The Bookworm Beat 12-12-15 — the “hopeful pessimist” open thread

Woman-writing-300x265[This is a long one, good for a cozy read on a winter day.]

I’m a pessimist. I’ve learned through experience that most things go wrong, whether in the world or in my life. Still, I never completely lose hope. If I didn’t have hope, frankly, I would stop moving entirely.

Despite the knowledge that my best laid plans will gang [mostly] aft agley, I wake up every morning with slightly more than half my brain saying “this time the good thing will happen,” and slightly less than half warning “you know it won’t.” The first part gets me out of bed with the sun, the second part gives me insomnia with the moon.

Anyway, that oxymoronic attitude infuses my blog. I’m never surprised when I read about Progressive perfidy, Islamist terrorism, or human stupidity and cruelty, but I always think, maybe something will change . . . maybe it will be better. And on that note, I offer you a cornucopia of things, both old and new, that acknowledge the bad, but perhaps hold out hope for the good.

If Imam Obama doesn’t speak for sharia, who does?

Obama, whose resume does not include either professional or amateur level knowledge about Islam, nevertheless is very keen to tell us each time there’s an Islamic terror attack anywhere in the world that the perpetrators are un-Islamic and do not speak for Islam. Rather than confound Obama with complicated doctrinal questions, Roger Kimball asks one very important one: So Who Does Speak for Islam, President Obama? Kimball even offers a few suggested answers to that question:

Saudi Arabia? It is the world’s most important Sunni Muslim state. One of the most ghastly things about ISIS is its followers’ penchant for beheading people, yet in 2015 alone, our “ally” Saudi Arabia has beheaded 151 people. I am surprised the number is not higher; the list of things that are capital offenses in Saudi Arabia is long and varied.

Apostasy makes the list. If you decide that Allah is not for you, it’s off with your head.

Want a glass of wine? Think twice. The consumption of intoxicants is on the list, as is consensual homosexual sex, adultery, and “sorcery or witchcraft.”

So, presumably, Obama would not let Saudi Arabia speak for Islam.

How about the world’s largest Shia state, Iran? Does it speak for Islam? If not, why not? Because it is just as much a barbaric cesspool as Saudi Arabia?

You see how it’s going to proceed. Last night, Barack Obama was at pains to distance us from “those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.” Well, with that statement Obama forbids the majority of the world’s Muslims, including the denizens of Islam’s chief states, from speaking for Islam.

Let’s forget conquest and terror: there are millions of folks who call themselves Muslims, yet want nothing to do with jihadist violence. Do they speak for Islam?

Well, if they affirm Sharia — Islamic law — then they cannot in principle affirm “the values of religious tolerance,” etc., so Obama does not allow these Muslims to speak for Islam, either.

Using Trump’s statements about Muslim immigration as the first step in an intelligent immigration plan

If Donald Trump were an artist, he would not be a delicate miniaturist or a meticulous late-medieval Flemish craftsman. Instead, he would be Jackson Pollock or possibly Jeff Koons. He’s creating something all right, but there’s a destructive edge to his creative acts.

Thus, when Donald Trump announced, less than tactfully, that all Muslim immigration ought to step pending Congress’s ability to figure out what’s going on with Muslim immigrants (both ordinary and refugee), he created an immediate furor. There was that the destructive part of his creativity.  But Trump also said something that needs to be said, which is that the American government fails in its obligation to protect Americans against enemies both foreign and domestic when it willingly lets foreign enemies turn into domestic ones.

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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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[VIDEO] Ben Shapiro explained how Obama has developed the hitherto unknown “F**k You” clause in the Constitution

obama gives us the finger_thumb[41]One of Ben Shapiro’s strongest videos, explaining how Obama has effectively sidelined Congress and dramatically expanded his authority. Before you get too mad at Obama, though, remember that Congress, including the RINOS we elected, let him do this. There are myriad explanations for Congress’s passivity, not the least of which is that they’re utterly terrified to challenge the first mulatto president.

[VIDEO] Ben Shapiro exposes both the lies — and the reason for the lies — about Ferguson

The two Michael BrownsThe longer I’ve lived as a conservative — which still doesn’t equal the number of years I spent as a younger person on the Left — the more I’ve come to realize that one of the gaping chasms between conservatives and the Left is truth or the absence of truth. Conservatives construct their narratives around facts. Leftists eschew facts and focus entirely on the narrative. And really, if you don’t have any fealty to the truth, it’s a smart thing to do: Unfettered narrative is always going to be the more entertaining and accessible, because it’s expressly created to capture the audience’s interest.

As Ben Shapiro explains, the Left’s Ferguson narrative perfectly illustrates the fact v. narrative divide between conservatives and the Left:

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Any computer game designers out there? We’ve got some core values to sell

do-smartphones-smart-kidsI had the pleasure today of having lunch with Dennis Koller and his quite lovely wife. (And since she’s not a published author, I’ll keep her name out of here to preserve her privacy.) You may recognize Dennis’s name, since he wrote The Oath, a book I enjoyed a great deal and reviewed here. It didn’t come as any surprise to me that I liked Dennis. He was as I expected him to be: the best kind of native San Francisco Catholic. What that means is that he is extremely well-educated (parochial schools all the way, when that still meant something), has classical liberal values (raised in a family that fought for real civil rights, when that still meant something), and is a delightful conversationalist (I think it’s the nun thing again).

One of the things we spent a lot of time talking about was messaging. How, we asked each other, can conservatives sell themselves in the next 2.5 years? We concluded that today’s generation lacks intellectual curiosity and any analytic skills. For the past 40 years, they’ve been taught to think by using their navel as a guide. Small wonder, then, that the avatar of their generation announces that his definition of sin is “Being out of alignment with my values.” Despite knowing this, we conservatives keep thinking that we can convince people through evidence — including the evidence of their own eyes — and analysis that conservativism works in the real world.

Looking at the teenagers in my world, they get most of the data that they value through their smart phones. Unlike adults who use Facebook to share ideas (shallow, but still ideas), the kids use Facebook for gossip about each other. They also like to visit sites such as Buzzfeed and Gizmodo. But most of all, they like to play what I call “thumb games,” in which they zip objects around in a frantic effort to best other players out in cyberspace.

If I had any imagination at all, and even the slightest inkling about how to design a game app, I would design games that look like ordinary games, but that sell ideas such as free market competition. Here’s what I mean:  Years ago, I was able to turn my daughter against Obamacare when I asked her to imagine a world with only one clothing store. What would happen, I asked her, if it didn’t have her size or her style or if it had really horrible sales staff? She shuddered in revulsion. Remember, I said, it’s the only store there is. What’s your recourse? When she realized she was trapped in a fashion shopping nightmare, it clicked. She recognized then and, seemingly, forever, the value of a free marketplace.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a game app that starts with the player (presumably a girl) in a place with there’s only one lousy store selling gross clothes, and then makes them figure out ways to increase their shopping options? It wouldn’t be a game called “Socialism versus Capitalism,” or “Communist Fashion Nightmare,” or anything else so obvious. Instead, it would be an innocuous-sounding game (“Fashion Race” or something like that) and it would be presented entirely as a fun competitive game. However, while the girl is thinking she’s competing against other girls in cyberspace, what she’s really doing is learning about the value of real competition.  One could do exactly the same for boys, with the open market competition element in the game having to do with cool weapons or sports activities or anything else where the point of the game is for the kid to engage in market-based competition — offering more of a better product — in order to win the game.

Games such as that are going to resonate with kids a lot more than some documentary about what shopping used to be like in the Soviet Union.  Kids simply aren’t interested in some abstruse discussion about the sort of free medical insurance market we once had (ignoring all the government interference that already existed) versus the whacked out world of Obamacare, which is being sold as something good, but actually functions badly.

If conservatives really want to know what we should do, we should all go re-read Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. There, Shapiro relays in their own words the techniques used by Hollywood’s movers and shakers in the 1960s through 1980s to turn our popular culture sharply left. It’s like a primer for taking over the unthinking mind.

Also — and this is totally unrelated to the above post — did you take a minute to read and listen to Canardvark’s Reagan 180 : Peace Through Strength? Not only is it really good, but I’m just thrilled that my site now offers original multimedia content. And Reagan’s words truly are as appropriate now as they were then. Facts may change, but values remain the same.

And thinking about those last words, I realize that the Canardvark’s post is in fact entirely related to what I’ve written here: It’s not the facts that matter; it’s our ability to sell the up and coming generation on core values and eternal truths. We need to use facts that resonate with them to make this sale, and we need sell these facts through their favorite media.

Ben Shapiro just shot to the top of my reading list

One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in I don’t know how long is Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.  The book’s beauty rests on two solid pillars.  The first is that Ben, who is so sweet-faced he looks as if he couldn’t hurt a fly, got liberal TV producers, writers, and directors to speak openly about the fact that they intended their TV shows — all of which were sold to the public as entertainment and all of which were, indeed, entertaining — to be propaganda vehicles for Leftist ideology.

By getting these detailed quotations, Shapiro ensures that his book cannot be dismissed as the ranting of a conspiracy theorist who sees Communism’s evil hand in Hollywood’s every move.  There’s no conspiracy here.  Instead, there’s a smiling confession from Hollywood power brokers who detail their goals and the way in which they used our television sets to achieve those goals.

Benjamin Shapiro, from his Facebook page

The second pillar on which the book rests is Shapiro’s own writing style:  he’s easy to read.  His writing style is utterly straight-forward, although never boring.  Reading the book, I had the sense that I was a participant in a delightful conversation with an informed, witty friend who was fleshing out for me something I’d only noted vaguely before.

My only problem with Shapiro’s writing — and this reflects badly on me, not on him — is that I’m incredibly jealous that someone so young has such a mature, informed world view, and that he is able to convey it so well to others.  Despite having a few decades on him, I’m still a work-in-progress, but he’s a precociously sophisticated, intelligent voice.

I just purchased Shapiro’s latest book, Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.  The title, of course, is self-explanatory.  I suspect that it will be a perfect companion piece to Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.  Intellectual bullying and cheating are, after all, the yin and yang of Leftist discourse.

I have some other books I’ve been meaning to read, so I’d originally put Bullies in the middle of my reading list.  I’ve shuffled my list around, though, thanks to Shapiro’s masterful engagement with CNN’s resident bully, Piers Morgan.  Currently, the video is one of those autoplay videos, so I won’t include it here.  However, now that you’re warned about that autoplay, you can go here to see Shapiro reduce a bully to a quivering mass of incoherence.

Shapiro facing down Morgan

Shapiro’s ability to reduce Morgan so completely matters, not just because it’s gratifying to see a bully beaten at his own game, but also because it helps shift the discourse.  At Shapiro’s own Breitbart, Joel Pollak articulates Shapiro’s significant victory:

Ben Shapiro’s confident, fact-packed demolition of CNN’s Piers Morgan last night marks the turning point in the gun control debate. Ben showed that when they cannot exploit the deaths of children, gun control advocates are forced to defend their views, which are based on faulty premises. That timely reminder has given new energy and enthusiasm to defenders of the Second Amendment, who are preparing for the mother of all battles.

[snip]

Ben put into practice something that Andrew Breitbart preached throughout his career of battling the mainstream media: Question the premise, whether it’s an assertion that you don’t care about the victims of Sandy Hook, or a faulty definition of Critical Race Theory, or that Barack Obama is a nice guy who only wants America to succeed. Ben destroyed the faulty premise of the gun control debate last night. And the debate is now changed.

Question the premise.  What a great idea.  I took that tack in an earlier post I did today challenging the phrase “gun control,” which presupposes that guns should be controlled, and leaves the scope of that control as the only question.  The correct premise after Sandy Hook is to examine what steps we can take to make our country safer — and the data shows that depriving law-abiding citizens of their constitutional access to arms not only doesn’t make our country safer, it makes it more dangerous.  If you operate from the correct premise, you are able to use the correct information, and reach an accurate conclusion.

Right now, the only problem is that the Left fully understands that Shapiro is a lethal weapon aimed at the heart of shoddy Leftist thinking.  They’ve responded in predictable fashion, by burying Shapiro’s appearance on Morgan’s show.  They might have celebrated Alex Jones (“Can you believe how unstable this gun advocate is?”), but Shapiro has achieved Voldemortian status, by becoming he who shall not be named.  As Rush Limbaugh said just today during the few minutes I was able to catch his show, the media’s overriding ethos is that it’s only news if it harms Republicans.  No other news is fit to print.

The fact that Shapiro is not only willing to take on a bully, but also perfectly equipped to do so means that, rather than merely looking forward to reading his book, I’m positively lusting after it (in a purely intellectual way, of course).  I suspect that, if it’s as easily accessible as Primetime Propaganda, I’ll be able to read it quickly and review it soon.