Articles and Posts by Tom Piatak:
Andy Williams, RIP(0)
Today brings news of the death of Andy Williams at the age of 84. I suspect most of those saddened by this news are near Williams’ own age, but I liked Williams’ singing and more generally have always enjoyed the American popular music that preceded and for a while coexisted with what became rock music. The obituaries rightly note Williams’ association with the great Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini song Moon River and the popularity of his Christmas specials and music. One of the Christmas albums my parents enjoyed playing when I was growing up was Williams’ 1974 Christmas Present, a lovely album featuring almost exclusively religious carols. But Williams sang much more worth listening to, such as a vocal version of Hugo Winterhalter’s hit from the ’50s, Canadian Sunset, itself reminiscent of the great Big Band music of the 1940s.
Today, of course, no one sings like Andy Williams, and no one writes songs like Moon River or Canadian Sunset. Which is a shame. The tsunami of rock has flattened all before it, obliterating music that is simply pleasant, as Williams’ was. Or perhaps drowned it out. Rock music is often liked because it is loud, and many of those who go to rock concerts have learned to bring earplugs with them, something that would have astounded all previous generations of concertgoers There’s a reason Spinal Tap wanted speakers that go to 11. What passes for popular music today, from rap to Lady Gaga, scarcely qualifies as music, and many of today’s top stars cannot sing and barely pretend to, relying instead on various forms of technical wizardry to transform their meager talent into something at least some people can listen to. Give me an Andy Williams any day over that.
Free Trade Is For Suckers(0)
Yesterday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer featured an interesting editorial by John Colm, the president of WIRE-Net, a local organization designed to promote manufacturing. As Colm noted, “China massively subsidizes [its] exports to the United States through currency manipulation, support to state-owned industries and other means” and “Most of the world has consumption or value-added taxes that . . .are rebated when companies export products and are charged to U. S. companies that export to those countries, like a tariff.” In other words, only the United States clings to the ideology of free trade, while other countries take the manufacturing jobs that used to be ours. Up to 97% of the jobs being created in the United States are in sectors of the economy not subject to foreign competition. As a result, America has gone from a country whose economy was based on Americans making products for other Americans to an economy that will increasingly be based on Americans emptying each others’ bedpans. (That’s what “service jobs” in “health care” means).
Colm also noted that “Germany and other countries focus on technical and manufacturing training geared toward their industry champions. Apprenticeships are used widely across industries and train high-quality workers beginning in high school.” It would indeed seem to make sense to have an educational system that provides technical training to the majority of students who should not go to college. But that’s not how the Obama Adminstration sees it, which instead is busily promoting the destructive fantasy of universal college education. It is easy to see why this fantasy is popular with such reliable Democratic constituencies as the professoriat and the college bureaucracy, since it will enable them to grow even richer. But it is much harder to see what it does for the students and their families who will end up going deep into debt to pay for a devalued college degree that, in an economy emptied of manufactruing jobs, will likely lead only to a low-wage service job, perhaps in the burgeoning bedpan emptying sector.
Yesterday brought the shocking news of the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, by a Moslem mob in Benghazi, Libya. The site of the murder is significant: Benghazi was the stronghold of the rebellion against Moammar Khadafy, a rebellion that succeeded only because of help from the United States. Stevens’ murder brought home a point that should have been evident far earlier: the United States should not be assisting the forces of the so-called Arab Spring. What possible sense does it make to arm and finance people who hate us and want to kill us?
Yesterday the AP had a very interesting story on newly declassified documents that support the view that FDR and Churchill knew that the Soviets were responsible for the massacre of over 20,000 Polish prisoners of war at the same time they were publicly following Stalin’s lead and blaming the massacre on the Nazis. Later on, of course, FDR and Churchill followed Stalin’s lead and consigned Poland to Soviet domination, even though Britain began the war fighting for Polish independence and benefited greatly from the Poles who fought for the Allies throughout the war, particulalry the Polish pilots who may have provided the balance of victory during the Battle of Britain.
This story will have no impact on public opinion, which sees World War II as an unambigous morality tale and has largely forgotten about the tens of millions of victims of Soviet Communism. It will have no impact on most professional historians, either, who have no more difficulty rationalizing the West’s alliance with Stalin than FDR and Churchill did. But it is still satisfying to see some more of the truth come out.
Globalization Hurts the Middle Class(0)
Derek Thompson of The Atlantic has an interesting post arguing that globalization is the single most important factor in the decline of the American middle class. Among other facts, Thompson notes that 97% of the jobs being created in America are in sectors of the economy not subject to foreign competition. It’s good that at least some in the mainstream media are catching up to reality and recognizing that globalization is not the great good that decades of propaganda found in that same mainstream media said it was. But if you wanted to learn that globalization was bad before great damage had been done, you would have had to turn to publications willing to buck the conventional wisdom, such as this one.
Pay Up Or Else(0)
Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer has an article analyzing a revealing ad the Obama campaign is running here in Ohio. In it, two women talk about Mitt Romney’s opposition to the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate. One of the women tells the other, “It’s about a woman being able to make decisions.” The ad then informs the viewer that Romney “Opposes requiring employers to cover contraception.”
Needless to say, Romney is not advocating that contraception be outlawed. Or even that it be subject to ruinous taxes. Romney’s position simply is that employers who are morally opposed to contraception should not have to subsidize their employees’ use of contraception. That is the way things have worked in America for a long time, with respect to contraception and nearly everything else. By contrast, this ad tells us that if someone has to pay her own money to buy something, she is no longer “able to make decisions.” Giving everyone the ability “to make decisions” under this new dispensation will be a very expensive proposition indeed. Ominously, the Plain Dealer judged this ad to be completely true.
Yes, Virginia, Paul Ryan Is Catholic(0)
Venues in which a person’s fidelity to Catholic teaching is generally viewed as a negative are suddenly voicing concern about Paul Ryan’s adherence to Catholic social teaching. It’s not, of course, that Daily Kos or the Daily Beast have suddenly embraced Catholicism. It’s that they’re worried that Ryan might help Romney win Catholic votes and the election, thus depriving Barack Obama of the second term that most major media outlets are working assiduously to give him.
Today, Ryan acquired a significant ally in fending off such attacks, Robert Morlino, the bishop of Ryan’s home diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. In a powerful column published on the website of the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Morlino writes, “Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above.” Morlino adds that he “mention[s] this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one’s right to a good reputation.” In other words, the leftist media outlets charging Ryan with being a bad Catholic are engaged in slander.
Morlino also reminds us why those outlets normally applaud Catholics who dissent from Catholic teaching. Morlino notes that Catholics can never approve intrinsic evil, and writes that “abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, government-coerced secularism, and socialism” all qualify. Morlino’s list more or less summarizes President Obama’s platform and the editorial line of most major media outlets in this country. Which is why Catholics trying to decide how to cast their ballot should take media attacks on Ryan, including on Ryan’s Catholicism, with a very large grain of salt.
This morning, Mitt Romney chose the backdrop of the USS Wisconsin, one of four members of the mighty Iowa class and a magnificent symbol of American power, to introduce Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate. If Ryan becomes vice president, he will be the first member of the House of Representatives elected vice president since John Nance Garner, FDR’s running mate in 1932 and 1936.
Of course, Ryan is best known for his efforts to restrain the growth of the federal government, particularly entitlements. His addition to the ticket thus represents a sharp contrast with the last congressman chosen to be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, Jack Kemp, who famously derided a focus on budget cutting as “root canal economics.” Ryan’s budget will certainly provide a target for the Obama campaign, which will try to take the focus off the dismal economy and stoke fears about what a Republican presidency would mean for those dependent on federal spending. But Romney clearly believes that Ryan is the ideal candidate to appeal to growing anxiety about what our enormous and exploding debt portends for the future.
Ryan is the first Catholic to be put on the GOP’s national ticket since Barry Goldwater chose William Miller as his running mate in 1964, and he thus embodies the type of voter Romney will need to win to capture the White House. It is difficult to see how Romney wins if he fails to win the Midwest or Catholics. (Conversely, Ryan’s selection means that the GOP, the political home for a majority of America’s white Protestants, will run a ticket without a Protestant for the first time in its history). It remains to be seen whether Ryan’s sometimes doctrinaire libertarianism will help Romney win those voters and the White House.
Wages Now Lower Than in 1968(0)
This month the Census Bureau reported that the inflation adjusted median income for male workers was $32,127 in 2010, less than the $32,844 such workers earned in 1968. There are, of course, many reasons for this prolonged wage stagnation, but chief among them are mass immigration, which began with the Immigration Act of 1965, and free trade, which was given a substantial boost by the Kennedy Round of GATT, also occurring in the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, despite some rhetorial flourishes, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney remain committed to both mass immigration and free trade. So, whoever wins in November, middle class Americans will continue to lose.
Farewell to Mayberry(0)
Yesterday brought the news of Andy Griffith’s death at 86. Unfortunately, the type of television exemplified by The Andy Griffiith Show died long before its star did. Long gone are the days when the networks aired prime time series that parents could safely allow their children to watch, much less a prime time in which such shows actually dominated the competition. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a network even making a show like The Andy Griffith Show today. After all, The Andy Griffith Show was wholesome and innocent and completely devoid of vulgarity or sexual immorality or even any topical references to current events, much less propaganda for favored Hollywood causes. There hasn’t been a show like that on prime time network television in many years. And those responsible for what prime time network television has become deserve much worse than a visit to Sheriff Andy Taylor’s jail, better known to fans of the series as “The Rock.”
UPDATE: Here is the view of a friend: ”Sheriff Andy Taylor set a cultural norm for decent behavior. Which is, as it turns out, pretty rare. Greatest show ever.”