Saturday morning round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI pulled up my usual morning reads and found some excellent stuff I’d like to share with you.  American Thinker gets four shout-outs this morning.  Really.  Its content today was that good.

***

Maybe I’m imagining it, but I do think James Lewis has put together a must-read summary about the state of modern Europe . . . and about Russia’s potential role as its savior.  I hear you ask “Saving Europe from what?”  The answer is depressingly easy:  Saving it from a complete Muslim takeover.  If Lewis is right, our children and grandchildren will live in a broken-down, vulnerable “Fortress America” that peers fearfully at a Eurasian continent controlled either by the Ummah or an imperial Russia.  Neither bodes well for America’s future.

***

Some Brits are trying to counter Europe’s fall by forming their own Tea Party (and yes, I’m alive to the historic irony). The problem these Brits will have is the same problem the American Tea Party has had since its formation. The Tea Party adherents are arguing in factual and ideological terms. Their opponents ignore these substantive arguments and, instead, paint them as Satan. No one wants to think of himself as being part of the party of Satan. Dale Carnegie had already figured this one out in his classic How To Win Friends and Influence People. The very first chapter of his book is given over entirely to the principle that people want to view themselves in the best light, and will lie about who they are and what they do in order to maintain what’s often a self-serving illusion.

Conservatives have to start arguing in ways that snatch this moral high ground away from the Left. A good way to learn about both offensive and defensive techniques for decimating Leftist emotion-based screeds is to read Ben Shapiro’s How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them. To get a free copy, just register for free at Truth Revolt (another site I’ve added to my morning reading list).  You’ll then be able to download Shapiro’s short, pithy book spelling out techniques for challenging Leftist dominance of the mental airspace. (And here’s another example of this emotional dominance: the Leftist take-over of the AP exams, which includes the usual savage, fact-free, emotion-based attacks against America’s founding and exceptionalism.)

***

Dean Kalahar tracks the decline and fall of the African-American family and, with it, the decline and fall of African Americans.  The last time I saw these statistics compiled so nicely was in John McWhorter’s Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America (which, interestingly, is not available on Kindle, although his other books are). Both Kalahar and McWhorter point to the same culprit: white guilt and the resulting welfare state, a toxic combination that removed black men’s centrality to family and financial well-being and, instead, made them extraneous.

***

While conservatives have been enjoying the Leland Yee story because it so perfectly illustrates the Left’s hypocrisy (Lee preached gun control in the California legislature while engaged in gun running for profit), the Left has been quiet. There are two different types of quiet going on: at the bottom level (the information consumers) the quiet arises because they don’t know about Leland Yee or, if they do, they only know that a politician of unknown party was indicted for unknown acts. This ignorance arises from the second type of quiet: Outside of California, the MSM refuses to talk about Yee’s arrest. It’s “three monkeys” coverage: when it comes to Democrats, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The Left will not cannibalize its own, ever.

***

Kevin Williamson suggests that conservatives might want to do a little less cannibalizing — that is, they might do less if they want to win:

Republicans now have the opportunity to effectively bring the Obama administration’s legislative program to an early end this November by eliminating the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, which would also give them a much stronger hand in keeping the worst of his appointees out of office, safely quarantined in whatever dank recesses of academia currently housing them. And while one should never underestimate the Republicans’ ability to blunder their way into missing a political opportunity or the fickleness of our bread-and-circuses electorate, there is a very good chance that that will happen. (Knock wood, salt over the shoulder — pick your own prophylactic.) But conservatives all too often seem to have failed to learn the lesson of the heavy losses we have suffered during the Obama years: The differences among us are minor compared with the differences between us and them, which are fundamental.

***

It turns out that there are problems with fracking, but they’re not the environmental menace problems that have the greenies’ heads spinning in replays of the Exorcist. Instead, the problems result directly from the greenie head spinning, which makes it impossible to optimize the bounty flowing from beneath American soil.

Reading this reminded me that we survived the Carter years because he lost his reelection bid, so that he was unable to consolidate his failures. I still question whether we will survive eight years of Obama.

***

I always like Andrew Klavan. I especially like him when he looks at the way in which the Left uses a war on language to wage a war on freedom.

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.)

 

The Middle Ages were brilliant

One of the standard paradigms of modern Western culture is that the Middle Ages were a dark, primitive time.  While that’s true for the era between Rome’s fall and about 1,000 A.D., after 1,000 A.D. Europe enjoyed an explosive, intellectually vibrant time.  (To understand the groundwork for this intellectual explosion, I highly recommend Thomas Cahill’s completely delightful How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, which tells how Irish monks, by preserving and spreading Christianity, set the West on its path to modernity.)

Interior Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Interior Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Recognizing that the Middle Ages were a splendid, dynamic isn’t just a matter of setting the historical record straight.  Every PC-educated school child will tell you that Islam is good because, during the Middle Ages, when the West was mired in filth and ignorance, the Islamic world was a paradise of tolerance, beauty and learning.  I’m not going to denigrate the medieval Islamic world.  Certain parts of the medieval Islamic world were indeed places were Jews and Christians, although second class citizens, were able to thrive intellectually and economically; the art and architecture were beautiful (one word:  Alhambra); and the culture was sophisticated and rich.  The medieval Muslim world should be accorded recognition for its achievements.

Alhambra, Spain

Alhambra, Spain

The problem is that PC education, to ensure Islam its proper place in the scheme of things, then dishonestly paints the Middle Ages as a primitive, ugly, antisemitic, misanthropic world.  This is true, but such a fragmented part of the truth that it distorts the whole.  The fact is that medieval Europe was different from, but just as bad as — and just as good as — medieval Islam.  Both were worlds of explosive intellectual growth, celebrations of God and nature, travel and conquest, artistic beauty, misogyny and antisemitism, religious bullying, and all the other stuff that makes medieval cultures fascinating and frustrating, enticing and off-putting.  The crucial difference is that the European Middle Ages were a springboard, whereas the Islamic Middle Ages were an apex.

With that as a brief and scrambled intro, you might enjoy this short video about the brilliant Middle Ages.

The Mayan Apocalypse and the end of the world . . . as we know it

Mayan Apocalypse

According to the much sneered at, and much feared, Mayan Apocalypse, tomorrow marks the end of the world.  I’m inclined to believe this is true.  I don’t, however, expect the earth to explode into a giant ball of cosmic dust or some plague rivaling the Black Death.  What I do see, however, is change on a massive scale, greater even than that which occurred when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The changes we’ll see began four years ago and will now accelerate.  They relate directly to Barack Obama and the three defining characteristics of his presidency:  fiscal irresponsibility, weak world leadership, and a realignment of American interests in Europe and the Middle East.

Going out of business

On the economic front, what we can expect in the future is continued American decline, with Americans expecting and accepting a constantly lower standard of living.  The Progressives have us on the road to regression:  little houses; little, unsafe cars; empty store fronts; increased homelessness; product shortages; and, of course, the social unrest the inevitably follows upon economic instability or decline.  In other words, the end of the American world as we know it.

Chinese military

Around the world, Russia, although declining in population and plagued internally by corruption and want, will do what it always does when things are bad:  attack.  It will continue to flex its muscles by making mischief.  It doesn’t care if it goes down, provided that America’s might precedes it.

China, for all its woes (unbalanced population growth, corruption, killer pollution, etc.) will continue its quest to be the world military power.  The world should fear this.  America used its dominant military power to spread individual freedom as much as possible; China’s power will be more imperialist in nature.

The EU, which was touted just a decade ago as the wave of the future, will collapse.  European states will begin feuding with each other over resources.  While that might feel like “same old, same old,” since Europeans have feuded for thousands of years, this go round will be different:  each state will have within it a Fifth Column that unites to bring all of Europe down and re-shape it into a new model.

And now, a brief, but important digression:

Karl Marx

One of the things Marx believed was that the great worker’s revolution he foresaw would transcend national borders.  Remember the slogan “Workers of the world, unite”?  Marx was certain that, within the industrialized nations, the workers would abandon national fealty and join with each other against their capitalist overlords.

Had Marx been correct, World War I would have been the worker’s moment.  Even as the great powers declared war against each other, the workers ought to have laid down their arms and embraced each other across the battle field.  This didn’t happen.  German, English, and French workers put nationalism ahead of everything.

The workers’ revolution Marx expected to sweep the industrial world happened instead in backwards, agrarian Russia.  Stalin then had to retrofit the supposedly “inevitable” industrial revolution by starving his independent peasant class to death, but that’s another story….

And now, back to the point of this post:

Muslim women London

While Marx was wrong about the 19th and early-20th century workers’ allegiance to their nation versus their allegiance, he was correct to envision a group that has loyalty to its unique identity separate from the nations in which its members reside.  This group, of course, is Muslims.

Over the past few decades, all of the European nations have invited tens of thousands of Muslims into their borders.  These Muslims have refused to integrate, living, instead, in segregated enclaves that have often become laws unto themselves.  Within these enclosed communities, the Imam’s preach jihad:  the violent overthrow of all world governments, followed by a Sharia world.

When the European pact disintegrates, the powers that be will discover that, even as Germany feuds with France over resources, the Muslims within both those nations form an allegiance that sees them turn against their host countries.  The result will be ugly and there won’t be a strong America to stop it.

Obama's bitch is Egyptian dictator

And then there are Barack Obama’s profound alignment shifts.  Both by inclination and calculation, Obama has decided that the old world order, the one that’s been in place pretty much since the end of WWII, isn’t correct.  America shouldn’t be palling around with Western nations, which he believes are responsible for Third World oppression.  Instead, Obama looks to the Muslim world as the wave of the future.  He cultivates increasingly Islamist Turkey; encourages the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt; is assiduously neutral towards Iran, to the point of cooperation with its nuclear aspirations; and has cold-shouldered and isolated westernized, democratic Israel.

This is a volte face of staggering proportions and implications.  America has now become a prop for the worst kind of dictatorships.  Moreover, these are the dictatorships that will fund the Muslim Fifth Column in Europe.  Now that Obama has more flexibility, he will accelerate this trend.

Obama’s desire to nominate Chuck Hagel as the Secretary of Defense, although that seems to have stalled for now, perfectly reflects Obama’s New World Order, one that sees a weak America mistreating Israel and cozying up to Muslim dictatorships.

All of which leads me to say that the Mayan Apocalypse is on our doorstep.  We just didn’t have the wit or foresight to imagine what it would look like.

End of the world

Sunday morning Open Thread — plus a mish mash of news and ideas

Nothing in this morning’s news, or in my own life for that matter, is moving me sufficiently to justify a full post on a single subject or idea.  I did find some interesting things online, though, that I’d like to share with you.  Also, I always appreciate it when you share interesting things right back at me.

***

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I must get myself a copy of Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.  George Will wrote about it today:

In recent years, a University of Oklahoma vice president has declared that no university resources, including e-mail, could be used for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary.” The College at Brockport in New York banned using the Internet to “annoy or otherwise inconvenience” anyone. Rhode Island College prohibited, among many other things, certain “attitudes.” Texas Southern University’s comprehensive proscriptions included “verbal harm” from damaging “assumptions” or “implications.” Texas A&M promised “freedom from indignity of any type.” Davidson banned “patronizing remarks.” Drexel University forbade “inappropriately directed laughter.” Western Michigan University banned “sexism,” including “the perception” of a person “not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” Banning “perceptions” must provide full employment for the burgeoning ranks of academic administrators.

Many campuses congratulate themselves on their broad-mindedness when they establish small “free-speech zones” where political advocacy can be scheduled. At one point Texas Tech’s 28,000 students had a “free-speech gazebo” that was 20 feet wide. And you thought the First Amendment made America a free-speech zone.

Young people, rather than being taught mental toughness, are having their brains turned into jello.  They are left like two-year olds who scream “No” loudly and repeatedly whenever anything challenges beliefs or desires.  What’s really frightening is that they have now become the intellectual equivalents of feral animals.  They cannot have their minds changed through reason, since they do not know reason.  They can have them changed only through brute force and bribery.

***

The Leftist mindset encourages racism against whites, because under Leftist rules, it’s impossible for whites to be the objects of discrimination (emphasis mine):

The San Francisco Housing Authority, which runs more than 6,000 units of public housing for the city’s poor, is headed by an executive director who discriminates against white employees in favor of African Americans and regularly employs offensive, outlandish language and behavior in the workplace, according to a lawsuit filed by the agency’s own lawyer.

The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court by the agency’s assistant general counsel, Tim Larsen, paints executive director Henry Alvarez as a mercurial bully – a description echoed in interviews with The Chronicle by several others who have had close contact with Alvarez since his arrival at the Housing Authority in 2008.

[snip]

Larsen, who is white, has worked at the Housing Authority for eight years and says that he was repeatedly passed over for promotions and plum assignments in favor of African American employees.

Alvarez is African American, and according to Larsen’s lawsuit, screamed at Larsen daily; gave him menial jobs such as organizing recycling; and told him to “stop being so Anglo,” that he “did not have enough kink in his hair,” and that “if you had more melatonin in your skin, I could make you my deputy.”

[snip]

Amos Brown, president of the Housing Authority Commission, staunchly defended Alvarez, saying Larsen’s lawsuit “is not about Henry.”

“You have someone who’s white, someone with specious, fallacious allegations, filing a suit that he was discriminated against,” said Brown, who is African American. “It’s a joke. How can he be discriminated against?”

***

Racist!!!  (I mean, it is racist if you criticize a black person, isn’t it?)

***

Europe is allowing itself to live with and be controlled by another Big Lie.  This lie is that it’s Israel’s own fault that they hate her so:

For Israel’s European critics, “Greater Israel” is no longer all of the West Bank, which even Netanyahu has conceded may be ceded for a real peace deal, nor even retention of an undivided Jerusalem. They are now acting as if any Israeli government that acts as if it is going to hold onto all of the Jewish areas of Jerusalem is a foe of peace. In doing so, they are not only distorting Israel’s position — which is still perfectly compatible with a two-state solution based on the ’67 lines with swaps — but also covering up or ignoring the fact that the Palestinians have refused Israeli offers of a state and now no longer even wish to negotiate.

Only by ignoring history can Europe pretend that it’s position is just. The Palestinians also specialize in Orwellian historical rewrites.

And these are the people Obama so desperately wants us to emulate?

No one is better at self-delusion than a Leftist.  I watched the first few minutes of Anthony Bourdain’s Layover, this one about what one can do with 24 hours in Paris.  The videos on the Travel Channel website consist of short clips from the show, focusing on the substance of what he says, which is interesting.  What the clips don’t include is the introduction Bourdain gave for the full half hour show:  In it, he lauded Paris’s free medical care, long vacations, short work weeks, and focus on the good life of eating and recreation, all of which he attributed to France’s socialism.  How elite.  How sweet.  How sadly out of date.  Piercing this gauzy veil of cliches means acknowledging that France’s economy is a disaster.  Its free medical care, long vacations, short work weeks, and good life are unsustainable.  Only by clinging to the delusion, rather than the reality, can Leftists continue to justify pushing socialism on the United States.  (And in this vein, please check out this tongue-in-cheek letter to Forbes.)

***

On a topic that is related only because it involves Israel, the IDF website has a fascinating story about the way in which it analyzes mistakes so as to avoid them in future.  It’s so tempting, when things go wrong, to look away from them, or to find a scapegoat, in order to avoid dealing with the unpleasant possibility that you erred.  However, unless you confront that possibility, you cannot avoid precisely the same error in the future.  In the wake of the election, Republicans need to focus on identifying and correcting errors, rather than spending their time whining and scapegoating people (i.e., saying “Romney was a boring technocrat who ran a lousy campaign,” rather than saying “Romney’s campaign should have done this differently.  Now we know better.”).

***

Taking a page out of Glenn Reynold’s book, it probably behooves me to remind you that I’m an Amazon Associate.  This means that, when you access Amazon through a link on my page, even if you don’t buy the linked item, I get a penny (or fraction thereof) on every dollar of goods you purchase.  I don’t know what you purchase or even who makes those purchases.  I just know that the more people who reach Amazon through my portal, the more pennies I get.  If you’re thinking of doing a little Christmas shopping online, I would appreciate it if you’d use this Amazon home page link or if you’d link through the Amazon ad in the sidebar (listing books and other items I recommend).

Found it on Facebook: Liberals claim Americans should vote for Obama because “the world” wants him

In the endless parade of images that my liberal friends feel compelled to put on Facebook, this was my favorite for the day:

I honestly cannot understand a mindset that says the world popularity is the metric Americans should use for electing their president.  Certainly a president who is conversant with world affairs and who has diplomatic skills is a good thing.  However, it doesn’t seem to occur to Progressives and others of their ilk that the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily have America’s best interests at heart.  Indeed, considering that the rest of the world has long resented America for her success, the fact that “the world” wants Obama might be a good indicator that Obama is a poison pill for America’s future.

When I look at the rest of the world — broke, racist, antisemitic, and socialist Europe; increasingly totalitarian (and antisemitic) Russia; frequently poverty-stricken Latin America; mostly devastated (and antisemitic) Africa; and ferociously medieval, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic Muslim Middle East — my first thought isn’t “Gee, I should follow their lead when selecting my nation’s executive officer.”  Instead, I tend to think that these other parts of the world have shown singularly bad judgment in selecting their leaders.

As Groucho so memorably said, whatever they’re for, I’m against it.

Greece will be Greece; or why the Germans shouldn’t bother bailing out the Greeks

Yesterday, I wrote that, given the Arab propensity for warfare, it doesn’t seem as if peace in the Middle East is likely any time soon.  Today, I looked over a post I wrote last summer while in Greece, and concluded that Germany would be foolish to throw good German money after bad.  Greece will be Greece:

Throughout our visit to Greece, there was a nationwide taxi strike taking place.  The air in Athens was unusually clear, thanks to the decreased traffic.  Transportation was slightly more difficult than it would have been with taxis, but certainly not impossible.  Everyone on the cruise ship seemed to manage fine using Hop On Hop Off buses (in Athens), private buses, private tours, cruise tours, and public transportation.  In other words, the missing taxis were inconvenient, but not an insurmountable problem.

As best I was able to understand, the taxi drivers were protesting the fact that the Greek government, in an effort to expand employment opportunities, was making taxi licenses more readily available.  In order to show their disdain for this maneuver, the taxi drivers stopped working during peak tourist season.  Let me rephrase that:  During a total economic collapse in their country, the taxi drivers walked away from the money.

[snip]

I know that, despite acting foolish, neither the Italians nor the Greeks are actually fools.  Instead, they are citizens of welfare states.  They know that, no matter how much or how little they work, they’ll still have medical care, housing, food, education, free museum admissions, retirement care, etc.  The money earned for work is gilding-the-lily money.  It’s nice, but one can survive without it.  In theory, this freedom from want (want of health care, want of shelter, want of food, etc.) is a wonderful thing.  In fact, though, it is a disincentive to productivity which, inevitably, creates less productivity.  The downward spiral keeps on going.  Less productivity means less government revenue.  Less government revenue means the government has less ability to provide the health care, housing, food, education, free museum admissions and so on.  Suddenly, you end up like Greece or England:  no money, no benefits, and a citizenry that’s forgotten how to work.

Yes, I recognize that these are overarching generalizations, and that causation and correlation are not the same thing.  Nevertheless, it does seem to me that there’s a pattern here of walking away from economic opportunities because there’s no risk.  Oh, wait!  That’s wrong.  The risk is that the economic opportunities won’t come back.

More on the European fairy tale, both at home and abroad

Yesterday, I wrote about European fairy tales versus American fairy tales.  Of the former, I said:

That’s the theme in the majority of fairy tales that originated in the old world:  be good, be passive, and some deus ex machina figure, usually magical, will come and rescue you.  Passivity is the name of the game.  In one fairy tale after another, the lead character, usually the youngest child of at least three siblings, prevails by virtue of being nice.

My own words popped into my head when I read David Pryce-Jones’ description of the way in which European leaders are coping with the EU’s economic collapse:

The level of unreality created by the masters of Europe is reaching new heights. It is like hallucinating to observe the politicians driving in expensive cars to meet one another, inspecting guards of honor, arranging for ministerial get-togethers, and all the while the construct that put them into office is collapsing all around them. These same politicians chatter extensively about saving the euro and the European Union, about bailouts and firewalls and fiscal pacts, as though words were deeds. No satirist could do justice to the sight of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly elected French President François Hollande shaking hands and vowing to work together to save the union and its currency. Insofar as this pair has any coherent ideas, they disagree. All they have in common is the precariousness of their position. Just trounced in local elections, Mrs. Merkel and her party are well on the way to joining the gathering crowd of electoral rejects. As for Hollande, he believes that growth comes from higher taxes and hundreds of thousands more state jobs, and all in arch-protectionist France. It can’t be long before such socialist illusion comes back to haunt that country.

Off they go, those little European fairy tale characters, being “nice” (leading parades, making speeches), all the while clearly hoping that some deus ex machina will come along and save them.  America actually did save them twice (three times if you count the Cold War as WWIII), but America now has a president who is also in thrall to the European fairy tale world view.  He’s waiting too.

Mitt Romney isn’t Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, or even Weems’ George Washington, but I think he has a much better grasp of the American fairy tale (stand tall and fight your own battles) than do the actual Europeans abroad or the faux European in the White House.

The savagery of Europe *UPDATED*

Americans, especially Leftist Americans, will invariably assure you that Europeans are more civilized than Americans are.  When pressed for details, they’ll cite art, music, architecture, skinny French women, and gun control.  By those standards, I have to agree that the Europeans are indeed more civilized.  I’ll go even further:  when it comes to art, music, and architecture, Europeans, from the Greeks forward, are the most civilized beings who have ever walked the earth.

However, if you have a slightly richer definition of what constitutes “civilization,” I’m sorry to say that the Europeans are just as savage as anyone else — and maybe more so because, when they burst their “civilized” banks, they tend to do so with a peculiar vengeance.  Just off the top of my head, the Europeans have blessed history books with a series of wars that left death and destruction in their wake on a scale unimaginable on our comparatively peaceful American continent:

  • The Hundred Years War
  • St. Bartholemew’s Day Massacre
  • The Thirty Years War
  • The Napoleonic War
  • The Slave Trade
  • The Colonial Occupations of Africa and Latin America
  • World War I
  • World War II

Our own Civil War, while undeniably bloody, was amateur hour compared to the games the Europeans have played.

Even when the Europeans aren’t at war, it turns out that their blood lust still needs to be slaked.  Bruce Kesler directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, that doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII, but also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII.  Bruce explains why this book is a “must read” — and it has certainly moved up to the top of my reading list.

Another book that reminds us that little but a gloss of art separates Europeans from their savage Darwinian roots is Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.  The carnage in the World War II’s aftermath is actually unsurprising:  millions of people uprooted, brutalized by six years of war, and scrabbling for incredibly scarce resources.  I doubt any culture would respond well to those circumstances — and the Europeans certainly didn’t.  The Russian soldiers, especially, didn’t.  Although the Russian attack on German civilians doesn’t have a memorable name, a la the dreadful “Rape of Nanking,” it was certainly comparable in terms of ferocity and misogyny.  You can learn more about Savage Continent here.

UPDATE:  Two things:  First, Danny Lemieux’s comment is correct, insofar as it reminds that I forget to include socialized medicine in my list of things that Leftists find civilized about Europe.  He’s also correct that it worked only because America essentially paid for it during the Cold War.  Second, Eugene Podrazik, who blogs at Elkhorn Creek Lodge, saw The Hunger Games and, as I read his post, found it remarkably reminiscent of what Europe will be in a decade or so and what we will be in a few decades, if we follow Europe.

A) Government promiseth, B) Government taketh away!

This article that just appeared in Bloomberg.com, regarding Stockton-writ-California-writ-USA-writ-large’s pending bankruptcy, is just so absolutely jaw-dropping crazy…uh, no, wait….it isn’t really so crazy after all. Never mind.

If Stockton Is Broke, Why Isn’t San Diego?: Steven Greenhut

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-02/if-stockton-is-broke-then-why-isn-t-san-diego-steven-greenhut.html

Here’s the money take-away: referencing the fact that, for the past 20 years, city employees could earn full lifetime health benefits (employee and spouse) after working only one month, Stockton City Manager Bob Deis noted…

“There was no money set aside to fund those commitments.”

And that’s the rub with our national, state and local governments, isn’t it? They can promise anything to get peoples’ votes, but there is no obligation to deliver. All they can do is make empty promises. And so, like moths to a flame, do we the people incinerate our futures and our freedoms on the soaring promises of hopey-change utopians. We once-proud, free, self reliant Americans have shown ourselves to be all too willing to give up our freedoms in exchange for promised government benefits…i.e., retirement pensions, health care, security, education…with not even a guarantee that the government will or can deliver.

You see, the government can never guarantee such promises, because (as our European cousins have so amply demonstrated) these are promises that government never could deliver. Government can’t deliver because a) government itself cannot create those benefits and b) because, inevitably, in the end, there is never enough money to pay for other people to provide those benefits.

The only thing the government can guarantee is that a) once surrendered, you won’t get your freedom, retirement, health care, security, or money back and b) the only way that it can even pretend to deliver on its promises is by taking away even more of your freedoms and money. Flame – moth – destruction.

 

Voters are left helpless and bereft when the political experts form a circular firing squad

I’m planning a trip this summer to Japan, a country about which I know nothing.  Actually that’s an overstatement.  I know some things:  it’s beautiful, historic, and clean (I love that part), and comes complete with great food and well-mannered people.  But that’s all I know.

Toji Pagoda

I don’t have this tabula rasa problem when I go to Europe.  Whether England, Germany, France, Belgium, or Italy, I have in my head enough information about the country to  be a little picky. It helps, too, that Rick Steves has published a series of European travel guides.  He’s not shy about being opinionated.  Indeed, that’s why people turn to him.  They have faith that they can trust his judgment so that, if he says a city is good and requires at least three days time, they can immediately book a hotel (one he recommends, of course) for two nights.  Likewise, if he says “don’t bother with such and such,” his readers know that Rick saved them time and money on a short, expensive trip.

Schloss Neuschwanstein

So far, I haven’t found a Rick Steves for Japan.  All the travel books make everything sound wonderful, without any rankings or priorities.  And I’m sure that, if I had unlimited time and money, I would enjoy traveling to every town, shrine and museum Japan offers.  But that’s not the reality of vacation travel, and I’m currently overwhelmed by the choices. Yikes!

My Japan conundrum isn’t unique.  In a world awash in information, there is no way one person can master all the data necessary to make important life decisions.  Inevitably, in various areas such as education, travel, politics, finances, etc., we select experts whom we trust and assume that, when they state an ultimate conclusion about their subject, we can rely on that conclusion.  This works both ways, of course.  Since I’ve long thought AlBore to be a rather foolish man with enough feral instincts to be a successful snake oil salesman, I have never believed in global warming.  Likewise, a friend of mine refuses to accept the rising tide of evidence against global warming, because it’s been published in “Republican” and “conservative” outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail.  The fact that AlBore’s theories are based on computer models while the evidence against global warming is based upon actual data disturbs him not a whit.  He’s found his reliable sources, and he’s sticking with them.

Right now, my reliance upon political experts is creating a dilemma for me, because my “experts” are turning on each other.  Before the primaries, they were all united in their profound dislike for Barack Obama.  Now, though, the circular firing squad isn’t limited just to the Republican candidates themselves.  The shoot-outs are taking place at every major conservative website, not to mention many of my favorite blogs.  Just check out PJ Media’s front page at any given minute to see astute political commentators, all of whom I respect, battering away at each other and the candidates.

To some commentators, Mitt is a RINO’s RINO, who flops, then flips, while Newt is the fiery voice of conservative truth who can reclaim America.  To others, Newt is an unprincipled loose cannon, while Mitt is a steady, conservative politician whose problem-solving skills make him the only one who can defeat Obama.  Still others see both Mitt and Newt as RINOs (one of whom has a backbone of noodle, while the other has the ethics of an alley cat), while Rick Santorum is the only true conservative in the house — never mind the fact, say entirely different pundits, that Rick’s conservative stances on social issues assure that he’ll lose to Obama.

I find all of the above viewpoints both interesting and credible.  Newt is an exciting speaker who articulates core truths about America, the economy, and national security that too many Americans, intimated by the PC police, have been stifling for years.  His fund of knowledge is impressive and enjoyable.  And of course, he’s the man whose insider skills in the 1990s forced the entire political system slightly to the right.  On the other side of the scale, he’s a man who has cheated on at least two wives (and I really don’t want to find out if he’s been cheating on a third), he’s known to be a terrible manager, his relationship to truth can be distant at best, he’s erratic, he too often sees Big Government as the vehicle for his own eclectic brilliance, and so on and so forth.

(Image by Gage Skidmore)

Then there’s Mitt.  We all know and appreciate the Good Mitt.  This is the Mitt who understands the market; the Mitt who has impressive organizational abilities; the Mitt who has proven to be an adept, albeit unexciting candidate; the Mitt who makes the Republican establishment feel loved; and the Mitt who, we are told, can entice the independents whom Newt frightens.  But all is not wonderful in Mitt land.  There’s also the Less Good Mitt, the unrepentant architect of RomneyCare; the man who, when he isn’t flipping, is flopping; the man whose Mormonism worries those who believe he is committing a profound doctrinal error that reflects on his judgment and intelligence; and, which might be the worst thing of all in a hyper-media age, the man who has the charm and warmth of a first generation android.

(Image by Gage Skidmore)

And what about Rick?  My God, the man is a Boy Scout, and I mean that in a good way.  He’s honest, loyal, decent, moral, and truly conservative.  He’s definitely what we conservatives want.  Except for that little problem he has of fading into the woodwork, not to mention the fact that, with the nation trending further and further left on social issues, there’s the strong likelihood, say many, that he’ll be the poison pill candidate for independent voters.

(Image by Gage Skidmore)

Darn those independent voters!  They’re the real problem, because all three conservative candidate (and, yes, I am ignoring Ron Paul entirely) could easily win against Obama if we could automatically co-opt independents into conservativism.  We can’t, though, which paralyzes the Republican primary.  While the independents seem to dislike Obama with ever greater intensity, the mainstream media has trained them, like tens of thousands of Pavlovian dogs, to be very hostile to certain stand-out traits in the last three Republicans standing:  Newt is the evil architect of the Contract with America; Mitt is the evil Mormon; and Rick is the evil Christian who will imprison all your gay friends and relatives.  Evil!  Evil!  Evil!

The worst thing of all, though, considering all the alleged evil the MSM keeps highlighting, is the fact that America’s premier conservative commentators aren’t doing anything to help.  Rather than building up their candidate of choice, they too are just as busy as the MSM, and the candidates themselves, in the savagery of their attacks against the candidates they don’t like.

It’s worth remembering that Newt rose to prominence during the debates because, in the beginning, he kept a laser-like focus on Obama.  He pointed out Obama’s myriad, manifest flaws and failings, and articulated ideas that promised to help America recover from her experiment with a true Leftist in the White House.  His numbers rose.  When Romney went negative, though, so did Newt — and so did everyone else.  In the last couple of months, the flesh-ripping on the debate stage is sickening, and the political commentators, rather than stepping in to help focus the voters on their chosen candidate’s attributes, are standing at the base of the stage drinking up the flowing blood.

THIS IS NOT HELPFUL.  If you’re going to have an opinion, advance useful information that helps affirmative decision-making and that helps staunch the sanguinary stream we’re currently giving as a gift to the MSM.  Yes, it’s good for the candidates to get groomed to fight the dirty fight, because it’s going to be very dirty indeed when they stand on a stage opposite Barack Obama.  I think, though, that we can comfortably conclude that the current batch has the grit to take the hits.  It’s time now to give the voters the help they need to choose the best candidate, rather than just to avoid the worst.

The Coming “Soft Dark Ages” — by guest blogger Charles Martel

This is an exercise in pure speculation. I invite all here to bring their own notions to the table.

An old friend of mine visited me last Saturday to catch up on things. We walked my dog and began a long conversation that ended later in my backyard over coffee and tea.

Bob is fascinated by history, and has been a long-time contributor to print and online history publications. So our conversations often veer off into that realm. Because we have developed a years-long habit of riffing on whatever thoughts come to our heads, we never know where one of our history threads will go.

We were discussing the dark ages, which not only were characterized by the disintegration of the Roman political order, but also the loss of an immense store of practical technological knowledge: agricultural practices and implements; construction techniques—it would take until the 19th century for Europeans to match the Romans’ road-building prowess—war machines; distribution and warehousing; science; art (which in Roman times was the realm of artisans, not self-absorbed “transgressive” pricks).  

I said that I think we are headed for a “soft dark ages.” That took him aback. “How are we headed there,” he asked, “and how would they be ‘soft’?”

I answered his last question first. They would be “soft” because unlike what happened in Roman times, we have the ability to store gigantic amounts of information in small spaces. One person can carry around encyclopedic knowledge on a flash drive. Multiply him by the millions, and you have a vast repository of recoverable knowledge that is private, widely dispersed, and replicated many times over. No matter how determined or persistent this era’s barbarians—Marxists, Muslims, Democrats, unionists, academicians—they simply would not be able to track down and destroy all modern technological knowledge.

But beyond furtive individual efforts at hiding and protecting the knowledge we would need to create a New America or a New West, there would be vaster, more organized, more collective efforts to protect knowledge until better days. I suggested to Bob three institutions or concepts that would become the next dark ages’ hallmarks: The new castle fortress; the new monastic life; and the new Europe.

1.  The Return of the Castle Fortresses

If the United States, Europe and China disintegrate, as seems likely, there will be a scramble for political power among the remnant provinces, states, and regions. Most power will be wielded by Marxist thugs and old-fashioned warlords, so it would not be surprising to see China devolve to its pre-Qin Dynasty pattern of warring neighbor states, or America’s big cities—Chicago, Detroit, Washington—and its Mexicanized rural regions, become brutal satrapies run by the people like Jesse Jackson, Bill Ayers, La Raza, ethnic mafias, and the like.

Europe could begin a too-late, doomed-to-fail ethnic cleansing of its Muslim underclass, but would probably slip either into fascism or dhimmitude. Poland, the bravest of the European nations, might be able to escape either fate, although that would be doubtful given its lack of firepower and its closeness to the greatest of all the European barbarian states, Russia.

But the barbarians would not win everywhere. Just as Old Europe in the dark ages had its bright centers of learning, protected by force of arms, there would be parts of the world that would not succumb to the new barbarity. They would become mankind’s new castles, fortresses of resistance where decency and unpoliticized science might still flourish.

These new fortresses will not have thick walls and deep moats, although their means of protection metaphorically will be the same. Their moats will be the ability of their computer geniuses to resist and thwart attacks upon their databases, and their walls will be heavily and well armed soldiers and citizens who will unhesitatingly destroy any physical threat to their sanctuaries.

Where will the new fortresses be? Either in lands that can protect themselves or are far enough away from the barbarians that they will be difficult to invade and hold. In the former case, Texas and Utah come to mind, states whose populations are already armed and whose economic infrastructures already lay upon solid technological foundations. More remote places, like New Zealand, Alberta, Baja California, could set up defendable dark age redoubts if they were properly armed, including with nuclear weapons.

There would be secret places, too. Large nations and corporations have set aside fortified places where they can stash tools, seeds, patents, rare materials, genealogies, and other irreplaceable items. Assuming that some of them will not be expropriated  by the new barbarians, these vital repositories of knowledge could be available for a later renaissance.    

2. The New Monastic Life

If the fortresses hold, they will become the new monasteries. Instead of patiently copying barely understood manuscripts from a fallen civilization, the new monastics will preserve the old science that they already well understand and attempt to build on it.

The ends they pursue will be the advancement of medicine (especially countermeasures to the barbarians’ chemical and biological weapons); the protection of personal data against spying or theft; the subversion of the barbarians’ computer and weapons systems (think Stuxnet); and the preservation of seminal texts that will one day replace the adulterated, denatured literature of the new emperors.

In contrast, the science of the barbarians will, because of barbarians’ nature, focus on predictable ends: refining the capacity to deliver death, whether it be through abortion, euthanasia, or mass murder against political opponents; improving methods of surveillance and the control of communications, “education,” and literature; honing tools designed to hunt down wealth or knowledge and expropriate it; and finding ways to increase the lifespans and sexual abilities of the rulers.

3. The New Europe

In the old dark ages, Europe itself was the physical locus of quiet scholarship and the preservation of old knowledge that later flowered into the Renaissance. In the “soft dark ages,” ones cushioned by the existence of fierce armed “monks” in well-defended freeholds, the New Europe will be a state of mind. In some ways, it will be how the Catholic Church sees itself: No matter where you go or what language you speak, there are the universal constants of the Mass and the Magisterium.

Similarly, wherever our new defenders of knowledge and decency find themselves — Patagonia, the Outback, the remote Rocky Mountains, the bowels of Obama-ite Chicago — they will share a common love of truth and real science. They will know how to detect falsehood and be indifferent to the barbarians’ enticements. Whatever secret handshake they develop, it will be something that the barbarians might know exists, but will, like their Vandal and Mongol forerunners, never understand.

How long will it take for the soft dark ages to run their course? Who could tell? My concern is that there remain a core of people who will resist the thugocracy, bloodlessly and not, until the thugs’ own fatal contradictions do them in. The United States defeated the Soviet Union because the USSR not only lived a lie, but because it had long before killed off its best and smartest people.

That pattern will repeat itself among our Marxist, Muslim, and academic brethren. But while they will be doomed to repeat a history of failure and debasement, our destiny will call for us to recreate the wonderful things that men once called “the West” and “America.”  

What does Europe’s coming collapse mean when it comes to the Muslim immigrants?

For years at this blog (and others) when we’ve written about Europe’s problems, we’ve focused primarily, not on the economy, but on those Muslim immigrants.  One of the things that we talked about a lot was the fact that these same Muslim immigrants subsisted largely on public benefits.

This little tidbit emerged with force during the riots in France, when we first learned that the banlieues that housed the rioters were welfare cities.  The European paradigm was for Muslims to show up, from Pakistan, from Turkey, from North Africa, and to be showered with the European’s post-colonial guilt payments.

So I have a question for you:  What’s going to happen with all those Muslim immigrants now that Europe is broke?  Riots?  Civil War?  Quiet retreats back to their home countries?

Democratic Exhaustion

Is our democracy germinating the seeds of its own destruction?

Alexis de Toqueville warned, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” That day has come. It is not yet gone.

Democracy  in ancient Athens lasted about 250 years. We in the United States are at about that same point in our history today. In Europe, alas, democracy came but as a short, brief whimper in time. Now, post-Lisbon, it is gone…at a national scale and, very soon, at the local level, too.  EUro democracy – so ancien regime! In EUrope, the new aristocracy is already taking form, with power centered in Brussels and Strasbourg. In America, our own Washington, DC-centered aristocrat wannabees remain diffuse and riven by competing factions, but they are there and waiting.

What went wrong? I propose that the primary seed of our destruction lies in our own human nature. It is the “tragedy of the commons” writ large. The tragedy of the commons, formulated by ecologist Garrett Hardin in the 1960s, describes the dynamic whereby individuals and other animals, when confronted with limited resources, have a self-interest in expropriating the maximum amount of those resource for themselves while they can, thereby hastening the resource’s destruction. The tragedy of the commons is neatly summarized by Illinois’ de facto state motto, “where’s mine?” (with a respectful hat tip to Chicago Tribune editorialist John Kass).

I suspect that, deep down, many serious people in America’s contending factions (Left, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian) believe that we are now in the end game and that we are thus witnessing a mad, vicious scramble by traditional Democrat constituencies (e.g., public sector unions) to secure to themselves as much wealth and political power as possible before the inevitable financial collapse. The primal screams and vile demagoguery harmonized by the howling mobs of Wisconsin, Greece, France and Britain (or from our Commander in Chief, for that matter) are but the beginning of this process. Change can be ugly when people lose hope!

“Where’s mine?”

It still remains incredible for me to contemplate how we in the West, endowed with the richest standards of living every conceived in human history, still could not find satisfaction from living within our means. The wails and tribulations of the Left notwithstanding, all groups in America are living far better material standards of living than they did 25, 50 or 100 years ago or than the vast majority of our world enjoys today. How could we not find it within ourselves to be grateful for and respectful of what our forebears built and accumulated as their legacy for us. Indeed, our unparalleled wealth and quality of life appears only to have fueled resentment of “the other” in tandem with an exponential growth in our appetites and expectations. Thus have we now come to the point of destroying ourselves and our inheritors through impossible debt obligations, gained in our quest for ever more lucre and comfort gained on other peoples’ dimes.

“Where’s mine?”

So today, confronted with hard choices on whether to cut back on our expectations and regenerate the wealth that we have lost on one hand (the Paul Ryan plan) and a mad scramble to secure our own selfish claims upon the commons before its dissolution, our country confronts the fork in the road that, as Yogi Berra put it, must be taken.

Why do I suspect that earlier in our democracy, when government was not expected to fulfill everyone’s economic and social needs, a national belt-tightening to confront an existential crisis would hardly have been considered controversial. A split electorate today, unfortunately, does not bode well for constructive solutions. From my limited perspective, I suspect that 25% of our population seems committed to the conviction that the government’s largesse can continue forever and another 25% (public employee unions, Liberals, Democrat politicians) cynically manipulates events to amass all it can before the inevitable collapse.

“Where’s mine?”

I propose, however, that these manipulators on the Left and their followers are fundamentally mistaken in the following ways:

One is to believe that whatever political and financial power they accumulate in these days will translate into power and wealth in the future. I don’t think so. You can’t, for example, pay pensions on the back of a collapsed market economy. You can’t fund ObamaCare promises through foreign largesse. Princely union boss salaries will be worthless when union members inevitably catch on to their betrayal and they, too, ultimately depend upon a healthy private sector economy.

Two, we can never really predict the future.  Revolutions lead to unpredictable ends and often end-up eating their own. Anarchists and Democrats can try to collapse the system, perhaps, but nobody can know what will replace it.

Three, the real threat to our society today is not our debt but the destruction of our debt capacity. Debt capacity refers to our ability to absorb more debt in response to crises: for me, for example, debt capacity is represented by my home equity line of credit, to be drawn upon in emergencies. We can be guaranteed that our Western civilization will face serious crises that will threaten our very existence. With our home equity line exhausted, from whence will we find the capital resources to fund our survival? How will we build back from the rubble?

When FDR embarked on his wildly irresponsible debt-financed financial adventures, our country’s ability to absorb debt was still great by the time WWII arrived. We survived and, as a result, thrived. I am not so certain that we could do so today. Not to veer too far off path, but does anyone else get the sense that the ineffectual flounderings of the U.S. and our NATO allies in Libya, a misbegotten economic and military backwater of 6.5 million people, hardly reflect the actions of robust democracies?

I sense that our Western democracies have reached a point of exhaustion. Perhaps this reflects the natural lifespan of democracies. I hope not. The Ryan blueprint presents our 50:50 nation with an existential fork in the road. We shall soon discover the true strength of our national fiber. Will we tighten our belts, retrench and expand the national and global commons as we have in the past…or will we intensify our mad struggles to secure dwindling remnants thereof to ourselves? If the latter, then our democratic experiment will truly be at an end. And that would be a tragedy.

I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

- John Adams

EUro Dis-union

One of my all-time favorite economic historians is Harvard’s Niall Ferguson, who does a very good job dissecting the transatlantic political and economic cultures with characteristic British clarity in erudition.

He’s not perfect, however: witness his bad judgment in affixing his name to a worn-out political rag like Newsweek. But, I digress…

In this nonetheless excellent article, he concisely chronicles the descent and impending collapse of the EUro-zone banking system and its political repercussions.  Some might take solace in the fact that EUro-banking and welfare systems will collapse ahead of our own, but I don’t. Our economic well-being is very much entwined with Europe’s. One notable benefit that Ferguson does confer upon us is to clearly differentiate between Europe’s impending banking system collapse and our own fiscal and economic crises: these are two very independent phenomena, albeit derived from the same disease (i.e., living way beyond our means). What cannot be denied, however, is that Western civilization is about to confront a very massive economic upheaval that will have dramatic social and political consequences.

Read it for yourselves and let’s discuss.

 

Youth unemployment – where does it lead?

As we settle into the Obama Depression era, one thing that I and others have noticed is that many of the very youth that voted enthusiastically for Obama are the ones already feeling the consequence of his policies: they are unemployed. As one of my college-age kids put it, “our generation is so over Obama, today!”.

High youth unemployment is an inevitable consequence of socialism. In modern Europe, it has always been high. Here is an example of its pervasiveness in the U.K., for example:

http://anglo-americandebate.blogspot.com/2011/01/left-wing-policies-have-destroyed.html

In Europe, the problem has been exacerbated by extensive “social safety nets” that guarantee a pretty good lifestyle for the unemployed. Why work, when you can live comfortably on public assistance combined with the black market economy (dealing drugs, for example)? There are large swaths of the European population that, like people in our inner city projects, have no idea how to work. A young man in France with a finance degree recently reported to me that he was “happily unemployed”. Thanks to his government, he leads a comfortable existence. However, that, too, shall come to an end, for Europe faces the same economic collapse as the U.S.

I really do feel sorry for university students graduating today: for many, if not most, their degrees will be obsolete by the time the economy recovers (which could be a very long time). What employer would hire a student with, say, a business, philosophy, English, or whatever degree that has lain fallow for two, four or more years when they can hire a freshly minted graduate instead? These students’ parents, meanwhile, will often have drained hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement funds to fund such now worthless educations. I know of parents that have destroyed their retirement options in order to put their kids through university.

So, what happens when you have armies of unemployed young people with obsolete skills? I know that this has happened before, such as in the Great Depression. However, when economic recovery did come in the mid-to-late ’40s, workers with no education and technical skills could still find plenty of hands-on work opportunities. I don’t know that this holds true anymore in a modern economy. There’s only so many openings for baristas.
Any ideas?

Can Europe Save Itself? What I Saw in Flanders.

Forgive my long opening discourse. I need to set the stage.

Most Americans don’t know much about Belgium and Flanders. It’s a shame.

For a quick summary, Flanders is the region that stretches from Belgium’s northern border with the Netherlands, west to the  English Channel and into northern France (including Dunkirk). It is home to two of Europe’s most spectacular medieval cities, Bruges (aptly nicknamed the “Venice of the North” for its myriad canals, bridges and medieval architecture) and Ghent, another canal-laced jewel of city anchored by a 1,000 year-old castle. To walk into any church or town hall is to walk into an art museum. Belgian beer, fresh from the tap, is in a category of its own  (I forget, were there 440 or 660 different beers on the wall? It’s all so hazy to me), the food is great and my brother-in-law and I spent too much time navigating our spouses through vaste archipelagos of heady chocolate and nougat shops this summer (had it been Antwep, it would have been diamonds, so let me count my blessings). It’s a great place.

I lived in Belgium during a good part of my youth and speak both French and a “passable” conversational Flemish (dialect of Dutch), which eases discourse with the locals. French is the language of Belgium’s southern (Wallonia) region and Brussels, while Flemish is the language of Flanders. The two peoples are like oil and water: due to a long, complicated and unfortunate history mired in injustices, the two groups dislike each other intensely and refuse to speak each others’ languages. (something that those that promote balkanization and bilingualism in America should try to understand). Memories are long: a rallying cry of Flemish independence is a successful battle waged against the French Bourbon (no, not the drink) governor in 1302 AD, a battle memorialized in the charming provincial town of Kortrijk. Yes, it is unfortunate that Europeans remain so imprisoned by history, which is something else that our own Democrats should keep in mind as they rub salt into historic wounds to divide and conquer for cheap political gain.

To try to define a Belgian national character is to frolic in oxymorons: grumpy and friendly; rumpled and dignified; regulation-obsessed scofflaws; cheerfully pessimistic and gloomily optimistic.  They can be both unassuming and single-minded. My wife, though, has one word for them: “solid”. Good word. “Tell a Belgian he has to go in one direction and it will guarantee that he go in the opposite way,” a Belgian family friend told me. As a confirmed Midwesterner and libertarian conservative, I can relate to that.

I like Belgium and the Belgians, but sadly, far too many Belgians don’t. They have been beaten down for years into well-honed self-loathing. I can’t tell you how many times I have relayed my admiration for Belgium to Belgians, only to receive expressions of embarrassment, shock or sneers. Once, speaking to two young students at a trade show, I went through my list of reasons for why I liked Belgium. After a shocked pause, one of the girls turned to the other, “You see? Maybe our country is worth saving after all”. I hardly think Belgians are alone in this.

Today, the country, created from the ruins of Napoleon’s depredations, is on the verge of dissolution. Belgium’s Leftwing bureaucrat-laden government is totally dysfunctional, unable to cobble together a working coalition of competing Flemish and Walloon factions. The Belgian national psyche has been under assault for years from non-stop disclosures of government perfidy and corruption, a stifling bureaucracy, breakdowns in the social order and, more recently, paedophilia outrages by the Catholic Church. Most Belgian transplants that I have met in the U.S try to disclaim their national origin out of sheer embarrassment.

Grim as this portrait may appear, though, I did see rays of bright sunshine breaking through the ever-present clouds in Flanders.

Europeans like to comment about how we Americans like to fly our flag all the time and everywhere. Rather jingoistic, wot? I say it’s healthy. A French niece once gave me a very puzzled stare when I explained to her that “we Americans tend to be very proud of our countries and communities”. Love of place: what a curious concept! Well, one of the things one notices in Flanders is love of place. There is a) a near absence of Belgian flags and b) a total profusion of Flemish national flags, everywhere, depicting a black, rampant lion on a field of gold. There is, today, a fierce and rising Flemish pride in their heritage. As Belgium’s long under-represented industrial dynamo, the Flemish are fast approaching a state of open revolt against the Belgian government and, as I also suspect, the EU. Nationalism and tribalism, in other words, are on the rise. I say, “hooray!” I know, this requires an explanation and herein I finally get to the point of this post with another segue.

In Brabant, a region that spans from the southern Netherlands well into central Flanders, there is a popular balladeer by the name of Guus Meeuwis who writes songs about Brabant and his fellow Brabenders. They are love songs. To get a flavor of his famous hit “Brabant”, view this video here: .

You don’t need to know Flemish to understand it, as the imagery pretty accurately conveys the lyrics. If you want to see and understand how real people in Brabant (Flanders and the Netherlands) react to this song at a live performance, then visit here:

(Dank je vel, Jan!).

What you see here, folks, are the sparks of a European awakening. And not just in Brabant, but all throughout Flanders, Netherlands and Northern Europe. I think it will spread. This is nationalism at its best, a love of one’s fellow citizens, community, region and, maybe eventually, nation. This is where it starts: in the dorp (village). There is nothing dark grey or threatening in this movement except, perhaps, the typical Flemish weather. These are people who, perhaps like that Belgian girl, are awakening to the realization that there is much worth saving. And this, in a part of the world for so long beaten down by a paralyzing helplessness in the face of the encroaching super-State. I detected no anger in Flanders, no gloominess, but instead a resolute optimism among a fundamentally decent people combine with a rising pride in their heritage. If this movement takes, things will change for the better and good things will get done. It is a transformation that I don’t think the ruling classes in Europe can ultimately withstand.

I truly believe that you have to be able to love yourself before you can love others. I’m not speaking, of course, of a narcissistic kind of self-love, but rather a love and appreciation of one’s place in the greater scheme of things. It comes through grace, through a sense of harmony with one’s neighbors and citizens. This engenders thankfulness for all that we have been given by the sweat, labor and suffering of those that came before us. With thankfulness, comes respect. And it begins with one’s immediate community. Look around us…do we see this same sense of harmony, grace and peace among the Ruling Class and the Left? How can anyone spout nonsense about saving the world if they lose their family and community in the process?

This what I read in Guus’ lyrics, what I saw in the faces of the concert crowd and what I detected among the people of Flanders. These are people that will defend that which they love. I never saw this before. I see it now. This is how Europe will save itself.

I have never understood how such a large faction of people in this country could fail to be thankful for all the blessings their country and forebears bestowed on them and would instead prefer to self-righteously wallow in its perceived shortcomings.

I see this same awakening happening here. Perhaps it took the anger, bile, bitterness and self-serving corruption of the Left to bring us to this point. If so, that’s been a good thing.

So, that is what I saw in Flanders.

I know that I promised to address the issues of Europe, Islam, anti-semitism and Americans, too. Next post. Promise!


Can Europe Save Itself? What I Saw in Paris

Bookworm recently asked, “is Europe trying to save itself?” To that question, I can only offer anecdotal evidence from family and business visits made to France and Belgium this summer, shortly after the Greece-precipitated financial crisis.

Europe (witness the EU) is an uber-bureacracy. For centuries, Europe’s forms of governance have devolved into top-down, centralized governments that control virtually every aspect of individual life while disenfranchising the connections between citizenry and the ruling classes.  These trends metastasized under the EU and, following adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon in May, a treaty that cemented the supra-national power of the unelected EU authority. “Europe” effectively ceased being democratic. In tandem with this trend, European citizens have been conditioned to think less as “citizens” and more as “subjects” of their governments. Today, the only real power of dissent left to them has been to riot destructively in the streets or to paralyze their countries in strikes (France maintains a separate police force 100% dedicated to dealing with social disturbances). Setting parked cars on fire (car-b-cues) is a charming French tradition of civic protest that is now spreading to other European countries.

In this Bismarkian state model, the trade-off for political disenfranchisement has been a guarantee that the social welfare state would take care of all its citizens’ needs: retirement pensions, joblessness benefits at a high fraction of one’s previous salary, “free” education, public safety and health care. In France, this compact is proudly referred to in Orwellian terminology as “Solidarity”.  The EU compact also offered an end to Europe’s perpetual war and tribalism. As one of my elderly relatives put it to me, “my grandparents lived through three wars, my parents live through two and I lived through one. With the EU, I could hope that my children would never know war”. It’s an appealing vision.

Thus, for the greater perceived good, the vaste majority of citizens in France and other EU countries passively accepted what was handed to them, be it political correctness, Islamic migration, or economic and tax policy: why waste time worrying about what one cannot change? Such issues were best left for the ruling elites to address. Unfortunately, such also generated a toxic blend of cynicism, pacifism and lassitude laced with a nihilistic hedonism. Europeans stopped caring, partied on and stopped having babies. When government strips life of meaning, what’s the point of meaningful living, right? The Euros lost pride in self and pride in their own nations and cultures. They also lost their sense of civic responsibility. Whenever disaster struck in Europe (floods, heat waves, violence), I could not help but notice how passively Europeans deferred to authorities for help, rather than helping themselves. Rampant theft and vandalism is accepted as part of normal life: car windows are routinely smashed. In the nicest neighborhoods of Paris, the bottom floor windows of homes are paned in bullet-proof glass to discourage home invasions, which are accepted as quite normal occurrences…even in daytime. The cops seldom respond. In Europe, the victim is often treated as the perp while the criminal is perceived as the victim. One seldom if ever sees ordinary citizens sandbagging during floods the way we do in the U.S., for example – everyone looks out for themselves and leaves the heavy lifting to the “authorities”. Pacifism and passivity go hand-in-hand.

When visiting my relatives in France in the past, I could be assured that most (not all) had only vague ideas about what was happening in their country, their economy and the world. Most accepted the dispositions of the (mostly government controlled) media at face value. Moreover, why worry about the present and future (e.g., why save for retirement) when the government’s “Solidarity” will take care of it for you? And, while my focus in this discourse is on France, be assured that these observations apply also to Europe in toto.

All this has changed.

The Greek crisis, which closely followed the international banking crisis, caused a severe crisis of confidence and with it, an awakening. As a Dutch business associate remarked to me, “how can it be that we must work hard to pay taxes in the North until the age of 68 so that people in Greece can work hardly at all, pay no taxes and retire at the age of 60?”. Europe, like the U.S., is broken and broke.

The Greek crisis forced average Europeans to realize that the entire economic and political structures upon which their “solidarity” depended was about to collapse as the economic and political contradictions of the EU socialist state came to a head. An elderly gentleman I know – a world renown attorney, a member of the French Resistance, a former advisor to French prime ministers as well as to a U.S. president and an ardent supporter of the EU – looked at me and said, “it’s all finished, now”. I asked him “what”, exactly, was finished. He replied, “The EU, our peace and our prosperity”. The people, for the first time, were realizing that there was no money to pay for it all. For the first time ever, I saw fear and doubt in my relatives’ eyes. For the first time, I saw graffiti (most European towns are plastered with graffiti) and posted flyers denouncing the EU along with EU policies toward immigration. For the first time, I saw a steely flintiness in peoples’ eyes (not just in France) when the subject of Islamic immigration into Europe was raised. I saw also a new appreciation by Europeans of their heritage and values. Nationalism is on the rise. I saw more pride in France and its history, especially among the young. My daughter, who had been studying in France on an exchange program, remarked that many of the college students with whom she studied were returning to the Church and expressed a new-found resolve and pride in their country and heritage.

Before one can solve a problem, one must first recognize and define the problem. Europeans are still far from ready to take charge of their destiny. I just don’t know if average EU citizens have the wherewithal to resist and upend the uber-State and its entrenched ruling classes. A Tea Party movement would be inconceivable to Europeans, for example.  However, I do believe that average Europeans are waking up to the crisis and beginning to define the problems…all problems, including the one of Islamicization. This trend will continue, especially as new economic and political crises inevitably appear. In Europe, as in the U.S., the entire “solidarity” compact between State and Subject is about to go humpty-dumpty as reality sunders its foundations.  I suspect that the consequences will be very, very ugly. I saw evidence of this on my visit to Flanders, but that will have to await another post.

I do know that what eventually happens in Europe will have profound consequences for our country as well. This is not a crisis of European civilization but of Western civilization. We all face the same abyss.

Is Europe trying to save itself?

I don’t have a link yet (it was tweeted), but it appears that the Swedes elected a center-right government.  I see this as a good thing, although I haven’t lost sight of two facts:  (1) Europe is so far Left that, as we know from England, even center-right is Left; and (2) the cancer of antisemitism has managed to permeate most of Europe, irrespective of Left and Right.  Only if/when the Europeans realize that, in their efforts to preserve their culture against Islam’s latest assault, they are on the same side of the battle lines as the Jews will they be able to eradicate this vile disease.

Never underestimate the power of a homogeneous society when it comes to prolonging socialism *UPDATED*

One of the frustrating things about conversing with liberals is that, even as they’ll concede that socialism in Russia and China and Cuba and North Korea is not, or was not, a good thing, they’ve always got Europe to fall back upon.

European socialism works, I am told.  Europeans have assured housing, assured medical care, assured retirement, assured maternity leave, assured vacations, etc.  It is everything that America could be, if only we’d stop our ridiculous parochialism.  Even the economic disasters in Greece and Spain don’t dent this liberal belief in the validity of European-style socialism.  After all, we’ve seen market collapses before, and ships of state have still righted themselves.

Any arguments I make to counter the claim about the almighty wonders of Europe are dismissed.  The fact that Europeans have had for decades more money because the U.S. largely handled their defense is just a picayune detail, unrelated to the larger picture.  The fact that Europe has been in a slow economic decline for decades is a sour grapes statement, unrelated to the reality that all those Europeans get six weeks paid vacation a year!

The fact that the overwhelming bureaucracy necessary to run a socialist Europe increasingly deprives people of rights and freedoms we take for granted is viewed as a small price to pay for a life free of worry about job security, health care and retirement.  And finally, the fact that traditional morality declines in socialized countries, as people move ever further away from personal responsibility (since the government will clean up all their messes, whether those messes are myriad illegitimate children, or disasterous personal habits that leave one unable to to hold a job), is chalked up to a general, and worldwide, societal decline unrelated to a Nanny State.

No matter what I say, my liberals always fall back on two fundamental conclusions:  (1) they like what they see in Europe and (2) they believe that we can replicate the system.

So I’m going to take my friends at face value for a moment, and ignore what are, to me, the glaring problems with socialism (the economic unreality; the failures arising from that financial fantasy; the loss of freedom; and the breakdown of a stable, moral society).  Instead, I’ll accept that it can happen here — or can it?  I suspect that the huge chasm between European society as it existed at the end of WWII and American society as it exists now will prevent European socialism from ever taking hold.  (By the way, I’m not saying that socialism cannot be foisted on us; I’m just saying it won’t be European and, if we’re very unlucky, it will be something infinitely worse and more energetic even than that in the old USSR, China or North Korea).

When European socialism began, each European nation was a remarkably homogeneous.  The post-war English were still quintessentially English, whether one thought of Colonel Blimp, louche Bright Young Things, or Angry Young Men.  Not only was it a distinctly British culture, it was also a surprisingly non-acquisitive one.

I remember one of the best professors I had at Berkeley (yes, even Berkeley had some decent teachers), talking about the way in which the Industrial Revolution stagnated in England by the end of the 19th century, even as it continued to roar through America.  “It seems,” he said, “that the British working class had lower aspirations than Americans.  Once they achieved a certain economic level, they stopped working and innovating.”

Alan Jay Lerner, channeling George Bernard Shaw, put it perfectly:  “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him.  The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.”  Just as nobody should remodel a house in excess of the neighborhood (you’ll never get your money back after having created a mini-Versailles in a block full of boxy 50s tract homes), English workers knew that no amount of money would ever let most of them rise above their backgrounds and education.

I know Britain best, but I don’t doubt that the situation was similar in other European countries.  I do know that, in Holland, the Dutch moved on a similar timetable, with good housewives all scrubbing their stoops every morning, doing laundry on the same day, and generally doing as their neighbors did.  The Dutch, too, had a class system, with even a single word uttered being sufficient to give away someone’s place in the hierarchy.

Indeed, rather than try to prove homogeneity for all the socialized European nations, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, I’ll do something different:  I defy you to name for me a single European nation in the years between the end of WWII and, say, 1985, that wasn’t homogeneous in terms of culture, and rather stagnant in terms of social aspirations.  (I suspect all the aspiring citizens had already run away to America.)

This homogeneity wasn’t just cultural.  It was also genetic.  Bloodlines in European countries went back straight and far.  Sure the British were amalgams of Celts, Saxons and a few Normans (themselves Nordic in origin), but that genetic influx ended in 1066.  The Brits then spent almost 1,000 years being genetically British.  On the continent, the Romans had seeded continental Europe pretty well, as did the Celtic and Germanic tribes, but those blood lines had also settled for several hundred years by the time European socialism rolled around.

And so we have a continent in which each separate nation has the same genes, the same belief systems, and the same habits of living.  In this, Europe is as distinct as can be from America, and that despite America’s clear European ancestry.

Whether one views America as a melting pot or a salad bowl, we Americans comprise a genetically and culturally diverse nation.  Within a single neighborhood, the Wongs are eating different food from the DiMarcos, who have different work habits from the Hansens, who don’t share the same genetic disease predispositions as the Goldbergs.  And then, of course, you get the Wong-Goldberg wedding, with a second generation emerging with an entirely new set of values, genetic diseases, and food habits — although I suspect the Goldbergs will follow the Wongs when it comes to food.  Chinese food, after all, is pretty much a wonderful thing no matter how you look at it.

Thinking about America’s cultural ebullience, and comparing it to Europe’s resemblance to a single cell organism, it’s easy to see how socialism might have worked, and worked successfully, for many decades in Europe.  A working class accustomed over the centuries to taking orders from a ruling class would adapt easily if the orders came from a drably dressed government worker, as opposed to a splendidly dressed courtier.  Likewise, a working class that never aspired too high wouldn’t complain too loudly when it was told that, in the search for economic equality, people simply couldn’t have things available in economically freer countries.  Nor would it be difficult to direct a culture that, Borg–like, had always functioned in unison.

If people share the same views on everything from the appropriate size of vegetable marrows, to the right age for marriage, to the propriety of abortion, it’s easy to enact legislation enforcing such values, or to use social pressure to force people away from those same values.  The tight communal living of Europe, after all, has always demanded a certain level of conformity.

The fact that people had the same lifestyles and genetics also helped when it came to socialized medicine.  You can allocate limited resources much better if you know that, by diet and genes, the majority of your people will die from heart attacks, not colon cancer.  Allocating medical resources in a country in which people have a huge mish-mash of hereditary diseases and lifestyle habits is infinitely more difficult (if not impossible).

So, contrary to my optimistic liberal friends, I don’t think European socialism can ever happen here.  Our petri dish is wrong.  Instead of a nice, clean agar solution that invites the healthy growth of socialism, we have a teaming fish pond that, with luck, will kill any invading socialist bacteria.

Lastly, if you’re wondering about the importance of homogeneity to the success of European socialism, think about what’s been happening in Europe since the mid-1980s, when the European countries stopped limiting immigration, and opened their doors to a flood of Eastern Europeans, Africans, East Asians, and Muslim Middle Easterners.  These people did not view the socialist welfare system as part of a social contract.  Instead, they viewed it as vast treasure house to be pillaged.

I can’t say that I blame them.  If you’re innovative, and you see a system that’s ripe for the plucking, you pluck.  But many countries now find that their lovely socialist high rises have become dangerous enclaves with values alien to the host country, and that a welfare system that depended on everyone playing the game (“from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”), doesn’t work if you have an alien horde thinking “me, me, me.”  Instead of harmonious European equality, you end up with French banlieues in flames, Greek anarchists throwing fire bombs, London subways and buses blowing up and a dawning chaos that will not sustain any political or economic system for long.

UPDATE: I couldn’t resist appending to this post I picture of the three party leaders in Britain (Brown, Clegg and Cameron).  Although each is easily distinguishable from the other, there is a remarkable sameness to their looks.  Trace their profiles and you’ll see what I mean.  You probably won’t find that in America, even if, as a liberal, you’re castigating a room for being filled with “white men.”  They’ll still have different features, whether it’s high bridged noses, square chins, receding foreheads, or whatever.  These guys are the same gene pool:

Gene pools

The European character, Obama’s disinterest in Europe, and the Euro’s possible collapse

As part of a larger opinion piece giving thanks that America is still un-European enough to resist Obama’s European-izing efforts, Jonathan Rosenbloom has this to say about the modern European character:

In A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel, Robin Shepherd analyzes the cast of mind that predisposes Europeans to hate Israel so much, and repeatedly raises the question as to whether these attitudes could take hold in America (or have already done so on elite campuses). In addition, Europe has remained passive in the face of both the internal demographic threat from its Muslim population and the external threat of radical Islam.

The sources of Europe’s appeasement mentality are many. Having ceased to produce children, Europeans are understandably less concerned about the future. They are content to buy time until they can shuffle off this mortal coil in peace. And having cast off traditional religion, they find no transcendent values worth dying for, since nothing awaits them after death.

The European model of decision-making by centralized bureaucratic states or the European Union also contributes to passivity in the face of danger. Those who willingly turn over the control of their lives to a centralized bureaucracy, and no longer insist on their right – or at least that of their elected representatives – to make the crucial decisions about their lives are less likely to fight to defend themselves from external threat.

A FEW years back, I experienced that maddening European bureaucracy firsthand. On a bus ride from London to Bournemouth, the driver stopped after two hours, with Bournemouth less than 45 minutes away, and announced that European Commission regulations forbade him from driving any longer without a 45-minute rest break. That enforced stop raised the same question that pops into my mind every time I’m asked by airport security to remove my shoes and belt: How can people tolerate this idiocy?

The defeated European constitution, which ran to more than 1,000 pages of numbing detail about everything, including the permissible size of ball bearings, was the classic expression, to quote Ajami again, “of the technocratic model of the European states, where a bureaucratic elite disposes of public policy with scant regard for the popular will.” In the Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu described the interplay between the laws and institutions of a particular society and the character of the citizenry. Monarchies, for instance, emphasize honor, while democratic societies stress virtue. And modern government by bureaucracy – something Montesquieu was spared from witnessing – fosters passivity.

It’s worth adding here that, while Obama may love the European way, and is clearly seeking to turn America into a European style society and economy, he’s not showing any love for Europe itself.  Der Spiegel, perhaps to avoid feeling slighted, acknowledges Obama’s obvious coldness towards European leaders, but excuses it by saying that he’s acting that way only because Europe is doing so well, Obama can (and must) focus his attentions elsewhere:

Obama may have made six brief trips to Europe during his first year in office, but the European Union has slipped far down on his priority list. The Europeans are none too pleased. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero defiantly told a confidant that the US shouldn’t forget that Europe is “an economic power and an important political actor.”

But Obama’s decision to cancel is hardly surprising. For starters, there are no fires in Europe right now that Obama needs to attend to. With his popularity falling at home, Obama needs to focus on delivering results in the US. Right now, the last thing he needs is more European photo ops without concrete results.

From Obama’s perspective, that is exactly what the EU-US summit would have been like. “The Europeans shouldn’t be surprised,” says Annette Heuser of the Washington office of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German think tank. “They turned this summit into a show rather than finding issues — like energy policy — where both have a common interest in working together.”

This analysis was a rather funny thing to read considering that the same online edition of Der Spiegel reported that the Euro is collapsing and several European states are on the verge of bankruptcy:

The problems facing Greece are just the beginning. The countries belonging to Europe’s common currency zone are drifting further and further apart, and national bankruptcies are a distinct possibility. Brussels is faced with a number of choices, none of them good.

Men like Wilhelm Nölling, former member of the German Central Bank Council, and Wilhelm Hankel, an economics professor critical of the euro, have been out of the spotlight for years. In the 1990s, they fought against the introduction of the common currency, even calling on Germany’s high court to prevent the creation of the euro zone. But none of it worked.

[snip]

Is the euro’s high flight over now too? The news these days is alarming. It’s causing a commotion on financial markets and intense discussion in capitals across Europe, as well as in Frankfurt, seat of the European Central Bank (ECB).

[snip]

Accruing debt is becoming increasingly expensive for other countries in the euro zone as well, among them Portugal and Spain. The southern members of the euro zone are especially being eyed with mistrust. Speculators are betting that bonds will continue to fall and that, eventually, the countries won’t be able to borrow any more money at all. State bankruptcies are seen as a possibility.

All of which leads to the obvious question:  How serious does it have to get in Europe before Obama starts paying attention?

Allowing the American public, finally, to see the Left

I’ve been saying for some years that the biggest mistake the Islamists made was impatience.  Demographically, between their fecundity and the sterility of Western culture, Muslims were headed towards societal tipping points all over Europe within a couple of decades.  Had they set tight, they could have completed what they started in the Middle Ages and finally lost at the Gates of Vienna:  the Islamist takeover of Europe.

But they couldn’t wait.  They took down the Twin Towers, bombed trains and subways, blew up school children, exploded night clubs, killed Van Goghs, harassed women, and engaged in myriad other acts that made Westerners aware of their presence as something more than just enshrouded women and cheap labor.  It’s still unclear whether the West has the will to fight, but the West certainly got timely notice to have the ability to fight.  While the Islamists are certainly spoiling for the fight and, indeed, glory in the bloodshed, there’s no doubt that war brings the risk of loss and — as I said — the Islamists could have avoided this risk altogether if they had just waited until critical mass, when the West would have lost before the fight began.

For the last few months, I’ve going around saying exactly the same thing about the American Left, which took its victory, a victory that spread across many states but that never really exceeded more than a few percentage points in any given area, and decided that it had a sweeping mandate.  And what a mandate:  destroy the economy, socialize medicine, and make American supine before all of the world’s worst actors.  Dennis Prager has had the same thought, and wrote a really great article on the subject:

There may be a major silver lining for conservatives and for America’s future thanks to the foreign and domestic policies of President Obama and the Democrat-controlled House and Senate: For the first time in their lives, millions of Americans are coming to understand the left.

It is difficult to overstate how important this is. For decades, the left has largely controlled the news media, the arts, the universities and the entertainment media. And vast numbers of Americans have imbibed these leftist messages and the leftist critiques of conservatives. What these Americans have never been able to do is to see what the left would actually do if in power.

[snip]

1. The left wants America to abandon its defining commitment to individualism and replace it with a European-style nanny, or welfare, state. At most Americans’ core is an abiding belief that we are supposed to take care of ourselves, our families and our neighbors, and not rely on the state to do so.

2. The left is naive about evil. Most Americans deemed Communism evil; the left ridiculed President Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and often undermined the fight against the Communist world. So, too, the left is naive about Islamic terror and undermines the fight against it.

The smoking gun was the nearly universal denial by the left that his Islamic beliefs had anything to do with Maj. Nidal Hasan’s mass murder of fellow servicemen at Fort Hood. One of many examples was this reaction to the shootings by Evan Thomas, Editor at Large at Newsweek: “I think he’s probably just a nut case. But with that label (Muslim) attached to him, it will get the right wing going…”

3. The left is more interested in redistributing wealth than in creating it. This should have been as obvious to Americans as the brightness of the sun. Finally, Americans are coming to realize that the left’s goal is now, as it always has been, equality, not prosperity.

4. The left is far more interested in power than the right is. This, too, should have been self-evident, but finally, people are realizing that those who are preoccupied with creating an ever-expanding state are obviously far more interested in amassing power than those who want a smaller state.

5. The left is preoccupied with America being loved, and in pursuit of that end, compromises some of America’s core values. Examples abound here, too. To cite a few: the Obama administration’s neglect of those in Iran risking their lives for freedom in that tyranny; the administration’s refusal to meet with the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan leader visited Washington, lest the president annoy China’s dictators; the American government siding with Hugo Chavez against the Honduran government, which had legally removed a Chavez clone from the Honduran presidency; and the president’s obsequious apologies for America wherever he goes.

Dennis Prager gives global examples of the ideology powering the Left.  Phyllis Schlafly gives particular examples of those people closest to the president.  And a scarier bunch of rogues and ideologues you’ve never seen.  So far, the media has been working overtime to keep ordinary Americans from learning too much about these pillars of academe, now all0wed to put their theories into effect in the real world, but word is leaking out.  And in keeping with Prager’s theory about knowledge giving the American people power, the Left’s inability to keep its worst actors and ideas off the national stage may prove to be America’s greatest strength.

Europe learns truth of being careful what one wishes, just in case those wishes are granted

Had Europe been able to vote last November’s presidential elections, Obama would have swept into office with a vote above 95%.  Over there, they loved him.  He was the antithesis of the ugly American who rode into town and imposed law.  This was a guy who would be kind and gentle, and extremely deferential to their European-ish-ness.

Today, though, a year after the election, all is not good in Europe-land.  Sensible people are realizing that Obama is leaving them exposed to some pretty nasty dangers centered in Russia and Iran.  And the European Left, just like the Left at home, is deeply disappointed that he is both less radical and less effective than their dream politician:

For a host of reasons however, President Obama is increasingly viewed by his natural allies in Europe- the left-wing intelligentsia in particular – as a mounting disappointment, whether it is dithering over attending the climate change summit in Copenhagen, supposedly ignoring the momentous changes within the European Union, making little progress with the Middle East peace process, adopting protectionist trade policies, a lack of commitment to human rights, the list goes on.

Significantly, there have even been some attacks from the left on Obama’s failure of leadership on Afghanistan. No matter how hard Obama tries to appease his supporters in Europe by presenting American power in a softer light, the president of the United States is still going to let down those who backed him most strongly.

It’s bad enough being berated from across the Atlantic by the President of France for being a big softy and failing to stand up to the Iranian nuclear threat. But being taken to task by European intellectuals is even more humbling for a US leader who attaches just as much importance to how he is perceived on the world stage, as he does to domestic popularity.

Even worse, unlike Bush, who tried to boss Europe around, Obama is ignoring Europe:

I was particularly struck by an interesting Guardian piece written by arch Euro-federalist historian Timothy Garton Ash last month, which actually claimed that while Obama “is the most European president” there has ever been, he is also “the least European president of the United States that there has ever been” – less European even than George W. Bush, according to the Oxford don. As Garton Ash eloquently put it:

“Unlike during the cold war, the United States is not focused on Europe and does not regard helping to build a strong, united Europe as being among its own vital interests. Europeans may continue to feel that Obama is “one of us”; and in one way he is, but in another way he isn’t – and he certainly won’t do our work for us. If we Europeans want to get our act together, we must get our act together.”

You can read more about Europe’s Obama woes here.

As Sadie, who sent me this link, said, “President Bush might not have been loved in Europe, but at least he was feared by his enemies and strategic competitors and respected by US allies.”

My friend Don Quixote also had an interesting comment when I told him about the above article:  “Couldn’t they have seen this coming?  It was so obvious during the campaign?”  Because he’s been a lifelong conservative, and is anything but an ideologue, Don Quixote truly doesn’t understand what was going on.  I do understanding.  For Europe to have seen “this” (meaning the Obama meltdown) coming, would have meant that Europeans would actually have had to think about Obama, his ideas and his values.  For knee-jerk liberals (and even Europe’s self-styled intellectuals are knee-jerk in their liberalism), thought has nothing to do with it.  We anoint someone, and we worship at their liberal altar.  There is no intelletualization involved.

I know that liberalism means faith first, thought after, because I always voted for and championed Democrats without having the slightest idea what they stood for.  It was enough that I was a Democrat and so were they.  What horrified me, and what I ran from for so many years was the fact that, when I actually thought about an issue, I invariably came out on the conservative side of the equation.  This was untenable and, rather than re-examining my politics, I stopped thinking.

Well, I’m thinking now and I hope that other Americans — presented with the spectacle of the worst unemployment in 26 years (and Obama owns this economy now), with rising aggression from Russia and Iran, with political correctness run amok, and with a guy who giggles at the unemployed and does friendly shout-outs before addressing the death and injury of dozens under his command — might start thinking themselves and stop hiding from all the horrible fallacies inherent in modern liberalism.

Why is this religion different from all other religions?

I want to recommend two interesting things to read as a prelude to my core post.  The first read comes from a reliably good source:  Rusty Shackleford.  Over at The Jawa Report, he looks at the banality that exists side by side with the evil that is North Carolina’s recently arrested home grown jihadists.  It makes for chilling read.

The second good read, again about Islam, comes, most surprisingly, from a normally terrible source on the subject:  The New York Times.  There, in today’s book review pages, you will find an honest and admiring review of Christopher Caldwell’s carefully researched Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, about the Islamisization of Europe. I hope the paper’s editors read their own book reviews. They might learn something from this one, especially when it comes to the dangers of stifling discourse through a rancid combination of politically correct thought and fear of Muslims.

As to both of these, I’d like to make a larger point.  During Passover, Jews ask the question “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  At this juncture in history, it’s very important to ask a similar question:  “Why is this religion different from all other religions?”

Why, when religious Jewish women cover their heads, do I shrug and say, “Well, that’s their religion,” while when more and more Muslim women show up with heads covered, I get a frisson of fear?  The answer is not that I’m a philo-Semite or an Islamaphobe (although both statements are probably true).  Instead, it lies in the fact that the Jews do not have as their goal a world in which all women are forced to wear head coverings.  Even if Jews reached critical mass in America, they would not do what is done in countries in which Muslims have reached critical mass:  throw acid in the faces of or rape or murder women who don’t conform to their religious dress codes.

Why, when Hispanics sneak into this country illegally am I merely upset about their breaking the law and sucking up resources, while even legal Muslim immigrants frighten me?  The answer is not that I have an unreasoning fear of Muslims, while I’m willing to give Hispanics a pass.  There’s nothing unreasoning in my fear of an immigrant group that does not desire to assimilate into American society but wants, instead, to destroy it.  Nor is there anything unreasoning in my fear of an immigrant group that, when it achieves critical mass, engages in religiously driven violence against the others in the society. Nor are either of those fears fantasies.  The point of my reference to the Caldwell books is that those fears, which are still abstract in America, are fact in Europe.

Why, when certain immigrants cling to their unique cultures, do I think it’s charming or irrelevant, but when Muslims cling to their unique cultures it frightens me?  Could it be because Muslim doctors refuse to wash their hands, either because women aren’t supposed to show their arms or because none of them are supposed to touch (although I’m sure Mohammed meant “imbibe”) alcohol — a problem becoming increasingly chronic in the British health care system?  Or could it be because Muslim grocery store clerks, rather than getting a more religiously appropriate job, sue that they won’t have to handle ham, which is an American cultural staple?  Or could it be because Muslim culture is deeply misoygynistic, something that reveals itself in honor killings all over the globe — not to mention a desire to make women, all women, not just Muslim women, wear tents.  I’m sure you have examples in stored in your own memory banks so I won’t go on.  The point is that this is a religion that, once it enteres a country, wants things done it’s own way.  Rather than seeking to benefit from the host country’s good qualities, it seeks to destroy those things and subordinate everything to Islam.

Thinking about it, to call Islam just a religion is almost a misnomer.  Islam is a way of life and politics that transcends mere worship.  When Islam takes over, every facet of life is subject to its dictates.  One is either a slave to Allah, or a slave to Allah’s worshippers.  Islam does not accept pluralism.  Things that are quaint or bizarre in other religions are deeply threatening when the religion is Islam.

Keep yourself educated.  Hate-filled rhetoric is counterproductive.  But fact-filled rhetoric is something one hopes will help innoculate us against the deadly scourge of an Islamic takeover — because Islam is not a religion like any other.