Saturday, January 22, 2011
The New York Times
January 21, 2011
Willie Mays brought gifts for the school’s best students — 12 baseballs, 3 replica 1951 Giants jerseys and even a $100 bill.(Michael Nagle/Getty Images)
Harlem has had so many magical days; Friday offered yet another, when the great Willie Mays came back home.
More than 200 students from P.S. 46 gathered inside the school’s auditorium to listen to Mays talk about his life in Harlem as the Giants’ center fielder.
The students were familiar with Mays because the school’s principal, George Young, had ordered a schoolwide assignment to research Mays’s career and life.
The students entered the auditorium knowing that they were in the presence of a great man who had once lived in Harlem and had made his name in the Polo Grounds, the stadium once located where the school now stands.
The students got more than they bargained for. Over the years, Mays has developed a reputation for being difficult, but on this day, he was anything but. He was accommodating and truly seemed to enjoy being back in Harlem and sharing himself with the public school students.
Mays brought gifts for the school’s best students — 12 baseballs and three replica 1951 Giants jerseys. The balls were handed out one by one by Harold Reynolds, the former major leaguer who serves as an analyst for the MLB Network. But when it was the turn of the final student, sixth-grader Kendrick Taveras, Mays realized they were one ball short. Rather than leave Kendrick empty-handed, Mays pulled out his wallet.
“I know this is not appropriate,” he said, but he pulled out a $100 bill anyway and handed it to the student, whose shocked expression was worth a million dollars.
In that instant, the legend of Willie Mays became tangible for the schoolchildren. Mays later explained that he didn’t want the student to feel left out. “I didn’t want him to go away saying, ‘Hey, that guy didn’t give me nothing,’ ” Mays said, laughing.
Sixty years ago, Mays was called up by the Giants a few days after his 20th birthday. He moved to New York and lived in a first-floor apartment on St. Nicholas Place just below 155th Street.
Mays called Harlem home, and in return Harlem embraced him as a native son. “In 1951 when I first started, I lived right on top of the hill on St. Nicholas Place,” Mays said, referring to the Sugar Hill area, where he lived during his first two years in New York.
Mays would walk to the Polo Grounds using the steep staircase off 155th Street. “I used to go up and down this street all the time, so I’m familiar with this area,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to come back, to let all of the youngsters know what I was doing here.”
In addition to his emerging stature then as a great player, Mays’s ability to connect with young people became legendary. During the season, Mays regularly played stickball with a group of 10 children in the neighborhood. They would knock on his first-floor window, and by 10 a.m. they were playing ball on St. Nicholas Place.
“I like kids,” Mays said. “I think I’m more at home with kids than I am with grownups, because the kids are genuine. You see them and there’s no falsehood there. You see what you see; that’s what you’re going to get.”
Mays, who will turn 80 in May, made his way to P.S. 46 through Friday morning’s snow and arrived nearly an hour early.
“I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and I asked myself, ‘What am I going to tell these kids?’ ” he said.
When he realized it was snowing, he asked himself, “Is it snowing too bad to get uptown?” But his decision was easy. “I said: ‘Let’s go early, because if I miss this session, these kids are going to be disappointed.’ So I was early.”
This is where Mays made his name, where he became rookie of the year and won his only World Series championship. If Harlem was the spiritual capital of black America, Willie Mays was its center fielder.
Mays is an American treasure, an Alabama native but a state-of-mind New Yorker. As Reynolds tried to keep the program moving, Mays, taking his time and clearly enjoying the moment, told him: “You don’t understand, man. This is my neighborhood.”
As the program came to a close, Young came onstage and asked the audience to stand and serenade Mays with a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
This was perhaps the most touching act of a magical day. Inside the auditorium, generations and ethnicities converged, singing baseball’s anthem of innocence and hope.
Mays sat and absorbed what was happening.
“I thought he was very sincere,” Young said. “He seemed concerned about the well-being of the children and the community. I feel that he connected. There was a sincerity there.”
The Giants returned to New York this weekend to share the world championship — their first since 1954 — with legions of fans who remained loyal to the team, and to reach out to fans whose hearts were so broken by the Giants’ departure for San Francisco that they zoned out of baseball.
Mays was one whose soul remained in New York.
He returned on Friday to reconnect with a generation of young people who he felt needed to see, feel and touch a legend who once called Harlem home.
Mays is the hero who never really left.
Friday, January 21, 2011
The Washington Post
Friday, January 21, 2011
Suppose someone - say, the president of United States - proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I've got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.
He'd be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare. During the debate over Republican attempts to repeal it, one of the Democrats' major talking points has been that Obamacare reduces the deficit - and therefore repeal raises it - by $230 billion. Why, the Congressional Budget Office says exactly that.
Very true. And very convincing. Until you realize where that number comes from. Explains CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in his "preliminary analysis of H.R. 2" (the Republican health-care repeal): "CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion."
As National Affairs editor Yuval Levin pointed out when mining this remarkable nugget, this is a hell of a way to do deficit reduction: a radical increase in spending, topped by an even more radical increase in taxes.
Of course, the very numbers that yield this $230 billion "deficit reduction" are phony to begin with. The CBO is required to accept every assumption, promise (of future spending cuts, for example) and chronological gimmick that Congress gives it. All the CBO then does is perform the calculation and spit out the result.
In fact, the whole Obamacare bill was gamed to produce a favorable CBO number. Most glaringly, the entitlement it creates - government-subsidized health insurance for 32 million Americans - doesn't kick in until 2014. That was deliberately designed so any projection for this decade would cover only six years of expenditures - while that same 10-year projection would capture 10 years of revenue. With 10 years of money inflow vs. six years of outflow, the result is a positive - i.e., deficit-reducing - number. Surprise.
If you think that's audacious, consider this: Obamacare does not create just one new entitlement (health insurance for everyone); it actually creates a second - long-term care insurance. With an aging population, and with long-term care becoming extraordinarily expensive, this promises to be the biggest budget buster in the history of the welfare state.
And yet, in the CBO calculation, this new entitlement to long-term care reduces the deficit over the next 10 years. By $70 billion, no less. How is this possible? By collecting premiums now, and paying out no benefits for the first 10 years. Presto: a (temporary) surplus. As former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and scholars Joseph Antos and James Capretta note, "Only in Washington could the creation of a reckless entitlement program be used as 'offset' to grease the way for another entitlement." I would note additionally that only in Washington could such a neat little swindle be titled the "CLASS Act" (for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act).
That a health-care reform law of such enormous size and consequence, revolutionizing one-sixth of the U.S. economy, could be sold on such flimflammery is astonishing, even by Washington standards. What should Republicans do?
Make the case. Explain the phony numbers, boring as the exercise may be. Better still, hold hearings and let the CBO director, whose integrity is beyond reproach, explain the numbers himself.
To be sure, the effect on the deficit is not the only criterion by which to judge Obamacare. But the tossing around of such clearly misleading bumper-sticker numbers calls into question the trustworthiness of other happy claims about Obamacare. Such as the repeated promise that everyone who likes his current health insurance will be able to keep it. Sure, but only if your employer continues to offer it. In fact, millions of workers will find themselves adrift because their employers will have every incentive to dump them onto the public rolls.
This does not absolve the Republicans from producing a health-care replacement. They will and should be judged by how well their alternative addresses the needs of the uninsured and the anxieties of the currently insured. But amending an insanely complicated, contradictory, incoherent and arbitrary 2,000-page bill that will generate tens of thousands of pages of regulations is a complete non-starter. Everything begins with repeal.
January 20, 2011
Congressman Peter King (R-NY, pictured above) told Politico Tuesday that in his upcoming hearings on radicalization among American Muslims, he was "not planning to call as witnesses such Muslim community critics as the Investigative Project on Terrorism's Steve Emerson and Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer, who have large followings among conservatives but are viewed as antagonists by many Muslims."
Based on this, it appears that this will be a show trial. Between Emerson and Spencer, the whole of it is covered. Emerson knows who all the players are and what groups and cells they are affiliated with. He knows who everyone is and what he's doing. For King to acquiesce in his marginalization is almost criminal. In Spencer's case, it's just as bad. Why wouldn't King discuss the texts and teachings of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and make recruits?
For King not to avail himself of Emerson's knowledge and Spencer's scholarship is an astounding case of willful blindness.
Methinks Representative King is a wee bit in over his head. I am filled with dread and sorrow at another lost opportunity. Doesn't King know he is going to be smeared and defamed for these hearings no matter what? So why not achieve something? Why not have the courage of your convictions?
The Muslim groups are worried about these hearings with good reason. "On the gonif brent a hittle" -- the Yiddish axiom translated means "on the thief, the hat burns." At the last yearly Muslim Public Affairs Council Conference (December 18, 2010), one of the questions moderator Salaam Al Marayati asked his panel concerned the future hearings of Congressman Peter King. One of the panelists, an attorney named Angela Oh, said that any person subpoenaed should hire an attorney and that the attorney should advise the committee that the person under subpoena would not appear. The other panelists agreed.
One of the other panelists, an attorney named Reem Salahi, made a lot of noise about King and the IRA. I have the feeling that they want the media to exploit this. The entire session was recorded and appeared on the MPAC website.
And so perhaps it is no surprise that Representative King has already conceded key points. But why? How could he in good conscience squander such an important, historic opportunity?
Politico said that "King aims ... to call retired law enforcement officials and people with 'the real life experience of coming from the Muslim community.' Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in the House and a critic of the hearings, will likely be a minority witness, according to both King and the Minnesota Democrat."
Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison is infamous for his pro-Hamas rallies and his pilgrimage to the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, paid for by the Muslim Brotherhood. He is testifying, but Emerson and Spencer aren't? What can King achieve?
King is going to call Zuhdi Jasser and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Jasser and Hirsi Ali are perfectly lovely, but to what end? Jasser's Islam does not exist. He does not have a theological leg to stand on. His mosque threw him out. Whatever he is practicing, it's not Islam, and he speaks for no one but himself. Also, Jasser has done some strange things: in May 2009, he made a last-minute effort to quash Geert Wilders' appearance on Capitol Hill under the aegis of Senator Kyl, calling Kyl's office the morning of the day Wilders was supposed to appear and stating that while Jasser had been in the Netherlands, Wilders refused to meet with Jasser because Wilders "doesn't meet with Muslims." That never happened, according to Wilders.
And when I interviewed Jasser back in 2007, he referred to Israel as occupied territory in the last five minutes of the interview. He blew his cover. Further, Jasser refutes Islamic anti-Semitism in the interview. He may be well-intentioned, but his approach and theology are just plain un-Islamic. Logan's Warning pointed out recently that Jasser has no following among Muslims and doesn't represent any Islamic tradition. So what's the point?
King probably thinks, as do other conservatives, that Jasser is the voice of reason in our cause of educating Americans about the threat of radical Islam. But in this, Jasser fails miserably. First off, there is no "reason" in Islam. There is only Islam. You cannot question, reason, or go off the reservation in any way. Hence, Jasser cannot educate about the threat, because he obfuscates the truth and has invented the Islam he follows.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is smart, fashionable, and a wonderful speaker. She is a great spokesperson, but she has removed herself from the front lines. She runs with a different crowd now. Yes, she can speak to the brutal oppression of women in Islam, but what can she bring to these hearings? If it's a former Muslim they want to hear from, who better than the world's leading scholar on Islam, Ibn Warraq?
That's all King really needs: Emerson, Spencer, and Ibn Warraq.
What a waste.
- Pamela Geller is the editor and publisher of the Atlas Shrugs website and former associate publisher of the New York Observer. She is the author of The Post-American Presidency.
By Michelle Malkin
January 21, 2011 12:00 A.M.
Let’s give the “climate of hate” rhetoric a rest for a moment. It’s time to talk about the climate of death, in which the abortion industry thrives unchecked. Dehumanizing rhetoric, rationalizing language, and a callous disregard for life have numbed America to its monstrous consequences. Consider the Philadelphia Horror.
In the City of Brotherly Love, hundreds of babies were murdered by a scissors-wielding monster over four decades. Whistleblowers informed public officials at all levels of the wanton killings of innocent life. But a parade of government health bureaucrats and advocates protecting the abortion racket looked the other way — until, that is, a Philadelphia grand jury finally exposed the infanticide factory run by abortionist Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D., and a crew of unlicensed, untrained butchers masquerading as noble providers of women’s “choice.” Prosecutors charged Gosnell and his death squad with multiple counts of murder, infanticide, conspiracy, abuse of corpse, theft, and other offenses.
In this March 8, 2010 photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell speaks to his attorney in Philadelphia. Gosnell, an abortion doctor who catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women at the Women's Medical Society, was charged Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said. (Yong Kim, Philadelphia Daily News/AP Photo)
The 281-page grand-jury report released Wednesday provides a bone-chilling account of how Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” systematically preyed on poor, minority pregnant women and their live, viable babies. The report’s introduction lays out the criminal enterprise that claimed the lives of untold numbers of babies — and mothers:
This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
Echoing the same kind of dark euphemisms plied by Planned Parenthood propagandists who refer to unborn life as “fetal and uterine material,” Gosnell referred to his deadly trade as “ensuring fetal demise.” Reminiscent of the word wizards who refer to the skull-crushing partial-birth-abortion procedure as “intact dilation and evacuation” and “intrauterine cranial decompression,” Gosnell described his destruction of babies’ spinal cords as “snipping.” He rationalized his macabre habit of cutting off dead babies’ feet and saving them in rows and rows of specimen jars as “research.” His guilt-ridden employees then took photos of some of the victims before dumping them in shoeboxes, paper bags, one-gallon spring-water bottles, and glass jars.
They weren’t the only ones who adopted a see-no-evil stance:
● The Pennsylvania Department of Health knew of clinic violations dating back decades, but did nothing.
● The Pennsylvania Department of State was “repeatedly confronted with evidence about Gosnell” — including the clinic’s unclean, unsterile conditions, unlicensed workers, unsupervised sedation, underage abortion patients, and over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street — “and repeatedly chose to do nothing.”
● Philadelphia Department of Public Health officials who regularly visited Gosnell’s human-waste-clogged offices did nothing.
● Nearby hospital officials who treated some of the pregnant mothers who suffered grave complications from Gosnell’s butchery did nothing.
● An unnamed evaluator with the National Abortion Federation, the leading association of abortion providers that is supposed to uphold strict health and legal standards, determined that Gosnell’s chamber of horrors was “the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected” — but did nothing.
Meanwhile, the death racketeers have launched a legislative and regulatory assault across the country on pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers from New York City to Baltimore, Austin, and Seattle that offer abortion alternatives, counseling, and family services to mostly poor, vulnerable minority women.
Already, left-wing journalists and activists have rushed to explain that these abortion atrocities ignored for four decades by abortion radicals and rationalizers are not really about abortion. A Time magazine writer argued that the Philadelphia Horror was “about poverty, not Roe v. Wade.” A University of Minnesota professor declared: “This is not about abortion.”
But the grand jury itself pointed out that loosened oversight of abortion clinics enacted under pro-choice former GOP governor Tom Ridge enabled Gosnell’s criminal enterprise — and led to the heartless execution of hundreds of babies. Mass murder got a pass in the name of expanding “access” and appeasing abortion lobbyists.
As the report made clear: “With the change of administration from [pro-life Democratic] Gov. Casey to Gov. Ridge,” government health officials “concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”
Deadly indifference to protecting life isn’t tangential to the abortion industry’s existence — it’s at the core of it. The Philadelphia Horror is no anomaly. It’s the logical, bloodcurdling consequence of an evil, eugenics-rooted enterprise wrapped in feminist clothing.
— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery, 2010). © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
by Mark Steyn
The New Criterion
Empire Day Pageant: Children dressed to represent Britannia, Wales, Scotland and various characters from history as they celebrate Empire Day. (Topical Press Agency, 1923)
If I am pessimistic about the future of liberty, it is because I am pessimistic about the strength of the English-speaking nations, which have, in profound ways, surrendered to forces at odds with their inheritance. “Declinism” is in the air, but some of us apocalyptic types are way beyond that. The United States is facing nothing so amiable and genteel as Continental-style “decline,” but something more like sliding off a cliff.
In the days when I used to write for Fleet Street, a lot of readers and several of my editors accused me of being anti-British. I’m not. I’m extremely pro-British and, for that very reason, the present state of the United Kingdom is bound to cause distress. So, before I get to the bad stuff, let me just lay out the good. Insofar as the world functions at all, it’s due to the Britannic inheritance. Three-sevenths of the G7 economies are nations of British descent. Two-fifths of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are—and, by the way, it should be three-fifths: The rap against the Security Council is that it’s the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, but, if it were, Canada would have a greater claim to be there than either France or China. The reason Canada isn’t is because a third Anglosphere nation and a second realm of King George VI would have made too obvious a truth usually left unstated—that the Anglosphere was the all but lone defender of civilization and of liberty. In broader geopolitical terms, the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?
And of course the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from eighteenth-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go. In his sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Andrew Roberts writes:
Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.
If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the “English-speaking peoples” and the rest of “the West,” and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.
Continental Europe has given us plenty of nice paintings and agreeable symphonies, French wine and Italian actresses and whatnot, but, for all our fetishization of multiculturalism, you can’t help noticing that when it comes to the notion of a political West—one with a sustained commitment to liberty and democracy—the historical record looks a lot more unicultural and, indeed (given that most of these liberal democracies other than America share the same head of state), uniregal. The entire political class of Portugal, Spain, and Greece spent their childhoods living under dictatorships. So did Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. We forget how rare on this earth is peaceful constitutional evolution, and rarer still outside the Anglosphere.
Decline starts with the money. It always does. As Jonathan Swift put it:
A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
’Tis like the writing on the wall.
Today the people who have America’s bonds are not the people one would wish to have one’s soul. As Madhav Nalapat has suggested, Beijing believes a half-millennium Western interregnum is about to come to an end, and the world will return to Chinese dominance. I think they’re wrong on the latter, but right on the former. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military.
According to the cbo’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the U.S. government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest—whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent. America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have advanced from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.
What does that mean? In 2009, the United States spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent years, then within a half-decade or so U.S. interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This year, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge American dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America.
Within the next five years, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers. When they take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it. The existential questions for America loom now, not decades hence. What we face is not merely the decline and fall of a powerful nation but the collapse of the highly specific cultural tradition that built the modern world. It starts with the money—it always does. But the money is only the symptom. We wouldn’t be this broke if we hadn’t squandered our inheritance in a more profound sense.
Britain’s decline also began with the money. The U.S. “Lend-Lease” program to the United Kingdom ended with the war in September 1946. London paid off the final installment of its debt in December 2006, and the Economic Secretary, Ed Balls, sent with the check a faintly surreal accompanying note thanking Washington for its support during the war. They have our soul who have our bonds: Britain and the world were more fortunate in who had London’s bonds than America is seventy years later. For that reason, in terms of global order, the transition from Britannia ruling the waves to the American era, from the old lion to its transatlantic progeny, was one of the smoothest transfers of power in history—so smooth that most of us aren’t quite sure when it took place. Andrew Roberts likes to pinpoint it to the middle of 1943: One month, the British had more men under arms than the Americans; the next month, the Americans had more men under arms than the British.
The baton of global leadership had been passed. And, if it didn’t seem that way at the time, that’s because it was as near a seamless transition as could be devised—although it was hardly “devised” at all, at least not by London. Yet we live with the benefits of that transition to this day. To take a minor but not inconsequential example, one of the critical links in the post-9/11 Afghan campaign was the British Indian Ocean Territory. As its name would suggest, it’s a British dependency, but it has a U.S. military base—just one of many pinpricks on the map where the Royal Navy’s Pax Britannica evolved into Washington’s Pax Americana with nary a thought: From U.S. naval bases in Bermuda to the Anzus alliance down under to Norad in Cheyenne Mountain, London’s military ties with its empire were assumed, effortlessly, by the United States, and life and global order went on.
One of my favorite lines from the Declaration of Independence never made it into the final text. They were Thomas Jefferson’s parting words to his fellow British subjects across the ocean: “We might have been a free and great people together.” But in the end, when it mattered, they were a free and great people together. Britain was eclipsed by its transatlantic offspring, by a nation with the same language, the same legal inheritance, and the same commitment to liberty.
It’s not likely to go that way next time round. And “next time round” is already under way. We are coming to the end of a two-century Anglosphere dominance, and of a world whose order and prosperity many people think of as part of a broad, general trend but which, in fact, derive from a very particular cultural inheritance and may well not survive it. To point out how English the world is is, of course, a frightfully un-English thing to do. No true Englishman would ever do such a ghastly and vulgar thing. You need some sinister rootless colonial oik like me to do it. But there’s a difference between genial self-effacement and contempt for one’s own inheritance.
Not so long ago, Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliamentarian and soi-disant Islamophobe, flew into London and promptly got shipped back to the Netherlands as a threat to public order. After the British Government had reconsidered its stupidity, he was permitted to return and give his speech at the House of Lords—and, as foreigners often do, he quoted Winston Churchill, under the touchingly naive assumption that this would endear him to the natives. Whereas, of course, to almost all members of Britain’s governing elite, quoting Churchill approvingly only confirms that you’re an extremist lunatic. I had the honor a couple of years back of visiting President Bush in the White House and seeing the bust of Churchill on display in the Oval Office. When Barack Obama moved in, he ordered Churchill’s bust be removed and returned to the British. Its present whereabouts are unclear. But, given what Sir Winston had to say about Islam in his book on the Sudanese campaign, the bust was almost certainly arrested at Heathrow and deported as a threat to public order.
Somewhere along the way a quintessentially British sense of self-deprecation curdled into a psychologically unhealthy self-loathing. A typical foot-of-the-page news item from The Daily Telegraph:
A leading college at Cambridge University has renamed its controversial colonial-themed Empire Ball after accusations that it was “distasteful.” The £136-a-head Emmanuel College ball was advertised as a celebration of “the Victorian commonwealth and all of its decadences.
Students were urged to “party like it’s 1899” and organisers promised a trip through the Indian Raj, Australia, the West Indies, and 19th century Hong Kong.
But anti-fascist groups said the theme was “distasteful and insensitive” because of the British Empire’s historical association with slavery, repression and exploitation.
The Empire Ball Committee, led by presidents Richard Hilton and Jenny Unwin, has announced the word “empire” will be removed from all promotional material.
The way things are going in Britain, it would make more sense to remove the word “balls.”
It’s interesting to learn that “anti-fascism” now means attacking the British Empire, which stood alone against fascism in that critical year between the fall of France and Germany’s invasion of Russia. And it’s even sadder to have to point out the most obvious fatuity in those “anti-fascist groups” litany of evil—“the British Empire’s association with slavery.” The British Empire’s principal association with slavery is that it abolished it. Before William Wilberforce, the British Parliament, and the brave men of the Royal Navy took up the issue, slavery was an institution regarded by all cultures around the planet as as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky. Britain expunged it from most of the globe.
It is pathetic but unsurprising how ignorant all these brave “anti-fascists” are. But there is a lesson here not just for Britain but for the rest of us, too: When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. As I always try to tell my American neighbors, national decline is at least partly psychological—and therefore what matters is accepting the psychology of decline. Thus, Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom, which he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944:
There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.
The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.
Within little more than half a century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (some 40 percent of Britons receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority”—the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something.” American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government without a similar descent, in enough of the citizenry, into chronic dependency.
What happened? Britain, in John Foster Dulles’s famous postwar assessment, had lost an empire but not yet found a role. Actually, Britain didn’t so much “lose” the Empire: it evolved peacefully into the modern Commonwealth, which is more agreeable than the way these things usually go. Nor is it clear that modern Britain wants a role, of any kind. Rather than losing an empire, it seems to have lost its point.
This has consequences. To go back to Cambridge University’s now non-imperial Empire Ball, if the cream of British education so willingly prostrates itself before ahistorical balderdash, what then of the school system’s more typical charges? In cutting off two generations of students from their cultural inheritance, the British state has engaged in what we will one day come to see as a form of child abuse, one that puts a huge question mark over the future. Why be surprised that legions of British Muslims sign up for the Taliban? These are young men who went to school in Luton and West Bromwich and learned nothing of their country of nominal citizenship other than that it’s responsible for racism, imperialism, colonialism, and all the other bad -isms of the world. If that’s all you knew of Britain, why would you feel any allegiance to Queen and country? And what if you don’t have Islam to turn to? The transformation of the British people is, in its own malign way, a remarkable achievement. Raised in schools that teach them nothing, they nevertheless pick up the gist of the matter, which is that their society is a racket founded on various historical injustices. The virtues Hayek admired? Ha! Strictly for suckers.
When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the modern British welfare state in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want,” to be accomplished by “cooperation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity. Churchill called his book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples—not the English-Speaking Nations. The extraordinary role played by those nations in the creation and maintenance of the modern world derived from their human capital.
What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.
Plucked at random from The Daily Mail: A man of twenty-one with learning disabilities has been granted taxpayers’ money to fly to Amsterdam and have sex with a prostitute. Why not? His social worker says sex is a “human right” and that his client, being a virgin, is entitled to the support of the state in claiming said right. Fortunately, a £520 million program was set up by Her Majesty’s Government to “empower those with disabilities.” “He’s planning to do more than just have his end away,” explained the social worker.
“The girls in Amsterdam are far more protected than those on U.K. streets. Let him have some fun—I’d want to. Wouldn’t you prefer that we can control this, guide him, educate him, support him to understand the process and ultimately end up satisfying his needs in a secure, licensed place where his happiness and growth as a person is the most important thing? Refusing to offer him this service would be a violation of his human rights.”
And so a Dutch prostitute is able to boast that among her clients is the British Government. Talk about outsourcing: given the reputation of English womanhood, you’d have thought this would be the one job that wouldn’t have to be shipped overseas. But, as Dutch hookers no doubt say, lie back and think of England—and the check they’ll be mailing you.
After Big Government, after global retreat, after the loss of liberty, there is only remorseless civic disintegration. The statistics speak for themselves. The number of indictable offences per thousand people was 2.4 in 1900, climbed gradually to 9.7 in 1954, and then rocketed to 109.4 by 1992. And that official increase understates the reality: Many crimes have been decriminalized (shoplifting, for example), and most crime goes unreported, and most reported crime goes uninvestigated, and most investigated crime goes unsolved, and almost all solved crime merits derisory punishment. Yet the law-breaking is merely a symptom of a larger rupture. At a gathering like this one, John O’Sullivan, recalling his own hometown, said that when his grandmother ran a pub in the Liverpool docklands in the years around the First World War, there was only one occasion when someone swore in her presence. And he subsequently apologized.
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” But viewed from 2010 England the day before yesterday is an alternative universe—or a lost civilization. Last year, the “Secretary of State for Children” (both an Orwellian and Huxleyite office) announced that 20,000 “problem families” would be put under twenty-four-hour cctv supervision in their homes. As the Daily Express reported, “They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.” Orwell’s government “telescreen” in every home is close to being a reality, although even he would have dismissed as too obviously absurd a nanny state that literally polices your bedtime.
For its worshippers, Big Government becomes a kind of religion: the state as church. After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.
Does the fate of the other senior Anglophone power hold broader lessons for the United States? It’s not so hard to picture a paternalist technocrat of the Michael Bloomberg school covering New York in cctv ostensibly for terrorism but also to monitor your transfats. Permanence is the illusion of every age. But you cannot wage a sustained ideological assault on your own civilization without profound consequence. Without serious course correction, we will see the end of the Anglo-American era, and the eclipse of the powers that built the modern world. Even as America’s spendaholic government outspends not only America’s ability to pay for itself but, by some measures, the world’s; even as it follows Britain into the dank pit of transgenerational dependency, a failed education system, and unsustainable entitlements; even as it makes less and less and mortgages its future to its rivals for cheap Chinese trinkets, most Americans assume that simply because they’re American they will be insulated from the consequences. There, too, are lessons from the old country. Cecil Rhodes distilled the assumptions of generations when he said that to be born a British subject was to win first prize in the lottery of life. On the eve of the Great War, in his play Heartbreak House, Bernard Shaw turned the thought around to taunt a British ruling class too smug and self-absorbed to see what was coming. “Do you think,” he wrote, “the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?”
In our time, to be born a citizen of the United States is to win first prize in the lottery of life, and, as Britons did, too many Americans assume it will always be so. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of America because you were born in it? Great convulsions lie ahead, and at the end of it we may be in a post-Anglosphere world.
Mark Steyn’s most recent book is America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It (Regnery).
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 January 2011, on page 13
Copyright © 2011 The New Criterion http://www.newcriterion.com/
Posted 01/18/2011 ET
Demonstrators hold placards reading "Ben Ali get out" in Tunis, Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. Thousands of angry demonstrators marched through Tunisia's capital Friday, demanding the resignation of the country's autocratic leader a day after he appeared on TV to try to stop deadly riots that have swept the North African nation. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
When Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled from power and fled to Saudi Arabia on Friday, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin hailed this "Jasmine Revolution" as a "remarkable event: a popular, secular revolt in a Muslim country" that "poses an opportunity and a risk for the U.S." Mona Eltahawy, also writing in the Post, explained that "a 29-day popular uprising against unemployment, police brutality and the regime's corruption" brought down Ben Ali. But there are numerous indications that there were other sources of dissatisfaction in Tunisia with Ben Ali -- including the relatively secular character of the government. Pro-Sharia Islamic supremacist forces are poised to take advantage.
The popular perception is that Ben Ali was brought down by the will of the people. The French government declared that Tunisians, by toppling Ben Ali, had "expressed their democratic will." German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her support for "real democracy" in the North African nation, adding in a message to officials of the new Tunisian government: "I appeal to you to use this deep break in Tunisia's history as a new departure."
A factory worker in Carthage had similar high hopes: "This is like the French Revolution," he said enthusiastically. "It's the end of an era. I'm hoping there is real change. We can't continue like this." Political analyst Ahmed Lashin declared: "The Arabs have been repressed for too long. They are eager for change and are on the verge of explosion."
But what kind of change? What kind of Reign of Terror might come in the wake of this new French Revolution? Rached Ghannouchi, the London-based leader of the banned Tunisian pro-Sharia party, the Tunisian Renaissance Party (Hizb al-Nahdah), was quick to dub the Tunisian uprising an "intifada" and to claim it as a victory for Islam. "The Tunisian intifada," he exulted, "has succeeded in collapsing the dictatorship."
Pro-Sharia MPs in Kuwait applauded "the courage of the Tunisian people," and Abdelmalek Deroukdal, a leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, hailed the revolution as a jihad and expressed solidarity with the Tunisians. In Gaza, the jihadist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad were both thrilled at events in Tunisia. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri hailed the victory for democracy, and Gaza Foreign Minister Fathi Hammad emphasized that "we are with the Tunisians in choosing their leaders, no matter what sacrifices it takes."
Islamic Jihad praised the Tunisian people for liberating themselves "through blood, sacrifices and the expression of free will," adding ominously that the toppling of Ben Ali was "a message to Arab and Islamic countries to pay attention to the aspirations of their people that are rejecting hegemony and tyranny before it is too late."
Islamic Jihad held a rally in Gaza City, featuring hundreds of jihadists waving Tunisian flags festooned with the words "Revenge against tyranny." Islamic Jihad spokesman Dawud Shehab sounded a drearily familiar note in accusing the Ben Ali regime of maintaining "suspicious ties" with Israel.
Meanwhile, a PLO faction warned Tunisians about "waves of political Islam" that could follow Ben Ali's toppling, and urged them to "cut the road to political Islam and its misleading slogans to avoid a repeat of the Gaza Strip experience in Tunisia" -- referring to the seizure of power in Gaza by the Islamic supremacists of Hamas.
The great unacknowledged truth about Tunisia and the rest of the Islamic world is that Islamic jihadists and pro-Sharia forces, far from being the "tiny minority of extremists" of media myth, actually enjoy broad popular support. Any genuine democratic uprising is likely to install them in power. That's why jihadists are hailing events in Tunisia, and why all lovers of freedom should view those events with extreme reserve -- for a Sharia government in Tunisia is unlikely to be any kind of friend to the United States, and if the "Jasmine Revolution" does indeed spread and other Arab and Muslim dictators are toppled, an already hostile anti-American environment could become much, much worse.
The events in Tunisia also show yet again the crying need for realistic analysis in Washington of the jihad threat, rather than the fantasy-based analysis that prevails there now. But that is even less likely than the flowering of a pluralistic, secular democracy in Tunisia.
- Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad (both from Regnery—a Human Events sister company) and most recently coauthor of Pamela Geller’s The Post-American Presidency (Simon & Schuster).
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The Daily Mail
Last updated at 8:39 AM on 18th January 2011
Host Ricky Gervais speaks at the 68th annual Golden Globes Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 16, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Tinseltown's taut smiles – you could almost sense the teeth tinkling, Tom and Jerry-style – said it all. They were loathing it. English comedian Ricky Gervais was up on the stage at the Golden Globe film awards, acting as the evening’s compere.
The creator of BBC2’s The Office was doing what any self-respecting satirist does. He was taking the mickey.
He made a risque gay joke, a Jewish joke and a joke about octogenarian Hugh Hefner’s new wife and what she might find under the bedclothes. This was accompanied by Gervais pretending to gag, repeatedly, like a diner confronted by a particularly nasty, shrivelled sausage
There was also some reference to the head of the Foreign Press Association (the evening’s organisers) wearing false teeth. By gum! This was sauciness of a high order. Dangerous, Ricky. You crazy or something?
The assembled lovelies listened to this very British bumptiousness, this naughty insolence, this unprecedented audacity, and at first they did not know how to react.
He introduced ageing actor (and hell-raiser) Robert Downey Jr by saying: ‘Many of you in this room probably know him best from the Betty Ford Clinic and the Los Angeles County Jail.’
The Betty Ford Clinic is where Hollywood drunks go to dry out. In the land of shrinks, where dependency bestows victimhood, you are not meant to jest about such matters. Downey certainly didn’t think so. He was distinctly unchuffed.
As Gervais persisted with his impish performance, creating merry mayhem at every turn, there was the occasional gasp. The microphones picked up a muffled ‘ohmigaaaad’ here, while the TV shots showed the beautiful people covering silent mouths, as though witnessing some horror of the deeps.
Actresses with razor-sharp cheekbones gave uncertain twitters, fiddling with their sequined gowns. Others bulged their eyeballs as though they had just been goosed by Henry Kissinger.
Gervais mentioned a film called I Love You Philip Morris in which, as he put it, ‘two heterosexual actors pretend to be gay – so the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists, then’.
Oooooh, baby, that was bold. A joke which tweaks both closet homosexuality and religion. In America! No wonder the starlets and their square-jawed walkers, not all of them perhaps entirely open about the way they liked to swing, looked around the room while they tried to work out how to react.
You have to recall that these starlings of global glitter are dim birds, prone to following the flock. And the flock did not know what to do because it had never encountered such risky mockery.
You can see why. Hollywood is a town, an industry, built on self-glory, on the dictatorship of appearance. When someone comes along and throws a spanner through that fantasy, like a Tunisian rioter breaking the windows in a dictator’s villa, there was bound to be trepidation.
One of the paradoxes of the American film world is that it purports to celebrate individuality – and indeed rewards certain individuals amazingly well for their work – but it has a terror of independence of mind.
Few Hollywood celebs got where they are today by being the sort of brave, gung-ho, stand-out-from-the-crowd heroes they frequently depict on the big screen. Hollywood and its power brokers hate a rebel. It is a place of groupthink and almost terminal political correctness.
Resentment has fast followed the uncertainty which Gervais provoked. Yesterday some parts of the American media deplored his ‘inappropriate’ wit.
The New York Daily News, itself hardly a temple to aesthetics, cast down its thunderbolts.
There were warnings that Gervais would ‘never work in this town again’. I don’t suppose he is unduly perturbed.
He already had a certain underground appeal, but the Globes appearances will have earned him a cult following around the world: The man who went to Hollywood and told them what a bunch of self-regarding boobies they are!
Take the passage in which he said: ‘It’s an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet. Actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?’
This was delivered with puckish irony. Americans do not always notice irony but they did this time. Gervais was saying to his audience, ‘stop being so vain, stop being so self-congratulatory’. Good for him. If it took a boy from the back streets of Reading, Berks, to say this, we should be proud of him.
Although, at times, his jibes were so raw that they made you wince.
He may not always have been to everyone’s flavour. After the brilliance of The Office, he had a few dud years. But this was top-class satire, all the more remarkable for the fact that it was delivered in the flesh – right to the heart of the beast.
After pointing out Hollywood’s self-love, he continued by referring to the way some movie stars jaunt out to the world’s poorest countries and pat the heads of starving children. ‘You can be a little child, a little Asian child, with no possessions, no money – but you see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think, “Mummy!”’
Given the way that Angelina Jolie, one of the biggest names in Hollywood, has toured the world’s dustiest countries, picking up children and giving them fashionable names (the latest, acquired in Ethiopia, has been labelled Zahara), this was amazingly pointed insolence. Well done, Ricky Gervais. No wonder some of them felt uncomfortable at his brave gulling.
His jokes were but the start of the comedy. The ensuing harrumphs and outrage have been every bit as priceless. Imagine the backstage horror as it became clear that Gervais was going for the jugular. He had apparently hinted beforehand that he would not push things too far in the actual show but once he was on stage he was unstoppable. It was prime time and it was live!
The evening was a nightmare for the TV coverage wallahs. What should the producers do with their camera shots? Gervais made a crack about plastic surgery and – oh no! – the screens were at that point focused lovingly on the implausibly youthful face of Meryl Streep, aged lord knows what and as twangy as a flamenco guitar string.
Cue panic in some back-room production suite. Get Meryl off the screens! Now! The shot suddenly gave way to a more generic view of the star-spangled ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Johnny Depp, an early victim of the Gervais sauce (about awards and bribes), displayed some marvellously manic mastication worthy of the gum-chewing Olympics. Not even Sir Alex Ferguson in the Manchester United dugout on a bad afternoon chews that fast.
The Foreign Press Association man with (or more likely, now without) the false teeth seems to have had a grave sense of humour failure and declined to say if Gervais would ever again be invited to act as compere at the Globes. There was also talk that Gervais was read the riot act half-way through the event and was told to tone down his remarks.
What stupendous fools these American neck-clutchers are making of themselves. Ricky Gervais achieved the near impossible – he made an awards ceremony fun to watch.
His line about zillionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (‘Heather Mills calls him the one that got away’) would have been funny in its own right but was doubly delicious for the fact that that purpled chump Sir Paul McCartney was in the audience.
Gervais dished up home truths to a Californian showbiz crowd which has long taken itself far too seriously. He did what jesters have done since the days of Shakespeare and before: He held up a mirror to the mighty.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1348067/Golden-Globes-2011-Ricky-Gervaiss-risqu-attack-self-loving-Tinseltown.html#ixzz1BQpdDyJ4
Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Republicans take the oath of office as Congress convenes on Jan. 5, 2011.
By George F. Will
January 15, 2011
A specter is haunting Europe—the specter of Communism.
—Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
A specter is haunting America, the specter of Europe. Which is just one reason why Barack Obama’s first two years have been such a tonic for conservatism.
America’s debate about government’s proper size and purposes has proceeded against the backdrop of European disorders, such as rioting by French young people. Some of them, although they have not yet entered the labor market (unemployment is 25 percent among those under 25), are indignant that when they do, they will have to remain in it for two extra years because the retirement age has been raised to 62.
Such demonstrations of government-induced decadence—a.k.a. the entitlement mentality—have provided counterpoints to the Great Unraveling. That has been the fate of American liberals’ agenda in the 24 months since Barack Obama’s inauguration. That event was supposed to launch a long liberal epoch, something unknown since the one that ended in 1938, when the nation recoiled against Franklin Roosevelt’s overreaching, which included his attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court by enlarging it. Because the episode that ended in 1938 had lasted only six years, counting it as an “epoch” amounts to defining “epoch” down. Today, the long list of liberal disappointments is still growing:
Organized labor’s top priority—“card check” legislation to make unionization of workplaces easier by abolishing workers’ rights to secret ballots—is dead. So is the environmentalists’ dream of a cap-and-trade regime—or, failing that, a carbon tax. The Environmental Protection Agency, which seems determined to do by regulation what Congress will not do by legislation concerning limits on emissions, is provoking a contest with Congress over supremacy—a contest the EPA cannot win because Congress cannot afford to lose.
The near invisibility and complete futility of last month’s Cancún conference on climate change marked the exhaustion of a U.N. delusion: It was that almost 200 nations were going to negotiate a treaty unanimously requiring a few of them to bribe the rest to reduce greenhouse--gas emissions—and that 67 U.S. senators would vote to ratify it.
Things that liberals thought would be gone by now include: Guantánamo, the Patriot Act, and the Bush tax rates. Having denounced extension of those rates as “odious,” what adjective has The New York Times reserved for, say, genocide?
Regarding the rates applicable to high earners and large estates, most Americans seem to be channeling Mark Twain. When a journalist suggested that the vast wealth of one of Twain’s friends, a Standard Oil executive, was “tainted,” Twain replied, “It’s doubly tainted—t’aint yours and t’aint mine.”
People who, 24 months ago, thought Obama would inaugurate a new New Deal subscribed to the theory that economic difficulties propel Americans leftward. The New Deal experience suggests otherwise.
In the 1932 presidential election, three years past the October 1929 stock-market crash, and with unemployment at 25 percent, the Socialist Party received a paltry 2.23 percent of the popular vote and the Communist Party received 0.26 percent. By 1940, the Depression had proved to be durable in spite of New Deal measures. Or perhaps because of those measures: America’s longest slump was the first to be combated by federal-government activism. In any case, in 1940 the Socialist Party received 0.23 percent and the Communist Party received 0.1 percent.
Conservatism continues to benefit from Washington’s most conspicuous foray into industrial policy—its misadventures with Detroit. The federal government is buying about one in four Ford and General Motors hybrids. The public, always a disappointment to Washington, is not buying enough of them. But Washington is offering a $7,500 tax credit to induce people to buy the hybrid-electric Chevrolet Volt. Yet a GM ad says, “When you buy a Chevrolet, we’ll invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and tree-planting programs.” Question: Should GM pay back the $26.4 billion it still owes tax-payers before it indulges in trendy spending of other people’s money on tree plantings?
GM’s CEO Dan Akerson says his company is handicapped by government limits on executive compensation at firms that receive federal bailouts. Last year his salary and stock package of $9 million was $8,820,300 more than it should have been: $179,700 is the highest pay for civil servants, which is what executives at such firms are.
By P.J. O'Rourke
The Weekly Standard
January 24, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 18
It was a weekend of great sorrow. On Saturday, January 8, an insane young man tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, injuring her horribly. The man then fired his gun into a small political gathering, murdering a nine-year-old girl, a federal judge, a congressional staffer, and three of Giffords’s constituents. Thirteen other people were wounded. In the midst of life we are in death. There is, in this world, no making sense of such events.
Among the worldly, however, there is a temptation to make nonsense. Thus it was that on Sunday, January 9, the New York Times provided a further grief, much less important than the death and mutilation of innocents but shameful nonetheless.
The Times ran, as its second lead, above the fold on the front page, a story about the Tucson shootings headlined “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics.” The article, by Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike, contains almost nothing newsworthy. Nor can it be called news analysis, beginning as it does with an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: “The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords . . . set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.”
If self-fulfilling prophecies were wanted from reporters—and they are not—a better one would have been “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Mental Health Policies.” The person in custody for the Tucson crimes is, according to all accounts, profoundly crazy. For decades in America there has been an effort to ensure that the rights of those who are not sane are the same as the rights of those who are. Perhaps a wrenching debate over this should be had.
In the article’s second paragraph we are told that the accused, Jared Loughner, had an Internet site that “contained antigovernment ramblings.” The same may be said—at least in respect to ramblings against the newly sworn-in House of Representatives—about Internet sites posting speeches by President Obama.
But antigovernment ramblings coming from outside the government are so sinister that they are sinister whether they are sinister or not. “And regardless of what led to the episode,” Hulse and Zernike say, “it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.”
To maintain that there’s a lack of evidence for such a sweeping statement would be inaccurate since Hulse and Zernike themselves are doing what they claim is being done. And given the tight deadlines of a Sunday edition they have focused their attention quickly indeed.
They make an interesting choice of verb tense in “have become.” Maybe Hulse and Zernike are very young and, what with the way American history is taught these days, are unaware of riots, bombings, lynchings, exterminations of native peoples, assassinations, assassination attempts, gun fights, and the Civil War, not to mention the inflammatory language, threats, and implicit instigations to violence in the writings of Tom Paine.
Or maybe Hulse and Zernike are old hacks in the pocket of certain political interests that feel threatened by populism. A member of the populace—however deranged—has shot a liberal—albeit one who is independent and selective in her liberalism. Even this most pathetic of excuses will serve. Ordinary Americans skeptical about the powers, prerogatives, and expense of certain political interests shall be execrated.
Hulse and Zernike do say, “In the hours immediately after the shooting . . . top Republicans including Speaker John A. Boehner and Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona quickly condemned the violence.” There’s that word “quickly” again, a superfluous modifier, this time implying that slow, reluctant condemnation might have been expected.
The sheriff of Pima County is quoted: “He said it was time for the country to ‘do a little soul-searching.’ ” Hulse and Zernike don’t take his advice and recommence arguing beside the point about health care legislation that “ignited opposition from the Tea Party movement” and “stirred strong feelings that flared at angry town hall meeting held by many Democratic lawmakers.” This, it seems, is part of a “broader anger and suspicion rising about the government, its finances and its goals, with the discourse partially fueled by talk shows and websites.”
Hulse and Zernike pause and duly note, “Tea Party activists also condemned the shooting.” Nice use of also.
Then they’re off again, into the jump, for a total of more than 18 column inches of “protesters outside the House hurling insults and slurs . . . ” “Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs . . . ” “Republican candidates seemed to raise the prospect of armed revolt . . . ” and “other Tea Party activists said it would be hard to separate the shooting in Tucson from the current ideological clash.”
Hulse and Zernike have the nerve to end with a quote from one of the “other Tea Party activists,” Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation: “Violence of this nature should be decried by everyone and not used for political gain.” Left unprinted are descriptions of Hulse and Zernike smirking.
A great deal of other ugly and offensive writing went off on a tangent from the crime scene and wound up published in the Sunday New York Times.
Some was in the guise of commentary, such as Matt Bai’s dredging up of a quip by Sharron Angle, “I hope we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies.” Gabrielle Giffords is a gun rights advocate.
Some was in the news coverage: “Democrats denounced the fierce partisan atmosphere in Ms. Giffords’s district.” Voters in that conservative locale chose Giffords over a GOP candidate backed by Tea Party supporters.
Worse came in Monday’s Times. News analyst Jennifer Steinhauer wrote, “Arizona has shifted from a place on the political fringe to a symbol of a nation whose political discourse has lost its way.” It’s worth remembering that another place the Times considers to be on the political fringe is Staten Island.
Editorialized the Times: “It is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats.” Interesting how a few small changes would make that sentence appall the Times as much as the Times appalls me: “It is legitimate to hold Muslims and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced 9/11.”
The most cringe-inducing article was titled “In the Shock of the Moment, the Politicking Stops . . . Until It Doesn’t.” Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg wrote, “Some Democrats were urging [President Obama] to look back to recent history, when President Bill Clinton seized the political high ground after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”
In the matter of self-serving, bitter, calculated cynicism, there wouldn’t seem to be much left to prove against the Times. Judging by what I’ve heard from my fellow conservatives, the issue is decided. The New York Times is a worthless, truthless, vicious institution. But I disagree. I think things are worse than that.
A reaction so disproportionate and immaterial to a news story by a news organization is indicative of trouble in the body politic—trouble almost as severe as that which the Times claims the Giffords shooting indicates. I worry that in the tremors and hysteria of the Times we’re seeing the sad end of liberalism.
Its passing is to be mourned, perhaps most by true conservatives. -Civilization owes a debt to liberal politics. From the Reform Act and the religious emancipation fight of the British Whigs to the American civil rights movement, liberals have in fact held positions on political high ground (though not during Clinton’s exploitation of the Oklahoma City bombing). Liberals have seen government as a force for good, and sometimes it can be. World War II comes to mind. While conservatives have delighted in the free market, liberals have been there to remind us that all freedoms, including market freedoms, entail responsibilities. At the very least it can be said that we conservatives would not be so upright in our ideals if we hadn’t been pushing against liberals.
But liberalism, as personified by the New York Times, became a dotty old aunt sometime during the Johnson administration. She’s provincial, eccentric, and holds dull, peculiar views about the world. Still, she has our fond regard, and we visit her regularly in her nursing home otherwise known as Arts and Leisure and the Book Review. Or we did until Sunday, January 9, when she began spouting obscenities and exposing herself.
We observe in the Times a bizarre overreaction to people and things that can be construed as “antigovernment.” (And all people and most things often can be so construed, e.g., the man who just got a speeding ticket.) The Times has become delusional, going from advocating big government to believing that it is the big government. Americans being somewhat disgruntled with big government, the Times imagines itself under attack from every side, even, no doubt, from within.
Ross Douthat wrote a calm, well-reasoned Monday Times opinion column about how most contemporary attacks on American politicians have been of greater interest to psychiatrists than ideologues. “From the Republican leadership to the Tea Party grass roots, all of Gabrielle Giffords’s political opponents were united in horror at the weekend’s events.” The newspaper probably heard this as a hallucinatory voice in its head urging self-destruction. If we’re going to discuss dark, paranoid corners of the Internet that have an unwholesome influence on our national life, there’s the New York Times online.
- P.J. O’Rourke is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.