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Belmont Club

My country tis of thee, cash on delivery

February 3rd, 2013 - 2:41 pm

Saul Bellow, writing in “To Jerusalem and Back” describes the secrets we keep from ourselves.

What is “known” in civilized countries, what people may be assumed to “know,” is a great mystery … I am am if anything, surprised at myself and at my own assumptions. A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

We keep mysteries from ourselves, but they are not as great the mystery of what the New York Times allows itself to say. It writes that it’s been hacked. Moreover, “the question is no longer who has been hacked. It’s who hasn’t?”

The Washington Post can be added to the growing list of American news organizations whose computers have been penetrated by Chinese hackers.

After The New York Times reported on Wednesday that its computers as well as those of Bloomberg News had been attacked by Chinese hackers, The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday that it too had been a victim of Chinese cyberattacks.

So everybody has been cralwed over. But it’s not right to say “the question is no longer who has been hacked.” It’s why they are admitting to it only now. It’s as if some permission to depart from the narrative had been given. It’s OK to admit it now. But why? A clue to the answer may lie in Walter Russell Mead’s observation that there’s a revival underway in the “national greatness lobby in the Democratic Party”.

Google’s Eric Schmidt has a new book coming out (co-authored by former State Department whiz-kid Jared Cohen), and it looks like it will be quite provocative.

Things rarely happen by coincidence. As Mead explains the backstory is this: China has been become increasingly competitive in IT areas once totally dominated by US companies. Therefore:

Silicon Valley has rediscovered the state. Companies that once tried to fly below the radar are now much more aware of the importance of government policy for their industry. This runs very much counter to the popular idea that in the modern world, multinational corporations will lose a sense of connection to their ‘home country’. Google, for one, seems to be getting more patriotic lately.

This has implications for the politics of American defense policy, and foreign policy generally. Silicon Valley is a major donor to Democrats, and it seems to be moving toward an understanding of the importance of a strong and outward looking America. Historically, cutting edge corporations have supported the rise of American power partly as a way of assuring that U.S. foreign policy and power would support their corporate agendas and help them get fair treatment in a world where foreign corporations enjoyed clear backing from their governments. It’s beginning to look as if Silicon Valley is heading down this well-trodden trail.

God Bless America. Rally round the Flag boys! The Fourth of July. Yee-ha. It’s possible that “Engine” Charlie Wilson got it all wrong when he famously said “for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. Perhaps the correct formulation is “what’s good for the Democratic Party is good for the country”.

I hope Schmidt remembers to add that what’s good for the Democratic Party is determined by the highest bidder. Otherwise people might get the wrong idea. That completes the other side of the equation and leaves everything perfectly clear.

For years the highest bidders have been talking about “multiculturalism” and buying the world a coke. Thus people who knocked down two of the tallest buildings in the world were referred to as emissaries from a religion of peace. And people streaming across every unguarded border were simply misunderstood. And hacking … well we didn’t talk about such things in polite company.

Now the narrative may be changing. But why?

The big mistake of conservatives was to to think these propositions were debated rationally; so they adduced arguments; advanced evidence. Argued themselves blue in the face on talk shows. They had forgotten what Bellow said: a great deal was “invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep”.

The solution was not to appeal to the politician’s better angels but to their basest greed. Of course there’s nothing inherently wrong that. Wheeling and dealing runs a close second to apple pie as being American.

The policies of the Democratic Party have finally hit or are starting to hit their constituency where they live. It’s costing the members of the Big Tent money to keep singing the same old song. The unions are finding their pensions unfundable; their members unemployable. And Julia hasn’t got job — the Lily Ledbetter act notwithstanding. The NYT and the Washington Post have been hacked. Maybe the banks have been hacked but they just ain’t telling.

It’s not working out, this buying the world a coke business.

So the Democratic Party discovers National Greatness again, natch. Maybe one should be glad. This is the way politics is supposed to work. Not’s “what’s right” but “who sent you?” It makes a difference when you say that Google sent you.

Reality feeds back on policies. And for too long the Democratic Party has been living in that invincible ignorance which Bellow describes as being the staple they ate at great cost. This may be changing. Not everybody has woken up to smell the coffee. But maybe we can hear them starting to grind the beans.


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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