I’ve figured out who is responsible for Bhutto’s assassination

There’s been a lot of finger pointing in the few days since Bhutto’s assassination. John Edwards blamed George Bush. Mike Huckabee went so far as to blame the entire United States, apologizing on our behalf. Robert Novak thinks the United States is also to blame for the fact that it neither provided security nor did it push Musharraf to provide strong security for Bhutto. The Pakistani military might have been involved. Mark Steyn hints delicately that Bhutto’s own courage and foolhardiness may be to blame — something that is supported by the fact that, despite two prior assassination attempts, she voluntarily made herself a target by sticking it out of the top of her car, which placed her in a situation beyond protection. Al Qaeda has offered itself as a probable suspect, a claim Pakistan has hastened to endorse.

I think these assignments of blame are all too facile. I think the fault lies with the British. You see, in 1947, when the British withdrew from their Indian Empire, they acceded to Islamic demand that they create an Islamic nation — and, voila, Pakistan was born. The partition process had attendant upon it incredible violence and, as the Literary Encyclopedia (a nice source) notes, this initial violent rift seemed to set a template for the region in the next sixty years:

An estimated half a million people perished while seventeen million people were forced to move across the freshly demarcated frontiers of India and Pakistan. The blood-stained legacy of 1947 has cast an enduring shadow on inter-state relations and domestic politics in post-colonial South Asia. There are few burning issues in the subcontinent which cannot be traced, directly or indirectly, to the fateful moment when the British struck the partitioner’s axe. India and Pakistan have fought two full-scale wars over the former north Indian princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. An undeclared war, also over Kashmir, following nuclear tests by both countries in May 1998, resulted in a deadly standoff in the Kargil heights during the summer of 1999. An earlier war in 1971, preceded by a civil war in which Muslims slaughtered Muslims, led to Indian intervention and the breaking away of Bangladesh. The rise of religious majoritarianism in secular India – highlighted by the razing of a sixteenth-century mosque by Hindu militants in December 1992 and the systematic brutalization of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 – is rooted in partition, as is Pakistan’s drift towards a militant and bigoted form of Islam, a by-product of its efforts to espouse an ideology in contradistinction to India’s secular identity.

Not only did it set a template, of course, but it turned Pakistan into a swirling soup of Islamic (and other) malcontent. As is so often the case, Mark Steyn, in taking apart Bill Richardson’s silly pronouncement that we should just set up a representative government in Pakistan, points out the core problems with Pakistan:

But, since Governor Bill Richardson brought it up, it’s worth considering what exactly “the interests of the U.S.” are in Pakistan. The most immediate interest is in preventing the country’s tribal lands from becoming this decade’s Afghanistan – a huge Camp Osama graduating jihadist alumni from all over the world. That ship, if it hasn’t already sailed, has certainly cast off and is chugging out the harbor. Something called “the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” now operates a local franchise of Taliban rule in both north and south Waziristan, and is formally recognized by the Pakistan government in the Islamabad-Waziri treaty of just over a year ago. Officially, the treaty was intended to negotiate a truce, although to those unversed in the machinations of tribal politics it looked a lot more like a capitulation, an interpretation encouraged by the signing ceremony, which took place in a soccer stadium flying the flag of al-Qaeda.

Of course, the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” have always been somewhat loosely governed Federal Administration-wise. In the new issue of The Claremont Review Of Books, Stanley Kurtz’s fascinating round-up of various tomes by Akbar Ahmed (recently Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London and before that Political Agent in Waziristan) mentions en passant a factoid I vaguely remember from my schooldays – that even at the height of imperial power, the laws of British India, by treaty and tradition, only governed 100 yards either side of Waziristan’s main roads. Once you were off the shoulder, you were subject to the rule of various “maliks” (tribal bigshots). The British prided themselves on an ability to run the joint at arm’s length through discreet subsidy of favored locals. As a young lieutenant with the Malakand Field Force, Winston Churchill found the wiles of Sir Harold Deane, chief commissioner of the North-West Frontier Province, a tad frustrating. “We had with us a very brilliant political officer, a Major Deane, who was most disliked because he always stopped military operations,” recalled Churchill. “Apparently all these savage chiefs were his old friends and almost his blood relations. Nothing disturbed their friendship. In between fights, they talked as man to man and as pal to pal.”

The benign interpretation of Musharraf’s recent moves is that he’s doing a Major Deane. The reality is somewhat bleaker: Today, even that 200-yard corridor of nominal sovereignty has gone and Islamabad’s Political Agent is a much shrunken figure compared to his predecessors from the Raj. That doesn’t mean “foreign” influence is impossible in Waziristan. Osama bin Laden is, after all, a foreigner, and so are many of the other al-Qaeda A-listers holed up in the tribal lands. Jihadists arrested recently in Britain, Germany and Scandinavia all spent time training in Waziristan, as do Chechen rebels. If another big hit on the US mainland is currently in the works, it’s safe to say it’s being plotted somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Interestingly, modern India, which was also carved out of the former British Empire, hasn’t devolved into this corrupt, violent soup of extremism. It’s had its moments, of course, and there are certainly aspects of Indian culture that don’t easily yield to Western admiration, but it is, on the whole, a successful Democracy. I’m too historically ignorant to draw any conclusions from that fact but, perhaps, some of you who better understand Indian, Pakistan, Islamic, Hindu, Cold War or Tribal history can do better in this regard than I can.

UPDATE:  And a reminder that democracy, as we understand it, doesn’t exist in Pakistan, comes in this story about the “annointing” of Bhutto’s famously corrupt husband and her utterly untried teenage son as the new party leaders:

Pakistan’s largest and most storied political party chose Sunday to continue its dynastic traditions, anointing the 19-year-old son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to be her ultimate successor but picking her husband to lead for now.

The selections mean that the Pakistan People’s Party, which casts itself as the voice of democracy in Pakistan, will stay in family hands for a third generation.

The word “dynastic” in the above quotation nails the situation and does not bode well for the future of Pakistan’s putative “democratic” party.

Good news for those sick of movie sleaze

The conservative side of the internet has been enjoying the fact that Americans have rather consistently been rejecting the anti-War films oozing out of Hollywood.  There’s a flip-side to this story, which is that Hollywood is slowly figuring out the wholesomeness sells:

The family values era is dead – with Britney Spears and her little sister doing their best to ensure that it isn’t coming back soon. But there’s at least one arena in popular culture where parents have been receiving a world free of drug use, sexual shenanigans and strong profanity: the movie theater.

Last weekend’s release of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” which made more than $88 million during its first seven days in theaters, is the latest PG-rated film to find success this year. If the trend continues over the next few weeks, seven PG movies could end up among the 20 highest-grossing films released in 2007 – the most since 1989, when Ronald Reagan left office and eight studio offerings including “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” and “Driving Miss Daisy” were on the list.

Next year looks even more geared toward 10-year-olds, with family-friendly releases including “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and the latest “Chronicles of Narnia” film, “Prince Caspian.” Even the Wachowskis – best known for their violent and R-rated “Matrix” movies – are working on the colorful and kid-accessible “Speed Racer,” which could end up with a G rating.

The change comes as more parents are making their voices heard, especially online, about children’s movies. Common Sense Media founder Jim Steyer thinks the studios are listening; Steyer says he even heard “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ producer Harvey Weinstein say at a conference this year that he wants to make PG films.

“The bottom line is, it definitely seems like a trend, and I think that’s good,” said Steyer, who founded Bay Area-based Commonsensemedia.org , which offers family reviews and ratings of media and entertainment, in 2003. “It almost seems as if there’s a hunger out there for quality media for children.”  (Emphasis mine.)

You can read the rest of the story about this trend here.  As for me, I’m completely excited about the next Narnia moving, having enjoyed the first one tremendously.

New Toy

My apologies for not blogging the last couple of days.  Originally, we were supposed to be on the road, but weather intervened.  As I’ve repeatedly said to those who ask, I’m willing to drive to snow, but not through snow (which clearly shows my wussy West Coast roots).  Being home, of course, this turned into a home maintenance time.  My husband and I cleaned out closets, built a simple pantry (yes!), and ran errands.

One of those errands included buying one of those turntables that connects to the computer so that you can bring your vinyl collection into the modern era.  I have a bunch of loopy and irreplaceable records from the 1950s (my Dad’s), the 1960s (mine and my Dad’s), and the 1970s and early 1980s.  I’ve really missed listening to them, and was thrilled when Costco began to sell a USB turntable.

The turntable is serviceable but we discovered, after a lot of agonizing time at the computer, that the software included is awful.  Mr. Bookworm went on the internet and we found a much better software called Spin It Again (and you can save $10 by downloading it, instead of ordering the boxed version).

All of this sucked up so much computer time that I haven’t had the chance to do any blogging at all.  Indeed, I haven’t even read anything and feel woefully out of touch.  I will try to remedy that situation in the next couple of days, all the while with silly songs of my youth playing in the background.

Michael Kidd, RIP *UPDATED*

He died at 92, and he’d retired long ago, but I still feel a sense of loss that Michael Kidd, the brilliant choreographer, has died:

Michael Kidd, the award-winning choreographer of exuberant dance numbers for Broadway shows like “Finian’s Rainbow” and “Guys and Dolls” and Hollywood musicals including “The Band Wagon” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles.

The cause was cancer, said his nephew Robert Greenwald. Biographical sources generally give Mr. Kidd’s age as 88, but Mr. Greenwald said his uncle was actually 92.

On Broadway, Mr. Kidd won five Tony Awards: for “Finian’s Rainbow” in 1947, “Guys and Dolls” in 1951, “Can-Can” in 1954, “Li’l Abner” in 1957, and “Destry Rides Again” in 1960. In Hollywood, he received a special 1997 Academy Award “in recognition of his services to the art of dance in the art of the screen.”

Perhaps his best-known film work was “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a 1954 musical of the American frontier whose dances, which he created for ballet dancers, were not supposed to appear balletic. He had them perform what he called “work movements,” like wielding axes.

“I always use real-life gestures, and most of my dancing is based on real life,” Mr. Kidd said in an interview. He defined his choreography as “human behavior and people’s manners, stylized into musical rhythmic forms.”

Anna Kisselgoff, the former chief dance critic of The New York Times, wrote that Mr. Kidd’s signature was “characterization through energy, epitomized by a lovesick male clan going courting with an acrobatic challenge dance” in “Seven Brides.”

Michael Kidd was born in Brooklyn, the son of an immigrant barber, Abraham Greenwald, and his wife, Lillian. While still at New Utrecht High School, he attended a modern-dance performance, was hooked, and began to study with Blanche Evan.

You can read the rest of the very nice NT Times obit here.

UPDATESoccer Dad asked in the comments if I’d seen the post at Seraphic Secret about Michael Kidd’s death.  I hadn’t when he asked that question, but I have now and I can highly recommend it.

Bhutto’s assassination *UPDATED*

Bhutto 1

In 1914, an obscure Archduke and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, a place that, to most Western Europeans and Americans, was the back of beyond. It should have been nothing more than a bloody moment in local history that quickly vanished into the backwash of time. It didn’t, of course. Instead, it set in motion a series of events that led to World War I, one of the bloodiest wars in modern history and a war that set the stage for World War II and the Cold War.

I couldn’t help but think of 1914 and Sarajevo when I woke up today to read about Benazir Bhutto’s assassination today in Pakistan. It wasn’t a surprise, of course, considering the fact that this was the third known try against her in only two months. If people are trying that hard to kill someone — and if they are not worried about either their own deaths or collateral damage — they’re eventually going to succeed.

It remains to be seen who was responsible for that assassination. Al Qaeda has already volunteered itself as a suspect, but that may simply be opportunistic blather. Many suspect President Pervez Musharraf, of course, since he was facing an election against Bhutto, but it could just as easily have been Musharraf’s Islamist enemies. Pakistan is certainly not a place lacking people who are motivated to kill. Indeed, to the extent that the increased instability in Pakistan may benefit the Republican candidates, who are seen (rightly, I think), as more prepared to deal with threats against America’s security, I’m sure there are many lining up in the nutroots rooms to blame the assassination on Karl Rove.

I’m not sufficiently well-versed in events in Pakistan to venture any predictions about how this event will play out, both in Pakistan and abroad. My only hope is that it doesn’t take World War IV from a luke warm war to a hot, hot war.


UPDATE: You might have noticed that my blogging rate is low today, despite the big happenings. We were to have been driving to the mountains today, but got snowed out. Instead, my husband suggested that we clean closets, which I thought was a good way to end the old year and see in the new. The one problem is that, in terms of blogging, that’s almost as bad for my output as being in a car. Since I’m incapable of deep thoughts right now, let me pass you on to the Captain who has, I think, some of the better posts about the assassination’s meaning at home and abroad.

As always, American Thinker’s Rick Moran has some good posts, too — here and here.

UPDATE II: And, of course, Mark Steyn.

UPDATE III:  Christopher Hitchens also offers extremely interesting comments about Bhutto’s personality and legacy.

Does this sound like a good idea to you?

I’ve traveled in America, Canada, England, Western Europe, Israel, Mexico and North Africa.  My experience about driving (and walking) in these countries, is as follows:  In America and Canada, roads are really exceptionally well-organized, with clear rules, and the drivers, for the most part, following those rules.  In England, roads are fairly well-organized, with clear rules, and the drivers usually follow the rules.  The main problem for an American there, of course, is the fact that they drive on the “wrong” side of the road.  In Western Europe and Israel, there are rules, but nobody seems to follow them.  People do stop at lights, which is a good thing, but the whole concept of lanes, even though they are marked on the road, seems alien to them.  In Mexico, there are no obvious rules but, since I’ve only traveled in fairly sparsely populated areas, it didn’t really matter.  On then there is North Africa or, to be more specific, Tanger in Morocco.  As far as I could tell, there were no road markings nor were there traffic signs.  There were cars galore, though, moving in an anarchic, high speed dance.  It was kind of like watching large schools of sharks jockeying for position in an urban ocean, if you can imagine that.  It was terrifying.
I thought of Tanger when I read that European communities, frustrated by their driver’s lawlessness, have decided, not to encourage lawful driver, but to give up on laws:

Like countless other communities, this western German town lived for years with a miserable traffic problem. Each day, thousands of cars and big trucks barreled along the two-lane main street, forcing pedestrians and cyclists to scamper for their lives.

The usual remedies – from safety crossings to speed traps – did no good. So the citizens of Bohmte decided to take a big risk. Since September, they’ve been tearing up the sidewalks, removing curbs and erasing street markers as part of a radical plan to abandon nearly all traffic regulations and force people to rely on common sense and courtesy instead.

This contrarian approach to traffic management, known as shared space, is gaining a foothold in Europe. Towns in the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain and Belgium have tossed out their traffic lights and stop signs in a bid to reclaim their streets for everyone.

The assumption is that drivers are accustomed to owning the road and rarely pay attention to speed limits or caution signs anyway. Removing traffic lights and erasing lane markers, the thinking goes, will cause drivers to get nervous and slow down.

“Generally speaking, what we want is for people to be confused,” said Willi Ladner, a deputy mayor in Bohmte. “When they’re confused, they’ll be more alert and drive more carefully.”

The European Union has subsidized shared space programs in seven cities in five countries. Interest is spreading worldwide, with cities in countries from Australia to Canada sending emissaries to Europe to see whether the experiment works.

In Bohmte, a town of 13,000 people in the state of Lower Saxony, residents were tired of all the trucks whizzing along Bremen Street, the main route through the city. Since the street is categorized as a state highway, German law prevented local officials from banning trucks. They considered building a bypass instead, but merchants worried it would suck too many vehicles out of the city center, hurting business.

In 2005, city leaders learned about shared space and decided to give it a try. One of the biggest obstacles was persuading regional traffic bureaucrats to approve the unorthodox approach.

“They were grinding their teeth, but finally they agreed,” Ladner said.

On Nov. 26, a small section of Bremen Street – absent signs and curbs – reopened to traffic. With no marked spaces, people can park their cars wherever they want, as long as they don’t leave them in the middle of the road. The new pavement is a reddish-brick color, intended to send a subtle signal to drivers that they are entering a special zone.

Only two traffic rules remain. Drivers cannot go more than 30 mph, the German speed limit for city driving. And everyone has to yield to the right, regardless of whether it’s a car, a bike or a baby carriage.

I’ve mentioned in other contexts my sense that Europe is binary.  During the 1930s, Europeans couldn’t see any possibilities other than Communism or Fascism.  Now, they seem to be struggling between over-the-top, completely destructive political correctness and a resurgence of, yes, Fascism.  And so it seems to go with the roads.  Faced with stupid driving rules, rather than rejiggering the rules to make them work, the Europeans are jettisoning them altogether.  Binary.  Just binary.

Freedom of speech — not — in Canada

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard that Canada’s Orwellian “Human Rights” Commission has accepted a complaint from some irate Muslims regarding Mark Steyn’s allegedly racist temerity when he quoted in a Canadian publication the Islamist supremacist words uttered by Norwegian imams. Steyn has a few words on the subject, the most compelling of which were these:

Here’s my bottom line: I don’t accept that free-born Canadian citizens need the permission of the Canadian state to read my columns. What’s offensive is not the accusations of Dr Elmasry and his pals, but the willingness of Canada’s pseudo-courts to take them seriously. So I couldn’t care less about the verdict – except insofar as an acquittal would be more likely to bolster the cause of those who think it’s entirely reasonable for the state to serve as editor-in-chief of privately owned magazines. As David Warren put it, the punishment is not the verdict but the process. To spend gazillions of dollars to get a win on points would do nothing for the cause of freedom of speech: It would signal to newspaper editors and book publishers and store owners that it’s more trouble than it’s worth publishing and printing and distributing and displaying anything on this subject, and so it would contribute to the shriveling of freedom in Canada.

This is a political prosecution and it should be fought politically. The “plaintiffs” certainly understand that, ever since the day they went in to see Ken Whyte and demanded money from Maclean’s. I want the constitutionality of this process overturned, so that Canadians are free to reach the same judgments about my writing as Americans and Britons and Australians and it stands or falls in the marketplace of ideas. The notion that a Norwegian imam can make a statement in Norway but if a Canadian magazine quotes that statement in Canada it’s a “hate crime” should be deeply shaming to all Canadians.

This morning I spent 20 minutes mulling over a couple of offers for overseas rights to America Alone from the Islamic world. It seems that Muslim publishers from Turkey to Indonesia are more robust than Osgoode Hall law students. What a sad comment on the decayed Dominion.

Meanwhile, as I’ve said before, the best way to show support is to support the beleaguered publishers by taking out a subscription to Maclean’s for you or a friend. US and overseas wannabe-subscribers have told us they’re having a bit of difficulty getting the website form to acknowledge non-Canadian postal codes. If you have trouble, send us the details and we’ll make sure Maclean’s sort it out when the Subscription Dept wallahs return to the office on Christmas Bank Holiday First Thursday After Hogmanay, or whenever folks go back to work in Toronto.

And we thought we were telling the truth

When my kids were little and we took them to the San Francisco Zoo my son would always need reassurance on the way home:

“Are you sure the lions and tigers won’t follow us home?”

“We’re sure. They can’t escape from the zoo. You saw the big moats around their cages, didn’t you?”

“You’re super, dooper sure that a lion won’t come into my bedroom?”

“We promise. It won’t escape.”

While the likelihood of a lion or tiger leaving the zoo and heading across the Golden Gate to our house is still small, it turned out we were so very wrong when we told our little guy the lions and tigers couldn’t escape. One did tonight, with horrific consequences:

One zoo visitor was killed and two injured early this evening in an attack by a Siberian tiger that somehow managed to escape from her enclosed grotto. The horrific mauling witnessed by other zoo patrons came nearly a year to the day after the same tiger almost chewed the arm off one of her zookeepers during a public feeding demonstration.

The zoo will be closed Wednesday out of respect for the unnamed victims, described by authorities as men in their 20s. One of the men was killed outside the grotto where the tigers are kept; the other two men were attacked about 300 yards away at a cafe. The incident happened about 20 minutes after the zoo’s 5 p.m. closing time.

The tiger, named Tatiana, was killed by four police officers who tracked it to a cafe and found it atop one of the victims. A police spokesman said the officers distracted the animal, which turned and approached the officers who opened fire with .40-caliber handguns.

Investigators today plan to comb the San Francisco Zoo to piece together how Tatiana escaped from her grotto, which is surrounded by a 15-foot-wide moat and 20-foot-tall wall, said Bob Jenkins, the zoo’s director of animal care and conservation.

Officials refused to rule out carelessness or criminal activity.

My thoughts go to the families of the victims, both living and dead. And I’ll never again comfortably be able to tell my kids that zoos are completely safe.

UPDATEThere’s more news today about the story although, as yet, no information about how the tiger escaped.  Here’s the part that really surprised me, although it was hinted at in yesterday’s story:

Alerted by frantic calls from the zoo, four officers arrived in two police cars and tracked the tiger to the cafe. The tiger was sitting next to one victim but, when the officers arrived, it resumed its attack.

“The tiger jumped back on top,” police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. “The victim had blood on his face.”

The animal, distracted by the four officers and by the flashing red lights of the patrol cars, abandoned its victim and advanced toward the officers, Mannina said. The officers all fired their .40-caliber handguns, striking the tiger an unknown number of times.

In other words, even though the Zoo is filled with dangerous animals, the Zoo did not itself have readily available any way to subdue the animals — no guns, no fast acting tranquilizer darts, etc.  Instead, the Zoo had to wait for the SF Police to come rescue it.  This means that, if there had been a major traffic accident on the Great Highway or at the Sloat/19th intersection, help might have been slow in arriving, and many more people could have died or been injured.

Doesn’t it seem strange to you that the Zoo had not readied itself for the risk of an animal attack?  Nor does it excuse the Zoo that no one, as yet, knows how the animal escaped.  A single powerful spring might be so anomalous that no one prepares for it, but there’s always the risk that some loony-tunes releases an animal or, as we’ve seen in other Zoo stories, enters an animal’s enclosure.

The Nutcracker

I’m going to try to keep blogging over the next few days, but it’s going to be spotty.  We’re leaving tonight for dinner with friends, and tomorrow I’m getting ready for a family dinner at my house.  Wednesday we’ll be on the road, and I probably won’t have computer access until sometime Thursday.  So, this might be the last post for a day or two — or it might not.

We did something very Christmas-y today:  We went to the San Francisco Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker.  As far as I know, it is the oldest continuous production of the Nutcracker in the United States, going back to the early 1930s.  It’s a very expensively mounted production in the beautiful War Memorial Opera House, a building that dates back to 1932 and that was named to honor America’s World War I soldiers.  I’ve seen the Nutcracker there, intermittently, since about 1966.

As far as I was concerned, this production was something of a mixed bag.  The last time I saw the show, the first half of it was set in 1830s Russia and had an incredibly lavish, colorful set.  This year’s production was somewhat more minimalist.  The initial setting was updated from Russia to 1915 San Francisco, and was much more restrained.  The costumes had more muted colors, and the grand drawing room in which the opening party scene takes place was a bit austere.  To me, accustomed as I’ve become to something more colorful, it felt a bit flat.  The snowflake dance, however, was wondrous, in large part because of how generously they poured down the little plastic flakes of snow.  The ballerinas really did look as if they were dancing through a snow storm and the effect was breathtaking.

The second half was even more mixed.  The dancing was lovely — very strong dancers for the Russian, Arabian and Chinese dances, with competent dancers for the other pieces.  The Sugar Plum Fairy was decent, and the dancers who did the Grand Pas de Deux at the end were excellent — just rock solid in their leaps and spins.  And yet…. Here again, instead of rich, grand and lavish, theproduction went for classy and minimalist, which was so wrong for my expectations.  Instead, of a sparkling, luxe set for the Sugar Plum Fairy’s kingdom, we got a set that looked like an abstract, empty Conservatory of Flowers, with only lights and a few drop down cutouts to convey the mis en scene of a given dance number.

Even worse — almost heresy, as far as I was concerned — was what happened to the Waltz of the Flowers.  The show’s designers halved the number of dancers, halved number of colors in the costumes and, seemingly, halved the numbers of movements in which the corps de ballet engaged, leaving only the Sugar Plum Fairy bouncing around.  For me, the biggest disappointment was the absence of color.  Instead of a lush palette of pink, purple, yellow, orange, green and blue, the costumes were muted pinks, yellows and oranges that blended into each other into a harmonious and bland whole.  (Turns out I wasn’t the only one somewhat disappointed with what should be a lovely show piece.)

Still, although I wish I liked the new production better, it was still a pretty darn good experience.  The orchestra was superb, the dancing was very high quality, and it was mostly an enjoyable experience.  The funniest part was how we ended up there.  We actually weren’t planning on going this year because we’d just gone to Kooza, the current Cirque du Soleil traveling production.  That was going to be our book holiday show.  My son, however, has several classmates who had already seen the Nutcracker and who had told him about the always exciting Russian dance.  He was therefore desperate to go and, when we were lucky enough yesterday to find four tickets on Craigslist, we snatched them up.  The irony was that, with the exception of the Russian dance, my son hated the show.  He’s all boy, and just couldn’t cope with the stylized prettiness of it all!

If you love ballet, see this Nutcracker.  If you like ballet, see this Nutcracker.  Otherwise, don’t see this Nutcracker — it won’t blow you away, so it’s not worth the price of admission.

Watcher’s results

Time is running away from me so quickly.  I think it’s the time of year.  With work projects, school deadlines, and holiday planning, I can’t seem to keep up with things but, instead, keep finding myself staggering along, always a little behind.  Which is why I’m only getting around today to posting the Watcher’s results.  As always, they represent such interesting reading, I always feel as I’m getting to pass along a special intellectual bouquet to you.

On the Council side, win, place and show were as follows:

3 “The Courage to Do Nothing”
Big Lizards
2  1/3 Separation of Church and State, Secularist Style
Cheat Seeking Missiles
1  2/3 More on the Teacher Accused of Insulting Religion in His Class
Bookworm Room

On the non-Council side, win, place and show went to:

3 A Stand-up President
The Ornery American
2 A Muslim American
National Review Online
1  1/3 Mearsheimer, Walt, and “Cold Feet”
1  1/3 Only a Few Months and Hours Together But Memories for a Lifetime.

Big business has finally gone too far

Self-dealing, platinum parachutes, obscene profits — all these corporate acts inflame people, but I’ve now read a story that shows corporate executives sinking to a new low, engaging in an act that only the most depraved minds could imagine, let alone put into effect. Hold on to something tight because this story, out of Canada, is going to shock you to your core:

Newly released court documents allege that the Canadian divisions of Nestle, Mars, Hershey and others teamed up in a price-fixing scheme in the multibillion-dollar Canadian chocolate bar market.

Court documents in the case, unsealed by an Ottawa judge Friday, allege that senior executives at Hershey Canada Inc., Mars Canada Inc. and Nestle Canada Inc. met secretly in coffee shops, restaurants and at industry conventions to set prices.

The allegations are contained in two search warrants granted last month to Canada’s federal Competition Bureau as part of an investigation into the chocolate industry. The warrants authorized officials to seize thousands of corporate documents and computer files from Hershey, Mars, Nestle and ITWAL Ltd., a major food distributor. No charges have been filed.

The documents allege the chief executive of Nestle Canada handed envelopes stuffed with pricing information to a competitor, instructing the person not to be seen picking up the material in his office. ITWAL’s president also allegedly sent regular updates to participants.

I doubt that even the old style plutocrats — the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, etc — would have sunk so low as to mess with the chocolate market. I’m only grateful that it was Canadian corporations, not American corps, that engaged in this truly heinous act.

Bloody Mary’s revenge

Bloody Mary — or Mary I, her more official title — was Henry VIII’s oldest daughter by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Raised by staunchly Catholic parents, she too was staunchly Catholic. By the time she was about 16, however, Henry VIII was troubled by Catherine’s inability to bear a son (because the dynastic consequences were huge) and was madly in lust with Anne Boleyn.

As you all know, when the Pope, who was utterly dependent on Charles V of Spain, Queen Catherine’s nephew, refused to grant Henry either a divorce or an annulment, Henry found his own way out of the situation, which was to declare himself head of the British church. In effect, if he couldn’t divorce the Queen, he’d divorce Rome. Being of a bullying nature, he worked hard and brutally to force Mary to give up her allegiance to Rome, but she refused to do so — and suffered mightily for that refusal, including being barred from seeing her beloved mother as the latter lay dying.

Things got even worse for Mary after her father’s death, when Edward VI ascended the throne. Unlike Henry, who remained Catholic to his death, despite rejecting Roman supremacy, Edward VI was a hardcore Protestant, as were those who ruled in his stead (since he was a minor when he ascended the throne). Edward and his ministers worked hard during his short reign to remove all “Papish” influences from England, and to “Reform” the English church entirely. When it became apparent that Edward would not live past his 16th year, Edward and his ministers conspired to elevate Lady Jane Grey to the throne, despite the fact that Henry VIII’s will had given Mary the succession after Edward.

Poor Lady Jane reigned for only nine days before the people of England — or, rather, the people of Southern England, especially in and around London — who had no liking for being manipulated, surged behind Mary and placed her on the throne. (Incidentally, after Mary became queen, she tried being lenient to Jane Grey. When it became apparent, however, that Jane Grey was a rallying point for those who wished to see a Protestant England, Mary very reluctantly sent Jane to the block.)

Mary’s reign started with real hope. People liked her, they admired her tremendous loyalty to the old faith and to her mother, and they appreciated her resemblance to her father. The problem was that this same loyalty had created in Mary a kind of rigidity that she could not leave behind when forced to rule a more diverse England than that into which she was born. She immediately set about restoring Catholicism and reaffirming England’s allegiance to Rome, but she coupled that with a couple of things the English found intolerable: she married Phillip of Spain, and appeared to be giving him (and, therefore, Spain) more power than the xenophobic British people could stand and, when certain British people expressed a preference for Protestantism over Catholicism, she felt it was her bounden duty to burn them.

It’s rather interesting that the British took so much umbrage to the burnings. This was, after all, an exceptionally violent age. Bear baiting, and dog and cock fights, which invariably ended with all the animal combatants dead or horribly wounded, were considered good entertainment for the whole family. More crimes than we can imagine were punishable by death — hanging for the commoners, beheading for the rich and powerful. Torture was common.

Death was also omnipresent from natural causes. Plague still reoccurred on a regular basis; the sweating sickness, a killer disease unique to England showed up regularly; and people died from everything from an infected toenail, to childbirth fever, to measles, to you name it. Child morality hovered around 50%, as it would until well into the Victorian Age. Death — violent, horrible, suffering death — was omnipresent.

Yet for all death’s familiarity, ordinary Englishmen drew the line at burnings. Burnings were Spanish and Papist. They were foreign and utterly un-English. Mary’s burnings also had no class distinction and the common people, rather than being pleased by this macabre democratic approach to heresy, were appalled. Feelings hardened and even those people who had a laissez faire approach to religion, in that they would go whichever way the monarch went, suddenly decided that Catholicism was foreign and mean and ugly.

By the time the well-intentioned, fundamentally kind, but dogmatic and religiously fanatic Mary died, the British people were grateful to see the last of her. They were also grateful when the flexible, pragmatic Elizabeth came to the throne. She was happy with a middle way religion and freely professed that she had no desire to peer into her subject’s souls. It was very early in her reign, therefore, that the British settled into the great compromise, which was a religion that was an amalgam of Protestant and Catholic doctrine and ritual.

And so the Anglican church that we know was born under Elizabeth. Mary knew this would happen — she was resigned to it at her death — but it was a terrible heartache for her. Her tragic and pathetic life was defined by her hope that England would be restored to the true faith, and she viewed that as a gift she was bestowing on her people. She never could understand why they wanted to reject that gift, and why they viewed the burnings as an insult rather than a remedy aimed at the unpleasant, but necessary task, of purifying England to save the English.

It’s an interesting history, certainly, but why should we care today? We should care today because, for the first time since Bloody Mary died, her religion has truly been restored to British soil, and I’m not just talking about Tony Blair’s conversion. Instead, despite the fact that Britain’s Muslims are probably having more babies than any other religious groups, it is the immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Africa who are currently have the greatest effect on the country’s faith — they’re turning it Catholic:

Roman Catholics have overtaken Anglicans as the country’s dominant religious group. More people attend Mass every Sunday than worship with the Church of England, figures seen by The Sunday Telegraph show.

This means that the established Church has lost its place as the nation’s most popular Christian denomination after more than four centuries of unrivalled influence following the Reformation.

Girls from the Salisbury Cathedral Choire School rehearsing
Girls from the Salisbury Cathedral Choir School rehearsing. While church-going declines, cathedrals fare better

Last night, leading figures gave warning that the Church of England could become a minority faith and that the findings should act as a wake-up call.

The statistics show that attendance at Anglican Sunday services has dropped by 20 per cent since 2000. A survey of 37,000 churches, to be published in the new year, shows the number of people going to Sunday Mass in England last year averaged 861,000, compared with 852,000 Anglicans ­worshipping.

The rise of Catholicism has been bolstered by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe and Africa, who have packed the pews of Catholic parishes that had previously been dwindling.

Read the rest of the story about the changing face of Britain’s Christianity here and here.

If Mary is in the Heaven in which she so devoutly believed, she’s quite happy right now.

And yet more reasons for concern about a Huckabee candidacy

If you haven’t yet seen this Kimberly Strassel article, make the time to read it. Here’s a taste:

Mr. Huckabee is starting to get a look-see by the press, though whether the nation will have time to absorb the findings before the primaries is just as unknown. The small amount that has been unearthed so far ought to have primary voters nervous. It isn’t just that Mr. Huckabee is far from a traditional conservative; he’s a potential ethical time bomb.

On policy, Mr. Huckabee’s tenure in Arkansas has shown him to be ambivalent about tax increases, variously supporting sales tax hikes, cigarette and gasoline taxes and Internet taxes. Spending increased 65% from 1996 to 2004, three times the rate of inflation.

He’s so lackluster on education reform that he recently received an endorsement from the New Hampshire affiliate of the National Education Association–the first ever of a GOP candidate. The union cited Mr. Huckabee’s opposition to school vouchers. Mr. Huckabee is a fan of greater subsidies for farmers and “clean energy.” He’s proven himself a political neophyte on foreign policy, joining Democrats to skewer President Bush and glorify the “diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy” line.

Most of this is out there, thoroughly documented, and even now slowly filtering its way to voters. Of more concern is what has not yet been discovered about Mr. Huckabee’s time as Arkansas lieutenant governor and governor, in particular on ethical issues. There are signs that Mr. Huckabee’s background–borne of the same Arkansas establishment that produced Bill Clinton–is ripe to provide the sort of pop-up political scandal that could derail a general election campaign.

In Arkansas, Mr. Huckabee was investigated by the state ethics committee at least 14 times. Most of the complaints centered on what appears to be a serial disregard for government rules about gifts and outside financial compensation. He reported $112,000 worth of gifts in one year alone, nearly double his $67,000 salary.

Five of the 14 investigations resulted in admonishments: Two for failing to report gifts (one was later overturned), the other three for some $80,000 that Mr. Huckabee and his wife received but failed to initially report. One of these admonishments involved a $23,500 payment to Mr. Huckabee from an opaque organization called Action America that he helped found in 1994 while lieutenant governor, and that was designed to coordinate his speeches and supplement his income.

Mr. Huckabee caused an uproar when he used a $60,000 account intended to maintain the governor’s mansion for personal expenses, including restaurant meals, dry cleaning and boat supplies. He also faced a lawsuit over his assertion that $70,000 worth of furniture donated to the mansion was his to keep. Sprinkled among all this are complaints about the misuse of state planes and campaign funds, mistakes on financial disclosure forms, and fights over documents related to ethics investigations.

Any one of these episodes individually may appear penny ante, but they add up to a disturbing pattern. People I’ve spoken with who worked with Mr. Huckabee in Arkansas dispute the idea that he is “corrupt.” They instead ascribe his ethical mishaps to a “blind spot” rooted in his beginnings as a Baptist minister and a Southern culture of gift-giving; they suggest he never made the mental transition to public office.

Some will also argue Mr. Huckabee is no more ethically challenged than Mr. Giuliani, who is getting pounded with questions about Judith Nathan’s security detail and Giuliani Partner clients. The difference is that Hizzoner is a celebrity whose past bones were long ago picked clean by the media crows. Even the Nathan flap is an extension of news that made the rounds five years ago.

The obscure governor from Arkansas is, in contrast, a deep sea for media diving. Most recent have been stories about his pardons and commutations, as well as the news that R.J. Reynolds contributed to Action America. Mr. Huckabee–who now wants a national smoking ban in public places–responded that he never knew he accepted tobacco money, which has inspired a former adviser to claim Mr. Huckabee is being “less than truthful.” What’s next?

I’ve made clear my distaste with Huckabee.  Even for those who like him, though, they have to understand that there is almost no likelihood of his winning.  Despite the current excitement about him, his liberal stands on government spending, education, tax and foreign policy are going to alienate a large swath of conservatives and, despite those positions, his outspoken Christianity is going to repel most Democrats.  When the election finally rolls around, he’s be nowhere.

I want to win.  I hate the thought of a Democrat in the White House and think that we have a large number of completely excellent conservative candidates to sell to the American people:  Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and McCain.  It would be ludicrous if Huckabee, who is a liberal as regards everything but abortion and creationism, would front the Republican party.  November 2008 would be a lose/lose proposition since (a) he’d lose outright or (b) if he won, we’d have a repeat of either the Carter or the Clinton years.

Peggy Noonan hits Huckabee the nail on the head

Not only does Peggy Noonan, herself a very religious woman, get what was wrong with Huckabee’s Christmas ad, her description of the scene’s careful staging puts the lie to Mike’s assertion that the whole cross image was just a fortuitous accident (kind of like seeing Christ in a tortilla, I guess):

I didn’t see the famous floating cross. What I saw when I watched Mike Huckabee’s Christmas commercial was a nice man in a sweater sitting next to a brightly lit tree. He had easy warmth and big brown puppy-dog eyes, and he talked about taking a break from politics to remember the peace and joy of the season. Sounds good to me.

Only on second look did I see the white lines of the warmly lit bookcase, which formed a glowing cross. Someone had bothered to remove the books from that bookcase, or bothered not to put them in. Maybe they would have dulled the lines.

Is there a word for “This is nice” and “This is creepy”? For that is what I felt. This is so sweet-appalling.

I love the cross. The sight of it, the fact of it, saves me, literally and figuratively. But there is a kind of democratic politesse in America, and it has served us well, in which we are happy to profess our faith but don’t really hit people over the head with its symbols in an explicitly political setting, such as a campaign commercial, which is what Mr. Huckabee’s ad was.

I wound up thinking this: That guy is using the cross so I’ll like him. That doesn’t tell me what he thinks of Jesus, but it does tell me what he thinks of me. He thinks I’m dim. He thinks I will associate my savior with his candidacy. Bleh.

The ad was shrewd. The caucus is coming, the TV is on, people are home putting up the tree, and the other candidates are all over the tube advancing themselves and attacking someone else. Mr. Huckabee thinks, I’ll break through the clutter by being the guy who reminds us of the reason for the season, in a way that helps underscore that I’m the Christian candidate and those other fellas aren’t. As a break from the nattering argument, as a message that highlights something bigger than politics, it was refreshing.

Was the cross an accident? Please. It was as accidental as Mr. Huckabee’s witty response, when he accused those of questioning the ad of paranoia, was spontaneous. “Actually I will confess this, if you play this spot backwards it says ‘Paul is dead, Paul is dead, Paul is dead,’ ” he said. As Bill Safire used to say of clever moves, “That’s good stuff!”

Read the rest here.

Merry Christmas!!

It’s a little early for Christmas, but I wrote the following for part of an American Thinker Christmas trilogy, and offer it to you here, as well:

Last week, I attended the “Winter Concert” at my children’s public elementary school. It was a very good concert. The kids – all 75 of them – performed beautifully. They remembered the words, sang in time and in tune, and showed a great deal of poise.

The only problem was the music. There were two African harvest songs; an American spiritual that repeatedly mentioned a Mary and a baby, but stopped short of giving any hints as to which Mary and which baby; a Hebrew song and a Yiddish song; two Muzak songs that seemed vaguely to deal with generic uplift themes; and a disco homage to Santa that, as with the spiritual, carefully avoided any reference to Christmas. It was rather like a concert in code, with the initiated meant to understand that, in fact, this was a Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah concert, rather than a mere “winter” musical soiree.

It was a far cry from the “Christmas” concerts of my youth, a youth that was also spent in public schools. Back in those days – spanning the mid 60s through the mid 70s – the weeks before Christmas saw us singing all the Christmas classics, both old and new: Oh, Holy Night, Silent Night, Little Town of Bethlehem, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, Christmas is Coming, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, just to name a few of the songs that delighted my friends and me as public school children.. We also sang Hanukkah songs that actually mentioned Hanukkah, songs such as Oh, Hanukkah! or The Dreidel Song. Kwanzaa songs were missing only because, in those far away days, this holiday had not yet received any prominence outside of small sections of the African American community.

As a child, I loved the musical feast that came with winter. Just as the days grew oppressively short and cold, we were inundated with beautiful, celebratory songs. The children in my school, Jewish and Christian alike, felt bound together by songs of light and hope in a season of darkness. Instead of being dull and drab, this was a most exciting time of year, visually and aurally beautiful. I felt connected both to the history of all humans – people trying to bring light and meaning to the days when the sun seems so distant – and to the history of my country, which, whether one likes it or not, is imbued with Christian thought, music and iconography.

By the way, did I mention that I’m Jewish? According to today’s experts and ACLU activists, as a Jewish child who was being inundated by these Christmas songs and images, many of which were explicitly religious, I should have felt, at best, marginalized and, at worst, coerced or insulted. Maybe I was exceptionally obtuse, but I never felt any of these emotions. To my mind, the songs were offered as something to share and enjoy, and our smilingly practical elementary school teachers never indicated any preference for one faith over another.

As for me, I was delighted to share in the Christmas holiday with my friends in the public forum of school. I caroled their songs, and delighted in my ability to draw Christmas trees with a certain panache (one of my few artistic accomplishments, I might add). When I went home, I lit the Hanukkah candles with every bit as much pleasure. Rather than feeling slighted, I felt doubly blessed.

How different it is today. The schools are frightened of the parents, the parents are afraid to give offense to each other, and the children are denied the excitement of public celebrations of a unique set of holidays, concerned with wonderful abstract concepts such as faith, bravery, and hope. Instead, we’ve entered a grim Seinfeldian “Festivus” world, where joyous winter celebrations of light and song are reduced to the Airing of Grievances (usually identity based, along the lines of “they’re discriminating against me this season because I’m [fill in the blank with your choice of Jewish, Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Kwanzaan, Wiccan, etc."]). How much better, I’ve always thought, whether one is Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist or Buddhist, to eschew the public school effort to gather around a minimalist and meaningless aluminum Festivus pole, and instead to share in the bounty of America’s many faiths.

Judeo-Christian doctrine and moral freedom

I did a post yesterday in which I quoted from an interview with Michael Cappi regarding the fact that Islam, unlike Judaism or Christianity, is not a religion that concerns itself with broader moral issues that rise above mere tribal law. I’d actually made precisely the same point in an earlier post, here. In connection with this most recent post, however, I got the following comment, which I reprint here verbatim, and which I thought was absolutely fascinating:

this person became interested in islam for what ? to embrace it or to pick, and nick and misquate,and then on top pour all the filth on islam with the likes of Rushdie, Ali Sana,Ali Hersi etc the so called humanists who have nothing to offer but nothingness,while islam comes with the full package, and answers for all your problums and they can not stomach it.they know that islam has tasted rule and one who tastes it wants it at any cast,and these poor humanist and winging liberals will be the loosers. their ways and rules have every one in mess , the biggest problum man faces is , alcaholism,the answer is in islam,gambling, again the answer is in islam,pornography,and degrading of your sisters and mothers,the answer is islam,rape ,every year over 20000 your sisters are raped in Amercia just alone,you aply the islamic law and the rate will be 0.01%,while on the other hand the law of these human wishy woshers allow the rapest to get a few years in jail where he fed and made even stronger so when he gets out he goesand rapes the other sister. shame on you ,keep listening to these devils and you will loose your daughters wholesale. so come on people look at islam your self and avoid these wingers and scare mongers. (Emphasis mine.)

As you can see, the part that really intrigued me was the bit in the second half about rape, since it seemed to highlight the way in which both Islamists and the Left view people, and may go a long way to explaining why people professing these radically different ideologies (Leftism and Islamism) can work so well together. The fact is that, although they devise different (or no punishments) for whatever crime is before them, neither believes in free will or in man’s ability to make moral decisions independent of his immediate circumstances.

Let me start with Islam’s view of free will. Actually, considering that “Islam” means “submission,” I probably don’t have to do this discussion at all, since the name tends to be a giveaway about the religion’s approach to free will. Nevertheless, I’ll still give you my little analysis explaining why I think that Islam denies that man has a moral capacity that can override his animal instincts.

It’s obvious that Islam is misogynistic. What’s less obvious is its misanthropy. The blatant misogyny is, of course, known to all of you and tends to fall into the three categories: (1) the restrictions placed on and abuses against women’s bodies and their brains, (2) the horrible punishments enacted against them for deviating from Muslim norms, and (3) the honor killings that reflect their chattel status within a male dominated culture.

The misanthropy is less overt, but it actually lies behind all these horrors visited against Muslim women: In Islam, men are viewed as so weak and animal-like that they cannot be expected to resist women’s lures. That is, a man who sees a woman uncovered or unaccompanied cannot be expected to resist taking her sexually. He is helpless.

This view of men, as utterly unable to overcome their basic instincts is, to my mind, a pathetic view that denies the possibility of free will, moral calculation or strength of character. All men are animals, controlled by their lust, and all women are mere sexual objects who must be erased for men’s protection. The Sharia laws reflect this debased view of human kind in the its punishments are extreme and violent.  They assume that men (and women) will be dissuaded from wrongful acts only if they are subject to death, dismemberment or whipping.  The concept of redemptive punishment for crimes less than intentional murder — the type of punishment that sees you lose freedom, time and dignity, but that is not a brutal physical assault against you, and that holds out the possibility of starting fresh — is alien in this world view.  In Islam, men cannot be trusted to make good decisions at the front end, nor can they be trusted to learn from bad experiences at the back end — only the most violent dissuasion will work against them.

Things on the Left aren’t much better, although the Left’s degraded view of mankind is a little bit less obvious. It starts with the Leftist principle that all people are controlled by their environment. If you’re poor; if you’re black; if you’re Hispanic; if you’re female; if you’re the victim of spousal, parental or sexual abuse; if you live in the Third World; if you’re in a former colony — all of these factors mean that, if your conduct is violent and antisocial, you get a pass. You cannot be held responsible for your actions.

The above paragraph is fairly abstract, so let me reduce it to more concrete terms. The view that environmental factors are so strong that people are incapable of exerting self-control or making moral choices appears most clearly in the way liberals view African Americans. My default example is Damian Williams, one of the young black men who savaged Reginald Denny during the Rodney King riots. Although there was no doubt that he had tried to kill Denny, Williams was still acquitted.

In a newspaper interview, Williams explained away his conduct by saying that he was “caught up in the rapture.” Indeed, as the New York Times reported at the time, “Mr. Williams, a 20-year-old black man, was acquitted in October of most charges against him by a sympathetic jury.” I believe that, had Williams been a white man who killed gays or blacks, that statement and the verdict that preceded it would have been held up by the liberal establishment as disgusting, horrific and vile. As it was, my memory (and I’m open to correction here) was that the media piled on with a bunch of stories about young men, and black rage, and mob identity, etc. In other words, being caught up in the rapture was a pretty acceptable excuse for trying to beat a man’s head in because he was the wrong color, in the wrong place. No one seemed concerned that a young man, a human being, had behaved like an animal, and no one seemed to expect better from him.

The next obvious example of this kind of liberal nihilism regarding man’s moral capacity is, of course, the reporting about Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Within days of the hurricane, Randall Robinson, a prominent black activist, was stating that African-American hurricane victims were cannibalizing each other. He eventually had to retract that claim.

Although the cannibalism assertion was patently ridiculous to anyone who thought about it (it had only been three days since the Hurricane, for goodness sake), it got a lot of press, probably because the media was perfectly ready, with the best intentions in the world, to think the worst of the African-American hurricane victims. Why else would they instantly have begun reporting lurid stories of murder, rape, and suicide? (Here’s one example: “Stories of rape, murder and suicide have emerged.”)

Ultimately, it turned out that one man alone was responsible for widely spread and credulously accepted reports to the effect that, during his stay in the Superdome, a man was murdered, a woman was raped and stabbed, and a man jumped from a balcony. The media ate it up. Other reports had murder in the streets, widespread looting, and rape all over New Orleans. (This story from England is a good example.)

Almost without exception, the above stories about base black behavior were untrue. Shortly after the media had everyone a’twitter with this hysterical reporting, it emerged that almost none of the anarchy alleged had actually happened. Even the World Socialist Website attacked the completely inaccurate reporting emerging from Katrina, although it predictably saw the rumors as part of a government plot.

Both of these examples, whether dealing with actual fact (Williams really did try to kill someone) or rumor (the Katrina reports), operate on the same basic premise: blacks are economic/racial victims and are therefore incapable of controlling themselves under circumstances in which we could expect more from people of other (read:  white) races.

As I said, this kind of thinking isn’t limited to blacks, of course. It’s part of the whole Marxist/Freudian soup that hit mainstream America big time in the 1950s. West Side Story is a frivolous paradigm of both this belief system and of a moment in time when liberal American was still capable of taking a step back from, and laughing at, these Marxist belief systems about race, economics and class. Mr. Bookworm recently screened the movie for the kids and, watching it, I was struck, as always, by the utterly shallow thinking about race and economics that lies behind it. I’m not discounting the fact that there were racial tensions in all emerging immigrant neighborhoods, as there still are, but this musical makes very clear that the real issue lies with the doctrine that was to take over in America — it’s not the malfeasor’s fault, it’s our fault because he is poor.

As I said, West Side Story is an early example of this now pervasive thinking, so liberals were still able to recognize the problems it could create when it came to assigning blame for wrongdoing — as demonstrated by Stephen Sondheim’s patter song “Gee, Officer Krupke“:

Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won’t give me a puff.
They didn’t wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin’ lizards! That’s why I’m so bad!


Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!


DIESEL: (Spoken, as Judge) In the opinion on this court, this child is depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.

ACTION: (Spoken) Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived.

DIESEL: So take him to a headshrinker.

ACTION (Sings)
My father is a bastard,
My ma’s an S.O.B.
My grandpa’s always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

A-RAB: (As Psychiatrist) Yes!
Officer Krupke, you’re really a slob.
This boy don’t need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society’s played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic’ly he’s sick!


A-RAB: In my opinion, this child don’t need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

ACTION: Hey, I got a social disease!

A-RAB: So take him to a social worker!

Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It’s not I’m anti-social,
I’m only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That’s why I’m a jerk!

BABY JOHN: (As Female Social Worker)
Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again.
This boy don’t need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain’t just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he’s no good!


DIESEL (As Judge)
The trouble is he’s crazy.

A-RAB (As Psychiatrist)
The trouble is he drinks.

BABY JOHN (As Female Social Worker)
The trouble is he’s lazy.

The trouble is he stinks.

The trouble is he’s growing.

The trouble is he’s grown.

Krupke, we got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,
We’re down on our knees,
‘Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke,
Krup you!

I’m no Sondheim fan, but that is a brilliant song that exposes all the excuses inherent in liberal thinking about crime and punishment.  No one actually commits a crime, because no one exercises the “free will” that underlies the American system of crime, with its focus on malicious intent (as opposed to negligence).  If if people cannot be held responsible for their crime, they certainly cannot be punished.  Or at least, the actor cannot be punished.

As Dennis Prager has pointed out more than once, failing to punish the actor often means that it’s the innocent who suffer.  What this means is that, in some ways, the Left is even worse than Islam.  Both deny man free will and conscience, but Sharia law at least has the decency to punish the wrongdoing (although the moral balancing that sees a woman designated as the wrong-doer for being raped leaves something to be desired).  The Left, however, which also gives man the moral weight of an animal is too softhearted to punish that wild animal, with the sad result that, as the murderous lion is allowed to walk free, the innocent lamb is often eaten.

So, we have two apparently antithetical doctrines that share a common thread in their belief that man is enslaved to his environment and his animal lusts, and is incapable of moral decision-making and self-control. That the responses are different — violent punishment versus no punishment at all — doesn’t subtract from the nihilistic core underlying both.  Give me good old Judeo-Christian thought any day, which holds that man is a rational, moral creature who can control himself, who is capable of making moral decisions despite difficult situations, and who if he commits crimes short of the most heinous ones (intentional murder topping the list), should be punished in a way that is meaningful, but leaves the possibility of redemption.

I’m consistent in my beliefs

Phibian sent me over to a fun ABC News/USA Today site where it asks you to answer multiple choice questions about your beliefs on some national and international issues, and then ranks your answers against candidate positions to pick your perfect candidate.  I came out precisely as you’d expect me to if you read my blog.  However, since my print screen key is not working (so I can’t capture a screen shot), you’ll have to go over to Phibian’s place, since he ended up with the same candidates as I did, in the same order of precedence, even though he and I did not cast the same votes on the same questions.

Where will you come out?

News or editorial?

To me, news is just the facts, while editorials may have facts but also have spin and opinion.  Tell my what you think of the opening of this purported “news” story from AP:

The demise of the bridge to nowhere notwithstanding, Sen. Ted Stevens and other Republicans remain the kings of pork-barrel spending, proving that GOP mastery of “earmarks” can withstand public scorn, a president’s rebuke and even a Democratic takeover of Congress.

Certainly it’s catchy writing, and the underlying point about Congressional (and Republican) pork practices is newsworthy, but….

CAIR — and why you should care what it’s doing

Cinnamon Stillwell is an amazing person:  witty, charming, personable and wonderfully intelligent, with a strong analytical bent.  It is these last two characteristics that appear in the forefront of an extremely important article she wrote in, of all venues, the San Francisco Chronicle.  Beginning with CAIR’s pernicious attacks against the self-admittedly inflammatory Michael Savage, Stillwell embarks upon a lucid, interesting and frightening analysis of CAIR, detailing what it is and how it operates.  I can’t do any part of Cinnamon’s writing justice by quoting bits and pieces here, so I simply urge you to follow this link and read the whole article yourself.

Hat tip:  LGF (and I’m really embarrassed that I didn’t find the article myself).

Illegal immigrants

No comment (’cause you can guess what I’m thinking):

The Mexican government reported the results of recent studies on Tuesday showing that 68 percent of Mexicans who migrate or try to migrate to the United States do so without documents and 55 percent of them hire immigrant smugglers.

The report, timed to coincide with the U.N. International Migrants Day, also noted that the Mexican-born population living in the United States increased from about 800,000 in 1970 to more than 11 million in 2006.

The majority of Mexicans now living in the United States — 6.2 million — are undocumented, according to the report, which was based on surveys of migrants and information from the government’s National Population Council.

Almost 30 million people in the United are direct descendants of Mexico migrants, the report stated.

In contrast, the report said the immigrant population in Mexico is quite small and has not experienced rapid growth.

The number of foreign residents in Mexico grew from 340,000 people en 1990, or about 0.42 percent of the population at the time, to about 493,000 in 2000, or about 0.5 percent, the last year for which data is available.

More than two-thirds of the foreign residents are from the United States, and many of those are of Mexican extraction.

All I ask is that, having read the above, you now read this.