Wednesday, August 4, 2010


And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is
Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley
Alexander the Great is not lightly called "The Great". He took on the greatest Empire of the Ancient World, and overthrew it. Outnumbered three to one or more, he routed the Persian's vast armies, burned their capital of Persepolis, and marched his rag-tag army to the banks of the Indus river. We are told by the chronicles that then he wept that there were no more lands to conquer. Out of the ashes of Persepolis grew a new Hellenistic culture blending Greek with middle eastern which was perhaps his greatest legacy, and which spread far beyond the borders of his empire - even into the India of Ashoka the Great.

The Romans simply thought him the greatest general of all time. Julius Caesar wept at the sight of Alexander's statue, thinking himself unworthy by the comparison to Alexander's feats. Not least of these was undoing the fiendishly complicated Gordian Knot, of which it was said that whoever untied it would rule all Asia. Alexander drew his sword and hacked it apart. The Romans much admired this approach.

Alexander was able to conquer because he knew three key facts:
  1. His army, man-for-man, was better than the Greeks'. Since the Greeks had defeated the Persians, his army must be much better than theirs.
  2. The Persian army was a swarm, huge and fearsome to behold, but unwieldy. A single point of decision on the battlefield will be the scene of the breakthrough, and once broken, the enemy would rout.
  3. The point of decision would be at the location of Darius, the King of Kings. Personal courage will win - or lose- the day.
The picture at the top of this post shows Alexander and his Companion cavalry cutting through Darius' Immortals (the Imperial Guard) at the battle of Issus. Polybius relates that Alexander got so close to Darius that the Great King threw his Javelin at him before fleeing the field - soon followed by his army. They met two years later at Gaugamela, with precisely the same results. Darius fled, this time for good, and his empire was gone as if it had never been.

There is a mighty empire ruling this land of ours, and Imperial Bureaucracy numbering nearly three million souls. Guided by the multitudes of K Street, they make rules and regulations that bind us with many chains, and like his late Majesty King George have sent hither swarms of officers, harassing our people and eating out their substance. Our only recourse is the 535 Senators, Representatives, and Delegates, whom we may choose to re-elect or not. Many people look at this horde of Imperial power and despair.

I do not. While no Alexander, I believe three key facts that will gain us our freedom:
  1. While numerous, the Federal hordes are unwieldy. Risk-Adverse, they lack our passion and like the Persian hordes of old will not stand battle for long. They have in the past co-opted new Congressmen, but can only do so if the field of battle is ceded to them.
  2. There is a single point of decision on this battlefield. The hordes are fearsome to behold, and we need staying power to defeat them. Congressmen will go wobbly, and to prevent this the message must be simple and sustainable. That message is Jobs and standard of living.
  3. Message control is no longer possible for the left. The Long March Through The Institutions has destroyed the Institutions, and the Internet is bypassing the former gatekeepers. This signal about jobs and standard of living can no longer be jammed. All we need is a leader to get on message, stay on message, and bypass the gatekeepers to get the message out.
The Imperial Bureaucracy in all its numbers will not stand before an enraged American Public demanding the Fed.Gov stop screwing up everyone's jobs and livelihood.

We're told that the size of government cannot be reduced, as if there's some sort of Brezhnev Doctrine that says once hired, never fired, and nothing but pay raises forever. We're seeing a repudiation of that:

This repudiation is not coming from the Barbarous fringes of the empire, but from one of the bluest of Blue States. Listen to the crowd react when Gov. Christie tells the teacher that she doesn't have to stay in that job. That crowd doesn't accept the old "you have to suffer higher taxes - reduced standard of living". Chris Christie understands our three key facts. Sarah Palin does, too.

Christie uses Youtube better than any politician today. He's direct, blunt, easy to understand, and he keeps on-message. The gatekeepers cannot jam his signal, and he's routing the Imperial Bureaucracy in New Jersey. Palin has two million fans on Facebook. While her message discipline isn't as good as Christie's, she is doing something very interesting: her "Mama Grizzly" strategy is likely to attract a lot of latter-day feminists - those who believe in equality but who reject the "Feminist" label, building a coalition that cuts into the normal Democrat power base. Facebook means that the gatekeepers can't jam the signal here, either.

We are entering a decade of opportunity, as the key pillars of the Left collapse. First will be Health Care, as the mandates bite and people find out that it threatens their jobs and standard of living. Now that Nancy Pelosi got the House to vote for it, we'll see what's in it, and what we'll see will be very ugly indeed:
Last year, the administration grew fond of "double counting" the savings from the Medicare cuts in health care reform--claiming that they'd reduced the deficit, paid for reform, and extended the life of the Medicare trust fund. Eventually, Republicans got around to asking for an analysis from the CBO, which told us what anyone who ever took first year accounting already knew: this is not true. If you used the savings to "pay for" the new spending, you can't also say that you've used them to shore up the finances of Medicare.


During the election, I supported Obama's candidacy in part because he seemed to be serious about producing good numbers for his programs. It's extraordinarily dismaying to see his Health and Human Services Secretary so firmly committed to making obviously misleading claims about his largest legislative achievement. [*]
After this, we'll see the collapse of Medicare and Medicaid, around the middle of the decade. By late in the decade we'll see the collapse of Social Security. In each of these cases, the response of the Imperial Bureaucracy will be to reach deeper into America's pocket, costing jobs and reducing everyone's standard of living.

Someone will come up with the idea of cutting a million headcount from the government rolls, saving enough money to "save" one or more of these programs. The American people will like this idea. That's the opening, the critical point of decision on this battlefield.

And that's why it's so terribly important that we vote out the incumbents. They've all been co-opted by the Imperial power structures. Republicans are just as co-opted as Democrats, so simply replacing the Tweedle-Dee party with the Tweedle-Dumb party won't change anything. Replacing anyone who shows the slightest sign of joining the Zombie Horde will keep the 535 in fear of us - and they need to fear us more than they are tempted by them. Only at that point can a Chris Christie or a Sarah Palin lead the charge that will break the Imperial Power.

Because only then will the offer of big campaign cash from the Public Employee Unions, or the K Street Lobbyists be seen as poison. To see the old appeals that it's a crisis, and we have to do it again only harder as poison. And that is the point that the Imperial Hordes will break and rout. First they'll throw their javelin, but if we have them scared, they'll run. And dissolve into dust.
In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws

The only shadow that the Desert knows:

"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,

"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows

"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,

Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose

The site of this forgotten Babylon.
- Horace Smith
* I'm usually a McArdle fan, but this last confession beggars belief. I expect that the outcome of the Obama experience for many voters will simply be to distrust the Democrats on anything dealing with finances or taxes.

UPDATE 4 August 2010 11:55: Typo fixed. Thanks to roy in nipomo for doing the proofreading that I should have. And in answer to his question, it was unintentional. I typically quite like McArdle's work, but this admission of hers was just stunning. I mean, she actually expected a Democrat to tell the truth about the actual cost of new social spending programs? Srlsy?

UPDATE 5 August 2010 10:51: Mark Alger has a very interesting riff on this at Eternity Road.


wolfwalker said...

And that's why it's so terribly important that we vote out the incumbents. They've all been co-opted by the Imperial power structures.

I agree, it's extremely important. Critical. Essential. The Republic won't survive if we don't.

I just don't know if it's possible. Look at what's happening in Nevada right now -- the anti-establishment Tea Party candidate is bewitched by the prospect of "a friendly media" and trying to run a Nice Girl campaign, and as a result Red Harry is beating her soundly in the polls. The lowest-rated Senate Majority Leader in decades, with something like a 30% approval rating in the state, and if the election were held today, he'd win!

Then there's that moron Stark -- despite all the videos I've seen of him in the last couple of days, I haven't seen anyone suggest he's vulnerable this fall.

If voters are so stupid that they'd re-elect creatures like Reid and Stark and Rangel...

On an almost-entirely-unrelated topic, I'm curious: why did you bookend this post, with its references to Alexander the Great, with two sonnets about Ozymandias -- another name for the Egyptian 19th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses II, aka Ramesses the Great.

Borepatch said...

Wolfwalker, the Ozymandias poem captures the sense of destruction of power. It's perhaps the classic example, which is why I picked it.

Plus, you have the same topic by two poets, which appeals to me.

doubletrouble said...

Very cool analogy- Alex the Great to the Tea Party (et al).

I’m guessing you’ve already heard about the Missouri vote on health care; so it begins.

Lessee, I’ve got the horses, & if I take the wheels off the cannon, & build a chariot…

roy in nipomo said...

McArgle/McArdle? Intentional?

Rick C said...

As far as voting out the incumbents, what are we supposed to do when the alternatives are a popular, long-term Republican incumbent and a wascawwy Democrat challenger?

My current Congressweasel is figured to be pretty good, but in spite of that I'd vote him out--but not in favor of a Democrat.

wolfwalker said...

Rick, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Don't particularly like his poetry, but I love to trot out that quote every now and then. :-) Always room for a little good judgement when voting.

Rule One: Never vote for a liberal.

Rule Two: Exercise your best judgement when voting, as long as it doesn't violate Rule One.

Boat Guy said...

You seem to be likening nearly three million of your countrymen and fellow-citizens to some conscript mob. Contrary to what some bloggers seem to imply, there are a substantial number of us drawing a Federal paycheck who not only read the Constitution but took an oath to defend it against enemies foreign and domestic. We read, we vote and many of us bear arms and actually understand that whole "bear true faith and allegiance" passage as well... WE are not your problem

Borepatch said...

Boat Guy, I also used to be one of those guys drawing a federal paycheck. I have a bunch of really good friends who still do. They - like you - are indeed not the problem.

But Pournelle's "Iron Law" applies. The problem is that the bureaucracy itself solidifies (often to the frustration of those working there). It's not the people, it's the institution.

But the institution is rotten at the edges, and has taken on a life of its own. I remain optimistic, and do believe that it can be made less of a problem by the right sort of leadership. Both Palin and Christie have shown some of this. It's our job to give them (and others like them) the political room to do more.

Boat Guy said...

You are probably more optimistic than me, Borepatch. I agree that "the insitution" is rotten - though not "at the edges" but at the top and upper layers in many cases.
How many of us will actually walk away from nice comfy government sinecures for the good of the country? Unlike many around me, I could probably afford to do so. The "institution" needs to be drastically reduced but I rather doubt many folks have the courage and vision to actually DO IT.
People like Christie and Palin MAY be able to effect sufficient change to avoid complete catastrophe and we do indeed need to support those who may yet turn the ship of state away from the rocks.
Like wolfwalker, I'll be looking to the NV Senate race for an indication...

elmo iscariot said...

"Julius Caesar wept at the sight of Alexander's statue, thinking himself unworthy by the comparison to Alexander's feats."

... And then Augustus came along and knocked his corpse's nose off. So maybe a bit of a mixed record for reverence. ;)