Watcher’s Council nominations for September 17, 2014

Watcher's Council logoAnother week has gone by and it’s time for another Watcher’s Council vote. The following are this week’s nominations, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are all excellent. As always, I’m speaking only the truth when I say that it’s going to be very challenging for me to pick my favorite pieces:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

The Bookworm Beat (9/17/14) — The Science Edition and Open Thread

Woman writingEarl Aagaard send me some cool science-related articles so, before I start writing up a post that came to me in a dream (and that’s always a bad sign), I wanted to head these items your way:

Federal money drives bad science

Dr. Patrick Michaels points out that part of the reason so many of the world’s real and faux scientists are wedded to their climate change theory, despite that theory having been proved wrong at every turn, has to do with money. That is, they’re not just blind ideologues; they’re greedy ideologues. Worse, the lust for hard cash in the sciences is contributing to dangerous amounts of shoddy work.

Not news: EPA corrupt

We’ve all figured out that the EPA is a corrupt bureaucracy staffed with people who have an agenda and are not about to let facts, economic reality, or honesty get in their way. If you need further proof of that, a new study reveals that the EPA, which should be operating transparently, has been secretly colluding with hard core environmental activists.

Yup. That sounds about par for the course in Obama’s America. Let me echo again Danny Lemieux’s concern that Carter’s failed presidency did not destroy American institutions, while Obama’s failing presidency has sunk deep, poisonous roots into America’s administrative and bureaucratic structures. That’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to fix.

And fracking? It’s not so bad

Part of the government’s corruption is to deep six reports showing that fracking is not bad for the environment. The administration’s preferred solution is to have us continue to prop up corrupt oil supplying nations around the world and, when their reserves run out, for us to retreat to a new Dark Ages, lightened intermittently by seasonally-functional solar panels.

It’s therefore quite remarkable that two bastions of Progressivism — the New York Times and the BBC — have suddenly published articles (one a news report and one an opinion piece) saying “Hey, fracking’s not so bad after all.” Oh, and look! I just saw a pig fly by.

Progressives’ most admired scientist is a serial liar

Progressives love Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s black, telegenic, a physicist, and seriously Leftist in outlook. What’s not to love?

Well, maybe one of the things that’s not to love is Tyson’s distant relationship with the truth. Sean Davis has become a bloodhound, tracking down one Tyson lie after another.

When Earl sent me the above link, I asked him to name just one conservative who is a serial liar. When you think of serial liars, you think of Obama, of course, Biden (plagiarist), Cory Booker (fake autobiographical details), Hillary Clinton, etc. I can’t come up with a comparable conservative list.

Earl reminded me why this is so: when it comes to conservatives, the press actually fulfills its function of keeping politicians and public figures honest. One lie out of a conservative, and s/he’s savaged so badly in the press that there’s nothing to do but apologize and either sin no more or abandon public life entirely. Such is not the case on the Left, where the media assiduously goes deaf, blind, and dumb whenever a Leftist public figure mouths a lie.

An appropriate video

Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”:

Watcher’s Council winners for September 12, 2014

They came, they read, they voted . . . and the results were good, very, very good (including our own Danny Lemieux taking second place in the non-Council category):

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

The Bookworm Beat (9/16/14) — Clearing The Spindle Part 2, and Open Thread

Woman writingNo time for throat clearing. I’m just going to throw myself into the final phase of spindle-clearing:

Obama’s Alinsky Rules: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Kevin D. Williamson uses the administration’s latest ad hominem attacks on Bill O’Reilly to remind us that Obama’s administration is unique in American history insofar as it targets and attempts to destroy private citizens and enterprises. Think about it: No other administration has ever done that. It’s lackeys may have done it, but the administration stayed dignified.

I wish Obama would hate America’s overseas rivals as much as he hates American conservatives

A friend and I were exchanging emails about Obama’s dismal, half-efforted plan for engaging with ISIS. I was moved to comment that it might be better if Obama does nothing at all, since his half-hearted response may just madden the already crazed Islamic beast even further, without actually destroying it. The question, of course, is whether a half-hearted war is better or worse than no war at all — especially when the times and the enemy call for aggressive action.

I mention this because Walter Russell Mead is yet another opinionator who finds disconcerting that, even as he sounds the call to arms, Obama seems to be engaged in an act of preemptive surrender.

Israel understood vengeance

Unlike Obama, in the years after the Munich Massacre, Israel fully understood how important it was to wreak vengeance against the men who cruelly and deliberately murdered eleven of her citizens.

Why Obama could say with a straight-face that al Qaeda was on the run

If ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. Truer words were never spoken than when it comes to a presidential administration that, through a combination of politics, in-fighting, and incompetence, failed to go through the documents that SEAL Team VI, at great risk to its members, recovered from bin Laden’s place the night they executed him.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President, ISIS (or ISIL or the Islamic State) is totally Islamic

Can we ever recover from a corrupt bureaucracy?

Danny Lemieux raised an excellent point in a comment to an earlier post, which is the fact that, while Jimmy Carter was a rotten leader, the American government was still pretty uncorrupted. After 5.5 years of Obama and Eric Holder, though, our federal administrative system has become completely politicized, with the IRS, the Justice Department, the EPA, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the judicial system (now with a majority of Democrat appointees), local prosecutors, etc., all acting as branches of the Democrat party. While we could recover from Carter’s failures, it remains to be seen whether we can recover from an administrative and judicial system that has the same ethos as the average bureaucracy in any banana republic.

Oh — and Republicans might not take the Senate

Can you imagine two more years with more of the same things that we’ve been suffering from for the last six? Yes, it’s now looking entirely possible that Harry Reid will continue to control the Senate.

There’s a price to pay for Palestinians who don’t hate Israel

I happen to think that Ted Cruz did the right thing in revealing that Arab hated for Jews transcends the Muslim/Christian divide. Nevertheless, it’s useful to remember that, for many Arab Christians, failing to follow the Islamic “Israel-hatred” mandate can be deadly.

This weekend, I had a very nice conversation with a Maronite Catholic from Lebanon. She is terrified for her family, friends, and co-religionists back in Lebanon. Nevertheless, it came as something of a surprise to her to think of Israel as an ally in the war against Islamic depredations against her faith, rather than as another enemy. I had disarmed her initially, I think, by being knowledgeable about the ancient Christian sects in the Middle East and by agreeing completely that ISIS needs to be stopped before it kills again.

Currently, the Lebanese are trying to ridicule Islamists, and I wish we would do the same thing (although I suspect our presentation could be more sophisticated):

Why do Islamists behead their victims?

A lot of people, myself included have sought to explain why Islamists choose beheading as their execution method of choice. I think it’s to depersonalize their victims, although it’s highly likely I’m wrong, because David Brooks has the same theory. Others, such as Michael Rubin, think that beheading is a religiously mandated method of execution. A lawyer friend of mine, who blogs anonymously at To Put It Bluntly, has a very different, and quite intriguing, theory. I’m not sure I’m totally on board with it (sadly, I can’t shake my allegiance to my and David Brooks’ theory), but I do think it deserves serious consideration.

Is Rotherham a tipping point in England?

A political organization in England called “Britain First” has a Facebook page that’s adding more than a thousand visitors a day. It has over 450,000 likes as of this writing. It’s promising an October 4 protest as part of a movement to shame all involved in Rotherham, to get justice for the victims, and to “take our country back.”

The question is whether this is a genuinely patriotic response to a social/political crisis in England or if this is a fascist nationalist group seizing a headline for its advantage. I really have no idea and am not currently inclined to research it further.

What I will say is that, somehow, when it comes to European (and EU) nations, patriotism somehow always has ugly fascistic overtones. Whenever one scratches a nationalist group (“We love our country”) one finds racist fascism hiding behind it (“and we hate you!”). A young Swedish man was telling me that Sweden is so paranoid about the European nexus of patriotism and racist fascism that it’s terribly declasse for people to voice straightforward expressions of pride in their country, such as waving flags or chanting “Sweden!” at soccer games. He’s envious of the comfort with which Americans show their patriotism.

Pat Condell explains just how horrible Rotherham was and how badly it reflects on England’s ruling bureaucratic class

When it comes to Rotherham, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that England’s Leftist, multi-culti, PC, relativistic, self-loathing government class royally and criminally screwed up. Pat Condell gets it, of course:

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Germany refuses to tolerate ISIS support on its soil

A friend directed me to a website that says that, after ISIS supporters tried to use force to create sharia enclaves in Germany, Germany enacted legislation banning any German residents from supporting ISIS. Neither my friend nor I were sure whether this web page was accurate, but it seems to be.

Part of me is glad Germany is squishing ISIS. The American, First-Amendment part of me, though, finds distressing any legislation that quashes speech. What I’d rather see is robust speech and action countering ISIS supporters.

Of course, in our morally relativistic world, whether here or abroad, instead of getting a powerful defense of our own nation, culture, and values, we get mealy-mouthed speeches purporting to interpret Islam. Already back in 2002, before Obama’s election made groveling to Islam an official government policy, Tom Elia was imagining what would have happened if law enforcement had thwarted the 19 Al Qaeda operatives before 9/11.

California investigates more ways to destroy its middle class

California is a big state geographically. In expensive urban areas, people who want the American dream of home ownership often make a serious lifestyle sacrifice: So that their kids can go to save schools and play in green parks, the parents will live far from their work and daily spend hours in the car driving from home to work and back again.

With gas prices rising, this has long been an expensive proposition, but it’s still a sacrifice parents are willing to make. These parents should be aware that California is planning on making the financial burden behind that sacrifice even harder: it’s looking into taxing people by the mile.

This plan will not screw the rich, who can also afford electric cars once government (i.e., taxpayer-funded) incentives have kicked in, who have company drivers, or who telecommute. Instead, it will place an undue burden on those who can least bear it: the working poor, working class, and middle class, all of whom have willingly accepted long hours in their cars to give their children a better life.

California’s always been at war with Eastasia . . . and is losing by less than before

Yes, that’s a cryptic caption. What brought it about is an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee noting that, in Obama’s America, while the promise was that Obamacare would lower insurance rates, the current California boast is that insurance rates are going to increase more slowly than feared. Even worse, the promised 2015 increase only looks good because in 2014, some insurance rates increased by as much as 88%. It’s a good editorial explaining the grotesque bait-and-switch that is Obamacare.

There’s nothing wrong with morally-conducted modern agriculture

A lot of my oh-so-hip-and-with-it real-me Facebook friends are Luddites when it comes to agriculture. They fail to understand that, despite their fear of modern farming techniques, the entire world eats better and lives longer than ever before. To them, modern farming is an abomination that can be remedied only by returning to the practices of the past. One farmer’s had enough of that nonsense. Just as capitalism is the best system when leavened by Judeo-Christian morality, so too is modern agriculture when it too has a large dollop of decency.

Is there anything bees can’t do?

Bee bacteria might save the world.

The Bookworm Beat (9/16/14) — The Illustrated Edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingI learned something today: our local indoor shooting range, Bullseye (a most delightful place), will not allow unaccompanied people to rent guns. When I first told I needed a companion to rent a gun, I thought it was because I had “amateur” written all over me. It turns out, though, that this is a suicide prevention measure. The theory is that, if you own a gun, you won’t drag yourself to a range to commit suicide and that, if you don’t own a gun, someone showing up with a friend is unlikely to be a suicide.

Fortunately for me, I did show up with a friend: Charles Martel. I’ve got to tell you, if you ever want the perfect shooting companion, take Charles. It was like having my own spotter and cheering section. He is a delightful person to be around at all times, but really especially perfect for a still-insecure gun novice. I hope that, next time I’m feeling flush (renting guns and buying bullets ain’t cheap), Charles is willing to join me again.

I’ve pretty much cleared out my inbox now and am working on a long portmanteau post. In the meantime, thanks to the kind offices of friends (mostly Caped Crusader, but all Earl and Sadie), I’ve got pictures to round out the blog for the time being:

Missing Muslim protests

Israel is behind you

Minimum wage and our troops

Free Tahmooresi

Ted Cruz on Israel

Getting the government to demand wage increases equals loser

The logic of Obamacare

Muslim slavery


We've gone from bad to worse

The myth of the moderate

Taxpayers paying more for healthcare

Obama supporters

Unconstitutional illegal actions

Figuring out what matters in the world

I’m still working my way through my email backlog, but it’s worth the effort, because I’m finally wonderful things buried in there.  Take this video, for example:

Every life has value . . . if we know where to look, and if the person hasn’t taken affirmative steps to erase his life’s value. Such an affirmative step might be, for example, gleefully beheading helpless men to score religious/political points. That’s a life that has announced it’s without value.

The Bookworm Beat (9/16/14) — Clearing the Spindle Part 1, and Open Thread

Woman writingI’m working away at my inbox backlog, and have lined up the first batch of interesting things I’d love to share with you.

ISIS’s dangerous appeal to disaffected Westerners, Muslim and non-Muslim alike

Both Daniel Greenfield and Caroline Glick warn that there’s something very unusual and extremely dangerous about ISIS: It appeals to the formerly nice, and currently disaffected, Muslim living next door — or to the equally disaffected non-Muslm who’s looking for a combination of meaning and power in his (or her) life.

And here’s something interesting for you to chew on: You’re not the only one noticing that many of the non-Muslim’s taking up the standard of radical Islam are red-haired. When I was growing up, red hair was just another hair color. In today’s world, redheads are the new n*****. For reasons that are unclear to me, they are picked on something awful, and it’s entirely possible that radical Islam provides them with the ultimate revenge.

Obamacare policies worse than pre-Obamacare policies

In addition to forcing people to buy insurance, Obamacare also insists that, even if they want a Ford, they must buy a Rolls Royce. Except that it turns out that what people are really being forced to buy are the Rolls Royce equivalents of Potemkin Villages. You see, it turns out that, as any free market supporter could have told Obama, policies obtained on the open market, rather than on the government-controlled market, had a tendency to be cheaper, more readily available, and with greater options that could be better tailored to an individual’s needs.

(The car reference in the above paragraph comes from a Soviet-era joke:

Man One: Come the revolution, we’ll all be driving Rolls Royces.
Man Two: But I don’t want to drive a Rolls Royce.
Man One: Come the revolution, you’ll have to.)

Should private employers be forced to accommodate religious beliefs?

The government is getting involved in the case of a Seventh-day Adventist who claims he was fired from Dunkin’ Donuts for refusing to take a Friday night (i.e., Sabbath) shift. While I believe that the First Amendment means that the government cannot unreasonably impose itself on people’s religious practices, I do not believe that the government should be forcing private businesses to accommodate those practices. For one thing, once you start doing that, you’ve opened the tent to that camel’s nose, and you suddenly have the government siding with one private party (a Seventh-day Adventist, a Muslim, an Orthodox Jew) in a religious dispute with another private party which is, in and of itself, a wrongful interference in religion. For another thing, no one ever said that committing oneself seriously to religion wasn’t going to entail some sacrifice — but it should be your sacrifice, not your employer’s.

Michigan government makes Arabs feel at home

Here’s an excerpt from a post you might find interesting about the inroads Muslim immigrants have made in Michigan:

Muslim men are allowed to have as many as 4 wives. Many Muslims have immigrated into the U.S. And brought their 2-3-or 4 wives with them, but the U.S. does not allow multi marriages, so the man lists one wife as his, and signs the other 2 or 3 up as extended family on welfare and other free Government programs!


So now in Michigan when you call the Public Assistance office you are told to “Press 1 for English. Press 2 for Spanish, or Press 3 for Arabic”! CHECK IT OUT YOURSELF – Here is the number 1-888-678-8914.

Looking for a good income? Sign up for welfare.

Longtime readers are all familiar with a story I heard when I lived in England in 1981. A friend of mine spent the summer before university doing the worst kind of scut work at the local zoo, everything from driving the little train filled with screaming children to cleaning out the elephant and lion enclosures. His sister, meanwhile, spent the summer on the dole, watching telly and swanning about with her friends. At summer’s end, she had more money that he did.

Add thirty years, and my story about England in 1981 is the story of America in 2014: welfare is the best entry-level job there is. And let me just add, looking at Britain today, we know how well going down that road turned out.

MSNBC once again tries to re-write history

Eugenics in the 20th century was a purely Leftist phenomenon, from Sanger, to H.G. Wells, to (yes) Hitler. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, while rightly decrying it, seems a little unclear on its Leftist roots. This is not a big story, because no one today would be rocked by a headline screaming “MSNBC host is stupid and uninformed.” I include it here only as a reminder that we have to be vigilant at all times against the Left’s habit of perverting America’s past in order to control her future.

A quiz for you about life in the Roaring 20s

During the Roaring 20s, the papers seemed to carry stories daily about gangland style killings. Mobsters and related bootleggers killed each other with picturesque relish, a killing spree that seemed to culminate with the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. So here’s a quiz for you: During the 1920s, when guns were legal, was Chicago more or less violent than it is today, when guns are pretty much outlawed? Think you know? Check your answer here.

Fun and informative items at the Watcher’s Council website

There are a couple of posts I recommend to your attention at the Watcher’s Council. First, you can read an excellent forum about the response that Council members and their august friends (including Seraphic Secret) had to President Obama’s ISIS speech. Second, you can see the names of the weasels that Council members have nominated as the weasel of the week.

Yes, the UN is unfair to Israel

You and I already know the answer to the rhetorical question Anne Bayefsky asks, which is whether the UN is unfair to Israel. However, because Anne is temperate and informative, this is a good video to spread to your social media friends who may not know the correct answer.

Je suis ennui — but you get an Open Thread

Louis XIIIAccording to Alexandre Dumas’s delightful and timeless The Three Musketeers, Louix XIII of France, burdened by the duties of kingship, would frequently draw aside favored courtiers and complain to them “Je suis ennui [I am bored].”

I am almost never bored . . . unless I’m overwhelmed.  In that case, my brain shuts down and my defensive emotion is boredom.  Thus, back in high school, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the mountains of homework I somehow failed to do; I was, instead, bored with my work.  I had exactly the same emotional response as a young (and, thinking about it, old) lawyer when I was staring down a big brief.  Right up until the moment sheer panic hit, bringing with it a useful burst of adrenalin, my overriding emotion was a sense of ennui that left me completely paralyzed.

That’s how I feel today.  I’ve managed to gather over 200 emails in each of my inboxes, my homemaker tasks keep piling up, and I have so many things to say that I’m paralyzed.  So what’s my overriding emotion?  Je suis ennui.

So, here’s my plan:  In a few hours I’ll have finished caring for my mother, my children, my exchange student, and my housework.  I’ll sit down and bring my inboxes under control, fold the last of the laundry, and cook dinner.  I’ll then think about two socio-political points I want to make and start drafting them.  At 9:00 p.m., I’ll tune into the season premier of Dancing With The Stars, a show I love because I love dancing; I love watching beautiful professionals dance; and because I get genuine pleasure out of watching the “stars” (can B-listers be stars?) working hard and improving over the course of several weeks.

Having done all this, I assume that I’ll be mentally refreshed and that, having escaped the feeling of being overwhelmed, I’ll also stop being bored by Obama’s failings and depredations, by ISIS’s killing spree, by the world’s rising antisemitism, by the Progressives’ constant attacks on the stabilizing force of Judeo-Christian values, and myriad other distressing stories in the news and, instead, find all of them to be inspirations for writing.

Until then, don’t get stuck being ennui with me.  Instead, here’s an open thread — please express yourself.

Also, since I’m talking history, a friend reminded me that we might be better off if Obama was conversant with a little more history; or, at least, the non-Marxist variation on history:

Obama does not do history

And while we’re on the subject of that golf game, do you recall (yes, I’m sure you do), the ridicule heaped upon President Bush when, after hearing about the attack on the Twin Towers, he spent another five minutes finishing a book he was reading to children, before getting down to the business of governing? It’s like Obama is Bush’s evil Doppelganger, but the media refuses to notice.

What passes for theater and theater reviews amongst New York’s self-styled finest

Ruby-Rae-Spiegel-200x282America’s upper classes are now and have always been insecure. Lacking a hereditary nobility, social strivers have had to work hard to distinguish themselves from the masses when the only distinguishing feature, really, is cash. In the 19th Century, worried rich people formed “the Four Hundred” to distinguish the social “in-crowd” from the hoi polloi. America’s nervous upper class, distinguished now, as it was then, by money, not heredity, is still trying desperately to distinguish itself from those gun and God lovin’ American masses upon whom Obama heaped such scorn.

Our social “betters” go to Ivy League schools where earnest (and wealthy) Marxist professors assure them that only they and designated minorities (admired only at arm’s length, of course) are worthy, while the remainder of America’s citizens are crude, thrusting, greedy, and uncultured.  Once having graduated from their expensive, precious academic incubators, they buy lavish apartments in select neighborhoods in big cities, or sprawling homes on large estates in lush suburbs.  Their children’s elementary and high schools cost just as much annually as a year at a decent college.  The wives, if they choose not to have a job, do charitable work for two different types of causes: (a) social issue causes (climate change and environmentalism, mostly) or (b) for poor people overseas.  Apparently American poor are undeserving of their largess.

Oh, and one other thing:  They all read the New York Times, subscribing proudly to its complicated and often clashing mixture of social Progressivism, ardent (yet always geographically distant) support for people of color, and support for extreme wealth.

Had America’s modern-day Four Hundred been reading the Times last Friday, they would have seen a review that is a perfect distillation of everything that America’s self-identified elite stands for, and I don’t say that as a compliment.  The play, Dry Land, takes place in a Florida high school locker room after swim practice, as two young teens cement an unexpected friendship when the one asks the other to beat the living fetus out of her.  And no, “fetus” is not my coy substitution for the “F” word.  It is, instead, the baby that one carries within her.  This is a play about a violent DIY abortion in a state that requires parental consent before an abortion can be performed on a minor.  The playwright is a 21 year-old Yale senior.

Let me say this again:  A graduate of one of America’s finest universities has a play off-Broadway, the plot of which involves one girl physically abusing another, pregnant girl, resulting in a deep friendship.  Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?

Certainly the New York Times saw nothing wrong about the play.  Ben Brantley, the Times’ chief theater critic, wrote an excited, loving, almost completely incoherent review, lauding it as one of the best plays in New York.  It did not surprise me to learn that Brantley is gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that . . . although I can’t help believing that his Progessive gayness (as opposed to, for example, a conservative gayness) informs his passion for a disturbing play focused upon an act that, in any other context than a Broadway stage, would justify arrest for assault with intent to cause bodily harm.

Or maybe it’s not incoherent at all.  Maybe it’s just my rigid, conservative, hate-filled, gun-lovin’ mind that had me scratching my head when faced with this prose:

The two girls don’t know the protocol for sitting on someone’s stomach for medical reasons. So they improvise, awkwardly and goofily, with one planting her rump on the midsection of the other, which leads to both of them convulsing into giggles. The girl being sat upon laughs so hard that she wets herself.

They’re having a good if uncomfortable time. Most likely, so are you. Until the girls remember that what they’re trying to achieve is a do-it-yourself abortion. Even then, the giggles linger, though with a clammy, premonitory chill.


For, yes, “Dry Land,” a Colt Coeur production directed with rippling fluidness by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, is about abortion. No, that’s not correct. It’s about the complexities of friendship and the fears of the future that grip kids arriving at the threshold of adulthood. It is not — repeat not — an Abortion Play in capital letters, in the solemn, soapy manner of many a made-for-TV movie.

“Punch me.” Those are the first words you hear in “Dry Land.” The speaker is Amy (Sarah Mezzanotte), who wears a flashy bathing suit and a matching skintight air of worldly insolence.

She’s talking to Ester (Tina Ivlev), a ganglier, more callow type, who does her best to oblige by hitting Amy in the stomach. But it is not an easy assignment. It feels like kind of a joke, doesn’t it, or the manifestation of a hostility that Ester, a recent and still unsettled transfer student, surely doesn’t want to show.

The review goes on in this vein.  The only real takeaway I had is that Brantley thinks it’s tremendously exciting that a 21-year-old Yalie wrote about teenagers punching at and peeing upon each other.  (FYI, the New York Post reviewer also liked the play, in part because of its pro-abortion message.  The review is less shrill, more intelligible, and still leaves me feeling that this play may be clever, but it’s also grotesque.)

I may be hypersensitive to Brantley’s arch and meaningless language because I recently completed another back-to-school night at my kids’ high school. After four years of these things, I’ve discovered that it’s always the English class that gets my hackles up.  (The rest of the of the school is delightful.) These English teachers, many of whom like to boast to their students about their past drug and alcohol use, freely acknowledge that they don’t bother to teach English grammar.  Maybe that’s a principled stand (“the kids should have learned grammar before they came to my class”) or maybe it has to do with the fact that their own own semi-literate screeds too often come complete with run-on sentences that encompass entire paragraphs; vicious cat-fights between subject and verb that go beyond mere disagreement; infinitives so split they practically sound like German verbs; and enough ambiguities to delight any litigator’s heart.

As you might expect, these teachers also don’t teach anything about the beauty of the English language. Instead, as I’ve written before, they go for cheap pop psychology and, always, Catcher in the Rye tops the list. I don’t remember whether CITR is well-written or not. I simply remember from my own high school days finding the author’s and the teacher’s obsession with sex almost as unpleasant as Holden Caufield himself. CITR is taught so that English teachers can have deep psychological discussions about their sexual feelings. That may be a worthy goal, but it doesn’t teach American students to read, write, or think.

Things used to be different.  Once upon a time, English speakers had a shared culture based on the eternal wisdom of the Bible and Shakespeare. When writing his classic The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell was much struck by the sophisticated way in which all classes in that war used the English language:

Looking back on a bad day spent worrying over a forthcoming night attack, Captain Oliver Lyttelton, educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge, says: “Well, that day dawdled away. Ovid and his mistress would not have addressed the gods that day: O lente , lente currtte noctis equi.

Remembering going up the line in a crowded third-class railway car, Private Stephen Graham, hardly educated at all, says:

Huddled up in a dark corner of the carriage a-thinking of many such occasions in life when I have parted for the unknown, listening to the soldiers’ tales, it recalled the mood of Clarence’s dream when he was pacing on the hatches of the ship at night with the Duke of Gloucester, talking of the Wars of the Roses [an allusion to Shakespeare's Richard III, describing a horrible nautical nightmare].


An allusion more proper to a sailor than a soldier, we may think, but still very pointed and effective , and certainly astonishing in view of the circumstances and the insecure idiom of the first half of Private Graham’s sentence. Indeed , not the least interesting thing about his statement is the impression it gives of having been written by two different people: a virtual illiterate, who conducts the proceedings down to recalled; and a man of letters, who, because Shakespeare is now the focus, takes over at that point with impressive accuracy and economy.

Equally striking is General Sir Ian Hamilton’s literary behavior at Gallipoli. He has been expecting four crucial French divisions to arrive in the autumn of 1915. Told that they will be postponed a month, he is shattered. The terrible word postponed keeps sounding in his ear, and he thinks of Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale” and of

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell.

Aware that this postponement will very likely mean the death of the Gallipoli expedition, he turns to his diary and writes: “Postponed! the word is like a knell.” It is a gesture which, together with Captain Lyttelton’s and Private Graham’s, suggests the unparalleled literariness of all ranks who fought the Great War.


By 1914, it was possible for soldiers to be not merely literate but vigorously literary , for the Great War occurred at a special historical moment when two “liberal” forces were powerfully coinciding in England. On the one hand, the belief in the educative powers of classical and English literature was still extremely strong. On the other , the appeal of popular education and “self-improvement” was at its peak, and such education was still conceived largely in humanistic terms.


There were few of any rank who had not been assured that the greatest of modern literatures was the English and who did not feel an appropriate pleasure in that assurance. (Fussell, Paul, The Great War and Modern Memory (pp. 155-157). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Fussell readily acknowledged that America has never had such a self-conscious regard for the English language, but it used, at least, to have a reverence for English well taught and beautifully used. Now, it’s self-styled elite rave about precocious playwrights writing about Southern teens bonding over fetal bludgeoning.

The Bookworm Beat — 9/13/14 Illustrated Edition (and Open Thread)

Being a domestic goddess is exhausting. After a day spent shopping, cleaning, driving, folding, and cooking, I sat down to watch the surprisingly delightful On Approval. It’s a short movie (only 90 minutes), so I thought that, after it was done, I’d fold some laundry and write some blog posts. I actually have a lot of ideas in my head. Unfortunately, my dog crawled into my arms, tucked his little head in my neck, and started to snore. What else could I do? I started to snore too!

I’m now drying the last load of laundry before I go to bed for real (otherwise it mildews by morning). I have an early day and a long drive tomorrow (Fall soccer season is wearing on parents), but really do have high hopes that I can write upon my return, around 1 p.m. PST. Until then, I have a really delightful batch of images. Most are from Caped Crusader, but a few originated with my Facebook friends. I hope you enjoy them:

Science and faith

100 years of income tax

The minimum wage strategy

No boots on the ground in Iraq

Mass shootings and Democrats

Liberals and college costs

Corruption at the IRS

The silent Muslim majority

The 28 percent who are happy

Why people are angry with the government

ISIS learns from Obama that it's not Islamic

America's first amendment area

Obama's CYA with Congress re war

The real deniers

How to unload a pro sports team

9-11 means mall cops

When guns are outlawed only outlaws have guns

That's us in ten years.

These men should never meet

Can't get out of bed

Obama Twilight Zone