The Bookworm Beat 5-18-15 — “clearing out my inbox” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingNo, you’re not imagining it. Yes, I have been AWOL. The legal work has finally tapered off, but other things have filled the vacuum, taking up both my time and energy. Some of them are very nice things but, much as I love you all, I can’t share them here. And of course, some are just the ordinary stuff that makes up the life of someone who is both a mother and a daughter. During the time I’ve been AWOL, I’ve received quite a lot of very interesting links. Starting with this post, and continuing into others, I’d like to share them with you.

What Republican candidates should say on Iraq

Reporters are playing Iraq gotcha with the Republican candidates, although they’ve assiduously avoided asking Hillary any questions about the war even though she voted for the War. John Hinderaker has the perfect answer that Republican candidates should give when asked about the War:

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The Bookworm Beat 1/19/15 — abbreviated version and Open Thread

Woman writingAt a lawyer level, this has been a somewhat frustrating day, with me struggling to fit my facts (always true and honest ones) to the law (which sometimes refuses to cooperate), capped by a power outage that lost me an hour of time. Add to that the usual cries for attention from family, and I’m feeling a little . . . ummm, stressed. Still, I have stuff I want to share with you, so let me whip through it:

Chilling look into the near future at what the next school attack might look like

Mike McDaniel, who blogs at Stately McDaniel Manor, has looked at past school shootings, both at home and abroad, and come up with a possible scenario for the next assault on an American school. I don’t doubt that he’s accurately predicting a possible American future unless we take steps now to head it off.

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One theory behind the fact that jihadists been targeting Europe instead of just America

Gun How to say go away in every languageParis is under jihadist siege. The head of British intelligence promises that the West (mostly England, apparently) can expect another mass jihadist attack. My question is why are Muslims attacking Europe at all?

Well, of course, part of the answer is that, like the scorpion, jihadists attack and kill because it’s their nature. But the targets bewilder me.

It’s hard to find more Palestinian and Muslim friendly nations than in Europe.  European nations loath Israel and they’ve shown themselves increasingly willing to give up their self-identities to appease the growing Muslim masses within their borders.

That last phrase “Muslim masses” is certainly part of the answer. Wherever there are growing Muslim masses, violence follows. But while America may not yet have the same percentage of Muslims as Europe, it certainly has enough Muslims to cause trouble, as we saw with the Boston Marathon bombing.

Since 9/11, though, what we’ve had instead of mass attacks have been those so-called “lone wolf” attacks, such as the one at Fort Hood or in Boston. They’re horrible, deadly assaults, but still different in nature from the fully planned attacks in Europe.  In scope, what’s happening in Paris, with one major attack followed by smaller attacks all over the city is reminiscent of Mumbai, not America.

It occurred to me that one reason might be that more Americans (increasingly more Americans) are armed. Even hardened, blood-thirsty, martyr-status-seeking Muslims prefer soft targets.  That thought led me to search through my emails and find the one below. I don’t know if the numbers are accurate, but I like the principle:

Some time ago, I read that the Japanese Govt in 1942 or 43 gave up any idea of trying to invade the USA because they knew that the US had hundreds of thousands of armed civilians who would instantly be part of the Army.

So here is a rough estimate of today’s civilian “army” so long as the people don’t give up their guns or allow a govt take over of all personal arms, and thus a government take over of all the states and their populations:

A blogger added up the deer license sales in just a handful of states and arrived at a striking conclusion:

There were over 600,000 hunters this season in the state of Wisconsin …. Allow me to restate that number: 600,000!

Over the last several months, Wisconsin’s hunters became the eighth largest army in the world.

(That’s more men under arms than in Iran .. More than France and Germany combined.)

These men, deployed to the woods of a single American state, Wisconsin, to hunt with firearms, And NO ONE WAS KILLED.

That number pales in comparison to the 750,000 who hunted the woods of Pennsylvania and Michigan’s 700,000 hunters, ALL OF WHOM HAVE RETURNED HOME SAFELY.

Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia and it literally establishes the fact that the Hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.

And then add in the total number of hunters in the other 46 states. It’s millions more.

SO, what’s the point…?___ The point is …..

America will forever be safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower!

Hunting… it’s not just a way to fill the freezer. It’s a matter of national security.

That’s why all enemies, foreign and domestic, want to see us disarmed.

Food for thought, when next we consider gun control. Overall it’s true, so if we disregard some assumptions that hunters don’t possess the same skills as soldiers, the question would still remain… What army of 2 million would want to face 30 million, 40 million, or 50 million armed citizens??? For the sake of our freedom, don’t ever allow gun control or confiscation of guns.

If you agree, as I do, pass it on, I feel good that I have an army of millions who would protect our land and I sure don’t want the government taking control of the possession of firearms….

AMERICA! Designed by geniuses!

Throw in ex-mil (those that Progressive states haven’t disarmed) and other gun-loving Americans, and you’ve got yourself a pretty formidable bulwark.

Tragically, an unarmed police officer can do nothing to prevent the terror.

Tragically, an unarmed police officer can do nothing to prevent the terror.

ISIS and an antisemitic Europe: Looking for the good news buried in the bad

Muslims praying on Paris streets

Muslims praying on Paris streets

Sorry for the blog silence, but for the past few days, everyone has wanted not just a piece of me, but several pieces of me.  I’m telling myself that this was just an end-of-the-year frenzy and will have no impact whatsoever on the year to come. As it is, though, I’ll be glad to see the last of 2014 and am hopeful that 2015 will be better. Nevertheless, I’m mindless of something that Robert Avrech says: “[W]e try to remain optimistic. However, after six years of Obama, this state of mind becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.”

Okay, in that spirit of optimism, here’s some blood-thirsty, rather weird good cheer for you. I have a friend who is very Jewish and very conservative. He is rooting for, of all things, ISIS. Why? For starters, he thinks of Europe as the Amalekites. The Amalekites were intractably hostile to ancient Israel.  Their perpetual war against the Jews ended only when David finally annihilated them. The takeaway lesson, which is something Jews are reminded of every year, before Purim, when they read the chapter, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee” (Deut. xxv. 17-19), is that when you have an enemy dedicated to your destruction, your only hope for survival is to destroy that enemy first.

For a 60 year period after WWII, we deluded ourselves into thinking that WWII had, once and for all, wiped antisemitism from the European map. As the last few years have shown us, that was a false hope. Antisemitism in Europe is roaring back with ferocity. They turn on Jews on their streets and they turn on them in Israel.

It’s no excuse, either, to say that Europe’s renewed antisemitism comes from the Muslims in Europe. Even if one says the problems started with Muslims, the fact remains that Europe has embraced, rather than rejected, the Muslim approach to Jews and Israel. For Europe, antisemitism is bred deep in the bone.

To my friend, both the Europeans and the Muslims are Amalekites. The only way to deal with either is to see them destroyed. Right now, with ISIS and radical Islam ascendant, it looks as if radical Islam is on its way to destroy Europe. And as my friends said, ISIS’s escapades show that radical Islam has no compunction about destroying its enemies root and branch.

I protested, asking “What about the innocent?” My friend said “There’s nothing stopping them from leaving as they see Europe slipping back into genocidal antisemitism. They stay. They accept the consequences.”

“Okay,” I said, “but even if Europe as we know it is gone, we in America are still facing radical Islam, as is Israel.”

My friend wasn’t too perturbed. First, he said, we all know what happens when a nation goes fully Muslim: it becomes a third world entity, which makes it less of a risk to a nation such as America that still has the trappings, despite six years of Obama, of a first world nation. Second, he said, ISIS is currently on the bottom of the list of Israel’s worries. Israel is infinitely more worried now about America under Obama, Iran, and those Hezbollah missiles aimed at her. She’ll deal with ISIS when the time comes — and, if ISIS and Iran are busy fighting it out, she might not need to worry at all. In other words, don’t trouble Trouble until Trouble troubles you.

I did warn you that my friend’s view was blood-thirsty. His point, though, is an old one: Our enemies are on the verge of engaging with each other. Let them.

[VIDEO] Caroline Glick utterly demolishes European ambassadors

Caroline Glick was not constrained by the meaningless language of diplomacy.  She simply told the truth after listening to the Danish ambassador’s utterly revolting twaddle, in which he simultaneously expressed his antisemitism and his utter disdain for the Palestinian people who are the European tools to act upon that antisemitism:

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

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

Comparing voter ID and gun shows

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

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

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

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

Guns save lives

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

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

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

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

Why is militant Islam Like Ebola

England continues voluntarily to plunge itself into the moral abyss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you know Hitler was a meth head?

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

No wonder conservatives are feeling apocalyptic….

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

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

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

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

America’s campuses go full kangaroo court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very sad.

Andrew Klavan gives the American media a well-deserved shellacking

Still, there is beauty….

Adilyn Malcolm describes herself as follows:

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

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

And a few pictures in lieu of thousands more words

A time saver for tall people

All I'm saying is Zombie movie

And, from Sadie (who provided the caption):

President Shiva

EU silent about its motivation when it comes to manifest bias against Israel

Israeli flagWhen I was in law school, I applied for to myriad law firms for a job.  I had good grades (and ultimately ended up with offers from prestigious law firms), but what remains in my memory forever is a rejection letter I got from one rather insignificant law firm:

Dear Ms [Bookworm]:

Thank you for your inquiry about a position at our firm.  There are many reasons why we cannot hire you.

Sincerely….

Many of my classmates agreed that this won the award for rejection letter of the year.

I am beginning to suspect that someone at the European Union must have gotten a glimpse of that letter.  It’s certainly one way to explain the EU’s response when two scholars, one Israeli and one American, wrote to the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, asking why it was honoring agreements with Morocco that included extra-national territory it had occupied since 1975, while refusing to honor any dealings with Israel that include “occupied” territory:

Many Israelis have long felt that the European Union is biased against them. Two legal scholars – a former Israeli ambassador and an American Jewish international law professor — think they’ve found the perfect case to prove the claim: A new fishing deal, signed between the Europeans and Morocco, which applies beyond Morocco’s internationally recognized borders, taking in the territory of Western Sahara, even though Morocco invaded that area in 1975 and has occupied ever since.

The two scholars are now challenging EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to explain why the agreement, in not excluding Morocco’s occupied territory, doesn’t prove that the EU is holding Israel to a double standard.

The EU insists that any agreement it signs with Israel explicitly exclude the settlements in the “occupied” West Bank, the scholars noted in a letter sent last month to Ashton’s Brussels office. So why don’t the same constraints apply in the case of Morocco? This blatant inconsistency shows “an official double-standard practiced by the EU,” Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University and Israeli ex-ambassador to Canada Alan Baker charged.

The EU’s response, written by one of Ashton’s minions, is identical in spirit to that long-ago rejection letter I once received:

The EU’s response, authored on Ashton’s behalf by the managing director of the union’s external action service’s Middle East and Southern Neighborhood department, Hugues Mingarelli, read: “With regards to the allegation of using double standards for Israel and Morocco, our analysis is that the two cases are different and cannot be compared.” No further explanation was given.

That is precisely the kind of rejection letter that comes from a bureaucratic entity that cannot bring itself to state the obvious:  “With regards to the allegation of using double standards for Israel and Morocco, the answer is simple:  we are both antisemitic and terrified of Muslims.  Thank you for your inquiry.”

Of Norway, petrodollars, free education, etc.

One of my old high school friends, an ardent liberal, posted the following on his Facebook page:

Norway smart - America stupid

Doesn’t that just make so much sense? Give free education and your nation will be wonderful.  Of course, both “Mr. Silhouette” and the friend who posted it suffer from no small amount of ignorance in making that assertion.  For one thing, I’m virtually certain that they don’t know that Norway can offer this free education, as well as a variety of other social benefits, in significant part because it’s floating away on an incredibly profitable sea of petrodollars.  Were Obama to allow the Keystone pipeline, we might be able to fund a few more educational opportunities in this country too.

The other thing that the cartoonist ignores is that Norway is a petite country (4,722,701 people compared to America’s 316,668,567).  More than that, Norway has a staggeringly homogenous population.  According to the CIA World Fact Book, the population breakdown for Norway is “Norwegian 94.4% (includes Sami, about 60,000), other European 3.6%, other 2% (2007 estimate).”  The numbers are a bit different for America:  “white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate).”  Even that’s misleading, because it’s just skin color (whites and blacks), and broad racial classification (Asian, Amerindian, Alaska native, etc.).  This breakdown utterly fails to take into account America’s cultural melting pot, with our genetic and cultural mix representing people from every corner of the earth.

The population differences between the two countries mean that, in America, it’s very difficult to convince everyone to do the same thing at the same time.  In Norway, on the other hand, people are practically born in lock-step.  (And don’t even get me started on Leftist educational trends in America that involve everything but education, or on the fact that we force non-academically inclined students into academic classes when they should be learning a trade.)

Finally, what neither Mr. Silhouette or my friend know is that Norway is having sufficient problems with its socialism — and that’s despite the fact that petrodollars are paying for the costly luxury that is socialism — that it is starting to turn right politically, away from socialism:

This country was transformed by the discovery of huge oil deposits off its shores in 1969. Although Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, was quickly established to lead the development of the new oil discoveries, the industry has been open to private investment and participation on a scale seldom found outside the United States. That has led to an extremely efficient and profitable energy sector, which provides 36 percent of the national government’s revenue. The Government Pension Fund, into which much of the oil profits are channeled, had $445 billion in assets in 2010 and represented nearly 2 percent of the equity in European stock markets. The value of the pension fund’s assets approximately equals the value of all the real estate in Manhattan.

“Oil has turned Norway from a sleepy, largely rural economy into an economic powerhouse,” says Norwegian businessman Olaf Halvorssen. “So much money comes in to the government that Norway has largely escaped the trimming of the welfare state that many other European countries are going through.”

But more and more people recognize that the oil wealth won’t last forever, and a real debate is just starting in this country of 4.9 million people over what direction its economy should go. Norway will be holding elections for Parliament on September 9, just two weeks before Germany votes. If polls taken over the last year are accurate, the eight-year-old Labor-party government of Jens Stoltenberg is headed for a landslide defeat.

This trend is occurring despite the fact that, so far, Norway’s economy has not only been stable, but it’s been growing at twice America’s 1.5% growth rate:

This country was transformed by the discovery of huge oil deposits off its shores in 1969. Although Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, was quickly established to lead the development of the new oil discoveries, the industry has been open to private investment and participation on a scale seldom found outside the United States. That has led to an extremely efficient and profitable energy sector, which provides 36 percent of the national government’s revenue. The Government Pension Fund, into which much of the oil profits are channeled, had $445 billion in assets in 2010 and represented nearly 2 percent of the equity in European stock markets. The value of the pension fund’s assets approximately equals the value of all the real estate in Manhattan.

“Oil has turned Norway from a sleepy, largely rural economy into an economic powerhouse,” says Norwegian businessman Olaf Halvorssen. “So much money comes in to the government that Norway has largely escaped the trimming of the welfare state that many other European countries are going through.”

But more and more people recognize that the oil wealth won’t last forever, and a real debate is just starting in this country of 4.9 million people over what direction its economy should go. Norway will be holding elections for Parliament on September 9, just two weeks before Germany votes. If polls taken over the last year are accurate, the eight-year-old Labor-party government of Jens Stoltenberg is headed for a landslide defeat.

Please read more of John Fund’s article to learn about the sea change taking place in Norway.

Here’s what I’ve learned:  if my Leftist friends put up a snarky political poster on their Facebook page, it’s invariably factual deficient or logically flawed.

Getting nickeled and dimed to death in Europe

One of the things that’s striking about traveling in continental Europe is the way you have to pay up front for things that we, in the United States, take for granted should be free.  The most notable things in this regard is public toilets.  Everybody has to use the restroom sometime, but if you’re at a European theme park, open air museum, or shopping mall, you’d better be prepared to cough up as much as $2 for the privilege of relieving yourself at some place other than a roadside ditch.  Stores, the handy stand-by of the American with a full bladder, are also unavailable.  That’s not surprising with small boutique stores, which often don’t have public restrooms, but it is surprising with huge department or grocery stores, which either make customers pay for the privilege or that have no public bathrooms at all.

Rightly or wrongly, in my mind, the lack of free public restrooms ties in with yet another study showing that the caring European socialists are much less generous than their capitalist cousins in America:

A European either living off or managing a nanny state would say that Americans’ contempt for welfare regimes is based on greed. But if Americans are so selfish, how can they be so charitable?

In no European economy are the people more generous with their own money than the people of the U.S. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, which have been thoughtfully assembled by Cato scholar Dan Mitchell, the total of Americans’ voluntary social spending reached 10.2% of GDP in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.

The only country that is remotely close in its generosity is the Netherlands, where the total was 6% of the nation’s economy. Only two other nations, Canada and the United Kingdom, exceeded 5%. The U.K. totaled 5.3% of GDP, Canada 5.1%.

The rest hardly even register on the chart. The French totaled a mere 2.8%, the Germans 2%. Greece, Italy, Norway and Spain all failed to break the 2% mark.

(Read more here.)

 

Oslo impressions

I liked Oslo. I can’t quite put my finger on why I liked it, but I liked it just as strongly as I disliked Stockholm. Go figure….

Part of the pleasure I took in Oslo was tied to the fact that the ship docked within one minute’s walk from the old fort/castle. I don’t have any literature to bolster my memory, so I’m riffing here when I say I believe it was originally built at the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th centuries. It was substantially remodeled at the beginning of the Thirty Year War at the start of the 17th century.

It’s a lovely structure, with huge, gray medieval blocks of stone serving as the base, and smaller, golden colored bricks from the Scandinavian Renaissance completing the climb to small, but fairy-tale like towers.

Housed within the walls of the castle is the “Resistance Museum,” a very nicely put together exhibit that focuses on Norway’s fierce resistance to the Nazi occupation. I had forgotten that the word “Quisling” owes its origin to the disgusting Norwegian politician who welcomed the Nazis and was disowned by his countrymen.

The museum opens with a nice homage to Norwegian Jews who fought in the resistance. Throughout the exhibit, it reminds visitors that Norway’s Jews died at Nazi hands.

The museum makes it clear that it is a point of pride that the Norwegians sided against the anti-Christian, totalitarian ideology that wanted to subjugate the world and kill Jews. It is inexplicable to me that now, throughout the Scandinavian world — and particularly in Norway — it is a point of pride that they side WITH an anti-Christian totalitarian ideology that wants to subjugate the world and kill the Jews.

Norway, after all, is fierce in its condemnation of democratic, pluralist Israel, and slavish in its devotion to the Nazi-like Palestinian cause. Norwegians seem oblivious to the fact that not only do the Palestinians espouse Nazi goals, they enthusiastically threw themselves in with the Nazis during WWII and have never backed away from them allegiance.

From the Resistance Museum, we wandered through the city, heading to the art museum, which houses one of the original Munch “Scream” paintings. (We skipped the Munch museum, because it’s being remodeled, while the main museum has a seizable exhibition.). Along the way, we visited the City Hall, which, once again, I can’t date. It drives me bonkers that I don’t know the dates of the things we saw, but the rest of the family was moving so quickly, I never had a chance to stop and study the details of what we so.

In many ways, the town/city hall has that muscular look of Soviet architecture, so I think it was probably built in the 1920s or thereabouts. On the outside, it’s a rather forbidding brick structure. On the inside, though, you find yourself in a light, airy, spacious chamber covered with brilliant murals and mosaics. It’s a very attractive space.

As for the Munch exhibit, I wish we hadn’t wasted our time. Aside from the Scream, which had the virtue of familiarity, nothing Munch did appealed to me. In his early years, his art was derivative, with a little Seurat (spelling?) here, a little Picasso there, a bit of Gauguin for a change, followed by a dollop of Manet — none of it done very well. Munch then settled into his own style of drab colors and uninspiring graphics. Had it not been for the Scream’s fitting so well into the 20th century zeitgeist, I doubt many would have found him memorable.

After the museum, we headed back to the waterfront and took a short, lovely ferry ride to the Viking ship museum. It houses three Viking ships recovered from burial mounds. Two are in good condition, with the third in fairly good condition. They are, in a word, amazing. For one thing, they’re incredibly elegant, with their high, curved prows, and their swelling bellies. They are a beautiful combination of design and functionality. They also have that intricate Viking carving, with twining animals and Gods winding their way up the prow, and ferocious animal heads decorating posts and sledges.

The Viking ships are also surprisingly small — surprisingly, I say, because the hearty Vikings who traveled in them covered remarkable distances on such an unfriendly sea. They went as far south as the Mediterranean and as far northwest as Nova Scotia. Along the way, they terrorized and settled parts of England, France, Greenland, and all points in between.

So here’s a little factoid: At the Resistance Museum, we learned that the Nazis sent around 400,000 troops to Norway because Hitler believed that the inevitable Allied invasion of Europe would take place there. In fact, as we all know, the D-Day invasion took place on the beaches of Normandy — which owe their name to the Norseman who settled there so many centuries before. Hitler was right that Norse shores would be the landing point; he just picked the wrong Norse shores.

After admiring the Viking ships, we went to the nearby folk museum, which is an open air museum in which they’ve assembled buildings from all over Norway. My only regret is that we had too little time there, since we arrived only 90 minutes before it closed.

Ninety-minutes simply wasn’t enough time to see all the buildings and living history exhibitions. We saw weaving, a farm kitchen from 1959, a “stave church” from the 12th century, a tenement from early 20th century Oslo, a bakery from the 1700s — and only scratched the surface. I could have spent hours there. Not only was it fascinating, it was so very beautiful, as the grounds were covered with idyllic green pastures, log cabins with grass growing on the roof, half-timbered buildings, and brick mansions.

When the museum closed, we headed to the Vigesland park. Vigesland was a man who spent around 40 years in the middle of the 20th century creating dozens of granite sculptures for a single park. The sculptures are meant to show people in motion and people relating to each other — parents and children, men and women, old and young. The park itself is beautiful, because it is terraced, green, and spacious, with flowers blooming everywhere.

As for the sculptures . . . well, they weren’t my cup of tea. They’re crudely done and I found them unappealing. The kids were “creeped out by them,” especially the fact that all the figures are nude. They found it off putting to see a naked father frolic with his equally naked children. I think growing up in an era of high-profile pedophile cases made this seem very inappropriate to them.

What totally revolted me was the centerpiece — a tall column of writhing, entwined bodies of all ages, all presumably dead. It’s supposed to show the cycle of life. To me, however, it looked like nothing more than a photo of the bodies at Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen — all ages, all sexes, all nude, all tangled together.

The park ended the day’s sightseeing and it was a slightly sour note. Having said that, though, I still found the tourist part of Oslo appealing. Incidentally, Vigesland is in a less touristy part, and we saw innumerable Muslims and Africans there. Not a critical mass, by any means, but still enough to hint that the immigrants aren’t in the city centers but are, instead, in the outskirts of these major Scandinavian towns.

As for the natives, they were good-looking, friendly, and almost all spoke incredibly good English. Surprisingly, they spoke with American accents. Usually when one travels, those who speak English do so with a British accent. In Oslo, though, they sounded almost American. Their effortless bilingualism was very impressive.

And those are my Oslo impressions. We’re now heading north to Bergen. The sea is calm and the sky is clear. Although it’s already 10 pm now, the sun is still well above the horizon. We’ve been told that tomorrow, as has been the case since our vacation started, it’s going to be HOT. I still can’t believe that, after two summers of steaming not vacations (the Mediterranean and Japan), my hopes for a cool northern sojourn have been dashed by a heat wave.

More later.

Copenhagen, Part II

The ship stopped at Copenhagen to let off old passengers and take on new ones. We’re staying on for yet more travel, this time to North Sea ports, but we did take advantage of the changeover to spend another day in Copenhagen. What made it an exceptionally nice day is that we met up with old friends who live in the region.

Because they had seen it all, having visited Copenhagen frequently, and because we’d seen the tourist highlights at the start of our trip, we were happy just to toodle around town with them. We must have walked six or seven miles, just wandering through city streets.

The main highlight of this day was our visit to Christiana. Christiania was once a military base. Some time during the late 60s or early 70s, a band of hippies occupied the old base and essentially declared it a Republic of Hippie Freedom. The residents claim that they are a separate entity from Copenhagen, Denmark, and the EU. They steal utilities, including cable, electricity, and water, from the city of Copenhagen and boast about the fact that they are not slaves to capitalism. Drugs are legal. The smell of marijuana wafts through the air.

Christiana is quite picturesque, with large, artsy, hippie-style murals on every surface. It’s crowded with residents (the ones who look unwashed and, usually, old) and tourists (distinguished mainly by being clean). It would be a great place to take pictures. However, in one of those ironies that the residents themselves seem oblivious to, “free-spirited” Christiana is liberally festooned with signs posting rules, chief among which is “no photographs.”

I doubt there’s a commune in the world that hasn’t rather swiftly turned into a rules-run dictatorship. There’s something about “free-spirits” that inclines them to excessive bossiness when people fail to get with the free-spirit program.

Here’s something I’ve noticed in all the Baltic capital cities we visited — the town centers do not reflect the countries’ (alleged) demographic realities. Demographics say that these countries are failing to have children at a rate sufficient to maintain their populations — yet the city centers are crawling with children. Demographics also say that large parts of Europe, especially Northern Europe, are acquiring critical masses of immigrants, primarily from Muslim countries — yet I’ve seen fewer people in burqas than I usually do in Marin.

I’m not sure what this means. Either the statistical data about declining local populations and surging Muslim populations is wrong, or the central tourist areas are Potemkin villages that fail to reflect each countries’ changing demographic realities.

Here’s another unexpected thing — it’s hot! We’ve been told that the week before we arrived, the weather across Europe was dreadful, with lots of rain. We hit a heat wave.

I can’t say I’m thrilled. While touring with rain pouring down is inconvenient, Europe in a heat wave isn’t exactly my cup of tea either. I was looking forward to San Francisco temperatures, not Texas ones. Still, when we get back to the ship, there are cool showers and cold drinks, not to mention good ready-made food that I didn’t have to shop for or cook, and that I don’t have to clean up when we’re done. That’s pretty darn good in my books.

Tomorrow is Oslo, and I’m hoping for slightly cooler weather. Even if I don’t get my wish, I know it will be lovely. I’ll just resolutely ignore the Nobel stuff all over the place.