Category Archives: Politics

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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TAKING ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ SERIOUSLY

“I do think that a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, N.Y. Times, February 10, 2019

When dealing with statements by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the maxim coined by journalist Salena Zito about President Trump is equally applicable: “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” In Ocasio-Cortez’s case, it tends to be Republicans who take her literally but not seriously. The press and her supporters (the two often overlap) take her seriously, but not literally.

Taking her literally, the statement makes no sense. Ringworm is a common skin disease, similar to athlete’s foot or jock itch. It’s easily treated by over-the-counter antifungal ointments, and incidence of the problem has little or nothing to do with access to health care.

Apprised of this, Ocasio-Cortez clarified her statement, tweeting: “For what it’s worth, I  meant to say hookworm.”

Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez-1-e1534170511949

For what it’s worth, hookworm, a gastrointestinal parasite, is a serious problem, unlike ringworm. But contrary to a report in a leftist English publication claiming that the diseases is “rampant” in the American South — a report she apparently relied upon — the Alabama Department of Public Health released a later study showing “no evidence of an increased incidence” of the disease.

So it’s best to weigh her statement by taking her seriously, but not literally. Read that way, her message is: “A system that allows billionaires to exist while there is extreme poverty is wrong.”

Is it? Continue reading

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AFTER KAVANAUGH

As this story goes to press, it is uncertain whether Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court. But one thing is certain. The confirmation process itself is broken, and in desperate need of repair. Here are three recommendations. They may not necessarily fix the many problems manifested over the past few months, but they may at least moderate them.Panorama_of_United_States_Supreme_Court_Building_at_Dusk

First, the process needs a consensus among its participants on the meaning of judicial temperament. Everyone agrees that judicial temperament is a crucial qualification. No one agrees on what that temperament should be. Continue reading

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DisRESPECT IN DETROIT

Funerals are meant to be dignified occasions to honor the dead and to remember their deeds. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, led a life that certainly deserved honor and memory. The first female performer to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she was also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and received the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It was therefore distressing – in fact, disgusting – to see the occasion stained by the presence of Louis Farrakhan.  Not just present, but in the front row, next to former President Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton.Farrakhan

We live in age in which terms like racist, sexist, and anti-Semite are bandied about so freely, that they have almost lost their meaning. Watch cable news. Listen to talk radio. Nearly anyone with whom one disagrees is labelled a “hater” in today’s over-heated climate. If one wants to witness true, sincere hatred – not the ersatz version paraded in the media – one need only read the words of Minister Farrakhan. Continue reading

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