Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tribute: William F. Buckley Jr., R.I.P.

The legendary William F. Buckley Jr., the conservative writer, intellectual and controversialist, died Wednesday at the age of 82. His death is cause for sadness, but his long and productive life was a gift to this country.

It seemed that Buckley had always been with us, and always would be. Not long after stumbling upon Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative in my high school library, and devouring it, I began to discover other conservative and libertarian writers and thinkers--most notably Ayn Rand and her arch-nemesis, William F. Buckley. (And it always seemed anomalous that these two giants, both of whom were primarily concerned with human liberty, disliked each other so intensely.) I read few of my high-school textbooks, but I remember walking around school with a copy of Buckley’s Execution Eve. His work meant more to my political, philosophical and intellectual development than can be described.

A decade or so ago, I was privileged to be in the audience at Cooper Union for a debate that Buckley was taping for his TV show, Firing Line.  The economist Dr. Walter Williams, Buckley and somebody else, against a panel of liberals that included New York City political hack Mark Green. Truth be told, the conservatives got their butts kicked in the debate, but it was still entertaining.

After the show, or perhaps at intermission, I walked up on stage with a copy of one of Buckley’s books, hoping to get it signed. As I approached, he was chatting with another man, and I waited a few feet away. When the other man left, Buckley turned to me with a luminous smile and his hand extended, as if I were his oldest friend.  Not the facile greeting of a celebrity encountering yet another fan; pure “I’m happy to meet you and interested in what you’re about to say.” His genuineness, and the fact that it came from a man of his accomplishment to a perfect stranger, is warming even in memory.

I later obtained, from a photographer who happened to be working the event, a few photos of Buckley and me standing together as he signed my book. In one, Buckley and I are looking down at the open book on the podium as he autogaphs it; in another, he's handing me back the book. Looking at the photos later, I said to a friend, “Don’t you see what this symbolizes? It’s like he’s passing on the sacred scrolls to me. It’s like he’s telling me, ‘Take this and run with it. Do your part, boy. Don’t let me down.’” She replied, “I hope you never join a cult.”

Years later, I attended a Buckley book signing at a Barnes and Noble in New York City, and brought one of the photos with me. When I got to the front of the line, in addition to a copy of one of his books I gave him the photo and asked if he’d sign it. Examining it, he asked me what it was from. I said, “It’s a picture of you and me at an event at Cooper Union several years ago.” “Oh,” he said. “You’ve aged well.”

It’s also worth noting that Buckley was a strong supporter of the police. In his book The Unmaking of a Mayor, which chronicles his run for mayor of New York in 1965, he recounts addressing the annual NYPD Holy Name Society communion breakfast, and the controversy that followed his suggestion that the police, even those in the South, were to be commended for doing their duty and enforcing the law.

God cherish the soul of William F. Buckley Jr., and may he be reunited with his wife, Patricia, who passed away less than a year ago.  A life of thought and action and accomplishment, and America smarter, stronger and better for his having lived it.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Politics: Go 'Bama! Go 'Bama!

Whatever the results of the 2008 election turn out to be, they will be sad and disappointing for conservatives, and the following four years will be filled with angst.

John McCain, a great man by virtue of his military service, and the sacrifice he made for this country while imprisoned and abused by Communist savages, is nonetheless a deeply flawed political leader. On immigration, the issue perhaps most important in determining whether America as we know it will continue to exist, McCain favors the "comprehensive" approach--that is, reward those who are already here illegally by allowing them to become citizens, while leaving the borders open to allow the flood to continue unabated. On so-called "campaign finance reform," in partnership with a liberal Democrat he pushed through legislation restricting the right of groups of citizens to advocate for or against candidates during an election.

If McCain is elected, we can expect governance as we've come to know it from "moderate" Republicans: On almost every issue, he will start from an already pretty liberal position, then reach out to the Democrats to "compromise" away whatever elements of conservatism might remain in the proposal on the table. We can expect Sandra Day O'Connor- or David Souter-style judges, unbridled immigration and who knows what other nasty surprises. Only on military matters might we expect decent leadership from McCain.

Of course, we at the Finto File will probably end up supporting McCain, if not enthusiastically, as either of the Democrats would be infinitely worse. Nonetheless, although we would not support him in the general election, it's difficult not to root for Barack Obama as he continues doing what Republicans and conservatives have never quite been able to do--pound stakes (figuratively speaking) through the hearts of the Clintons.

It's true that both Hillary and Obama are hard-core leftists, and that the leadership of either of them would be hazardous to America's health. Yet Hillary is by far the more repulsive of the two...a stale, corrupt and deceitful socialist, as opposed to a fresh, apparently uncorrupted and relatively honest socialist.

Imagine four years of watching and listening to Hillary--the nails-on-the-chalkboard speaking style, the polyester pantsuits, the endlessly-changing positions on every issue, the trailer-park husband back to skulking around the White House corridors.

Obama, on the other hand, is kind of cool. He appears relatively open-minded regarding, if not supportive of, conservative thought, as when he talked about the transformative nature of Reagan's presidency. He doesn't have decades of scandal and corruption behind him (that we know of), as the Clintons do. He does have the militant, Al Sharpton-in-a-skirt wife, who had never been proud of our country until her hubby started doing well in the primaries. But Michelle Obama is still preferable to Bill Clinton as first spouse.

To repeat, Obama is far too liberal to be anything but a disaster as president. But we will all owe him a debt of gratitude if he completes the task of consigning the Clintons to the dustbin of history.

Imagine what a great, engaging and educational election campaign this could have been if Obama is the nominee, and the Republicans had also nominated a fresh, dynamic, well-spoken man...but a conservative.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

New York: The Finto File at the Chinese New Year parade

As part of our ongoing multi-cultural community outreach, the Finto File was on the scene for today's Chinese New Year parade in New York City's Chinatown. Thursday, February 7, marked the beginning of Chinese year 4706, known as the Year of the Rat (according to custom, each Chinese year is named after one of twelve animals).
 As in every New York City parade, the NYPD was the prime attraction (okay, a little bias on my part). Above, a historic New York police car takes part in the New Year parade.

In a parade tradition (above), a reveler dresses in costume.

A celebrant (above) stands in piles of multi-colored confetti and takes in the party vibe.

A few political candidates (above) participated in the parade, asking spectators for their votes and / or pieces of cheese.

Watch the Finto File for future explorations of New York's gorgeous mosaic. The Finto File team would also like to take this opportunity to recommend the pork buns at the Chatham Restaurant, where the Bowery meets Chatham Square...excellent, and only $1.70 each.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Politics: What if McCain gets the nod?

The hot debate among conservatives involves whether or not John McCain should be supported in the distasteful event he gets the Republican nomination. His victory appears more and more likely, thanks to all those fine moderates, independents and RINOs who are voting in the Republican primaries--not to mention Huckabee's gleeful and arrogant role as spoiler, and Romney's inability to connect to the voters.

Of course, maybe it's not too late.
Drudge is reporting a poll that shows Romney leading McCain in California, and there is still a bit more than a day for whatever momentum Romney has to continue.

But what if McCain is it? There are three options:

  • We can sit out this election, allow McCain, Hillary or Obama to win the presidency, and then spend the next four years opposing his or her efforts to destroy our country while we try to rebuild our movement and get ready for 2012. A variation on this option might involve a cabin in the woods and a supply of canned goods.
  • We can actively support Hillary (or Obama, if he's their candidate), with the thought that a real socialist is better than a phony conservative, and a Democrat victory would allow the Republican Party to spend a few years in the wilderness and perhaps regain its true identity. This option is being pushed most spectacularly by the great Ann Coulter. Check out this YouTube video: Her best line: "I would vote for the devil over McCain--thus, I will vote for Hillary over McCain."
  • We can support McCain as the lesser of two evils. This option is advocated by our friend Adele, who says: "I'm not ready to give the country to the Democrats yet." One has only to listen to one or two screeching sentences of a Hillary speech to sympathize with this position. But isn't it also repellent to contemplate supporting McCain and helping him win, only to spend the next four years cringing while he appoints liberal judges, restricts our freedom of speech, and holds hands with Ted Kennedy?
Quite an ugly dilemma, ain't it?

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