Funny: Dinesh D’Souza “interviews” Obama

As part of the promotion for his new movie, America, D’Souza did a little cut-and-paste on the interview that Barack Obama did with Zach Galifinakis. It’s fairly amusing. What interested me more was the very last part of the video, which has a preview of America. I have to say that the cuts of America’s contributions to the world gave me chills, so I was primed for the import of the movie’s premise: What if America never existed? It’s a shame that these movies don’t make it to Marin.

A nation founded by geniuses, but run by Democrats

A friend sent me this great Facebook post:

A Country Founded by Geniuses, but Run by Democrats

If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for entering and remaining in the country illegally — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If you have to get your parents’ permission to go on a field trip or to take an aspirin in school, but not to get an abortion — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If you MUST show your identification to board an airplane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book and rent a video, but not to vote for who runs the government — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If the government wants to prevent stable, law-abiding citizens from owning gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds, but gives twenty F-16 fighter jets to the crazy new leaders in Egypt — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If, in the nation’s largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not one 24-ounce soda, because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If an 80-year-old woman or a three-year-old girl who is confined to a wheelchair can be strip-searched by the TSA at the airport, but a woman in a burka or a hijab is only subject to having her neck and head searched — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If a seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for saying his teacher is “cute,” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

If hard work and success are met with higher taxes and more government regulation and intrusion, while not working is rewarded with Food Stamps, WIC checks, Medicaid benefits, subsidized housing, and free cell phones — you might live in a nation that was founded by geniuses, but is run by Democrats.

And this is what Orwell’s “doublethink” is all about: “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

American Conservatory Theater’s “1776 — The Musical”: a review (and a history lesson)

Last night, we went to see the American Conservative Conservatory Theater’s production of 1776 — The Musical.  It was a lovely production, with almost uniformly strong performances.  1776 hit Broadway in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam war and one year into Nixon’s first term.  Although ostensibly meant to record (musically) those Continental Congress deliberations that led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence (it starts on May 7, 1776, and concludes on July 4, 1776), the book’s writers couldn’t resist throwing in some pro-Democrat, anti-War politics along the way — but more on that later.

The play’s energy comes from John Adams, the explosive, deeply committed patriot who was, as the characters keep reminding him, “obnoxious and disliked,” but was nevertheless respected for his driving will.  The character is drawn as cantankerous, loyal, brilliant, and devoted to his wife, Abigail.  Credit goes to John Hickok for his solid performance.  He acted well, sang well, and danced well, which is always a good thing in musical theater.

Likewise, Andrew Boyer was a charming Benjamin Franklin, a genius, wit, patriot, and semi-faux dilettante who was, nevertheless, just as committed to the cause of liberty as was Adams.  Unlike Howard da Silva, the actor in the original stage version, who also starred in the 1972 movie of the same name, Boyer did not use a booming, deep voice for the part.  Instead, he opted for the slightly tremulous voice of an older man.  On rare occasions, his words seemed to slither down his neck and into his collar, but overall making it clear that Franklin had been around a while made for a smart performance.

Brandon Dahlquisit played Thomas Jefferson, and while he was occasionally too languid and passive for my taste, he had a lovely voice.

Although the three leads anchored the play, the star turns came from Jeff Parker, as John Dickinson, the landed Pennsylvanian who would not separate from England, and Jared Zimmerman, as Edward Rutledge, the slave-owning North South Carolina planter who would not tolerate Jefferson’s stand against slavery in the proposed Declaration of Independence and who, in a magnificently delivered performance of Molasses to Rum, about the “triangle trade“, reminded the assembled New Englanders that they too profited from slavery.  Both men fully inhabited their roles and their singing was better than the lead actors.  Parker also demonstrated true professionalism when he refused to let a bloody nose impair one of his key scenes defending the status quo.

The rest of the cast turned in equally fine performances.  There are only two female roles in the play, but both actresses carried them off well.  Abby Mueller, as Abigail Adams, couldn’t sing as well as she could act, but her acting was warm and immediate enough to overcome her occasional lapses into sour notes.  Andrea Prestinario, who had the one other female role, as Martha Jefferson, Thomas’s new bride, was pretty as a picture and could sing quite well.  She was a little too enthusiastic as Jefferson’s well-loved bride the morning after, but it was a charming performance.

As for the rest of the men portraying the delegates to the Continental Congress, military messengers, and pages, each fully carried his own weight.  Their performances were fluent and their singing was tuneful (always a good thing in a musical).

The production quality was as good as the acting.  The set was a simple one, never shifting from the interior of Constitution Hall (as it’s now known) in Philadelphia.  The men sat at and moved around tables set in tiers, with the highest point occupied by John Hancock, the Congress’s president, and the Congress’s secretary.  On the stage’s left, were those opposed to independence (southern slavers and northern landowners) and on the right were those who supported it (small northern farmers, laborers, and professionals).  The costumes were just right — neither too fancy, nor too plain — and the nine-pierce orchestra, which was hidden under a stage extension built over the pit, did a delightful and professional job.

All in all, it was as good a performance as one could ask for.  And yet, I still have quibbles.

Quibble number one:  The second act drags.  The first act has several cheerful, rousing, clever songs.  The second act is dominated by dirges about war and slavery.  The entire audience was getting very restless in the last half hour.  A man seated near me fell asleep, snoring loudly; another person kept burping; while a third man went on a knuckle-cracking binge.  I understand that the authors wanted us to have a sense of how fragile the alliance was between north and south, and landed and professional, but the second act should have been trimmed, either when written or when produced.

Quibble number two:  The waltz did not exist in 1776, although it crops up in two musical numbers.  Just sayin’….

Quibble number three (and this is the big one):  When John Dickinson makes the case for staying loyal to England, the Mother Country that has served many well, and that offers tremendous opportunities in the new world for wealth and advancement, the scene ends with slave-0wners and the gentry singing “Cool, Cool Considerate Men.”  By the time the song begins, the audience fully understands that these are the “bad” guys  because they support slavery and big money at the expense of “the people.” Having established this premise, the song then goes on the attack against Republicans, circa 1969.  The men identify themselves as “conservative” and, in a repeated chorus, say that the country must move “to the right” and never “to the left.”

The audience in San Francisco loved this song, chortling every time the dandified 1 percenters moved “to the right.”  I, on the other hand, wanted to stand up and holler out, don’t you guys know any history?  The notion of conservative is as 19th century construct, while the ideas of Left and Right originated with French Revolution, in 1789, long after the events portrayed.

Speaking of the French Parliament, Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp.” It’s worth keeping in mind that the ones on the Left eventually relied on the guillotine to make their point.

No one in the Continental Congress was moving either Left or Right.  Nor was the Revolution one of the “workers of the world,” since this was a pre-industralized era, versus “capitalists.”  The American revolution was a middle class revolution.  Middle class people in the north (farmers, tradesman, professionals) and middle class people in the south (plantation owners, tradesman, professionals) were yearning for economic freedom.  They actually had few problems with the British model for law and society.  They simply resented being bossed around from the other side of the Atlantic, often to their economic detriment.

For a song to imply that Republicans — the party that freed the slaves — are a bunch of Neanderthal racists is invariably irritating, and tends to blunt my enjoyment of 1776.  It also foments stupidity in the audience, blunting their ability to realize that Republicans, who value individual liberty, are the heirs of the Founders, as opposed to Democrats, the party of big government, who would have chosen, in 1776, to remain wedded to England, with everyone subordinate to the King.

If you’re in the Bay Area, and want to see a good performance of a Broadway classic, I can recommend this production.  Just keep in mind that, despite the strong often impressive reliance on historic events, it’s entertainment, not fact.

Happy July 4th!

So far, despite the efforts of some people who will go nameless in this post, we continue to be blessed to live in the United States of America.  Despite the constant nibbling away at the edges, we are still a land of free, brave, and prosperous people, and we can only hope that we stay that way.

The men who signed this great document did so knowing that, the moment their name appeared on that paper, they had the hangman’s rope around their neck.  It was win or die.

At many times over the next seven years, death seemed like a very real possibility to these patriots, and there were certainly man ordinary men — not statesmen, but farmers and shopkeepers, fathers, brothers, and sons — who freely gave their lives on the field of battle to the greater cause of individual liberty.

In the American of 2013, we too often look back and see America’s independence as a foregone conclusion.  There were no such comforting conclusions then.  Instead, there were many dark days when it looked as if freedom was illusory and impossible.  Those patriots never gave up their struggling for individual liberty and neither should we.

Happy July 4th!!

Declaration of Independence

And thanks to the men and women who have put themselves at the front line to preserve this liberty over the years.

Flag at Iwo Jima

Happy birthday, America!

statue_of_liberty_with_fireworks

Madison Rising’s “Star Spangled Banner” *UPDATED*

I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to renditions of the Star Spangled Banner, but I really, really like the passion behind Madison Rising’s version.  They’re looking to reach 5,000,000 hits this July 4th, so please watch it and, if you like it, spread the love:

By the way, you can contrast this heartfelt version, with its deep and abiding respect for America, with Lady Gaga’s gay-themed version.

UPDATE:  One more thing to add here is that Madison Rising is a conservative band, dedicated to using the gospel of rock to sell conservative beliefs and American patriotism.  I like that in a rock band.

Is nice Marin County an outlier or American ordinary? (In the nicest possible way.)

Heading into Marin County

For reasons I’ll explain shortly, I was kvelling to a friend about how wonderful Marin County is.  I then wrapped up by saying the Marin is an outlier, unlike the rest of America.  The moment the words were out of my mouth, it occurred to me that I’m probably wrong.  While Marin is an outlier economically, being one of the richest counties in America, the values I’m about to describe are American and it’s the large urban areas, the ones that fill the headlines, that are American outliers.

To begin at the beginning….

My son had a school project that required him to ask people to fill out a little survey.  Having exhausted the neighborhood without receiving a sufficient number of responses (most people are out of town for ski week, which is a wealthy community’s luxury vacation), he got permission at the local mall to set up a table.

I can only say that people were lovely.  Those that couldn’t, or didn’t want to, participate, were polite.  And those who did participate were delightful.  One parent, having taken the survey, returned home and immediately came back with seven children (her own and friends’ children) to help out.  I knew several of the people who came by, as well as some of the children whom I’d watched grow up over the years.  My overall sense was of a happy, healthy, highly functional little community.

Based upon my perception that I live in a very good community, I later remarked to my friend that we are lucky to live in Marin.  I added that it would have been impossible to complete this project in “other communities.”  My examples of “other communities” were Oakland and San Francisco — both highly urbanized areas.  My friend, however, who lives in one of Oregon’s bigger cities, remarked that, as long as you didn’t wander into one of the yuckier neighborhoods in her city, you could have done the same project in there too.

It was her remark that got me thinking about a little-mentioned American ethos — friendliness.  Or perhaps you could call it generosity of spirit.

As you all have gathered, I’ve traveled fairly extensively throughout Western Europe, parts of Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and some parts of Latin America.  I’ve sampled the Far East (my Japan trip) and spent meaningful amounts of time in Israel.  In every place in which I’ve traveled, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting nice people.  (Okay, not in Tunisia, but that was a few months into the Arab Spring, and the Tunisians were clearly a people on edge.)

Despite invariably having met pleasant individuals, I’ve never been a county, other than my own, that offers friendliness as a national hallmark.  In my travels abroad, I’m pleasantly surprised when I meet nice, friendly people.  At home, I’m equally surprised when I’m met with unfriendliness.

Part of this, of course, is the urban versus suburban or rural divide.  As a tourist, one tends to go to the capital cities (London, Rome, New York, Prague, etc.) and the nature of cities is that they are less friendly than smaller communities.  That is, unless you go to cities such as Dallas, Houston, or other Southern cities that still take pride in their manners.

Even cities that suck up a lot of headline space with violence horror stories tend to confine that icky behavior to specific neighborhoods.  I know that Chicago is right up there amongst America’s murder capitals, but when I was in downtown Chicago on a business trip a few years ago, people couldn’t have been nicer.  The same holds true for other major American cities, provided that one is able to overlook regional eccentricities.  For example, people in Boston were rigid, but friendly; people in New York, rude but friendly; and people in L.A. peculiar, but friendly.

We Americans are fully aware of how nice we are.  Or, rather, we’re aware that, barring certain urban environments (which are usually subsets of a larger, nicer urban area), we are nice, helpful, friendly people.  That’s why mass murders in suburbs upset us so much.  It’s not, as the race-mongers would have us believe, that we only care when white kids die.  It’s that we’re terribly aware that urban toxins are polluting our communities.  These toxins may not be factory smoke or ground-water pollution, but they are every bit as vile and dangerous.

So is Marin County an outlier because it’s nice?  No.  It’s an outlier because it’s affluent, but it’s niceness is quintessentially American.  That’s something worth remembering when we see headlines about shootings in Vegas or Chicago or Detroit.  Although those cities are strongly identified with America, they are behavioral outliers.  We’re nice more often than not.  (And no, I haven’t found a study to prove this.  I’m just basing it on having traveled extensively at home and abroad.)

Oh, one more thing.  You know those recently listed, incredibly miserable American cities?  Here’s a little chart identify something they all have in common:

Unhappy Democrat run cities

You don’t need to be a statistical genius to realize that there’s a strong correlation between Democrat politics (and many of these cities have been Democrat strongholds for decades) and unhappiness. I’m not going to make the effort now, but I’m willing to bet that one could find an equally strong correlation between crime-ridden, or unfriendly, cities and Democrat politics.

Honestly, you’d think that Republicans would figure out a campaign along the lines of “You’ve been miserable Democrats for decades. Try being a happy Republican.”

Victor Davis Hanson on America: Decline or Renaissance? *UPDATED*

I did something very nice yesterday:  I attended a luncheon at which Victor Davis Hanson spoke.  I’ve read his work for years, and knew that I would be in the presence of an intellectual giant.  Hanson is an expert in both Classic and military history (not to mention Classic military history).  He is also an acute observer of the American political and social scene.

There’s always a risk going in that a Classics scholar’s delivery will dry and dusty, and heavily larded with Latinisms and allusions to long-forgotten historic figures known only to those who have studied them closely.  Hanson is not that scholar.  Instead, he is the professor you always wished you could have had in college.

Hanson is a focused speaker who uses his unusually wide body of knowledge to support a carefully constructed, well-thought out narrative.  He doesn’t waste words.  He also doesn’t use sesquipedalian words to impress — nor does he need to.  He’s impressive enough speaking in straightforward English.  (And yes, it was my little joke to use a ridiculously long word to highlight the fact that Hanson eschews ponderous obfuscation.  Yup.  Another little — very little — joke.)

So what did Hanson speak about?  He spoke about the cusp on which America now finds herself.  On the one hand, we see a world in disarray, both at home and abroad.  On the other hand, America still towers over other nations when it comes to her people, her resources, and her accomplishments.  If America is unable to succeed it will be because we will have followed in the path of other successful nations that disintegrated from within.

Hanson opened by detailing all the facts that should have responsible people worried.  The situation abroad his grim.  In 2008, Barack Obama promised direct dialog with the North Koreans, Syria, and Iran.  Since that time, North Korea has produced a video imagining a joyful future in which North Korea destroys us with a nuclear attack; Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war, with both sides hating America only slightly less than they hate each other; and Iran gleefully thumbs its nose at the world as it continues work on its nuclear arsenal.

Even as the world’s bad actors — Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, etc. — work to buff their nuclear credentials, Obama is showing his post-election flexibility by promising Russia that America will unilaterally downsize her nuclear arsenal.  Those countries within the geographic radius of predatory nuclear nations are (rightly) becoming extremely worried.

In the Middle East, Obama has embraced a bifurcated policy.  On the one hand, he leads from behind so that countries such as Egypt, Mali, and Libya can fall into the hands of radical Islamists.  On the other hand, his visceral dislike for Netanyahu and Israel gives him an aggressive stance towards that small, democratic nation.

Not only has the Nobel-prize winning President failed to bring about world peace, he’s presided over some of the worst killing in America’s recent wars.  Obama has overseen the deaths of as many American troops in four years as George Bush did in eight (not that we hear anything about that from the media).  Moreover, the same president who said that it was inhumane and immoral to waterboard three known terrorists has recently announced that he has the unilateral power to use drones to kill American citizens.

I was gratified to hear Hanson make the same point I made during George Bush’s presidency — that his “wild man” persona, no matter how ill-deserved, was an effective deterrent to thugs, because they did not know how he would act under provocation.  Obama, though, brings absolutely reliability to the process:  When the chips are down . . . he does nothing.  This means, Hanson says, that “we’re in a very dangerous period abroad.”  Oh, joy.

Things at home aren’t any more cheerful.  Hanson, who has an impressive mastery of facts, ran through those gloomy numbers and statistics about the debt, the deficit, the unemployment rate, and the usually flat, but occasionally shrinking, economy.

The only bright spot in Obama’s America is the Left’s/media’s relentless cheerfulness.  Having embraced Obama, Hanson notes, the media also embraces a European style economy (not from the hip 60s, but from the decayed 2010s), and calls it good.

California, Hanson’s home state and mine, looks equally grim.  Although California has 1/6 of the total American population, it manages to support 1/3 of the nation’s welfare recipients.  Despite the highest teacher pay in the US, we’re number 48 in public school education.  (California was number 1 in the 1960s and very early 1970s.) And although Californians are forced to fork over the highest taxes in America, we have the worst infrastructure.

These facts are deeply depressing, but there is a bright side, and it’s not that we’re going European.  It’s that, if we can find the will, America still has the resources for greatness.  To make this point, Hanson pivoted from focusing on the grim news we see in the news every day, and started identifying America’s staggering resources.

Although the U.S. has 6% of the world’s population, we produce 26% of the world’s goods.  One American worker is as productive as three Chinese workers.

Our military continues to be the wonder of the world.  Even downsized (and Hanson emphasized during the question and answer period that sequestration would slow, rather than reverse, military growth), it will take a long time for other nations to catch up.  Even one of our aircraft carriers (and we have eleven) is greater than the carrier strength of the other nations put together.  Our problem when it comes to wars, isn’t resources or our troop’s abilities.  It’s the leadership’s will to win, or lack thereof.

Despite the shabby state of our primary education system, and despite the political correctness that has destroyed liberal arts programs all over America, when it comes to the hard sciences, the US still leads in higher education.  Of the top ten ranked universities in the world, eight are American.  And of the top ranked fifteen, five of those are in California.

Either because of, or despite, our education system, America continues to lead the world in technological innovation.  In that regard, California’s own Silicon Valley, despite California’s hostile business environment, is still one of the most important intellectual and electronic/technological hubs in the world.

We also lead the world when it comes to exporting our culture.  Americans may be fascinated by a variety of indigenous cultures around the world, but everyone else wants to be American.  They watch our movies, buy our clothes, listen to our music, mimic our military, copy our educational institutions, and love our food.

Our fundamental strength has long been and, for now, continues to be the fact that we are not a class-based society.  Unlike all other countries (whether modern European ones, Latin American banana republics, or Eastern autocracies), people in America do not need the right social or familial connections, the right accent, the right university degree, or the right anything else to succeed.  If they’ve got discipline and drive, they’ll rise up, and if they add to that a touch of marketplace genius, the sky’s the limit.

America’s “room at the top” philosophy may explain why America is the only major nation left in the world with a positive demographic growth trend.  Not only do immigrants want to come here, but people who live here still believe in having children.  With our fertility rate at 2.1, we’re still growing ever so slightly.

The same is not true for the rest of the world.  In Japan, said Hanson, the stores sold more diapers last year for old people than they did for babies.  All over Europe, countries have negative population growth.  China still has 1 billion or so people, but the Chinese one-child policy has ensured that the future will see a dramatically shrunken population.  Russia has more abortions than babies.

The Arab world and Iran are in even worse shape.  Aside from a catastrophic demographic decline, if one takes away their oil (which is beginning to be tapped out) it turns out that they do not have functioning economies.  They have no education, their misogyny means that 50% of their population cannot contribute to their economic well-being, and their controlling doctrine, even more than Islam, is nihilism.  When they insist on a world-wide caliphate, they don’t offer any positive vision about this new world.  Instead, they threaten only destruction.

At the end of his talk, Hanson half-jokingly said that the Islamist line of argument is “Give us what we want, or we’ll make you as miserable as we are.”  Part of America’s diffidence in dealing with Islamists is that we’re unwilling to suffer for short intervals, even if that limited suffering is what it takes to protect entirely us from Islamic nihilism.

The European Union is also a disaster.  Not only is it going broke very quickly, it’s completely undemocratic.  Once accepted into the EU, countries must abide by its Kafka-esque bureaucratic rulings.  Worse, once in, there is no mechanism for dissatisfied countries to leave.  (When Hanson said that, it occurred to me that the EU is the governmental equivalent of a Roach Motel:  countries check in, but they don’t check out.)

Our wonderful Constitution, despite the current fights over the Second Amendment and the religious component of the First, is mostly intact.  Because we have a simple, functioning Constitution, we are the most stable major nation in the world.

America is also fortunate that we have massive amounts of the two things that every society needs to survive:  food and fuel.  Even the Democrat’s relentless attack on California’s central valley (which sees vast swathes of land reduced to dust in order to protect the Delta Smelt), has not changed our status as the world’s major food producer.  Not only do we grow the most food, people like and want American food — it’s clean, safe, and tasty.

We also lead the world in fossil fuel reserves.  While the Arab lands are being pumped dry, American ingenuity means that, on private lands all over America, we are starting to produce meaningful amounts of oil and natural gas that can support us at home and leave enough to send abroad.  If Obama would allow drilling on federal land, and if democrat-run states would allow drilling on their soil, we would have almost unimaginable amounts of cheap fuel.  (Obama, amusingly, used the SOTU to boast about America’s oil production, even as he conveniently forgot to tell the American people that this production is all on private land, since he and many Democrat governors have forbidden it on public land.)

America also continues to be the world’s largest coal producer.  [UPDATE: I erred when i said this. Please see a comprehensive correction here.] Surprisingly, given the Left’s war on coal, it’s still a money-maker.  Even though the government is preventing its use at home, the rest of the world, especially Europe, is begging for more.

Given America’s vast human and natural resources, why aren’t we doing better?  I can stop looking at my notes now, and quote directly from Hanson’s latest article at National Review:

The gradual decline of a society is often a self-induced process of trying to meet ever-expanding appetites rather than a physical inability to produce past levels of food and fuel or to maintain adequate defense. Americans have never had safer workplaces or more sophisticated medical care — and never have so many been on disability.

[snip]

By any historical marker, the future of Americans has never been brighter. The United States has it all: undreamed-of new finds of natural gas and oil, the world’s preeminent food production, continual technological wizardry, strong demographic growth, a superb military, and constitutional stability.

Yet we don’t talk confidently about capitalizing and expanding on our natural and inherited wealth. Instead, Americans bicker over entitlement spoils as the nation continues to pile up trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Enforced equality, rather than liberty, is the new national creed. The medicine of cutting back on government goodies seems far worse than the disease of borrowing trillions from the unborn to pay for them.

[snip]

History has shown that a government’s redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector’s creation of new sources of it, can prove more destructive than even the most deadly enemy.

(You really should read the whole article, which is a pleasing amalgam of ancient history, mid-20th century trends, and our modern condition.  It takes a truly great writer and thinker to blend those disparate elements so seamlessly and to arrive at a compelling conclusion.)

If the opportunity to hear Victor Davis Hanson comes your way, seize it.  It’s a great pleasure to be in the same room as a speaker who uses his education, knowledge, and intelligence to support fundamental American principles.

Let not your heart be troubled — nations can be saved

I thought about Margaret Thatcher today.  Lord knows, she was something.  Brilliant, indomitable, focused, feisty, witty, and absolutely convinced of her right-ness and righteousness.  She was the un-RINO.  Her unswerving commitment to her principles enabled her to turn England around.  We forget that sometimes, because the Labor party managed to take her legacy and destroy it by turning England into an Orwellian state.

For a few brief shining years, though, she fought back against a socialist norm that had turned England into a decayed, drab society.  She privatized businesses, fought victorious wars, and generally reminded the English of their greatness.  I was there during that transition period.  The unions fought back ferociously but Maggie, unlike today’s loosey-goosey Republicans, would not back down.  She wasn’t driven by polls or scared by a Leftist media.  She understood economics and human nature.  The last half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s saw an English economic renaissance.  Had the British people been smart, they could have kept it going; instead, they opted for a renewal of socialism, the EU, unlimited immigration, and the strong velvet chains of a nanny state.

I mention this because I refuse to accept that Obama can “destroy” America.  He can — and will — damage it.  If we can get a handful of Maggie Thatchers, though, or even one Maggie Thatcher, someone who is both a visionary and a fighter, America can be turned around.  And if we’re smart, once that turnaround happens, we’ll stick with it.

Incidentally, although this sounds awful, I think we need to go over the fiscal cliff in January.  Three reasons:  First, this is what Americans voted for and, in a republican democracy, they should get it; Second, the longer we delay, the worse the inevitable fall will be; and Third, this disaster needs to happy during the long haul of a Democrat presidency (and Senate) so that Americans can grasp cause-and-effect.  Only when the socialist economic infection erupts in its full fury will Americans begin to accept that their nation is sick.  When that happens, God willing, we’ll have a Thatcher-esque politician cogently explaining to Americans that the cure lies in reaffirming constitutional and free market principles.

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

Sometimes you need to see the infection to know you're sick

 

A Frenchman rallies our troops

For a bleak look at America’s future as the “New France” and a ray of sunshine called hope, a Frenchman comes a-blowing the clarion call to resistance against the Progressive barbarian Left. The key take-away:

“Once again, you don’t need a lecture from this Frenchman, but it seems to me that some of you, in the emotion of that unexpected electoral defeat, forgot this simple fact: America is always outnumbered.

This unique nation, founded not on feudal or religious fault lines but on a radical philosophy of individual freedom isn’t the norm in this world: it is an anomaly. If you needed a quick and simple reminder on the basis for American exceptionalism, there you go.

America is always outnumbered and, until the rest of the world sees the guiding light and builds shining cities on America’s model—if that day ever comes—America will always be outnumbered.

Yet it doesn’t matter: America’s strength isn’t in numbers, it’s in her soul.

Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it.

Don’t you dare be that man.”

http://www.thedissidentfrogman.com/blog/link/the-frogmans-prophecies/

Vive la Resistance!

American embassy in Cairo appears to embrace sharia speech codes *UPDATED*

Yes, I understand that the embassy in Cairo is besieged but it does strike me as cowardly to abandon core principles as this juncture (emphasis mine):

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

You’d think that you wouldn’t have to provide basic constitutional lessons for U.S. Embassy employees but I guess they need a little review:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If we Americans want to say Islam is an incitement to violence, we can. If we want to put Jesus in a vat full of urine, we can. If we want to say Jews are greedy, we can. If we want to say Hindus worship cows, we can. If we want to say Mormons wear funny underwear, we can.  We are allowed to hurt the religious feelings of religious people.  It’s our right as Americans to be rude.  Neither tact, nor forbearance, nor non-mutual respect, nor polite lies are required under our Constitution.

Last thought:  It is possible that the language from embassy — that it’s bad “to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” — is as foolish as it is because the embassy people meant them ironically. Perhaps the White House said “say something that won’t hurt Muslim feelings,” and some P.O.’d embassy official came back with this nonsensical, unconstitutional PC fecal matter. I mean, the statement is too close to parody to be real. Isn’t it?  Come on, someone.  Please agree with me right about now.

Of course, if that statement is a heartfelt expression from America’s representative on Egypt’s soil, God help us all, because our government is in the hands of dhimmis.

UPDATE:  For more on embassy awfulness (proving that this is no joke, but is their real thinking) just check their twitter feed:


Is it possible that these government representatives do not understand that the essence of free speech is the ability to criticize religion?  No, it may not be very nice, but in a normal, non-sharia, world, this type of criticism leads to a debate that enriches the marketplace of ideas — and may the best idea win.  We do America a profound and lasting disservice if we abandon this core principle to pander to a 7th century mentality, the practitioners of which are deathly afraid to subject their beliefs to an intellectual airing and analysis.

Lemmings and herded cats — musings on Japan and America

Spending two weeks in a country does not make one an expert on that country.  Indeed, I’m sure the opposite is true, which is that one learns just enough to be dangerous.  One sees the country without understanding it.  Nevertheless, both from looking at the Japanese in action and from speaking to myriad people, both Japanese and Western, I’m prepared to make the dangerous leap to conclusions.

I can’t speak for other people, but what struck me most strongly about Japan was the homogeneity — not just racially, although it is bizarre in today’s world to be in a country where everyone, with the exception of tourists and the American military, is racially Japanese — but also behaviorally.  No matter where we traveled in Honshu, the behaviors were identical.  Everyone said “Arigatou gozaimasu” (0r “thank you very much”) constantly.  And I do mean constantly.  Whether listening to shop keepers, desk clerks, train announcements, bus drivers, subway passengers, or anyone else in any other walk of life, that phrase must have popped up every third or fourth sentence.  So much so that one began to doubt that it had any real meaning.  It began to feel like a verbal twitch, akin to an American “um” or “like.”  Nevertheless, the Japanese fully understand its polite import, and someone who deletes that phrase from his or her vocabulary is definitely rude.

The bowing is akin to the thank yous — all the Japanese do that, to the point at which it feels leached of meaning.  However, had anyone failed to do it, it would have been quite obviously rude.  I found myself bowing reflexively and then, being American, felt guilty for doing so.  Americans shouldn’t be bowing.  I consoled myself, though, by telling myself it’s a meaningless, mannered act, rather than a showing of fealty to a sovereign power.  Given the reflexive bowing, I was almost inclined to forgive Obama for bowing to the Emperor — but not quite.  He’s the American president and it was just wrong to bow to the Emperor, no matter how nice a man the Emperor is and no matter the ritual nature of the bow.

Wherever we traveled, the bus drivers spoke in sibilant whispers.  As best as we could tell, they were constantly muttering under their breath such things as “Everyone sit down, thank you very much,” “we’re all on the bus, thank you very much,” “move to the back, thank you very much,” “the next stop is _______________, thank you very much,” or various other mindless nothings, many of which had already been announced on the overhead recording (complete with multiple pre-recorded “thank you very muches”).  Please note that it wasn’t just the repetitive phrases that were homogenous — it was that identical whisper that the drivers all over Honshu murmured into the microphones.  The first time it was funny, the second intriguing, the third, fourth and etc., it was kind of weird.

My overall sense was that the Japanese are obsessively attached to behaviors.  I liked their obsessive cleanliness, since it meant that travel was less onerous to me.  Since I was raised by a (Japanese) concentration camp survivor with a fetish for cleanliness (cleanliness in a tropical camp could mean the difference between life and death), I have a few obsessive behaviors myself.  Traveling always squeezes me emotionally, as I deal with musty beds and less-than-clean bathrooms.  In Japan, especially because we stayed in tour-group vetted hotels, I didn’t see anything that was less-than-clean.

Nevertheless, even with my appreciation for all things clean, it was strange that, everywhere we went, barring public venues such as train stations or stadiums, the bathrooms were equipped with virtually identical bathroom slippers.  They might be a plain tan color or, more commonly, a snazzy his-and-her toilet design (see below), but they were all styled the same.

The deal with these slippers is that, when you enter a bathroom barefoot or in socks (as is the case in all homes, hotels or nice restaurants), you immediately put on the toilet slippers.  If you forget to take them off when you leave the bathroom, it’s akin to walking out with toilet paper attached to your derriere. Being a fastidious type, I liked the fact that I didn’t have to walk barefoot onto a potentially urine-spattered floor.  Nevertheless, the ubiquity of identical slippers no matter where we traveled was peculiar.

The most fascinating example of the Japanese ability to function in unison was the baseball game we attended.  Although I’m no baseball fan, it was a very enjoyable experience.  The stadium was, of course, immaculate (including the bathrooms).  The fans were happy and friendly, making it a vastly different experience from attending, say, an Oakland Raiders game, which can be rather frightening.  The fans never booed the opposing team or a bad player on their own team.  Instead, they cheered for their own team.  We Americans cheer too, but in a chaotic, unstructured fashion.  The Japanese have cheerleaders in every section and the fans follow along with chants and rhythmic beats on their noisemakers (which look a bit like small bowling pins).  I’m not unique in observing this.  Others, too, have drawn the same conclusions about Japanese group think as played out in the baseball stadium:

The difference is in the atmosphere of the stadium as the game is being played. Both teams had huge bleacher-seating fan sections all of whom cheered for every batter during every inning. This is not just random cheering, it’s highly organized. Think college football games, except pull people from all ages and demographics. Everyone had noise makers and shirts. Businessmen in suits pulled a jersey over their shirt and tie. Old women screamed their hearts out.

The collective nature of the cheering reflects Japanese culture of groupthink, not standing out, etc. I’ve never seen such a highly organized cheering machine in any other sports venue or game I’ve attended. Such a collective fan spirit means many people show up by themselves but instantly join in. The fans cheer while their players are batting. Then they sit down and are quiet the other half of the inning, again reflecting the Japanese value of respect and dignity for opponents.

The whole baseball game experience was charming, but the groupthink bothered me.  You see, as far as I’m concerned, groupthink goes a long way to explaining how a polite, thoughtful, kind, decent group of people can suddenly morph into a monomaniacal killing machine.  The Japanese did it.  The Germans did it.  The Chinese did it.  If the lemming group moves in a nice direction, all is good.  However, if the lemmings get steered towards the cliff, nothing will stop them.  Since morality is defined by manners, when the manners dictate death, off they all go, engaging in mass suicide or homicide.

Americans, traditionally, have appeared more like surly herded cats than enthusiastic lemmings.  For every stain on American history (slavery, the treatment of the Indians, the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans, Jim Crow), there have been countervailing forces, vigorously protesting these injustices.  Yes, the injustices happened, but they were never the product of a unanimous society mindlessly going along.  Instead, they were the result of societal tension and were destroyed by that same societal tension.

Many years ago, I read Pierre Berton’s Klondike : The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899. I enjoyed reading the book, but with time’s passage, only two things remain in my memory. The first is Berton’s description of the Klondike mosquitoes, which were so big and aggressive that they could quickly kill a horse. The second is his description of a town that was split evenly down the middle between Canada and the United States. On the Canadian side, the townspeople instantly formed a provisional government, and quickly had an orderly, top-down society. The American side, however, was a Wild West town, with a pure democracy, in which every townsman had a voice. The streets were muddy, crime was rife, and little got done.

At the time I read the book, I was actually embarrassed by the American Klondike town — “What violent, disorganized losers Americans are!”  Since then, though, I’ve come to appreciate the American unwillingness to bow down to leaders.  We don’t — and shouldn’t — look to a strong leader for help.  We look to ourselves.  It may slow us down, but it also allows us to innovate and, most importantly, helps us put the brakes on bad ideas.  We herd as badly as cats do, and we should be grateful for that fact.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton