Sunday, October 31, 2010

The United States of America: A turnaround story

But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy. 
 -- Nancy Pelosi

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. 
 -- Rahm Emanuel

The people of the United States made a serious mistake in November 2008. But, given the cards they were dealt by our present-day party political system, I can't judge them that harshly. They were credulous, overly trusting; but that isn't the worst of faults. The majority's motives were decent. They liked the idea of a president who talked about diluting the ideological differences among us, and above all, who seemed (and spoke) like a someone who could cross the racial divide and even, possibly, engender a post-racial America.

Nor can I put down the electorate for rejecting the opposition party's simulacrum of a candidate, a brain-damaged void who stood for nothing except continuing open borders and political correctness. He may not have realized that he didn't really want to be president, but the people were smarter than he was, and understood.


That was then. The ensuing two years have, I hope, taught enough if not all of us that we sowed the wind. We elected as our head of state a Man Without a Country, a smooth-talking affirmative action hire with a head full of left-wing zombie dust.

His two years in office have let out the latent illness that had been in the national bloodstream since the 1960s, perhaps much longer, but which our natural antibodies had previously been a match for. Now, the sickness reached the heart.

Blaming Obama personally is beside the point. He is, as a result of a bizarre and contradictory background, a lost soul looking to make himself whole, and there is no shame in that. Unfortunately, he has looked for wholeness in all the wrong places: in identification with ethnic groups, the more "Other" the better. His identity is bound up with anyone who seems to him to represent an alternative to the country to which he promised "hope" and "change," whose specifics neither he nor his adopted country were very clear about.


He released forces that possibly even he does not understand: of racial resentment, cultural Marxism, Keynesian economics, and elevating The State to the directorship of every level of life. We discovered, not in some African backwater, but at home what unscrupulous government means. Obama and his -- acolytes or handlers, take your choice -- Pelosi and Reid gave us the demonstration.

In the most blatant example, legislation to transform health care into yet another aspect of society controlled by government was enacted through a 2,000-plus-page bill that no one read in its entirety, which the majority of people wanted nothing to do with. And -- no small factor in our circumstances today -- we learned that our president is incapable of understanding how militant Islam would overturn everything we hold dear in exchange for a theocratic absolutism.

Two years of an amateurish but heavy-handed administration is long enough to teach many lessons, and the signs are that the American people as a whole, God bless them, have caught on.


We need change that we can believe in, with full comprehension and in line with our constitutional tradition. No election year can accomplish that, but it can begin to restore what we have all but lost.

We can look past recent errors to the history that guides us more truly. We can understand, with a shock of recognition, what the people who gave our country birth were willing to risk all for. When Ben Franklin said, on the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately," he was not making an idle quip. Had the colonies not prevailed against England, he and Thomas Jefferson and their fellow revolutionaries would have been hanged by the neck until dead. In those times, the English hanged pickpockets; rebels would have been lucky to get a trial.

Fortunately we do not have to face such drastic consequences today. But like our country's founders, enough of us see we are approaching a point of no return, when the power of The State will run not only our economy but our daily lives, reducing local and state government to shadows, our individuality to whatever favored or disfavored ethnic group defines us to our rulers. We can draw inspiration from those who risked everything to give us the liberty that we still enjoy, scoured as it is. 


"... Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." We cannot consent anymore to a self-serving Congress and an ideology-driven president. We have a serious crisis, and now it is our turn to say that we will not let it go to waste. Everything that has led to it tells us what to do on Tuesday, November 2, to begin the turnaround.


Friday, October 29, 2010

In denial

 What could he have been thinking?

A person given a post-hypnotic suggestion can, when awakened, "see" things that aren't there. Even more strange, he can be induced not to see things that are visible to normal sight. That's right: convince a person under hypnosis that when he snaps out of it, no one else will be in the room, and by gum that's what he'll perceive.

This is not a posting about the paranormal, unless you want to apply the term to the government. But then, large numbers of the country's bien-pensants do seem to be under a form of hypnosis that causes them to deny the obvious.

The AP has discovered that -- wait for it -- public housing is mismanaged!
WASHINGTON – There were accusations of an executive slush fund, financial shenanigans and dictatorial management. But it was the $900,000 in secret sexual harassment payments that got the head of the nation's fourth-largest housing authority fired and had the mayor asking how the housing board missed it all.
Yet Philadelphia's isn't even close to the worst of dysfunctional housing agencies across the country that operate with no budgets, untrained staff and shoddy record-keeping, according to a review by The Associated Press of inspection and audit records of 146 housing authorities that the government considered the most troubled.
Are we supposed to be surprised by this? Did we actually believe that government housing agencies are anything but bureaucratic jobs programs? Can Philadelphia's mayor be serious when he asks, "How is it possible that you didn't know?"

Besides, the AP adds:
... Washington's hands are largely tied since the threat of withholding or reducing funding to punish irresponsible housing authorities ultimately would in effect penalize poor tenants for the mismanagement of their landlords.
There will be a handful of newspaper editorials Viewing With Alarm, a few politicians dispensing routine outrage, and nothing will change in the long run. Trying to reform government housing administration is a losing proposition because this is one of the things that government by its nature is unfit to do.

More hypnosis, this time of the politically correct genre:
WASHINGTON -- FBI agents who ensnared a suburban father in a terrorism sting involving a fictional subway bomb plot have turned their attention to figuring out what made the Pakistani-born U.S. citizen turn against his adopted country, officials said.

Law enforcement officials said they believe Farooque Ahmed was radicalized in the United States, becoming the latest in a string of U.S. citizens charged with plotting terrorist attacks against here.
What could have possibly induced Farooque to want to bomb the Washington subway? Especially because, as the story notes, "Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has tried hard to build relationships inside the Muslim community. The White House has made combatting homegrown terrorism part of its national security strategy."

Can the FBI and various "officials" actually be so thick as to wonder what made this man, a U.S. citizen thanks to our indiscriminate mass immigration, turn against "his" country? Can they possibly be so naive as to imagine this is a case of "homegrown" would-be terrorism, when it is nurtured in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Somalia and every place where they leave the light on for Muslim fanatics?

Probably not, but they must go through this fraudulent soul-searching every time a Muslim plot is uncovered, as though it defies belief that an insurgent thought could cross the mind of a Muslim who is a U.S. citizen or carries a green card.

Will any "official" have what it takes to say, "Most Muslims aren't terrorists, but they have no inherent right to immigrate to the United States, and we could save the FBI a lot of bother if we stopped Muslim immigration straight off."

No, they won't. Too simple. Too obvious. And "discriminatory."

I give the FBI and our counter-terrorism agencies a lot of credit. They've been champions at busting plots. But sooner or later, the laws of probability will kick in and they'll miss one. Hundreds or thousands of American casualties will result.

And public officials, like Philadelphia's mayor, will ask: "How is it possible that you didn't know?"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Obama to hispanics: "Punish our enemies"


Obama Kenyatta, America's first non-American president, encouraged his fans to dance the electoral ranchera.
And if Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we're gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us, if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s gonna be harder and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2. [. . .]
 He proudly proclaims he'll do anything in his power to undermine immigration enforcement:
What my administration has done is actually change our priorities because you mentioned that there are a lot of families out there, but the truth is, it’s actually that the way we’re now enforcing the law puts less emphasis on families, more emphasis on those with criminal records and so the big increase in deportations has actually to do with people with criminal records who’ve been engaging in illegal activity, not just because they don’t have papers, but because they’ve been engaging in criminal activity.

But the most important thing that we can do is to change the law because the way the system works — again, I just wanna repeat, I’m president, I’m not king. If Congress has laws on the books that says that people who are here who are not documented have to be deported, then I can exercise some flexibility in terms of where we deploy our resources, to focus on people who are really causing problems as a opposed to families who are just trying to work and support themselves. [. . .]
Presidents are politicians, and no one expects them to be above the fight. It's in their contract that they're to bat for their party and lash the others. But it is chilling that a president, addressing one ethnic group, labels the opposition "our enemies." Meaning, Republicans are enemies of hispanic voters and vice versa.

It is modest of Obama Kenyatta to acknowledge that he is president, not king. But boasting that he is doing what he can to subvert the law tilts him more toward the kingly side. Nothing in the Constitution or, I reckon, the immigration laws gives the president the "flexibility" to decide which parts of it to enforce and which to sabotage. (Yes, his predecessor was just as arrogant on that score.)


In a republic, which the United States was designed to be ("if you can keep it," as Ben Franklin noted), government officials including presidents are supposed to be public servants. Some of the founders even hoped that there would be no political parties. A republic can survive party politics, as we have demonstrated. It is less clear whether it can survive the propagation of a value system in which a president can refer to the other party as the "enemies" of an ethnic voting bloc. 

We are approaching a constitutional crisis the likes of which hasn't been seen since the years preceding the War Between the States. Part of that is due to a president who understands campaigning but not governing.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quality and equality

Dennis Mangan has a post about "The New Elite" — a class that lords it over us not so much because of wealth, ancestry, and other traditional markers of status, but because of cognitive skills. I think that's correct, although in my view the cognitive skills our überclass possesses are shallow, mainly the ability to manipulate symbols. (That's why journalists, most of whom have scant cultural knowledge of the sort any educated person would have been expected to display a hundred years ago, consider themselves a cut above.)

An ability to manipulate symbols, as in the mass media, politics, and economics, has nothing necessarily to do with thinking. It tends to be empty logic with no foundation in the lessons of history, understanding of human psychology, or common sense. No wonder this elite flourishes in vocational culs-de-sac with no through traffic of people who do things, learn from trial and error, and pay a penalty when they get it wrong. Their strength, in its lowest common denominator, is the ability to talk as though they are saying something meaningful.


Of course, this class is careful not to let on to the lumpenbourgeoisie that it knows itself to be an elite, while understanding the rules of signaling to others inside the magic circle that it is one with them. If anything, it uses "elite" as a put-down for anyone who refuses to join the egalitarian bandwagon.

Actually, there's nothing the least bit egalitarian about modern liberal society, but the new elite has been very successful at promoting the ideology of egalitarianism. The new equality is forced. The state does its best to suppress any natural differences in intelligence or ability: first, it is taboo even to refer to differences in general intelligence among individuals, let alone ethnic groups. Second, it institutionalizes preferences for those who can't cut it on their own, rationalizing its discrimination as "good" discrimination because it benefits victim groups (i.e., everyone except white males).

Not only is eugenics unthinkable; dysgenics is official policy. We select in favor of  less intelligence and ability.


It's pointless to argue whether having an elite is good or bad. Every society I know of has one, because it's inherent in human nature. I was once in a poor Mexican town where most of the houses were built of discarded container materials. Two or three houses, though, were of concrete block construction and sat on a rise (you could hardly call it a hill) perhaps 10 feet above the rest of the town. No one had to explain to me that this was the neighborhood of the local elite.

Most elite classes I've read about in history are bad role models. Hardly any have been more moral or less selfish than the run of mankind. Most exploited their subjects, and not a few were out-and-out tyrannies. The only good a lot of them accomplished was supporting artists of genius (unlike our current elite, which supports self-promoting artists who compete to see who can produce the most bizarre and outrageous work).


Has there ever been a social and political elite — not individual rulers or leaders — that was committed to the best interest of society as a whole?

As far as I know, hardly any, which is not encouraging. But one example comes fairly close. It was far from perfect and subject to the usual human foibles, but its ideals and often its actions deserve more respect than they usually get these days.

I am talking about the English aristocracy of the 18th and 19th centuries, and their American offshoot in the years of the youthful American republic. The reputations of the English and American branches have diverged widely in recent times. Americans generally speak well of the founders, and many actually revere them. In contemporary England, the aristocracy of that earlier period is derided as a symbol of everything that was bad about the colonialist, class-ridden, racist country.


The English-speaking aristos of that age weren't saints, and they included bad apples — drunkenness and gambling being the main vices. Against those debits, there was a great deal in the credit column. As a rule, they were genuinely educated. Books, and even journal articles of the time written for the aristocracy, often quoted passages from antiquity in ancient Greek and Latin without translation. It was assumed that any gentleman would be able to read them.

They could converse in a manner that has all but disappeared. What passes for conversation today is that one person says what he thinks, another what he thinks, and they move on to the next topic. But among the English gentry conversation was often something like a Socratic dialogue, exploring a subject. The language was wordier and more formal than today's, but it was precise. 

Our pseudo-egalitarian elites dismiss all that as irrelevant pedantry, but they are wrong. The inability to sustain and follow a logical progression of ideas, to travel in thought from premise around various byways to a conclusion, to consider the larger consequences of ideas, is deadly in our time. It is why politics has become empty sloganeering and vapid generalization, and journalistic pundits just find ways to dress up the clichés of their political allies as smart commentary.


Even more important, enough of the old English-American aristocracy was able to consider the great questions of political philosophy rather than getting entangled in the minutiae of electioneering. As far as I'm concerned, the U.S. Constitution was their greatest creation, which after almost two and a half centuries remains the stronghold of such liberty as we still enjoy, despite the efforts of generations of leftists to chisel away at it.

Only a remarkable class could bequeath us that Constitution.  It remains to be seen whether we can retain enough of a real elite to sustain it.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Murder mysteries we never finished reading

A Faceful of Lies

Chapter I

I went to the office, not knowing what else to do. It was that or stay glued to the TV, watching explosions and buildings folding like accordions and cough remedy commercials, like most of my fellow New Yorkers on this September day. I tried to work on a few cases, could see I was getting nowhere. I stared through the window and realized I was staring at the window, covered as it was with a gray powder. I didn't want to think about what it was composed of.

I was about to take my troubles for a walk down to McSorley's, dodging the barricades and emergency vehicles, still swarming like hornets around lower Manhattan. The knock at the door surprised me so much I could only stare silently at its 1920s frosted glass that reminded me, in mirror-image writing, that I was DAVID PFLUG, PRIVATE DETECTIVE.


The oval bronze handle turned, most likely by a burglar taking advantage of the chaos that had reigned since the Towers came down a couple of days ago. I opened the desk drawer, pushed aside the dog-eared copy of Paleoastronomy Review, and checked that the .45 automatic was still there. After September 11, the pistol's caged violence seemed like a puny joke. Nevertheless, I shoved the clip in. You never know.

She entered.

Her well-tailored puce slacks, port wine silk blouse, and psychedelic-paramecium Paisley scarf loosely but carefully tied were incongruous in the sickly pall of downtown. Then I saw her eyes. Then I saw nothing else until I could catch my breath, which took an aeon or so. You could swim an Olympic lap in each of those green pools.

There was only time to register that the rest of her might have stepped out of a movie poster when she said, "I want you to find out who killed my husband."


I groped for words, finally managing, "Won't you sit down, Mrs. ... ?" as though I were reading the lines from an eye chart and my contact lenses were hand-me-downs from Aunt Ellen.

"Cato," she said. "Anne-Lisa Cato. I expect you've heard of my ... my late ... husband, Sigismondo Cato. President and CEO of Holdroyd, Plath, Teaman & Dwight. Seventy-third floor, North Tower."

I tossed her words around mentally like a juggler in an earthquake. Did she mean ... had her husband ...

"Yes. Killed in the North Tower, September 11."

We shared another long silence like an uneaten cheesecake. For the first time that beautiful visage showed a trace of emotion. The lids of those jewel eyes drooped a little, like a final curtain stuck in its tracks. There was a trace of challenge in her simmering contralto voice, or was it some kind of invitation? "What's the matter with you, Mr., uh, what, Pflug? Your sign says you're a detective, or do you just launder money for a DVD piracy ring?"

I found my voice at last, but it had metamorphosed during the past two days into something between a squeaky car suspension and a the bark of a dog overdue for his dinner. "Er, you have my deepest sympathy, Mrs. Cato. A lot of people are grieving right now."

"I want you to find out who killed my husband," she repeated, as though the phrase was a comet whose orbit intersected my office every few minutes.


The woman was obviously demented. How to strike the right note between empathy and reality enforcement? "But you said he was ... he died when the North Tower collapsed, or possibly when the plane hit -- uh, I mean, it was a terrible -- "

"He died in the World Trade Center on September 11. Not when the tower collapsed. Not when the plane hit."

Unwilling to allow another silence to grow like a fungus, I asked, "Are you saying ... " But I didn't know what to wonder about what she was saying.

An edge entered her voice. "Murdered. He was murdered."


Grieving. What did I know about grieving? I knew about vicious killers and con men and unfaithful wives and unfaithful husbands and vanished accountants. I had hardened myself to the woes of others, the better to do my job without the distraction of feelings. But this woman needed to grieve.

"Yes, Mrs. Cato, you're right. Those, those, monsters who flew the planes into the towers and the Pentagon and might have put a hole in the Capitol were murderers."

A glare like a headwaiter returning a diner's refused credit card. "Do I have to spell it out for you? You came highly recommended, Mr. Pflug, but I'm starting to wonder about you. My husband was murdered in his office five minutes before the attack, stabbed with a 19th century French letter opener he kept on his desk. I know because he managed to phone me before he died. Just as he was about to reveal the name of his killer, the phone line went dead. I tried to call the police, but couldn't get through. Then I went out on the balcony of our penthouse and looked downtown and saw the smoke ...

"They say you're one hell of a detective, Mr. Pflug, when you're not hung over and you wiggle your ears till you get your mind in gear. Well, you'd better be. That terrorist attack concealed all the evidence ... "


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Have you a rheum?

 Kameha Grand Hotel, Bonn, Germany

Some people want a hotel room to be pleasant, comfortable, quiet — all the traditional virtues. Others need to get a special kick from it. Or at least, so some hotels are betting.

In my recent, fairly limited experience of newly designed hotel rooms, the trend in decor seems to be pre-Mohammedan Swedish, or IKEA Modern as you might say. Spare enough to give clutter a good name. Oh, and no clock, which is annoying as I do not wear a wristwatch and do not own a cell phone. Probably the idea is that everyone has one if not both, and anyway, you're going to turn on the TV, right? 

If you must wake up at a certain time, you're supposed to "program" software that comes with the TV. At the appointed hour the TV springs to life, tuned to the hotel channel, where a corporate greeter's image wishes you good morning in four languages. I am a conscientious objector and turn the tables by picking up the phone and asking for a wake-up call. They will still, for now, do this if you ask.

Some customers prefer their digs away from home to be more outré. Here are some examples (tip of the hat: Materialicious).

It's understandable that those who travel a lot — that would be primarily businesspeople — get sick of the standard international hotel room and crave variety. But do they really want to spend their, or their company's, money — and very likely the Kameha Grand pictured above costs a bomb — on what looks like a teenager's basement room?

 The Seven Hotel, Paris. Also available: Marie Antoinette.
I bet you think I'm going to be scornful of this Strike Up the Bond room (number 007, surely), as fit only for men with a case of prolonged adolescence. Well, you're right. I don't know how any bloke could ask for this accommodation without deep embarrassment, even if only the hotel staff knew. And surely this, too, costs a pretty Moneypenny.

Jumbo Hostel, Stockholm Airport. Built inside the fuselage of
a Boeing 747.

Spend the night in a Concept. Not for me, though. I can't sleep on airplanes.

V8 Hotel, Stuttgart, Germany

Cool, daddy-O. But they should have included a steering wheel, so you can fall asleep behind the wheel.

The LuxPod, South Kensington, London

Not to be confused with The Ritz, Piccadilly. Or maybe, since London hotels are going bonkers trying to re-invent themselves as beyond trendy, maybe this is what The Ritz looks like nowadays. 


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Learning the lessons of the future

Did he foresee his death on the Titanic's voyage?

Of all psychic phenomena, precognition is the hardest to get my head around. Telepathy and clairvoyance, well, they're strange, but at least they don't involve time paradoxes. Mediumship — okay, if you accept that people continue on the Other Side after they pass out of this life, there doesn't seem to be any inherent reason why some psychically gifted individuals can't tune in to them.

How can anyone intuitively sense what hasn't happened yet? Is time simply an illusion, the future fixed, like a road continuing even though we can't see around a bend? What, then, of free will? (I once talked determinism versus free will with a fellow writer. I told him, "I am determined to make you see the truth of free will." He replied, "Of my own free will, I accept your argument for determinism.")


But high-flying philosophical rationalization purporting to show that the future is predetermined is a lot of my eye. Of course we bloody have free will and we all know it. There is no doubt in my mind I could have, if I had chosen to, written this posting about the wisdom of the Federal Reserve System. (It would have been short.) Instead I was determined … I mean, I decided to write about precognition, a subject I had not foreseen when I woke up this morning.

Even the mainstream media, as a rule remarkably uninterested in the nature of reality behind appearances, occasionally takes notice of premonitions, as the Daily Mail does here. (Tip o' the chapeau to Running 'Cause I Can't Fly.)


In the psychical research literature, most (though not all) descriptions of premonitions involve upcoming disaster or danger. Their emotional punch seems to enable them to break through a mental sheath that normally keeps us from being constantly bombarded with psychic imagery. The Daily Mail piece understandably, for today's readers, emphasizes visions of the 9/11 attacks. It also briefly touches on premonitions about the Titanic's epic calamity in 1912. That is in some ways an even more striking case. 

Here is an account of apparent precognitions involving the loss of the Titanic.

From a psychical research standpoint, William T. Stead's story is particularly fascinating. He was a crusading journalist in London, as well as a spiritualist with clairvoyant powers. His daughter's biography of him says that his motto was the beautiful, "The union of all who love in the service of all who suffer." Professionally, he seems to have been talented but something of a square peg, as many people with psychic abilities (even if they don't know they have them) tend to be.


According to this account:
In one of his many stories, From the Old World to the New, a novel published in 1892, Stead described the sinking of a ship called the Majestic in the North Atlantic from hitting an iceberg. The name of the ship’s captain was Edward J. Smith, the same name of the captain of the Titanic. In an 1886 story for The Pall Mall Gazette, Stead wrote about the sinking of an ocean liner and how lives were lost because there were too few lifeboats. Whether these two separate stories were precognition on Stead’s part or merely coincidence is not known, but Stead apparently did not foresee the tragedy when he booked passage on the Titanic.
Stead did not survive the ship's sinking — on the physical plane. It appears that he was able to communicate post mortem from the astral plane.
According to Rev. Charles L. Tweedale, the Church of England vicar of Weston, Stead appeared at a sitting given by Etta Wriedt in New York on April 17. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician who created Sherlock Holmes, called Wriedt the best direct-voice medium in the world, and the plan was for Stead to accompany Wriedt back to England on his return voyage so that she could demonstrate her gift there. Wriedt made the trip without Stead and gave a sitting on May 6 in Wimbledon. In attendance were Vice-Admiral W. Usborne Moore and Estelle Stead, Stead’s daughter. Moore reported that Stead talked with his daughter for at least 40 minutes. He described it as the most painful but most realistic and convincing conversation he had heard during his investigations of mediumship.

General Sir Alfred E. Turner reported that he held a small and private sitting at his home with Mrs. Wriedt. “We had hardly commenced when a voice, which apparently came from behind my right shoulder, exclaimed: ‘I am so happy to be with you again,’ Turner reported. “The voice was unmistakably that of Stead, who immediately began to tell us the events of the dire moments when the leviathan settled down. There was a short, sharp struggle to gain his breath and immediately afterwards he came to his senses in another stage of existence.” At a later sitting with Wriedt, Turner saw Stead materialize, wearing his usual attire. 
Even if we believe every word of this, it doesn't help us solve the riddle of how the future can be known, or whether our hash has been settled long before we started our path through life. I have read some psychics who suggest something like Hamlet does: "There's a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough-hew them how we will." That is, we have limited free will, we can choose one course or another in the present but ultimately our karma will meet us. We have an appointment in Samarra.


Other psychics support free will more strongly, though. They claim that we can under some circumstances glimpse the forces at work that are leading us to a future event, but that by altering our conduct, we can change the outcome. And indeed, there are cases on record in the annals of the Society for Psychical Research and elsewhere that seem to bear this out. In one case I recall, well witnessed at the time, a woman had a vision that her child was playing on railroad tracks and was crushed by an oncoming engine. She ran out of the house, found her child playing on the tracks, and rescued him as the engine was roaring toward him.

Maybe it is destiny or karma or forces set in motion in the womb of time that rough-hew our ends, but we can shape them, especially if we listen to our intuition.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The mainstream media's love affair with Islam in America

So help me, I'm tired of writing about Islam. Plenty of other worthwhile subjects come to mind (usually). Yet when I tell myself it's time to give it a rest, further evidence comes to light that Islam in the United States is on the way to making the same kind of inroads it has made in England, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium ... and our mainstream media are doing all they can to help. 

Maybe they honestly don't realize what they're doing. Maybe they're run by '60s retards who absorbed the politics of that era to the point that they can't help fitting the story into a "civil rights" narrative. Or the media are owned by what Angelo Codevilla describes so well as America's Ruling Class (and if you haven't read his brilliant essay, waste no time in doing so). As he puts it: "[The Ruling Class's] first tenet is that 'we' are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained."


You think the ink-stained wretches out in Montana, in the country's rugged West, are holdouts against this blatant propagandizing? Hah
While Montana is far from the headlines about the so-called "ground zero mosque" or a pastor's plan to burn the Quran, it's not immune from America's anxiety over Islam.

For many Montanans, Islamic culture is defined more by what they see on TV, the movies or the news, and less by personal relationships with Muslim people.

Nationwide, a recent Gallup poll found 43 percent of Americans admitted to feeling at least "a little" prejudice against Muslims. And just this month, another study found Americans have increasingly negative views of a woman wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf.
 It would be hard to pack more bias into three short paragraphs.

The "so-called" ground zero mosque? If not that, what is it, a department store? Only cave dwelling  Cro-Magnons could have any objection to a mosque at the site of an attack on America launched on behalf of Allah. 

Next, any opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is of the same order of a publicity hound pastor's announced Koran burning (notice how the story spells it Quran, the Arabic way). 

Montana isn't "immune" (a word used in connection with diseases) from America's "anxiety" over Islam. Right, people look at a politico-religious ideology that has been at war with the West for 1400 years and twice came within shouting distance of conquering Europe by force, but their "anxiety" just shows what dopes they are.


"For many Montanans, Islamic culture is defined more by what they see on TV, the movies or the news, and less by personal relationships with Muslim people." Some skepticism about what you see or read in the media is healthy, but is this fool Amanda Ricker trying to tell us that we should ignore history, assume everything broadcast or written about Islam is irrelevant, and rely only on "personal relationships" with Muslims? 

Individually, Muslims can be pleasant and likable -- or strident and aggressive in their belief system -- but in neither case does it matter. This isn't a high school popularity contest. It's about an ideology that divides the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, the latter being the part of the world that does not yet follow their Prophet. Does Ricker actually know anything about Islam, or did she just get an assignment from her editor to go interview some Muslims and obediently write what they tell her?


I don't know what Gallup poll she refers to, but reliable polls are supposed to use neutral language so as not to influence responses. It's hard for me to believe that Gallup, unless the company has gone over to the Dark Side, asked people if they were "prejudiced against Muslims." 

"And just this month, another study found Americans have increasingly negative views of a woman wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf." What swine we are! Imagine having negative views about a Muslim tradition! All traditions are wonderful, except American traditions, to people like Ricker. 

It is probably beyond her to grasp the idea that the hijab has a symbolic meaning, that Americans are uneasy not about a piece of cloth (only a couple of generations ago most American women wore scarves), but about what it represents: a value system that is incompatible with ours.
Muslim Americans are largely assimilated, happy with their lives and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world. The estimated 2.4 million Muslims living in America are "solidly middle class and mainstream, with incomes and education levels mirroring the general public," the Christian Science Monitor reported in September, citing a Pew Research Center survey.
I would like to hear her defend that first sentence with anything beyond what a few local Muslims told her. The following sentence is invalid as evidence: first, because the Christian Science Monitor is in the same league with the New York Times and Washington Post as a Voice of Islam; second, because it's a non sequitur. It is possible to be middle class and mainstream (whatever "mainstream" might mean in this context), to have a good income, and still have jihad in the heart.


But Ricker no doubt imagines that only poverty and failure to assimilate can account for any problems with Islam, problems caused by those mean nativists who make Muslims wash their feet in separate drinking fountains.

I hear fishing is popular in Montana. Maybe she's angling for a job on the New York Times.

UPDATE 10/18

Even the left-wing British journalist Robert Fisk and the left-wing Guardian are capable of being more honest than our media about one reason some Americans feel "anxiety" about bringing Muslim culture to the United States.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Geert Wilders: Free at last?


I am sorry to have neglected commenting earlier about Wilders, put on trial for speaking his mind about Islam and the Islamization of Europe. It is a welcome, and rather surprising, development that he has been cleared of two charges. But a couple of reports, including this one, suggest that even the Dutch prosecutors thought it was a dodgy case and only pursued it because they were ordered to by a judge. (Judges in Europe have more authority than their U.S. counterparts; in France, for instance, a branch of the judiciary is in charge of criminal investigations.)

It is unclear whether the whole prosecution is null and void — sorry, there I go, sounding like a lawyer — or charges remain. According to another article, "Argument continued on Friday on whether Wilders should be convicted, with three charges now remaining for inciting discrimination against Muslims and hatred and discrimination against people of non-Western immigrant origin."

The same article says:
Dutch prosecutors sought the acquittal Friday of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on a charge of inciting hatred against Muslims, saying it was not a crime to criticise religion.
"Criticism (of religion) is allowed as long as it does not lead to incitement of hatred against people," prosecutor Birgit van Roessel told the Amsterdam district court.
This makes it sound like Wilders was banging on religion in general, but he has left no doubt he had Islam in mind. If this is in fact the basis for the prosecutors' request for acquittal (on some charges?), it is a cop-out that avoids the central issue (and leaves the whole "hatred" argument up in the air?).

We are also told:
Public prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman now say his comments on the Qur’an referred to Islam and its holy book, and not to Muslim people.

In explaining their call for acquittal on the defamation charges, the prosecutors also explained that statements contained in the MP’s film, Fitna, referred to Islam as a religion and not to its followers. Even though the statements could hurt the feelings of Muslims, that was not the same as defamation of the group.
This also seems like evasion. Few Muslims would make a distinction between themselves as people and the Koran, or between the religion and its followers. The Koran is central to Muslims' identity, and while the prosecutors' argument might satisfy the Western mind's ability to split legal hairs, it is not likely to firmly establish in the Netherlands the principle of free speech about Islam.

I'd guess politics has helped turn Wilders's trial, since his PVV Party won more seats in the last election and swings weight in the coalition government. The prosecutors may have received a few firmly worded phone calls from highly placed individuals in the parliament — members of the other parties who need PVV's support.

Too bad if the case against Wilders is dismissed on a technicality rather than a ringing declaration that the law is not there to support religious grudges. But if that was the only politically feasible way to drop the charges that should never have been issued, so be it. The news could have been a lot worse.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Ministry of Cowardice

The Scotsman has a piece about women who are "hidden victims" of forced marriage. But out of fear of legal trouble or perhaps violence, the paper won't even mention the M word. It describes them only as part of the "ethnic minority community." A community that forces its daughters into a life with someone they didn't choose. 
The director of the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, Nina Giles, said the survey identified teachers and doctors as professionals who could help prevent forced marriages from taking place.

She says they need to be trained to recognise warning signs such as long, unexplained holidays or signs of abuse, but admits it may be difficult for some to decide when it is appropriate to intervene.

"They need to seek advice so if they're approached by a minority ethnic child, for example, then they know what to do," she said.
How barking crazy the U.K. has become. An organization with the Orwellian name of Racial Equality Council can't pronounce "Muslim," but wants teachers and doctors — in addition to whatever teaching and doctoring they can fit in — to keep a sharp eye out for unexplained holidays. Not about Muslims, perish the idea. They're snooping for ... uh ... dole recipients and public servants swanning about in Spain, that's it.
The forced partnerships are often used so family members can be granted access to UK visas, while others use it to preserve their cultural identity.

Chief Superintendent Gill Imery said one problem was building trust in the victims, many of whom consider approaching police as bringing shame on the family. "Here in Lothian and Borders we've had 31 incidents of honour-based violence in the past two years, but the nature of the incidents means it's (difficult to prosecute] and we've only had nine arrests," she said.
But why should the victims trust the police, or for that matter, their multi-cultural country? British politicians have signaled, by allowing Muslim immigration on a grand scale, that they are willing to wink at a "cultural identity" that believes violence against women is a matter of honor.

The Muslims are being Muslims. Not all Muslims who are in a position to behave that way do, of course. They are a minority, but not so small as to be dismissed as the irreducible minimum of criminality you find anywhere and any time. Rather, enough to be an outrage.

The heaviest responsibility lies with non-Muslim British who tolerate it by going with the flow of social Marxism, refusing to recognize reality because that would be "racist." A Western society with an honor code of its own would refuse to usher in such an "ethnic minority community" and be intimidated by it. Are oppressed women supposed to look to the Ministry of Cowardice for protection?
NHS Lothian's adviser on gender-based violence, Lesley Johnston, said: "We are currently training mental health and midwifery staff to carry out a routine inquiry process."

A Scottish Government spokesman said it would look at providing more support when the bill was implemented. "We will ensure that education materials are made available nationally," he said.
Simply pathetic: Scotland is so abject that it can only deal with forced marriages and wife beatings by calling on teachers, doctors, midwives (midwives!), and social workers — "adviser[s] on gender-based violence" — and making more educational materials available. The Muslims described in the article are following their traditions; the British are trashing theirs.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The elitism follies


Elite, elitism, elitist. Once complimentary words, now a snarl. Hurled back and forth between left and right to where they are almost as common a bit of invective as "racism," and almost equally meaningless.

However, Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post thinks we have a new elite — an "ordinary" elite — of, you guessed it, women and minorities. But, says Applebaum, they are resented by people who are even more ordinary than the ordinary elite.
The result of that expansion is now with us: Barack Obama, brought up by a single mother, graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law School, is president. Michelle Obama, daughter of a black municipal employee, graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, is first lady. They brought with them to Washington dozens more people, also from modest backgrounds, mostly not with inherited wealth, who have entered high government office thanks in part to their education. Not that Washington wasn't stuffed with such people already: Think of Clarence Thomas, son of a domestic servant and a farm worker, graduate of Yale Law School, Supreme Court justice. 
You are not to imagine racial politics had anything to do with all these ordinary elite folks in the corridors of power. Don't imagine for a second we have an affirmative action government. All those minorities and ethnics in every motor vehicles department, with the odd token white, that's because they're nature's own elite. And it's not surprising they have been promoted to running the federal government.
The backlash against graduates of "elite" universities seems particularly odd given that the most elite American universities have in the past two decades made the greatest effort to broaden their student bodies.

Because they can offer full scholarships, the wealthier Ivy League schools in particular are far more diverse, racially and economically, than they were a few decades ago. Once upon a time, you got into Harvard or Yale solely because of your alumnus grandfather. Nowadays, your alumnus grandfather still helps, but only as long as you did well on the SAT, captained your ice hockey team and, in your senior year, raised a million dollars for charity (the last was not a requirement when I got into Yale, but it seems to be now). If you did all that and come from a broken home in Nevada, so much the better. 
Yes, and if you did all that and come from a broken home in Nevada and belong to a Certified Victim Group, better still. It could just be that the "backlash" against "ordinary elite" students majoring in victimology and being selected for prestigious positions after graduation to advertise an organization's diversity rubs ordinary "ordinary" people the wrong way.

Applebaum says that "in 1972, the American sociologist Daniel Bell … predicted, with amazing prescience, the rise of an anti-elite-education populism. Bell got one thing wrong, however: He thought the coming attack on universities would take the form of enforced quotas and lowered standards. In fact, American universities staved off that particular populist wave in the 1970s by expanding their admissions to include women and minorities, while keeping standards high."

Anne, you surely must be joking — no, you're writing for the Washington Post, so you mean us to take you seriously. But you are dead wrong, and all those "populists" or elitists without portfolio or whatever — the unwomen and unminorities — are right. Enforced quotas and lowered standards are exactly the state of play in our universities, and have been since diversity enforcement began in the 1970s. Academic standards in most fields have never been lower.


The debasement of higher education isn't only among the minority and womyn students universities have so actively hoovered up to enhance their standing in the diversity league. When affirmative action admissions rule, standards must be lowered for everyone, lest too many minority students flunk out.

So today we have institutions of higher "learning" full of both students and faculty members who have been educated beyond their brainpower. Particularly in the corrupted humanities and social sciences, they have little actual knowledge and no reasoning ability; their time in academia has served only to give them a sense of the currently fashionable buzzwords and the approved jargon for writing about their field.

The culture of important-sounding, childish nonsense infects practically everything associated with academe. Here's one more or less random example, from a brochure of events taking place this season at ... [pause for deep breath] ... the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer [New York] Polytechnic Institute. It's about an exhibition called Uncertain Spectator (Nov. 18–Jan. 29):
An exhibition confronting anxiety in contemporary art, Uncertain Spectator asks individuals to cross a threshold — place themselves in situations riddled with tension, confront deeply charged emotional content, and grapple with feelings of apprehension.
Shoot, I do that every time I open my credit card statements.
The works presented deal with a general mood of uneasiness arising from recent political and economic events that seems to frame a future rife with imminent threats. Uncertain Spectator not only responds to these unsettling situations, but also creates them by challenging individuals to step outside a place of comfort both physically and emotionally.
Uncertain, uneasy, unsettling. The un-examined life.


I understand the idea of stepping outside a "place of comfort" emotionally … but physically? Does this mean someone visiting the exhibition could be mugged? Kidnapped?

The description continues. As we read, let's note the academic-babble clichés:
The exhibition incorporates media works in the broader context of the contemporary art landscape, through the work of ten artists spanning the genres of video, installation, sculpture, and interactive media. Uncertain Spectator will be contextualized by a catalog and series of events that will consider the role anxiety has played in philosophical discussions of existentialism, Freudian psychoanalysis, and ethics.
 "In conjunction with Uncertain Spectator opening," there will be a screening of Dancer in the Dark, "Lars Von Trier's only work in musical theater … an assault against escapism in film." (No place of comfort here either!) "The film stars Björk as a single immigrant mother working in a factory in rural America who begins to lose her eyesight due to a degenerative disease. The film's narrative is punctuated with sequences of song and dance, which were filmed simultaneously using one hundred separate cameras."

Von Trier, we are told, "became the figurehead of the Dogme 95 collective, which called for a return to plausible stories in filmmaking and a move away from artifice."


The critic John Simon observed that there have been ages of intellectualism, and ages of anti-intellectualism, but we live today in a climate that is something new: of pseudo-intellectualism. An encapsulated world created by and for ordinary, but not ordinary enough, elitists.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

As middle American as gang bangers

South Central Los Angeles? No, Tennessee.

It's like a chemistry experiment to demonstrate how you make explosives. The teacher is the Liberal Establishment, determined to make the United States "diverse" if it kills us, which it just might if you wander mistakenly into an especially vibrant part of town. Take one beaker of Mexican Invasion; mix with a dysfunctional black underclass; shake with rap. Bang.

Maybe you've consoled yourself with the thought that the turf wars, with their graffiti, robberies, and homicides are just southern California local color. You are too wrong. Your government's campaign for population replacement is bringing aliens to your city, or maybe even town.

Nashville: Grand Old Opry, country music capital, pillared mansions, even a replica of the Parthenon. And gang bangers galore. 

The Nashville Tennessean does the usual mainstream media shuffle. Gangs, what a shame, remember the good old days when if was safe to etc. It writes as if the issue is a vandalism problem. But the paper deserves a pinch of credit for at least acknowledging that it is mostly Mexicans and blacks that have turned parts of the city into an all too typical war zone.
Within and along streets around the park, the graffiti mostly consists of the characters "7OP" and variations of the number 13. Howey said he believes the group is affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), a Hispanic group that is an organized gang affiliated with known crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault, drugs, weapons violations and vandalism. Howey said the 7OP group appears to consist of people who have splintered off to form their own territorial faction of MS-13.
The piece also notes: "Nearly 800,000 gang members and 27,000 gangs operate across the 50 states, a Justice Department survey shows. Some estimates have the figure at 2 million gang members. Police have identified 5,000 gang members in Davidson County."

Nashville homeboys. The joke's on you, Nashville.

What is this death wish that our rulers in New York and Washington have for the United States of America? Obviously, they believe white Americans are so bad that anything is better. Even the dregs of Third World, narco-gang ruled Mexico.

If any relief is to be had, it will come from places like Nashville, not from New York or (above all) ultra-leftist, America-hating Washington. As Washington's grip on the states breaks up, they will take back their cities and towns.

Perhaps they will send these folks to Washington, as Washington has sent them to "middle Tennessee" and the heart of America. It would be poetic justice.