THE FORGOTTEN ENTREPRENEURS

I hope it doesn’t become too obvious that economics is not my “trump card.” But what American is sufficiently insulated from local or national economic policy to the point where he or she can ignore it?  Who, in however inchoate a way, doesn’t imagine exclusively economic solutions to their own or the nation’s problems? We know darn well from the evidence that the outcome of elections are very often  determined by economic factors, or whether or not a majority of the electorate is feeling economically secure or optimistic. You’ll no doubt recall that cynical, flat-footed declaration by Democrat advisor/pundit James Carville prior to Bill Clinton’s election, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And a temporarily flagging national economy probably did do in the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush. Continue reading “THE FORGOTTEN ENTREPRENEURS”

THEN THEY CAME FOR KATE SMITH….

Does it matter that Bob Dylan wrote and sang a song in romanticized tribute to Joey Gallo, the Mafia murderer and thug?  I’m just asking. I guess that was balanced out by the fact that Dylan also wrote and sang a song in defense of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the African-American boxer ruled to have been wrongfully convicted of murder after spending twenty years in prison.  And, I suppose, Dylan, when writing and singing, can do no wrong, at least in this era. I’m sure another era will measure him by its standards and, if found culpable of socially dubious acts or pronouncements and if someone was foolish enough to erect a statue to him, he’ll become an enemy of the people and his statues defaced and pulled down and all his music burned. They’ll wonder how the Nobel Committee could ever have considered for their exalted prize someone who (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH ACTIONS, SUNG OR SPOKEN, DEEMED, IN DEEP RETROSPECT, TO BE OFFENSIVE TO THE PEOPLE OF THE LATE 21ST CENTURY) Continue reading “THEN THEY CAME FOR KATE SMITH….”

TIMES EDITOR “CANCELLED”

Say, did you hear that James Bennett, the opinion editor of the New York Times, got fired this month for publishing — an opinion?

Arkansas Republic Senator Tom Cotton, a graduate of Harvard Law School and member of the Armed Services Committee and hence identifiable as no mere slouch who wandered in from Time Square, opined on the Times’ op-ed page that the U.S. should invoke the very old and seldom invoked Insurrection Act, which empowers the president to use troops to secure order and public safety when local authorities have lost the ability to do so and are seeking federal help. His reasoning apparently was that extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. This was at a time when The Times was well aware that large sections of a dozen major American cities were being destroyed by out-of-control riotous looting and arson.

Some Times staffers went haywire, insisting Cotton’s words felt roughly as if someone were literally pointing a gun at them, exposing them to physical danger. Bennett retreated, begged for his professional life but got the proverbial bullet behind the ear anyway. Out of a job! His replacement has vowed not to publish anything that makes people uncomfortable.

Remember that it was the Marxists who came up with the phrase “politically correct.” They weren’t using it sarcastically. It was the rule.

The way things are going, we may be standing on a cold platform watching one Times editor after another board the train for the Gulag. Okay, okay….over the top! But is it far-fetched to think someday we may be handing “controversial”, which is to say Politically Incorrect, written thoughts under the table?

Meanwhile, even tonight — it’s apparently Portland’s turn — our cities are burning. And mayors are allegedly upset that the president has sent in federal agents to quell the destruction, even when it’s federal property, including a federal court house, that is being threatened. I guess they feel they don’t need any Act to handle things. Or that, if Democrats, they feel an obligation reflexively to reject anything that comes from this President.

It was the French mystic Leon Bloy who is said to have stood on Montmartre, looking out over wayward Paris and intoned for all to hear, “man left to man — that’s what I call ‘the wrath of God.’

 

TO YOUR “COY MISTRESS”…

The editors of the Associated Press Stylebook announced on Twitter that they will no longer use the “archaic and sexist” term “mistress.” They now recommend as alternatives, “companion” or “friend” or “lover.” The reason, if you consider this “reasonable” is: “mistress” isn’t “gender neutral” I guess that’s in case your husband is stepping out with a guy. You don’t want the poor guy to be offended. Second reason: “mistress” supposedly places the blame on the woman rather than the man. Well, okay. I don’t see it, but I also wouldn’t want to see the woman taking the blame. But then, the “person” your wife/husband is cheating with — given that your husband or wife pledged to be faithful to you forever —  plainly must be aware they are aiding and abetting that breach of faith.

But let’s face it: “friend” or “companion” do not imply, in my style book, the sacred and intimate sexual violation that the supposedly archaic word “mistress” seems to carry with it — dating back, as it does, to those times when the sharing of the sexual  bond was unalterably understood to be, yes, sacred and exclusive (under penalty of sin, if not civil law). Call me old fashioned, I guess.

As for “lover” — who’s to say there’s any love involved? Maybe it’s all about money. You know — “sugar daddy” — or, lest I be sexist — “sugar mommy.” In fact, the AP Stylebook had stipulated that “mistress” should apply only to those instances where there is a long-term sexual relationship with a married man from whom the woman is receiving financial support. That sounds right.

To me, there is something appropriately odious about the word — “mistress.”   But…friends, companions, lovers, countrymen…and countrypersons….let’s just quit the hanky-panky, okay? (Now there’s a phrase you probably won’t find in the AP Stylebook.)

And by the way, what happens when you change the headline BEZOS PROBE CONCLUDES MISTRESS’ BROTHER WAS ENQUIRER SOURCE to COMPANION’S BROTHER WAS ENQUIRER SOURCE. In the former, as I read it, you instantly detect a possibly malicious intent; in the latter — well, some “companion” at the party just let it slip. We all know companions — and friends — can’t keep secrets. Lovers — maybe.

Whatever. There must be something else I can waste my time writing about tonight, since, pace the poet Marvell, I do have “world enough, and time….”

WAKE ME WHEN I’M ‘WOKE’

“I had a dream that I was awake and woke to find myself asleep.” The quote and the mordantly upended universe of which it speaks is attributed to Stan Laurel of Laurel&Hardy fame. And in light of — or, actually, in the darkness of —  the current state of American affairs, I would like to find the person most proximate to blameworthiness and say, in tribute to Stan Laurel’s comedic other half ,Oliver Hardy, “here’s another fine mess you gotten us into.”

I hope I  have that quote right. I know I don’t have “woke” right, that etymological denotation for all who are cool and socially aware in our contemporary world. It is both broad and long when it comes to being defined, but it hangs like a name plate around  many necks in the mug shots of the usual suspects in the culture wars. I’ll understand better when I wake up “woke” , though, given the state of things, I may wish I were asleep.  (Or should that be “was”. A “woke” person, knowing all things, would know.)

 

SPARE US FROM THE ‘CANCEL CULTURE’

Don’t take it from me. Imagine it coming from the bronze lips of Lincoln or Jefferson before they bite the dust. Or from Jesus, Mary or Joseph whose stained-glass images may soon be taking a rock. Here’s what I think they’d say: Some monuments and memorials could come down by public consensus, even plebiscite, not the anarchic whim of a midnight mob.
Take, for instance, Confederate Cavalry General Nathan Bedford Forrest — early Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard believed responsible for the massacre of 300 black soldiers. An equestrian monument to “The Wizard of the Saddle” rears up on the fringes of Nashville. I feel sorry for the horse. Nashville being The Music City, why not replace The General with a bronze likeness of Charlie Pride, trailblazing African-American country singer? Charlie, still alive, could attend the dedication. By God, I think I’ll suggest that! But, speaking of God, I’m reading that the “cancel culture” may be coming for The Holy Family. Read the following: “I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been…. All murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down. They are a gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda. They should all come down.” So – picture the Pieta and the windows of Chartres, broken on the pavement. Those words were written by Shaun King, civil rights activist, co-founder of the Real Justice PAC, writer-in-residence at the Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project with over a million followers on Twitter, which is where he disseminated this specimen of radical historical ignorance. The Catholic Church and all Christian churches have always encouraged local cultures to depict Jesus, Mary and Joseph in culturally relatable images, including portraying them as Black, Asian, Native American and, yes, even White. Consider that Shaun King actually founded an Atlanta church, called the Courageous Church. (I note he shares my son’s birthday and, going on 41, is a mere two years older than him, but not, from the evidence, wiser than him.) So this is where we are in this rampage of historical revisionism. Statues of Spanish Franciscan Junipero Serra, founder of nine 18th Century California missions, canonized a saint in 2015, have been toppled, decapitated or otherwise removed from the canons of purity by the marshals of the cultural revolution. In the early 19th century, nativists from Philadelphia to Boston attacked or burned Catholic churches and convents. As Bob Dylan sang, “it ain’t dark yet, but it’s getting there.” Bob, Thomas, Abe – Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Save us!

 

 

TRUTH, AND THE ‘POPULAR NARRATIVE’

Speak truth to power. It is the phrase, apparently Quaker in origin, written on our hearts, scrawled on placards in our contemporary world – the battle cry, if you will, of the non-violent as they battle the forces of mendacity, especially, it seems, on matters of race and racism. Question, probe, pray, speak quietly or forcefully in its face, but never be cowed by that power that oppresses you when truth is at stake. But, sorry, there seems to be an exception here. NEVER, ever, question, or even seem to waffle on repeating or reporting the received narrative of sensitive contemporary events, especially regarding alleged racism, as handed down on marble tablets from the government, the media, the culture at large – and especially, at this tender moment, on such terribly sensitive matters as the violent death of George Floyd at the hands of a cop. I made a point of treading lightly as a news reporter in such areas – both out of sensitivity and, yes, because I didn’t want to stray from that “received popular narrative.” You think I’m crazy? But former MIT Chaplain Dan Maloney lost his job last week for straying, almost certainly inadvertently, from the popular narrative. Though I don’t know him, Fr. Maloney strikes me as a man of the lightest tread – non-violent and non-political in every respect. Just a quiet shepherd of souls at an institution where brilliant future scientists and engineers nonetheless go looking for eternal gospel truth. And Fr. Maloney is passionately convinced of God’s mercy and has written a book on the subject. Separated from his MIT flock by the pandemic, he therefore, expressed his anguished reaction to events in Minneapolis in an email to that flock, gob-smacked, no doubt, to find that he’d offended powers in the university, certain students who reported him to MIT’s Anti-Bias Response Team, even his own Boston Catholic Archdiocese which promptly fired him from his chaplaincy. Here is part of what he had to say in his email: “The police officer who knelt on (George Floyd’s) neck until he died acted wrongly. I do not know what he was thinking. The charges filed against him allege dangerous negligence, but say nothing about his state of mind. He might have killed George Floyd intentionally, or not. He hasn’t told us. But he showed disregard for his life, and we cannot accept that in our law enforcement officers. It is right that he has been arrested and will be prosecuted.” Anything controversial there? (I’d like to link you to his entire statement, which I’ve read, but which I can’t seem to re-locate again. Please search on-line and evaluate it yourself.) Frankly, where Fr. Maloney probably got into deepest water was where, at another point, he noted that Floyd “had not lived a virtuous life” and that police “deal with dangerous and bad people all the time, and that often hardens them.” But he did not suggest that Floyd was irredeemable or guilty or his drug-involvement exculpatory of the cop’s actions – only that George wasn’t perfect, like you or me. Good priests have a tendency to point out things like that and humbly include themselves among the sinful. On the matter of racism, Phil Lawler of Catholic Culture. Org has noted, “The chaplain didn’t say that Floyd’s death was NOT prompted by racism. He simply remarked that the evidence is not conclusive. For that he was banished from campus. For that he was given a public reprimand by his own archdiocese, which announced to the world that his statements ‘were wrong.’” I, like Phil, found statements that were debatable, some with which you may disagree, some that are not well-explained – but nothing truly wrong, offensive or, most especially, in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church. (For my part, it’s occurred to me – and perhaps to you – that this “bad” cop didn’t care about Floyd’s race, that he was a bad, violent cop to all, regardless of race, creed or place of national origin. It might even have been a personal vendetta. But, you see, none of that would fit the “popular narrative” of systemic racism, though it would be telling the whole truth, if it were true. There is much we don’t know yet.) I have an image of Fr Maloney as a priest eager to understand how one man could do this to another, conscious of God’s mercy as it touches on the sins of racism, prejudice, injustice and on judgement, redemption, crime, punishment and salvation – a man who acts “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ), gently going about administering the Sacraments, including the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to us sinners. But now he’s out of a job. Where are you, Fr. Maloney. I think I’d like to go to Confession.

A NIGHTMARE, NOT AN AWAKENING

My former colleague Garry Gillis upbraided me over the weekend for reimagining our post-Minneapolis morass as a nightmare of drunken debauchery supplanting MLK’s halcyon dream of racial justice and harmony. (Thanks for commenting, Garry.) His salient points were: the protests were mostly peaceful; the whole bash was “an awakening,” not a nightmare; MLK reminded us justice delayed is justice denied. “Shall we ask people,” Garry said, “to wait so you can sleep better?” Ouch! A little rebuke there. Well, Garry “the delirium of the brave” of which Yeats sweetly sang, can, in its lower avatars, become the dementia of thugs and vandals. It was a work of kindness, therefore, to make believe this horror was the work of innocent drunks busting up a saloon. Surely there were silver threads among the burlap. Peaceful protester don’t kill, loot, burn and vandalizes. Mobs will be mobs, of course. A small facsimile of a riot breaks out every time the Sox win the Pennant. But “As for the destruction and looting,” Garry went on,” you are no doubt aware that a portion of that violence and destruction and looting was fomented by individuals and groups on the far right.” I confess I wasn’t aware of that. I must have slacked off channel surfing as the news grew unbearable. (Keep in mind Garry said a “portion” – and the far-right, like the poor, we will always have with us. Like the far-left). Garry sent me video and news copy as purported evidence of alleged mischief. I found it persuasive enough of alt-right small ball. Could this, then, explain the defacing of – of all things — the world famous Augustus St. Gauden’s bronze relief across from the Mass State House? It honors the Civil War heroic sacrifice of Robert Gould Shaw and the all-black Mass 54th Regiment and its deadly 1863 storming of Fort Wagner in South Carolina. It is among the greatest African American monuments on the planet. Scrawled over the Common side was BLACK LIVES MATTER, KILL THE POLICE PIGS, NO JUSTICE NO PEACE and a couple of “F*CKs for good measure. Was this the work of Right-wing pretenders? Of ANTIFA, those anti-fascist fascists? Or punk philistines with spray paint? Who knows? In all, nineteen Boston Common and Public Garden monuments, including the 911 memorial, were defaced during a Sunday, May 31st peaceful march and protest that was followed by a night rampage. The jerks stick around or come out at night? I have no doubt somewhere in that maelstrom were those Garry identifies as “taking a stand against oppression.” (Too often, we’ll remember a kid with an armful of pilfered merchandise stepping gleefully out a broken store window and have trouble imagining him or her or any of that rabble as “oppressed.” But, no, they’re not the whole story. )
Among the newly “oppressed” — pity poor Liz Vizza, director of Friends of the Public Garden (and, incidentally) among those who believe there are too many “dead white men” in Boston parks. (I was relieved to learn she was talking about statues.) This very “woke” individual woke June 1st to find her Beacon Street office windows shattered even as she was learning of the rest of the monumental destruction. Ironically, just two weeks ago, nearly $3 million was designated to restore the St. Gaudens bronze treasure. The night mob claiming to defend human dignity did its dirty work on the 123 anniversary of its dedication.
So — what’s next? I was chagrined to read that Garry is among those who believe the French, Russian and American Revolutions, without distinction, “were all responses to taxation without representation.” Leaving aside for a minute our raucous but just revolt against British tyranny that shouldn’t be mentioned on the same breath with the execrable French Reign of Terror, the vermin spawned by the revolutionaries of 1917 are nesting in the American House now. The torrid conditions are right for them to thrive – fierce agitation being stirred up among social classes, renewed tension between races, plenty of hustlers to keep those tensions high, an ultra- tormented election season and therefore– in my estimate — fear and loathing in the land, possibly to be augured by a migration to a neighborhood near you of the late Hunter Thompson’s hallucinatory desert bats. That’s not an “awakening”. That’s a nightmare.

FANTASIA ON A TROUBLED TIME

What a week! What a month! MLK had a dream. We had a nightmare. We went on a bender. Nations can go on benders, too. France, 1789, Russia, 1917. Revolution, after all, is basically mass inebriation. In my particular nightmare, we’re in a flea bag hotel, hung over. The night started okay. Moonlight, hors d’oeuvres, Chinese lanterns, nice social distancing. Then we’re in the pool and in the tank. The pool’s blood red. Christopher Columbus is headless and horizontal. Folks are yelling “black lives matter” and getting cheers. Other folks are yelling, “ALL lives matter” and getting beat up. Liz Warren is downing boiler-makers and re-naming Army forts for flowers. (Fort Begonia for Fort Benning. Whatever!) Trump and Biden are wrestling on top of the peanut shells, giving each other beer shampoos. Chairs and bottle are flying. Some guy jumps up and says “Columbus delivered the natives from human sacrifice, cannibalism and ritual castration.” I say, “Sush! Don’t give these savage drunks any ideas.” The cops show up. They’ve got a new policy for barroom brawls and riots. Wait until it’s over, then arrest the losers. (The big loser, I’m thinking, will be American civilization.) The joint goes up in smoke. Then we’re crashed in that Roach Resort, still brawling. I wake up and pick up the Blue & Gray Bedside Guide for Recovering Civil Warriors. It reads, “we must not regret the past or wish to shut the door on it.” Perfect! Past- present, good-bad, black-white, blue-gray — it’s all us. All American. Can’t we sober up and get along, people? (Where’s Rodney King when we need him?) I think I’m still dreaming.