Thursday, February 1, 2018

Nice art, dumb idea.

Charlotte Pike across from Cohn High School.
A wish and five pennies will just barely get you a nickel. Affecting the tangled webs of human folly takes hard work, persistence, dedication, and most of all what's obviously missing here, prayer.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Churchill, Obama, and the Protests in Tehran

One of the first things Barack Obama did as the new president in 2009 was to have a bust of Winston Churchill removed from the Oval Office. Conventional wisdom suggests that in Obama's way of thinking, Churchill represents the colonial exploitation of Africa by Europe. Replacing Churchill's bust with one of Martin Luther King was Obama's typically passive-aggressive way of giving the finger to the colonialists - while blunting any criticism as racist because he replaced it with MLK.

Maybe. But I believe it goes deeper than that and in the streets of Tehran and other cities in Iran right now, we can see the connection between two dots separated by decades of turbulent history - Churchill and Obama.

I think it's no coincidence that anti-government protests have erupted in 2017 in Iran. The last time serious dissent spread in Iran was indeed in Obama's first year, 2009. He did nothing to encourage the movement. It was quickly snuffed out by the police state the ayatollahs have created which makes the Shah's regime look tame. Perhaps Obama already had in mind that trading nuclearization of Iran for "peace" with Iran would be his legacy. If the grip of the Islamists on Iran was released or even just weakened, Iran's nuclear program would be neutered and the effort would be moot.

On the other hand Obama encouraged revolts in other parts of the Middle East - Libya and Syria and Egypt most significantly - where removing strong leaders suited his aims. Egypt has regained a tentative hold on a civil society thanks to a counter-coup by a relatively benevolent dictator, but Libya is in shambles and Syria is still in the midst of a civil war and hemorrhaging refugees thanks to Obama's miscarriage of leadership. ISIS, of course, is the bastard child of all this buggering, and only in the past year have we, the U.S. with its allies, all but obliterated it from the huge swath of Syria and Iraq that it took over during Obama's tenure.

Iraq & Iran - side by side the Cradle of Civilization and the home of the Persians. The Persian Empire was the one great counterbalance to classic Greek and Roman civilization. These nations' historical significance is so overarching that it even shows up in modern pop culture, from Stevie Wonder's opening to "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" in 1973 to Alan Jackson's tribute to 9-11, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." The superpowers all focus on this region, not just for the oil, but for its cultural and religious significance, smack dab next to Israel, just below Europe, the western of terminus of the Silk Road, across the gulf from India. Now Iran has a relatively democratic and stable Iraq next door to it, and even Saudi Arabia and Israel have lately been working together to thwart its threat. The cauldron is bubbling.

So what does this all have to do with Churchill, who stepped down as a global actor over sixty years ago?

While it is still in theaters, I highly recommend you go  see "The Darkest Hour." It is not an action movie by any means but it is a perfect representation of a man of action, of leadership, and of how much it matters to stand strong for the best angels of western civilization. And, conversely, it is a historically accurate portrayal of the politically calculating appeasers Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax, who for the sake of "peace" would have bequeathed the world a fascist Europe.

Inspired by Churchill, the people of Great Britain with all odds against them stopped the advance of Axis powers when the blitzkrieg had all but completely overrun the European mainland. Churchill's resolute action in the face of withering political opposition - he was deemed a drunkard, senile, crazy, warmongering, populist, and incompetent by his detractors - gave hope to the resistance in France and eventually led to the United States entering the war to stop and ultimately obliterate the Nazi menace.

Like him or hate him, the United States has another such leader again in the Oval Office. The hysterical allegations of collusion with the Russians and his big ego's ambitions of tyranny have so far proved to be, in Hillary Clinton's famous terminology, nothingburgers. But the world has taken notice that there is a man of action and conviction in the White House now, including the Persian people.

I can't predict where the current demonstrations in Iran will lead. But there is no question that the Iranian people, suffering under the thumb of four decades of Islamist repression, are trying again what failed in 2009 because they see hope for support from the United States again. The tyrants ruling Tiananmen Square and the Kremlin, Rocket Man and the ayatollahs, have all taken notice of this, too. The Arab Spring was a complete bust, but the Persian Spring may just be the beginning of a rebirth of freedom from tyranny throughout the world.

It is a good thing for freedom that Churchill's bust is back in the Oval Office.

Books by John Arra:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A very suspicious outcome.

When I called it a night about 9PM central time, 70% of the precincts had reported and Roy Moore was leading Doug Jones by over 60,000 votes. This morning they say Jones won by some 20,000 votes. That means that the Democrat precincts were held for counting until the end. If the election results were corrupt, that's exactly what the manipulators would have done: waited to the end to see how many votes they needed to manufacture.

I don't know much about Roy Moore. I am not a passionate supporter. But I don't like trial by innuendo. I've been in that position myself before. And I don't like the good ol' boys network. From my perspective that's exactly what teamed up against Jones to do him in by whatever means necessary, the boys being McConnell and Schumer and Ryan and Pelosi and their puppets.

The fix was in on Roy Moore from the beginning, just as it was on Herman Cain before him, and Bernie Sanders, and Fred Thompson, and maybe going all the way back to Al Gore, though I shed no tears for him. Before that I think we had vulnerable but overall reasonably honest elections.

Today, I'm not so sure.

Books by John Arra:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Think Tank: Top Troubling Trends of 2017

The Erin-Tops Think Tank, where
thoughts are getting deeper all the time.
The new witchcraft: harassment allegations.
I thought I liked Al Franken's work on Saturday Night Live, but I was confusing him with Albert Brooks. Albert Brooks was funny. Al Franken came later and he's just a snarky stooge. He didn't rate on SNL and he is way out of his depth in the Senate. But I have to say that the kinds of things he's accused of should have been solved with a sharp slap to the face or a pounding from a boyfriend. On the other hand if someone commits actual sexual assault, they should be tried and convicted. Anything less is just passive aggressive persecution and steals the thunder of true victims. Doesn't anyone read The Crucible in school anymore? And for that matter, going a little further back, read Genesis 39, the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife? Women can sometimes be just as devious as men are doltish. There's no more reason to believe an unproved allegation now than there was then. But rushing to judgment seems to be the new norm in this era of fake news.

The rise of fascism. Not that fake Antifa stuff; real fascism.
The greatest murder mystery of our day has to be the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He had more adversaries with motive to kill him than Harvey Weinstein has accusers. Though from opposing political parties, Kennedy and his predecessor, Ike Eisenhower, had one principle in common: a mistrust of what Eisenhower called in his farewell address the military-industrial complex, a marriage of government with big corporations. That is exactly what fascism actually is. It has nothing to with racism; it just so happens that the Nazi fascists were also history's worst racists. Fascism is what Hitler used to propel an utterly devastated Germany after the first world war into a superpower by the time of the second world war. Today we are seeing more and more consolidation of huge corporations which work with government hand in glove not just to capture market share, but to write the laws and suppress competition. The victims are small businesses and the consumer. I don't know the details of the justice department's opposition to the AT&T-Time Warner merger, but I'm all in with the justice department on this one. The merger can have only one result: less free market competition and more government corruption. They are one and the same.

Mockery of faith.
It is important always to keep this in mind: religion is of man, faith is of God. My own Catholic religion lost my faith with the epidemic of pedophile priests and one need only look at its flagship university in the U.S., Notre Dame, to see how far the church has wandered into the secular wilderness. But worse than that is the current assault on all forms of faith (except, curiously, the most heinous religion of all, Islam, that homophobic, misogynistic, fascistic perversion of Ishmael's descendants). The supposed separation of church and state in the Constitution is a red herring; there is none. The Constitution simply prohibits states from discriminating on the basis of religion and prohibits Congress from making laws affecting religion. But for years the anti-faith crowd has been pushing their dogma using this false principle to try to drive religious morality from the public square in the cause of everything from infanticide (abortion) to homosexual marriage. They are succeeding. The derision of faith practices and the antagonism to faith principles is pervasive. I've even heard from a substitute teacher in one of Metro Nashville's public schools that they are leading the children in the Pledge of Allegiance leaving out the phrase, "under God." My faith tells me that God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Going against God, then, is hateful. And there's a whole lot of hate going around...

The Erin-Tops Think Tank will soon
make way for a reflection pool. Here
a local artisan prepares the sign.
Willful Ignorance.
From Alexander Pope (1688-1744): "A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again." Now maybe I'm just an uppity white boy, but it seems to me that millionaire athletes protesting racism by disrespecting the national anthem skipped a few too many American history classes. America fought a war to free the slaves. A black citizen in the U.S. has better opportunity than anywhere else in the world, and at any time in history, and no less than any other race. Not just in theory, but by law. One truth being missed here is that history is not linear. It is a very muddled story. Mary Todd Lincoln's family were huge slaveholders. One of the largest slave owners in antebellum South Carolina was a black man. The object of so much statue-topping hatred, the former slave trader and military genius Nathan Bedford Forrest, himself renounced the Ku Klax Klan and spent the last years of his life working actively to help freed blacks. It is perplexing that in this age of universal connectivity, smart phones and Google and Wikipedia and all the information of the world at virtually everyone's fingertips, our culture seems only to want to skim the surface of learning. No wonder fake news is so successful. Let's hope we heed the advice of the Temptations: "Beauty's only skin deep." Yeah. Yeah Yeah. And further on the song: "Don't judge a book by its cover." The protesters disgust me in their willful ignorance. Instead of celebrating ascendancy, the example they set is one of wallowing in repression. If I were a black man I would be proud to be black, proud to be an American... and if I were earning an NFL salary, I'd not just be proud, but double-damn proud!

Ok, all that being said, 2017 hasn't been such a bad year, really. Even you Trump-haters have to agree that the stock market is doing dandy, that no new wars have started, that ISIS is on the run, and that no illegals have been hanged, drawn, and quartered as feared by the hate-mongers in the media. I believe that as bad as some of these trends are getting, better things lie ahead of us. Godspeed to one and all as we enter the Christmas season and look forward to 2018!

Books by John Arra:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Corker is quackers & so is Flake.

Bob Corker changed his status as a senator to lame duck last week amid a furious flapping of wings and loud quacking about Trump's incompetence, childishness, etc. He was soon followed by another Republican poser announcing his decision not to run again, Jeff Flake of Arizona.

At first blush it is a head-scratcher how predominately conservative states like Tennessee and Arizona and South Carolina elect such mushy senators like Corker and Lamar Alexander, John McCain and Flake, and Lindsey Graham. But of course, these are guys who rival Baal for deception politically, wearing a staunch conservative coat while running for office, then shedding it once in office.

Corker and Flake have figured out the jig is up on that.

Corker, however, did what Carly Fiorina and some of the other candidates in the 2016 Republican primaries figured out was the way to get himself maximum publicity on his way out - he picked a fight with Trump. It later came out that Corker is considering a run against Trump in 2020. That explains that.

I look on the Republican Party with near equal disdain as the Democratic Party. They are both corrupt. They are machines for keeping the status quo in power. I look at Trump as a six-foot middle finger to the Establishment and thus support him despite his occasional gaffes or miscues, which may well be calculated for all I can tell. The problem is, the Republican Party has been for a long time the only place where at least some candidates pretend to be conservative, so I've had to vote Republican as the lesser of two evils.

With quackers like Corker and Flake dropping out, maybe that's about to change?

Books by John Arra:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

N.F.L. = Not For Long

At a glance, it is cloaked as, and it looks like, a protest over some vague notion of racial discrimination, but all this kneeling in the N.F.L. by both players and owners is just a prelude to a players strike.

Why else would a supposed tough guy like Jerry Jones be making a fool of himself by having a P.D.A. with his players, a Kumbaya group-hug? It's not to spite Donald Trump, although that is a money sport in itself among the entertainment industry. It is because N.F.L. owners all share one thing in common: not love of winning, not love of America, but love of money. The last thing they want is a players strike and they see in the kneeling thing just the vehicle for pitting players against owners, both groups of whom are completely drunk on too much money.

I have never paid close attention to professional football but living in Nashville I have not been able to avoid it. Nashville sold its soul to have an N.F.L. team. We got one, and we got the owner, too, Bud Adams. I can't imagine a crasser, uglier human being. No amount of having his coaches and players insert themselves into local charities could mask that. His family still owns the team and I guess the apples don't fall far from the tree. Instead of standing up for country, the team hid in the locker room during the anthem Sunday.

By turning their backs on their country and on common sense, the owners may keep their golden goose on life support by avoiding a strike, but the fans will find other diversions. The kneeling thing is repulsive. The easiest solution is to turn the channel.

Actually, maybe the death of the N.F.L. would be the best thing ever for the sport of football. It is a bunch of grown men playing a kid's sport. It's gotten ugly.

On the contrary, there's no better way to spend a Saturday morning than watching little kids play football in oversized helmets or than spending a cool Friday night with a couple of hot dogs, a marching band, and two high school football teams playing their hearts out. I think football will live on better at these levels where the players are playing for love of the sport, not love of the money, and no Bud Adams or the like can monetize that.

Books by John Arra:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Finally it's time to start a third party!

Donald Trump may or may not accomplish anything legislatively in his term as President, but I will always cheer him for this: He has been a walking, talking, man-sized middle finger to the Washington Establishment.

The fact that he is now having to flirt with Democrats is not his fault. The Republican Party has failed him miserably. It is no surprise, with backstabbing weasels like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan running Congress and doddering old fools like Lamar Alexander and John McCain leading the muddle in the middle.

As for more dynamic figures like the junior senator from Tennessee, Bob Corker? Unfortunately Corker "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He has not demonstrated that he understands what made this nation great and what it is today." Like the other dim lights of Congress, Corker talks big but comes up short every time he sallies forth into a substantive issue. One need look no further than the Iran debacle for proof of his incompetence.

What is apparent - most tellingly in the Republicans' refusal to fulfill their campaign promises on Obamacare and immigration among other issues - is that both sides, Democrat and Republican, are bought and paid for basically by the same anti-populist, anti-liberty, anti-local-rule forces. Who are they? Koch? Rockefeller? Soros? The Deep State? I don't know exactly and I am not sure any of us will know in this lifetime. All we can see clearly are their effects, not the forces themselves, like not being able to see the wind but knowing that there is wind, because it blows things over. They are globalists, fascists, Satanists, race-baiters, corporatists, the mainstream media, communists, socialists... Who knows their full and exact nature? They are, in short, the Establishment.

I submit that the Establishment rose to ascendancy after World War II. The Establishment was led then by the Dulles brothers' devious foreign policy. In charge of the State Department and the CIA, their credo was not that diplomacy is war by other means, but that "war by other means" meant simply assassinating foreign leaders who didn't toe their line. They were identified by President Eisenhower as the military industrial complex. He enabled them yet was surprised by how the cancer had grown under his presidency. They probably had a hand in killing Eisenhower's heir John F. Kennedy and brother Robert, perhaps even Martin Luther King, and in the botched assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Their DNA is found in the Bush family and their bastard child is Bill Clinton. But I am getting far afield. The fact is that we can see their effects in interminable wars, open borders, the cult of death known as abortion, the upending of Judeo-Christian cultural norms, the rise in power of the centralized stated and the diminution of individual liberty and privacy, among other traditional American values.

What we know now is that a coalition came together in a huge voting bloc and elected Trump, not as a Republican, but as the middle finger against the Clintons and the Obamas and all of their ilk, the vanguard of all the aforesaid forces working against the traditional values and ideals of America.

But President Trump made a deal with the devil. He knew he could win and Reince Priebus, as titular head of the Republican Party, agreed on behalf of the Establishment to get out of his way as long as the party could raise money in his name. They're still doing it. I get solicitation letters almost weekly under Trump's signature with the donations going to the Republican Party. They figured they could let him win, keep the money coming in, and co-opt his presidency. Not a bad strategy for the Establishment. But potentially a very bad outcome for the American people.

If it is true that Trump is about to do DACA without a wall first and about to reverse direction on the Paris Climate Accord, there will be no denying it. As hard as he swam against it, he drowned in the swamp. The Establishment won.

Except for... the possibility of a third party. A real third party, not just a maverick candidate like Ross Perot or Patrick Buchanan, but a grassroots party of local candidates coalescing into a voting coalition reminiscent of the old Moral Majority but based on morality and ideology, not religious affiliation. There are candidates out there now, some not backed by Trump though certainly encouraged by his success, readying their campaigns for the next Congressional election. They are mostly running as Republicans but they would join a third party in a heartbeat if it projected their ideological identity better.

I am not talking about the Tea Party. It is a force indeed, key to Trump's victory, but it is reactionary and disorganized and has been largely marginalized as old and male and white. A new party must be young and dynamic and have charismatic leaders along with the grassroots, leaders as glib and quick as Stephen Miller and as tough as Steve Bannon.

And here's the clincher: A new party must be as dogmatic and disciplined as Bolsheviks. It must develop a platform of no-compromise planks and hold the candidates it funds totally accountable for adhering to it, disavowing those who go astray immediately and withholding funds. The planks of the platform would naturally involve the key elements that got Trump elected: health care reform, national sovereignty, Constitutional rights, law and order, federalism, free enterprise, jobs, defense, lowering taxes, cutting spending, deregulation, and local rule.

And it must be smarter than we've seen so far. It must be proactive in confronting the inevitable charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. which the Establishment exploits shamelessly to neutralize dissenters from their orthodoxy.

The Founding Fathers were pretty darn smart but they didn't anticipate the two party system we have today. Two parties are fine when they're really competing in a sort of legislative dialectic, but they spell doom for the American republic when they're both colluding against social mobility, entrepreneurship, and exceptionalism and instead doing the bidding of... the Establishment. A strong, principled third party would force one or both of the other parties to work more in the national interest in order to win elections.

I love to name things. Dogs. Businesses. Kids. Web sites. But I'll be danged if I've been able to come up with a name for this third party. The Sovereignty Party is the best I have come up with, but that does not cut the mustard.

Beats me. But let's get the ball rolling now before Trump completely succumbs and his standing as thee great middle finger against the Establishment is just a memory.

Books by John Arra: