Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hitchens post

Anybody who writes a book attacking Mother Teresa can't be all bad. I've always had a soft spot for Christopher Hitchens, despite his political and philosophical positions, because he writes like an angel sniffing glue and because he is perhaps the last of his tribe — the old school English literary eccentric.

One of the first posts I wrote for Reflecting Light concerned his televised debate with politician George Galloway over the validity of the Iraq invasion. (Galloway had called Hitchens a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay," to which Hitchens countered, "Only some of which is true.") A master of the bon mot in debate and print, Hitchens can almost make you believe in things against your better judgment, and it was he as much as anyone who led me into a period of delusion about Iraq.


I was saddened to read that his life of double-ended candlepower has caught up with him, the smoking and drinking probably playing a major part in leading to his recent diagnosis of esophageal cancer, for which he is now under treatment. My heart goes out to him, along with wishes for his recovery.

But I have to say that his latest column for Slate also saddens me. This is not the Hitch I admired.

He has written something here he has never to my knowledge written the likes of before. He's always been basically a lefty, whether Red, socialist, Trotskyite, Labourite, or some other species, but he can't be accused of being an ideologue who takes his ideas pre-assembled. His politics, like them or not, normally seem freshly minted. I'd even say he is a better thinker and writer than his brother Peter, who writes a politically correct "conservative" column for the Daily Mail that spends almost as much time vilifying the British National Party as it does the Labour Party.


This piece for Slate is an assembly line product from the multi-culturalist left's template. Hitchens isn't there, despite his byline. I recognize the signs because I've written cliché pieces when my mind was a million miles away. It's understandable that his thoughts are on other things, although he remains confident that he will not meet his Maker, believing as he does that he has no Maker to meet. But unless he really needed the money — and many writers do, including famous ones — he should have declined to deliver something not worthy of him.

This is the standard screed, recited on cue by the race replacement brigade, that the too-white attendees at the Washington Mall event organized by Glenn Beck are afraid of being overwhelmed by a buncha foreigners, ya know, colored people and Moos-lims:
One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. This awareness already exists in places like New York and Texas and California, and there have even been projections of the time(s) at which it will occur and when different nonwhite populations will collectively outnumber the former white majority. But it also exerts a strong subliminal effect in states like Alaska that have an overwhelming white preponderance.

… it is really quite rare to hear slurs against President Barack Obama that are based purely on the color of his skin. Even Beck himself has tried to back away from the smears of that kind that he has spread in the past. But it is increasingly common to hear allegations that Obama is either foreign-born or a Muslim. And these insinuations are perfectly emblematic of the two main fears of the old majority: that it will be submerged by an influx from beyond the borders and that it will be challenged in its traditional ways and faiths by an alien and largely Third World religion.
The Washington rally was, for most of those who took part, not about Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. It was an occasion to show that they were not sufferers in silence, that they would not go quietly into a socialized, statist future with authoritarian restrictions on "offensive" speech and expressions of Forbidden Thoughts.


Of course many among the crowd were against population and race replacement engineered by a government no longer feeling any responsibility for, even any liking of, the people whose interests they were supposed by the Constitution to represent.
In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention.
Having acknowledged that "it is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority," Hitch now says "such grievances [like 'some white people … starting to think like a minority, even a persecuted one'] are purely and simply imaginary." Imaginary? We have it on the authority of a gloating USA Today that Hispanics will be a majority of the U.S. population by 2040. Imaginary?

The "remainder of the speeches … deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention." Hitch has just enough of the old verbal spark left that he can wallop white people for being racists without actually using the word racist.


A little of his once-brilliant style apart, Hitch has done a paint-by-numbers hit piece on The Resistance, no different from what dozens of lesser writers churn out daily in the mainstream media.

I am sorry that he is ill; sorry, too, that his formerly individual powers of analysis and colorful writing have left him. May they both return soon. He, and we, will be better off when they do.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blood Sugar Purgatory

I take the meds, three different kinds, religiously. (Add up all the different drugs various doctors have prescribed over the past 10 years, and I've been on about eight kinds at one time or another.) I've even learned to inject insulin every evening. It's no big deal, really. Not painful. Just one more tiresome task to add to the average day's other tiresome tasks. If I did the evening shot plus one before every meal, as my doctor recommended, now that could be a bother. Oh, and of course, assaying my blood. Each morning. If I were truly doing the right thing, I'd stick my finger and collect a drop of blood on the test strip of the glucose meter at various times after every meal.


But the thing I -- a type 2 diabetic -- can't quite reconcile myself to is reading about my condition, beyond the
basic minimum. What I have come to think of as the Official Medical Literature on diabetes is worse than boring, although it could put a coffee tester to sleep. It's written by people (well-meaning people) who live in an alternative universe.

There is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you see. (They are different enough, while both involving excess blood sugar, that some authorities question whether they should even have the same name.) Medical science has been brilliant at overcoming infectious diseases; chronic diseases, not so much.

With no cure available, the best the Medical Establishment (which includes institutions like the American Diabetes association, the Mayo Clinic, the pharmaceutical companies, and popularizing writers who synthesize the Establishment guidelines) has no recourse but telling patients how to ameliorate -- "control" -- their diabetes.


Thus, the typical product of the Official Medical Literature starts by explaining the features of the disease, then the dangers: vastly increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation. It's enough to freeze a patient's blood. (Blood sugar popsicles?)

Then comes the sermon about how ("most") people can control diabetes through diet and exercise. And a little emotional massage. You can really do it!

The diet exhortations could fill a book, and do. Read food labels. Count calories. Count carbohydrates. "Size up" your servings. Use "exchange lists": if you have a craving for some verboten food, you can enjoy it by knocking off some other food. The Mayo Clinic says:
An exchange is basically one serving within a group. One starch exchange, for instance, might be half a medium baked potato (3 ounces) or 1/3 cup of baked beans or 1/2 cup of corn.
"I had a busy day in the Starch Exchange today. Sold half my baked potato holding, bought a half cup corn. I'm telling ya, the smart money is buying into corn."
Your dietitian will recommend a certain number of daily exchanges from each food group based on your personal needs and preferences. Together you'll decide the best way to spread the exchanges throughout the day. Exchange lists, which are developed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, help ensure variety in your meal plan as well as the proper serving size for foods to help keep your blood sugar level within your target range.
Next, the orthodox diabetes manual will list a bunch of healthful (although they always call it "healthy") recipes. Here is "Grapes and Walnuts With Lemon Sour Cream Sauce" -- not even an entree but a dessert -- again courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

Ingredients: 1/2 c. fat-free sour cream; 2 tbsp. powdered sugar; 1/2 tsp. lemon zest ("Excuse me, Mrs. Prandial, I wonder if I could borrow a half teaspoon of lemon zest?"); 1/2 tsp. lemon juice; 1/2 tsp. vanilla extrat; 1 1/2 c. red seedless grapes; 1 1/2 c. green seedless grapes; 3 tbsp. chopped walnuts.

Preparation: "1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Whisk to mix evenly. 2. Cover and chill for several hours. 3. Divide grapes equally among 6 stemmed dessert glasses or bowls. Add 2 tablespoons of the lemon topping to each dish. Sprinkle each serving with 1/2 tablespoon of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately."


Let's visit reality for a minute.

I daresay that most of us could prepare a dish like this, or one of the other diabetically correct recipes, occasionally. A retired chef with lots of time and money might cook something along these lines every day. But how much use is this to 99 percent of people who set the alarm for 7 am, go to work, get home at 6? And then, advisedly, "get active," with lotsa lotsa exercise?

Again, I'm not suggesting that people who write (edit, really: they are committee products) these publications are less than sincere in wanting to help people stay as healthy as they can with their disorder. It's just that they design their idealized program for ideal patients who don't exist, who if they did exist would spend their entire days on diabetes treatment, just as the doctors and nutritionists do.


The average diabetic is trying to fulfill other responsibilities, give his or her family some time, have a little social life, perhaps enjoy a spot of reading or entertainment to round out the day. He looks at these pages of do's and don'ts, checklists, carbohydrate content tables, elaborate recipes, exercise regimens, weight loss tips, motivational cheerleading, "addressing your eating triggers," and so on and says in effect: "Sod all this. If this is how I've got to live to 'control' my diabetes, I'll take my chances."

That is not, of course, a sensible response. Like it or not, all of us diabetics have to change our lifestyle (especially eating habits). But I expect that most do what I do: follow procedures that are practical in their own circumstances, gradually expand the range of diabetes management behavior, and hope for a cure or better kinds of mitigation to be developed.

Meanwhile, we inhabit Blood Sugar Purgatory, neither saved nor damned, cured nor terminal, expecting something or nothing.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Manhattan Verdun


Verdun, 1916. The battle that lasted 10 months, the longest of any engagement in recorded history. It took place in a few square miles of poxy mudscape in northeastern France. The French and German armies took, lost, re-took, re-lost, again and again a few hills around a French outpost called Fort Douaumont.

Neither side could win. Neither side could back down. Today, the ground contains more than 100,000 unknown soldiers, not to mention those whose remains have been identified. For decades after, shell casings, bayonets, helmets ... bones turned up when farmers plowed the poor soil. Possibly they still do today.

Why do I bring this ghastly episode up?

As I fear, the conflict over the Ground Zero mosque is shaping up as the modern equivalent of Verdun. No, there will not be soldiers on the field, although in a metaphorical sense this may be where the armies of the Western world and Islam face one another.

It looks now like both sides are going to take a stand over territory, and neither will back off. As I said previously, territory is the wrong thing to contest. We should be arguing over Muslim immigration, not where they want to build Fort Cordova. But for now territory is the issue.

Today, New York's overbearing, blowhard mayor, Michael Bloomberg, dug in his heels.
... He observed that “there are people of every faith–including, perhaps, some in this room–who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate.”

“But it won’t,” he said.

The community center can and must be built at the Park51 site, he said. Anything less would “compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom."

This is astonishing. It goes beyond, way beyond, expressing a view. We -- the little people, formerly known as the public -- have no choice. It is not ours to decide. The mosque will be built over our American dead bodies. The Powers have spoken.

No compromise. Not giving in to Islam would limit our "commitment to fighting terror with freedom." The freedom to obey our masters.

I've had to revise downward, way down, my views of what Americans will tolerate. There is obviously a large dhimmi contingent, and a larger portion of my countrymen who don't care about anything except the economy.

But still, I don't think the United States of America will surrender to its ruling class and their obedient servants in the mass media on a Ground Zero mosque.

This looks like a standoff. This looks like a battle with fearful losses to come on both sides. This looks like Verdun.


Monday, August 23, 2010

If the mosque isn't built, bin Laden has won

Further to my comments in the previous posting:

The mainstream media are closing ranks on the Ground Zero mosque, no kidding. It's got to happen as far as they're concerned, and no insult is too extravagant for opponents.

Time asks, "Is America Islamophobic?" The New York Times's Frank Rich blames mosque resistance on Rupert Murdoch's "Islamophobia command center." The New York Daily News
: "Scary fanatics." The Los Angeles Times, in a supposed news article — "reporting from Beirut" — worries:
The heated debate across America over construction of the so-called ground zero mosque is reverberating across the globe, with the potential of creating a worldwide black eye for the United States. …

Many Muslims tuning in to the debate see a demonization of their religion by some Americans, who have been painting the 1,400-year-old faith as a dangerous political ideology. They bristle at the ignorance of politicians who argue that the structure should not be allowed because Muslims don't allow churches in their countries. Despite tensions between Christians and Muslims in some countries, Saudi Arabia is the only country to specifically bar churches.
Muslims worry that the campaign has become caught up in the same racially tinged clash-of-civilizations campaigns to ban Muslim women in France from wearing Islamic garb or Muslims in Switzerland to build minarets on their houses of worship.
Demonization. Ignorance. And, of course, "racially tinged." Even Americans who don't (yet) know what dhimmitude means might sense that something is wrong when a major American newspaper appears to be following the party line of Middle Eastern Muslims.


However, if you want to plumb the absolute depths of the Pravda-like media, the utter lunacy, the desperate overreaching … I give you Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times.

Kristof is here to tell you that if you oppose the Ground Zero mosque, you are supporting Osama bin Laden.
Osama abhors the vision of interfaith harmony that the proposed Islamic center represents. He fears Muslim clerics who can cite the Koran to denounce terrorism.

It’s striking that many American Republicans share with Al Qaeda the view that the West and the Islamic world are caught inevitably in a “clash of civilizations.” Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who recruits jihadis from his lair in Yemen, tells the world’s English-speaking Muslims that America is at war against Islam. You can bet that Mr. Awlaki will use the opposition to the community center and mosque to try to recruit more terrorists.

There is an old song with the lyrics, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets." That's like the position of the bien-pensants of our degraded mass media concerning Islam. If they want it, they must have it, otherwise all the "moderate" Muslims will turn against us, and the "extremists" will win their souls.

The second misconception underlying this debate is that Islam is an inherently war-like religion that drives believers to terrorism. Sure, the Islamic world is disproportionately turbulent, and mullahs sometimes cite the Koran to incite murder. But don’t forget that the worst brutality in the Middle East has often been committed by more secular rulers, like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. And the mastermind of the 1970 Palestinian airline hijackings, George Habash, was a Christian.
No, Islam is an aggressive political system inseparable from its religious component, whose followers assume its unique legitimacy. It drives some believers to terrorism; other believers simply want to win through colonization, legitimizing sharia law, and high birth rates. Nobody claims Islam is the only cause of violence in the world, but that is a mighty poor excuse for promoting the reach of the most intolerant of faiths.


Kristof concludes: "Today’s crusaders against the Islamic community center are promoting a similar paranoid intolerance, and one day we will be ashamed of it."

May I suggest that America's mass media are promoting a paranoid intolerance of many Americans' quite reasonable suspicions about Muslim expansion. It will be interesting to see if this is what enables Americans finally to cast off the Leftist Establishment propaganda machine for good. One thing you can be pretty sure of: Nicholas Kristof will never be ashamed. After all, he speaks through the New York Times.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Zero at Ground Mosque


When I first read about the plan to build a mosque almost next door to the site of the September 11 attack on America, I expected -- perhaps too cynically -- that it was a done deal before the cornerstone was put in place. Not despite it being almost at Ground Zero, but because of it. (Oh, pardon me, Associated Press, you in your unfathomable wisdom have decreed that your writers must not call it Ground Zero, but instead Ground Man-Caused Disaster or something. Good luck with that.)

This is, after all, New York. Immigration worshiping New York. Mega-liberal New York. Home to Jewish fools who would rather support their sworn enemies than give the slightest comfort to the hillbilly mobs of trans-Hudson America.

Opponents would grumble, I reckoned, but they would be drowned out by lectures from civil rights absolutists insisting that Proposition Nation U.S. derives its only legitimacy from being tolerant of the intolerant, "reaching out" to the followers of a totalitarian politico-religious system.


Actually, it might have played more or less that way. We'll never know now. President Obama, or "Zero" as his more benign critics call him, took the occasion of a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to announce his backing for the mosque. (Typically, he tried to hedge the next day, then corrected his earlier correction. It was too late. The cat was among the pigeons.)

My reading of what has happened since is as follows. For many Americans, smaller resentments and doubts about Pres. Zero that had been collecting for the past year and a half crystallized. As a people we are generally willing to give our head of state a good deal of respect, however much we dislike him or disagree with him. It was possible to see the useless, borrowed $787 billion stimulus package as a well-meaning mistake. Ditto the force-fed passage of the disastrous Obamacare legislation. Likewise a lot of sharp-elbows, Chicago-style politics. Maybe there was an excuse for bad mouthing his own country in progressive Cairo.

But for most of us, this was too much, period, tout court, full stop, that's-all-she-wrote.


Of course, the whole complex web of globalists and leftists are not ceding any ground, except Ground Zero, and that to Muslims. It's like the weeks after September 11 all over again. Remember the op-eds telling us that unless we [insert the writer's prescription for dhimmitude here], Al Qaeda will have won? To put it more honestly than they did, unless we agree to lose further, Al Qaeda wins.

Nine years later, we're told by the mosque-eteers that we must allow this thing to be built because it will show we have no hard feelings. We're permitted to show a little sensitivity about the site, and its planned opening on September 11, 2011, but that's all. As a columnist for the McClatchy syndicate -- according to its logo line, it has registered "Truth to Power" as an official, legally protected slogan -- says:
... It was predictable that some New Yorkers who lost loved ones on 9/11 would object to building a Muslim institution so near the site of their tragedy. They're entitled to their feelings, and a cultural center that hopes to bridge gaps among Muslims, Christians and Jews needs to take those feelings into account. But they're not entitled to make their feelings a basis for discriminatory government action.
Normally, any charge of "discrimination" (a death-ray word, like "racist") is enough to make the target keel over. Not, apparently, this time.

Quite possibly without intending to, our hapless president has created an absolute standoff. A Zero-sum game (pun intended). Sarajevo. Fort Sumter. I hope I'm exaggerating; we'll see.


Unfortunately, as usual, the mosque opponents are fighting the right battle with the wrong weapons. Stupidly, they've made it all about distance from Ground Zero. If only the Muslims would understand our feelings, as we understand theirs, and realize why we're touchy about the location.

Two blocks isn't far enough. If they built it three blocks away, that would be 50 percent better. Four blocks, 100 percent improvement. Now we're getting somewhere. Let us reason together. Why don't we ring up the Sheik of Araby and ask him to buy the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue in mid-town, raze it, and slap the mosque down there? Everybody wins.

After all, the cry "Allahu Akbar!" is already heard in prayers at the Pentagon, where that unfortunate accident occurred a few years ago when a plane went off course.


For the umpteenth time: I don't want to root around like a truffle hound looking for "moderate" Islam. I don't want to reform Islam. I have no time for converting Muslims, updating their politico-religious system, winning their hearts and minds. They're welcome to believe their beliefs and practice their practices, in their own historical turf, even territory that they took by military force. But they must not be allowed to colonize the United States and gradually expand their influence and pressure, culminating in sharia law, as is happening in Britain.

We should put an end to these idiotic arguments about mosques, prayer mats, foot baths, dogs in taxicabs, halal meals for "American" soldiers, and all the rest. The only way to do that is to end Muslim immigration and convince the Muslims already here to leave, even if we have to pay them.

If we do not, I fear the whole country will become -- one way or another -- Ground Zero. Because there are still enough of us who refuse to let it become Ground Mosque.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Say it, don't spray it in Singapore


They take graffiti seriously in Singapore. Very seriously.
A Singapore court on Wednesday extended a jail term for a Swiss man by two months to seven and maintained an earlier ruling that he receives three strokes of the cane for trespassing and spray-painting graffiti on a train. …

"It is conduct which is entirely unacceptable in Singapore, regardless of the artistic merit (or lack thereof) of the graffiti," the judge said in a written statement.

Singapore is, of course, famous for hanging drug dealers, fining litterers and outlawing chewing gum. I don't want to think about the penalty for littering while chewing gum.

Like almost everyone raised in a modern Western society, I cringe a little when reading about stuff like that. Inhumane. Disproportionate.

It results in what I understand (never having been there) is a safe, spotless city-state. At too high a cost in regimentation and sterility, though.


Nevertheless, in some twisted part of my being, I get a thrill out of the thought of a graffiti "artist" being whacked with a cane on the backside where his brains are located. Graffiti is — are? — an eyesore in parts of American cities, and it's worse (worse, I tell you!) in Europe. Highway overpasses are one thing, but to see centuries-old, architecturally magnificent buildings covered with cretinous scrawls all around the ground floor enrages me.

In Italian cities, full of historic buildings, sometimes the only one not vandalized is the Questura (police) headquarters. Occasionally a brave graffitist will even leave his tag there.

Young people go through a normal rebellious stage, and up to a point we need to be understanding and tolerant. But I have read that graffiti painters are mostly gang members who belong to a sort of guild, even traveling from city to city to leave their handiwork. That isn't animal spirits. It's an anti-social declaration of war against civic order and beauty.


Are there worse things to be concerned about? Sure, but some of the worse things have their roots in egotistic behavior of the graffitists. The "broken windows" model of social breakdown: a sign that the bond between citizens and their environment has snapped. Cities, like people, can lose their self-respect, allow themselves to be abused. And that leads to further abuse.

Perhaps because Singapore is the world's only important remaining city-state, it won't put up with degrading the stage whereon its life is enacted. Does it make its point too harshly? Yes, I think so. But at least it makes the point. I wish more places did.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Washington Post takes its eye off the brawl

One of the odder pieces of verbal tap dancing that has crossed my retinas lately is by Andrew Alexander, the (or a) ombudsman for the Washington Post. (Ombudsman: "a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.") He asks:

"Brawl on the Metro: Where was the coverage?"

The item describes the Post's minimalist reporting on a, you know, a … sensitive event.
… When a large brawl broke out in the Metro system on a recent Friday night, it seemed a perfect chance to show local readers that The Post is their indispensable source for news. The fracas occurred near midnight on Aug. 6, and authorities said it involved as many as 70 people. It started at the Gallery Place Station and continued to the L'Enfant Plaza Station.
Throughout Saturday, it was among the most-viewed stories on the Web site, signaling intense reader interest. But as the day wore on, some readers grew frustrated that there was nothing more.
As Alexander acknowledges, Post readers might have been a scrap curious about a big-time "fracas" at two of the capital city's major Metro stations. But the paper was economical with further details.
Promoted on the front page and tucked at the bottom of Sunday's Metro section, it didn't answer key questions: What caused the fighting? Were the people who were injured participants or bystanders? Was Metro beefing up security?

Why such thin coverage? Much of the explanation is that The Post responded with too little, too late.

Even an ombudsperson for the Washington Post should know that "too little, too late" is not an explanation. After shuffling around for a few paragraphs about weekend staffing, Alexander finally gets to the point.

Pierre [editor] also worried about hyping a story that involved race. Although The Post's coverage on and after Sunday did not specify the racial makeup of those involved, many readers assumed they were black and offered racially insensitive online comments. "So ghetto," read one. Another urged ending "all welfare benefits for parents whose little animals cause this type of mayhem."

When The Post finally produced a more substantive story for Monday's paper, Pierre believes it was given too much prominence, even though it included eyewitness descriptions of multiple fights and bedlam as people tried to escape the pandemonium. The Post "overplayed it," said Pierre. "It was a fight on the Metro. Kids get into fights."

So part of the explanation for the petite coverage was racial. As Obamabudsperson says, "Although The Post's coverage on and after Sunday did not specify the racial makeup of those involved, many readers assumed they were black." Assumed? Well, was the assumption wrong? Neither the original story nor the so-called "more substantive story" in the Post, that "indispensable source of news," tells us. All we learn is that a brawl involving some 70 "youths" was just a generic fight.

"It was pandemonium," said Hay, who had traveled to the District from Charles County with her husband, sister-in-law, 25-year-old niece with special needs and two grandnieces, 11 and 14.

"We were pushing our kids out of the way, trying to plaster ourselves against the wall so nobody would hurt us. There were five fights right in front of us. . . . Metro is very accessible but not safe all the time. I don't know if I would ride it again in non-rush hours." … Five people hurt in the fight and ensuing crush were taken to hospitals, a Metro spokeswoman said, and an unknown number of others were injured.

No big deal. Hot-time, summer-in-the-city stuff. Move along.

Our fearless, impartial, probing readers' advocate Alexander is the same kind of weenie as the Post editors he mildly criticizes. It's too bad the paper didn't give it a little more play, a little sooner, but he understands why they didn't. The subject is sensitive. The Post is sensitive. He's sensitive. Some of the Post's commenters are so insensitive. Whatever happened to midnight basketball?


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who was that mosqued man, anyway?

Why, that was Barack Inssein Obama, America's sick salvation.

Quoth the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to proclaim that “as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.” ...

“I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day’s fast.

But, he continued: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”

Well, Imam Inssein, that depends on what you mean by religion. Muslims certainly do not mean the same thing by the words that you and I do ... wait, strike that "you."

Islam is more than a set of beliefs and practices for worship. It is a world view that encompasses everything a Muslim does, 24/7, and admits of no degrees or modifications. There are Baptists who get legless in the bar on Saturday night, Catholics who take birth control pills, Episcopalians who go to church only at Easter and Christmas, and Jews who commit adultery. All of these may meet with some disapproval from their co-religionists, but no one denies that they are Baptists, Catholics, etc. Nor need they fear being awarded an "honor killing" for their apostasy.


However much Muzsymps like Imam Inssein want to obscure it, Islam is not "just another faith," any more than it is a "religion of peace," as our previous ignoramus of a president declared. It is an absolutist system in which there is no room for infidels (except as oppressed dhimmis), and no distinction between the religious and secular. There are individual Muslims who do not buy the whole package, but they generally have sense enough not to say so openly.

The big flap about the Ground Zero mosque once again makes clear that we should not have Muslim immigration. Because once you "naturalize" (legally speaking) Muslims, Inssein has a point: you can't welcome a group and then restrict them from following their faith to the nth degree.


Public foot baths, taxi drivers who won't accept passengers who offend their religious preferences, women covered head to toe, polygamy, halal food in school cafeterias, recognizing Ramadan as a national holiday, and ultimately sharia law ... we have given up any political or moral basis for stopping or opposing any of this when we declare, "The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are."

When Muslims decide collectively that their faith applies only to them, and that they have absolutely no claim on the rest of society to recognize their norms in any way, maybe we can talk about Muslim immigration. Until then, no. A thousand times no.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Has the revolution started?

At Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez takes a look back two centuries and finds a surprising fact. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both as involved in the American Revolution as anyone, were unsure years later about its real history.

Jefferson wrote: "On the subject of the history of the American revolution, you ask Who shall write it? Who can write it? And who ever will be able to write it? Nobody; except merely its external facts. All its councils, designs and discussions, having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them, these, which are the life and soul of history must be forever unknown."


Adams wrote that the Revolutionary War was an effect of the true revolution, which had its genesis in individuals' minds, "in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington."

Their views, and especially that of Adams, might once again be relevant.

The Left has triumphed and seems impregnable. It has captured the presidency, Congress, the judiciary, the media, the educational Establishment. On the surface, it's all over for the United States as a constitutional republic. Hello, European bureaucratic-socialist directorship.

But the age of revolutions is never over. Another is brewing, against the statist conquest. If it is true, as Bismarck supposedly said, that a special Providence watches over children, drunkards, and the United States, the coming revolution will be accomplished without bloodshed.


Great changes are not always obvious when they are happening. William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, wrote that the phenomenon of conversion seemed in many cases to have been latent or unconscious for years. The individual concerned may have been completely unaware of it. Then, some incident or just an internal ripening caused the religious impulse suddenly to surface and overwhelm the person.

If America is turning a corner — undergoing a conversion, so to speak — it need not be signaled only by a few dramatic events. It is more likely to be hinted at in hundreds or thousands of data points, individually not all that striking, but indicative of forces gathering strength.


I'll just list a few instances that suggest the coming change of heart. In considering these, recall the 1990s, when it seems to me political correctness was at its height, accepted as right and inevitable in the mainstream media, and those in opposition were cowed and voiceless. Would this have happened?

Black corruptocrats Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters losing the support of their fellow Democrats, despite being in a "protected class."

More data points: would the mass media in the '90s have dreamed of publishing stories like these?

Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Can the U.S. Justice Department get any more politicized? Well, yes, it probably can. And over the next couple of years, it probably will. Though presidential administrations come and go, the Civil Rights Division of our Justice Department remains a reliably strong arm of the Democratic Party. And with a radical-left administration in place, that arm is getting all kinds of exercise."

The Telegraph: "The last few weeks have been a nightmare for President Obama, in a summer of discontent in the United States which has deeply unsettled the ruling liberal elites, so much so that even the Left has begun to turn against the White House."

US News & World Report: "There they go again. For the fifth time since July, the first family has set plans to board Air Force One for a frilly vacation, a 10-day return trip to exclusive Martha's Vineyard where they are expected to stay at the 28-acre oceanfront Blue Heron Farm that rents for up to $50,000 a week."

New York Daily News: "When images of Jean Paul Gaultier-clad First Lady Michelle Obama on a $75,000-a-day Spanish holiday hit the wires, controversy was bound to erupt back home. Her carefully crafted image as "everywoman" was blown. In addition to the high cost, the evolving justifications for the trip offered by the White House's flack were just as dizzying. First it was a private, mother-daughter trip that press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to comment on. Then, the White House said she was paying for most of the trip, but that the taxpayers would pay for some of it because she'd be meeting with the King and Queen of Spain."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Thirty thousand people showed up to receive Section 8 housing applications in East Point Wednesday, suffering through hours in the hot sun, angry flare-ups in the crowd and lots of frustration and confusion for a chance to receive a government-subsidized apartment.The massive event sometimes descended into a chaotic mob scene filled with anger and impatience."

Wall Street Journal: "One in 12 babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were offspring of illegal immigrants, according to a new study, an estimate that could inflame the debate over birthright citizenship. Undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%, of all births on U.S. soil in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center's report."


Note that these are mainstream publications, not blogs. Most are liberal-to-leftist; the Wall Street Journal is notoriously pro-immigration. Their owners and editors, who "believe" whatever resonates with their readers and the Zeitgeist, have delicate antennae to detect shifts of opinion. And it doesn't take a wild flight of imagination to suspect that they are beginning to sense what is on the way, like pets getting agitated in the days before an earthquake.

It's been a long time since America has experienced a socio-political earthquake. One is overdue.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steven Slater's JetBlues

Good-bye, crew world.

Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, jumped onto an emergency slide and into the headlines. Now he is being touted as a folk hero in some quarters.

Sorry, no.

It's easy to be sympathetic to him. Flight attendants are under the gun from the airlines they work for and recipients of various degrees of "air rage" among passengers in a foul mood from the impersonal regimentation of today's airline travel. The flight attendants are servants who spend hours daily in a cabin with bad vibes where they are expected to be cheerful and accommodating. Honestly, I don't know how they do it. I've encountered a few whose demeanor was icy or who seemed to be "working to the rule." But mostly they return good for evil, and I admire them for it.

There are several versions of what pushed Steven Slater over the edge, but it's safe to assume he OD'd on passengers' abuse. And if maintaining a hold on his self-respect required him to jack the job in, very publicly, then more power to him.

But he shouldn't have deployed the slide for his grand exit. What he did was dangerous for anyone in the plane's vicinity.

Slides are inflated by the rapid release of pressurized nitrogen and carbon dioxide in a matter of seconds, since time is of the essence in an evacuation. The rapidity exerts considerable force. That's no problem when the evacuation is on a runway or outside the airport. But the area around the parking gate, which is where Slater did his stunt, is likely to be populated by ground crewmembers, for instance taxi-in guides and tug drivers.

Anyone unlucky enough to be in the path of the slide inflation could have been badly injured or killed. Slater had practiced slide evacuations — it's required of flight attendants by FAA — and he knew what was entailed.

He was supposed to be a professional, and professionals are supposed to know where to draw the line.

Still, "there but for the grace of God … ." We've all "lost it" at times in ways that might have ended badly. I'd say Slater should be sacked from his job, which he almost certainly will be, but any legal punishment should be minor.

EDIT 8/12 I originally used the term "slide/raft," but that only applies to airplanes flying overwater routes. This plane probably was used only for land routes.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Dream vacations for the impoverished

U.N. Economic Commission for Africa
For an hour ... for a day ... for a lifetime.

The economy got you in a head lock? Join the club. For those of us downsizing our vacations this year, and that includes your blogger, the L.A. Times has kindly clued us in on "The world's least expensive cities."

They are bog cheap because their countries' economies are in worse shape than ours. Much worse. And there are other reasons the local tourism commissions take long lunch hours.

As the Times notes, "Because some of these places are off the beaten path, do some extra research before you go. Call a travel agent, go to the State Department travel advisory website for warnings, and consult guidebooks and websites."


Now, this is a charmer. A Romanesque-Gothic-Dutch revival church in a lovely setting that extends all the way to the photo margins. Who wouldn't want to gambol in this idyllic spot? Only thing is, you'll have to gamble to gambol. According to the story, "With crime on the rise, the State Department encourages travelers to 'employ common-sense preventive measures' such as avoiding isolated areas and safeguarding purses, wallets and cellphones."

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

If you can't make it to Lenin's Tomb in Red Square, here's an alternative that will please the whole family and still leave a few bucks in your pocket for McDonald's. "A statue of Vladimir Lenin and the Kyrgyz White House, built as the headquarters of the Communist Party's Central Committee in 1985, are among the top tourist attractions." Don't neglect the home of the Bishkek Philharmonic, above, with its updated facade following the latest bomb attack. Drums are banned from the orchestra lest the noise frighten jumpy audience members; percussionists hum the drumbeats written in the score.

The Winged Victory of Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan

"With the country becoming very oil and natural gas rich, especially in the 1950s and eventually peaking in the 1970s, the government focused more money on tourism, particularly hotels, palaces and fountains. The city also boasts one of the tallest free-standing flagpoles in the world." Unfortunately, no one is sure what flag to run up the flagpole, or whether to salute.

La Paz, Bolivia

"Those with weak stomachs may want to avoid the Witches' Market, as they may see some bizarre and possibly disturbing wares, such as dried frogs and llama fetuses." Uh, I'm sure it's the best price I'll find anywhere in town, but ... do you have any nice baskets?


Why travel to far-off places for a budget vacation? In a few years you will be able to visit this mosque (capacity: 300,000) in lower Manhattan. You can catch a revival of Hair on Broadway in the same day!


Saturday, August 07, 2010

First anger, then ... what?

Loads of people in this country are angry. About a federal government that recruits immigrants, legal and illegal, for population replacement. About a federal judiciary that overturns any law voted by state residents that disagrees with their Lordships' neo-Marxist ideology. About slanted news reporting by the mass media, tailored to meet the needs of the ruling class that we looked at in the previous posting. About official racial bias against whites, and minorities who will never give up playing the victim even as they benefit from legally enforced preferences. And so much more.

The trouble is ... nobody knows what to do with the anger.


The Left has taken over every civic institution, from grade schools to the State Department to the government bureaucracies. The Supreme Court now exercises ultimate authority that cannot be overridden -- an authority nowhere authorized in the Constitution, but what do they care? The egomaniac Chief Justice John Marshall asserted it, a snakebite toxin that has been flowing through the national veins since and has now reached the heart.

How do you play a game where the other side makes the rules and defines the terms?

The Resistance (including the Tea Partyers, a handful of Republicans often scorned in their own party, a few media figures like Glenn Beck) get belligerent, but it's noise and the Left Establishment knows it. They've got the power and can afford to let their opponents blow off steam, although people like that really shouldn't be allowed to criticize their Ivy League and ethnic grievance industry masters.


There are local pockets, even states, where the Resistance is strong. But it doesn't matter when the country is no longer a republic where state power can stand against the Washington behemoth.

Anger by itself will avail nothing. And while it would be emotionally satisfying to pry loose a bunch of incumbents from their Washington sinecures, and above all to vote out the Failed Messiah, I'm not sure it would be more than a gesture. Majority leaders and presidents come and go. The bureaucracy and judiciary have lifetime jobs.

What to do, then?


For whatever it's worth, I think the best hope lies in state (not individual) civil disobedience. Do you imagine anyone in Washington would dare send the Army into Arizona to enforce open borders? A president who tried that would be taken into custody for his own protection.

We have to do something besides being angry. Ask yourself: what, when, how, and what cost you are willing to bear.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The best and the brightest … again

Most people who use the term "the best and the brightest" do not realize that it was originally meant ironically. It was the title of a book by David Halberstam about the technocratic, managerial class in government leadership whose undoubted intelligence shaped the disaster in Vietnam. They were in a sense too smart for the job they were lumbered with: overly self-confident, hung up on abstractions that left them unable to see the reality on the ground, subverting themselves through confirmation bias that made them absorb facts that fitted with their world view while ignoring those that called it into question.

I was put in mind of that episode while reading "America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution," by Angelo M. Codevilla, in The American Spectator. The essay (link here) has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately, so that while I had paid it no attention at first I finally decided to check it out.


The title sums it up. Codevilla argues that what began as a trendus interrruptus going back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson has hardened into a permanent reality: a ruling class that lives in its own dimension, not only detached from the lives of other Americans but contemptuous of the people they are supposedly serving.

You have undoubtedly read similar arguments, and perhaps had similar thoughts, but Codevilla has done a cracking job of summing up the situation. He takes many seemingly disparate strands of information and knits them together smartly. And the tone is just right: urgent but not hysterical.

I recommend reading the piece if you haven't already. It's long, though anything but tedious, and not to be skimmed. Give yourself time to absorb it.


In describing the present severe disconnect between what he calls the ruling class and the country class (the latter meaning those who still identify with the United States rather than their own clique), Codevilla doesn't pay enough attention to demographics. The ruling class's weapon of choice is population replacement — immigration, both legal and illegal, of people without American roots or traditions, whose preoccupation is purely economic benefit. The more intelligent and skilled among them will dilute the job market for the indigenous population; the larger number of alien unskilled can be counted on, once legalized, to vote for their masters to keep the dole money rolling in.

Codevilla acknowledges that, although this house divided cannot stand, he has few prescriptions about how the tables can be turned in a mass movement. But he does point out that it won't do just to become a mirror image of the present ruling class, operating from the same mentality and with the same extra-legal tactics. Principles and integrity no longer matter to the ruling class, but they should still matter to the rest of us.