It’s a Manic, Manic, Manic, Manic World!

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.

Politics

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.

Demographic Trends

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?

1Rules of the Road and the Golden Rule of Driving – 2022 | DMV Practice Tests (puedomanejar.com)

2 Right of Way in Every (Driving) Situation (defensivedriving.org)

Walter Becker – Jazzy, Bluesy, Rock Rhythm Section Genius

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”

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.

“Black Friday”

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.

“Bad Sneakers”

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.

“Josie”

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.

18 Songs That Show Walter Becker’s Brilliance | Pitchfork

2The Secret Soul of Steely Dan: Walter Becker – American Songwriter

Universal Awareness the Sole Domain of Human Intelligence?

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.

Culture Curators are Thought Despots

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.

1Salena Zito: Biography and Latest Articles (townhall.com)

2It’s time to cancel this talk of ‘cancel culture’ – CNN

One Small Step Closer to the Peoples Republic of America

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.

1 Freedom of the press in the United States – Wikipedia  

China in the Spotlight

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

Michael Peck

Contributor

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

David Axe

Forbes Staff

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.

Data Retention Dilemma

Regarding the editorial piece in the Richmond Times Dispatch adapted from The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star published 12/4/2020

Editorial: Expunge law-abiding Virginians’ tag numbers

“By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as ‘innocent until proven guilty.'”

John Whitehead, Rutherford Institute

Applying Mr. Whitehead’s quote to this topic is a significant overreach as are the positions asserted in the editorial piece referenced above regarding automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) data collection by law enforcement authorities.

The fact that data anonymously collected about a vehicle potentially associated with criminal activity, or owned or operated by a person wanted in connection with criminal activity, is just another valuable asset of criminal justice.  How is this different than DNA?  DNA evidence, often heralded as a breakthrough innovation in law enforcement and is frequently forcibly provided, is held in perpetuity.  In the referenced ALPR case, the data is destroyed after one year.  That means that that data collected one year ago is destroyed today and every day. 

Comparatively, far more in-depth information about where you and I go and what we do is collected second by second of every single minute of every single day by a myriad of applications on our personal devices.  Where we go, at what time, for how long, what we drive, what we purchase, who we associate with and even what we say, all is constantly collected.  Then it is analyzed for its usefulness in targeting us specifically with custom messages as well as setting macro-level marketing strategy.  All provided freely because we value the services provided by the applications that require it of us more than we do our privacy, and, because we are too lazy to read the Ts and Cs.  If anyone would take the time to read just one, and could comprehend its implications, would be outraged.  All of our very private information is retained forever and sold to all those willing to pay thus multiplying exponentially the number of places this data is held.  Now that should outrage and frighten everyone!

Where is the outrage about these invasions of privacy?  These forever collections of very private information are vastly more threatening than the information collected by a police vehicle we may never encounter or who we serendipitously pass on a rare occasion.    In fact, the data collected by applications is far more likely to directly expose us to criminal activity from identity theft to sexual predators.  Law enforcement authorities do not care about where you and I go.  The ALPR data potentially collected about us will likely never be accessed and will be destroyed in 12 months.

Law enforcement has an incredibly difficult role in society balancing effective crime fighting with crime prevention all while strictly adhering to the law in protecting citizens constitutional rights.  ALPR is an innovative crime fighting aid where only vehicles associated with criminal activity or criminals are affected.  To deny these dedicated professionals an extremely targeted and effective crime fighting tool would only serve to discourage further innovation while giving criminals a free hand to victimize us.

Hope, Love and Forgiveness – the Narrative for Rebuilding our Republic

Excerpts from Richmond attorney and author Frank B. Atkinson’s most recent book is a poignant recalibration of what it will take to bring us more together as a nation.  Mr. Atkinson’s context in this excerpt is largely from founding father, Constitutional author and fourth President of the United States James Madison.  Regardless of your political affiliations, given a thoughtful review to the end, this is ten minutes of worthy reading.

For too long, our learned elites have been building themselves up by tearing our institutions and ideals down. In the process, they have raised smug non-belief to an art form while generating precious little new for us to admire. They have rarely given … only taken away.

Now, when we can see the fruits of this fragmentation in the collapse of our communities and the degeneration of our discourse and the endangerment of our democracy, we all must reckon with the reality. And in this reckoning, it would be a really great thing if those who have long been the biggest beneficiaries of the liberal order — those in the academy, in the media, in business, and in government — would become part of the solution instead of the problem.

Having looked into the abyss that is the antithesis of ordered liberty and principled republicanism — having gotten a glimpse of individualism that tends toward narcissism, and diversity that tends toward relativism, and populism that tends toward authoritarianism — having seen the malignancies of nativism and socialism begin to spread anew — maybe it is time to say that America, land of the free and the home of the brave, is not such a bad idea after all.

Maybe it is time to say that ours is a republic worth keeping, with values worth teaching.

Maybe it is time to say that we have amplified well enough our differences. Now let us celebrate the bright tapestry that has been woven from our wonderfully diverse threads. Let us celebrate the ties of freedom and love that bind us. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one.

This is the challenge of our time for all of our leaders, the duly elected and the self-appointed, on college and corporate campuses, in the fourth estate, in the corridors of power and politics, in whatever positions of influence we may find ourselves. To paraphrase JFK: Ask not what you can criticize about your country; ask what you can do to improve it.

Third, as we renew the American narrative and labor to build up rather than tear down, let us rediscover the brilliant insights of [our Constitution’s chief architect, James] Madison, and put them to work, as he did, in intensely practical and productive ways.

If Madison could stare human nature, the most intractable of all problems, in the face and not wring his hands … if he instead could take the landscape as he found it, roll up his sleeves, and build on it … then surely we can do better in our time than sit around like lumps lamenting today’s dysfunction and division.

If he were here today, I imagine the man from Montpelier [VA] would have some very pointed things to say.

I think he would begin by reminding us that we don’t have it so bad. At least, there are no bayonets at our bellies, no hangman’s noose or firing squad awaiting us for defying the king. So we really have no excuse for sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves.

Second, he’d remind us that human beings are not born with an understanding of republican principles and practice. Good citizenship is a learned behavior — the product of education and the cultivation of civic habits, including informed and respectful contention, collaboration, and compromise. If we want to be a virtuous self-governing community that exhibits these habits, we must work at instilling them.

Next, Madison would remind us that the American system is predicated on the competition of ideas, so if you do not agree with the agenda of the political factions on the far Right or far Left, then you should join or form your own faction and engage in the great contest.

Don’t be bullied by the decibels and deceits, the self-worship of passion over reason. Use the tools of your times to outsmart and outwork your opponents.

He’d be too modest to cite his own example — outworking and outsmarting the mesmerizing Patrick Henry to win a great victory for the Constitution [in the ratification debates] — but there is a lesson there for us all.

Finally, Madison would challenge each of us to get to work in our personal spheres of influence and opportunity, helping our neighbor and our community flourish in freedom.

Here, after all, was a comfortable young man from the backwoods of Virginia who sensibly could have left the deep thought and hard work to more established figures. Instead, he closeted himself in his little library with all the collected wisdom he could lay his hands on and went about the process of preparing a plan.

Somewhere along the way he gained the insight that good governance is about achieving balance, a healthy tension that not only forestalls excess but fosters reasoned deliberation and productive compromise. He made the pursuit of that balance his life’s work, and, in so doing, he offered a prescription for ours.

Madison’s particular project was balancing the shifting excesses and exigencies of federal and state power — vital work that continues today. As with any such dynamic arrangement, times change, and so do the demands. There was a time not so long ago, for example, when strong federal power was needed to right the civil wrongs in the states where essential liberties and equal justice were denied.

In our day, the balance of national and local power has tilted heavily in favor of Washington, D.C., and the massive bureaucratic and regulatory state ensconced there, producing a distance and detachment that threaten to undermine personal and community responsibility. Our political discourse suffers, too, because civility and self-restraint arise from personal relationships — from friendships, and caring, engaged communities. And these essential elements of republican life are eroded when decisions are made in remote and unaccountable chambers and when debates occur in angry anonymity over the Internet.

If we mean to restore a vibrant republicanism, we must get engaged in the work that is within our reach. For most of us, that means working for the improvement of our neighborhoods and communities, our workplaces, and the people right around us. And because some of the solutions will be public rather than private, we must insist on the return of government decisions to a level within our productive influence.

The theoretical word for it is “federalism,” but the point is simply this: the Madisonian vision of balance today requires that we bring freedom home.

So we must renew the American narrative, resolve to build up rather than tear down, and exercise our freedom practically and productively in the manner of Madison. But there is one other thing we must do to keep and renew our Republic.

In “The Irony of American History,” Reinhold Niebuhr wrote these words:

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

This forgiveness is why, in the American story — indeed, the human story — Freedom and Love are inseparable.

We cannot live in Freedom without making choices. We cannot make choices without committing errors. We cannot overcome our errors without forgiveness. And we cannot find forgiveness without Love.

This is the astonishing freedom story written by the divine Author … the amazing reconciliation modeled by the divine Mediator … the incredible love poured into every human heart by the divine Spirit.

We will never transcend these truths, no matter how much pride and presumption our modern minds bring to the business of self-government. And, try as we might, we will not keep this Republic if we do not affirm these truths for ourselves, practice them in our dealings with others, and pass them along to those who will follow us.

Editor’s note: Richmond attorney Frank B. Atkinson’s latest book, “The Lion’s Den: A Story of American Renewal,” tackles the subject of our ailing democracy and how best to get the patient on the road to recovery. The prescription comes through the voice of Atkinson’s main character, an exemplary political figure in a fictional contemporary Virginia. With the real-life election season largely behind us and our politics as polarized as ever, we thought now would be a good time to share Atkinson’s practical insights.”The Lion’s Den: A Story of American Renewal,” a political novel, was published in partnership with the University of Virginia Center for Politics and was recently reviewed in The Times-Dispatch by RTD columnist Jeff E. Schapiro. The following excerpt is the second in a two-part series. The first part was published on Jan. 1.

A Few 2020 Bits

Electoral College

I do not hear anything.  Where is the thunderous outcry of advocates for removing the constitutionally powered Electoral College and replacing it with a straight plebiscite?  Once again, as demonstrated during each presidential election cycle, the systems has worked as designed.

In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama received 69,456,897 votes, giving him 365 electoral votes. In the 2012 presidential election, President Obama won 65,899,660 votes, and 332 electoral votes.

In 2016 President Trump received 62,984,825 compared to his opponent’s 65,853,516.  Trump received 304 electoral votes compared to his opponent’s 227.  This was not a failure of the system, it was entirely due to the blunders of President Trump’s opponent.

In 2020 Trump actually received more votes than President Obama’s two presidential elections or his 2016 opponent by nine million and 6 million votes respectively with 74,111,116 votes!  Clearly a record, and he lost.   Because a record number of votes cast for President Trump only earned him 232 electoral votes.   The reason for this is President-Elect Biden had 81,009,468 votes (an even larger record) cast for him but more importantly they earned him 306 electoral votes; far less than President Obama earned in both his presidential elections but more than President Trump.

This is the system working as designed.  Trump received nearly nine million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 and lost.  The difference is President-Elect Biden won critical mid-tier states that he was absolutely required to pay attention to because our system shares the power effectively among all states.  If the presidential election were a pure plebiscite, then only the states with the largest populations would garner any candidate attention.  Mid-tier and smaller states would not be heard and carry little weight post-election with the Office of the President of the United States.

President Trump’s 2016 opponent lost because insufficient attention was paid to the critical mid-tier states, period.  Their support was assumed, their blue color voters were offended, and Trump wooed them effectively.  While garnering more votes, she failed to offer all these critical states the attention they are due from a presidential candidate.  Thus, only 227 electoral votes were earned, the lowest total in 20 years and President Trump won an election virtually no one believed he would win.  These are simple lessons Presidents Obama, Trump and President-Elect Biden all understood intrinsically.  Critical lessons driven by an Electoral College system brilliantly designed by our founding fathers to ensure fairness and a voice to all citizens in all states.

2016 was, however, an aberration in a macro-political trend largely because of the blunders by President Trump’s 2016 opponent.  The 2020 election returned us to the trend line supported by demographic data and President-Elect Biden made no major blunders to turn away constituents that should be his.  The demographic data supports growing political strength in the number of the liberally minded, especially for overtly Socialist leaning politicians.  This may be a permanent change in the American political landscape but minimally for a generation.  As but a single example, it is widely reported that the majority of the Millennial generation prefer Socialism.  It is preferred until they actually have it.  Ask the majority of the citizens of China, Russia and North Korea if they’d rather live in the United States where democratic, free-market capitalism has produced the greatest standard of living for the most people in the history of the planet, or their country where many, many millions are desperately poor and starving.

2000 Electoral Map – Electoral Vote Map

2000 usa electoral map results – Bing

2020 usa electoral map results – Bing

2016 electoral college results – Bing

1How many votes did Barack Obama receive? – Answers

Gaslighting

The term originates in the systematic psychological manipulation of a victim by her husband in Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the film adaptations released in 1940 and 1944. In the story, the husband attempts to convince his wife and others that she is insane by manipulating small elements of their environment and insisting that she is mistaken, remembering things incorrectly, or delusional when she points out these changes. The play’s title alludes to how the abusive husband slowly dims the gas lights in their home, while pretending nothing has changed, in an effort to make his wife doubt her own perceptions. The wife repeatedly asks her husband to confirm her perceptions about the dimming lights, but in defiance of reality, he keeps insisting that the lights are the same and instead it is she who is going insane.

Today we are living in a perpetual state of gaslighting. The reality that we are being told by the media is at complete odds with what we are seeing with our own two eyes. And when we question the false reality that we are being presented, or we claim that what we see is that actual reality, we are vilified as racist or bigots or just plain crazy. You’re not racist. You’re not crazy. You’re being gaslighted.

New York State has twice as many deaths from Covid-19 than any other state, and New York has accounted for one fifth of all Covid-19 deaths, but we are told that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has handled the pandemic better than any other governor. But, if we support policies of Governors whose states had only a fraction of the infections and deaths as New York, we are called anti-science and want people to die. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

We see mobs of people looting stores, smashing windows, setting cars on fire and burning down buildings, but we are told that these demonstrations are peaceful protests.  And, when we call this destruction of our cities riots, we are called racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

We see that the major problem destroying many inner-cities is crime; murder, gang violence, drug dealing, drive-by shootings, armed robbery, but we are told that it is not crime, but the police that are the problem in the inner-cities. We are told we must defund the police and remove law enforcement from crime-riddled cities to make them safer. But, if we advocate for more policing in cities overrun by crime, we are accused of being white supremacists and racists. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

The United States of America accepts more immigrants than any other country in the world. The vast majority of the immigrants are “people of color”, and these immigrants are enjoying freedom and economic opportunity not available to them in their country of origin.  But we are told that the United States is the most racist and oppressive country on the planet, and if we disagree, we are called racist and xenophobic. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Capitalist countries are the most prosperous countries in the world.  The standard of living is the highest in capitalist countries. We see more poor people move up the economic ladder to the middle and even the wealthy class through their effort and ability in capitalist countries than any other economic system in the world.  But we are told capitalism is an oppressive system designed to keep people down. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Communist countries killed over 100 million people in the 20th century. Communist countries strip their citizens of basic human rights, dictate every aspect of their lives, treat their citizens as slaves, and drive their economies into the ground.  But we are told that Communism is the fairest, most equitable, freest, and most prosperous economic system in the world. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

The most egregious example of gaslighting is the concept of “white fragility”. You spend your life trying to be a good person, trying to treat people fairly and with respect. You disavow racism and bigotry in all its forms. You judge people solely on the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. You don’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. But you are told you are a racist, not because of something you did or said, but solely because of the color of your skin. You know instinctively that charging someone with racism because of their skin color is itself racist. You know that you are not racist, so you defend yourself and your character, but you are told that your defense of yourself is proof of your racism. So, we ask ourselves, am I crazy? No, you’re being gaslighted.

Gaslighting has become one of the most pervasive and destructive tactics in American politics. It is the exact opposite of what our political system was meant to be. It deals in lies and psychological coercion, and not the truth and intellectual discourse. If you ever ask yourself if you’re crazy, you are not. Crazy people aren’t sane enough to ask themselves if they’re crazy. So, trust yourself, believe what’s in your heart. Trust your eyes over what you are told. Never listen to the people who tell you that you are crazy, because you are not, you’re being gaslighted.

Sophocles said: “What people believe prevails over the truth.” And that’s what the media are trying to exploit.

Think through what you are being told. Don’t listen with a deaf ear or see with a blind eye. Question everything — even things from people who you think you can trust. Question why you are being told whatever, by whoever. Question their motives. Question who benefits. Question if there is a hidden agenda behind the propaganda. Question, Question, Question. Then do your own research and use some of your own critical thinking skills to get to the truth.

Sadly, 95% of the masses don’t even know that they are being gaslighted. At least now you do.1

Gaslighting – Wikipedia

1Some of the content of this section is copied from an anonymous source.

Covid-19

Vaccines with remarkably high efficacy levels were injected into healthcare workers and first responders in the U.K. this week December 6, 2020.  In Virginia, nearly a half million doses will begin to be provided to these same professionals by the end of this month.  This, after only approximately ten months from the commencement of the outbreak in the United States.   This is an example of how important it is to have political leaders, and especially a president, who have real-world, commercial enterprise leadership experience.  Life-long politicians, who are intimately comfortable with government bureaucracy and interminable delay would have said okay to a path that traditionally takes three years to produce fully tested vaccines.  Their only weapon would be shutting down the country and destroying our economy.  How many more would have died?  Would the economy not completely collapse no matter how much money was printed out of thin air? 

The American system of a capitalistic, market-driven economy produces strong and demanding commercial enterprise leaders who, when engaged in governmental leadership roles, understand how to squeeze the most from commercial healthcare organizations.  These commercially trained leaders when combined with, yes, a profit-driven, private commercial healthcare system that is alone in the world in its capability of these amazing feats of producing highly effective vaccines in the hundreds of millions of doses in a remarkable ten months, producing something no other nation could dream of accomplishing and saving hundreds of thousands of lives around the world; not to mention saving the world economy from total collapse.

Honoring the Second Amendment Constitutional Right

The NRA reported1 that studies indicate that firearms are used more than 2 million times a year for personal protection, and that the presence of a firearm, without a shot being fired, prevents crimes in many instances.  {To be clear} shootings usually can only be justified where crime constitutes an immediate, imminent threat to life, limb, or, in some {rare} cases, property.  It can only leave one to muse about how many crimes, including murder, attempted murder and manslaughter, could have been prevented had the victim be able to produce a firearm.  

It is estimated that 600,000 people go missing in the U.S. each year.  Unfortunately, many of these missing person cases go unsolved because of a late response by law enforcement or poor coordination between law enforcement agencies.  (This most clearly argues against the assertion that we have too many sworn officers or that police agencies should be “defunded”.)  How many of those that “go missing” (likely murdered and disposed of or sold into human trafficking) would be saved if they could produce a firearm?  Certainly not all of them, as many of these cases involve children, but how many, possibly 50,000, perhaps 10,000 abductions, could be prevented?   Even if it was 1,000, how much is each one of these lives worth?

1NRA published “American Rifleman” magazine, December 2020 issue, page 10

China – A Clear and Present Danger

As a follow up to other posts this year a small piece in the Richmond Times Dispatch Nation and World Briefs section on December 12, 2020.  Further evidenced that the PRC represents a far greater threat to freedom and peace than any other nation since Nazi Germany and its Axis partners Japan and Italy (Italy only in so much in their alliance with two true world powers in Germany and Japan).  The PRC will strip Hong Kong citizens of their freedoms by crushing the democracy movement right before the world’s eyes just as the brutal Nazi fascist regime did in Germany in the 1930s.  The Nazis began by arresting those who disagreed with their ideology and imprisoning them in “work” (concentration) camps.  Then using their brutal, murderous, totalitarian fascist methods to control all of Germany, then to virtually all of Europe and nearly the world.   It is not a stretch to shine this same light of freedom loving countries upon the brutal, murderous, totalitarian fascist methods and actions of the People’s Republic of China.

Tycoon in Hong Kong Charged under New Law

HONG KONG – Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon and longtime backer of Hong Kong’s struggle for democracy, could face life in prison after he was charged Friday with “collusion with a foreign country” under Beijing’s new national security law.

Earlier this week in Beijing, authorities leveled another apparent blow against Western media outlets with the detention of a Bloomberg News employee held on suspicion of endangering national security.

Lai, who was arrested by investigators in August, is the fourth and highest profile person charged under the new law, which seeks to eradicate dissent on Hong Kong by curtailing constitutional rights, including free speech.

The Beginning of the End of American Capitalism and Free Enterprise

The Rubicon has been crossed.  Trump, as desperately flawed as he was as president, will be the last Republican president, ever.  Even with his coarse personality and “unpresidential” ways, Trump will be the last person to hold the office to embrace American style capitalism and free enterprise so dearly.  The forces supporting our system of government and  a free enterprise, market-driven economy, that produced the greatest standard of living for the greatest number of people the world has ever witnessed, gave it everything they had in a desperate attempt to hold off the inevitable for four more years.  A mighty effort it was, but doomed to failure. The forces presented by overwhelming demographic trends are on an irresistible march toward the panacea called Socialism.

President Joe Biden will quickly begin to support the ideals of the socialist left and systematically dismantle virtually everything that was done to create the best economy in the last fifty years.  The only temporary “handbrake”, that will only slow the descent into what Senator Sanders euphemistically calls “democratic socialism”, is the slim majority Republicans managed to hold in the United States Senate.  The final result is yet to be determined however.  That last flickering light of market-driven capitalism and free enterprise will be consumed by the darkness of a government-controlled economy in fewer than ten years.

The wisest among the democrats will be careful not to call the desired state “Socialism”.  The term “equity or equality in outcomes” will be the battle cry.  That allowing free markets to determine outcomes is inherently unfair so government must step in to take control of certain market functions.  And, that increased wealth transfer is the only path to social justice.

A major next step will be the introduction of a “government option” in healthcare markets.  This will eventually lead to the crowding out of private healthcare insurance and the creation of a National Healthcare Service that will ensure mediocre healthcare for all, well, with the exception of the wealthy.  Their financing of the democrat candidates (Biden’s nearly one billion dollar campaign war chest compared to Trump’s just over 500 million as an example) will make certain that healthcare for the elites (including members of Congress and the Administration) will remain available.  This is the case in the U.K.  Home of the vaulted NHS has, yes you guessed it, private health services for the wealthy.  This while NHS patrons wait months for a simple doctor appointment and months to years for elective surgery like hip replacements (as if they were “elective”).  Even in the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China there are thousands of billionaires.  Only there, the government decides who they will be while the number of those living in poverty remains in the hundreds of millions.

Why is this blue wave a virtual certainty?  Demographic trends are the key to the democrat’s future political dominance.  Virginia is a state on the vanguard of this blue wave.  Virginia was a state that was reliably republican in presidential elections.  The state legislature vastly conservative for 60 years, even when democrats gained control of one of either the State Senate or the House of Delegates, the Governorship was held by a republican and those Virginia democrats would be considered very conservative by todays standards.  They would be unwelcome in today’s Democrat party.

In the last ten years large metropolitan areas of the State of Virginia, aside from northern Virginia which always had some balance politically, have steadily moved to the left.  In 2016 perennially republican Chesterfield county, a Richmond suburban enclave, voted for a democrat for governor for the first time since 1961.  Chesterfield’s population has exploded from 100,000 in 1970 to 353,000 in 2019.  Huge increases among Blacks, Hispanics and Asian races have tilted the county toward the democrat coalition.    Chesterfield is among 10 urban and suburban Virginia localities with populations between 200,000 and 1 million on which democrats have increasingly relied for statewide races since 20012.  If a democrat candidate carries all of them, there are not enough votes in the remaining 123 counties and cities for an opponent to catch up.2  Since 2019 democrats have held all state-wide government positions (Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General) as well as a majority in the State Senate and the House of Delegates.  The republicans will never gain control over any of them ever again.  As John Watkins, the former republican State Senator from Chesterfield, recently stated, “The demographics are changing…There are a lot of young people there with very different views on government.”2  Republicans are stuck, outnumbered and isolated.  Chesterfield is a microcosm of the GOP’s biggest problem [nationally}.2  Pete Stith, a retired deputy county manager…said the county’s political transformation has been coming for years.  “I’ve been saying the old people are dying off and the young people are moving in.”2

This is not a southern or regional phenomenon; it is occurring nationally.  Georgia is one of eight states where more than half the eligible voters under 40 are nonwhite.  Florida, the most important swing state, is another.  This is the first year when a majority of eligible voters in Texas are nonwhite1.  So, this trend is unmistakable and will be increasingly more reliable for liberal democrats and even avowed Socialist candidates for the foreseeable future.

1Some Statistics to Enliven Election Night – George Will’s column November 1,2020 – Washington Post Writers Group

2”Virginia Politics have Intruded on Virginia’s Never Never Land” Richmond Times Dispatch column by Jeff Schapiro 11/8/2020 jschapiro@TimesDispatch.com