürsten). These were seven seats which held the right to cast one vote for emperor when the need arose.

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