The Bookworm Beat 5-18-15 — “clearing out my inbox” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingNo, you’re not imagining it. Yes, I have been AWOL. The legal work has finally tapered off, but other things have filled the vacuum, taking up both my time and energy. Some of them are very nice things but, much as I love you all, I can’t share them here. And of course, some are just the ordinary stuff that makes up the life of someone who is both a mother and a daughter. During the time I’ve been AWOL, I’ve received quite a lot of very interesting links. Starting with this post, and continuing into others, I’d like to share them with you.

What Republican candidates should say on Iraq

Reporters are playing Iraq gotcha with the Republican candidates, although they’ve assiduously avoided asking Hillary any questions about the war even though she voted for the War. John Hinderaker has the perfect answer that Republican candidates should give when asked about the War:

The candidates have handled such questions with varying degrees of deftness. But so far, none has responded with: “You are asking whether I think Hillary Clinton made a mistake in voting for it?” After the necessary backing and filling by the interviewer, the candidate can proceed with this answer: “No. The mistake was when Barack Obama prematurely withdrew our troops. At that time, he said Iraq was stable, secure and prosperous, and he was right. The chaos we see now is the direct result of President Obama’s mistake.” If enough Republicans start responding that way, reporters will stop asking the question.

Once again, too many of the people running as Republicans are showing that they lack the savvy to win. This is separate from whatever other virtues they may have — their intelligence, their principles, their experience, etc. Rule number one to win as a Republican candidate is to beat the MSM at its own game. If you can’t do that, you better kiss your White House aspirations goodbye.

Is Cruz the man?

You all know that I like Cruz. He’s rock solid on the Constitution without the wacky libertarian quality that Rand Paul has. He’s also smart. Really, really smart. Of course, I’ve known smart people who are useless. They live in a cloud, can’t stand being around anybody since everyone else’s intelligence seems infantile compared to theirs, and are incapable of navigating their way through ordinary life. As best as I can tell, though, Cruz has highly functional intelligence.

Certainly David Goldman, aka Spengler, thinks that Cruz’s sharp mind is the only thing that can rebuild America’s foreign credentials after both the Bush and Obama years:

Sen. Cruz is authentically bright, sufficiently so for the liberal Alan Dershowitz to declare that he was the best student he had ever had at Harvard’s Law School. The conservative legal theorist Robert P. George, who taught Cruz at Princeton, says the same thing. He’s so smart that he is not the least impressed by the conservative foreign policy establishment.

That’s what qualifies Ted Cruz for the presidency. Among the Republican candidates, Cruz is the only one to state plainly that we stayed too long in Iraq and erred in trying to turn it into Switzerland. (I exclude Rand Paul, who is a dumb rube isolationist of the old school and unqualified for national office.)


Marco Rubio is a bright and personable young man with an attractive message, but he is callow enough to think that Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer are foreign policy sages. Rubio speaks eloquently of his support for Israel, but a great deal of what he proposes will damage Israeli interests. For the past ten years, Russia has told us that it would hurt us in Iran in retaliation for Western efforts to get control of Ukraine. Russia is threatening to give Iran sophisticated air-defense systems; if it wants to, Russia can create a huge amount of trouble for us in Iran. America’s stupidity in Ukraine turns Israel into collateral damage; every Israeli I know thinks that American policy toward Ukraine is crazy.

Scott Walker is a terrific governor and an attractive candidate, but he has no foreign policy experience–unlike Reagan, who did a weekly foreign policy radio broadcast for a decade, and did his own research. Walker could persuade me that he knows what he’s doing, but I haven’t heard much from him yet. Foreign policy is too important for the next administration for us to elect a president who needs on-the-job training.

It’s none of their business

My kids’ high school recently did its annual survey about the students’ sex lives, alcohol, and drug use. I refused to let my children participate. I actually understand that it’s useful for schools to know that some percentage of their students get drunk every weekend, but I still rank my privacy higher than their right to know. (Incidentally, I can say with 100% certainty that my kids do not drink, do drugs, or sleep around.)

I mention this because there was a hearing a couple of weeks ago in Massachusett’s decision to give middle school kids a survey inquiring into the details of some of the more unusual sexual practices:

Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and called the “Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” the survey asks students as young as 12 a series of very personal and highly ideological questions.

The survey asks students if they are homosexual and if they are transgender. It also asks if they have had oral or anal sex and if they have performed such acts with up to six people.

Whether or not they have carried a gun, smoked cigarettes, consumed alcohol and how much also appear on the questionnaire, as well as whether they have taken drugs, such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin. It asks how often their guardian uses a seat belt, if the youngster has a sexually transmitted disease, and where they sleep.

In other words, if you’d managed to keep your child sheltered from the sordid side of life, the government will make sure to shatter that sheltered childhood.

Is this why Jews, despite the example of WWII, refuse to accept the Second Amendment?

Eric King is an anomaly: a Jew who always was interested in guns and self-defense. In America, despite the example of WWII and the gas chambers, American Jews are monolithically afraid of guns. King thinks this might be because these Jews are not descendants of pioneers and Holocaust survivors (which is the case in Israel) but are, instead, the descendants of shtetl dwellers:

Before the existence of the state of Israel ever since the diaspora Jews have lived in small areas of other people’s countries. Among American Jews this now typically means great grandparents who lived in shtetls or ghettos, segregated, isolated rural or urban areas in Europe. One of the major hazards of this situation was that occasionally a few Cossacks would get drunk, ride over to the nearest shtetl, rape a few women, maybe murder a man who protested rather than begging for his life and then ride off into the sunset, big fun… for the Cossacks.

It had to be inescapably clear to these Jews that there were dozens if not hundreds of them, able-bodied and sober, surely a match for 8 or 10 drunk Cossacks. It would have been easy, even for people not trained in arms, to kill them and bury them someplace, but it is obvious why they did not. If they had done so, all the Cossacks would have come to the shtetl fully armed for battle. They would have massacred every Jew in this shtetl and every other one within 100 versts. Defense was just not an option, not a survival trait. The women raped and the men murdered had to be seen as the price Jews paid for living, for surviving as a people. Since no Jew ever even remotely considered the possibility that without some major provocation someday the Cossacks would try to kill them all, it seemed like a reasonable if awful compromise.

Such a compromise must have taken a devastating and horrific psychological toll on the people forced to make it. Sooner or later someone among our traumatized ancestors had to make the following rationalization to justify this situation: “We are better than those people because they are violent and we are not. They handle weapons, and we do not.” In order to maintain self-respect people in such a condition had to explain it as the result of something that made them better than their oppressors. This was the notion that they voluntarily (rather than of necessity as was the actual case) eschewed the use of weapons of any sort because they understood that violence was evil while their tormentors did not. It was the key to survival, self-respect and eventually the shtetl mentality which American Jews, far removed from the shtetl, still carry with them despite the fact that it has long since lost its utility.

It’s a fascinating theory, coming from someone who grew up inside the American Jewish community (which I did not). In my own home, my Dad, a veteran of two wars, desperately wanted a gun in the house; my Mom, a middle class prisoner of war, equally desperately didn’t want guns. In other words, my Dad, who was a fighter, not a victim, recognized that guns gave him useful power. My mother, who had an experience akin to a shtetl on steroids, saw guns only as symbol of oppression, not hope or power.

The prescient Margaret Thatcher

England has managed to weather the recession better than many other nations in Europe. This is no doubt due to the fact that it retained its currency when it joined the European Union — something that has proven to be a very smart decision. What I had forgotten was the fact that Margaret Thatcher was the one who took the then highly unpopular stance of refusing to buy into the Euro. Looking back, one sees that this brilliant woman understood the risks of the Euro, and refused to take them:

Today, Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, first published in 1993, reads like a prophecy. It shows how deeply and with what extraordinary wisdom she had examined Delors’ proposals for the single currency. Her overriding objection was not ill-considered or xenophobic, as subsequent critics have repeatedly claimed.

They were economic. Right back in 1990, Mrs Thatcher foresaw with painful clarity the devastation it was bound to cause. Her autobiography records how she warned John Major, her euro-friendly chancellor of the exchequer, that the single currency could not accommodate both industrial powerhouses such as Germany and smaller countries such as Greece. Germany, forecast Thatcher, would be phobic about inflation, while the euro would prove fatal to the poorer countries because it would “devastate their inefficient economies”.

Finger-pointing regarding California’s drought

I’ve been in perfect sync with Victor Davis Hanson when it comes to California’s drought: It’s the fault of decades of Democrat control, because the Democrats, despite California’s burgeoning population, have absolutely refused to upgrade California’s reservoirs and other water-related infrastructure. Indeed, again despite the growing population, California Democrats have gone the other way, channeling more and more California water to environmental causes and away from humans.

Apparently the New York Times has gotten wind of these conservative heresies, and has rushed to shut them down. In a recent article it announced triumphantly that the fault lies with Gov. Pat Brown, rather than with current Progressive governor Jerry Brown. I should note that Brown, Sr., who was in office from 1951 to 1959 was also a Democrat, but that was back in the day when Democrats pretty much looked like today’s Republicans.

So what was Pat Brown’s sin? His policies gave the once Golden State a thriving economy:

When Edmund G. Brown Sr. was governor of California, people were moving in at a pace of 1,000 a day. With a jubilant Mr. Brown officiating, California commemorated the moment it became the nation’s largest state, in 1962, with a church-bell-ringing, four-day celebration. He was the boom-boom governor for a boom-boom time: championing highways, universities and, most consequential, a sprawling water network to feed the explosion of agriculture and development in the dry reaches of central and Southern California.

Never mind that any fool could see, especially after the drought in the late 1970s, that California’s infrastructure was inadequate to meet the demands placed upon it. The real issue is “if only Pat Brown hadn’t made California successful.”

I’ll note as I have before that the Left has internalized pathological narcissism as its ideological mindset, and that means it never makes mistakes. All mistakes are always someone else’s fault. It’s a comforting delusion, but it also makes it impossible for individuals or political parties to learn from their errors.

Israel, thankfully, has not made the Democrat mistake, and is making damn sure that, in an arid land, it has sufficient water:

A ranking Iranian political figure, Issa Kalantari, recently warned that past mistakes leave Iran with water supplies so insufficient that up to 70 percent, or 55 million out of 78 million Iranians, would be forced to abandon their native country for parts unknown.

Many facts buttress Kalantari’s apocalyptic prediction: Once lauded in poetry, Lake Urmia, the Middle East’s largest lake, has lost 95 percent of its water since 1996, going from 31 billion cubic meters to 1.5 billion. What the Seine is to Paris, the Zayanderud was to Isfahan – except the latter went bone-dry in 2010. Over two-thirds of Iran’s cities and towns are “on the verge of a water crisis” that could result in drinking water shortages; already, thousands of villages depend on water tankers. Unprecedented dust storms disrupt economic activity and damage health.

I urge you to read the whole fascinating article, which details the infrastructure breakdown throughout the Middle East — except in Israel.  As always, the tyrants make the policies and the people suffer.  In the palaces of the monarchs and the mosques of the imams, water will continue to flow, even as the fellahin, mired in poverty, ignorance, and hatred, go thirsty.

More to come as a I continue to go through the fascinating links my friends have sent me.