Tag: #coloradopolitics

The energizer politicians.

750x450 energizer bunny

They just keep going.  And going.  And going . . .

I don’t need to remind you of the Energizer Bunny commercials.  How can you forget them?  You know, the the mechanical rabbit with fake pink fur that relentlessly marches across your TV screen, pounding a big drum.

But this isn’t about bunnies.  It’s about that exceedingly large number of politicians out there who seem to think that the world just can’t possibly carry on without them.  But be forewarned:  I’m gonna’ name names.  But, given that this is an exceedingly target rich environment, I’m almost inevitably going to miss far more names than I actually hit.

Kickin’ butt.  And takin’ names.

Let me start with one of my least favorites:  Mike Coffman.  (I’ll concede, up front, Mike’s distinguished military record.)  But that record can’t insulate him from a jolt from the Energizer Bunny.  Between military tours, he’s held more political offices than you can shake a stick at:  several terms in the Colorado House of Representatives and Colorado Senate, Colorado Treasurer, Colorado Secretary of State, and then five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the U.S. House, Coffman succeeded immigration hawk, Tom Tancredo (one of few politicians who actually kept his promise to limit his time in office).  In the House, Coffman began his career as the heir to Tancredo’s hard line position on immigration.  But only until that stance threatened Mike’s reelection chances when his House seat was redistricted and became more competitive.  At which point, he cast aside his immigration “convictions” in favor of a higher “principle:” getting reelected.  Which cadged Mike six more years in office.  But despite turning on Trump on “The Wall,” Coffman was swept out when the Democrats took back the House.

But did losing his House seat slow down Mike?  If you thought so, you don’t understand the Energizers.  No sooner had the ashes cooled on his last failed bid for the U. S. House, Mike announced he was running-again.  But this time for Mayor of his home town, Aurora.

Will Mike win this race?  No idea.  But I’m sure of this: even if he doesn’t, I doubt this Energizer Bunny is done pounding his drum.

Let’s get bipartisan!

But lest you believe that Bunnies only inhabit Republican hutches, there are, if anything even more on the Democratic side.  Take, for example, John Kefalas, who’s held a long string of elected offices on Colorado’s urbanized, northern Front Range.

John and I both came into the Colorado House in 2006.  John, however, left the House in 2012 to run for a state Senate seat.  He then resigned part way through his eight year term to run for a seat on the Larimer Board of Commissioners.

Again, I am glad to give John credit where it is due.  While we didn’t often see eye to eye on policy matters, he was, like many of our legislative colleagues, smart and hard working.  But John’s legislative career path was like so many of the others I see down there: a term limit (eight years) in the House,  eight years in the Senate (or visa versa).  And then: “What’s next?”  The bunnies are always on the lookout for the main chance.  In John’s case, it was the County Commissioner seat-which pays significantly better than a legislative seat.

The vacancy game

But my real beef with John and so many other pols like him?  After promising his supporters that he is “eager” to represent them in the House-or, in Kefalas’ case, the Senate-he resigned part way through his term when the prospect of a better deal come along.  And then runs for that “higher” office-either through the truncated vacancy committee process.  Or via a regular election.

In either event, running as a current office holder-the “incumbent”-is a huge advantage in terms of name recognition.  Which also makes it much easier to raise money: the lobbyists who control donor purse strings are eager to back sure bets.  And shy away from long shot challengers.

The Greasy Pole

750x450 naval pole

And now, one of our own, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, has announced he’s running for President.  That’s a pole certainly no less greasy than the one Benjamin Disraeli climbed in 1874 to become Britain’s Prime Minister.

Again, I wish our former Governor well.  I served under him for a few years.  He’s an amiable man.  Perhaps, in fact, overly amiable for our current, bitterly partisan zeitgeist.

But I’m compelled to say this.  After 8 years as Mayor of Denver and then 8 years as Governor of Colorado, is he really any different than all the other professional politicians out there?  Or is he just on the lookout for the next hand hold on the greasy pole that will get him to the top of the heap in DC?

Where he will be content to comfortably wallow with the rest of the denizens of the DC swamp?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far From The Madding Crowd

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

A real, live white male hero?  Not possible!

I’ve watched it more times than I want to admit.  But, as Sergeant Troy, the film’s anti-hero says just before he stops a richly deserved bullet to the heart, “Honesty in all things.”  So.  There you have it.  Guilty as charged by my wife, who more than once has cast a wondering, skeptical glance my way as she goes up the basement stairs while I spin the elliptical, watching Far from the Madding Crowd yet again.

I like Carrie Mulligan as the impetuous, strong willed Bathsheba Everdene.  And Mattias Schoenaerts as the wise, steadfast Gabriel Oak.  I like the marriage bond that finally unites the two.  I like that, right from the outset, “a baby or two” is recognized as the natural and desired outcome of marriage.  I like the defiant heterosexuality.  And the picture’s equally defiant sexual modesty, even prudery.  I like the gentle, English countryside. And the Victorian conventions that bound it together.  I particularly like that the film makes no effort whatsoever to appease the vast array of aggrieved minorities and pressure groups that Hollywood has seemingly come to believe are its primary raison d´être.

The thrill is gone

But all good things come to an end.  Especially after the furnace is stoked cherry red.  But in due course, I’m confident the thrill will be back.  And what’ll I do then?  Climb aboard the elliptical.  And watch it again.  Even knowing each of it’s twists and turns.

And which is something you might want to consider doing yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

The Emerald Mile

750450 rafting grand canyon

Or how the Sierra Club was bought and paid for on immigration

Until a few months ago, I had no idea what The Emerald Mile is.  Or was.  But my sister, as is her wont, helped straighten me out.

Over lunch, she the put on the hard sell:  “The Emerald Mile is a fabulous book.  You need to read it.  It’s about the fastest run that’s ever been made though the Grand Canyon in a little, wooden river dory.  Sure, there’s a little environmentalism thrown in. But it’s basically a great adventure story.  My kids loved it.  You will too.”

So I listened to an unabridged version.  And the book’s, indeed, a good one.  The story of three crazed “river rats” who pulled off this hair raising feat by getting slingshot through the Canyon on the back of a raging Colorado River at the height of a hundred year flood is compelling.

450x675 emerald mile

But wait.  There’s more.

But the story of the record breaking run down the river is, in many ways, mostly a peg on which to hang the much bigger story of human interaction with one of our nation’s most iconic natural wonders.  It’s a story that revolves around two polar extremes:  the dam building, engineering geniuses who bent the Colorado’s raging spring floods to man’s purposes. And, in the process, turned the river into an enormous, usually docile plumbing system.

At the other pole are environmental groups, with the Sierra Club in the vanguard, who eventually brought the dam building to a screeching halt.  But not, of course, until after some of the Canyon’s most stunning features were submerged in watery graves.

Much of the book is devoted to a history of the Sierra Club and it’s long time Executive Director, David Brower.  It tells how the Club went from little more than an “alpine picnicking society”, to, under Brower’s leadership, an organization espousing a militantly environmentalist, anti-immigration agenda.

And then, because of strings that were attached to a gift of more than $100 million from David Gelbaum, a pro-immigration, Jewish oligarch, the Sierra Club reverted to its picnicking club roots.  When he made the contribution, Gelbaum told then Sierra Club director, Carl Pope, that “if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”  Pope, like an obedient lap dog, laid down and gratefully licked the hand that fed him.

See here, as well, for the story of how Gelbaum upped his purchase price for the Club to $200 million.  And how the Club has come out for virtually unlimited immigration.

To protest this immigration sell out, Brower resigned from the Club’s board, saying:

He [Brower] also criticized the Sierra Club leadership for not taking a stronger position against increased immigration into the United States, which in 1998 was the subject of a divisive internal debate over club policy.

”Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of the problem. It has to be addressed.”

BS talks population control.  And money walks.

When I was in the Colorado legislature, on two occasions I ran bills that would have mandated that all Colorado employers use the E-Verify system to assure that job applicants are legally eligible to work in the U.S.  Illegal immigrants, of course, are usually drawn to this country for jobs.

On both occasions, Colorado environmental organizations opposed E-Verify.  Why?  Because, according to Pam Kiely, an environmental lobbyist, “We have to control world population first.  Then deal with the United States.” (Environmental groups, like most organizations with similar interests, run in packs.  The Sierra Club was one of the pack. Pam was speaking for the Club).

Pam’s logic doesn’t pass the smell test.  Why?  Because the U.S. has the fastest growing population of any industrialized nation in the world.  America accounts for all population growth among advanced countries.  And by 2050 we’re likely to add over 110 million people.  Imagine what 110 million more people will do to your commute.  The price of housing.  The pressure on our national parks.  And virtually all of that is attributable to immigration; the native born US population has stabilized at the replacement level.

Practicing what you preach on population control

Well, Pam, good luck with that strategy for controlling the world’s population.  I can just see the Club lecturing countries with sky rocketing populations like Oman, Niger and Tanzania about getting their population houses in order.   While ignoring what population growth and immigration is doing to the Sierra Club’s own country.  And the world’s population grows from our current, astounding number of over 7 billion.  To an unfathomable 11 billion by 2100.

So, Sierra Club members, party hearty on your exotic cruises.  And keep buying those coffee table books.  While your bought and paid for leadership ignores America’s mushrooming population.  And the tides of immigrants continue to lap up against the shores of places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellow Stone, and the Grand Tetons.

My Name In Bright Lights

The Social Problems That Must Not Be Named750x450 stage lights

It happened on the morning of February 11, 2010.  I was walking from my parking spot on the grounds of the state capitol (one of the few perks of being a member of the General Assembly) to my business office on the other side of Broadway.

As I walked, I looked up to see the headlines crawling across The Denver Post building.  While I don’t remember the exact words, it said something like this: “Swalm: Dems bristle at his anti-poverty remarks.”  I made that walk many times during my eight years in the House; it was the only time my name made it into those bright lights (they’ve since gone dark).

The dust up came over an obscure bill dealing with a change to a state tax credit that redirected tax refunds from citizens who had paid the taxes in the first place. To low income Coloradans-some of whom may not have paid any taxes at all.  The Democrats who argued in favor of the bill said it was an anti-poverty measure.  I was particularly agitated because the ballot measure that created the tax originally contained a provision that any refunds would be shared by all taxpayers.  This bill overturned that voter expectation.

But what got the Dems worked up was my arguement that a transient, relatively insignificant tax refund would do virtually nothing to address the underlying causes of poverty.  And that what was really needed was a fundamental shift in attitudes among poor people around the issues of out of wedlock births, divorce, education, and employment.

As I worked my way down those talking points from the well of the House, more and more of my Democratic colleagues, their faces a picture of horrified astonishment, rushed from their seats to follow their Speaker, Terrance Carroll, to the front of the chamber. Where they gave voice to their outrage.

Carroll, who is black and was born in poverty to an unwed mother, thundered at the mic, “Representative Swalm’s comments are an insult to every single person who lives in poverty, who works their butt off every single day just to keep their head above water.”

Don’t Have Kids Out Of Wedlock

Note that Speaker Carroll didn’t argue that my facts were incorrect-they’re not.  Just that they’re “insulting”.  And, therefore, shouldn’t be discussed.  Why?  Because they’re politically incorrect. A classic example of hate facts-realities that the politically thin skinned, usually liberals, declare out of bounds for discussion because they put a favored group in a bad light.

Well, hate facts be damned.  I’m more concerned about the welfare of kids than I am about offending unwed mothers-who, after all, are adults.  Or should be.

The outcomes for illegitimate children, by virtually every meaningful measure, compare unfavorably with those kids born into families with a married father and mother.  Poverty, to be sure.  But that’s just the beginning of the bad news:  infant mortality, lower academic performance, emotional instability, criminality, drug use-all these, and more, significantly worse for children born to unwed mothers.

Does this mean that every child born out of wedlock is destined for failure?  Of course not.  Speaker Carroll is an obvious exception.  But it does mean that the odds of success are stacked against them.  And, unfortunately, those odds are rapidly getting longer as the percentage of kids born out of wedlock explodes, rising from 10% forty years ago to over 40% now.

These are the figures for the population at large, but across various ethnic groups the statistics often tell an even more disconcerting story.   Among whites, 30% unwed mothers; blacks, a catastrophic 77%; hispanics 60% (and the fastest growing segment); Asians 27%.  And, even in the few years since my name crawled across The Denver Post building, these numbers have gotten worse.

Don’t Get Divorced-In The Absence Of Abuse Or Infidelity

Elizabeth Taylor was the Hollywood star who, infamously, was divorced 8 times.  One anonymous wag said that she would often wake up in the morning, stretch luxuriantly, and say, “I feel like a new man.”

Such marital chaos might make sense, at least financially, for a woman pulling down a cool $1 million per film. But for the average person, especially a woman who winds up with custody of children, divorce is usually a financial tsunai from which she will probably never recover.  The numbers are daunting: 37% of households headed by a single woman are likely to be in poverty as opposed to just 9% of those headed by a married couple.  Marriage, in other words, drops the likelihood of child poverty by 82%.

The extent to which Hollywood glamorizes the social cancers that gnaw at our nation’s vitals are virtually limitless:  sex, violence, drugs, etcetera. Pick your poison.

But the example set by scantily clad starlets and their hunk, “husband of the month,” and which they wear on their arms like so many oversized baubles, is perhaps the most damaging.  Treating marriage like Kleenex might work, after a fashion, in La La Land.  And you have money to burn.  But for the average woman, who takes her cues from what she sees on the silver screen, it’s a prescription for financial disaster in her very different, very gritty reality.

Get A High School Degree

How’s this for a news flash?  “It doesn’t cost a dime to get a high school degree.  And,” I told Jessica Fender, the former Capitol beat reporter of the now much diminished Denver Post and whose story was translated into the bright lights,  “a high school degree goes a long way toward getting a person out of poverty.”

Again, the facts are there:

  • On average, someone without a high school degree earns about $25,000 annually and faces an 8% unemployment rate in the job market.
  • A high school degree?  About $35,200 annually and a 5.8% jobless market.  That’s a 40% jump in earnings and a 20% improvement in job prospects.  For a degree that doesn’t cost a dime.

Of course, it goes without saying, the higher the level of educational attainment, the brighter the earnings and job prospects.  But at least to begin, let’s begin at the beginning-a high school degree.

Get A Job.  Even A Minimum Wage Job. And Stick With It.

You might think that this one is the “duh” factor:  having a job reduces the chances of poverty.

Unfortunately, however, it’s not as simple as it may appear, given the bewildering array of welfare type programs, and their complex eligibility rules, that came into existence with the “war on poverty.”

For example, one of the issues we repeatedly discussed in the legislature was the “cliff effect“-the circumstance where a welfare recipient would lose some or all of their benefits if their job related income went above a certain level.  And, as a result, the family would actually be better off financially without a job than with one.  Crazy.  And, trust me, you really did have to be something like a rocket scientist to calculate the impact of job earnings on eligibility for things like low income tax credits, food stamps, child care assistance, and health care coverage.  It’s like three dimensional Chinese checkers.

This isn’t the place to try to resolve the cliff effect puzzle, an issue that has bedeviled policy makers ever since it gained prominence as a result of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform efforts in the ’90’s.  Nonetheless, any solution should encourage work and avoid penalizing marriage.

But far more important than welfare in alleviating poverty is a robust economy.  As President Kennedy once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”   And this is particularly true of low income people.

In the late 1990’s the unemployment rate fell to about 4%, the lowest it had been in three decades.  That “tight” labor market raised wages across the board, but especially for low income workers.  For instance, the unemployment rate for blacks is typically two to two and a half times the rate of whites.  Which means that if the white jobless rate can be lowered by 1%, the black unemployment rate may fall by as much as 2%.  For black teens, whose unemployment rate is about 6 times higher than whites, each 1% drop in the white jobless rate may translate into a 6% drop for unemployed black teens.

Colorado is fortunate in that its current unemployment rate, at 3.1%, is less than the 4-6% that economists usually term “full employment.”  Which translates into rising incomes for all.  But especially those in poverty.

To Solve These Tough Problems, We Must Be Able To Talk About Them

I’m certainly not the first to spark a heated response by discussing these issues.  That distinction may belong to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a brilliant and daring sociologist who was a lieutenant in President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Moynihan was responsible for what became known as the controversial, but still to this day influential, Moynihan Report.  Or, officially, The Negro Family:  The Case For National Action.

In it, Moynihan, initially set out to prove what, as he described it, “‘everyone knew’: that economic conditions determine social conditions.  Whereupon, it turned out that what everyone knew was evidently not so.”  In other words, the poverty that bedeviled most black families wasn’t causing black families to fail.  And that, instead, the implosion of the black family was the cause of it’s poverty.

As it did for me, Moynihan’s conclusion set off a firestorm of controversy. And charges of racism.  Nonetheless, Moynihan persisted.  As do I.

If political correctness is allowed to stifle a frank discussion of these politically charged issues, what hope is there?  The facts are clear that rates of out of wedlock births are not just a calamity for the black and Hispanic communities.  They affect everyone.

And it’s not as if there’s no hope.  As recently as 1950, the illegitimate birth rates for whites (about 3%) and blacks (about 18%-and much lower than the current 30% among whites) were at least within hailing distance of one another.  The historical evidence is clear:  black families can remain intact and succeed, even in the face of the often intense discrimination they faced before the enactment of civil rights legislation.

It’s not without reason that Pope John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”  The Pope was a wise man in many ways.  But not least in his understanding of how strong families can be an “anti-poverty” strategy par excellence.  As well as inoculate people against many of the other social pathologies that beset us.

Just So Sad . . .

school shootings 2Compared To . . . ?

About two months ago there was a high school shooting in Aztec, New Mexico that resulted in the deaths of two students.  The shooter, who died in the incident, was armed with a Glock pistol that he legally purchased.  The weapon is widely used by both law enforcement and civilians.

My sister lives in Albuquerque.  With the tragedy occurring in her figurative backyard, my sister an sent an indignant email to me.  The subject line was, “Just so sad . . .”

Because immigration is often a bone of contention between us, that vexed topic also worked it’s way into the discussion.  She was particularly upset that the shooter was a white, American male. And, according to her, that these are the people that pose a real threat to our safety-as opposed to illegal immigrants.  As she put it, “Who is killing more of us?  White American males or illegal immigrants?”

And now we now have an even worse school shooting in Florida.   Again, the shooter was a white, American male.  But this time the shooter survived the episode, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.  The latest reports are that while the shooting was underway, four deputy sheriffs were hiding behind their nearby patrol cars-rather than storming the building. And that law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, ignored warnings signs of the danger posed by the shooter.  The shooter was armed with a legally purchased, semi-automatic, AR-15 rifle.  It’s estimated that there are several million of these weapons in circulation in the country.

Rivers of electronic ink have already been spilled discussing gun violence in this country.  What can be said that hasn’t already been said?  Well, here are a couple of ideas.

Compared To Most Of The World And Most Of Its History, America Is Peaceful

This is going to sound crazy coming on the heels of these horrific shootings, but by comparison to most of the world and for most of it’s history, America is peaceful.

The bloodiest war we ever fought was our Civil War, which left about 700,000 dead, more than the rest of our wars combined.  A terrible tragedy, without question.  But by comparison to the rest of the world, the US is a piker when it comes to blood letting.

One hundred years ago, Europe was nearing the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars”-which did nothing of the sort for that bloody continent.  In four years of savage trench warfare, over 9 million combatants lost their lives; additional millions of civilians perished.

But World War I was just the prelude to an even more horrifying conflict:  World War II.  This time, there were over 24 million military deaths, and nearly 30 million civilian.  American deaths (about 419,000), were a tiny fraction of these mind numbing totals.  And behind most of these countless deaths and maimings there were loved ones who, no doubt, experienced every bit as much grief as those who were left behind by our school shootings.

Am I making light of the shock and intense sorrow that has followed the school shootings in our country?  Of course not; it’s just to put it in context.  Do you charge me with being cold hearted?  Fair enough.  But what’s it called when you’re more grieved with 19 murders-than with the industrial scale slaughter of 24 million?

In light of these terrifying numbers, preachy articles like this one from an English newspaper, comparing European and US gun violence, and which are so prevalent after something like the Florida shooting, strike me, at best, as historically myopic.  And, at worst, as hypocrytical.

“But,” you say, “those wars were a long time ago.”  That’s right.  So was The Holocaust-and the 6 million who died in the gas chambers.  Are you saying, “It’s time to put The Holocaust behind us and focus on Florida”?  The question answers itself.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the gruesome details.  But please, don’t lecture me about how “peaceful” Europe is in comparison to America.  Scholars estimate that the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, may have been responsible for up to 50 million deaths.  This quote, usually attributed to the Communist monster, is particularly apt here: “A single death is a tragedy.  The death of millions is a statistic.”  Yes, America has its share of tragedies.  But, thank God, we’re short on statistics.

Compared To Whom?

There’s an odd thing about these mass shootings that you probably haven’t noticed.  And that’s that not all of them are committed by white, American males.  In fact, a sizable number of these killings are committed by culprits that aren’t white, American males.   And the reason you haven’t noticed this fact? Because the main stream media doesn’t want you to notice it.  It doesn’t fit into their meme of white, American males as violent, gun happy criminals.

But the facts, here, tell a different story.  Immigrants of all races, both legal and illegal, have killed at least 635 and wounded at least 2,160 as of December, 2017.  And that doesn’t even count the 3,000 killed and over 6,000 injured in the September 11 attacks.  But these facts are often concealed in the coverage of these immigrant crimes because the main stream media usually doesn’t even talk about these attributes of the culprit. Unless he’s a white, American male.

So, is it atrocious when a white, American male is involved in one of these horrific crimes? Absolutely.  But it’s every bit as bad when the criminal is an immigrant, regardless of his race.  And if it’s relevant that some of these crazed criminals are white, American males, then the ethnicity and immigration status of the the culprit should be relevant and reported in all cases.

Compared To What, Realistically, Can Be Done

I live within a few miles of where the Columbine High School massacre occurred.  The body count in that tragedy left 15 dead (including the 2 perpetrators) and 24 wounded.  The Superintendent of that school district, Jason Glass, knows all too well the suffering caused by these crimes. Since the Florida shooting, he has weighed in on school safety with some ideas worth paying attention to.

First, he doesn’t believe that more restrictive gun control laws or arming teachers will get any more traction this time than it has after the numerous, previous incidents of this kind.  Thus, he doesn’t believe we should waste energy on the politically impossible.  And, that, instead, we should focus on the politically possible.

Superintendent Glass thinks the following are possible:

  • Putting trained, armed law enforcement officers in every school.
  • Increase funding for school mental health services.
  • Redesign schools to be more like airports, stadiums, and other public facilities, so that access is better controlled.
  • Create a federally funded center to study school safety and security.

I think three of the four of these ideas make sense.  I’m opposed, however, to turning the problem over to the federal government-even the funding.  If the feds fund school safety research, it will almost certainly try to impose a “one size fits all” solution.  When I was in the legislature, I learned that the “golden rule” rigidly applies to federal funding:  he who has the gold, makes the rules. Colorado isn’t California or North Dakota or New York or Alaska. We’re smart enough to come up with a solution that works for Colorado; keep the feds out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Left Or Right

male refugees floating in by boatIt’s Globalist Or Nationalist

My sister, to put it mildly, is well traveled.  Throw a dart at the globe, and there’s a good chance that, on one trip or another, she’s been there.  Or, at least, on that continent.

While I’ve been out of the country a few times, I’m pretty much a home body.  That gives us a different perspective on things.

It’s also true that, politically speaking, she comes down to the left of me.  Which isn’t too surprising, since I fall somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.  Our political  discussions can be contentious.  On more than one occasion, I’ve stated my resolve that “We just shouldn’t talk politics.”  She responds, “You’re right.”  And, don’t you know, next time we’re together, we’re back at it.

One of the issues that has been a regular bone of contention is immigration.  We’ve emailed articles and links to websites back and forth trying to drive home our points.  All to little avail.

But she gave me an article from a recent edition of The New Yorker during our last visit that made an impression on me.  It’s entitled, You Will Not Replace Us.” The European thinkers behind the white-nationalist rallying cry” by Thomas Chatterton Williams.  I’ve got to hand it to my sister, it’s definitely worth a read.  And, I must confess, goes a good way toward proving her contention that she’s more open minded than I am.  Which, again, isn’t too surprising, since when it comes to immigration, I can pretty much look through a knot hole with both eyes open.

The line in the article that really jumped out at me appears near the end when the author turns his attention from Europe to the United States:  “And yet the country has nonetheless arrived at a moment when once unmentionable ideas have gone mainstream, and the most important political division is no longer between left and right but between globalist and nationalist.”

Coming from an historically leftist publication that’s produced in a city that has represented the belly of the leftist beast, this is a remarkable concession.  Politically speaking, it’s the equivalent of a tectonic shift in earth’s crust in the blink of an eye.

But consider.  Running on a decidedly nationalistic platform, Trump’s resounding victory confounded everyone:  the Republican establishment; Hillary still hasn’t resigned herself to it; the mainstream media remains in a state of dazed disbelief; the pollsters missed it by a mile.

The Brexit vote was equally unexpected.  And, basically, was also a show down between globalism and nationalism.  And the resentment in the European Union over the heavy handed, “right thinking” globalist bureaucrats in Brussels doesn’t stop with Britain.  A majority of citizens in many European countries support a ban on further immigration from Muslim majority countries: they want their nations back.  In this, they are following the lead of the globalists’ favorite te noire, Donald Trump.

The article quotes at length a leading French philosophe, Bernard-Henri Lévy, who, according to Thomas, “has long embodied elite thinking on the French left.”  With respect to the hordes of impoverished Syrian refugees washing over Europe, Lévy has written, “They are applicants for freedom, lovers of our promised land, our social model, and our values.  They are people who cry out ‘Europe! Europe!'”

At this, Thomas charges Lévy with “blithe cosmopolitanism” when, from his impeccable apartment in an exclusive Parisian neighborhood, the multi-millionaire Lévy dismisses the concerns of average Europeans about the hordes of Muslim refugees descending on the continent.  This callus attitude, continues Thomas, “can fuel resentment toward both intellectuals and immigrants.”  To which I can only add this suggestion for Monsieur Lévy: “Keep it up.”  And so he does; further on in the article, he flatly declares that France “has no refugees.”

The central theme of the article is one originally suggested by the French writer and member of the alt-right, Renaud Camus:  “The Great Replacement is very simple.  You have one people and, in the space of a generation, you have a different people.”  Explains Camus, the replacement is the result of mass immigration and low birth rates among native French people-and other Western countries and peoples.  (Here, by the way, is a thoughtful, non-boogieman manifesto of the alt-right coauthored by a gay, Jewish prankster/bomb thrower and a writer for Breitbart.)

When asked why the notion of the great replacement resonates so widely in so many places, Lévy dismisses it as a “junk idea.”  “The Roman conquest of Gaul,” asserts Lévy, “was a real modification of the population in France.  There was never something like an ethnic French people.”

It’s ironic that Lévy is so dismissive of the possibility of French ethnicity.  Because, as a Jew and a strident proponent of Zionism, he certainly seems to believe that Jewish ethnicity is no “junk idea.”  And, for that matter, that Jewish blood is sufficiently pure to be inextricably linked to the soil of Israel.

In January, 2015 Lévy addressed a meeting of the UN General Assembly on antisemitism in these terms:  “The Jews are detestable because they are supposed to support an evil illegitimate state-this is the anti-Zionist delirium of the merciless adversaries of the reestablishment of the Jews in their historical fatherland.”

This is intriguing language.  Imagine his “delirious” outrage if a member of the alt-right, on the basis of ethnic “purity,” attempted to claim an “historical fatherland” in front of an august body like the UN.  Lévy would be calling for their heads on a platter.  Evidently, only a Zionist is entitled to argue for an “historical fatherland” on the grounds of ethnic purity.  And only Jewish blood is sufficiently pure to save it from being a “junk idea.”

But Lévy, no more than any other disciple of identity politics, can’t have it both ways.  If Jews can press their case on the basis of race or ethnicity, so can blacks, and Hispanics, and Asians.  They do.  And they are.  As the article asserts, this is the new way of the world.  So, why not whites?

Lévy might not like the fact that it’s “no longer left and right, but globalist and nationalist.”  At least, when it comes to Europe and France.  But he, apparently, is perfectly content with the notion that Israel and Zionism and Judiasm represent a near apotheosis of blood and soil.  He better get used to the idea of other groups practicing what he really preaches.  Because it’s coming.

A War Like All Others.

750x450 ancient greeceThose Who Can’t Learn From History, Are Condemned To Repeat It.  But Why?

An old friend and I are planning a cruise to the Aegean islands this spring.

I’ve known Dean for decades.  First, back in the ’80’s, when we were brought together by our mutual loathing for rail mass transit.  But 21st century Denver’s unreasoning lust for a 19th century technology won out in the end:  FastTracks, as we predicted, is billions of dollars over budget and decades behind schedule.  The long, miserable track record of other failed projects like this around the county made no difference to voters.

But why?  Because they swallowed, whole hog, the Chamber of Commerce’s line of light rail BS.

Somewhere along the way, however, I lost track of Dean.  Which isn’t really the right way to put it.  I had it from a usually reliable source that he had actually died after a long bout with prostate cancer.

But then one night, as I was opening mail in my “campaign headquarters” (my grown son’s former bedroom), what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a check from Dean to help fuel one of my runs for the Colorado House of Representatives.  “What,” I thought, “a check from beyond the grave?!”  No, of course not; the guy I met a few days later for breakfast, while, like me, somewhat worse for wear, was no ghost.

In any event, we’ve booked a cruise this spring to see Greece and the Aegean islands.  So, I’ve been boning up on my Greek history.

Athens, Sparta And The War That Doomed Greece.

One of the books I’ve listened to is Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).  Considered one of the two fathers of the study of history, Thucydides was an Athenian and an eyewitness and participant in the events he described.

In effect a civil war, it was fought with the savagery that is typical of internecine conflict.  Its conclusion marked the end of Greece’s Golden Age, and left its two primary combatants, Athens and Sparta, burnt out husks of their former selves.

The other father of history, Herodotus, also a Greek, chronicled the earlier Persian Wars (499 to 449 BC) that pitted the overwhelming might of the Persian empire against a ragtag band of Greek city states led by Athens and Sparta.  Against all odds, the Greeks prevailed and the nascent idea of democracy was not strangled in its Athenian crib.

As the Peloponnesian War began, Athens was near the pinnacle of its influence, wealth, and matchless cultural achievements.  But from a scrappy democracy, imperial pretensions were beginning to appear.  What had been the “coalition of the willing” that had banded together to turn back the Persian threat a mere 18 years earlier, was now a restive Athenian empire: the Delian League.  Athen’s increasingly heavy-handed treatment of League members provoked its rival, Sparta, and contributed to the outbreak of the war.

Initially, Pericles, the Athenian statesman and general, persuaded his fellow citizens to adopt a defensive strategy, withdrawing behind the “Long Walls” that connected the city to Piraeus, the nearby port where its battle tested and nearly invincible navy lay could launch raids against Spartan territory.

More than Athen’s equal on land, Sparta pursued a scorched earth policy, squeezing Athenians into their walled city where they watched their olive trees and vineyards being ravaged.  But the Athenians, with their control of the sea lanes, could securely resupply themselves.

Stalemate: both sides settled in for a grinding siege.

Athens:  Democracy to Bullying Imperial Power.

But the crowded conditions behind Athen’s walls caused a devastating plague to break out in the war’s second year.  Thousands perished, including Pericles and most of his family.  Thucydides himself contracted the disease, but survived, writing about it in gruesome detail.  Social order collapsed, since most Athenians believed they were doomed anyway.

Remarkably Athens was able to rebound from this calamity.  Over the next 15 years, and with increasing ruthlessness on both sides, the war dragged on inconclusively.

Until Athens, in 415 BC, under the generalship of the brilliant, but unscrupulous Alcibiades, launched a massive sea borne invasion of Syracuse.  Like Athens, Syracuse was a democratic a city state.  It’s crime was that it was a Spartan ally.

The invasion ended in disaster for Athens, with its fleet at the bottom of the Mediteranean and the entire expeditionary force either slaughtered or sold into slavery.  While the war dragged on in desultory fashion for years thereafter, the ending was a foregone conclusion: ruin for all of Greece.  The way was cleared for Alexander the Great to subjugate the entire peninsula.

But why?  Because Athens had gone from the birthplace of democracy. To a bullying imperial power.

America, Israel And Our Unnecessary Wars.

The United States has now been fighting wars in the Muslim Middle East for nearly 20 years.  We’ve kicked over more hornets’ nests than you can shake a stick at: Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Syria. Yemen.  All fruitless.  All enormously expensive.  All blood soaked for both us and our opponents.  All with no end in sight.

But why?  To make the world safe for Israel.

The Jewish dominated, neoconservative movement has played an enormously influential role in American foreign policy since at least the 1960’s.  Although it’s tenets have varied based on the needs of the moment, in recent years the primary focus of neocons has been Israel and the Middle East.  The movement has deep roots in the Jewish American community.  It grew out of the Jewish monthly magazine, Commentary, originally published by the American Jewish Committee.  The American State Department, rife with neocons, has become a virtual low-level department in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs when it comes to the Mideast.  When Israel says “Jump,” our State Department asks, “How high?”

President Trump’s appointment of David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, to be the US ambassador to Israel does nothing to dispel this perception. Friedman is cut from the same extreme right wing cloth as Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Friedman’s Senate confirmation hearings were contentious, with a number of Israeli and American Jewish groups opposing it.  Friedman denounced his Jewish opponents in what can scarcely be described as diplomatic terms:  they are “far worse than kapos”-Jews who betrayed their fellows in the Nazi death camps.  While Friedman later attempted to walk back this language, his liberal Jewish critics weren’t mollified.  Several Jewish members of Congress opposed the nomination, as did five former US Ambassadors to Israel, who declared him “unqualified.”

No more helpful was the President’s recent announcement that the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem.  Nearly every former US ambassador to Israel thought it was a bad idea.

The Israel Lobby.

And when not actually in government, Israel also exercises enormous influence over our foreign policy through a network of organizations described by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of the Harvard School of Government in The Israel Lobby.  According to the authors, “No lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.”

Of course, Mearsheimer and Walt have been accused of anti-Semitism.  Anyone who dares criticize Israel is, in the view of the Lobby, anti-Semitic.   It’s the perfect weapon for shutting down any reasoned consideration of what would be America’s best interests in the Middle East.

Why Not An Honest Broker?

In 1956, Israel, England and France invaded Egypt and took control of the Suez Canal after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the waterway.  While the invasion was a military success, it was a diplomatic disaster for the three allies.

Under President Dwight Eisenhower, America was not yet in thrall to Israel; “Ike” played the crisis down the middle.  The three aggressors withdrew from Egypt.  The canal, which Egypt had blocked with sunken ships, was reopened.  America still had the standing to act as an honest broker in the Middle East.

No more.  In virtually the entire world, we are viewed as Israel’s handmaiden, its useful idiot.  Is it an accident that we are fighting wars with so many Muslim countries that surround the state of Israel?  And which consider nuclear armed Israel (although Israel is coy about its bomb) a threat to their existence?

Is America First?

One of the main reasons I was an early supporter of President Trump was that he promised to put “America First.”  Is it surprising that some Jewish scholars, commentators, and organizations have criticized the President for even suggesting that Israel be moved down the pecking order?  Unfortunately, with our never ending Mid-East wars, it appears that the Lobby is continuing to have its way.  And that Israel is back in the position to which it has long been accustomed: “We’re number one!”

Hail, Caesar!

LGBTTQQIAAP. Or something like that.

I am so over radio talk shows.  I’m not a sports talk guy, either. And while I enjoy classical music, it definitely plays second fiddle to a good recorded history or novel while I’m on the road.

I’m currently listening to Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland.  Though it was pretty much chosen at random from the library’s shelves, I got lucky.  (Some reviewers, of course, like the book, some don’t.)  While it’s impossible for an untutored amateur like me to keep track of the enormous cast of characters that turn up over the course of 14 CDs, the gist of the story is pretty straightforward:  ancient Rome’s first several emperors after the fall of the Republic were, on the whole, a very unsavory bunch.  And even though it’s been 2,000 years since they ruled the world, their names still have the power to conjure up a rogues’ gallery of cruelty, treachery and deviancy: Caligula, Nero, Tiberius.

The catalogue of crimes and sins run the gamut:  parricide, matricide, and and pretty much any other of variation of “cide” that you’ve heard of-and probably some you didn’t even know existed.  Incest was endemic.  (And probably goes a good way toward explaining the madness that keeps turning up like a bad penny in the dynastic line.)  Pederasty?  No big deal.  Nero, in a rage, kicks his beautiful, pregnant wife, Poppaea, in the stomach, killing her and the baby.  Seized with remorse, he has a young boy who looks like Poppaea made into a eunuch and marries her(?) with great pomp and ceremony.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Nor was virtually any other deviant sexual coupling out of bounds.  One book reviewer says that Holland, certainly no prude, “can’t quite bring himself to describe them in full.”  That’s a mercy-since there’s plenty that’s not left to the imagination.

Holland also makes it clear that he shares his ancient sources esteem for the “simple, republican virtues” that were rapidly giving way in the face of the degeneracy and luxury of the empire.   In doing so, he thus gives these monsters credit for at least this: they were moral agents.  In other words, they were capable of acting in reference to right and wrong.  They weren’t mere puppets hanging from the strings of their genes or hormones.

Now What?

So, where do we stand now, 2,000 years on?  Is moral agency an archaic notion that must give way to puppetry?  Increasingly, especially in reference to our sexuality, the answer seems to be, “Yes.”  The evidence?  LGBTTQQIAAP.  A bewildering array of initials that would tax the imagination of even the most creative of Rome’s sexual free thinkers:  Lesbian.  Gay.  Bisexual.  Transgendered.  Transexual.  Queer.  Etcetera.  And so on.  And so forth.

Must all these exquisitely fine gradations of what, for millennia, have been seen as abnormal expressions of human sexuality be granted moral immunity because, as their advocates contend, they’re genetically hard wired into our DNA?  Which is another way of saying, at least in regards to our sexuality, we’re no longer moral agents?  Apparently so.

But what does this say about us as people in a larger sense?  Who can doubt that sex plays a central role in who we are as humans?   But, if our sexual conduct is beyond our control, can we still be considered the only creature whose defining characteristic is the capacity for rational thought and action?  And, if so, where does it all end?

Two potential resting places come to mind.

First, what we do with ourselves.  But isn’t it obvious that we are already well beyond this stopping place?  Old taboos are viewed, at best, as quaint.  And, more realistically, hurtfully repressive.  What is LGBTTQQIAAP, if not an affirmation of this?

When I was in junior high, our gym teacher taught us boys a sex-ed class.  While we squirmed in discomfort next to our fathers, the teacher soberly warned us about the dangers of masturbation.  Now, kids that age are introduced to, and not discouraged from exploring, all manner of previously unexplored frontiers of sexuality.   At Ivy League campuses BDSM clubs are officially sanctioned.  And what takes place beyond the “hallowed halls” of academia I will certainly leave to your imagination.  The instinctual animal reigns supreme.

And then, of course, there’s what we consensually do with others.  And this certainly seems like a secure stopping place.  It definitely should be.  It’s the clear message we are getting from the outrage being expressed over the sexual harassment scandals currently so rampant in high places.

But how do we restrain the animal instincts of people when the culture teaches that, at least when it comes to sex, we aren’t moral agents?  You tell me.  And if your response is that we need to make the laws tougher, I don’t agree.  There aren’t enough cops or prisons.  And do we really want to live in a sexual police state?

I sat through more than one sexual harassment training session when I served in the legislature.  They’re about as close to a bad joke as you can get.  If an adult who has the moxie to get elected to office isn’t smart enough to have a grasp of the principals of decency that a kid should have learned in grade school, heaven help us.  (Which is, in actuality, where we should be looking for help.  But to even suggest such a solution would probably be considered, in many quarters, worse than the illness itself.)

Otherwise, we might just as well revert to the practice of having malefactors go to the black board in front of the class and write, 100 times, “I will not harass that woman over there. Or do something worse.”   Which public humiliation would, no doubt, be a far more effective deterrent than sprinkling platitudes over an anonymous training course.   Nonetheless, even I will concede this for an indoctrination session:  while we don’t need to be told the difference between right and wrong.   We do, occasionally, need to be reminded.  

What’s Next?

“Predictions,” as Yogi Berra famously said, “are difficult, especially about the future.”  Nonetheless, I’ll go out on a limb.  Or, rather, two limbs.  You decide which is more likely.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is among the best known dystopian predictions of what the future holds for us as sexual beings.  It’s the world of the feelies. And shaming if one isn’t sufficiently sexually freewheeling. And the dream world of soma.  Are these predictions any more outlandish or disheartening than what we’ve seen come to pass in reality?  Probably not, given that we live in an era when same sex marriage has become, in remarkably short order, about as American as apple pie.  And an era where, like the few, stubbornly retrograde dissenters in Brave New World, to question what has become the new, conventional wisdom about things sexual is to risk being consigned to the outer darkness.

But nothing grows to the sky.  The pendulum swings.  There is another limb, even in popular culture.

Consider Ground Hog Day; it sketches out an alternative, more hopeful vision.

Counted among the finest comedy films of all time, it features Bill Murray, a self -centered, low life weatherman who, trapped in a time warp, is condemned to relive the same day, over and over.  But who eventually comes to understand that to live, he must die to self.  The turning point shows Murray, arms extended, throwing himself to his death from a tall building.  When he rises the next day, he begins living for others rather than just himself.  And rather than trying to manipulate the film’s beautiful and virtuous romantic interest into his bed, he wins her heart through acts of service.  Before the credits roll, they are planning their wedding.

Another film that represents a tender, green shoot pushing into our our burned over sexual landscape is Blast From The Past.

Also a comedy that packs a punch, it features a hilarious, perfectly “square” family that locks itself into a bomb shelter under Los Angles in the mistaken belief that the Cuban missile crisis resulted in nuclear armageddon.  When they emerge 35 years later, their cute suburban tract home has been over run by porn shops, irradiated, “mutant” prostitutes who “can be whatever sex you want,” and lowriders that lurch down LA’s mean streets.

Adam, the son who was born just as the family went into the shelter, is sent on a mission to get enough supplies to last until the mutants kill each other off.  He meets the foul mouthed, but reluctantly honest Eve, and hires her to help him navigate the many perplexities of la la land.  Including getting a non-mutant wife.  Eve scoffs at the idea of marriage, asserting that “Everyone is divorced. Just talk to my divorced parents.  Talk to my divorced brother and sister.  Everyone knows that marriage bites the big one!”  She does, however, concede that she might be able to “help get you laid.”

As the movie progresses, though, Adam’s relentless courtesy and old fashioned decency takes its toll on Eve’s cynical, thoroughly modern heart.  Near the end, Eve is fingering her wedding ring in a house that is a replica of the suburban home where the story began.  Except it’s out in the country, situated in a new Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve share with his parents.

Eve reflects that, “Adam says that this is simply how things work.  First, the parents take care of the children and then the children take care of the parents.  He says, historically, that’s how it works.  Whenever Adam gives me such obviously incorrect information, I just smile and look out the window.  Why spoil his dreams?  They’re such wonderful dreams.”

Dream?  Or Nightmare?

Because I know how to use Google, rather than because I was able to labor through James Joyce’s Ulysses, I know that it contains this line: “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.”

So, as the Romans would say, quo vadis:  which way, America?  Toward an admittedly less than perfect dream of a man and a woman committing to life together where, in the sometimes fiery crucible of marriage and family, they learn that life’s most important lesson is to die to one’s self? And live for another?  It’s not easy.  It’s not meant to be.  But it’s been designed to help prepare us for something infinitely better.  A place where the dross that can make this life, at times, a nearly unbearable nightmare, is finally left behind.  For a joy that surpasses our wildest imaginings.

Or will we settle for something far less?  Where, by indulging the insatiable, apparently infinitely variable demands of our sexual selves, we are merely preparing ourselves to be gluttonous beholders of our own distorted image in a nightmarish house of mirrors from which there is no exit.

The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

navy chief petty officersWe were recently on a family vacation in Cape Cod.  And when I say family, I mean family.  There were 10 of us in a house we rented a few blocks from the beach.  A lot of togetherness.  But we still had a great time-although when it came time to leave, I was ready.

Marleen and I had flown into Boston a few days ahead of the rest of the crew to take in some of the city’s sights.  One of the things we did was walk most of the Freedom Trail; a sidewalk tour that takes you past many of the locations where key events that led to our break with the Mother Country occurred. Well worth doing next time you’re there.

An unexpected bonus along the way was to witness snatches of the advancement ceremonies for an incoming class of Navy chief petty officers.  At intervals, we would see men and women in uniform, sometimes in formation belting out a spirited rendition of Anchors Aweigh, sometimes lounging around waiting to move on to their next rally point.

Prominent in the news when we were in Boston was the most recent of the four sleek Navy ships that have been involved in collisions with lumbering commercial vessels.  And which have resulted in the deaths of numerous sailors since the first of this year.  The latest incident, involving the destroyer the John S. McCain, resulted in the Navy ordering an “operational pause” for the entire U.S. fleet of 277 vessels to review safety procedures.

uss constitution

I ruminated on this alarming record during our remaining days in Boston, which included a visit to “Old Ironsides.”  Officially known as the USS Constitution, the beautiful three master looked her best, having just come out of dry dock following a two year restoration.  By then, our son, Byron, had joined us as we toured the ship.  Byron is our “Navy guy,” having served with distinction during his eight year career helping to run the reactor aboard the ballistic missile submarine, the USS Nebraska.

By the time we got to the beach on Cape Cod, we were joined by our son-in-law, Haden, who is the family’s “Marine guy.”  He did two tours in Iraq; the second was agonizing for our daughter, Lauren, who was all but engaged to him during his deployment.  “All but” because Haden is the kind of guy you would want your daughter to marry; he called and asked my permission when he got home.

At one point on Cape Cod, when the three of us were together, I asked Byron about the Navy chief advancement ceremonies Marleen and I had seen.  “I don’t know a whole lot about them,” he answered, “but given that they were going around seeing the sights in Boston, I expect that they have something to do with naval heritage indoctrination.”

“I’m sure,” I continued, taking the conversation in a different direction, “that you guys have seen the news about all Navy vessels that can’t seem to keep track of where they’re going and run into merchant ships.  I’m thinking of writing a post on my blog and calling it ‘The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight.'”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Haden.  “With all the wars and deployments the military is stretched pretty thin.  I wouldn’t want to be in the military right now.”

I could have guessed what Byron would say:  “I agree.”  By the time his commitment was up, he couldn’t wait to get out.  In addition to the frustrations of military bureaucracy, exhausting, long watches were a way of life, even in the reactor space.

But despite their qualms, I decided to go ahead.  If the news stories are right about the military being overextended, and I don’t doubt they are, shouldn’t it be talked about?  Especially since, as it so obviously is, a life and death issue?

And, yes, the title of this post may be irreverent.  But is it inaccurate?  Despite spending trillions of dollars, has the U.S. military been on the winning side of a major conflict since WWII?  You decide.  Korea?  Seventy years on and it’s threatening to explode into an unprecedented calamity.  Vietnam?  You’re kidding.  Grenada?  I said “major.”  The Cold War?  Perhaps.  Unless we “succeed” in provoking Russia, a nation with a vast nuclear arsenal, into a shooting war. As so many of our warmonger Washington politicians seem to want.  Afghanistan and Iraq?  Out and out disasters.

Dwight Eisenhauer, President and Supreme Commander of Allied forces in the last major war we won, warned the nation in his farewell address of what he called the “military industrial complex.”  It’s an iron triangle of defense contractors looking for lucrative arms deals, Congressmen who want to bring home pork barrel projects for their districts, and a top heavy military bureaucracy out to aggrandize itself.   In 2015, the U.S. spent more on the military than the next seven nations combined.

Judging, in short, by this record, the U.S. military seems better at spending money-than winning wars.  Perhaps not too surprising.  Since when did “complexes,” rather than armies, win wars?

When we got home, I discussed the Navy’s problems again with a friend who, over the years, has repeatedly astonished me with the depth and breath of his knowledge; he may be the closest thing to a polymath that I know.

“You know,” he said, “there is another problem in the Navy that’s been largely buried.  It’s not just that tired sailors are falling asleep when they should be standing watch.  There’s a lot of sleeping around since Obama mandated that the Navy go coed.  Pregnancies are way up. That means ships are short handed.  And,” he continued, “it’s a politically incorrect thought crime to even notice it.  Obama did his best to deep six the story.

– – – – – – – – – –  – –

I attend a men’s Bible study most Wednesday mornings.  We’re currently making our way through the books of Samuel in the Old Testament.  A central figure is King David; one of the episodes in the book, known to most school children, is that of David and Goliath.

Our gifted teacher, Rich Pilon, (a Navy vet, by the way) has said repeatedly that a central theme of the story is, “Leadership matters.”  There are abundant examples in the book of the disastrous consequences of poor leadership at the highest levels:  corrupt priests whose selfish miscalculations result in slaughter and national humiliation.  Lustful kings, including David himself, whose misdeeds shatter families and nations.

The problems in our military aren’t, for the most part, caused by the Navy chiefs that Marleen and I saw along the Freedom Trail in Boston.  Like so many others in our all volunteer force, they are no more than cogs in the wheels of a dysfunctional military Borg.

Our political leaders too often see these sailors as tools to allow them to brag to the folks back home about all the jobs they’ve brought to the district.  And use them as petri dishes to try out misguided social experiments in the cause of political correctness.  And then abuse them by entangling our nation in endless, futile wars at a terrible cost to our soldiers and their families.

Defense contractors and lobbyists look on them as little more than a justification for their fat, steady paychecks.

And our top heavy military brass?  Well, I won’t say it.

 

 

 

 

DON’T Park the Car in the Harvard Yard

image1 (14)

Marleen and Old State House in Boston

My wife and I were looking at a map of Boston the other day, planning an upcoming  vacation in old Bean Town.

As usual, Marleen’s done most of the work to get us ready to go, but as I looked at the map I asked, “Would you have any interest in seeing the Harvard Yard?  It’s certainly historic and not too far from where we’re going to be staying.”

“Absolutely not,” she replied, not skipping a beat.  “I’m sick of those spoiled rich kids rioting and burning flags and killing police.”

I was a bit taken back by the vehemence of her reaction; she sounded more like me than I sound like me.  While she’s married to a former politician, and I know that her views are more like mine than not, she not infrequently has to advise me not to get “too ramped up” about politics.  And here she was, pretty much doing just that.

One might take issue with the specifics of her indictment of college kids as”cop killers.” But I certainly don’t take issue with the generalities.  Especially those in elite schools like Harvard that embrace what President Trump has accurately described as the icons of  the “alt left:” “white privilege,” the “antifa,” “Black lives matter,” and, my personal favorite, “micro-aggressions.”  Come on people, if you’re going to dish it out, you better be ready to take it.

This little vignette with my wife is a pretty good measure of just how far out of touch the left, and its handmaiden, the rarified world of academia, is with ordinary Americans.

For 35 years, Marleen worked hard as a registered nurse.  And her back, from shifting patients-of all races-between their beds and carts, has the aches and pains to prove it.  Despite her diligent efforts to keep it at bay with physical therapy and exercise, pain is her nearly constant companion.  She doesn’t tolerate fools gladly on things in general.  So start lecturing her on white privilege, and you’ll run up against the limits of that tolerance pretty quickly.

She, in other words, is about as close to the political middle of the road as you’re likely to get.  Equally removed from the alt-right as she is from the alt-left.  I would be surprised if she’s even heard the terms.  And stunned it she knows what they mean.  Like most Americans, the fine detail of politics is not her thing.

Marleen gets much of her political information from the national, evening news.  Which, if you believe as I do, would probably lead you to conclude that she’s hard left, the slant I tend to see in the mainstream media.

But that overlooks how she actually “watches” the news.  She’s often making dinner when it’s on.  Which means she misses most of it, what with the chopping and stirring. And supervising me.  Which also means that “if it bleeds, it leads,” is true in spades with her.  So, once the Harvard and Berkley rioters have faded from the screen early in the broadcast, so has Marleen; she’s too busy.

It’s a rich irony, therefore, that while the mainstream media may intend to push average Americans to the political left, the way they actually deliver their message, makes it tough to do so. It is the left, after all, that is most likely to employ street violence.  And that’s where the TV cameras gravitate.  So, while my wife, and so many other average Americans, might not fully understand the “story behind the story” of campus riots, they fully understand that they don’t like them.  And the spoiled college kids who perpetrate them.