The Bookworm Beat 7-25-15 — the Lazy, but interesting, edition

Woman-writing-300x265As you may have gathered from the number of things we did every day on our recent trip to Virginia and environs, ours was not a restful vacation. I capped off the fatigue with a cold and, since our return, have been having a very hard time motivating myself to do anything. My theme song for the week has been Irving Berlin’s Lazy, although I’d have to add fatigue and inertia to the laziness mix:

Still, despite my laziness, I have managed to peel myself off the couch and find my way to the computer occasionally, so I do have some posts to share with you:

Made You Laugh

Before I get to the depressing stuff — and, lately, all the news seems to be depressing — I wanted to tell you about a weekly column my long-time friend Gary Buslik is starting at The Blot. I first introduced you to Gary a few years ago when I reviewed his outrageously funny book Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls: A Novel of International Intrigue, Pork-Crazed Termites, and Motherhood. I’ve since read, though shamefully neglected to review, his delightful travelogue, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean: A Grump in Paradise Discovers that Anyplace it’s Legal to Carry a Machete is Comedy Just Waiting to Happen. In both books, and in the various travel articles of his published in anthologies, Gary’s voice is true: erudite, wry, mordant, snarky, self-deprecating, Jewish, and very, very funny.

Since Gary just launched his weekly column, there’s only one week’s worth of writing, but I think you might enjoy it: The Great Jewish Dilemma.

Yes, Martin O’Malley’s link between ISIS and climate change is crazy

Democrat presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley came in for a good deal of derision for saying that ISIS’s rise can be tied to climate change. The obvious reason this is a laughable point is because the most direct tie to ISIS’s rise is, of course, Obama’s retreat, which created a giant ISIS-sized vacuum. My friend Wolf Howling sent me an email which I think nicely summarizes the Obama/ISIS link:

A fascinating article in the NY Review of Books states that it is the Iraqi organization originally founded by Zarqawi, the utterly sadistic terrorist we sent off the mortal coil in 2006. The movement obviously survived him, and this really throws into stark relief the wages of Obama and the Left cutting and running from Iraq in 2010. ISIS is like a bacteria that survives a stunted course of antibiotics. Had we stayed in Iraq, there is no possible way that ISIS could have had a rebirth.

The author of the article tries to make sense of the rise of ISIS. You can read his ruminations. My own theory is two-fold: One, ISIS is preaching the true Salafi / Wahhabi purist doctrine that makes of the world a thing of black and white, where all things that support Allah are pure, while everything that does not is evil and can be dealt with without regards. Thus it is a draw to young Arab men. If you want to see how, here is a fascinating article by Tawfiq Hamid, a doctor who became a terrorist, who discusses the lure of Salafism / Wahhabism and all its deadly toxins.

Two, the ISIS ideology is a draw because it is utterly without bounds in its sadism or cruelty. This also is a draw to a particular segment of Arab men. It is the Lord of the Flies. It is going into a scenario where you will have the power of life, death, and pain with virtually no restrictions.

The fact is that ISIS should not be around today. My word, but Obama has so totally f**ked us in the Middle East . . . . He makes Carter look like Nixon by comparison.

I only wish I’d written that, but at least I can share it with you. So yes, O’Malley is an ignorant moron.

Still, never let it be said that the Left doesn’t protect its own, so The Atlantic has tried to throw a life saver to O’Malley: Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. The article’s premise is that there’s a connection between drought and unrest. To which I say, “Well, duh!”

Any student of history knows that in primitive societies (and Muslim Middle Eastern countries are extremely primitive when it comes to food production, due to natural limitations, societal factors, and the transfer of food crops to biofuels) anything that interferes even marginally with food production has devastating effects, with war one of the most common ones.

However, as my reference to “students of history” makes clear, droughts have always happened. O’Malley wouldn’t have been a moron if he’d said “the drought they’re experiencing in the region no doubt was a contributing factor to unrest in the Syria – Iraqi region.” But instead, he had to throw in “climate change” — and what makes that so laughable is that we’ve come to the point  which climate change is responsible for everything. I’m awaiting the day when we get an article saying that Caitlyn Jenner’s unfortunate transgender habit of dressing like a male chauvinists’ dream 1950s pin-up girl is also due to climate change.

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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.