Monday, August 20, 2018

Repeating History

San Francisco

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana

A Tale of Three Cities

By Brian C. Joondeph

Charles Dickens wrote the classic A Tale of Two Cities a century and a half ago.  It's a story about two famous cities of the times, Paris and London, around the time of the French Revolution.  These cities were the height of sophistication and enlightenment in the world, long before American cities caught up.

Three American cities did catch up and were at one time shining beacons of American success: San Francisco, Chicago, and Detroit.

San Francisco was the gateway to the Pacific and lands beyond – a beautiful city on hills with the Golden Gate Bridge connecting San Francisco to Marin County, one of the wonders of the modern world.  Chicago was the hub of transportation and commerce, connecting the eastern and western halves of the United States.  Detroit was an industrial behemoth, home of the auto industry and the assembly line, bringing prosperity and convenience to millions.

Songs were written to celebrate these great cities.  Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco.  Chicago was Frank Sinatra's kind of town.  And the Motown music genre began in the Motor City.

As Dickens wrote, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness."  Perhaps the best of times for these American cities was 50 years ago, when they and their leaders basked in the age of wisdom.  Today, these cities are facing the worst of times, due to their own foolishness.  What happened?

San Francisco is being overrun with the homeless and illegal aliens due to its sanctuary city status and virtue-signaling leadership.  The streets are littered with human feces, hypodermic needles, and syringes, turning the once beautiful "City by the Bay" into a cesspool.  What's the response of San Francisco leaders?  Banning plastic straws.

Chicago has become more dangerous than many cities in the war-torn Middle East.  This past weekend [August 4-5] was another example of the killing fields of Chicago: "at least 72 shot, 13 killed in Chicago over violent summer weekend, police department says."  What's the mayor of Chicago doing in response?  Maintaining and bolstering Chicago's status as a "sanctuary city" and virtue-signaling to fellow progressives, prioritizing illegal aliens over Chicago residents.

Detroit, in 1960, was the richest per capita city in America.  Fifty-some years later, in 2013, Detroit filed for bankruptcy.  Now it's a squatter's paradise.  Homes once owned by residents, then lost to foreclosure, are now owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority.  Today, it's first come, first served as to who lives in these abandoned homes.  The Detroit Free Press notes "dead bodies, wild dogs, squatters in government-owned Detroit houses."


How did these three beautiful and prosperous American cities morph from the best of cities to the worst of cities in only a couple of generations?  Let's look at who is in charge.

San Francisco has not had a Republican mayor since 1964, the height of Motown music in one of the other cities we are discussing.  For the past fifty-plus years, San Francisco has been led by a procession of Democrats.

Then there are the state and national leaders, from Governor Jerry Brown to Senators Kamala Harris, Barbara Boxer, and Dianne Feinstein, the last employing a Chinese spy in her office for twenty years while accusing President Trump of colluding with the Russians.  She was doing more for China than for her own city.

As a quick aside, Senator Feinstein responded to this news with the following: "The FBI told me 5 years ago it had concerns that China was seeking to recruit an administrative member of my Calif staff (despite no access to sensitive information)."

Note how the FBI told the senator of its concerns.  The agents did not insert a spy in her office, then obtaining a Title 1 FISA warrant to spy on the senator and her entire staff.  This is how the FBI handled concerns over Russians involved in the Donald Trump campaign.  Agents did not warn Trump over their concerns, as they did for the senator.  Anyone surprised?

Chicago's last Republican mayor finished his term in 1931, almost a century ago, followed by a string of Democrat mayors up to the present time.  At a national level, Chicago is currently represented by Democrat senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

Detroit's last Republican mayor finished his term in 1962, around the time the Supremes were singing "Where Did Our Love Go?"  Now they would be singing, "Where did our city go?"  Since the early 1960s, Detroit has had a succession of Democrat mayors, including Coleman Young and their famous hip-hop mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, now serving a long prison term.  Michigan, similar to Illinois and California, has two Democrat U.S. senators.

Anyone see a common thread here?  Cities run by liberal Democrats, implementing liberal policies, with predictable results.  These are certainly not the only American cities ruined by Democrat governance – there are also Newark; New Orleans; and Washington, D.C. to name a few others.

Then there are entire countries following this pattern.  Venezuela went from the richest economy in South America to financial and social ruin, with starvation and civil unrest – thanks not to the U.S. Democratic Party, but to its international brethren, the socialists.

This is the same political and economic philosophy shared by many American Democrats, including the cheated almost nominee Bernie Sanders and his mini-me, self-proclaimed Democrat socialist and rising star on the left Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  She, as another interesting aside, had a bad night in this week's primary elections, with all of her endorsed candidates losing.

As goes Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco, so goes the nation under similar leadership and guidance.  You won't hear this on CNN or MSNBC, as they are busy running interference for leftist politicians and policies.  Yet their organizations would be the first to be nationalized under a socialistic government.  Not that it would make any practical difference, as the media are already a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  The tale of these three cities is an important part of this history.  To ignore it means that many other cities, and the entire nation, could rapidly go from the best of times to the worst of times.

[Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS is a Denver-based physician and writer.]


From American Thinker (August 10, 2018)

Conserve Or Die

The Soon Rise Of Water By MicArdent

Farewell to the ‘Conservative Movement’

By Michael Walsh

The #NeverTrumpumpkins define themselves by their visceral distaste for the president. He offends their fastidious sensibilities, outrages them with his unfiltered Twitter musings, and violates their sense of propriety with his secular hedonism and sheer joy in his own vulgarity. That he’s also delivering the most conservative administration in history is, to them, beside the point—because Trump neither represents nor embodies “movement” conservatism. And therein, for them, lies the problem.

Movements are, almost by definition, attractive to the young and the emotionally immature. Followers love to follow; even more, they love to memorize catechisms and rote talking points, which they parrot on the air and in column inches, as if by simply asserting their “principles” they are proving them as well.

Eventually, though, both content and context are lost and only the talking points remain. The argument from authority becomes as circular and self-referential as any obscure religious contretemps, and of interest only to the anointed. Which is why they fall upon each other with the glee of zealots who have been given orders to purge the heretics by any means necessary.

I have coined a portmanteau term for this state of affairs: “preenciples.” You know what they are: smaller government, less regulation, free trade, federalism, etc. It’s a creed, constantly professed, acolytes of (fill in the blank: Mises, Hayek, Strauss, Buckley) reassuring each other that by consulting the sacred texts they will always have the correct views on the issues, and thus ensure their place among the elect.

Political creeds, however, are generally the provinces of the Left, which believes in history’s “arc” and “iron laws”—“scientific” dialectical materialism, socialism, communism, and the rest of the intellectual charlatanism (including psychiatry and sociology) that has followed in the wake of Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, and Mao. “Little Red Books” and Five-Year Plans are the staples of this form of political worship.

I’ve addressed the programmatic Left in my two most recent books, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace—a study of the eternal battle between good and evil, centered on the moral nihilism of the Frankfurt School of 20th-century Communist philosophers—and The Fiery Angel, a series of interlocking essays regarding some of the touchstones of Western art and culture, from the Greeks through the 20th century, and how they provide the antidote to the spiritual poison injected into Western veins by the Frankfurters and their fellow travelers in academe and now journalism.

Now, does everything from the Oresteia to Wagner’s Ring cycle form a coherent, intellectually and emotionally consistent “conservative” program, by which we can live our lives? Clearly not.  The great works of art are and must always be non-didactic. Politicized art is worthless; but art that has political resonance generally stands the test of time.

To my ears, then, the constant harping in some quarters on “movement” conservatism is reminiscent of everything I’ve ever heard from the Left, or experienced in East Germany and the old Soviet Union. I’m not suggesting that “true” conservatism involves replacing one (transient) set of “preenciples” with another one, albeit far older. Rather, my argument is that conservatism isn’t a movement at all. Nor should it be. Rather, it’s a simple acknowledgement of timeless verities and a willingness to defend them against malevolent faddishness masquerading as “progress,” whose object is the destruction of our culture and its replacement with… well, nothing.

In short, it’s a recognition of great cultural peril, and the willingness to do something about it.

Think of the struggle between Right and Left in military terms. We are the defenders of the citadels of Western culture, which are our hard-won patrimony. Leftists are the attackers, always seeking to undermine, to sap, to breach, to assault; for them, as for Hillary Clinton in her Wellesley senior thesis, “there is only the fight.” They stay awake nights trying to figure out new ways to bring the walls down; as I like to say, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.

But attackers have a problem: they generally need three times the manpower of the defenders in order to win. A well-defended, confident citadel, with plenty of provisions, doughty defenders, and at least one supply line, can hold out forever. Constantinople eventually fell to the Muslims after 700 years of battering, and then only because the Western Roman Empire had collapsed a thousand years prior, and Byzantium’s relationship with the emerging nation-states of Europe was often fraught; the Crusaders, after all, sacked the city even before the Turks did.

On the other hand, in 1565, the 6,000 or so Knights Hospitallers and other fighters on the island of Malta held out against Turkish force numbering nearly 40,000. And, of course, in World War II both Leningrad and Stalingrad repelled the might of the Wehrmacht after prolonged and deadly sieges.

The “conservative” advantage, then, lies not in a set of policy prescriptions but in its bedrock beliefs, which center on the necessity of preserving, protecting, and defending the Western civilization that eventually codified those principles in the U.S. Constitution, and which itself is now under attack. By articulating a set of policy principles, “movement” conservatism puts those principles on the negotiating table, and over the course of the past 75 years or so, has gradually bargained them away for a mess of pottage.

Real conservatism, however, conserves. It understands what’s a stake, whom to fight, and how to win; after all, it has more than 3,000 years of experience, much of which was recorded and remains accessible today. The Left tries to combat this disadvantage (via its control of the educational system) by delegitimizing and eradicating the past. By cutting us off from our cultural wellsprings, they hope to disarm and demoralize us. Don’t let them.

For in the end, the only truly “conservative” principle is to conserve. It may not be pretty, it may not be couth, but it’s all that really matters. We win, they lose, as a great man once said.

[Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and foreign correspondent for Time Magazine, for which he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.]

From American Greatness (August 10, 2018)