Category Archives: Politics

HER FINEST HOUR

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, known by her professional name Queen Elizabeth II, spoke to the world about the Covid-19 pandemic Sunday night. Her speech demonstrated why modern skeptics – including small-d democrats and small-r republicans — still find themselves awestruck by the ancient institution of monarchy.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth is not just any monarch. She carries with her person the aura of lengthy history. When she first addressed her realm she was a 14-year old Princess. World War II was in its early stages, Winston Churchill had been Prime Minister for only 5 months, the United States was neutral, and Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany were cooperative partners in a non-aggression pact. Her speech was designed to comfort evacuated British children who had been sent to the Commonwealth nations and the United States for safety. The broadcast was Churchill’s idea. He thought to use the young Princess to charm America into entering the war on Britain’s side.

On her 21st birthday, when she addressed her people again, she spoke as a confident young woman, who was nobody’s tool. She said: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Her life has certainly been long. She is almost 94 years old. She has ruled Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 68 years, longer than any other British monarch: 20 years longer than her namesake Queen Elizabeth I, and 5 years longer than her paternal great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

Her reign has had its share of successes and scandals, of family heroism and squalor. Just a few months ago, before anyone had heard of Covid-19, the press was full of stories about Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry: where they were living, who was talking to whom, and other such delectable irrelevancies. None of that seems to matter now. On Sunday night, the Queen spoke as if her long and eventful life had been a preparation for the moment.

Queen Elizabeth

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SOCIALIST OR DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST: DOES IT MATTER?

The highway of Democratic Party presidential contenders has converged into a two-lane road, and Bernie Sanders seems consigned to the slow lane. That may be the result of public unease with his socialist economic views. Perhaps sensing the danger, the Sanders campaign has studiously avoided using the term “socialist” by itself. Instead, it always pairs it with “democratic.”

Is Bernie Sanders a democratic socialist instead of a regular, run-of-the-mill socialist? And is there any meaningful difference?

Socialist Sanders

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TIME TO RETIRE PEOPLE ‘OF COLOR’?

People “of color” are everywhere. We are here referencing the term, not the people.  “Debate so white: candidates of color miss out as Democratic field narrows” a recent headline in The Guardian informs us. “Physicians of color are far too rare” worries the Philadelphia Inquirer. “People of color win majority of acting Oscars for the first time in history” announced the headline of Entertainment Weekly in the wake of the awards last February.

The history of the term “of color” is, well, colorful. Its use dates back at least as far as the 1790s, when French colonists coined the term “gens de couleur” to refer to light-skinned people of mixed African and European heritage. In the Deep South, freed blacks called themselves “people of color” to distinguish themselves from African slaves. During the Civil War, Frederick Douglass gave a speech in Rochester, New York, entitled “Men of Color, To Arms!” urging African Americans to enlist in the Union Army.

MEN OF COLOR TO ARMS

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HISTORY AND ITS DISCONTENTS

In 1940, when Great Britain stood alone against the Nazi juggernaut, France lay conquered, the United States was officially neutral, and the Soviet Union was tied by treaty to Germany, Winston Churchill recruited history to cheer his countrymen and stiffen their spines. In a September 1940 radio broadcast, as invasion loomed, Churchill said:

We must regard the next week or so as a very important period in our history. It ranks with the days when the Spanish Armada was approaching the Channel, and Drake was finishing his game of bowls; or when Nelson stood between us and Napoleon’s Grand Army at Boulogne. We have read all about this in the history books; but what is happening now is on a far greater scale and of far more consequence to the life and future of the world and its civilisation than these brave old days of the past.

Churchill could speak in this fashion because, not only was he well versed in British history, he knew his listeners were too. He knew that they knew who Drake and Nelson were.  And he knew that British schoolchildren found pride and inspiration in their country’s long history.

Churchill

It’s harder for American leaders to follow his example. For one thing, American schoolchildren do not learn much history, and their ignorance follows them into adulthood.

A recent study by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only one in three Americans (36 percent) can actually pass a multiple choice test consisting of items taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test, which most immigrants pass easily. (Example: “Identify whether Rhode Island, Oregon, Maine, or South Dakota is a state that borders Canada.”)

Only 13 percent of those surveyed knew when the U.S. Constitution was ratified, even on a multiple-choice exam similar to the citizenship exam. About 60 percent didn’t know which countries the United States fought in World War II. Seventy-two percent of respondents either incorrectly identified or were unsure of which states were part of the original 13. Only 24 percent could correctly identify one thing Benjamin Franklin was famous for, with 37 percent believing he invented the lightbulb. Twelve percent thought World War II General Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War, while 6 percent thought he was a Vietnam War general. Fortunately, only two percent identified climate change as the cause of the Cold War.

If it’s any consolation (and it isn’t), the situation is no better in Great Britain. If Churchill were alive today, he would have to find something other than history to leaven his oratory. In a 2008 survey of British teenagers (cited in Andrew Roberts’s excellent biography of the man), 20 percent thought Churchill was a fictional character, while 58 percent thought Sherlock Holmes and 47 percent thought Eleanor Rigby were real people. Continue reading

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CHERNOBYL’S LESSONS

Socialism, an economic system with an unbroken record of failure, still succeeds in attracting adherents. One recent poll reveals that among members of Generation Z, slightly more have a positive reaction to socialism (61%) than to capitalism (58%).

In our hemisphere, Cuba and Venezuela stand out as stark monuments to the miseries inflicted by socialism. In Cuba, thousands of opponents were put “up against the wall” to be shot by firing squads, and thousands more are in prison today. In Venezuela, the government recently ordered the military to run over its own people, as they protested in the streets. But this is not what young people have in mind when they profess admiration for socialism. And, in fairness, they have a point. All socialist systems fail, but not all socialist regimes murder and imprison their people.

A better illustration of how socialism works — or doesn’t work — appears in the HBO miniseries Chernobyl.

Chernobyl gas mask

The city of Chernobyl is not Havana or Caracas. Rather, it brings to mind the reaction of the heroine in Ayn Rand’s We the Living  upon first hearing the words of the “Internationale”: “They were not intoxicating as wine, they were not terrifying as blood. They were gray as dishwater.” Chernobyl is a dishwater city. The buildings are decaying. Paint peels from the walls.  Everything rusts and corrodes. Men’s suits, even those of high ranking government officials, are dowdy and ill-fitting.

These physical attributes match the mental characteristics of the Party apparatchiks who run the place.  These are gray dishwater men, whose primary purpose in life is to avoid doing anything for which they might possibly be blamed. Continue reading

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THE CONWAYS AND CONSERVATIVES: A TALE OF TWO BROKEN HOMES

Not since Princess Di and Prince Charles has a deteriorating marriage attracted the level of interest lavished on Kellyanne and George Conway. It has become the nation’s favorite reality TV show; a show aired not just on one station, but on every single news outlet, whether cable or network or print.

The three stars of the show are Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President, her husband, prominent securities law attorney George Conway, and her boss, President Donald Trump.

george and kellyanne

Once upon a time, all three were happy together. When Trump stunned the world by winning the election, George, wearing a MAGA hat, reportedly wept with joy, and happily boasted of his wife: “She did it! She did it! She made history.” Following the inauguration, he was under consideration for an appointment to at least two high level Justice Department positions.

But in time, George’s attitude toward his wife’s boss soured. By May 2018, George was emailing critics with advice on how they might improve their arguments. In November 2018, George organized a group of Federalist Society lawyers called “Checks and Balances,” to encourage their fellow conservatives to speak out against what they saw as Trump’s attacks on constitutional principles. Days later, he gave an interview in which he  compared the Trump administration to “a s***show in a dumpster fire,” and said he would rather move to Australia than vote for him again.

Trump responded to George’s growing barrage of negative comments by tweeting that George “often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway … is VERY jealous of his wife’s success.” He attributed George’s criticism to resentment over failing to get a Justice Department appointment. He concluded by calling George “a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell.”

George responded: “You. Are. Nuts.” and announced that Trump suffers from “a narcissistic personality disorder and malignant narcissim.”

The next day, President Trump told reporters that George was a “whack job.”

And then things went downhill. Continue reading

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THE REPARATIONS TEMPTATION

Donald Trump’s favorability rating is an anemic 41.8%. That bodes ill for his 2020 reelection prospects. But Trump has a secret weapon. It’s called the Democratic Party, an organization apparently determined to ensure his reelection.

Democratic Party

Democrats – including older members who should know better – fawned over the rollout of the so-called “Green New Deal,” the infantile brainchild of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This freshman representative believes that the world will end in 12 years unless drastic action, such as cutting back and possibly eliminating air travel, is taken. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scoffed at the “Green dream or whatever they call it.” But at last count, five declared Democratic presidential candidates have lined up to support it.

Then there is the proposal to totally eliminate private health insurance companies and replace them with  a fully government-run system, a move that would displace a half million jobs. It is supported by Bernie Sanders and, for about one day, by Kamala Harris.

And then there is the Party’s acclimatization to anti-Semitism. Last week, the Democratic Party proved itself unable to agree on an unambiguous repudiation of freshman Representative Ilhan Omar, who, for the third time, issued noxious anti-Semitic statements. Instead, the Party drafted an anodyne condemnation of hatred of all sorts. There was no mention of Omar – who justifiably characterized this as a victory. Three Democratic candidates — Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren— issued statements supporting her.

Almost lost amidst the din of self-destructive activity has been Democratic Party support for yet another controversial – and deeply unpopular – idea: reparations for the victims of slavery. Continue reading

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