The Bookworm Beat 4-27-15 — “not yet the Apocalypse” edition and open thread

Woman writingMy brain is filled with Apocalyptic imagery, but it’s not because Obama is president, the Middle East is in flames, our southern border has collapsed, our economy is stagnant, Greece may drag down Europe, and Islamist’s are resurgent everywhere. It’s actually because last night, when my work load finally showed signs of a much-desired longish-term slowdown, I started reading two excellent books.

The first is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s lyrical and highly informative Jerusalem: The Biography, which takes the reader from Jerusalem’s pre-Biblical beginnings, to Old Testament and New Testament history, and then through post-Biblical history, all the way up to the 1967 War. It’s a lovely book, but I’ve just finished reading about Jesus’s crucifixion and am working my way toward’s the Kingdom of Israel’s destruction in 70 AD, so you can see why I’d be having an “end of days” feeling.

The second book that I’m reading, equally good so far, isn’t helping. It’s John Kelly’s The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, another elegantly written book that makes you realize the speed with which civilization can collapse (as if the recent Ebola scare wasn’t reminder enough). I think too that Kelly, with a historian’s true knowledge rather than a Progressive’s fantasy-science melange, might just be a climate change skeptic. It’s this bit of information that’s the giveaway, about the changing climate and demographic conditions in Europe in the five hundred years leading to the plague:

Sometime between 750 and 800, Europe entered the Little Optimum, * a period of global warming. Across the continent, temperatures increased by an average of more than 1 degree Celsius, but, rather than producing catastrophe, as many current theorists of global warming predict, the warm weather produced abundance. England and Poland became wine-growing countries, and even the inhabitants of Greenland began experimenting with vineyards. More important , the warm weather turned marginal farmland into decent farmland, and decent farmland into good farmland. In the final centuries of Roman rule, crop yields had fallen to two and three to one—a yield represents the amount of seed harvested to the amount planted: a return so meager, the Roman agricultural writer Columella feared that the land had grown old. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as winters became milder and summers warmer and drier, European farms began to produce yields of five and six to one, unprecedented by medieval standards.

Those of us who paid attention in school already knew about medieval global warming, and the consequent food and population boom, and we’ve feared a coming plague a lot more than rising oceans if it should turn out that the climate hysterics have been correct about warming. (Thank God, they almost certain aren’t.)

So, if you’re looking for some good reads to get your mind of modern politics and remind yourself that it could always be worse, I recommend the above two books. And now back to our regularly scheduled (hah!) information round-up.

George Bush is nobody’s fool

I don’t know if I told you, but an acquaintance of mine heard the first few minutes of George W. Bush’s speech at this year’s Health IT Conference in Chicago. It was a law that Bush put into effect that led to the extremely profitable (for some) Health IT boom. My acquaintance, who is fiercely supportive of Obama, couldn’t say enough bad things about Bush: “He was just an idiot with his little ‘heh-heh-heh’ laugh. It was obvious that he had no idea what Health IT was. He was just spouting nonsense.”

I’ve never thought Bush stupid. After all, unlike Obama, we know Bush’s grades from both Yale and Harvard BS and, in an era before grade inflation, he earned what were then fairly respectable “Cs” — certainly better than the French-looking John Kerry and the apocalyptic boor Al Gore.

Even if had thought Bush was stupid, I might have had to reexamine my prejudices if I’d attended the Republican Jewish donors meeting at which Bush, behind closed doors, lambasted Obama’s foreign policies:

According to the attendee’s transcription, Bush noted that Iran has a new president, Hassan Rouhani. “He’s smooth,” Bush said. “And you’ve got to ask yourself, is there a new policy or did they just change the spokesman?”

Bush said that Obama’s plan to lift sanctions on Iran with a promise that they could snap back in place at any time was not plausible. He also said the deal would be bad for American national security in the long term: “You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal.”

Bush then went into a detailed criticism of Obama’s policies in fighting the Islamic State and dealing with the chaos in Iraq. On Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of 2011, he quoted Senator Lindsey Graham calling it a “strategic blunder.” Bush signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw those troops, but the idea had been to negotiate a new status of forces agreement to keep U.S. forces there past 2011. The Obama administration tried and failed to negotiate such an agreement.

Bush said he views the rise of the Islamic State as al-Qaeda’s “second act” and that they may have changed the name but that murdering innocents is still the favored tactic. He defended his own administration’s handling of terrorism, noting that the terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was captured on his watch: “Just remember the guy who slit Danny Pearl’s throat is in Gitmo, and now they’re doing it on TV.”

Read the rest here.

Josh Rogin, who wrote the above article, couldn’t resist adding at the end that “He [Bush] also revealed that he takes little responsibility for the policies that he put in place that contributed to the current state of affairs.” Frankly, Bush didn’t have to. Bush left Obama a stable Iraq, a stabilizing Afghanistan, a cowed Libya, a peaceful Syria and Egypt, and a strong ally in Israel. Obama promised to improve on this state of affairs — and made everything catastrophically worse.

Thinking about the rising number of deaths in the Middle East and Africa on Obama’s watch, I couldn’t help wondering whether Obama, who almost certainly believes that the world is over-populated (because that’s what most greenies think), isn’t doing his bit towards a Malthusian world cleansing.

Obama is a jerk

We all know Obama’s a jerk, but every year at the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner he likes to remind us just how much of a jerk he can be. John Hinderaker does a fine job exposing what a nasty piece of work Obama is. I’ll just add that it’s typical that one of the jokes that excited the entire Leftist media spectrum was Obama’s little boy play with words, talking about “bucket” when everyone knew — ooooh!!! — that (imagine a child’s sing-song chant here) that the President used the “F” word. Might nations don’t necessary fall suddenly; sometimes they commit suicide through ritual self-humiliation.

Obama has blood on his hands

Mike McDaniel reminds us that flouting laws always has consequences. When you’re the president, those consequences play out on a large, and often tragic, canvas. Such is the case when our president mandates that his employees ignore immigration laws. The result is that people who ought not to be here in the first place, and probably wouldn’t be here with a law-abiding administration, kill (and rape and, thanks to their home culture, commit what we consider to be acts of pedophilia).

The Clintons have been doing federal government pay-for-play deals for long time

Jack Cashill explains that Hillary didn’t need to be in the State Department to learn the art of selling off America to the highest foreign bidder. If you go here, he’ll walk you through the way in which Bill Clinton did a major land grab in Utah so as to hand over to political (and, of course, corrupt) players in Indonesia the ability to control the world’s clean-burning, low-sulfur coal.

The Democrats’ plans for mental illness

Coming of age and working in San Francisco from the late 60s through the 1990s meant that I saw more than my fair share of horribly mentally ill people living in absolute squalor in streets and parks. In any truly humane society, we would have extended care to these people, rather than to let me act out their profound disabilities in public places. They were filthy, malnourished, verminous, diseased, and sometimes violent.

Back in 1994, when Hillary took her first stab at socializing American medicine, she announced that she would be including fixes for helping America’s mentally ill. Of course, being a socialist, she couldn’t stop with fixes actually helping the mentally ill. Instead, as D.J. Jaffe explains, she decided to include everyone in America in her plan, so that we would all be funding each other’s mental wellness, leaving little to no money for the seriously mentally ill. Expect her to do exactly the same thing if Americans, for God alone knows what reason, elect her to the presidency.

By the way, it’s not just Hillary. Expect any Democrat president to do exactly the same thing.

Christianity and respect for children

I always thought that it was the Victorians who invented childhood. It was they, after all, who came up with the almost sickly sweet reverence for the purity of the little child. From Charles Dickens to Harriet Beecher Stowe to Louisa May Alcott to J.M. Barrie, 19th century writers flooded the market with stories about funny children, noble children, magical children, saccharine children, and angelic children.

I was wrong, though. The Victorians invented the cult of childhood, which Americans revamped in the years after WWII. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry reminds us, it was the early Christians who, in contrast to the surrounding Pagan world, invented the notion that children are individuals entitled to respect and the dignity of their personal boundaries. In a pre-modern world (and, still, in the Islamic world), children, with their high mortality rate and limited ability to defend themselves, existed to serve adults as slaves of all sorts, including sexual slaves:

High infant mortality rates created a cultural pressure to not develop emotional attachments to children. This cultural pressure was exacerbated by the fact that women were more likely to develop emotional attachments to children — which, according to the worldview of the day, meant it had to be a sign of weakness and vulgarity.

Various pagan authors describe children as being more like plants than human beings. And this had concrete consequences.


One of the most notorious ancient practices that Christianity rebelled against was the frequent practice of expositio, basically the abandonment of unwanted infants. (Of course, girls were abandoned much more often than boys, which meant, as the historical sociologist Rodney Stark has pointed out, that Roman society had an extremely lopsided gender ratio, contributing to its violence and permanent tension.)

Another notorious practice in the ancient world was the sexual exploitation of children. It is sometimes pointed to paganism’s greater tolerance (though by no means full acceptance) of homosexuality than Christianity as evidence for its higher moral virtue. But this is to look at a very different world through distorting lenses. The key thing to understand about sexuality in the pagan world is the ever-present notion of concentric circles of worth. The ancient world did not have fewer taboos, it had different ones. Namely, most sexual acts were permissible, as long as they involved a person of higher status being active against or dominating a person of lower status. This meant that, according to all the evidence we have, the sexual abuse of children (particularly boys) was rife.

The Gay mafia (which is distinct in a bad way from ordinary people whose sexual affinity goes to their own sex), insofar as it hopes to do away with restrictive Christian-based proscriptions on sex with children, loves to point out that Greeks and Romans, who were then the apex of civilization and whose ideas still underpin some of our thinking, thought homosexuality was the purest, best form of love. It’s worth pointing out to them that this ancient view of homosexuality was indistinguishable from the bizarre NAMBLA-themed romance stories a pedophile recites in his own head as he molests a small child.

Sexist transexuals

One of the things I’ve noticed about transvestites, transexuals, and transgendered is that, when they’re directing their energies to going from male to female, their view of the woman they want to be always has a lot more to do with Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe than it does with the ordinary women who populate my world. In my world, real women dress up a few times a year. Most of the time, they’re wearing comfortable clothing to deal with children, work, housekeeping, exercising, etc. We don’t plaster ourselves with make-up, show cleavage all the time, walk around in impossible shoes, and speak in breathy voices.

And as is typical whenever you dig down into the mad, mad world of the Left, you discover that someone is up in arms about something. While I may find it amusing, and also somewhat sad, that trans men have to go to such hyperfeminine extremes to distinguish themselves from their unacceptable biological reality, feminists are just mad. (Of course, feminists are always mad. It seems to be their defining characteristic.)

Capturing our kinetic military on film

The military is not, by nature, a passive organization. It’s very kinetic. Men and women train and fight, and their equipment does everything. These pictures capture those active moments.