Watcher’s Council nominations and an apology

I’ll start with an apology:  I’m sorry I haven’t written anything in the past couple of days.  I’m having a hard time getting over my cold and I’ve had a lot going on in my life that’s precluded writing.  Add to that the fact that I am actively avoiding the existential despair that overwhelms me when I read the news about the last 16 months or so of Emperor Obama’s reign and I’m really struggling with motivation.  My intentions are good, though, and I do want to get back to writing soon.

In the meantime, there’s the wonderful Watcher’s Council:

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Welcome to the Watcher’s Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the ‘sphere, and the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council.Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday morning.

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Animal lovers encourage murder in revenge for a lion’s death

Cecil the lion killed by an American dentistYou all have probably heard that an American dentist paid around $50,000 for the opportunity to kill Cecil, a well-recognized lion in a Zimbabwe nature preserve, with a bow and arrow. Legally, the problem seems to be that the people who dealt with the dentist forgot to tell him that he was killing a protected animal, something he was able to do because his contacts lured the animal out of the preserve. Worse, the animal was initially wounded and may have suffered greatly until the hunters found him the next day and finally slaughtered him.

It is not immediately apparent that the dentist committed an illegal act. Certainly, many people consider big game hunting an immoral act. Unlike ordinary hunting, one can’t justify it by saying “I always eat what I cook” or “This is necessary to cull a population that will otherwise starve to death.” Instead, the killing is done for the sheer love of killing — and perhaps to decorate a den at home.

While I’ve long ago left behind my knee-jerk opposition to all hunting, especially since I recognize that hunters do a great deal to preserve natural habitats in America, I don’t think I’d like to hunt, and I most certainly cannot come up with a rationale to justify big game hunting. Put another way, I’m not a fan of what the dentist did, even assuming it’s true he didn’t intend to contravene game preserve protections.

Not being a big fan, though, is not the same as being a crazed, hysterical murderer — and that’s precisely what Cecil’s fans are looking for. Thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I stumbled across a post from a guy named Ron Pringle (rocker/surfer) who is calling for the dentist to be murdered (emphasis added):

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Novels that changed the way Americans viewed slavery and the South *UPDATED*

Uncle-Toms-CabinKen Burns’ epic Civil War documentary came out in 1990. That was during my years as a lawyer in a very big firm and as a single gal enjoying life. My lifestyle then matters because it explains why, back in 1990, I managed to watch only the first episode of the 9-part series.

Now that we’ve been to some of the Civil War’s most famous battlefields — Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Bull Run — my husband and I are taking the time, finally, to watch the Civil War series in full. There’s something about having seen the battlefields, even though they are now green and peaceful places, that makes the series reach me at a visceral level in a way that could never have happened when I was a flighty young thing. The series moves me deeply.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin appears in the very first episode, of course. As Lincoln allegedly said to the author of this phenomenal bestseller, “So you’re little woman who wrote the book that made this great war.”

If he did indeed say it, it was not an exaggeration. While the abolitionist movement had been agitating for around one hundred years by the time the war started, it was Stowe’s book that took the abolitionists from being a fringe religious movement to one that galvanized the general public. In the North, slavery was suddenly no longer just a peripheral issue that troubled people’s consciences; instead, it was a central issue that drove the South out of the union (“How dare those arrogant Yankees tell us what to do?”), triggering the biggest conflagration in American history.

I don’t know how many of you have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but I have. It is not a literary masterpiece. Stowe’s prose is the modern equivalent of a dime store novel — but that’s completely irrelevant. What matters is that she is a writer of marvelous narrative power. The characters may be hackneyed, but they are vivid and the slaves’ travails reach out and grab you by the throat. This is especially true for an audience that wasn’t made callous by Jerry Springer and Oprah, and that wasn’t exposed to every image known to man thanks to television and the internet. Mid-19th century Americans carried their true emotions quite close to the surface.

Ironically enough, just as Stowe’s book initiated the fervor that led to a war that left more than 600,000 American dead in its wake, I think it was another woman’s book that helped keep Jim Crow alive by creating across America a passion for the romance and gallantry of the old South. I speak, of course, of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, which was published in 1936, and then kept alive for generations of Americans thanks to one of the best movies ever made in Hollywood.

I first read GWTW when I was 12, and probably read it annually for the next six or seven years. I read so often because, at least to my adolescent self, it was one of the greatest, and most tragic. romances ever written.

Scarlett O’Hara is a deeply flawed character who ought to be despicable because of her grasping, greedy, self-centered ways. That she is not — that she is peculiarly compelling and that her valiant spirit causes us to feel for her even at her worst — makes her something of a metaphor for the pre-war South itself, at least as Mitchell wrote both the character and the culture. While Southern culture may have been wedded, selfishly, to an utterly evil institution, Mitchell brought to that society the same fire, charm, courage that Scarlett had herself.  Her characterization of a lost time touched many people who still had enough moral center to condemn slavery.

Scarlett’s travails — which are also the travails of a war-torn South (and it’s worth remembering that, barring the foray into Gettysburg and some skirmishes out West, Union soil and towns saw no battles) and a Reconstruction South — inevitably elicit sympathy. How can they not? Even though Scarlett and the South were in the wrong, their sufferings were very real and their attempts to cope with that suffering had a peculiar courage.

Moreover, Margaret Mitchell, unlike Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a good writer. GWTW may not be great literature, but it’s damn good writing, so the reader inevitably begins to empathize with the lead characters — and the South itself is the true lead in this grand tragedy.

GWTW taught a generation of Americans who had no memory of the actual war that the South was gracious, genteel, mannered, gallant, valiant, brave and, when defeated, as heroic in defeat as it was during the War. (Ken Burns’ Civil War makes it very clear that the South had a much better military than did the North. A few brilliant generals with a fairly small cadre of committed troops saw victories far in excess of what their materiels and numbers should have allowed.)

autant en emporte le ventgone with the wind1939réal : Victor FlemingVivien LeighHattie Mc DanielCollection Christophel

autant en emporte le ventgone with the wind1939réal : Victor FlemingVivien LeighHattie Mc DanielCollection Christophel

GWTW also taught a generation of Americans who had little contact with black people that blacks were a fundamentally childish race and therefore were always at their best when they had good whites to look up to and take care of them. Certainly, when I was a child, the romanticized world of GWTW’s beloved house slaves (especially Mammy) seemed infinitely preferable to the realities of South Central LA, Watts, or other major American slums. My immature mind concluded that anyone with half a brain could see that it was nicer to wear clean, bright clothes, and scold spoiled Southern heiresses while lacing them tightly than it was to live in a modern American housing development.

It was actually quite a while before I was able to understand that slavery is so intrinsically evil, and so at odds with core concepts of human individualism and liberty, that it can never be accounted a good thing, no matter how superficially pleasant it may appear. I think it was this eventual understanding — when I cast off the last shackles of “Gone-With-The-Wind-ness” — that also enabled me to understand that a welfare state is just another form of slavery.

And when I say “welfare state,” please understand that I am not referring to a moral country that cares for its old and weak, its helpless and frail. Instead, I am referring to a country that systematically tells vast swaths of its citizens that they are better off living the most marginal existence possible at the government’s expense, than they would be were they to strike out on their own. The only difference in modern slavery is that the slaves are instructed not to work (“white privilege owes you”), than being instructed to work (“you owe white privilege”). Either way, the new slaves have been deprived of the ability to learn the skills and make the decisions that are the hallmarks of a free people.

I’m a more bookish person than most, but I am quite convinced that Margaret Mitchell’s powerful, romantic, tragic, gilded view of the South before, during, and after the Civil War allowed Jim Crow and other depredations against blacks to continue long after they should have died a natural death. Just as Stowe brought a generation of Americans to realize the horrors of slavery, Mitchell made a whole new generation see the beauty of a society built upon slaves’ backs and to believe that this society was as good for the slaves as it was for their masters.

Your opinion?

UPDATE:  Patrick O’Hannigan offers a typically insightful and thoughtful challenge to my post, arguing that a much more powerful book, by a much greater American writer, helped offset any message she created.

Prager University videos about the environmental scam from beginning to end

It’s a five-part series, narrated by Greenpeace Co-Founder Patrick Moore, with every part worth watching. First, Moore introduces himself:

He then explains that we’ll never see an environmentalists lovely as a tree:

With regard to this next video, about GMOs, my whole Marin cadre is convinced that we’re being poisoned by Monsanto. I’m informed enough to have known in advance every word in this video — and still think it’s worth watching:

Here’s a little primer on massive Progressive ignorance about CO2:

And finally, the truth about “Climate Change.” I have to say that knowledge of history, not to mention actual common sense, are helpful. All you have to do is see a beautiful glacial valley to understand that glaciers have retreated before.

Bottom line: Leftists are not pro-science; they are pro-fear, pro-ignorance, and pro-magic thinking.

The Bookworm Beat 7-25-15 — the Lazy, but interesting, edition

Woman-writing-300x265As you may have gathered from the number of things we did every day on our recent trip to Virginia and environs, ours was not a restful vacation. I capped off the fatigue with a cold and, since our return, have been having a very hard time motivating myself to do anything. My theme song for the week has been Irving Berlin’s Lazy, although I’d have to add fatigue and inertia to the laziness mix:

Still, despite my laziness, I have managed to peel myself off the couch and find my way to the computer occasionally, so I do have some posts to share with you:

Made You Laugh

Before I get to the depressing stuff — and, lately, all the news seems to be depressing — I wanted to tell you about a weekly column my long-time friend Gary Buslik is starting at The Blot. I first introduced you to Gary a few years ago when I reviewed his outrageously funny book Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood. I’ve since read, though shamefully neglected to review, his delightful travelogue, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it’s Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen. In both books, and in the various travel articles of his published in anthologies, Gary’s voice is true: erudite, wry, mordant, snarky, self-deprecating, Jewish, and very, very funny.

Since Gary just launched his weekly column, there’s only one week’s worth of writing, but I think you might enjoy it: The Great Jewish Dilemma.

Yes, Martin O’Malley’s link between ISIS and climate change is crazy

Democrat presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley came in for a good deal of derision for saying that ISIS’s rise can be tied to climate change. The obvious reason this is a laughable point is because the most direct tie to ISIS’s rise is, of course, Obama’s retreat, which created a giant ISIS-sized vacuum. My friend Wolf Howling sent me an email which I think nicely summarizes the Obama/ISIS link:

A fascinating article in the NY Review of Books states that it is the Iraqi organization originally founded by Zarqawi, the utterly sadistic terrorist we sent off the mortal coil in 2006. The movement obviously survived him, and this really throws into stark relief the wages of Obama and the Left cutting and running from Iraq in 2010. ISIS is like a bacteria that survives a stunted course of antibiotics. Had we stayed in Iraq, there is no possible way that ISIS could have had a rebirth.

The author of the article tries to make sense of the rise of ISIS. You can read his ruminations. My own theory is two-fold: One, ISIS is preaching the true Salafi / Wahhabi purist doctrine that makes of the world a thing of black and white, where all things that support Allah are pure, while everything that does not is evil and can be dealt with without regards. Thus it is a draw to young Arab men. If you want to see how, here is a fascinating article by Tawfiq Hamid, a doctor who became a terrorist, who discusses the lure of Salafism / Wahhabism and all its deadly toxins.

Two, the ISIS ideology is a draw because it is utterly without bounds in its sadism or cruelty. This also is a draw to a particular segment of Arab men. It is the Lord of the Flies. It is going into a scenario where you will have the power of life, death, and pain with virtually no restrictions.

The fact is that ISIS should not be around today. My word, but Obama has so totally f**ked us in the Middle East . . . . He makes Carter look like Nixon by comparison.

I only wish I’d written that, but at least I can share it with you. So yes, O’Malley is an ignorant moron.

Still, never let it be said that the Left doesn’t protect its own, so The Atlantic has tried to throw a life saver to O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. The article’s premise is that there’s a connection between drought and unrest. To which I say, “Well, duh!”

Any student of history knows that in primitive societies (and Muslim Middle Eastern countries are extremely primitive when it comes to food production, due to natural limitations, societal factors, and the transfer of food crops to biofuels) anything that interferes even marginally with food production has devastating effects, with war one of the most common ones.

However, as my reference to “students of history” makes clear, droughts have always happened. O’Malley wouldn’t have been a moron if he’d said “the drought they’re experiencing in the region no doubt was a contributing factor to unrest in the Syria – Iraqi region.” But instead, he had to throw in “climate change” — and what makes that so laughable is that we’ve come to the point  which climate change is responsible for everything. I’m awaiting the day when we get an article saying that Caitlyn Jenner’s unfortunate transgender habit of dressing like a male chauvinists’ dream 1950s pin-up girl is also due to climate change.

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A few thoughts about my delightful introduction to the American South

imageBefore this summer’s trip, my exposure to the American South had been extremely limited. I’d been to Washington, D.C., and I’d visited Florida and lived in Texas — both of which are technically a part of the Confederacy but are, because of their unique cultures, are rather sui generis when compared to the core Southern states.

This most recent trip, however, really gave me a chance to drop below the Mason-Dixon line. We traveled almost entirely in Virginia, that core Southern state that sent so many early presidents to the White House, with small detours into Maryland. I came away with a few impressions that I’d like to share with you:

It seems as if every inch of Southern soil has historic significance. No matter where we were, there were connections to American history, whether the settlement in Jamestown, the Colonial era in Williamsburg, or the Civil War in Fredericksburg and Manassas, just to name a few examples.

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Technical difficulties

Yesterday afternoon, my phone died. I went to the Apple store where they concluded that it had a problem that was under the warranty and they issued me a new phone. That was at 7:00 p.m. my time. Now, at 3:00 p.m. my time the following day, I finally got my phone running again. The problem seems to have been that no single person — and I dealt with multiple people at Apple, Sprint, and Best Buy — had sufficient knowledge to solve the problem. Instead, every person to whom I spoke, starting at 8:00 this morning, had another piece of information to add to the puzzle. And of the many people to whom I spoke, only two were useless. The rest were very helpful and very kind. But I’ve still spent my day bouncing from phone call to phone call and store to store on this treasure hunt.

I’m incredibly happy that the situation is finally resolved, but I regret the lost day. I’m only now getting to the business of the day. It’s a reminder that technology is wonderful . . . right up until the moment when it’s not.

Aargh!

Getting back in the groove

Back in the grooveWhen I’m on the airplane heading home from a vacation, I always mean to dive into blogging the moment I get home, but I never do. I’m always a bit tired, often a bit jet-lagged, usually have a cold I caught on the trip (as is the case this time around), and have mountains of things that I have to attend to after having been away.

So here it is, 5 in the afternoon, and I’m only now getting around to reading the news. I’ve been tracking things a bit but, to be honest I’ve found the news of the past few weeks so deeply depressing, I was grateful for a vacation intermission — even if that intermission took me to the tragically blood-soaked battlefields of the Civil War. Contemplating Antietam or Gettysburg was actually nicer than thinking about the Iran debacle, or the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional arrogance, or any of the other toxic issues poisoning not just the headlines, but the world we’re about to hand to our children.

I’ll be back in the blogging groove tomorrow, but for today, I’m opting for the music and a blank mind:

And a fun cover of an old song:

Washington, D.C.

We did another of our mad dash tour days, once again in D.C. We made lightening visits to the Air and Space Museum (crowded and cheesy), the new Native American Museum (gorgeous building paired with slender hagiographic exhibits); the Botanical Garden (very beautiful); the Capitol (under construction and reeking of hypocrisy as gun-control Congress-critters are heavily protected by armed guards); the exterior of the Supreme Court (I truly felt like egging it); the Library of Congress (too self-consciously awe-inspiring, but I was in fact awed by the Gutenberg Bible); and the Natural History Museum (I adore the mineral and gem collections).

Here’s a kaleidoscope of pictures:

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Tomorrow is a travel day. I’ll be returning to blogging on Wednesday.

Travel diary — Montpelier, Bull Run, Gettysburg, and Antietam

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Sorry for the long silence. Yesterday was a tiring travel day that ended too late for writing. This post, like myothers, will be brief since I find it difficult to write at length on an iPhone (so please pardon typos too).

We started yesterday at James and Dolley Madison’s beautiful and homelike Montpelier. Their home has the study in which Madison researched the best form of government — which resulted in our much-abused Constitution. I couldn’t take interior photos, but in addition to the view of the front, above, these few photos give a sense of its lovely setting (and the extensive archaeological digs):

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From Montpelier, we headed to Manassas, scene of the first and second Battles of Bull Run. As is typical for all the battlefields we’ve seen, it was hard to connect the peaceful setting with the tremendous carnage that occurred there:

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This morning, we got up very early to take a horseback tour through Gettysburg led by a licensed guide. Just as we were mounting the horses, word came that a thunderstorm was coming in. The gal who owns the touring company refunded our money and, because we couldn’t stick around for the 2:00 ride, the tour guide offered to take us around — so we got the pleasure of a sopping wet thunder-and-lightening storm (a rare pleasure for people who live in a drought-stricken region that never has thunder and lightening at the best of times), plus a personal, in-depth tour of the battlegrounds. Owing to the rain, I have only a few pictures. The panorama is of the view from Little Round Top:

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From Gettysburg, we drove to Boonsboro, which is near Antietam. Romance writer Nora Roberts owns an Inn there, and was apparently at a book signing, for the streets of this exquisite old town were swarmed with happy looking women, many standing in line outside a bookstore. I’m not sure this picture captures the site, but I offer it anyway:

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Our next stop was Antietam, but the childre melted down at this point — literally, given the high heat and humidity affecting their coddled California bodies. We went to that famous sunken, bloody lane so that we could say we were there. Even now it’s a sad place:

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Our final stop was Arlington, where we so the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I actually found even more moving the seemingly endless rows of markers for those who served our country, with some dying because of that service and others living out the full measure of their days. The most moving gravestone was the one naming an entire Air Corps crew that died together in 1944. Even as we were fighting the racist Germans, that doomed American plane included an Anglo, a Scot, an Italian, and a Jew among its ethnic mix of names:

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