The homogeneity of Leftist thinking at American institutions and its effect on poverty at the ground level

I’ve written before about one of my favorite writers, Paul Fussell.  He wrote a wonderful essay entitled Thank God for the Atom Bomb, about the righteousness of dropping the atom bomb.  He was in the Army when Truman dropped the bomb, so Fussell wholeheartedly approved — and had the data to back up his personal opinion.  (More recently released data completely backs up his 30 year old hypothesis.)  I also wholeheartedly approve, as my Mom was a few weeks away from dying in a Japanese concentration camp when the bomb dropped.

Fussell also wrote what I think is one of the greatest books ever about WWI, The Great War and Modern Memory.  I just bought the Kindle version to reread because my copy, which I bought in college, has disintegrated. It’s a beautifully written book that looks at both the war and concurrent war literature to track a vast paradigm shift in intellectual thought during the four years the war lasted.  Young men went in imbued with Victorian ideas of chivalry and honor; they came out jaded, cynical, and completely unable to accept that aggression is sometimes necessary and could have been useful in preventing Hitler’s rise. It is a triumph of both military writing and literary writing.

What you might not know about Fussell was that this iconoclast was a university professor.  Nowadays, the phrase iconoclastic professor is an oxymoron.  Not so in Fussell’s heyday.  Wikipedia sums up his military and academic career:

Fussell attended Pomona College from 1941 until he enlisted in the US Army in 1943. He landed in France in 1944 as a 20 year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division,[8] was wounded while fighting in Alsace, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was honorably discharged from the army in 1946, returned to Pomona to finish his B.A. degree in 1946-7, married fellow Pomona graduate Betty Harper in 1949, and completed his MA (1949) and Ph.D. (1952) at Harvard University.

He began his teaching career at Connecticut College (1951–55) before moving to Rutgers University in 1955 and finally the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. He also taught at the University of Heidelberg (1957–58) and King’s College London (1990–92). As a teacher, he traveled widely with his family throughout Europe from the 1950s to 70s, taking Fulbright and sabbatical years in Germany, England and France.

As his writing shows, Fussell was an entirely original thinker who didn’t march to the beat of anyone’s drum.  Indeed, he delighted in challenging what was already becoming stifling academic orthodoxy:

Fussell stated that he relished the inevitable controversy of Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) and indulged his increasing public status as a loved or hated “curmudgeon” in the rant called BAD: or, The Dumbing of America (1991). In between, Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988) confirmed his war against government and military doublespeak and prepared the way for Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989). The epiphany of his earlier essay, “My War”, found full expression in his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), “My Adolescent illusions, largely intact to that moment, fell away all at once, and I suddenly knew I was not and never would be in a world that was reasonable or just”. The last book by Fussell published while he was alive, The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-45 (2003) was once again concerned with the experience of combat in World War II.

Fussell was never petrified or brainwashed by his academic career.  I wonder what Fussell would have thought if he’d been a teacher at Bowdoin in the last twenty years or so.  Bowdoin found itself in the news lately because of what David Feith calls “The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World.”  It all started when Barry Mills, Bowdoin College’s president, had a golf game with investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein.  During the game, the subject of academic diversity came up.  Both Mills and Klingenstein would agree that Klingenstein didn’t like it.  According to Mills’s retelling at a subsequent graduation ceremony, Klingenstein was hostile and, in a word, dumb.  Writes Feith:

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Klingenstein got word of this graduation address, which implied that the anonymous golf-companion was a troglodyte and racist, and knew that Mills was talking about him.  Klingenstein decided to set the record straight.  Rather than just saying “that’s not what I meant,” or offering his opinion about diversity, Klingenstein took his money and funded a National Association of Scholars project that carefully examined Bowdoin’s curriculum, especially in the last ten years.  The results were eye-opening, to say the least — or, saying a little more than the least, eye-opening to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in, and the product (i.e., graduates) coming out of, these academic “gatekeepers of civilization”:

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

The school’s ideological pillars would likely be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to American higher education lately. There’s the obsession with race, class, gender and sexuality as the essential forces of history and markers of political identity. There’s the dedication to “sustainability,” or saving the planet from its imminent destruction by the forces of capitalism. And there are the paeans to “global citizenship,” or loving all countries except one’s own.

The Klingenstein report nicely captures the illiberal or fallacious aspects of this campus doctrine, but the paper’s true contribution is in recording some of its absurd manifestations at Bowdoin. For example, the college has “no curricular requirements that center on the American founding or the history of the nation.” Even history majors aren’t required to take a single course in American history. In the History Department, no course is devoted to American political, military, diplomatic or intellectual history—the only ones available are organized around some aspect of race, class, gender or sexuality.

One of the few requirements is that Bowdoin students take a yearlong freshman seminar. Some of the 37 seminars offered this year: “Affirmative Action and U.S. Society,” “Fictions of Freedom,” “Racism,” “Queer Gardens” (which “examines the work of gay and lesbian gardeners and traces how marginal identities find expression in specific garden spaces”), “Sexual Life of Colonialism” and “Modern Western Prostitutes.”

Regarding Bowdoin professors, the report estimates that “four or five out of approximately 182 full-time faculty members might be described as politically conservative.” In the 2012 election cycle, 100% of faculty donations went to President Obama. Not that any of this matters if you have ever asked around the faculty lounge.

“A political imbalance [among faculty] was no more significant than having an imbalance between Red Sox and Yankee fans,” sniffed Henry C.W. Laurence, a Bowdoin professor of government, in 2004. He added that the suggestion that liberal professors cannot fairly reflect conservative views in classroom discussions is “intellectually bankrupt, professionally insulting and, fortunately, wildly inaccurate.”

This is an intellectual, academic paradigm shift of almost incomprehensible magnitude.  Since its inception, regardless of the reality on the ground, America’s self-image (which was sold to generations of school children and college students right up until the 1950s) was of an inclusive nation, a melting pot, dedicated to the principle that all American citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law; have a right to equal access to American opportunities (with it being up to the people whether to take that access); and are subject to the downside risks should they refuse to seize the opportunities or violate the law.  With slavery and Jim Crow, we deviated from the principles, but the principles were sound.

At Bowdoin, though, and others like it, the paradigm has shifted.  Young people are taught a new, ugly paradigm about their country:  America is composed of disparate groups, with a few select groups made up of white men (and, probably, Jews) controlling the nation and doing what they can to exploit, denigrate, and impoverish a never-ending, every-growing list of victim classes, ranging from women, to homosexuals, to non-white races, to Muslims, to fat people, to anything that can be brought under the umbrella of victim.  There is no such thing in this world as equality of opportunity.  There is only equality of outcome that can be attained by using the government to strong-arm the ruling class of white males (and, possibly, Jews) so that they redistribute their ill-gotten gains to the victims.

I was talking the other day to a friend who works at elementary schools in a large, urban ghetto.  These schools have no white children.  The schools are dreadful, and the children — innocent victims all — suffer terribly.  They grow up in abysmal poverty, and they don’t have role models within their homes showing  education or wealth.  Their neighborhoods are rife with crime (especially gun fire) and substance abuse. Almost all come from broken homes.Their streets are dangerous because of gangs.  The message one receives from those brave enough to work in those neighborhoods is that these children can succeed only if we pour government funds into their schools.  And if those funds don’t work, then we need to pour more in, and still more in.

In my mind, I compared these children — and they are so sad, since they are bright little lights that are blinking out — with the immigrants who came to this country between, say, 1850 and 1950.  They lived in ghettos; they lived in abysmal poverty; their parents didn’t speak the language of wealth (many didn’t even speak English); the streets were dangerous, not because of gunfire, but because of knives, disease, and starvation; there was significant substance abuse (alcoholism and opium); schools were grossly underfunded, etc.  And yet these children became working class, their children became middle class, and their children became upper class.  It wasn’t a 100% success rate at every generation, but it was a substantial rate at every generation.

They went from this:

Jacob Riis tenement photograph

and this:

Jacob Riis image of street kids

to this:

Suburban kitchen

What’s the difference between then and now? I don’t believe that it’s because American blacks (and it’s mostly blacks stuck for generations in ghettos) are forever developmentally disabled by slavery. John McWhorter points out that blacks were ascending rapidly, both socially and economically, before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society enticed them into welfare and single parenthood (welfare pays single mothers better than two parent families).  Starting in the 1960s, the increasingly Left-leaning white leadership in America told blacks that, the end of slavery and Jim Crow notwithstanding, they are not created equal and they are not equal under the law.  They are different — they are needier.  Without Mama and Papa government, they are nothing.

I think it’s this paradigm shift, one that starts in the Ivory Towers by creating infinite victim classes, all of which that can be raised up only by government intervention and control, that trickles down into the streets. In the old days, you had to do it yourself, so you did. Nowadays, the government is supposed to rescue you. Homes don’t emphasize education, self-sufficiency, and upward mobility. They emphasize “Why isn’t the government helping?”  This is not about race, or slavery, or poverty — it is about an intellectual environment that explicitly educates future leaders that government needs race-victims, and slave-victims and poverty-victims to fulfill its purpose.  Without those classes, government is meaningless and by definition a vehicle of evil.

Paul Fussell, who thought outside the box, would not have approved.  (Or at least I like to think he wouldn’t have approved.)

Patriotism when you don’t love your country

As I do every year, I went with my family to our town’s Fourth of July Parade.  It’s a great parade, with all sorts of community groups participating, including the various chambers of commerce; Little League baseball teams; bagpipers (Marin is home to a thriving bagpipe community); an impressive selection of WWII vehicles from from the Garbarino Military Vehicle Museum, a private collection of lovingly restored military vehicles; marching bands; and the usual flotsam and jetsam of community organizations in a small town.

Thousands of people turn out to line the parade route.  Flags are everywhere:  they festoon the trucks and cars and children wave them wildly.  It’s like the colorized version of a 1940s movie.  Attending is a delightful experience.

But there’s something funny going on here.  In 2008, Barack Obama got 78% of the Marin County vote.  This was not an accident.  Despite being the beneficiaries of the best America has to offer in terms of wealth and natural beauty, Marin’s residents are die-hard Democrats.

To the extent they veer away from soccer and carpools, and into politics, the Facebook posts I see demonstrate that, at least in significant numbers, these investment bankers, lawyers, doctors, architects, educators, accountants, etc., worship at the shrine of socialized medicine, government price controls, and higher taxes.  They are fervently anti-War, despite their cheers for the WWII vehicles and the sprinkling of WWII vets who sat in those vehicles.  They embrace multiculturalism with a passion, think Israel is unfair to the beleaguered Palestinians whose land they stole, and are dismayed by America’s long history of slavery, imperialism, sexism and racism, not to mention the grossly unequal way America treats its own poor.  They voted for Barack Obama because they agree with him that America needs to be fundamentally changed in order to be worthy:  she needs to be turned into a pacifist, socialist, small county.

This is America, and Marinites are entitled to head to the polls, determined to obtain transformation.  Whether they’ll like it if they get it is another question, of course.

But what I really wondered today is what all the flag waving was about.  A vast number of the attendees and participants disrespect our country’s history, dislike her institutions, and want to remake her into something entirely different from what she is today.  They don’t want to improve her, they want to transform her.  If patriotism is the “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country,” what does one call enthusiasm for the symbols of a country, without any attendant support for the country itself?  Perhaps a better term than patriotism would be “theater of the absurd.”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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Republicans have “appropriated” July 4th

A Harvard study has said that Republicans own July 4th:

The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.  (Emphasis mine.)

That makes it sound as if Republicans engaged in some nefarious propaganda scheme to steal away American iconography.  Perhaps Republicans didn’t take it; perhaps Democrats gave it away:

Anti-war protesters burn flag

Hanoi Jane

Jane Fonda in North Vietnam

Los Angeles Immigration Rally

The Democrats' friends in LA make a point

Sign at a Code Pink Rally

 

The vision thing

Whether or not one liked him, Ronald Reagan got “the vision thing.”  He had an extremely strong sense of America and her place in the world, and was never afraid to share that narrative.  America was the shining city on the hill, the bastion of true republican democracy, and the world leader in exporting freedom and wealth.  The Communists were, simply, evil.  They were the antithesis of America because they were the antithesis of freedom.

Sophisticates sneered at Reagan’s simple, (old) Hollywood vision of the world.  To ordinary Americans, though, Reagan’s clearly and repeatedly articulated vision of this country instilled in them a deep sense of pride that ran comfortably alongside an economic boom resulting from the policies that underlay Reagan’s vision.  Just as importantly, in gulags and prisons around the world, prisoners, and dissenters, and dreamers heard Reagan’s words too.  They understood that, not only was he describing something better than their totalitarian governments had to offer, but also that the leader of the most powerful nation in the world understood and willingly articulated that truth.

Obama also gets the vision thing.  His education, career and presidential trajectory show it very, very clearly.  His vision is that America is an arrogant nation rife with internal inequities.  Domestically, his job as president is to equalize people’s status within the country, which is best done through redistributive financial policies.  On the international side of things, his job is to subordinate America to the United Nations, making it just one nation among many.  ObamaCare and the Libya War stand as hallmarks of these domestic and foreign visions.

Obama’s vision is of America as Europe — not Europe during her imperialistic heyday, but a post-WWII Europe, socialist and humbled.  Of course, what he doesn’t seem to realize is that post-WWII Europe survived only as long as it did because America footed the bill.  No America, no post-WWII Europe.  He hasn’t grappled with that economic reality as he’s pushed America out of her financier mode and into her begging socialist mode.

What’s interesting about Obama is that, while he is consistent in his vision, and unfailing in his willingness to put it in effect, he refuses to articulate that vision.  Put him in front of a teleprompter, and he simply mouths platitudes about “America is great.”  Unscripted, he slips up periodically and talks about “sharing the wealth,” and the fact that there’s nothing exceptional about America.  Overall, though, he’s coy.

Reagan braved the ridicule of the world’s intellectuals to sell his vision to the world.  Obama already has the world’s intellectuals on board.  His vision about America and her place in the world is exactly the same as their vision.  He’s coy, then, not because he fears media and Ivory Tower derision, but because he knows that ordinary Americans will not buy what he would be selling were he to speak.  How much better to skip the sales pitch and just force the product on a credulous public?  Obama also doesn’t sell his vision because he knows that, abroad, while the Euro-trash and Muslim Brotherhood eat up what he has to say, the people languishing in prisons, in China, in Cuba, in Venezuela, in Iran, etc., would recognize his vision for what it is — not even snake oil, but pure venom.

Anti-American, anti-Semitic NPR fundraising executives punked *UPDATED*

I’m actually grateful to NPR.  It was its unbelievably biased Israel coverage that helped me make the break with my reflexive liberalism and take a long, hard look at my political beliefs and party affiliation.  Nevertheless, it irks me no end that my taxpayer money funds NPR, PBS and local affiliates.  There is no reason in this day and age to have government media, especially government media that is hostile to more than half the American population and wants to roll around naked in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.

If you don’t believe me about NPR’s beliefs and desires, you must read this Daily Caller article and take the 11 minutes to watch the video that is a part of the article.  It’s disgusting but it’s also wonderful, because it shines sunlight in an area the Progressives have tried to keep shady.  Considering that the NPR executive who got punked said it would be best for NPR to lose its federal funding, my response is, let’s give the guy what he wants.

UPDATE:  I like NPR’s defense which amounts to this:  since we didn’t immediately accept their phony bribe, we’re “appalled” by Schiller’s comments, and Schiller got another job, get off our back.

“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.

“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.

“Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to the NPR folks that the video shows Schiller desperate to get a steady stream of income from a Muslim Brotherhood organization that wants to give a platform to Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorist groups.

It’s a Norman Rockwell world out there, even for the haters

I heard about Blake Gopnik’s attack on Norman Rockwell (as part of his defense of the “Ants on Jesus” video), and actually started writing a post on the subject.  Life caught up with me, though, and I abandoned the post and doubt I’ll return to it.  Fortunately, Anchoress has been thinking about the subject, and I can’t do better than what she wrote.

The foreigners in the White House *UPDATED*

If you read only one thing today, please read Andrew McCarthy’s incredibly sad and disturbing article about the way in which we are currently being governed by foreigners, all American born, in Congress and the White House.   Then, if you have time for a second read today, check out what Charles Krauthammer had to say about the federal government’s Civil War era first-of-its-kind announcement that it will support federal law only if that law comes from favored states, and it will ignore federal law if legal infractions are triggered by disfavored states.

My mother, a Democrat since she arrived in this country in the 1950s, is finally convinced that this administration genuinely hates America and wishes her ill.  That is, this is not an administration that shares with most Americans a common goal for this country’s well-being, but that disagrees with half of Americans about how to effectuate that goal.  Nope.  This is an administration that truly, madly, deeply hates what our country stands for and desires to see America’s wings well and truly clipped.

UPDATE:  While you’re at it, if you find even a little bit more time, read the Anchoress on those who want dictatorships, and why Barry Obama and Gene Wilder might have been separated at birth.

The “Howling Mob” theory of liberal politics

You and I have seen Howling Mobs, although, if we’re lucky, not up close and personal.

This is a Howling Mob (in Fallujah, with murdered contractors hanging in the background):

fallujah

This is a Howling Mob (in London, a part of the Danish cartoon riots):

behead1

This is a Howling Mob (with thanks to Zombie, from a series on protests at the Berkeley, CA, Marine Recruiting station):

IMG_9148

This is a Howling Mob (showing protesters in San Francisco stomping the Israeli flag, with thanks to Zombie):

IMG_8633

Oh, here’s another Howling Mob (this one burning George Bush in effigy, again with thanks to Zombie):

143-4350_IMG

And now a few more Howling Mob pictures for the gallery.

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that formed against American Muslims immediately after 9/11:

[Sorry, couldn't find one.]

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that formed against American Muslims after the Food Hood massacre:

[Sorry, again, I couldn't find one.]

This is a picture of the Howling Mob that gathered to boot Hispanics out of the country once Arizona passed its statute requiring police to comply with federal immigration laws:

[Whoops!  Once again, I seem to be missing some pictures here.]

Here are some members of the Howling Tea Party Mob, gathered together to protest Barack Obama’s economic policies:

teaparty11

Oh, my God!  Run for the hills, Dude!  They’re out to get us.

My point, obviously, is that the Howling Mobs are not to be found amongst Americans united to support traditional American values, such as secure borders, national security, and economic conservativism.  Nevertheless, as Michael Barone points out, America’s political class, and especially America’s Democratic/Progressive political class, envisions ordinary Americans as gun wielding, torching bearing, axe swinging lynch mobs, anxious for politically incorrect blood:

Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?

My theory is that these well-intentioned folks see the American people as a Howling Mob. They think that if Americans find out that Islamists are attacking us, they will go out and slaughter innocent Muslims. They think that Americans are incapable of understanding the simple truth that, while most terrorists are Islamists, the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists.

Of course, the evidence is that Americans are quite capable of holding these two ideas in their heads. Even after September 11, there were only a miniscule number of attacks on Muslims, and many more Americans went over to their Muslim neighbors and offered to help if they had any trouble. They didn’t even need to hear the almost instant assurances from Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush that all Muslims are not terrorists to bake a cake and bring it over.

The Howling Mob theory explains a lot of otherwise puzzling things. It helps to explain why Janet Napolitano’s Homeland Security Department, tasked with finding possible terrorists, set about tracking disgruntled military veterans and gun owners. Just the kind of people who turn into a Howling Mob!

It helps to explain journalists’ desperate search for racist epithets at tea-party gatherings — and their lack of interest in the actual violence that has been common at rallies against the Arizona immigration law and at antiwar marches. It helps to explain the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case against the New Black Panthers who were physically intimidating voters in Philadelphia on Election Day.

It helps to explain why Solicitor General Elena Kagan was willing to work in the Clinton White House after Bill Clinton signed the law banning open gays in the military — a law Kagan has said she detests. Hey, he was just trying to propitiate the Howling Mob.

Michael Barone has much more to say on the subject, and I suggest that you read it here.  And as you read, please try to keep in mind the identity of the real Howling Mobs, both at home and abroad.

With a friend in the White House, the anti-war movement takes off the mask

There was another anti-war rally in San Francisco, but the gloss of all Americanism with which the movement covered itself during the early years of the Iraq War is gone.  With that gloss ripped away, the truth comes out:

The glory days of the 21st-century anti-war movement were in 2003 and 2004, when tens of thousands of naive “average Americans” would show up at each anti-war event. Then, as I documented extensively over the years at zombietime, far-left and extremist groups quickly seized control of the movement and tried to lead the middle-of-the-road protesters leftward politically. But as the radicalism escalated with each successive protest, the sane people all stopped coming, the rallies started getting smaller and smaller, and from 2004 onward it’s been a continuous downward slide.

The bottom line is revealed:  these protesters, the ones who are Obama’s base, even as they are dismayed by his pragmatic decision to stick it out a little longer in Iraq and Afghanistan, hate America.

Please visit Zombie’s photo essay.  It will give you a good chance to see the ugliness that was always festering underneath the more middle class anti-war movement.

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf? *UPDATED*

What do you get when you cross a Bratz doll with a Smurf?  A Na’vi.

Yup, folks, I finally caught up with my pop culture and went to see Avatar last night.  Seeing it made me realize why I so seldom bother to catch up with pop culture.  The movie was a snoozer.  The first two hours were mostly a college freshman’s fantasy anthropology thesis leavened by myriad cliches and really bad acting.  At the very end, when the action adventure sequences finally kicked in, I didn’t think the visual quality or the plot turns were any better than the most recent Transformers movie.

Others have written about the movie’s politics, which are certainly offensive (military evil, corporations evil) and stupidly demeaning (indigenous people are child-like angels on earth), so I won’t go there.  What bugged me was how derivative the movie was.  Again, others have commented on the way in which Cameron simply recycled Dances With Wolves and a gazillion other movies in which the evil American military and corporations seek to destroy indigenous people, only to have a messiah like ex-military or ex-corporate person ride in to save the innocent indigenous who can’t save themselves.  All that goes without saying given Cameron’s knee jerk politics (although I don’t see him donating his profits to any indigenous people’s groups).  Nope, what bugged me was the lazy derivative quality that had Cameron borrowing from a bunch of other movies.

For starters, as I said, the creepy Na’vi were clearly inspired by hybridizing Bratz dolls and Smurfs.  Here, I’ll illustrate.

First, the Bratz dolls, with their big heads, huge, highly colored eyes, and abnormally elongated bodies:

SteppinOut.Group

Next, the Smurfs, with their blue skin and big ears:

smurf-tm

Blend these pop culture images, and you end up with Na’vi, completed with oversized heads, big ears, big eyes, blue skin and weirdly elongated bodies:

avatar_Navi

The only mystery is how the Na’vis figured out, on their own, the wonders of corn-rowed hair:

tn_HPIM0084

But the borrowing didn’t stop there.  Do you remember when Jake Sully was giving his impassioned “we can’t all get along” speech?  Because the movie was in 3D, Jake’s wagging little tail kept distracting my eye.  It didn’t take me long to track down that image either:

CowardlyLion-300x287

Twice in the Wizard of Oz (that I can remember) that tail took center stage:  once when the four friends began their long walk down the hallway to meet the Wizard for the first time, and once again when the tail kept peeking out of the costume the Cowardly Lion had stolen from the witch’s guards.  There is no doubt in my mind that the same genius who designed the tail for the Wizard of Oz got resurrected to help out with the Na’vi.

Cameron raided old Hollywood for other ideas.  The night time scenes of a luminous Pandora were pretty, but certainly not original.  Disney got there first, all the way back in 1940, in the lovely Nutcracker Suite part of Fantasia:

For the goddess’ tree, those glowing, hanging limbs, into which the Na’vi can plug their braids, were clearly inspired by commercial grade rope lights, right down to the little bulbs embedded in the strand, and the plugs at the end:

ledropelightcat

(Here’s an even better example of light ropes.)

As for the dialogue . . . bleh!  Cameron is a terrible writer.  Borrowed ideas, film cliches (people always whoop in helicopters or when they’re otherwise flying) and, worst, unbelievably hackneyed lines borrowed from decades of bad action movies:

[to Jake, before he becomes an Avatar]
Dr. Grace Augustine: Just relax and let your mind go blank. That shouldn’t be too hard for you.

***

Dr. Grace Augustine: So you just figured you’d come here, to the most hostile environment known to men, with no training of any kind, and see how it went? What was going through your head?
Jake Sully: Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn’t do.

***

Trudy Chacon: [fires on Quaritch's Hellicopter] Your’e not the only one with a gun, Bitch!

***

Col. Quaritch: Yo Sully! How does it feel to betray your own race?

***

Jake Sully: It’s over.
Col. Quaritch: Nothing’s over while I’m breathing.
Jake Sully: I was kinda hoping you’d say that.

Cliches, insults, wooden writing, it’s all there. I’m surprised Cameron didn’t manage to have the wacko Marine Colonel throw in “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”  To be fair to Cameron’s bad writing and nasty attitude, though, he did manage to get in a snide reference to “shock and awe” by referring to the campaign against the angelic Na’vi in those terms.

I could go on, but it’s like re-living a bad dream over and over.  For 162 minutes, I writhed in my theater seat, overwhelmed by boredom, leavened only by the occasional disgust.  What a lousy movie.  If it wasn’t for the computer animation, it would have sunk like a stone.  And to be honest, even the animation wasn’t that good.  [Slight spoiler alert:]  The only time I really felt it added to the movie was when ash was falling after the crazed military bombed the great tree.  That was kind of pretty.  [End of slight spoiler.]

If you’ve seen Avatar, I bet you know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t, save your money.  Or better, the ticket price to a gift basket at Soldier’s Angels.  Those guys and gals deserve it after the massive insult lobbed at them in the most popular movie in years.

UPDATE:  Silly me.  I forgot another borrowing.  (The following is a slight spoiler, if you care.)  When the born-again indigenous Jake calls upon the earth for help, and gets that help, that came right out of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis (who borrowed the concept from Tolkein).  In both those classics, the enraged trees in a land despoiled by evil end up helping the good guys.  Funnily enough, though, I never saw either Tolkein or Lewis as savage critics of corporatism, conventional religion or their own nation’s military.  I must have missed something.

A writer who understands how the Left operates

I’m reading a very enjoyable novel right now that is completely tuned in to the way in which the Left operates, especially when it comes to the media and academia.

The writer is completely tuned into the name calling that substitutes for informed debate. For example, when the book’s protagonist, Paul, learns that Leftists starting submitted articles to a magazine that contained misstatements of facts in an effort to shift political sentiment (a la Climategate, although this book predates that effort), the following dialog ensues between Paul and Bill Weider, the magazine’s editor:

“But – Bill, why don’t you publish the story you told me? Just as you’ve told it to me? Let your readers know. Let the public see what is happening.”

Weidler’s frown came back. “You know what will happen? There will be a campaign against us. We’ll be called fascists, war-mongers, American imperialists, witch-hunters.”

“You’ve forgotten to add ‘hysteria-inciters,’” Paul said, smiling. “Strange how often they’ve been using hysteria recently – almost hysterically, in fact.”

On the subject of claims about hysteria, my sister, much impressed, sent me this Glenn Greenwald article deriding American hysteria about the Flaming Panties bomber.  I wrote her back that Americans would be less inclined to be hysterical if the Administration would identify and focus upon an enemy – that would be radical Islam, by the way. As long as the Administration (and this goes for the past Administration too) refuses to identify the enemy, all Americans are suspect, and all must be exposed to searches, stupid restrictions, and other limitations on civil liberties.

In a charming aside, the book tackles the root cause question. When the book’s heroine, Rona, and her sister, Peggy, talk about an unpleasant acquaintance, they have this to say:

“She isn’t a friend of yours, is she?” Peggy was now very much the elder sister.

“Not particularly,” Rona said, which was a miracle of understatement. “Scott says she’s a product of her environment,” she added.

“Strange how we never use that phrase when we are describing pleasant people,” Peggy said….

Do I need to remind you that one of the first things Obama did after the Flaming Panties bombing was to emphasize the poverty in Yemen? Yes, it’s true that poor, corrupt countries are great hosts for radical Islamists, but there is no doubt but that the bombers, whether they’re the fabulously wealthy founder of Al Qaeda, young dilettantes flying airplanes into the World Trade Center, ordinary Yorkshire youths blowing up British subways, educated psychiatrists shooting soldiers at Fort Hood, or fabulously wealthy Nigerians setting their underwear on fire are products of only one environment, one that the Left never dares to acknowledge: Islam.

Using a conversation between Paul and his friend, Jon, a professor, the writer has a long riff on the way in which the Left deliberately targets universities and newspapers – indeed, all media of mass communication – as a way in which to manipulate the public:

“You’re in education, Jon. Do you think propaganda is a powerful force? Could it be dangerous? Supposing an enemy of this country had its sympathizers carefully planted here? Supposing these propagandists were trying to infiltrate such businesses and professions as radio, the press, films, schools and colleges, the theater, publishing?”

“That’s a damned silly question,” Jon said almost angrily. “You ask how dangerous it might be?” He looked at Paul, unbelievingly, but Paul kept silent. “This is the twentieth century, with communication easier and more powerful than it’s ever been. The trouble with those who see no danger, who think we are perfectly safe if only we invent more hideous bombs is that they are still living with a nineteenth century idea of peace. Wars haven’t changed much except in bigger and better holocausts. But peace, as we are going to see it in this century, is something quite altered. A lot of new dangers are going to stay with us permanently just because we’ve invented a lot of peacetime conveniences that make life so interesting. It isn’t only armies we have to fear today: it’s words, words abused and corrupted and twisted.”

Still Paul said nothing.

“You see,” Jon went on patiently, “a hundred years ago, fewer people could read, fewer people were educated, and fewer people thought they could argue about international conditions. Also, in those days, propaganda spread more slowly and less widely. But now we’ve got a vast public who read their papers, discuss books and articles, go to the movies and the theater, listen to their radio, watch television, and send their children to schools and colleges.”

“And a public,” Paul interposed, “who have enough to do with arranging their own lives without analyzing all the things they read or hear. They’ve got to trust the honesty of those men who deal with the written or spoken word. Just as the journalist, or the movie director, or the teacher, has got to trust the honesty of the businessmen and workers whenever he buys a refrigerator or a car or a shirt. Isn’t that right?”

The above was written before the 2008 election – before the media completely abandoned its role of reporting and became an institution devoted to advocating a single party in an election. And, as Paul predicted, the public bought it hook, line and sinker, trusting as they did in the honesty of the written and spoken word pouring out over the airwaves. Nowadays, big lies get promulgated with warp speed, in myriad media, and they live forever, corrupting political discourse.

The author recognizes the way in which the Left is hostile to any wars that might conceivably advance American interests. In speaking of a college campus, she says:

“The colleges and universities were full of pickets with placards saying it was all an imperialist war. The students and faculties were deluged with leaflets denouncing war-mongers and reactionaries. Speakers were appearing on the campus, haranguing us all not to fight.”

There’s a universality to that description, since it aptly describes the Left’s anti-War tactics in 1940, 1968, 1991, 2003, and today. To the Left, the possibility of a good war, a war to maintain the line against totalitarianism and preserve freedom, is always impossible to imagine – and the easiest targets for that failure of imagination are colleges students, since it is they who must be convinced that they are fighting for something worth defending.

Speaking of fighting for something worth defending, the writer has no truck with the Leftist habit of moral relativism. Here are Rona and her boyfriend Scott having a debate about a guest at a party who Rona believes has a tiresome habit of painting everything in Left of center politics:

“His line is so old! Two years ago, or three, he could manage to get away with it. But not now.”

“What do you mean?” Scott looked across the room.

“Just that he wasn’t the least little bit the original talker he likes to imagine he is. He only succeeded in annoying most of our guests.”

“Because he thinks differently from them? Se we must all talk the same way, think the same things?”

“No, darling!” She rose and came over to him. “I don’t believe two of us in the room echoed any point of view, except in a general way – well, of believing that right is right and wrong is wrong.”

“That’s all relative,” Scott said. “Depends on each man’s frame of reference.”

“I don’t believe that,” she said, “except for the small things in life. You can find them as relative as you like. But in the big things, you’ve got to decide what is right, what is wrong. Or else you’ve no moral judgment, at all. Like Murray. He’s just a parrot, that’s all he is.”

Moral relativism, of course, is a chronic talking point for the Left, and a chronic problem for those educated and controlled by the Left. In the War against Islamists, for example, moral relativism is tightly entwined with the whole “root cause” that both the author and I mentioned above. After all, as Michael Moore said, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. The Left never seems to understand that, while the act of fighting may be the same, the reason one fights determines whether one is morally right or wrong. Fighting for individual liberty is a good reason to fight; fighting to subjugate the world to a misogynist, homophobic, antisemitic, anti-Christian, completely totalitarian religion – well, not so good.

In the last section of the book from which I’ll quote, the writer also tackles the Left’s habit of targeting individuals by appealing to their sense of victim hood. Multiculturalism isn’t a means of preserving what’s special about a group’s ethnicity. Instead, it’s a political tool aimed at dividing Americans from each other, and making them dependent on the Left as their only savior.

While today’s victims are mostly blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians, women (when it’s still useful), Muslims, etc., in the book, the man targeted to be a victim who can be saved only by the Left is a Jew:

“I’ve a battle on my hands right now. They want us to keep different, and I’m telling them the hell with that, we’re Americans. That’s what we are. Stop building a wall around us, stop emphasizing differences, that’s what I keep trying to tell them. And they look at me as if I were some kind of traitor.” He looked at Jon Tyson. “But I’m building no wall, and no one is going to persuade me to do it.”

Obviously, I’ve been playing coy with you, keeping secret the book’s author, title and date of publication. Those of you who know my weakness for Helen MacInnes’ Cold War novels might already have figured out that I’m quoting from one of her books. The book in question is Neither Five Nor Three, published in 1951. It focuses on the Left’s infiltration of the media world and college campuses.

This was the beginning of the Cold War, of course, so Helen MacInnes couldn’t look ahead and realize how that infiltration would be completely successful. While we were challenging the Soviet Union abroad, it was taking over our institutions at home. And now, as Leftist Professor Ward Churchill would say, “The chickens have come home to roost.” All of the nascent tactics MacInnes described then – the moral relativism, the victim-based multiculturalism, the name-calling, the anti-Americanism – have become permanently entrenched in America’s media and education cultures. In those days, people saw these things and remarked upon them. In these days, people believe in the message and approve of the messengers.

Neither Five Nor Three Cover

My American Thinker article about Obama’s American-ness

A few weeks ago, I did a post asking if Barack Obama is anti-American.  I liked the concept, but wanted to refine on it a bit.  Well, that refinement turned into a very long post, which I passed on to American Thinker, and the editors were kind enough to publish it.  Take a gander at it and tell me what you think.

Is Barack Obama anti-American? *UPDATED*

A couple of weeks ago, I included in a post the statement that Barack Obama is anti-American.  A dear and respected friend suggested that I was exaggerating.  Obama may have a different vision of or goal for America, he said, but that’s scarcely the same as being anti-American.  I’ve been thinking that over for a while and, after a lot of mental give and take about what it means to be “anti-” anything, have now decided that Barack Obama is indeed anti-American.

Everything has a fundamental essence, a quality that makes it uniquely itself.  Take an orange, for example.  It’s not only citrus fruit, it’s an orange colored citrus fruit.  Horticulturists can alter its size, its texture, it’s sweetness, and the purity of its orange color, but it still remains an orange because that color is its definition.  Change the color, however, and suddenly, you have the un-orange, the anti-orange.  You have something completely different that no longer contains within it the essence of the original fruit.  Lose the essence and you lose the orange.

America has an essence too, and that essence is liberty.  America since its inception has been defined by liberty, both the liberty of the individual and the liberty of the nation.  Individual liberty means that Americans should be subject to minimal government constraints.  The state exists to serve the individual (commerce, transportation, security), not to control the individual.  That’s why the Bill of Rights focuses so closely on individual freedoms:  the freedom to speak, the freedom to write, the freedom to worship, the freedom to defend oneself with arms, the freedom from searches and seizures, etc.  Liberty also extends to the nation.  Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are replete with examples of the Founders’ absolute obsession with national sovereignty.  Just recently, we’ve been reminded of the fact that the Founders didn’t even want the appearance of impropriety and the risk of influence, since they specifically prohibited foreign emoluments for our presidents.

Despite blunders of enormous magnitude (slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, and the imprisonment of American Japanese), Americans have, for the most part, taken these freedoms with the utmost seriousness.  We are a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  We have not allowed ourselves to be ruled by tyrannies, dictators or bureaucracies.  We like our taxes low and our freedoms high.  In the past 100 years, when we fight wars, we do not fight wars to conquer other people, we fight wars to free other people from tyrannies.  Those on the Left who sneer at our “imperialist ventures” implicitly side with Hitler, with the North Koreans, with the Communist North Vietnamese, and with Saddam Hussein (mass murderer of his own people).  While ordinary Americans shed blood so that others on foreign shores can live free, the Left cheers on those who would deny their own citizens (or the citizens of conquered nations) the same freedoms we unthinkingly enjoy.

All the freedoms I’ve discussed can very quickly be distilled into a single essence, an American essence:  American individuals are free from control by and fear of their own government, and the American nation is free from control by other nations.

Barack Obama is anti-American because he wants to change this American essence.  His domestic policy is directed at increasing government control in every area, which decreases individual liberty.  Here’s an incomplete bullet-point list of his anti-liberty goals on the home front:

  • He wants to remove any last vestiges of the marketplace from individuals’ control over their own health care, and put the government entirely in charge.
  • He’s willing to give government control over American businesses (i.e., Bank takeover ands Government Motors).
  • His administration, while on record as opposing the Fairness Doctrine, is aggressively exploring a backdoor regulatory scheme that would have precisely the same practical effect as the Fairness Doctrine:  it would impose government restrictions on content, rather than allowing the market (that means us, the consumers) to control content.
  • His FCC wants to control the internet, which is a humming beehive of free speech, much of it critical of Obama.
  • Although he’s mostly erased the record, his dream is to create a civilian national security force, subordinate to the administration, which would be larger than the American military.  The military, please note, is controlled by the Constitution and has traditionally existed as a separate entity from any government.
  • He wants to take away the right to bear arms.  He’ll pay lip service to supporting the Second Amendment, but his fundamental goal is to use government to remove arms from individuals.  I’ve never held a gun in my life, but I know that the Founders understood that, for individuals, their single biggest defense against an overreaching government, is the right to arm themselves.  Statists never allow their citizens to bear arms.  Indeed, the first thing the Nazis did was ban guns in citizen’s hands.
  • He wants to redistribute wealth.  Without money, people have no choices.  The more money the government siphons to itself, the fewer choices we, as individuals have, which makes us increasingly subordinate to the government.

Of course, not all these Obama dreams will become reality.  As I noted above, Obama has been trying to delete evidence that he ever dreamt about a huge civilian security force at his beck and call.  And with other dreams (for example, the Second Amendment) he’s doing a fancy dance by which he tries to hide his authoritarian impulses.  But it doesn’t matter.  This post isn’t about what Obama will actually do.  It’s about what he wants to do, what his desires are vis a vis the American people — and it’s very clear that his desire is antithetical to the American essence.  He wants to limit or destroy individual liberties.

Politically, too, Obama’s impulses are all antithetical to liberty.  Again, some examples:

  • He has turned against the only democratic nation in the Middle East (that would be Israel), in favor of the bloodied tyrannical theocracies on her borders.
  • By reversing his pledge to keep a missile defense system in place in Poland and the Czech Republic, he has favored Iran’s Muslim tyranny over these democratic nations only so recently freed from Communism.
  • Figuratively and literally, he bows to dictators (Saudis, Venezuelans, Russians, Iranians, Cubans).  They ask, he gives.  In other words, contrary to America’s hundred year history of siding with the people against their tyrants, he sides with the tyrants against their people.
  • In Honduras, he sided with the delusional Zelaya against the people and the Constitution.
  • In Iran, when the people took to the streets, he sided with the megalomaniac theocracy, against the people.
  • In his much-heralded speech to the Muslim world, in addition to grounding Israel’s right to exist solely on a Holocaust the Muslim world denies, he repeatedly and noisily trumpeted the right of Muslim men to control Muslim women, a trope he reiterated in subsequent speeches.  This goes beyond the idiocy of multiculturalism and actively supports the subordination of an eighth of the world’s population.  (If 1/4 of the world is Muslim, and half of those Muslims are women….)
  • In his speeches, he assures the tyrannies of the world that America is abandoning her century old role of America’s policeman.  They are freed from any constraint.
  • By joining the farce that is the U.N. Human Rights Council, he is lending America’s imprimatur to the most violently anti-Semitic, authoritarian, dictatorial, anti-American political body in the world.
  • As part of his belief in the increasingly discredited notion of climate change, he stands ready to cede American sovereignty to a U.N. body that can control American wealth distribution and police the American body politic.

With the exception of the last item, and unlike the list regarding Obama’s domestic goals, the above bullet-points are not made up of things Obama merely wishes he can do.  They are composed of things Obama has already done.  He has subordinated America.  America is no longer the symbol of liberty around the world.  She’s just another nation and, worse, one whose leader, by temperament and political belief, has more reverence for dictatorships than democracies.  In other words, when he deals with the world outside America’s borders, he has again denied America’s essence, which is as the symbol of and standard-bearer for freedom.

If every one of Obama’s desires and actions is antithetical to America’s core essence, then it is reasonable to say that he is anti-American.  He’s not merely making little changes around the edges, smoothing away rough spots, augmenting existing traits, or getting rid of ugly cankers.  Instead, both at home and abroad, he’s trying to destroy America’s essence, that commitment to liberty that makes her unique in this world, and that makes her uniquely American.

Given Obama’s authoritarian, anti-liberty (and, therefore, anti-American) impulses, Obama’s periodic, TelePrompter-generated professions of love for this country ring untrue.  Just as we disbelieve statements of love from the man who beats his wife to a pulp because he’s trying to “improve” her so that she can achieve some impossible standard that would re-make her in the beater’s own mind, so too are we entirely justified in disbelieving Obama’s lukewarm affirmatives, when his behavior continuously shows a profound disdain for America and her core values.

UPDATE:  Well, that didn’t take long.  Within an hour of my having written the above, I learn that the same Obama administration that took days before voicing lukewarm support for the Iranian people under the thumb of a tyrannical theocracy, took mere minutes to condemn a bombing that killed the military wing of that same dictatorship.  Obama’s every impulse is hostile to liberty.

America’s decline is Obama’s goal

Charles Krauthammer spells it out:  America’s decline is not a by-product of Obama’s myriad Left wing policies; it is, instead, his primary goal.  Think of that as you wonder why a Leftist European prize committee awarded the formerly prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to Obama.

Of course, this isn’t new to any of you.  I’ve been saying it since before he was elected, and I think many of you have been agreeing with me.

For more, check out this Power Line post.

Is Obama naive about the UN’s role or does he have a genuine affinity for bad actors?

When it comes to Obama’s speech before the UN, Brett Schaefer and Nile Gardiner are both kind enough to attribute to naivete what I’m increasingly sure is a malignant combination of anti-American feeling and antisemitism.

In the same vein, Paul, at PowerLine, a blogger who has tried to be level-headed about Obama, professes himself horrified by Obama’s “Sophomorically Utopian Oration,” and gives details and argument to prove his point that Obama has all the intellectual and political sophistication of a starry-eyed, ill-informed, Left leaning college student.

That’s the theme that seems to be emerging about Obama’s UN debut:  he’s Utopian, sophomoric, naive. Obama wasn’t shocked by the UN’s corruption and power seeking behavior.  Instead, he was scolding the world body for not getting its act together and creating a Garden of Eden, with the Palestinian lion lying peacefully beside the slaughtered Israeli lamb. In other words, rather than recognizing that this international body should exist as a forum to ensure some level of functionality between national entities that have different values and goals, he thinks it ought to be some giant mommy that gently smacks the nation-kids around until harmony is ensured. (As a slight aside, if you can ever see the Episode of the New Twilight Zone, from the 1980s, called “A Small Talent for War,” you must. The link I provided has a spoiler, but it’s still worth checking out given Obama’s speech.)

Maybe Obama wasn’t even naive.  Maybe, as my friend Don Quixote suggested, Obama appropriately wants nations to stand on their own two feet, without America as a prop, and truly believes that, allowing “good nations” more independence will achieve peace on earth and good will among men.  If that’s the case, Obama must be credited with a genuinely good faith belief that the world’s “good nations,” given sufficient moral support (but nothing more) will do the right thing. My reply to DQ was that this view assumes that Obama shares with ordinary Americans a sense of what constitutes a “good nation.”

In my book and, I know, in yours, a good nation is one that provides maximum liberty to its citizens without veering into destructive anarchy. Obama, however, seems to have a different definition.

In Iran, although both Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are equally repugnant, the uprisings weren’t about a specific leader, but were about the corruption of democracy. Obama sided with the totalitarian dictators, against the people.

In Honduras, the Obama administration has aggressively sided with a would-be dictator against the constitutional will of the people.  The only one who’s happy right now is Chavez, the buddy with whom Obama once shared a big grin and a political man hug.

Aside from liking the bad guys, Obama also seems to be unduly deferential to their desires.  As between North and South Korea, Obama promptly yielded to the Norks’ demands for single party talks, without getting anything in return.  And we all know about his recent abandonment of the Czech Republic, Poland and neighboring states, which basically saw him doing obeisance to the totalitarian KGB operative, Vladimir Putin.

Zip over to the Middle East, and Obama bows to totalitarian kings, and makes unreasonable (by any standards) demands on the only functional, free Democracy in the region — after repeatedly denigrating its right to exist by implying that Israel’s only justification for existence is the same Holocaust that the surrounding Muslim nations deny ever occurred.  And so it goes, with the added spice of insults to old friends such as the Brits, the French, and those “Austrian” speaking Austrians, all the while making kissy faces at some of the world’s most horrible, aggressive dictators.

So here’s the question:  If one assumes that Obama really is as naive as others assume about what the UN can and should do, should Obama be forgiven for this naivete because he is seeking a world of equal players, all working harmoniously under one UN roof?  Or alternatively, is there no forgiveness, naivete or not, because Obama is manifestly working to subordinate the United State, one of the last bastions (if not the last bastion) of true liberty in the world, in order that those he seems to characterize as “good nations” — nations with the least freedom and the most territorial aggression — can have a more level playing field and a greater opportunity to achieve their goals?

With regard to that last statement, Obama’s speech, aside from its reference for some halcyon UN future, made quite clear Obama’s desire to take America from being a world leader to a mere player.  Indeed, Peter Wehner sees the UN speech as a perfect example of Obama’s policies and personality insofar as his relationship to America is concerned:

There is more to be said about the Obama speech—including the president’s tiresome pretense that he and he alone will lead the world out of its cul-de-sac, where “we bicker about outdated grievances.” But I cannot escape a depressing thought, one I hope is proved to be wrong over time: that Barack Obama, even though he is the leader of America, is constantly placing himself above it. His criticisms of our country are now part of a troubling routine, so much so that Obama is now winning the applause of people who genuinely hate America (like Fidel Castro, who complimented Obama for his “brave gesture” and “courage” in criticizing the United States at the UN).

Obama not only fails to strongly defend the United States; he is actually adding brush strokes to a portrait of our country that diminishes its achievements and standing. He seems unable or unwilling to speak out—in a heartfelt and passionate way—on its behalf. He is, of course, clever never to say a word of praise for America; no, this sophisticated wordsmith and smooth politician, this cool customer ever in search of The Golden Mean, can speak in both text and subtext. He says just enough to deny the charge that he is not a strong defender of the country he leads. But by now we’re on to the game.

No one believes America’s history is pristine; we are all familiar with the catalogue of our own sins, beginning with slavery. Other presidents have recognized them, and a few have given voice to them. But it was done in the context of a reverence for America—for what it has been and stands for, for what it is and can be. Think of the words of George Washington, who said of America, “I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.” That is a noble sentiment from a man whose love of country knew no bounds. They are also words that I cannot imagine President Obama saying, at least with conviction. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like his country or admire things about it; it means that he has yet to really speak out for it. And it means that he has shown, so far at least, that he is more interested in advancing his interests than in speaking on behalf of the nation that elected him. There are enough critics of America in the world; we don’t need to add America’s president to that list.

John Bolton picks up on precisely the same thread, which is that Obama, the President of the US, is publicly throwing American into the dustbin — not to mention his by now routine willingness to sacrifice Israel whenever the opportunity comes along.

All told, I do not give Obama a pass for a charming 1960s style naivete about the UN’s role as a world peacemaker.  I think that his speech was a calculated effort to pave the way for his favored totalitarian nations to have a free hand  (along with America’s help) when it comes to despoiling the democratic nations around the world.

Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell

From Jennifer Rubin:

Far from assuming the role of an “honest broker” in the Middle East (that would be an improvement at this point), Obama is affirmatively choosing sides, making every effort to identify with and sweet-talk the “Muslim world” as he conceives it.

But this is not only a pro-Muslim tilt or identification. It often appears that Obama sees his task as revisiting every perceived American failing or error — from the 1953 revolution in Iran to American support for Central American strongmen to the dropping of the atomic bomb — that his Left-leaning academic friends and followers have laid at America’s feet, then systematically reversing them, however counterproductively or haphazardly.

He sees something bearing a vague resemblance to a “coup” in Honduras (but that isn’t if you stop to examine the facts), so America must not merely stand back but also pull for the Chavez-backed leftist. We are making up for past sins, you see. In his eyes we are still burdened with the guilt of dropping the atomic bomb, so we must shoulder the burden and lead the world in denuclearization — well, except for those who won’t go along.

And likewise, in the war on terror, he’s convinced that we lost our “moral standing” by roughly interrogating terrorists and housing them indefinitely in a secure facility at Guantanamo. Now we must live all that down — in short, forgo serious interrogations and scatter the Guantanamo detainees around the world.

It’s quite a record. Perhaps Obama does believe in “American exceptionalism” — but it is the exceptionalism of a country so burdened by its past and filled with remorse that we must humble ourselves before the world and renounce specifically American interests in order to get along with those we supposedly wronged. You can’t say it’s not “change.”

What has the American voter wrought?

On a similar point, Drudge has a lot of headlines about the UN demanding a global currency and all sorts of other countries and groups around our border licking their chops in anticipation of our tasty, depression-damaged national carcas.  Normally, I would scoff and say that America is resilient enough, not only to recover, but to resist these predators.  Today, I still think we’re resilient enough to recover, but I’m terribly afraid that our President and our Congress will willingly hand us over to the circling internationalist vultures.

Giving the Medal of Freedom to a dictator-coddling antisemite *UPDATED*

You’ve already read that the Big O (an increasingly empty hole if there ever was one) is now set to give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the Irish woman who has cheerfully led the UN into ever deeper antisemitic, anti-American depravity.  Jennifer Rubin sums up beautifully the only two possibilities that could have motivated Obama when he made this foul choice:

One is left with two options in assessing the Obama administration’s decision: either a colossal error in vetting or a deliberate effort – which meshes perfectly with his Cairo speech’s theme and his admonitions that “daylight” is required between the U.S. and Israel — in order to ingratiate himself with the Palestinian cause. What better way to flaunt his disdain for Israel’s sensibilities — and for American voters who support Israel — that [sic] to pick the villain of Durban? And while he is continuing his worldwide effort to denigrate American exceptionalism and give credence to the blame-America-first crowd, there could be no more fitting honoree than Robinson.

As to Obama, I have only this to say on his decision to recognize Robinson as a standard bearer of freedom:  Don’t watch what he says.  Watch what he does.

UPDATEDiana West has a nice rundown on just what a dreadful person Mary Robinson is.  So does Jake Tapper.  And still more on Robinson’s MO.

Why Obama’s records — not his birth certificate — matter

James Lewis nails what’s driving the Birther issue, and gives a very good reason why we should abandon the birth certificate, but nevertheless focus on the other records:

The birth debate about Obama is real enough, but it is legally complicated, as analyzed by legal beagle Andrew McCarthy at National Review. No judge is going to question the Constitutional qualifications of an elected president. I’m sorry, but that’s the practical reality. The judge is going to follow stare decisis — the sheer weight of commitments that cannot be reversed without creating chaos. Once the political system of the United States, the voters, the media, and the politicians themselves are all committed to the proposition that Obama is president, trying to reverse it would mean riots in every city in the nation. At some point even debatable claims become irreversible. That is why Al Franken is now the US Senator from Minnesota, even if his election was corrupt and wrong. It’s water under the bridge. Leave it to history.

And yet the Obama “birther” debate is important. What’s important about it is the feeling a growing number of Americans have in their bones that Obama is foreign — to our traditions, loyalties and shared understandings about the nature of America. In a way the legal debate matters less than that bone-deep sense that Obama is fundamentally “Other than American.”

Obama’s in for the next four years, folks.  His citizenship or lack thereof is a dead issue.  It’s not coming back.  But who he is still matters a great deal, both in terms of defining his agenda for the American people and in preventing him for a four year re-run in 2012.  It’s all the other records — the school information, the work information, the travel to Pakistan in 1981, etc. — that still matters.  These will tell us if his much-vaunted genius is one of the big lies and, even more importantly, who his friends and what his values really are.

The rot is very, very deep in England

Rowan Laxton is Middle East expert and a high ranking official in Britain’s Foreign Office.  He is also a hard-core anti-Semite with limited impulse control (two things that seem to go together, by the way):

A high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Office has been arrested after allegations that he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade.

Middle East expert Rowan Laxton, 47, was watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym.

Stunned staff and gym members allegedly heard him shout: ‘F**king Israelis, f**king Jews’. It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be ‘wiped off the face of the earth’.

His rant reportedly continued even after he was approached by other gym users.

[snip]

Mr Laxton, who is still working normally, is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, on a salary of around £70,000.

He is responsible for all the UK’s diplomacy in that area and for briefing Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish.

Mr Laxton has worked extensively in the Middle East – he married a Muslim woman in 2000 – and has been deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.

The case could not have come at a worse time for the Foreign Office. Next week, Britain is hosting an international summit on combating anti-Semitism, with politicians from 35 countries.

It’s bad enough when England’s Pakistani population interjects this type of vile anti-Semitism into the system.  But it’s not just bad, it’s truly saddening, when it comes from someone British.  As those who have read Barbara Tuchman’s wonderful Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour know, since the time of Cromwell, England was one of the least aggressively anti-Semitic countries in Europe.  You wouldn’t allow a Jew at your dinner table, classing them generally with all inferior beings, but you wouldn’t kill him either.  There was even a strain of evangelical philosemitism that resulted in the Balfour Declaration declaring the Jewish right to a homeland in the Holy Land.  That official Britain could have gone from its earlier bizarre combination of sneering tolerance and occasional actual respect to this gross outburst of the worst kind of hatred is a devastating reversal of a long historic trend.

This one about Europe snuck in under my radar

I wrote it a few days ago, but it just got published today:

The other day, Mr. Horace Engdahl, a man who normally occupies a rather obscure outpost when it comes to public awareness, bought himself a few minutes of fame by engaging in everyone’s favorite pastime: America bashing. Mr. Engdahl’s statements in this regard were noteworthy only because he happens to be the top member of the committee charged with awarding the Nobel Prize for literature.

In an “exclusive” interview with the AP, Mr. Engdahl pulled no punches when it came to demeaning Americans. In his estimation, “The U.S. is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining.”

This was a rather interesting comment coming from a Swede. Sweden is a lovely country, and the very nice people who live there all seem to speak beautiful English. It’s also a country of only about nine million people, 87% of whom profess the same religion, speak the same language, and share the same ethnicity. Oh! Don’t forget that it’s surrounded on all sides by similar nations (Norway, Denmark, and Finland). I don’t say any of this to insult Sweden. I just think it’s worth pointing out that those who live in insular countries shouldn’t throw snide stones.

We shouldn’t really be surprised at this, however. Democrats and other Americans of the liberal persuasion are desperate to throw the Republicans out of the White House so that they can curry favor with the Europeans they so much admire. I’m afraid they have a tough road to hoe — and an Obama election may not be enough to do it. The fact is that Europeans don’t like us, and they never have.

Because Mr. Engdahl started this discussion about the dislike Europeans (or, at least, Europe’s intellectuals) feel for America, we should look first to Nobel Prize winners when we cast about for examples of European anti-Americanism. In the world of literature, last year’s controversial winner was Doris Lessing, she of the famous “they would murder Obama” attitude. (Ironically, the only place that’s almost happened, at least by tragic proxy, is in England, where a white racist shot — but thankfully did not kill — a black man wearing an Obama shirt.)

Lessing is only the most recent anti-American winner. Two years before her prize, the winner was Harold Pinter, a leftist amongst leftists, who has called George Bush a “mass murderer.” He was preceded by Elfriede Jelinek, another European Communist who deeply hates America.

This year’s winner, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, has not (yet) ascended to the ranks of rabid America haters, but his general theme seems to be a disdain for all things Western. Work your way past the prize committee’s incomprehensible praise for him as an “explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization,” and you can find the meat of his writing, which one reviewer explains the Third World as “a utopian antithesis to the ugliness and brutality of European society.”

And don’t even get me started on the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

You can read the rest here.

The view from across the pond

I like to read British publications, as well as the Spiegel, and whatever other English language versions of European papers strike my fancy.  It’s useful to see what’s going on in other parts of the world and, more than that, to see how the local press views its own events.

One thing I’ve noticed in all these foreign publications in the last week:  aside from whining about their own economic plight, they’re all thrilled to think that America’s dominance is at an end.  This story from Spiegel strikes precisely the note I’m talking about:

THE END OF ARROGANCE
America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role

By SPIEGEL Staff

The banking crisis is upending American dominance of the financial markets and world politics. The industrialized countries are sliding into recession, the era of turbo-capitalism is coming to an end and US military might is ebbing. Still, this is no time to gloat.

I found that last sentence quite amusing, because the Spiegel Staff is so obvious gloating. After 60 years of being dependent on America — to rescue them from the Naziism they imposed on themselves, to protect them from Communists, and to support their economy by providing all the military they needed — the Germans (and most of the rest of Europe) are just too delighted with America’s current economic woes.

I will only say, Twain-like, that I suspect reports of America’s death are greatly exaggerated.  And more to the point, the Europeans had better hope that they’re exaggerated, because we are the last bastion of small “d” democratic freedoms, whether the European’s like to admit it or not.  We’re not holding our own as well as we once were, and some Europeans are wising up the hard way, but we’re still the last best hope.

European arrogance towards America doesn’t stop with politics.  How about this from the head of Nobel literature committee:

Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.

[snip]

As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year’s award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it’s no coincidence that most winners are European.

“Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can’t get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world … not the United States,” he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Well, I guess you’re going to be the center of the literary world if you designate yourself as the center, but tautologies seem to be too sophisticated a thought for Mr. Engdahl.

As for me, I’m a woman of simple tastes, and make a point never to read recent examples of Nobel Prize winning literature, since they seem better suited to a man of Mr. Engdahl’s dubious sophistication:  unmoored to common concepts of grammar, narratively challenging, and morally vacuous.  But that’s just me.