Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Recommended Reading

No, it doesn't, Pepe. No, it doesn't.

Gilad Atzmon explains why identity politics is toxic, and how both left-wing and right-wing forms of identity politics are rapidly destroying what's left of Western civilization. For clarity's sake, let me note that left-wing proponents of identity politics are commonly known as Social Justice Warriors and that right-wing proponents of identity politics are commonly know as the Alt-Right.  

Incidentally, let me say that, in my view, "Social Justice Warriors" is a most unfortunate name for these 21st century Red Terrorists, since they don't actually believe in social justice. To me, social justice means a commitment to building a better society for all of society's members. The best definition of social justice that I know of comes from José Antonio Primo de Rivera: "My dream is that of Fatherland, Bread, and Justice for all Spaniards, but especially for those who cannot love their Fatherland, because they lack Bread and Justice." 

Instead of drawing upon the teachings of José Antonio, the so-called Social Justice Warriors have embraced Marxism and postmodernism -- probably the two most destructive ideologies of modern times. As a result, they promote hatred of those who do not belong to their favored particular social classes, races, and/or sexual identity groups. As a result, Social Justice Warriors hate white people, especially white heterosexual cisgender males. If you want to see a prime example of how Social Justice Warriors think, get a load of this rubbish. (Special thanks to Rod Dreher for referring me to that video). 

Despite their lack of belief in Social Justice, since the name "Social Justice Warriors" has caught on, I'll use it, too. 

As for the Alt-Right, they're no better than the Social Justice Warriors. The Alt-Right, too, is filled with hate. Alt-Rightists are essentially neo-Nazis. Indeed, the very term “alt-right” was coined by neo-Nazi Richard B. Spencer in an attempt to rebrand this odious ideology. While the alt-right has called attention to very real problems — such as the challenge of assimilating millions of refugees into European culture and society — it offers no viable solutions. Anti-semitism, Hitlerism, genocide — these are dead ends for humanity, just as Marxism and postmodernism are.       

Key excerpts from Atzmon: 

“While the old Left made an effort to unite us all: gays, blacks, Jews or Whites into a political struggle against capital, the New Left has managed to divide us into ID sectors. We are trained to speak ‘as a…’: ‘as a Jew,’ ‘as a black,’ ‘as a Lesbian.’ The new left has taught us to identify with our biology, with our gender, sex orientation and our skin colour, as long as it isn’t ‘White’ of course.” 

“Tragically, ID politics is a very dangerous political game. It is designed to pull people apart. It is there to introduce conflict and division. ID politics doesn’t offer a harmonious vision of society as a whole. Quite the opposite, it leads to an increasingly fractured social reality.” 

“America and the West must, at once, break away from all forms of ID politics. Instead of celebrating that which separates us, we must seek what unites and makes us into one people.  I am advocating a radical spiritual, ideological and metaphysical transition. Whether or not we like to admit it, these moments of unity are often invoked by waves of patriotism, nationalism and religious figures. But they could also be inspired by the spirit of justice, equality, compassion and love.  Neither the New Left or the Alt Right offers any of the above. They are equally invested in Identitarian ideologies.” 

Special thanks to Dr. Paul Craig Roberts for referring me to Atzmon's article.

Finally, today is the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Let us take this occasion to remember the countless crimes against humanity that have been perpetuated (and continue to be perpetrated) by dictatorships and to strengthen our own commitment to democracy and true social justice. That’s what democratic Falangism is all about.   


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“Yabba dabba doo!”: Remembering Hanna-Barbera

Threatened with eviction by his owner, the clumsy cat cannot afford to break any more dishes. Overjoyed at the situation, the mouse begins to mercilessly throw dishes from a high shelf, forcing the cat to catch them. When the cat is holding up a huge stack of dishes, sweating profusely, and unable to catch anything else, the mouse throws one last dish. The dish breaks. The mouse then kicks the cat, causing all of the other dishes to fall to the ground. The cat is thrown out of the house. 

The release of this cartoon — “Puss Gets the Boot” — in 1940 marked the beginning of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s twenty-year stint at Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer (MGM) as directors of Tom and Jerry, a series of movie theater cartoons. Hanna’s keen sense of comedic timing and Barbera’s artistic skills won the cat-and-mouse duo seven Academy Awards.

By early 1957, however, the rise of television had eroded the film industry’s profits, prompting MGM to close its animation division. After 20 successful years, Hanna and Barbera suddenly found themselves unemployed. For a moment, it seemed that the era of animated cartoons was over. 

Fortunately, Hanna and Barbera refused to give up. They established their own cartoon studio. Hanna-Barbera Productions focused on producing cartoons for television — the very same medium that had forced the MGM cartoon studio out of business. Producing cartoons for television was an innovative idea at the time, and the transition from theatrical cartoons to TV cartoons was not as simple as it may seem. Indeed, Hanna and Barbera had some difficulty getting financial backing for their new business. Many investors told them that it was impossible to make cartoons for TV. 

The naysayers had a point. After all, television required a constant flow of new material. Yet when they worked for MGM, Hanna, Barbera, and their staff only managed to produce about 6 seven-minute movie theater cartoons a year. How could animators who were accustomed to producing just 6 cartoons a year possibly keep up with the demands of television?

Happily, the two men managed to find a willing investor. Soon, they were producing over 200 cartoons a year. How did they manage to do it?

They did it thanks to an innovative technique called limited animation, as opposed to the full animation method they had used at MGM. Limited animation is characterized by the use of significantly fewer drawings than full animation. In contrast to the lush, detailed backgrounds of full animation, limited animation backgrounds are minimalist and frequently reused. Another key characteristic of limited animation was characters with neckties or collars.

Such collars were not merely an aesthetic choice. You see, Hanna-Barbera characters were drawn in layers — meaning that the head was drawn on a separate cel from the rest of the body. When the cartoons would be filmed, the cel on which the head was drawn would be placed on top of the cels depicting the rest of the body. Thus, the purpose of the collar was to conceal the divide between the character’s face and the rest of its body, enabling animators to only redraw those sections of the body that really needed to be redrawn. For example, the presence of the collar allowed the animator to only redraw the character’s face in each frame and keep the body motionless — without making it too obvious to the audience that the character’s head was on a separate plane from the rest of the body and was in fact the only part of the body that was moving. This video explains it a lot better than I can.

To give you a better idea of how full animation and limited animation work, let me point you to a quick example of each of these, both of them courtesy of Don M. Yowp, one of my favorite bloggers. Here’s an example of full animation, from The Cat that Hated People, a 1949 MGM cartoon directed by Tex Avery. Notice how lush and detailed the background is, and how radically the cat’s facial expressions and gestures change from one frame to the next. In contrast, here’s an example of limited animation, from Cousin Tex, a 1958 Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Notice how much more simplistic the background is, and how the cat’s facial expressions and movements remain relatively static and limited from one frame to the next. 

Such shortcuts enabled Hanna and Barbera to make far more cartoons far more cheaply than they had able to do at MGM. As a result, Hanna-Barbera managed to quickly and profitably keep up with the demands of television. Thanks to limited animation, television animation became viable, and the animation industry was saved from extinction. Using limited animation, Hanna-Barbera created countless beloved characters, including Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, and Scooby-Doo. By the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera was the largest animation company in the world.

Happy 60th anniversary to one of the most prolific and creative cartoon studios ever!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Recommended Reading

Paul Craig Roberts masterfully shows how hatred is poisoning American society, and the rest of the world as well. What's the connection between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Confederate monuments? Read the article and find out!

Rod Dreher outlines the history and significance of the growing politically correct rejection of Confederate monuments -- and indeed, any monuments connected in any way with
European-American or European history and culture. Recently, monuments to Christopher Columbus, St. Junípero Serra, and St. Joan of Arc have been vandalized in the name of fighting white supremacy.

Key excerpt from the Dreher piece: "That’s often what iconoclasm tries to do: erase cultural memory. The zealotry with which iconoclasts go after their targets has to do with their conviction that the image, and what it stands for, is so offensive that it cannot be tolerated, nor can its defenders be reasoned with. They can only be conquered by force." 

And that, my friends, is a helpful summary of why Pío Moa is right that Spain's Orwellian Law of Historical Memory is a "despotic and totalitarian law" that has no place in a free society. This law, which requires the removal of all symbols of the Franco regime from public spaces, is a blatant attempt to impose one vision of history on Spanish society. As sad as it has been to see monument after monument to the men and women who saved Spain from communism fall to the forces of political correctness, it's not an altogether surprising turn of events. After all, proponents of the Law of Historical Memory are the intellectual descendants of the Popular Front, which, politically correct propaganda notwithstanding, was always anti-democratic. 

Finally, let me end this post on a happier note. Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of legendary comic book creator Jack Kirby. Comic book writer Mark Evanier, who was once an assistant to Kirby, reflects on Kirby's creative process and enduring legacy. Key excerpt: "He inspired those he met and those he didn't. It was better if you did meet him but from afar and even since he passed in '94, many, many people have been motivated to write and/or draw, not necessarily in the same style and not necessarily in the same media. There are prose authors who've told me that they were inspired by Jack, musicians who've told me they were inspired by Jack... I once even had a spot welder tell me he was inspired by Jack." How did Jack Kirby inspire a spot welder? Read the article and find out!  

Happy 100th, Jack!   

Sunday, August 27, 2017

In Defense of Robert E. Lee

Recently, the city of New Orleans removed several statues of prominent Confederate leaders from public view, including one of General Robert E. Lee, who was, of course, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. In my opinion, New Orleans went too far in removing the statue of Lee. There is no denying that the cause for which Lee fought was evil. That said, it is possible to reject the ideals of the Confederacy and also believe that Lee was an honorable man from whom we could all learn a great deal. Lee’s selflessness, courage, and dignity were evident throughout his life — in his adolescence, in his time at West Point, during the Mexican War, and even during and after the Civil War. 

Having lost his father at the age of 11, Lee spent his teenage years taking care of his mother, who was an invalid. When Lee entered West Point, his mother praised her son’s selfless dedication to her by saying that Lee had been “both son and daughter to me.” 

At West Point, Lee distinguished himself by never once receiving a demerit (a formal censure for misconduct) during his four years there. To understand how noteworthy this achievement is, it’s worth quoting future Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who claimed that it was impossible to get through West Point without receiving demerits! 

During the war with Mexico in the 1840s, Lee performed a feat of sheer bravery. One dark night, he found his way across a lava field that was full of deep cracks. As Lee later recalled, he traversed this lava field “without light, without a companion or guide, where scarcely a step could be taken without fear of death.” 

Lee is often criticized for choosing to command the Confederate Army, even though President Abraham Lincoln had offered Lee command of the Union Army. I would urge those who criticize Lee on these grounds to consider the context of the era during which Lee lived. Lee was opposed in principle to both slavery — which he called “a moral and political evil” — and secession. He decided to become commander of the Confederate Army only after his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union. In one letter, he wrote, "My loyalty to Virginia ought to take precedence over that which is due to the federal government. If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But, if she secedes, then I will still follow my native state with my sword, and if need be with my life." In another letter, he explained, "I must side either with or against my section or country. I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children. I should like, above all things, that our difficulties might be peaceably arranged... Whatever may be the result of the contest, I foresee that the country will have to pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation perhaps for our national sins." 

Today, it might be difficult for us to understand Lee’s intense level of attachment to his home state. After all, the United States of America is a thoroughly consolidated nation. It has a very powerful federal government and is generally considered the world’s only superpower.   

It helps to remember that in Lee’s day, the U.S. was a very different country. It was a young nation that had emerged out of the union of thirteen erstwhile colonies. At first, citizens of these new states regarded their states as more or less independent countries. It took a while for a sense of the United States of America as one united country to take hold, and the residual effects of this sense of the USA as a confederation of independent states took a very long time to dissipate. As the Founding Father Henry Lee III — who was Robert E. Lee’s father — once said of his home state, “Virginia is my country; her will I obey, no matter how sad my fate may be.” If one keeps this historical context in mind, it is not difficult to understand — and even to admire — Robert E. Lee’s strong sense of commitment to Virginia. Thus did Lee obey Virginia, even though he was himself opposed to the idea of dismembering the Union and believed that slavery was evil. 

As his father had uncannily foreshadowed, Lee’s fate was indeed sad. The Union defeated the Confederacy, Lee had to surrender to Grant, and the federal government rejected Lee’s application for the restoration of his U.S. citizenship.* 

Even in defeat, however, Lee maintained his dignity. At the surrender ceremony, Lee showed respect to Grant by wearing a brand new uniform, boots with spurs, and a sword with jewels. For his part, Grant wore a muddy coat. In other words, Lee showed respect to Grant; Grant failed to show Lee the same respect. 

Even while maintaining his dignity, Lee began to work that very day for national reconciliation. His last words to his troops were, “Go home and be good Americans.” To the end of his life, he urged fellow ex-Confederates to help bring about reconciliation between the North and the South.  

In the final years of his life, Lee served as President of Washington College (today known as Washington & Lee University), which he saved from bankruptcy. As President of Washington College, Lee worked for national reconciliation. For instance, when one faculty member spoke disparagingly of General Grant, Lee replied, "Sir, if you ever presume again to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university." Under Lee’s leadership, Washington College had a simple, concise student honor code. As Lee himself put it, “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman.” Clearly, Lee was honorable to the end. 

Does such a great man really deserve to have his statues removed? Can’t we reject the legacy of the Confederacy while also celebrating Robert E. Lee as a man? I believe that we can and we must. We owe it to ourselves to magnanimously forgive Lee’s flaws and honor his many virtues. 


*Happily, in 1975, President Gerald Ford corrected this injustice and finally restored Lee’s citizenship, stating, “General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.” 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Return of the McLaughlin Group?

Is The McLaughlin Group about to make a comeback, one year after the passing of legendary host John McLaughlin? Let's hope so, because panelist Pat Buchanan is awesome! I consider Buchanan to be a forefather of Democratic Falangism. Moreover, in these times, in which the country seems to be more divided than at any point since the 60s (certainly the twentieth century ones, quite possibly the nineteenth century ones as well!), we need this program more than ever! The McLaughlin Group is a model for how people with radically different opinions on the issues of the day can air their differences with civility and mutual respect. Oh, and did I mention that Pat Buchanan is awesome?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Towards a Democratic Falangism

“Who Am I? Why Am I Here?” 

That was how Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate in 1992, infamously introduced himself to the audience at the vice-presidential debate that year. While those words may not usually be the most effective way to introduce oneself in person, I think they are an effective enough way to introduce one’s blog. To that end, those are the questions that this — my first blog post — will answer. Who am I? And why am I writing this blog? The short answer is that I am writing this blog because I subscribe to a peculiar, idiosyncratic political ideology, and I would like to share it with the world. I call this ideology democratic Falangism. I’m still in the process of fully developing democratic Falangism, but it is essentially an attempt to reconcile Falangism (an authoritarian ideology developed by the Spanish attorney José Antonio Primo de Rivera in the 1930s) with the practices of liberal democracy. I particularly value Falangism’s fusion of socially conservative values with economically progressive policies, and I feel that such a voice is currently lacking and sorely needed in U.S. politics.        

How did I become a democratic Falangist? Slowly, over a considerable period of time. I’ve subscribed to several political ideologies over the course of my life. My first experience of political awareness came in 2000, when I was still in elementary school. That year, I rooted for George W. Bush for no valid reason. (Can you really expect any different from a nine-year-old?) I guess I just found Bush to be a more colorful and interesting character than Al Gore. (Heck, even today, I have to admit: that is true. Besides, don’t many adults base their votes on the same criteria?) 

In 2002, however, my opinion of Bush changed radically. Like everyone in my family, I was deeply saddened by Bush’s drive to go to war with Iraq. We thought it was unjustifiable to go to war with a country that had had nothing to do with 9/11. Moreover, my parents insisted that imposing democracy on another country was an oxymoron and would not work in any case, because democracy needs to emerge through the natural evolution of the country in question. Such was my disgust with Bush that, as a middle school student in 2004, I loudly rooted for John Kerry. At this point, I was convinced that I was a liberal Democrat. To be sure, by 2004, I was starting to become more aware of additional political issues, and I was hearing some things about Democrats that worried me, such as rumors that they were in favor of something called gay marriage. But I was so enraged by Iraq that I didn’t pay much heed to this. I chalked it up to Republican fear-mongering.

One of the most important insights I gained in middle school was the knowledge that George Washington had advocated a non-interventionist foreign policy. I recalled thinking, in light of the Iraq War, that George Washington would be ashamed of what his country had become.

Towards the end of the 2000s, I began to realize that, in terms of social issues, the Democrats were in fact against everything I had been taught was morally right. Meanwhile, I got hooked on talk radio, especially Michael Savage. I also became addicted to Fox News. I came to strongly believe in as limited a government as possible, while maintaining my strong social conservative views. I thought I’d found a political home in the GOP. The only aspect of my beliefs that seemed at odds with GOP orthodoxy was my strong opposition to the Iraq War, but enough time had passed that my rage had cooled and I was willing to overlook this incongruence. Besides, time seemed to have vindicated my early opposition to the Iraq War, and I figured that the world (including the GOP) would only grow more opposed to it as time went by. In 2008, I vocally backed John McCain in the general election (though I had backed Mitt Romney in the primary, because I perceived him to be the more conservative alternative to McCain). I remember warning my high school classmates that Barack Obama was a radical Communist who was friends with terrorists. I seriously believed that. In hindsight, I feel so very silly about this period of my life.

Shortly after the 2008 election, one of my high school classmates lent me a book by a congressman from Texas named Ron Paul. Paul convinced me of the evils of central banking and the virtues of sound money, beliefs I hold to this day. He also confirmed my fear of big government. As a history nerd, I appreciated that his beliefs in sound money, states’ rights, and Congress’s war-making power were deeply rooted in American history. Most of all, though, I loved his opposition to intervention in other countries and his call for a return to “the foreign policy of the Founding Fathers.”

While reading Ron Paul, I recalled learning in school about George Washington’s warning to avoid entanglement in alliances. From Ron Paul, I learned that John Quincy Adams had declared that the United States “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy” and had warned that an interventionist U.S. would became “the dictatress of the world.” Wow, I thought. How prescient were the Founding Fathers! “Dictatress of the world!” That sounded just like what the U.S. had become with its arrogant policy of “ending tyranny in our world.”

I was sold on Ron Paul when I saw a YouTube clip of him destroying Rudy Giuliani during a 2008 GOP primary debate. “Yes, yes, yes!” I thought. “Finally, a Republican that’s sane on foreign policy!” My favorite YouTube clip involving Ron Paul, though, is one in which a Fox News debate moderator asks him, “Are you saying we should take marching orders from Al Qaeda?” “No,” he replies. “I’m saying we should take marching orders from the Constitution!” What courage! I still admire and respect Ron Paul today, though I can no longer claim to be a supporter. But I’ll get to that.

Ron Paul got me hooked on libertarianism. I started reading works by whatever libertarian thinkers I could get my hands on. I was especially fond of Murray Rothbard. My libertarian years were my first truly intellectual engagement with politics. This was when my political views began to become sophisticated.

But there was a problem. As time went by, I slowly began to be confronted with areas in which it seemed that government had to have a role. Environmental regulation, economic regulation, healthcare, etc. For a while, I suppressed these qualms and clung stubbornly to the libertarian narrative. “Let the market fix it,” I said repeatedly. “The market can fix everything, if politicians would just allow it to work.” But at some point, it became clear to me that raw laissez-faire capitalism was a cruel philosophy. That fact that government had grown so large was not the result of some sinister conspiracy, I realized. It was a series of responses to very real problems. Social Security, the minimum wage, Medicare, Medicaid – such programs had vastly improved people’s lives. Yes, there was waste in government, but the libertarian formula of “starving the beast” was not the answer. Yes, Ron Paul’s worldview was deeply rooted in American history, but it was fundamentally ahistorical, because it ignored what had happened during the twentieth century and assumed that we could simply turn back the clock to a magical time…

I’m not sure when exactly my worldview changed from libertarianism to a more centrist brand of conservatism. It’s just a shift that happened over time. At some point, there were too many internal contradictions in my mind to sustain the house of cards that was my libertarian worldview. I could read all the Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and Lew Rockwell in the world, but it gradually became apparent that these men had no answers to my questions. Indeed, it seemed to me that libertarians were so rigidly ideological that they didn’t even see the misery their policy prescriptions would cause and in many ways had caused (e.g. financial deregulation during the 1990s). They didn’t realize that their dogmatic insistence on the virtue of free markets would clear the path for what they claimed to stridently oppose: socialism and communism.

That said, if I had to pinpoint a specific moment that caused large, deep, and stability-threatening cracks to appear in the flimsy foundation of my libertarian fortress, I would point to a 2012 GOP debate in which CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what should happen to a man who chose not to purchase health insurance but then suddenly needed medical care. Some people in the crowd shouted, “Let him die!” Paul’s response – let churches and private charities take care of him – did little to reassure me. It was at this moment that it dawned on me that while Ron Paul might be a good person (as a physician, he provided free medical care to patients who lacked health insurance), many – perhaps most – people were not. An ideology that relied on the goodwill of people, I came to believe, was simply not tenable.

At that point, I was politically homeless. On the one hand, I held many beliefs about government that seemed to roughly correspond to those of a liberal Democrat. On the other hand, I was a staunch cultural conservative, and I was seeing Democrats and even many Republicans move further and further away from my socially conservative worldview. Neither major party was a good fit for me, and neither was the Libertarian Party or the Green Party.

But I wouldn’t be long before I filled that ideological vacuum. Even before I had finally abandoned libertarianism, I became very interested in the Spanish Civil War. In college, I was a Spanish major. In one class, we watched a very good (though very biased in favor of the so-called Republican side) movie about the Spanish Civil War and had to give presentations about the Spanish Civil War. In the course of my research for this presentation, and much subsequent research (which I undertook purely for fun’s sake), I concluded that Francisco Franco has an unjustly bad reputation. I think this blog post has become long enough, so I’m not going to discuss Franco in depth here. Suffice it say that here was someone who had rescued his country from chaos and from two attempted Bolshevik revolutions, preserved and promoted traditional Christian values, defied international hostility to his regime, created social welfare benefits (such as pensions, salary bonuses, and universal healthcare), and modernized his country, creating the conditions for one of the most peaceful and seamless transitions to democracy in human history. Such a man as this was worthy of respect, I thought. The demonization he has been subjected to is unjustifiable. 

Today, I very much admire Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, but I’m also well aware of the drawbacks of dictatorship. For one thing, dictatorships tend to be extremely corrupt, as there’s no reliable mechanism to hold officials accountable for corruption. Indeed, even if the dictator is aware of corruption, there’s not much he can do about it, because, given the absence of democratic legitimacy, support for the regime is always very tenuous. The dictator can’t afford to alienate any of the groups in the ruling coalition, lest the house of cards that is the regime collapse.  

Yet multiparty democracies have their flaws, too – not least of which is the social polarization that results from the narratives that the various political parties develop about themselves and their opponents. If the best values of Falangism and liberal democracy could somehow be combined, perhaps a better system than both would result. Is this an internal contradiction? Absolutely. Maybe I’ll resolve it someday. 

That, in part, is the reason I have set up this blog. I hope to use this blog as a mechanism for developing the ideology of democratic Falangism. I plan to do so by reading books, watching videos, and posting my thoughts on these here. I envision this blog as developing into an eclectic collection of materials. This blog will feature inspiring quotes, YouTube videos, recommended reading, and occasionally original content from yours truly, such as book reviews and opinion pieces. 

As the blog’s subtitle indicates, the realm of politics and philosophy is far from my only interest. I am equally interested in classic comics and animated cartoons. Accordingly, I will also be posting about these subjects.   

If you’re interested in joining me on this journey towards a new political paradigm, with occasional rest stops in Cartoonland, I invite you to follow this blog, and to leave your own thoughts in the comments section.