Pivots, Principles, and Pundits

Is Donald Trump now A-OK?

Is Donald Trump now A-OK?

In one of the most dispiriting contests for leadership of a great nation since Otho displaced Galba, the 2016 election continues along its unmerry way.  In a not so epic battle between an implacable prevaricator and a self amused charlatan, the nation sheds its weary tears.  2016 could be the epochal election where whoever wins, the nation is the biggest loser.

The prevaricator Clinton, firmly in the lead, recognizes the safe thing to do is to say nothing.  That is to say, nothing true.  Caught in a blizzard of lies regarding her impossibly stupid and criminal use of a private e-mail server for the highest level of government secrets, she continues to do what she does best – lie as only liars can lie.  Confronted with never telling the truth, she states she has always been truthful about lying.  When the media attention, so minuscule compared to any similar event in a candidate’s life not wearing a democratic party mantle, becomes the least bit focused, she manages to lie stating that former Secretary Colin Powell suggested she maintain her own server.  See? Everybody did it, so how bad could it be?  Not so fast! declares the fastidious Powell.  The turd-nado that would normally accompany such a cascade of untruths is nowhere to be found – just the gentle drizzle of sure she’s a liar, but how could you possibly vote for the dangerous crazy orange guy?

The self amused charlatan, Trump, otherwise known by the media as the dangerous crazy orange guy, has firmly re-enforced the notion that he might be dangerous crazy.  Propped up by an alternative right crowd that is even more dangerous crazy then he is, Trump has continued the drumbeat against his election foes with aplomb- Ted Cruz and his father, the Gold Star Khan parents, the New York Times, and those who ousted Saddam Hussein. This laser focus on the immaterial has had its inevitable response in the mid-August polls.  0 for 23.  Generally not a good predictor of victory.  The captain of the ship responsible for the course directly into an iceberg, did what wayward captains in such circumstances do – he fired his iceberg averse crew and hired new crew who aren’t afraid of hitting icebergs.

And then, out of nowhere, a deliberative Trump produces two consecutive speeches that carry the perfect balance between the nation’s problems and thinking that gets to the core of those problems. First the foreign policy speech that lays out in clear, concise fashion that difference between the inherited middle east of Obama – Clinton and the tattered calamity that has been left in the wake of their policies:

Libya was stable.
Syria was under control.
Egypt was ruled by a secular President and an ally of the United States.
Iraq was experiencing a reduction in violence.
The group that would become what we now call ISIS was close to being extinguished.
Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions.
Fast-forward to today. What have the decisions of Obama-Clinton produced?
Libya is in ruins, our ambassador and three other brave Americans are dead, and ISIS has gained a new base of operations.
Syria is in the midst of a disastrous civil war. ISIS controls large portions of territory. A refugee crisis now threatens Europe and the United States.
In Egypt, terrorists have gained a foothold in the Sinai desert, near the Suez Canal, one of the most essential waterways in the world.
Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose.

The media so engrossed in the meme of the age of “smart” foreign policy brought as a gift to America by the twin geniuses Obama and Clinton, was put aback by the Trump’s precision artillery, and his brazen willingness to expose the Potemkin village of supposed successes of the “intellectuals”  running the country.  And then like a championship prize fighter, not the drunken brawler he had been, Trump came immediately back the next night with an even more provocative spot on speech, a take down of the myths associated with race baiting, and the democratic stranglehold on urban centers in the United States fomenting the devastating outcomes that have resulted in perpetual poverty for its poorest citizens:

There is no compassion in allowing drug dealers, gang members, and felons to prey on innocent people. It is the first duty of government to keep the innocent safe, and when I am President I will fight for the safety of every American – and especially those Americans who have not known safety for a very, very long time. I am asking for the vote of every African-American citizen struggling in our country today who wants a different future.

It is time for our society to address some honest and very difficult truths.  The Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African-American community. Democratic crime policies, education policies, and economic policies have produced only more crime, more broken homes, and more poverty.

Let us look at the situation right here in Milwaukee, a city run by Democrats for decade after decade. Last year, killings in this city increased by 69 percent, plus another 634 victims of non-fatal shootings. 18-29-year-olds accounted for nearly half of the homicide victims. The poverty rate here is nearly double the national average. Almost 4 in 10 African-American men in Milwaukee between the ages of 25-54 do not have a job. Nearly four in 10 single mother households are living in poverty. 55 public schools in this city have been rated as failing to meet expectations, despite ten thousand dollars in funding per-pupil. There is only a 60% graduation rate, and it’s one of the worst public school systems in the country.

1 in 5 manufacturing jobs has disappeared in Milwaukee since we fully opened our markets to China, and many African-American neighborhoods have borne the brunt of this hit.

To every voter in Milwaukee, to every voter living in every inner city, or every forgotten stretch of our society, I am running to offer you a better future.

For the first time, this Donald Trump did not simply cut to the chase as to what the real world was like compared to the liberal narrative.  This time he started to identify and suggest solutions that could appeal to people directly caught in the violence and poverty vortex:

The Democratic Party has run nearly every inner city in this country for 50 years, and run them into financial ruin.   They’ve ruined the schools.    They’ve driven out the jobs.   They’ve tolerated a level of crime no American should consider acceptable.   Violent crime has risen 17% in America’s 50 largest cities last year. Killings of police officers this year is up nearly 50 percent. Homicides are up more than 60% in Baltimore. They are up more than 50% in Washington, D.C.

This is the future offered by Hillary Clinton. More poverty, more crime, and more of the same. The future she offers is the most pessimistic thing I can possibly imagine.

It is time for a different future.   Here is what I am proposing.

First, on immigration. No community in this country has been hurt worse by Hillary Clinton’s immigration policies than the African-American community. Now she is proposing to print instant work permits for millions of illegal immigrants, taking jobs directly from low-income Americans. I will secure our border, protect our workers, and improve jobs and wages in your community. We will only invite people to join our country who share our tolerant values, who support our Constitution, and who love all of our people.

On trade, I am going to renegotiate NAFTA, stand up to China, withdraw from the TPP, and protect every last American job.

On taxes, I am going to give a massive tax cut to every worker and small business in this country, bring thousands of new companies and millions of new jobs onto our shores – and make it very difficult for our businesses to leave.

I am going to reform our regulations so jobs stay in America, and new businesses come to America to hire workers right here in Milwaukee. Every policy my opponent has sends jobs overseas. I am going to bring trillions in new wealth back to the United States.

On education, it is time to have school choice, merit pay for teachers, and to end the tenure policies that hurt good teachers and reward bad teachers. We are going to put students and parents first.

Hillary Clinton would rather deny opportunities to millions of young African-American children, just so she can curry favor with the education bureaucracy.

I am going to allow charter schools to thrive, and help young kids get on the American ladder of success: a good education, and a good-paying job.

On crime, I am going to support more police in our communities, appoint the best prosecutors and judges in the country, pursue strong enforcement of federal laws, and I am going to break up the gangs, the cartels and criminal syndicates terrorizing our neighborhoods. To every lawbreaker hurting innocent people in this country, I say: your free reign will soon come crashing to an end.

On healthcare, we are going to get rid of Obamacare – which has caused soaring double-digit premium increases – and give choice to patients and consumers. Aetna, just today, announced they are dropping out – as are many of the major insurance companies.

On government corruption, I am going to restore honor to our government. We’ve seen the corruption of Hillary Clinton, the mass email deletions, the pay-for-play at the State Department, the profiteering, the favors given to foreign corporations and governments at your expense. We’ve seen a former Secretary of State lie to Congress about her illegal email scheme, risk innocent American lives, and bring dishonor onto our government.

In my Administration, I am going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.

I am going to forbid senior officials from trading favors for cash by preventing them from collecting lavish speaking fees through their spouses when they serve.

I am going to ask my senior officials to sign an agreement not to accept speaking fees from corporations with a registered lobbyist for five years after leaving office, or from any entity tied to a foreign government. This is all just the beginning.

We are going to make this a government of the people once again. This is our chance to take back power from all the people who’ve taken it from you. The reason you see the establishment media lining up behind my opponent is because they are scared that you, with your vote, can take away their power and return it to your family and community.

As the week closed, the self amused charlatan suddenly looked like the guy with the ideas and the other candidate the poster child of more of the tired, failed lies we tell ourselves.

The pundits of the media class pontificated that this was clearly the “pivot to presidential” that for months they had breathlessly claimed would appear as soon as Trump had escaped the partisanship of the primaries.  From my standpoint 48 hours of laying out some clarifying rationales that define the difference between two opposing political views does not a pivot make.  Does any candidate that has determined to lead a great nation require a pivot if the reason for running in the first place was a long pondered and vetted set of principles and beliefs that define them?  Trump’s epiphany may be that he finally realized that neither candidate had any principles, and that a principles vacuum existed. A principled Trump could provide some separation.  Can Trump stand in front of a mirror long  enough to stop admiring himself, and consistently begin to look within himself?  The data to this point in time would suggest we will be back to a large dose of demagoguery lickety split.

If instead the miraculous has happened and someone has gotten to Trump, to remind him he is our reflection and not his own – maybe, just maybe we could have ourselves a real election.

 

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The Dog Days of August

My boy sleeping off the dog days of August

My boy sleeping off the dog days of August

The blessed gift of summer, warm, long days and star filled nights, with the nature’s bounty in full bloom, is brief but treasured paradise for every midwesterner.  August then arrives, and the buildup of heat begins to linger, with more muggy humidity and flying bugs, more  substantial thunderstorms, and the first hint of the etherial nature of warm pleasantries in a northern clime.  These are the dog days, and even the dogs know it.  The energy lags.  The baseball team is going nowhere.  The world is skittish about the number of unhinged people with grievances looking for a violent moment in the sun. The political scene is an unadulterated mess.  The Olympics are sliding into the politically correct abyss.  Maybe its best to just curl up in a ball, and sleep it off.

Historian Andrew Roberts in the UK Telegraph reminds us August, named for the most dominant of Roman Caesars, has been notorious for being the month of great upheaval.  The calamity known as World War I was triggered in August 2014 when massive  mobilizations across Europe triggered the inevitable initiation of direct conflict between million man armies. World War II was seared to a close in the dropping of the two atomic bombs on August 6th, and August 9th 1945 in a fitting close to the Armageddon of World War II, launched on August 31st, 1939 by the Nazi dictator who fondly dreamed about Gotterdammerung. The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein decided August 2nd 1990, was an appropriate time to attempt to take over a third of the world’s oil with an invasion of Kuwait and in all probability the Arab Gulf States, until the United States and its allies  determined to upset his fantasy of untold wealth and power over the next 6 months. Caesar Augustus would likely have been offended that the violent month would be associated with the man who brought the world Pax Romana.  Not so much the violent part, just the fact that leaders were unable to instill the iron discipline that prevented upstarts from starting conflagrations threatening the order of things.

The world is drifting into muggy somnolence this August.  Polls have suggested a waning interest, particularly among youth, for the engagement,  hard work, and need for compromise, that sustains democratic rule.  Despite the abysmal records of socialist top down governments, there is a growing comfort with the idea of a “strong” leader to go above the heads of legislatures where nasty differences in opinion have to be worked out, and have the efficiencies of decisions that are determined to be in our “best interest”.  The United States, with almost a perfect process of checks and balances to prevent the development of  a supreme leader, finds that its current President has used extra-legal means to secure his agenda, and nothing is done about it.  To secure a treaty with the arch enemy Iranian mullahs, Obama made an agreement that didn’t require Senate approval as demanded in the Constitution, and flaunted the laws placed to prevent paying ransom for hostages, making Americans everywhere at risk for the long arm of terrorists.  So much for the checks and balances. Its current candidates for the executive office, Hillary Clinton, the felonious sieve of our nation’s security, continues in a pattern typical for her entire public life, to lie and deceive with the intent to exhaust ear, and eventually the rectitude of the voter.  The water canon Donald Trump, spews out conflicted concepts unburdened by circumspect thought, suggesting only The Donald is capable of solving an infinity of national problems.  Not with solutions, mind you, simply the power of extra-constitutional will. Sounds pretty “strong man” to me.  The two party system that propelled these two anti-democratic poseurs has made a shambles of the idea of principled  democracy.  It will not be enough to simply roll up in a ball.  We are going to need a significant shower to wash off the rhetorical dung.

Out there exists more of the same.  A disconnected populous takes selfies to record their own existence, not their society’s accomplishment.   People carelessly give up their unique identity more and more to nefarious software parasites that steal identity like they used to steal jewels, destroying the trust in the marketplace, the concept of citizenry, and the power of the vote.  Athletic contests are tainted with doping and  men are running as women to defeat women running as women, to alter artificially the concept of competition, and more fundamentally the idea of envisioning the accomplishment of an outcome based on the concept of effort, dedication, and equal opportunity.  Judges seek to actively overrule laws that offend their political senses, not their training, regarding the process of law and the importance of rule of law in a democracy.  The somnolence extends to the “governmentalizing” of health care, where life prolonging decisions will be made on politically correct behaviors, not by practitioners and patients objectively dealing in a private way with disease and mortality.

Oh, the dog days.  Its hard to look at them as anything other than something to be tolerated rather than overcome.   A nice secure place to roll up in a ball and sleep it off seems to definitely have its merits.  Of course, at some point, we are going to have to wake up, stretch, look around, and get to work and start fixing this mess.

Not today.  Maybe tomorrow.

IMG_4877

 

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Exit the Strong Man, Enter the Bearded Lady…

Behind Scenes Circus Oz H4eWPyvufXEl

The dog days of July are upon us, and the traveling circus that is American politics are trolling the summer circuit.  The tent has been packed up in Cleveland, and the carnies and animal acts are on their way to Philadelphia.  The nation, as much as it has pressing worries, cannot take its eyes off the fantastical world of the circus and its farcical, somewhat foreboding characters.  After several decades of lousy and boring acts representing America, the citizens have turned toward a much more entertaining spectacle.  Unlike the fortnight of most circuses, this one, come November 8th, 2016, is scheduled like it or not for an extended, painful run.

In the past when the Republican circus has come to town, the more spectacular venues have typically been outside the tent.  The staid Republicans have attracted. like flies to a picnic, the more exotic carnival acts.  A motley crew of communists, race baiters, environmental globalists, and animal rights activists have typically coalesced into a street production designed to feed off the national audience tuned into the acts of the main tent. Violence, miserable hygiene,  police taunts, and the throwing of bodily fluids and worse have been part of the demanding side show..  For some reason, however,  this time the sideshow was intimidated by the main tent presence  in Cleveland of a larger than life circus act, and did little to disturb the event.  When in the presence of the real deal, I guess side shows lose their clout.

In the main tent in Cleveland, the strong man Trump ruled supreme.  His major feat of strength was the near miraculous taking over center stage of a party that in its heyday would have swept him aside like a 40 pound weakling.  This strong man, wearing the costume of a man of real heft to hide an oversold muscular persona and paunchy intellect, managed to steal the show.  The audience got a series of introductory acts that included a soap opera star, an extreme fighter and pretty much every family relation that could read a script.  But every strong man needs a foil,  and our strong man has found his in the Dastardly Ted Cruz character that exists, like the old Washington Generals, for a scheduled butt kicking.  Dastardly Ted tried to play it too cute by half, securing the role of defender of the ramparts while not endorsing the identified man of strength at his own circus.  Lifting a few weights of past shows like freedom, conscience, and respect for the Constitution, Cruz hoped to impress the audience.  But this audience got free tickets to enter from the reigning strong man,  and trump made sure their would be no alternative spotlight.  The red meat audience descended with boos and catcalls on schedule, thus saving all the oohs and aahs for Trump himself.

The strong man Trump then trained all spotlights upon himself on the final night.  Having already used cloud machines and strobe lights with a previous entrance, Trump was determined to show the audience that he could be a closing act as well.  Trump stood serenely before the audience both in the tent and watching from home, and, in the voice  of a carny barker,  described the feats of strength reserved for only the truly strong.  Terrorism would be defeated, and fast.  Law and Order would be restored, and fast.  Trade agreements that had been agreed to by weaker men would be thrown aside, and competitors would quiver and yield better deals once in the presence of a real strong man.  Fellow allies would pay their fair share to defend the world, or somebody was going to be sorry.   Immigrants, the right ones, would be welcomed in, but the wrong ones, oh, would they be sorry they were the wrong ones.  Elites would learn about the new power in town, and stop in their tracks their life of being the bully to the little guy – the bully in chief guaranteed it.  Jobs would rise. Debts would fall.  Enemies would surrender.  The crooks would face justice.  The ultimate feat of strength, achieving  agreement on who was the strongest of the strong in the first one hundred days.

One couldn’t tell if the audience, bludgeoned over 76 minutes, was entertained or bewildered.  No matter, they had gotten a free ticket, and that was entertainment enough.

Philadelphia now presents as the traveling show, and the bearded lady is the act to see.  The audience will stare, somewhat embarrassed that they are drawn to look and can not avert their eyes at such unpleasant exotica.  The bearded lady Clinton is a real carny act, living a life of victim status, while in real life being on the lam from the law for four decades.  Each time the law closes in, she changes her appearance and talks about events in the past as if they happened to someone else.  The democrat party activists, so used to carnival acts,  may be able to muster an audience, but applause is likely to be wanting.  When Clinton presents upon the final day of her convention expecting her due, it will not surprise in the least if the real show will be on the streets of Philadelphia, and the a half baked audience somnolently stares and wonders, how such an act managed to get into the center ring.

Nobody in the world wants to participate in a circus run by a has-been bearded lady, but is anybody ready to have the strong man take over, when it’s relatively clear, the one muscle he has never exercised is his intellectual muscle.  When the carnival closes and the show moves out of town, we will be left with having to decide between the two as to who will become leader of the most powerful country on earth.  It’s not a show certainly I would have hoped for, and one wonders if the rest of the world, dying on the vine, can survive either.  The greatest show on earth, it will definitely not be.

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The Rule of Law on the Endangered List

ScalesofJustice

When the Constitutional Convention met between May and September 1787, the delegates hoped to codify substantial improvements in the previously governing Articles of Confederation that would create a national consensus of governance.  The weaker Articles had led to poor decision making and conflict resolution structure, and lack of vision and resources to face the future.   A carefully debated and perfected set of checks and balances were devised to provide limitations to the power of centralized government, so recently faced at great peril and barely overcome with so much blood and treasure. The delegates wanted to make sure the aristocratic impulses that are promulgated in the coalescence of power were blocked by a division of capabilities.  The Legislature elected by the People would propose laws of the land and secure their passage, and provide the means for their investment.  The Executive would use his office to faithfully execute those laws.  The Judiciary would adjudicate and secure that both the intent of the laws and their execution would be consistent with delineated and limited capabilities of government specified in the Constitution.  Balanced between democracy and forbearance, the document known as the Constitution of the United States was a miracle of its time, and of all time.

The classical liberals of the time of the revolution were, however, not satisfied with the extent of the document to protect  the hard won liberties for individuals that had been the causal impulse of the revolution itself.  In order to secure the passage of the Constitution by the states required for its entry as the new government of the land, amendments codifying the Unalienable Rights of individual citizens were insisted upon as a price for constitutional support.  The passage of ten amendments to the Constitution ratified by the states in 1791, collectively known as the Bill of Rights when passed through the newly formed House of Representatives, secured the rights of the people to liberty,freedom of expression, assembly and worship, self defense, due process and equal protection under the law, and to the states any rights and duties  not reserved specifically for the national government.

And there the two pillars of the concept of law have stood since the beginning of the nation, buffeted and strained by events, the bizarre duality of the existence of slavery in a land where all men were created equal and the expunging of that stain by the calamity of civil war, the dangers of unfettered capitalism creating oligarchies, the risk to republican concepts in the dark days of depression, and the existential risks created by world war.  Through all, the incredible strength provided by such documents prevented the dissolution of the country, and the unrivaled opportunity for all who came to her shores.  Here was a land where the entitled and the indigent, the strong and the weak, the native and the immigrant, the old and the newly born all could assure themselves of their codified protection and rights secured in a rule of law and equal justice that resisted the emotions of the time.

Now we are at a time of similar danger to the concept of the rule of law, but unlike other times, the number of people who understand what is at stake appear to be a rapidly diminishing herd.  The nation that used to see as its cornerstone,  the education of its youth and newly arrived immigrants in the study of civics, setting this country uniquely among others, now faces an utter ignorance from its own citizens and an arrogant disdain from its  governing officials that puts rule of law on the endangered list.

The past weeks, with overt abominations, equivalences, and violent, deadly altercations suggest potentially fatal wounds to the country’s psyche and institutional confidence.

Though the examples are diverse, the threat to the rule of law as the honest arbiter of conflicts and eliminator of corruption is the underlying meme.   Exhibit number one is the email security scandal of the former Secretary of State of the United States.  The Congress, in order to protect the people of the United States against enemies of the country gaining access to information that put the nation or individuals at risk, passed laws to guard against such damage being done, either willfully or through deceit or negligence.  The rule of law secures both the protections of the people and uniform compliance of the law for all that would come under it:

Title 18 Section 793 (F) of the US Code of Law  :Chapter 37 Espionage and  Censorship            (f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

The clarity of the language is not oblique as to the responsibilities of any individual entrusted with such information, from the lowliest clerk at the Pentagon to the President of the United States.  Equality under the law secures both the rights and responsibilities that guarantee both the freedoms and potential penalties prescribed by law are independent of a person’s station in life.  Without such guarantees, the nation is helpless against the corrupting influence of the powerful to set one standard for themselves, and one for all others.  President Nixon was not impeached for ordering a break in or even creating the incitement for it.  He was positioned for impeachment for using the tools of government to obstruct the achievement of equal justice under the law, and the Constitutional principles he had sworn to protect.  Secretary of State Clinton took a similar oath of office to faithfully execute the laws of the land and the duties of her office.  She had reached the cabinet position after a lifetime of interactions with the concept of law and its role in society.  She was a lawyer who had in fact participated on the house Judiciary Committee Congressional Council staff that was charged with investigating President Nixon’s possible crimes, was the lawyerly wife of a President Clinton who was himself impeached for perjuring himself under oath, and had been a Senator involved in committees that vetted sensitive information.  Such intimate association with ethics stained events and forty years of law had certainly prepared her for the importance of understanding the rule of law and the role it plays in securing the rights for all in society.

Positioned at one of the most powerful and most sensitive positions in government, and having lived a lifetime of intimate interactions with those who had run afoul of their sworn responsibilities, there was probably no one individual in the entire government who should have been more aware of the importance of fealty to the law.  It is therefore a travesty of justice, when the implication was made this week that although her actions regarding maintaining a private unsecured server for all her governmental communications outside of accepted security was clearly from her specific direction, the exposure of multiple secrets and sensitive information represented only “careless” activity, not the gross negligence specified in the law as felonious.

The FBI investigation into Clinton’s server insanity identified lies and actions that would have prevented any other individual from receiving any job in the federal government, most companies, and given the realities of the damage done, an indictment and likely trial for crimes against the United States.

She lied when she said she did not send or receive any classified emails.  She lied when she said she turned over all pertinent work related emails. She knowingly routed sensitive and secret government information through a private server she knowingly set up against all policy, servers that did not have, as expressed by the director of the FBI, even the simplest level of  security to hackers offered by G-Mail.  She lied when she stated her E-mails were reviewed by her team of personal lawyers to assure all pertinent information be turned over to the investigating authorities and brazenly ordered the scrubbing of any potential evidence of her servers to guarantee no one could ever gain access to the actual undoctored information.

When the extent of the negligence is so appalling, and the evidence of willful intent to manipulate both evidence and the appropriate investigation of her actions so clear, how is it possible that the Director of the FBI could make the ludicrous statement that no “reasonable” prosecutor would find reason for indictment?   It is because we are becoming comfortable with the idea that people who represent our views are to be forgiven  their infidelities, regardless of the damage it does to objective justice and the protection of rights through the rule of law. The FBI Director was more concerned that the determination of guilt be adjudicated by an election, not a court of law.  Doing so, he flouted the role that the legislature plays in determining our laws, the executive plays in faithfully  executing those laws, and the judiciary’s role in securing justice for all, regardless of position of influence.  This careful system of checks and balances assures the objective removal of corrupt processes, before they can do damage to the principles that secure the country as a functioning republic.  He brought to risk all individuals responsibility for being faithful to, and respecting law.  He provided precedence that laws are contextual only, and that our highest officials may provide their own interpretations, different from those the commoner must face.

It was such context and arrogance toward law that led the nobles of England to secure from King John the delineated principles of the Magna Carta in 1215, assuring that the rule of law be common to the rulers and their subjects.  Hillary Clinton has led a life that at almost every turn suggested the rules of society are for the little people, and our establishment has grown impotent to do anything about the single minded destruction she brings to our most basic principles.  From flaunting the privacy considerations of the Watergate committee in order to insert her political views into the investigation, colluding to hide documents from investigators from her revealing her billing actions with the Rose Law Firm,  assuring the destruction of Whitewater fellow investors in order to protect her involvement with savings and loan shenanigans, and devastating attacks upon the character of women who were harmed by her husband, Clinton has used her position of power to protect and enrich herself at the expense of any who unfortunately touched upon her sordid moral compass. It has been  a lifetime built on the altar of lies, amorality, and personal gain.  Now the FBI Director, to avoid being accused of denying her what unfettered democracy may yet provide her, ultimate power, has stained himself and a lifetime of work serving justice, joining the many others who have been thrown under the Clinton bus.

A society that would put her in such an ultimate position of power has a dead soul, and the hard won miracle of a classless society based on equality under the law, collaterally damaged perhaps beyond recognition.  Our choice this fall is the fool’s bargain.

 

 

 

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My Country, ‘Tis of Thee…

American flag blowing, close-up

The most disconcerting realization for elites that had assumed the outcome in the Brexit vote to be inevitable and a ringing confirmation of the globalist view of the modern world, was the fervor of such a large segment of the British public to the quant notion of country.  The idea that people would be willing to risk the security of being part of a supranational economic superpower for vague notions of freedom and self determination based on  cultural roots, seemed absurd on its face.  After all, the modern world had done all it could to blur cultural distinctions, remove historical uniqueness, and equalize outcomes for all.  What possible residual value could be discerned for the concept of country to any modern person other than a few “bitter clingers”?

It turns out that the concept of history and country has not yet died the pauper’s death.  As the Fourth of July approaches for America, the Brexit push back against subordination to a world determined by others, has brought a little renewed shine to a holiday that celebrates the epitome of “just say No”.   A country is still an ideal as well as a geography, as much as the elites have attempted to eliminate the education of the cultural codes that bind us, and differentiate us.

On July 4th, 1776, a declaration of independence was announced by thirteen former colonies of Great Britain, forming spontaneously a country of United States of America.  The geography and people had not changed; the cultural roots were determined to be sufficiently unique to require the untethering of two similar cultures destinies, by force if necessary.  The declaration stated the ideals of nationhood that required this devolvement:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

On July 3rd, 1863, two great armies met upon an open field in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, sharing the same hereditary and cultural roots, but variant concepts of country.  Both saw themselves as representing freedom and self determination, but both felt the need to express themselves as to country to the point of self sacrifice for the larger concept. To the confederate, country required an acceptance of an individual’s rights to commerce and property, and a state’s representation of the circumstances of society without an overbearing federal enforcing power determining their destiny without their consent.  The Unionist saw secession as an unlawful rebuke to the shared sacrifices of the original union and an attempt to distort the ideal that all men are created equal and protected under constitutional law that bound them together.  Both were willing to travel hundreds miles from their home, and if necessary, die upon an arbitrary field of battle, to defend their concept of country.  For one brief moment, all notions of country fell to General Lewis Armistead’s 57th Virginia Infantry who clashed against Winfield Hancock’s Second Corps 69th and 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry at the Angle. Having driven as part of Pickett’s Charge across a deathly blizzard of artillery and musket fire by the mass of the Union army, Armistead’s men had managed through incredible courage and will to reach the angled stone wall, beyond which lay the vulnerable rear of the Union position and the probable destruction of the Union cause.  In a moment of time, the Union line was briefly breached, but Confederate destiny was forever quieted by direct blows from the last of two residual Union canon, commanded by Wisconsin native Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, and the Union line held.  The breach led to Armistead’s and Cushing’s simultaneous death, in mutual sacrifice to the concept of country in which they held no particular personal advantage in either outcome.  Armistead died a hero to a lost cause. Cushing, sustaining an extremity injury, kept his battery firing through the torrent. He  received a second injury to his abdomen and groin, but refused to leave the field of battle, and propped up by fellow soldiers ordered his battery to continue to fire into the maelstrom until a third bullet silenced him through the mouth and out his head killing him instantly.  Cushing received his country’s belated recognition 151 years later, when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, on November 6,2014.

On July 4th, 1976, 100 Israeli commandos reminded the world that the concept of country, and the importance and willingness to defend a cultural identity,  transcended geography.  An Air France Jet with 248 passengers and 12 crew, traveling from Tel Aviv to Paris, was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists after leaving a stopover in Athens, flown to Benghazi, then Entebbe, Uganda, where they were welcomed into hostage status by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.  The real purpose of the hijacking, the Israeli Jews on board, became apparent when the hijackers separated the jewish passengers, and allowed the other passengers to leave.  The brave Air France crew determined to stay with the residual hostages despite the obvious dire risks. With additional guards provided by the Amin’s military, the hostages were threatened with death unless a list of terrorists in Israeli and other jails were immediately released.  Four years after the death of Israeli hostages at the Munich Olympics, the ominous destiny of the hostages was only too clear to the Israeli government.  But what could possibly be done when hostages were being held under Ugandan military protection, 2200 miles from Israel?  On July 4th, 1976, the bicentennial of the American expression of the rights of man and country, the world awoke to the incredible news that an Israeli commando team had traveled the 2200 miles, eliminated the reaction capacity of the Ugandan military, killed the terrorists, extricated safely all but four of the hostages, and returned safely to Israel.  The amazing raid on Entebbe has taken special historical poignancy as the only special forces commando killed in the raid was its commanding  officer, Yonatan Netanyahu, the older brother of current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Israel had shown the world that citizens of its country were the nonnegotiable reflections of its very existence, and the country would defend to the death regardless of risk or difficulty, threats to its citizenry, no less than the land itself.

On July 4th, 2016, we will celebrate this country’s 240th anniversary of its independence. Of no small coincidence to the Captain of the Ramparts of Civilization, this July 4th will also celebrate the sixth anniversary of this little blog, dedicated to the defense of those ramparts.  In our own humble way, the willingness through the power of free expression to stand up for the great concepts that define the western ideal is a small but distinct contribution to those who through the years have accomplished so much more through their genius and sacrifice.  To all the worldwide defenders of the Ramparts, from the distant past to the most recent Brexiters, we salute you.  To Ramparts of Civilization, Happy Birthday.  To the United States of America, Happy Independence Day.  To this great country and the ideals it represents, many many more bountiful and freedom filled years…

My country, tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers die
Land of the pilgrims pride
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring.

Posted in CULTURE, HISTORY | 1 Comment

Sunrise After Brexit

 

 Sunrise attrib Wikipedia Commons

Sunrise
attrib Wikipedia Commons

The morning after the Brexit vote, one imagines Britons awakening with a similar sense of bewilderment, and a diametrically opposed sense of outcome.  Those who voted Leave, woke up with a tentative sense of blissful relief, as if a migrainous pressure behind their eyes had been lifted with the rising sun, and they could safely view the rays for the first time in a long time without averting their sight.  The Remainers awoke also bewildered, but adjusting to a massive hangover painfully focusing the reality of a resultant wakeup from a decades long bender.  Both likely thought, “What just happened?”.  What just happened will take some time to sort out, but the makings of something very significant for people in Britain, and beyond, has clearly and irreversibly occurred.

The outcome of the momentous vote in Great Britain on June 23rd to leave formal membership in the European Union spared no one’s worldview.  In the stunning bullseye of the outcome stood the Prime Minister of Great Britain himself, David Cameron.  Completely misinterpreting his constituents fundamental concerns with an ever more encompassing elitist need to control their lives, Cameron felt he could use fear tactics regarding a world after Leave without elitists’ guarantees of stability for all would be enough to impel the great undereducated to support an establishment who would look after them. He was so wrong, that it appears his political mandate so recently secured in the parliamentary elections of 2015,  has been scuttled.  He has announced his intent to resign. The British people spoke in 2015, and thus they spoke again.  Like most leaders who, upon retaining power, assume it is all about them, Cameron found out that both his comprehensive victory in 2015 and his crashing defeat in 2016, were decidedly not about him.  Likewise, the American President Obama, who likes to declare in profound elitist egocentrism  every time an opposing opinion to his worldview gains traction, “This is not the America we want,”  discovered that the people of Great Britain didn’t find his preening intervention in the issue helpful in the least.   It turns out British citizens wanted to let Obama know, “This is not the Britain we want.”

What has transpired I suspect, is a very natural human reaction to excess.  When the Industrial Revolution brought for the first time a means by which individuals could achieve the position of kings without a hereditary portfolio and in the interval of a single lifetime, the benefits were profound, but so were the excesses.  As wealth spilled out from the exclusive domain of royalty and clergy,  millions of people attained the benefits of a meaningful life filled with both security and bounty.  Lives progressively became less the fight for survival then the search for personal worth and meaning.  The elites were progressively shunted aside to directional forces determined by the proletariat and burgeoning middle class.  Transportation became universal. Food became plentiful. A life now stable became increasingly worthwhile to maintain one’s health.  All good things. However, the darker impulses were also apparent.  The individualism left other important communal outcomes wanting.  The environment sustained critical damage. Morality became a relic, with diminished roles for family, increasing pleasure absorption, and an increasingly bitter sense of being left out, once the reality of opportunities for success was progressively available to all.  The most aggressively destructive forces in the twentieth century were not led by the elites, but rather the out of control proletariat that coopted nations into tools of domination.  Common men led the most egregious – the journalist Mussolini Fascist Italy, the failed painter Hitler Germany, the would be priest Stalin, the pseudo intellectual Mao.  Worse than their own perverted sense of progress was their willingness and ability to draw millions like them into armies of mass destruction.

The world that barely survived this excess turned to elitists to save them.  Post war communal arrangements were designed to soften the worst traits of nearly destroyed world of the out of control individualism and national primitivism.  The new meme of the elites was “globalism”. Individuals, and the nations they personified would subvert their baser tendencies to a global sharing through the guidance of elites.  Companies in competition would consolidate into global corporations in sync with shared values. Nations in competition would align with others to redistribute resources, regulate excesses, and degenerate their uniqueness.  Shared money, shared language shared aspirations, shared outcomes would remove the calamitous instincts of individuals to ‘get ahead’, and the world would forever grow beyond the need for violence, greed, and flag waving that got us into all this trouble in the first place.  The new wars would be against other – climate, division, asymmetry, and sexuality.  Sure there would be some unbalanced aspects.  Elites would preserve their world and flourish.  The rest would see the benefits of the elites beneficence – just like  in the olden times.

The Elites – the Harvard trained Obama and the Eton and Oxford prepared Cameron – could not comprehend that the average individual might want to bring some meaning to their lives by living their lives differently.  The Elites had extended their altruism to the point where they demanded to provide solutions for aspects of life where there were no identified problems to solve. Brexit was not so much a negation of all that came before but a democratic break to the undemocratic impulses of those who would determine that the future is a settled science of vast bureacracies, infinite regulations, removal of moral constraints, and destruction of free will and individual opportunity.

The morning sunrise after Brexit brings the faintly uncomfortable sense of a world less predictable.  As Groucho Marx cogently once said, he would be uncomfortable belonging to any club that would have him as a member. As a result of Brexit, older forces may have to be monitored for and deftly dealt with.  Germany’s natural inclination to dominate the continent and to gaze toward the East. Great Britain’s tenuous hold on its own unified sovereignity with such a close but divergent opinion as to the best course for its future. America’s isolationist tendencies and longing for a simplier world when it could self gaze safely behind a moat of surrounding oceans.

The better option is likely a form of compromise that preserves the best of what both elites and proliterians have to offer, without allowing the worst characteristics of each to see a world better off without each doing its part.   Thanks to a bunch of conflicted but resolute Britons who trusted themselves, the world has a chance again to take a breath, and breathe the beautiful air of freedom.  This particular sunrise, for those of us who still man the Ramparts of Civilization,  is one moment worthy of the sentiments of Rule Britainnia :

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

Posted in CULTURE, HISTORY, POLITICS | 1 Comment

Newspeak

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The horrendous event of the past weekend in Orlando deserves a special capability of expression that is beyond my ability.  Murder, as always, senseless and evil,  in the instantaneous elimination of innocents whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, to be unwitting  participant actors in some twisted individual’s immorality play.  We are living through example after example of a particular kind of hate, that hates us for what we are, our willingness to express the truth about our selves, our need to be individuals.  It is a malign virus that continues to infect, because we struggle to understand its etiology, and refuse to initiate and follow through on the means of its eradication.  In the simple clarity brought by the battle for survival when facing devastating infection, we will either eliminate it, or it will eliminate us.  It is our choice, and our burden.

Unfortunately, what is following as we distance ourselves from this event, as has been our want for some time, is our willingness to allow the subversion of free thought and free speech by those in authority to bend the truth to their predestined conclusions.  George Orwell, the nom de plume of English essayist and novelist Eric Blair, achieved his greatest fame sadly at the very end of his life, in creating a literary dystopian world in 1984.   His masterpiece best described the potential epilogue of the very real dangers Elliot saw in the world he lived in, from the clashes of idealism and gross manipulation of the Spanish civil war, the show trials of Stalinist Russia, to the calamity of Fascism and the destruction of truth it created.  Orwell was one of those unique individuals who lived in the transitional zone between the world of oppression and the means of oppressors, and still was able to recognize the tools required to defeat both.  The primary tool to defeat oppression, that of free expression, he presciently saw under dangerous assault, and battled his rapidly deteriorating health to give us the ability to discern through the novel  the dystopian future we needed to be on guard against.

Orwell brought special clarity to the tools of authoritarian  control and its need to rewrite and subvert history to fit the authority’s ever changing narrative, destroy truth, and reduce expression that does not fit the excepted narrative.  Orwell’s everyman anti-hero Winston Smith, works at the Ministry or Truth, whose job is to constantly to constantly rewrite previous history, so that it fits with current thought.  The weapon of destruction is Orwell’s Newspeak:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. ”                                                                                        George Orwell     1984

Our current process is to effect our narrative by making thought expressions a crime, a thoughtcrime, thereby distorting the truth.  For our current story, it is the unwillingness to identify radical Islam, to avoid saying it and therefore avoid recognizing its existence.  If it is not said, it does not exist, and its elimination is unnecessary.  Clarity of understanding of last weekend’s slaughter, requires recognizing the truth, as it did with the slaughter at San Bernardino, the slaughter in Belgium, the slaughter in Paris, and the innumerable clarifying events before.  Instead we focus our narrative on the gun as apparently an active participant, willing an otherwise conflicted individual with undefined motives to kill for the sake of killing and applying the opportunity the gun provides.  We block our minds to the true linking theme to each horrible event, the nihilist philosophy that this unique religion underwrites, and do not connect our events to the pressure cooker bomb of Boston, the throwing of bound homosexuals off buildings in Syria, the burning alive of Yasidi women who refuse to be raped slaves in Iraq, and the stabbing of Israelis in Jerusalem.  The weapon is immaterial, the truth is the philosophy of dominance and death.  The authorities seek through doublethink to criminalize those who obey the law and wish to defend themselves, decriminalize those who break the law but are seen as a protected class, and ostracize those who are willing to speak openly.  The narrative replaces truth, the ‘science’ becomes settled,  and the willingness to ignore objective facts that don’t fit the desired narrative ingrained.  All refugees are deserving.  All moralities are equal. All crimes are suffered upon a society that has created a state of victimhood, and therefore a narrative of justification to every appalling event, large and small.

Orwell saw his world becoming progressively immune to great horrors, acceptant of an ‘arc’ of history that makes sacrifice of individuals an unpleasant but accepted consequence of those unwilling to accept the arc. Our society is progressively becoming an ugly reproduction of Orwell’s vision, and the sacrifice of our freedoms on the altar of accepted correctness of thought a very real impediment to actually solving any of our societal ills, much less defending ourselves against the unwavering malignity of our sworn civilizational enemies.

If you need a reminder of how close to Orwell’s dystopia we are evolving and the extent to which our civilization’s values are cratering, look not to our leaders like Obama who will not speak the truth. Look to how our society has educated those into Newspeak on our campuses, the sources of our future leaders.  Watch the recent event at Yale University below in its entirety, and understand that the thoughtcrime committed by a dormitory leader was that he made the mistake of defending the right of individuals to self express and wear Halloween costumes on campus.  Watch it to the end, and realize we are close to the world of Oceania.

 

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People We Should Know #29 – Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov - Chess World Champion....and Human Rights Champion

Garry Kasparov – Chess World Champion….and Human Rights Champion

The loneliest place in the world is likely at the chess board in a grandmaster world championship chess match.  Sitting across is the greatest computational foe imaginable, a fellow grandmaster, who is probing for any weakness in conception, multi-dimensional thinking,  preparation and study,  courage, and stamina.  One hesitation, one casual move, one momentary weakness, and the match is good as lost. The match may extend hours, or days, the competition-months.  The crushing pressure has been too great for some, and destroyed the health of others.  To play grandmaster chess requires an intellect and a will that is present in very, very few of humanity.  53 year old Garry Kasparov is one of the greatest ever grand champions, and the number of people who could claim a capacity to compete with him on at his level at chess, are able to be counted on one hand.  Garry Kasparov retired from competitive championship level chess in 2005, but he has since 2005 taken on his greatest opponent ever in the ever more dangerous game of chess that is Russian politics.  He has determined to take the white pieces championing democracy and free speech. His opponent, Vladimir Putin, the dictator of Russia, is most comfortable with the black pieces, and cares not one wit for the rules of civility.  He has worked to eliminate Kasparov’s fellow pieces one by one, working toward a final deadly check mate.

Garry Kasparov is in the match of his life and is courageously willing to play through to the match’s conclusion.  As one of the great defenders of civilization’s ramparts,  Garry Kasparov is Ramparts:   People We Should Know – #29. 

Garry Kasparov was born in 1963 in the Soviet Union’s Azerbaijan Republic to jewish and armenian parents.  His father died when he was seven, and consistent with prodigiously talented children of the soviet, the state provided further paternal guidance.  His tremendous talent for chess and its challenges became known very early, and in a country that valued superiority in chess as another example of the superior societal model, Kasparov received exceptional training.  By age 15, he was a chess master, by 17 a grandmaster, and at 22 years of age, the youngest world champion up to his time ever crowned. But training wasn’t Kasparov’s secret – it was his soaring intellect and indomitable will.  He played for the world champion ship in 1984 against one of the great Soviet chess machines, Anatoli Karpov, in a brutal match that saw an incredible number of draws that left Karpov ahead but exhausted, and the match was called mysteriously before a conclusion.  A rematch was set for 1985, and this time Kasparov broke Karpov’s defensive style and became at 22 years old the youngest champion ever.  For 15 years, Kasparov fought off every great world champion, including multiple challenges by Karpov, relinquishing the title finally in 2000.  His run was considered one of the most dominant in chess history, and his 2005 retirement from world competition allowed many fellow grand masters to breathe a sigh of relief.

Kasparov’s true awakening occurred however, in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.  Flush with the vitality of new found freedom and one of his country’s most important ambassadors,  Kasparov found himself contributing to Russia’s nascent development of democratic institutions.  He was one of the founders of Democratic Party of Russia, which morphed into a centrist party of Russia’s Choice promoting  Boris Yeltsin against the communists attempting a resurgence.  He became intimate friends with Boris Yeltsin’s first protege Boris Nemtsov.  When the ailing Yeltsin was pressured away from naming the liberal democrat Nemtsov as his successor, and instead handed it to a little known KGB apparachnik named Vladimir Putin, Russia’s future became dark and progressively totalitarian.  Kasparov, seeing the predictable pattern of dictator in Putin, attempted to marshal political forces against him, working with Nemtsov and others to form the Other Russia as a democratic political alternative to Putin’s autocracy.  Kasparov attempted to run for President in opposition to Putin in 2007, but the Putin machine prevented any momentum, and Kasparov progressively saw his life straying onto thinner and thinner ice. He was sham arrested several times, and many of his friends were harassed and more ominously experienced violent deaths. Many were among the most prominent Putin opponents and defenders of human rights and free speech in Russia.  The dogged anti Putin investigational reporter, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in Moscow.  The Putin antagonist Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen, was poisoned with nuclear material and painfully killed in London. Most brazenly, Nemtsov was murdered right in front of the Kremlin. The message could not have been more clear. Behind all the events, the common thread – opponents of Vladimir Putin.  Kasparov realized his best chance for survival and continuing the message of freedom for Russians would be outside the country, and he has taken residence in New York City since 2013.   His lectern is as head of the Human Rights Foundation, whom he succeeded the sainted Vaclav Havel as leader.  Despite the enormous personal risks, he has continued to speak out against Putin’s dictatorship and his thuggish mafia like record of assassinations, beatings, arrests, and one party rule. He recently was interviewed by Jay Nordlinger at the Oslo Freedom Forum.  Jay through his interview show on Ricochet , Q&A , has often highlighted the many courageous people who attend the Oslo Forum and are often the sole spokespersons for freedom in the dangerous totalitarian countries in which they reside.  Below please take in Jay’s interview with Garry Kasparov, who locked in mortal combat with his most dangerous opponent ever in Vladimir Putin, is one of freedom’s brightest lights, and justly Ramparts: People We Should Know  #29.

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Memorializing Memorial Day

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President Obama on May 22nd, 2016 in Hiroshima, took measure of the Memorial Day weekend to attempt to memorialize the tremendous loss of life that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945 as the extreme spasm of a world lost in aggressive impulses without steadying institutional control.

The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.

Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.

He stated further:

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.

Still, every act of aggression between nations, every act of terror and corruption and cruelty and oppression that we see around the world shows our work is never done. We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.

A horrible event occurred in Hiroshima seventy-one years ago, but is what President Obama describes really the means to assure the prevention forever of passive death of innocents in the face of ever more destructive technology?  Was the absence of institutional control the reason for the advancement to actual use of an atomic weapon? Would more institutions and treaties to eliminate weapons present prior to a war provide the means to prevent war or development of such weapons?  The tough historical truths are that global organizations such as the League of Nations were useless in preventing global conflict, and the atomic weapon, though no more objectively destructive in lives than any number of other catastrophic weaponry used before it, proved philosophically the precise tool to end  the global conflict and prevent large scale conflict for the next seventy years.

The prevention of war and avoidance of death for countless innocents has too many times been left passively in the hands of organizations that looked at vigilance and strength as mechanisms for starting wars, not preventing them.  President Obama sees the start of WorldWar II for America, the surprise attack on  Pearl Harbor and the climatic end of the war, the atomic bomb dropped on Japan, as equivalent evils of aggression against innocents.  The avoidance of the concept of good and evil is an important foundation for all liberal progressive thought.  It is important to see all conflict as primeval genetically driven aggression of individuals, requiring the continual regulation of more objectively minded institutions to suppress the baser reflex. Aggression is driven by animal greed, need for dominance, religious and nationalist fervor that clouds any rational human thought.  The idea that a moral dilemma would arise, that would require recognition of evil, and the need to surmount and defeat evil intent, is alien to progressive thinkers like Obama.  All versions of society are relative and need only understanding is what has been responsible for many of the darker periods of human conflict.  The society that evolved the evil that led to the tens of millions of deaths prior to Hiroshima, was finally stopped by the society that marshaled its goodness into the overwhelming might of the atomic weapon.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”           Edmund Burke

The brilliant British parliamentarian Burke got to the core of human conflict that progressives like Obama always fail to grasp, that it is the value system, not the weaponry, that defines momentum to conflict.  The individual soldier does not defend a series of treaties or a constellation of institutions, but a bedrock of ideas.  The American Revolutionary left his home to defend the abstract cause of free will against a distant tyranny.  The Civil War soldier on both sides felt he was defending his homeland against invasion, the southerner from the federalist north, the northerner against the rebel insurrector. The World War II soldier saw the spectacular evil of totalitarian society impressing its collectivist values against the individual freedoms to such an extent that genocides were institutionalized and remorselessly codified.  The atomic bomb was achieved in a race between the defenders of freedom who achieved the technology by an chronological eyeblink over the evil, genocidal societies that would not have hesitated for a moment its use.  The soldier defending individual freedom and free will, is there to defend, and at times die, for a concept larger than life itself, if it means that  liberty survives for others to benefit and propagate.  No treaty will have such power to defend against evil, or to assure its destruction.

On this Memorial Day we do not glorify the treaties that were designed to suppress aggression, or the wars that were fought to promote institutions.  We memorialize the individuals who recognizing their own humanity, could grasp the greater values that life offers, and propel themselves to serve and at times sacrifice for the survival of a good that would many times outlive them.  Wars are not won by old men protecting present realities, but by young men envisioning a better world they, through their sacrifice, personally can secure for others.  President Reagan was the great communicator and visionary  that President Obama could never remotely be, because Reagan could articulate this basic truth, and recognize this basic good. Obama’s moral equivalence only permits the seeds of future conflicts by creating passivity when vigilance and preemption is necessary.  President Reagan understood what elevates men and women beyond their own survival instincts toward a greater truth that in the end protects us all from the slide to oblivion.   In the larger sense, it is not sacrifice that is memorialized, but the individual life that briefly burned so bright for an abstract value that might possibly build a better, freer world.

God Bless all who serve. God Bless all who defend. God Bless all who feel the calling. We know what you have done for us, and we will never forget.

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The Magnificent Croissant and Jan III Sobieski

The Magnificent Croissant

The Magnificent Croissant

So, one starts the homage to the magnificent croissant with a story of its origin too good to be true – which of course it isn’t.  When it comes to food, however,  great stories don’t have to be true in order to be truly great, and this one has all the elements of greatness.  The wonder bread known as the croissant which forms the perfect meal through its irresistible airiness, flakiness, and buttery goodness has its origins in legend, but is the more likely descendant of more mundane bakery craft.  The concept of rolling plates of flour with intervening filling has many mothers of invention.  The ancient kipferl, a similarly shaped yeast dough based baked layered roll designed to be sprinkled or glazed, projected out of the misty depths of the ancient Hungarian lands of southeast Europe.  The recognizably modern croissant was essentially borne in a Parisian boulangerie in the 19th century that looked to mimic the pastry concepts of Vienna, achieving the lightness and richness through applying layers of butter between the plates of dough, battering the layers  into thinness and cutting them into triangles that are rolled and twisted, pulling the ends into a crescent shape and baked.  The wondrous magic is in the texture and taste, but the real romance is in the shape itself.

A pastry shaped as a crescent with origins in Vienna became linked with the city’s rich past.and a legend was born. Why shouldn’t such a glorious food have a heroic origin?  And thus we recall the croissant as an eternal reminder celebrating the moment when western civilization, on  the verge of submission to an alien culture, pulled itself together and emerged victorious.  In 1683, at the Gates of Vienna, history was at one of those balance points. The zenith of of a 350 year unimpeded march of ottoman islam into the core of Christian Europe culminated at those gates, as the very future of european culture tremulously looked for a miracle way out.

The Ottoman Turks pushed from their homeland in Anatolia in 1299 to become the dominant caliphate of the muslim world, tied together through the culminating 16th century conquests of Suleiman the Magnificent.  From Iraq to Egypt, Algiers to Budapest, the massive empire had consumed the previous islamic caliphates and put the final nail in the remnant of imperial Rome in defeating and subjugating the Byzantine Empire, its capital Constantinople and its provinces of southeastern Europe.  The jewel of central Europe, Vienna, lay before it, and with it, the gateway into the residual Holy Roman Empire through control of the Danube waterway.  Christian Europe of 1683 was an ungodly mess, barely through the devastation of the Thirty Years War, that left its economies devastated and a third of its population dead.  The squabbling power centers were constantly in conflict with each other,  plotting to take land and riches with the first indication of weakness of a neighbor. The idea that Europe could focus mutually upon a threat as unified, powerful, sophisticated, and confident as the Ottomans seemed the stuff of wistful dreams.

The Ottomans were led by the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha, a general in charge of an estimated 130,000 troops against grim city walls and a local Hapsburg Austrian force of an estimated 15000 led by an opposing general grandly named in hapsburgian fashion, Ernst Rüdiger Graf von Starhemberg.  Consistent with their desire to subjugate when possible rather than destroy captured value, Mustafa settled into a strangulating siege of the city, blocking all sources of food progressively starving the inhabitants.  The rings of siege were moved ever closer to the walls with tunnels dug to allow placement of explosive at the walls to take them down. From such facts the legend grew that the bakers of the city, first to rise in the night to prepare the bread of the diminishing food supply, heard the tunneling actions and warned the city guards sufficiently in time to prevent a breach of the wall.

Heroic bakers were not going to be enough to turn back the irresistible Islamists.  It would take a Polish King named Jan III Sobieski.  Sobieski, the leader of one of Europe’s largest states, the Polish Lithuanian Confederation, did not sit back when the threat presented at his southern flank.  He gathered his army led by Europe’s greatest heavy cavalry, the Hussars, and sought the cooperation of the multitude of less virtuous leaders that stood between him and Vienna. The Hapsburg , Holy Roman , and French royals had to not only resist combatting his effort but additionally underwrite its enormous expense.  Hordes that had invaded Europe had a way of focusing their attention, however, and having a King willing to fight when all others were fatigued by war was a godsend.  On September 12, 1683, the Ottomans determined to have it out and settle the issue.  The battle was vicious and extended with the outcome in doubt, until twilight when, out of the Viennese woods, Sobieski came into the late afternoon sun, and smashed into the Turkish flank.  In the largest recorded cavalry charge, 18000 Polish Hussars crushed in the Ottoman flank and the rout was on.  The victory became total, Vienna was saved, and the defeated Mustafa Pasha met the end of defeated islamic generals, a silk cord garrotment of the neck by his own troops.

The city was said to have celebrated by commemorating the victory by having its hero bakers who had played their role in blunting the Turks prepare a pastry.  It was a baked good that would be shaped into a crescent to forever more remind all of the victory against the soldiers of islam, led by their crescent symbol.  The wondrous victory would always be associated wtih the wondrous pastry, and the romantic origin of the croissant was identified.

Except of course, that not how the croissant originated.  It would be an additional two hundred years before anybody would determine a recipe for the fantastic pastry we recognize  today.  No matter.  The glory of the croissant resonates with us, even if the story told is a wonderful myth. Me? I like my myths, with coffee, thanks.

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