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The Captain and the King

The WallStreet Journal 

JANUARY 7, 2011

Why Owen Honors had to go, and why a stammering monarch is a movie hero.
By PEGGY NOONAN


At a time of new beginnings in Washington, and as a new year starts, some thoughts on leadership that begin with two questions. First, why is it a good thing that the captain of the USS Enterprise was this week relieved of his duties? Second, why is the movie “The King’s Speech” so popular and admired? The questions are united by a theme. It is that no one knows how to act anymore, and people miss people who knew how to act.

Capt. Owen Honors, commanding officer of an aircraft carrier, was revealed to have made and shown to his crew videos that have been variously described in the press as “lewd,” “raunchy,” “profane” and “ribald.” They are. Adm. John Harvey, who Wednesday relieved Capt. Honors of his duties, said the captain’s action “calls into question his character and undermines his credibility.” Also true.

In a way it’s not shocking that Capt. Honors did what he did, because he came from a culture, our culture, in which, to be kind about it, anything goes. Mainstream movies, television, music—all is raunch. To say the obvious, John Paul Jones, Bull Halsey and Elmo Zumwalt likely wouldn’t have made those videos, if they could have. More to the point, some average, undistinguished naval captain in 1968 wouldn’t have made them either, because he would have had his mind and consciousness formed in the 1930s and ’40s, when our culture was more coherent and constructive. It can also be said that Capt. Honors’s videos were not extreme by the standards of our day. Even his bigotry seemed self-spoofing, as obviously nitwittish and vulgar as the character he was playing—himself—was nitwittish and vulgar.

But the videos were a shock in that this was a captain of the U.S. Navy, commanding a nuclear-powered ship, and acting in a way that was without dignity, stature or apartness. He was acting as if it was important to him to be seen as one of the guys, with regular standards, like everyone else.

But it’s a great mistake when you are in a leadership position to want to be like everyone else. Because that, actually, is not your job. Your job is to be better, and to set standards that those below you have to reach to meet. And you have to do this even when it’s hard, even when you know you yourself don’t quite meet the standards you represent.

A captain has to be a captain. He can’t make videos referencing masturbation and oral sex. He has to uphold values even though he finds them antique, he has to represent virtues he may not in fact possess, he has to be, in his person, someone sailors aspire to be.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is shown with her husband, King George VI, and their two daughters, Princess Elizabeth, center, and Princess Margaret, in 1937. (AP Photo)
A lot of our leaders—the only exceptions I can think of at the moment are nuns in orders that wear habits—have become confused about something, and it has to do with being an adult, with being truly mature and sober. When no one wants to be the stuffy old person, when no one wants to be “the establishment,” when no one accepts the role of authority figure, everything gets damaged, lowered. The young aren’t taught what they need to know. And they know they’re not being taught, and on some level they resent it. For the past 20 years I have heard parents brag, “I brought up my child to question authority.” Ten years ago I started thinking, “Really? Well good luck finding it, junior.”

In England this week the story continues to be Kate Middleton, who is not an aristocrat, marrying into the royal family. Meaning she’s about to become, in a way, a leader within her culture. Clever people on TV are giving her media advice. Be one of us, they say, lighten and brighten, bring in less formality and stultifying stiffness.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. If any family ever needed to be classed up it is Britain’s royals, with the exception of Queen Elizabeth, that great lady. Kate should take her polite and striving middle-class upbringing and use it to add dignity and distance to the House of Windsor. They came close to losing public support for the monarchy the past 40 years, in part due to the advice of PR geniuses who told them, in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, to get with it. Stop being fusty, be hipper, show your humanity. It seemed reasonable—Britain was exploding with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Cool Britannia. The royals had to catch up. And so they showed their human side, and revealed over the decades that they were not better than anyone else, not more disciplined, serious, patriotic, faithful or self-denying. Intimate public confessions, raucous medieval tournaments in which they rolled in the mud, toe sucking. This is royalty? Then what are slobs for?

The only good advice would have been: Stay boring, strive to appear to be persons of rectitude and high morality, don’t be modern, stand for “the permanent against the merely prevalent,” love God and his church, don’t act out and act up. Be good.

That, looking back, is all Britain needed. But it’s what every nation needs, now more than ever, from its leaders. Which gets us to “The King’s Speech.”

It is England, the 1930s, a time of gathering crises. The duke of York, a shy man with a hopeless stammer, is forced to accept the throne when his brother abdicates. “I am not a king,” he sobs; he is, by nature and training, a naval officer. Hitler is rising, England is endangered. The new, unsure king’s first live BBC speech to the nation looms.

He will stutter. But he is England. England can’t stutter. It can’t falter, it can’t sound or seem unsure at a time like this. King George VI and his good wife set themselves, with the help of an eccentric speech therapist, to cure or at least manage his condition.

He sacrifices his desire not to be king, not to lead, not to make that damn speech. He does it with commitment, courage, effort. He does it for his country.

He and his wife aren’t attempting to be hip, they are attempting to be adequate to the situation. The king is aware of the responsibilities of his position, and demands a certain deference. When his therapist tells him they must work as equals, he stammers, “I’d be home with my wife and no one would give a damn, if we were equals.” As for personal style, the great scene is when the king, on the prompting of the therapist, screams every low curse word he knows. It’s funny because it’s obvious he doesn’t say those words. He is a person of restraint, and old-fashioned ways. He doesn’t want to be one of the guys.

And audiences love it. The Journal’s Joe Morgenstern called the movie “simply sublime,” and it is, for some simple reasons. It’s about someone being a grown-up, someone doing his job, someone assuming responsibility. It is about a time when someone was taking on the mantle of leadership, someone was sacrificing his comfort for his country.

Someone was old-school. Someone wasn’t cool.

What a relief to see it. No wonder at the almost-full 4:45 p.m. showing at an uptown Manhattan theatre on Wednesday, they burst into applause, and some, you could tell, wanted to cheer.

Days of Auld Lang What?

DECEMBER 31, 2010

The origin of the New Year’s anthem—

By PEGGY NOONAN

You know exactly when you’ll hear it, and you probably won’t hear it again for a year. The big clock will hit 11:59:50, the countdown will begin—10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4—and the sounds will rise: the party horns, fireworks and shouts of “Happy New Year!

And then they’ll play that song: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?”

It is a poem in Scots dialect, set to a Scots folk tune, and an unscientific survey says that a lot of us don’t think much about the words, or even know them. The great film director Mike Nichols came to America from Germany as a child, when his family fled Hitler. He had to learn a lot of English quickly and never got around to “Auld Lang Syne”: “I was too busy with words like ‘emergency exit’ on the school bus,” he told me. “As a result, I find myself weeping at gibberish on New Year’s Eve. I enjoy that.”

The screen and television writer Aaron Sorkin, who this year, with “The Social Network,” gives Paddy Chayefsky a run for his money, says that every year he means to learn the words. “Then someone tells me that’s not a good enough New Year’s resolution and I really need to quit smoking.”

Auld Lang Syne”—the phrase can be translated as “long, long ago,” or “old long since,” but I like “old times past”—is a song that asks a question, a tender little question that has to do with the nature of being alive, of being a person on a journey in the world. It not only asks, it gives an answer.

It was written, or written down, by Robert Burns, lyric poet and Bard of Scotland. In 1788 he sent a copy of the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, with the words: “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, has never been in print.” Burns was interested in the culture of Scotland, and collected old folk tales and poems. He said he got this one “from an old man”—no one knows who—and wrote it down. Being a writer, Burns revised and compressed. He found the phrase auld lang syne “exceedingly expressive” and thought whoever first wrote the poem “heaven inspired.” The song spread throughout Scotland, where it was sung to mark the end of the old year, and soon to the English-speaking world, where it’s sung to mark the new.

The question it asks is clear: Should those we knew and loved be forgotten and never thought of? Should old times past be forgotten? No, says the song, they shouldn’t be. We’ll remember those times and those people, we’ll toast them now and always, we’ll keep them close. “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet.”

The phrase old acquaintance is important,” says my friend John Whitehead, fabled figure of the old Goldman Sachs, the Reagan State Department, and D-Day. “It’s not only your close friends and people you love, it’s people you knew even casually, and you think of them and it brings tears to my eyes.” For him, acquaintance includes, “your heroes, my heroes—the Winston Churchills of life, the ones you admire. They’re old acquaintances too.”

But “the interesting, more serious message in the song is that the past is important, we mustn’t forget it, the old has something for us.”

So does the present, as the last stanza makes clear. The song is not only about those who were in your life, but those who are in your life. “And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give a hand of thine, We’ll take a right good-will draught for auld lang syne.”

To Tom Coburn, a U.S. senator from Oklahoma, the song is about friendship: “I think it’s a description of the things we lose in our hurry to do things. We forget to be a friend. We have to take the time to make friends and be friends, to sit and tell stories and listen to those of others.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said he always experienced the song as celebratory and joyful until something happened in 2004. Mr. Daniels was running for office, and it became a new bonding experience for him and his father, who followed the campaign closely: “He loved my stories from the road.” The elder Daniels died unexpectedly in August, “50 days short of my election as governor.” At a New Year’s party, the governor-elect heard the song in a new way. Ever since, “I hear its wistfulness.”

Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes,” enjoying one of the great careers in the history of broadcast news, thinks of childhood when she thinks of “Auld Lang Syne”: “I see New Year’s Eve parties going way back, all the way back to when we were little kids and you had to kiss someone at midnight and you had to sing that song.” She interviewed Mark Zuckerberg recently. “Maybe in the age of Facebook you don’t lose old friends,” she says. “Maybe it’s obsolete.” Maybe “they’ll have to change the song.”

For the journalist and author Marie Brenner, the song didn’t come alive until she moved from her native Texas to New York City, in the 1970s. That first New Year’s in town, “Auld Lang Syne was a revelation to me. . . . I thought, this is beautiful and maybe written by a Broadway composer, by Rodgers and Hammerstein.” She saw people singing it “on the street, and at a party in a bar downtown.” There was “this gorgeous moment when everyone seemed to know the words, and people looked teary and, yes, drunk.” They played the song back in San Antonio, “but it took me coming to New York to really hear it.”

The song is a staple in movies, but when I asked people to think of the greatest “Auld Lang Syne scene,” every one of them had the same answer. Not “When Harry Met Sally,” not “Out of Africa,” not, for film buffs, Charlie Chaplin’s “The Gold Rush.” The great “Auld Lang Syne” scene in cinematic history is from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which Mr. Sorkin puckishly describes as “Frank Capra’s classic tale of an angel who takes up the cause of a progressive in order to defeat a heartless conservative. It’s possible I’m misinterpreting the movie, but the song still works.”

The scene comes at the end of the film. Friends surround George Bailey, recently rescued by an angel. Someone bumps against the Christmas tree and a bell ornament makes a sound. George’s daughter says, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings,” and George looks up and winks. “Thanks, Clarence,” he says, as the music swells. God bless the baby boomers who discovered that film on TV after their elders dismissed it as Capra-corn.

Tonight I’ll be at Suzie and Joe’s, with whom I worked at CBS News in auld lang syne. I’ll think of some who won’t be entering the new year with us—big, sweet-hearted dynamo Richard Holbrooke, and Ted Sorensen, counselor to presidents, whose pen was a terrible swift sword. I’ll take a cup of kindness yet for them, for all the old acquaintances in this piece, and for the readers, for 10 years now, of this column. We mark an anniversary. Thank you for being in my life. Happy New Year.

The Last Cab Ride

The Last Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn.
After waiting a few minutes I walked to the
Door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a
Frail, elderly voice. I could hear something
Being dragged across the floor.

After
A long pause, the door opened. A small woman in
Her 90′s stood before me. She was wearing a
Print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned
On it, like somebody out of a 1940′s Movie.

By her side was a small nylon
Suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had
Lived in it for years. All the furniture was
Covered with sheets.

There were no
Clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils
On the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
Box filled with photos and
Glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag
Out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase
To the cab, then returned to assist the
Woman.

She took my arm and we walked
Slowly toward the curb.

She kept
Thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I
Told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers
The way I would want my mother
Treated.

‘Oh, you’re such a good
Boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave
Me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
Through downtown?’

‘It’s not the
Shortest way,’ I answered
Quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she
Said . ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a
Hospice…

I looked in the rear-view
Mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have
Any family left,’ she continued in a soft
Voice.. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very
Long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the
Meter.

‘What route would you like me
To take?’ I asked.

For the next two
Hours, we drove through the city. She showed me
The building where she had once worked as an
Elevator
Operator.

We drove through the
Neighborhood where she and her husband had lived
When they were newlyweds She had me pull up in
Front of a furniture warehouse that had once
Been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a
Girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow
In front of a particular building or corner and
Would sit staring into the darkness, saying
Nothing..

As the first hint of sun was
Creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m
Tired.. Let’s go now’.

We drove in
Silence to the address she had given me. It was
A low building, like a small convalescent home,
With a driveway that passed under a
Portico.

Two orderlies came out to
The cab as soon as we pulled up. They were
Solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I
Opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to
The door. The woman was already seated in a
Wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’
She asked, reaching into her
Purse.

‘Nothing,’ I Said

‘You have to make a living,’ she Answered.

‘There are other Passengers,’ I responded.

Almost
Without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She
Held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an
Old woman a little moment of joy,’ she
Said .
‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her
Hand, and then walked into the dim morning
Light.. Behind me, a door shut.. It was the sound
Of the closing of a life..

I didn’t
Pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove
Aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that
Day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had
Gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient
To end his shift?
What
If I had refused to take the run, or had honked
Once, then driven away?

On a quick
Review, I don’t think that I have done anything
More important in my life.

We’re
Conditioned to think that our lives revolve
Around great moments.

But great
Moments often catch us unaware-beautifully
Wrapped in what others may consider a small
One.

PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY
WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID ~BUT~THEY WILL
ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM
FEEL.

Life
may not be the party we hoped for, but while we
are here we might as well dance

Your Declaration of Independence from Obama and Pelosi

Do you remember the Contract with America? Millions of Americans came together to demand action from Washington on issues ranging from abortion and gun rights to out of control spending and regulation. And we won. Conservative candidates swept the polls and held back Washington’s power grabs, waste and self-indulgence for almost a decade. That was 16 years ago. Since then, politicians have abandoned America. Election after election, we see the same results. Incumbents get comfortable, outsiders become insiders, and before we know it… everything we worked for vanishes in the haze of bloated budgets, waves of illegal immigration, and outbursts of federal power. It’s time for a new Contract. We have gathered the 10 most important conservative issues into a list that we demand action and adherence to

Declaration of Independence
We, the undersigned American voters, are disgusted with the antagonism of many of our elected and appointed government officials toward American values, their violations of their oaths to uphold our Constitution, and their manifest disdain for our God-given, constitutional rights and liberty. The words and deeds which have come from such an attitude have made our federal government the most serious threat to the safety and freedom of Americans in our time.
You, our elected and/or appointed officials, are our representatives. Your authority over us is not unlimited: it is limited by our fundamental law, our Constitution. We expect you to uphold, not subvert, our fundamental values. We expect you to abide by your oath to support our Constitution. If you represent us, you should publicly support—in action as well as in speech—at least the following American principles:

Article I: Limited Government
The federal government has been given clearly limited and defined powers in the Constitution in order to preserve our freedom. The idea of Big Government running every aspect of our lives—from healthcare to the cars we drive—is revolting and unconstitutional. The founding fathers designed separation of powers with checks and balances into the Constitution to decentralize power and preserve our liberty. A constitutional amendment requiring term limits for all publically elected officials is necessary. Presidents, congressmen, senators, and judges who violate the Constitution’s limit on the powers of their offices—and do not work to prevent other officials’ transgressions of those limits—must be removed from office.

Article II: Gun Rights
The Second Amendment guarantees private citizens the right to keep and bear arms. The federal government has no authority to restrict this right in any way, shape, or form. Federal officials who do so must be removed from office.

Article III: Courts
Judges should interpret the law by studying the intentions of the framers of the Constitution and its amendments, and by adhering to legal precedents which are based squarely on those intentions. Judges who legislate—or amend our Constitution—from the bench must be removed from the bench.

Article IV: Federal Spending
Unconstitutional legislation and fiscal irresponsibility have produced out-of-control deficit spending that is crippling our future—and our children’s and grandchildren’s. The only way to bring Congress under control is to restrict how much they can tax and spend and one way to accomplish this is through a balanced budget amendment. Legislators and presidents who engage in uncontrolled spending must be removed from office.

Article V: Energy
Americans should be free to pursue energy options which use our own resources, don’t tax us to subsidize politically-favored groups, and don’t enslave us to foreign countries. We need sensible, constitutional environmental rules—not environmentalist extremism—the removal of impediments to the development of nuclear and other forms of energy, and freedom to drill in Anwar and elsewhere. Politicians who stand in the way of energy independence must be removed from office.

Article VI: Personal Responsibility
Government handouts in any form take from some to give to others and create dependence. Government does not exist to provide for its citizens and our Constitution does not authorize such legalized theft. Current federal compensation programs, including “corporate welfare”, should be phased out—and politicians who advocate such things should be removed from office.

Article VII: National Defense

A strong national defense is a constitutional as well as a practical necessity in this hostile world. Our citizens and our national interests must be protected. Terrorists should be tried in military tribunals and not given the rights of American citizens that so many of our troops have died to defend. Our military forces must be kept second-to-none: by a large margin. Politicians and officials who weaken our national defenses must be removed from office.

Article VIII: Borders
Secure borders are essential to the defense of our lives, liberty, and property. There is a legal way to come to this country and we welcome those who do so. Those who do not are breaking the law and should be treated as criminals. Amnesty is not an option for those who came here illegally. Politicians who advocate anything less must be removed from office.

Article IX: Right to Life
Human life unquestionably begins at conception. Ending the life of an unborn child via abortion is murder, is truly unconstitutional, and must be outlawed. Politicians whose character does not agree with this must be removed from office.

Article X: States Rights
The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The federal government has usurped many powers from the state governments. These powers must be returned to the respective states—for the sake of constitutionality and of our freedom. Politicians who oppose states’ rights must be removed from office.

CONCLUSION:
We the people of these United States declare that we will support candidates who support these principles and work against those who violate them.

America Was Built By Rugged Individualists Who’d Reject Obama

By Sam Samford

America Was Built By Rugged Individualists Who’d Reject Obama
America was built by people who fended for themselves, who expected nothing from the government except protection. They expected nothing from the government except protection from foreign enemies and a just rule of law. Other than that, stay the hell out of our lives. That’s who built America. The very people who founded this country constructed that kind of a government. The people who built this country revolted against high taxes, a tea tax specifically. America was built by people who believed in individuality, rugged individualism. I love saying that because it so ticks off the left, rugged individualism, hard work, minimal government, freedom and liberty.”
Sam Samford

Stop Big Labor

Dear Fellow Conservative,

I just got off the phone with my campaign manager, Marty Wilson, who informed me that The Wall Street Journal has reported Big Labor has pledged to spend $88 million in the next ten weeks on behalf of Barbara Boxer and other liberals around the country who are the exclusive beneficiaries of these special interest union dollars.

I’ve included the photo that accompanied the story. There she is — Barbara Boxer looking like the cat who ate the canary. Looks like she knows she’ll be cashing in on years of supporting unions at the expense of the taxpayers she was elected to serve.

Friend, I’m under constant attack from Barbara Boxer and her liberal friends. These attacks will only be more frequent and better funded between now and Election Day. We are in a dead heat with her in the polls and the momentum is heading our way, but we need your help to keep it up. Election experts predict the polls will remain tight all the way through Election Day.

This will be one of the most watched campaigns in the country, so we must be financially prepared to show just how angry we are with failed career politicians in Washington. Boxer has championed failed policies that have led California and the nation down a destructive path of increased government control, tax hikes and job loss. We can’t afford to sit back and allow her to coast to re-election again. So I’m turning to you for help.

Communicating with voters in a state as big as California is expensive. Barbara Boxer is able to dip in to her $11.3 million war chest and count on Big Labor and their $88 million. I’m counting on your support to fight back and move the polls in our favor.

There is tremendous excitement building in this campaign, and I have you to thank for this. But we don’t want to lose the excitement to negative attacks from Barbara Boxer. The reality is that we have the best chance in a generation to fire Barbara Boxer and replace her with a fiscal conservative who will stand up and fight back against the big-government agenda of Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

I am truly thankful for your generous support, and I look forward to building more momentum to finally retire Barbara Boxer and bring new representation to Washington!

Sincerely,

Carly Florina

Please donate any amount you can to help us try to recover legal costs in defending liberty and the right of free speech !