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13 April 2011


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Col Lang - thank you for writing this. One of your best posts ever.


Col. Lang, with respect, this ignorant foreigner wishes to ask where your loyalties lie; are you ultimately a Virginian or an American?

We are living in an era where the concept of the nation state is being seriously weakened, as evidenced by numerous conflicts around the world, all due to the simple fact that the nation state is unable to ensure that all its citizens comply with the treaties and bargains only a nation state may make with other nation states.

So are you now upholding the rights of Texas to go to war with Mexico?

We know where this path leads. Please also consider the horrible possibility that Americas great natural wealth and the accidental gifts to the nation arising out of Twentieth Century history may have masked fundamental tensions and inefficiencies inherent in Americas system of Government.

Can you afford these things given Americas current parlous financial situation?

Is America going to have its own Risorgimento or descend even further into tribalism?

Clifford Kiracofe

More of the usual boilerplate South bashing...

Meyerson while noting "Northern Whigs" and Lincoln does not address the issue of their brethren Southern Whigs who were also interested in internal improvements and the like.

Virginians can be proud of many of its sons including James Barbour (Governor, US Senator, Ambassador, SecDef) and his brother Phillip P. (Speaker of the US House, Supreme Court Justice). James Barbour was later active in the "National Republican" party which became part of the Whig Party and thus a precurser of the Republican Party of Lincoln.

The Tea Party appears to have several factions which include Libertarian types, Jeffersonian types, and (unfortunately) some Christian Zionist Fundamentalist types like Bachmannn. The Fundis seek to dominate the Tea Party which is why Bachmann set up the Tea Party Caucus in the House which she chairs.

My own view is the Tea Party folks, not to mention Republicans, should do some homework on American History to include the (American) Whig Party. The obsession with foreign/alien ideologies such as the "Austrian School" is counterproductive, IMO.

William  R. Cumming

Extremely interesting post. Again I believe TEA PARTY members are symptom not underlying problem. And hey I don't mind their vision just understand that it is not a majority point of view. I don't even think they are racist and don't believe all southern whites are also. But both sets are disturbed about the absoluted corruption in both parties because they understand it so well especially when looking in the mirror. I grew up in a Virgina in which the Republicans were the liberals and people often told me how the Byrd Machine was above corruption. You have to be kidding. But hey who knew that Virgina may well determine both the Presidential election and controll of the US Senate in the same year. I will study this significant post more and will learn much no doubt from other comments.

Patrick Lang


You are not ignorant, just perverse at times and inclined to see things from a point of view that seems to believe that government is just another transactional business.

Your point about entitlements being merely population control measures is extremely cynical. Does that apply to Australia as well?

Am I an American or a Virginian? That is a false choice in the American context, but, you knew that would be my response. IMO the United States is not a "nation state," in the sense that the European countries for which the term was coined by social scientists understand it. France and Germany are such, consolidations of more or less homogeneous populations from the point of language, religion, culture. To the extent that this is not true, these "nation states" now no longer held together by majoritanian force majeur, are starting to come apart. Scottish semi-independence and the continuing problems of the French state with Corsica are examples.

The US is a political union, not a "nation state." Its population, regions, demographic evolution, varied economy, etc. are anything but unitary. The Union was created as a compromise designed to provide services for the varied units called "states" in the context that the "states' could not provide for themselves. An elimination of customs barriers between the "states," external defense and diplomatic representation are among the services presented then by that union.

To serve that end, a Constitution was created as an agreement among those "states." As "states" were added from common property the same ends were to be served.

Nationalism on behalf of this political union grew up on behalf of the growing power of the industrial north. It grew up in the post Andrew Jackson epoch. The relative power of the more industrial and populous North was a clear incentative for the growth of this centralising nationalism.

The eternal tensions in Anglo countries of centralised power as opposed to the "country party" were eventually expressed in the US by attempted secession. This would not have happened but for the consolidationist direction of Northern politics and the foolishness of firebrands in the South who insisted on departure rather than a continued resort to politics and the courts in defense of the Constitution.

The Union was restored by force of arms and military occupation. Southern states, unreconciled to the idea of a consolidated union dominated by the North and its western "children,' were dragged back into the Union. For a hundred years, the South sought to maintain its position be "gaming" the system in Congress. This ended with the second "reconstruction' of the sixties and seventies. This process thankfully freed the South of the incubus of the legacy of slavery that Faulkner repented of all his life.

Now, the "country party" (AKA the TEA Party movement)is country-wide. To suggest that Americans who are its adherents are somehow illegitimate is to ignore the poltical history of what we call the United States and the unresolved tension between local and federal power. pl

Ken Hoop

Walrus has disappointed me or maybe I haven't been reading his plaints about US World Police State Interventions correctly.

Obviously many scenarios involving anti-government social unrest here increase the chances the Empire will be forced to reduce them and brings its rear end home to deal with such. I suppose that would include an attempt to squash a Texan invasion of Mexico, with the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan waving goodbye joyfully.

clifford kiracofe

As Jefferson observed, there are two tendencies with respect to power: centralization and decentralization. It is not surprising that the history of these United States has reflected this observation.

There is no little hysteria and confusion in our land in the present period. In such circumstances, it is useful if not prudent to consider the past and our Founding era.

1. A classic introduction to our system is in James Madison's Preface to his Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787.

For which see conveniently online:


2. An excellent edition of the above Notes is the one with an introduction by Adrienne Koch (Athens, Ohio: University of Ohio Press, 1966.

3. A useful online source with extensive documentation is "The Founders Constitution" at

4. Then there is the multi-volume set Records of the Federal Convention 1787 compiled by Farrand online from Library of Congress at:

5. But one should also go through Elliot's Debates which documents the debates at the state level anent the Federal Constitution. Conveniently online from Library of Congress at:


Thank you for your studied response Col. Lang.

Firstly, my point about entitlements being population control measures is in my opinion accurate. In Australia and in Britain there have been incidents where demonstrators were found to be receiving unemployment benefits which were cancelled forthwith.

Unemployment benefits here require a set of mutual responsibilities and an unemployed person will find themselves in hot water if they are identified engaging in political action during working hours instead of looking for a job. You can also forget about long distance protest marches since you are required to appear at the unemployment office for examination every Two weeks.

I speak from experience having once spent about Six months in such a situation. While there is nothing explicit in the law your activities are rather tightly controlled in that you have to account for your time, number of job applications, interviews, etc. if you want to remain on benefits. There has been this implicit threat to the unemployed - that expressing political dissent will result in loss of benefits, for at least Twenty years.

I think I agree with you regarding the legitimacy of the Tea party and soi disant city based commentators. The Tea party appears to channel real frustration with both political parties, as is their right.

What I have been trying to express is my concern about whether your union will survive the financial strains ahead. Smarter people than I are already predicting the meltdown of the T - Bond market in the second half of the year and the municipal bond market has already suffered.

I'm concerned that a national response to this developing situation is required. I'm not sure if the states are willing to provide one. For example, Utah has already signalled its preference for a return to the gold standard.


In such situations, as happened in the Wiemar Republic, it is not impossible that a great man might arise and decide to "fix" these problems, with the popular support of the Tea Party movement. Hence my reference to the Risorgimento.


Mr. Meyerson seems as ignorant about economics as he is of the political dynamics in action in rest of the country he flies over between his homes in California and Washington. The reason for Walmart's successful rise was not due to enforcing lower wages but in recognizing that lower wage areas were not served by the larger retail firms in existence at the time of its founding. The power and drive towards low wage manufacturing occurred only as the firm became a major and eventually the largest retailer nationally.

"...In the Deep South today, there are almost no white elected Democrats..." Is Mr. Meyerson truly ignorant of the dynamics in place between the political parties in the Southern States? Is he actually shocked that white people will vote for African and Hispanic Americans who run for office (in both parties)? Perhaps he's forgotten already the touted rise of Hispanics in the Republican Party just a decade ago?

"...In the private-sector economy, the Southern labor system — in which workers are paid less and have fewer rights..." He should stop by Detroit some time and learn something about the rise of labor unions. Better yet he could watch some PBS, they just did a special hour about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. The owners were some wonderfully enlightened Yankee capitalists.


Southern bashing again are they?

The tea partiers are to me not evil but rather simpled minded folks.
But the goal of all parties is to keep us distracted from what they are actually doing and squabbling between ourselves over which party will fill our christmas list.

You absolutely must not notice this excellent example and instead keep listening to parties attack the other side and their members:


'The Real Housewives of Wall Street'
Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the
wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs?

As du Bois correctly said ..
""The two parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a
'gentleman's agreement' of non-recognition, no matter how we vote ... May
God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in
either the Republican or the Democratic Parties."


The TP, like numerous populist movements in US history, is founded on the real angst felt by real citizens reacting to real issues.

Yet, that does not require that we endorse their prescriptions. Only a national consensus can generate the will to address serious problems & make changes. The participants in framing that consensus must be all Americans, not just TP activists & hacks along for the ride in DC (& elsewhere).

I live deeper into the South than Virginia, my life has been spent outside our military subculture as much as within it... but I can attest to racism I have witnessed from among those who self-identify as TP "members". They are not the whole of the TP, but they are significant... as are Fundamentalist TP "members" on a mission to make America a theocracy.

The TP (or rather it's leadership, partisans in media & professional political-hack arm) must not be allowed to finesse the whole truth underlying these component urges.



Unemployment benefits in the US are distributed by the states and the terms are fairly liberal (though they do vary state-to-state). In the US, the federal government cannot cut or deny unemployment benefits to an individual - the feds simply don't have the power to do so.

Furthermore, I agree the USA is going through financial strains, but this is mostly a political problem. Personally, I've long thought that we're heading toward a crisis but the context is much different from Wiemar. The significant power that does reside at the state level provides some resiliency that most other nations lack and would make a Nazi-style takeover of the government difficult.

Patrick Lang


"I can attest to racism I have witnessed from among those who self-identify as TP "members."

Do you have names and dates? The power of description is endless. I remember seeing people in Key West who looked "funny." People from New Jersey are ... pl


PL: "To serve that end, a Constitution was created as an agreement among those 'states.'"

Wrong. That was Calhoun's argument in his "Exposition and Protest" during the Nullification Crisis. Webster argued to the contrary that "our system of government is but a compact between the people of separate and sovereign States," which is hard to dispute, given the first three words of the Constitution -- "We the people." Calhoun, who was J.Q. Adams and Jackson's V.P., resigned when Jackson sided with Webster. As they say, the rest is history. What is unresolved?

anna missed

In spite of the vapidity of some of its supposed "leaders," that movement represents a strong sentiment for more limited federal government, greater local sovereignty and reduced government expenditures.

To assert, as Meyerson does, that such a movement lacks legitimacy because it represents a resurgence of rebellion is arrogant self-righteousness.

Sure, by it's most charitable (if not elliptical) interpretation the Tea Party does indeed stand for the above less, less, and, even less federal government oversight, expenditures, and regulation - and greater "local" sovereignty.

But in the same nutshell, so did the Confederacy. It's only when the same sentiments are coupled to the similar means of action - succession or shutting down the government, because the desired capitulation is not granted, that the similarities move from analogy to replication. And calls to mind all the other unpleasant similarities (white privilege, manifest destiny, vigilante violence, etc.),that flow from the same attitudes Mr Meyers encapsulates generally.

I don't think we'll ever get this straight until we look at the problem essentially as a problem created by the dynamics and demands of modernity, and how we have chosen how to deal with them socially and politically.


to keep it short, the big similarity between the US and Weimar is the massive national debt burden - imposed on Germany by the war and the victors of WW-I whereas the debt in the US is self-generated. Add to that consumer debt in the US. All that debt will have to be paid, either through revenue generation (tax increases) of inflation. The US isn't going to increase taxes, not with the Republicans as they are today. In face of that, how resilient is the US socially and economically and ultimately politically?

One thing I found disturbing about Katrina for instance was how quickly the city descended into chaos and how quickly government collapsed. I don't see the US as particularly stress proof. New Orleans wasn't very resilient, not in terms of infrastructure and not in terms of organisational resilience.

If states were aircraft, the US is an F16 where the engineers have started to fiddle with the fly-by-wire to increase efficiency and agility some more at the expense of stability, while reducing redundancy at the same time to cut costs. It may be a fun ride for a while, but what about safety? What do you worry, don't you know the invisible hand steers aircraft, too?

With many of the cuts I see today being made by Republicans I agree with Mr. Cornpone that the Koch wing fireheads want to roll back the New Deal. In many respects they have abandoned governance, and they think it's an awesome idea. IMO that's a pernicious, utterly irresponsible and reckless ideology. But hey, as some here said already - a tax break or two more and the country is back on track.

Sidney O. Smith III

Meyerson writes, "150 years later, we’re still fighting the Civil War."

Advantage Brazil.

As a laignappe, Brazilians don’t have to listen to the likes of Meyerson. Unnecessary wars have horrible consequences indeed.

Patrick Lang

anna missed

"It's only when the same sentiments are coupled to the similar means of action - succession or shutting down the government,"

First - The word is "secession," not "succession."

Shutting down the government may not be good politics in that it may lead to a backlash but it is a parliamentary maneuver and not illegal.

The comparison to the departure of the southern states in 1861 is absurd.

A more apt analogy would have been if the Democrats and the Southern states would have stayed in the union and the US congress in 1861 and tied Lincoln in knots. pl

Patrick Lang


OK, king of law - that's your opinion. As you point out nicely Calhoun left the government when Jackson sided with Webster. Jackson was no scholar. Actually he wasn't much of anything other than the victor at NO where the British insisted on re-enacting Bunker Hill. The point? Jackson's decision was a self serving POLITICAL decision. Well, we are continuing the politics of the thing. As for "We the People," the rest of the phrase is "of the United States in order to for a more perfect union..." the obvious meaning is that the people of the US acting in their states wish to form a more perfect union of the states. Throughout the Constitution, the states are referred to as the bodies the actions of which must be coordinated by the document's effects. As an example, in Article 2, paragraph 2, "Each State shall appoint in such Manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..." There is no mention of anything like direct election by "the people" of the United States. Then in Article 7, "The Ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficientfor the Establishment of this constitution between the States..." There is no discussion of the possibility of a plebiscite across the country. So... pl


Not well versed in the eternal conflict between States and the Federal Government [similar to Provinces v Ottawa, in Canada] The isssue is moot, due to the financial agreement: USD is Federal responsibility, and all debts of the Taxpayer/Citizen [Federal, State, County, Muni, unfunded liablility of each jointly and severally] is the resposnsibility of the TAXPAYER OF THE USA, due to the authority re USD from the people by the people. Adding the constant movement of the "citizen" from state to State, creates even more arguments versus states' rights, as the various states are also for the people by the people.
Now from experience of the USSR Breakup [as posssiblly applicable to the USA's future] the debts transfer from central to other jurisdictions.
The TEA PARTY is due to the "dread factor" [awareness that the living stadards are going down the tube] on one hand, and on the other hand are due to the unsateable greed of some, or most, members of the MONEYED CLASS [eg.: Koch Brothers].
The Various propositions floated in the last few days re Federal Budgets, State Budgets, County and Muni budgets all point that the first group is right, living standards are going to follow the example of Greece.
It is notable that none of the proposed budgets allow for the rise of interest rates, a necessary step in light of the general inflation rate being above the rate for government bonds.
The Contagation from the PIGS have finally arrived to the USA [and coming to Canadaq] with the prossibility of major political upheavals as a distinct consequence. It might be bloody very soon!

Norbert M Salamon

Sorry did not notice that I over wrote my name in the last poting, perhaqps yopu could correct the error.
Thank you

Allen Thomson

FWIW, the lead editorial in the April 12 edition of the San Antonio Express News (the principal newspaper in San Antonio, TX) was


The URL summarizes the editorial pretty well.

I thought it interesting that a Texas paper would take a clear stand on the matter rather than run something more anodyne.

Patrick Lang


"the constant movement of the "citizen" from state to State,"

Not where I live. Virginia has grown but much of the population is quite stable with ancestors here for many generations. This applies to both Black and White. pl

Patrick Lang

Allen Thomson

How about the secession of Texas from Mexico or the "secession" of the 13 colonies from Britain? Who is on the editorial board of this newspaper? pl

Patrick Lang


"similar to Provinces v Ottawa, in Canada"

I don't think so. Canadian Provinces were granted certain functions when the Canadian confederation was created. The US states granted the federal government certain functions and retained the rest. pl

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