Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I Understand the Impulse...I Disagree With the Position

Image result for FDNY

Lt. Daniel McWilliams has sued both New York City and the FDNY Vulcan Society, alleging that he was removed from his role as a flag bearer at a 2017 memorial Mass for the group's deceased members because of his race.

According to the Daily News, "The lawsuit reveals an exchange between McWilliams and then-president of the Vulcan Society Regina Wilson regarding McWilliams' assignment to the ceremonial unit for the 2017 Mass, which was held at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Harlem.

“Lieutenant, I specifically requested an all-black color guard,” Wilson allegedly said.

"McWilliams, a 29-year veteran of the FDNY responded by questioning, “Are you removing me from the color guard because I am not black?”

"Yes I am," Wilson reportedly answered.

"After McWilliams was removed from the ceremonial team, his friends overheard "racially charged exchanges" which prompted the veteran firefighter to leave the church “to save himself from further shame, humiliation and embarrassment," the lawsuit claims.

“As a result of the defendants’ conduct, (McWilliams) has suffered severe shame, emotional distress and damage to his reputation,” the complaint reads. “Defendant Wilson ... intentionally, maliciously and publicly stripped the plaintiff of (his) prestigious honor ... on account of his race.”

"The lawsuit also accuses the department of “once again turning a blind eye to discrimination and creating a double-standard within the FDNY.”

I understand the position of Lt. Daniel McWilliams and he's absolutely right that U.S. law permits no such double standards.

However, I believe in ALL the rights accorded in our Bill of Rights, one of which is, "freedom of association." To associate with whomever we choose and to not associate with others.

THAT is what the courts should uphold for all. If the Emerald Society wants an "all Irish color guard," and the Vulcan Society wants an "all black color guard," BOTH are equally valid expressions of the right to freedom of association.

Such principles ARE "ALL or NONE."

In my view they should be upheld for all. The right to freedom of association is as valid and as vital as the right to freedom of expression and of self defense. It is a natural, or innate right, as defined within the Bill of Rights.

That said, I don't begrudge Lt. McWilliams lawsuit. In fact, if the court rejects his claim, it will affirm the right to "freedom of association" for all.

Ernest "Papa" Hemingway

Image result for Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

"All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time."
(Ernest Hemingway)

I'm not sure that's anything to brag about. I mean, people suffering dementia can say the same.

That said, I like Ernest Hemingway's writing style - clean, efficient, sparse with words.

What I like most is that he's a good story teller in, "A Farewell to Arms," "The Old Man and the Sea" and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," and other stories.

I DON'T think that his penchant for cutting down on words is, in and of itself, "art." It's a style...his own unique style. Most who've sought to replicate it, have failed to find success, mostly because they've failed to tell good stories.

Just as Mozart said, "A symphony takes as many notes as it takes," a story takes as many words as it takes.

Once Hemingway challenged others to "Tell a story in as few words as possible." He claimed the best offering was just 6 words, "Unworn baby shoes for sale...cheap."

His point was that a story should be like an iceberg, with 90% of it unseen.

The above six words aren't a story, just a brief sentence, expressing lament. The story is in the details...always in the details, sights, sounds, smells, words that put the reader in place.

The best of Hemingway's stories do that.

Tyranny Versus Liberty as Depicted in Film...And in Real Life

Image result for Daniel Day Lewis as Bill "the Butcher" Cutting
Daniel Day Lewis as Bill "The Butcher" Cutting

How a story is told is called "perspective," and it's critical.

"Freedom versus Tyranny" is often depicted strictly as individual liberty versus despotism and dictatorship, but it's also individual liberty versus any centralized control, even individual liberty versus pure democracy as it is in the film, "Gangs of New York."

That's the thing about "Freedom" vs "Tyranny," there ARE two sides. Absent Hitler's ethnic cleansing, would an economy predicated on worker equality be seen as "evil?"

I'd argue an emphatic YES, others might disagree.

How about pure democracy? Yes, mob rule always seems to descend into madness, in short order, but it's almost always been in response to various establishment abuses.

Can the tyranny of pure democracy be defended? Sure it can. It won't be by me, but others have vigorously defended it.

For that very reason, Martin Scorcese's "Gangs of New York" is one of my favorite films. Sure, it, like "Braveheart" and other historical dramas takes historical liberties. Time often gets in the way of good storytelling.

"Gangs..." is a great film, because of a great cast and an equally great story.

Many of us look, but don't see the actual story here.

WHO is the "hero" in "Gangs of New York"?

NOT Leonardo DiCaprio's character (Amsterdam Vallon), no, not at all. He's a son who laments the loss of his father, but doesn't even understand what his father was.

The real hero of that story is the charismatic Daniel Day Lewis's character (Bill "the Butcher" Cutting). Not only is he the more charismatic character, he exhibits an admiration for and a deep understanding of the dead "Priest Vallon," whom he killed in the opening scene.

DiCaprio's character becomes exactly what Bill the Butcher said he was, "An unworthy successor to a noble name."

Boss Tweed, the Mayor and head of Tammany Hall is a weakling, and a would-be tyrant. In fact, he culls the immigrant vote to expand government powers, in hopes that when tyranny does come, it'll come through him.

Yes, Bill "the Butcher" Cutting was, as Tweed says, "On the wrong side of history," but more's the pity. Bill Cutting's stance is a natural and understandable one, defined in a response of his to Mayor Tweed, "My father gave his life, making this country what it is. Murdered by the British with all of his men on the twenty-fifth of July, anno domini, 1814. Do you think I'm going to help you befoul his legacy, by giving this country over to them that's had no hand in the fighting for it? Why, because they come off a boat crawling with lice and begging you for soup?"

Ironically enough, the Irish immigrants of that time, were being thrust into a new war, one to remake America.

For his part, Mayor Tweed is an unscrupulous, would-be tyrant; "The appearance of the law must be maintained, ESPECIALLY when it's being broken," and "The great thing about the poor is, you can always hire one half of them to kill the other half."

At the end, Amsterdam Vallon finds the true meaning of his father's legacy, but just as tyranny comes to New York, in the form of the pure democracy of the Draft Riot mobs, that a Centralized authority, the Union Army was brought in to put down.

At the end, the surviving Amsterdam Vallon laments, as the growing New York skyline emerges in the background, "It was four days and nights before the worst of the mob was finally put down. We never knew how many New Yorkers died that week before the city was finally delivered. My father told me we was all born of blood and tribulation, and so then too was our great city. But for those of us that lived and died in them furious days, it was like everything we knew was wildly swept away. And no matter what they did to build this city up again... for the rest of time... it would be like no one even knew we was ever here."

That appears a belated lament for old, original America.

Compare "Gangs of New York," even "Braveheart," or most other historical dramas to "Inglorious Basterds," and the comparison is sharp.

In all of Mel Gibson's offerings, the British (tyrants) are all depicted as venal, petty, terrible people, while the freedom fighters are all depicted nobly. It's the same with "Gangs of New York," once you understand the storyline, BUT in Quenton Tarintinno's "Inglorious Basterds," all of that is reversed.

Christopher Walz is the charismatic, yet gleefully despotic Colonel Hans Landa, while Brad Pitt (Reno Raines) a half white/half Cherokee Marine who forms a small Jewish reconnaissance strike force is a rough hewn, unrefined and vulgar opponent.

The contrast makes Nazi Germany seem cultured and refined, compared to a course and vulgar America.

Even more troubling is that none of the "Basterds" characters are ever fully developed, so it's hard to really connect with any of them.

Worse still, is Tarrantino's predilection for making the Nazis look noble. In one scene a German Sergeant stoically goes to his death rather than give up information on other German positions.

It comes way too close to coming off as pro-Nazi propaganda...but WHY?

To WHAT end?

The film offers a distorted and unsympathetic view of the "Basterds," and a noble, cultured and refined view of the Nazis.

Moreover, it, like "The Last Samurai" (the real "Last Samurai" was French, not American), takes history and not only compresses it, as "Braveheart" and "Gangs..." do, but fictionalizes it.

The real Basterds were a British commando force of largely Jewish exiles from Germany and Eastern Europe who were dubbed by Winston Churchill as X-Troop. Only the smartest and bravest were selected, and their knowledge of various European cities and villages was especially vital to the allied forces. Each man was given a British sounding name as it was imperative they not be signaled out as Jewish — Ganz became Grey, Stein became Spencer, and so on.

The commandos might not have been taking Nazi scalps, but each who joined the mission had a terrible backstory of leaving behind friends and family with the Gestapo and wanted revenge.

Sadly, the film "Inglorious Basterds" does a disservice to this history and, in many ways, makes the tyrants look better than those fighting for freedom.

Today, most of us are condioned to both see ourselves as "free," and to see those opposing "tyranny," as the "good guys."

That's natural.

What isn't natural is many people's inability to see which is which.

IF you're inclined to label disagreeing speech as "offensive" and "hate speech," YOU are defending and supporting tyranny.

IF you believe it's OK to attack those YOU disagree with, because YOU perceive their views as "hateful" and "tyrannical," YOU are the one supporting tyranny.

So many of us have been deliberately miseducated, we don't even know what "freedom" and "tyranny" are.

Tyranny is simply centralized control, in any form. It is also the forced equalization of individuals who are innately unequal. It requires a tyrannical government to take "excess" from the most productive, to give to the least productive.

Freedom/Individual Liberty, on the other hand, is the grinding burden of full self ownership and self responsibility. No authority to "share the wealth," nothing to rely upon other than your own wits, your ambition and abilities.

True freedom is really, REALLY HARD.

No wonder so many people DON'T much care for it and prefer a "soft tyranny" as "freedom," prefer pure democracy over a Constituionally restrained Republic...prefer a genteel slavery to hard scrabble freedom.

American "democracy"

Someone recently asked me, "How do you decide what is a state issue and whats federal?"
Well, I DON'T.

The Constitution already did that.

It carefully limited and enumerated Federal powers; printing money, regulating interstate commerce, levying taxes, tariffs, fees, providing for the common defense and specifically leaves ALL other issues and responsibilities to the individual states, by the 10th Amendment; "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

There are no "rights" outside of what are guaranteed in the 1st 10 Amendments (freedom of speech, of worship, of self defense, of assembly, freedom of association (to associate only with those you wish), the freedom to be secure in our homes (private property rights), and localized, limited governance.

We have NO "right" to share in what others have, no "right" to government assistance. There are no innate, or natural rights that allow some to share that which is created and owned by others. Private property rights make such things impossible.

Moreover, we've ALL accepted the right of individual states to have differing penalties for crimes (TX has the death penalty and uses it, NY/NJ do not) and even to restrict things (like abortion) that other states do not. A 2017 Arkansas law required that an aborted fetus be treated as the body of any family member. (https://www-m.cnn.com/…/arkansas-abortion-law-t…/index.html…). As usual, CNN's headline is misleading (hint: it doesn't), but I feel it's a VERY BAD bill, though I respect Arkansas' right, as a state to do so. The people's local representatives apparently delivered the will of that group of people.

We (in the USA) are NOT a democracy. NEVER have been.

America's Founders were ALL rabidly anti democratic. Jefferson called democracy, "mob rule" and Ben Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what they are going to have for lunch.”

They were both 100% right!

It was THEIR respect for minority rights (they saw themselves, the wealthy, well educated land owners as a "despised minority") that allowed for such a thing as "The Civil Rights Movement."

Yes...minority rights DON'T exist in a democracy. The most creative, productive and wealthy COULD find themselves at the mercy of those poorer and less educated and productive than themselves...ALWAYS with tragic consequences.

That's why the Founder's in their wisdom, restricted the vote to educated, property owners, had the Senate selected by state legislatures and established the Electoral College.

I STILL support ALL of those things.

The Surveillance State is Only Going to Expand...AND Here's Why

Image result for Serge Fournier

Image result for Serge Fournier
74 y/o Serge Fournier, Pushed From Bus and Killed by 25 y/0 Cadesha Bishop

It's hard to believe now, but back in 2008, one of the big campaign issues for future President, Barack Obama was opposing the "Post 9/11 Surveillance State."

Well, even President Obama quickly became a convert, going to court at least three times to expand and keep secret the ubiquitous surveillance we all deal with daily.

Today, most of us seem to have come to believe that, "Privacy is overrated." At the least, there is no rightful expectation of privacy in any common, or public area.

It's sure made convicting criminals a lot easier. Take this case, as an example (https://abcnews-go-com.cdn.ampproject.org/…/woman-al…/story…). 25 y/o Cadesha Bishop pushed 74 y/o Serge Fournier off a bus in Las Vegas, after he admonished her over her verbally abusive behavior toward other passengers, telling her to, "be nicer."

Mr. Fournier later died from his injuries and Ms. Bishop has been charged with murder.

The Surveillance State has been steadily expanding and incidents like this are part of the justification for it.

154 Years Ago, May 12th & 13th, 1865...the Last Battle of the American Civil War

Image result for Battle of Palmito Ranch

Image result for Battle of Palmito Ranch
Map and Drawing of The Battle of Palmitto Ranch

Sometimes earlier ages seem quaint. They seem simpler times...but sometimes simpler isn't necessarily better.

While Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865 officially ended the American Civil War, news didn't travel as fast back then.

There were at least 6 battles that occurred after Lee's surrender, five of them after President Lincoln was assassinated, on April 15th, 1865. (https://www.history.com/…/6-civil-war-battles-after-appomat…) Some due to news travelling slow and some due to combatants not wanting to give up the flight.

The last actual battle of the American Civil War was fought in Texas, at Palmito Ranch...and, ironically enough, it was a Confederate victory.

While the rebels had already lost the Civil War, ironically enough, they won what some consider the war’s final land battle. On May 12th & 13th, Southern forces in the Trans-Mississippi region had yet to surrender. When Union forces left Brazos Island on the southern tip of Texas and marched inland toward Brownsville along the banks of the Rio Grande, they encountered rebel outposts.

With both sides fully aware of the surrender at Appomattox, a force of 350 Confederates under Colonel John Ford defeated 800 Union troops commanded by Colonel Theodore H. Barrett, who narrowly avoided being trapped in a bend of the Rio Grande.

Among the handful of dead was Union Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana Infantry Regiment, who is thought to have been the last of the more than 600,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War.

When Confederate General Kirby Smith agreed to surrender his Army of the Trans-Mississippi two weeks after the Battle of Palmito Ranch (also referred to as the Battle of Palmetto Ranch) on May 26th, the organized military rebellion against the Union ended.

However, it was Captain James Waddell of the CSS Shenandoah who fired the last shots of the American Civil War on June 28th, 1865, when the Confederate vessel seized 10 Union whalers that had been harvesting the Bering Sea off the Alaskan coast, nearly 12 weeks after the surrender at Appomattox.

After being told of Lee's surrender, he sailed to Liverpool, England to surrender his vessel on November 6th, 1865.
American Ideas Click Here!