Saturday, April 28, 2018

War is an Ugly Thing



War is an ugly thing.

After years of looking to fine gentleman generals – men with only one flaw: that they repeatedly lost battle after battle – President Lincoln found Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant was in some ways less than a perfect gentleman.  He seemed focused on just one thing: winning.  "The art of war is simple enough," Grant had said.  "Find out where your enemy is.  Get at him as soon as you can.  Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

Was it really that simple?  Not to many educated gentlemen.  And some such "gentlemen of the press" thought it their duty to say so.  "He is a drunkard!" they wrote – not entirely inaccurately.  Others focused their columns on the losses among Grant's own troops, which seemed inordinately high.  Others wrote endlessly of the pain of families they knew who had lost loved ones fighting in Grant's endless bloody battles and, some said, pursuit of his own personal glory.

President Lincoln thought otherwise.  Any or even all of those "facts" might be true, but he had finally found someone who took the war to the enemy and, yes, won.

The publications of the period found themselves in a hard place.  How should they editorially balance the basic values they had long stood for against such things as protecting troop morale?  What were they to do with writers who themselves were friends and gentlemen but who simply could not, or would not, get fully behind the winning general?  One who had finally rallied the troops and raised the hopes of a people long worn down by hopelessness and defeat?

Tough questions, these. 

So it is today.  Where does the balance stand between old ideals and the new situation?  How important is reporting the full truth about a general, including his personal failings and weaknesses, in comparison to protecting the morale of the troops and that of the citizenry, to keeping the finally achieved momentum toward victory moving forward?

Such a choice was seemingly faced by the publishers of RedState – and they apparently chose to stick with the general, letting go numerous respected writers who simply, for whatever reason – maybe even and simple love of "truth" and "principle" – refused to "get on board."

Yes, war is an ugly, ugly thing.

_


The above piece is an edited version as it appeared on American Thinker

Thursday, March 29, 2018

It's Over. America Remains Ours


There comes a time when one must realize and accept that one's argument lost.  This is something that every adult experiences.

It needn't mean accepting that you were wrong. Or that you didn't "deserve" to win.  No, just that you didn't. You lost. The game's over. It is time to move on. To be quiet. To go home.

I can't  but think that any objective viewer cannot help but see that we here in America have reached such a time. -That the big "argument" that has been going on -- the one about the underlying worth of our nation and the value of the principles on which it was built -- has been publicly won. And that in the nation's favor.

Yes, you can still think that we, the winners of that debate, were wrong, but the fight is in fact over. Now all that's left is acceptance of that fact, or denial and self pity.

In a real sense that argument was won a year ago last November. Or, one could argue, even before that, when Donald Trump took out all his adversaries and got the Republican nomination.  That because among his adversaries was a voice for every argument for what makes up good government here in America.  The other side in the election itself was simply the remnants of power trying to hold on to the same -- with old, stale, ideas and jaded, empty, promises.

But the losing side on that clear November night a year past didn't, couldn't, wouldn't accept it. They were certain that they were somehow right -- that they had been all along -- and that all that was needed was a bit of time and some loud, coordinated, voices of "reason" -- and then the nation as a whole would see and follow and be thankful.

Uh uh. 'Twas not to be.

This past week or so has, to borrow a phrase, "put the kibosh" on all of that.  The Stormy Daniel debacle on CBS's 60 Minutes, the news out of Korea (how funny -- yes, and revealing -- to see those two things set side-by-side as if they were equals), the restoration of the bull market on Wall Street, and now... and now...  the Roseanne show revival and its 18 million plus viewers.

You, Dear Coasties, lost.
You in editorial position at the NY Times and the WaPo, you lost.
You Hollywood types -- despite all your self-assurances (to say nothing of your self-congratulations) and despite your pretty faces and lovely gowns, you lost.
You in the news rooms, with your deep, serious, sonorous, voices, you lost.

We the people listened. We were unimpressed.

Your machinations of power, your lies, your corruption and attempts at control. They all failed.

You may still believe in yourselves -- in your supposed cause (whatever that may be?) -- but no one else does. In fact we are no longer even really listening. Well, except for a chuckle.

Trump not only won on election night, but he was won again and again ever since.

You can deny it. But you cannot any longer even pretend to be winning.

It's over.
Go home.
Be quiet.

America remains ours.



A slightly modified form of this article appeared on
American Thinker.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Love of 1950s Sci-Fi. Why?

For a few days I've been participating in a really fun discussion on a forum of fellow musicians that focuses on 1950s Science Fiction films.  I was kind of amazed how many folks there love these as much as I do.  And not just older guys either.  Many younger ones who discovered them a while back, or even more recently, via TV and cable.

After several pages of discussion on each of our favorites -- many of which were shared -- one member new to the conversation asked about the thus far unmentioned Japanese sci-fi.  Films such as 1954's Godzilla.

One or two forum members said they liked those films, most had nothing to say.  I said I wasn't a huge fan, but had no idea why.

As is my want that got me thinking.  Is there a "why"?   And the answer is yes.  Here is what, after some thought, I concluded:

Sci-fi films of the fifties were in several ways much like another motion picture genre:  The American western.  Both were entirely products of the American culture of the time -- and for both genres that was a big part of their appeal.

Both westerns and sci-fi typically focused on situations of public risk, and then found the answer in the actions of an individual, often an outsider -- one who was generally viewed as unimportant and sometimes even looked down upon.

In the western genre such were Shane, the gunfighter who enters a community by chance, acts on principle beyond self, and saves that community from an 'alien' force -- he then moves on. Or Will  Kane in High Noon -- an older, retiring, lawman who is himself threatened by a murderous 'alien' force -- and then, after years of serving the town, finds himself totally alone, with everyone else in denial, thinking that the danger is his alone and one from which he should simply flee.  Kane, too, saves the town. Then he moves on.

Fifties sci-fi in much like that.  The "hero" is typically a nobody -- a teenager from outside the 'in group' -- such as "Steve," played by Steve McQueen, in 1958's  The Blob. Or the quiet geologist in "The Monolith Monsters."

Each of these become aware of the threat and takes charge, first for the care of an early victim of the 'monster', (an old man in The Blob, a little school girl in the Monolith Monsters), then for the entire town when the authorities -- the police (The Blob) or the state's governor (The Monolith Monsters) -- gets tied up with 'more important' things.

There have been popular westerns and sci-fi made elsewhere. Sergio Leone's westerns, The Man With No Name trilogy for instance, and sci-fi such as those popular 1950s Japanese monster films (of which Godzilla is just one).  These films have much to recommend them of an for themselves, but they are  very different from what American fifties westerns and sci-fi films culturally represented. Indeed -- and interestingly -- they are in many ways much more akin to what today's society has become.  Places where individuals are at best anti-heroes.  -Where communal salvation comes -- if it comes at all --  not so much from an average individual putting himself on the line, but from the top down -- the work of government agencies and the like. Or some magically empowered "super hero." A world where everyday men and women are basically seen as victims; as mere fodder, grist for the mill.

Much that has filled the news of late has been just this:  The cry for someone -- not meaning some individual, but government -- to "do something." To remove the threats. Yes, and people's fears.

How interesting it was, then, for me to see how, even unrealized, there was in my pre-teen years a strong attachment to that old, and to some, outdated, American ideal. A way of viewing life mythologized in these film forms that focused on an individual acting with conscience and strength. On this being central to a community's well-being.

Yeah, I'm old school.  And that in part explains why I'd often prefer to fill a Sunday afternoon with these old sci-fi films than the modern variety -- those where the focus in on wowing the film viewer with special effects and emphasizing how close we all are to death and destruction -- unless "somebody (else) does something."



_

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Homeless -- "What would you do?"


I recently posted to Facebook an editorial from the L.A. Times about that city's (and others roundabout) severe and still growing problem with "the homeless." The troubled people, their needs, the terribly destructive affect such are bringing to the city's quality of life.  Yes, and the sometimes serious health crises their rapidly increasing presence has brought in its wake.

A long-time friend who is a resident in a community some miles from L.A. shared a caring and thoughtful response. He spoke of  his "mixed feelings about the group of homeless who roam around the park not more than a mile from my home" who "while relatively peaceful ...litter the grounds with all kinds of refuse." Of how "the recreational area where my children played are empty when the homeless sleep on the benches nearby and drive the families away" and how such have taken up residence, too, in the local library. About how "the staff is politely accommodating (as required by law) but must citizens put up with the common areas being used as a toilet?"

He spoke of his own concerns and actvity trying to find even a workable short term solution, and that while recognizing that "what is ultimately going to work to erase homelessness is anybody’s guess."

His thoughtful, deeply felt, and much appreciated comment ended with a question: "...how would you handle a sudden influx of the homeless into P________?"

Here, posted for my regular blog readers, was my response...



*****

K___, your's was a thoughtful answer -- deserving of more than a reply -- worthy of thought. And one that lead me to both think -- and to realize how ludicrous it was for me to do so while in my warm and comfortable home, surrounded by love and beauty, while making blueberry pancakes -- a long-time Sunday ritual -- to bring into my always smiling wife who is snugly wrapped in a blanket.

Where to even start? (and how it keep it appropriate-to-the-venue short?)

First off I realized that no frank answer would make for a good Hallmark Channel presentation. 

I started yet smaller... What if some down-on-their-luck people started an encampment somewhere on my property? Would I allow that?

No. 

I do keep it open for hikers, hunters, bird watchers, picnickers, and have had youths build blinds and small encampments -- a campfire and so forth. Such were welcome. But to take up residence? No.

Part of that is because such grows. One family becomes two then twelve. Appreciation becomes a right. And the law, generally, is so open to "interpretation" that I could not count on it if such became my only recourse.

But then what would I do? 

First find if they were locals. Then, if yes, see if the local family services could help. The goal even there would be for them to fairly quickly vacate.

But why the question of whether they were locals? The answer to me is in nature -- man's nature. Individual, family, tribe. I can care about the abstractions of "fairness" and "justice." But cannot care for the world. Big things for short periods. Small things for long periods. 

Okay, what about in a public park?

Basically the same. The town's shared spaces are just that -- the towns people's shared community spaces. The bigger "family." ("Tribe?)

No, out they must go. Not preferably cruelly, but go they must.

But where? 

The best answer is the old one: "Across the tracks."

That was what American society -- one built on personal liberty and responsibility -- came up with. For those who by choice, genetics, chance -- whatever -- had a non community-values way of living. They were free to do so -- "across the tracks."

Thus there was "the Bowery." Thus there was the "combat zone." Bars, shooting galleries, hookers, families with no responsible heads -- all of that.

Nope -- nothing "Hallmark" about it.

Does such "work"? Not in an idealized way. But better than anything else. For one it is self-contained.For another, self limiting. And nothing else that I have seen is.

"If you build it they will come."

Yup. Public housing. Free this and that. 

Free universities too I guess. But make them open to all, and not admission-standards based -- and well, we see where that took us. To just what your local library has become. And public rest rooms. And parks.

Now your local situation is not the same. The barn door was left open. The cows are wherever. The careful farmer no longer holds sway. 

How to clean up that mess "neatly" I have no idea. Today even what used to be called "slum clearance" is seen as something else. The once honored "smart" and "industrious" are today seen as the thieves. Of places. Of other's cultures. 

Nope. Do what you can. Be kind as you can. Genuinely -- not as mere manners. But kindness includes protecting what is good. What brings others here. They want it too! 

Fair enough. You want it? Here is how you get it... (and it is not what you wish to hear).

Is that an answer?

*****

Is it?


_


Monday, February 19, 2018

Gun Grabbing - A Modest Proposal


Over at Powerline Blog, John Hinderaker, borrowing heavily from earlier writings of Charles C.W. Cooke, focuses sharply on the desire of the left to end the 2nd Amendment. "Talk is cheap" he tells us -- let them actually act.  The article then goes to show why such is nearly impossible. Neither American law nor the American people would likely tolerate such a thing.

I think that both Hinderaker and Cooke are right about that. But still, as in good medicine, might not a trial be allowed to test the hypothesis? A "test case" as it were. One that in a small way, avoiding many of the larger problems outlined in the two articles, allows us -- politicians, their media voices, and most importantly the American people -- to see how much "cure" there is in the gun grabbing idea -- and what issues, expected and otherwise, might need to be balanced against any demonstrated efficacy.  In that spirit I here put forth a modest proposal:  That guns already illegal -- many of which are even now doing observable harm -- be "grabbed."  Legally under present law, or such small modifications of which might pass at least local muster.

Let the police -- no, charge them! -- to remove all the illegal guns in the city of Chicago.  Now.  Starting today.  Or as soon as the needed organization and momentum for it it can be built.

"If just one child's life can be saved it will be worth it."  -So we are often told when it comes to a nation-wide gun grab.  Well certainly such will prove to be the case in Chicago. Indeed it'd likely be far more than one each and every weekend. And many more over some holidays.

Now we are not suggesting that all guns be "grabbed." Such would be unconstitutional. Just the ones that are currently possessed illegally under laws that have already seen at least local "testing" in the courts.

Let the authorities request such all be turned in. Then, as would be needed if the experiment should proceed to a larger field (be it the entire nation or a given "test" state), the police would take whatever action is legal to gather any that might remain.

The beauty of this test case is that its efficacy would quickly be apparent. And make great headlines to boot.  "Seventh Weekend In a Row Without a Single Shooting in the City!"  Who wouldn't like to see such a thing?  What politician wouldn't like to run taking claim for it?

Oh yes, there might be some problems.  Perhaps a few illegal gun owners might not willingly comply. Perhaps searches would be neccasary -- legal ones of course, authorized by courts based on evidence that an illegal gun is owned. Some might even resist. (And they'd somehow need to be dealt with. Without shedding any blood of course.)

Well what is that in comparison with what would be needed to grab all of the guns nation wide?  And where are we more likely to see the will to get guns off the street than in perpetually violent, left-leaning, Chicago?

If it works. -If all those unlawful weapons are no longer possessed by wrong doers -- If the streets have in truth been made safe -- then our leaders can bring that fact to the American people and let us, having seen the good, decide.

The argument could be well made about how safe we'd then be -- our children in school for instance -- if only the local police are alerted to a home where violence had taken place.  (Such would stop for sure!), or, failing that, if the FBI was alerted to a possible danger. ("'So-and so' has a gun and plans to do harm." -With the FBI alerted certainly we would feel and actually be "safe." Or local school and community authorities could be made aware and local social services, now involved, could assure us that 'so and so' has been interviewed and is assuredly "of no danger to themselves or others."

Yes, then We the People" -- the true rulers of our land -- could decide about the relative safety afforded my each and all of these methods. And having decided, based on tested facts, we could either keep our constitution as written, or legally modify it.



-
A slightly modified version of this piece
was published by American Thinker 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Looking Back at 2017 (and Ahead to Our Shared Future)



Is 2017 really becoming the past?  So soon?  So quickly?

It's an old custom to look back as each year passes.  -To ask one's self and one's friends "what kind of a year has it been?"

I'm pleased to report that for me 2017 was wonderful -- and that in so many ways!

The end of 2016 was for me and mine full of questions.  My wife Jan's health issues had forced a change. What would such portend?  Even our ability to stay in our beloved home, on our beloved property in the larger community that so suited us, was in question.

2017 saw happy "conclusions" to each of these questions and unknowns.

Jan's health has remarkably returned. Our home has become our home to an even greater extent -- with more of "us" in it. (And the part that the kindness of dear friends has played in this makes it all the more heart warming and wonderful.)

Jan and I both being in retirement has emphasized once again how much we love one another --and enjoy one-another's presence.  More joy. More smiles. More and more evidences of caring and, yes, "love."  What a meaningful word that is! Especially when applied to a home and a marriage.

And the world has turned too. For the better. For the much, much, better.

Amen.

I am not in any formal sense a "religious" person. But how can I deny -- or not be warmed and encouraged -- by the obvious signs of kind providence our world and (especially) our nation has seen over the course of this past year?

An old Christian text says that "the wise have been shamed by the foolish things."  How true that has proven to be!  .

Or maybe it's just that our society's idea of what (and who) is "wise" and who or what is truly "foolish" has gotten a needed "update"? In any case it makes me smile. And laugh. Yes, and feel hopeful for humanity's shared future.

Put simply: Things are looking up again.  (And how many years has it been since it genuinely felt that way?)

So now, today,  2018's own hope is calling out like a distant voice -- to be heard only if one listens and concentrates.  "Look here! Watch what I do! Be prepared to me amazed!"

And I do watch.. With joy in my heart and love for life's endlessly wonderful possibilities. 

Happy New Year all!

Wishing you joy, and prosperity, and health and abundant peace.


_

Friday, October 20, 2017

"All Is Right With the World"

I'm smiling!

Yeah, I am. (No Facebook "selfie" though. My smile is too real for that.)

But *why* am I smiling?

Robert Browning sort'a captured it in his poem "Pippa's Song"...

"The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!"

Well, in truth all is not right. Of course not. (Browning, of course, knew that too) But so much is!

Here are just a few of those things. The things that are making me smile.

This may be the most beautiful Autumn I have ever experienced. Two "peaks" of color. (The 2nd going on now!)  Clear and cool mornings, followed by sunny 'warm kisses' afternoons.





Jan is home with me.

What's the biggie in that? Simple: She is my best friend. My dear one. My love. My truthful companion. The light of my life. -And for the almost fifty years she and I have been "together" most of our days were spent largely apart. Working and/or whatever.

Now we are home together. Not linked by any rough-hewn knot. Not 'Siamese twins' to use an old, outdated, phrase. No, not at all. But together. On our own terms. In our own beloved home. And that all day long.

The world is getting "right" too. The world outside.

Have you noticed that?

No, you'd not think so by what the media is every day telling us. But it is.

Okay, not *their* world. No. Because their world is broken beyond fixes. They have lost control. (They and those they serve) and that's what they're so god-awful pissed about.

But yet it is.

Even the flashes of ugliness -- the anger (largely created and canned for public consumption) -- shows this.

Look at the numbers. The "stats." Things are starting to go right. Not for "them." But for us. The regular people.

Look at the faces of almost anyone who is seeing and thinking for themselves, and not repeating the mantra from above. They, too, like me, are smiling.

The "threats" -- those big, ugly, threats that are supposed to make us cower -- they are largely phony.

And what's more, more and more people are seeing that. And in the people's eyes the little laugh lines reveal that even when and where its still unpolitic to say it. Look and see!

Isn't all that WONDERFUL?

So yes. I'm smiling. A big, BIG, smile.

I hope you are too.

(And if not, please think about all the above.)



* * * * *