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

Monday, July 15, 2019

“Go Back Where You Came From”–Trump’s Fighting Words, And An Angry Dismissal of Bite-The-Hand-That-Feeds-You Political Grandstanding

Much has been made recently of Donald Trump’s harsh dismissal of the claims of three progressive Congresswomen that America is a racist, white supremacist country governed by a bigot and supported by a mass of unwoke, backwoods, cracker ignoramuses.  “Return to your countries of origin”, he said in so many words, “and fix the endemic problems which make them perennially dysfunctional” rather than bite the generous hand that feeds you, the country that took in your parents, gave them protection, economic opportunity, and safe haven from the assaults and depredation of the corrupt regimes they fled.

Of course Trump’s language was far less temperate and chosen. “Go back where you came from” were his fighting words, a retort to what he saw as the thankless, unpatriotic, and politically self-serving statements of the Congresswomen; and of course they were taken as the latest and most condemning proof of his racism; and worse his desire to return America to an all-white, male elitist, autocracy.

Now, anyone following Donald Trump pays no attention to the words he says but the meaning behind them.

The progressive Left is nonplussed at the continued mania of Donald Trump.  To them he is a misogynist, xenophobic, sexist homophobe - has always been and will always be.  He is an inveterate, congenital liar, a braggart, a capitalist who built his fortune on the backs of the poor, and an unreconstructed egotist.

f course he is none of the above.  As a son of Hollywood and Las Vegas; a performer, vaudevillian, and big tent revivalist in the old American tradition, he doesn’t mean what he says.  He says what he means.  His is a political circus act with a semiotic foundation.  Crazy as a fox and as smart as a whip, The Donald speaks a firestorm but is as rational – more rational in fact – than his opponents who speak in platitudes, shopworn nostrums, and old-fashioned appeals to ‘experience’.
No one but unreconstructed liberal elite take him at face value.  Everyone knows that his call for expatriating all illegal immigrants is purposeful hyperbole, circus act exaggeration, and vaudeville at its very best.  Everyone but older Eastern progressives and young idealists understand that there can never be an impenetrable wall on our southern border.  Everyone but academics who have insulated themselves from the world outside Cambridge, the Upper West Side, San Francisco, or Chicago knows that there will be no mass deportations, no electrified wire fences at Dulles Airport, no Gestapo on the Canadian border to keep immigrants out. Hyperbole to make a point.  Illegal immigration is a serious problem which must be addressed no longer with the tentative, hesitant gestures of the past, but forcefully.

Deconstructionism has had its day, although because of tenure there are many academics who will preach this secular animism until the day they die.  All texts are equivalent, they say.  There is no such thing as artistic genius, and the works of Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Dostoevsky should be read only within the narrow context of  race, gender, and ethnicity.  Hamlet and Macbeth are nothing more than plays about political power, the corrupt nature of elites, and the alienation of the many to serve the powerful.
If one reads the text carefully, deconstructionists say, one will discover the true meaning behind the words which are mere and artificial constructs of individuals who can but express political zeitgeist and the particular configurations of social, economic, and cultural conflict.

So where are these deconstructionists when it comes to parsing the stump performances of Donald Trump? Why are they so literal in their interpretation of his words?  How could they assume that his hot button rhetoric is anything more than getting sinners to walk up the aisle and accept Jesus as their personal savior?

This myopia is not surprising, for despite progressives’ claims to objectivity, rationality, and on-the-one-hand-on-the-other tolerance and consideration of differing opinions, they intend no such thing.  Their canon of diversity, race-gender-ethnicity, and social liberalism is as enshrined as any.

Such political and philosophical absolutism ipso facto requires blinders.  In an a priori world where right and wrong are pre-determined and absolute there is no room for due consideration or rational debate. Put more simply, the progressive Left has made up its mind about Donald Trump and nothing can change it.

Of course he is pissed at the venal, intemperate, and self-serving remarks of the newly-entitled progressive comers; and so are the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him.  Americans who while appreciating the plight of the marginalized and underserved, refuse to champion their causes at all costs.  Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem, the virulent hostility and self-aggrandizing words of the Women’s Soccer Team co-captain, the uncompromising  pursuit of the LGBTQ agenda and its rejection of traditional Judeo-Christian Biblical interpretations of sexual and reproductive normality, the universal call for the dismantling of liberal economies in favor of socialist dirigisme, and the primacy of ‘diversity’ over ability not only rankle, but anger.

No one who has read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers; or who has reread Locke, Thoreau, and the thinkers of the Enlightenment can tolerate let alone accept this pseudo-revolutionary cant and preposterous ignorance of the principles that have characterized democracy since the ancient Greeks.

To listen to modern-day American progressives, there is an absolute, inherent value in racial, gender, and ethnic diversity.  Somehow a radically polyglot society benefits all, raises all ships and sets their sails for Utopia.  But how, exactly, does diversity per se benefit the commonwealth of America?  In the early days of the Republic all comers were welcome because the nation needed building – roads, railroads, ports, and cities.  There was no lionizing of Italians, Chinese, Jews or Poles.  Once they were here on American soil, they were Americans, and Americans only, here to work, to benefit, to contribute, and to belong. 

How does being gay, Mexican, black, female, or Indonesian per se help the commonwealth to prosper? What benefit does anyone have rubbing shoulders with diversity?  We all live in narrow, insular, self-protective sub-groups and are quite happy that way.  Our individualism and individual non-diversity driven enterprise benefits all.

It is natural and normal, then, for an American president to be insulted by the claims of entitled newcomers who insist that the country that welcomed them is hostile, predatory, and exclusive – just as it is for an ordinary American, working three jobs, accepting no welfare, proud and determined to succeed, and happy for the opportunity to do so are angry at these self-anointed saviors.

In short, to progressives Donald Trump is not ‘presidential’; but in leveling this latest charge, they betray their social and political myopia.   Trump is not presidential because he does not act presidential – a textbook example of begging the question. 

Of course we know what they mean.  They want Mr. Trump to act like Lincoln, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, and Thomas Jefferson all rolled into one – modest, well-spoken, respectful, careful, and dutiful.  They want erudition, oratory, and stature.

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Democrats may have applauded LBJ for his principled stance on civil rights and poverty, but he never shook his country bumpkin image.  To those who loved Kennedy, his successor was not only a happenstance stand-in but a rube – a pushy, manipulative, cracker-talking Texan dirt farmer.  In their eyes he was marginally presidential but presidential nonetheless.  He at least met the minimum requirements of the office.

Ronald Reagan was a B-movie actor, television huckster, and hail-fellow-well-met politicians; but he never embarrassed himself, never went overboard.  If he was not as eloquent as Kennedy or FDR, he embodied the American presidency – stalwart, principled, and socially conservative.

No one or nothing prepared the liberal and conservative establishments for Donald Trump.  Not only is he considered retrograde and beyond the pale of political opportunity; he is a cultural outlier, a social maverick who redefined the term, and a true take-no-prisoners individualist.

Of course he still calls Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’; and of course he still ridicules liberal media presenters.  Only the deadly serious, righteous Left finds no humor in the Twitter exchange between Trump and MSNBC anchors Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.  All three know they are playing for ratings and enjoying it to no end.  If these two media-savvy personalities don’t know what’s what, no one does.

The howls that ‘Trump is not being presidential’ grow only louder the more his critics are befuddled by the man and dig in their heels to defend what they insist must be the ‘propriety, dignity, and honor’ of the office.

But Trump is being presidential.  He, like all Presidents before him hew to a particular set of personal values.  The problem is that no one knows what to make of a president who did not come up through the ranks, governor, senator, congressman, or mayor.  Trump is from the mean streets of NY, the image-making tinsel of Hollywood and the rough-and-ready frontier.   His stances on immigration, social justice, equality, and ‘diversity’ are different from his predecessors in tone, attitude and demeanor only. The Left is paying no attention, distracted as they are by their insistence on fictitious notions of ‘truth’; while the Right gets it, endorses Trump’s policies while ignoring his braggadocio and bombast.

Trump is right to call out the invidious claims of political newcomers out to make political hay out of the tempestuous zeitgeist; right to demand a certain respect for foundational values, to acknowledge the importance, relevance, and salience of traditional religion-based morality and ethnics; and right to ask those who here only to complain despite the welcome offered them, to leave.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Why Do Men Stray– Keeping A Man Is Far More Complicated Than It Used To Be

Women have always had an interest in keeping their men.  After deliberate, calculated, and often mischievous attempts to secure an attractive spouse – good money earner, more or less tolerant, and a decent if not good father – a woman’s next task was securing him.  As women have always known, men go into marriage reluctantly, hesitantly, and against their better judgment.  Women are necessary for reproduction and legacy.  They have a sense of hearth and home and can be relied on to provide  nurturing, comfort, and help to their children even when their husbands are absent, vagrant, or indifferent.  They are useful, sexually convenient, and practical.  They tend to stray less than men – although the savvy man is always observant and takes precautions – and their needs are simple.  A certain fidelity, respect, and love.

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Most men after only a few years of marriage realize that the marriage contract, no matter how legalistically fair and equitable, is predicated on a stable but conventionally conceived relationship. . If the party of the first part complies with the reasonable requests and considerations of the party of the second part, the marriage is deemed reasonable and broken only after judicial consideration etc. etc. ; but that such a contract, like any, is subject to interpretation.  Who did what to whom is the fodder for daytime TV Divorce Court.  Far more money is spent on dissolving a marriage than legalizing it.  The world knows that marriage at best is an economic affair, an affair of dowry, bride price, trusts, wills, and powers of attorney than love, intimacy, and longing.

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So it is quite natural and normal for men to stray.  They willingly admit that they  were ignorant of the consequences of marriage and had no idea how soon the pound of flesh would be exacted, or how soon the contract manipulated.  Yet they are not vindictive or righteous.  They simply take what’s coming to them – sexual freedom.

Few women would admit such a Mephistophelean bargain – a philandering husband in return for taking out the garbage and equal rights under the trust – but that is how modern marriages work.  Men have never been feminized, and the politically insistent but practically desultory training to force men to hew the progressive  line of sexual equality has never gained traction.  While men talk the talk – gender equality, sexual respect and normality, and participatory, equal relationships – they have never walked the walk and never will.  Once demands have been issued, men walk.

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The marriage between Marfa Henderson and Brent Peters had gotten off on the right foot – romance, the excitement of social and economic promise (both were from prominent Boston families) Harvard pedigrees, and the usual,, for their particular milieu, intellectual integrity and artistic savvy – but soon sullied in the trenches of marital warfare.  Love, attention, concern, and solicitude vanished as the terms of the prenup became clear and in force. 

Both parties backed off – there had been enough emotional capital invested in the marriage that dissolution at this early stage was not a consideration – but both were left with a residual bad taste.  Not only the contract but the emotional relationship itself had been tried.  Marfa retreated from her demands and Brent called up reserves of patience and forbearance, and the marriage continued.

Nature abhors a vacuum and seeks equilibrium; and so it was that Brent and Marfa, despite their differences, sought compromise; but some issues are beyond compromise and the case of Marfa and Brent is indicative and illustrative.  Marfa was the daughter of Washington State ranchers, independent, individualist, rough-and-ready, Middle-American entrepreneurs. Her mother had come from good New England Calvinist stock, whose great-great uncle had been a  prosecutor in Salem, and whose great-cousin had been a founder of Yale; and her father whose particular provenance was unknown had been a herder, cowpoke, and shepherd since the earliest family records.  She came by her parsimony, thrift, and good economic judgment naturally.  While she had never been schooled in modern finance or economics, she had had enough of a family education to have learned the value of a dollar.

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Brent was the child of wealthy Southern Italian immigrants on one side and Brazilian slavers on the other.  He not only had never been exposed to Northern European Calvinism, but he had been immersed in Mediterranean hedonism, la dolce vita and que sera sera since his youngest days.  Money was to be spent to be enjoyed. Life was never to be ugly and brutal but beautiful, happy, and satisfying.  He had no use for wills, trusts, or codicils.  He felt no obligation to survivors, heirs, or beneficiaries.  Once the light at the end of his tunnel was extinguished, all lights were extinguished.
In other words, a marriage made at City Hall, to be dissolved in the State of Massachusetts, and consummated in Maryland, had no legs  It had no practical, emotional, or psychological staying power.  Her Cotton Mather and his Epictetus would never meet.  Yet, after 25  years of hanging in there, accommodation to tradition and society, it was time for a change.  Brent could put up with any more talk of  wills, trusts, roofs, exterminators, or garden swales. It was time for a break and about time to set sails for tropical shores.

Like most men Brent assumed that his sexual adventures and dereliction would go unnoticed; and even if they were caught in the enemy’s radar they could be explained.  Working late, a cancelled flight in Amsterdam, an extended contract in Port-au-Prince, all were reasonable justifications for his dalliances.  One not given to guilt, Brent still justified his vagaries because of his wife’s narrow, pedantic, and horribly insular mentality.  Yes, he had married Cotton Mather, but that did not mean he had to sleep with him every bloody night of his life.

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Brent strayed for logical, comprehensible, very understandable reasons. In fact circumnavigating a legal marriage contract was very American where contracts are made to be broken.  In that restrictive sense, Brent made a moral decision to right the imbalance of the marital contract.  His straying colleagues could not be afforded such respect. 

Henk, a  Lothario from Delaware who shared an office with Brent, had no moral qualms whatsoever. Infidelity was a male thing, purely and simply, no questions asked no justification required.  He risked discovery and could care less.  His maleness was based on and derived from male superiority; and while he gained certain, temporal sexual traction, his rather antiquated notions did him in.  His wife, empowered thanks to her women’s support group, said ‘No Thanks’, and took her money and her children and ran.

Other men stray incidentally, on occasion, or when the opportunity presents itself.  They neither have prolonged, nettling guilt or even a bad night.  it is what is, maleness playing itself out.

So what’s a woman to do? The easiest, simplest, most logical conclusion is to accept male tomcatting as genetically given, to dismiss it as a given, but to be alert to unintended consequences. Brent might have gone off with his Danish Ice Queen if it hadn’t been for an Italian interloper who had gotten there first; but her still, as most husbands do in the final accounting, return to home base.

Another is to deploy defensive perimeters – sophisticated spyware, sentient software, and state-of-the-art invasive technology – but this is degrading and humiliating.  Better to wait for a conclusive gotcha than to wait in the morally devious shadows of surveillance.

Another is to confront the miscreant.  “I know you have been fucking Myra Brandon” and muddle through the expected denials and disclaimers until you are worn out, discouraged and disheartened
None of the above will work. Men’s hardwired nature is to stray; and the  inventiveness of his denials knows no bounds.  Women, because of their own innate, natural tendency to preserve and protect family, hearth, and home are willing to resist only so much and so far  Men can leave unencumbered and fancy free but women have the children.

The best marriages are not marriages at all but fungible and easily deconstructed.  Yes, one must trade longevity and support for freedom and independence , but after all, one dies alone; and the requiem for a long life does not include longevity or fidelity.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Hopeless Tedium Of Soccer–Bring Back Blood Sports

Mainstream professional sports are being tamed down and feminized.  Professional football, while still a grunt-and-bang affair, is far from the toothless days of leather helmets, eye-gouging, and low blows of Knute Rockne’s day. Rules limiting physical contact have neutered the game.  The play at the plate,  a violent, deliberate, no-holds-barred collision; and the take-out slide at second, a similar attempt to destroy the off-balance, vulnerable player during his pirouette to first have been outlawed.   The only  sports which have been spared – boxing and hockey – will soon fall to the concussion protocol.  Boxing will soon require protective headgear and softer gloves, and the all-out brawls which are hockey’s principal draw will be outlawed.

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There have been two reactions to this trend – the rise of super-violent sports like Mixed Martial Arts where fighters wear no protective gear, no holds are barred, and beating an opponent into submission, not just winning if only by technical knockout, is the goal; and the parallel rise of soccer, a game which appeals to a softer audience for whom on-field violence is simply an expression of generalized male aggression.  While physical contact is a part of soccer, and the feared concussion protocol is in the wings, it is not a game where – unlike football, boxing, and hockey -  intentional disability is encouraged.  It is a game girls can play.

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Of course with the advent of Title IX girls’ sports have flourished, often at the expense of boys’ programs, but that was the point.  No one should be deprived athletic opportunity and physical expression, and girls have been encouraged to play all the sports that boys play, plus their own (field hockey, synchronized swimming).  Yet it is soccer which has really caught on for girls and boys.  Concerned mothers are happy to have a cheap, simple, uncomplicated, safe, participatory game for their children – no fear of getting hurt, plenty of opportunity for parental involvement, and above all, gender-equality.

However, the trend is reversing. According to a recent article in the NY Times (July 2018):

The real threat, however, to [the] mission to make soccer one of America’s pre-eminent sports is here at home, where youth players are abandoning the game in alarming numbers.

Over the past three years, the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years. The number of children who touched a soccer ball even once during the year, in organized play or otherwise, also has fallen significantly…

The decline has been felt everywhere: recreational leagues in longtime soccer hotbeds here; high-profile traveling teams from Maryland to California; programs targeted at Latino and immigrant populations in South Texas. High burnout rates from pushing children into travel soccer too young as well as the high costs of programs have also contributed to the lower numbers.

While liberal critics have blamed organized soccer for ignoring minority talent and for making it more a game for the masses (over 35 percent of parent families earn over $100,000 per year) than for the underserved, the real reason may be found elsewhere.  Talented young people are likely to be lured more by the professional sports famous for multi-hundred million dollar contracts than they are by the relatively low salaries and lack of prestige of MLS; but as importantly it is possible that the safe-haven of soccer – a parent-friendly, distinctly non-violent, no hands, low-visibility, fatiguing sport – is becoming passé.   Extreme sports are on the rise.

Last year in West Virginia, 28-year-old Avishek Sengupta was running the Tough Mudder, a grueling 10-plus-mile race littered with merciless obstacles that take participants over blazing pits of fire, through dark trenches and into pools of water laced with electrical wires that deliver 10,000 volts…Tough Mudder, calling itself “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet,” is run by a Brooklyn-based company that is one of a growing number catering to the booming industry of obstacle course racing. As sports enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies hunt for ever-more-hardcore events to test their physical limits, it’s a pastime that has gained popularity in the past five years…

Television has played its role in increasing the popularity of these sports with shows such as World of X Games and the Extreme Sports Channel. Energy drink company Red Bull has also been on the forefront of the extreme sports movement, with events like the Red Bull Cavemen triathlon, which involves running, mountain biking and kayaking, and the Red Bull Stratos, a space-diving event that in October 2012 featured a skydiver who jumped from nearly 130,000 feet. (ABA Journal).

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The Guardian reports

It is hard to find exact figures on the popularity of extreme sports, but it is even harder to find anyone who thinks that they aren’t booming. In 2006, the British Parachute Association recorded 39,100 first jumps. Last year there were 59,679. Numbers of “full members” – regular skydivers – have been rising at a similar rate. The British Mountaineering Council had about 25,000 individual members in 2000. Last September there were “almost 55,000”. The number of people climbing Everest has rocketed since the 1990s. The proportion of women climbers is increasing too, up from about 16% in 2002 (BMC figures) to 36% now (Sport England figures). Hang-gliding numbers have suffered since the 1990s, according to Michelle Lanman at the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (“The kit is so much heavier”). But paragliding and paramotoring (paragliding with a giant fan) are doing very nicely. SurfingGB also reports that “British surfing continues to grow rapidly”…

And these may still be early days. According to a report from the US entertainment company Delaware North, 100 hours of GoPro video are uploaded on to YouTube every minute, and sales of action cameras are growing at 50% a year. “By 2020, extreme sports will challenge professional and collegiate team sports for the title of most-watched category of sports content,” the report says. “Today they’re a blip on the screen compared to the big business of professional sports, but participation in action and adventure sports has surpassed conventional sports at the recreational level.”

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It is no surprise that in a highly-regulated society like the United States, young men seek release from overbearing correctness in extreme sports; or at least in those mainstream sports which offer complete physicality, macho superiority, and male camaraderie.  There are no women – yet - in men’s locker rooms; and there still can be nothing like the complete expression of individual physical ability that basketball offers.  It is perhaps the one sport where every natural human ability – running, leaping, coordination, strength, and psychological ability – are combined.  Not only that, the NBA has deliberately marketed itself as the sport of tough street creds – pimp walk, posturing, trash talk, intimidation, and back-downs.  Why would any supremely gifted black athlete from the inner city play soccer?

Extreme sports have been around for a long time; and it was no accident that the Roman Coliseum was filled to overflowing for bloody, fight-to-the-death gladiatorial contests.   Wars, while fought over territorial claims and petty disputes, have been battlefields of glory.  If it were not for an innate desire for glory and the expression of individual courage, there would be fewer wars.  The Aztecs and other pre-Columbian societies of Mesoamerica fought battles dressed in the skins of wild animals, so the bloody fights on the Mexican plains were especially savage, brutal, satisfying, spiritual affairs.  How could they not be as much a part of pagan life as human sacrifice?

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There is no denying the international popularity of soccer and its working class appeal.  Boys in the favelas of Rio and the streets of Liverpool need nothing more than a round something, a few players, and a two parallel sticks for a goal to play soccer.  No need for equipment, nets, grass, or referees. It is the world’s most democratic game, the most universal, and the most common.  Boys have been kicking things since the earliest human settlements.   Yet the United States in its soccer diffidence is not so much an anomaly as the avant-garde.

Many American television viewers have seen the comedian/talk show host Bill Maher’s rant about the feminization of men, the taming of the wolf. As paraphrased by Dana Antiochus, Maher believes that:

The inversion of nature that we have experienced as a culture, and the subversive aspect of flipping traditional roles, with its subsequent destruction of society, serves as a signal that we live in a dying system.  It has led to a pussified, sissy, pathetic, lovey-dovey/touchy-feely country of wimps, who put emotion over logic, feeling over reason, in our nurture-heavy/nature-deprived, culture” (Renegade Tribune)

But is Maher right? Have feminists turned the country into a nation of sissified wimps who value feeling over reason? On the one hand, feminism has changed men’s discourse, at least in public where they nod approvingly at news reports about glass ceilings, rape, abuse, and discrimination.  On the other, men in private share none of these sentiments. They know that biology,  human nature, and male chromosomes have not changed since the Paleolithic.  Men raid, kill, and pillage.  Women cry a lot, like to share their feelings, and want strong men as partners.

Soccer in America is an expression of this ‘wussification’ of America; and the continued popularity of physical, contact sports and the rise of extreme sports is a reaction against it.  Men will not go quietly, and boys in Southeast will still play a tough, male, aggressive, violent playground game and take it to the NBA.