Wolves and Sheep

 

Venezuela Protests February 2014 - redalertpolitics.com

Venezuela Protests February 2014 – redalertpolitics.com

The flagship of the ideals of free thought and democracy, the New York Times, sees this past several weeks as a quiet time.  The Sunday FrontPage,  liberty’s window onto the world, reports, in order, articles on concern about growing medical bills, reviewing the drone war, eulogy to a naturalist author,  complaints about the lack of progress in making illegal immigration legal, and tactics to overcome the untoward  influence of the Koch brothers in the national discourse.

In less important and underreported  news, the Russian kleptocracy swallowed whole 18000 square miles of a neighboring sovereign country’s territory without a struggle, and the largest oil producer in South America remained in flames as its people refuse to buckle under the all encompassing yoke of a socialist dictator.

Reporting Hope and Change has become progressively difficult with all this chaos around. The sheep grazing quietly in the grassy fields of democracy’s prosperity arguing over who deserves more grass, are blithely unaware of the wolves of socialism stalking their periphery and quietly infiltrating the herd.

The founding fathers in their wisdom recognized first and foremost the greatest weapon sheep would ever have against the wolves, the ability to sound the alarm through free speech, and it is here that the socialist wolves seek to wound, and weaken the herd for destruction.  The very first amendment of the Bill of Rights states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Socialism under the guise of statism seeks to unlock the meaning of no law, and change it to no law that doesn’t serve the interests of those who would effect law.  The fury of statism last week  was loosed upon the Supreme Court of the United States, that by a five to four vote, determined that limiting an individual’s ability to express their opposition through financial restraints limited their free speech.  In McCutcheon versus the FEC, the Court determined that it was not the government’s role to determine what is “good” or “bad” speech. Chief Justice Roberts  stated that ” the First Amendment does not protect the government, even when that government purports to act through legislation reflecting ‘collective speech’. ”    The statist champion of Hope And Change, President Obama expressed his “disappointment” about the ruling, on his way to another fundraiser. For statists the weapons of choice are the quiet infiltration of the wolves amongst the pack –  the FEC effecting limits on individual free speech expenditure, the IRS clamping down on opposition non-profit political grassroots organizations,  Obamacare removing any personal interpretation of responsibility for life decisions and ceding it to the government. One small victory for the sheep.

Disappointment isn’t the word of the day for the brave people of Venezuela who apparently unbeknownst to the New York Times are under violent attack for the very notion of expressing their opposition to statism and socialism.  We must go to foreign newspapers again for any perspective on the events in Caracas and other cities in Venezuela. The primitive killer instinct of the government wolves is in full bloom,  taking scores of lives, placing the political opposition leader in solitary confinement, making other opposition leaders scurry around in disguise, and daily breaking up peaceful assemblies of people in opposition to their domination of individual aspiration. What are they protesting? The government’s inability to provide the most basic of services, protection against crime and delivery of sanitation, while the government demands control over all facets of life including food. A fight that speaks to the very essence of the foundation of the rights of individuals the New World fought so hard to attain.

The statist wolves  in America don’t yet experience active opposition to their infiltration.  The  disappointment with the Supreme Court is a temporary setback.  There are other sheep vulnerably exposed.  The CEO of Mozilla Brandon Eich is fired because 8 years ago he gave some money to an organization in support of traditional marriage.  Columnist Mark Steyn is sued for libel for daring to suggest that the “data” used to create the settled science is fraudulent.  The Koch brothers, supporting libertarian candidates are the focus of evil in the statist world, when they are only the 59th largest contributors to the political arena, grossly overwhelmed by the statist supporters such as George Soros and government backed unions.

Every day the wolves are ever circling, and the sheep continue unaware, only occasionally protected through action by the few shepherds among us.

The people of Venezuela are fighting the fight that the rest of us sheep better wake up to.  We are the main course on the statist wolves’ dinner table, and the wolves’ appetite is insatiable.

 

 

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The Painful Journey Towards the Pursuit of Happiness

EPICURUS

EPICURUS

The middle class of Venezuela continues to daily protest their government’s destructive domination of their lives, despite overwhelming force.  A Ukrainian battalion, completely surrounded by invading Russian forces that have stormed their base, parade, and in unison, sing their country’s national anthem.  An owner of a small machine shop in Texas decides to assure integrity in democracy, starts a democracy education program called True The Vote, and brings the whole weight of a “weaponized” American government upon her head.  A group of auto workers in Chattanooga Tennessee reject collective union representation at a Volkswagen plant because “we have good jobs with a good company, and joining the union risks those jobs.” A intensely conservative politician Rand Paul gets a standing ovation from the most liberal statist population on earth at the University of California/Berkeley , when he states the government should get out of the business of monitoring individual lives.

What’s going on?  Governments the world over have assumed the post modern human has accepted the benefits of a collective community and the security it offers against hunger, inequality, and safety, and are finally willing to subvert their uncivilized instincts for  utopia.  Why don’t these people see the advantages of being taken care of and just accept the facts of life? Its that darn free will.  It just keeps rearing its untamed head and refuses to submit.  When Thomas Jefferson unleashed the power of language to define this very fundamental human instinct as unalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, he brought ancient truths to modern concepts of the individual.

In the depths of history, some 25 centuries ago, Greek philosophers already recognized innate genetics of the human animal.  They saw that the power of intellect would have unpredictable consequences when herd tactics were taken by the strong upon the weak.  Epicurus, the father of individual happiness, defined it as the human’s need to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Good and evil, moral tenets, found their place in Epicurus’s world as expressions of pleasure and pain – Good was pleasurable, Evil was painful.  The achievement of  pleasure, however, could submit to a painful path, if the ultimate outcome by undergoing a painful interlude would ultimately lead to significantly more pleasure.  Although the ultimate expression of happiness might be found in a modest life devoid of controversy, the acceptance of challenge, even instability, however painful, could still provide the fuel for the achievement of a better life, as that individual perceived it.  A world of “self control and determination”, not anarchy.

Epicurus got the opportunity to school other Greeks in his thoughts, as did the Stoics with their desire for order through the avoidance of moral corruption, and the Platonians for their desire to attain an ideal state devoid of the ephemeral pleasures of the sensate world.  Diverging philosophies were all part of the individual acknowledging his own perception of the world around him and responding according to his intellect.  Certainly this could work for several hundred thousand Greeks living on millions of acres of Greek lands.  Can the modern man be philosophical about his individualism in a world where for instance in Bangladesh,  2,850 people compete for every square mile?

Pursuit of happiness. Sounds simple, but what profound strains of human existence it symbolizes.  The Putins, Maduros, Khameneis and Obamas of the world continue to struggle with the notion that individuals can not cotton to these statists’ constant need to define what is good for you.  The force of the statist impulse is overwhelming, but inevitably weakened by the  individual intents of tens of millions of intellects that see real power in the freedom to determine one’s own destiny. In a world that seemingly has given up its flower of humanity to the strangling vines of security and safety, the inability of statist powers to stamp out  this ongoing need to be human, and free, gives us all a tendril of hope.

Tianamen Square - 1989

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Duck Soup

Marx Brothers Go To War

America’s Marx Brothers Go To War

The President of the United States announced on March 17th, 2014, a firm response to the belligerent moves of Russia who has unilaterally achieved the schism of the Crimea from Ukraine into Russia, in the biggest land grab since Herr Hitler demanded the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938.  Not to be caught in the historical mistake of mimicking Neville Chamberlain who allowed the dictator Hitler the uncontested assumption of a massive part of another country on the basis of the presence of “indigenous” Germans as a “majority” of a minority of a country,  Obama determined to make a stand that would make sure the Russian dictator understood and felt the painful consequences of his act.  President Obama announced that seven rich Russians close to Putin would have their frequent flier miles rescinded and their free checking removed.

We live in farcical times. The President has a unique habit of declaring lines over which no one would dare to step over, only to have everyone step over with impunity.  Is it feasible that he does not see that not everyone views him as the overarching intellect without compare, as he views himself?

Are we to expect that the lines can continue to be “drawn in the sand” without consequence?

The President of Russia has engineered the consumption of a massive portion of an independent country and this is the best we can do in response?  What will President Obama’s response be when the indigenous majority of Hispanics in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California vote to be part of Mexico?  What will President Obama’s response be when the Lanape tribe demands more than the 60 guilders they accrued for the sale of  the island of Manhattan to the Dutch?  What will President Obama’s response be when China lands a man on the moon, takes a vote, and declares the moon Chinese by unanimous election?

I don’t like to take any of this lightly, but farce has its own dark humor.  We have lost our compass so severely with this President that one wonders if the ultimate joke is yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Birthday Celebration for Those That Live in the Shadow

 

Frederick the Great plays, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach at Keyboard -wikipedia

Frederick the Great plays, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach at Keyboard -wikipedia

Yesterday, March 8th, was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s birthday.  Born March 8th, 1714 to the most illustrious of fathers, Johann Sebastian Bach, one can feel some sympathy for C.P. Emanuel as the role of living in the shadow of greatness is not always the easiest of jobs.  It is fitting to celebrate Herr Bach’s birthday though as, all things considered, he held up the family mantle rather well.  Somewhat better of a politician than his father, he ended up in the court of Frederick the Great, and in his lifetime was well known across Europe for his own prodigious talents at the clavier and composition.  Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven all recognized his contributions, George Philipp Telemann was his godfather – you could hardly do better with a set of connections such as that.  Yet as for all offspring that had to stand in the shadows of the brilliant suns that were their fathers, C.P. Emanuel faced the battle of achieving happiness and personal accomplishment permanently measured against the Promethean accomplishments of his progenitor.

We might take a moment to acknowledge a profound contributor to advances in sediment transport, Hans Albert Einstein. Maybe hydraulic engineering doesn’t exactly elicit the same awe as the Theory of Relativity, but Hans knew about sedimentation, and his father Albert was proud of him as a full professor at Cal Berkeley. Or Ernst Freud,

Ernst Freud's Modernism Architecture

Ernst Freud’s Modernism Architecture

an architect in the Art Deco to Modernist style, who generally allowed none of the submerged psychological conflicts outlined by his father Sigmund to confuse his clean and accessible modernist style of architecture.  John Quincy Adams managed to achieve the height of success that was his father John’s legacy, the Presidency of the United States,  but a generation removed from the concept of founding a revolutionary democracy, he is not about to have David McCullough write a book about him.

Unfortunately, there are also the legacies of greatness that devoured the sons that seem to be telling.  Charlemagne’s son Pepin was potentially gifted the Holy Roman Empire as heir to the throne, but misfortune was his calling.  Two strikes were present upon Pepin’s birth and youth that doomed him to history. The presence of significant scoliosis made him Pepin the Hunchback, not exactly the impression the first Emperor of a continental power wanted to project to his people as his progeny, and additionally Pepin had the misfortune of his father’s contracted relationship with his mother Himiltrude deemed illegitimate, making him in mid-youth a bastard son and out of the line of succession.  Such blows of fate are not exactly historical foundations for greatness.  Pepin responded like all diminished sons, spending the majority of life plotting against his father, resulting in his permanent banishment to a monastery, and guaranteeing no statues commemorating Pepin the Hunchback.  Randolph Churchill was the son Winston and the great, great, great, great grandson of the Duke of Marlborough.

Randolph Churchill - son of Winston

Randolph Churchill – son of Winston

Unfortunately he was also the grandson of Sir Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father, inheriting his grandfather’s tendencies for poor choices and rash behavior.  Living in the shadow of the man who saved western civilization is obviously a burden that would be great for any offspring, and Randolph cascaded between jealousy, alcohol, and womanizing, obscuring the additionally present familial character traits of courage, adventurous spirit, and literary talent.  He paralleled his American compatriot, James Roosevelt, son of Franklin in that both felt the pull of politics that defined their father.  But though both James and Randolph eventually were elected to political office, neither could establish individual identities from their famous fathers, and their political careers floundered.  Randolph late in life seemed to find stability in writing for history his father’s legacy through a biography of the famous father, but his alcohol driven poor health, crashed this salvation in its infancy with his death in 1968, just three years after Winston.

And that brings us back to Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, not ever to be confused with his father on the Mount Rushmore of composers, or perhaps even with his somewhat more innovative brother, Johann Christoph Friedrich.  All in all, given the immense legacy he labored under, C.P. Emanuel Bach proved to be a decent composer, a respected intellect in Frederick the Great’s court, and a pretty good piano (clavier) player. Not bad.

Happy Birthday, Carl Philipp Emanuel.

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The Most Irrelevant Man In The World

The Empty Podium

On October 24, 1973, in response to the rapidly deteriorating position of the Arab forces during the Yom Kippur War against Israel, The Soviet leader Brezhnev sent President Nixon a communique stating

“I will say it straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter, we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider taking appropriate steps unilaterally.  We cannot allow arbitrariness on the part of Israel.”

The Russian leader was expressing  to the leader  of the United States its determination to increase its belligerence with any evidence of increasing Israeli advantage in the conflict against its Arab client states.  Brezhnev was implying that the Soviet Union was expecting the United States to stand aside as the Soviets injected military forces into the region, or face the consequences of direct contact between the Cold War foes themselves.

There is no video of the President of the United States’ response to this provocative communique.  There is no public response, as none was necessary.  The United States proceeded to reinforce Israel through supply, move Sixth Fleet forces into the Eastern Mediterranean, and increase the readiness status of its world wide forces.  The Soviet Union understood exactly what this meant.  The President of the Soviet Politburo Nicolai Podgorny pretended  bewilderment at the aggressive response, and expressed it was not reasonable that the Soviet Union be engaged in a war with the United States because of Egypt and Syria, and the KGB head Andropov recommended reduced Russian provocation because the United States was clearly “too nervous”.  The Soviet Union recognized that a regional conflict had been elevated silently by the United States president to the position of the direct national interests of the United States, and was therefore no longer a conflict with controllable consequence.

This moment achieved the elements necessary for all parties to determine to find a way out one of the most dangerous moments for the world since World War II.  The cold war foes the United States and the Soviet Union understood the rules of the game – and the capacities of each without the need for either to assert in public these rules and thereby risk possible humiliation and loss of control of dangerous moments.

This careful understanding of capacity, national interest, regional roles and need to control events without potentially dangerous humiliation was the central focus of all diplomatic efforts during the Cold War.  Presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, knew that, what was at stake when they expressed themselves was inherently and fundamentally more than their personal reputations.  The President of the United States and the Premier of the Soviet Union realized that in public they were the personification of the national identity of their powerful countries, and their spartan use of words had to reflect their profound responsibilities, their actions, to send clear and precisely understood messages as to consequences.

This was the diplomatic concept that President Obama has spent almost six years of Presidency undermining and disassembling.  From the public disdain for the previous President’s foreign policy, to the public apology tour of the President across the world, to the inaction and indifference to constant challenges to American prestige across the globe, to inane public announcements of so called “red lines” for the United States which are crossed then ignored, to the pathetic public “reset” with its traditional global opponent without the careful development of alternative responses for poor behavior- the president has publically and foolishly confused his public persona with the country he represents.  This narcissism is leading to calamity after calamity and somewhere someone is going to make a tragic mistake.

During the republican convention of 2012, the actor Clint Eastwood pretended to have a conversation with the President, speaking  to an empty chair. The unfortunate truth is that this actor’s prop may have been the most illuminating caricature of this President that could possibly be made.  The picture of the empty Presidential podium above has become an unfortunate symbol of this president, as he has with every overexposed public word, become increasingly irrelevant to management of world events.  The latest “red line” announced by the President, the movement of Russian troops into the Ukraine to reinforce their Crimean interests, was humiliatingly ignored as soon as he said it.  The enormous danger of having a leader who believes his personal views are the world’s views is progressively coming to bear.  Having the most powerful country in the world, led down an incalculable path by the most irrelevant man in the world,  is a story that is going to have a tragic ending, and stories like that, are ominous and ugly for all of us inhabitants.

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Liberty Has Its Own Timetable

Kiev Independence Square - jeffmitchell/getty images

The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants

– Thomas Jefferson

On February 21th, diplomatic representatives of the European Union, the President of the Ukraine, leaders of Ukrainian opposition groups, and Russian foreign diplomats agreed to a compromise to seek a way out of the violent upheaval in the streets of the capital city of Kiev and across the Ukraine.  The plan sought a reduction in the current president’s powers and earlier elections then planned for the nation’s federal offices. Solemn remarks of the participants after the agreement suggested it was the only way out of the crisis.  The EU’s Polish representative Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski told opposition leaders, “If you don’t support this deal, you will have martial law. the army. You’ll all be dead.” An agreement was signed and the current government had achieved some breathing room. President Yanukovych, the hated focus of the protestors for selling out the Ukraine to Russia after previously agreeing to a stronger relationship with the European Union, was allowed to remain President to the next election.

Apparently no one asked the opinion of the people of the Ukraine.

Revolutions don’t seek compromise, they seek fundamental change.  And what was seen as a mob driven protest by the negotiators was instead an overwhelming surge of national conversion, driven by the blood of 100 dead and thousands injured in the violent battles in Maidan Square.  Blood was not spilled for compromise, but for liberty, for the country to direct its own future free of Russian domination.  The political leaders did not recognize the depth of conversion that had taken place.  Within hours of the agreement, the fundamentals of government control began to crumble in the face of overwhelming public pressure.  Opposition leaders, explaining the agreement to the masses were shouted down, and the call rose for the immediate resignation of the hated President.  The police, sensing the shift, began to side with the demonstrators.  The army stood aside as the nation convulsed in determination.  Governmental offices were overrun.  President Yanukovych, sensing the sand shift from beneath his feet, hurriedly abandoned the capitol for the supposed safety of the Russian speaking city of Kharkiv.  What he found in Kharkiv was ten of thousands of more protestors and his ability to exit to Russia blocked.  The Ukrainian parliament voted for his impeachment, and arranged the release of his imprisoned rival the previous Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.  This incredible 24 hours of events is reported minute to minute by the UK Guardian in a way that current American newspaper organizations could not hold a candle to.

One week ago, President Putin of Russia was sure he had bucked up his satrap in the Ukraine with enough money to use what ever means necessary to maintain governmental control, and Russia’s dominant position in the affairs of the Ukraine.  A week later it appears his dream of a greater Russian confederation in the style of the Soviet Union is in tatters.  As it turns out, money can’t buy everything.

Maidan Square- Kiev Ukraine   voanews.com

Maidan Square- Kiev Ukraine voanews.com

The people of the Ukraine have achieved through their blood and determination a chance at a better future.  Given the miniscule current backbone of the United States and the European Union, however,  it is an uncertain one at best.  Putin may yet prove to be a Brezhnev, who 1968 sent his tanks into Prague, or achieved the silencing of  Solidarity with marshal law in Poland in 1981.  He has suggested on multiple occasions that he sees the inaction of Gorbachev allowing the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989-1991 as the mortal sin of governance.  With tens of thousands of dead in the Chechen republic battles he is not about to go “weak kneed” in the face of a few hundred dead in Kiev.

Whatever the outcome, the people of the Ukraine, and less recognized but equally passionate, the people of Venezuela, have determined that casual acceptance of a life under socialist tyrants is not their vision of a livable future.  The world, including the previous citadel of individual freedom, the United States,  continues to slide in governance to a progressive socialist mediocrity.  It is no surprise that large bureaucracies like the EU, felt it important to tell the Ukrainian opposition that, aspirations aside, the agreement for a surrender to managed decline was the best the people could hope for.

The message from Kiev is that the understanding of and desire for Jefferson’s eternally defined rights has not yet been eliminated from the face of the earth.

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.

Thomas Jefferson

And THAT – is what its all about…

 

 

 

 

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El Pretendiente Is No Bolivar

Simon Bolivar - The Liberator

Simon Bolivar – The Liberator

On September 7th 1821, General Simon Bolivar stood astride a liberated land colossus of current day Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Panama and northwest Brazil as President of the republic of Gran Columbia.  Born of the age of Enlightenment, and intensely shaped by the American and French Revolutions, Bolivar envisioned the possibilities of his own native Latin America and with brilliant strategy helped by 1825 to eject the Spanish overlords from nearly half the Latin American continent.  A fervent admirer of the American experiment and philosophy of Jefferson he none the less differed from the American founders in two significant ways.  He was virulently against slavery, and he felt the 400 year Spanish rule of the region had corrupted the capacity for unfettered democracy.  He described the Spaniards as having dominated through unholy triad of “ignorance, tyranny and vice”, and that it would take a firm leader to shepherd the people to a point where their own aspirations could be fairly realized.

Simon Bolivar, a son of Venezuela born in Caracas, but father to the hopes and dreams of an entire continent, could not know that his efforts to mold the concepts of the American dream to a Latin American version of paternal guidance, would lead to two hundred years of pretenders, who would corrupt Bolivar’s vision and retrench the concept of master rule.

The nineteenth century of nationalist dictatorships gave way to a twentieth century of military dictatorships, with patchy occasional experiments with democratic process. The new century has found an even more disturbing model in Bolivar’s home, Venezuela. A military coup leader, Hugo Chavez, who in the fine tradition of South American militaries unsuccessfully attempted in 1992 to overthrow the democratically elected government  of Venezuela, was elected in 1998 to the presidency of Venezuela, on a

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

platform of providing the poor with their fair portion of the bounties of the state.  After his failed coup in 1992 and brief imprisonment, Chavez was released from prison, and determined to learn from the coup master Fidel Castro as to how to attain ultimate rule. Castro’s unique combination of fascist and socialist tenets, creating one man permanent rule and a progressive destruction through socialism of a nation’s economic fabric, had succeeded in holding Cuba for the Castro family for fifty years.  Chavez saw Venezuela as prime for a similar future, with one spectacular advantage Castro could only dream of, Venezuela’s huge oil reserves available to fund the vision.  Chavez had learned well from Castro, and declared upon winning the Presidency, “the resurrection of Venezuela has begun, and nothing and no one can stop it.”

Nationalizing the oil wealth and reorienting media and government to fit his vision, Chavez ruled for 14 years, progressively organizing the socialist state to permanence, and was stopped only by cancer leading to his death in 2013.  Using the Castro concept of “permanent revolution”, he was able to suppress rising discontent from the Venezuelan middle class that had progressively to pay for the brunt of his anti market strategies.  Learning from Castro the necessity of fascistic imagery, Chavez put for his charismatic personality in similar form, wearing the uniform of the revolutionary, promoting the concept of an “indispensable” leader, railing against anyone who saw through his cartoon image.

The plan broke down with Chavez’s cancer, and he was forced to find a substitute who would continue the process of centrally dominating the Venezuelan society.  His clone was to be Nicolas Maduro, a union leader of bus drivers, who had worked his way up Chavez’s inner group, and had the willingness to maintain the grip on power that would be necessary when the charismatic Chavez was no longer on the stage.

Nicolas Maduro

Nicolas Maduro

Maduro has positioned himself to be the natural successor to Chavez’s one man rule, creating laws for the purpose of centralizing military and police power, declaring”economic war”, and requesting emergency dictatorial powers.  The typical effect of socialistic management and fascistic cult  worship is leading to a historical collapse of Venezuela’s economy, and the people are getting tired of the pretender to the cult.  Maduro is no Castro, no Chavez, and definitely no Bolivar when it comes to charisma and is responding to progressive societal unrest with all the subtle reflexes of a union thug.  Average Venezuelans have seen the oil wealth  squandered to create a price control economy  now with an inflation rate of 56%, among the highest on earth, with massive shortages of daily necessities, such as medicine, food, and even toiletries.  Maduro has responded to the unrest in the nature of a strongman, using force to suppress protest, resulting in injuries and death, and increased suppression.  Like Ukraine earlier this year, Venezuela is heading for a showdown and the cap on significant violence may be uncapped in a horrific way.

Simon Bolivar hoped that eventually the yoke of Spanish intimidation, once lifted, would allow the flourishing of a better life for Latin Americans  in a land of immense resources. His problem was that he presumed that the men who would follow Bolivar would be upholders of the Rights of Man, not pretenders to the goals of his revolution.  The false promise of the twin deceivers of socialism and fascism is that they exist for the benefit of the people. As the current  Pretendiente Maduro in Venezuela, like all before him, has proven, the only ones who will ever see a better life in the socialist reality are the elite, and the rest of us are left to accept their good graces if they so desire.

As for the violent suppression of a people, Washington DC is likely once again to stand silently by.  After all, we have our own Pretendiente to consider.

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Sports As Epic Story- The Kaiser in Kitzbuhel

Franz Klammer 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics

Franz Klammer 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics

The 2014 winter Olympics at Sochi has had its fair share of distractions somewhat obscuring the always interesting stories behind competitive sport.  Pictures of inadequate toilet facilities, rancid water, Olympic rings that don’t open  and overbearing Russian presidents have distracted from the games inherent value, the celebration of human capacity and courage.   I have no doubt, though, that great accomplishments will soon take over from the other nonsense and give us some really stirring memories.

Sport is unique in that characteristic – creating a universally shared suspense and awe at what the athlete, challenged, can achieve.  The venue is intense competition without violence.  The Olympics, specifically, allowing nationalist fervor without the need for rancor.  In some venues of course, the lack of violence does not imply the lack of pressure or the lack of danger.  There is perhaps no more dangerous venue to the athlete than the Alpine Ski Downhill, and perhaps no less forgiving of an error.

There have been many great downhills in my memory that etch intense memory, but nothing comes close to the accomplishment of Franz Klammer at the 1976 Winter Olympics.  The story has all the components of an epic, the tension of watching something unbelievably special unfold.  As acts of profound human accomplishment in the face of overwhelming pressure, the Kaiser at Kitzbuhel has them all beat.

Austria is a nation of skiers and assumes their champions will represent the country as champions at the pinnacle of the sport. The test for the Austrian athlete is demanding – win and be immortalized, or lose and be forgotten.  In 1976, the Olympics came to Austria at Innsbruck, and fittingly, the one of the most epic two minutes in sport, the Men’s Downhill, was placed at the most demanding course for that event in the world, the Streif run on Hahnenkamm mountain in Kitzbuhel.  The Streif, a run with a 840 meter vertical drop and average 27% angle of decline with maximums of 40 degree inclines can break the will of the most courageous skier.  The word, loosely translated from German as “graze” or “streak”, lives up to its foreboding reputation from the very outset, with the skier instantaneously assuming top speeds  approaching 140 kilometers an hour. The course enters almost immediately into the famous ‘mousetrap’ where a jump of  nearly 300 feet leads to an almost immediate left turn, resulting in severe gravitational compression and many falls off the course. The run continues with steep drops, hairpin turns and infamous limited visuals that can bring the bravest skier to feel apprehension not only for failure but for injury or worse.  In a race often determined by hundreds of a second in outcome, a moment of hesitation can be fatal to success.

In 1976, the most prideful Alpine skiing nation hosted the greatest skiers on its greatest downhill course, and put forth its greatest champion.  Franz Klammer known as the Kaiser for his domination of World Downhill from 1974 onward, was the greatest of Austria’s formidable team, and was holding the entire nation on his shoulders when he took the last run at the Streif on February 5th, 1976.  He trailed the defending Olympic champion, the great Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, by a half second, with the course rutted, icy, and extremely treacherous from the courses of so many previous competitors.

The Starthaus at the top of the Streif at Hahnenkamm

The Starthaus at the top of the Streif at Hahnenkamm

Klammer was considered unconquerable in the downhill event, having won 8 of 9 on the world championship circuit and genetically bred for this particular downhill and its terrifying turns.  Regardless, it is difficult to identify with the pressure he felt when he stared out of the starting gate down at the mousetrap and the perils beneath.

Of course, that’s where champions live – the place the rest of us can only dream of.  Klammer, with the weight of his country and his own sense of history on his shoulders, determined to leave all caution behind, and release his skills at their maximum, regardless of personal risk – and see what would happen.  What happened of course was epic. The world watched a person defy physics skiing at the edge of control and disaster, and determining go even faster.  On two occasions, he seemed completely out of body control, hurtling sideways, and heading into hay bales and fences. Most of the time he somehow controlled speeds of 60 to 80 miles an hour on one ski, absorbing ruts and ice with perilous angles.  His goal after all, was not to finish, not to survive – but to win.

The grainy video does not do the original visual full justice but the announcers let you know what is being witnessed, because they know the fine line this man has chosen between victory and perhaps death. It is perhaps even more intense in local television broadcast.  The Kaiser at Kitzbuhel made all of humanity shimmer that day in the glory of a man conquering his own mortality, and a nation explode in the pride of watching someone prove to be even better than advertised.  With such moments, sport reaches perfection.

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People We Should Know – #25 Milt Rosenberg

Milt Rosenberg     For almost 40 years, when most of the world had converted what is considered entertainment into a certain kind of superficial fluff, the Chicago radio station WGN stubbornly held on to an anachronistic concept of entertainment that was unavailable in almost every other forum.  From 1973 to 2012, in the evening hours on WGN  a very special idea that learning and enlightening listeners through conversation could be a popular form of entertainment, was made possible by a unique man, Dr. Milton Rosenberg.  For decade after decade, Dr. Rosenberg with a mesmerizing voice, commanding intellect and bottomless interest in a universe of conceivable topics captivated his audience with thousands of interviews with the famous and unknown, topics great and obtuse, side by side.  The concept that quiet and in-depth discussions with individuals most knowledgable in their area of expertise could survive in a culture where the acquiring of  opinions have progressively been based on feelings rather than facts and logic was revolutionary.  It could not have been done without the special personality and abilities of Milton Rosenberg.  The fantastic legacy of this program is one of the major influences that formed the logic for the existence of this blog, as is why Milt Rosenberg is Ramparts  People We Should Know-  #25.

Milt Rosenberg was already a distinguished professor when he started with WGN in a cultural affairs program that eventually became the program, Extension 720.  With a doctorate earned in Psychology, Dr. Rosenberg had already been a teaching professor at distinguished universities such as Yale, Dartmouth, Ohio State and the Naval College, when he became a full professor at the University of Chicago and became involved in the radio program.  The concept was a two hour conversation with an expert or investigator in the subject of the evening, followed by an hour allowing the listeners to call in and ask the host and the expert questions.  The subject was ‘everything’, or as Dr. Rosenberg put it, “just about everything except pop psychology and poodle trimming.”   Night after night year after year, listeners could hear in depth discussions from scientists, writers, reporters, historians, actors, and politicians, the growing influence of the program bringing prestigious guests as diverse as Carl Sagan, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Bob Feller, MArgaret Thatcher, George Will, Mark Steyn and David Brinkley.   It required Rosenberg’s magnificent mind and voracious study habits to make each interview an enveloping thought process, rather than a question and answer session with shallow questions and staged answers.  It was brilliant, it was wonderful, and it was interesting.

In 2012 at age 87, Dr. Rosenberg’s program as a regular feature on WGN was finally terminated, and a special piece of American culture was thought to be lost.  The wonderful thing is that despite Dr. Rosenberg’s advanced age, he remains a powerful intellectual force and is completely in tune with the times.  He has seemlessly moved on to the current great foum of ideas, the internet, continuing to entertain people with wonderful conversations now available in podcast form sponsored by the website Richocet.com which is hosting the current Milt Rosenberg Show where Milt is continuing with ongoing wonderful energy and brilliance the ideas central to the original Extension 720.  Even better, he is assuring that the almost 4 decades of radio history that encompassed his show will now be made available to current generations with a thirst for knowledge through conversation, by subscribing at 45 dollars a year to the library of all his previous radio shows.  It is a treasure to go back and listen to a Henry Kissinger, a Martin Gilbert, a Margaret Thatcher at the height of their intellectual powers review the pressing ideas of their day, and for me has been already worth every dollar.  I don’t now how long Dr. Rosenberg can keep it up, by I am certainly cheering him on as tries to preserve for all of us a vanishing form of discourse that can so enrich our lives. For his many years and ongoing efforts to bring the richness and diversity of learning and knowledge in a comfortable form to all of us, Milton Rosenberg is Ramparts  People We Should Know-  #25.

Milt Rosenberg interviews Martin Gilbert on the Life of Winston Churchill

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Why Don’t We Care About Facts Anymore?

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

 

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The latest Harris polls have come out this past week regarding the state of the country’s confidence regarding the nation’s management and future and they are grim. Powerline reviews these polls in anticipation to the President’s State of the Union address and finds that Americans by an almost continuous ratio of three out of every four citizens feel the direction as to managing the large challenges of this country, whether the environment, economy, education, health care, jobs, or foreign policy, is poor.  The conclusion is that this is one of the most comprehensively pessimistic index of American confidence ever.  What contributes to such pessimism and drives the most self correcting government mechanism ever developed to drive a Lamborghini of countries off the cliff?

I think it is as John Adams once said – “Facts are stubborn things.”

The country has spent the past fifty years of its history increasingly turning philosophically to the measuring stick of Values rather than Facts to guide its direction. Values and what they say about us are infinitely more comforting then dealing with the harsh realities of facts.  Values declare an ideal world as it should be and define a truth that does not require a carefully constructed argument based on facts.  It is an unpleasant sensation to recognize that people should respond and how they react in reality to facts are dissonant.  The very liberal but factually enlightened Daniel Patrick Moynihan discovered this almost fifty years ago when he made the mistake of critically assessing  the social effect of government’s war on poverty on a specific group, the nation’s African American poor.  As a disciple of Lyndon Johnson, Moynihan was determined to find the government’s aggressive effort to wrench the nation’s poor out of poverty successful,  but found instead dangerously opposite trends in the reaction of the population to the “help”.  The positive values in the civil rights movement overlaid with  the timing of the war on poverty were assumed to create an environment of opportunity and safety net that would improve the situation for the average urban poor – but Moynihan was finding disturbingly opposite trends.  The crux of the issue seemed to be the fact that illegitimacy and single parent families were exploding in what had been a population that had lagged but at least paralleled the rest of the nation’s population in terms of economic progress and family stability.

This wasn’t a liberal versus conservative argument.  Certainly Moynihan as a staunch liberal wasn’t rejecting the concept of the nation providing a strong hand in helping its nation’s poor or overturning hard won civil rights.  He was instead pointing to facts and the need to understand them in guiding policy.  What he and other factualists were not prepared for was the spectacular blow back from value biased proponents that vilified the report, not for its logic, but for its argumentative ‘illegitimacy’.  In the values world, the facts suggested an effort to “blame the victim”, and imply a racially tinged “promiscuity” to the urban poor that was opposite of Moynihan’s argument.  Although many bright individuals saw similar trends to Moynihan’s observations, the corrective actions that might have helped generations of poor were stamped out by the a progressively entrenched group of powerbrokers that felt they ‘owned’ the values argument, and that being non-judgmental regardless of outcome was the appropriate judgment.

What neither Moynihan or much of the nation recognized at the time was this values movement, philosophically being non-judgmental about fact and result meant being progressive and politically correct, would overwhelm all the naturally corrective capacities of adjusting to facts.

Fifty years later, and trillions of dollars of right minded non-judgmental expenditure has left us with gaping holes in urban poor education, family stability, economic capacity, and confidence in the future.  No set of facts are up to withstanding the blizzard of invectives regarding victimhood, accepting any socially dissonant behavior,  or continuing to explode the budgets of failing programs designed to “help”.

This willful ignorance and war against facts and their basis to constructively correct actions is the foundational cause of this nation’s pessimism.

The values movement has metastasized in many elements of policy discourse, particularly the economic ones, as significant money is to be made from arguing victimhood. The enormous redirection of funds to “modify behavior” in order to “save the world from global warming” continues despite the overwhelming evidence that the so called “settled science” of anthropomorphically induced  global warming has collapsed.  The pouring of trillions into “stimulus” projects when  economic fundamentals suggest the opposite effect to economic growth incentives is created.  The crash of health care stability against the desire to make it more fair or equitable, rather than better.  The value of democratizing populations that hunger for stability rather than unencumbered elections before any other societal stabilizers are in place.  The throwing away of thousands of years of educational concepts on formative development for the desire for each individual to be allowed to ‘ seek their own place’ in what they are educated on, with its resultant disastrous effect on cultural literacy.

And on and on and on.

Facts are stubborn things. Human behavior follows fairly recognized paths that our social engineering efforts often helplessly thrash against.  The country is growing increasingly pessimistic because it can’t discern a way out of this mess; it can’t see that good intentions unencumbered by factual adjustment lead only to further deterioration.   We are trying to be good by trying to do good, with the opposite effect resulting and contributing to our fatigue. The cure would be in accepting facts to lead to improving the conditions that would lead to progress against society’s ills, rather than projecting value judgements that perpetuate their very existence.   The cure would be in listening to voices that discern the balance between values and facts necessary to begin to build some confidence back into the system, and trust the correcting capacities of the system as it was designed, not as we wish to manipulate it.  As Senator Moynihan presciently stated so many years ago, no one owns the facts.

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