War Against the West: Paris Joins the Notorious List

Eiffel Tower displays French patriotism after the November 13, 2015 terror attacks

Eiffel Tower displays French patriotism after the November 13, 2015 terror attacks

A coordinated set of carefully drawn out attacks on the night of November 13th, 2015 in Paris, France by Islamic assault troops   resulted in the deaths of 129 and the wounding of 352.  The aggressive reaction of the stunned and aggrieved French nation was to close its borders for the first time since World War II, initiate a international manhunt, declare the event as an act of war, and bomb the assumed headquarters of the marauding ISIS in Syria with multiple bomb strikes.  In other news, the President of the United States reiterated his claim that the terrorist clique claiming responsibility for the attacks was “contained”.

Somebody has lost his mind.

Let’s remind ourselves briefly of the extent of our previous  ‘containment’ of this problem:

September 11, 2001  New York/ Washington DC/ Pennsylvania        2996 deaths                   October 12, 2002      Bali, Indonesia bombing                                        202 deaths                                       October 23, 2002     Moscow Theater hostage massacre                       120 deaths                March 11, 2004         Madrid Train Bombings                                            191 deaths              July 11, 2005             London Train Bombings                                            52 deaths           November 28, 2008  Mumbai  Terrorist Attacks                                    171 deaths         September 11, 2012   Benghazi Consulate  Assault                                   4 deaths                 April 15, 2013               Boston Marathon Bombing                                      3 deaths                July 7, 2015                 Paris Charlie Hebdo Attacks                                   20 deaths

Of course, such a short list leaves out the hundreds of other bombings, near bombings, beheadings, kidnappings, knifings, and shootings that didn’t quite make the list but were every bit as lacking in ‘containment’. It is a world wide war where at least one of the combatants doesn’t feel the least ‘contained’. It has succeeded in carving a caliphate out of Syria and Iraq, weaponized parts of the Sinai, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.  It sees an enemy willing to perform self containment,  accepting hundreds of thousands of refugees infiltrated by the marauders themselves, passively watching the progression of genosides, focusing on the self immolation on the pyres of global political correctness, and downsizing their defense structures at every turn.  It is almost beyond what any marauding barbarian force could possibly have hoped for.

The French at least have recognized the last outrage for what it is: an act of war in a many year series of war acts.  They have responded with what they once disdained of President Bush – taking the war to the enemy on his home ground, to weaken his ability to project upon your own – but even the French felt constrained.  They dropped 20 bombs on the alleged ISIS headquarters in Syria; the average major raid in WWII dropped ten times that many.  No troops followed to rout the survivors, take territory or put the enemy brigades on the run.  No this was modern western strategy – get mad, get even, then, get lost.  Even that was better than the President of the United States who still feels this is a battle formulated by wackos who don’t want to get with the program, rather than  legions of holy warriors.

The President has perceived that in the long view political victory in the struggle will be achieved by avoiding  physical victory, against an enemy fighting a holy war for whom defeat is simply not an option.  He is of the opinion, that given room, the enemy will come to its senses.  His enemy thinks that whenever room is given, the gift comes with  the invitation to take more room.

On a Friday night in Paris, people went out to enjoy a meal, a soccer match, a concert, and live out the gift of free society. In just a few minutes, the gift was taken forever.  Lighting in color a few buildings in solidarity is a nice touch, but its not going to bring anyone back, or dissuade anyone jihadi from trying a worse cataclysm the next time western civilization lets its guard down.  It would be nice if after all the playing of defense, we played a little offense, and let this clique know their days are numbered.




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# An Unserious Country

"News" on the phone

“News” on the phone

On a recent Ricochet podcast, conversation centered around a commenter’s observation that America had become a fundamentally unserious country.  The specifics of the observation centered upon the current Presidential debates as compared to the content of the 1960 Presidential debate between candidates Nixon and Kennedy.  The essence of the 1960 debate is recalled to have centered upon an in-depth discussion by the candidates regarding America’s role in the world, her security, and whether a potential “missile gap” existed between the United States and the Soviet Union that threatened the uneasy peaceful existence created by the policy concept of mutually assured destruction.  In contrast, the recent presidential candidate debates have focused on  the perceived need for government to regulate fantasy football, whether one candidate considered the other “ugly,”  and what candidates “hated” most.  We are surrounded by burgeoning societal debts, immigrant crises, provocative totalitarian movements, genocides, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and crumbling of value structures without clear vetting of what is to take their place, and we are comfortable with our potential leaders defining each other as a “loser”, “dumb”, ‘ugly” or “lazy” in our search to find people who will have to address the world’s increasingly  complex problems.

Where does such unseriousness come from?  Being oblivious to growing problems is not a new phenomena per se. Each generation’s interpretation of the succeeding one had the patina of derision regarding their ‘seriousness’ in addressing life’s challenges.  The Lost Generation that propelled out of WWI was considered drifting and aimless. The Silent Generation between the wars was self absorbed and capable of superficial frivolity, yet bore what was eventually the Greatest Generation of WWII. Leave it to the greatest among us to have introduced to the world the Baby Boomer Generation  that redefined self absorption for all time. And so forth, through Generation X, the Millennials, and the current Generation Z.

There are many contributors for producing the current brand of unseriousness of the country given the problems faced, but a few rise to the occasion of this brief essay.  First and foremost is the death of civics and geography in the insight of those who would hazard opinions on the formidable problems we face.  The concept of citizenship seems a tired relic of the past, formed from the concept of the dreaded nation state.  A nation state had borders, a shared philosophy of citizen-hood, and a conviction to defend those ideals.  In the case of many of the nation states of the West, the border has become porous cheese, with the unvetted intake of individuals who are looking only to the economic benefits offered by the acceptor nation, with no intention of absorbing its principles of citizenship.  The nation state progressively demands little in the way of preparation of either its immigrants nor its citizens regarding the responsibilities of a citizen in acknowledging the country’s geographic reason for being or foundational principles.  Ask the average citizen the difference between the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and a blank stare emanates. Further emptiness in rationalizing concepts as to how and why the borders developed, why individual states exist, and how resources historically determined the facts on the ground.  What has replaced such concepts is a general globalist vagary that has the depth of a television commercial as to “shared” responsibilities for big ideas like equality of outcome, keeping the oceans and earth safe from humanity, and allowing the equality of all cultural concepts no matter how devastating they may be to the individuals who suffer under them.

Second is the profound self absorption that increasingly dominates public discourse in the form of victimhood.  Born out of legitimate attempts to understand the effects of crime, historical inequities, and the economic forces that determine outcome of opportunity, the discourse has deteriorated into infantile rants that remove all notions of self responsibility and with it the understanding that in a free society an individual can effect control over their own destiny.  The tools of individual improvement, most profoundly the strength of a classical education based on analytic thought, ability to digest and understand complex ideas, and obtaining the knowledge base necessary to eventually expand one’s knowledge has devolved into reducing measures of accountability,  providing education that revolves around victimization not actualization, and denigrating true achievement.

Third is the overwhelming influence of social media, that has reduced complex ideas to bulletin board remarks, dramatically reduced the digestion time on events to discern their deeper meanings and undertones, and elevated the tyranny of public scorn onto every dissenting thought. Take the Facebook promotion of the Hillary Clinton candidacy pictured above. What do we want? – We want a Woman Presidency, We Sure Do. Does it matter what her opinions might be on the issues of the day, her previous performance in leadership positions, her character for addressing the great responsibilities inherent in such a position?   Not So Much.  At a guttural level, social media weaves the superficial emotions that occur at the breathtaking speed of the internet to firm opinions without measured consideration or the value of dissenting opinion.  This has invaded the so called Fourth Estate – the traditional journalism that was structured in the world of freedom of the press and free speech itself to hold leaders accountable for their actions, investigate in depth their process of decision making, and root out those that would take extra-constitutional or dictatorial means for achieving their ends.  In a society that increasingly won’t read and reflect, the headline gains in stature, the edited video stands in for the historical record, and the depth of comment is quickly superseded by the next attention getting superficial event.

And thus so usually defines the collapse of civilizations.  The Roman citizen more interested in the gladiators battling in the Coliseum than the gladiators defending the empire’s borders.  The British King more interested in maintaining his colonies’ obedience than adjusting and modifying his approach to their grievances.  The West has had quite a run, but the mighty battleship hides a rusted infrastructure that is progressively at risk to catastrophic collapse from a well placed shell.  We best get more serious in our approach, or when the vaunted shell comes, we may find ourselves in the middle of a hostile ocean with no lifeboats to be found.  Now that, is down right #serious.

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People We Should Know #28 – Augustin Hadelich

Augustin Hadelich

Augustin Hadelich

Every once in a while, you see something that transports you so much you start to think maybe there is still hope for us homo sapiens.  Everything you thought you knew about hard work, preparation, capability and profound comprehension are shown by someone to exist at a higher plane than you ever thought possible.  That was my concert experience recently watching and listening to Augustin Hadelich perform Beethoven’s D major Violin Concerto with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.  One of those generational talents, Hadelich at a very young age appears to have grasped the dual oracles that are provence of only the greatest of performers, pyrotechnics and poetry, and welded them into an artistic whole.  We are consumed with the apparent demise of glorious, elevated expressions that seem to have faded from western civilization after a 500 year renaissance, and then someone like Augustin Hadelich comes by, and you realize we are going to go forward for a few years more.  That is why Augustin Hadelich is Ramparts People We Should Know #28.

Augustin Hadelich is an immigrant American citizen,  born and raised in Tuscan Italy by German parents.  It may well be that the cultural life forces that are Italy and Germany have infused themselves into a perfect concoction.  Sunny Italy with its romance and poetic view of the beauty of life.  Earnest Germany with its craftsman precision and its teutonic discipline.  Born in 1984, raised on a farm in northern Italy, Augustin showed prodigy talent in a musical family, but it took a catastrophic accident to bookmark a whole new level of genius.  At the age of 15, Hadelich was horribly burned over two thirds of his body, and for almost two years had to give up playing the violin, too painful to contemplate the difficult physical nature of the instrument. Like a Phoenix from the ashes, however, at 17, a completely new artist emerged, and a new direction as well.  Hadelich was accepted to Juillard, the citadel of budding performers, in New York, and trained under acclaimed teacher Joseph Smirnoff.  It was at Juillard that Hadelich credits finding his musical voice in the multiple chamber music opportunities that taught him how to play with an intimate tone, and once married to his prodigious physical gifts, his career has been thereafter on a rocket to stardom.  He won the 2006 Indianaopolis International Competition Gold Medal, the Avery Fisher Prize, and other major perfomance awards. He has already performed with all the leading orchestras in the world.  And when an adjective is looked for to describe his play versus the many other technically skilled artists now perfoming, it is one word -masterly.Augustin Hadelich is a true master in the classic sense of the word.  He can play everything, and he can play everything better than most.

Beethoven created his violin concerto for masters that did not yet exist. the first performance in 1806 of the concerto was not well received.  It was not understood by audiences that were not prepared to have the violin dominate  a piece the way that the piano was achieving at the time.  Beethoven, this most masculine of composers, briefly found himself in unusual territory of doubting his work.  Concerned that such a piece might be too big for the performers, he hastily transposed the concerto instead for piano, but that was even less successful.  It would take 40 years, for the great performers of the 19th century like Paginini and Joachum, to elevate the violin into a performance level like the piano in the minds of audiences, and with such talents, the Beethoven concerto began to soar, and never again was thought of in any way other than the zenith of performance concertos.

The D Major concerto carries the performer through the orchestral composition like no other, defining the melody, then framing it over, through and under the orchestra, emerging at times, like the most intimate of string quartets, singing like a celestial chime above, than at other times pulling the orchestra along with macho warmth and fullness. It  holds for the performer a restrained kind of fiendish difficulty, until the performer is exposed in the cadenza, the famous finale of the first movement, and reminds all of the enormous capacity of the violin instrument, and the technical skill of the performer. Some performers can play lyrically, some can show pyrotechnical brilliance, and some can emote great discipline, but Hadelich can do it all, and do it so effortlessly, that you wonder if this is what the greats in the golden age of classical music sounded like – the Joachims, the Krieslers, the Heifetzes.  Hadelich shines most at the upper range of the violin, that fiendish region at the top of the finger board with the sonic vibrations of notes differ minisculely, and the spaces between them for the fingers to function, even smaller.  The best players in the world can sound harsh and thin in this rarefied play area, toneless and cold. Not for Augustin – the quiet high passages ring like celestial chimes, with the purest of tones at the most pianissamo of play.  He is playing in the music of the other world, and inviting us to briefly to bask in its glory.

We don’t always recognize the Great Masters, but they are still among us. Taking life, and coloring it like a prism, sounding it like the oceans, describing it as one would the angels.  Augustin Hadelich is already a Great Master, and Ramparts People We should Know #28.  Behold – the Music of the Spheres.

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The Obama Doctrine

President Obama meets with his National Security Council

President Obama meets with his National Security Council

The world has become an exceedingly dangerous and unstable place in the seven years that President Barrack Obama has been the steward of American foreign policy.  Certainly some realities as an outgrowth of September 11th, 2001 and the radicalism of Islam subsequent to the Iranian Revolution of 1979 were unpleasant gifts the previous administrations bequeathed to this president, but a substantial number of metastases of instability, chaos, and dramatic violence have sprouted from multiple directions in response to his decisions.  As much as he has been comfortable of blaming every untoward response to American interests as a reaction to President Bush’s aggressive foreign policy, the pattern of Obama as more than just “anti-Bush” is beginning to project as a premeditated decision process, what used to be referred to as a policy philosophy, or a “doctrine”.

Presidents in the modern period have structured their foreign policies behind attempts at consistent interpretations and responses to world events, known as doctrines.  The Truman Doctrine, in response to a post war Soviet Union bent on expanding its rigid grip on eastern Europe and Asia, defined a policy of containment as outlined by George Kennan, that became the benchmark of American foreign policy for the next forty years.  The Carter Doctrine, reacting to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution, declared that any effort by foreign powers to attempt to usurp the status quo of the Persian Gulf would be considered in direct conflict with America’s vital national interests and would be met militarily.  The Reagan Doctrine declared the goal of American policy toward the Soviet Union was no longer containment, but rather a comprehensive effort to “roll back” the global influence of the Soviet Union – or as Reagan so presciently described it, “we win, they lose”.  The George W Bush Doctrine grew out of the catastrophe of 9/11 and became a multi-pronged strategy essentially defined as, if necessary,  preemptively attacking enemies of the United States at their root, to prevent the fight being brought to America’s shores.

These doctrines, some successful, some not so successful, at least defined a consistent and articulated  national policy process and understanding of a national interest. But what of the current president?  Is there a discernible American interest in Obama’s seemingly haphazard declarations?

Niall Ferguson, a Professor of History at Harvard and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institute at Stanford, has editorialized on what he believes is the “Real Obama Doctrine”.  A must read, the editorial reflects what one of America’s most astute intellectuals sees as the essential pattern of the “patternless” and seemingly contradictory Obama actions.  Sadly, he concludes all these colossal ‘mis-steps’ are on purpose:

“But what that meant in practice was not entirely clear. Precipitate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, but a time-limited surge in Afghanistan. A “reset” with Russia, but seeming indifference to Europe. A “pivot” to Asia, but mixed signals to China. And then, in response to the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya, complete confusion, the nadir of which was the September 2013 redline fiasco regarding the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria and Mr. Obama’s declaration that “America is not the global policeman”–..

An approximation of an Obama strategy was revealed in April last year, at the end of a presidential trip to Asia, when White House aides told reporters that the Obama doctrine was “Don’t do stupid sh–.””

Dr. Ferguson sees the Obama Doctrine as much more than threat avoidance.   He now believes the President is driving  a forced re-set of America’s position in the world and a particular desire to create a new balance of power, most particularly in the Middle East.  The Doctrine as Dr. Ferguson sees it is directed by the pre-conceptions of the president himself, with almost no significant intellectual counterweight in the administration in the skill set of policy development.  The president has surrounded himself progressively with fellow lawyers who are predominantly concerned with the process of negotiation rather than reflecting a world view.   That leaves President Obama himself to refine the rationale and his strong opinion of his own intellectual prowess leaves little room for the discussion  alternative scenarios.

The result – has been nothing short of disastrous.  A resurgent Al Qaeda after Obama declared it dead and a even more murderous cousin ISIS after Obama disdained it as “junior varsity”. A catastrophic collapse of nation states in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. A ruthless Russia that has forced itself back into the position of power broker in the middle East after 50 years as irrelevant and the United States as the definitive arbiter, and has brazenly absorbed the Crimea and thumbed its nose at NATO and the US in creating a proxy war in Ukraine. A China that is aggressively threatening to turn the world’s busiest sea traffic lanes into an internal Chinese sea. And perhaps, most stunningly, the President agreed to a massive infusion of cash and capability into the world’s most aggressive supporter of terrorism, Iran, which has declared its intent to ignore all the supposed agreement Obama crowed about negotiating with it, including ballistic missile and nuclear weapon development.  And ominously, repeated its stated goal to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

The Obama  Doctrine is succeeding beyond even the President’s projections in re-setting America’s position in the world, and the result is calamitous.  For  a President that planned to “stop” America’s addiction to “ceaseless wars”, the doctrine is looking like it will make 2016, the last year of the Obama presidency, at risk for real non-stop global conflict.

It turns out that thinking you are the smartest guy in the room, might just make you the dumbest man on the planet.

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The Battle of Britain

RAF pilots sprint to their planes to attempt to intercept incoming German air attack squadrons in the Battle of Britain 1940

RAF pilots sprint to their planes to attempt to intercept incoming German air attack squadrons in the Battle of Britain 1940

“What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization  Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour'”

                                        Winston Churchill  June 18, 1940

75 years ago this month, in a September 17th meeting with his military staff, Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany and the conqueror of continental Europe, heard the disparaging news that his air forces were not going to be able to sustain mounting losses and still hope to support a cross channel invasion of Great Britain.  Three days later, unbeknownst to the British, who had months of horrific losses ahead of them in nighttime bombing later referred to as the Blitz, Hitler effectively suspended the initiation of the cross channel invasion, Operation Sea Lion, and in doing so, changed the outcome of history.  The battle of which Churchill so eloquently spoke of  just three short months before, had turned back the greatest war machine ever known through the savvy, will, and courage of perhaps the fewest people one could imagine. 75 years later, it looks like no less a miracle, and ever more important, as we are currently called to summon our will again to combat a marauding evil.

When Churchill spoke to the House of Commons in June 1940, he saw a world where his Britain was the last remaining obstacle to securing Hitler’s stunning successful conquest of the European land mass and the subjugation of the cultures that had determined western civilization for the past five hundred years. The challenge looked immense, if not hopeless, to most, including members of his inner circle.  The United States, Churchill’s hoped for ally that might turn the tide, had no inclination to get involved in a trans ocean struggle and was nowhere near ready to do so, if it had so inclined.   The United States Ambassador Joseph Kennedy saw in the British a dying empire with no hope of  stopping Hitler, and recommended no American support.  The Germans as recently as May had gone through the French million man army in a mere six weeks, and the British had narrowly escaped with the remnants of their forces at Dunkirk in a hastily produced withdrawal that was a victory only in avoiding  disastrous capture or destruction of the entire British expeditionary army. The Soviet Union has earlier made its own pact with Hitler and swept into eastern Poland and Finland, to secure its own land grab, giving Hitler the ability to focus full attention on Britain.

Full attention meant the world’s largest war machine pointed at the nation that had just had it handed to it over the preceding 6 months in Norway, and then France. The only hope lay in the difficulties of achieving a cross channel invasion.  This had not been successfully achieved (without invitation) since 1066, when William the Conqueror defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings, and William had not had to worry about battleships or airplanes during the crossing.  The Germans initiated the preamble to Sea Lion in July, 1940 , with a massive daily air attack to destroy Britain’s capacity for defense, with the plan’s logic the destruction of the British Royal Air Force, and with it, the last chance to fend off a cross channel invasion fleet.  And so history was joined to the destinies of individual pilots, the German contingent looking to attack, the British looking to eliminate, in a deadly battle of attrition that bound one to exhaust the fighting capacity of the other.  Planes as machinery were difficult to replace, but pilots – able pilots were irreplaceable.  The destiny of a several hundred thousand man invasion force  therefore lay in the hands of several thousand trained pilots on each side, capable of the skills and experience required to marshall the  maneuvers of a modern aircraft.  Each day a massive bombing force from the continent looked to destroy British will, and each time a group of intrepid fighter pilots in Hurricanes and Spitfires looked to drive the Germans into the sea.

A British Anti-Aircraft Gunnery views contrails of battling aircraft over Britain

A British Anti-Aircraft Gunnery views contrails of battling aircraft over Britain











The battle was every bit about individual courage, but it was also about revolutionary tactics.  The Germans were late to the understanding of the significance of radar and a sophisticated forward spotting network. The British airmen did not have the ability to be everywhere, but sophisticated tracking allowed the concept of force magnification by getting fighters from far afield to the appropriate intercept point with uncanny accuracy. The Germans had somewhat more powerful aircraft in straight line speed, but poor fuel capacity to the extent that for the escort fighters, only about ten minutes of dog fight capacity was present before the fighters had to turn to home across the channel, leaving the bombers exposed. The german bombers were instructed to destroy the airfields and planes initially, a task that proved difficult given the ferocity of the resistance and the accuracy of bombing at the time,  That left British industrial capacity for the most part untouched, allowing the capable replacement of the air machinery above loss rate.  Eventually, the German losses mounted and the raids turned to night bombing of civilian areas, bringing horrific casualties on the ground in the tens of thousands.

Milkman Fred Morley delivers milk in London despite the devastation of German bombing raids

Milkman Fred Morley delivers milk in London despite the devastation of German bombing raids

By mid-October, though the ferocity of the bombing was nowhere near done and the Blitz continued until May 1941, when Hitler re-directed his assets east toward Russia, The idea of a successful cross channel invasion was scrapped by the Germans.  The Battle of Britain had resulted in the loss of over 1600 German piloted aircraft, compared to 1400 RAF.  More importantly, it removed the word inevitable to describe the German war machine and proved a democratic people could develop the powerful martial instincts necessary to combat a remorseless leviathan.  As Churchill was to say in words that have become immortal regarding the Battle of Britain participants : “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  In a war that may have resulted in as much as 25 million military deaths, the sacrifice of less than two thousand airmen may have changed the entire course of the war, and history itself.

75 years is such a time period, that the few that lived through the moment are in no position to teach the current generation of the necessity at times to defend one’s civilization.  No invasion took place of the British Isles, because a determined population believed their view of civilization was worth fighting for, no matter what the odds, and potentially at total cost. Surrender of a way of life and tradition of respect for others was thought less worthy than the loss of one’s life for the chance of preserving such principles.  Mr. Morley, the milkman in the photo above, saw the surrounding devastation as an obstacle to overcome in his call to preserve a civilized society, not a sign that self preservation was called for. Delivering milk to people who needed it, is what was done in a civilized society, and to stop, would to suggest the barbarians had won. And that, was unthinkable.  Civilization once again proved itself to be a bottom-up phenomena, barbarism top down.  The shadows of such distant history show us today that our civilization’s decline will occur only if we as individuals stop caring about our role in civility.  The island of Britain, all alone, against indescribable odds, showed what one could do, if civilization was your cause.  We again to look to Churchill whose words resonate for those of us who see the immensity of the task ahead of us in a time where surrender is all around us – ” You must just KBO!”

Keep Buggering On.


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Boehner and the Tea Party Insurrection

Boston Tea Party illustration by Currier

Boston Tea Party
illustration by Currier

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, third in line to the Presidency of the United States, was felled by a procedural dispute.  The dispute unfortunately for him was with a group of congressmen and women he could no longer ignore, or avoid. Maligned and derided, miscast as at best doofuses or at worst racists, the tea party insurrection has quietly gone about its business, and is now progressively shaking the very core of what represents the conservative political movement in this country,   The tea party movement, now just over   six years old, has managed to help win first the House majority for Republicans in 2010, then the Senate majority in 2014, elect political stars such as Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and  Ted Cruz,  take down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and now, Speaker of the House Boehner.  Not bad for doofuses.

Who are these ‘doofuses’ and what do these ‘doofuses’ want?  The establishment politicians, enamored with their supposedly invincible incumbent status, gold plate retirement plans, and propensity to support the version of democracy that functions as a one party state, the government party, are asking the question much as the British establishment did at the original tea party in Boston Harbor in December, 1773.  It was hard to project in 1773 how such an obscure rebellious act would result in the revolutionary tumult only a few years later. Such is the obscure origin of the current tea party insurrection.  Smoldering for years, as Washington grew progressively larger and larger and more and more tone deaf, the ignition spark occurred when a little known financial reporter for CNBC, Rick Santelli, went on a spontaneous rant on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, on February 19, 2009. Santelli railed  against the new Obama Administration that was willing to spend billions of stimulus money to secure mortgages that had been given out by many banks to individuals who had no assets to pay for them.  Santelli spoke up for the average person who plays by the rules, takes appropriate risk, and has no one look out for them when fate determines a bad outcome.  Santelli felt something profound had just been broken, the equal opportunity that was at the heart of the American Dream.  Little did he know what his four minutes of rant would start:

Within weeks “tea Party” movements broke out across the country, and a slow steady wild fire began.  Initially formed as Tea “Taxed Enough Already” Party, the movement began to develop unappreciated depth, impressive patience, and significant political acumen.  Early missteps with unprepared candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin were learned from, and the skill and winning ways of the candidates began to take hold.  Scott Brown winning the Senate seat previously ‘owned’ by Teddy Kennedy in deep Blue state Massachusetts,  Scott Walker achieving and then retaining the governorship of Wisconsin despite a furious and vicious effort to defeat him in three elections over four years, and Eric Cantor’s stunning loss to unknown David Brat showed a disciplined and committed movement.  Further earthquakes prior to Boehner  began to show themselves in the summer Presidential process, with establishment favorites Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton loosing traction despite enormous money advantages, and a ‘throw the bums out and make America great again’ demagogue named Trump storming to the top of the polls. The concept of Trump is closely tied to the poor selections of O’Donnell and Akin but can be seen as the temporary weapon the modern movement is using to evidence its displeasure with the status quo and warn everyone what is coming.

Which brings us back to Boehner.  The final straw had nothing to do with taxes per se.  It had everything to do with leadership mistaking their positions are not related to their experience with process, but rather, their grasp of principle.  Boehner committed the ultimate sin in suggesting that an electoral success of 2014 putting Republicans in the position of leadership of both legislative houses, would lead to clear actions thwart the runaway train that is the constitution subverting Obama administration.  Rather than show backbone and take stands that would make clear distinctions of philosophy between republicans and Democrats, the two houses sheepishly folded time and time again, as the President ignored laws and made laws that were never legislated with Obamacare, outsmarted Boehner and McConnell in avoiding any vote on the disastrous Iran agreement that would have at least made all parties responsible for their actions, and finally crumbled into silence on any action on defunding Planned Parenthood’s development as a fetus factory for profit.

The phony tears that are those of Boehner’s supporters suggest that there was little he could do with the numbers in the President’s favor.  For Tea Party proponents, the excuses rang hollow.  They had labored mightily to give Boehner his majority and hence his Speakership.  They saw him much like General McClellan in the Civil War, blaming his lack of action on the forever excuse of not having enough troops or provisions.  Lincoln, much like the tea party finally exhausted by the excuses, was willing to take a chance and absorb some heavy punishments on a considerably non-establishment figure, General Ulysses Grant.  He stated, ” I can’t spare this man- he fights”.  The tea party was not looking for Boehner to win in order to fight, it was looking for him to fight to win.

The tea party has grown into a principled social movement that demands that America return to rules of behavior, limited governmental size, reducing repression on personal freedom, equal opportunity, fiscal sanity, and firm defense of its exceptionalism.  In six short years, it has grown beyond insurrection, into something that is beginning to look like revolution.  Revolutions are unpredictable, but sometimes are necessary to re-orient a lost compass.  One thing is for certain, and John Boehner knows it now if he didn’t before.  The tea party is not the provence of a few raving reporters and political outcasts.  It’s a political movement that’s rocking the world.


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Media Democracy

John Kennedy/ Richard Nixon Presidential Debate October 7th, 1960

John Kennedy/ Richard Nixon Presidential Debate
October 7th, 1960

Television was barely a decade old in being available to a substantial cross section of the American public, when it vaulted to the role of ‘decider’ in the nation’s democratic process.  On the night of October 7th, 1960, two politicians vetted their philosophies in front of a large shared real time audience, and television was there to frame for all time our memory of it.  The U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy was seen by viewers as young but capable, prepared, tanned, energetic, and the promising future; the sitting U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon old, cautious, pale, and the establishment past.  The image television perpetrated of Kennedy as clear “winner” was out of keeping with the relative realities of the debate itself.  Heard by millions more Americans on the radio, it was Nixon, not Kennedy, that was felt to project a more measured, prepared,  and in-depth performance.  At 47, Nixon was barely three years older then the ‘young’ Kennedy and had shared with Kennedy the generation’s defining life experience of World War II combat service.  Unbeknownst to most everybody, it was Kennedy, not Nixon, who was sickly and medicated, only still recovering from an Addisonian crisis several years previously.  It was Kennedy, not Nixon, who declared a nonsensical ‘missile gap’ existed between the Soviet Union’s capabilities and that of the United States, ignoring that fact that the US had a several hundreds times more nuclear delivery capacity, but clearly designed to reinforce the vision of the shock of Sputnik in the uninformed audience’s mind.

Kennedy, following the debate, secured public perception as ‘up to’ the job of President with his projection on TV that night, and defeated Nixon in one of the closer elections in US history.  Television, as the new media, found in its discovery of Kennedy’s on screen projection, the definition of ‘telegenic’, and was happy to promote the Camelot myth of a young vibrant President and his family as the new definition of leader.  Camelot sold a lot of television sets.

In the 55 years since that debate, television has ruled supreme as the venue for definition of a politician, and has guarded that role ruthlessly.  Television was adversarial to Lyndon Johnson and particularly Nixon, despite their political success, as they projected poorly on television, and prominently in Nixon’s case, saw the media as the enemy in defining their public perception. The media wanted Reagan to fail, painting him as dangerous and a dullard, but television could not undercut his telegenic presence, that masterfully projected calm, dignity, and humanness.

As television moved into its middle ages as a media force, it has rallied to the need to re-instill the Kennedy magic, first through Bill Clinton, and in a tour de-force, Barrack Obama.   Clinton, who nearly put every viewer into a coma with his 1988 droning, overwrought Democratic National Convention speech, finally achieved telegenic Valhalla wagging his finger at the camera, denying sexcapades in the White House and inventing the political television reality show. Obama preened in front of Greek columns and claimed olympian talents of controlling sea levels and ending division on the strength of his world diversified telegenic projection, echoing Kennedy but with a fraction of the political grasp or respect for process.  Television needed to balloon these two in particular because the threat of the internet to be even more real time and defining than television, was slowly becoming a reality and threat to the force that television played  in defining our discourse.

Unfortunately for television,, the emerging media, the social media through the internet, has loosened television’s tight grip on the narrative.  Progressively,  the internet has screwed severely with the narrative television has been built to project.  The Internet has broken down multiple fortifications television had built around its star child Obama as the global unifier and the smartest man on the planet.  Television media groups were stunned when it positioned Donald Trump for collapse by projecting his most stupid, offensive comments and discovered the more he did it, the more the Internet liked what it heard.  Trump has thus far proved immune to television defining of him, because he has turned out to be the hybrid, fully cognizant of the reality show deterioration of television and the synthesis of the visual with the immediate and emotional qualities of the Internet.

The latest debate of Republican candidates shows television trying to respond to its slipping position as the primary media vehicle to define this nation’s direction.  A large group of diversified, intelligent, and capable conservatives is not exactly what television has in mind when it sees itself as owner and pathfinder for the nation’s consensus.  The debate was designed by CNN to be part reality show and part circus side show.

Republican presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, and Donald Trump both speak during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

CNN sponsored Republican Presidential Debate – AP photo

The idea was to develop a bunch of mudslinging matches that would show the nation  the pettiness and vacuousness of the Republican field, and distract from the emerging disaster that is Hillary and her effect on  the virtuous party, the Democrats.  Fox was stunned when 24 million Americans tuned in to see the first debate, and CNN wanted to magnify the Trump celebrity factor to make the irrelevant cable network seem relevant again.  More than 20 million Americans tuned in to see this second debate.  CNN treated them to questions like, ‘Mr Trump says you’re ugly, what do think of him’, ‘Mr. Bush speaks Spanish, shouldn’t he speak English?’ , and ‘ Mr. Paul, Mr. Trump says you don’t belong on this stage, because you only poll at 1%, how do you feel about that?”‘ – among other questions, in this most dangerous and serious of times.  Despite CNN’s best attempts, surprisingly and progressively though,  an actual debate broke out in the second half, and this bright field of candidates began to find its legs and maneuver into serious discussion, directed at the internet generation, more directed, and personal, and deliberative. Stream of consciousness born for Internet discussion started to develop that television struggles with – What do living fetus organ harvests say about our nation’s character? What are the consequences of citizenship?  How does the nation achieve personal highways to  success for the most people?  What are our mechanisms for dealing with a dangerous world?  Progressively, no one missed the visual references as to who is the prettiest, shortest, meanest, or tanned. The celebrity Trump was mollified, quiet, and progressively a non-participant.

Television is in danger of being marginalized into the corner of an internet screen feed, competing with the huge diversity of opinion drivers available. The concept of the nation huddling around the television in the living room is becoming a dated concept in the same way that the newspaper delivered to the door once connected our thoughts. Something that may be quite profound is beginning to project with the lack of message control that once dominated our thoughts through the visual media.  It may turn out that the huge audiences are continuing to tune in to the debates, are doing so not so much to watch as to organize their own thoughts.  The debate the other night, so designed to define our way of thinking, may have initiated our journey back to a more town  hall vetting of ideas, shorter on visual magnetism and longer on the victory of ideas.  Whatever comes after television, an internet nourished democracy built on ideas, not personalities, may not be the worst thing  The Trump personality comet may actually come to represent nadir of visual consensus, fundamentally mis-interpreted.  It may actually be speaking to the final divorce with forced consensus based on visual manipulation.  The Trump factor may be saying, we will form our own opinion, thank you.  And now we will start looking to the pathfinders that can articulate the ideas that we form.  That kind of media democracy might finally put us back on the path to salvation.

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War and Peace

Syrian War refugees struggle to gain access to Europe    greekreporter.com

Syrian War refugees struggle to gain access to Europe               /greekreporter.com

In between golfing expeditions on his recent extended summer vacation, the President of the United States must have at various times noted the recent news of the day.  There was of course that irritating Hillary Clinton struggling to explain how she had determined to house the nation’s secrets on an unguarded server for her own benefit, as a matter of preference. Then there was that silly Donald Trump ranting about something or the other.  Most importantly, it appeared the various golf outings had managed to secure the Iran deal with his democrat politicos, making it possible for a non treaty, with provisions no one has seen, and inspections no one intends to uphold,  secure the jihadist radicals as the secure rulers of an Iran emerging as world power for the next President to deal with.  That last bit of news, now that was a good one.

Lining up the putt on the 18th green of the Cape Cod golf course, perhaps the President briefly gazed upon the vast ocean that separated his country from the continents beyond, and thought, how wonderful a time of peace can be.  After all, he had ended two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, pulled American influence completely out of the Middle East, and punctured the quant and old fashioned American resolve to try to always do the right thing, no matter how difficult or potentially risky the situation.  That martial, imperial impulse that had dominated American foreign policy since the beginning of World War II had finally met its overdue demise under the disciplined, steady direction of  this smartest of all presidents.  Now, finally, some real Peace.  And the opportunity to spend the Peace Dividend on more pressing needs.

Unfortunately, it turns out, it is our Peace, their War. Despite the determination to remove the warmonger USA from inciting the locals in the Middle East, warmongering has continued at an accelerated pace.  An increasingly nasty war contagion is filing the void created by the American withdrawal, and the damage is cataclysmic.  Michael Ledeen, a long standing Middle East observer, notes that increasingly larger players are taking sides and developing war strategies in the region that supposedly would have been pacified by removal of the American hegemonist, and are savagely feasting on the carcasses of Syria, Iraq, and Libya the Americans left behind.  The visible result is human misery on a massive scale, with millions of  refugees fleeing the horror most profoundly effecting Syria, and risking everything to come to the shores of a Europe that doesn’t want them.  The Arab nations, trained for decades on the ability to ignore Palestinian refugee plight, are comfortable with thrusting all the refugees toward the hated ottomans in Turkey and the colonialists in Europe, making sure none land in their own countries and mess with their oil monies.  The Russians, who have always been world players, seek to mold the war in a way that serves their interests, and are increasingly taking a direct role in the mad center of the tornado, Syria.  The greatest war strategists of all are Obama’s new partner, the Iranians, buying anti-ship missiles from the Russians for when it becomes time to clear American ships from the Persian Gulf, strategizing with the Russians to secure President Assad’s position in the Syrian holocaust, and reaping real casualties from the Saudi and United Arab Emirate troops in Yemen, testing their resolve and willingness to die for their oil princes.

War and Peace. Throughout history, the two expressions of human existence have always co-existed, each preventing the other through hard choices.  Peace is not the absence of war, but the prevention of it. Despite all the historical precedents, the President thought somehow by withdrawing the policing forces from a pacified Iraq, removing the leadership of Libya and defining no alternative, ignoring the progressive disaster of Syria as if it were a local affair, and releasing the restraints on a jihadist Iran, peace would ensue.  Instead he, and the U.S. leadership to come, will have War.  Europe, other than Great Britain, always willing to avert its eyes from responsibility and assume that the victory in the cold war was achieved by the attractions of passivist socialism, is now facing the reality of millions of entrants to their societies, and the urgent need to do something.  The something is unlikely to allow them to wait to be rescued once again by the U.S.  If Europe’s recent brief period of “peace” is to be extended, they may have to finally be willing to admit that the concept of Peace does not survive without constant, aggressive vigilance and defense.  The millions and millions of people caught in the middle, as always, will be the sentinel sacrifices, of the  dithering democracies.

The President, in his final year of office, probably has plans to enjoy the Peace dividend he has created, and get in some serious golf.  I suspect, that War, is going to turn out to be his very uncomfortable caddy.

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Now is the Winter of Our Discontent

Trump, Clinton and the decline of a nation             abcnews.go.com

Trump, Clinton and the decline of a nation

At the opening of William Shakespeare’s peerless study of malevolence, Richard III, the protagonist initiates his soliloquy with the seven words that focus the entire play –  Now is the winter of our discontent. To Richard the seeming stability enjoyed by the elites is about  to see the havoc of the discontented, from unpredictable and opaque directions, until the world experiences the reordering that will upturn the status quo. In more down to earth terms, the whole miserable truth is, that the joke is on them.

Such is our current season of discontent.  The polls suggest that the position of chief executive of the most powerful country on earth may come down to a choice between a bombastic clown and a truth-addled crook.  In Great Britain, there is a groundswell in the Labour Party to select as leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a man who would make Karl Marx blush regarding his proletariat uber-sympathies.  In France, the leading candidate for the Presidency of France is forced to evict her father from his own party for saying out loud the prejudices upon which the party was founded.

The discontent crosses philosophies and principles.  The unifying force is the discontent itself.  Legions of people who feel their particular issues have been stomped in the dust by the elites who set the rules that the rest must live by, and the elites blithely ignore.  To the discontented, it is refreshing for a Donald Trump to admit what they always suspected – that patronage is purchased, and the entire governing body is in on it.   He does what they wish they could do, act out,  and call people out, without recriminations.  The rule of law has crumbled behind the ever shifting sands of lawyerisms, so why not suggest extra-legislative means harshly correcting the inequities?  For the discontented, Trump doesn’t have core beliefs, just the cojones to do something to restore their voice.

Trump is pitted against Clinton, the poster child of name calling and victimhood.  She stands for the nihilist principle – Let me do what I want, and you get to do what you want.  She might be the first candidate in history to whom the candidate who presumptively will run against her, proudly admits to having previously bought her patronage. Yet even Clinton stands vulnerable to attacks from even farther out on the anarchist fringe from a progressively popular Bernie Sanders, who wants to take the ‘us versus them’ to a celestial level.  The toxic stew stands to drowned out any deliberative debate as to the country’s problems, as the emotional discontent gains further traction.

The discontent in Great Britain threatens the status quo, with competing nationalisms driving progressive unprincipled extremism, from the ‘throw the rascals out until it looks like England again’  mentality of UKIP, to the ‘drain the capitalists of their money and power’ invectives of Corbyn the rest of the Labour party seems helpless to thwart.  Tony Blair stands aghast at the unleashing of Corbynmania but seems clueless as to how his peculiar brand of elitism helped to create the monster.  The European Union, and by proxy the dominant German backers, cling to their bureaucratic dictums that demand the obedience of all under its puritan reach, yet are progressively alarmed at the increasingly nationalistic populations that thumb their nose and suggest that if they are to be ruled by a bastard elite, better a bastard elite they recognize and to which they can relate .

The discontent surges not knowing necessarily what it wants, only sure it doesn’t want the status quo.  Why have a constitution if no one follows it?  Why follow the rules if the elite tell you that those that don’t follow the rules, will receive an equal if not greater piece of the pie?  We are deep into our winter of discontent, and the former balancing forces of a stable society maybe unable to restore the accepted order, or the predictable outcomes.  For Richard III, when the tidal forces he unshackled came back upon him, he temporarily sought refuge from the progressive calamity, willing to give up “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”  When Catesby urges him to withdraw from battle, achieve the steed, and therefore safety he requested, Richard III knows his destiny is the calamity he has unleashed, responding, “Slave, I have set my life upon the cast, and I will stand the hazard of a die!”  

It is the mystery of our time to see whether our current protagonists will have Richard’s courage to see their role in stoking the darker shades of our nature, to destiny’s fitting conclusion.


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Felix Mendelssohn and the Romantic Age

Fingals Cave, Staffa, Inner Hebrides   Scotland

Fingals Cave, Staffa, Inner Hebrides Scotland

At the western edge of the island land masses that form the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland, stands a little tuft of volcanic elevation known as  Staffa.  Barely a quarter mile in area, the southern most tip of this uninhabited island faces the huge expanse of the Atlantic with a peculiar formation  of crevice, cave, and stone referred to as Fingals Cave.  Despite its natural isolation, it has been reknowned for as long as there has been humanity on the islands known as Albion for the strange cathedral like natural formation of its prismatic hexagonal basalt columns formed by the slow cooling masses of sea lava that pushed out of the sea and were  reoriented by intermittent flooding of the lava flows by the great ocean.  Natural formations such as Fingals Cave  have taken on supernatural characteristics to those who are open to its coalescence of sights and sounds that seem to have been directed by an unseen hand into something beyond the sum of its parts.  At a certain time of day, in a certain light, the very rational explanation of the natural formation in the shadows and mists is progressively lost to the mysterious otherworldly sensual experience of that which is beyond explanation.

It is in that place, that an entire cultural line of creative thought we now refer to as the Romantic Age propelled out of the rationality of the Enlightenment of the seventeenth century.  Enlightenment, with man as rational thinker, and God as Engineer, saw the world as ordered and explainable, limited only by the means available to understand it.  At the turn of the 18th century and for fifty years following, a reaction to this ordered universe developed in the cultural world that connected the internal world of unspoken thoughts and dreams to the great unknown of the supernatural, and sought expressions in their writing, art, and music. The writings of Shelley, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Robert Burns and William Blake, the paintings of Goya and Friedrich, and the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann, Liszt, Chopin, and Berlioz provided a reaction and withdrawal from the very real turmoil of the marshal and nationalist Romanticist impulses optimized by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

Though a multicultural movement seen in every western society of the time, the greatest amount of definition came from the german remnant of the Holy Roman Empire, through its philosophers Harmann, Goethe and Schiller.  The German expression of “Sturm and Drang”, literally Storm and Drive, referred to sublimation of the rationalist to the internal turmoil of both individualism and emotion.  The natural world took on progressive attraction and awe, as it tended to stimulate unique emotions, and provided escape from the brutal realities of the development of state militaries and the darker effects upon people of the mass scale of the Industrial Revolution.

Felix Mendelssohn is the somewhat under-appreciated musical master of his time. Typical for his age, he accomplished a prodigious amount in the very short life span so common before the Age of Medicine.  Born in 1809 in Hamburg of a prominent intellectual Jewish family, he suffered under the rigid anti-semitism of european culture.Raised in a secular home, he was eventually converted to Christianity, but insufficiently Christian for most of european society, and insufficiently Jewish for his own understanding of his people and ancestry.   Although his family with its Christian conversion took the name Bartholdy, Mendelssohn  never fully dropped his ancestral name, and his courageous juxtaposition defined his relationships for the rest of his life.  This inner turmoil provided an exceptional platform for Harmann’s Sturm and Drang, and the undeniable genius that was Mendelssohn proved a fortress of this movement’s expression over his short 38 years on earth. From the 17th century’s end to the atomic age, genius was the province of birth, not formed through scholastic preparation. This particular form of genius was celebrated for its polyglot capabilities in language, music, and art, and Mendelssohn was from childhood recognized for the depth of his intellect and the prodigy level of his talents. Like Mozart, he was born a musical prodigy, by age 17 already considered at the highest order of pianist performers and composers, completing his seminal overture to the Midsummer Night’s Dream by age 16, and the aforementioned ode to Fingals Cave by 21. The Symphonies poured out in his twenties and the great Violin Concerto in E Minor by age 33. The music was sonic, pictorial, and nativist, connecting to the internal but never losing its relationship with the classical roots from which it sprung.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy  1809-1847

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy 1809-1847


It was Mendelssohn’s unwillingness to sever his connections with the ancestry of musical expression the offended the more radical romantic dreamers like Liszt and Berlioz, and Mendelssohn’s pride in his jewish roots that even more offended the german racialist Wagner, who worked to demean Mendelssohn’s reputation where he could.  Mendelssohn created a very personal dream world that celebrated nature and individual but painted with a cool light that seemed too rational for the more disordered and exhibitionist world that a performer like Liszt inhabited.  Mendelssohn’ s universe foreshadowed more than later cool impressionism of Debussy and Matisse than the dense emotionalism of Mahler and Van Gogh.  Mendelssohn  also was selfless in almost single handedly bringing back to light the genius that was Johann Sebastian Bach, almost completely buried in the past, as well as the more present works of Schubert and Schumann to prominence.  It was Wagner’s racialist hatred, perhaps additionally fueled by Mendelssohn’s apparent earlier indifference to the youthful Wagner’s composing efforts, that nearly buried Mendelssohn’s musical memory.  In Nazi Germany, Mendelssohn’s works were banned as reactionary and his influence scrubbed, but the universal connection felt by his audience and particularly the performers  who admired the seamless perfection that was his Violin Concerto would not let his musical expression die.  To the horror of the racialists, Mendelssohn’s very germaness overwhelmed their ignorant theories, and his sublime work combined with his rescue of former German cultural greatness makes him one of the titans of Germany’s significant cultural gift to humanity.

In today’s world, where our current homage is to the twin temples of Settled Science and Athletics, it is nice to harken back to the creative geniuses that saw pleasure and awe in the unsettled and mysterious nature of life, and celebrated its obtuse and otherworldly side.  We don’t have to travel to Staffa and linger in the cathedral like cove that is Fingals Cave to feel our connection with the grandeur that is God’s Creation and our soul’s connection to it.  We only need to close our eyes and let a genius from another age take us there and make us one with it.

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