Wednesday morning round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesWhether you devour this post in one fell swoop or nibble at it throughout the day, I can guarantee you a lot of food for thought:

The VA scandal is gaining traction, as word comes out that the VA already knew back in 2010 that hospitals were manipulating records. Robert Petzel, the top health official for the Department of Veterans Affairs, has resigned ahead of his previously announced retirement, showing that at least someone understands that part of taking responsibility for a job is that you look like you’re getting fired, or fire yourself, when you fail in that role.

Obama, who has never worked in the private sector, still hasn’t figured out that ordinary people, accustomed to private sector job losses for workplace malfeasance, believe it’s appropriate for heads to roll. How else can one explain that, not only is Obama keeping on VA Secretary Ric Shinseki, he’s praising him for a job well done.

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The risks from the VA scandal extend beyond any immediate political fallout. Indeed, it may be more damaging than Obama & Co. ever imagined, not because it reflects badly on them but because it reflects badly on their entire world view — namely, Big Government:

Because the Democratic party simply is the party of government. It is the party that insists on the nobility, efficacy and intellectual superiority of government. The VA is at the intersection of all the things liberals insist are wise and good and just about government. It is government-run healthcare. It is the tangible fulfillment of a sacred obligation the government has with those who’ve sacrificed most for our nation. It is also the one institution and/or constituency that enjoys huge bipartisan support. The VA, rhetorically and politically, is more sacrosanct and less controversial than Medicare, Social Security, road building, the NIH, or public schools. We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful, super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada. Well, welcome to the VA. How’s that working out for you?

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Many commentators noticed that Jay Carney, when asked about the VA scandal, said the same thing he and the president have said about myriad scandals: “Hey, don’t ask us. We only learned about it on TV, just like the rest of you.”

You can tell that their feral little brains are thinking, “Yes! That should let them know that we had nothing to do with the scandal. It’s somebody else’s fault.”

It hasn’t seemed to occur to Obama or Carney that there’s another, better answer:  “The President was apprised yesterday about this issue and has already taken steps to deal with it.”  That answer would make the President sound like an executive, not an idiot. (Peter Wehner sees “epic incompetence” as the new presidential narrative.)

Jonathan S. Tobin sums up what the President’s chosen scandal tactic implies:

The fact that the White House resorted to what has become its standard second-term excuse for government scandal with a line about the president hearing about it on TV or by reading the newspapers raises serious questions about both his leadership and the intelligence of his staff. After all, surely it must have occurred to someone at the White House that using the same excuse about hearing of it in the media wasn’t likely to work after it had been employed with little success to distance him from the IRS and other scandals. Such intellectual laziness speaks to a West Wing that is both collapsing from intellectual fatigue as well as having acquired an almost complete contempt for both the press and public opinion.

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While I’m on the subject of Obama’s incompetence, it seems that the intelligence community is pushing back against both that incompetence and the rank political dishonesty that sees that Obama administration falsely claiming that Islamic terrorism is declining, not increasing.

I feel very strongly that you shouldn’t get into pissing matches with the intelligence community because they probably know things about you that you would prefer no one else know. If this fight between the administration and intelligence heats up, I wonder if someone will start leaking interesting revelations about highly placed officials in the administration, including Obama himself.

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James O’Keefe has an uncanny knack for exposing Leftist hypocrisy, corruption (financial, intellectual, and moral), and gross illegality.  He is back in spectacular style with a video showing three prominent Hollywood types agreeing to take money from an Arab oil sheikh (O’Keefe in disguise) in order to fund an anti-fracking film.

There’s nothing subtle about O’Keefe’s phony pitch, either. In a phone call with director Josh Tickell, O’Keefe explicitly states “My client’s interest is to end American energy independence; your interest is to end fracking. And you guys understand that?” Tickell is okay with that. “Correct. Yes, super clear,” he says.

While many people are shocked about environmentalists getting into bed with big oil in order to stop fracking, I was wondering more about their willingness to send money to Saudi Arabia, rather than to keep it at home.

Of course, O’Keefe just showed three fools in Hollywood. But what about the fact that real, not imaginary, Arab oil influence is huge in Washington, D.C. itself? Jeff Dunetz says that we need to pay attention to this very disturbing reality. Looking at the numbers, Dunetz points out that, not only is the UAE by far the biggest foreign lobby in D.C., the entire pro-Israel contribution (remember the “all powerful Jewish lobby” we keep hearing about?) is just 21% of the UAE’s contribution. Read the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

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Chad Felix Greene, who is (I believe) gay, says that it’s not unreasonable for people to be wary of transgendered people. It’s not one of his best posts (he’s a very good writer, but this is a bit muddy because he tries to be respectful of all points of view, even as he challenges some of them), but my takeaway is this:

It’s not unreasonable to be dismayed when your chosen sexual partner reveals that he or she started out life as a member of the opposite sex.  This is true regardless of whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual.  Thus, both a man planning to bed a former man, or a gay man planning to bed a former woman, might be upset to learn about the partners gender history.

It is reasonable, however to refuse to deny the biological reality that underlies transgendered self-definition. Just because someone says “I am a woman,” doesn’t mean you have to pretend that the person once had or still has a penis. You can be respectful of that person’s self-identity (no bullying, teasing, or discriminating), but you don’t have to deny biological and historical reality.

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Gay marriage is a done deal in America, folks. Although the Supreme Court addressed only the federal Defense of Marriage Act, courts across America are viewing that decision as a green light to overturn voters who said that, in their state, marriage is between a man and a woman. One really can’t blame the judges too much now that, years after those votes were originally cast, the same-sex marriage lobby’s endless advocacy means that 55% of Americans support gay marriage.

I’ve made it pretty clear that my opposition to gay marriage arises primarily because I foresee a coming clash between the First Amendment’s explicit guarantee that Americans have the right to exercise their religion freely and the newly created civil right to marry outside of the traditional boundaries of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We already know that gay couples will sue business people who, for religious reasons, refuse to provide services for same-sex marriage ceremonies, although they are willing to do business with same-sex couples in all other matters. How long will it be before same-sex partners sue the Catholic Church or a Baptist ministry for violating their civil rights?

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Spain has been Judenrein since 1492. That has done nothing to prevent the oldest hatred. (You can read more about Spain’s apparently atavistic antisemitism here.)

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How can one resist Jonah Goldberg on “trigger warnings,” which are just the latest insanity to issue from America’s loony academic citadels? After noting that he doesn’t have a problem with obscure, privately run Leftist blog sites catering to every trigger from audio of snapping fingers to pictures of animals in wigs, Goldberg adds:

But as is so often the case, common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness. Oberlin College’s Office of Equity Concerns advised professors to avoid such triggering subjects as racism, colonialism, and sexism. They soon rescinded it, perhaps because they realized that if such subjects become taboo, much of their faculty would be left with nothing to talk about.

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While I’m quoting, I was just kvelling with glee over John Hinderaker’s masterful use of imagery and the English language in connection with Howard Dean’s lunatic claim that Republicans are no longer Americans:

A terrible sort of insanity has gripped the Democratic Party. On almost a daily basis, when you see the party’s leaders in action, you want to start edging toward the door, murmuring “Nice doggie. Nice doggie.”

[snip]

This is a very bad thing. We need two functional political parties, and these days the Democrats don’t get over the bar, no matter how low you set it.

[snip]

Reid and Pelosi are so low-rent that you feel embarrassed for them whenever you see them. Screening a video [about Charles and David Koch] that is sheer partisan libel in the United States Capitol–illegally, as best I can tell–is right up their alley.

Read the whole thing, please, both because it’s beautifully written and because it’s substantively informative and important.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that it was no surprise to me that the poorest of the poor aren’t rushing to sign up for Obamacare. Contrary to our middle class expectations, they don’t mind having the ER serve as their preferred provider. Getting top flight medical care for free on an as-needed basis is a better deal for them than having to pay a monthly fee (no matter how low) for some hard to reach little clinic that makes them jump through hoops just to see a dermatologist.

Thanks to Obamacare, it looks as if a significant number of formerly insured (i.e., people who lost their insurance because of Obamacare) are also finding that the ER is a good option. Some haven’t even tried to get new insurance. Some have gotten trapped in the Obamacare exchange. Some have been told that they’re the wrong sex. Some cannot accept the substandard care in their new, narrow coverage. Whatever the reason, they’re joining the bottom 1% in seeing the ER as first and best when it comes to medical treatment.

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Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon in Oregon, won the Republican party primary and will now challenge incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley for Oregon’s Senate seat. No surprise, then, that Democrats have unearthed records showing that, in both a divorce and a contentious break-up with a boyfriend, the men contended that she was stalking, harassing, or even striking them. Neither sought restraining orders and the boyfriend has since become an enthusiastic (i.e., monied) supporter for her political campaign.

I’m dismissing the boyfriend stalking charge since he now supports her campaign. Whatever happened then, he clearly doesn’t think it affects Wehby’s ability to serve the people of Oregon and America.

The ex-husband charge (harassment and striking) intrigues me, because it reminds me very strongly of something that happened to a friend of mine. She and her husband were involved in a contentious divorce. Things came to a head when she went to his house (he owned it before they were married) to pick up some of her stuff. He refused to let her in, and said he would call the cops on her. She responded by yelling at him and swatting his chest.

You have to understand here that her soon-to-be ex stood at 6’2″ and was a burly man. My friend was 5’2″ and one of the physically weakest people I’ve ever met. She needed help lifting big binders. There was no possibility that she hurt or threatened him as she swatted him. Nevertheless, he had someone restrain her until the cops came along and then insisted that they arrest her.

My friend told me later that the cops apologized profusely for having to arrest her, because they recognized that the arrest was a travesty. Nevertheless, California law mandates that if a spouse says he was abused and demands that the alleged abuser gets arrested, then the alleged abuser must be arrested and prosecuted.

When the case went to trial, my friend was triumphantly acquitted and, I believe, the judge fined her ex for abusing both the divorce and criminal law processes.

That story makes me somewhat dubious about the claims from Wehby’s ex. In the context of a divorce, the problem nowadays isn’t just that one partner or another might become violent. It’s that one partner or another might lie about the other becoming violent.

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She murdered two people and then lied about that fact when she came to America, got citizenship, and became an influential activist for Islamic interests in America. You and I might think that the victims in this case are the two dead men and the American people. Au contraire, my naive friends. She is the victim (of course).

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The Marines are breathing a sigh of relief that one of their own finally got the recognition he deserved. Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter (ret.) will receive the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a live grenade to save a comrade’s life. He was terribly injured in the blast.

Carpenter has mixed feelings about the honor:

“There are guys who I was with who didn’t come back, so it’s hard for me to wear this and have the spotlight on me the rest of my life when they lost their life on a hot, dusty field in Afghanistan and most people don’t even know their names,” Carpenter said. “Even at Walter Reed, I recovered with quadruple-amputees. How am I supposed to wear this knowing and seeing all the hardships that are much worse than mine that guys have gone through without any recognition?”

Carpenter sounds like a very worthy recipient for the nation’s highest military honor.  To fully appreciate just how worthy, check out this article and check out this video:

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And to leave things on an equally uplifting, but somewhat more cheerful-in-a-silly-way note, here’s an adorable dancing two-year old. What I like particularly isn’t actually his dancing but is, instead, his “Vogue-ish” posing between dance moves:

Game of Thrones and how the things that we watch reveal something about who we are and what we’ve become

Yesterday, my substantive Bookworm Room work was limited to a single post in which I linked to David Swindle’s article about Game of Thrones.  Having read David’s writing, one of my friends sent me his take on Game of Thrones.  I’d like to share parts of it with you, as well as my response.

My friend watched the first two seasons because there was a story there about good versus evil.  I agree.  That I didn’t like the ugly violence of the show (and I found the underlying books dull) doesn’t change the fact that it was simply an R-rated version of an age-old fable of good versus evil.  It was in the third season that the show changed and that my friend, whose life is built around a solid core of Jude0-Christian morality, had enough:

What concerns me is the way the show is written the scum bags are more intriguing characters than the honorable ones. Even scarier is seeing comments of fans on line who brush off the “good guys” in the show as naive idiots (mostly because they get killed off) and the slime balls as compelling heroes of the show. What? Recently there was someone on FB who after one episode wrote: “Jamie Lannister is a class act.” Jaime leaped into a pit with a bear to save another character and now all the fans love him. I reminded my FB friend Jamie was a class act except for the fact he pushed a kid out of a window to kill him, commits incest with his sister, rapes women, murders innocents, and is generally a selfish dirt bag. How everyone sees this one act as some kind of redemption is beyond me. The characters who do the right thing, keep their word, etc, are all murdered and betrayed by the “smarter” cool characters.

I’ve enjoyed GoT for 2 seasons but this season seemed to drag. Then the Stark family (honorable, noble, keep their word types) were betrayed and nearly assassinated to a man. At this point I can count the characters with any nobility left to them on one hand. Plus I’ve always hated shows portraying where the noble characters are somehow the most flawed and the slime balls are the ones we are to sympathize with. GoT does this very well.

I couldn’t agree more. What I wrote back to my friend is that I’ve always felt that, if I’m going to give time in my life to a show, I want to spend it with people with whom I’d want to spend time in real life. I don’t like spending time with sociopaths or psychopaths, so why would I want to spend umpteen hours getting close to Jamie Lannister or Tony Soprano?

I understand the need for dramatic tension. A show that’s just about good guys being good tends to lack plot movement. For centuries, we resolved this by having good guys defeat bad guys — and we identified with the good guys. Kids were Superman, Batman, Dick Tracy, etc. Somewhere along the line, that changed, and we started being expected to identify with the bad guys. (Was it The Godfather that did this or the 1950s James Dean antiheroes?)

We’ve now moved beyond having sympathetic bad guys face off against one-dimensional good guys, and, for the most part, done away with good guys altogether. They’re just so dull. But keep in mind that their dullness is not their fault:  The good guys in modern drama became dull because no one knows how to write interesting or charming characters anymore.  A witty, brilliant Lord Peter Wimsey, or a sparkling Elizabeth Bennett, or a bewildered, striving Pip, or whatever other good character you admire, both because the character is good and because the character is interesting — those people (and they are real to me) seem to be impossible for modern writers to create.

I was actually thinking this same thought last night when I finally got around to watching Skyfall this weekend. I was bored out of my mind, and for a very specific reason. James Bond used to be charming. Now he’s thuggish. That’s actually a bit truer to the books, which were noir-style, but it’s not true to the spirit that’s animated the Bond movies since 1963. In the old days, women wanted to meet the raffish Bond and men wanted to be him. Nowadays, with the psychopathic, possibly bisexual Bond, you want to run screaming from the room. So again, why would I want to spend two hours of my life sitting in the dark watching this so-called “hero”?

Some people I know raved about Big Bang Theory, shown on FX.  It was about a school teacher turned insane drug dealer. They marveled that I didn’t want to watch it. And I couldn’t understand why they wanted me to abandon Pride & Prejudice (always an uplifting, amusing book about charming, personable characters learning how to behave correctly, not badly) to spend hours and hours watching this guy sink constantly lower.

If you want an insight into our lost culture, just watch what serves for comedy, drama, or documentary on HBO or FX or any of the other cable challenges that stream into our homes and our children’s brains.  Seeing these shows is like an intellectual gathering place for all that’s bad about Leftist thought.

And here’s another thought while I’m (finally) on a roll.  Last night, our TiVo captured a dreary (but award-winning) Spanish-language movie called Pan’s Labyrinth.  It’s about an imaginative little girl in Spain in 1944, whose widowed mother has married a psychopathic fascist captain during the Spanish Civil War.  Naturally, the Communists are portrayed sympathetically.

In fact, if one reads about the Spanish Civil War, it was a war much like that taking place in Syria:  moral, decent people would want both sides to lose.  If I remember correctly, it emerged in the 1990s or so that the Communist leaders systematically slaughtered those starry-eyed idealists who had come from America and England to help the Communists fight the Fascists.  The fundamental truth was that both sides were socialist totalitarian bodies that simply wanted dibs on creating dictatorships in Spain.

What I thought as I watched the movie is that, even though the Fascists won, the Communists wrote the history.  And indeed, the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century is characterized by that phenomenon:  no matter who wins or loses on the ground, the Communists write the history.  It used to be that the victor got to own the past, which enabled the victor to keep a tight grip on the present.  Can you think of another place or time in which one side to the ideological battle, whether it wins or loses, always retains control over the narrative?

Here at home, we fought a fifty-year Cold War and, technically, we won.  Except our students all read Howard Zinn’s ultra Leftist People’s History of the United States.  Which means we lost, because even though the Soviet Union is gone, its ideology lives on in the hearts and minds of our children, as well as in the halls of our White House.

I’ve been depressed for the last few days, making it hard to write.  Having read what I’ve just written, I’m still depressed.