It’s a nice hotel, but the live band and the vocal drunks on the plaza six stories below definitely detract from the ambiance. I will probably be incommunicado Saturday, so please open thread away.
Archives for April 2010
One of the big jokes in the blogosphere has been the fact that a Tea Party protest comprised in no small part of smiling grannies (a term I use with great love and respect) standing outside an Obama appearance, was met with riot police:
Yesterday, I asked jokingly just how stupid those riot police felt guarding granny, and I wasn’t the only one in the blogosphere who found the whole thing humorous in way that does not reflect well on the powers that be:
The photos and videos sparked a wave of blogger reactions, including the following comments:
* I hope the riot police have full auto assault weapons with armor-piercing rounds. I hear false teeth can deflect normal NATO rounds.
* Those poor police have to be embarrassed.
* These guys and gals look like my mom or the people in my church. Wake up America!
* Why can’t these racist, violent tea parties be civil like the peaceful pro-illegal immigration rallies we saw in Phoenix!?
* The cops really have to worry since protesters are shown on tape throwing bottles at them. Oh wait …
* SWAT was there because it looked like the ladies were going to break out in a bingo game. Those daubers have ink, ya know.
* Oh my G-d. How beyond ridiculous. This country’s “leaders” have gone stark raving insane.
* Yeah, they look like real hoodlums. Next they’ll be going after the elementary school kids singing those crazy patriotic songs!
* When will the AARP condemn this threatening behavior by team Obama?
Given how the media has been describing the “angry” Tea Parties, I guess the authorities would have been remiss not to take such a protest seriously. Still, I don’t recall any riot police blocking the protesters who were literally demanding Sarah Palin’s blood when she came to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of course, by 2008, we’d gotten inured to the eight-year long orgy of blood lust swirling about those Progressive crowds, while I guess it’s still surprising to see smiling grannies with protest signs lauding America and its values. For the authorities, it’s apparent that “new” automatically translates into “dangerous.”
The very different protest styles of the Left and the Right, with the former engaging in violent rhetoric and violent acts, and the latter acting, mostly, like the Church social, have gotten me thinking about the difference between people being angry, on the one hand, and angry people, on the other hand.
We are all, of course, capable of anger when the situation merits it (and, as every parent knows, occasionally when the situation doesn’t). Most of us, though, don’t value anger. Our lives have meaning because of family, community, work, spiritual beliefs, etc. When we’re tired, when people for whom we’re responsible don’t cooperate, and when the things we value are threatened, we will get angry and we’ll act on it, but these occasions are the exception, not the rule, in our lives.
This doesn’t mean we’re pushovers. I’m certainly an assertive person, when I need to be, but I don’t operate from a wellspring of hostility. In confrontations, I like to find common ground that enables me and my opponent to work towards a mutually agreeable solution.
What I dislike so much about anger is that, for me, it’s a very damaging emotion. It destroys my ability to think rationally, or do any thinking at all, it makes me paranoid, and it makes me destructive. I don’t want to work with my opponent, I want to destroy him. If a situation that makes me angry occurs, I usually find myself shaken at the end, and less than pleased by the outcome. Anger so seldom produces smart outcomes.
Those angry people I know are different at a fundamental level from me. Anger isn’t just a passing emotion that interrupts their lives. It is, instead, a power that gives energy and meaning to their lives. They relish a fight, because the fight means that they’re proving themselves to themselves. There is something about anger that validates them in a way I can’t even begin to understand. It’s as if their philosophical model isn’t “I think, therefore I am,” it’s “I’m angry, therefore I am.”
The practical effect of being an angry person is that anger is your first response. You don’t try to downplay differences, you don’t offer excuses for the other person, and you don’t look for face-saving ways out of a situation. Instead, you just go storming in, guns blazing. For you, it’s a good day when you leave the battlefield littered with the dead and wounded. Never mind that you took significant hits yourself. Never mind even that you lost an entirely unnecessary battle. Your loss and your wounds are just fuel for your next round of anger.
I’ve commented before that the Obamas (both Barack and Michelle) strike me as angry people. For both of them, when they’re off teleprompter, their default setting is a worrisome amalgam of paranoia, disdain and hostility. The same goes for those with whom they surround themselves. Rahm, for example, is legendary for the anger he wields as both sword and shield. (Dead fish and knives in the table, anyone?)
Ordinary people have a range of reactions to the angry ones. On the positive side, sometimes we admire the pure flame that burns within them. We follow them when they seem to be leading us someplace we’d like to go, because their anger gives them a courage we may lack. On the negative side, though, we recognize that unbridled anger often leads a culture to the guillotine or the gas chamber. We also know that, at a personal level, nobody really wants to spend much time in the company of a truly angry person. It’s too much work. One is constantly placating, excusing, and apologizing, leaving no time for life’s simple pleasures.
Which wraps me back around to the Tea Party protests. The angry Left will always have its angry people, ready to transform their personal paranoia or their carefully inculcated identity victim status into a screaming street protest. It makes for good television, but the average happy person, even the average happy person who is angry about a political situation, does not feel a sense of identity with that foam-speckled ranter. Instead, those of us who are not driven by a deep and terminal anger that permeates every area of our lives are drawn to Happy Warriors. We like smiling grandmothers and other friendly people with whom we feel we can make common cause.
So Tea Partiers: keep smiling. It matters, and it is what will, in the long term, leave the MSM narrative in the dust, all the while attracting ordinary people to the cause of individual liberty and economic freedom.
If you want to see what modern socialism looks like, look no further than Britain. I cannot urge you strongly enough to read this article. If it is the only thing you read this week, read this article. Because I read the British papers daily, I can attest to the truth of every fact stated therein — at least insofar as, for the past six or seven years, the various papers have reported facts truthfully.
After you read the article, think long and hard about what the Obami have done and are planning to do. Then be very afraid. And remember November.
This is my narrow but deep survey of this morning’s offerings. (Aack! Will this phone never stop ringing? I wrote that first sentence more than half an hour ago and have been dealing with that devil’s instrument ever since. Nor does that half hour include the time I’ve spent on the phone this morning before even getting to my blog. If only all the people calling me weren’t such nice people, people with whom I really enjoy speaking. But back to blogging essentials.)
Anyway, the offering below is narrow, because I went only to my usual twenty or so “first thing in the morning” sites, but it’s deep, because those sites are deep. They are broadly and well informed, and I get to piggy back off of their rich offerings. From them, to me, to you:
Robert Weissberg may have figured out why Obama is so exercised about Arizona’s efforts to protest itself from the depredations of the illegal aliens flooding its borders — in his own way, Obama too is an alien, insofar as he is a stranger to everything that is traditionally American in values, beliefs and practices.
(Riiinngg. There goes that phone again!)
I’m back. Let’s try again:
Yeah, reporters may not personally like Obama now that they’ve tried to get to know the guy, but please don’t let yourself be deluded into thinking that, just because they don’t like the man, they’re also parting ways with the agenda. Even if he was a drooling, fanged, child-eating monster, when push comes to shove, they’ll cover for him to enable him to do what he does best: change America’s fundamental fabric and dangerously weaken her standing in the world. VDH, by the way, has a little on one of the major passes Obama gets for being a war president, something the same media found intolerable in Bush.
Does anyone know how the riot police feel when they’re called out to guard against smiling grannies? I appreciate that some grannies can be aggressively violent, but the Tea Parties have distinguished themselves by their geniality.
What’s a PC City to do when one victim class starts preying on another victim class? My sympathies in this case are entirely with the Asians who are being victimized in bloody and brutal ways by completely uncontrolled black teenagers. What’s being described in this heart-rending article shouldn’t be unexpected to those of us who have been trying to stand against identity politics. There are two ways to run a country: a rule of law, that is applied, as best as possible, equally to all citizens (i.e., the constitutional approach); or a victim-based, touchy-feely rule of nothing at all, that gives carte blanche to designated thugs to prey on anyone in their path (i.e., the socialist, class warfare approach).
(Darn. That phone. Again. Oh, it’s my mom. I’ll be right back.)
Never ignore a phone call from your mother. You’ll all be happy to know that she’s doing well. Let me resume:
I’ve mentioned a few times at this website that the Left’s current darling, Elizabeth Warren, while a very nice lady in personal conversation, is one of the muddiest thinkers I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing in the front of a classroom. While she may have learned something in the ensuing years, twenty years ago, she was incoherent, speaking in elliptical phrases that never reached a conclusion. Nevertheless, at least one person on the Left is excited about her as a potential Supreme Court justice, in no insignificant part because she’s a girl. Blech.
The little papers can still get by with saying what the big papers no longer will. While a larger paper, especially a European paper, would have a neutral headline along the lines of “Youth shot and killed,” or “Teenager slain,” the Marin IJ let one slip by (and this despite its overwhelmingly liberal orientation): “Teen gang member slain in San Rafael.” In other words, sometimes some of those “youths” aren’t just coincidentally on the receiving end of a bullet.
Obama and Co. are selling, but Americans aren’t buying. Almost two-thirds of them know that the stimulus was a giant boondoggle that will burden America for generations to come. They still have faith in America, though, which is either heartening, or a sign that, to borrow Al Gore’s analogy, they don’t realize that they’re just a pot of slow-boiling frogs.
Speaking of Al Gore, I’m sure you’re very interested to learn that he’s adding yet again to his vast real estate holdings. I can’t be clever. All I’ve got is opprobrious nouns populating my brain: scammer, hypocrite, con man, demagogue.
Starting in 2007, I started blogging about the fact that Obama is not a nice man. This is not about his politics. This is about his personality. While the media, the Democrats, the Bush-weary independents, and the “sophisticated” Republicans were ooh-ing and aah-ing about his smoothness, his calm demeanor, his “cool,” I was saying he’s a mean bully. He’s a ghetto talker. He doesn’t like women. This is a mean, angry person. People are catching on, with Daniel Henninger being the latest to opine elegantly about Obama’s deep seated nastiness. American’s are tolerant of so many things, but they don’t like dour presidents. This personality trait, more than his destructive politics, may spell the end of the Obama era.
When it comes to Obama, there’s also the little problem of do as I say, not as I do. The hot house flower who keeps the White House at toasty Hawaiian temperatures, is now lecturing Americans on cuts. I’m all for cuts. If there’s no money, there’s no money. However, as news trickles out that the health care bill, rather than saving the economy, will burden it even more, people are going to be resistant to Obama’s hectoring.
In the midst of the deeply depressing news that daily emanates from and because of Washington, here’s something that will make you feel better about how essentially good most Americans, and especially those Americans who serve, are.
The burqa: Talk about a hot button issue in Europe, where it appears more and more frequently on the streets and in the post-mortems after suicide bombs. Phyllis Chesler does talk about it and what she writes is well worth reading. When I first started thinking about the burqa, I couldn’t help analogizing it to ultra-orthodox Jewish women who cover their flesh from the neck down, and who wear wigs and head covering. But as is so often the case when one compares to superficially similar things, there’s really nothing similar about them at all. Most significantly, the orthodox do not try to impose their clothing requirements on others. The orthodox do not blow people up. The orthodox are not waging jihad against the world. The orthodox women do not hide their faces entirely, which is a tremendous danger in any free society. And the orthodox women are not routinely exposed to the horrors of life for women in sharia countries. So there’s no comparison and, given that there’s no doctrinal reason for the veil or the burqa, I don’t have a problem with bans on them in public areas.
I have greatly admired Laura Bush. Her behavior has consistently, without fail, indicated that she is a lady to the bone. Her steadfast love for her husband was itself a stellar recommendation for the man. Her biography seems to bear witness to her core decency.
(Again with the phone. I’ll publish this now and update it soon.)
UPDATE: I’m back — again. (Heaving big sigh, although I had a nice chat with my sister.) Let’s see how much I can get done before the next trilling summons:
Speaking of hypocrisy (and you will see me speaking of hypocrisy a few paragraphs up in my note on Al Gore), Soccer Dad caught Jesse Jackson in a hypocritic moment. Jackson illustrates the problem of identity politics, which is that your victim classes keep changing, and it’s hard to steer a straight course rhetorically.
My husband is very excited about the HBO biodrama about Jack Kevorkian, which resides like a little time bomb on our TiVo. I wonder if reading Mary Eberstadt’s review will change his mind? I knew before reading her review that I didn’t want to watch a show celebrating a necrophiliac, but I’m really sure now.
Obama rudely, really rudely, insulted the Court during his State of the Union address. (Have I mentioned that he is a genuinely mean human being?) Randy Barnett thinks that the Left is giving away the secret about the health care bill’s constitutional flaws, and I’m thinking that a ticked-off Supreme Court might take those flaws seriously.
Dammit! There goes the phone again. I’ll be back. (Imagine that in Ah-nuld’s thick accent.)
UPDATE II: Phone call resolved, plus a timely intervention in what might have been a tea crisis for my husband. (By the way, if you drink loose tea, I highly recommend (a) the Adagio Teas Ingenuitea Teapot; and (b) the Portsmouth Tea Company.)
I hate Power Point. That’s not hyperbole, although I’m given to that rhetorical sin. Nope. I really, really hate Power Point. As far as I’m concerned, it forces people into a linear way of thinking that is antithetical to creativity and inspiration. It’s also staggeringly dull to be on the receiving end of a Power Point presentation. If there’s too much text, I can read it myself, thank you very much, and don’t need the speaker to stand there and read it to me. Conversely, if there are mere cryptic notations, I find them pointless and, often, distracting. Give me an old-fashioned slide show any day. The military, incidentally, has also learned that Power Point is as useful for obfuscation as it is for clarification.
I mentioned necrophilia in connection with HBO and Jack Kevorkian. This artist, too, seems to veer into that territory, and that’s despite the subject’s willingness to pose (so to speak). From my point of view, this is too creepy to be art.
You recall Barack Obama holding fast against legislation that would have provided aid and comfort to babies that survived late-term abortion. (Have a mentioned that he is a truly, deeply, nasty piece of work?) Italy, once a bastion of anti-abortion Catholicism is facing a very public debate about one such baby, abandoned by doctors, who took two days to die. Whether or not you’re for abortion, can you really be for what amounts of infanticide? What happened to this little boy is no different from the Spartans exposing defective infants on hillsides.
Earlier this week, I did a post suggesting that the characterization of Tea Parties as “racist” ignores entirely the fact that it’s not the Tea Parties that are rebuffing the blacks; it’s that the blacks are rebuffing the tea parties. I thought of that as I read about the Obama administration boasting about how its outreach . . . .
(Pardon, I’ve got to answer the phone. Business calls. Nice client, too. )
Where was I? Ah, the bit about whose refusing to socialize with whom. Let me resume:
I thought of that (blacks rebuffing Tea Partiers, not vice versa) as I read about the Obama administration boasting about how its outreach to the Muslim world is making the latter feel less like the “other.” That is horse pucky. As a religious principle, Muslims view us with profound disdain. They don’t want to be included in our club. They want to destroy our club entirely, sow salt in the ground, and exercise control over us. Sure there are all-American, assimilated Muslims who like America and Americans, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the ones who are on the receiving end of this PC, misguided outreach. Oh, and speaking of otherness, what about the fact that the main arrow in the Obami quiver to effectuate this reconciliation with Islam is to turn the Jews into the “other.” How else to account for the Obami’s relentless demonization and isolation of the Jewish state?
Every time I drive to So Cal (which I do frequently, because of family), I mourn as I drive through the dust bowl in Central California. What’s worse is that this is a government created dust bowl, resulting because of the nexus between environmentalists and Leftists. It doesn’t have to be that way, people don’t have to be unemployed, businesses destroyed, food prices increased, and food supplies lowered — or, maybe, in Leftist world, it does have to be that way.
(Gosh darn it! There goes the phone again. Oh, it’s Don Quixote. I love talking to him. I’ll get back to all of you in a minute.)
Here I am. Almost done too. I’ve only got a handful more of things I wanted to talk about today:
If you want to be totally grossed out and deeply disturbed, please read about the way in which Planned Parenthood urges HIV carriers to conceal their status from their partners.
On an optimistic note, Gary Andres suggest that, despite the Obami’s efforts, there might be smaller government in America’s future, if only the center will hold.
Trust Bill Clinton to imply that those Americans who are anti-illegal immigration are merely anti-immigration. I think I can say that, without exception, when I’ve read or heard conservatives on the subject of illegal immigration, they’ve been careful to explain that they believe legal immigration is healthy for America. The fact is, though, that a sovereign nation should be allowed to control its borders and to decide about immigration rates that are healthy and humane.
Now I’m done. No more updates. Thank you for your patience.
UPDATE III: My dear friend and proofreader Earl finally got a gander at this post, and found that I was trying to type simultaneously in Venutian and English. Some can multitask. I apparently cannot.
The next big thing on the political agenda is, again, immigration “reform.” As someone said, it’s 2006 all over again, right down to the conveniently available, often Communist-provided signs.
The matter might have sat around for a little longer, but Arizona pulled the trigger on debate by looking at its impressive levels of border crime and welfare, and then enacting a law that authorizes it to act within the parameters of existing federal law regarding illegal immigration. The Progressives (and by now that means most of the loud mouths in the Democratic party) are incensed. They’re likening Arizona to Nazi Germany for having the temerity to ask people to show their citizenship papers. Given the point of origin for most illegal immigrants (hint: it’s not Denmark), those most likely to be asked are Hispanics. Quell coincidence!
Rush, of course, instantly pointed out the most obvious hypocrisy behind the Progressive hue-and-cry: Progressives have enacted and strenuously support a law requiring every American citizen to show papers to the IRS or risk a fine; but they are shocked beyond measure that a state rife with crime may want to enforce pre-existing law that allows them to ask people to prove that they even belong in the country in the first place.
“Belonging in the country” is where things really get interesting. As best as I can tell, the Open Borders crowd is convinced that the illegals here do really belong in the country. Whether they’re making hopey-changey arguments; or “we Hispanics were here first” arguments (a line of argument that actually applies only to Native Americans, with everyone else being an invader); or “we’ve imposed so much misery on oppressed people of the world we deserve to suffer” arguments, the gist of the Progressive world view is that it’s simply unfair that people south of the Border live in poverty.
For purposes of this post, I’m going to accept the Progressive argument at face value: it’s horribly unfair that people south of the Border live in countries rife with crime, sexual violence, drugs and poverty, when we have this perfectly nice, clean, relatively safe country just hovering north of them as a perpetual enticement. And if you buy that it’s all our fault that they suffer so terribly down there, it’s even more unfair.
The easy answer, the answer the Progressive’s espouse, is simply to open the borders and let some of the tired, poor, huddled masses from down south pour in. Not only will they get to live in a nicer place (if you think urban slums and crime ridden border towns are nicer), but we Americans will be forced to pay a perpetual penance in the form of fewer jobs for legal citizens, higher taxes to cover welfare for illegals, and increased crime rates everywhere illegals are. We deserve to be punished, right?
What the Progressive’s refuse to recognize is that their cute little game of allow a continuous trickle of illegal aliens over the border is a cop-out. No matter how many come in here, there are still a much larger number abandoned way back there. And what’s even worse is that, by allowing utterly corrupt governments (Mexico comes to mind) to have this safety valve, we are giving those governments carte blanche to continue in their reckless, corrupt, abusive ways. As long as we siphon off the poorest and, sometimes, the most criminal citizens, the same governments that are grossly abusing their citizens continue to get a free pass.
If Progressives actually wanted to make a change South of the Border, they’d close our border and start putting really serious pressure on Latin American countries to start engaging in true reform. The Mexican government, denied a safety valve (plus the billions of dollars the illegals send home to float the Mexican economy), would have to reform or, probably, collapse. Clearing out that rot, allow room for true reform and real Democratic impulses, would be the true gift we, as Americans, could give people South of the Border.
Right now, all that the shrill, abusive Progressive rhetoric is doing is propping up tyrants, demagogues, criminals and incompetents. That the Progressives’ goal is to punish Americans, not to aid Latin American, is made manifest by the fact that they aggressively refuse to help the greater number of Hispanics repair the situation at home, choosing instead to abuse their own country by putting small percentages of Hispanics in ghettos in America, all the while implicitly and explicitly supporting the same horrible regimes that sent these people fleeing in the first place.
UPDATE: Speaking of Mexico, Michelle Malkin explains how Mexico treats its illegal immigrants. Unconstrained by PC guilt, it’s not pretty. Also, it was the Anchoress who said it’s 2006 all over again, and now I’ve got a good link to that effect.
If you have a passing familiarity with both the original Star Trek and with Monty Python, this one’s for you:
A brief history: Obama promised that the health care debate was so important, it would be carried on C-SPAN. That did not happen. Obama promised that any proposed bill on health care would be placed on a website for public comment far in advance of the vote. That did not happen. Obama promised that he would wait at least 72 hours (is that right?) before signing any health care bill into law. That did not happen.
What did happen was that Nancy Pelosi promised that the only way to learn about what was in the bill was to pass it, a reasonable promise given the number of congressmen who conceded that they personally had no idea what was in the 2000+ page monstrosity for which they voted. In sum, our Democratic government took over 1/6 of the American economy without public input, without debate, and without even any idea of what it was doing.
Congress is now trying to take over Wall Street. If Congress was merely trying to impose a “few rules but unbreakable” (a quote from one of my favorite books) in order to keep Wall Street honest, I’d be there. But this is a Democratic initiative, so that’s not what’s going on.
What’s going on, instead, is political grandstanding along with some power grabs and market control. You and I won’t be benefiting any time soon, but it could prove very costly and damaging to the vitality of the American marketplace.
The Republicans, having figured out that Obama legislation invariably means wasted money and increased government control (i.e. less individual freedom), is refusing to be pushed into a rushed decision on something so important. Obama is irate. And this is what an irate Obama says:
“The American people deserve an honest debate on this bill,” Obama told the crowd. “You should not have to have to wait one more day.”
Obama said Senate Republicans “unanimously blocked efforts to even being debating reform.”
“They won’t let it [the bill] get on the floor to be debated,” Obama said. “It’s one thing to oppose reform, but to oppose just even talking about reform in front of the American people and having a legitimate debate? That’s not right.”
From someone else, this might have been a reasonable question. Coming from Obama, however, it amounts to an insulting slap in the face of the American people. He has no interest in an open politic process. This is just more of Obama’s governance by insult. Really, what a dreadful little man he is.
If you’re on the ball, this week you have the opportunity to bid on a great sounding book, get an iPad, and help Soldier’s Angels.
Everyone’s wondering why multiple New Yorkers just walked by as a good Samaritan bled to death on the sidewalk in front of them. The intelligentsia has jumped on the usual suspects: violent video games. I think, though, that we’re simply looking at life in the big city, in which people cultivate the mindset of “it’s not my problem; someone else, preferably a City employee,” will fix it. And in the last shot of that deeply depressing video, one sees New York’s own come driving up to carry away the corpse. It’s no coincidence, perhaps, that urban dwellers vote overwhelmingly for big government. Living in the City means never having to take care of things yourself.
Speaking of cities and government, it’s clear that one city’s government knows how to take care of itself. It turns out that 1 out of 3 San Francisco employees is earning in excess $100,000 annually on the taxpayer’s dime. (Here’s an example of a teacher feeding at some government’s public trough who can’t possibly be worth whatever money they are paying her.) I suspect that, if you had a picture of sheep being led to the slaughter, and San Franciscans walking down the City streets, the images would be indistinguishable– except that the sheep earn our sympathy because they, at least, are not complicit in their own demise.
And speaking of sheep, Michael Barone thinks that some sheep may be lining up for rebellion and will start demanding spending cuts, not tax increases. They will be met, naturally, with cries that, should such cuts go into effect, there will be people starving in the streets. Funnily enough, those statements will echo precisely the arguments made back in 1990s, when the debate was on about “ending welfare as we know it.” We did end welfare as we knew it, and Armageddon failed to occur. What a disappointment to the doomsayers.
I’ve spent a fair amount of blog time this week talking about the danger of identity politics. The trigger for me was the gay softball team stripped of its championship because some of its players weren’t gay enough. The world of sports, though, is too small a stage for sexual identity politics, and the same argument is now playing out on the Pennsylvania political scene: “Just how bisexual is Gregg Kravitz? His political career may pivot on the answer. Kravitz is a 29-year-old former stockbroker from Philadelphia, who is running for the Pennsylvania statehouse. He claims to be a bisexual. [para.] His opponent in the Democratic primary, incumbent Babette Josephs, says Kravitz is lying about who he sleeps with in order to curry favor with gay voters. Josephs claims she met a woman at a fundraiser who identified herself as Kravitz’s girlfriend. “I outed him as a straight person,” Josephs announced.”
Lastly, although I can’t find a graceful way to tie the following in with my snippets, above, I wanted to bring your attention to the hatred directed at the Tea Partiers. While the media may be very busy trying to paint peaceful constitutionally-oriented protests as potential bloodbaths, that’s not where the ugliness lies. (Warning: bad language and potential scary nightmares lie at this link.)
UPDATE: Since this was a post that leaned heavily on government worker issues, this Saturday Night Live sketch seems apropos:
Unless you’ve been visiting some other planet somewhere in the universe, you already know about Comedy Central’s South Park debacle. That’s the one, of course, that saw Comedy Central, the oh-so-hip-and-edgy (meaning often offensive) television station brutally censoring a South Park episode that implied that Mohamed was walking around wearing a bear suit — when it turned out to have been Santa in the suit all along.
Comedy Central made this censorship decision when a New York Muslim suggested that airing the show as written might result in a Theo Van Gogh moment. That would mean that someone associated with the show would soon be appearing on the streets of New York with multiple stab wounds, a partially severed head, and a wildly hostile-to-Western-culture letter impaled on his chest.
There are a couple of points I want to make about this whole embarrassing debacle — embarrassing for Comedy Central, which shows that it’s offensive only when it’s safe; and a debacle, because it’s one more nail in the coffin of the free speech that has always been an integral part of America’s political and social culture.
My first point riffs off something David Hazony said in a Commentary blog post about the South Park episode (emphasis mine):
The core of liberal society is the belief that every new thought, every iconoclasm, every “dangerous” idea, can be uttered somewhere, by someone, as long as it doesn’t openly incite violence — and that every sacred cow is ultimately just a cow.
(I urge you to read the whole post, but the above sentence is the one that intrigued me.)
In the old days, the notion of incitement to violence examined whether the speaker literally incited violence. For example, the speaker might say to the crowd “Kill the President” or “Kill the Congress person” or “Kill all the meter maids” or something equally incendiary. The threat of violence wasn’t implicit in the speech; it was explicit. No civilized society could countenance speech that simply and directly inflamed blood lust. We in America have always been willing to trade in the world of ideas, but the civil contract demands that we stop short of demanding someone’s head on a pike.
We’ve now entered a brave new world that redefines “incitement to violence” away from its traditional meaning of explicit demands for blood, death or revolution. Now, “incitement to violence” includes speech or images that hurt someone’s feelings or offend their sensibilities. As a society, we used to say that it was just tough if someone’s sensitivities were roughed up by speech that falls far short of calling for that person’s (or someone else’s) blood. We recognized that our civil contract — our constitutional contract — requires for its health resilient people who can deal with hurt feelings.
Now, however, we see our media and political outlets repeatedly defining as incitement speech that lacks any calls for violence but that merely makes the crazy man angry. Where we would once police the crazy man, we now police ourselves. Everything we say must be run through the filter of “will it make the crazy man angry?”
Except of course, we’re not talking about any random crazy man. We’re talking about the sharia-obsessed Muslim crazy man. And by making that man — that sharia man — the standard by which incitement must be judged, we’re veering sharply away from a constitutional standard of free speech, and placing ourselves squarely within that man’s sharia code. Which really means that the second American Revolution, the one that sees us forever part ways with our current system of government, will begin, and end, not with flaring muskets and brave midnight battles, but with a whimper and a bowed head.
What’s even worse (I’m at my second point, now), is that we’re out-sharia-ing sharia, and caving, not to the demands of the moderates, but to the extremists. (Frankly, we’ve become such a PC, identity-politics obsessed culture that we’d cave to moderates too if we felt it would spare the feelings of someone defined as a victim in the PC lexicon.) The wholesale ban on any Mohamed images whatsoever is an extremist ban. Take for example this truly beautiful medieval painting, which I got from a pre-911 book:
Isn’t that exquisite (despite the scanning flaws arising from the picture’s spread across two pages)?
Not only is it beautiful, it’s also a picture of Mohamed. The swaddled little baby in the far left corner, with his face fully revealed, cradled in the arms of two loving angels, is Mohamed himself. Some medieval Muslim, inspired by Christian iconography surrounding the birth of Christ, painted this reverential scene of Mohamed’s birth.
Admittedly, the above painting seems to be a rarity. Other medieval Muslims painted Mohamed too, but they carefully veiled his face, to avoid something that could be considered a blasphemous or inaccurate image. (Considering that there are no contemporary images of Mohamed, just as there are no contemporary images of Jesus Christ, the fact is that all images are inaccurate, reflecting the artist’s faith and skill, rather than a carefully limned image of known features.) The medieval era, therefore, produced myriad pictures, such as this one, portraying Mohamed’s marriage to one of his wives:
Mohamed, on the left, has a veil neatly drawn across his face. The artist has reverentially drawn a scene without exposing himself to the inevitable risk of erroneously portraying the prophet’s face. Incidentally, if you’re really thinking this through, as the radicals seem not to have done, you might conclude that, although a bear costume isn’t a neat, curtain-like little veil, the effect is identical: Mohamed is hidden from view.
All of the above, of course, is art historian persnickety-ness. The real issue is that fact that we, a free society that has never let government dictate to us the terms of our religious worship, are meekly allowing a religion to which we do not subscribe to dictate the terms of our social, political, artistic, ideological and intellectual behavior. The proscription against potentially blasphemous images of Mohamed should apply only to Muslims. The fact that Muslims wish to apply it to all of us tells us volumes about their jihad mentality (a world at war, with a winning Islam and a losing everyone else) and our self-abasing victim approach to those chest-thumpers in the Islamist camp who want to make now the time, and this the place, for their world conquest.
Sadly, Comedy Central isn’t an anomaly. Instead, it seems to be a harbinger of things to come. It’s conduct is the thin of edge of the wedge when it comes to a cultural decision to give in and, by giving in, give away the constitutional freedoms that generations of our forebearers fought bravely to defend.
UPDATE: A friend reminded me that Zombie created a full post with exquisite Islamic iconography showing Mohamed’s face. Please check it out, as the images are better than anything I’ve included here.
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to today’s news, you’ve already heard about the fact that Obama’s National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones told a “joke” that is premised on two Jewish merchants taking advantage of a dangerously dehydrated Talibani:
I’d like to begin with a story that I think is true, a Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the jokes goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”
Oh, those clever, greedy Jews!
Had Jones been possessed of a long history of philosemitism, the joke might have been less offensive. After all, we all acknowledge that, within a community, people are allowed to rough each other up a little with jokes. (The ultimate example of this, of course, is the fact that African Americans are comfortable calling each other the “n” word, a word completely unacceptable from anyone outside of the African American community.)
Jones, however, is not a philosemite. As Yid With Lid reports, “It was Jones who put together the team of Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski to meet with the President and advise him to impose a solution on Israel.” This was not the loving joke of an insider but was, instead, a mean-spirited ad lib.
But here’s the really funny thing, showing that the joke is on Jones himself. Not only is that little story visibly hostile to Jews, something that doesn’t reflect well on Jones, it also shows that he’s woefully uninformed about Islam, something that’s a little scary for a National Security Advisor. You see — Muslims won’t wear ties, probably even if they’re thirsty.
Bottom line: If you’re going to tell a racist joke, get your facts right.
UPDATE: There is a lot of debate in email threads to which I belong about whether the joke was indeed antisemitic. My take continues to be that the person who told the joke matters. If Jones had the warm cuddlies to Jews, I’d laugh; as it is, I doubt his motives, which makes it harder to laugh. The Anchoress, however, looks at the joke itself, and has a very different and interesting take on the whole thing.
UPDATED: Jones has apologized. He was right to do so. Even if not antisemitic, the person telling the joke, the timing and the venue mean it was pretty much the equivalent of a girlie j0ke told to a group of grandmothers. Just out of place.
In the movie Wall-E, the little robot had a task, and it did the task, long after the task’s necessity had passed. Like a funded bureaucrat, Wall-E just kept going and going and going.
In California, the Department of Transportation was given a mandate and a task, and now, long after the money has gone and the efforts proven fruitless, it’s still going and going and going, sucking up nonexistent funds and making expensive and pointless changes (emphasis mine):
In hopes of luring the endangered steelhead trout into the Santa Monica Mountains, California’s transportation agency is planning to spend $935,000 to pave over part of a popular beach with cement and boulders to build a freeway of sorts for fish.
The project is the latest, yet far from the most unusual, steelhead recovery attempt by government agencies that have spent millions of dollars on concrete fish ladders, cameras, fishways and other contraptions to allow seagoing trout to spawn in Southern California streams.
The problem, even some conservationists say, is that there is little evidence construction efforts since the 1980s have done anything except absorb taxpayer dollars. The work to save the species has led to about a dozen concrete fishways at a cost of more than $16.7 million.
A $1 million fish ladder — a structure designed to allow fish to migrate upstream over a barrier — may cost $7.5 million in stimulus funds to rebuild. Another fish ladder would require fish to leap 8 feet to reach it. Studies alone for replacing a third ladder have cost an estimated $3 million.
Read the rest here. Taxpayers and steelheads alike are weeping.
The above is a perfect example of the problems inherent in vesting too much power in government. I’m perfectly sure that the various individuals involved in the project are good people. Nevertheless, the bureaucracy for which they work has taken on a life of its own. For these people to secure their jobs, they have to just keep working. As long as they “look busy,”* they’ll keep getting funding, regardless of the fact that their task is pointless and costly. Government never shrinks; it just grows.
How much better it would have been to have created a goal, and then tasked the marketplace with achieving that goal.
*In my family, the phrase “looka busy” ties in to a very bad old joke my Dad used to tell, which is why I put “look busy” in quotation marks. Here’s the joke, and please pardon the pathetic 1960s Italian-style accent that’s a part of the joke:
On a hot summer’s day, two Italian monks are working in desultory fashion along the roadside, pulling weeks. Suddenly, the first monk gets a look of wonderment on his face. “Hey! Looka there. Itsa Jesus Christ himself, a-walking to us.” The second monk grabs his hoe and replies. “Don’t just standa there. Looka busy.”
See, I told you it was bad. I was a little girl when I first remember Daddy telling it, and he spent an inordinate amount of time explaining to me the whole principle of looking busy around the boss. I think that’s why the joke stuck in my brain.
This is the cozy mansion New York Times‘ columnist Tom Friedman calls home:
Judging by its size, it probably has a carbon footprint roughly equal to a small nation’s:
As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club.” He “married into one of the 100 richest families in the country” – the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.
Heating and cleaning the pool alone probably consume enough energy to power a factory. The picture above is somewhat out of date, so things may have changed, but I’ll note that Friedman’s solar panels are, well, conspicuously absent.
All of which makes it screamingly funny when Friedman, after a first paragraph so profoundly ignorant its laughable (I’ll get back to it later), offers the following idea as a means for the Tea Partiers to gain the New York Times‘ seal of approval:
But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range, attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News, I have a suggestion:
Become the Green Tea Party.
I’d be happy to design the T-shirt logo and write the manifesto. The logo is easy. It would show young Americans throwing barrels of oil imported from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia into Boston Harbor.
The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”
Friedman is right that America shouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil, but he seems to have forgotten that it’s his own party (and his own paper) that has made it virtually impossible for America (a) to drill, (b) to process oil shale or (c) to produce meaningful nuclear power. Instead, he’s hooked his wagon to solar and wind energy, both of which are incapable of servicing America’s energy needs. This means that Friedman wants to make us economically suffer by taxing us even more, without enabling us to have any viable energy alternatives. (He also thinks a carbon tax is a hunky dory idea.)
A $10 a barrel tax and a carbon tax may be irrelevant to a man living off of “one of the 100 richest families in the country,” but it will destroy America’s industry and, frankly, every thing else but for her wealthiest class. In other words, Friedman has neatly spelled out the recipe for an economic meltdown similar to Zimbabwe’s and one that will leave the same outcome: a poverty stricken nation, centered around a small, fabulously wealthy (and, inevitably, corrupt) ruling class. We already know which niche Friedman has carved out for himself.
But really, what can one expect from a man who shows his profound ignorance and sneering disdain for America — not to mention his shallow intellectual dilettantism — in his very first paragraph. (See, I promised I’d get back to it.) I usually wait until deep within my posts to sound this stupid:
I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit. Nothing wrong with that — although one does wonder where they were in the Bush years. Never mind. I’m sure like all such protest movements the Tea Partiers will get their 10 to 20 percent of the vote.
That paragraph has just got everything one would expect from someone living and work in the one of the ritziest, and most liberal, parts of the world. In mere sentences, we get oozing condescension for the foolish, impenetrable masses; contempt for the anger that sees people taking to the street, Constitutions in hand, protesting a rapacious federal government; and, of course, the inevitable attack on George Bush.
As to that last point (“where the heck were they during the Bush presidency?”) I think this simple chart is a good starting point for explaining where these same frustrated (as opposed to angry) people were before Obama; or, more accurately, why they weren’t taking to the street to protest government overreach:
Need I say more? No, I don’t think so.
UPDATE: Turns out — no big shock here — that Friedman’s not the only green colored hypocrite.