Friday, March 27, 2015

A Little Blogosphere Cross-Pollination

My post of two days ago  (March 25) has been very skillfully excerpted, along with some very nice remarks, over at The Book Haven.  Many thanks to Cynthia Haven. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brief Encounters with Greatness

Cynthia Haven, over at The Book Haven (and fellow Milosz fanatic) asked me recently to write about having met the great man.  So, what follows is an account, with my inadequate reflections:
On April 30, 1988 I attended a reading by Czeslaw Milosz at Mount Hood Community College in Portland, Oregon.  Before I pen my impressions, let me quote what the poet himself had to say, from his printed diary of August 1987 to July 1988, The Year of the Hunter.  The previous day, Milosz had a reading at Oregon State University in Corvallis:

     …The reading was difficult, the auditorium was not entirely appropriate – a lack of direct contact.  Then drinks with the faculty.  The next day, this morning, that is, again the drive from Corvallis to Portland.   Sitting on the campus, I prepare a new program for my performance from twelve to one; very successful, direct contact.  Lunch in a restaurant with a few people, and then they drive me to the airport.
          All the time, however, I’m divided into the person who already knows how to play the game the way they want him to, and another person who is immersed in his own thoughts.  About human society as a marvel.  And about Polish themes, thanks to that issue of Literary Notebooks.

“Direct contact” – yes, I (the divided person in the audience) can testify, there was.  A bachelor then, working a swing-shift job at a hospital, I could drive across Portland and attend a poetry reading (!) by a Nobel laureate on a community college campus and then return to my “usual” life.  (But, at the time, sitting in the tiered class-room, not too big for the direct contact Milosz craved, I also thought about the man reading his poetry and his much younger self - I had read Native Realm about a month earlier - who had weighed his chances and escaped from Soviet-occupied Lithuania into the Nazi Government-General of occupied Poland.)   
Anyway, there was direct contact between the small numbers huddled in the front rows and the burly man with his brief-case of poems and his Slavic accent.  Was it only me, or was there a reason that, especially, “Magpiety,” the prose poem “Esse” (which he prefaced by calling it, both ironically and truthfully, “a philosophical poem – profoundly philosophical”) and the only Milosz poem I know of written first in English, “To Raja Rao,” held his audience’s attention so firmly?  Part of the answer was revealed to to me five and a half years later, the second time I heard Milosz read – an occasion to which I shall return. 
After the reading, we repaired to another room for the reception, such as it was.  Milosz sat at the end of a long table.  I heard him tell a questioner he thought of himself as a Polish-speaking Lithuanian, and suddenly it was my turn in line.  I had brought my copy of his Nobel lecture.  He flipped it over to make sure of what he was signing, scribbled his name, and I put out my hand.  He looked mildly surprised, we shook hands, and I took off like (on the most superficial level at least) the pathetic fan-boy I was. 

I continued my assiduous reading of Milosz (in translation, of course).  Precisely because I had to read in translation I have considered that his prose has necessarily meant more to me than his verse, despite my absolute love of many of his poems.  (I contrasted this with my reading of Auden, to me a very comparable figure in terms of intelligence, philosophical depth, and religious commitment: because Auden wrote in my language his prose and verse held a rough balance for me).  In January of 1989 I read The Land of Ulro and had the singular experience of finishing a book which I then immediately began to re-read.  It is my favorite of his prose works, and I have read it perhaps a dozen times.  That autumn and winter of 1989 the Soviet imperium collapsed and no figure came to mind more than Milosz as incarnating the decades leading up to those events. 
As they say in the movies, “the years passed.”  Now it was the autumn of 1993.  I was married, with a toddler daughter, and Milosz and Robert Hass were billed as part of the Portland Arts and Lectures series.  A friend of mine (thank you, Terry!) had access to a free ticket.  This was a very different affair.  No community college, but the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  Not two or three dozen in attendance, but hundreds.  A real reception afterwards.    When Milosz and Robert Hass were introduced and went on stage, you could see the difference five and a half years had made.  Milosz was now 82, somehow physically diminished, and I noticed the nervous tic, for lack of a better term, that sometimes besets the elderly, as his eyebrows (those eyebrows!) shot up and down.   When he read, his voice was softer and higher, and his recitation more rapid.  Still, we were hardly watching a man in mental decline.  The “contact” was different than the previous reading, but still palpable.  The audience was able to write out questions for Milosz and Hass, which the M.C. selected and interspersed with some of his own.  At some point, Milosz remarked (this was the partial revelation I alluded to earlier) that poetry readings took place all over America, that he had lived in France for a decade, and that he hardly ever saw anything like that there, and that for any one poetry reading in France, there must be fifty in the United States.  I have since considered that, allowing for the “concert-going” mentality, there must be a larger part of the audience at poetry readings who leaven the lump than at other “cultural events” and mysteriously make for the contact that a poet has to hope for in public.  I, too, had a question, and I scribbled away, hoping it would pass the gate-keeper on stage.  I wondered (big surprise) about translations.  Why had Treatise on Morals (from the late 40s) never been translated?  Why had only part of Treatise on Poetry (written in 1956 in Paris) appeared in The Collected Poems (this would be the late 80s edition).  [One of the best chapters in Conversations with Cseslaw Milosz is the one on that long poem, IMHO.]  Finally, only two chapters of Milosz’s volume on Stanislaw Brozozowski, Man Among Scorpions (1962) had been translated and included in the book of essays, Emperor of the Earth (1977) – like The Land of Ulro read over and over again.  Anyway, the M.C. read only the part about the two poetic Treatises.  Did he stumble over pronouncing “Brozozowski”?  All I can remember now for an answer is that the earlier poem was written in a meter which precluded translation (as my knowledge of prosody matches my knowledge of quantum physics, I had to take his word for it).
The reception followed.  Something to eat and drink, people greeting one another while wondering (how? when?) to approach the poets.  I was actually on one side of a table when Milosz, beer in hand, went for something to eat.  He was otherwise unattended.  So, leaning forward, I began the conversation which went something like:
     “I was the one who asked about translations.”  Pause.  “About Treatise on Morals and Treatise on Poetry.  Pause 2.0.  “Also, I wondered about your book on Brozozowski.”
     Here he corrected my pronunciation, though to my untrained ear it sounded the same, and then asked, “You are student of Slavic languages?” 
     “No, and that’s why I’m interested in translations.  I’m particularly wondering about Brozozowki.”   [No correction this time, incidentally.  Not worth the bother?]  “I’ve read the chapter in Emperor of the Earth over and over again.  Has the whole work ever been translated?”
     “No.”  This was said with a certain resignation, I think, and then a woman came up to Milosz, telling him how much his poetry meant to her, etc.  The poet and I exchanged a mutual nod and the conversation was over.
Well.  What does it mean to meet, however fleetingly, someone famous?  Where are the borders between fandom (for lack of better word) and the wish for direct contact (exactly the right words) with someone whose work has meant a world (not the world, but a world shared between an author and you and, at a remove, with that author’s other readers)?  There is nothing inherently trivial about someone’s wish to see “in the flesh” another human being who has assumed some kind of importance in your life, and whom you only “know” through their work and whatever images the media offers up to you – which is why “celebrity” and the attraction to it is so pernicious.  It perverts the healthy instinct of admiration for achievement into its infinitely inferior parody. 
What does it mean to know someone on a more continuous basis whose work has re-directed your life’s interests?  I was the relatively undistinguished student of an unjustly neglected historian who bent my attention toward American history, especially the early national period.   I had several classes with him, wrote my senior thesis for him, and would continue to visit his office after graduation.  I knew I had arrived when we were discussing another historian, and Professor Govan said to me quite casually, “X’s problem is, he thinks he’s Thorstein Veblen.”  There I was, 23 years of age, to his 69, so I said something trite, like, “Well, they say it keeps you young.”  Govan replied, “X thinks it’s one of the prerogatives of genius.”  Of course, we discussed more substantial matters, like the economics of slavery, Hamilton and how there might have been a war with France in the 1790s, and why the United States didn’t have “national” political parties the way European countries do.  A few years ago, I discovered a wonderful link: readers of Milosz’s ABC’s will remember his moving pages about the historian and polymath Arthur Quinn.  Quinn taught at the University of Oregon for a couple of years before going on to the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley.  In his forward to The Rivals, Quinn wrote, “Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that my understanding of this period of American history was shaped decades ago by conversations with the late Thomas Payne Govan, whose published work – as good as it is – gives but a faint indication of the subtlety and passion of his historical understanding.”        
Anyway, my literary “meetings” have been few.  I once met Norman Mailer (whose work was interesting, but not important to me) when he was pushing The Fifth Estate (if you are of an age to remember that).  He was personable enough, at least on that occasion, and shorter than on television.  I met the great historian John Lukacs (whose work has been very important to me) once in Washington, DC at a book signing, where the conversation was even shorter than that with Milosz (“Thank you for all your books.”  “Oh, you’re very nice.”).  Lukacs has often quoted from one his masters, Johan Huizinga:
     There is in our historical consciousness an element of great importance that is best defined by the term historical sensation.  One might also call it historical contact…This contact with the past, a contact which it is impossible to determine or analyze completely…is one of the ways given to man to reach beyond himself, to experience truth.  The object of this feeling is not people as individuals…It is hardly an image which our mind forms…If it takes on a form at all this remains composite and vague: an Ahhung [sense] of streets, houses, as sounds and colours or people moving or being moved.  There is in this manner of contact with the past the absolute conviction of reality…The historical sensation is not the sensation of living the past again, but of understanding the world as one does when listening to music  
I knew exactly this historical contact (at one remove: the remove between life and death) when visiting the grave of Walker Percy at St. Joseph’s Abbey just about six months after he died.  It was a beautiful autumn day in St. Tammany parish, such as he might have described in one of his novels.  As my wife and I walked away, a man who looked incredibly like Shelby Foote was walking toward the grave.  Was he visiting the grave of his old friend?  It wasn’t until we were practically on top of him, when we saw it wasn’t.  Later, I thought, how many times must this gentleman have been stopped by people saying how much they enjoyed him on Ken Burns’ documentaries (embarrassing all parties involved)?

Several years ago, when I was avoiding work by commenting heavily on Amy Welborn’s old Open Book blog, the subject came up of meeting “famous people.”  It caused me to reflect.  I had grown up in Oregon, the son of a Teamster business agent, and from an early age was used to seeing prominent political people around the place, including a certain United State Senator who was certainly a family friend and at our house any number of times.  Since then, I’ve met any number of people “in the news.”  Why, to put the matter crudely, is coming into contact with writers of a different order than with people in “public life”?  I think I see the answer, very dimly, but damned if I could articulate it…

I read of Milosz’s death in the Washington Post on a Sunday morning in August 2004.  My family was away, and I was nursing a headache from the previous night (yes, I know) as the sunlight poured on the dining room and I was flooded with memories of my two encounters with the man, of having read almost everything of his translated into English, and of what I knew of his life now come to an end.  As if in confirmation of that life’s struggles, over the next few days certain nationalists in Poland crawled out from under the rocks, casting aspersions on Milosz as insufficiently Polish and hence not Catholic “enough” (echoes of Native Realm) and the Pope, dying in Rome, had to telegraph that this was not so.
Now, a decade later, I await the day when his massive biography is translated for dullards like me…And speaking of translations, any reader who has borne with me for this long remembers that early on in this piece I telegraphed a punch.  A full English translation of Treatise on Poetry was published in 2001, and ever since I have taken utterly unjustified credit (if only to myself) for having planted the idea in Czeslaw Milosz’s head. 








Monday, December 8, 2014

A Follow-Up on My Last Post re The New Republic

There is an excellent post by Cynthia Haven over at The Book Haven re the disaster at The New Republic, with comments by, among others, yours truly.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Small Deletion

This is an un-important announcement, as things go, but in view of this, a certain magazine will not be linked on this blog anymore.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Little (Self) Log- Rolling - A Posting By Me on The Book Haven

Cynthia Haven was nice enough to ask me to expand on some remarks I made Saturday in the com-box of her great blog, The Book Haven, re the inflated reputation of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the related subject of the 1950s more generally.  This was posted yesterday, but will be found under the date of November 21.  My remarks may be read here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Note on Something of More than Antiquarian Interest

     More than occasionally, in conversation or in the blogosphere, someone with an agenda will display "surprise" or "dismay" or "confusion" at something that is an enduring fact of our political life: the overwhelming Democratic registration of black voters.  Why, weren't "the Democrats" the party of slavery, and then Jim Crow, and aren't "the Republicans" the Party of Lincoln?  Etc., etc.  This demonstrates either mendacity or a history of never having given the matter a moment's serious thought, or a weird combination thereof.  So, let's remember some things:

     1. Both JFK and LBJ were Democrats.

     2. The majority of Democrats in Congress, and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress from outside of the former rebellious states, voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The support (then) for these pieces of legislation by most Republicans in Congress wouldn’t have mattered if the party controlling both houses hadn’t had most of its members in favor.

     3. The Republican nominee for the Presidency in 1964 was a United States Senator, Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act.  The bulk of such electoral votes as he received (47 out of 52) came from among the former rebellious states.  This was at a time - the last time - when that particular electorate would still be overwhelmingly white and Democratic. 

     4. For a generation or more prior to all this, blacks in “the North” had changed their basic political allegiance from Republican to Democratic.

     5. At least some of the above illustrates something American have a hard time wrapping their minds around, which is that we really don’t have national political parties in the way so many European nations do, because we are so big, because we are a federal republic rather than a unitary state, and most importantly because we have presidential/congressional government rather than a parliamentary system.

     6. So, given all this, it is absolutely no mystery at all that millions of newly enfranchised (or finally enfranchised) Black Americans would register almost unanimously Democratic, while at the very same time the resurgent Republicans in “the South” would be lily-white, and fomer Democrats like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms would be just that, former Democrats.

     There are a lot more things that could be said, but in the interests of peaceable-ness, they won’t be.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reflections after Bush

   “Properly” one might reflect about the Presidency of George Bush the Younger as he left office, but all these years later the nation and the world still suffer, and will continue to for a long time, from the most disastrous and destructive President the United States has ever had.  He wasn’t without help, of course, in delivering us unto this mess; that, plus the ephemeral nature of the man’s character, and the fact that his presidency can be seen as a culmination of events over the last several decades, means that reflecting about Bush really means reflecting about far more than a Op-Ed checklist of accomplishments and failures, and is really about reflecting on us.

     One of the smaller bad legacies of Bush the Younger is the line of thought that he makes his dad look good in comparison.  Bush the Elder was a horrible President, who set the stage for so many of the disasters we have had to undergo.  As Vice-President and then President, he was part of the decade long cosseting of Saddam Hussein.  Then, having all but invited Iraq into Kuwait, we constructed a coalition of the bribed and coerced, barely removed the Iraqis, proceeded to encourage the Kurds and Shias to rise up, then abandoned them, then lied about it (shades of Eisenhower and Dulles re Hungary in 1956).  After 1989, Bush and his Texas oil-scum buddy James Baker and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and the young careerist Condoleezza Rice demonstrated utter incomprehension and irresponsibility about Europe after the implosion of the Soviet Union.  The one place there was any realistic likelihood of turmoil in Europe was in what was devolving into the former Yugoslavia.  But the United States (and our partners in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) turned a blind eye to that reality (“we don’t have a dog in this fight”).  Instead, they were slow about the Baltic states’ independence, and ditto for Ukraine.  All of this, when it was perfectly obvious that so many of the non-Russian states of the old USSR would choice independence, with whatever degree of reality (contrast, say, Lithuania with Belarus.)  A cliché of the 70s and 80s was about “Cold Warriors” itching for nuclear war.  The bad joke of that is that the real Cold Warriors were people who could not imagine a world without the Soviet Union as they knew it, without an adversary defined as more or less as powerful as you, with whom you played a constant game of up-and-down (a bi-polar world, indeed), as if this was some enduring reality of history, and hadn’t come into place during, and because of, the Second World War, another of Hitler’s wonderful legacies.  So the real crisis in Europe was ignored, the real and effective use of power by the West left in abeyance, with Bush’s successor left to belatedly to deal with the mess, and also take most of the opprobrium that should have landed in Bush the Elder’s lap.  It is also worth considering how much of this thinking continued into the younger Bush’s administration, with the “need” to try to enlist Russia as an ally in the “War on Terror” and George Bush the Younger looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and supposedly getting a sense of his soul. 


   But the largest drag on the world is the financial one.  Bush inherited a long string of budget surpluses, with editorialists having the luxury of leisurely debating the pros and cons of having the entire national debt eliminated circa 2015.  When he left office, deficits had been run and the debt stood at over 10 trillion dollars, nearly double with what he started.  (Oh, and quite by the way, why wasn’t the first decade of the 21st century, the era of the Bush tax cuts, a time of massive, booming investment?)  But supposedly Obama is the irresponsible one about money: as with most things matters had to get worse before they got better, but the deficit has been going down year by year.  But Obama, supposedly also a Great Communicator, doesn’t know how to make his own case. 


   One of the stupidest clichés about Bush, uttered by friend and foe alike, is that, think of him as you might, he is a man of “deep convictions.”  A man of deep convictions does not run for President at the age of 54 talking about how our foreign policy must be more “modest” and then a year later, in the wake of the terror attacks, proclaim a crusade for freedom and democracy to be exported to lands which haven’t much experience with either, and get us mired in two unwinnable wars which are advertised as part of that crusade.  A man of deep convictions does not, at the same time he is making speeches about no longer siding with the old, bad forces of un-freedom in the “Arab World” then render prisoners to Syria and Egypt, among others, for torture.  Stubbornness does not mean conviction any more than having to have one’s own way equals a sense of purpose. 


   Then there is No Child Left Behind.  What is interesting is how “liberals” (Teddy Kennedy, etc.) allowed themselves to be co-opted on this, and how the very defining of the subject was left to Bush, and how the subject continues to be defined in terms which he, or his ideological masters, laid down.  Millions of people have received the firm impression (and impression is the word) that basically the only thing wrong with public education is a bunch of incompetent teachers who are protected by their union.  Never mind generation after generation of an educational administrative class which actually runs the schools, going after every trend in education, from New Math to Smart Boards to on-line learning, as soon as they pick up their meaningless master’s degrees in this or that.  Our experience has some analogies with that of the United Kingdom.  The Thatcherite ‘reforms’ were blithely continued by Blair and Brown, and now Cameron.  Not only is university becoming more expensive, but greater stress is laid on the GSCE (age 13-14) rather than the A-levels (age 16 and after).  Students are then tracked on the basis on GSCE scores – in other words, the British are Germanizing themselves.  


       A lot of this has to do with the suburbanization of “liberalism” (I’m from Oregon originally, so I know a lot about this).  Precisely because of the success of the New Deal-Fair Deal-New Frontier-Great Society, the focus of ‘liberals’ became increasingly “personal” to point that in the 1990s the atrocity known as Welfare Reform  was passed, but, damn, those blessed partial-birth abortions were protected.  Year after year, really decade after decade, articles and editorials have bemoaned “America’s Decaying Infrastructure” but there is truly no passion on the part of the political classes to do anything about it.  You can’t expect ‘conservatives’ to care, but there was a time when ‘liberals’ would have been excited about this, but those days are gone.  The stimulus package of early 2009 could have been a perfect time, but of course it wasn’t.  It didn’t occur to Obama, or Biden, or Pelosi, etc. to take a deep breath, use their political momentum to explain to the American citizenry how bad the mess left by Bush was and how that was combined with a golden opportunity to take care of some problems America had been storing up for decades.          


     Those of us with longer memories than last week will remember when liberalism underwent a searching critique by what was dubbed “neo-conservatism” (but then some of us also remember when neo-conservative meant, say, Nathan Glazer).  Those days, too, are gone.  Liberals were only ‘chastened’ to the extent they would abandon the weakest among us, and protect only what mattered to an increasingly affluent “natural” constituency.  See above, but consider also the truly thoughtless re-enforcing of de-regulation by Clinton, attended with great posturing of intellectual bravery, too scared to say no to the Pelagian / Libertarian fantasy promulgated by his predecessors in the White House.  So, when he was succeeded by Bush the Younger, how could liberals effectively criticize, if they even noticed, the whole sub-prime idiocy?  They couldn’t.  (Martin Mayer predicted this sort of thing in the 70s in The Bankers, but that’s another story.) 


   Meanwhile, what about the “conservatives”?  Having somehow managed to serve up the first two-term Presidency since Eisenhower, nothing was easier for them than the auto-mythology of Reagan as a Great President.  Paul Volcker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a Carter appointee, induced a massive recession, in order to wring out the inflation which has beset us since our little mis-adventure in Indo-China (one of the ‘achievements’ of conservatives was to lay that inflation, in the minds of millions, at the feet of Food Stamps and Job Corps).  That helped Carter lose the Presidency, and when the inflation was wrung out and the economy began to recover, Reagan couldn’t help but be re-elected (this after historic mid-term losses in 1982).  It is almost embarrassing to remember, as well, that the deficits run up by Reagan.  In 1986, Reagan replaced Volcker with Alan Greenspan , the fruit of whose misdeeds we still must endure.  The other part of the mythology has to do with Ending the Cold War, which in real life Reagan didn’t, and couldn’t, do.  He merely had the good fortune to be President while the implosion of the Soviet Union became explicit, and that awful system finally coughed up a leader, Gorbachev, who was willing to begin the dismantling of empire (the Soviet Union, having begun the Cold War with its dominance of half of Europe, had to be the one to end it).  Reagan, destiny’s tot, merely soaked up the credit due to others.


    “Conservatives” have never been able to quite get over it; hence, their befuddlement during the two Bush presidencies, with an interlude of impeaching a Democratic president for, well, adultery.   I think I first noticed conservatives resurrecting “class warfare” (apparently a rhetorical one-way street) in 2006 when Bush the Younger was still in office.  It is hardly a wonder that two decades of talking to themselves (i.e., political incest) would finally spawn not merely a succession of risible presidential candidates but the Tea Party.   It is worth paying attention to one aspect of that phenomenon: its almost total lack of interest in governance.  Of course, people will say that, for instance, the Tea Partiers would like to wreck Obamacare, but the Tea Party is largely an instance of what happens when politics becomes its own subject.  There can be no actual Tea Party “program.”  The activities of the Tea Partiers are about ideological purity, and purges, and self-satisfaction , and very little else.  That is its effect on our political life, to increase the stock of public political masturbation.  This is pernicious, but not as a threat to seize power.  (In this, they are like the various Trotskyite sects, only well-bankrolled.  A couple of stories are pertinent here.  The first is for the cognoscenti: I once read about one of the Trotskyite grouping which was distinguished from the others because it held – still holds? – that Trotsky wasn’t killed on orders of Stalin.  No, he was done in by the Sparticists.  The second story happened here in Nevada, where I now reside.  In 2010, the Republicans nominated a true whack-job, Sharon Engle, to run against Harry Reid for the Senate.  But she wasn’t pure enough for the Tea Party, who ran their own candidate.)    


     Meanwhile, Obama has Ukraine and Syria and Iraq with which to deal.  These all are legacies from our wretched past and enough was said about Putin, Russia, etc. above.  But first consider Syria: we have been over a barrel about Syria for four decades now, ever since Henry Kissinger, back when he was running the world in the wake of the Yom Kippur war, decided that Syria (meaning its regime) was a serious partner for peace which had to be “engaged.”  The fruits of that?  Syria occupied half of Lebanon for a quarter century (1976-2001).  We ended up intervening in Lebanon in 1983-1984, saved the PLO’s bacon after they made a living hell of south Lebanon, and had nearly three hundred of our Marines blown up by Syria’s Hezbollah  allies.  That involvement in Lebanon is worth considering, apart from its having achieved nothing good, in terms of the politics of reputation.  We intervene, we have a disastrous attack on our forces about which nothing is done, then we leave – and the public image and re-elections prospects of Ronald Reagan in 1984 are not affected in the least.  (Republicans bitching about Obama and Syria might remember, too, that in 1982 Hafez Assad massacred 10,000 people in Homs in an earlier civil war – and Reagan did exactly what about that?)  This leads, secondly, over a now non-existent border, to Iraq.  We dismantled what state apparatus there was in that fake nation, opened up a front to Sunni extremism, and installed a government friendly to…Iran, about whom we have been stressing for years.  This is called “realism.”  Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell-Rice, etc. set that table, and Cheney, at least, now has the brass to come out of his lair to appear on the Fox channel and kvetch.            


     So, here we are, over five years after George Bush the Younger left office.  Perhaps the most (immediately) depressing thing we might consider is that his having wrought such havoc, and that havoc having such a long pedigree, there are people with bumper stickers with Bush’s picture asking, “Miss Me Yet?”    We are so far gone in our fog of amnesia that a sizable chunk of our citizenry would quite willingly return to its vomit, and that is why I said that to reflect about Bush and his presidency means to reflect about us.