The Bookworm Beat 4-27-15 — “not yet the Apocalypse” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy brain is filled with Apocalyptic imagery, but it’s not because Obama is president, the Middle East is in flames, our southern border has collapsed, our economy is stagnant, Greece may drag down Europe, and Islamist’s are resurgent everywhere. It’s actually because last night, when my work load finally showed signs of a much-desired longish-term slowdown, I started reading two excellent books.

The first is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s lyrical and highly informative Jerusalem: The Biography, which takes the reader from Jerusalem’s pre-Biblical beginnings, to Old Testament and New Testament history, and then through post-Biblical history, all the way up to the 1967 War. It’s a lovely book, but I’ve just finished reading about Jesus’s crucifixion and am working my way toward’s the Kingdom of Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, so you can see why I’d be having an “end of days” feeling.

The second book that I’m reading, equally good so far, isn’t helping. It’s John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, another elegantly written book that makes you realize the speed with which civilization can collapse (as if the recent Ebola scare wasn’t reminder enough). I think too that Kelly, with a historian’s true knowledge rather than a Progressive’s fantasy-science melange, might just be a climate change skeptic. It’s this bit of information that’s the giveaway, about the changing climate and demographic conditions in Europe in the five hundred years leading to the plague:

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The Bookworm Beat 4-26-15 — the “writer’s block” edition and open thread

Woman writingI know this is going to surprise those of you used to my usual output of posts, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. The last few weeks have been so chaotic, my opportunities to write so random and infrequent, and the news of the world so overwhelming that, now that I finally have time to sit down and write, I’m frozen. After sitting her for a while, I decided that the best thing to do would be to clear my spindle. I know some of the contents are outdated, but they may still be of interest, and getting through the backlog may help spark my dormant (I hope, rather than extinct) yen to write.

Obama fiddles with Iran while the Middle East burns and Israel is forced to go it alone

All eyes may be on Obama and his desperation to get a deal with Iran (despite the fact that, in a sane world, the smaller, weaker, poorer Iran would be desperate to get a deal with Obama), but the fact is that the entire Middle East is a flaming disaster thanks to Obama’s habit of alternately meddling in and abandoning Middle Eastern affairs.

Bret Stephens explains that, thanks to Obama’s policies, it is now impossible for Israel to walk back the way in which he’s abandoned and isolated it:

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An observation about the Clintons and Obama

Chamberlain and Obama appeasersAmerica has had corrupt presidents in the past. The ones that spring readily to a mind educated in the San Francisco Public School District are Andrew Johnson, Warren B. G. Harding, and Richard Nixon. Please feel free to chime in with equally corrupt Democrats.

But I ask you this: Before the Clintons, have we ever before had a former president (that would be Bill) and a wannabe future president (that would, God forbid, Hillary) who have sold our country out to foreign interests? (While Bill didn’t do that in office, it appears that he and Hillary worked together to fund their Clinton Foundation in exchange for giving favors to foreign entities that had interests antithetical to American interests.)

And have we ever before — ever! — had a president who turned his back entirely on stalwart American allies and not only made nice with unrepentant enemies, but actually worked hard to expand those enemies’ arsenals? At least when Chamberlain did what he did, he believed that he was, both militarily and economically, in a weaker position than Hitler. Obama, however, is the stronger party, both militarily and economically, in the negotiations and has still given everything in exchange for nothing.

I’d like to hear your opinions on the questions I ask. What I’m suggesting is that past, present, and wannabe future American presidents have engaged in actual treason as defined in 18 U.S. Code section 2381:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. (Emphasis added.)

I’m also thinking that the conduct I’ve described is a first, and I’d be interested if you can think of historic precedents.

[VIDEO] Obama’s 747 hypocrisy on Earth Day *UPDATED*

Obama Asthma Cigarette Smoking Climate ChangeKudos to reporter Mark Knoller for asking presidential Spokesboy Josh Earnest whether the President undermines his message when he boards a 747 to fly to the Everglades on Earth Day.  The video captures something else interesting (and you may have to turn up the volume to catch it):  fellow White House reporters giggle, with one of them alluding to Hillary’s van.

As Caleb Howe, who caught this moment, notes with despair, it seems as if the reporters are horrified that their political betters might have to do something plebian, such as forego a fancy plane ride or pimped-up van journey, even if doing so spares the environment. However, listening to the laughs and catcalls, I’d like to think that at least some of those reporters had a seed of doubt planted in their brains about the hypocrisy at work amongst the gilded members of the Democrat club.

Still, religion is religion and, as I noted in an earlier post, the Left isn’t yet ready to concede that theirs is the God that failed.

UPDATE:  The great David Burge nails it:  “Cloud god angry! Sea god angry! Big power chief fly great iron bird to swamp village, make science dance for great Earth Mother!”

 

Reparations?! Again!?

Slavery in AfricaIt appears that Barack Obama and his cronies may be set to put reparations for slavery back on the national agenda. I don’t have anything to say on the subject, but that’s not because I don’t have strong opinions. It just that, a few years ago, in a post as current today as it was then, Wolf Howling said exactly what I would have said if I could think and write as well as he does.

Where has the Bookworm been hiding?

Depressed faceI have a friend with whom I talk a lot via email. My letters of late have been banal. I haven’t wanted to inflict that banality on all of you, so I simply haven’t blogged much in the past few days. I’ll share with you the apology I sent my friend to explain my inability to comment on current events:

I fear that I’ve been letting you down with my letters lately. My life for the past few days has been intensely domestic, in part because there’s so much that needs doing. I’m also getting to the point at which I’m a little afraid to open Drudge or another site.

Do you remember in the days after 9/11 waiting for the other shoe to drop? I know that, for a couple of years after that, I daily expected some other horrible mass terrorist attack, not just in Madrid or London, but in America again. I was reminded of the risks every time I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, since there was a police presence there for years looking for trucks that might be carrying bombs.

And then I started thinking, “I guess it won’t happen here because we’re engaging them there.” When talking heads got upset about the way Islamists from the world over were flocking to Iraq, my thought was, “At least they’re collecting themselves in one place so that we can dispose of them more easily.”

Even when Obama pulled out of Iraq completely, I envisioned a pallid retreat from success, rather than a rapid descent into unbearable evil — and, moreover, a spreading evil. Obama’s governance, which has seen large parts of the world collapse economically or plunge into wars of exceptional ferocity, exceeded anything I could have imagined an American president doing.

Yes, we knew Obama would hurt the economy, but who imagined a 7 year “recession”” Yeah, we knew he wanted America to retreat, but who knew that he’d embrace policies that left utter disarray in America’s wake? Obama is worse than I ever imagined he could be, and it’s clear that he’s poised to do still more damage in the two years remaining.

An Irish conservative friend of mine believed that America could never become a totalitarian state because it wasn’t in the American nature. The last few years, however, with the spreading poison of fascistic political correctness and increasing anti-Semitism (which Obama is trying to politicize, by making Republicans pro-Israel and Democrats anti-Israel) may have fundamentally changed too much of the American character for us to walk this one back.

The headline I tried to avoid today said that Obama is now going to push for reparations for American blacks. In other words, Obama’s race wars continue.

I keep hoping that some Deus Ex Machina will emerge suddenly and change the plot in the tragedy we’re currently enacting. I keep wondering if, two years from now, rather than having an election that leads to a turnaround, I’ll look back on these days and realize that, no matter how frustrating and sad they often were for me, they were, in fact, the last “best days of my life.” I no longer worry that my kids won’t enjoy the same high standard of living I clawed my way up to. I worry that they’ll end up in some Mumbai-esque squalor or some Damascus-style post-apocalyptic Civil War.

And I worry that too many people are worrying about the wrong thing. It’s not anthropogenic climate change that’s going to get us; it’s internal rot and external enemies. As went Rome, so will go the West again.

So, the reason I haven’t dazzled you with my intellectual acumen regarding world events is because that part of my brain dedicated to current events has been taken over by a dystopian horror novel that I’m trying hard not to read. Under the circumstances, it’s easier to clean out closets and babble to friends about my success in that narrow domestic arena.

Obama’s not the only problem — after all, the American people elected him

A friend of mine sent me the following poster, which she called “the quote of the century.” She has a point. Whatever chicanery happened during the 2012 election, the fact is that in 2008 the American people enthusiastically threw themselves behind this Marxist con man, simply because of his skin color and the magic beans he promised them:

Vaclav Klaus

The Bookworm Beat 4-14-15 — the procrastination edition and open thread

Woman writingI have work to do today, but no actual deadlines, so naturally I’m procrastinating like crazy. And what better way to do so than to share a few interesting things with you? How about my starting with the most inspirational. I’ll go from the sublime to the ridiculous, which means I’ll end with links to articles about Hillary’s candidacy.

Noah Galloway, American soldier, DWTS contender

Noah Galloway lost his left arm and leg in Iraq. His appearance on Dancing With The Stars was a little bit by way of being a gimmick because how can someone dance without an arm and with a totally lost leg (i.e., no knee)?

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The Bookworm Beat 4-10-15 — the mother of all round-ups

Woman writingThis is it — the ultimate round-up, consisting of more than 20 links that I’ve collected over the past couple of days and wanted to share with you. Nothing works better at squeezing a nice long blog post than a series of legal pleadings I really don’t want to write. By the way, these squiblets aren’t in any particular order, so you never know what gems you might not find as you scroll down.

The weakening of the Leftist mind

In an earlier post, I wrote about the fact that our younger generation has turned into a passive, sheeple generation, meekly towing the Leftist party line. Astute readers pointed out that, aside from the 1960s children, who were spoon-fed their rebellion by communist spies, past Americans generations also weren’t given to a rebellion. That’s true — but at least past generations were taught analytical and reasoning skills. If they desired, they could analyze and challenge their era’s zeitgeist. Our current generation can’t.

And how do I know I’m correct in reaching that conclusion? Because my reasoning coincidences with Daniel Greenfield’s. In a post about the closing of the liberal mind, Greenfield explains how so-called “liberals” have reduced themselves to this state:

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[VIDEO] Ben Shapiro explained how Obama has developed the hitherto unknown “F**k You” clause in the Constitution

obama gives us the finger_thumb[41]One of Ben Shapiro’s strongest videos, explaining how Obama has effectively sidelined Congress and dramatically expanded his authority. Before you get too mad at Obama, though, remember that Congress, including the RINOS we elected, let him do this. There are myriad explanations for Congress’s passivity, not the least of which is that they’re utterly terrified to challenge the first mulatto president.

The Bookworm Beat 4-6-15 — the nighttime edition and open thread

Woman writingMy work is done and there’s still twenty minutes to go before the family yields the TV to me. That can mean only one thing: a quick round-up. Yay!

Can the MSM stifle Ted Cruz?

One of the most frustrating things about being a conservative is that conservative politicians tend to be inarticulate. Part of this is because conservative ideas don’t yield easily to the hysterical bumper sticker politics that the Left favors. Part of it is that the media twists the message. And part of it is that the conservatives who get into politics seem to be tongue-tied.

I mention this because of a post Rod Dreher wrote after talking about RFRA to a deeply-closeted conservative law professor. It was the professor who made the point about the absence of a standard-bearer for conservative ideology:

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield [not the professor's real name], Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

The one person who is emerging as an incredibly articulate spokesman for conservative thinking is Ted Cruz. He’s unafraid and, rather unusually for a man as academically brilliant as he is, capable of being pithy. Cruz can bring in the money quotation:

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My annual Passover post, updated to reflect 2015’s scary realities

PassoverI first published a Passover post in March 2010, when Iran was in the news because of the Green Revolution. (By the way, Obama’s peculiar inaction then — that is, his unwillingness to side with the ordinary people against the Mullah’s tyranny — takes on a whole new meaning in light of the events of the past few weeks, doesn’t it?) I’m republishing that post here, although I’ve modified it substantially, especially at the end, to reflect today’s events:

***

An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as the celebration of freedom (the world’s first and for a long time only successful slave revolt), and of justice and morality (the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people.  What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.  God, clearly, is a psycho killer who toys with Pharaoh the way a cat does with a mouse.

Some people have tried to explain away this part of the story by saying that it is simply dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger of the Jew’s escape from Egypt.  After all, if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.  You know, Moses asks, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh answers “Sure.”  That’s not a narrative with much punch or heroism, and God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, lacking in divine punch.  It’s much more exciting to have an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.

This reasoning is silly.  There’s a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, despite an increase in the burdens placed upon his people.  A blood filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on.  Pharaoh still held together his government.  The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever:  As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he was okay with the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might worry about a populace starving and frightened, but that was irrelevant as long as that same populace continued to fear and worship him.  The people’s suffering, ultimately, was irrelevant to his goals.  It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh’s power base was destroyed because his citizens were destroyed and death stalked his own palace — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years.  Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII.  For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over.  Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him.  Rather than surrendering, Hitler and other Nazi leaders, secure in their protected homes and bunkers, were perfectly willing to see German overrun and its citizens killed.  Only when the death toll became too high, and it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, did the war on the continent finally end.

The same held true for the Japanese.  Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it.  Even the possibility that it would impress the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so'; Truman was, after all, a moral man.  What swayed Truman was the fact that his advisers told him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender even when surrender had become the only reasonable option.  Instead, the military warned Truman that, although the Americans would inevitably win the war, if Truman didn’t take drastic action, victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and at least that many Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).

Truman therefore had two choices:  another year of war, with the lost of 100,000 Americans and many more than 100,000 Japanese; or an immediate stop to the war, with no more American casualties and at least 100,000 Japanese casualties.  Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer.  The outcome would be the same for the Japanese, but Truman would save the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, British, Australians and Dutch.  (One of those Dutch, incidentally, was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.)  The Japanese high command was Pharaoh.  No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path.  Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.

But what about the innocent lives lost as a result of Pharaoh’s, the Nazi’s, and the Japanese high command’s intransigence?  As the Japanese tale shows only too well, the innocents were always going to die, with the only question being whether they would die quickly or slowly.  The same holds true for the Germans, whom the Nazis had long ago designated as cannon fodder to support their intensely evil regime.  That’s the problem with an evil regime.  If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, whether or not you support it, you’re going to be cannon fodder.  Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned — as long as they can retain their power.

Iran is no different.  Although the people bleed and cry under the brutish regime, no plague, including rioting in the streets, has come along that is bad enough to break the back of that tyranny.  The people continue to die by inches, and the regime threatens everyone within bombing distance.

This year, for the first time, we have to recognize that the reign of tyrants exists not just abroad, but at home too.  For  more than 200 years, we’ve felt comfortably insulted from tyranny because of our Bill of Rights.  That exquisite document doesn’t spell out the few limited rights citizens have if they’re lucky enough to have a merciful government.  Instead, it establishes that, barring those necessary powers that a government needs in order to provide a safe, stable haven in which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can thrive, citizens have a broad range of inherent rights that are inviolate.  Our constitutional government doesn’t give them, and it cannot take them away; they’re ours.

But what happens when we have a leader who refuses to recognize the Constitution?  A leader who complains that the Bill of Rights limits him?  A leader who ignores Supreme Court opinions curtailing his power grabs?  A leader who refuses to execute those laws that Congress passes, but instead drafts and executes  his own laws?  A leader who spies on his people, while amassing a growing number of secrets around himself and his cronies?  A leader who relentlessly uses Leftist shibboleths to undermine our constitutional military?  A leader who single-handedly, without  help even from his own political party, hurls America into an alliance with an apocalyptic, tyrannical theocracy that is dedicated to annihilating the world’s only Jewish nature and driving America to her knees?  A leader who has a compliant media that takes upon itself the job of destroying his enemies and promoting his aggregation of power?

What happens then?  The answer is that you cease to have a constitutional system predicted upon individual liberty arising from natural rights.  And slowly at first, but with increasing speed, like a snowball gathering mass as it rolls downhill, you suddenly find that you’re the one laboring on the pyramids under the overseers’ lash, while Pharaoh Obama and his cronies, having insulated themselves from the wrath of the people, take your sweat and your blood as their natural due.  And believe me, a few red-running rivers or locust-clogged fields are not going to stop the Obamites, even on that unlucky day when Iran’s hordes flow through America’s already open borders.

But it needn’t be all doom and gloom.  Denial is powerlessness.  Recognizing danger and reacting to it is strength.  Don’t be cowed.  Know your principles, state them with clarity if need be (and my real-me Facebook friends know that I do that with increasing frequency even here in Marin), and never give up hope because, without hope, we are nothing but base animals, lacking the divine spark that makes us human.

With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy Passover.  Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be painfully high, our ultimate goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”