The Left tries to reframe our expectations

Teacher affirmationIn September 2011, I wrote a post about the way teachers constantly present themselves as the hardest working, most underpaid people in America.  I have a great deal of respect for teachers and, to the extent I deliver my kids to their care, I want them to be decent, knowledgeable, skillful, hardworking people — and that’s not something that can be had for free.  Nevertheless, I don’t see them as the martyrs that they see looking back from their mirrors.

I touched upon that subject again just this past September, after I’d gotten deluged by Facebook posts from teacher friends, all of them reminding us in a cute way that no one works harder in America than a teacher or for less money compared to their work output.  Again, with all due respect for teachers, I think many people, including the troops, would quibble with this.  I contrasted the Democrats’ deification of teachers and compared it with their denigration of doctors, something expressed obliquely through Obamacare.  Doctors train for years in their profession, work heinous hours, and truly hold people’s lives in their hands — and Obamacare is intended to increase their work load and cut their compensation.  My conclusion was that socialism prefers propagandists, something that teachers are perfectly situated to do, over providers.

And speaking of socialists and the way they value different categories of workers, Daniel Hannan has written about the British deification of its National Health Service, a system that is above reproach.  It’s not above reproach because it’s so wonderful, mind you.  It’s above reproach because no one is allowed to reproach it.  Hannan notes that there are two classes that speak well of the system:  those who work in it or are ideological supporters of socialized medicine, and those who are loudly grateful to have received decent treatment from it.  Hannan makes two points about this second category.  First, they’re amiable followers of the more strident ideologues.  Second, their gratitude that the system works is itself an indictment of the system’s myriad failings:

What of the wider constituency? What of the undoctrinaire people who say, with conviction, “the NHS saved my grandmother’s life”? Well, to make a rather unpopular point, she was saved by the clinicians involved, not by Britain’s unique prohibition of private finance in healthcare provision. In a country as wealthy as ours, we should expect a certain level of service. We can be grateful to the people involved without treating the whole process as a miracle.

When else, after all, do we become so emotional? Do we get off planes saying “I owe my life to British Airways: they flew me all the way here in one piece”? Of course not: that’s what is meant to happen. Our assumption doesn’t insult the pilots any more than expecting a certain level of competence in healthcare “insults our hardworking doctors and nurses”. On the contrary, it compliments them.

The elision of the “hardworking doctors and nurses” with the state monopoly that employs them is what allows opponents of reform to shout down any criticism. People who complain are treated, not as wronged consumers, but as pests. People who argue that there might be a better way of organising the system are treated, not as proponents of a different view, but as enemies.

Naturally, the above passage made me think of the obeisance we’re expected to pay to America’s teachers.  The demand that we recognize what wonderful martyrs they are is a tacit acknowledgment that too many of them are government drones who are, quite rationally, milking a system that gives itself up for milking.  This doesn’t mean we should denigrate teachers or take them for granted, but there’s a strong element of a “methinks we all do protest too much” mindset when it comes to the ritual demand that we acknowledge that teachers are society’s new martyrs.  After all, as Hannan said, they have a job to do and they should be doing it.

Incidentally, while Hannan doesn’t address the issue of teachers, he does point out that our being bullied into expressing exaggerated surprise and appreciation when there’s competence in a public sector area isn’t limited to Britain’s NHS.  His other example is the UN, which you all know I believe is one of the most vile, evil, antisemitic, child exploitative, anti-American, money-wasting institutions on earth, as well as a few other institutions that, coincidentally, are also usually anti-American and antisemitic:

Any organisation that is spared criticism becomes, over time, inefficient, insensitive, intolerant. It has happened to the United Nations. It has happened to the mega-charities. It happened, for a long time, to the European Union (though not over the past five years). The more lofty the ideal, the more reluctant people are to look at the grubby reality.

Cheers to Hannan for stating that, while the Emperor isn’t precisely walking around naked, his clothes are scarcely the golden, bejeweled garments that his sycophants claim he’s wearing.

Paul Weston — “I am a racist”

Defending what is good about your country is racist.  So is describing Islam and its cultural and political practices.

Regarding Islam, let me be clear that this is not the same as the antisemites making things up about Jews, as they have since time immemorial.  Instead, what we know about Islam comes from the Muslim world itself:  from their concrete (and bloody) acts, from their media, from their speeches, and from their houses of worship.  They are open about what they are.  It is we who bury their true nature under platitudes and lies.

Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, and Stirling Castle (comments are on now)

Today’s port was Greenock, which is the gateway, not only to Glasgow, but also to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs (a national park area), and Stirling Castle. We mostly skirted Glasgow, and went straight for the pretty stuff.

The driver/guide on out tour was a chatty fellow who knew his history and had a large number of musical selections he’d gathered together to play as background music for the various points of interest. It took me aback at first, but then he played so many recordings I liked that I started writing down the bands’ names. As much as I liked the music, I also liked his attitude, which was to try to make the experience as rich as possible.

When we went to Loch Lomond, most of which was invisible due to rain and mist, our guide not only played “Loch Lomond” for us, he told us the story behind the song. According to our guide, the song’s lyrics date back to the Jacobite uprisings that came to a bitter, bloody end in 1745/1746.

During the war, he said, two Scottish soldiers who had ended up in England were trying to make their way home again. Unluckily for them, they were caught. The British gave a particularly cruel order — one was to die, and one to be released, with the soldiers themselves responsible for making the choice. They drew straws, and the man who drew the short straw wrote a farewell note to his companion in arms:

You take the high road (i.e., you walk upon the earth),
And I’ll take the low road (i.e., I’ll be buried in the ground),
And I’ll get to Scotland before you (i.e., spirits travel fast).
But me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

If the guide’s story is true, it’s a very sad song . . . but a very beautiful one too.

The guide also told us that Scotland’s unofficial national anthem is “Flower of Scotland,” which was written in 1967 to commemorate the Scottish victory over Edward II’s English forces at Bannockburn in 1314. (The official anthem, of course, is “God Save the Queen.”) As you can see, it’s scarcely a celebratory song, as it mourns the loss of Scottish greatness, and vaguely hopes that Scotland can rise again:

1. O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen.
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward
To think again.
2. The hills are bare now,
And autumn leaves
Lie thick and still
O’er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held
That stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
To think again.
3. Those days are past now
And in the past
They must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again!
That stood against him
Proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward
To think again.
4. O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen.
And stood against him,
Proud Edward’s army,
And sent him homeward
To think again.

There are many voices that think that the buoyant “Scotland the Brave” would be a more suitable unofficial anthem. I have to say that, speaking of anthems qua anthems, “Scotland the Brave” is more suitable. But in terms of modern day Scotland, there’s a lot to be said for a vaguely mournful dirge. I won’t repeat what I said in yesterday’s email about Scotland’s antisemitism, but you just can’t see a brilliant future for a country that’s dependent on oil, sheep, and the welfare state.

Before I get more into what we saw today, I have to admit to being massively conflicted about Scotland particularly and the UK generally. Whenever I’m in these places, I feel as if I’m where I belong. I love the look of the places, the sound (I really like Celtic music), the art, the history, the accents, and the ordinary people I meet on the street. I even like the way these places smell. Whether I’m in Scotland or a Wales or the English countryside, there’s this indefinable green, flowery, fresh smell that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

Having said that, I hate the fact that the UK has flooded itself with Muslims, raising the strong possibility of a majority population that has values antithetical to everything that is British; I hate the way the welfare state has leached away British values and backbone; and I hate the ascendency of anti-Israel and antisemitic feelings throughout the whole of the UK (and Ireland too).

The UK, from Scotland on down, fundamentally lacks vitality. All of this means that, when I’m walking around glorying in a place that feels like my spiritual and aesthetic home, I can’t decide whether I’m the equivalent of someone foolishly in love with a dying consumptive (very Bronte-ish) or if I’m the equivalent of someone even more foolishly in love with a wife-beater — and I’m the wife.

But back to today’s tour….

From Loch Lomond, we made a rest stop at a tourist trap, except that it turned out to be a tourist trap with a difference. All around the building there were sheep, lots and lots of sheep. And ducks and miniature ponies. Despite the rain, we were charmed with the animals.

It got better when a sheep farmer from Lombardy who is studying sheep stuff in England (and I’ve completely forgotten the scientific term for “studying sheep stuff”) did a herding demonstration with his border collie, a former world herding champion. There are few things funnier than watching a border collie effortlessly herding a quacking, flapping group of ducks hither and yon.

If you’re a fan of the movie “Babe,” you probably remember that, at the end, when Babe the pig has proven his herding abilities, the farmer says to Babe “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.” It turns out that “That’ll do” is the universal herder command to these border collies. Absent that order, they’ll never stop herding until they or the animals they’re herding drop from exhaustion.

From sheep, we wended our way through the beautiful Trossachs, Scotland’s first national park. The Trossachs are like a microcosm of the best of Scottish nature: meadows, mountains, forests, ferns, heather, sheep, cows, and wild flowers, especially fireweed, a brilliant purple flower that brightens the landscape.

I’ve always heard that the Inuits have more than 20 words for snow, since its so omnipresent in their lives. I have to believe that the Scots must have at least that many words for green. I’m sure I counted 20 or more different shades of green as we drove through the countryside. Additionally, Scotland has more than 31,000 lakes, and we were lucky enough to see at least a few as we drove by.

Our ultimate destination was Stirling Castle, a renaissance castle that James V, father to Mary, Queen of Scots, built when he married the French Mary of Guise. After the 18th century debacle that was the Jacobin uprising, the British turned the castle into a military base. That means that the castle’s interior was stripped of every sign that it was ever a royal castle and it suffered some hard usage along the way.

The Scottish agency charged with historic sites decided to do something interesting, since the castle was a mere shell. It spent ten years and millions of dollars recreating what the interior would have looked like when it was just built.

When Stirling was officially reopened in 2011, it had undergone a second renaissance. Its walls are hung with tapestries, the ceilings are painted with brilliant colors, and the gray stones have been smoothly plastered — all of which would have been the case during its heyday.

The tapestries are actually a work in progress, as the Trust is using original weaving techniques to create identical copies of the “Hunt for the Unicorn” tapestries currently on display at the Met in New York. Well, not precisely identical. Rather than being faded, as the originals are, these copies are in the vibrant colors the original tapestries once boasted.

From Stirling, we abandoned country roads and took the motorway back to the ship. This drive took us through Glasgow.

In my mind’s eye, Glasgow is frozen in the 70s — a broken-down Victorian city. Although I saw only a little of it from the motorway, I might want to revise my viewpoint. There were many Victorian buildings, but most looked renovated. There was also also sorts of modern buildings, including high(ish) rises, that were obviously built within the last 20 years. It brought home the fact that, while Edinburg is the capital, Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city.

Tomorrow, on to Dublin. No tour tomorrow, so we’ll have a longer, albeit less structured day. I’m looking forward to visiting a city that has so much Georgian architecture. I like that look. I’m also looking forward to hearing a lot of Irish accents. The Celtic accents — Irish, Welsh, and Scottish — fall pleasantly on my ears.

Lerwick (Shetland Islands)

I was without Internet for three days, so apologies to everyone whose comments piled up. And now to my most recent travel post:

We spent a lovely day today driving around the largest of the Shetland Islands. I’ve always loved the Scottish landscape, and the Shetland Islands are like Scotland on steroids.

The day started out a bit stressfully. Normally, we just get off the ship and go through customs and immigrations — assuming the port even requires that. Lerwick does require those things, but it has a problem, which is the fact that the ship doesn’t simply dock at Lerwick. Instead, it anchors offshore and people go aboard on tenders (about 130 passengers at a time). Immigration insists on vetting all the passengers at once (about 2,000), so immigration agents come aboard the ship when it anchors. Every passenger who wishes to go offshore has to pass through immigration before getting a tender ticket.

The technical arrival time in Lerwick was 10:00, but the Immigration vetting started only at 9:00. Worse, the ship wanted to vet first those who had bought one of its tours, which we had not. We nudged and bugged them, though, saying that we had a tour too, and ended up being amongst the first in line. We whipped through immigration, got our boarding passes for the very first tender, and landed on Shetland soil at 10:10. Whew!!

Our tour guide, Grant, was waiting for us. From that moment on out, it was a perfect day. Well, not quite perfect. The fog was thick for most of the day, so we couldn’t see many of the magnificent vistas the island offers. But we got a lot of breathtaking near (as opposed to far) views. Additionally, the kids and I were just thrilled with the cool, moist air.

So, here’s what I can tell you about our almost perfect day. The Shetland Islands are the United Kingdom’s northern-most islands and are a part of Scotland. For centuries, they were sleepy little isles, known for wool and fish. That changed with the North Sea oil drilling in the early 1970s. From then on, the economy boomed, with Lerwick going from small village to small city.

There’s an ebb and flow to oil, but when the boom is on, as it is now, so many laborers come from all over the UK that they’re oil companies lodge them on floating motels. When the boom ends, most of these laborers leave, but enough stay behind that the island’s population steadily grows.

Having said that, the Shetland Islands still have more sheep than people, and have vast swaths of nothing at all but sheep and heathery land. The nature there is sooo beautiful. Every landscape involves water, whether it’s a stream, a loch (lake), or the North Sea itself. The land is lush, but austere. There are few trees. The ancient Picts cut so many of the trees down that the remaining seas couldn’t withstand the North Sea winds and storms that can sweep the islands.

What’s left is pasture land, which is lush, but not twee (i.e., not cutsie or Disney-esque). Despite their northern location (way, way north), the Shetland Islands benefit from the Gulf Stream, so they get water, not snow. Every vista shows one rolling green hills delicately touched up with small yellow, purple, or white flowers. Walk close to a pasture, and the sweet smell of heather wafts upwards.

Our guide, Grant, grew up on the island, and was able to tell us about every area he passed. Heck, he waved to most drivers we passed, since he knows so many people on his home island. When we drove West in a mildly successful effort to avoid the fog, he kept calling for weather updates about the island’s southern end. I knew that. What I didn’t know was that he was calling his mother for that info!

In addition to knowing the island, Grant had the most lovely Scots accent. He explained to us that this was his second language (English with a strong Scots accent). His first language is a Shetland dialect that has a strong Norwegian component. This reflects the fact that, until about 500 years ago, the Shetland Islands belonged to Norway. Before that, they were Danish. And before that, going back to a Bronze Age times, they belonged to the Celtic Picts. We kept asking Grant questions, partly for info and partly just to hear him speak.

People with only one day ashore go to the Shetland Islands for four things: the natural beauty, the Shetland ponies, the puffins, and the archeological sites. We got to see all four. I’ve already made an inadequate effort to describe the natural beauty, so I’ll abandon any further efforts on that subject and touch instead upon the rest.

Shetland ponies look like fat, shrunken horses. They’re sturdy beasts, with bad tempers, who used to be taken down into coal mines and worked in the darkness until they died. In Shetland, they hang out in green pastures, and get petted by tourists. We were fortunate that it was just the four of us fighting to scratch the ponies’ ears. Periodically we’d see entire buses full of people (40 or so) cluster around three or four ponies.

The ponies are right on the roadside. Outside of the main roads into Lerwick, these roads are small. Most of the ones Grant took is on are one lane with periodic passing areas so that cars coming from different directions can pass each other.

Wherever one looks on these roads, one sees sheep dotting the fields. Most are shorn by this time of year, but we were fortunate enough to see a few puffy, unshorn sheep, as well as several lambs, which are rare by July. I regret to say that, despite the fact that the lambs were adorable, I did not feel guilty about having lamb for dinner. As I said to the kids, “Lambs are cute and delicious.”

The puffins are surprisingly foolish looking, and quite endearing, little birds. They live on cliff-side nests, so one usually see them from afar. We were fortunate that several had waddled up to the fence right next to us. Even Grant, who grew up a few miles from the puffin area he showed us, had never seen them so close, so he took some pictures too. They’re small, black-and-white birds, somewhat roly-poly, with bright orange feet, and yellow beaks that are a little wider and flatter than parrot beaks. They are quite amazingly photogenic.

And then there’s the archeology. We went to a site that was occupied by Picts, then early Vikings, than Medieval Vikings. All that remains are stones, but there are enough to give you a complete feeling for a Pictish wheel house. These were round, windowless, stone houses that had a shell built around them, equally round and windowless. One can actually go into the remains of one of the wheelhouses. It is cozy or claustrophobic, depending on your point of view. At 5 feet tall, I was the only family member who didn’t feel that the ceiling, had it still existed, would have pressed down upon me.

Aside from its archeological interest, the site was lovely. The stone walls are shored up by lush grass hills, and the stones are covered with pale green moss. The combination of sea, grass, and weathered stone was a feast for the eyes. I took way too many pictures. When I’m back and have winnowed them down, I’ll share them with you.

Both kids felt that the Shetland Islands were the best day of the cruise. I agree. I loved the way Skjolden looked, but I felt best in the Shetlands.

As always with these trips, I felt conflicted about liking it so much. Scotland is very hostile to Israel, and the Scottish Church recently came out with an official Church statement that skipped being anti-Israel and went straight to anti-Semitic.

I guess this was another reminder that there is a vast chasm all across Europe between the people and the ruling class. The people think they have a democracy, but they don’t. The ruling class is the upper class and, ironically given that they’re the upper class, they’re hard Left. The people that this arrogant, antisemitic upper class governs are mostly “I neither know nor care, provided you give me the benefits and hand-outs I’m now addicted to” people. The leadership is malevolent; the masses are rather nice sheeple.

Today is a much-needed restful “at sea” day. Tomorrow is the West coast of Southern Scotland. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say.

No wonder Britain lost her Empire and is now busy losing her nation

About a week ago, I told you that I was going to see a play called Black Watch, which purports to be an “even-handed” homage to Scotland’s famous Black Watch regiment.  The Black Watch was much in the news (in the UK) during the Iraq war, because one unit suffered some painful losses when they manned an outpost at America’s request.  In addition, the Black Watch was absorbed into a larger military bureaucratic entity, which ended it’s long run (starting in about 1729) as a stand-alone fighting unit.

Since the Black Watch opened in 2007 in Scotland, reviewers have raved about the play.  Here are some sample reviews that the National Theater of Scotland assembled from a variety of British and American publications after the play’s original 2007 run:

This is not only an urgently topical piece about the sort of conflict soldiers have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the changing nature of warfare and about the morality of fighting; it is also a superb, multi-faceted political and social drama. It explores the male psyche with sympathy and wit. And in John Tiffany’s outstanding production for the National Theatre of Scotland, it becomes a blistering piece of physical theatre – by turns comical, visceral and, surprisingly, lyrical.

[snip]

What a relief, at last, to have a play about the Iraq war that doesn’t lecture us, with the ghastly smugness of hindsight, on what we all know already: that this war was muddled and ill planned, and that its political leaders were culpably naive, if not downright dishonest.

[snip]

. . . this soldier’s viewpoint is a blast of fresh air. And not once in two hours do you remember you’re watching actors. You think you’re watching Scottish squaddies, square-bashing, on ops, “on the pish” – the energy and conviction of the ensemble is astonishing.

[snip]

Put simply, it’s essential that you see Black Watch . . . it’s among the most compelling theater pieces you could wish to see. And weep for, in a sense. The production from Scotland’s National Theater is a magnificent one, and its awesome reality and humaneness will overwhelm you.

[snip]

[Black Watch] arrives like a blazing redeemer . . .  a necessary reminder of the transporting power that is unique to theater. Other narrative forms . . . could tell the story that is told here. But none could summon and deploy the array of artistic tools that is used with such mastery and immediacy. Every moment in Black Watch seems to bleed from the previous one in an uninterrupted river of sensations.

You get the idea.  Fabulous writing, acting, and admirable objectivity (the last of which, entirely coincidentally, of course, leads inevitably to the conclusion that the war in Iraq was irredeemably evil).  My concern was that, even if the play was even-handed, I would get hacked off at poncy actors prancing around pretending to be soldiers.

Having seen the play, I can say that my fears were realized and that all the other reviews were wrong.  It seems that being a Leftist means that you have very low standards.  Before I say what was wrong with the play (and there’s a lot to say), let me say what was right:  The actors were really Scotsman, so they weren’t faking the accents.  Also, it was indeed a very physical play (to the point of mawkish, foolish, stupidity), but the actors hit their marks every time.  They were very professional as they ran, pranced, frolic, and danced around the stage.  The actor who played the sergeant did an incredibly good imitation of Basil Fawlty, only with a Scots accent.  I don’t know if that was his intention, but he sounded exactly like this, when it came to pitch and cadence:

That’s enough about the Black Watch’s merits. Let’s get to the bad stuff. Contrary to the slavishly loving reviewers, I found the plot thin and predictable, the characters uninteresting, and I must have missed any real humor or serious emotion.  The play’s writers were able to skimp on all these features (which tend to appear in good plays), because they wrote the play in shorthand.  It was, in essence, a dog whistle play.  At varying times, the characters made derogatory remarks about the war and Americans, and Leftists were expected to respond appropriately, understanding which lines were meant to inspire laughter and which to inspire tears.

I was not alone in feeling that the play lacked a certain something (such as wit, insight, or character development). The physical layout of the play has the audience sitting in bleachers on either side of the theater, watching the play on the stage below as if watching a basketball game. This means that, when you get too bored or simply weary from watching the actors run about, you can lift your eyes and observe the people opposite you as they watch the play. It didn’t take one of those FBI specialists trained in reading faces to realize that many in the audience were bored. At the end, the actors, despite the sweat they poured into the play (and they did work hard and knew their lines) got just one round of applause. Then the hard-Left San Francisco audience bolted. The plot was that bad.

And was it even-handed? Well, in a way. It did not present the soldiers as baby-killers. Instead, it presented them as babies getting killed because of evil politics involving Westminster and America. That was the simplistic reduction of the Iraq War.

But the worst thing of all was Leftist approach to portraying soldiers sympathetically.  The play claims that the dialogue is based upon interviews with Black Watch soldiers returned from the war. If that’s the case, the mighty British Empire and the mighty military that once supported it have truly hit the point of no return.

The eight or ten soldiers who appear as characters in the play have lines that show them to be utterly ignorant, gullible, shallow, obscene men one step away from mental retardation. Maybe that’s the truth about the modern British military.  Indeed, the play makes it seem as if that was always the case.  I have my doubts.  My favorite WWI book, The Great War and Modern Memory, comments frequently on the fact that, while obscenities (which flow freely in the play) were an integral part of troop talk, WWI was an extraordinary literary war. The lowest private could quote the Bible, Bunyan, Shakespeare, and even Shaw with fluidity and comfort.  These guys were too dumb to quote Playboy jokes.

But again, maybe that’s what the British military has been reduced to, given the overall state of education in Britain.  Or it could be a libel.  In America, for example, we know that, John Kerry to the contrary, America’s troops are better educated, on average, than ordinary Americans. They may have the shallowness of youth, but they are not stupid to the point of cretinism.

The Duke of Wellington famously said of his military that, compared to the French conscription system, which “brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth — the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.” Watching Black Watch, I wondered whether modern Britain’s military has managed to sink below the level of being the scum of the earth, to the point at which the troops are irredeemable.

Having voiced that terrible libel against the British troops, let me hasten to add that I know from reading about the Iraq war during the war, that our troops felt a fair measure of respect for their British colleagues. Either our troops were being polite, or the Black Watch grossly maligns Britain’s military class. I suspect that our troops were being honest and the play libelous, but (sadly) Britain has changed so much in the last thirty years that anything is possible.

RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

When it comes to guns, we need to follow the Left’s example: personalize, personalize, personalize

Defending your home against a break-in is about as personal as it gets.  The following email is a good example of taking that personal principle, then expanding to a narrative about a single third party, and finally discussing the broader policy implications that affect all citiziens (h/t Earl):

A LESSON FROM HISTORY:

You’re sound asleep when you hear a thump outside your bedroom door. Half-awake, and nearly paralyzed with fear, you hear muffled whispers. At least two people have broken into your house and are moving your way.

With your heart pumping, you reach down beside your bed and pick up your shotgun. You rack a shell into the chamber, then inch toward the door and open it…

In the darkness, you make out two shadows. One holds something that looks like a crowbar. When the intruder brandishes it as if to strike, you raise the shotgun and fire.

The blast knocks both thugs to the floor. One writhes and screams while the second man crawls to the front door and lurches outside.

As you pick up the telephone to call police, you know you’re in trouble. In your country, most guns were outlawed years before, and the few that are privately owned are so stringently regulated as to make them useless. Yours was never registered.

Police arrive and inform you that the second burglar has died. They arrest you for First Degree Murder and Illegal Possession of a Firearm.

When you talk to your attorney, he tells you not to worry: authorities will probably plea the case down to manslaughter.

“What kind of sentence will I get?” you ask.

“Only ten-to-twelve years,” he replies, as if that’s nothing. “Behave yourself, and you’ll be out in seven.”

The next day, the shooting is the lead story in the local newspaper. Somehow, you’re portrayed as an eccentric vigilante while the two men you shot are represented as choirboys. Their friends and relatives can’t find an unkind word to say about them. Buried deep down in the article, authorities acknowledge that both “victims” have been arrested numerous times.

But the next day’s headline says it all: “Lovable Rogue Son Didn’t Deserve to Die.” The thieves have been transformed from career criminals into Robin Hood-type pranksters.

As the days wear on, the story takes wings. The national media picks it up, then the international media. The surviving burglar has become a folk hero. Your attorney says the thief is preparing to sue you, and he’ll probably win.

The media publishes reports that your home has been burglarized several times in the past and that you’ve been critical of local police for their lack of effort in apprehending the suspects. After the last break-in, you told your neighbor that you would be prepared next time. The District Attorney uses this to allege that you were lying in wait for the burglars.

A few months later, you go to trial. The charges haven’t been reduced, as your lawyer had so confidently predicted.

When you take the stand, your anger at the injustice of it all works against you. Prosecutors paint a picture of you as a mean, vengeful man. It doesn’t take long for the jury to convict you of all charges. The judge sentences you to life in prison.

This case really happened.

On August 22, 1999, Tony Martin of Emneth, Norfolk, England, killed one burglar and wounded a second. In April, 2000, he was convicted and is now serving a life term. [See link below, explaining that he only served three years, but has had to go into hiding.]

How did it become a crime to defend one’s own life in the once great British Empire? It started with the Pistols Act of 1903. This seemingly reasonable law forbade selling pistols to minors or felons and established that handgun sales were to be made only to those who had a license.

The Firearms Act of 1920 expanded licensing to include not only handguns but all firearms except shotguns. Later laws passed in 1953 and 1967 outlawed the carrying of any weapon by private citizens and mandated the registration of all shotguns.

Momentum for total handgun confiscation began in earnest after the Hungerford mass shooting in 1987. Michael Ryan, a mentally disturbed man with a Kalashnikov rifle, walked down the street shooting everyone he saw. When the smoke cleared, 17 people were dead. The British public, already de-sensitized by eighty years of “gun control”, demanded even tougher restrictions. (The seizure of all privately owned handguns was the objective even though Ryan used a rifle.)

Nine years later, at Dunblane, Scotland, Thomas Hamilton used a semi-automatic weapon to murder 16 children and a teacher at a public school. For many years, the media had portrayed all gun owners as mentally unstable, or worse, criminals. Now the press had a real kook with which to beat up law-abiding gun owners. Day after day, week after week, the media gave up all pretense of objectivity and demanded a total ban on all handguns. The Dunblane Inquiry, a few months later, sealed the fate of the few sidearm’s still owned by private citizens.

During the years in which the British government incrementally took away most gun rights, the notion that a citizen had the right to armed self-defense came to be seen as vigilantism. Authorities refused to grant gun licenses to people who were threatened, claiming that self-defense was no longer considered a reason to own a gun. Citizens who shot burglars or robbers or rapists were charged while the real criminals were released. Indeed, after the Martin shooting, a police spokesman was quoted as saying, “We cannot have people take the law into their own hands.”

All of Tony Martin’s neighbors had been robbed numerous times, and several elderly people were severely injured in beatings by young thugs who had no fear of the consequences.
Martin himself, a collector of antiques, had seen most of his collection trashed or stolen by burglars.

When the Dunblane Inquiry ended, citizens who owned handguns were given three months to turn them over to local authorities. Being good British subjects, most people obeyed the law. The few who didn’t were visited by police and threatened with ten-year prison sentences if they didn’t comply. Police later bragged that they’d taken nearly 200,000 handguns from private citizens.

How did the authorities know who had handguns? The guns had been registered and licensed. Kind of like cars. Sound familiar?

WAKE UP AMERICA; THIS IS WHY OUR FOUNDING FATHERS PUT THE SECOND AMENDMENT IN OUR CONSTITUTION.

“…It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” –Samuel Adams

If you’re curious, here’s more information about Martin. Please note that the challenges against him came about because the state hadn’t given him permission to defend himself.

Eco-friendly homes more expensive than promised

I think Al Gore must have been behind this eco-friendly housing subdivision, because it’s making money for the rich and screwing every one else:

Residents promised cheaper bills to live in a multi-million pound eco-friendly ‘homes of the future’ complex say they will have to move out after being hit with sky-high electricity charges.

The Pavilion Gardens complex in West Bowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was heralded as being the most environmentally-friendly in the county when it was completed in July 2011 at a cost of £5.6million.

Residents were told their electricity bills would be £500 cheaper than average because the houses are super-insulated with biomass boilers for heating and solar panels for electricity.

But just 18 months after moving in, many residents say they have been hit with massive electrical bills almost double the annual average and they can’t afford to live in the properties.

Read the rest here.

Green — it’s the color of the wheelbarrows full of money the scammers are weeping over as they head to the bank.

 

England’s welfare state is a victim of its own success

It’s no wonder Brits, contra Obama, want out of the EU.  Aside from exerting nit-picky control over every aspect of British life, the EU makes it virtually impossible for Britain to stem the endless tide of immigrants coming in, legally or not, and immediately getting public benefits that are not available to the Brits themselves.

Here are two articles and a video regarding that problem.

First, a woman talks about living the lush life on her benefits.

Second, some fed-up Brits raise their voices in protest song:

Third, a shy, unlikely voice emerges to oppose, not just the welfare state, but the lies that the ruling class tells about the welfare state.

People are violent even without guns

(I find that I’m too thrifty not to get the most mileage out of my writing.  People who get my newsletter — and if you don’t, you can fill out the subscription form to the right — will have seen this post already, but I couldn’t resist a slightly wider audience for it.)

I wrote the other day about the extraordinary violence in England, a level of violence that increased dramatically after the Labour Party outlawed almost all guns.  After reading that post, a friend send me a link to an article by Tom Gresham, writing at the Tactical Wire.  Gresham’s article bounces off of Bob Costas’ inane little homily asserting that Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, would be alive if guns were outlawed.  After pointing out the most obvious fact, which is that Belcher could easily have killed Perkins with his bare hands, Gresham gets to the heart of the matter, which is the way the anti-gun Left abuses data.

Arthur Fellig photo of suicide 1936Gresham first tackles Costa’s claim that, even if guns aren’t used to kill innocent bystanders, they drive suicide rates.  Gresham has one word to demolish that argument:  Japan.  Japan’s laws almost completely prohibit guns.  Nevertheless, says Gresham, “the suicide rate in Japan approaches (sometimes exceeds) twice that of the U.S. No guns in Japan, but twice the rate of suicides of the U.S., which has perhaps 300 million guns.”

Gresham also points to a stunning statistic about America, one I hadn’t known.  In the 20 years since most states passed laws mandating issuance of concealed carry permits to qualified applicants,”the murder rate in the United States has fallen dramatically.”

We now have three interesting facts:  (1) Mostly gun-less Japan has twice the suicide rate of America; (2) mostly gun-less Britain has almost five times as much violent crime as armed America, a rate that increased dramatically when Britain banned most weapons; and (3) when American states enabled law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, gun crime decreased, rather than increased.

Lion lying down with lambWe’ve talked before at the Bookworm Room about the fact that correlation is not the same as causation.  Those three facts taken together, though, indicate that it’s reasonable to assume a connection between guns and violent crime.  The connection, though, isn’t the one the Left wants us to draw, which is that guns increase the violent crime and suicide rate.  Rather, the connection is that an armed society is one that sees fewer violent crimes and fewer suicides.

An armed society is a civil society; a knifed and booted society is a dangerous one

I grew up deathly afraid of guns.  This wasn’t like my fear of snakes and spiders, which seems to be pretty atavistic.  Instead, this was a learned fear:  Guns kill people.  Guns also kill innocent animals that should, instead, die nice clean deaths in factory farms, before being sliced up and packaged in cellophane.  I knew the truth:  guns are bad, very, very bad.

Then I went to England and learned that guns aren’t the only bad things.  My sojourn in England coincided with the explosive rise of soccer hooligans, louts who traveled the length and breadth of England, and periodically spilled over into the rest of Europe, bringing jack-booted violence with them wherever they went.  (Among the Thugs is a horrifying account of these louts and the carnage in which they delighted.) Up in the north of England, where I lived, I could always tell when the local soccer team was having a home game because all the businesses near the soccer stadium boarded up their windows.  England may not have had mass shootings, but it had death by a thousands cuts and boot stomps.

When I returned to America, I still hated guns (I had, after all, been carefully taught to do so), but I began to wonder — Are guns really the only bad thing out there? Will doing away with guns turn America into an Eden that sees that loutish lion and the helpless lamb lie down together?  England, which was a less armed country than America, wasn’t necessarily a safer one.  People still got victimized; it was just that guns weren’t the weapons doing the victimizing.

Upon my return to the states, Second Amendment supporters to whom I spoke told me that, while bullets have the advantage of distance, in the close quarters of a bar fight, knives or broken bottles are much more dangerous.  They made the logical argument, then, that no one ever suggests outlawing knives or bottles.  Likewise, the fact that more people die from car accidents than gunshot wounds doesn’t mean we’re about to outlaw cars.  (Although, I must say, the climate change people are making a good stab at outlawing cars.)

When I was still in my liberal phase, I always had the right answer at hand when I heard these logical arguments:  knives and bottles and cars all have a primary utility separate from their secondary, dangerous uses.  Guns, however, exist only to kill.

With age, thankfully, I’ve gained wisdom. I’ve figured out that guns are extremely useful:  you can get your own food if you’re nowhere near a market with tidy cellophane packages; you can have the sheer pleasure of target practice; you can discourage looters in the wake of a disaster; if you’re a woman and a large man is threatening you, guns are the great equalizer; if you’re alone and a crazy man is at your door, you don’t have to die like the screaming teen in a slasher movie; and guns are the only defense against the single largest and most deadly entity known to man — a totalitarian government that has turned on its citizens.

As I know from my gun hating years, even though all of the above are good reasons to cheer the Second Amendment, these facts make no headway with the anti-gun crowd.  Instead, they just keep pulling out this tired old poster:


Well, I think we’ve finally got a new poster in our Second Amendment arsenal:


Here’s an interesting point about those numbers.  In 1997, Britain’s Labour government worked overtime to remove guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens:

After Hungerford [a massacre in 1987], the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 criminalised most semi-automatic long-barrelled weapons; it was generally supported by the Labour opposition although some Labour backbenchers thought it inadequate.After the second incident, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 criminalised private possession of most handguns having a calibre over .22; the Snowdrop Campaign continued to press for a wider ban, and in 1997 the incoming Labour government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, which extended this to most handguns with a calibre of .22 (there are exceptions for some antique handguns and black-powder revolvers.)

And not coincidentally, since 1997, the year law-abiding Brits were denied arms, violent crime in England has skyrocketed:

The Tories said Labour had presided over a decade of spiralling violence.

In the decade following the party’s election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 per cent to 1.158million – or more than two every minute.

The figures, compiled from reports released by the European Commission and United Nations, also show:

  • The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU.
  • It has a higher homicide rate than most of our western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
  • The UK has the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU.
  • It has the fourth highest burglary rate and the highest absolute number of burglaries in the EU, with double the number of offences than recorded in Germany and France.

But it is the naming of Britain as the most violent country in the EU that is most shocking. The analysis is based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents.

In the UK, there are 2,034 offences per 100,000 people, way ahead of second-placed Austria with a rate of 1,677.

The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, Australia 92 and South Africa 1,609.

Britain used to be famed as a polite society.  It is no longer.  It is also a society that full lives up to the saying that “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

People will kill.  They always have, and they always will.  Culture matters, in that cultural norms can encourage or discourage violent crime.  But only guns will be there when you’re small and alone, and that’s true whether you’re facing a home invader, a street thug, or a modern-day Hitler, Pol Pot, or Stalin.

The elusive quality of heroism rears its head in the Nanny State

In today’s Britain, when something bad happens, all people of good will are trained to stand by.  They watch and hope that the omnipresent CCTV will alert the authorities that someone needs help.  Indeed, they’re so well-trained that, sometimes, even the authorities stand aside in order to take a break or follow department rules.  That’s why it’s rather surprising to read about a 14-year-old boy who threw himself into a wild fight in order to help four security guards who were being assaulted by thugs (emphasis mine):

A teenager in his school uniform dived in to stop a fight which saw four security guards punched, kicked, head-butted and bitten.

Have-a-go-hero Jack Slater, 14,  did not spare a thought for his own safety until after he saved the security man from four attackers.

[snip]

Dozens of adults gathered to watch the  spectacle, but only Jack jumped in to help.

[snip]

Jack, who saw one of the four guards pinned to the ground, jumped onto the back of the assailant and pulled him away.

[snip]

The teenager, from Maidstone, Kent, said today: ‘The security guards were getting flung around a bit and one of them looked like he was getting overcome.

‘I ran over and grabbed the shoulders of the person he was struggling with and pulled him away.

‘I’ve never done anything like this before and it was only afterwards I thought, “I could’ve been hurt there”.

‘My friend tried to stop me and said I was stupid for getting involved but it was a spur of the moment thing.’

[snip]

His mother Michelle Slater, 42, said: ‘I told him off at the time for getting involved, but I’m very proud of him.

‘He won’t do anything like that again, hopefully.’

The salient points in that story are as follows:  British grown-ups, trained by the state into passivity, watched hooligans attack innocent people.  A young boy, whose state training clearly hadn’t taken hold (although it had taken hold in his peers), would not stand idly by but, instead, immediately helped, at no small risk to himself.  His mother was angry at him for taking the risk.

Wow.  Just wow.  That’s what the mighty British empire has dwindled to:  a single young boy who still has fire in his belly and courage in his heart.

Public libraries are wonderful things

For our Thanksgiving drive to L.A., I went to our local library and got several books on CD.  Since our small family manages not to have any overlapping areas of interest, this is always a challenge.  One wants teenage hero spy books, another wants high school romantic dramadies (half drama, half comedy), another wants books on computer technology, and I like history books.  Fate favored me because , on the day I went to the library, the only available books on CD that would meet any of those parameters were the history books.

The kids were not amused.  In a compromise, we ended up spending half of each drive listening to the videos they got to watch from the back seat (fyi, The Simpsons is fun to listen to), and half the drive listening to David McCulloch’s 1776.  My husband was so delighted with this book that, upon our return, he put it in his own car so that he could listen to the rest of it while driving to work.

I, meanwhile, put Joseph Ellis’ American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic in the CD player in my car. Since I drove about 100 miles yesterday to go to my pistol class, I was able to listen to the first disk.  It’s a delightful book, because Ellis shares my approach to American history:  it’s not about plaster saints or blinkered, evil white guys.  It’s about real people, in real time, dealing with real issues.  And yes, the Founding Fathers were special.

The Founders’ unique abilities came about by virtue of the particular historic time they occupied (what one might call the culmination of the Enlightenment), the incredible bounty of the American continent, their one hundred plus years of freedom as the British government ignored them (right up until the French-Indian War), and the education and class freedom that distinguished them from their European peers and from modern man. Despite these benefits and virtues, they still made mistakes, their personalities interfered with their decision-making, and they punted on the hard decisions because they wanted their own nation more than they wanted to free the slaves.  Those nuances are what make history interesting.

Ellis has a nice turn of phrase and a good eye for historic details, so the book is an effortless listen (or read).  I also detect in his tone a decided disdain for the Howard Zinn school of history, one that throws away the baby with the bath water.  Characterizing the Founders as racist, sexist hypocrites not only obscures their great accomplishments, it also diminishes Americans’ ability to understand their past, to control their present, and, in some small measure, to affect their future.

Listening to the book reminded me that one of the things that makes the Founders so fascinating is that they were men of truly catholic tastes.  Everything interested them.  No man from the Colonial era better exemplifies this quality than Benjamin Franklin.  (Thomas Jefferson loses first place because he was a bit too Southern elitist.)  Franklin was feted the world over for inventing the lightening rod, a device that drastically reduced a terrible scourge.  He also invented the Franklin Stove, bifocals (bless his heart), and the public library.

Before Franklin came along, libraries were reserved for rich people.  Even with the advent of the printing press, books were still expensive, and it was the fortunate man indeed who was both literate and capable of putting together a library of his own.  Now of course, we take libraries completely for granted.  In my community, we have ten public libraries, all of which are clean, well-stocked, well-maintained, and have wonderful on-line resources.

In a historical irony that Ben Franklin would fully have appreciated, modern Britain also has a splendid public library, one that includes a suburb on-line system.  The aristocrats of old might be rolling in their graves, but Ben Franklin, who was also an entrepreneur extraordinaire would especially appreciate the fact that the British library has a department devoted to business planning.  Yup.  That former bastion of intellectual and class exclusivity now has a great resource for British residents who want to see if they can make it on their own.

As a confirmed bookworm, I feel blessed to live in era that not only has public libraries, but that also puts so many resources on-line, so that one doesn’t even have to go to the library to experience the library’s benefit.  Is this the best of all possible worlds or what?

(BTW, if you’re interested in learning more about Benjamin Franklin, I highly recommend Benjamin Franklin’s own quite delightful autobiography, and Walter Isaacson’s slightly more honest look at Franklin’s life as a whole.)

Maybe my English history major does have something to do with my neoconservativism

Modern England makes me weep, but all my long-time readers know of my passion for British history.  Watching this Prager U video makes me realize that there may be a connection between my love for England’s past and my believe in America’s future:

By the way, for an in-depth analysis of the British Empire’s democratic effect, you might also enjoy Niall Ferguson’s Empire How Britain Made the Modern World — and yes, this is the same Niall Ferguson whose article explaining why Obama should lose the election recently graced Newsweek’s cover.

British police can’t even defend themselves against dogs

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding things here, but as I read this article, five British police officers got badly mauled by a single dog because none had a gun.  It wasn’t until a SWAT team arrived that the attack ended.

In America, the police are minutes away when seconds count.  In England, the police are there, but who cares?  Even the dogs aren’t scared.

Double paying in Britain for health care

When I lived in England, those who could afford to escape from government medicine by paying twice did so.  I addition to their high taxes, they bought a private insurance that I remember rejoiced in the name BUPA.  Things haven’t changed.  I don’t know why I’m on the mailing list, but I just got this announcement in today’s email:

NHS Waiting Lists Soar by 50% in the Last Year !!

Can you afford to be without Health Insurance ??

With the NHS waiting lists out of control, it’s no surprise millions of UK residents are protecting themselves with medical cover.

Premiums have dropped dramatically in recent years and are now at an all time low due to increased competition.

There are more providers and more plans available which has had an impact on price. Providers also offer more flexible underwriting terms which means helps people switch even if they have pre-existing conditions.

For many people, medical insurance may seem like a luxury that they just cannot afford to have. The reality is that medical insurance is a necessity that they cannot afford to live without.

Whether you have still not yet taken out Medical Cover, or wish to review an old one – let us do the hard work for you and compare the leading providers for you.

If you don’t have Health Insurance Click here

If you are about to renew Click here

We’re actually all familiar with this situation. Everyone pays for public schools. Thanks to unions, though, even the best public schools indoctrinate as much as they teach. The worst public schools are dangerous slums where children learn basic survival skills. Parents who want out, in addition to paying high taxes, also end up paying tuition for private schools. Poor parents, of course, are trapped, and beg for vouchers, which their elite Democrat masters deny them. (And yet they still vote Democrat. Go figure.)

Socialized anything is low-quality, crowded anything. Only the rich, who can afford to double pay, escape.

Downton Abbey — a soap opera for the intellectual crowd

Have you watched Downton Abbey yet?  Or perhaps a better question is, have you even heard of Downton Abbey?  I’ve been aware of it for a couple of years, because I read Britain’s Daily Mail.  The show has been a monster hit there and, during the season, the Daily Mail has a steady stream of articles about the plots and the actors. I only started watching it recently, though, when it crossed my husband’s radar.  I didn’t have any reason to ignore it before; I’m just not a TV person.

The easiest way to describe the show is to say that it’s a 21st version of Upstairs Downstairs insofar as the plot tracks the lives of an Earl’s family and his staff, all of whom live in a magnificent English country house.  The first season, which is available on streaming video and disc, begins in 1912 and works its way up to WWI.  The second season, which is currently showing on Masterpiece Theater, picks up with the war and clearly intends to take us into the post war years.

The series is absolutely gorgeous.  I’m madly in love with every single “upstairs” costume the women have worn, silly hats included.  Highclere Castle serves as the set, and it really takes your breath away every time you see an exterior shot or an interior “upstairs” room.  Typically for a high-end British production, the acting is superb.  Every character seems is a fully realized person.

Putting all that aside, though, fundamentally the show is a soap opera for the elite crowd.  There’s illicit sex, homosexuality, cross-class romances, heroism, death, brutal sibling rivalry, class warfare, etc.  About halfway through the first season, I became exhausted with the dragging soap opera feel of it.  Take away the historical story line, the lovely clothes, and the Castle, and it could be All My Children.

There is really only one thing that distinguishes the show from any other soap, and that thing is a whopper:  Maggie Smith.  Smith plays the family matriarch, and she is so magnificent in the role, I think that when she wraps up her career it will be considered her finest moment.  The following clip shows Smith in action.  She is at her best when she is sparring with the heir’s mother (the Earl had no sons, so the heir comes from a middle class line), a kind woman whose slightly over-officious work ethic deeply offends Smith’s character.

I’m not suggesting that you rush out to watch Downton Abbey, but I do think you might enjoy it if you get the chance.

Bully, meet Victim. Or, the two-sided story of sexual slavery in Great Britain

The British are starting to wake up to a problem in the Midlands and in Yorkshire.  Pakistani men are cultivating and pimping non-Pakistani British girls.  This video explains more:

Hat tip:  FrontPage Magazine

This problem has been obvious to many of us who have followed blogs that Chronicle the way in which Muslim men view the European around them.  Because the women go about unveiled and unescorted, the Muslim men automatically view them as prostitutes, and then treat them accordingly.  Wait, that’s not true.  One can treat prostitutes “accordingly” simply by paying them for sex.  These Muslim men treat them abusively (raping, acid attacks, murder, pimping, etc.), and then justifying it by claiming that, owing to their attire, the women deserve what happened to them.  It’s classic abuser conduct, carried out on a vast and brutal culture scale.

That’s the problem with the Muslim side of the equation.

The video above, though, hints at a reality few what to acknowledge — bullies don’t exist in a vacuum.  I remember reading aeons ago that someone, observing schoolyard activity, noticed that it wasn’t always the bullies who sought out the victims.  Sometimes, the victims gravitated to the bullies.  It doesn’t mean anyone deserves to be or is asking to be a victim.  It does mean, however, that sometimes there can be a complex dynamic between bully and victim that goes beyond the garden-variety situation in which a predator randomly seeks out prey.

Beginning at 2:55, Former Labour Home Secretary and current Blackburn MP Jack Straw starts a very laborious analysis of the problem.  Both as a matter of decency and a matter of fact, he tries not to implicate the entire Pakistani community, even though he admits that there is a significant segment of men within the Pakistani community that views non-Pakistan British girls as legitimate prey for their sexual desires and appropriate fodder for their prostitution business.  But the key language shows up at 3:50.  There, Straw says the following:

These young men are in a Western society.  In any event, they are like any other young men; they are fizzing and popping with testosterone.  They want some outlet for that, but Pakistani-heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan typically, so they then seek other avenues, and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care, who for sure and [sic] are not being subject to normal parental support, who they think are easy meat.  (Emphasis added.)

“Some of them in care” and “are not being subject to normal parental support” are both polite ways of stating that, while Pakistani girls may be over-protected by Western standards, white British girls are being under-protected by any standards.  I’m too lazy to find links now, but if you’re not as lazy as I am, you’ll be able to confirm that, in England, women are drinking more, drugging more, having children out-of-wedlock more, sleeping around more, etc.  More than what?  More than before and more than in most other Western countries.  They “are not being subject to normal parental support,” and they are raising second and third generations of girls who also “are not being subject to normal parental support.”  The Pakistani men in England may be plucking this fruit, but the politically correct, morality free, socialist English society is growing it.

 

 

Leftist thinking out of England

Two stories at the British Guardian caught my eye.  The first is the Guardian’s announcement that its readers think Private Bradley Manning deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.   You’re not imagining things.  Britain’s Left — at least that portion that answers unscientific online newspaper polls — thinks that the man who stole thousands of classified U.S. government documents and gave them to a man hostile to America, who in turn published them, leading to lots of boredom and, unfortunately, many deaths, is deserving of a “peace” prize.  The only thing that makes this logical is that you and I understand that “peace prize” is a misnomer.  What it really should be called is the “Nobel Hate America, Individual Freedom, and Capitalism Prize.”  Called by its true name, Manning is a perfect recipient.

The other story is one that’s both unbelievably tragic and that highlights the Left’s moral blindness.  The story is about a terrible famine affecting North Korea.  Here’s the Guardian’s take on the famine:

Footage of malnourished North Korean orphans and official warnings over failed harvests have given a rare glimpse at the scale of devastating food shortages in the country following a harsh winter and widespread flooding.

[snip]

North Korea has struggled with its food supply since the crippling famine of the 90s, and its biggest donors – South Korea and the US – have yet to decide whether to resume aid suspended in 2008, while rising global commodity prices have exacerbated its problems.

[snip]

The Reuters AlertNet humanitarian news service, which shot the new video, was allowed to make a tightly controlled trip to South Hwanghae, a farming province in the country’s arable heartland. The team reported signs of severe malnutrition in children and medical staff said they lacked the drugs they needed.

“The natural disasters of last year and this year have forced the people to live on potatoes and corn. Because people aren’t taking in proper nutrition, the number of in-patients has increased. While in May the number of inpatients was about 200, we have had around 350 inpatients each month from July to September,” said Jang Kum-son, a doctor.

Kim Chol-jun, paediatrician at a school for orphans, said heavy rainfall and flooding had also contaminated water supplies, leading to digestive diseases.

The governing People’s Committee said a bitter winter destroyed 65% of South Hwanghae’s barley, wheat and potato crops, and that rains, flooding and typhoons had destroyed 80% of the maize harvest. Officials added that they expected less than half the usual rice crop this month.

What’s missing from this story, with its focus on rainfall and flooding (some of which I assume affected neighboring South Korea) is that North Korea has had a perpetual famine problem.  This is not a weather related famine problem, although you wouldn’t guess it from the Guardian’s coverage.  Instead, it’s the same famine problem that affected the Ukraine in the 1930s and China during the Great Leap Forward:  It’s called a Communist-caused famine, and it occurs when a tyrannical centralized government destroys markets, designates food and farmland for favored citizens, diverts most of its resources to the military that props it up, and generally uses its citizens as servants of and tools for a small cadre of privileged people.

Did you notice, too, that the South Koreans are feeding their starving neighbors?  On the one hand, I totally understand it.  They don’t want hordes of hungry, nuclearized North Koreans swarming over the border.  On the other hand, it’s a shame that they’re propping up a dictatorship that’s systematically starving its own citizens.  I’m not exaggerating with the systematic starvation comment.  When I quoted from the Guardian, I left out a paragraph that provides the Guardian’s single nod to the fact that nature isn’t the only one at fault as North Korea’s children die:

Some suspect that Pyongyang may be hoarding crops to ensure there is plenty of food next year. The North has pledged that 2012 – the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birth – will be the year it becomes a major power.

The news out of England *UPDATED*

A few stories from England’s Daily Mail, all showing that the country is not in the best of health.  Each of these stories highlights, not the horrible things individuals can do, because those crimes transcend national boundaries, but the way in which England has rendered itself unable to react in any way to the insults occurring within its borders.

1.  An Eritrean national who helped plot an attempted jihad-inspired mass murder in England is not only free after serving just half his sentence, but the Brits cannot deport him for fear of violating his human rights.  Interestingly, concern about human rights didn’t seem to impinge on his activities when he helped the would-be bombers.

2.  Somehow England’s best, brightest and Leftest minds were unable to figure out that open immigration would depress wages.  This is what years of Leftist higher education will do to you — make you stupid.

3.  As a child, I remember reading that Soviet hospitals had something in common with medieval hospitals:  if your relatives weren’t there to take care of you, you died.  Turns out that you don’t have to be in a hardcore Communist nation or a medieval time warp for that to open.  Just go to England.  Soft socialism will do exactly the same bad job for you.

4.  Human rights don’t stop with Jihadists.  True blue axe-murdering Brits get their day in the sun too, as was the case with an axe murder with three notches on his blade who was nevertheless allowed out of prison to attend a course in chopping down trees.  Once an axe lover, always an axe lover, I guess.

UPDATE:  Sadie just sent me the worst article of all, one explaining better than anything else could, how Britain has arrived at this state:

From the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz to Meg, the good witch from the Meg and Mog children’s books, witches have always dressed in black.

But their traditional attire has now come in for criticism from equality experts who claim it could send a negative message to toddlers in nursery and lead to racism.

Instead, teachers should censor the toy box and replace the pointy black hat with a pink one, while dressing fairies, generally resplendent in pale pastels, in darker shades.

Another staple of the classroom – white paper – has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.

Children should be provided with paper other than white to drawn on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones”, reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.

Read the rest here.

And one more from Sadie:  police ban cafe owner from displaying Christian literature (including the Bible) and images, as they are an offense to public order.  The next thing, presumably, will be a raid on Buckingham Palace.  I’ve heard there’s an old woman living there who actually claims to be the head of a Christian church in England.  (I feel a satirical post coming on, if I can just keep my comic mojo going.)

The Nanny state makes it impossible to raise children — and then takes them away

Sometimes the matched sets just write themselves.  Both of the articles I’m quoting here are from England.  The first in our set is an article saying that town councils across England are being told that they need to reinstate actual playgrounds.  The current versions, which are the kid equivalent of a padded room, are creating useless human beings:

Old-fashioned playground equipment like climbing frames, sand pits and paddling pools are set to be re-introduced after research found a degree of risk helps children to develop.

For years councils have felt forced to remove older attractions from their sites fearing any potential injuries could result in costly legal battles.

But recent research has shown that children actually benefit from risk when they play as it helps them develop the judgement skills they need in later life.

[snip]

Chairman Bernard Spiegal told the Sunday Times he believed Britain had been obsessed with risk assessment which was having a negative effect on children.

He said: ‘We were crippling their confidence by not letting them learn through experience.

‘We don’t want children losing fingers in badly designed swings or getting their heads trapped under a roundabout. But there’s nothing wrong with a bump, bruise and graze.’

I’ll add that current “safe” playgrounds don’t inspire much energy in the kids. The installations are so bland, the kids get bored quickly, and long for the less rigorous comforts of their computers and TV sets.

Before we head to the matched-set article, just have fixed firmly in your mind that Britain is a country that, out of an excess of nanny state caution, has rendered children’s physical play boring, essentially herding children back to the couch.

If you’ve got that notion firmly in mind, it’s time for article number two, which is harrowing. It all started a few years ago when a young boy banged his head and, because he was angry at his father, called his town’s version of Child Protective Services and accused his father of hitting him. Child Protective Services did exactly what one would expect it to do when dealing with a stable, middle class family — it latched onto it like a piranha or tick, and proceeded to suck the life out of the family.

The family’s sin? The kids are overweight. It’s now come to the point that Dundee’s CPS has announced that it will remove the four youngest children permanently, hiding them from the parents:

Four obese children are on the brink of being permanently removed from their family by social workers after their parents failed to bring their weight under control.

In the first case of its kind, their mother and father now face what they call the ‘unbearable’ likelihood of never seeing them again.

Their three daughters, aged 11, seven and one, and five-year-old son, will either be ‘fostered without contact’ or adopted.

[snip]

Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded ‘Big Brother’ house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.

[snip]

The couple have not committed any crime and are not accused of deliberate cruelty or abuse. Their solicitor, Joe Myles, said there was ‘nothing sinister lurking in the background’ and accused social workers of failing to act in the family’s best interests.

‘Dundee social services department appear to have locked horns with this couple and won’t let go,’ he said, adding that the monitoring project caused more problems than it solved. ‘The parents were constantly being accused of bad parenting and made to live under a microscope.

[snip]

Social workers became aware of the family in early 2008 after one of the sons accused his father of hitting him on the forehead. In truth, he had fallen and hit his head on a radiator – a fact he later admitted. However, the allegation opened the door to the obesity investigation.

While the couple admit experiencing what their lawyer calls ‘low grade’ parenting problems, which would have merited support, they were aghast when the issue of weight was seized on as a major concern.

[snip]

The couple were ordered to send their children to dance and football lessons and were given a three-month deadline to bring down their weight. When that failed, the children were placed in foster homes but were allowed to visit their parents.

After the couple objected to this arrangement, the council agreed to move them into a two-bedroom flat in a supported unit run by the Dundee Families Project. They insisted on the couple living with only three of their children at a time.

At meal times, a social worker stood in the room taking notes. Doctors raised concerns that the children put on weight whenever they spent time with their parents, a claim they vehemently denied.

[snip]

Although the children’s weight was the major concern, other allegations were included in a report. It showed that social workers were worried when the youngest child was found crawling unsupervised. The parents point out they were never far away and the flat had no stairs.

They also found her ‘attempting to put dangerous objects’ in her mouth. The family say this is natural in toddlers and she was never successful.

[snip]

The father, aged 56, said: ‘We have tried very hard to do everything that was asked of us. My wife has cooked healthy foods like home-made spaghetti bolognese and mince and potatoes; we’ve cut out snacks and only ever allowed the kids sweets on a Saturday. But nothing we’ve done has ever been enough.

‘The pressure of living in the family unit would have broken anyone. We were being treated like children and cut off from the outside world. To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable. I want other families to know what can happen once social workers become involved. We will fight them to the end to get our beloved children back.’

You can read the whole litany of social worker horribles here.

Anyone who has read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism will not be surprised by the family’s sufferings.  This kind of micromanagement is precisely what the “loving” nanny state does.  Indeed, think about the fact that Obama’s administration has taken to calling itself your “federal family.”  For those who thinks it’s a figure of speech, it’s not.  Socialist government does not believe that it can trust parents to raise the next generation of cogs in the government organization.

In the same way, anyone who has paid any attention at all to Child Protective Services agencies (in whichever country, and under whatever name they operate) knows that too many of these organizations are much less concerned with protecting genuinely at risk children (the beaten, starved and killed who make periodic newspaper headlines), and are much more concerned with forcing middle and working class families to abandon their parenting role or to risk being forced to hand their children over to the state.

There’s a reason I believe that CPS stands, not for Child Protective Services, but for “Causes Parental Suffering.”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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Mixed feelings about England

I fought my husband for years about taking the kids on vacation to England.  Despite growing up as a complete Anglophile (I can talk for hours, unaided, about British history) and despite having spent one of the happiest years of my life there, I have a lot of issues with modern day England.

My primary problem with England is the institutional antisemitism that permeates its political and educational class.  A poisonous combination of virtually unlimited immigration from the Muslim world and Leftist education has turn England into one of the most antisemitic countries in the Western world.

It’s a little unfair to point the finger of blame solely at the recent past, though.  The slow drip-drip of Muslim antisemitism goes back to the 1930s and before, when England made an unholy alliance with the Muslim world over oil.  That emotional alliance was temporarily severed during World War II, when the Arabs made common cause with the Nazis (“antisemites unite”), but it came back in full flower when the British behaved disgracefully towards the nascent state of Israel.  (Briefly, as they withdrew, the British, in violation of international agreement, handed key forts over to the Arabs.)  What this means is that modern Muslim and Leftist antisemitism in England grows out of fertile soil.

I’m also unhappy about England because of the cultural rot that’s set in.  A few months ago or more, I would have illustrated that rot with links to reports about its rampant alcoholism, single parenthood, drug abuse, teen mothers, etc.  Now, I’ll just say:  riots.  Those riots — which weren’t about anything at all, but sprang from a nihilism brought about by decades of the type of government dependency that saps all meaning from life — perfectly illustrate England’s decay.

Going to England as a tourist means giving my money to that system.  By paying for food, lodging, transportation and entertainment, I feel as if I’m putting my imprimatur on something quite awful.

And yet….

And yet there’s still something for me about England.  My husband and are watching with the children “World War II in Colour,” one of the endless World War II offerings on the Military channel.  The show takes old footage, colorizes it, adds sound, and pieces it together with maps and very British narrative to put together a fairly comprehensive (albeit facile) picture about World War II.  Watching it, one cannot forget that it was the Brits who held off the Nazis for two years entirely on their own, and who ending up fighting the fight for six solid years.  From the end of 1941 onwards, the British also found themselves facing off against the Japanese in the Pacific.  It takes one hell of a nation to do what the English did.  There was a moral courage there (in America, too) at the time that simply earns my respect.

Generally speaking, British history has my respect as well.  Yes, the British were pirates (16th to 17th centuries), they were religious killers (name a century before the 18th), they were slave traders (16th through early 19th centuries) and everything else awful that makes up the history of the Western world.  But they abandoned those sins before other nations did.  And unlike other nations, they advanced a notion of individual freedom that (I believe) reached full flower in America.  Without British law and customs as the foundation, there would be no United States of America.  That too is worthy of respect.

From the travel point of view, Britain also still ranks high.  For the kids and me, it was the best part of the trip.  It worked at every level, whether we’re talking about a temperate climate, ease of transportation, beauty, interesting history, or quality museums and other historic sites.  You name it, we liked it (especially the Churchill War Rooms and Imperial War Museum).  As a tourist, England felt right.  If you stay in the heart of London, the rot that led to the riots is hidden.  All you see is glory.

That’s why we’re probably going back to England next year.  My husband wants to travel and I want to travel to a place that’s comfortable and endlessly interesting.  I’m not sure there’ll always be an England.  This will probably be my last chance to see it and, if current political and demographic trends continue onward, it might be the children’s last chance too.  So, while we can, we’ll go to the greatness:  Hatfield, Blenheim, Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Bath, York, Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford, Edinburgh, etc. — all the places that still feel redolent of the past, and haven’t yet been destroyed by the present.

Moral figures without moral authority

There is a story that Josef Stalin, hearing mention of the Pope, asked dismissively ““How many divisions does the Pope have?”  The quotation, if true, is compelling, because it perfectly illustrates the Leftist viewpoint that the only power is that which comes at the point of a gun.  The notion of moral behavior and moral authority is utterly alien to the statist.

An interesting question, therefore is what happens to a figure of supposed moral authority who is the product of a statist society?  JKB sent me the answer to that question, which is that the person recognizes that moral dimensions exist in a given situation, but is utterly incapable of believing that there is a way to use his authority to enforce that morality.  The following quotation comes from a long, stream-of-consciousness description a British man of the cloth wrote about the riots in Salford:

My clothes stink of smoke and I want to weep with rage at a society that has disenfranchised so many for so long whilst brainwashing two/three generations of children to want, want, want!  I can still hear the sheer joy in that lads voice, ‘X-boxes! iPhones! You can get whatever you want!’  All of his empty dreams being fulfilled – well temporarily anyway.

I also feel a kind of empty, shocked sorrow that I heard young children being taught to hate the police as they arrived, that parents would send them into dark, dangerous buildings to loot to feed their own greed, happy to teach them that stealing and looting and robbing and mindless waste and destruction are ‘funny’, because if I heard that once I heard it a thousand times tonight.  ’I just think it’s funny!’

I saw the faces of police personnel, hardened with concentration for the task at hand, while people laughed at the potential damage they would inflict on somebody else’s wife, son, daughter, mother.

The trouble is, we do have a two tier society without a doubt, and while bankers have been allowed their bonuses having stitched us up every which way, we will continue to pay for this in more ways than one, and tonight is just one of them.  With the cuts aimed primarily at the poor and the needy and the disenfranchised, things can only get worse.

And what will we do?  Continue to promulgate the values that have created this deadly cocktail of haves and have-nots, faithless, hopeless people who have been taught that consumerism is a recreational right and all moral and religious education completely nonsensical?  Surely THIS is nonsensical?!  [Emphasis mine.]

I don’t doubt at all the despair or moral decency of the person who wrote that plaintive cry.  What concerned JKB, and what concerns me, is his helplessness. Even as he carries on him the smoke from his burning country, and even though he is a man of the cloth, he sees the problem solely in statist terms.  While he mentions the words “moral” and “religion,” he doesn’t seem to see either morality or religion as answers.  Instead, the problem, in his mind, is the usual pap about “haves and have-nots,” with the answer being to use his moral authority, not to inculcate morality, but simply to decrease consumerism. Without inculcating values in people, though, the only way to decrease consumerism is the Stalinist way — at the point of the gun, and we’ve seen lately just how well that works.