The Bookworm Beat 1/21/15 — “Post-SOTU” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingI didn’t watch the SOTU. Aside from finding Obama a boring, inelegant speaker, I was helping a client with trial prep. Today, the trial got continued for a few months so, before settling in for a nice 12 hour sleep (I wish!), I can blog — and share with you, among other things, a couple of my favorite SOTU analyses. I’ve got a lot to say, so I’ll just start saying….

My two favorite SOTU wrap-ups

As I admitted above, I did not watch the SOTU, so I can’t actually say if these wrap-ups are accurate. I can just say that I liked them.

From Neo-Neocon:

But Obama long ago concluded that the best defense is a good offense. He has never had to face the consequences of his failures. He has been able to fool most of the people most of the time, at least when it counted. He has skated past disaster after disaster, and gotten away with lie after lie. The biggest repercussion he’s been met with—the 2014 Democratic defeat in Congress—may not stop him. Republicans are somewhat toothless, in part because they are divided among themselves but also because Obama has veto power that will be difficult to override. He’s also got that phone and that pen, and the will to use them. He has successfully transformed the US into a second-rate power and allies into enemies (or at least, into abandoned and confused ex-allies). And he has turned enemies into, if not allies, then gloating and stronger forces in the world for whatever evil they’ve got in mind.

It’s actually worked out very well for Obama. So why not brag?

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The moral lessons that Jonathan Gruber could have learned from a brain-damaged man

Jonathan Gruber Health Care Obamacare for DummiesTrey Gowdy conduct a masterful examination of MIT Prof. Jonathan “Stupid Americans” Gruber.  What made it so good was that he had Gruber repeatedly offer the canned defense that he (Gruber) was arrogant, stupid, and ill-informed.  That defense might have flown once but, when a formerly boastful MIT professor said it over and over again, it quickly appeared insincere:

The incredible sweet spot in this examination comes right after Gruber robotically repeats again that he isn’t a politician, and he was just trying to make himself look smarter. Gowdy, in that slow, Southern drawl (the kind that makes Northeastern leftists mistakenly assume that Southerners are stupid), then says, “And again your defense is that you’re not a politician. The lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Well, what is a non-politician doing talking about political advantages?”

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The Bookworm Beat (10/17/14) — aka the Friday fish-wrap edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingBefore I dive into my round-up, I wanted to discuss with you a poster that a very liberal friend of mine put up on Facebook. It’s the Leftist version of various posters you’ve seen here discussing Leftist logic (e.g., as Dixon Diaz says, “A liberal is someone who lives in a gated community but says that a border fence won’t work,” or “A liberal is someone who thinks that Fox news lies, but Obama doesn’t.”).  The Leftist version of this logic comparison involves voter ID and gun purchases:

Comparing voter ID and gun shows

Superficially, the comparison makes sense. I mean, ID is ID after all. Why should it be required in one place and not in another? Only a second’s thought, though, makes it clear that this is a bit of prestidigitation, meant to make us look in the wrong direction.

What we should be looking at is the fundamental right we’re trying to protect.  In the case of voting, the fundamental right is the right to cast a vote that is not canceled out by an invalid vote from someone who, as a matter of law, cannot vote, whether because that person is actually dead, or is an illegal alien, or is a felon, or just hasn’t bothered to register.  Demanding identification protects the integrity and weight of my legal vote.

The opposite is true for the requirement that one must show identification at a gun show.  The right to bear arms is the fundamental right at issue.  Putting government regulations between an individual and a gun is a burden on the exercise of that right.  This is not to say that the state may not place that burden, but the state had better  have a damn good reason for doing so.

So — is anyone out there skilled enough to reduce my argument to a poster that will counter the poster above?  For the life of me, I cannot figure out an easily digestible way to counter a fallacious, but superficially appealing, argument.

Guns save lives

It seems appropriate after discussing the fundamental right to bear arms to lead off with a news report about an Army vet, carrying a licensed gun, who used his gun to save both his girlfriend and himself from a frightening attack by a deranged individual. Here’s the takeaway quotation:

“I firmly believe that in order to maintain a free society, people need to take personal safety into their own hands,” he said. “You should walk around ready and able to protect yourself and others in your community.”

Modern Islam flows from Saudi Arabia and Iran, and both are barbaric

Daniel Greenfield pulls no punches in “The Savage Lands of Islam.” With a focus on Saudi Arabia (along with nods to Iran) he explains that Islam, as practiced in the countries that are its heartlands, is an utterly barbaric religion that debases human beings. He also warns that Islam exists, rather like a parasite, to take over other countries and reduce them to precisely the same debased status. Or as I once said:

Why is militant Islam Like Ebola

England continues voluntarily to plunge itself into the moral abyss

By a vote of 60 to 1, the student union at Goldsmiths College in London voted to discontinue all Holocaust commemorations. The reasons given were grotesque, starting with that given by the “education officer,” a gal named Sarah El-Alfy, which I read as an Arab name. According to her, Holocaust commemorations are “Eurocentric” and “colonialist.” Sadly, El-Alfy sounds marginally intelligent compared to students who opined that “The motion would force people to remember things they may not want to remember,” while another said that because the Union was (apparently appropriately) anti-Zionist, commemorating the Holocaust was impossible.

Honestly, I think the only time in modern history that a once civilized country so swiftly and completely debased itself was Germany, in the years between the end of WWI and the start of WWII. And, to England’s shame, Germany at least had the “excuse” of having been utterly destroyed, socially and economically, by having lost WWI. England’s slide into this abyss has no excuse, following as it does the fat years that Margaret Thatcher introduced and that continued through the 1990s.

England’s not alone: all of Europe is just as immoral

England didn’t sink into this moral black hole alone. All of Europe is there (with American Democrats tugging anxiously at the leash, desperate to plunge into the hole themselves).

How do we know this? Because Europe, England included, has decided to recognize the Palestinian state, despite the fact that there’s nothing state-like about the West Bank.  Well, there’s nothing state-like unless you redefine state to mean “a dysfunctional terrorist organization, with no infrastructure, no rights for women, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or gays, and that has no ability to generate revenue but simply funds itself with hand-outs from the international community, most of which end up lining the pockets of those clinging with tyrannical fervor to ‘leadership’ positions.”

And if that sentence was too packed to make sense, you can and should read Caroline Glick on Europe’s disgraceful move to recognize a Palestinian State.

When it comes to moral black holes, let’s not forget The New York Times

As part of the Left’s desperate effort to emulate Europe’s moral abasement, the New York Times is leading tours to Iran, no Israelis allowed, and all Jews and homosexuals seriously discouraged from coming along:

The New York Times is offering a pricey, 13-day excursion to the “once-forbidden land of Iran,” one of a series of its Times Journeys tours. However, if you’re an Israeli, joining the “Tales of Persia,” trip, “once-forbidden,” is still forbidden, and letting anyone know you’re Jewish, or gay, isn’t particularly recommended, either, a representative told The Algemeiner on Monday.

How very 1938 of the Times. Can’t you just see exactly the same tour being given to Nazi Germany by the Progressives at the Times, all of whom would be overflowing with admiration for a powerful state that gives universal healthcare, discourages smoking, and designs fuel-efficient cars?

Did you know Hitler was a meth head?

This may be old news to some of you (indeed, I remember vaguely reading it somewhere), but it’s still a shock to read about the scope of Hitler’s doctor-approved drug abuse:

According to a 47-page wartime dossier compiled by American Military Intelligence, the Fuhrer was a famous hypochondriac and took over 74 different medications, including methamphetamines.

[snip]

He was initially prescribed a drug called Mutaflor in order to relieve the pain of his stomach cramps.

He was then prescribed Brom-Nervacit, a barbiturate, Eukodal, a morphine-based sedative, bulls’ semen to boost his testosterone, stimulants Coramine and Cardiazol, and Pervitin, an ‘alertness pill’ made with crystal meth-amphetamine.

One has to wonder how much all these drugs contributed to the paranoia and monamania that killed 40 million people, including 6 million Jews, in just six years.

No wonder conservatives are feeling apocalyptic….

The last couple of days have seen several conservative writers writing gloomy posts about America’s and the world’s slide into chaos, all under Obama’s aegis.

Roger L. Simon asks “Can It Possibly Get Any Worse?

Stephen F. Hayes looks at the “Failure Upon Failure” of the Obama presidency. In theory, the article should make for satisfying reading for those of us who figured Obama out on the first day but it’s actually just terribly depressing, because Obama’s failure is America’s failure.

Ed Driscoll notes that the Left is getting downhearted too, in “The ‘Bam Who Fell To Earth.

America’s campuses go full kangaroo court

Heather MacDonald is pleased about what she sees as neo-Victorianism on college campuses, by which she means the fact that colleges are starting to turn away from the hook-up culture and obsession with perverse sex that has characterized them for so many years. As the mother of a girl heading off to college one of these days, I’m delighted to learn that the sex saturated culture is finally drying up. However, as the mother of a boy who will also be heading off to college one of these days, I’m distressed that the change is coming about, not by demonizing the casual and perverse sex culture, but simply by demonizing boys and men.

As long as men leave the toilet seat up, why marry?

There must be as many reasons for the decline in marriage as their are non-married people. A female University of Washington professor thinks the decline in marriage is a good thing because men just aren’t very nice people to marry.

In keeping with her attack on men, I’d like pick up on a theme I touched upon years ago, when I first started blogging. Looking at the people I know, the couples I know, and the blogs I’ve read, I’ve concluded that liberal and conservative men are very different in their approach to women.

Liberal men applaud women in the abstract — calling them equal or superior, bowing before their right to do anything they damn well please, and feeling the need to apologize all the time for being men. Given all this, perhaps it’s not surprising that, except for the sex part, liberal men don’t seem to like actual women very much. If you constantly have to abase yourself before someone, it’s kind of going to kill the fun. Certainly, in my world, the harder Left men are politically, the meaner they are to the real women in their real lives.

Conversely, while conservative men believe in equity feminism (equal pay for equal work, equal access to opportunities on a level playing field), they view women as different from them and special in their own way. I’ve never seen a respectable conservative male blogger denigrate women, just as I’ve never seen one pretending there’s no difference, that women are superior, or that all men must perpetually apologize for erroneous opinions that men in past generations held about women. Conservative men have a better handle on the fact that, in a pre-industrial, pre-scientific era (that is, everything before about 1850), there was no way in Hell to pretend that men and women were fundamentally equal. Conservative men also seem not just to love the women in their lives, but truly to respect them.

So it seems to me that, amongst the Left, which is still driving the culture, marriage is less popular because feminism has made it reasonable for men to dislike women, and therefore to treat them disrespectfully, which in turn leads women to dislike men.

Very sad.

Andrew Klavan gives the American media a well-deserved shellacking

Still, there is beauty….

Adilyn Malcolm describes herself as follows:

Hi, I’m Adi! I’m 11 years old and I love dubstep! I have NEVER taken a dance class in my life………I learned from watching (YouTube) videos!! I have been dancing for about 6 months. I am actually a motocross racer but when I’m not on my bike, this is the next best thing! I hope you enjoy my videos. Thanks for watching!

Although the following is only her second video, she already has 2,421 subscribers and 2,005,997 views. You’ll see why she got so popular so fast when you watch her dance:

And a few pictures in lieu of thousands more words

A time saver for tall people

All I'm saying is Zombie movie

And, from Sadie (who provided the caption):

President Shiva

Wonderful, beautiful, inspiring images of Jews as survivors, not victims *UPDATED*

It’s very natural, given what happened to the Jews at Nazi (and Communist and Muslim) hands in just the last 75 years to think of them as victims.  But they’re not.  They’re survivors, and fighters, and people who have created one of the most stable, dynamic, free, creative, prosperous nations in the world.  PopChassid has assembled 20 amazing photographs showing the fierce will to live — before, during, and after WWII — that burns in Jews.

Let me throw in a few wonderful photos to add to that narrative.  

As early as 1930, Tel Aviv was a beautiful, cosmopolitan city:

Ben Jehuda Road 1930

Vibrant young settlers on a kibbutz, late 1930s/early 1940s:

Kibbutzniks 1930s

Exhausted, but still jubilant Israeli soldiers at the Western Wall in 1967, after having liberated it from Arab control (which denied Jews all access to Jerusalem’s Holy Sites):

Israeli-Soldiers-Wall-1967

In a Middle Eastern region distinguished by frequently sadistic, and always demoralizing, misogyny, this is a picture of some candidates in the Israeli Defense Force’s Officer Course for Infantry Command:

Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Officer_Course_for_Infantry_Command

Of course, there’s nothing new about that. The Haganah already had women in the armed forces in 1948:

ARAB ISRAELI WAR 1948 WOMEN ARMY
In a Middle Eastern region in which gays are routinely tortured, sodomized, whipped, and hanged, Israel has a dynamic gay community, which celebrates with an annual pride parade. Gay Muslims from all over the Middle East try to sneak into Israel to live without fear:

GAY-PRIDE-PARADE-TEL-AVIV

If you have images you like, let me know. I’m not a terribly visual person (words are my thing), so I don’t always know where or how to look for the best images.

UPDATES FROM SADIE:  Enjoying folk dances every Saturday at Haifa Beach:

Dancing at Haifa Beach

The Haifa International Flower Show in 2012:

Haifa International Flower Show 2012

Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem:

Mahane Yehuda Market Jerusalem 5

Mahane Yehuda Market Jerusalem 4

Mahane Yehuda Market Jerusalem 3

Mahane Yehuda Market Jerusalem 2

Mahane Yehuda Market Jerusalem 1

Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Erev Yom Hashoah, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.  In Israel, it is a poignant moment honored by every citizen (or at least, every Jewish citizen).  In the rest of the world, it is a moment to be forgotten, ignored, or denied.

Back in the 1930s, no one could believe that the Germans, considered the most civilized and advanced of all Europeans, could become so bestial.

The tragedy today is that, when we look at the Islamists, we’ve already seen how bestial they are, and still nobody believes their oft repeated goal of reinstating the Holocaust.

Yom Hashoah 2

Yom Hashoah 1

Yom Hashoah 3

Yom Hashoah 4

Long ago, Tacitus said “Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris. (It is a principle of human nature to hate those whom you have injured.)” Or as people have more recently noted, the Europeans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.

UPDATED: Thanks to Sadie for reminding me that I wanted to include a video showing just how strongly Israelis feel about Yom Hashoah’s two minutes of silence. Can you imagine Americans coming to a halt this way?

Dachau: The bitter fruit of a terrible evil, in full color

Color is an interesting thing.  I long ago realized that the 1920s and 1930s seem further away for me, visually, than the pre-modern era.  The difference is color.  When I think of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, even though the images are frozen, they still are in living color.  Color gives them a vitality that makes them immediate:

Jan van Eyck Virgin and Child

Looking at that lovely Jan van Eyck, don’t you feel as if you could touch the Baby Jesus’s blonde hair or stroke his pink skin, or that you could bury your hands in Mary’s cloak and feel the warm fabric across your fingers?  They may be still, but they’re real.  Van Eyck stopped the moment for you, but you know that, when you’re not looking, their chests will rise and fall, and that the baby will turn towards Mary, and she will wrap her warm, loving arms around him.  Color matters.

Conversely, look at this photograph from the 20s:

1920s flappers
It’s not just the clothes that separate us from those dashing ladies.  It’s also that they’re the wrong color.  They’re not the color of living flesh.  Instead, they’re the colors of death and the grave.  Although the highlights and shades are there to give us dimensionality, they still look peculiarly flattened and unreal.  Their frozen quality will continue long after we turn our eyes away from them.

So it is with too many images of WWII.  Although it took place during the lifetime of many people who are still living, those of us who came of age after the war have a hard time seeing it as more than chilling historic pictures.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that these were real people who fought, and killed, and suffered, and died.  Many of us probably think “That can’t happen here.”  We think this not only because we foolishly believe that our Constitution, without further effort on our parts, is strong enough to protect us from tyranny, but also because a part of our brain says, “Did that really happen anywhere?”  Of course, we know that it happened at a specific place (Europe) and over a specific period of time (1933-1945), but those colorless images distance us from the humanity of the people involved.

Which is why you should watch this short color video showing the liberation of Dachau:

The dead are real people; the Germans dragged into the camp to see what their statist ideology had wrought are real people; the surviving prisoners, with such faint hope in their eyes, are real people.  It’s a terribly disturbing video because it drags us out of our 21st century American complacency and forces us to acknowledge that real people committed unbelievable heinous acts against other living, breathing, full-color human beings.

The New York Times’ dirty history regarding the Holocaust

She’s a high school senior, but damn! if she doesn’t give a stunningly good talk about the way in which the New York Times, despite knowing about the Holocaust, not only downplayed it, but effectively kept American policy away from helping Europe’s besieged Jewish population:

There is no anti-Semite worse than a Jew.  (See als0 Liberty Spirit’s J’Accuse!)

Hat tip:  Richard Baehr

Yom Hashoah

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that was once a memorial day, a day of looking back, but is now a chilling tocsin of what the future might hold.  Everywhere in the world, antisemitism is on the rise.  Nor is this the cold, clinical antisemitism that once characterized England — the kind where people would sniff at someone and say “Oh, he’s a Jew.”  Jews might be socially ostracized and subject to petty humiliations, but they were not tortured, killed, or denied civil rights by their own government.

All over the world today, including in England, Jews are facing a worldwide rise in violent antisemitism that his not just a “chill,” is a scary, furnace-like heat.  (I keep mentioning England because it has swung more violently than any other European country from an “I don’t care” view of Jews to a blood-thirsty hatred for Jews and Israel.)  I don’t have the heart or the time to detail the attacks.  I will share with you a video showing what happens to Jews when the world turns on them, with the background music being an extremely rare recording of Bergen-Belsen survivors signing the “Hatikvah.”

By the way, David Goldman (Spengler) has the good news, which is that Jew hating-societies are dying off, because off low birth rates.  Jews stand for life (“I say to you, choose life“), so it’s not surprising that these cultures embrace death, their own and other’s.  The problem, of course, is that these dying cultures can still cause a lot of trouble as they grapple with their own convulsive death throes.

With Republicans in their line of sight again, Democrats revert to Nazi tropes

The one thing that’s been nice about Obama’s presidency is the fact that the Democrats ramped down their Nazi rhetoric.  It used to be that you couldn’t open a Leftist web page without hearing that Bush and Cheney were Nazis, and that every Republican policy initiative promised to create a new Holocaust.

Sadly, the impulse to cheapen oneself and the Holocaust in one fell swoop was dormant, not dead.  Now that the Republicans have fielded a viable presidential candidate, the Democrats are once again talking about Nazis and Big Lies and Holocausts.  Jeff Dunetz, at Yid With Lid, explains just how horrible this tic-like comparison is, insofar as it destroys our ability to understand one of the greatest atrocities in history, even while it degrades our own political discourse.

Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) *UPDATED*

As a Jew, the Holocaust is always with me.  When I whine about something (which I often do), I’m instantly stricken with guilt because I know that, 70 years ago, across Europe, women with lives similar to mine (middle-aged, middle-class) were suddenly pitched into a nightmarish maelstrom from which there was no escape.

Am I shlepping heavy groceries from the car?  At least I have food.  Do those new shoes I bought pinch my feet?  Not only am I shod, but my shoes haven’t been stripped from my body as a preliminary to herding me into a gas chamber.  Am I feeling a bit ill or suffering a migraine?  I could be laboring in the quarry at Mauthausen, starved, diseased, abused, and alone.

I don’t have survivor’s guilt.  I have second-generation survivor’s guilt.  On the one hand, I know how lucky I am and how blessed my life is.  On the other hand, I can never, ever escape the mental images of those who thought they had my luck, only to see it vanish as if it had never happened.

We only think we’re not on the volcano’s edge.  We all are.  It’s just that some of us have lives that allow us to pretend the sulfurous fumes aren’t actually rising up around us.  I may not live a Hobbesian life at this moment, but there is actually very little between me and a moral entropy that threatens violence and horrible death.

One day a year, we take the inchoate guilt and anxiety that plague most Jews (and many non-Jews?) and declare it an official remembrance day.  That day is Yom Hashoah.  With every passing year, there are fewer people alive who have first hand memories of the Holocaust.  It is therefore up to us to carry the torch and try, through the act of memory, to beat back the darkness surrounding us.

Here is my post on the Holocaust, one that looks at those who lived through it, those who escape from it, and those who were pitched into a Pacific, rather than European, Holocaust.

Here is Bruce Kesler’s post about the village that saw his family’s end.

Here is The Political Commentator’s post.

And here is a link to a book that Bruce recommended: Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. The book isn’t actually about Europe as a whole.  It’s about a specific geographic area bounded by Germany and the Soviet Union, but one that tellingly did not include Germany itself or the core Soviet States.  It was in this territory, Belarus, Poland, the Ukraine, etc., that the Nazis and the Soviets put into effect the greatest killing effort in human history, something that would not be seen again until Mao visited his Great Leap Forward on his own hapless Chinese people.

In this geographic area — the Bloodlands of the title — the Soviets and the Nazis systematically starved, shot, gassed, and creatively killed millions of fellow Europeans, many of whom the Nazis shipped in from far-flung geographic points.  The victims’ crime?  They were enemies of the state, whether because they were Jews, gypsies, farmers, POWs from the opposing side’s armies, political dissidents, political ignoramuses, or anything or anyone else the state feared.

The book’s lesson is clear from the first page:  While one can easily find individuals with no conscience, an individual’s reach is limited.  That’s not the case when it comes to a start whose citizens allow it to seize unfettered power.  A state that has no conscience (and when does a state collective ever have a soul?) can too easily become a killing machine.

When savvy people figure out that I’m a conservative, they often ask why.  I think they are surprised when I don’t launch into a long discourse about policies and goals.  I say only one thing:  “I fear anything that consolidates too much power.  The bigger an entity, the more mischief it can do.  I like to keep political power reasonable diffused.  A government should be big enough to be useful, but not so big that it becomes both unstoppable and very dangerous.”

UPDATEBenjamin Netanyahu’s Yom Hashoah speech.