Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Hill to Fight on - Not a Desk to Die Under

By Michael Walsh
February 1, 2013

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It really does appear that the Left wants to engage on the subject of “gun control” — or, to use their latest euphemism, “gun safety.” Led by two of the unloveliest of their specimens — Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois — the emboldened progressives clearly feel the time to strike against Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms is now, while the shooting iron is still hot.
The Right’s natural reaction when confronted is, of course, to cut and run. Being liked is far more important than being right, and as for standing on principle, that went out the window with the Gipper long ago. Indeed, the history of the modern GOP is one of pre-emptive surrender, reaching across the aisle and fleeing from any kind of direct confrontation with the Democrats in a desperate attempt to pacify them and their natural allies, the Ivy League-educated national media, better known (in Orwell’s famous phrase) as the Pansy Left. With even alleged Tea Party stalwarts like Marco Rubio earning strange new respect by coming out foursquare in favor of Amnesty Lite, movement conservatives might be forgiven for thinking they’ve been defeated across the board, and that the country they grew up has all but vanished.
That’s why the battle over firearms — which as far as the Left is concerned has only one true objective, which is the complete abolition and confiscation of guns in civilian hands — is so important, because it’s a fight conservatives can actually win. And, in winning, can make many new friends among hitherto reflexive Democrat voters who (thanks in large part to the GOP’s inarticulateness) haven’t realized that “progressives” do not and never will have their best interests at heart. And what could be more in one’s interest than self-preservation?
Just look at the disgraceful video from the DHS above. About the only tactic it forgot to include — other than “bring your own gun to unsafe environments and know how to handle it responsibly ” — was Kiss Your Ass Goodbye.
The problem right now is that, in the fight over personal firearms, the Right has lost control of both the narrative and the vocabulary. When I was growing up in San Diego, it was a common sight to see kids carrying their air rifles or even the .22s they got for Christmas as they headed into the hills around Mission Valley to go rabbit hunting; today, some busybody would call the SWAT team. Attending high school in Honolulu, I was part of a JROTC program and nobody was shocked to see a young teenager in a khaki uniform carrying around an M-1 training rifle (the firing pin had been removed) or a .22 out to the shooting range. For us, “gun control” really was all about shot groups. Schools as “gun free” — i.e. “free-fire” — zones? Not on your life.  Had there ever been an “active shooter” on the campus of St. Louis High School back then, 400 guys would have gone to their lockers or to the armory and shot the sonofabitch out of his socks.
What the Left has managed to do, however, is to convince a significant voting bloc — white, educated, affluent urban professionals — that the mere presence of a firearm within reach will suddenly set off an uncontrollable urge to go postal.  ”I just wouldn’t trust myself to have a gun in the house,” I often hear my lefty friends say, and of course with an attitude like that, I wouldn’t trust them either, so perhaps it’s just as well. They also consistently confuse the issue by nattering on about such non-existent things as high-magazine clips, and confusing the term “semi-automatic” with “machine gun,” whether ignorantly or, more likely these days, willfully. Playing on people’s fears, they seek to both disarm and unman the populace, leaving everyone entirely dependent upon yet another government entity, in this case the police.
No, not this guy:
Gee, Officer Krupke…
These guys:
… never mind
Now, one thing conservatives need to stay away from is the trope that firearms are needed to protect innocent members of the Michigan Militia and Aryan Nation white-supremacist compounds in Idaho from the black helicopters patrolling the skies in the service of the ZOG in Washington. The heavily armed cops of today are a response to two events, both of which conservatives ought to use in their favor. The first is the upgrade in weapons that the bad guys use, part of the eternal arms race between good and evil. The second is the residual effects of the “war on terror,” whose ineluctable end result has been to make every cop a RoboCop.
Yes, we read a lot about various associations of chiefs of police trying to get guns “off the streets.” Ask any cop below the rank of captain, though, and you’ll find that the police welcome the presence of responsible citizens with firearms; cops are people too, and they realize that the cop’s motto — “go home alive at the end of your shift” — ought to apply to civilians as well. As the police will be the first to tell you, they can’t be everywhere. Nor, legally, is it their duty to save you, as the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in its 1995 Castle Rock v. Gonzales decision. New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse wrote at the time:
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.
The way to win the “gun control” argument, therefore, is to frame it for what it really is: the Democrats’ attempt to strip away the right of self-defense to the citizenry, cloaked in its traditional sheep’s clothing of “compassion” and “reasonableness.” But you need to know is that when they whine, “how many bullets/magazines/guns does a person need?” the answer in their minds is zero. And the lying starts at the top.
As the last election showed, the GOP has all but completely alienated blacks and Hispanics — and yet, paradoxically, these are the two groups who a) are the most victimized by crime and b) have the least trust in the police. Shouldn’t the right to defend oneself and one’s family be of paramount importance to them? If so, then why are they allowing rich white yuppies from Harvard who can’t tell a clip from a bobby pin and a 15-round magazine from the new issue of Vanity Fair to dictate to them what they may or may not use in the course of self defense?
Principles, not programs. Conservatives need to couch the debate in terms of personal freedom and personal protection. Take a page from Alinsky and surround themselves at press conferences and photo ops with people who have saved their own lives and those of others with their personal firearms. And make the Left have a “Kitty Dukakis” moment over and over again:
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 (Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified image.)

Senate Republicans Arm the Brotherhood
I’m done grumbling about how President Obama is empowering America’s enemies. After all, it is not just Obama. When it comes to abetting the Muslim Brotherhood, Republicans are right there with him.
Not all of them, of course. This week, for example, Senator Rand Paul proposed an amendment that would have prohibited our government from transferring F-16 aircraft and Abrams tanks to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood–dominated government. This lunatic plan is not just an Obama initiative. It is also a GOP brainstorm — of a piece with 2011’s Libya debacle, in which Republican leaders cheered as Obama, upon consulting with the Arab League, ignored Congress and levied war on behalf of the very jihadists who, quite predictably, have since raided Qaddafi’s arsenal, besieged northern Africa, and massacred Americans in Benghazi.
A few weeks back, the John McCain & Lindsey Graham roadshow made its way to Brotherhood Central in Cairo, with newcomer Kelly Ayotte in tow. Senator Ayotte appears to have filled the void created by Joe Lieberman’s retirement — after all, when you have Republicans, who needs another Democrat? The former trio is best remembered for its Tripoli triumph of late 2009, when the three kicked back in the Qaddafi compound and toasted our newly cozy relations with the dictator. The bipartisan solons then winged their way home in time to second the Obama State Department’s increase in funding for the Libyan dictator’s regime. After all, they reasoned, Qaddafi was our hedge against Libya’s jihadists. As is their wont, though, the solons soon dazzled us with a 180, suddenly deciding that what we really needed to do was back Libya’s jihadists in their war against Qaddafi. The rest, as they say in Mali, is history.
So the GOP brain trust now brings this Midas touch to Egypt, rallying behind Obama’s cozy relations with the new “Islamic democracy.” That would be the Brotherhood’s rapidly unraveling sharia basket case, into which our own bankrupt government has so far sunk nearly 3 billion U.S.-taxpayer dollars, with more billions soon to come through U.S.-backed IMF loans and, yes, sophisticated U.S. weaponry. Any moment now, as it was in turbulent Libya, the ground in Egypt is certain to shift, or crater. When it does, who knows whose side the senators will have us on . . . and who knows what American enemies may be wielding that U.S. weaponry?
Senator Paul, by contrast, has three ideas that seem positively batty to the McCain gang. First, he thinks that American foreign policy ought to be premised on American national interests, not on the shifting notions of “global stability” popular at the Wilson School and the Council on Foreign Relations. Second, he suggests that when we give aid and arms to anti-American Islamists, bad things tend to happen to America. Finally, Paul believes the foundation of American foreign policy is, of all quaint things, the United States Constitution. The Framers gave Congress not merely the authority but the duty to thwart executive excess. On the international stage, that primarily means the power of the purse, which enables the people’s representatives to defund such madness as the arming of Islamic supremacists.
So Senator Paul tried to stop weapons transfer. His amendment, however, was defeated 79–19, because 23 Republican senators opted to follow the lead of McCain, Graham, and Ayotte. They joined all Senate Democrats (and a couple of nominal “independents” who are, in effect, Democrats) in voting to “table” the Paul Amendment. “Tabling” is a bit of procedural chicanery, allowing senators to defeat Paul’s amendment yet pretend to the folks back home that they didn’t actually vote “against” it.
Don’t be fooled. The choice here was simple: Stand with the Muslim Brotherhood or stand with the American people. Nearly two-thirds of Senate Republicans went with the Brothers.
Let’s be clear about whom Republicans have voted to arm. In late 2010, as I detail in Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, Mohammed Badi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, called for violent jihad against the United States and Israel. The “Supreme Guide” gleefully added, “The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise.” The Brotherhood took pains to post this speech on its Arabic-language website, reflecting its official position.
Badi’s sentiments would have been no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention. It had not been long, after all, since the Holy Land Foundation trial, in which the Justice Department proved that the Brotherhood regards the core mission of its U.S.-based affiliates (such organizations as CAIR, the Muslim Students Association, and the Islamic Society of North America) to be, as the Brothers themselves put it, “a grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within” by “sabotage.” Prosecutors further demonstrated that the Brotherhood’s principal activity in the U.S. since the late 1980s has been the financing and promotion of Hamas, a formally designated terrorist organization to which it is a serious federal felony to provide material support. Lo and behold, since the moment the Brotherhood took power in Egypt, promoting and legitimizing the leadership of Hamas has been at the top of its agenda.
Mohamed Morsi, a leading Brotherhood official, became Egypt’s president last summer — just as his close associate, the aforementioned Supreme Guide, was railing that all Muslims, including rulers, must “wage jihad in Allah’s way” in order to reverse the “usurpation” of Palestine by the “murdering Zionist criminals.” In his very first public pronouncement after winning the presidency, Morsi called for the United States to release Omar Abdel Rahman. That would be the “Blind Sheikh,” who is serving a life sentence for terrorism convictions, and who has been credited by Osama bin Laden with issuing the fatwa that approved the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda quite sensibly gleaned that fatwa from this statement about Americans that Abdel Rahman made following his conviction:
Muslims everywhere . . . dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, . . . shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.
In addition to calling for the Blind Sheikh’s return to Egypt, where such sentiments are common, Morsi has directed the release of many terrorists who had been incarcerated during President Hosni Mubarak’s tenure — Mubarak having had a close counterterrorism partnership with the United States. Morsi further failed to protect the American embassy from being overrun by Islamist rioters. When, after several calls from an embarrassed White House, Morsi finally dispersed the rabble-rousers, he left intact the longstanding encampment where Egyptians continue to agitate for the Blind Sheikh’s release.
Prior to his election, Morsi promised that his top imperative would be the imposition of sharia, Islam’s totalitarian legal code and societal framework. He has been true to his word, recently orchestrating the imposition of a new sharia constitution — the heavy-handed gambit that has horrified minorities and sent Egypt reeling into its latest chaos. Sharia constitutions are apparently fine with Senator McCain these days, but as we saw in his vertiginous positions on Qaddafi, the GOP’s guru of choice is not exactly a model of consistency on this point.
In a 2011 interview with Der Spiegel, the senator declared, quite correctly, that “sharia law . . . in itself is anti-democratic — at least as far as women are concerned.” Thus McCain then insisted that the sharia-driven Brotherhood — which he accurately described as “a radical group” that “has been involved with other terrorist organizations” — “should be specifically excluded from any transition government” in Egypt. Yet, now that the Brothers are the government, McCain would have us to arm them.
Meanwhile, under Morsi’s leadership, Egypt is seeing the widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. In many areas, police and Islamist vigilantes now enforce sharia standards on the streets, just as they do in Saudi Arabia and Iran. And recordings recently surfaced of Morsi calling Jews the “descendants of apes and pigs” — “blood-suckers” for whom Muslims “must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred,” including “hatred . . . for all those who support them.” [Memo to Republicans: “Those who support them” refers to . . . the American people.]
I could go on, but as Beltway supporters of America-hating Islamists like to say, “What difference does it make?” Still, just in case it makes any difference to you, here are the Republican senators who shamefully voted to provide Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government with F-16s and Abrams tanks: Alexander, Ayotte, Barasso, Blunt, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Collins, Corker, Enzi, Flake, Graham, Hatch, Hoeven, Inhofe, Isakson, Johanns, Johnson, Kirk, McCain, McConnell, Murkowski, Portman, Toomey, and Wicker.
Kudos to the 18 Republicans who joined Senator Paul in trying to stop the arming of America’s enemies: Boozman, Coats, Cornyn, Crapo, Cruz, Fischer, Grassley, Heller, Lee, Moran, Risch, Roberts, Rubio, Scott, Sessions, Shelby, Thune, and Vitter. Common sense is on their side. Sadly, history is sure to follow, and probably soon.
 Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which is published by Encounter Books.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Easy to see why Tehran endorses Hagel

The Orange County Register
2013-02-01 12:18:11

You don't have to be that good to fend off a committee of showboating senatorial blowhards. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that a week or so back when she unleashed what's apparently the last word in withering putdowns: What difference does it make?

Quite a bit of difference, it seems. This week, an oversedated Elmer Fudd showed up at the Senate claiming to be the president's nominee for Secretary of Defense, and even the kindliest interrogators on the committee couldn't prevent the poor chap shooting himself in the foot.

Twenty minutes in, Chuck Hagel was all out of appendages.

He warmed up with a little light "misspeaking" on Iran. "I support the president's strong position on containment," he declared. Breaking news!

Obama comes clean on Iran! According to Hagel, the administration favors "containment." I could barely "contain" my excitement! Despite official denials, many of us had long suspected that, lacking any stomach for preventing a nuclear Tehran, Washington would settle for "containing" them. Hagel has been a containment man for years: It worked with the Soviets, so why not with apocalyptic ayatollahs? As he said in a 2007 speech, "The core tenets of George Kennan's 'The Long Telegram' and the strategy of containment remain relevant today." Recent history of pre-nuclear Iran – authorizing successful mob hits on Salman Rushdie's publishers and translators, bombing Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, seeding client regimes in Lebanon and Gaza – suggests that these are fellows disinclined to be "contained" even at the best of times. But, even if Iran can be "contained" from nuking Tel Aviv, how do you "contain" Iran's exercise of its nuclear status to advance its interests more discreetly, or "contain" the mullahs' generosity to states and non-state actors less squeamish about using the technology? How do you "contain" a nuclear Iran from de facto control of Persian Gulf oil, including setting the price and determining the customers?


All fascinating questions, and now that Hagel has announced "containment" as the official administration position, we can all discuss them.

Unfortunately, as Hillary said the other day, "our policy is prevention, not containment". So five minutes later the handlers discreetly swung into action to "contain" Hagel. "I was just handed a note that I misspoke," he announced, "that I said I supported the President's position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don't have a position on containment." Hagel's revised position is that there is no position on containment for him to have a position on.

Carl Levin, the Democrat chair, stepped in to contain further damage. "We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment," he clarified. "I just wanted to clarify the clarify."
Containment? Prevention? What difference does it make? Could happen to anyone. I well remember when Neville Chamberlain landed at Heston Aerodrome in 1938 and announced the latest breakthrough in appeasement: "I have here a piece of paper from Herr Hitler." Two minutes later, he announced, "I have here a second piece of paper from my staffer saying that I misspoke." Who can forget Churchill's stirring words in the House of Commons? "If, indeed, it is the case that I said, 'We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall never surrender!,' then I misspoke. I meant to say that we're keeping the situation under review and remain committed to exploring all options."

It's easy to make mistakes when you're as expert in all the nuances of Iranian affairs as Chuck Hagel. After he'd hailed Iran's "elected, legitimate government," it fell to another Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, to prompt Hagel to walk it back. Okay, delete "elected" and "legitimate": "What I meant to say, should have said, is that it's recognizable."

"Recognizable"? In the sense that, if you wake up one morning to a big mushroom cloud on the horizon, you'd recognize it as the work of the Iranian government? No, by "recognizable," he meant that the Iranian government is "recognized" as the government of Iran.

"I don't understand Iranian politics," he announced in perhaps his least-misspoken statement of the day. But the Iranians understand ours, which is why, in an amusing touch, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran has enthusiastically endorsed Hagel.

Fortunately, Iran is entirely peripheral to global affairs – it's not like Chad or the Solomon Islands or the other burning questions the great powers are currently wrestling with – so it would be entirely unreasonable to expect Hagel to understand anything much about what's going on over there. So what of his other, non-Iranian interests?

"There are a lot of things I don't know about," said Hagel. "If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do."

He then denied that "I will be running anything." Don't let the fact that the Secretary of Defense presides over 40 percent of the entire planet's military spending confuse you. He's not really "running" a thing – or, as he was anxious to assure us, "I won't be in a policy-making position."

Really? So what's the job for, then? Just showing up at the office and the occasional black-tie NATO banquet? Most misspeakers loose off one round and then have to re-load, but Chuck Hagel is a big scary "military-style assault weapon" of a misspeaker, effortlessly peppering the Senate wainscoting for hours on end. Late in the day, after five o'clock, he pronounced definitively: "It doesn't matter what I think."

"It does matter what you think," insisted New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte.
With respect to my own senator, I think it matters that he seems incapable of thinking – or at least of thinking through his own Great Thoughts.

There are over 300 million Americans, and another 20 million Undocumented-Americans about to be fast-tracked down the soi-disant "path to citizenship." Surely, from this vast talent pool, it should be possible to find someone who's sufficiently interested in running the planet's biggest military not to present himself on the world stage as a woozy, unfocused stumblebum. In an exquisite touch, responding to reports that Hagel was "ill-prepared," someone in the White House leaked that he had been thoroughly "coached." In other words, don't blame us: We put him through the federally mandated Confirmation Hearing For Dummies course. He doesn't have to be a competent Defense Secretary; he just has to play one on TV for a couple of hours. But even that's too much to ask of an increasingly dysfunctional political system: The Senate disdains to pass a budget, 70 percent of U.S. Treasury debt is bought by the Federal Reserve, month-long negotiations to cut spending turn out in the final deal to increase spending ... and the president's choice of Defense Secretary tells the world he has no idea what our policy on Iran is.

Hagel may know nothing about Iran, but he's an incisive expert on America.

During an appearance on al-Jazeera in 2009, a caller asked him about "the perception and the reality" that America is "the world's bully" – and Hagel told viewers that he agreed. Confronted with this exchange by Sen. Ted Cruz, Hagel floundered. There was no aide to slip him a note explaining that the incoming SecDef takes no formal position on whether or not his own nation is "the world's bully."

Ah, if only. In the chancelleries of Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Cairo, Pyongyang, the world's bullied are laughing their heads off.

© Copyright 2013 Freedom Communications. All Rights Reserved. 

When Women Fight, Civilization Loses

By Diana West
February 1, 2013

And so it came, the coup de grace. The final "barrier" to "opportunities" for women in combat is no more. With a stroke of their pens, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey decreed that no battlefield mission or military role is off-limits to the female sex. The defense secretary and the general thus liberated mothers, daughters, sisters and wives to kill and be killed in the infantry, commando raids, even in Obama administration "overseas contingency operations." In so doing, they also slashed away at that last institutional protection for the space that separates men and women, where civilization once grew.

It (civilization) has been struggling there for decades, as social engineers and radical feminists -- all heirs to Marx -- have been cutting away at elemental human instinct, social grace, language and thought itself. This overhaul of manners and mores, the family structure and marriage -- even private aspects of the relationship between men and women -- has been successful to a point where the cultural argument against women in combat (women in the military being a lost cause) is rarely voiced, not even on the right. (I watched Fox News on women-in-combat announcement day, listening in vain for just one culture warrior.)

We are left to make only the utilitarian arguments -- body strength and speed, unit cohesion, even urinary tract infections and other hazards that front-line deployment pose to females. These are compellingly logical points, but they are unlikely to reverse an ideological juggernaut. When the secretary of defense says putting women in combat is about "making our military ... and America stronger" and no one says he's lying to further a Marxian ideal via social engineering, the cultural argument is lost, and the culture it comes from is bound and gagged, hostage to what we know as "political correctness."

I still see threads of the cultural argument in emails and some blog responses to the Pentagon's latest whack at creating "gender neutrality." It erupts like a reflex against the conditioning to deny differences defined, at their essence, by muscle mass and womb. Such conditioning erodes the male protective instinct -- which, surely, is what war is supposed to arise from -- and the female nurturing instinct, which surely is what a civilization depends on.

No more. Women with wombs and without manly muscle mass now count as Pentagon-approved "warriors," modern-day knights in Kevlar, soon to be humping 80-pound packs over mountain and desert.

Or maybe not. Didn't Gen. Dempsey indicate that dropping some of those old-fashioned strength and speed requirements might be in order? "If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it," Dempsey said last week, "the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?" Of course not! Why train Navy SEALs when Navy OTTERs will do as well?

And what about their children, when these front-line warriors bear them? And their pregnancies, when they decide it's better for their mission, for their country, to terminate them? Don't think Daddy Government, once again, won't be a steady provider to his womenfolk.

And why not? "It is women who pass on the culture," my daughters' pediatrician -- a font of human wisdom after six of his own kids and endless patients -- used to tell me, his voice rising over baby girls screaming. But what kind of "gender-neutral" culture will they pass on?

Rather, what kind of gender-neutral culture have women already passed on? After all, this penultimate shift at the Pentagon (will the NFL be next?) is just the tail end of something, not the beginning -- the rewiring of the human spirit. In other words, the whole movement in the name of "equal rights" has no more to do with women being legally able to apply for a credit card and other aspects of equality before the law than ordering women into combat is about making the military and America stronger.

No, it's about behavioral manipulation and transformation -- the Equal Rights Amendment by executive fiat. These changes have been a long time coming. In my lifetime, I have watched even post-1960s standards of femininity, for example, plunge to a point where female tendencies toward privacy, intimacy and modesty have given way to norms of clinical-style revelation and numbing brazenness -- and I'm talking about today's "nice" girls, the ones who soon will be considered eligible for Selective Service.

Yes, I know, only 15 percent of our all-volunteer military is female -- even after decades of active government courtship to woo women into the ranks and make "a force that looks like America" (not Obama's Cabinet), as Bill Clinton has put it. But don't think this "opportunity" for the few comes without strings to the many. As Army Col. Ellen Haring pointed out on "PBS NewsHour" last week, "With full rights come full responsibilities."

And then what? Will gender-neutral raw recruits soon be brawling outside the bar (with the man "beating the snot" out of the woman, as one Iraq veteran recently suggested to me in an email)? Will gender-neutral male soldiers be trained out of their protective instinct toward women? Do we want to live with the results?

One senior officer with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan wrote this to me: "I would never want my mother, sisters, wife or daughter to have to experience the ravages of combat or, worse, become a prisoner of war. It goes against every fiber of my being."

Yesterday's man. For a better tomorrow, we need more like him.

Diana West

Diana West is a contributing columnist for and author of the new book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.

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Review: 'The Last Lion: Winston Churchill: Defender of the Realm'

Echoing the Last Lion’s Roar

William Manchester and especially Paul Reid do great justice to a remarkable and admirable character.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940–1965By William Manchester and Paul Reid(Little, Brown and Company, 1,182 pages, $40)
Winston Churchill emerged from a rather murky gene pool. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a brilliant but erratic younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, wrecked an initially promising political career through a mixture of bad luck and bad judgment. He died at the early age of 45, debt-ridden and syphilitic. Winston’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was a bright, charming, more-than-a-little louche American heiress. One of the great society beauties of her day, she flirted, danced, and sometimes slept her way through many of England’s stateliest homes. Not the least of her conquests was Bertie, Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII. In middle and old age Jennie would twice remarry, each time to a younger man. She remained vivacious—and slightly disreputable—to the end.
Miraculously, although he started life as a shy, awkward child and a dull pupil, young Winston seems to have inherited most of his parents’ strengths and few of their weaknesses. Unfortunately, the bad genes would recur with vengeance a generation later in the person of Churchill’s only son, also—and perhaps prophetically—named Randolph. The rotten apple of his father’s eye, he was a mean drunk, an unmitigated cad, and an all-around loser. Toward the end of his life, when word reached the bar at White’s Club that Randolph had undergone surgery to remove a growth, and that the growth was benign, Evelyn Waugh, who knew him all too well, observed that it was a pity that the surgeon had removed the only part of Randolph that wasn’t malignant.
By contrast, in Winston Churchill, his father’s eloquence and political daring and his mother’s indomitable will and ability to charm (when she wanted to) combined to form a man of iron determination, ruthless ambition, and formidable talents. It is important to remember, however, that these qualities were always harnessed to Winston’s exalted Victorian conviction that men of his class were born to lead, that the empire they led was a noble, civilizing enterprise, and that the pursuit of glory in defense of that enterprise was selfless rather than selfish. That this lofty conviction was more than a little deluded should in no way detract from its remarkable positive achievements. Even today, much of what is best in countries as different as India and Canada, Singapore and Ghana, can be traced to the educating and modernizing influence of the Victorians, their dedication to the rule of law, and—at least theoretically—their respect for individuals, property, tolerance, and due process.
Churchill was a true son of this imperial vision. Thus it is the supreme irony of his life that while he is rightly credited with being one of the greatest wartime leaders in history, the empire he thought he was saving in the darkest days of World War II was already doomed for reasons having little or nothing to do with the war. Britain had carried out her “civilizing mission” all too well. Succeeding generations of British-educated colonial subjects raised on concepts of British law, liberty, and representative government were heading—slowly but inexorably—toward independence long before the world first heard of Adolf Hitler. World War II, its ruinous cost, and the sacrifices it exacted from Britons and colonial subjects alike merely accelerated a process already well underway both at home and abroad. This helps to explain why Churchill and his Tory party were overwhelmingly defeated in the July 1945 parliamentary elections, fresh from victory in Europe. As Churchill himself put it, the British public had awarded him “the Order of the Boot” for his wartime service.
He did return to power a few years later, in time to participate in the coronation of a popular young queen and the false dawn of what many English traditionalists hoped would be a “Second Elizabethan Age.” But it was not to be. The empire was on its way out for good and all. Winston Churchill had played a key role in saving England, but the England he saved was not the England he thought it was.
YET, FOR ALL HIS QUIRKS—and his underlying anachronism—what a remarkable and admirable character he was. Few great men are also great authors…and, God knows, few great authors are also great men. But Winston Churchill was both. In the 1970s and early 1980s, during frequent visits to London, I had the pleasure of becoming friends with two of his literary collaborators, Maurice Ashley and Alan Hodge. Ashley, who went on to become a respected authority on 17th-century English history, had worked with Churchill on his monumental biography of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, between the wars. Hodge, one of the two founding editors of History Today magazine (for which Churchill had suggested the title), had collaborated on A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, which Churchill completed after World War II. As a frequent contributor of articles to History Today, I spent more than one pleasant afternoon in pubs along the Strand listening to Alan describe the maddening but highly amusing working conditions that Churchill collaborators had to put up with. Alas, poor Alan, who had also collaborated on books with the famous poet and novelist Robert Graves (who returned the favor by stealing Alan’s wife), was such a dedicated but diffident editor of other people’s work that he never bothered to write his own memoirs, a great loss.
Ashley, whom I usually encountered at the Reform Club on Pall Mall in a slightly tiddly state (him, not me), also remembered Churchill as a severe taskmaster who loved his own creature comforts and didn’t care much about other peoples’. But, while he disagreed with Churchill’s politics, he was an unabashed admirer of the great man’s brilliance as a writer and his instinctive gift for narrative history. It is precisely because Churchill was such an inspired practitioner of the historian’s art himself that I believe he would welcome the long-awaited completion of his biography by William Manchester. I suspect he would also be amused by some of the sniper fire it has received from supposedly learned critics.
Hell hath no fury like a professor scorned. There is nothing that arid, overly specialized academicians—who usually attain tenure without ever writing a readable work of interest to the cultivated general reader—hate more than well-written popular history. Hence the academic world’s reception, ranging from tepid to vindictive, of the final installment of this sometimes florid but always highly readable three-volume biography. Neither Manchester, who died in 2004, nor Paul Reid, the able journalist and friend whom he chose to complete the project after strokes rendered him unable to continue, ever claimed to be an academic historian. Far from aspiring to write an arcane revisionist tract for a small circle of professional colleagues, they set out to write a monumental account of a monumental life. They have succeeded admirably. Most of the credit—for this final volume—is due to Mr. Reid, who is responsible for more than 90 percent of the finished text.
Inevitably, a few errors have crept into a volume that is over a thousand pages long. For example, I couldn’t help noticing that the German port city of Bremen is misspelled as “Breman” in an account of wartime bombing. Bard College professor Richard Aldous, in his New York Times review, points out that the Winchester University referred to in the book is actually Winchester College, and that “Stanley Baldwin, not Neville Chamberlain…appointed Anthony Eden as foreign secretary in 1935.” And in hisWashington Post review, St. Andrew’s University professor Gerard DeGroot bemoans the omission of academic psychobabble, such as the late Anthony Storr’s theory that, in the days when England stood alone against Hitler, Churchill’s “inner world of make believe…coincided with the facts of external reality in a way that rarely happens to any man.” But if Churchill’s inner world really did coincide with external reality, surely it wasn’t that “make believe” after all. Professor DeGroot at least gives Manchester and Reid credit for producing a book which, while not his idea of scholarly biography, is “superb” as an “adventure story,” only to dourly add that “we need to move beyond the shining deeds of extraordinary heroes.”
That is precisely the kind of thing that the smart young things of the 1920s and ’30s were saying as the world hurtled toward the abyss. But when push came to shove, it was the “extraordinary heroes”—inspired and inspiring leaders like Churchill, Eisenhower, and, for that matter, de Gaulle—who saved us from falling in. Mr. Manchester and, even more so, Mr. Reid, have done a splendid job echoing the last lion’s roar.

Hagel was so bad...

Chuck just stunk up Senate

  • Last Updated: 11:25 PM, January 31, 2013
  • Posted: 10:32 PM, January 31, 2013
‘I’ve said many, many things over many, many years,” said Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee for secretary of defense, in a Senate hearing yesterday. He was trying, for the umpteenth time during his testimony, to explain away another of the many, many impolitic statements that have come to light over the past couple of months.
Well, as a result of this confirmation hearing — the most disastrous of its kind since another veteran senator, John Tower, blew himself up in his pursuit of the same post back in 1989 — Hagel has probably lost many, many votes to confirm him as secretary of defense.
Embarassing: Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel yesterday actually claimed it’s not a policy-making job, among endless other boners.
Embarassing: Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel yesterday actually claimed it’s not a policy-making job, among endless other boners.
Though he was being asked about things he had said over the course of the past 15 years, it was what Hagel said yesterday — and how he said what he said — that had his defenders reeling in shock and even his critics aghast at how poorly he handled himself.
Hagel said many, many things yesterday — incoherent things, confused things, wrong things, untrue things, and things that seemed to contradict other things he had said previously. Some were about Israel, some about Iran, some about American policy.
First he said it was the policy of the Obama administration to “contain” Iran — meaning it will allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and then try to box it in.
Now, that is exactly what many of us fear is the true policy of the Obama administration, especially in light of Hagel’s appointment.
For not only has Hagel spoken approvingly of engaging with the Iranians, he has his own checkered history when it comes to holding Iran to account. It includes voting against a 2007 resolution that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — perhaps the world’s foremost trainer and funder of state-sponsored terrorism — a terrorist organization.
In trying to defend that vote yesterday, he said he had done so (along with newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry) because it was an assault on an “elected, legitimate” government — by which he meant Iran’s theocracy. And because, he said, voting for the resolution would have given the Bush administration a green light to go to war with Iran.
Well, that ludicrous notion is in the past. What’s in the present is that the stated policy of the Obama administration toward the Iranian nuke is “prevention” — that it will not allow Iran to get the bomb, period, and will do what is necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen.
So Hagel corrected himself, kind of: “I was just handed a note that I misspoke — that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.” Whatever that means.
Later he said he was sorry he’d called the Iranian government elected and legitimate; rather, he should have said it was recognized.
“I don’t understand Iranian politics,” Hagel said — which would be understandable if, say, Khloe Kardashian were testifying. But Hagel is going to be a key official determining US policy toward Iran, and one would hope he’d bring a bit of pre-existing knowledge to the table.
He was also sorry to have said Israel keeps the Palestinians “caged in like wild animals.” Oh, and he didn’t mean to have drawn a moral equivalence between Israel and Hezbollah by referring to “the sickening slaughter on both sides” during a war inaugurated entirely by Hezbollah’s rockets.
As for American policy, he and his ex-friend Sen. John McCain got into quite a tussle over the surge in Iraq, which Hagel described before it began as “the worst foreign-policy disaster since Vietnam.”
This is something about which he was obviously mistaken — even if you think the war itself was a foreign-policy disaster, the surge certainly made it far less of one — and yet he could neither find the words to defend his 2007 view nor the words to say things had worked out differently from how he had expected them to go.
“There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” Hagel said, when it came to America’s defenses. “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.”
But why should he bother? After all, he said in perhaps the most head-shaking comment of the day, “It doesn’t matter what I think.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) begged to differ: “It matters what you think,” she found herself saying in response.
Or maybe this was the most head-shaking comment: Defense secretary is “not a policymaking position,” and because he has to work in consultation with others and in service to the president, he won’t be “running anything.”
After yesterday, maybe he won’t. Because maybe, after this horror show, the Senate will decide it just can’t countenance confirming Chuck Hagel. That would be a shocker, but no less shocking than his performance.

Review: Townes Van Zandt - 'Sunshine Boy'

By Amos Perrine
January 26, 2013

"What is jazz? Man, if you have to ask you'll never know." Louis Armstrong
In the early summer of 1969 I Greyhounded to Philadelphia to visit a musician friend, hear some music and see some foreign movies.  The intended two week stay turned into nearly a year and a half. We knocked around the folk and jazz clubs, sometimes hitching rides  to New York. My buddy was an aspiring singer-songwriter whose real talent later was revealed to be one of the finest finish carpenters in the Florida Keys. But at the time he worked with the Free Press. After awhile they grew tired of me hanging around so, between classes,  I began doing whatever needed to be done. Everyone knew that if you were not an artist the next best place to be was the indie newspaper.
A couple of months later I was assigned to cover lesser knowns in the clubs, coffee houses and bars who were searching for a voice, an audience, a record deal. Coming after the folk and blues revival and Dylan we, the writers and audience, were searching for authenticity. Like today, many were sound-a-likes, some with an inflated sense of self-worth, others simply tried too hard. Heck, I was getting paid -- not much, but still -- to do something I had been doing just for the doing. The cache of hanging out, the bartenders knowing your name, getting freebies from label reps and meeting girls.
It was one of those weekends when we turnpiked to New York -- four of us with different agendas -- crashed on someone's brother's floor somewhere around Washington Square. I remember there was warm breeze, thinking of Henry James, the night I first heard Townes Van Zandt. To say that it was a revelatory moment is an understatement. Even then, as a teenager, I knew it was a defining moment, as did others in the audience. He had a quiet unassuming nature, bashful at times, a hint of insecurity leaking out between songs. But during the songs themselves with his closed eyes he sang of tender, undiscovered countries. Every now and then he would tell a bad joke, that would in later years become a staple, as if to offset some masculine embarrassment by peeling away the protective layers away from a gentle center.
I was far from alone. Everyone who met or knew him in those early years was drawn to him. I saw more than a few cocky DJs melt when interviewing him. Yet he seemed unaware of the effect he had on total strangers.
"Our Mother the Mountain" had been released earlier in the year and had just finished an untitled album. I was hearing all these great songs stone cold for the first time. But some others were not. I chatted with some folks who had seen him the year before at Gerde's along with another relative unknown, Emma Harris was her name as best they could recall. Later that year, upon the release of the self-titled album he played Carnegie Hall. (The concert was finally released five years after his death, it's title, "A Gentle Evening" was self evident.) We thought this was the breakthrough moment, November 1969. 
I became aquatinted with Townes at that time and during the next few years, wrote some articles, helped pull together a couple of tours on the college coffee house circuit and generally acted like a publicist. Knowing what a special talent he was I wore out friends and girlfriends alike in playing his albums, trekking to his shows, even going so far as buying records from him (or Kevin Eggers) and giving them away. But that was at a time when Zeppelin, Cream and rock bands ruled. As he did not fit the emerging country rock genre his music slipped through the commercial cracks. He was as unclassifiable, like Dylan and Joni Mitchell. But unlike them he did not have a connected manager who understood what he had or a major A&R department behind him.
From 1969 to 1973, five great albums fell on deaf ears. Still relatively unknown outside a small circle of friends. The touring continued and with rise in popularity of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and  fellow Texans Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver making waves, it was just a matter of good things coming to those who wait. Again, it was not to be. I remember distinctly the last time I saw him that decade was in crowded, noisy Lexington, Kentucky club, only about a dozen of us actually listening. I could tell he was frustrated and as soon as his last set was over, he put his guitar in its case and quickly exited without a word to anyone. The woman with him tried to calm his agitation to no avail.
When it was announced a couple of months ago that some lost tracks had been discovered from his richest creative period it was as if the wayback machine had landed on our front porch. Which is exactly what happened in yesterday's mail when "Sunshine Boy," a 2 CD collection, one of unreleased studio tracks and the other demos. (Full track listing below.)
Most of the studio recordings are versions of songs that ended up on other studio albums, but with mostly perfunctory backing, an electric guitar here, a slide guitar there, a fiddle over there, and horns to mix things up. More likely it was the result of Eggers' extremely limited creativity in a desperate attempt to garner some generic commercial appeal. The early ones have Townes' vocals mixed behind the instruments. That's the bad news. 
The good news is that beginning with "Pancho & Lefty" the rest of the tracks are superbly recorded and Townes' young unaffected voice is in full bloom. Save for a misplaced piano here and there, Mr. Peabody worked his magic. It is a real thrill to hear the original studio recording of "Pancho" before the horns were added. I remember the day the promo copy of "Late, Great" arrived in the mail, I hurried to put it on the turntable and when the song came on with those godawful horns I about lost it. Even on the first listening it was apparent it was a great song done in by the producer. But I never heard Townes complain about any of his recordings -- other than the first album that he often disowned. It was as though once the records came out he no longer owned them.  Instead he owned the live versions, on the road, in living rooms, bars and clubs. The records were by someone else.
While the tracks speak for themselves, the album should not be your first Townes record, but it is far from being a completist record either. It's an inbetweener. Not a missing link so much as it is hear more Townes in his prime. 
Another highlight of the album are the excellent liner notes. If you are not familiar with his history, it is an excellent starting point. And if you are it fills in a hole or two even if it does get a couple of small details incorrect. Nothing to quibble about though, and it confirms what we all knew "Delta Momma Blues" was about. 
Over the years I have been very protective of those memories, never saying too much about those early days, sorta like not talking about the first girl who broke your heart.  If you have to ask what made Townes and his music so special, you'll never know.
The Tracks: 
CD1 : Studio Sessions
T for Texas
Who Do You Love
Sunshine Boy
Where I Lead Me
Blue Ridge Mountains
No Deal
Pancho & Lefty
(Alternate 1972 mix without strings and horns)
To Live is to Fly
You Are Not Needed Now
Don’t Take it Too Bad
Sad Cinderella
Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold
White Freight Liner Blues
Two Hands
Dead Flowers
CD2: Demos
Heavenly Houseboat Blues
Diamond Heel Blues
To Live is to Fly
Tower Song
You Are Not Needed Now
Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold
Highway Kind
Greensboro Woman
When He Offers His Hand
Dead Flowers
Old Paint

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Abortion Mentality Figured into Russia's Adoption Ban

BY Paul Kengor
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has sparked an international outcry by suddenly banning adoptions of Russian children by American families.
The legislation had been passed by the Russian Duma. Putin signed it into law on Dec. 28, the feast of the Holy Innocents. The action immediately halted the departure of hundreds of Russian orphans about to board planes to journey to a new life.
Condemnation has been swift and strong.
"Russian Adoption Ban Will Hit Disabled Children," noted a Washington Post headline. A headline at the Daily Beast described the ban as "cruel and vindictive to all." David Kramer and Arch Puddington of Freedom House dubbed it "a display of callousness unusual even by Vladimir Putin’s standards." They called the children "pawns in Putin’s power play."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., deemed the move "cruel and malicious" and "shameful and appalling," adding: "To punish innocent babies and children over a political disagreement between our governments is a new low, even for Putin’s Russia."
The U.S. State Department said it "deeply regrets" Putin’s move.
No country adopts as many Russian children as the United States. According to the U.S. State Department, there have been 60,000 adoptions by American couples since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. That has now suddenly ended.
Why would Putin do this? The main reason seems to be retaliation against America for a recent U.S. law (the Magnitsky Act) aimed at human-rights abuses by Russia’s corrupt government. The act is named for a 37-year-old Russian lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky, who worked to expose the murders and massive fraud committed under Putin’s regime. Magnitsky was beaten and left to die in prison. He is a symbol of the widespread persecution during Putin’s reign.
The Magnitsky Act bans Russian officials who have committed abuses from entry into the United States. Putin and his cronies have mightily protested the act.
The ban on American adoptions by Putin and the Duma appears to be retaliation.
Yet there is a possible added motivation that has not been mentioned by anyone. It might be a factor in Putin’s mind.
The reality is that Russia continues to hemorrhage its population. For about a decade and a half now, projections have been that Russia’s population will plummet from 140-150 million to 104 million by 2050. And what are the chief causal factors in this?
There are several notable health scourges in Russia, including epidemic levels of alcohol abuse that at one point in the 1990s lowered male life expectancy to an astounding 56 years, compared to 70 for women. In 1996, the life expectancy in the U.S. for men was 76 and 79 for women.
Two other blights, however, stand out as most responsible for Russia’s literal shrinkage: abortion and contraception — which occur in Russia at frighteningly high levels. Putin has tried to reverse both, but has failed to do so.
A little background: Abortion was legalized in Russia by the Bolsheviks shortly after they seized power in October 1917. Vladimir Lenin made good on his promise for an "unconditional annulment of all laws against abortion."
In short order, the number of abortions skyrocketed. By 1934, Moscow women were having three abortions for every live birth. The toll was so staggering that an appalled Joseph Stalin, the legendary mass murderer, actually banned abortion in 1936, fearing a vanishing populace.
In 1955, Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, reconstituted legalized abortion. By 1958, there were five million abortions per year in the Soviet Union. (For the record, this contradicted Margaret Sanger’s optimistic prediction that "neither abortions nor contraception will be necessary or desired" once the Soviets’ "functioning communistic society" was in full bloom.)
By 1965, abortions peaked at 8.2 million in the USSR, dwarfing the worst years in America post-Roe v. Wade. By 1970, some 3,000 full-time abortionists in the Soviet Union were performing roughly 7.2 million abortions per year. By the 1980s, Soviet citizens comprised 5%-6% of the world’s population — but 25% of the world’s abortions.
No country on the planet achieved abortion deaths like the Soviet Union.
The Cold War and communism ended in Russia in the 1990s, but the runaway rates of abortion — as well as contraception — did not. Those rates continued into the Putin era, with the election of Vladimir Putin in March 2000.
An illuminating article in The Washington Post in February 2003 reported that about 5 million Russian couples (13%) are infertile, with more on the rise.
"In nearly three out of four cases," said the article, citing Russian health experts, "infertility is attributed to the woman, typically because of complications from one or more abortions." The Russian Health Ministry reported 1.7 abortions for every live birth, compared to a 1-to-3 ratio in the United States. That ratio was actually an improvement for previous decades, but only because contraception is being more widely used; together, it still adds up to a decline in overall population.
With rampant death at both the beginning and end of life, Russians are in a precipitous decline.
In response, Putin has taken major measures to try to stem this tide. In 2003, he implemented the first restrictions on abortion in Russia in almost 50 years, limiting abortions to within 12 weeks of gestation. Exemptions were allowed only for rape or the imprisonment, death or severe disability of the husband.
Remarkably, Putin’s Russia has even gone so far as to initiate a National Fertility Day, aimed at getting the culture to reproduce and make more children — more Russians.
Unfortunately, none of this has really worked much. Russia’s population drain remains.
And so, how might the adoption ban fit into this? Well, adopted Russians by foreigners — especially by Americans, who adopt more Russians than any other country — means more Russians leaving Russia. By banning adoptions, however, Putin’s country can retain more Russians. Less adoptions to Americans, and less Russians leaving the country and leaving Russian citizenship, means less of a loss of Russian population — Putin’s top priority.
Thus, for Putin and the Russians, there may be a measure of pure Russian demographics and nationalism behind this decision. In fact, the adoption ban was championed in the legislature by the nationalistic United Russia party, even before it got to Putin.
To be sure, I cannot say for certain that this inspired Putin’s decision; clearly, the Magnitsky Act seems the main issue. But as someone whose career has been spent studying Russia, including Putin, I suspect that this is quite possibly an added compelling factor. Consider these additional facts:
According to the State Department, in 2011, there were 3,400 Russian children adopted by foreign families, with roughly a third going to American families. The number adopted that year by Russian citizens was 7,400.
Putin is now promising a presidential decree to "modify the support mechanisms for orphaned children." In other words, he is implementing plans to apparently try to make up for lost adoptions to American parents, which he presumably hopes to shift to Russian parents.
Thus, overall, Putin’s adoption ban would have two "benefits," in his mind: It retaliates against the U.S. Magnitsky Act, and it retains more Russians in Russia.
If this is truly Vladimir Putin’s thinking, then we can’t rule out abortion and contraception as handmaidens to this horrible situation.
These two "evils" that the Catholic Church has long condemned so often have a host of unpredicted grave consequences. Once again, these handmaidens of the culture of death may have come knocking.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include
The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,
The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand, and, most recently, The Communist.