Unexamined Premises

Unexamined Premises

The Defense Department Under Barack Obama: Leaning In

October 9th, 2015 - 6:44 am

This memo came down last month from Ashton Carter, the current secretary of Defense. It is reproduced here in full and without comment, except to say that none of this would be happening if the military had kept women out of combat and the sexes strictly segregated. You can find out more about LeanIn.org here.:


plunder and deceit

In addition to “how high is up?” “how long is a piece of string?” “how ripe are strawberries?” and “what do women want?” one of the thorniest questions of human existence is “why do young people vote liberal/progressive/lefty?” Given the overwhelming evidence that the economics of social democracies like those in Europe and, latterly,  the United States are doomed, it’s a puzzlement. Like the Eloi in The Time Machine, young folks are being both exploited and fattened up for the slaughter. And yet they do absolutely nothing about it.

This is the subject Mark Levin — lawyer, best-selling author and national radio talk-show host — has tackled in his latest book, Plunder and Deceit. Thematically, it follows his seminal Liberty and Tyranny as an unsparing analysis of the current dire straits in which the United States of America currently finds itself. Although it’s chockablock with irrefutable statistics about the coming collapse of the American economic dream, at root it’s a book about the moral collapse of a once-great, individualistic nation, and the forfeiture of the civil-society protections the Founders so painstakingly wrote into the Constitution in favor of something that increasingly looks like centralized tyranny.

The statistics, laid out  in the book in grim detail,are horrifying: runaway entitlements, a shrinking job market, the disappearance of whole industries practically overnight, increased job competition from both legal and illegal immigration, the breakdown of the family… this is the world the Left has bequeathed our progeny, and yet they fell for Barack Obama practically en masse. Writes Levin:

Joblessness and underemployment among younger people have also changed the family dynamic, making it more difficult for young adults to leave home. For example, Pew Research reports that from 1968 to 2007 the percentage “of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant [at about 32 percent]. By 2012, 36 percent of those between the ages of eighteen and thirty-one lived in their parents’ home.”

As his regular listeners know, Levin is nothing if not a constitutionalist, and his ire at the way that noble document has been corrupted practically leaps off every page of Plunder and Deceit, because he understands (quoting Montesquieu), that: “in a popular [or republican] state there must be an additional spring, which is VIRTUE. When that virtue ceases, ambition enters those hearts that can admit it, and avarice enters them all…. The republic is a cast-off husk, and its strength is no more than the power of a few citizens and the license of all.” Powerful stuff, and no less true for being more than three centuries old.

Ultimately this is not merely about dreary yet didactic statistics but… about morality. The devastating consequences of wealth redistribution, intergenerational thievery, massive federal spending, endless borrowing, and unimaginable debt accumulation on American society, and most particularly on the ruling generation and future generations, are a travesty. Stealing from the future does not establish the utopia promised by the statists. It is the rising generation’s grave moral failure.

As the passages quoted above make clear, Levin’s unsparing denunciation of the parlous state into which America has fallen is not simply a radio rant, or a matter of his opinion alone. He marshals philosophers and Founders alike in his discussion:

In Federalist 51, Madison explained the essential balance between the civil society and governmental restraint: “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections of human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

And there, in a nutshell, is Levin’s brief against the Leviathan State — it cannot control itself. Instead, like the Thing That Devoured Cleveland, it keeps growing, arrogating unto itself more and more of everything a citizen possesses: more money, more of his property, more of his liberty. Left unchecked — and as the growing tyranny of the courts illustrates, it almost cannot be checked — it will beggar the population, consume the institutions of the nation, and leave behind only Montesquieu’s “cast-off husk.” What worse, that’s exactly what the modern Unholy Left (as I characterize it in my own new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace) wants.

This book is primarily addressed to the next generations, the millennials and those coming after them, who are being led down a garden path of fleurs du mal in the guise of “compassion,” “tolerance,” “fairness” and all the other familiar leftist shibboleths.

Can we simultaneously love our children but betray their generation and generations yet born? … Why do so many loving parents, as part of the ruling generation, abandon the civil society for the growing tyranny of a voracious central government that steals their children’s future, thus condemning their children and unborn generations to a dangerously precarious and unstable environment, despite a large majority acknowledging the national decline for which they blame politicians?

Answer: no, and I blame the influence of the Frankfurt School on our academics. So what is to be done?

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A Long, Slow Ride to Hell — Nunc Dimittis

October 1st, 2015 - 6:47 am
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

I concluded my previous excerpt from my new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace – the audio book version of which is out this week — like this:

“On the Unholy Left, there is no idea too stupid to try, no institution unworthy of attack, no theory not worth implementing without care for its results, no matter what the practical cost. Intentions are everything, results are nothing. Results are an illusion; theory is what counts, because theory can be debated endlessly within the safe harbors of academe. The key is to examine what those intentions really are.” Those intentions will be the subject of our third and final installment.

Herewith, some concluding thoughts:

Throughout literature, the Devil is frequently portrayed as sincere, earnest, reassuring and cajoling, slow to reveal his terrifying face. Deception is his stock-in-trade, and human beings who give him the slightest benefit of the doubt end up unhappily, and worse. To doubt the accuracy of these portrayals—no matter whence they originate, whether from folk tradition or (as I argue) some deep, Jungian wellspring of primal memory and collective unconscious—is to doubt nearly the entire course of human history (although Critical Theory presumes to do just that). It is to believe that only in the past century and a half or so have we been able to penetrate religion’s veil of illusion and see reality for what it is: nothing.

This is a philosophy of nihilism, which often poses as sophisticated “realism,” and I argues that it is just another form of satanism. Denial of the eternal becomes a way of temporal life; and, by extension, Death is embraced as a way of Life. En passant, it is amusing to note that the practitioners of nihilism are often the same people who denounce “denialism” in other aspects of everyday life (various psychological conditions, “climate change,” etc.), just as those who describe themselves as “pro-choice” with regard to abortion are anti-choice in just about every other facet of their political lives, including health care, school choice, and so forth.

In the movie Independence Day, the scientist played by Jeff Goldblum realizes shortly after alien ships appear over the world’s great cities that their intentions are far from benign—that, in fact, the aliens are coordinating a massive attack using earthling technology. “They’re using our own satellites against us,” he explains, making a hasty sketch to illustrate his point. So does Satan—or the satanic forces, or the iron laws of history, or la forza del Destino, call it what you will—use our own best qualities and noblest intentions against us, pervert them to his own ends in order to accomplish his singular mission, which is the moral destruction of humanity.

I realize these are strong words, as they are meant to be.

What saved the Frankfurt School was its transplantation under duress to America. The brutal efficiency of the Nazi regime opened their eyes to the consequences of what they had imagined would have no consequences. Had they proclaimed their destructive anti-American, anti-Western intentions openly—made them the salient feature of their teachings—they might rightly have been regarded as spies, sappers, and saboteurs, and hanged. But twinned with another Central European intellectual conceit, Freudian analysis (many of whose tenets synchronized happily with Institut theory), they appeared to be relatively harmless, nutty-professor refugees with funny foreign accents seeking shelter in America, pleading tolerance for lofty ideals. What went unnoticed was that the ideals for which they sought tolerance were themselves anything but tolerant. Indeed, they were fundamentally antithetical to the American ethos and experience. America would not have to descend into Hell; Hell had come to America—disguised, naturally, as Heaven, and now lying in wait for the unwary.

The Hell we imported along with the ideas of the Frankfurt School we can see all around us, in our diminished economic, physical and moral circumstances.

Lukács dreamed of creating a void in the soul of humanity, in a world that supposedly had been abandoned by God, a collectivist world in which there would be no room for the individual—which is to say an antfarm that would admit of no heroic Siegfrieds or supermen. He wrote of the necessity of an Aufhebung der Kultur—an abolition of culture, specifically Judeo-Christian Western culture, although the word “Aufhebung”might be better translated in this instance as the “uprooting.” 

Writing in 1962, in the preface to his Theory of the Novel, and reflecting on his experience of World War I, Lukács underlined his anti-Western sentiments:

My own deeply personal attitude was one of vehement, global and, especially at the beginning, scarcely articulate rejection of the war and especially of enthusiasm for the war. . . . There was also some probability that the West would defeat Germany; if this led to the downfall of the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, I was once again in favour. But then the question arose: Who was to save us from Western civilisation?

A better question might well be: “What will save us from socialist nihilism?’

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A Long, Slow Ride to Hell (Cont’d)

September 19th, 2015 - 10:07 am
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Earlier, I posted some excerpts from my new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, currently the top bestseller on the Amazon Philosophy/Criticism list. They largely concerned the origins of Critical Theory and the Marxists who promulgated the culturally destructive assault on western, Judeo-Christian morals and civilization. Conceived in the aftermath of World War I (the greatest debacle in western history), Critical Theory sought to finish the job the satanic slaughter in the trenches had started, and it did so by going after every important pillar of our shared society.

Foremost among those pillars was sex (not “gender”), sexual mores, and the family. If they could destroy the nuclear family, especially under the guise of “sexual freedom” or, even better, “liberation,” they were a long way toward their goal of a post-Christian, post-Western world. Far from being the “feminists” their unholy offspring pretend to be, both the original Frankfurt School critical theorists were instead profoundly, misogynistically anti-female. Discussing the role of the Woman in just about any work of narrative art you can mention, I write:

And who represents the saving power of divine grace? Almost invariably, the woman, whose own self-sacrifice rescues and transfigures the flawed male hero. In Goethe’s famous words from the second part of Faust: “Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan,” or, “the Eternal Feminine draws us onward.” The Eternal Feminine, a sexually anti-egalitarian concept that feminists of both sexes today would regard as laughable, is one of the organizing principles of the cosmos, and a crucial factor in the hero’s journey. Even the pansexuality of today, try though it might, cannot replace this naturally primal force: the union of opposites into a harmonious, generative whole…

Faust, so very German, adumbrates modern man: born in the nineteenth century, wreaking havoc in the twentieth, and still battling against both God and the Devil in the twenty-first, often while denying the existence of both. He is the essence of the daemonic, if not quite the satanic. After all, in Goethe’s telling, Faust is ultimately saved, in part by Gretchen’s sacrifice—saved, that is, by the Eternal Feminine, the sexual life force greater than the power of Hell, which pulls men ever onward and closer to the Godhead—and also by God’s infinite grace, which can even overcome a bargain with the Devil, if man only strives hard enough.

What would the Unholy Left do without illusion? It is the cornerstone of their philosophical and governing philosophy, a desperate desire to look at basic facts and plain meanings and see otherwise, to see, in fact, the very opposite. From this standpoint, nothing is ever what it seems (unless it comports with quotidian leftist dogma), and everything is subject to challenge. At the same time, the Left’s fondness for complexity over simplicity betrays its affection for obfuscation and misdirection. As has often been remarked, the leftist program dares not show its true face in an American election, because it would be overwhelmingly rejected (even today, after a century of constant proselytism from its redoubts in academia and the media). But in an age when credentialism is disguised as supreme, practically Faustian knowledge, and when minutiae are elevated to the status of timeless universal principles (even as the existence of such principles is otherwise denied), Leftism masquerades as sophistication and expertise. But the mask conceals only intellectual juvenile delinquency gussied up in Hegelian drag. The coat might be too small and the shoes too big, but if you don’t look too closely—as in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot—the illusion might pass for reality.

So let’s cut to the chase:

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Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

As Roger Kimball noted on PJ Media last month, Encounter Books has recently published my new book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, a study of the nature of good and evil, God and Satan, and the heroic culture of the Judeo-Christian West vs. the collectivist nihilism of what I call the Unholy (or satanic) Left, followers to a man of the Frankfurt School of mostly German Marxist philosophers, whose destructive, anti-cultural handiwork we can see all around us. For just about every social pathology that currently has Americans and Europeans scratching their heads — how the hell did we get here? — has its origins in the teachings of the Frankfurters and its practical application embodied by the pernicious doctrine of Critical Theory. Destruction of national sovereignty? Check. Redefinition of marriage and the family? Check. Replacement of the Individual-as-Hero with the collectivist ethos of the human ant farm? We have a winner.

Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Wilhelm Reich — the list of villains reads like Hell’s honor role. Herewith, some excerpts:

Were any of the originators of Critical Theory sill among us, they might well say, quoting Sir Christopher Wren: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. Look about your daily lives here in early twenty-first-century America and Western Europe, and see the shabbiness, hear the coarseness of speech and dialogue, witness the lowered standards not only of personal behavior but also of cultural norms, savor the shrunken horizons of the future.

The Frankfurt School sucker punched American culture right in its weak solar plexus. Americans have always been sympathetic to an alternative point of view, sympathetic to the underdog, solicitous of strangers, especially foreign refugees fleeing a monster like Hitler. Largely innocent of the European battles over various forms of socialism, and softened up to a certain extent by the Roosevelt administration’s early, frank admiration of Mussolini as it tried to solve the economic crisis of the Depression, the American public was open to self-criticism.

The problem with the Frankfurt School scholars was that they arrived with ideological blinders—men of the Left fighting other men of the Left back in the old Heimat —and were unable to see that there was another, different world welcoming them in the United States if only they would open their eyes. (How, for example, could they hate California?) They appear not so much scholarly as simple, viewing American capitalism as a vast, deliberate, conspiracy against their own socialist ideas, when, in fact, their ideas were simply wrong, their analysis flawed, and their animus ineradicable. They were creatures of their own time and place, with no more claim to absolute truth than the man on a soapbox in Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park or the lunatic staggering down Market Street in San Francisco talking to himself. Everybody’s got a beef.

Unfortunately for us, these particular lunatics wound up at Columbia University after fleeing Nazi Germany, from which redoubt they injected their relativist poison into the academic bloodstream. Critical Theory effectively states that there is nothing — no cultural totem, institution, set of beliefs — that cannot and should not be questioned, attacked and destroyed. And they went right at the heart of what I call the ur-Narrative, the primal cultural underpinnings of western societies that in fact antedated organized religion. Like Satan in Paradise Lost, they sought not a kingdom of their own, but the diminishment of God’s creatures, Mankind.

For what we—in an increasingly secular West—misread as a political argument is, in reality, nothing of the sort. It is a literary argument, if we define literature properly not as “fiction” but as the expression of the soul of a people, in this case, of all people. Politics (which for many has come to replace sports as the subject of rooting interest par excellence) is merely its secondary manifestation, the generally tiresome litany of regurgitated policy prescriptions and bogus campaign promises that residents of the Western democracies routinely encounter today. But where once in our culture raged religious arguments (whose moral underpinnings were never in doubt), today we are concerned not simply with the details of a system of governance and social organization, but with the very nature of that system itself. In fact, at issue is the very nature of Western civilization itself and how it may be subverted to achieve a vastly different—indeed, opposite—end than originally intended. For one side has changed the meaning of the principal words in the debate, including “democracy,” “culture,” “civilization,” and “justice,” among others. The two sides speak different languages, but with a superficially shared vocabulary that serves as a means of deceit for one and confusion for the other.

Seduction, subversion, sedition—these are the tools of a creature we once called Satan, the Father of Lies, the loser of the Battle in Heaven. Yet he continues the fight here on earth with the only weapons at his disposal: man’s inherent weaknesses and zeal to be duped if the cause seems appealing enough. Chief among the weaknesses of Western man today are his fundamental lack of cultural self-confidence, his willingness to open his ears to the siren song of nihilism, a juvenile eagerness to believe the worst about himself and his society and to relish, on some level, his own prospective destruction.

Whether one views the combatants in the struggle between God and Satan ontologically, mythically, or literarily, God created man in his own image and likeness but chose to give him free will—a force so powerful that not even God’s infinite love can always overcome it. Thus given a sporting chance to ruin God’s favorites, the fallen Light-Bringer, Lucifer, picked himself and his fellows off the floor of the fiery lake into which they were plunged by the sword of St. Michael, and he endeavors each day not to conquer Man but to seduce and destroy him. As Milton’s Satan observes in Book One of Milton’s Paradise Lost:

The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

What matter where, if I be still the same…

To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:

Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.

Satan himself, however, has no need for servants in Hell, as God does in Heaven; he is instead satisfied with corpses on earth.

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Love is a battlefield

Love is a battlefield

Media folks have long viewed the New York Times as something akin to the Kremlin back in the heyday of its beloved Soviet Union. Times-watchers, like Kremlinologists, collect signs, signals and portents about what actually is taking place within the grim fortress near Times Square. So the recent brouhaha over Mrs. Clinton’s emails has brought Timesology roaring back to the fore:

Four days after a major error in a story about Hillary Clinton’s emails, the New York Times has published an editors’ note laying out what went wrong. The note, published late Monday night, said The Times’ initial story was based on “multiple high-level government sources,” but acknowledged that as the paper walked back its reporting, corrections were slow to materialize, and substantial alterations “may have left readers with a confused picture.”

The original story was published Thursday night. It initially claimed federal inspectors general had requested a criminal investigation into Clinton’s email use during her tenure at the State Department. Over the next few days, the story had numerous changes, including that the investigation request was for a “security” referral, which is far short of a criminal investigation. In addition, Clinton was no longer named as a target.

As careful readers have noticed, there is a proxy war going on inside the Times regarding the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua. On one side is the Obama administration, most likely in the person of Valerie Jarrett, furiously leaking damaging information about Mrs. Clinton during her disastrous tenure as secretary of state; on the other are the die-hard aging Clinton partisans (the Times once was filled with them) who are quick to rise to her defense. As the newspaper noted in its “correction”:

The Times reported online Thursday night (and in some print editions Friday) that the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies had sent a referral to the Justice Department requesting a “criminal investigation” into whether Mrs. Clinton “mishandled sensitive government information” on the email account. That article was based on multiple high-level government sources.

“High-level government sources” — whoever could that be? The Clinton camp immediately swung into action.  As the CNN article linked above notes:

The Times quickly came under intense scrutiny for both getting the story wrong and failing to indicate changes had been made. Earlier Monday, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet acknowledged that readers had been “whipsawed” by the changes. “We should have explained to our readers right away what happened here, as soon as we knew it,” he said. But Baquet stopped short of blaming the reporters or editors involved. ”You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral,” he said. “I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

So now you know whose side Baquet is on. Back to the Times‘s “Editors Note” –

Shortly after the article was published online, however, aides to Mrs. Clinton contacted one reporter to dispute the account. After consultation between editors and reporters, the first paragraph was edited to say the investigation was requested “into whether sensitive government information was mishandled,” rather than into whether Mrs. Clinton herself mishandled information. That type of substantive change should have been noted immediately for readers; instead, a correction was not appended to the article until hours later.

On Friday, another question arose — whether the investigation being sought was a “criminal” inquiry. As other news organizations followed up on The Times’s report, the Justice Department confirmed to them that a “criminal” investigation had been requested. Officials also gave that description again to Times reporters who were rechecking their initial story. But later in the day, the Justice Department and the inspectors general said that the request was not a “criminal referral” but rather a “security referral,” meant to alert the F.B.I. about a potential mishandling of classified information. It was not clear how the discrepancy arose. In addition, the inspectors said they discovered that four emails out of a sample of 40 they examined contained classified information, although it was not marked as such.

Take that, Mrs. Clinton. As I noted in a Tatler post when the story first broke, “The Times understands something about Hillary the rest of the media, which generally has the attention span of a dog, does not: there is no end to the amount of mischief she can get up to, and get away with, if she lies through her teeth, appears to ‘cooperate’ and then drowns the investigators in an ocean of legalisms and ‘process’.” The last thing the Clintons needed at this point in Hillary!’s stumbling “camapaign” is a criminal inquiry into the activities of a woman who, let’s face it, gives ample reason for concern in the “criminal” department.

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The United States of Thoughts and Prayers

July 20th, 2015 - 7:23 am
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It is a measure of how far this country has fallen that last week’s murders of American soldiers on American soil were greeted with little more than an apologetic shrug and the usual anodyne bromides — when it should have been met with cries of outrage, instant deportations and swift retribution somewhere in the ummah as an object lesson to holy Muslims everywhere that the U.S. is no longer to be trifled with. But no — righteously vengeful America has entirely disappeared, the victim of a prolonged, century-long assault on the country’s ethics, ethnic makeup, self-confidence, religion and institutional beliefs; in short, a war on everything that makes a country a country.

But to fight back now, after decades of political correctness, no matter what the provocation, would be rude. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt told a shocked American public that the war would be prosecuted until Japan was brought to its knees.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

Meanwhile, in response to the latest Muslim atrocity, President Obama went on vacation to New York City to fund-raise and for some “down time” with his daughters. Oh yes, and the Empire State Building was lit up Muslim green to “celebrate” the end of Ramadan, a “holy” month during which (if you’ve ever seen some of them in action) they fast during the day and then stuff themselves silly after sundown.

Mark Steyn has some characteristically pungent words to say about all this impotent weeping:

I’m afraid the makeshift memorials of flags and other patriotic memorabilia that have sprung up on the edge of the police tape depress the hell out of me. A no doubt sincere veneration for the military apparently can only express itself with a feeble passivity that is a large part of the problem. This isn’t a time for the bumper-sticker bromides of “We salute our heroes/Thank you for your service/We support our troops”. Among the dead are men who waged a bloody and hard-fought battle to retake Fallujah …only to come home and die unarmed in a crappy shopping mall at the hands of a halfwit fanatic whose family had been under the leisurely money-no-object scrutiny of the bloated security apparatus for years.

A Chinese-made teddy bear from Wal-Mart is not an appropriate reaction. Righteous anger is. And there’s not a lot of evidence of that. At that parking-lot memorial, the public seems to discern that such anger is no longer an approved sensibility – whereas a teary generalized sadness gets plenty of media coverage. This is the same media, by the way, that, after a couple of perfunctory questions about Chattanooga, asked Josh Earnest for more details about the “father-daughter weekend” President Obama is currently enjoying in New York. Golly, you’d almost get the impression they’re really not that sad at all.

Screw the cakes and balloons. We who did not know them cannot mourn them: That is for their friends and family. The nation’s duty is to avenge them – so that they did not die in vain.

How did we get this way? Next month, Encounter Books (whose editor, Roger Kimball, is a colleague here at PJ Media) will publish The Devil’s Pleasure Palacemy analysis of (among other things) the Frankfurt School of Marxist “philosophers” (in reality, cultural vandals with a chip on their collective shoulder) and their coordinated assault on western Christian civilization. If you want to know where and how the sapping of the United States of America began, this is the book for you. Here’s a small taste of my thesis:

The Frankfurt School sucker punched American culture right in its weak solar plexus. Americans have always been sympathetic to an alternative point of view, sympathetic to the underdog, solicitous of strangers, especially foreign refugees fleeing a monster like Hitler. Largely innocent of the European battles over various forms of socialism, and softened up to a certain extent by the Roosevelt administration’s early, frank admiration of Mussolini as it tried to solve the economic crisis of the Depression, the American public was open to self-criticism.

The problem with the Frankfurt School scholars was that they arrived with ideological blinders—men of the Left fighting other men of the Left back in the old Heimat of their homeland—and were unable to see that there was another, different world welcoming them in the United States if only they would open their eyes. (How, for example, could they hate California?) They appear not so much scholarly as simple, viewing American capitalism as a vast, deliberate, conspiracy against their own socialist ideas, when, in fact, their ideas were simply wrong, their analysis flawed, and their animus ineradicable. They were creatures of their own time and place, with no more claim to absolute truth than the man on a soapbox in Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park or the lunatic staggering down Market Street in San Francisco talking to himself. Everybody’s got a beef.

Flying their customary false flag of “tolerance,” the Frankfurt School injected the poison of moral relativism into the American body politic. From and through them flowed all the major crackpot, anti-human bad ideas of 19th and 20th centuries, including sexual license (Wilhelm Reich), hatred of existing institutions (Herbert Marcuse) and even the twelve-tone system of musical composition (Theodor Adorno), which temporarily killed the Romantic impulse in music and emptied concert halls across Europe and America until the Minimalists — including Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams — came along and destroyed them.

The Frankfurt School’s principal gifts, however, were Critical Theory — the notion that everything could and should be attacked and brought down — and Political Correctness, which gave a “moral” cover to the destruction they so fervently advocated. As Lenin — as evil a man who ever lived — said to Maxim Gorky:

But I can’t listen to music often, it affects the nerves. One wants to say pleasant stupidities and stroke on the head the people who, living in this dirty hell, can create such beauty. And today it is impossible to stroke anyone on the head—they bite off your hand, and it is necessary to beat heads, beat them ruthlessly, although we, ideally, are against any sort of violence against people. Hmmm, the task is diabolically difficult.

“Diabolical,” indeed. But Lenin was only the beginning.

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Trump, with Henry Stern, in 1986 at the Wollman Rink

Trump, with Henry Stern, in 1986 at the Wollman Rink

Before Donald Trump became a celebrity, before he became The Donald, even before he was regularly pilloried in the pages of the old Spy magazine as a “short-fingered vulgarian,” New Yorkers knew his name thanks to one thing in particular. Not the in-and-out-of-bankruptcy real estate empire he inherited, or his flamboyant love life, but the Wollman Rink in Central Park. And while I think he has little chance of winning the Republican nomination (is he even a Republican?), mostly thanks to the fixed-fight aspect of the GOP nominating process under the auspices of the junior wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party, I do think his largely interchangeable opponents underestimate his appeal at their peril.

What’s the Wollman Rink, you ask? It’s a skating rink at the south end of Central Park that, like just about everything else in New York City, had fallen into decrepitude by the 1970s — the stinking, filthy New York City immortalized in such films as Death Wish and The French Connection. In 1980, the city announced it was closing the popular spot for renovations that were to last a couple of years; by 1986, the rink was still “under construction,” costs had soared to over $12 million, and the work that had been done was faulty; the rink had come to symbolize the futility of government at all levels. Up stepped Trump with a challenge to mayor Ed Koch: let him take over the rink and he would have the work completed in a few months and the place open to the public before the end of the year.

He did. Here’s how it went down, as chronicled in the pages of the New York Times.

May 31, 1986

Donald J. Trump has offered to take over reconstruction of the trouble-plagued Wollman Memorial Skating Rink in Central Park, to have it open by this winter and to operate it at no profit to himself.

The Koch administration has agreed to consider Mr. Trump’s proposal. ”This offer could be very helpful, but we must be very careful,” said Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern. He declined to elaborate, but other administration officials indicated that questions about potential profits, and the lack of competitive bidding should Mr. Trump proceed, would have to be resolved.

The flamboyant developer made his offer in a ”Dear Ed” letter to Mayor Koch dated May 28. ”For many years I have watched with amazement as New York City repeatedly failed on its promises to complete and open the Wollman Skating Rink,” he wrote. ‘Should Take No More Than 4 Months’

”During this six-year period,” he said, ”I have constructed major hotels, apartment buildings and, in 26 months, Trump Tower, a highly sophisticated and complex mixed-use building containing shopping, offices and apartments. Building the Wollman Skating Rink, which essentially involves the pouring of a concrete slab, should take no more than four months time.” Calling it ”unacceptable” that the city now wants another two years to rebuild Wollman, Mr. Trump offered to pay for the construction of a new rink, lease it from the city at ”a fair market rental” and then run it.

Naturally, this sent the bureaucracy into complete panic. But, to his credit, Koch gave the gig to Trump.

June 6, 1986:

At this point in the long saga of the skating rink that no one could fix, city officials and the developer Donald J. Trump essentially agree on how to rebuild Central Park’s Wollman Rink. They also agree on how long the job will take, barring further disaster. If the city does it, it will take 18 months. If Mr. Trump does it, it will take four months. Why? The difference, said Alan M. Moss, the head of capital projects for the Parks and Recreation Department, is that the city must adhere to a long list of procedural safeguards – which have only become more prominent since the eruption of the municipal corruption scandal – and that it cannot offer contractors the incentives that Mr. Trump, as a private businessman, can.

Mr. Moss said he believed that ”by keeping a close watch on our schedule,” the city could open the rink by November 1987. But he saw no reason why Mr. Trump, who in a barbed letter to the Mayor last week offered to take over construction and operation of the rink, could not have it ready a year earlier. Mr. Trump, not disputing that, makes some additional observations: ”I know how to build. I’m going to take the approach of leadership. I’m going to get good contractors and push the hell out of them. They’ve worked for me and they want to continue working for me. They want to prove you can do things in this city. ’You can always get the job done through sheer force of will,” he concluded.

To all of New York’s delight, Trump finished the job a month ahead of schedule. You can read the complete timeline of events here.

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St. Francis, the Pope’s role model

There’s a lot of fuss being made in some conservative quarters about Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical about “man-made climate change.” Let’s stipulate at the outset that “climate change” is a lot of hooey that conceptually survives not the slightest bit of rational scrutiny and that the “global warming” industry is mostly a scam to enrich a few Leftists and bring down the West economically while helping Madre Gaia not one whit. So what?

Pope Francis will call for an ethical and economic revolution to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality in a letter to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Thursday. In an unprecedented encyclical on the subject of the environment, the pontiff is expected to argue that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural boundaries, and that the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds. The much-anticipated message, which will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops, will be published online in five languages on Thursday and is expected to be the most radical statement yet from the outspoken pontiff. However, it is certain to anger sections of Republican opinion in America by endorsing the warnings of climate scientists and admonishing rich elites, say cardinals and scientists who have advised the Vatican.

Here’s my advice: ignore it. Yes, it plays into the nutty fears in some precincts that the pope is a crypto-Latin-American Marxist liberation theologist (he’s actually just another Italian, who happens to have been born in Argentina, a demographically European country) who hates capitalism and is suspiciously nice to Muslims. News flash: the pope is Catholic. Which is to say he is concerned with the spirit, not the flesh; with the betterment of all mankind, not just Catholics; that he takes Church teaching seriously and that — surprise! — the first Jesuit pope follows consciously in the footsteps of his namesake and fellow Italian, St. Francis of Assisi. The quintessential rich kid who gave it all away and lived a life of extreme simplicity among God’s creatures is, in fact, the patron saint of the environment:

Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat…and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. “Here is our rule,” Francis said — as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more — live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe!

As I wrote here at PJ Media earlier:

Almost from the beginning of his papacy, there has been a lot of nonsense written about Pope Francis. On the Left, there has been much wishful thinking about how the former Cardinal Bergoglio is really a man of progressive sympathies, while on the Right, there is a deep suspicion that the first Jesuit pope is basically a “liberation theologian” who is not a particular fan of capitalism and may in fact be a sneak commie symp. Much of what the pope is said to have said turns out to be either a mistranslation or completely imaginary, the result of having reporters either ignorant of Catholicism or openly hostile to it reporting or commenting on the pope and the Church. So who is he? To quote the old joke, “Is the Pope Catholic?” You bet he is. To look at him any other way is simply wrong.

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That was the title of Hillary Rodham’s senior thesis back in her Wellesley College days, a reference to the work of Saul Alinsky, the Frankfurt School‘s most noxious avatar and a man of still-outsized influence today, having intellectually (if you can call it that) bequeathed us not only the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua but Barack Hussein Obama, both spawned in the petri dish of Alinsky’s Chicago. It was a theme she returned to yesterday, on the occasion of the “relaunch” of her creaky “candidacy” for the Democrat presidential nomination next year. Fight, fight, fight — the Democrats, it seems, always want to fight. But who are they fighting for? And who are they really fighting?

The short answer is: they’re not fighting at all. Since LBJ, the Pansy Party never met a war it wanted to fight to win, only a war it could use for domestic political advantage in its eternal quest for personal enrichment and societal destabilization. Reagan ended the Cold War with a decisive victory over the Soviet Union (which collapsed in defeat), but the Democrats have managed to resuscitate it via the “reset” button. Bill Clinton was content to make bellicose noises, and fire off a few missiles in the general direction of the Middle East during Saddam Hussein’s moments in the desert sun, and let bin Laden escape when his lawyers overruled his military men. The Democrat defeatist disease even infected two Republican presidents, Bush pere et fils, both of whom knew how to pick a fight in “Iraq” but neither of whom knew how to properly end it.

Rule of thumb: the war is over when the other side stops shooting.

Ah, but rhetorically, it’s a different story over on the increasingly deracinated, psychotic Left. Since they live in a pan-sexual academic world of signs and portents and nuances and microagressions, everything is a threat, and therefore the only proper response is to “fight.” Their candidates rage against the inequities of the vast conspiracy against special snowflakes that is the real world, and promise “safe spaces” for their precious charges — even though Democrats have been in the White House every year since 1993, with the exception of the Bush II eight-year interregnum. If they could run against themselves, they would and, practically speaking, they do. Because, you see, There Is Only the Fight.

Consider Hillary!’s latest blather, delivered in the”pleasant little police state” of Roosevelt Island (formerly Welfare Island, formerly Blackwell’s Island) in the middle of the East River, nicely eviscerated in this piece by Olivia Nuzzi at the Daily Beast:

Clinton formally declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination almost exactly a month ago, in April, with a 2:15 video. “Everyday Americans need a champion,” she said then. “And I wanna be that champion.”

Since that time, Clinton has not been heard from much as she has traveled around, talking to some voters and ignoring questions from the media and trying to seem as normal as possible despite being anything but. Saturday’s event was designed to highlight her champion-ness by contrasting her with the New Deal Democrat, whose Four Freedoms she has attempted to mimic with her own “Four Fights,” the economy, families, campaign finance and national security.

In a royal blue blazer and glowing blonde hair, Clinton took to the stage to deliver her Four Fights speech. At times she sounded robotic, like the pol who won’t take a position without poll testing it as she has been accused at others some humanity crept through. All the while, though, it was hard to shake the feeling that she was already president—of this island.

Clinton borrowed from Elizabeth Warren and her primary competitor Bernie Sanders in her tough-talk about no-good corporations and the need for campaign finance reform. About the latter, she said, “If necessary, I will support a Constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.”

Well, of course she would, since that decision was in direct response to a documentary about her. (See above video.) There’s nothing better to bring out the fight in a Clinton than to be personally attacked, have the case go all the way to the Supreme Court — and lose.

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