The Bookworm Beat 5-20-15 — the “I’m still standing” edition and Open Thread

Woman-writing-300x265Unlike Rand Paul, who is standing for a filibuster against the Patriot Act, my “standing” has to do with the fact that, after a long afternoon of shopping and doctors with my mother, I am still upright and reasonably coherent. His feat is the more admirable one or possibly the more lunatic — I can’t decide. While I think that one over (and please feel free to chime in with your opinions), I offer the following for your reading pleasure:

Honoring vets

Bruce Kesler, retired Marine extraordinaire, has a message of immediate concern to veterans and their supporters. Check it out here.

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The Bookworm Beat 4-26-15 — the “writer’s block” edition and open thread

Woman writingI know this is going to surprise those of you used to my usual output of posts, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. The last few weeks have been so chaotic, my opportunities to write so random and infrequent, and the news of the world so overwhelming that, now that I finally have time to sit down and write, I’m frozen. After sitting her for a while, I decided that the best thing to do would be to clear my spindle. I know some of the contents are outdated, but they may still be of interest, and getting through the backlog may help spark my dormant (I hope, rather than extinct) yen to write.

Obama fiddles with Iran while the Middle East burns and Israel is forced to go it alone

All eyes may be on Obama and his desperation to get a deal with Iran (despite the fact that, in a sane world, the smaller, weaker, poorer Iran would be desperate to get a deal with Obama), but the fact is that the entire Middle East is a flaming disaster thanks to Obama’s habit of alternately meddling in and abandoning Middle Eastern affairs.

Bret Stephens explains that, thanks to Obama’s policies, it is now impossible for Israel to walk back the way in which he’s abandoned and isolated it:

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The Bookworm Beat 4-17-15 — the “green hair day” edition and open thread

Woman writingI went to get my hair done today, which is usually a relaxed and peaceful time.  Today, as usual, my hairdresser and I were talking about our respective children, when he suddenly stopped and said, “Have you been swimming?”

That question sure came out of left field. “No,” I responded. “Why?” The answer was a surprise: “Because all your gray hair is green.”

What?!!!! I hadn’t noticed that because I seldom look at myself that closely in the mirror. No one in my family had noticed it because they seldom look at me at all. But there it was: a bilious shade of green in place of my normal skunk stripe, as well as all the other swathes and patches of gray decorating my hair. I have no idea why this happened, but it did.

Gray hair doesn’t bother me; green hair does. I do not like having green hair. Its presence explains why my face had looked peculiarly flushed lately — the green highlighted the red tones in my usually pale face. Just as green is not a good hair shade for me, parboiled isn’t a good color for my face.

After much debate with his colleagues about the best way to handle this unusual problem, my hairdresser decided to go darker, because a tint would cover the green without turning my hair into over-processed straw. The result is that I have sort of reddish-brown hair that’s too dark for my tastes but that I have been assured will fade rather rapidly while at the same time (everyone hopes) still hiding the green.

The whole thing took way too long, although the haircut, as always, is perfection. This matters, because I have hair that can prove challenging to hair stylists. Finding one who is a really nice person and a superb stylist means putting up with an unexpectedly long time in the chair.

My plan today was to get home around midday, call a client, work on several legal projects, and blog. That didn’t happen. After the endless hair appointment, I had to rendezvous with the kids to take care of all sorts of unexpected “we must do it today” chores. It’s 4:15 and I’ve only just walked in. Still, I have much that I want to share with you, so you’ll get a good Friday evening, instead of a good Friday midday, read.

We can kill our way to victory against Islamists

This is an older Daniel Greenfield post, but one that I think still deserves reading. Greenfield’s point is a simple one, which is that it is possible to defeat an enemy by killing so many of his troops that there is no one left to fight, or no one left who is willing to fight (which probably means the same). Anybody, of course, can state a simple principle. Daniel Greenfield’s gift is that he can expand upon it with facts and analysis in a completely compelling way.

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The Bookworm Beat 4-6-15 — the nighttime edition and open thread

Woman writingMy work is done and there’s still twenty minutes to go before the family yields the TV to me. That can mean only one thing: a quick round-up. Yay!

Can the MSM stifle Ted Cruz?

One of the most frustrating things about being a conservative is that conservative politicians tend to be inarticulate. Part of this is because conservative ideas don’t yield easily to the hysterical bumper sticker politics that the Left favors. Part of it is that the media twists the message. And part of it is that the conservatives who get into politics seem to be tongue-tied.

I mention this because of a post Rod Dreher wrote after talking about RFRA to a deeply-closeted conservative law professor. It was the professor who made the point about the absence of a standard-bearer for conservative ideology:

On the conservative side, said Kingsfield [not the professor’s real name], Republican politicians are abysmal at making a public case for why religious liberty is fundamental to American life.

“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate it, and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”

The one person who is emerging as an incredibly articulate spokesman for conservative thinking is Ted Cruz. He’s unafraid and, rather unusually for a man as academically brilliant as he is, capable of being pithy. Cruz can bring in the money quotation:

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My annual Passover post, updated to reflect 2015’s scary realities

PassoverI first published a Passover post in March 2010, when Iran was in the news because of the Green Revolution. (By the way, Obama’s peculiar inaction then — that is, his unwillingness to side with the ordinary people against the Mullah’s tyranny — takes on a whole new meaning in light of the events of the past few weeks, doesn’t it?) I’m republishing that post here, although I’ve modified it substantially, especially at the end, to reflect today’s events:


An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as the celebration of freedom (the world’s first and for a long time only successful slave revolt), and of justice and morality (the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people.  What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.  God, clearly, is a psycho killer who toys with Pharaoh the way a cat does with a mouse.

Some people have tried to explain away this part of the story by saying that it is simply dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger of the Jew’s escape from Egypt.  After all, if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.  You know, Moses asks, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh answers “Sure.”  That’s not a narrative with much punch or heroism, and God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, lacking in divine punch.  It’s much more exciting to have an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.

This reasoning is silly.  There’s a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, despite an increase in the burdens placed upon his people.  A blood filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on.  Pharaoh still held together his government.  The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever:  As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he was okay with the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might worry about a populace starving and frightened, but that was irrelevant as long as that same populace continued to fear and worship him.  The people’s suffering, ultimately, was irrelevant to his goals.  It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh’s power base was destroyed because his citizens were destroyed and death stalked his own palace — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years.  Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII.  For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over.  Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him.  Rather than surrendering, Hitler and other Nazi leaders, secure in their protected homes and bunkers, were perfectly willing to see German overrun and its citizens killed.  Only when the death toll became too high, and it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, did the war on the continent finally end.

The same held true for the Japanese.  Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it.  Even the possibility that it would impress the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so’; Truman was, after all, a moral man.  What swayed Truman was the fact that his advisers told him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender even when surrender had become the only reasonable option.  Instead, the military warned Truman that, although the Americans would inevitably win the war, if Truman didn’t take drastic action, victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and at least that many Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).

Truman therefore had two choices:  another year of war, with the lost of 100,000 Americans and many more than 100,000 Japanese; or an immediate stop to the war, with no more American casualties and at least 100,000 Japanese casualties.  Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer.  The outcome would be the same for the Japanese, but Truman would save the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, British, Australians and Dutch.  (One of those Dutch, incidentally, was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.)  The Japanese high command was Pharaoh.  No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path.  Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.

But what about the innocent lives lost as a result of Pharaoh’s, the Nazi’s, and the Japanese high command’s intransigence?  As the Japanese tale shows only too well, the innocents were always going to die, with the only question being whether they would die quickly or slowly.  The same holds true for the Germans, whom the Nazis had long ago designated as cannon fodder to support their intensely evil regime.  That’s the problem with an evil regime.  If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, whether or not you support it, you’re going to be cannon fodder.  Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned — as long as they can retain their power.

Iran is no different.  Although the people bleed and cry under the brutish regime, no plague, including rioting in the streets, has come along that is bad enough to break the back of that tyranny.  The people continue to die by inches, and the regime threatens everyone within bombing distance.

This year, for the first time, we have to recognize that the reign of tyrants exists not just abroad, but at home too.  For  more than 200 years, we’ve felt comfortably insulted from tyranny because of our Bill of Rights.  That exquisite document doesn’t spell out the few limited rights citizens have if they’re lucky enough to have a merciful government.  Instead, it establishes that, barring those necessary powers that a government needs in order to provide a safe, stable haven in which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can thrive, citizens have a broad range of inherent rights that are inviolate.  Our constitutional government doesn’t give them, and it cannot take them away; they’re ours.

But what happens when we have a leader who refuses to recognize the Constitution?  A leader who complains that the Bill of Rights limits him?  A leader who ignores Supreme Court opinions curtailing his power grabs?  A leader who refuses to execute those laws that Congress passes, but instead drafts and executes  his own laws?  A leader who spies on his people, while amassing a growing number of secrets around himself and his cronies?  A leader who relentlessly uses Leftist shibboleths to undermine our constitutional military?  A leader who single-handedly, without  help even from his own political party, hurls America into an alliance with an apocalyptic, tyrannical theocracy that is dedicated to annihilating the world’s only Jewish nature and driving America to her knees?  A leader who has a compliant media that takes upon itself the job of destroying his enemies and promoting his aggregation of power?

What happens then?  The answer is that you cease to have a constitutional system predicted upon individual liberty arising from natural rights.  And slowly at first, but with increasing speed, like a snowball gathering mass as it rolls downhill, you suddenly find that you’re the one laboring on the pyramids under the overseers’ lash, while Pharaoh Obama and his cronies, having insulated themselves from the wrath of the people, take your sweat and your blood as their natural due.  And believe me, a few red-running rivers or locust-clogged fields are not going to stop the Obamites, even on that unlucky day when Iran’s hordes flow through America’s already open borders.

But it needn’t be all doom and gloom.  Denial is powerlessness.  Recognizing danger and reacting to it is strength.  Don’t be cowed.  Know your principles, state them with clarity if need be (and my real-me Facebook friends know that I do that with increasing frequency even here in Marin), and never give up hope because, without hope, we are nothing but base animals, lacking the divine spark that makes us human.

With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy Passover.  Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be painfully high, our ultimate goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

The Bookworm Beat 2-12-15 — “Been there done that” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingPart of my mother’s behavior as a drama queen is to try to take on the borrowed glory of other people’s suffering. When my sister has a cold, my mother calls me to say “You don’t know how worried I am. What if it turns into pneumonia? What if she dies? I can barely eat I’m so upset.”

Recently, my mother called to tell me that she was beside herself because one of her recently widowed friends is holed up in a hotel room and having a hard time figuring out how to pay her bills. That sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it? But what I and my mother both know is that this woman made the grasshopper, in the Aesop’s fable about the “Ant and the Grasshopper,” look like model of sober rectitude and long-term planning.

For years, with accelerating force as the friend’s husband became increasingly ill, my mother dutifully nagged this friend to learn how to drive, balance a check book, make peace with her children, check on insurance, and all the other daily life tasks that people need to survive on their own. Every time, the friend told my mother, “I’m not that type of person. I don’t need to worry about the future. I need to be free.”

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Getting Obama to the right place in dealing with Israel

Obama in IsraelJust a random thought, but could Obama be persuaded to stop Iran from developing the bomb by convincing him that the mere possibility of a nuclear accident or intentional detonation is bad for the environment and would, in fact, worsen climate change?

Or perhaps we could convince huge numbers of LGBTQs to immigrate to Israel (the only country in the Middle East that welcomes them, rather than kills them) so that he’d have a reason he could live with to justify Israel’s continued existence?

Or maybe we could convince Obama that, if the land really does belong to the Palestinians, all the Jews there are illegal immigrants and therefore entitled to amnesty (not to mention lots of American money).

Come on, folks!  Work with me here.  We need to spin this so that Obama feels ideologically and emotionally comfortable supporting Israel.

The Bookworm Beat 1-31-15 — the mammoth Saturday edition

Woman writingAfter a few days of what a doctor friend of mine calls the “crud” (it’s not the flu, thank goodness, but you still feel lousy), I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. More importantly, my energy is returning and with energy comes blogging. While I couldn’t rouse myself to write for the last few days, that didn’t stop me from collecting a few — well, not really a few, but a lot of — links to share with you.

If you’re enjoying a relaxing Saturday afternoon/evening . . . well, I was going to say that if you were relaxing, you could then enjoy reading this post. But honestly, so much of what’s in this post is depressing that it will just ruin your relaxation. Here’s the truth: If you’re miserable and want to stay that way, or are feeling relaxed to the point of inertia and want to get your stress going, then you should feel free to read this mammoth Saturday edition of the Bookworm Beat.

How to handle Marine haters

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about seeing an interesting by-play in Marin, when a Marine temporarily left his dress blue cover behind in a coffee shop. While the barristas didn’t know whether to fear or respect the cover, one guy knew what it was: a baby-killer’s headgear. He raved for a few seconds, and then fell silent. Rather typically for me, since I’m both cowardly and suffer terribly from l’esprit de l’escalier, I just sat there — and then I blogged about it.

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The Navy’s newest commercial and the most peculiar lame duck presidency ever

Angry dog

The Navy’s most recent commercial is excellent (h/t Charles Martel):

Watching it, I could only hope that, in Obama’s America, our hyper-politicized, dysfunctionally PC Pentagon not only means it, but still has the will and ability to make it a reality. After all, we live in a time when one has to pause and seriously consider Roger Simon’s semi-facetious proposal that the White House is a sleeper cell, rather than just laughing merrily at the joke.

I believe that Obama’s decision not to show up in Paris is a harbinger of his “lame duck” years. He’s always had an affinity for Islam and a disdain for Western culture. Now that he’s a lame duck, he doesn’t care anymore who knows this about him. Indeed, we’re going to see that there are a lot of things Obama doesn’t care for. He’ll quickly make it obvious that he doesn’t care about the Constitution (something he’ll reveal in a blatant way he’s previously avoided); vox populi (his voice will be the only one that counts); and a sane, workable defense against jihadist Islam.

In other words, this is going to be the most peculiar lame duck period in American history. Past lame duck presidents have been quietly ineffectual. They’ve been the past, while the political machine and the people are already looking to the future. Obama, however, once untethered from the Constitution and from any concerns about the voice of the American people, isn’t really going to be a lame duck at all. He’s got a whole new future planned for us and there’s nary a lame duck in sight.

Fasten your seat belts, friends, because we’re in for President Rabid Dog over the next two long and dangerous years.

The Bookworm Beat 12/14/14 — Sunday round-up and Open Thread

Woman writingI’ve been going through my email, as well as through my “real me” Facebook today, and I find some interesting — and surprising — things. Here goes:

The Islamic hostage crisis in Sydney

My thoughts and prayers are with the hostages trapped in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia’s historic Martin Place. The main indication that the siege is Islamic in nature is the fact that the hostage taker has forced the hostages to hold in the window the Islamic Shahada statements, which contains the Koranic verse asserting Allah’s and Mohammed’s preeminence: “There is no god but Allah, Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Despite the Shahada’s centrality to Islam (merely saying this credo is all that’s necessary to convert to Islam), Australia’s Muslims are professing complete bewilderment at the way in which some people around the world are saying that, given the Shahada’s role in the hostage crisis, the crisis is probably tied to Islam in some way:

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The Bookworm Beat 12/5/14 — “Now It All Makes Sense” edition, and Open Thread

Woman writingA fellow conservative and I spoke last night about the primary emotion driving limousine liberals’ politics: Their politics announce to the world that each is “a good person.” It’s an extension of that saying that “conservatives view liberals as misguided; liberals view conservatives as evil.” The unspoken corollary to that last thought is that liberals are therefore good.

Which leads one to a question: Why do liberals need to use their political identity to define themselves as good (as opposed to being evil)? My best guess? God.

People who are traditionally religious keep their politics in harmony with their religious beliefs, but it’s their relationship to God that matters when it comes to determining in their own minds whether they are good or evil. As long as they are consistent with God’s mandates, they really don’t care about Mrs.-Smith-up-the-hill’s opinion or about Joe-the-teacher’s opinion.

Liberals, however, tend to be less God-oriented. Even when they profess faith and a belief in God, they work to conform God’s word to the Democrat party platform, not vice versa. For liberals, the marker of innate goodness isn’t fealty to God, it’s fealty to the political party that is the “not evil” party. To them, it’s spiritually important to be in harmony with Nancy Pelosi and Edward Kennedy (PBUH).

And now back to our regularly scheduled round-up:

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