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:

Sydney’s Muslim leaders remain baffled by the Martin Place siege, saying they do not recognise the man who has taken a number of people hostage inside the Lindt Café, and cannot discern his motivation.

“He’s certainly no-one that I recognise,” says Keysar Trad, from the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia. “And the flag he has held up is not a jihadist flag, it’s the kalimah, which translates as ‘There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his messenger.’ ”

Kuranda Seyit, from the Forum on Islamic Relations, and prominent Muslim community figure Rebecca Kay, also remained in the dark on the possible identity of the man. Mr Seyit said: “I know many people in the community, but I don’t recognise this man.”

Ms Kay said that “it’s also very unusual that he doesn’t appear to have a beard. If he was a jihadist, it would be compulsory for him to a have beard, just as the woman must wear the hijab. So that seemed strange.”

Is it churlish for me to point out that the Shahada is an integral part of not only the ISIS (or, as I call it, GARBAGE) flag, but also of flags all over the Muslim world?

Better a prisoner in Israel, than a “free” man in Gaza

There’s a new trend in Gaza — men trying to get into the Israeli prison system, not to destroy the institution, but to benefit from it:

Palestinian youths prefer to spend time in Israeli prison than to live in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Over the past two months, more than 20 Palestinians have been arrested while trying to cross from the Gaza Strip into Israel, according to Palestinian sources. A number of Palestinians have also been killed or wounded during their infiltration attempts.


The Palestinian news website, Al-Watan Voice, interviewed two of the youths who embarked on the dangerous adventure. The two young men said they prefer the “comfort” of Israeli prisons to life in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Ahmed al-Rai, 19, never made it into Israel. As he approached the security buffer zone along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, he was shot and moderately wounded by IDF troops. Al-Rai has lost a leg and is now lying in bed at the Nasser Hospital in the Gaza Strip.

“I wanted to escape to Israel so that I would be imprisoned there,” he recounted. “It would have been a relief for me and better than the problems in the Gaza Strip. I thought it would be easy to infiltrate the border, but now my life has become even more miserable.”

Herbert Meyer puts the onus on Americans to decide if they’re okay with torture

Herbert Meyer has written an absolutely splendid article about the DiFi torture memo. I urge you to read it because it clarifies the issue so much. Here’s just a small part but, again, you should read the whole thing:

Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep us safe. Let’s use what’s called the Ticking-Time-Bomb scenario to illustrate this point:

A terrorist group announces that it’s placed a nuclear device somewhere in San Francisco. They say it will detonate in 72 hours. The senior senator from California — that would be Dianne Feinstein, outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the former mayor of San Francisco — urges residents of her home town to remain calm and not panic. The senator adds that while her thoughts and prayers are with the people of San Francisco, she will remain at her post in Washington DC, about 2,000 miles away from the likely blast radius.

The next day CIA undercover agents in Yemen capture one of the terrorists. They ask him, politely, to tell them where the bomb is located. The terrorist remains silent. “Please tell us,” one of the CIA agents begs. “Surely you don’t want to turn one of the world’s most beautiful cities into a pile of radioactive rubble.” The terrorist replies, “Allahu Akbar, God is Great, Americans must die.”

Here’s the way I see it: Torture is wrong when you’re simply using profound physical and psychic pain to instill fear or to make people suffer only because you think they deserve to suffer. The sadists in the Nazi death camps tortured Jews because they found it thrilling, both the pain they inflicted and the fear they inspired. Likewise, the sadists in Vietnam did the same thing, helped along by the faint hope that they could cause American morale to suffer.  Throughout history, sadists have used torture to coerce people (both those being tortured and those afraid of potential future torture) into accepting specific agendas.

These are entirely different situations from that facing the US on September 12, 2001, or in the scenario Meyer describes. In those cases, just as in the fictional 24, torture is not, for the torturer, a pleasurable end in itself. It is a necessary tool done only when time is of the essence and lives on your side of the equation are at stake.  It’s as simple as that.

Orwell joins the army

An Army chaplain is being disciplined for mentioning that, while he was going through a hard time as an Army Ranger, the Biblical story of King David offered him solace. This was a personal anecdote, not a sermon. Moreover, do I need to say again that he’s a “chaplain,” which is defined as “an ecclesiastic attached to the chapel of a royal court, college, etc., or to a military unit.”? An “ecclesiastic,” as you know, is “a member of the clergy or other person in religious orders.” In other words, the role of chaplain is intrinsically religious.

In any event, a militant atheistic spoke up and — boom! — the chaplain’s in trouble for putting into words what’s obvious just by looking at the insignia on his uniform; namely, that he finds comfort in the Bible.

Do you ever wonder whether we’re all unwitting players in some giant performance art piece or, perhaps, a joke? I mean, can atheists, and feminists, and blacks, and differently gendered people really be this thin-skinned, demanding, reality-denying, and outrageous? Really? I keep expecting to hear a far-off director holler out “Cut!”

Then again, the real problem may just be that there are too many profoundly stupid, and often dishonest, and definitely easily-led people in the world.

It’s been 70 years since the Battle of the Bulge

When I was in Washington, D.C. in 2004, the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, I arrived at the WWII memorial at precisely the same time as a huge group of veterans who had fought that battle. They were incredibly frail men. One couldn’t help but think that the extraordinary suffering they underwent in December 1944 contributed to Age’s heavy hand on their shoulders. I embarrassed the children dreadfully by starting to cry when I saw these men.

I still cry when I think about them. And I am so incredibly grateful for what they did.

Today, on the 70th anniversary of that dreadful December, the National Interest argues that the Battle of the Bulge was a tremendously important one  Then, it mattered because the war could still so easily have swung Hitler’s way.  Now, it teaches us important military lessens that apply at any time, in any place.

Hitler’s former victims now carry the executioner’s axe

One of the Left’s favorite tropes is to compare Israel to the Nazis. The implication is that the Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinians, never mind that Palestinian population numbers are growing by leaps and bounds, something inconsistent with genocide. Oh, and of course the Israelis are “imprisoning” the Palestinians by building a wall that let’s Palestinians go anywhere but into Israel. Apparently it’s also genocidal fro the Israelis to act to block the Palestinians from killing them.

So, as I said, the Left loves to cast today’s Jews as the new Nazis. As with the Army chaplain kerfuffle, Orwell would have been proud to have predicted the future so accurately.

But let’s talk about the real new Nazis. Those would be the people who encourage abortion to rid society of undesirables. Indeed, these new Nazis go so far as to militate for post-birth abortion, something that most of us would call murder. The “undesirables,” of course, are mostly minorities, whose communities Planned Parenthood targets and who abort a much larger percentage of their own future children than do other races in America.

As one of those modern-day eugenicist Progressives has explained, abortion is good for America: “By 1993 all cohorts under the age 19 were born under legalized abortion and we estimate steady state savings of $1.6 billion per year from positive selection.”

If you’re wondering who said that, it was Jonathan Gruber.  Testifying about that paper now, he contends that he wasn’t advocating for abortion at all; he was just following where the logic of the numbers led him. Funnily enough, so did the Nazis. Science without morals is really the shortest line to genocide, because there’s always a good numeric argument to slaughter, or at the very least enslave, the people you don’t like.

I bet you still want me to explain the title I gave to this segment of my Bookworm Beat post.  Well, think about Jonathan Gruber: Obviously Jewish and, to my finally tuned gaydar, obviously gay. Had he been unlucky enough to fall into the Nazi’s bloody, gaping maw, this man who so cavalierly proved that the economic numbers support abortion would have been first in line at the gas chambers.

Elizabeth Warren — the new George McGovern

Mr. Bookworm feels betrayed. He married a Democrat and ended up married to a Republican. Considering how central political values are to our very identity, he can be excused for believing that I’ve done something remarkably similar to leaving him for another man.

What Mr. Bookworm can’t understand, though, is that he betrayed me too. Just as I’ve become more conservative, he’s become wildly more liberal. When we met, we were mushy, Jewish, intellectual(ish) Democrats who skated unthinkingly along the left side of the middle of the road. The problem is that, while my label has changed, his hasn’t.  I read National Review, he he still reads the New York Times  and The New Yorker.  As far as he’s concerned, the fact that he’s added Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to his list of political oracles is meaningless.  He’s still a Democrat.

Mr. Bookworm refuses to concede that I’m the next generation of Reagan Republicans:  “I didn’t leave the Democrat party; the Democrat party left me.”  Rather than acknowledging that the Democrat party has shifted, Mr. Bookworm simply focuses on the label.

Given his intransigence, I doubt that even statistics from a trusted member of the political Left (or center) would move Mr. Bookworm from the martyred hill upon which he stands (“The Hill of the Abandoned Husband”).  It wouldn’t matter to him that the FiveThirtyEight blog has looked at the data and concluded that, if that Mr. Bookworm voted for Elizabeth Warren (and he would), he would be voting for the most Leftist presidential nominee since 1972. In other words, the Left’s center has shifted too.

It’s the lies

Looking back on my posts since Obama emerged on the scene, one of the constants running through my writing is about the lies. Democrats lie and lie and lie. The Clintons were famous for it, of course. Obama, a malignant narcissist, lies as easily as he breathes.  And then there are all the lies coming from every part of the Obama administration. They suddenly seem to be emerging everywhere, like some revolting fungus oozing up from fetid ground.

Perhaps this is to test us. That famous American, Abraham Lincoln, said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” That equally famous American, P.T. Barnum, said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Perhaps we’re at a historic point in American history, one that sees us discovering whether Lincoln was correct, and common sense and honesty will reassert themselves, or whether the suckers that Barnum predicted by now so far outnumber rational people that there is no hope.

Still, there are surprises

Here’s a surprise — I found the following poster on the Facebook page of a hard Left gay friend (someone I’ve known most of my life). He was thrilled by the pecs, but he seemed equally excited by the sentiment:

Hate cops next time call a crackhead

To offset that surprise, though, comes this absence of surprise.  Another of my reliably liberal Facebook friends was just thrilled by the “can’t we all get along” philosophy of these alleged “Native American Ten Commandments.”

Native American Ten Commandments

Is it just me, or do these “Ten Commandments” sound remarkably like California’s environmentalist, self-actualization movement from the 1970s? And look where that got California….

Influencing others the good way

When I was in 2nd grade, one of the reading books we had at school (which probably dated back to the 1940s) included an absolutely wonderful story about the way in which a teacher changed an entire neighborhood.  As I remember it, the teacher had a little girl in her class who always smelled stale and dirty.  For Christmas, the teacher gave the little girl a small perfumed soap.  The next day, the little girl showed up at school wearing her ragged clothes, but smelling sweet.

The little girl’s mother noticed how sweet her daughter smelled and decided that she should wear clean clothes too.  So this formerly slatternly, overwhelmed mother, washed her daughter’s pinafore.  And so it went, day after day.  The other children in the family also wanted to look and smell clean and fresh.  And with those clean, fresh children, the woman decided to clean her house.

Once the house was cleaned, she asked her husband to whitewash the inside of the house.  He did and, carried away with enthusiasm, whitewashed the outside of the house too.  The neighbors, impressed by his shiny house, decided that their houses should also look bright and clean.  Lastly, of course, the whole neighborhood started taking care of its gardens.  The moral was that, just by giving a little girl a bar of soap, that kind teacher was able to bring a new sense of pride to an entire community.

I thought of that when I read about what the Marines did in Bahrain.