A Republic – If you can keep it…

Gaius Julius Caesar is assassinated in the Roman Senate

 

Upon deliberating and formulating in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a mechanism of governance for the ages,  Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  Stopped on the steps by a well wisher, he was asked about the outcome of the secretive deliberations.  “Well Doctor, what have we got?  A Republic or a Monarchy?”  The circumspect Franklin thoughtfully responded, “A Republic….If you can keep it.”

Benjamin Franklin was fully aware of the fragile tenets upon which self governance, the rarest of human societal structures through history, rested.  Having the opportunity to develop a republic from scratch after a providential victory over the strongest military on earth, Franklin was under no illusions as to the longevity of such an undertaking if the baser human emotions took over from the agreed upon foundations of a democratically led governance.

Yet, the republic has indeed stood for 228 years from the day the Constitution became law, and the world’s oldest continuous democracy took root.  Its careful balance of the rights of citizens and the limitation of government, protected by an innate understanding as to the role of free speech in the form of civil discourse and the rule of law as represented as blind to bias, linked inextricably to objective truth,  has  led to the exalted position of the United States as a beacon of freedom and stability so many years from birth.

Now we sit at a time where the hubris about the gift of self rule is equally matched by the ignorance of the role each individual must play in the maintenance of the compact that preserves a healthy, functioning republic. Examples abound.  The congress is back to building laws in secret to avoid the difficulties an open forum of discussion provides. The president is back to accomplishing changes by diktat. The deep state leaks to subvert the elected will of the people, to harass and damage those that would upset the applecart.  Free speech is considered a weapon that risks upsetting entrenched interests that have re-imagined the American story into one of victim groups and predators.  Elections are to be manipulated to make sure the accepted side wins.  Justice is imbued with the mission to reorder law through interpretation, not to find justice in the objective truth.  The press has become an arm of propaganda, seeing events in the shades of pre-ordained opinions and prejudices, turning facts on edge and subverting measured thought and appropriate rationalizations.  Reason has been trampled by emotion, and violence as an acceptable alternative to any compromise.

The events of the past week, where a premeditated attempt to assassinate multiple representatives of congress because of their political philosophy, couldn’t maintain a first page position in any news outlet for more than 24 hours shows how far we have fallen in our understanding of the threat every day to this most fragile of gifts, self governance.  We are in danger of losing Franklin’s republic, and the people who are pushing it over the edge are ignorant of what they would have lost, and arrogant in their ignorance of what would transpire if they get their way.

The self righteous senators who convinced themselves that by assassinating Julius Caesar they were preserving their position as the elite representatives of Roman society, found themselves instead to have permanently destroyed the republic that had given them their exalted position. By killing their Caesar, they brought upon themselves a hundred more.

It is proving progressively hard to guard the ramparts of a civilization that has presumed itself unworthy of guarding.  Et tu?

 

 

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The War Comes to the Homefront-And the Strategy Is…

 

The most telling sign of the horrendous events of  London of the past few days that we as a society have begun to accept such horrors as the status quo, is  the recommendations of the constabulary.  Faced with the sudden and savage assault of terrorists bent on untrammeled, random murder and havoc, the metropolitan police of London recommended the latter of the ancient human physiological response to extreme stress, fight or flight.  A few brave citizens did not get the war plan and threw chairs, bottles, and whatever they could get their hands on in an effort to put up a defense.  The laws that specify that law abiding citizens in England should be unarmed leads to the need to find temporary artillery with temporary stopping power.  The highly restrictive gun laws assume that small firearms are dangerous weapons and the public needs to be protected from itself.  In the case of the helpless citizens of London under attack, the weaponless society as usual exposes the innocent law abiders to the fact that the attacking wolves are assuming the lambs are undefended.  The death toll of 7 dead and 21 critically injured may very well have been unavoidable with a different set of circumstances, such as conceal/ carry as in the United States. But the effect of knowing the immediate response of the citizenry is fight rather than flight, might bring the first hesitations to the next jihadist who  sees an easy prey for their fantasy of the power of death over the innocent.

The United States, though having a unique Bill of Rights that secures in the Second Amendment, a right to bear arms, has a similar aversion to the presence of firearms available for defense in public buildings.  The typical sign fronting essentially every arena, hospital, school and theater is the proud sign securing for the illegal gun carrier or person bent on public slaughter is that the law abiding people and and security personnel will be the ones who will be disarmed.  If one studies the worst of the gun violence statistics in the United States it is the ubiquitous presence of illegal firearms in cities with the tightest of gun restriction laws.  As usual, the criminal or prospective terrorist cares not a wit for the law, only its effect to leave those with something to lose with no means of protecting themselves.  Though, there is …run, hide, and tell.  Not exactly the pronounced societal retort immortalized for all free societies in the response of the brave citizens of Flight 93.

I am not trying to make a ludicrous argument that society’s gun laws have anything to do with the horrific tragedies we are facing in western society today regarding Islamist terror. The ‘losers’ as President Trump so aptly called them are not likely to be deterred in their willingness to do violence.  But we have to be more upfront in our willingness to defend ourselves and make it known we will not cower passively into the dark night. Deterrence is clear when a society declares itself ready to defend, and ready to dispatch the murderers where they stand.  We are a free people, and we will not run and hide. Freedom is not a privilege our governments defend for us, it is our right to defend for ourselves.  It is time for western governments not to run interference for these scoundrels, but seek them out and send them back to places where they won’t have to worry so much about despising a free civilized society.  If these governments don’t, don’t be surprised if people restore the proper balance to fight or flight, and become one with their own physiology.

 

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Venezuela: The Dream State Becomes a Nightmare

Venezuela : Socialist Utopia begins the inevitable process of turning on its own
photo attrib: Christian Veron Reuters

In 1921, the brutal Russian Revolution originally born in 1917, first, to overthrow the Czarist rule and subsequently, the nidus of a social democratic structure, was coming to a climax.  The Red Army, infused with the radicalist furor of the Bolsheviks, had nearly completely eradicated the White Army, a loose collection of monarchists, non-bolshevik democrats, and militarists that stood as a viable option to the installation of a utopian  manifesto facing the ever suffering Russian people.  Like all Socialist ‘dream-states’, the Revolution was predicated in convincing the mass of people of the coming egalitarian utopia, and ignoring the means of creation, a top down elite dominance over a servile proletariat, demanded of all utopian structures.  Two organized groups began to realize their view points, as part of their cooperation with the overlords in the Bolshevik structure, were no longer valued.  Faced by the severe consequences of communist rigidity in the economy, the soldiers, sailors and citizens that had taken up the mantle of revolution, now asked the revolution to respect their needs.  A rebellion against the overlords ensued, called the Kronstadt Rebellion.  The millions of peasants of Ukraine, the breadbasket of the developing Soviet structure, objected to the forced requisition of foodstuffs without any return or support of local needs.  The response from above was ruthless; the peasant response was to defend themselves against the theft of their labors, by forming the Green Army.  The result of asking for the egalitarian provision of the resources and bounty of the state as outlined in the Marxian manifesto?  The total crushing of both groups to secure the dominance of the overlords. The Revolution eats its own last, but inevitably.

The one hundred years since the revolution on Marxist ideals first succeeded on the planet have been littered with the same reality of socialism deviating from its theoretic idealized form, over and over and over.  The recruitment of the poor and dispossessed by leaders proclaiming a utopia denied by a capitalist elite.  The progressive recruitment of the nation’s resources and power into the hands of a few elite who claim a special objectivity and principled  character that allows them to make the crucial decisions for the masses. The hero worship idealizing the leaders that permit like minded elitists in other country to exult upon their idealism, and ignore their minder’s corruption.   The eventual collapse of the agreed upon interactions that maintain civilized human behavior.  The collapse of the compact between the governed and the governing – and the inevitable brutal clash where only one societal construct can remain standing — the oppressors or the oppressed.

From Russia to China, Laos to Cambodia, North Korea to Uganda, and Cuba to , now, Venezuela – the socialist revolution eventually eats its own.  the saddest stupidity in the never ending tragedy of injecting the ideal socialism of academic treatises into the real life consequences of human society, is that elites of the world continue to observe its successive failure as an example of the lack of purity of commitment and the nefarious undermining of individuals seeking “advantage” over others.  Never mind the millions of murdered, starved, imprisoned, and oppressed in the gulags of the Soviet State, the death camps of Cambodia, the starvation of the Korean masses, the slaughter of the Chinese middle class by the Red Guard.

Now, the world turns it’s lonely eyes to Venezuela.  The emerald country of South America sits upon the world’s largest oil reserves, a bottomless piggy bank to fund any conceivable socialist agenda for its  31 million citizens.  With the nationalization of the oil industry, Hugo Chavez secured the financial means of building the infra-structure lionized in socialist lore. “Free” health clinics and hospitals. Universal education.  Planned economy.  Expansion of government direction into every societal and individual decision.  The oil piggy bank also filled the coffers of the elite — making millionaires out beholden military leaders and judges, and billionaires out of the Chavez family.  the Chavez mystique was imprinted everywhere in Venezuela – the ‘fatherly” advice for his children, the Venezuelan poor, on television talk shows, the posters extolling his far sightedness in schools and buildings across the country.  For a while, the socialist ideal was artificially propped up.

The world’s leftist elites, enthralled with yet again another potential example of the superiority of marxist principles (they themselves would never accept the yolk of), flocked to this newest latest savior from capitalist reality.  The “charismatic” Chavez – socialist dictators always have to be “charismatic” to excuse their totalitarian instincts (as in the “charismatic” Castro or “charismatic” Mugabe) — unfortunately did not count upon the great equalizer. cancer, that would abort his life time appointment to lead his nation’s socialist revolution.  At the occasion of his funeral, the celebrity elites opined upon his ‘great father’ role for Venezuela.  Michael Moore – “Hugo Chávez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all. That made him dangerous”.  Sean Penn – “I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chávez and the people of Venezuela. Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of vice president  Maduro.”  Oliver Stone – “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chávez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.”

The great father Chavez in death turned the whole cabal into the hands of Nicholas Maduro, who made sure to continue the unique brand of hero worship, corrupt oligarchy, and the permanent stoking of the resentment of the poorer classes.  Unfortunately, the conversion of a difficult to control diverse economy into one 93% driven by oil and petroleum product receipts,  reached its nadir with the collapse of oil prices, in 2014.  The United States had discovered fracking, and suddenly the OPEC countries faced the sullen reality of capitalist competition.  In Venezuela, there was not enough money left to bribe all the officials, subdue the black market, and provide for essential goods.  Inflation destroyed people’s meagre savings, and essential goods — food stuffs, medicines, even petrol — dried up.  The not so charismatic Maduro packed the court and attempted to shut down the Assembly, jailed his opposition, paid off more aggressively the military, even began to form para-military fascist groups — the colectivo — to harass and cower the population.

Now, Venezuelans live the life of the socialist oppressed.  There is nothing to eat, nothing to fight disease, and progressively, no hope, whether you were once rich, or poor.  The elite cabal Maduro runs cannot let go, because they would  face the full fury of the enraged population.  The junta must fight the citizens, the citizens must fight back and the country progressively descends into hell.  The socialist virus must find another host to infect as this one is almost dead.

As Venezuela must endure its inevitable collapse throwing  off the socialist yoke, and its equally painful rebirth, the elites of the world, particularly the profound hypocrites that live in free market and free expression societies, will of course avert their eyes.  They will revert to lambasting their own bountiful providence, and work toward the socialist virus infesting itself deeper into the American host.  When Maduro falls and the country is adrift with parasitic warlords like Libya, or an even more terrible junta takes his place, the leftist elites will sigh, and look for the next carcass.

If only Chavez had been a little more pure, a little more stalwart….too bad.  It appears Venezuela wasn’t a worthy dream-state after all.

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Matador

attrib photo:www.dailymail.com

The matador lives in a world of complete peril, using concentration and will to exist in a very dangerous space where a beast infinitely more powerful then himself looks for any sign of weakness or fear to destroy him.   The matador gets the juice of having survived the closest of encounters threatening complete destruction.  The beast knows it has to make the most of this encounter, because as long as the matador lives on, the beast’s fate is sealed.

Donald Trump has lived his life assuming himself to be a supreme matador, but for every matador there is inevitably the reality of having made one careless assumption too many.  Last week was a perfect example of such carelessness.  The firing of FBI Director Comey and the ham-fisted communication, particularly the President’s incredibly undisciplined mouth, has lead the beast, the nation’s incestuous  partnership of established media and the its political arm, the Democrat Party, to believe its about to find its way around the capote de brega.  A long standing press tradition of seeing Democrat Party actions as righteous, but at times unaware, and Republican Party actions as anti-societal, and at times criminal, has once again reached hyper-agitated state.   Convinced that a President who on the campaign trail bragged he was willing to treat Russia “differently” , was the codeword for traitorous collusion,   sees the firing of the nation’s chief investigative officer the blunt tool of a cover-up. And boy does the media love Republican inspired cover-ups.

Trump, like a self confident matador unaware of his own sloppy preparation, thinks his limited tools of bluster and distraction will fool the beast one more time.  Maybe so.  The blood lust of the beast has its own overbearing certitude that made it possible for a complete neophyte like Trump to succeed in the arena of public opinion in the first place.  The public though superficially repelled by matador Trump’s clumsy ‘Tanda‘ technique, remain enthralled with the sheer blissful self confidence of the matador to engage such an unequal foe.

The success of the matador is inevitably based on the internal discipline and intelligence, to recognize what is possible and not possible in close proximity with the bull.   Trump’s tendency to see the world in black and white, those loyal to him and those not, may lead to further blind spots, that may place him in the perilous and vulnerable state more in tune with being the mortally injured but angry bull then the capable matador.

FBI Director Comey kept confusing his role to function as prosecutor rather than investigator, placing himself multiple times into the center of the narrative, rather than the dispassionate deliver of evidence to prosecutors whose role is to determine whether crimes have been committed.  From his ridiculous press conference of July 5th,  2016, in which he went into extraordinary detail as to candidate Hillary Clinton’s multiple law infractions regarding her private server, destruction of e-mails, and pathetic management of classified information as chief foreign officer of the land, only then to state that he had determined the actions showed extreme carelessness, but did not rise to the level of a crime, Comey showed himself to be incongruous to his position, and should have been fired then by President Obama.  Comey now sees himself as the public servant who has been blamed for the effort to be impartial.  Certainly, as Ramparts has discussed before, a true public servant who sees that his own principles have been compromised by others, has the appropriate option of resignation available to them — but Comey,  like most modern public servants, has enjoyed the spotlight, perks and power too much to avail himself of the dignified  and principled approach.

President Trump, whose communication style reminds one of a pinball on a pinball machine, responding and reacting in completely random fashion to every obstacle, buffeted by the combination of impacts, creates the environment for his own failures.  He is likely to respond to the current criticism by doubling down, with more disconnected thoughts and ridiculous tweets, that make him feel like he is fighting back, but undermine  further any constructive way out of the morass.  At some point if he is to survive his own amateurish indiscipline,  he is going to have to define an executive council of political and legal advisors around him that he listens to and respects, rather than a group of people that through their leaks appear as undisciplined and bombastic as their boss.

The Russia connection is a meme propped up by a Democrat Party unable to recognize their radical left persona has lead them to be abandoned by the electorate, and a press consumed with the glory that could come from ‘exposing’ another Republican Watergate.  The goal is to force the matador into a corner, distract him as long as possible to prevent any success, than go for the fleshy core beneath the capote, and strike to kill.  This matador   may provide them with his own sword for a self induced  estocada.  If the president cant get his act together and find some discipline, the press will have its glory, the Democrats the restoration of their assumed position as the anointed elite to manage the country’s inevitable controlled decline, and the nation, its best last chance to restore the unique balance of competence, accomplishment,  and individual freedom and fortitude that once made this country unique and great.

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The Last Raider

A Doolittle Raider Mitchell B-25B bomber leaves the deck of the USS Hornet April 18, 1942

In the lead plane, the fuselage visibly shook as two massive engines strained against the restraints, driving rpms sufficient to create the escape velocity needed to lift the fuel and munition laden bomber across and safely off the short 500 feet of flight deck available to them on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.  In the co-pilot seat sat Richard Cole, a 27 year old Army Air Corps pilot picked by his squadron leader Lt. Colonel James Doolittle, who likely gave him a brief nod in the noisy cockpit as the time to accept history was upon them.  No real time for nerves.  15 bombers and 75 crewmen behind them, waiting restlessly for them to clear.  Waiting since December 7th, 1941, to show the Empire of Japan the United States was wrong country to pick a fight with.

After the catastrophic surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States and allied powers were reeling from a well supplied and well trained imperial Japanese force trained in the most modern equipment and imbedded with the most ancient martial ardor. Ruthless and efficient, the Japanese spiraled into the South China Sea imperiling the Philippines, with a  tendril of American force clinging to Corregidor.  The strategic thinkers in Tokyo strove to convince the Americans and British that their destiny in resistance was in ignominious defeat, and they convinced themselves and their population that the battle would be fought on foreign lands away from the sacred homeland.

The Americans had their own psychology to worry about.  The greatest economic force in the world was well over a year away from adequate force projections against such a difficult foe, and it was not clear how long the American public would be able to tolerate defeat after defeat.  The goal after Pearl Harbor by American strategists was to eliminate the aura of Japanese invulnerability, and crack the fantasy of superior racial  will and capacity for sacrifice for the Emperor.  The Japanese had shocked the Americans with a complex and massive multi carrier strike across 3000 miles of ocean destroying a large part of the American navy at Pearl Harbor.  How could the Americans now with no functioning battleships, and 4 overstretched carriers possibly achieve a similar psychological blow?  The answer was divined By Lt. Colonel James Doolittle who almost immediately after Pearl Harbor envisioned a means of carrier projection that would strike the Japanese homeland itself and achieve an equally stunning psychological impact.  The crazy idea was not to risk the few carriers the Americans had in a suicidal mission involving fighters and dive bombers with short flight capability that would require the carriers to enter Japanese waters and almost certain overwhelming  defenses.  No, the crazy idea was to do something everyone thought essentially impossible, to use the carriers from longer distances and launch heavy bombers that would strike the mainland of Japan and have sufficient fuel capacity to continue to China, and land…. Crazy.

Doolittle, a test pilot and engineer, first proved on land he could take off on an extremely short runway on land then proved it on a carrier.  The mission would require bombers to fly as much as 2400 nautical miles to complete the mission, but nothing mattered if the fully armed planes could not even get off a flight deck.  With modifications, Doolittle had found his plane, the Mitchell B 25B midrange bomber, and in the three months since Pearl Harbor sufficiently modified it to achieve the concept of the mission.   President Roosevelt, willing to try anything to gain a foothold with the American public in a sea of bad news, approved the mission,  and the meticulous process of picking crews that were willing to try something never done before on a one way mission with no direct home of return was left to Doolittle.  80 men eventually formed Doolittle’s 17th bomber squadron, and on the second of April left the Alameda Naval Station loaded on the USS Hornet for the long trek across the Pacific.

The plan was to get sufficiently close to Japan to allow the fuel necessary to safely land in China, but on the morning of the 18th of April, the task force was spotted by a Japanese scout ship, and Doolittle and the Hornet captain, Mark Kitscher, determined to launch the bombers given the loss of the element of surprise, despite being a full 10 hours earlier and 170 nautical miles further out than planned.  The Hornet was turned into the wind.  Doolittle piloting the lead plane, and the 15 bombers behind Doolittle and Cole then accomplished the impossible in 40 minutes, all successfully launching a munitions laden bomber from a carrier flight deck, though none of them had ever done it before, or would do it again.  Flying low to evade detection, over six hours of nerve wrenched flying were required to reach the target,  Tokyo, but the insane nature of the attempt contributed to the Japanese complete surprise, and the bombers rose to 1500 feet  and managed to strike the heart of the Japanese empire, Tokyo with over 2000 pounds of incendiary  bombs each.  The physical damage was relatively minimal, but the psychological damage to the Japanese was immense.  It was clear that America had determined that the pain of war would be felt on the Japanese mainland from the war’s very start,  and an ominous hint of what was to come,  entered the Japanese psyche.

The brief glory of the successful raid rapidly turned to desperation for the flight crews as their realized the increased distance required to fly by the early launch had stolen their fuel reserves.  Some managed to reach the Chinese mainland into the hands of allied forces, but others had to ditch into the sea, and one crew was force to abandon their plane on Russian soil.  Of the original 80, 69 escaped capture or drowning, 3 were killed in action, and 3 others were eventually executed by vengeful Japanese forces.  Doolittle and Cole were among the 69 to return, and were among the pilots would fight again, and contribute to the eventual massive air destruction of the Axis powers.  Doolittle would receive the Medal of Honor and military immortality,  and Cole the Distinguished Flying Cross and the pride of a job well done.

Which brings us to Richard Cole, the co-pilot of Doolittle’s lead plane on the Tokyo raid, who stood at 101 years of age on April 18th 2017, the last survivor of the those heroic airmen who 75 years ago achieved the first blow against Japan in a mission so impossible no ever tried it again.  Every year after the war to celebrate their accomplishment, the men of the 17th bomber squadron would get together on the anniversary and toast their fallen comrades. A stand filled with upright goblets, upon which each goblet was etched with the name of a surviving raider, was placed in the room, and as time took crew members, each was toasted with cognac, and the goblets of the fallen were successively overturned.   With each decade the numbers of upright goblets grew fewer and fewer, and the group’s mortality was etched for all time when Doolittle’s goblet was turned over in a toast to their fallen leader in 1993.  By 2016, there were just two left, Cole and 94 year old David Thatcher, and on June 22, 2016, Richard Cole was the last man standing.  On April 18th, 2017, the final goblet remains upright, and it has become Richard Cole’s destiny, to be the Last Raider standing.

The men and women of the magnificent generation that braved all to save the world from a dark, soulless future are rapidly leaving us forever. They are now only faint memories in faded photographs, flickering newsreels, and history books.  But everything they were, they always will be,  as they faced true madness and through heroic sacrifice and personal will, gave us all one more chance at a better world.  To all the World War II veterans, from Richard Cole, to my own father, God Bless you and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Oh, how you soared like eagles.

Oh, how you soared.

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It Gets Syria-ous

USS Ross fires tomahawk cruise missile towards Syria                                                      washingtontimes.com Robert S. Price/ U.S. Navy via AP

 

Its been fun and games for opponents and media deriding the inexperienced Trump administration’s floundering around as the new President has adjusted to the massive difference between being an outsider deriding leaders for their actions or inactions, and being the leader of the world’s most powerful nation and head of the world’s most demanding bureaucracy.  The President has been his own worst enemy becoming fixated and pitching conspiracy theories in a badminton match with opponents regarding Russian influence and spying, while simultaneously driving a premature health care process into a political muddy rut.  The difficulty of having a tradition of gut instinct for decision making rather than a carefully developed principled philosophy has made the President look disorganized and reactionary.  His opponents on either side of him, a position he created himself by suggesting he was the ultimate ‘outsider’, are circling like vultures over an assumed terminally injured animal.

This past week however the job suddenly got serious, and the President, under estimated every step of the way thus far, is showing himself to be tenacious if not a quick study.

The hardest skill to learn for any president is the ability to project themselves as commander in chief of an unbelievably powerful weapon, the US military, without committing the force into a role antithetical to its purpose.  It requires real dexterity and recognition of the levers and dangers of escalation, when the country’s vital interests are not directly at risk.  Do nothing, and the enemy sees only a paper tiger and a corrupted and dithering power.  The puny response of President Clinton in the face of Osama Bin Laden’s massive provocation with the embassy bombings and the attack on the USS Cole led to the Al Qaeda leader’s confidence that his movement could survive a 9/11 response.   Do too much and the Powell Doctrine of “you broke it, you own it” becomes an ominous trap for any President.  Iraq and Libya come to mind.

Syria has proved to be a Petri Dish for both modes of superpower involvement.  The Russians have inserted themselves in the center of the conflict, resulting in any failure of survival of the dictator Assad being a direct reflection upon their abilities, and being splattered with the casual brutality of the same dictator.  Assad, a survivor like his father, recognizes that for dictators who are clinging to power, no force vector is too horrible to retain that power.  Assad looks to chemical weapons (curiously presenting after Saddam Hussein’s stockpile disappeared) as the ultimate nondiscriminatory terror weapon of intimidation.  Having used them previously, Assad faced a President in Obama who drew a red line,against their use, putting his country’s very prestige and resolve on the line,  that in humiliating fashion a week later he withdrew and did nothing, fearing a quagmire he had no intention of risking.  The message was clear – Assad need only give Obama a superficial out, and the President would leave him alone.  A Potemkin village agreement to “remove” chemical weapons from Syria was promised by Assad.  Obama pretended he had solved the problem, to the extent that as recently as January of this year, his buffoonish National Security Advisor Susan Rice bragged about how Obama had achieved the elimination of such weapons from Syria.   Assad knew Obama would do nothing, and was willing to use them again, this time under the nose of a new president who as a private citizen disparaged President Bush for drawing red lines with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Citizen Trump and President Trump may well not be the same person, and this week the world took notice.  The President showed real skills in this week when the game got serious. Consider the balancing act.  The irrational despot dictator of North Korea Kim Jong Un shot a ballistic missile off, threatening Japan and the United States with an impending ability to secure a nuclear warhead on a rocket that could reach either nation.  Trump had to respond, and sent advanced weaponry to South Korea including B-52’s, having his Secretary of State announce that the US policy of strategic patience regarding such belligerence from North Korea had ended.  But was that just typical empty bluster from the US?  Assad took the signal to test Trump himself with the horrid chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun with Sarin gas, resulting in torturish deaths of scores of men women and children.  On Thursday Trump declared the action a crime against humanity, and responded promptly with a lethal measured fist full of ominous portent, blasting the airfield in Syria where the planes carrying the gas attack had based, while simultaneously meeting with the Chinese President regarding his seriousness confronting North Korea’s threat.  A powerful message reverberated throughout the world.  This President wasn’t blustering.  The North Koreans knew the Syrian bombs were symbolically pointed at them.  Assad’ s partner the Russians, realized their hegemony in Syria was at an end.  Assad reacted but knew his partners the Russians were going to not be happy with further escalation.   The Chinese, who have supported the increasingly deranged Kim dynasty in North Korea for the buffer it achieves against having a successful capitalist democracy being established on their border, took note that Trump would not use empty rhetoric, should the Chinese want to test him in either North Korea or the South China Sea.  The Syrians realized the next event would potentially end the dictator’s residual chance to stay in power.  The Iranians from a distance realized the next provocative act in the Straights of Hormuz against US ships may not be passively accepted.  The allies of the US appreciated the superpower had awakened from its lethargy.

Now that’s Exhibit#1  how you play the serious game.

The media hoped to control narrative to paint Trump as unhinged and somehow responsible for the refugee disaster in Syria, but the clarity of Trump’s approach resonated in profound ways that flummoxed the reflexive liberal media that always assume their superficial view of the world and the negativity regarding the U.S.’s role in it is shared by everybody.

The mess on the foreign stage that has been left to this President is going only get more serious, but at least, the world has been made aware, there’s a new sheriff in town.  The sound you are hearing from many parts of the world, is a quiet sigh of relief.

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Yearning for the next Great Awakening

Methodist Camp Meeting  1819

 

The Christian world is anticipating the most important days on the calendar.  From Palm Sunday,celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, through the events leading to the Last Supper, the solemnity of Good Friday reflecting the Passion of Christ culminating in the crucifixion, and the subsequent Resurrection on Easter Sunday,  the believer reflects upon the immense events in reflection towards their own life in faith.  The hunger for meaning in life, once served to overwhelm any situational material deficits or abject circumstance.  We in the West, however, live in an ever more post Christian world, where belief systems and faith are considered archaic vestiges of an earlier age, when science and progress were not available to rationalize one’s life and provide a secure safety net.  The post Christian world makes a virtuous life obsolete, and the countries of Europe now celebrate a world without boundary or differentiating belief system.

America in many ways, however, was uniquely formed on the foundational rocks of  such religious belief.  The desire to find a land unfettered by preconceived notions of rule and open to individual expression of religion was the original driving force of the fragile colonial settlements and their eventual diverse belief systems.  The land was so large that close proximity with an alternative belief system was dealt with simply by moving to another part of the wilderness, then, taking root.  The founding of the country as a country driven to achieve independence and freedom through revolution was an outgrowth of this intense view that Providence had led the immigrants as pilgrims to a chosen place, where they would build their “city on a hill”.   Each man built himself a kingdom of faith and virtue, and looked to his leaders to preserve his right to do so.

This tendency towards individual spirituality set the new America apart from the trends of the larger western world.  Obviously influenced by the great movements in Europe of scientific method, rational thought, and humanism,  the founders nevertheless imbued their new constitution with the very first article of its constitution assuring no interference or bias of the state with religion, to vaccinate the new country against the orthodoxy of an overbearing state apparatus.    Europe, however, caught on the same wave of the Enlightenment, had no individually driven core faith  to suppress its inevitable excess.  The French Revolution surged into post belief rationalism, its Declaration of the Rights of Man devolving into a Reign of State Terror, destroying elements of faith as shackles of orthodoxy, establishing the State as the new authority, the Citizen as its soldier, and even the old calendar eliminated for its reference to a belief system antithetical to the regime.  A year Zero was proclaimed, with its implication of a force greater than the human intellect, and the negation of all past belief systems.   A post Christian world was thus born in Europe and the rattled concept of faith has been under attack ever since.  Over time the churches have emptied.  Anti-individual movements such as communism and its less threatening but equally demanding cousin globalism have installed their new religions, the war on values and virtuous behavior, the elevation of Nature as a God in Climate Change, and the denigration of any path that does not achieve equality of outcome.

Each time America looked into the world of a post Christian Europe, it resolved to restore itself.  These cleansing movements, known as the Great Awakenings, are laid out beautifully in Paul Johnson’s epic one volume history A History of the American People .  The most significant renewals, occurring in the first and last portions of the nineteenth century, were  reactions to the progressive oppression of “science” and “progress” on the concept of individual belief.   Common people spontaneously gathered to hear and experience the word and power of faith and virtue in an ever more secular and faithless modern world.   As a larger civilized post christian world threw off the restraints of virtue, Americans restored it time and time again as a core foundation of who they were, and what they wanted to be.  Through the epic battles to expunge slavery and achieve civil rights, the mantle of a greater belief system then practical reality drove a continuous improvement process.  Virtue as cleansing faith stoked the painful purifications, the central core of American spirituality was emoted in Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

The Great Awakenings occurred spontaneously and from below, requiring no organized  religion to drive the yearning for a life restored to fullness through faith.  Our current time, so fully immersed in the material wants and needs of generations never before so free from want and need, has left us vulnerable to those who still hold value in a belief system, no matter how tainted the belief system is with violence and prejudice.  The Islamist looks with disdain upon the lack of core belief of the west, with empty cathedrals, absent morals, paucity of virtues,  and lack of willingness to defend their civilization.  The migrant Islamists wall themselves off from such rudderless lives and demand the dispassionate state support them,  while they await the inevitable collapse of the cratered society that no longer respects itself.

With the strange events of the past year in Western society, perhaps a Great Awakening is again beginning to form and a sense of individual dignity and purpose will surface.  A society that can not define a greater good, can not survive a progressive bad.  To believe in something more than oneself, and to see one’s self as redeemable, is the essence of the Easter miracle.  It requires no regulation or doctrine for guidance, only faith in the message of redemption in a virtuous life.  As the philosopher C.S. Lewis proclaimed:

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:        not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Happy Easter.

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Democracy Makes a Little Comeback

Joint Session of Congress

Don’t look now, but the democratic process is making a little comeback.  On March 6, 2017, the Speaker of the House of Representatives proposed a structural bill to re-imagine health care in the United States.  Almost immediately and uniformly, everybody found something wrong with it.  And Ramparts couldn’t be happier.

The difficult, but ultimately elevating process of real legislative action under the influences of a functioning democracy is a wonder to behold.  The United States Congress, that had abdicated its responsibilities over the last several decades in leaving bill philosophy and structure  to the mercy of “experts” and regulators, and adjudicated budgets to the dustbin of history, suddenly finds itself awakening from a Van Winkle like sleep to find the country shocked by the November outcome in a much different place.

Ramparts railed against the damage being done to democratic vitality by the abdication of the legislative branch in 2011:

Madison recognized the legislative process as coming closest to mirroring the will of the people. As designed, representatives would review and vet the merits of the law in committee, debate and adjust it, assess its effects on the general good and its expenses to the general treasure, then representatively vote, so that a record would be available to the voting population to assure compliance with the will of the people in the next election, or adjust the legislature accordingly. The entire process commands that the people have a will, and that the will of the people is respected. Legislative branch has suffered most under the modern corruptions of lack of civics understanding, money of special interests, and general disinterest in the common good and importance of governmental restraint. In the past few decades, laws have achieved epic status, thousands of pages in depth, so that no serious vetting of their effect is feasible. Committees have given themselves up to poor attendance and lobbyist influence with legislators forming their opinion before reviewing a law’s consequences. The massive influx of money has made legislators progressively immune to the ballot box, and more willing to do the bidding of the interest that is supplying them with their re-election funding than for the voter citizen. The citizen has become ignorant of the importance of informed voting, and has accepted lax standards as to the sanctity of the vote, the propagation of numerous “democratic” votes to preserve non-democratic and self serving governmental mechanisms, and dis-interest in the outcome regardless of its effect on the society that has protected his rights for over 234 years.           Ramparts – Can Our Democracy Survive Without A Legislative Branch?  March 27, 2011 

The so called American Health Care Act and following close behind it, a proposed Budget by the Executive that actually outlines priorities in a budget that balances the effect of the priorities, are like an enormous breath of fresh air to the process of democracy.  For too long, the United States had simply functioned without a budget, operating on reconciliation bills, because no one had the courage to both list the nation’s priorities and attempt to fund them in relation to each other.  The draconian sequester process forced ceilings on spendings regardless of priorities because there was simply no courage to do the hard work of arguing over relative value in a world of limited resources and determining that some might need pruning in order to invest in others more urgent.  Committees met to determine the speed of growth of programs, not whether their existence any longer fit the current priorities of the nation.  In the end, the every other year process of electing officials to do this work became only a relative break on the speed of governmental dominion, not the direction or value.

In similar fashion, the so called Affordable Care Act of 2010 was passed with members of the legislative branch voting for something they had never seen, recommended by leadership to vote for it so they could learn what was in it.  ‘What was in it’ was a mechanism for the total re-write of American health care by bureaucratic regulators that would assure no interference with the inevitable investment of the government to assure  every health decision be codified in an extra-legislative fashion.  The bureaucracy grew 25%  to assure this path became immutable.  Within 6 years, the ‘expert’ bill fashioned by the elite, crashed upon the shoals of this very lack of vetting and revision the legislative process was designed to achieve through hard fought compromise.  Some achievement.  Some legacy.

Nobody likes the American Health Care Act, because this time its been proposed and immediately peppered with the many shades of interest a nation’s various constituencies empower in its elected officials.  It will be diced, sliced and remodeled by these competing forces, and when it is done, it will be available for round after round of revision.  Just the way its supposed to work.  The budget and taxes will follow close behind, and in the end, the legislature will have realized that the founders wanted just this kind of discourse and national conversation, the kind that underlies a vibrant and healthy democracy.

It’s a shame that the Democrat Party stubbornly insists to remain on the sidelines, and only throw rocks at whatever is proposed and what ultimately passed.  Rocks that are going to bounce off the ramparts of real democracy, ultimately to strike those who don’t participate in strengthening our future through real give and take.

Van Winkle. Our nation is starting to awaken.

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Asking For Trouble

What Could Go Wrong?

There was a time where a new administration was given a little room to maneuver, assess the lay of the land, and propose their version of the future.  It was euphemistically called the ‘honeymoon’ period.  With the tensions of the political battle settled by the democratic vote, all sides took a breath and allowed the usual mild chaos of coming and going administrations as a typical price for the democratic tradition of peaceful transition.

So much for past munificence.  We are in a time of open wounds and feeding frenzies, and the careful accords of a functioning democracy are teetering on the brink of real trouble. Yet, the leaders of this society, pushed by the most fragmenting and anarchic of their base, continue to push blithely toward the edge of no return and project a smug happiness about their actions.  The carefully balanced blocks of our civility could come tumbling down and woe to those who pretended that their actions were independent of the calamity.

The President gave a speech to a joint session of Congress the other night and asked for the focus and attention of all on the nation’s values and societal challenges. He presented the following radical notions.

  • the nation should stand united against all hatred and prejudice.
  • the nation should set an agenda of improvement that will be in keeping with the appropriate 250th anniversary celebration of the founding of the nation
  • we need to marshall our strengths to defend our borders, defeat the epidemic of drug addiction, restore our neglected inner cities, and keep our promises to the American people
  • we will reduce stifling regulations that stand in the way of entrepreneurial advancement of the society
  • we will restore our defense capability to prevent threats to our nation’s security from gaining traction
  • we will restart the engine of the American economy to help those who have been left behind
  • we will ask for all parties to work together to fashion an immigration process that supports stability and the rule of law
  • we will ask all parties to work together to restore health care access and affordability
  • we will ask for support for education reform that provides opportunity for disadvantaged youth
  • we will ask that our international partners play a meaningful role in operations to preserve free societies, and pay their fair share of the burden to defend themselves.
  • we are one people, with one destiny, with shared values of freedom and civic duty

Half of the audience, and half of the country behind them, could not see a sliver of commonality in any of these vision statements of our shared challenges.  They could not see the value in rising to their feet to salute the sacrifice of one of their own brethren in a fair off land who sacrificed his life for their freedom.  They could not hear any hope, any desire to improve the country, any recognition of the means to restore the nation’s pride, stability, prosperity, or leadership in the world, delivered by an individual that they have determined is illegitimate, because he won an election they assumed was theirs.

Within hours of the speech, the talk has returned to undermining the new leadership at every turn.  The ‘dark state,’ the permanent bureaucracy tied to the agenda of statist philosophers,  demands investigations, leaks confidential information, calls for resignations, declares chaos, shrieks invectives, and obstructs in a developing meme they refer to as the #resistance.  The President, a pugilist at his core, lashes out with a nefarious  eye for an eye mentality, darkly suggesting the previous President dictatorially used the enormous powers of the dark state to directly spy on him as a candidate.

Each contributor to the madness positions themselves for posterity rather than focus on the nation’s needs.   The left violently disrupts free speech and the exchange of ideas on campus, disrupts town halls with organized chaos, form fit news into pre-baked descriptions that bias any objectivity.  The right stands back and picks apart every idea that is not ideologically pure, and waits for the President to fail so they can be proved right that he was not philosophically worthy.  The middle loses any faith in the democratic model to address the societal issues , as every issue is  assigned as a win or a loss in the epic war for a singular society in which the outcome is predetermined and only one version of the truth exists.

We are asking for trouble, and trouble will find us.  If real threats arise, will we be paralyzed by our differences and unable to respond in a concerted way?  If there has been real malfeasance, have we lost the capacity to stand up for equal justice and the rule of law?  If any of the President’s visions bring a form of success, will we be incapable of recognizing it and investing in the momentum?  Would we throw 250 years of human progress away, out of spite that progress must be in keeping with the principles only we recognize?

President Reagan recognized the frailty of our society and the role each generation must play in recognizing their responsibility in preserving the experiment in freedom:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

Every day we cannot be at war with each other, or we will be unable to recognize when real conflict begins.  Building greatness is not about being great.  It’s about structuring the society so that each at least has the chance to be great, in their way, and in their time.  We can argue about the means to attain the idealization of our values, but if we are arguing our very values, then the American experiment is truly done.

Let’s get off each other’s backs. Let’s point toward what we can get done, and get to work.  You don’t have to be comfortable with every version of success, to recognize that success is a desirable outcome.  To everyone who wants to simply sit on their hands and wait for the ship to finally tip over,  find another occupation. We simply can’t hold up winning any longer to make you feel better about yourself.

Dr. Larry Arnn is the President of Hillsdale College, an institution of learning that is dedicated to the idea that values still matter, and learning is a journey of discovery that should build on all of our accumulated wisdom.  He’s afraid for the future of this free society. Take some time to listen, and start your healing.

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From Russia With Love

Sean Connery teaches the bad guy a lesson in… From Russia With Love    1963

After 8 years of resetting relations to a much more mature realpolitik level under the careful direction of Barrack Obama, the world has awoken to the realization that  suddenly the Russians with willing accomplices are undermining democracies.  As if.

The nefarious Russians are apparently under every anti-liberal rock and a massive conspiracy at the level of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is under way and must be ruthlessly expunged.  We are at one of those wonderful hypocritical crossroads where liberal thought can’t maintain a single intelligence stream of logic, when it comes to America and its place in the world.

There was a time when liberals considered the efforts to identify and  eliminate Russian influence as hatespeak.  As told in mythic form in movies and coffee houses all over America,  the fascist and drunken buffoon Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin initiated a witch-hunt in the 1950s to expose Russian communist influence in the American government, and created a holocaust upon American values in which liberal individuals with supposed communist ideals were accused of being influenced and influencing America at a time of great threat to our liberal notions of a free people.  Now the left is asking for a witch-hunt to expose Russian influence in the American government, in which conservative individuals with supposed fascist ideals are accused of being influenced and influencing America at a time of great threat to our liberal notions of a free people.  Light the Torches!

The first Russian mole in the government has been rousted out by the torch carriers, General Michael Flynn.  President Trump, when he was just Donald Trump, found a soulmate in General Flynn that gave the candidate-to-be some gravitas.  The general was no slouch.  Flynn, who had rose to the illustrious  three star rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Army, was considered a star in intelligence circles and had been named head of the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama in 2011.  Opinionated and brusk, he did not easily mesh with the Obama Administration who saw only one strategic thinker, Obama, and retired in 2014.  Post government, he continued to speak his mind and was unsettlingly comfortable at times with non-traditional relationships with foreign governments that spoke to his poor political antenna.

The disgraced, brief National Security Advisor
General Michael Flynn

A former democrat like Trump, he saw in Trump a compelling figure who might be capable of injecting Flynn’s anti-Iran Great Power World order philosophy to American foreign policy.  When the upset of upsets occurred on November 8th, 2016, Trump loyally looked to Flynn to be his National Security Advisor, placing him at his career pinnacle of power and influence.  And thus, the first piñata to be broken in the Trump Administration was nicely positioned.   In just three weeks, Flynn’s questionable contacts and difficulties in working with others, particularly Vice President Pence, the designated adult in the room, did him in, and he was asked to resign.

Unlike President Obama’s administration, it appears the Trump Administration understands the concept of resignation when the individual places the administration or country at dissonance with the stated values.  General Flynn, a non-consensus character type, inappropriately positioned by President Trump  in a job that is designed to achieve consensus opinion, did the right thing and resigned.  The inarticulate President, who continues to attempt his own Russian reset, while mangling his outreach in lousy analogies and lousy syntax, allowed the myth of Russian ‘control’ of American democracy  to rise from the position of Democrat Party excuse for its own brutal incompetence, to a story that implies the new found liberal Russia haters are evangelists for protecting American  freedom and security.  Again…As If.

That said, there are obvious issues in underestimating the malevolence of Putin or any other previous totalitarian Russian leader’s desire to influence, undermine, and confuse American resolve.  The track record is there now, just like it was in the 1950s, when it was ‘laughed off’ by those who did not want to see the very real penetrations into the government in the form of Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, or the Hollywood Writers Guild.  Free societies can protect free speech, without subverting itself to the darker forces, and Garry Kasparov deserves to be heard when the enemies of freedom extend their reach malevolently.  At the same time, the slop that passed for internet security first when Hillary Clinton determined to engage in felonious behavior by utilizing an unprotected private server to expose confidential American information to any high school level hacker, then, the ridiculous sloppiness of the Democratic National Committee through John Podesta, who looked to confuse a grade school level hacker with the password to his account, Password, were no challenge to the first class hackers employed by our enemies.  None of this was Trump’s or Flynn’s doing, and none of it required special Russian desire to infiltrate American politics.  The losers of November 8th, 2016 set themselves up for their loss, all by their lonesome.

The real scandal is not that foreign governments will take advantage of our own sloppiness  as we would take advantage of theirs, but that the means for the destruction of the National Security Advisor of the United States, was promulgated by the ‘hacking’ of confidential information by leakers within our own government, and released to the willing press hoping to take the new leader down a few notches.  Putin doesn’t have to do anything to undermine a society that is willing to undermine its own values for political gain.   The General is gone, but those who were willing to undermine him stay behind and are better moles than any Putin could hope to pay for.  When the bureaucracy feels it is more important than the American experiment in governance by the People , it won’t take a Russian Czar to threaten our future. We will accomplish it all by ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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