22 October 2017

BAD NEWS


There is a bigger problem with the media today than the bias that often distorts stories. It is not “fake news” either. It is rather, no news. There is a paucity of real news everywhere and far too much goes unreported or is very briefly summarized. Cable news gives us mostly talking heads expressing opinions and not much in the way of real news. Broadcast news isn’t much better these days to the extent that there are too few stories that are selected in a rather arbitrary way, while hiding the fact that they have seriously cut back on correspondents covering various subjects or parts of the world. On cable “news” you see few correspondents reporting actual stories. Newspapers, and news magazines, even the “serious” ones aren’t much better, again with fewer correspondents now covering things regularly. News sites online aren’t all that informative either, especially to the extent that they are simply extensions of the television and publishing companies. 

A recent search I attempted clearly illustrates how shallow all of this is. The other day Vladimir Putin made what seemed to be some important statements, and from the news summaries my curiosity was engaged. But that’s all I could find, anywhere- summaries. I wanted to see more of the substance of what he said but could not find it anywhere from any “news” organization despite fairly extensive Internet searching. But the search engines are part of the problem because if the information was out there they weren’t showing it and what you usually get nowadays is top listings that re mostly paid followed by more that are basically off-topic. I find this happening time after time. Just try this with almost any other story. The idea that we are now able to easily obtain more serious information online is false. What one gets is the usual repetitive nonsense. 

 What we actually have now is mostly a repetitive echo chamber. In other words one source comes up with a story, say, the New York Times or Washington Post, and it is picked up by everyone else and repeated. This creates the illusion that they are actually covering the story from multiple points when in fact they are mostly repeating and uncritically passing on the same story. It is not just a herd mentality, but lazy, superficial reporting, Furthermore things that might really matter are often subsumed by nonsensical, superficial stories. Just think about what stories dominate the news every single day. Barring some sort of natural disaster the news contains a lot of trivia when not devolving into entertainment stories. As a result we are getting dumbed down news provided by dumbed down reporters and commentators. 


It gets worse. What we now get is more “entertainment news” instead of real, hard news. The entertainment news is ubiquitous, with each having its own entertainment program. In the recent past this did not exist at all and there were basically only gossip columns in this area, but now it supersedes everything. We get a huge amount of attention devoted to dopey “celebrities” that in reality are of no consequence in the larger scheme of things, and who are getting far more attention than they deserve. The media that now show unprecedented hostility to Donald Trump are largely themselves responsible for producing his presidency in the first place. Thus for all the information the we are supposedly being overwhelmed with, the truth is that we are less informed than ever. 

19 October 2017

GETTING BUSHED

George W. Bush made a statement today that no doubt will be widely praised in the liberal media as courageous and realistic for “breaking his silence” snd coming forward to broadly criticize the Trump era; never mind that he has a good deal of responsibility for creating it in the first place, as well as for the election of Democrat Barack Obama.  His presidency was an overall failure and a disaster for conservatives and Republicans who supported him, who only managed to recover because his successor was hardly any better. There is simply no way around this. Giving credit where it is due, he did acquit himself well in the wake of the 9/11 attack, but it was downhill from there. He is also a likable guy, of the sort you could easily share a beer with, he was honest, and has a lovely wife. But that’s about it. 
The “divisions” he essentially lays on Trump in fact became ossified during his presidency, starting with his failure to unify the country when he had the opportunity and did little to move it forward. The fact that his successor only made this worse does not relieve him of his own responsibility. His foreign policy was disastrous, and cost us dearly, in terms of treasure, and lives lost while aggressively pursuing an ill-advised policy of nation-building and promoting democratic freedom all over the world, whether feasible or not. Those of us who supported him at the time simply can no longer ignore the fact that he misled us, took us into an unnecessary war, and in its wake left the Middle East in chaos. As much as one might argue that his successor let all that effort go to waste, and made it worse due his distaste for the war in Iraq, the fact remains that it was Bush who started it all. It may be painful for some to admit this, but by any objective standard the conclusion is unavoidable. 

He managed to alienate an entire generation of young people from his party, while also causing it to lose control of congress by his policy failures. When together they had an opportunity to get things done with a reform conservative agenda they completely squandered it and accomplished nothing.  Instead he greatly increased the scope and power of the federal government, while claiming the opposite. Domestically he was a lot like Richard Nixon; using conservative rhetoric to gain support while actually pursuing generally liberal policies. When he did do anything that was somewhat associated with the right, it was something idiotic, like cutting off birth control assistance for poor countries. He ran up the deficit with nothing to show for it, precipitated a recession, and presided over an unnecessary financial crisis. While much of the cause of the latter can be attributed to the policies of his predecessor, particularly in mortgage finance, his administration did nothing to stem the growth of the problem or introduce any fiscal discipline,. 

Overall then, he not only accomplished very little, but was actually counterproductive in many areas. As the epitome of establishment Republicans and followed by two lackluster candidates from the same mold, the base of the party ultimately became so frustrated that when the opportunity arose they gravitated to the most anti-establishment candidate to come along, namely Donald Trump. They were so tired of being Bushwhacked they nominated the most improbable candidate to ever arise, and one who otherwise would never have been chosen. It was a total loss of confidence in the establishment along with a desire to avoid another Bush-style presidency that led to this. I am not suggesting anything about the wisdom of any of these choices but simply trying to describe how we wound up where we are today, thanks in so many ways to George Bush. For him to now decry what he himself had a major role in precipitating is simply disingenuous to say the least. 

HISTORICAL TRUTH & HISTORICAL LIBEL

One of the most irritating phenomena in contemporary entertainment is how exceptionally good production values are combined with thoroughly juvenile, idiotic, inaccurate, and historically ignorant screenplays. It is true there has always been “poetic license” to fabricate things presumably in the interests of some “larger truth.” However it becomes problematic when it is distorted to the point of creating an outright lie, because producers can count on the widespread historical illiteracy of contemporary audiences. Some examples:

The film Titanic depicts its subject very well but has a thoroughly ridiculous storyline. Worse, it mixes in some people who really existed and sullies their reputations. Most egregiously, in the film, the First Officer, William Murdock, is shown shooting passengers before shooting himself. Nothing of the sort ever happened and in fact the real man heroically went down with the ship. To libel his memory in this way is simply outrageous and there is no possible justification for it.

In Gangs of New York, which grossly distorts history in an otherwise good production, Horace Greeley, editor of the NY Tribune is shown collaborating with Tammany Hall figures; the complete opposite of what the man actually stood for. One of the most egregious cases occurs in an obscure film titled Hoodlum, wherein a character says they have to pay off Tom Dewey, which is preposterous. Thomas Dewey was in fact an excellent prosecutor, Governor of New York, and a two-time presidential nominee who was known to be incorruptible. To slander him in this way is inexcusable, but few now remember the truth. There are many more examples, but the point is that there is too often a gross dereliction of responsibility and decency, made all the worse by  purporting to be telling a true story. Even dead people deserve to be treated fairly.

However, it is more prevalent to find a great job being done depicting the background with an over-the-top portrayal of real characters, doing things that never happened,  accompanied by people that never existed. This happens a lot in fiction, but it matters when it goes beyond trivial matters and portrays things of consequence in a totally misleading fashion, A good example is current series about Renaissance characters, such as The Medici, and The Borgias.  The former is somewhat better, but the latter is totally warped by a completely fabricated screenplay. The real Borgias have a grossly exaggerated reputation for evil, even in 19th century novels, but this show uses that as a starting point along with rumors and innuendo from their enemies as a basis for an endless series of awful events that go much further, are completely made up, and devoid of any historical foundation. Anyone who thinks this is history is being played. (This is the Showtime series; the other Borgias series on Netflix is much better). But the most preposterous show being currently aired is Marco Polo, which has virtually nothing to do with the real Marco. The producers of this series have clearly never even bothered to read Marco Polo’s journals, which actually contain enough interesting material for drama, but none of it appears here. They simply have taken a real figure and period and then run off into a kung-foolery universe.

It is possible to do a credible job with historical situations, when carefully produced, as in the History Channel’s Vikings series which uses some historical, some mythological and some fictional characters in a way that, while sometimes fanciful, nevertheless does not seriously deviate from overall spirit of the source material. Real figures can also be faithfully portrayed successfully, such as in the HBO series John Adams, (although an old PBS series titled The Adams Chronicles was even more accurate). Rome, on that network was also not bad, if you ignore the excesses. But apart from these, the best are from the BBC or PBS. Unfortunately the excellence of the UK productions does not extend to continental Europe, which has gone Hollywood with previously mentioned shows. 

Even the greatest have done both. Shakespeare was surprisingly accurate in some of his dramas based in ancient Rome, since he largely relied on Plutarch as his source, and it is actually his depictions that largely inform people today about these characters. However, when it came to more recent characters from British experience, Shakespeare wrote in a way that frequently glorified the Tudor version of history. Further back even Virgil did this in the Aeneid, a second-rate epic that grossly flatters Augustus, and which Virgil himself actually wanted destroyed, At least in those days it was excusable in order to keep one’s head. However in an age when far more people get their information from movies and TV and sadly far fewer people read, entertainment producers have at least some responsibility to tell the truth. 


29 August 2017

THE FALSE NARRATIVE

The media has created a false myth regarding President Trump and the recent events in Virginia. Two weeks after the fact, the obsession has continued as “Charlottesville” has become a code word for associating the president with the most virulent forms of racism, and the left has been delighted to run with it ever since.  But even if you loathe Trump it ought to be evident that the coverage has been atrocious and the level of unfairness has been breathtaking. This has been used to relentlessly club him for things he didn’t say based on assumptions that have no basis in reality. Fairness and objectivity are essential if we are to receive and process information accurately before forming opinions. It has been completely missing here and has little to do with Trump and everything to do with the truth. 

The thing that has everyone rattled is the Nazis, thanks to the inordinate amount of attention on a group that represents no one, has no power or influence, and who are primarily useful as a tool for the left for fundraising and otherwise pushing goals that have little public support. The reality is that if you gathered all of the Nazis in this country you couldn’t fill a closet, and various hate groups combined have but a few thousand members nationwide even according to left-leaning sources. 

When Trump said there were “good people” and violence on “both sides” the media knew damn well he was referring to opponents of removing monuments, not the “Nazis” and the KKK. They nevertheless ran with the story they wanted to believe, and even though he subsequently denounced both groups, as well as, justifiably, the violent left-wing radical 
Antifa, the media ignored the latter and along with the left spread the lie that Trump was a sympathizer and “racist” himself. To link a president who has Orthodox Jewish grandchildren with the Nazis is beyond ridiculous. Otherwise, he didn’t denounce them strongly enough, yet nothing he could possibly say would satisfy these critics, who simply want to justify their preconceived prejudices. 

What is going on is a chance for people who have a grievance with Trump for other reasons to pile on, i.e.. especially Republicans piously condemning him, never mind that they in fact are supporting the left-narrative and delusion that there is widespread racism in America today. For what we really are seeing is a spate of violence from left, and unprecedented lawlessness in attacking statues as well as free speech. These are the same people who have blocked mainstream conservatives from even speaking on campus, and violently attacking police, yet little of this is being shown. It is also clear that most of the perpetrators are white radicals, not black people, who have more important things to worry about. 

Never mind that a solid majority of Americans of all backgrounds oppose removing confederate monuments and the President’s remarks reflected their views, as they have largely been able to see through all the unfairness and outright propaganda of the media. It has become evident as this lunacy spreads beyond confederate monuments to include even Lincoln, Columbus, and Joan of Arc! What is really happening is nothing short of an attempt by a small minority of self-hating white left-wing extremists to destroy the US, and for that matter western civilization in general. For these people object not only to the confederate flag but the American flag as well. Yet the political establishment, taking its cues from the media, has largely been silent on this. They have even further confronted spineless CEO’s and public officials with a false choice, based on a lie, of either condemning Trump or being pilloried themselves merely for associating with the administration, and most have folded given the power of the media to shape the perception of reality. 

The media has been guilty of ideological malfeasance in creating the Charlottesville myth, which nevertheless has rattled mostly the establishment elites, rather than the public. Yet while some may selectively process information to confirm their prejudices, most people are fair-minded and see through all the hysteria, so all this has done is to further delegitimize these institutions. The point here is not to absolve Trump but to point to the fact that the truth has been the biggest casualty in this whole affair. 



19 August 2017

ROBERT E. LEE AND SOUTHERN MONUMENTS


During his lifetime and through most of subsequent American history, Robert E. Lee was universally admired in both the north and the south.  To understand why we need to look at the whole historical record. In the formative years of the 19th century, only decades after independence most people still identified primarily with their states and communities rather than the US as a whole. Indeed when Lee attended West Point it was then customary for cadets to swear allegiance to their home state, not the USA (which did not occur until the Civil War). When the Civil War broke out there was no more distinguished soldier in America than Lee, and and so it was natural that he be called upon to lead the Union army by President Lincoln. Lee was conflicted and refused, not because he favored secession or slavery but because he could not bring himself to attack his beloved home state of Virginia. 

True he did subsequently take command of Confederate forces and wound up on the wrong side of history, but that is not the end of the story as ignorant people would have you believe. It is what he did at the end of the war and after that secured his place among great Americans. First, Lee surrendered gracefully and called on his forces to lay down their arms and second, spent the rest of his life devoted to reconciliation. That is why he was universally admired. You cannot judge a man solely on one part rather than whole of his life.

A lesser man might have refused to surrender, or at the very least called for continued resistance and guerrilla warfare, which could have resulted in years more of continued bloodshed and instability. But Lee instead devoted himself to peaceful reconciliation. Lee then stood not as a symbol of southern resistance and intransigence, but of reunion. He backed the wrong cause, but then made amends and a substantial contribution to strengthening his country. Through all the subsequent years no one questioned honoring Lee, at least until historical amnesia, ignorance, and political malice arose in recent times. Lee is simply the wrong figure to attack or displace in American history, never mind Virginia history. For politicians in Virginia to now turn on Lee is nothing less than obscene, given all that Lee gave and sacrificed for the state. It also flies in the face of the sentiment of a solid majority in this country. 

Now I’m from Brooklyn and don’t have any particular stake in this controversy. I did have an aunt that once owned the Robert E. Lee hotel in Jackson, Mississippi, but there is a closer connection of sorts right here in Brooklyn. When I was growing up I belonged to a Boy Scout troop based at an Episcopal church across the street from Fort Hamilton army base. It was a wonderful storybook community and was largely where my American identity was formed.  It was widely known as the “church of the generals,” one of whom was Robert E. Lee, who once planted a tree there in the 1840s, and to which plaque dedicated to Lee was attached and remained until yesterday, when the rump of what is left of the Episcopal diocese decided to remove it. Never mind that the church is now closed because the they could not maintain the parish, not least because of their political radicalism. This was once a thriving congregation, but in the 1960s the priest decided it was his moral duty to actively and loudly oppose the Viet Nam war, thereby splitting the congregation, which over time dwindled. The Boy Scouts left, and the Episcopal church imploded into irrelevancy as it became more interested on progressive politics than Christianity. The removal of Lee’s plaque from a shuttered church that is now for sale is just a sad coda to this idiocy. 


This is all happening without any significant support among a majority of Americans of all races, and is largely a project of loathsome left-wing white radicals. Is there any more breathtaking hypocrisy than the Pelosi Democrats now clamoring to remove statues, erected by their own party, that they never once uttered a peep about during the years they had the power to do so and through the entire Obama presidency? Nevertheless there may be some monuments to less noble figures in the South that might be questionable, but the historical record shows that Robert E. Lee is not one of them.

31 July 2017

HOW TO SOLVE THE KOREA PROBLEM

North Korea represents an imminent threat to world peace. The problem remains what to do about it. Diplomacy has failed and war would be disastrous. It has been said there are no good options for resolving this situation, but this is not necessarily true. There is in fact a deal we can make to eliminate this problem, outlined below.

The administration is correct in assuming that China is the key to eliminating the menace from North Korea, for as its main supplier, it continues to prop up the regime. However,  the approach is wrong. We are not offering China any incentive to stop supporting the Kim regime. Additional pressure will not work as long as vital Chinese interests are not taken into consideration. We can hardly expect the Chinese to assist in undermining a regime that would bring a US ally, which has  American troops stationed on its territory, to China’s border in a united Korea. They may even find the north to be a useful foil in irritating the Americans. The only way to resolve this situation is to take these concerns into account.

At the same time the US has had troops interminably stationed in South Korea for generations since the end of the Korean War, with no end in sight. This has come at enormous cost, defending a country that at this point is wealthy and prosperous, with i.e. better infrastructure Internet service than the US has. It would be highly beneficial to America’s interests to bring these troops home, if conditions were right. 

The North Korean regime is unquestionably evil, oppressing, starving, and brainwashing its people, who as a result of living in this socialist paradise are actually several inches shorter than the South Koreans. It is a society without any redeeming characteristics, which now presents an imminent nuclear threat to the US, Japan, and South Korea. The world would be a much better place without it. The problem then is how to bring this about short of war, which soon may become inevitable if no palatable alternative is found, as the north continues to develop missiles and threaten the US in no uncertain terms. 


The answer is to make it worth it to the Chinese to completely cut off North Korea, by offering them a deal they can hardly refuse. This would consist of agreeing to withdraw American forces from South Korea if the north is allowed to collapse and preferably become peacefully reunified with the south. This would assuage the Chinese concern about American forces on their border while at the same time providing blessed relief to American taxpayers. This is an arrangement that would be in everyone’s interests, and given President Trump’s enthusiasm for deal making it is a win-win outcome the administration ought to embrace. If present circumstances continue there will simply be no alternative to war, insofar as the US and its allies cannot tolerate this continuing existential threat. This is a way out for both the US and China, and it is time to make a concerted effort. Let’s make the deal. 

12 May 2017

REFLECTIONS ON HEALTH CARE

What is the proper role of government with regard to the health care of its citizens? How should costs be allocated?  These are questions that are still up in the air in the USA, but how these questions are addressed still applies everywhere.  The Republicans appear to have painted themselves into a corner on this subject, while the Democrat-imposed Obamacare is collapsing from its own defects. This legislation was deeply flawed and fundamentally unjust insofar as it expanded coverage for some uninsured people, largely by expanding Medicaid, while otherwise imposing steep additional costs on other individuals in a haphazard fashion. But the Republicans are the governing party now and are stuck with having to come up with solutions they have not adequately provided. They should know by now that it is virtually impossible to get rid of a benefit once it has been established, and the plan passed by the House is going nowhere in the Senate and fails to provide the fundamental overhaul they promised. 

There is a desperate need to rationalize the American health care system by going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch. Republicans first need to concede that everyone ought to have adequate health care, giving that to the Democrats, who might then be brought on board. But this does not necessarily mean that health care should be provided by the government. Nor should it be provided because it is a “right;” it is rather a benefit. Why then should the state in some fashion underwrite such a benefit? 

The short answer is that a developed society can afford to, and we must increasingly come to grips with the consequences of technological change, which is far more salient than “globalization” in causing economic disruption. Given that inequality is an inevitable consequence of a truly free society, those who lack higher skills and who are left behind by the consequences of automation, AI, and other developments- something that can happen to  anyone, need to provide a basic level of support. If growth and economic dislocation eventually benefit everyone, then those who have disproportionately suffered the consequences ought to be provided with some level of adjustment. This is a different population than the poor, who already get everything for free. It is a population we want to prevent from falling into the ranks of the poor. As society develops and grows richer overall, it is reasonable to provide basics for everyone through some mechanism that does not overly burden everyone else. 

The way to do this is to resolve to get the government completely out of the health care business and let market forces do what they do best- rationalize the distribution of goods and services. The state would instead provide a graduated insurance stipend to those who cannot afford it, who would then be able to purchase whatever health care they want or need. For this to work the government would no longer provide any other services directly or indirectly; no more mandates, no more policies, just a cash benefit and there would no longer are any pre-existing conditions. Since everyone is obligated to pay taxes, insurance and medical costs would be deductible, and medical savings exempt from taxation, but anyone who fails to purchase coverage would be charged with the cost of providing a policy for them, which would at least cover catastrophic circumstances, which otherwise would be passed on to everyone else. This does sound like the Obamacare tax but you cannot have universal health care without universal participation and no one is here being compelled to do anything. 


This is not socialism, which is unworkable. Socialism would be government control of all health care, and hence ownership of the system. This is the opposite of that. Government is completely removed from any operational role and only would  only maintain the principle that everyone be covered, by providing direct cash transfers where needed. This would dismantle the administrative state, save billions, and allow a rational system of costs and services to develop, leading to a reduction in overall expenses. There are many details to be worked out and this is preferred only as a roadmap. There are only two fundamental principles that must be adhered to: that everyone be covered and that the government gets out of the health care business. 

20 April 2017

NEW APPLE MACBOOKPRO REVIEW

I recently got a top-of-the-line MacBookPro and I’m not completely happy. My previous MacBookPro was more powerful in many respects, but it died, necessitating this purchase. It had a 17’ screen (the last of its kind) versus a 15” in screen on this one, and had 1TB and 2 TB SSD disks inside (which I added) versus 1 TB total on the new one, with no possibility of expansion since the SSD is soldered to the motherboard. I already had 16 gig of memory, which this one comes with and an  I7 processor, although this one is faster.  Still I resent having to spend over three grand for a new machine that isn’t all that more advanced than the old one, despite the passage of years. But when you fly with Apple you have to pay the price. 

Then there is connectivity, or lack of it. There are only four Thunderbolt 3 ports (I was just getting used to Thunderbolt 2, which is incompatible) and nothing else;  there’s no USB, no Firewire, or Ethernet. so all your peripherals are obsolete. Thus, to physically connect to anything you have to go out and buy adapters or converter cables, some of which are costly, since Apple doesn’t provide any, Otherwise you have to connect wirelessly, which seems to be the prevailing assumption here. The ports do double as USB 3, if you buy an adapter, but I was appalled to find that it was impossible to migrate easily from the old SSD, which I salvaged,  since migration only works with Time Machine, which I don’t use since it doesn’t work well wirelessly over a network. As a result I had to configure everything manually and reinstall all my applications. It does, however, pick up everything from iCloud seamlessly, so that all of your  preferences, favorites, email, contacts, calendar and passwords show up as expected. Worst of all is the power supply, which is enormous and heavy, and connects to the computer via the Thunderbolt ports, so your old power supply is useless as as backup. 

On the plus side it also comes with a new touch bar with contextual menus, changing according to what program you’re using- something basically ported over from the iPad, which has word choices to shortcut when using Pages. I don’t find it very convenient due to the break you make when you remove your hands from the keyboard. It’s also hard to see if you’re using the computer on your lap. The keyboard itself is located in the top half of the machine, while the touchpad now takes up the entire bottom half, meaning your wrists are constantly above it when typing, although it doesn’t seem to have an effect. Once you get used to the new configuration the keyboard isn’t bad, and the huge touchpad presumably has some additional features I haven’t discovered yet. 

There is a security feature on the touch bar that reads your fingerprint, finally with accuracy, as opposed to the nonfunctioning touch feature on the iPad and iPhone. It is situated for right-handers, located on the extreme right, and I had to adjust to it being left-handed. An annoyance is the Siri button that is right next to the security portion of the touch bar, which is easily inadvertently triggered either by that or every other time you reach for the delete key. I find Siri to be useless for most things on the iPad and the same applies here as I often have to stop what I’m doing to get rid of its unwanted help, although it can be disabled. 


Speed-wise the computer is fast, really fast, so that you can work quickly, and even with a limited 16 GB memory it seems able to run multiple tasks without a hiccup. It runs quiet and cool and won’t burn your knees off. This is also the first Apple laptop I’ve had that actually lives up to its official specs in terms of battery life, which does last near 7 hours without a charge. For these reasons, and generally silky-smooth handling, I am warming up to it. For the price I would like to have seen even more power and versatility, as well as easier connectivity, as I wait for more adapters to come online. If you don’t have another working laptop and you need the level of power this provides, I can recommend it, albeit as an expensive purchase. 

30 March 2017

LETTER FROM GERMANY

The thing that impresses me most every time I'm in Europe  (outside of the mostly Orthodox countries that suffered Ottoman occupation), is how cathedrals and churches dominate every city and town. This is a continent that was once steeped in religion, and now is virtually devoid of it. In this region in particular, bloody wars were fought over generations between Christian sects as well as between nations, particularly France and Germany, which have traded possession of these provinces through endless wars. Perhaps war in general has so exhausted the population that beliefs of any kind that once led to war are no longer widely held. Thus there is a palpable feeling of loss of faith, not just in religion but in nationhood itself, as if to say we are no longer the people we were. 


This sense is especially pronounced in Germany, which is most heavily invested in the European project and institutions. On the river boat, (or ship, as they prefer to call it), we are sailing along the Rhine, there is a crew is composed of young Europeans of many nationalities, representative of this European idea. No part of the world is anywhere near as culturally rich, distinct and varied in such a relatively small geographic area, but this is the product of distinct, brilliant nationalities. That is the dilemma of Europe today- everything they are and always have been, all that makes them attractive, is a product of those nationalities, not of some overall nebulous continental identity. As a result, outside of Germany, and perhaps eventually here, there is a growing sense of national identity, for a variety of reasons.



The great cathedrals are today visited mostly by tourists and the occasional class of students, for whom they may be little more than a historical curiosity. Meanwhile the mosques of immigrants are robustly attended, but their capacity for assimilation appears to be extremely limited to the point where their beliefs and way of life are incompatible with western values. A small number of any group can always be absorbed, but once they become a distinct minority discord and trouble are the likely results. Thus it is well that, if only in the interests of self-preservation, the people's of Europe are awakening to this. If this leads to a rediscovery of national identity and perhaps even faith, it is all to the good, because to preserve a culture there must be a belief in it; a living faith. Only then is there a faith in the future and a reason to form families and have children. This does not require extreme nationalism or hostility to others, especially neighbors, and this new revival of identity is not of that nature. It is not territorial, and no one is seeking to redraw borders. It is rather a matter of identity and spirit. Americans can learn from this as well, for these are the very things that leftists seek to destroy, by trashing the culture and it's history and miseducating the young. 

17 March 2017

WHO ARE THE FASCISTS?

“Fascism” is second only to “racism” in the canon of political epithets that get tossed around these days. It has become a kind of catch-all phrase for describing behavior or even just an attitude someone doesn’t like. But who actually are the fascists? At this stage of history one would be hard pressed to find a genuine Fascist anywhere, at least since Il Duce got strung up during World War II. Fascism actually was an Italian social-political movement based on extreme nationalism, corporate statism, improvised claptrap, and black-shirt bully tactics against opposition and in the pursuit of power. It is really only this last tactic that still resonates, and the main reason the term is still in popular use. Thus, when someone says so and so is a “fascist,” the most they can mean is that they are behaving like a fascist. 

Fascism was considered to be of the “right” primarily because of its nationalistic component, but the collectivism, top down organization never was. The Nazis added genuine racism to the equation, but always called themselves national socialists, which tells you something. Strip away the nationalism and these actual movements have more in common with communism, due to things such as dictatorship, party monopoly on power, the use of violence, repression, political and state control of everything, that is characteristic of leftism.  

Nevertheless those on the left still like to perceive themselves as being involved in the struggle against “fascism,” which can include just about anything they don’t like. People they disagree with are categorized as “fascists” in order to dehumanize them beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. But most other people understand it to primarily mean the use or threat of violence, mob actions directed towards intimidation and silencing of political opponents. Now since there is not a shred of evidence that the people so targeted are engaged in any of these tactics, it ought to be crystal clear that these soldiers of the cause are themselves behaving like fascists. 

They are the fascists when they frequently prevent people from speaking on American university campuses. The intimidation, blocking of passage, and physical threats they use are directed against not some fringe right political movement, but mainstream conservatives, and even public officials. They can get away with this because college administrations and faculty are either sympathetic or too intimidated to resist them, and their targets are generally soft intellectuals. They can get away with this because there is currently no countervailing group on hand to deal with them. There has not been a single instance of a left-wing speaker being attacked by a right-wing band of “fascists.” That is a fantasy. 

Thus it is easy to be brave in the struggle against “fascism” when there are no Fascists around. The longer term danger for them is that there is a vast reservoir of people, currently peaceful, who can easily physically overpower them, lean right, and are well-armed. If these people, or even a sliver of them, were ever to become mobilized it would be over for the Left. 

But for now the fascist tactics are being employed by one side with impunity in a playground environment of soft targets. They are having their way in an artificial environment that is out of touch with reality. The time is overdue for the government to begin enforcing standards on pain of eliminating funding from institutions that have destroyed any semblance of a civic culture. 


The obfuscation of terminology should not delude as to who the real fascists are. For as Churchill once predicted, the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.

02 March 2017

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS, AND THE MEDIA

There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history. 

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian government, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds. 

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media. 

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception; both routine experiences shared by many Democrats.  To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration. 

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal. Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left and have lost whatever relevance they might have had. People are tired of the rancor  and can see for themselves what the new administration has already accomplished. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of all of this is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp. 

25 February 2017

THE DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD

Once there was a time when Hollywood provided millions of people with an escape from the travails of daily life in America and around the world. The objective was nothing more than to provide mass entertainment to a wide audience without any further pretense. In the days of the great studios patriots like Louis B. Mayer ran a tight ship. But eventually due to ill-advised government anti-trust proceedings and the rise of television the studio system broke down, and in that vacuum power was grabbed by sleazy agents. The glamour days persisted through the 1950s, but eventually the great stars passed on and were never really replaced. 

Hollywood stood for entertainment, and as long as that was the case it was appreciated by everyone. it was something we had in common. No matter what political divisions there might have been in the outside world they seldom were manifest in entertainment, which was there for everyone, despite their differences. In the 60s things started to change due to sharp political divisions, and stars, untethered by studio common sense, became overtly more political. But then there was still some balance, and for every Jane Fonda there was a John  Wayne, but all still behaved professionally. Jane Fonda won her Oscar at the pinnacle of her political radicalism, but even she, when accepting her award, did not go off on a political speech, but instead, to her credit, said that there is a lot the say but this isn’t the time or place to say it. 

How things have changed. Now too many feel the self-indulgent necessity to make political statements, taking advantage of a public moment in the spotlight they were provided only because of their entertainment work, not for their political insight.  It isn’t just the “talent” that feels compelled to behave like this; it permeates the whole industry from the very top, as the industry leadership is of one mind politically. Anyone taking not just an opposing viewpoint, but simply wanting to remain apolitical is subject to pressure and hostility. 


But the end result is that they have killed the Hollywood that once pleased everyone. They have alienated half the audience and have gone a long way towards turning “Hollywood” into something of an epithet by abusing a platform that exists only because of the achievements of old Hollywood, not this pale echo, this decrepit residue, of what once was. The more this goes on the less audience there will be for various award shows, and this will likely be the case with this year’s Oscar ceremony. The decline will continue thanks to these unbridled egos. The Grammy’s at least provide a great deal of straight entertainment. The Oscars are worse than a bore, they are an irritant and I, and millions of others wont’ be watching. 

21 January 2017

EMOTION AND POLITICS

Much of the rancor one sees in political life is basically rooted in emotion, and therefore irrational in its fundamental state. Ideology stems from the same root, which is also not rational, and hence the more ideological things become the less reason prevails and the more susceptible people become to nonsense claims, usually about the other “side.”  Now since the response is emotional it is also personal, which frequently involves projecting personal concerns or deficiencies out onto others, or society. That being the case it can never be ameliorated as long as that false understanding prevails, and so such people are never happy, and seemingly always angry about something someone else is doing. 

There have been many academic studies purporting to explain irrational political behavior, but it is always ends up as characterizing only the right, thus betraying the left-wing bias of their world view, especially in fields like psychology. For while there is an emotional basis for ideology, it applies to both sides, and in fact there is arguably more intense emotion on the left. This is evidenced in the remarks of an actress suggesting that the new President hates “foreigners” among other things, irrespective of the fact that he is married to one, thus attacking a yahoo straw man that does not exist.  It was a perfect example of an emotional argument making absolutely no sense. The angry response was also beneath the dignity of a President, along the lines of: you attacked me so I’m going to attack you.

Nevertheless, the emotional component is far more prevalent among those on the left. They are forever trying to shut up and silence anything they don’t like, or preventing others from speaking. Failing this they will attempt to organize boycotts that never gain any support, and indeed often provoke a reaction that is the opposite of their intent. They will also threaten and blacklist, i.e. entertainers who have the temerity to try and appear at a presidential inauguration. If they can’t get their way directly they will try and get in indirectly, i.e. by trying to boycott advertisers on a medium they dislike. It is true that corporations have folded with this kind of pressure from the left, though whether that will continue in the age of Trump is another question. There is thus a disturbing totalitarian proclivity to shut others down, cause them to lose business, or even to ruin their lives. 

Surveys also show that those on the left are three time more likely than those on the right to “defriend” someone on Facebook over political matters. The reason for this disparity stems from a world view, unique to the left; one that believes that all aspects of life have a “political” dimension, and are therefore fair game for political action. That vast array of activities and circumstances that exist for most people in the private sphere are an inconvenience for them. If something is not perceived as political they will politicize it, and obsessed with symbolism, they will seek removal of the most innocuous  item that offends their sensibilities, even if totally innocent of their mischaracterization. 

This does not necessarily apply to true “liberals,” at least to the extent that they are true to liberal principles regarding freedom of speech and thought, although they are more likely to cave into the hard left when it comes to unreasonable demands. But this totalitarian tendency to threaten or force others to behave or think a certain way or eliminate what offends their sensibilities has to be vigorously resisted. Failure to do so undermines the legitimacy of  liberalism itself. 


Thus the more ideological the perceptions the more emotional and irrational the attitude the outlook and behavior. This does not characterize all emotional responses to things, i.e. empathizing with suffering, a swell of patriotic feelings, listening to music, etc. but rather emotional reactions that underly ideology and that are political in nature. Anyone whose world view leaves them constantly miserable and compelled to make political statements needs to engage in some honest reflection as to why they believe what they believe with such intensity, and the consequences it has for their personal life. It means perhaps recognizing that personal needs are being projected out onto society. Finally it means examining why political perceptions are so intense, and how they can cloud what truly exists in the present moment. Quo vadis.