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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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

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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.)

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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.”).

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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.”