It seems, where democratic capitalism exists successfully, there will always be an appeal by fringe elements for so-called Democratic Socialism. Some call it a cry for an “even playing field”.
What does an “even playing field” really mean? Does it suppose all, or nearly all, humanity might have bestowed upon them a life in a bucolic setting devoid of discrimination, inequality, injustice, violence and aggression? One where all would be engaged in some government preordained endeavor that provides adequate housing, food, healthcare, public transport, furnishings, clothing, as well as other essential, and even sundry needs or wants such as occasional entertainment opportunities? Essentially, all life’s basic requirements plus?
All of these blessings bestowed for no other reason than you exist. All provided equally to eliminate jealousy or envy. Quite possibly all extraneous wealth would be confiscated. All second amendment rights suspended, once a full and final constitutional amendment is approved, and all firearms confiscated as well.
Might all of this suggested reality be conceived, organized and provisioned by some form of government entity? All provided with no regard for one’s education or other forms of qualifications, mental or physical capacity, heredity/race, age, sex, on and on? Is this an all-in assumption that everyone has the same needs for mental stimulation, achievement, recognition of accomplishment and would be forever happy with every player on the “team” receiving a “participation trophy”; all while declaring “winning” a false God?
Wait! Stop! Of course, of course all of these are silly notions that would never, ever have even a prayer of success given the truth of human nature.
So what do these “even playing field” types really want? Quite possibly they want Democratic Socialism. A system, where attempted, that has failed to eliminate poverty and injustice while dooming its citizens to a life short of its potential. A system that would eventually whittle away any sort of achievement of wealth (either created or inherited) with withering taxes, and the stifling of innovation that would ultimately lead to the destruction of our capitalistic democracy and all the amazing benefits such a system provides for so many.
Are some who underachieve marginalized by our system, well, yes. Our system, however imperfect, has been the beacon of hope to the entire world for over two hundred years. The beacon that tells of an opportunity to toil mightily and take risk in order to achieve something close to one’s potential while reaping the rewards that no other system can offer. We should scrap this entirely to achieve this so called “even playing field”?
Can more be done to even the playing field? One would assume so. But would it ever be enough to satisfy the critics of our system and the decriers of a system that produces both wealth and poverty (no different than any other system conceived or attempted)? A system that relies primarily on earnest effort and achievement. Yet one that includes a substantial safety net for those who truly need it and that totals in excess of a trillion dollars in wealth transfer programs each year.
A great deal has been done in the past 100 years, with a significant uptick in new entitlement and anti-discrimination programs since the 1960s. These entitlements amounted to trillions and trillions of new wealth transfer programs enacted. Funding made possible by a system that generates trillions in wealth creation through the magic of capitalism, without which, aid programs, both public and privately charitable, would not be nearly as well financed.
All poverty and injustice cannot be completely eradicated by any governmental/political system. But more can be and is done by our system; more than could ever be achieved in a system of socialism. Socialistic countries like France are proof of that undeniable fact. Regardless of how “socialistic” their system of government is, there is constant social unrest, strikes, protests and rioting. Unrest because whatever is done is never enough.
Once in a great while you read something that affects you profoundly. Something that simply states the values you hold dearest.
“After a few minutes, as if he had needed the moment of silence to in order to gather himself, Ulysses continued.
-I am of the opinion, Professor, that everything of value in this life must be earned. That it should be earned. Because those who are given something of value without having to earn it are bound to squander it. I believe one should earn respect. One should earn trust. One should earn the love of a woman, and the right to call oneself a man. And one should also earn the right to hope. At one time I had a wellspring of hope – a wellspring that I had not earned. And not knowing what it was worth, on the day I left my wife and child, I squandered it. So over these last eight and a half years, I have learned to live without hope. Just a surely as Cain lived without it once he entered the land of Nod.
To live without hope, said Woolly to himself as he nodded his head and wiped the tears from his eyes. to live without hope in the land of Nod.”
As a dedicated voter, I found encouragement in correspondent Judy Davis’ letter “Light a Candle”.
We have suffered with uninspiring leadership at a national level over the past four administrations and eight congressional sessions. Red lines crossed with no consequences, instigating seditious riots over false claims, and overspending creating out of control inflation are just a few possible headlines from a very unfortunate long list of disappointments.
Yet where are inspiring national leaders to be found willing to endure relentless 24/7/365 intrusive scrutiny, deceptive campaign messaging and blatant bias from a rudderless fourth estate?
How do we find electable national leadership candidates with the courage to truly bring a proven bipartisan foundation to the task? Leaders representing with equal respect those who pay no taxes, those who pay most of the taxes, and everyone in between. Where are the leaders who will emulate FDR, Eisenhower and Kennedy, elected by the greatest generation, as well as Reagan by the Boomers?
Unfortunately it will take more than lighting a candle to return greatness to the Whitehouse. I will need to read Ms. Davis’ letter every day to keep the faith.
Glen Allen VA
Letter Submitted 7-12-2022
Once and for All
Once and for all, AR (as in AR-15) does not stand for “Assault Rifle” or “Automatic Rifle”. The A represents the name of the first manufacturer (Armalite) of this style of rifle.
The AR-style rifle that a typical American can legitimately buy in a gun shop is a semi-automatic, single shot (a single trigger pull – a single round fired) firing mechanism. True assault rifles typically have an automatic fire option (a single trigger pull – multiple rounds fired). These weapons are difficult for the typical citizen to own. Legal purchase of an automatic rifle takes months to a year to complete the approval process and costs several thousand dollars.
Obviously there is criminal access and no amount of regulation can seemingly curtail criminal access in this country as well as around the world. Military and law enforcement agencies are typically authorized for automatic weapons. The federal agency ATF controls access per federal regulation.
So please stop calling AR-15s, AR-10, etc. “Assault Rifles”. You are further misleading the poorly informed and stigmatizing a perfectly legitimate sports rifle that is no different in its firing mechanism than any other semi-automatic sports rifle legally used by millions of Americans for a variety of purposes, including hunting, competition shooting, personal or family protection and as a hedge against tyranny.
So, for those of you who continue to call AR-style rifles “assault rifles”, you are revealing your ignorance about the world of firearms thus diminishing the veracity of any point you are attempting to make. If you wish to continue to opine about the illegal use of sporting rifles by the criminally insane, do so in a fashion that gives the appearance of knowledge and thus a hint of credibility.
I am binge watching on-demand TV program “Body Cam”. So interesting and vitally important. Every American should be required to watch at least the first three episodes. Anyone with a heart and brain will then be hooked. So enlightening and illustrative of what our policemen, policewomen and their departments are truly about; to protect and serve. The danger they endure every day is mind blowing when you see the undeniable truth of the body camera footage. These heroes truly deserve our respect and support.
It also demonstrates how we have dumped the issue of mental illness in their laps. State governments must step up and fully fund programs to assist those most seriously ill. So many are potentially dangerous to themselves, their loved ones, the public and most egregiously to the police. Police who truly wish to help yet do not have the training and resources necessary to prevent potentially life-threatening escalation into crisis.
For those recently retired, the vow was to jettison the cares of the everyday working world, to chill, to use this newfound freedom from employment frustration and hassle to de-stress and be happy all the time, well, at least most of the time. Certainly way more than when we were working, right? Yes, there will be the challenges of family, home and nest egg management. The balancing of how close and engaged you are with your children and grandchildren’s lives. Not to mention the increasing focus needed on healthcare.
But, hey, every day is Saturday now right? How stressful can life be? Comparing it to the workday filled with the congested, frustrating commute, office politics, suffering under narcissistic, self-serving bosses, and narcissistic, self-serving clients; what’s not to love?
The sad truth is, unless you truly disconnect by isolating and leaving the “grid” behind, the world will make you manic; whether retired, working, boomer, millennial or adolescent. Let’s examine some of the forces at work in American society today that seem to have everyone on edge in an attempt to deal with a rapidly changing US of A.
Bad Drivers and Declining Enforcement
Whatever happened to adequate driver education? Either it is inadequate, or, many on the roads are given to just ignoring the rules of the road (even if you think you know them you probably don’t – take a peek at the sites referenced below to test your knowledge1,2 ) and are unwilling to put forth the effort toward common courtesy. For those who learned to drive 40, 50 years ago, rules of the road were drummed into our heads and then tested regularly to ensure competence and compliance.
Observed behavior says many post-boomers generational drivers have had inadequate driver training. Poor driver education, compounded with modern day life pressures, has many in too big a hurry trying to cram too much into each day leaving them constantly behind a desired schedule. This is their rationalization for running red lights, speeding, dangerous, aggressive driving and flying off the handle any time someone attempts to call them out for their contemptuous behavior.
A part of the reason they do it is there is little to no traffic infraction enforcement. This defund the police nonsense is only exacerbating the situation. Too many competent police officers are retiring or resigning, based largely on a lack of due respect. Significantly reduced budgets are preventing the hiring of replacements. Even if we come to our senses and re-fund the force to an adequate level (hopefully well above previous “defund” inadequate levels), the rookies will take years to replace the competency lost.
Combine all these factors with frightening level of distracted driving occurring on our roadways and the notion of defensive driving has gone from an oft touted media mantra to a second by second requirement for survival. It feels like the battle for reason on the roadways is lost.
The din of political rhetoric is enough to drive you mad if you even try to stay informed. The belligerent tone and tenor of political discourse is just adding to citizen mania. The bifurcation of both parties (Socialists to moderates on the left and moderates to Libertarians on the right) is adding to the difficulty of accomplishing anything even slightly controversial. The perceived ineffectiveness of government, and the relentless, criminally intrusive ,media has led to a reluctance by anyone competent and rational to run for national-level office.
And, by the way, neo-Nazi skin head racist whackos never have and never will be accepted into any reasonable political discourse sponsored by conservatives associated with the Republican Party. Ultra-progressive avowed Socialists, however, are inching closer and closer to the mainstream of the Democrat party.
The bifurcation of the left, and to a lesser degree the right, consistently results in vacillating behavior by elected leaders regardless of party affiliation. The left’s injection of a racism perspective into EVERY political conversation, combined with the notion that white people are inherently evil, has turned the heat up on the political stove to new, seemingly unbearable levels. Conservatives attempt to paint all Democrats with the Socialist brush where fiscal responsibility equates to raising taxes necessary to pay for endlessly increasing social programs. The last twenty years have demonstrated that Conservatives are only slightly more fiscally cautious having their brains beaten in at the ballot box for any sort of demonstration of fiscal courage. This leaves everyone enormously frustrated and stands in the way of any coherent, logical dialogue toward bipartisan political accomplishments. This leaves us with endless brinkmanship as we march from one time-driven crisis to the next creating yet more unnecessary stress.
Each party has consistently had a “radical wing” that hold positions that the centralist portion of both parties would never broadly advocate for during formation of campaign-driven party platforms or the policy positions of those in power. That statement has held true until the Biden presidency.
President Biden has typically sided with the radically progressive wing of the Democrat party in major policy matters during his time as President. The election of Joe Biden as a centrist has proven to be a fairy tale.
The Geo-political Caldron
The perceived threat of socialism; plus Chinese, Russian, Iranian and North Korean aggression and genocide; rising crime rates; porous borders; a rebirth of effectual terrorism in Afghanistan (thanks to our recent “surrender” to the Taliban), Syria and elsewhere; inflation; a flagging economy; lingering effects of the pandemic and climate change are just some of the perceived problems mainstream media bludgeons us with 24/7. If you care even the least bit about this country, a place where hundreds of millions have flourished over the past 245 years based on the foundation laid by the genius of our founding fathers, then you have to feel pain.
The Left has a not-so-secret agenda associated with opening the southern border to virtually anyone. Their not-so-secret belief centers around this notion, if the mostly illegal immigrants are showered with government services (free education, free healthcare, housing support, etc., etc.), as they become citizens (or the Left finds a way to give non-citizens the vote), they will remember that Democrats were the supporters of fully open borders and purveyors of an endless flow of government benefits. Given the open door and all the “party favors”, the belief is illegal immigrants will eventually become strident members of the Democrat party. Should this theory become reality, then the millions of new Democrat voters will ensure overwhelming victory at the polls for decades.
What the Progressives fail to consider is that the vast majority of these immigrants experienced a Judeo-Christian upbringing. Where hard work, lack of government handouts, and self-reliance represent the singular path to success in this world. The vast majority pursue a working life, regardless of how initially menial, and many find that their hard work yields financial success and the desired self-esteem that comes with it. Often, a significant number attempt to become entrepreneurs. And many of those recognize that the political organization that espouses these Judeo-Christian principles as well as low tax, smaller government, work ethic credos or beliefs, typically beneficial for small business, is also the party with conservative principles.
Regardless, it appears this early immigrant factor, combined with the naivety of millennials and later generations (according to credible research the majority of Millennials state that Socialism is a desirable form of government) ensure a statistical numerical voter advantage for the progressives over the next 5-7 years. This advantage may persist long enough to allow progressives to alter the balance of power and enact legislation that permanently suppresses conservative political power.
The Extinction of Common Courtesy
Aside from a posable digit, the other human development that distinguishes us is the existence of common courtesy. Something most of we boomers learned from the greatest generation and, with diminishing success, attempted to pass on to our children.
Common courtesy has been very strongly present in western societies. In a number of cultures around the world common courtesy is not a thing. A strong caste system exists supposedly empowering some to treat those “beneath them” with indifference or distain. These tribes to nations, some with the capability of considerably dominant military-style violence, can go well beyond the absence of common courtesy to unconscionable, soulless, wanton destruction of homes, schools, cities and, most egregiously, human life on an unimaginable scale.
In America, the disintegration of common courtesy is more subtle. During the past three decades, so many here appear to be so crazed with the pressure of everyday modern life that they have little time for common courtesy in driving, shopping, and virtually every facet of their so-called lives.
A significant catalyst to this elixir of anxiety is the coddling of violent criminals and the identification of criminals as victims. Most people with common sense as their guide cannot fathom how we came to this place where the world seems so up-side-down. Where government has thrown up their hands when it comes to adequately dealing with mental illness. With illegal guns so readily available to felons and the severely disturbed alike, guns become the easier target of outrage instead of demanding government successfully address mental illness and the incarceration of dangerous criminals.
It’s no wonder half the country is on Xanax (or other similar potions) and the other half are frequently doing neurotic, manic and even psychotic things causing that other half to have so much anxiety that they are taking Xanax all day every day. It’s a manic world we live in. Which causes one to ponder, where do we go from here?
Few bands, more accurately, songwriting and performing duos like Becker and Fagen, remain supremely relevant for more than one or two albums let alone decades as in the case of the Becker-Fagen creation “Steely Dan”. Clearly their work evolved and arguably improved over the years but always stayed true to the Steely Dan style; so distinctive and brilliant.
Walter Becker was a classic nerd musician always tinkering with technology but had a visceral, uncanny sense of style that is found eminently present in every studio effort regardless of the use of ever advancing technological aids. This, combined with the abandonment of a “band” construct notion, led to masterful collaboration efforts with partner Donald Fagen and a host of the best session players the industry had to offer. The premise for reaching their creative musical goals was simple; seek perfection and then surpass it until perfection was achieved with natural ease. By engaging the best musicians in the business, these surrogates became virtual band members for a single track or two. Very specific guidance, followed by focused rehearsal, led to achieving the exact desired sound. Repeated rehearsal gradually gave way to a natural ease in achieving the precise musical performance recorded in a fashion that implied those engaged had spent years perfecting this beautiful sound.
As American Songwriter so well describes, “because Becker & Fagen’s song spirits were forever linked, as people they were different. Walter was a genial, funny and intellectual guy. He produced Rickie Lee Jones’ great Flying Cowboys, one of many non-Steely projects which distinguish the Becker sensibility. Like his own solo albums, it’s got a looser, funkier vibe, more bluesy and acoustic than electric jazzy, and with a gentle, crystalline focus of purity on each song.
Asked how to describe him, Rickie Lee said, “Well, you know he is way smarter than the other humans.”
It’s true. As Dan fans know well already. As soulfully funky, precise, fluid and expansive were their songs and records, it is the sheer brilliance of their accomplishment – their ability to wed the complex harmonies of jazz with the groove and funk of rock and R&B, combined with lyrics of richly dimensional, often sardonic humor – that distinguishes the Dan forever.”2
As noted in The Pitch piece by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, “Donald Fagen fronted Steely Dan but that was a matter of circumstance….Fagen took over vocal duties but Becker remained somewhat in the shadows, especially after Steely Dan retired from the road in 1975 so they could craft albums with the best studio musicians money could buy. This raised a question: if Steely Dan could hire the best guitarists in the world, why would they need Becker to play a solo?
The answer is pretty simple: Steely Dan always favored “feel.” Those endless hours in the studio were a quest for the right sound, one with precision and vibe—the kind of sound Becker could achieve. Once he and Fagen holed up in the studio, he started to play more guitar, not less, soloing on nearly half of their 1977 landmark Aja. Becker developed a fluid style, one based on the blues but as fleet as hard bop. It was the perfect complement to Fagen‘s keyboards, adding a bit of grit to the sophisticated chords and rhythms. This hint of dirtiness also underlined how the characters populating Steely Dan songs were often unsavory types; underneath that shiny surface, there was dirt.
Since it’s impossible to discern precisely what lyrics belong to either Becker or Fagen—the two shared the same sardonic sensibility and gift for wordplay, something that becomes evident on the pair’s solo albums, records that feel as if they’re part of the Steely Dan canon—guitar winds up as the place where it’s the easiest to hear Walter Becker’s individual voice. Alternately sharp and eloquent, his solos suit the beautiful, cynical spirit of Steely Dan.
Pretzel Logic is the first of Steely Dan’s albums to be recorded with numerous studio musicians and this coincided with Walter Becker dropping bass for guitar. On the title track for this 1974 record, Becker doesn’t have the finesse of Jeff “Skunk” Baxter or Denny Dias—the recording fades out as he’s bending notes as if he’s in a garage rock band—but this rawness suits the song’s loping, winking blues.
Like “Pretzel Logic,” “Black Friday”—the opening track to 1975‘s Katy Lied—is a blues song, but this one is hyper-charged and filled with complicated chords. Against this cloistered swing, Becker spits out shards of blues runs. It’s tense but his solo also benefits from elongated phrases that make his flurries of notes sting harder.
Arriving right after “Black Friday” on Katy Lied, “Bad Sneakers” is the song’s polar opposite: a jazzy, hooky slice of elegant isolation. Becker’s solo is wonderful, its long phrases seeming especially lyrical when contrasted with the band’s hard swing.
The concluding cut on Aja, “Josie” finds Becker playing off Fagen’s vocal, at first mimicking the melody before sliding into a solo that pushes the song from its soul foundation toward jazz. On an album as impeccable as this—the VH1 Classic Albums documentary on its making is a masterclass on album production—it’s notable that Becker’s solo has an airiness that gives the illusion that it was tossed off, not constructed with an ear for every slight pause.”1
The pitch piece goes on further describing subsequent efforts by the duo after Aja in an attempt to exhaust their creative magma below the lava dome. The truth is, unlike many quality songwriters who experience a single yet cataclysmic display of talent, Becker and Fagen’s ability to tell stories about life in a beautifully melodic and profoundly lyrical fashion seemed inexhaustible. They continued to constantly attempt to surpass themselves, and together, to achieve more than what many thought were previous seminal and final efforts.
Finally, American Songwriter notes, “Steely Dan was a band formed around a songwriting collaboration, that of….Walter Becker & Donald Fagen….It was always about their brilliance, their friendship, and their singular mission of merging soul and rock with jazz in compelling, sardonic and remarkable songs.”1
Together, Becker and Fagen were a precious gift and inspired match. The fact that they came together at all is arguably fodder for fate devotees versus those who see divine intervention. Their musicality presented itself through brilliance with different instruments but their dazzling collaborations in song writing, arranging and production can be described as unsurpassed in a generation of immense talent spanning the sixties through the nineties. Yet Becker can be singled out for his brilliance in all those things but especially in his rhythm section support of melodic genius.
Our perception of the universe and all of its history, potential, componentry and vastness is only significant in the human mind. The discoveries via Hubble, Chandra and the like are only meaningful to an intelligence that can conceptualize its significance.
Place that data and imagery in front of a sea otter to a mountain lion and the reaction will be underwhelming. Put them in front of reasonably well-educated humans and the reaction would range from boorish indifference to profound fascination.
The reality is, as far as we know, the only entity in the universe that can fathom the importance of the big bang, to massive back holes, to the theoretical end of the universe, are humans. The universe doesn’t know we are here, but we humans have some sense of its implication because we have the ability to observe, process and ascribe meaning to it all.
In the most recent The Willow blog post (One Small Step Closer to the Peoples Republic of America) the subject of government officials attempting to silence mass media outlets that carry conservative content is addressed. The message is one of removing access to first amendment rights for voices which were counter to the progressive and socialist dedicated politician’s and government official’s political ambitions. These blatant attempts to create a state media should outrage every democracy-loving American. One of American democracy’s greatest strengths, quite possibly THE greatest, is a free press. More broadly protected is the right of every American to think as he or she chooses as well as the right to voice those thoughts publicly without fear of retribution. Even when the press get it wrong they should be heard, then allow the voices of reason, and, if necessary, the courts, as a means of redress of those errors.
In Salena Zito’s column below (The Culture Curators Want to Think for You) she shares how those who hold positions of “cultural authority” wield their power in an attempt to control messaging, images, speech, thought, opinion, what books we read, what movies we watch, what words we use, who we support politically, how we educate our children and what parts of history are acceptable to teach, in a totalitarian fashion. These so called “cultural curators” are more cultural dictators because their attempted suppression of dissenting speech is an instrument that only the most brutal dictators have used throughout history. In many ways these cultural curators are far more dangerous than the politicians referred to in the aforementioned blog post.
The specific efforts of politicians to remove the first amendment rights of certain mass media outlets are public and typically broadly carried by the press. Yet, because of the vast number of, and the diversity of their roles in society, cultural curator’s despicable behaviors and actions are too numerous for complete press coverage. That is assuming the majority of mass media outlets from Facebook to CNN would chose to report negatively on anything that chiefly aligns with the politics of the executives or editorial staff. Some of these same outlets (not unlike CNN’s statement “Cancel culture, as it’s understood today, isn’t real”2) attempt to decry the existence of Cancel Culture. In fact, sympathetic to the role and intent of cultural curator’s ability to harm those with whom they disagree, most press coverage is dressed in armor intended to deflect any criticism and provide the aura of divine purpose to curator’s attempts to “cancel” misaligned messages and messengers. Unless, of course, you choose to consume their coverage via outlets that earnestly attempt to portray both perspectives fairly; Facebook, CNN, the Washington Post and the like, not among them.
The Culture Curators Want to Think for You
Sandor Mecs was a child when his family lived in the town of Szentendre, Hungary. Today, it is a picturesque town 20 miles north of Budapest that is lined with winding cobblestone streets, colorful centuries-old homes, cottages and churches. It is a tourism center with its flourishing museums, charm and proximity to the capital.
While the picturesque footprint was the same for Mecs and his family and thousands of other Hungarians 60 years ago, life in post-World War II Hungary was anything but ideal if you were a free thinker.
“At that time, we had become a Stalinized state of the Soviet Union, and Matyas Rakosi ruled the country for over seven years as a dictator who demanded no one strayed from the collective approved government thought,” he said.
If you did, you disappeared.
“Everything in government was militarized, and everything in our culture, the arts, the media, where you shopped, was all part of the government,” he explained.
There was no freedom of thought. You believed what the government and, by default, culture and news organizations told you to believe.
The government force was so oppressive that it established a secret police called the AVH, or the Allamvedelmi Hatosag, to make sure everyone thought the same and that no one dissented from whatever the government believed. Mecs explained, “My parents and family members lived in fear of people overhearing a conversation that might deviate from accepted thought.”
He said his father understood that after the doomed Hungarian Revolution of 1956 failed, it was time to flee the family’s home country.
“You have to understand when you leave, you leave everything behind, whether it is family members, belongings or the roof over your head,” he said. “A week after the revolution, my dad realized we’ve got to get out of here, and we literally snuck across the border with Austria in the dead of night.”
Back then, there were people who, for money, would get you safely across the border. “They were taking groups of maybe 20 people at a time and getting them past the barbed wire. One of the border guards actually caught the group that we were in when a very familiar face caught his eye,” he said.
It was the guard’s sister. “So he let us go,” he said.
Within a short period, over 200,000 men, women and children escaped their homeland, much like the Mecs family did. It was an exodus and scattered much of the educated and intellectual class. The only people who could afford to leave managed to spread globally, with many of them going to the United States and the United Kingdom.
Many intellectuals in the U.S. frequently toss around the word “dictatorship” or “dictator” about political parties they don’t like, and with such abandon, it is now deemed normal in some circles to use the terms without irony, primarily when referring to the Republican Party.
In their zeal to dismantle conservatism, they miss the true dictator in our country. They are our cultural curators. The corporations, much of the media, the entertainment industry, major league sports organizations, academia and Silicon Valley all demand that we fall in line with how they think. They want to approve of how we speak, what books we read, what movies we watch, what words we use, who we support politically, how we educate our children and what parts of history are acceptable to teach.
Many of these entities have gone from trying to appeal to a wide range of customers based on the products they sell or services they offer to social justice organizations, far removed from their core missions and their consumers.
When one of them deems something unacceptable in its version of the world, many others follow suit, often crumbling to their younger employees’ demands. The latter has been given enough power in this age of corporate social justice to destroy the very place they work if that corporation does not bend to their demands.
The decision no longer to publish six Dr. Seuss books was made internally. So was Disney’s decision to prevent young viewers from watching “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan,” “Swiss Family Robinson” and “The Aristocats.”
Voice an opinion on social media about the practice of removing books and the result is usually ugly, even if you argue that offensive images should exist in the marketplace so that you can point out their offensiveness.
Last week, Winston Marshall, the banjo player for the band Mumford & Sons, tweeted his support for author Andy Ngo for his recent book “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy.” Within moments, his life changed, thanks to the culture curators. The next day, he announced that he’s “taking time away from the band” to examine his “blind spots.”
His career and life may have been destroyed because his thoughts were outside the norms of what our cultural curators deem socially acceptable, and why? You see, Ngo is conservative. Almost no one within our cultural curators is conservative, and if a person is, he or she remains silent.
One of the most significant reasons conservative populism began to rise in 2009 was that these people lacked a connection or commonality with our cultural curators. The people who run things in this country have little in common with the very people who use their products or watch their shows or attend their football or basketball games.
Part of that reason is the culture curator boardrooms have very little diversity — not only racial or by gender, but also in culture. Rarely does someone who attended a community college or state school have any input in how something is marketed. There is also a scarcity of gun owners or churchgoers in newsrooms getting dispatched to cover gun control, hunting, religious freedom or the anti-abortion movement.
When you have little commonality with those you are marketing to or covering, you will often be blind to how they view the tone in an ad, tweet or coverage.
But the more significant problem is that none of these cultural curators quite care if you don’t like the way they demand you think or if you are going to buy their product, because their people — the people who think the way they do — are the people who have the largest megaphone.
It isn’t cancel culture. It is a cultural dictatorship because the suppression of dissenting speech is an instrument that only the most brutal dictators have used throughout civilization.
Mecs said the right to free speech was one of the compelling reasons his family came here: “It is the very core of American exceptionalism and idealism, and it should be cherished and celebrated.”
In December 1860, Frederick Douglass declared in a speech in Boston that “liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist.”
His words in that speech emerged because of an incident that happened the week before, when a meeting in which he was scheduled to speak at on abolishing slavery was invaded by a mob that sought to silence him.
Those powerful words in Douglass’ speech were not directed at the mob’s disruption. Instead, they were directed at the mayor of Boston, who canceled the event rather than defended Douglass’ right to speak.
Private companies, industries and organizations are not obligated to allow your viewpoints to be heard. Still, when they hold this much power in our culture and their sentiments are shared by the ruling party, we are heading down a road on which we may never be able to reverse course.
Salena Zito is a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between.
Dissent is not welcome in China. There are no Chinese freedom-of-the-press constitutional protections that exist in most western democratic nations.
Freedom of the press in the United States is legally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, freedom of the press in the United States is subject to certain restrictions such as defamation law…1 Even with these few caveats, free speech is protected to ensure all voices can be heard. These protections are even more critically necessary when smaller groups or individuals wish to be heard.
Whenever attempts to abridge or amend these rights are seriously discussed, all Americans should be forewarned and alarmed. This is especially the case when liberally affiliated or socialist aligned government officials, or organizational spokespersons, suggest that news sources that carry conservative messaging should be silenced. As liberal political forces continue to gain strength in numbers across the nation we cannot allow them to “cancel” the voice of the political opposition.
As demographic trends continue to point to growing liberal constituent numerical superiority, oppositional voices must be heard. Once liberal/socialist political officials control all forms of federal, state and local government, we become a country controlled by a single political party. With this form of absolute political control, the ability to amend the constitution to fully silence political opposition will be fait accompli. Once successful, we will know we now live in the Peoples Republic of America.
Whether you remember China’s use of the military in Tiananmen Square you should know it bears significant resemblance to the oppression now occurring in Hong Kong. The PRC is completely crushing political opposition with “laws” that enable oppression. These laws are being used to great effect in Hong Kong leading to the imprisonment of the leaders fighting for retention of democratic freedoms the PRC agreed to in negotiations with Great Britain. The PRC will not tolerate a whisper of democracy.
Throughout China the use of technology (AI and facial recognition software behind a national network of HD video cameras), to identify those suspected of merely thinking about dissent, is fully documented. Through these means, as well as more traditional forms of political oppression, those identified as potentially having active dissent on their minds are arrested and either “re-educated” or imprisoned or both.
Once again the words written by George Will ring with undeniable truth. Below are excerpts from Mr. Will’s column “There is no government cure for media pollution” (Freedom of the Press) published March 4, 2021.
As the progressive campaign to regulate unprogressive speech seeps out of campuses and into mainstream politics, the party whose base includes academia is behaving predictably.
This past week, U.S. Reps Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, convened a hearing for the undisguisable purpose of intimidating streaming services that distribute conservative content, or what nowadays passes for that.
On February 22, two California Democrats, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo and U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, sent to A.T.T. and other entities letters declaring that “the right-wing media ecosystem” – they named Fox News, News max and One America News Network – has produced “our current polluted information environment”.
The pollution is undeniable. So are progressives’ contributions to it, e.g., their obsession with 2016 “Russia collusion”, their ludicrously solemn and extensive interviewing of Stormy Daniels’ felonious lawyer, Michael Avenatti, and their beatification of Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the pandemic.
Eshoo and McNerney, however, economize their indignation by focusing on the right.
In their letters they demanded to know, among other things, how many of the cable and streaming services subscribers watched the three disapproved channels in the weeks prior to the Nov. 3 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capital, and “are you planning to continue carrying” the three channels, and “if so, why?”
There being no conceivable legislative remedy compatible with the first amendment, for what displeases Eshoo and McNerney, the bullying purpose of their letters was patent.
Eleven months ago, after the Trump reelection campaign sent letters to certain broadcasters threatening that their licenses could be “in jeopardy” if they continue airing a particular anti-Trump advertisement, Pallone and Doyle urged the FCC to reassure broadcasters that it would not interfere “with broadcasters’ discretion to air legally protected content.”
The FCC said they “cannot second guess the judgement of broadcasters” and should make clear that FCC decisions will not be influenced by “threats by politicians.”
This past week’s hearing, orchestrated by Pallone and Doyle in the context created by the Eshoo-McNerney letters, constituted Trump-like pressure on the streaming services.
It did, however, elicit two contributions to the public understanding of more than Pallone’s and Doyle’s status as virtuosos of situational ethics.
Jonathon Turley of Georgetown Law School said the Eshoo-McNerney letter encourages, in their words, “adverse actions” against – in plain words, the shutting down of – the preferred news source for tens of millions of Americans.
“This” Turley said, “is the essence of a state media model. … You must not only control the narrative but also eliminate alternatives to it.
Emily Bell of the Columbia Journalism School testified that new platforms have “democratized the distribution, circulation and monetization of media,” thereby demolishing the “gatekeeper” function formerly performed by print and broadcast media.
Mr. Will goes on in the aforementioned column to decry the power aggregated sources of “news” possess (such as Facebook and YouTube among others) as local news outlets continue to fall victim to the pressures of the pandemic and the outflow of advertising revenues to online media giants.
Yet the point is clear, vigilance must be maintained to keep the likes of Eshoo, McNerney, Pallone, and Doyle from establishing a defacto state media by eliminating news sources that present a perspective that is counter to their political ambitions.
There was a time when all politicians would abhor the mere perception that they wish to tread on the first amendment. Clearly demographic trends have emboldened the vanguard of the socialist-leaning progressives to attack the opposition by requesting the removal of their constitutional rights. Once the silencing of any news source willing to present conservative perspectives is accomplished, then all news will be filtered and cleansed by the progressive-dominated outlets like Facebook, YouTube (owned by Google), NBC (including local affiliates), MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, The Washington Post and many, many others. All messaging by Socialist-leaning and progressive politicians will be fully reinforced by mass media outlets shaping of “news”.
Once the first amendment is vanquished and all forms of government, federal and state, are controlled by socialist-leaning progressives, who is to stop them from removing the electoral college, removing term limits for presidents, and outlawing any form of gun ownership. When the forces for true democracy, based on the vision of our founding fathers, are voiceless and defenseless, the Peoples Republic of America will be born.
Some have said those of us sounding the alarm on an increasingly despotic and imperialistic communist Chinese regime are “fear mongers”. That our supporting data is stale and our perspective poorly informed. That any relation of the modern day communist Chinese party to the socialist, nationalistic brutality of the Nazi party in Germany in the 1930’s is misguided alarmism. That reducing the pressure on the military spending gas pedal will not signal appeasement or weakness, encouraging increasingly bolder imperialistic behavior by the Chinese; and the Russians.
Well, let’s add another well informed, articulate voice to the conversation. George Will’s recent column (February 21, 2021) “Biden’s sturdy resistance to China” is full of recently dug-up nuggets and analogies to previous global security threats by a nation unafraid to commit genocide. Missed opportunities of the past, to prevent considerable bloodshed during World War II, were enabled through appeasement. Indifference, worse appeasement, will undoubtedly lead to a repeat of these undesirable outcomes. The Biden Administration must not only remain firm but must increase the pressure on the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to reverse its Uighurs policy and know that severe consequences await them if they continue to pursue their less than subtle escalating aggression toward their citizens in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as toward the Republic of China in Taiwan and other neighboring nations.
In addition to the column from Mr. Will, two recent articles have been included on the accelerating Chinese military build-up. The second article included in this post touches on PRC naval power. No other nation has attempted to challenge the global preeminence of U.S. naval power since the Japanese Empire of the 1930s. The Chinese navy has already achieved numerical superiority. It is rapidly approaching technical and firepower parity.
The key to a successful invasion of Taiwan is naval strength combined with air power superiority. China already has the world’s largest land force. The third article speaks to China’s military pilot training program intended to create an air force capable of competing with U.S. military airpower.
Clearly China’s intent is to deter any potential interference with its imperialistic ambitions. Not much different from Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea. It was over before most knew it was happening and no western nation would go to war with Russia over the Crimea.
Despite significant sabre rattling from the U.S., and the absence of a NATO-like mutual defense pact, Taiwan could be annexed by the PRC in a three day military invasion according to some sources. Similar to Iraq’s lightning quick two day invasion of Kuwait.
How would this differ from the invasion of Kuwait in 1990? As it did then, would the United Nations gather an international force to return the island to the control of the government of the Republic of China?
With the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government justified its invasion by claiming that Kuwait was a natural part of Iraq carved off as a result of British imperialism. The PRC claims Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times. During World War II, amid the Japanese invasion of China, the Republic of China (ROC) was an ally of the western forces that opposed the imperialism of the axis nations (the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany, and fascist Italy). The ROC, with the west’s help, expelled the Japanese invaders from the Chinese mainland during WWII. Later the ROC, losing the fight for the mainland to Chinese communist forces led by Mao Zedong, fled to Taiwan. One could argue that it is the PRC that should be expelled and the ROC returned to a rightful control of mainland China.
War with Iraq, a second rate military power in the 1980’s and 90’s, is one thing, war with a modern, massive and technically advanced Chinese communist military, with a substantial and modern nuclear capability, would be something completely different. Would the world go to war over an invasion of Taiwan? It appears nothing is being done about the PRC’s brutal crushing of political rights in Hong Kong. It amounts to an obliteration of its promise for a “one country – two systems” political framework. It had made precisely the same promise to the world for a peaceful prospective annexation of Taiwan. Why would the world trust anything the PRC “promises”?
Presenting Mr. Will’s latest missive on the topic as well as his impression of the early signals from the Biden Administration.
Beijing wasted no time in greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of China’s high-risk obnoxiousness. On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft Beijing Beijing wasted no time greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of high-risk obnoxiousness. On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency, Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft simulated an attack on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier group as it sailed into the South China Sea. The pugnacious 26th president for whom the carrier is named would have applauded several of the 46th president’s initial decisions regarding China. Biden got Beijing’s attention by inviting Taiwan’s representative in Washington to attend the inauguration, the first such invitation since U.S.-China relations were normalized in 1979.
And Roosevelt, a naval power enthusiast, would have loved Biden’s sending of the carrier group. Later this year a British will participate in exercises in the region with the U.S. Navy. Allies matter.
Biden, who has promised “extreme competition” with China, has an appropriate secretary of state. Antony Blinken’s first conversation, by telephone, with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, was so sandpapery that Yang, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, blustered to Blinken, “No one can stop the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.
Nations prickly about their need for rejuvenation (“Deutschland erwache!” – “Germany awake!” was a Nazi mantra) betray a truculent sense of inferiority. China today has much to feel inferior about.
Blinken’s predecessor as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, formally designated as “genocide” Beijing’s treatment of more than 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps. Pompeo there by made national policy of a judgment that candidate Biden voiced in August, and that Blinken affirmed during his confirmation hearing.
Blinken’s warning to Yang that Washington would hold Beijing “accountable for its abuses” occurred three days after a harrowing BBC report on gang rapes and torture (including electric prods inserted in vaginas and rectums) of Uighurs in rooms without surveillance cameras, as well as forced sterilizations, forceable implantation of IUDs, and denials of food to those who inaccurately memorized passages from books praising President Xi Jinping.
China’s Goebbelsesque embassy says the minds of Uighur women are being “emancipated,” that Beijing’s measures are promoting “gender equality and reproductive health,” and are making Uighur women “more confident and independent,” and are “no longer baby making machines”.
The Convention on the Protection and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says the crime includes inflicting on a group “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” and “imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group”. Signatory nations are committed to “imposing effective penalties”.
Those should begin with an immediate announcement of a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, whose current viciousness is comparable to that of Germany at the time of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
And there at least should be public shaming of U.S. corporations which, while ostentatiously woke at home, seem not to think Uighur matter. Let us identify corporations that import goods made with forced Uighur labor or export to China goods (e.g. surveillance technologies) that could facilitate Beijing’s genocide.
Twenty percent of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang the region of the genocide: How many U.S. clothing brands are suing products of forced labor.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which this past year had 87 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and 33 in the U.S. Senate would create a statutory presumption that products from Xinjiang are produced by forced labor. Which U.S. corporations will lobby against the bill?
While China screws down the lid of tyranny on Hong Kong – making schools instruments of political indoctrination; removing library books that “endanger national security” – Beijing continues to add to the (at least) 380 Uighur “reeducation camps”.
If U.S. transactions – diplomatic and commercial – with China are unaffected by the findings of genocide, this will, in the words of Eugene Kontorovich of Gorge Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School “make a joke out of genocide”.
Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, said: “If it happened, therefore it can happen again”. U.S. policy now insists that genocide is happening in a nation tightly woven into the fabric of world commerce.
China is crucial to globalization’s supply chain, but these chains are also crucial to China. They can be instruments of political leverage for the United States and other signatories to the aforementioned convention who are committed to take measures to “prevent and punish” genocide.
Americas’ usual preference regarding foreign policy is to have as little of it as possible. Presidents, however, do not have that luxury. Biden is keeping his promise of sturdy resistance to China. But, his difficult choices have just begun.
September 1,2020 Forbes.com
China Has the World’s Largest Navy. And It’s Getting Better, Pentagon Warns
Aerospace & Defense
I cover defense issues and military technology.
“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants,” states the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power. “In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”
In itself, that statistic is somewhat misleading: While the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has more warships than the U.S. Navy, the American fleet is ahead in tonnage due to having larger warships, including 11 aircraft carriers that weigh in at 100,000 tons apiece.
But what happens when Chinese naval quantity is paired with technological quality? That prospect alarms Pentagon planners.
The PLAN is a far cry from its Cold War days, when it was a poor cousin to a massive ground army. China’s fixation to forcibly reunify Taiwan with the mainland, and its determination to replace the U.S. as the hegemon of the Western Pacific, had led Beijing to spend vast amounts of time and money to improve the quality of its navy.
China’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers has garnered the most attention. The PLAN has one decrepit ex-Soviet carrier, a newly commissioned carrier that is the first built in China, a third carrier under construction, and plans to build an additional four or more vessels. Fitted with advanced features like an electromagnetic launch system, a Chinese carrier fleet could provide air cover for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan, or even confront the U.S. Navy in the first carrier versus carriers battles since World War II.
But there’s a lot more to a navy than just carriers: watch U.S. carrier strike groups, and you’ll notice that the flattops are always surrounded by cruisers and destroyers for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense. China has been busily building a new generation of sophisticated, heavily armed cruiser, destroyers, and corvettes. For example, in December 2019, China launched the sixth Type 055 Renhai-class cruiser. The Renhai fields a large array of anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, “along with likely LACMs [land attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) when those become operational,” the Pentagon noted.
This raises the prospect of a U.S. fleet being overwhelmed by massed salvoes of anti-ship missiles, including deadly new hypersonic weapons that travel faster than Mach 5.
As with Russia’s navy, submarines are a key element of Chinese naval strength. The PLAN is expected to build more diesel-powered and nuclear-powered attack subs. China is also one of the few nations that possesses ICBM-armed nuclear ballistic missile submarines. In addition to its current four Type 094 subs armed with 12 JL-12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) each, a new “boomer” submarine is on the way. “China’s next-generation Type 096 SSBN, which will likely begin construction in the early-2020s, will reportedly carry a new type of SLBM,” the report predicts. “The PLAN is expected to operate the Type 094 and Type 096 SSBNs concurrently and could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030.”
Particularly interesting is China’s growing ability to launch land-attack cruise missiles, a capability that the U.S. Navy has demonstrated with its Tomahawk missiles on more than one occasion. This would allow Chinese surface ships and submarines to strike key bases, such as Guam, in the Pacific and beyond.
“In the coming years, the PLAN will probably field LACMs on its newer cruisers and destroyers and developmental Type 093B nuclear attack submarines,” the Pentagon report noted. “The PLAN could also retrofit its older surface combatants and submarines with land-attack capabilities as well. The addition of land-attack capabilities to the PLAN’s surface combatants and submarines would provide the PLA with flexible long-range strike options. This would allow the PRC to hold land targets at risk beyond the Indo-Pacific region.”
In 2019, China launched its first Yushen-class large amphibious assault ship, which is not good news for Taiwan. The PLAN is also building a variety of support vessels, including oilers, intelligence collection ships and even China’s first polar icebreaker.
Of course, there is a lot more to a navy’s power than the number of ships or missiles. The U.S. Navy has more than a century of reliably operating in distant waters, including carrier flight operations, convoying merchant shipping, and conducting amphibious operations. For all its growing technological sophistication, China’s navy simply lacks experience in these matters.
But eventually it will gain that experience. Coupled with a huge battlefleet and advanced weapons, China’s navy may prove to be formidable foe.
EDITORS’ PICK |Feb 22, 2021
No More Nannies—The Chinese Air Force Is Finally Training Its Fighter Pilots to Match the Americans
Aerospace & Defense
I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is taking steps to erase a key advantage that the U.S. Air Force holds over the Chinese air arm—the quality of the American service’s fighter pilots.
The PLAAF’s training command has put in place a realistic new curriculum that, for the first time, encourages pilots to think and act independently in the most stressful situations. The changes could signal the end of the Chinese air force’s self-described “nanny-style” training system—and a new threat to America’s control of the air.
China’s “initial fighter pilot training program is poised to produce pilots who are better trained, and to do so at a higher rate, than before,” Derek Solen wrote in a new study for the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.
The training reforms actually include three separate main efforts, according to Solen. The PLAAF is cutting the time it takes to produce a combat-ready fighter pilot from 10 years to just seven by streamlining its officer academies and flight schools.
More rigorous training with a strong emphasis on realism and pilot-independence is the third, and arguably most important, effort.
“Despite the years that the PLAAF has taken—and in some training brigades, still takes—to train pilot candidates for combat, for most of the 2010s, the training program still failed to do so because it was unrealistic and rote,” Solen wrote.
Training flights seem to have only been conducted in excellent weather conditions, and perhaps because this practice limited the number of days on which flights could be conducted, pilot candidates were rushed through multiple training sorties on the same day whether they had grasped the lessons of those flights or not.
When training flights were conducted, they were “played safe,” four or five G being the maximum G-force that fighter pilot candidates ever experienced throughout their training. Nighttime flight training was conducted, but [the Air Force Aviation University] training base and the flight academies would illuminate their runways with searchlights to make it easy for cadets and pilot candidates to find their airfields and land.
Flight instructors would immediately take the stick when pilot candidates faced a problem such as stalling, depriving their pupils of the opportunity to resolve the problem themselves. Even a lesson that would ultimately enhance the pilot candidates’ safety was avoided because of its immediate risk: pilot candidates were not even taught how to recover from a tailspin.
Around 2017, that began to change, Solen explained. Now the flight academies send student pilots into the air even during bad weather resulting in poor visibility. The practice of illuminating runways with spotlights during night training ended.
“Training flights were no longer being ‘played safe,’” Solen wrote. “Now pilot candidates began regularly experiencing six to seven G during training flights. Flight instructors began interfering in their pupils’ flights as little as possible—and they also began teaching them to recover from a tailspin. (The flight instructors first had to learn how to do so themselves.)”
In order to cultivate their independence, AFAU and the flight academies began requiring pilot candidates to prepare for each flight on their own and to devise their own flight plans after the flight instructors have informed them of the next training subject and by what principles the training will be conducted.
In order to cultivate their intuition, the flight academies stopped evaluating pilot candidates on how well they fly as measured by their flight instruments; flight instructors began encouraging pilot candidates to look outside their cockpits when they fly under visual flight rules.
The reforms could make a huge difference in wartime. Even the most junior pilots in a front-line squadron should be capable of winning—or at least surviving—an encounter with the U.S. Air Force’s own pilots.
“The PLAAF is poised to produce pilots who are much better prepared to conduct real-world missions as soon as they undertake their first assignments, and it is poised to do so at a higher rate than ever before,” Solen concluded.