Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Democrat’s War on Cheap-Energy Coal Claims Another Scalp

It is now apparent that many of Obama’s promises were lies he never intended to keep, or didn’t care if he would keep.  Most have come with an expiration date, as Glenn Reynolds quips.  Consider, for example, “if you like your health care plan you can keep it.  Period;” or “One of the first things I’ll do as president is close the Guantanamo detention camp for terrorists;” or, “my administration will be the most transparent in history.”  But here’s one promise he’s keeping that I wish he wasn’t – putting the American coal companies out of business.

Obama’s plan to destroy the coal companies took a step forward yesterday when the largest American coal producer, Peabody Energy, filed for reorganization bankruptcy.  It’s just the latest coal company to do so.    

The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal.  True, some coal is relatively more polluting than natural gas or oil, but when burned with emission pollution scrubbers, already commonplace, the pollution is almost entirely eliminated.  So why the hate on coal from Obama and the Democrats?  It’s because it represents the cheapest source of energy for Americans.  The world-wide condemnation of coal is a tactic by global authoritarian elites, operating under the ruse of socialistic benevolence, to redistribute wealth from the Unites States to the Third World by making American energy more expensive.  But what people everywhere need, especially those in underdeveloped countries, is cheaper energy, and coal, burned with pollution scrubbers, can provide lots of that.   

Meanwhile, as they also harass the frackers who are making America oil-independent, Obama and the Democrats have poured taxpayer money into “green” energy companies, often run by connected, big Obama money-men and other Democrat cronies; some of those outfits, like Solyndra, have turned out to be over-hyped scams for profit.  And remember that not too long ago Al Gore, on the surface the anti-fossil-fuel crusader, sold his never-profitable, short-lived small cable TV operation for hundreds of millions to Saudi oil interests; the Saudis ran it a while as a show, then recently closed it down.  Well, who has a greater interest than the Saudis (and other Third-World oil producers like Obama’s socialist pals in Venezuela) in seeing the use of cheap coal in the US shut down?  As wise men and women know, whether looking at Al Gore or the Clinton Foundation, which rakes in scores of millions from dark-moneyed interests around the world – just follow the money. 

It’s all one big ruse, and a lot of rubes are still fooled.  

R Balsamo

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Decline and Fall of Us – Dispatch from Peggy Noonan

Ms. Noonan has gotten lots of things wrong in recent years, particularly her infamous support for Obama in 2008 after she became infatuated by the mirage of a man she had concocted of her own fantasies.  Recently she sobered up to write the following trenchant piece pointing out that modern intolerant progressives have pushed regular Americans to their limit, and have no idea of what the reaction might be:

There is something increasingly unappeasable in the left.  This is something conservatives and others have come to fear, that progressives now accept no limits.  We can’t just have court-ordered legalized abortion across the land, we have to have it up to the point of birth, and taxpayers have to pay for it.  It’s not enough to win same-sex marriage, you’ve got to personally approve of it and if you publicly resist you’ll be ruined.  It’s not enough that we have publicly funded contraceptives, the nuns have to provide them.  This unappeasable spirit always turns to the courts to have its way.

If progressives were wise they would step back, accept their victories, take a breath and turn to the idea of solidifying gains, of heroic patience, of being peaceable.  Don’t make them bake the cake. ... Leave the nuns alone.

Progressives have no idea how fragile it all is.  That’s why they feel free to be unappeasable.  They don’t know what they’re grinding down.   They think America has endless give.  But America is composed of humans, and they do not have endless give.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Decline and Fall of Us – Dispatches from the Front Lines

Laugh or cry – or both?  At Indiana University, some students freak out when they mistake a Dominican priest in his white robes and long rosary for a KKK Klansman with a whip.  They don’t know what a priest and a rosary look like – ignorant enough of culture, religion, and history to be supporters of socialist Bernie Sanders.  The Dominican priest serves at the on-campus St. Paul Catholic Center, IU’s Catholic Church and student center.

There's no money in toilets.  Online payment-processor PayPal is cancelling a planned expansion in North Carolina because that state has a new law that basically says a person must use the toilet and shower room that corresponds to his or her genitalia, to prevent exposed adult males mixing with young girls, teens, and adult women who might not fully appreciate such a display.  Paypal standing up for the rights of transvestites to bare their genitals to members of the opposite sex!  Otherwise, discrimination!  Meanwhile, in what will be no surprise to any sentient being who's been paying attention, Paypal (like Apple [which is led by a gay man]) has centers in many countries that execute homosexuals (see link).  To sum up:  According to Paypal executing homosexuals is OK, but males have a right to be naked in girls’ locker rooms.  

Learning from the masters.  The California Attorney General is a supporter of and donator to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States.  She has now sent "investigators" to raid and harass a film maker who recently helped expose Planned Parenthood’s practice of selling body parts from aborted babies to biotech research firms.  As one PP staffer said to one undercover filmmaker, livers are in real demand and will cost extra.  The AG has learned from the master, when Obama sent the FBI to arrest a Coptic Christian film maker who had made a short video critical of Islam on some pretense so he and Hillary had someone to blame for the muslim terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the ambassador.    

Woman or man – what's the diff, really? (see above.)  Liberal Time Magazine, thinking it can fool the hoi polloi into thinking it’s an intelligent and high-brow source, proclaims Evelyn Waugh as one of the most-read female writers among college students.  Personally, I’ve much enjoyed his Brideshead Revisited, and the great miniseries film of it that made Jeremy Irons a star.

R Balsamo

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fighting African Elephants at the Field

On display in the Great Hall of Chicago's Field Museum since 1921.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Like Chick-fil-A Cows, Muslims Migrants in Italy Riot for Chiken

A number of mostly Muslim migrants hosted in a hotel in the northern Italian town of Chioggia [on the south end of the Venetian lagoon] ripped down the Italian flag in protest of an Easter meal of pasta in place of their usual chicken and french fries.  The menu change triggered the anger of the migrants, who then staged a protest. “No pasta, it’s a disgrace. We want our chicken and french fries,” they reportedly shouted.  Some of the migrants then grabbed hold of the Italian flag hanging in one of the common rooms and ripped it down in protest.  The police were called in and sent three patrol cars to restore the calm, finally convincing the migrants to eat their pasta. According to reports, the migrants’ anger may have been ignited by the commemoration of Easter as a holiday more than just the corresponding change of menu, since almost all of them are Muslims.

So far this year, the Italian interior ministry has documented 16,075 migrants crossing to its shores, compared to just over 10,000 during the same period in 2015....  [Since the recent effective] closing [of] the so-called “Balkan route” north from Greece into Europe ... traffickers have been scrambling to devise new routes to bring prospective migrants into the continent, primarily through Italy....  [As] borders have been closed along migrant routes, Italy may be now forced to hold on to the majority of people landing on its shores.....  Italy has struggled to expand its capacity to receive and process migrants. In March 2014, it was hosting 29,000 asylum seekers; by 2015 the number had increased to 67,000, and this March the number has risen to 106,000. This number is sure to increase dramatically in the next several months.

A report from Libya claims there are at least 800,000 migrants on the coast waiting for the right moment to cross the sea to Italy.

The times, they are a-changing.

R Balsamo

h/t: Ed Driscoll

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Twilight of Chicago and the Democrat Model of Government

The days of reckoning draw near for the effectively bankrupt City of Chicago, after more than 50 years of financial corruption by the ruling Democrat Party.  Two baleful news items about the city hit the wires today.

First, the Illinois Supreme Court today declared unconstitutional, under the state constitution, a plan by the desperate Chicago Democrat mayor to reduce some public employee pension payments.  The major driver of Chicago’s financial disaster is the massive annual payment required to fund the current pension plan for retired and active employees.  The mayor’s plan runs afoul of the public employees pension protection provision of the Illinois constitution, says the high court, a provision snuck in by Democrats when the state constitution was rewritten in 1970.  Now those generous pensions – far better than those in the private sector, aggrandized by various abuses such as the notorious and common practices of “pension spiking” and “double dipping,” and underfunded for years by the Democrats themselves who spent the money on other stuff for themselves – have bankrupted the city (as well as the state and many of its cities and other units of government).  To raise cash, Chicago Democrats last year enacted a massive property tax hike, and after today more such increases are likely to follow as the Democrat takers squeeze more and more cash from the producers.  But a greedy parasite that kills the host off which it lives ultimately causes its own death as well.  Chicago and Illinois Democrats have been doing that in slow motion, having learned nothing from the smoldering ruins of the Democrat Party paradise of Detroit. 

Second news item – the top headline today at the website of the now ultraliberal, Democrat-friendly Chicago Tribune:  “Chicago area sees greatest population loss of any major U.S. city, region in 2015.”  Just one more piece of evidence that Democrats have yet to realize that many tax-paying citizens and businesses can simply move away when they have had enough.   More and more workers are work-at-home and thus can live anywhere, and retirees can also pack up and leave for states with less corruption and lower taxes.  And all that is happening.        

The lesson that Democrat takers have yet to learn is that they must control their greed and corruption, since the producers, the people who work to support them in their corrupt excesses, can move away, and a city left with only Democrats trying to live off each other soon collapses. 

R Balsamo

Friday, March 18, 2016

Remembering Edward Everett Horton

Has there ever been anyone funnier in film than Edward Everett Horton?   I first met him, or met his voice that is, early on – he was the narrator of the Fractured Fairy Tales series that was a regular part of the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  Growing older I’ve come to enjoy his every film appearance.  He excelled in playing cheerful though slightly befuddled and often exasperated characters and was a master of the delayed double-take.  Three favorites:  Holiday, Springtime in the Rockies, and Arsenic and Old Lace.

Then there are his Astaire/Rogers pictures, three of the best, in which he practically steals every scene he’s in:  The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, and Shall We Dance.  His scenes with the daffy, screwball Alice Brady in The Gay Divorcee are alone worth the price of admission, and as a bonus he has the Let's K-nock K-nees dance number with Betty Grable no less.  The Gay Divorcee, incidentally, features the then new song The Continental in a 20-minute song and dance extravaganza (here's a part); it later won the very first Academy Award for best original song, back in the good old days when such awards were merit-based.  His scenes (link; link) with Eric Blore are priceless.

Per Wikipedia, the New York Times, and other sources, Horton was born one hundred thirty years ago today in Brooklyn to parents of Scottish extraction.  Horton’s grandfather was writer Edward Everett Hale, who was a nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, and a grandnephew of Nathan Hale, the martyred spy of the American Revolution.  He attended college for a while at Oberlin, until, showing an early theatrical bent, he was “asked to leave” after climbing to the top of a building, and after gathering a crowd below, threw off a dummy the audience mistook for him.  He moved back to New York City, attended Columbia University for a time, and began his performing career in acting and singing.

He started in silent pictures in 1918, and from then on was based on the West Coast.  His first talkie was the 1931 version of The Front Page.  He was an entrepreneur as well – he would lease a theater and produce a play in which he would star; in 1932 he leased the Hollywood Playhouse for a year and put on Springtime for Henry, in which over his lifetime he would appear more than 3,000 times.  From all this he earned enough to spring for a summer home on Lake George in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

After finding success in Hollywood, he bought 23 acres of land in the Encino section of Los Angeles and established a compound of houses where he, his mother, his sister, and his brother lived with their families.  He was an avid antique collector, acquiring a valuable collection over the years.  Horton died in Encino in 1970 at the age of 84 and is buried in Forest Lawn, the cemetery of the stars.  His work, fortunately for us, lives on.

R Balsamo

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Organized Mob Action Disrupts Trump in Chicago; Cruz Goes Off the Rails

Yesterday evening, an organized mob action disrupted, with some minor violence, a planned rally in Chicago for leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  The disruption was promoted via social media.  It is politely being called a “protest” by its defenders, but it was nothing of the sort.  Many Trump haters were inside the building and began their disruption there; they were not just peacefully protesting outside.  People have a right to peaceful protest, but not a right to disrupt and prevent others from speaking.  This was massive criminal behavior that the Chicago police seemingly did little to stop.  Watching this on TV one could see among the protesters sombreros, “Muslims Against Trump” t-shirts, Mexican flags, and Bernie Sanders posters, among other things.    

Trump haters say this was democracy in action, and that Trump brought this on himself by his condoning of violence against his opponents.  But that is a lie.  Rightly or wrongly, he has only condoned violence, on a few occasions with off-hand remarks in the heat of the moment, against violent disrupters at his rallies who are assaulting and attacking his supporters.  That is self-defense.  He has not suggested or encouraged his supporters to roam the streets causing trouble for others.  Trump holds rallies, and the anti-Trump mob comes to him, to prevent him from speaking and to assault his supporters.  These neo-fascists are attacking him, not vice versa.  Conservatives and Republicans do not do that to their opponents, they have not disrupted Clinton and Sanders rallies, and they are tired of others doing it to them.  Disruption, intimidation, assault, and battery are tactics increasingly used by neo-fascist leftist groups such as Code Pink, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter.  Of course, they are only following the guidance of Barack Obama, who famously urged his supporters to "get in the faces" of their opponents and "punch back twice as hard."  But most Americans I suspect have had enough of this.   

To blame Trump and his supporters for defending themselves inside their own rallies against violent agitators who come to disrupt their events is too much.  But that is the liberal smear right now.  Even worse, I am very, very disappointed to see that Ted Cruz has joined in that very smear, desperately seeking to score cheap political points by siding with those who hate free speech and who seek to silence their political opponents. 

This anti-democratic mob action to deprive the leading Republican presidential contender of his right to speak to his own supporters at his own rallies will likely only help Trump in public opinion and hurt the anti-democratic liberal fascists.  I have not been a Trump supporter, but after years if not decades of failed Republican Party leadership I very much understand his appeal on some specific positions as well on his apparent willingness to politically fight hard for his convictions.  

And all this should hurt Ted Cruz as well, whom I have supported for president, who should know better than to side with the neo-fascist mob.  Who will stand up with him when the mob next comes for him?    

R Balsamo               

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Weak Horse Romney Attacks Strong Horse Trump

Today Republican Mitt Romney made a big speech denouncing his party’s leading presidential candidate Donald Trump as a “phony and a fraud.”  Of all people to deliver that message!  Mitt Romney had his chance but showed the very weakness before vicious smears and attacks that Trump, to the delight of many long-suffering Republican voters, repudiates.  If Romney were nearly this forceful against Obama four years ago he would be president.  As bin Laden once said, when people see a strong horse and a weak horse they are naturally drawn to the former.  And nothing is more revolting than Republicans like Romney, who, like the presidential nominee before him John McCain, are forceful only when attacking other Republicans while they cower before Democrats.   

After seeing the Trump phenomenon these last six months, about strength and confidence and attitude as much as anything else, how can Republican leaders be so clueless as to think Romney, of all people, is the one to take down Trump?  Romney, the guy who let Democrat operative Candy Crowley, masquerading as a TV journalist, push him around when she jumped into a debate to defend Obama (with misinformation to boot).  Romney let it happen, but Trump never would have.  Moreover, Crowley never would have tried that with Trump because she would have known that Trump would rip her apart.  Weakness, as they say, is a provocation.

If Republican leaders are really serious about stopping Trump, they would induce Rubio to drop out and coalesce behind Cruz.  Rubio’s betrayal on amnesty and illegal immigration still infuriates a large segment of Republican base and caps his upside.  Moreover, he seems too young, too unseasoned, and doesn’t have the intellectual heft that Cruz has – he showed he can be rolled by fast-talking Democrats like Chuck Schumer.  I’m for Cruz.  I know he isn’t a perfect candidate – way too much of that Southern Baptist preacher shtick for one thing.  Yes, Republican leaders hate him because he doesn’t play their go along – get along insider Washington game, but nevertheless their choice is Cruz or Trump if they want a shot to win in November, or rig the convention against Trump and destroy the party.

R Balsamo         

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Liberal Political Correctness & Weak Republican Leadership Continue to Strengthen Trump

In this presidential election cycle, I’m for Ted Cruz.  Nevertheless, I understand full well the appeal of Donald Trump, and how his candidacy has been created by the serial spinelessness, foolishness, and unfaithfulness of Republican Party national leaders.  Even more than his specific stance against open borders, an American wage killer and Democrat vote generator loved by the elites in both major parties, it is Trump’s projection of strength that has propelled his rise.  He refuses to apologize for American success and traditional American sensibilities.  He lets no one kick sand in his face.  Imagine, for example, if Democrat operative Candy Crowley, masquerading as a TV debate “journalist,” improperly intervened in a presidential candidate debate, with misinformation to boot, to protect Obama against Trump.  Unlike the weak Romney, Trump would have ripped her apart.  But she would have known his strength beforehand, and wouldn’t even have tried.  As the saying goes, weakness is a provocation.   

Now some kook allegedly in the KKK, which historically has been the militant wing of the Democrat Party and whose notable leaders through the years have all been Democrats, supposedly “endorsed” Trump.  Thus the liberal media is all atwitter demanding that Trump say nasty things about the KKK.  The tactic is obvious – make an association between the KKK and the Republican Party in the minds of fools and the foolable, and keep peppering Trump, and other Republican candidates, with this “issue” as a distraction and a smear.  No one really thinks Donald Trump cares about the handful of Democrats in what’s left of the KKK.  But new Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, perhaps the greatest and fastest political disappointment in a generation and BFF with the nasty, open-border Hispanic racist politician Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, taking his cue from Democrats now demands Trump and other Republicans denounce all bigoted groups, as if Republicans were somehow connected with them and responsible for them.  One of Trump’s most appealing characteristics is that he aggressively rejects biased premises.  Here, the Democrat smear is that many Republicans are crypto-bigots, so their leaders must publicly denounce any and all bigots; Trump rejects the premise, while Ryan accepts it.  Ryan is a foolish man, and a lousy retail politician.  Challenge Trump on issues and on character, not with smears – it just makes him more sympathetic and stronger.  Next Ryan will demand Trump denounce Adolph Hitler (who in reality was a socialist).  If Ryan was this forceful with his Democrat buddies the Republican Party wouldn’t be in the mess it’s now in.  The end result of all this Democrat-driven nonsense is more votes for Trump.        

Seeing the Democrats about to nominate Hillary Clinton, patently the most corrupt major politician in American history, whose party has weaponized government against conservatives, makes me despair for the Republic.  Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.  If the American experiment devolves and the era of the strongman is upon us, I certainly would prefer Trump to Clinton, any time and place.

R Balsamo

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lands’ End Clothiers Enters the Culture Wars – Gushingly Celebrates Radical Democrat Feminist Gloria Steinem

Lands’ End, the clothing provider that started out in Chicago in nautical equipment and whose headquarters is now in Wisconsin, just entered the Culture Wars big time.  

Its new catalog has just arrived at our house.  It has an enormous, worshipful spread to radical “feminist” Gloria Steinem, who, among other things, is a Democrat Party activist and an abortion radical, supporting even partial-birth abortion.  She’s famous for popularizing the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”  I have been significant Lands’ End shopper for over 40 years, starting with its first outlet store on Chicago’s near north side (on Clyburn or Elston, as I recall) and I have been looking at its catalogs for at least as long.  The same can be said of my wife.  Before this we have never seen Lands’ End take a political stand, ever.  I don’t think it will be able to get this genie back in the bottle for a long time.     

This is almost certainly the end of our patronage of Lands’ End.  Why oh why would a major national retailer, which given the type of clothing it sells probably does much, much more business among conservatives than liberals, take a side in the Culture Wars at all, let alone side with the extreme left-wing?  Perhaps some Madison Avenue advertising/catalog consulting firm thought nothing of it.  After all, doesn’t everyone who counts support partial birth abortion and the killing of infants born alive after botched, late-term abortions?  Actually, those two "procedures" are disturbing and beyond the pale even for some pro-choice people I know.

It seems ultraliberals wake up every morning wondering about what new non-political space they can politicize.  Lands’ End, a public company with shareholders, is free to enter the Culture Wars if it wants to, but why would it alienate most of its customers?  This is a massive error in management judgement, and heads should roll.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see shareholder lawsuits if sales drop off. 

R Balsamo

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Trump Effect Penetrates the Stupid Party, Finally; On Supreme Court Vacancy, Republicans Finally Say No to Obama

Donald Trump is more than anything else a protest candidate against the weak and false front so many Republican politicians have put up against the baleful Democrat tidal wave in politics and culture.  Although his main, popular substantive issue is stopping illegal immigration and its downward effect on wages for American working men and women, more than that his candidacy is about strength and attitude.  Most Republican voters feel that the Democrats have been kicking sand in their faces for decades, and that their elected Republicans for the most part acquiesce and often willingly join in on that humiliation.  Just to take a recent example in politics:  new Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pledged regular order and other reforms, but immediately rolled over to endorse and strong arm the passage of an irregular “cromnibus” funding bill that, among other things, fully funded Obamacare and body-part-selling Planned Parenthood, two programs that most Republican voters want defunded and that most Congressional Republican politicians claimed to oppose.  Republicans in Washington are always pledging to fight the good fight tomorrow while rolling over today.  Trump, however an imperfect vessel he is, and he certainly is that, is a strong protest vote against decades of dishonest, pushover Republicans.

Nowhere has the Republican dishonesty and weakness been greater than in the realm of federal court appointments.  Democrats commonly block Republican nominees (see the history of George W. Bush’s DC Court of Appeals nominees) and intimidate Republican presidents into nominating “moderates” who often turn out to be partisan, political Democrats underneath their judicial robes.  Republicans, on the other hand, enthusiastically and overwhelmingly support radical Democrat court nominees (e.g., Ginsberg and the Wise Latina).  After the disgraceful “Borking” of Republican Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, Republicans rolled over to overwhelmingly support subsequent radical Democrat nominees, only later to have, once again, Republican nominees strongly opposed by Democrats (Example: Obama filibustered the Alito nomination).  The sordid history of the recent one-sided Supreme Court nomination fights is linked below.  Not for nothing is the Republican Party known as the Stupid Party, even among its frustrated supporters let alone smirking Democrats.

Now Justice Scalia’s untimely death has created an opening on the Supreme Court.  The Republican leadership in the Senate now declares they will not even hold a hearing on any nominee sent their way by lame duck Obama.  This strong stand is completely uncharacteristic of Republicans but is exactly what Democrats, based on their past behavior and words, would be doing in their shoes.  Republican voters and the rest of the American people can thank Donald Trump for this newfound Republican backbone.  Republican politicians might finally be realizing that strength is a virtue and weakness is a provocation, and, to coin a phrase, that when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they are naturally drawn to the former.

R Balsamo

Thursday, February 18, 2016

This Dim, Dangerous Pope

The new Pope condemns capitalism as he simultaneously urges the “rich” capitalist countries of Western Civilization, particularly the United States, to open their borders even more to accept any and all migrants from failed socialist and other authoritarian regimes.  The Pope praises the façade of socialism – radical equality – that camouflages the naked power held by masters who rule for their own nefarious benefit.  This new Pope does not seem smart enough to realize the absurdity he advances – that countries based on a political system he views as morally-corrupt, countries free and wealthy and plenty-generous already, must rescue the rest of the world from, in his mind, morally superior socialism – a system which he tacitly admits cannot properly feed its own people let alone provide sufficient jobs, safety, education, and the rule of a fair law equally applied.  The Pope is admitting the success, and the superiority, of free enterprise, classic liberalism (or, what I like to call libertyism), and the Protestant Work Ethic.

This Pope, by the way, just held a Mass at the Mexican-American border for those migrants who have died trying to sneak into the United States.  But while visiting Cuba recently and having a splendid time with Fidel and the other brutal socialist murders, this Pope did not say Mass for all those murdered by Cuban socialism and all those still tortured in jail there.  In fact, between hugs and smiles with the Castro brothers, he barely mentioned those unpleasantries.  Now, in an election year in America, this Pope says Donald Trump is not a Christian because of his intent to limit U.S. immigration, but says nothing to condemn the murderous dictators in Cuba and elsewhere in his Latin America homeland (the Vatican, by the way, is said to have the most restrictive immigration policies in the world).  All this is disgraceful.

All the poor people from Central America, from South America, from Africa, from the Near East, from the Middle East, from Central Asia, from East Asia, and from the Pacific Islands cannot fit into the United States and be supported by its people.  The solution is not for the whole world to move to North America, the solution is for the rest of the world to make their countries better.  The American people have been helping toward that end for over a hundred years, with open arms and with blood and with treasure, and they continue to do so today.  Never have so few done so much for so many.  But Americans cannot do it alone.  People elsewhere must help themselves as well.  If their rulers and their systems stink, they must change them.  The Catholic Church and the related Iberian culture deserve most of the blame for the tragic, long-standing economic and cultural failures of Latin America, from which so many migrants are fleeing.  The Pope needs to look much, much closer to home for his devils and his saviors. 

I wonder if there’s a recall provision in Canon law.  I’m very sure I’m not the first to do so.

R Balsamo

Monday, February 15, 2016

Our Republic – Can We Keep It?

Despite the socialist horrors of the last century, and scores of millions of miserable deaths later, in the United States we now have an openly socialist candidate running, strongly, for the nomination for president, one indication of a broad, baleful shift in Western sensibilities mirrored by the new socialist Pope.  He preaches a “democratic” socialism pronounced free of all corruptions, but which has tenuously existed only for a few years in a few small, ethnically homogeneous countries, an illusory thin veneer of success betrayed by reality and protected by and indirectly subsidized by the American people.  If he has his way, who will protect and subsidize Americans? 

He is rivaled by a Peron-style liberal fascist (an HG Wells term) who is patently the most corrupt major politician in American history and an archetypical pay-to-play corruptocrat.  Her appeal, almost unfathomable, seems based on the will to power by the “progressive” left who expect she will be ruthless enough to destroy their political opponents and the Western culture they defend, based as it is on the equal application of the rule of fair law, the true protection of civil liberties, and the restraint of government power.  Surely no educated and sentient supporter actually thinks her honest and fair and true, but great is the siren-call of power unconstrained by morality.  We still have a Republic, but can we keep it? 

R Balsamo

Friday, February 5, 2016

Nabucco at the Lyric Opera

Nabucco is the opera that made Verdi’s name, first performed when the composer was just 29 years old.  Generally regarded as Italy’s, if not the world’s, greatest opera composer, and certainly its most popular, Verdi was born into a family of modest means in northern Italy and had his first music lessons as a boy from his local parish priest.  His talent was noticed and he eventually found his way to Milan.  His early life, though, was not a straight line of success and happiness.  Although his first opera was a modest success, his second was a complete flop.  By that point his two young children both had died, soon followed by his 26 year old wife.  Devastated, he put composing aside, perhaps wondering if he could ever write again.  Eventually he was convinced to try his hand at another opera.  He later recalled, per Wikipedia, how he slowly started his work with "this verse today, tomorrow that, here a note, there a whole phrase, and little by little [it] was written."  The opera was well-received at its first performance in 1842 at La Scala.  It was Nabucco.  I was fortunate to attend a performance the other day at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

It’s easy for a wonderful work like Nabucco to get lost amidst the great riches of Italian opera.  An example:  The Lyric Opera Companion is a collection of essays on 90 operas – the “world’s greatest” says the cover.  It includes 14 operas by Verdi, but Nabucco is not one of them.  I think that says more about Verdi’s body of work than it does about Nabucco.  It also says more about the collection, one that excludes, for example, the Bellini masterpiece Norma while including Twentieth Century smash hits like The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe and Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (boy it's hard to stop humming those Glass tunes). 

Nabucco's story line seems a curious one for Verdi, in his grief, to tackle, but the impresario of La Scala pressed him to undertake it.  The libretto is based on biblical stories of the trials and tribulations of the Hebrews in Jerusalem as they are attacked and conquered by the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar II (shortened to Nabucco) from Babylon, who after destroying their great Temple hauls them off to Babylon as slaves.  That part is historical.  The libretto adds a love triangle between a Hebrew soldier of royal blood and Nabucco’s two daughters who both desire the young man.  The rejected sister vows vengeance, and eventually usurps the throne intending to kill the Hebrew captives.  Great melodrama ensues.      

Although it has grand musical moments, apart from one piece Nabucco’s music is rarely featured on compilation albums.  One reason may be that despite many wonderful ensemble sections, the tenor role is minimal – the solos and most of the male singing are for the bass and the baritone.  In fact, the bass has a great deal of solo singing, though too much of that low, low register for my taste.  Certainly a band or an orchestra needs a double bass fiddle, but not front and center carrying the melody.  Nevertheless, there is some beautiful music.  Notable is the moving second act quartet, which blends into a moving ensemble as more singers join in.  The one well-known number is the melodic and stirring "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," sung by a downtrodden group of Hebrew slaves toiling along the Euphrates who sing the hopeful “Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate” ("Fly, thought, on golden wings").  In fact, when Nabucco premiered some feared the piece would remind northern Italians of their subjugation by their then Austrian rulers and thus enflame political passions.

This is the recording I have been enjoying;
Domingo sings the relatively-small tenor role
Lyric's major singers are a bunch of Verdians.  Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan returned to the Lyric in the lead role of the spurned and vengeful daughter Abigaille.  She was terrific.  I enjoyed her last year in the lead role in Tosca and thought (link) her “a great actress with a great voice.”  About that performance, Lawrence A. Johnson wrote (link) that Serjan “vocally was beyond reproach, her gleaming lyric-dramatic instrument communicating a wide range of intense emotions as touchingly as her expressive face.”  Music critic Jay Nordlinger caught Serjan a few years ago in Verdi’s Macbeth at the Salzburg Festival and praised her performance, writing that she “smoked, smoldered, and scalded her way through the role.  She could not have been darker, and she was wonderfully effective.  Her soft high notes ... were astounding.” 

Serbian baritone Željko Lucic was strong as the king Nabucco, coming alive in the second half.  He has a warm, powerful voice.  He is a regular at the Met, having sung two roles just last fall – Iago in Otello and Scarpia in Tosca.  Rounding out the all-Slav cast in the three major roles was Russian bass Dmitry Belosselskiy, strong in his part as Zaccaria, the High Priest of the Hebrews.  His bass sound is as forceful and vibrating as I think I have ever heard.  He opened the current season at La Scala alongside Anna Netrebko in Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco.  Reviewing Belosselskiy’s performance last year in Verdi’s Ernani, Nordlinger wrote that “he owns a beautiful instrument.”  The actual lovers in the story, who set many of the events in motion, have small roles – the Hebrew soldier Ismaele was Russian tenor Sergei Skorokhodov and Nabucco’s daughter Fenena was American mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong.  The Lyric snuck one Italian into the production in the form of conductor Carlo Rizzi.  

The Lyric set was striking in its vivid coloring, though excessively stark and spare in design.  Props were de minimus.  Here budget constraints melded with minimalist Ikea sensibilities.  As for costumes, the suffering Hebrews were all in mourning black, the slaughtering and arsonist Babylonians all in flame red.  Many of the backgrounds were in a deep, rich blue, perhaps to recall the blue used on the traditional Jewish prayer shawls worn at synagogue, a reminder of the great Temple just lost.

The libretto’s story of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity is broadly based on historical fact.  In the opera, though, Nabucco, the Nebuchadnezzar of Hanging Gardens and Ishtar Gate fame (link), proclaims himself a god and is promptly struck mad by the true Hebrew God.  Fortunately, he eventually recognizes the true God just in time to regain his senses and save his daughter Fenena, Ismaele, and the other Hebrew captives from execution at the hands of the vengeful Abigaille.  The operatic, fictional Nabucco is a composite of a number of historical characters, one of which is Cyrus, the Persian king who eventually freed the captives and allowed them to return to Judea.  The real history was not so easy on the Hebrews, but filled with such grand spectacle and beautiful music, we’re happy to let Verdi and his librettist take the liberties needed to produce such a wonderful musical story. 

R Balsamo 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Let's Again Play "Guess the Political Party!" at the Daily Mail: Its Liberal Bias On Full View

On the Daily Mail site on January 28, 2016 -- two adjacent articles:

The politician on the right cut off a long-winded speaker's prayer -- at worst a rude act, while at best an appropriate and well-deserved maneuver.  He is named explicitly as a Republican, twice, just in the article's headers. 

Meanwhile, the "corrupt" Chicago "city official" on the left "faces years in prison" for his corruption involving "the administration" of the City of Chicago.  His known behavior is infinitely worse than that of the first official, yet his political party is not mentioned at all in the headline.  In fact, even in the article, his political party is not mentioned.  Not mentioned either is the political party to which everyone in the "administration" of the City of Chicago belongs.  Apparently the Brits at the Daily Mail don't realize that every educated American over 21 years old knows that Chicago has been in the tight grip of the Democrat Party for generations and that every "city official" and every single person in the city's "administration" is a Democrat.  But for the Daily Mail that's a fact not worth mentioning, and they're too ignorant of American politics to know everyone would be on to their subterfuge.  They only look pathetic in their failed manipulation.  But should a Republican allegedly be rude, well, he must be called out.

As I pointed out in a previous post on the Daily Mail, this tactic appears to involve a begrudging coverage of a Democrat scandal that leaves out the Democrat part, juxtaposed with an article about some Republican peccadillo that emphasizes the Republican part, all in an effort to mislead inattentive and unsuspecting readers into thinking that both articles involved Republicans.

R Balsamo

Related post:
The Guess That Political Party Game – Daily Mail Edition

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Corrupt Hillary and Quisling Republicans Fight Trump & Cruz for the Republic

The primary voting season is about to start, and this time around the big picture in presidential politics is as unstable and threatening and infuriating as at any time in my life. 

Democrat party leaders see voters as puppets who must be ruled and see themselves as the puppet masters to do just that.  For would-be dictators, power is the ultimate goal, and corruption along the way is a feature, not a bug.  Just look at any city (try Chicago) or state (how about Illinois) that has been solidly in the grip of Democrats for a long time.  Corruption oozes from every pore.  Now comes Hillary Clinton, from Illinois no less and an acolyte of the late Chicago communist agitator-extraordinaire Saul Alinsky.  From all we already know of her, from Whitewater and the Rose law firm and cattle futures, to the illegal, unsecured private server set up to escape legal controls and proper oversight, and up through the Clinton Foundation, by every honest and rational analysis carefully arranged to launder bribes to the sitting United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is the most personally corrupt major politician in American history.  And an inveterate liar to boot.  Yet she leads Democrat party polling for the nomination for president.  This is end-of-the-Republic stuff.

Among Republican voters, maverick Donald Trump maintains his big lead.  Although certainly not of consistent conservative views and not even a consistent Republican, he is spot on right now about the biggest issue at hand – open borders and amnesty for illegals that threaten American wages now and promise to erode them for generations.  As I have written before, Democrat leaders want open borders to gain more Democrat voters, and they figure the workers who support them blindly will stay blind.  The Republican Party elites, funded by business interests, want open borders to access a bottomless cup of cheap labor (and who cares if they're more Democrat voters who will bury the principles for which the Republican Party is supposed to stand).  The American workers get screwed.  
And so Trump has caught on with many Republican voters who see him as the repudiation of the Quisling leaders of their party.  A very flawed vessel for that message, to be sure, but an effective one as it has turned out.  The party that has in the last 15 years exploded budgets, that has sent thousands of brave and loyal Americans to die in fruitless and thankless and endless conflicts in the Muslim world, that has enlarged big government beyond all anticipations via such affronts as the Homeland Security Department, the federal takeover of education, and the recent detestable "Cromnibus" bill, that has voted overwhelmingly for every radical liberal supreme court nominee – the very party leaders who brought us all that and much more now scream “trust us, not Trump!  And not Cruz either!  They're dangerous!”  Those same party leaders, from Boehner and McConnell, from GW Bush and John McCain, to such men now as Speaker Ryan (my how he has disappointed) and ¡Jeb!, are happy to share in the gravy train racket that is big government and will cooperate with Democrats in destroying free men and women who reject that racket, as they force through their huge, impenetrable bills that hide all kinds of political mischief and that surreptitiously fund all the perfidy, like Obamacare and open borders, they publicly profess to oppose. 
I’m drawn to those liberty-lovers whom these feckless Republican leaders truly fear and to those who have been strong and consistent in their advocacy for the politics of liberty, constitutional government, and the rule of law fairly and equally enforced.  I’m for Cruz.

R Balsamo

Friday, January 15, 2016

Greek Heavy Hitters at the Field

At the wonderful temporary exhibit The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander at the Field Museum in Chicago -- an extensive display of artifacts from pre-Classical and Classical Greece.  There are maps and explanatory text aplenty, though not quite up to the quality and quantity shown in the Field's large permanent exhibit on China -- but still very well-done all the same.    

Left to right:  Plato, Aristotle, and Demosthenes.  All three are Roman copies of now-lost Greek originals, 4th Century BC, from the collection of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

A stele which marked graves of wealthy citizens, from the 4th century BC, courtesy of the Archaeological Museum of Pella [Greek Macedonia].

Statue of  Hoplite known as Leonidas, the Spartan king of Thermopylae fame.  From the Acropolis of Sparta, 5th Century BC, now at the Archaeological Museum of Sparta.

A remarkable display of objects mostly on loan from Greece.  Well worth a visit to the treasure that is the Field.

R Balsamo

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Republican Elites Find Trump’s Reagan Democrats Revolting; Cheap Labor and Cheap Votes For Everyone!

From memory, an exchange in Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part I goes something like this:  Lackey to the French king at the start of the French Revolution:  “Sir, the peasants are revolting;” King: “Boy, you can say that again, they sure are.”  The other day the elites of the Republican Party broadcast a response to Obama’s State of the Union address, a response that by many reports didn’t hit Obama’s record and policies very hard.  But what the Republican elite response did do was slam leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his supporters as “angry voices” and admonished them to, in so many words, basically shut up and go along with the Democrat-lite program of new Republican Speaker Paul Ryan (BFF of radical open border Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez) and the Republican establishment.  The program that prominently includes open borders to immigrants. 

Open borders to basically any and all immigrants, a point we seem to be halfway to already, would for generations depress wages, already stagnant, for low- and medium-skilled workers in the United States.  Trump’s opposition to open borders and calls for tighter controls on immigration explains his strong support among blue collar workers, traditionally Democrats, even among blacks and Hispanics who understand the deleterious impact more immigration will have on their jobs and wages.  The Democrats want open borders to gain more Democrat voters, and they figure the workers who support them blindly will stay blind.  The Republican party elites, funded by business interests, want open borders to access a bottomless cup of cheap labor.  The American workers get screwed and they’re rightfully “angry” about that.  Those “Reagan Democrats” who now see clearly what's going on want to return to the Republican party, but Paul Ryan and the elites of Republican party don’t want them.  They’d rather have Hillary Clinton, corrupt to the bone, with open borders and cheap labor.  Republican elites would be happy to “pay to play” with Hillary – they think they can make a lot of money with her and her crowd; with Donald Trump and the “angry voices” of his supporters, not so much. 

R Balsamo

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Domingo & Martinez at the Lyric

Last evening the Lyric Opera of Chicago presented Placido Domingo, Ana Maria Martinez, and the Lyric Orchestra in concert to a packed house.  Though Domingo’s voice is not quite what it once was, he is still wonderful to see and hear, still touring and performing at 74 years old.  Martinez is well-known at the Lyric, and I had the good fortune in recent years to catch her as Mimi in La Boheme (link) and at a Stars of the Lyric late-summer outdoor concert (link).  The concert was a bit subdued emotionally and at times a touch perfunctory, but the audience loved it.  Special was the beautiful baritone-soprano duet from La Traviata, where the thirty or so year difference between the singers perfectly matched the storyline.  Other highlights for me included the love duet from The Merry Widow and “Tonight” from West Side Story.  The Lyric Opera Orchestra performed a number of pieces alone, including the rousing overture from Verdi’s La forza del destino.              

Domingo’s solos included Lehar’s “Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz” and Torroba’s “Amor, Vida De Mi Vida”, both of which he sang long ago in Three Tenors concerts, and arias from Andrea Chenier and Macbeth.  Martinez’s program included an aria from Ernani and “If I Loved You” from Carousel.  They concluded their encore set with a pleasant surprise, at least to me – a two-part rendering of the De Curtis Neapolitan song “Non Ti Scordar di Me,” which is as moving and melodic as the composer’s much more well-known “Torna a Surriento.”  The city is fortunate to have the Lyric.  In all a wonderful way to spend a cold winter evening in Chicago.

R Balsamo