"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Importance Of Principle–Why Conservative Populism Is Here To Stay And Why The Progressive Agenda Will Not Stand

The first 100 days of the Trump Administration have not gone as smoothly as his supporters had hoped.  However, the ups and downs should have been expected given the new President’s inexperience and impatience with Washington politics, unfamiliarity with the intrigues of the State Department and the diplomatic establishment, and the unpredictable behavior of both friends and adversaries.

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Perhaps most importantly, Donald Trump was an outsider like no other.  Not only did he have no political experience, but came from the most competitive private worlds of real estate and Hollywood.  He made his way and earned his billions through braggadocio, chutzpah, and balls. Compromise was for losers, B-film actors, hungry writers, and timid investors. 

Winning was everything, and Trump had learned every trick, every feint, and every tactical and strategic move in the book.  He was  savvy, canny, and intimidating and had little patience for losers, incompetents, and shilly-shalliers.  He came to Washington unbowed by the Office of President, Congress, or the Supreme Court.

He was used to business autocracy and the unquestioned power of the CEO and the influence of money – a world where performance is measured by the number, size, and value of buildings; advertising revenues, investor interest, and Nielsen ratings.

It was for this experience and this character that Donald Trump was elected.  It was no surprise that his supporters cared little for policy papers, research, or the facts that proved the rightness of his positions.  They paid no attention to what he said but what he meant, and his meaning was clear. 

Americans had had enough of Washington insiders and media shills; academic arrogance, and ‘progressive’ entitlement.  They were tired of Black Lives Matter; the intrusion of the State into matters of morality, religion, and education; the derogation of the military and the police; the presumptuousness of LGBT activists and their liberal claques; and a pusillanimous foreign policy. 

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Donald Trump would address these issues and lead a populist revolution to return the country to its fundamental, historical, and traditional principles.

Principle was thought by the liberal Left to be impossible for the Right to grasp. In Hillary Clinton’s words, Trump supporters were ‘ignorant’ and ‘deplorable’, incapable of holding a reasonable thought.  Religious fundamentalists were an irrational, dangerous group which threatened basic civil rights and which used the Bible to cover their homophobia, racism, and sexism.

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Yet principle is what underlies the Trump populist movement; and every one of Trump’s campaign issues has a principled foundation.

Abortion is not the secular civil rights issue defined by the Left.  It is a profoundly moral, religious, and philosophical one.  Since there can be no scientific proof of the ‘moment of life’, then the belief that it begins at conception cannot be dismissed; nor can the claims of infanticide by Pro-Life advocates.

Perhaps most importantly, the philosophical argument of ‘potentiality’ is compelling.  Even if one does not accept that life begins at conception, the embryo and the fetus are potential beings.  To deny that potentiality is to deny life. 

Pope Paul II and Pope Francis have both referred to the universality of the sanctity of life.  Once one dismisses the moral and spiritual aspects of abortion, such indifference extends to respect for others and the environment in which we live.

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The Bible is rich with allusions to the sanctity of all life.  At the very heart of Christianity is the maternity of Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament genealogy of Kings is a celebration of paternity, the importance of children to fulfill prophecy and to ensure the legacy of the Jews.  The verses of the Book of Psalms are perhaps the most poetic about the the origins of life:
Psalm 139:13-16
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 127:3-4
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.
The Book of Jeremiah is the most specific:
"Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
The point is that there is ample justification for a Pro-Life position, and that the convictions of those who support it cannot be dismissed in favor of more secular concerns.

The same is true for LGBT issues.  While most conservatives accept the premise that many gay men and women were born that way and therefore accept the principle of equal rights, they reject what they see as the aggressive promotion of a gay lifestyle. It is less important for conservatives that there are Biblical injunctions against homosexuality and more important that a procreative marriage has both divine and secular implications.

The importance of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ continual and persistent references to his Father, and the centrality of the family to Christianity itself is parallel to the cultural testaments of both Western and Eastern literature.  Men and women are profoundly different, authors from Sophocles and Shakespeare to O’Neill and Albee understand, and it is the dynamics of sexuality, maternity, paternity, and family which are the engines of society.

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Marriage, as Albee displays in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, can be a brutal, disassembling affair; but it is the crucible of maturity.  Only within its confines can we grow up to function in an adult world.  The play is particularly significant because of  George and Martha’s imaginary son.  He is an important character in the play, symbolizing the dysfunction but absolute importance of the relationship between husband and wife.

In his American Dream, the importance of marriage, family, and children (albeit twisted, melodramatic, and vicious) is clear.

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Two other pillars of the progressive ideology are race and ethnicity.  America, progressives say, is now more than ever a pluralistic, multicultural society and the inclusion of all variations of it should be a priority.

While conservatives do not deny that America is even more culturally diverse than the early days of immigration, they object to the the Left’s particular notion of inclusiveness.  Rather than focus on assimilation and integration, they insist on cultural identity, separatism, and uniqueness.  As a result, racial and ethnic groups feel entitled to their own particular, distinct, and equally valid demands and rights without feeling the responsibility to compromise, conform, and belong to the majority.

Once again, their opposition to progressives’ insistence on ‘race-gender-ethnicity’ has nothing to do with the legitimacy of these groups  but the principle of assimilation, the foundation of American society since its inception.

Similarly, despite all the hysteria about immigration, conservative concern is not about the immigrants themselves, but about the integrity of the nation.  A nation without borders ceases to be a nation, they insist; and they are concerned about the principle of national integrity.

Opposition to the progressive climate change agenda is less about the issues per se than the arrogant presumptuous of environmentalists who in their absolutist 'settled science' argument refuse debate and discussion of cost-benefit.

What is that? progressives ask. Doesn’t reality trump principle? Yet this circular logic – America is a multicultural society because it is one already – does not convince conservative doubters.  America is a country of Judeo-Christian values, a Protestant work ethic, English-speaking, and united in universal beliefs about family, the role of religion, patriotism, and social cohesion.

Multicultural hysteria has also had a negative impact on education.  ‘Inclusivity’, self-esteem, and ‘multiple intelligences’ have edged out factual learning, academic performance and preparation for the real world of the marketplace.  University standards have eroded as free speech has been clotured, free expression of ideas limited, and campus activism run rampant.

Waves of undocumented immigrants will drive down wages, raise public expenditures and most importantly weaken the fabric of social cohesion which has always been our E Pluribus Unum strength.  Already this cohesion has been weakened by race-gender-ethnicity separatism; and it will come apart with border indiscipline.

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Again, it is principle which unites conservative populists who are not concerned about ‘The Wall’ per se nor any of the Trump Administration’s other program initiatives; but about the idea of national integrity, cohesion, and unity.

The collapse of unity has an international dimension as well.  A nation which is based on cultural, ethnic, and racial separatism and identity cannot possibly come together quickly in times of real crisis as it has in pre-Vietnam War past.  The demands of populist conservatives for a muscular foreign policy represents the first step of consolidation of American political commitment, a preemptive strike against disunity.

One wishes the best for Donald Trump and his Administration.  He may or may not succeed as President, and his missteps, however understandable, may set back the populist agenda.  The sentiments behind the agenda, however, will remain strong and defiant.  Once the genie has been let out of the bottle, there is no putting him back in.  Radical progressivism has had its day largely because its principles are far outside the mainstream; and because progressives’ sense of righteousness and entitlement not only rankles but angers much if not most of America within the coasts.

There is no going back.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lilliputian Revenge–How Tiny Larry Finkel Rejected ‘The Little Man’ And Became A Scion Of Capitalism

Larry Finkel was the son of jeweler in Elton, Connecticut, the only Jew in Oak Hills Country Day School, the only Democrat, and an Adlai Stevenson supporter.

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Oak Hill was a school for the wealthy, well-heeled sons and daughters of the town’s first industrialists – the Captains of Industry of the 19th Century who made Elton into a manufacturing hub and the home of hardware, tool-and-die works, locks, and ball bearings.  In its day Elton was one of the largest towns in America and produced armaments for the Union Army, munitions and materiel for the United States in WWI, and for the expansionist post-War economy.

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The fathers of Larry Finkel’s classmates at Oak Hills no longer worked at the mills and factories of Elton, but lived on private incomes thanks to their grandfathers.  They led an easy, privileged life, wintering in Palm Beach or Gstaad and summering on Nantucket, and spending the rest of the year playing golf and tennis at the Country Club.

Few of these West Enders were politically engaged.  They had the characteristic diffidence of their English ancestors, rested on the knowledge that given their substantial wealth neither Republicans nor Democrats could either dislodge them nor disinherit them, and left politics to those of lesser means who had something more at stake.   Their life in fact was no different from that of manorial England – privileged, sheltered, and removed.

Of course they had to leave the West End occasionally but only reluctantly.  Downtown Elton was typical of a rustbelt city which had lost its 19th century luster.  The clothing stores no longer catered to the carriage trade but to factory workers who still kept the old plants running. 

Although West Enders could choose from among their own for professional services, there were no exclusive pharmacies, barbers, hardware stores, or jewelers; and so the Eliots, Lawrences, Lodges, Sargents, and Lowells had to occasionally drink from local waters.

Dwight Finkel, Larry’s father, was a jeweler on Main Street in Elton – a good, trusted, competent one who had worked in the Diamond District in New York before moving to Connecticut. Thanks to his respectful treatment of the West Enders and his generous contributions to the Hospital Auxiliary, the Downtown Improvement Project, and to local scholarship funds, his son was given a once-in-a-generation admission to Oak Hills Country Day.

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Dwight Finkel, however, despite his careful husbandry of the town’s upper class and successful attempt to enroll his son in the exclusive school for the old-family Anglo-Saxon legatees, was a Progressive.  In his days in New York he had joined the labor movement begun by Samuel Gompers and continued with the support of Lower East Side activists and Upper West Side Jewish intellectuals, and by the time he had moved to Elton he was a committed socialist.

At the same time, he understood the capitalist class system well enough to know that only by working and manipulating it, could his son leave the merchant class and join the professional one.  Oak Hills was a feeder for Choate, Andover, Hotchkiss, and St. Marks which in turn gave Yale, Harvard, and Princeton well-educated and –tailored young men.

Somehow Finkel was able to convince local labor leaders of his commitment to their cause and his West End supporters of his loyalty.  He saw no contradiction in working within an oppressive system if it meant reward for his children and yet fighting to erode the influence of class, privilege, and money. 

“Stevenson is for the little man”, Larry Finkel would tell his classmates at Oak Hill, all of whom were from rock-ribbed, immovable Republican families.  None of them had any idea what Larry was talking about, what a ‘little man’ was or why he was important.  The only thing they knew from the brief, dismissive chatter they overheard at home was that Adlai Stevenson was a socialist, communist, Leftist anarchist who had no place on any legitimate party ticket. 

Larry could not articulate his father’s well-reasoned arguments – the cabal of Wall Street, Park Avenue, and industrial robber barons which kept the working man in chains, social progress stunted, and true freedom impossible. 

Unfortunately, Larry Finkel was very little himself; so small and thin in fact that his nickname was ‘Needles’.  A boy with more size and presence might have acquitted himself more successfully as a young political advocate; but there was no way that Little Larry could possibly get this or any other point across to his blond, blue-eyed, insouciant classmates.

The truth of the matter was that although these classmates were from Elton’s old-line, old-guard, privileged class, most had fallen far from the ancestral tree.  Bobby Winthrop, for example, grandson of Henry Winthrop, who not many years after leaving Hertfordshire invested his family fortune in Standard Oil, made millions in the pre-Crash market, and built the Winthrop Bearing Company at exactly the right time.  American tanks and armored cars ran on his bearings and he recouped the English Winthrop fortune many times over.

Bobby Winthrop struggled with English, math, science, and language.  Oak Hill was far too small to keep students back and no headmaster would even consider such disciplinary measures for the child of one of Elton’s premier families. 

He was not alone.  Few children of the other families of the West End ever inherited the genes of their accomplished forbears.  Once they graduated from Elton, they went on to New England remedial boarding schools and then on to third-tier colleges.

So even if Larry Finkel had been a big person and forceful and articulate in conveying his father’s progressive concerns, they would have fallen on deaf ears.  The fact that he was so tiny made the task impossible.

Despite the hectoring and teasing he had to endure at Oak Hills, Larry went on – again thanks both to his native abilities and his father’s continued generosity - to St. Paul’s, perhaps the most conservative, Anglo-Saxon, Christian, elite boarding school in New England.  His father was adamant about his choice.  He was aware of the abuse his son took at Oak Hills and would likely suffer at St. Paul’s, but a credentialed Jew was always better than one without papers, and his son’s resolve would be strengthened an annealed in the forges of WASP furnaces.

On the contrary, Larry learned an important lesson – elites always rule, the little man is always forgotten or ignored; and the only path to success, wealth, and ease is become one of their number.  At Yale, of course, he could not join Fence Club – the exclusive above-ground fraternity for children  of the best New England families; nor was he ever considered for Skull and Bones, the secret society of the university whose privileged members included many American presidents, financiers, and industrialists. 

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He could, however, heel the Yale Daily News where his ambition, aggressiveness, intelligence, and innate snoopiness were prized. Many of his colleagues privately said “Just like a Jew” but knew it would be fatal to wrong Little Larry who parlayed his university journalism into important positions at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Larry learned both socialism and American social mobility from his father, but quickly abandoned liberalism for individualistic conservatism.  It was there that he found his voice.  There was no such thing as ‘the little man’ but only big men who kept their eyes on the prize, agilely operated on ethical margins, deftly worked the competing sides of labor and capital and supply and demand to their advantage, and most importantly knew which social hurdles were too high and which could be avoided.

Larry’s diminutive size never held him back.  He had long since internalized big man authority; and while never a Napoleon, still gave his lieutenants a shiver  every time he walked into the room.
He was older and retired when political correctness came into vogue, and much was made of ‘inclusivity’.  He, as a small person, would be a protected minority today; but he was having none of it.

Of course a psychiatrist would have a field day with Larry Finkel.  The coincidence of small stature and support of Adlai Stevenson’s little man had to be formative.  There was no way that his trajectory could have been otherwise.  He had no other course than to reject both the limitations of his Lilliputian size and the supposedly put-upon little man. 

Looked at another way, bullying works and social norms always prevail.  Had he not be so badgered as Needles he might not have been so defiant in defense of individualism.  Had he not been socialized by the American elite, encouraged in the ways of capitalism, privilege, intelligence, and social preeminence, he might have been more favorable to liberalism.

Half of his father’s ambitions succeeded far more than he had ever hoped.  His son had become a scion of American enterprise and had been accepted into its power structure.  He was discouraged that Larry had so completely gone over to the other political sides and not only had rejected progressivism but had become a hostile and outspoken critic of it.   Yet, he had known the risks, and was happy with half the rewards.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spying–We All Do It, So Why The Flapdoodle About The CIA, Mossad, And The KGB?

Parents spy on their children. Friends and neighbors spy on each other, employers spy on their employees; so what is the big deal about nations spying on each other?

All but the most morally disciplined parents will casually/indifferently thumb through diaries, drawers, and closets to confirm their suspicions about drug abuse and bad boy friends. 

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Neighbors routinely turn off the lights, uncase the binoculars, and check out their neighbors’ doings. 
A friend whose in-laws lived on a suburban lake in the Washington suburbs liked to take a canoe out at night and paddle by the homes built on its shores.  The houses were all built with maximum exposure to the lake – glass-wall buildings all facing towards the water.  They had designed their homes to look out, and no one expected anyone to look in.

Yet look in my friend did – daughters combing their hair on the third floor; sons playing with trucks; husbands and wives fighting, maids preparing dinner, dogs in the basement.  All scenes were happening at once, open for all to see.  It was an open-air, layered silent movie.

Another friend was a member of a neighborhood babysitting coop - families babysat for chits which could be used on demand for their own childcare needs.  He was one of the most eager members.  He loved to spend three hours in other people’s homes, invited and trusted; but taking advantage of the license to spy.  The Liggetts were drinkers.  The Potters cluttered. The Pleasants strewn; and the Margates slovenly.

He had an unbreakable rule – look but don’t touch.  He went into bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dens, and playrooms with remove.  Yet he saw vials of Xanax and Zoloft behind half-closed bathroom mirrors; cases of Bud stacked in the garage next to a few six-packs of 90 minute IPA; a girly magazine left behind the toilet; old hamburger on the kitchen island.

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recent employer had installed surveillance software so that she could monitor the performance of her employees.  She had been concerned that her staff had not only been spending time on the Internet but to view sites whose contents violated company policy.  Jack ___ had visited questionably unsuitable sites far too often and gave pause to managers concerned about gender sensitivity  Marjorie ___had more legitimate interests in family history and genealogy, but was spending more than two hours per day on genealogy.com.

Why not leave well-enough alone?  Why such interest in the affairs of others?  What ever happened to good, old-fashioned honesty and communication among friends and family?

The two are not mutually exclusive. Parents talk to their children, employers to their employees, neighbors to neighbors; but there are always those niggling questions.  Is he gay? Do they drink? Is he driveling on company money? Our need to know always trumps the ethical.

National politics are no different.  Candidates issue position papers, hold press conferences and rallies, and for all intents and purposes are candid and open to all; yet opposing parties know – perhaps because of their own duplicity – that what you see is not what you get.  Intelligence-gathering, then, is par for the course.  Politics is a matter of discovery – what lies beneath the public pronouncements.  What is So-and-So candidate really planning by way of policy rejoinders? What are his sources? Where is he going and what for?

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So political parties spy on each other, rely on leaks, purloined documents, and disaffected insiders.  Nothing is new here. No one trusts anyone else and spying by overt or covert means is entirely kosher. 

In fact, spying on political enemies has a clear justification.  How could a true believer in Hillary Clinton’s liberalism and inclusivity not be willing to spy on the arch-enemy Donald Trump?  If the engagement between parties is essentially moral, than what harm is there in breaking civil codes of behavior?

Which brings one inevitably to international affairs.  Of course the Russians spied on us; and of course we spied on them.

Spycraft is practiced between friends and enemies alike. As much as America would like to penetrate the inner circle of Kim Jong Un, we also depend on intelligence concerning Israel’s intentions; or Saudi Arabia’s; or France’s for that matter.   Each of these countries has an equal interest in our intentions.

The CIA has been vilified by the Left for decades as an insidious institution – not simply because it is the intelligence arm of a capitalist, globalist, hegemony; but because of its amorality.

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For progressives, spying is an admission of amorality.  The ends justify the means.  For them, however, the means have always been as important as the ends if not more so.  If America does not uphold basic principles of right behavior, then the progress towards world peace, unity, and harmony will be significantly set back.

Nothing of the sort, of course.  Machiavelli and his latter-day incarnation, Henry Kissinger, have always been advocates of national interest and victory by all means.  The realities of geopolitics imply the dismissal of presumptuous moral and ethical values, and adherence to the policies of self-interest.  The world is a nasty place, and one must defend one’s interests at all costs.

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So, what is to make of this apparently universal, historical, and essentially human desire to uncover others’ secrets? Are those in authority – parents, employers, presidents – required to adhere to principles of personal and national integrity?  Is there not a greater good – whether family, corporate, or national – at stake?

These are moot questions.  Everyone should know that the old chestnut ‘Information Is Power’ is forever valid; and all but those on the bottom of the totem pole should know that if affects them. In a complex, competitive society, one should always acquire information about both friends and enemies.
There should, therefore, be no wailing and rending of garments over international spying revelations.  We all spy to retain or to gain authority and power.

If it is of any solace to progressives, Shakespeare loved duplicity and spying.  His Comedies are based on lovers hiding in the bushes and relying on hearsay, innuendo, and rumor to confirm their assumptions.  Shakespeare championed duplicity and understood that in the war between the sexes, all was fair and game.  No period of history was without spycraft.  American colonials relied on information from well-placed spies to provide them information about likely British response to rebellion.  The North spied on the South before and during the Civil War.

Perhaps only Genghis Khan, equipped with overwhelming man- and horsepower needed no information about the enemy.  Power, will, and amoral ambition were more than enough to conquer lands from East to West.

We all spy – on each other, or families, friends, and colleagues.  Nations spy on nations, regimes on regimes.  The only point is to do it better than anyone else, to gain the informational upper hand, to dominate.

Machiavelli was right.  There is no morality in politics.