Watcher’s Council Winners for February 24, 2012

The Council has spoken — and it is good.  I’d like to add here that the Council just seems to be generating better stuff with every passing week.  The good part is that it makes for wonderful reading; the bad part is that voting is Hell, because there are way too many excellent choices:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Drawing our enemy out to fight on our terms

Those who watch Hollywood movies think that fist fights last a long time, involve almost numberless hits, and take place standing up.  Those who have seen, or engaged in, real fights, know that, after a few punches, most fights quickly end up on the ground.  At that moment, it’s the ground fighter who has the advantage.  The problem for Hollywood is that watching two ground fighters is remarkably similar to, and just as thrilling as, watching dung beetles rolling around.  And so, decades of misinformation are born….

Gracie Brazilian Jui Jitsu, which the Gracie family of Brazil started several generations ago, is a form of ground fighting that begins with techniques to get the opponent down on the ground.  I’ve been amusing myself lately by watching videos in which the Gracies demonstrate how they defeat skilled martial artists from other disciplines by instantly bringing the fight to the ground, where the other martial artists have no tactics or defenses.  Here’s an example:

Watching this type of stuff naturally gets me thinking about the asymmetrical warfare in which our own troops are currently engaged. (And I’m positive that Obama’s election-strategy withdrawals, rather than decreasing the risks to our troops will, over the long haul, increase the risks.) Petraeus’ COIN strategy worked because he examined, not only our own strengths, but the enemy’s weaknesses. It’s been almost ten years since then, and it does seem as if the powers that be in the American military are locked into a big gun strategy that doesn’t necessarily work against an agile fighting force that is unbound by big weapons warfare or traditional rules of engagement. Too often, our troops our stand-up fighters who are engaged in a ground fight.

Do you see a way to change that dynamic?

Government dependency : humans versus animals

This one deserves to go viral:

The food stamp program, a US Government run program, announced it is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, also part of the US Government, asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

Three things I found interesting

I’m processing (that’s a euphemism for “paying”) bills, which is hogging a ridiculous amount of the space in my head.  Nevertheless, there are three things I wanted to bring to your attention.

First, you’ve probably heard already that Obama, as part of his proposal to cut military spending, is slashing military health benefits, even while leaving civilian health benefits untouched.  All the obvious stuff about his animus towards the military and his effort to steer military personnel into the ObamaCare scheme has already been said.  My thoughts headed in a different direction.  One of the things that happens every election is that the Secretaries of State in Democrat strongholds somehow can’t get their act together so as to get timely absentee ballots to the military.  When I read a report saying that the military is less monolithically Republican than everyone (including those Secretaries of State) had assumed, I wondered if that would speed up the absentee ballot process.  Now, I’m thinking that the military will be lucky if it gets its absentee ballots by 2013.

Wikileaks is now publishing Stratfor emails.  Stratfor is responding by suggesting that a lot of the material being published has been falsified, but is refusing to comment as to any of it.  I think this is a smart tactic, since it induces a note of doubt about the reliability of any of this stolen material.  As far as I know, Stratfor deals only with publicly available information, from which it draws its conclusions.  However, to the extent that its clients provide it with information in their requests for services, this is a devastating commercial blow, not just to Stratfor, but to corporations around the world.

AIDS isn’t a naturally occurring biological phenomenon.  AIDS also isn’t a product of historically anomalous rates of promiscuity and intravenous drug use that allowed it to spread throughout the Western world with unstoppable force in the early 1980s.  Nope.  AIDS is the fault of Western Colonialism.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

Please feel free to add in your comments anything you find interesting.

Licking my wounds, and dreaming of other, simpler, times *UPDATED*

This weekend was not a good weekend for reasons that included, but were not limited to, my initial take on Act of Valor.  I was right about the problem, but intemperate in my accusations.  I’m old enough to know better.  As you can imagine, I got some pushback, some of which was very hurtful.  I deserved some of the pushback but not all, and certainly not the more abusive ones.  My last word on the subject is to link to Roger Simon, who was not only kind enough to link to me, but also made the right point about the movie’s importance, which overrides its amateur qualities:

I would be remiss in not noting that some estimable writers on the right have criticized the film for a seemingly gratuitous bit of anti-Semitism. One of the two main villains turns out, in a moment of dialogue, to be Jewish, although he is in cahoots with the jihadist. This revelation did make me sit up straight for a second, but that part of the movie was by far the most banal and confused, so I kind of shrugged it off, hoping the film would get back to the SEALs quickly. (It did.) Nevertheless, it’s not one of the movie’s high points and another indication the filmmakers could use a little script help.

Had that been the only negative experience I had this weekend, my wounds would have taken just a lick or two to repair but, as I said, it wasn’t a nice weekend and I’m just glad it’s over.

I did end the weekend thinking about the challenges of living in the 21st Century.  I’ve never been entirely at ease in my own time.  I certainly love the trappings of the modern era:  the contact lenses, computers, washes, dryers, etc., and would be sad if they suddenly vanished from my life.  Of course, you only miss what you know and, had I lived in an earlier time, I wouldn’t have missed what didn’t exist.  I also benefit from many of our modern era’s attitudes towards women.  I got to get a graduate degree and have a career.  Although I’m pretty much over my career now, I have (sometimes) a good mind, and I’m lucky that I was able to exercise it.

But as I said, I’ve never really been comfortable in my own time.  I like, and have always liked, the pop culture of the past.  I prefer the movies, songs, clothes and, most importantly, the attitudes of the 1940s and 1950s.

Yes, I know that those were eras when blacks suffered serious discrimination, when women had limited options, and when gays were buried deep in closets.  But without ignoring those problems, those decades also offered a lot of positive things, my favorite of which are an absence of moral relativism and, the flip side, a clarity about traditional patriotism and values.

Americans knew that America wasn’t perfect, but they loved her still, and they did so without embarrassment.  Humans were humans and bad stuff happened, not at the macro level, as was the case during WWII, but at the micro, neighborhood level:  people had having affairs, unwed women got pregnant, men beat their wives, etc.  Nevertheless, people then had a moral clarity that helped them recognize that, while things happen, not all bad things should be excused away.  In those days, I think, people more clearly understood that one can hate the sin, but love, or at least, have some compassion for, the sinner.  Nowadays, nothing is sinful, anything goes, there are no boundaries, and too many people are hurt and adrift.

You’ll never believe what got me going on this nostalgia shtick.  It was an article on Whitney Houston’s early modeling career, when she was an incredibly fresh-faced 18 year old.  Not only was she pretty as a picture, but look at those swimsuits and outfits:  they’re wholesome.  She looks like a young girl, not a wannabe hooker.  No heavy make-up, no hyper-revealed flesh.  She’s not veiled and burqa-clad.  She’s at that happy medium where a blooming young woman gets to show of her beauty without demeaning herself.

I had fun in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I still prefer doowop and Dior to my time.  Life was just easier when ones values choices were a little more limited.  This is not to say that I want to limit choices in America today.  The only way to do that is to have government censorship and control, and I deeply oppose that.  Recognizing that I can’t go back, though, not only to my own youth, but to other people’s youth, doesn’t mean that I can’t dream.

UPDATE:  Using much better writing and logic, in the first part of his post, James Taranto makes a point similar to mine.


Only in Marin will a community representative hasten to assure people that his community is lousy

Ross, a town in Marin County, is a great place.  The houses are gorgeous (I’ve been to a billionaire’s house there once and it was magnificent), the schools are superb, and the people take good care of themselves:  exercise, healthy diets, good medical care.  In a pre-Obama era, these are boast-worthy things.  Not see in Obama’s America, where prosperity is a dangerous attribute that might paint a target on your back:

R. Scot Hunter, a Ross town councilman and former mayor, cringed when his hometown came out on top of the human development index in the controversial “A Portrait of Marin” report commissioned by the Marin Community Foundation.

Essentially, the report said that people in Ross have more money, better educations and live longer than most of the rest of Marin, especially low-income neighborhoods such as the Canal in San Rafael or Hamilton in Novato.

“Ross sometimes, through no fault of its own, gets typecast,” he said, which makes it harder, he believes, for Ross residents to be taken seriously as agents for change in Marin.

Hunter, a real estate investor and developer, has lived in Ross for 30 years, raising three children with his wife, Mary Lee Rybar.

“You almost have to deny your heritage,” he said. “But we have all the problems everybody else has, only they’re hidden. I think 2008 hit a lot of people. There is divorce here. There are difficult things in everybody’s lives. We are not of the very wealthy of Ross. We’re just regular people.”

Hunter, incidentally, is not a crackpot.  The report is a political document, intended to phase out many of those attributes that make Marin a prosperous community:

Since “A Portrait of Marin” was released in January, the Independent Journal’s editorial page and letters to the editor have bristled with criticism of it. Columnist Dick Spotswood accused the report of “cherry-picking statistics” to justify the foundation’s “preordained position that Marin County housing is based on racially segregated communities.” He called it “a work of political advocacy rather than professional scholarship,” contending that it’s “a tool toward remaking the very nature of Marin.”

Responding to claims that the foundation is playing “social engineer,” Thomas Peters,
Ross councilman and former mayor Scot Hunter stands outside the post office in Ross, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. (IJ photo/Alan Dep) Alan Dep
the foundation’s president and CEO, wrote in a Marin Voice column: “For us, this ‘values’ issue couldn’t be clearer: Our vision for Marin is that it be known as much for its equity as for its prosperity, and as much for its efforts to help people succeed as for its reputation as an enclave for the highly successful.”

One of the most alarming parts of the study for many critics is the section that recommends “setting aside the county’s commitment to preserving open space, agriculture and low-density neighborhoods in order to provide more affordable housing to its workers.”

Hunter could have challenged the report.  Instead, he’s trying to assure people that Ross is just as pathetic as anywhere else.

If all women have them, why are they rare?

I know I’m being picayune here, but I found this paragraph funny:

For 60 years, doctors have believed women were born with all the eggs they’ll ever have. Now Harvard scientists are challenging that dogma, saying they’ve discovered the ovaries of young women harbor very rare stem cells capable of producing new eggs.

I’ll repeat the question in my post caption:  if all young women have these stem cells capable of producing new eggs, why are the stem cells rare?  They might be small in number per woman, or they might have a finite life span in any given woman, but that doesn’t make them rare, does it?  Wouldn’t they be rare only if a very small number of women out of the overall population had them?

Blame it on Jane (Austen, that is)

A great deal of literature thrives on conflict.  This is especially true for the romance genre.  You really don’t have much of a book if the entire plot is “boy meets girl, boy gets girl.”  To engage the reader, the plot has to be “boy meets girl” and then something happens for the middle part of the book that keeps boy and girl apart, until the end of the book when “boy gets girl.”

Since the time of Jane Austen, one of the most frequently used devices for filling the middle of the book is to create a plot in which the boy and the girl don’t like each other.  Jane set the template:  although he was a very good and honorable man, Mr. Darcy presented himself to the world, and to Elizabeth Bennett, as an unfeeling jerk.  Elizabeth also had her failings, insofar as she jumped to conclusions, but she was charming and personable from the get go.  Had Darcy not been a jerk, she would not have wandered off the path of fact and into the realm of assumptions.

And so the template was set:  jerky guys with hearts of gold.  In the almost two hundred years since Pride & Prejudice was published, movies and books are filled with jerky guys — arrogant guys, pushy guys, snotty guys, aggressive guys — who become charming princes thanks to the heroine’s incredible charm.  And really, it does make for fun reading or movie watching.  It’s enjoyable following characters as they finally get it right.

The problem, though, for real girls in the real world, is that jerky guys tend to be . . . well, jerks.  If you want a nice guy in this life, you should find someone who is nice from the start.  Life isn’t fiction, and if your jerky guy refuses to turn into a handsome, caring, kind Prince, you might find yourself in a world of hurt.

Anyway, that was my advice to my daughter, who loves to read and who, I am afraid, will fall into jerky guy syndrome based upon the plot-line of way too many enjoyable books, both quality and trash.

“Act of Valor” cleared of antisemitism

Of the many, many things I do that irritate my husband, two are pertinent here.  First, I actually listen to what he says.  This can be frustrating for him, because he doesn’t always use his words with precision.  When we’re having a discussion and I say “But you said…” his return is usually “I know that’s what I said, but you know that’s not what I meant.”  Well, no.  If you said one thing, how the heck am I supposed to know that you meant another thing?

My other irritating habit is that I can totally read movies.  Aside from the fact that I don’t generally like what’s coming out of Hollywood, I also have a very low boredom threshold.  If I can figure out character, plot, and motive in the first ten minutes of the movie, and I don’t like where the movie is going, I’m so out of there.  This irritates my husband, although he can also find it useful:  “Why did that women get on the train?”  “But I thought those two characters were married?”  You know . . . questions like that.  If there’s foreshadowing or nuance in a movie, I get it.

These two traits are relevant to my perception of antisemitism in Act of Valor.  First, I was paying close attention to the dialog, so I heard what I heard.  Second, had there been nuance, foreshadowing, character development, etc., I would have gotten it.  The line “You’re a Jew,” was out there, and the nuance, foreshadowing, plot, or character development that would normally have explained that line’s meaning were missing, both before and after the line was uttered.  That’s my defense.

BUT — and this is a really important “but,” so please stick with me here.

I just got an email from someone purporting to be close to the SEALS involved in the production, and for the time being, I’m comfortable believing that this person is who he says he is, and that what he’s saying is the truth.  I won’t quote the bulk of the email verbatim, because I haven’t been given permission to do so.  I will, however, pass on the pertinent data, along with my apologies to the SEALS generally and the Senior Chief specifically for having misinterpreted their motives and for having done so very publicly.

First, I have been assured that the Senior Chief is not an antisemite, and I absolutely believe that to be true.  I actually never meant to accuse the real Senior Chief of being antisemitic, so I apologize for creating the perception that I did.  I didn’t even perceive his character as being antisemitic.  I perceived the movie as being antisemitic or, rather, having a rather stunningly antisemitic moment.  To the extent, though, that perception becomes reality, I apologize directly to the Senior Chief for accusing him of being antisemitic.

Second, the email writer explained to me that, in the context of the scene (and I am going to quote here) “it was a device to try to separate Christo from Shabal by appealing to the natural enmity between Jews and radical islamists.”  Further, the actor, Alex Veadov is, in fact, Jewish, so that charge against him in the movie was a form of method acting that brings together both reality and fiction that, to my mind, meshed in an unfortunate way.

I totally believe the above is true.  Indeed, in my earlier posts, I even explored the possibility that it might be true — but rejected it because the line “you’re a Jew” existed in a vacuum.  I don’t doubt that the SEALS and the other actors understood the subtext, but for the audience, the line stood there in glorious isolation.  The second, missing, line should have been “How can you make common cause with a man who is dedicated to your people’s destruction?”  Except that line wasn’t there.  As a literalist who listens, its absence was a potent force for me.  And I have to say that, as someone who reads movies, there was nothing else in the movie to help me understand that there was an unspoken line driving this scene.

My sense here is that, much as I really dislike Hollywood, Hollywood is adept at one thing, and that is telling the story at both the big, obvious level, and at the lower, more subliminal level.  When it’s doing pure entertainment, this works.  When it’s doing propaganda, this facility is irritating.  This movie bypassed Hollywood, something that I really appreciate.  It made an amateur mistake, however, which is to forget that the audience has to have things spelled out, and that’s true whether they’re spelled out explicitly or implicitly.  I can’t know what the movie’s makers intend; I can know only what they tell me.

The letter writer closed by asking me to correct my earlier email as quickly as possible lest it create dangerous risks for the men and women in the field.  He could have just appealed to my conscience, because I do have one.  If I do something wrong, I say so.  If I hurt someone’s feelings, I apologize.  And if I create the incorrect impression that a person or group has bad motives, I move as quickly as possibly to remedy that error.  I now have data showing I was wrong and created a bad impression.  This post, written as soon as possible, is meant to correct that, and I’m disseminating this post as widely as possible.  And I do most heartily apologize to the Senior Chief and the SEALS for wrongly impugning them.


More thoughts about “Act of Valor” and antisemitism. *UPDATED*

[UPDATE:  I received an email from someone who I have reason to believe is indeed close to the story, rebutting my charges.  I still think the film slipped up, but I am certain that the SEALS are not antisemites.  Read more here.]

In my earlier post, I accused Act of Valor of including crude antisemitism.  You can read my accusation here.  I have a few more thoughts that I want to put out here.

Readers of my blog know that I’m not someone who sees antisemitism under every rock.  Certainly, I do discuss antisemitism at the Bookworm Room, as you’ll see if you follow the category link.  I happen to believe that our President is not a friend of Israel, and I suspect that he doesn’t like religious Jews.  I also write a fair number of posts about modern Leftism’s hostility to Israel, a hostility that is hard to explain without looking to good old-fashioned Jew hatred.  If you want to see more of my thoughts on the subject, check the link.

Having said that, I don’t constantly watch movies and TV shows, or view news reports, or read books with a constant eye out for antisemitism.  People sometimes say or do things that can be perceived as offensive, but if their motives are clearly from innocence or ignorance, I just don’t care.  You’ve probably heard the expression that, to a hammer, everything is a nail.  That is not my approach to antisemitism.

One of my friends whom I greatly respect suggested that maybe I read something in the movie that isn’t there.  He pointed out that both Roger Simon and Phyllis Chesler, two other people I highly respect, gave the movie glowing reviews without any mention of that “Jewish” bit.  Taking his question seriously, I asked myself “Did I fall asleep?” or “Did I have a hammer/nail moment where I imagined that scene?”

I therefore did a reality check, asking each of my children if, in the interrogation scene, the Navy SEAL had said to the bad guy something along the lines of “You’re a Jew.”  The children (a tween and a teen) corroborated that this dialogue took place.  The older one said “It made me uncomfortable.”  The younger one said, “They had a good reason for doing it.  They wanted to show that Jews can be bad guys and work with Muslims too.”

My younger child may be right about the point the movie wanted to make, but he’s still fundamentally wrong about the point being made (as are the filmmakers, if this was their goal).  Yes, some of the worst antisemites in the world are Jews.  Yousef Al-Khattab is a Jew turned Jihadi and George Soros is, of course, Jewish. Puree these two nasty men into one individual, and you could come up with a billionaire Jewish jihadist.  But how likely is that?  Both Soros and Al-Khattab are pretty rare animals — sui generis, one might say.  There’s only one Soros, and he’s inspired by Leftism, not by jihadism, and there’s only one Yousef Al-Khattab, and he’s inspired by Islam, not by a Jewish desire to destroy capital.

The reality in this world is that the vast (and by vast I mean in excess of 99%) majority of Jews aren’t jihadists.  In the real world, Jews are Israelis who are front-line warriors in the battle against radical Islam; beleaguered European Jews who are realizing that the Europeans don’t like them any more than they did in 1939 and side more with the Islamists in the midst; and ostrich-like American Jews whose loosey-goosey Leftism blinds them to the fact that the Left’s movers and shakers are not friends to either Israel or the Jews.

The percentage of Jihadists who are Jews is incalculably small, and the percentage of billionaire, greasy-haired, hooked-nosed Jewish Jihadists is smaller still — to the point of zero.  Even Soros, bad person though he is, does not look like a Jewish caricature, nor is he a Jihadist.  He is a Leftist, which is a different beast — and Act of Valor makes no effort to put the character of Christo into that Leftist slot.

And that’s really the point:  the movie makes no effort to try to put Christo into any recognizable slot other than that of traditional antisemitic imagery.  Christo is not a Leftist who allies himself with Islamists because they share a common goal of destroying the West.  Christo is not a convert who has abandoned his Jewishness and immersed himself in the antisemitic fanaticism of the Islamists.  Christo is also not a tortured, self-loathing Jew who is at least psychologically interesting.  He’s just an ugly, greasy, sadistic billionaire, whose goal is mass murder in America and the destruction of the American economy.

Christo’s Jewishness — which is a one-liner that ruined an entire movie for me — is thrown out there for no discernible reason.  It doesn’t explain the story that preceded his being identified as a Jew, and it doesn’t affect the plot that follows that revelation.  It’s just out there.  To me, that’s antisemitism, pure and simple.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that a show that’s billed as ordinary entertainment digs deep into traditional antisemitic tropes.  Just last month, an NBC TV show called Grimm apparently did precisely the same thing.  That two 2012 productions should delve into the world’s antisemitic psyche to create their bad guys is more than disturbing.  It’s frightening.

One last thing:  I got mad at the Navy SEALS (and said so), because they star in Act of Valor and it’s billed as a Navy SEAL movie.  I understand that there are many more layers to a movie:  the creative side, the production side, the financing and, with this particular movie, presumably the Pentagon and State Department side.  I’d be deeply sorry to believe that this swipe at Jews originated with the SEALS themselves, although you can’t escape the fact that they participated in the movie.  Because of that participation, I don’t fully apologize to them for lashing out in my last post, but I somewhat apologize to them, and expand my anger to the other culprits behind this base act.

UPDATE:  Sadie has suggested that the Pentagon, fearful of angering Muslims, throw in a bad Jew as a sop to their delicate sensibilities.  Does that make it any better?

“Act of Valor” shoots self in foot with bullet packaged in a “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” label *UPDATED*

[UPDATE: I received an email from someone who I have reason to believe is indeed close to the story, rebutting my charges. I still think the film slipped up, but I am certain that the SEALS are not antisemites. Read more here.]

[I didn't want to clutter this post with endless updates, so I have further thoughts here, if you're interested.]

Let me begin by saying some nice things about the Navy SEAL movie Act of Valor.  The SEALS who star in it aren’t good actors, but they aren’t bad actors either.  None will win an Academy Award, but all managed to appear relaxed on-screen and seem like real people, not like real people struggling with a script.

The action scenes are every bit as good as advertised:  watching the SEALS glide through the jungles of Costa Rica, emerge like alligators from dark tropical waters, fire their guns from trucks while dozens of bad guys are shooting right back, jumping from planes — it’s all there, and it’s a total adrenalin rush to watch them.  It’s even more exciting knowing that the SEALS have actually done all this stuff for real.  They’re not a combination of pretty Hollywood actors and stunt doubles.  These guys have handled real guns, crawled through bug-infested jungles, and tangled with bad guys.

Throughout the movie, my kids kept leaning over to me and whispering “This is so cool” and “This is awesome.”  As the movie unfolded, I was already planning a review that incorporated their enraptured comments.  About halfway through the movie, though, cool and awesome came to a grinding halt, and I watched the rest of the movie stunned and confused.

Here’s the deal.  There are two chief baddies in the movie:  A crazed Islamic Chechen (who is actually Russian convert) and another guy who is introduced to us as Christo, a drug smuggling billionaire, presumably Slavic, who kills a CIA agent, orders the brutal torture of another (female) CIA agent, and uses his money to fund, and his smarts to facilitate, a massive terror attack on the United States.  The actor who plays him, Alex Veadov, looks like this in his IMDB photo:

He has sort of a hippie, geek, scholar look, right?  You’d see him in Starbucks, sipping a Chai Latte.

Interestingly, Veadov/Christo, despite being the chief bad guy in the movie, is absent from the trailers, something that’s rather peculiar.  Usually, part of the trailer’s allure is to show the bad guy, so that you know precisely who the good guys are going after.  It’s part of the audience’s anticipation.  Maybe the movie-makers thought that Veadov’s character was too ugly to show in a trailer.  I can’t find any pictures of him in the role but, with his beard, greasy hair, shiny face, and hook nose, I can help you out by telling you that the character looks like this:

Or like this:

Or like this:

For those who have missed my point, all of the above images come from Nazi antisemitic propaganda.

From the moment he appeared on-screen, I was struck by Veadov’s similarity to the propaganda images.  I assumed that the film-makers were trying to make him look like this, a familiar face to all of you, one that is both Semitic and one that is attached to one of America’s greatest enemies:

I was wrong in that assumption.  Halfway through the movie, in a very exciting action scene, the SEALS capture Christo and the Team’s senior commander interviews him.  Christo is oozing greasy sweat and even more greasy arrogance.  At any moment, one expects him to call his interrogator “infidel” or say “Allah is Great,” two things we hear with great frequency from those fighting against Americans in Afghanistan, those who fought against Americans in Iraq, and those who blow up Americans on 9/11.  Instead, though, what we hear the is the Senior say “But you’re Jewish!” 

Here’s the deal:  Our “brave” SEALS flinched.  Tasked with making a movie that could have shown Americans who the real heroes and the real enemies are, they chose, instead, to tear a page out of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and promote, very heavily (and especially heavily to Israel’s political friends), a movie that makes its greasy, ugly, rich, manipulative, American-hating bad guy . . . a Jew.

The other day, I saw a Newsweak headline calling the Navy SEALS “Obama’s Secret Army.”  At the time, I was incensed.  My thought was that the Newsweek team was annointing Obama king, with his own special force, answerable only to him.  The SEALS, I said to any who would listen, are America’s secret army or, at the very least, the military’s secret army.

Having seen this movie, though, my feeling is that Obama can have his SEALS.  They deserve each other, since both of them apparently feel very comfortable wallowing in the world of antisemitism.  I’m really, really disgusted.

Do not waste your money on this movie.  Hollywood movies are almost as good at portraying action and adventure and they, at least, are more subtle in their antisemitic tropes.  Or, even better, don’t see anything at all.  Take the money you would have spent on the movie and donate it to the Israeli Defense Forces — real warriors, fighting real bad guys.

UPDATE:  Turns out Debbie Schlussel noticed it too.

UPDATE II:  Just to clarify, as you’ll discover by looking at my military-themed blog posts, I am as pro-military as they come, without actually being military myself.  I support our military’s mission 100%, and greatly admire the brave men and women who put themselves on the front line.  Which makes this movie’s completely gratuitous (as in, it didn’t have any purpose) swipe at Jews all the more disgraceful.

Act of Valor Open Thread *UPDATED*

I’m taking the kids and their friends to see Act of Valor.  I’ll report back later.  (And I’ll wait to read the New York Times review until after I’ve seen the movie.)

Until then, Open Thread time!

UPDATE:  For those concerned, I know the movie is R rated.  I checked the parent information link at IMDB, and discovered that it offers constant tension, explosions, and gore, but no sex (i.e., purveying of Hollywood values re social issues).  I reviewed the information with the kids and their response?  “Oh, we saw The Expendables, so it’s okay.”

Watcher of Weasels Presidents’ Day edition

Yes, President’s Day 2012 is done, but these links went up on February 22 at the Watcher’s Council, so they still count.  Feel free to read along with me:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: An uproarious, imaginative, rather disgusting, quite enjoyable page-turner

One of my rules of thumb when reading a book, or watching a movie for that matter, is that I have to like at least some of the characters in the book.  Since I’m investing my time in the book or the movie, I want to be in the company of pleasant people.  After all, outside of the entertainment world, I don’t willingly want to spend time in the company of people who disgust me.

I discovered over the past couple of days, though, that there is an exception to this rule, and that exception is Gary Buslik’s Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and MotherhoodAkhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls is peopled by some of the most unpleasant, malevolent, and stupid characters you can imagine — but it’s so clever and funny that I, the reader, was delighted to follow their complicated, self-serving, insane machinations.

I’m actually not quite sure how to describe the book without diluting the pleasure you’ll get should you decide to read it.  The book’s own description doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll offer it for what it’s worth:

Iranian president Akhmed teams up with the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba and their American intelligence agents to smuggle radioactive matzo balls into Miami Beach. But intelligence being as slippery a concept to these nincompoops as chicken fat on linoleum, when each member of the gang decides to ladle out his own personal nuke soup, holy terror Akhmed is left steaming. Will his plan to destroy America float like a fly or sink like a lead dumpling?

Star-crossed lovers, conniving academics, and blustery social climbers collide with ravenous termites, international do-badders, and multi-level marketing in a plot as fast-paced and hilarious as a runaway mountain bus. Radioactivity has never been so much fun.

Those bland paragraphs leave out the delights of seeing the inside workings of the mind of a far-Left academic, keeping up with the Iranian president’s manic dancing, watching the Venezuelan dictator dream of mass-marketing schemes, and generally following a serpentine plot that moves effortlessly from Iran, to Cuba, to Haiti, and to the high seas, with stopovers in Chicago, New York and Miami Beach.

One of the things I liked best about the book is that Gary Buslik loves words.  His prose is rich and vivid.  He also recognizes when people, rather than loving words, abuse them for obfuscation and self-aggrandizement.  My favorite character — and, incidentally, the most unpleasant character in the book — is the pompous Prof. Les Fenwich.  Buslik has clearly been studying the Leftist academic mind very closely.  Watching Les giving himself permission to order Kobe dish at an expensive restaurant is a rare pleasure:

Unlike the Delmonico, this Kobe meat sat well with Les’s conscience.  Kobe was Japanese beef, from Japanese cows that had been fed only the finest grains, never force-fed, never rushed to market.  True, at a gazillion dollars a pound . . . the meat did seem a bit pricey, but didn’t we owe them that?  Didn’t we racistly and cruelly intern Japanese-Americans at the start of World War II?  Didn’t we murder, maim, and genetically deform thousands of their civilians — the elderly, women, children, handicapped — by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — vile, unnecessary, barbarous acts whose only true motive was a show of force that would ensure the supremacy of the American military-industrial complex?

And on and on, until Les concludes that it’s his patriotic duty as an America-hater to order Kobe beef.  But really, how could Les think otherwise?  As his former lover remembers him, he is a completely hypnotic speaker, if you like bombastic, unintelligible prose:

His long, complex sentences, stitched with discursive subordinate clauses, phrase slathered upon phrase, digression after digression, turned on themselves in eddying pools, only to eventually emerge into grammatical Valhalla — the syntactical equivalent of rapids rushing over a waterfall before settling into a placid alpine lake.  She adored the way he used compound adjectives, convoluted modifiers that precariously dangled, metaphysical tropes, and Latinate roots with Anglo-Saxon appendages.

(Right now, I’m trying to convince myself that I am a better and less pompous writer and speaker than Prof. Les Fenwich.)

When Mr. Buslik offered to send me a copy of his book, I game him my usual shtick:  If I like it, I’ll review it; if I don’t like, no matter the reason, it will never see the light of day at my blog.  I definitely do like this book, and am happy to recommend it to you.  One warning, though:  there are a lot of swear words, as well as some sexual and scatological references and comments.  Also, a lot of the images (especially those revolving around the pork-crazed termites) are disgusting in a dark humor way.  I don’t normally like those features in a book either, so it says a lot about this rich satire that I enjoyed the book, not just despite this occasional crudeness, but because of it.

How much do you think the polls will change once the Republican primaries end?

Rasmussen just came out with a pre-debate poll that shows Obama leading both Romney and Santorum by ten and seven points respectively.  Couple this with headlines touting good news on the economy (some of which is definitely real and some illusory) and it’s enough to send something stronger than a frisson of fear coursing up a conservative’s spine.  While a few months ago it looked as if Obama could lose to a generic Republican candidate, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it will be harder for a specific Republican candidate to beat him.

Or not?

Conservative and Republican voters are deeply divided between Romney and Santorum (although both have shamefully big government voting records, making them a Hobson’s choice).  Is it possible that, when a pollster calls a Santorum voter and asks him to give his opinion about a possible Obama vs. Romney match-up, that voter finds it very hard to imagine himself pulling the lever for Romney?  After all, today, he is as opposed to Romney as he is to Obama. The same holds true for Romney supporters who are asked to envision a Santorum vs. Obama election.

The question that ought to concern us is whether this distaste for the other Republican candidate will continue once the primary season is over, so that Romney supporters will hang back if Santorum wins the nomination and vice versa.  In that case, Obama will indeed win.  If, however, conservative and Republican voters consolidate behind the last candidate standing, that block should be sufficient to shift the polling weight and, more importantly, the election outcome.

What do you think will happen?  Will Republicans and conservatives be able to come together behind a single candidate, or has this primary been so divisive that the Republican party is too wounded to win?

Our Military: “Obnoxious and disliked,” thank God! *UPDATED*

My favorite song in the musical 1776 is the song in which John Adams tries to convince several of his fellow Congressman that they, not he, should write the Declaration of Independence.  As his reason for refusing this task, he says repeatedly that he is “obnoxious and disliked,” so much so that anything coming from his pen will be rejected:

While it’s true that Adams was obnoxious and disliked, he was also greatly respected.  Although 1776 has a little too much fun with Adams’ irascible personality, it is quite accurate in the way it portrays his central role in achieving American independence.  He had a clear vision and, whether he was bullying or cajoling his fellow delegates at the Continental Congress, he was able to share that vision with them, so much so that each was willing to put his signature on a document that when written was highly treasonous and, therefore, tantamount to a death sentence for each signatory.

In other words, soft, yielding people need not apply when it comes to the hard work of advancing liberty.  I had the same thought when I read a HuffPo article saying that our American military is made up of people who (ready yourself) are not nice:

[A] bombshell new study from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that simply serving in the military can affect veterans in ways that make it hard for them to get along with friends, family, and co-workers in the civilian world.

“Military recruits are a little less warm and friendly to begin with and the military experience seems to reinforce this–as after service, men score even lower on agreeableness when compared to individuals who did not go into the military,” lead author Dr. Joshua J. Jackson, an assistant professor of psychology at the university, said in a written statement. “Interestingly, this influence appears to linger long after the soldier has re-entered the workforce or returned to college.”

The study confirms that military veterans score lower than their civilian counterparts on tests of “agreeableness.” It also indicates that the military tends to attract men who are more aggressive and more interested in competition than other men–and less concerned about the feelings of others, according to the statement.

Did it really take a “bombshell” study to tell us that manly men who don’t lift tea cups with their fingers delicately elevated in the air are the ones more likely to enter the military, a world distinguished by discipline, hierarchy, and combat?  Does anyone really think that sensitive, new-age guys who “feel your pain,” are going to be the ones in the front line in the battle for liberty?

My own interactions with the military have been characterized by something very interesting.  The guys and gals I’ve met have something that is strikingly lacking in ordinary American culture:  good manners.  To me, good manners are infinitely more agreeable than some sensitive, touchy-feely metrosexual who refuses to take out the garbage.

(What do you bet that this “bombshell” study was funded by stimulus money?)

UPDATE:  Maybe I’m wrong, but this seems apropos.

Watcher’s Council winners for February 17, 2012

Yikes!  I missed my self-imposed Tuesday deadline for bringing all of you up-to-date with the most recent Watcher’s Council winners.  I’m lashing myself with a wet noodle even as I type.  So as not to waste a single second more, here are the winners for February 17:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

One of those days

Sorry for the long silence today, but this is the first time I’ve gotten near a computer since 11:00 this morning.  It was a very complicated day today with regard to my mother and, while she’s fine, I’m tired.  I’d like to write, but I don’t have the energy to martial my thoughts.  I seem to have expended all I’ve got explaining to her that there weren’t two German couples sharing her hospital room; that they didn’t leave the room through the window; that her physical therapist isn’t her niece; that the nurses aren’t running a wholesale business at the nursing station, so that she can trust the medicines they give her; that she is allowed to eat the hospital food; etc.  Reality is a very loose concept for her now, and she drifts in and out, passing effortlessly from awareness to delusion.

I’m going to go watch Bones, which is my current version of mental chocolate.

Wednesday morning open thread

This is not proving to be a day for blogging, as I have a lot of family business that needs my attention.  I’ll be back this afternoon, but until then . . . yes, it’s Open Thread time!

And just to get things rolling, here are two posts to think about:

I’m looking forward to seeing Act of Valor this Friday, as are all of the boys in the neighborhood.  On the liberal side of the political spectrum, though, there’s a lot of anger at a movie that portrays our military favorably.  (Never mind the fact that Obama views the SEALS as his go-to guys and as his greatest PR opportunity.)  I suspect that, if these same liberals had a gang of Taliban or al Qaeda killers headed their way, they’d be the ones shrieking most loudly for military aid.

Considering that Iran has repeatedly said that it wants to wipe Israel of the map, and that large segments of its military and political community are actively strategizing ways to accomplish that goal, how much longer can Israel wait until she views Iran’s drum banging as war itself, rather than just throat-clearing?

A wandering post in which I recommend the TV show “Bones” and bring up the death penalty *UPDATED*

I’ve mentioned before that I pretty much sat out the first decade of the 21st century when it came to pop culture, which is how I entirely missed Ricky Martin.  Having young children simply left me uninterested in things other than diapers, soccer carpools, etc.  Now those same children are bringing me back into pop culture.  Not only am I doing a better job of tracking current trends, I’m also learning about past pop culture trends I might have missed.

One of these trends, which is both current and past, is the show Bones.  My daughter discovered it on streaming video last summer while she was trapped in a Greek hospital following an appendix operation.  The show follows the exploits of shiny, pretty forensic anthropologists and FBI people as they solve gruesome crimes.  With rare exceptions, each show begins with the discovery of a gruesome, maggot-infested corpse, and then shows the scientists/anthropologists use incredibly high-tech equipment, plus their encyclopedic minds, to discern the truth about the corpse’s life and death.  It’s a surprisingly enjoyable show, made more so, for me, by the fact that it’s very nice to look at David Boreanz, the lead male actor.  (In my dotage, I seem to have turned into the “cougar” equivalent of a chicken hawk.  “Chicken hawk” as you may recall, is the derogatory term given to armchair warriors who advocate a hawk-like military stance, secure that they’ll never actually have to be in the line of fire.  But I digress, quite wildly . . . .)

Aside from being fairly entertaining on its own terms, I find the show fascinating because of the messages:  The lead FBI agent is a former special forces sniper, and the show doesn’t think less of him for that fact.  He’s also religious, and the show doesn’t think less of him for that fact either.  In “The Man In The Wall,” a dead man’s father convinces the FBI agent (correctly, as it turns out) that the dead man was not involved in drugs and crime because “I taught him to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  It’s peculiar to see a show that, instead of sneering at this viewpoint, apparently approves of it.

The lead forensic anthropologist, the eponymous “Bones,” is a genius who is totally invested in scientific truth, but is often at a loss to understand ordinary human interactions.  Because of her almost child-like intellectual honest, she speaks the truth in a way many of us would find admirable (and irritating).  Bones doesn’t believe in God, because there is, in her mind, no proof that God exists, but she believes in morality.  In “A Man On Death Row,” she firmly advocates the death penalty, provided one is sure that the killer did indeed kill.  Under those circumstances, Bones says, there are definitely people who deserve to die because (although she doesn’t articulate this as clearly) through their callous disdain for human life, they have forfeited the right to that life themselves.  This episode, incidentally, is worth watching in its entirety, because I’m pretty sure that the episode’s writers and producers also believe in the death penalty.

And speaking of the death penalty, Dennis Prager believes in it too.  I find his proposal a bit silly (sorry, Dennis), but I do think that both he and Bones are on to the core point about why the death penalty, provided that it is hedged about with due process, and rigorous moral and intellectual honesty, is the right thing for a functioning society that, counter-intuitively as far as death penalty opponents are concerned, values human life.

UPDATE:  This post, about the silliness of applying the Occupy movement to prisons, seems apropos.