Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memo to Journalists: Quote Hillary to Hillary: "It Is Our Job to Figure Out What Happened"

Hugh Hewitt
May 30, 2014

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erupts at Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) regarding his questioning during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over whether there were protests in Benghazi, Libya before the deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission.(Getty)

“It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video."

This statement is part of Hillary's 36 page "fog of war" chapter on Benghazi in her forthcoming memoir, a chapter obtained at least in part by Politico's Maggie Haberman, and it appears to be indicative of how she filled those 36 pages without answering any of the crucial questions about the events of that night and the following day.

This line refers to the killers.

And this line is of course a straw man, easily recognized after the president's straw man Woodstock at West Point earlier this week. It is also "inaccurate to state" that the whereabouts and actions of the president, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense that night are well known or even understood in general outline. That Hillary even bothers to spend time on the laughable "the video made them do it" argument tells us that the chapter is an exercise in space-filling, an effort to appear to be transparent and forthright about the most obvious, tragic failure of her trail of tears tenure at State. This chapter appears to be just another part of the ongoing refusal to come clean about what happened that night both in Benghazi and much more importantly for Hillary's future political ambitions in D.C.

“I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans," Haberman quotes Clinton as writing. "It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.”

This is a three-part lie: It is not "just plain wrong" to demand answers from those in charge that night, it is not "politicizing" to hold those people to account for their failures, and the investigation into Benghazi will indeed involve Clinton whether or not she agrees to be questioned about her collapse that night. This risible attempt at a "pre-emptive strike" on the subject will not work, not when the event it seeks to exile from the national debate involves the death of an ambassador and three other Americans at the hands of terrorists and not when her failure to anticipate the attack and her collapse in the face of it goes to her central claim of competency to be president.

When Hillary sits down with various journalists, they should all bear down on what did she know and when did she know it; what did she do and when did she do it --in the weeks and months before the attack and the night of the attack. They should press again and again --patiently and respectfully-- for detailed answers on chronology and specifics.

"It is our job to figure out what happened." 

That is what then Secretary of State Clinton told Senator Ron Johnson immediately after her infamous "What difference at this point does it make?" outburst that defines her failure at State.

That is in fact the job of every journalist who gets to ask a question of the would-be president. None have dared tried yet, but eventually someone will, and if no one does, Hillary will ask for the country's votes without ever having given an account of her actions or her non-actions. Perhaps she can bluff, bluster and bully her way to the Oval Office but the country does not seem to be in the mood for another era of dodges, half-truths, and false outrage over being asked not only legitimate but absolutely essential questions.

Hillary's 36 page leak won't put out the fire and it won't stop the questions or the commentary. Only the detailed truth would do so, and given Hillary's adamant refusal to provide that, we can assume the truth is even more damaging than her continued stonewalling.

Friday, May 30, 2014

J R R Tolkien's Beowulf: one man's passion for the threshold between myth and reality

The literary landscape has changed since Tolkien’s day in a way he would neither expect nor acknowledge: he is now more famous than the “fairy stories” that obsessed him.

May 29, 2014

Beowulf: a Translation and Commentary, Together with “Sellic Spell”
J R R Tolkien
Edited by Christopher Tolkien
HarperCollins, 425pp, £20
In his story “Leaf by Niggle”, J R R Tolkien imagines an artist painting a picture he can neither complete nor abandon. “It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots.” In the end the picture is never put on show.
The metaphor captures the scale and gorgeous impracticality of Tolkien’s writing but not its fate. Most of his “tree” has been saved and his posthumous titles outnumber those published in his lifetime by roughly three to one. In this latest book, a deep root is exposed: his work on the Old English poemBeowulf. The surprise is how “fantastic” the root turns out to be, twisting thirstily through the scholarly subsoil to tap the groundwater of a forgotten folk tale – or “fairy story”, as Tolkien prefers to call it.
The poem, written down around 1000AD, mixes fiction with 5th- and 6th-century history. Beowulf sails from his Geatish homeland in Sweden to defeat Grendel, an ogre who has usurped the Danish feast hall of King Hrothgar. Beowulf then hunts down Grendel’s vengeful mother, but in old age, now king of the Geats, he slays and is slain by a dragon. In his 1936 lecture “Beowulf : the Monsters and the Critics”, Tolkien insisted that the poem is not just a mine for historical data into which some fantastical monsters have inconveniently strayed but a work of art in which the monsters are foils for an entire cultural attitude to life, death and courage.
The literary landscape has changed since then in a way that Tolkien would have neither expected nor accepted: he now towers in fame over Beowulf. Last year, Penguin repackaged its Michael Alexander translation as one of five “classic [stories] that inspired J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit”.
Tolkien’s prose translation has been edited by his long-serving son Christopher, now 89, from versions dating back to 1926 (regrettably omitting an earlier, unfinished verse translation). A large, nuggety selection from Tolkien’s lectures, presented by way of commentary, ranges from semantics to genealogy, from the giants of Genesis to the Germanic concept of fate. Also included are two short, lapidary pieces of creative writing, “Sellic Spell” and “The Lay of Beowulf”. All this illuminates the poem but far more people will read the book for Tolkien’s sake than for Beowulf’s. That is fair enough.
Tolkien was studying Beowulf deeply when the First World War broke out and by the time he went off to fight in the battle of the Somme, in the summer of 1916, he had begun to map out his vision of Middle-earth. The folk narrative of an individual battling through fear or horror, experiencing loss and new-springing hope, must have chimed with his experiences on the Western Front: his enthusiasm for fairy stories was, he wrote, “quickened to full life by war”. Born out of the cataclysm of conflict, Middle-earth has since become a mirror to the modern world. Yet only Tolkien’s brilliance in inhabiting the early-medieval Germanic mindset could have produced it.
In Beowulf, we see the lordly custom of giving rings to retainers, which Tolkien subverts with Sauron, his own “lord of the rings”. We encounter Hrothgar’s golden hall, the model for Théoden’s. In the night-haunting, man-eating Grendel, we may recognise Gollum magnified; the dragon is a prototype for Smaug. For some, the world of Beowulf and Middle-earth were elided in Tolkien’s lectures: W H Auden once wrote to tell him “what an unforgettable experience it was for me as an undergraduate, hearing you recite Beowulf. The voice was the voice of Gandalf.”
Tolkien, an obsessive niggler with too many projects to fit in one lifespan, would have needed a hard push, from a publisher and perhaps from a strong-armed friend such as C S Lewis, to finalise and publish his prose translation. The version that survives, though, is far from prosaic. He cannot conceal the strangeness of the underlying idiom but his cadence is commanding and his language evocative: “He came now from the moor under misty fells, Grendel walking. The wrath of God was on him.”
Much syntactic inversion yields not promptly to grasp of mind – but few will be surprised to see archaisms such as “Lo!” and “smote”. This reflects Tolkien’s view that the poet wrote in a register already venerable in 1000AD. With kennings – metaphorical Old English compounds of words – he is more expansive than most. What Seamus Heaney in his 1999 translation gives as “the whale-road”, Tolkien, who argues that rád did not mean “road” but the act of riding, unpacks as “the sea where the whale rides” (his commentary expands the image: “watery fields where you can see dolphins . . . seeming to gallop like a line of riders on the plains”). Students may prefer Tolkien for accuracy and fans will snap his book up but it won’t convert admirers of Heaney’s poetic latitude.
The commentary shows Tolkien’s curiosity about the threshold between myth and reality. Hrothgar’s ancestor Scyld “came out of the Unknown beyond the Great Sea and returned into it: a miraculous intrusion into history”, he writes. Hrothgar’s court at Heorot, which once really existed near Roskilde, Denmark, becomes in Beowulf a scene of superhuman marvels, like Camelot. And in his aspect as “the bear-man, the giant-killer”, whose hands have the strength of 30 men, Beowulf comes directly from fairy story.
“Sellic Spell” means “a tale of wonder” and Tolkien’s experimental story strips away Beowulf’s historical aspect to expose the even older fairy story he discerned at its heart. The hero, Beewolf (a kenning for “bear”, named the “bee wolf” for its plundering of hives), heads to the Golden Hall with two companions who first try their magic powers against Grinder (Grendel). This story is the gem in the book. Only its disconnection from Middle-earth can explain why it has remained hidden so long.
Yet it is not truly disconnected. Like “Sellic Spell”, Tolkien’s Middle-earth oeuvre began as an attempt to imagine the “lost tales” behind the scattered fragments of medieval literature. It was a hunger that scholarship alone could not fully satisfy. Tolkien’s view of Beowulf as a marriage of fairy story and history explains his rationale in constructing for his own grand fairy story a world so convincing in its “historical” detail that many feel they have been there.
John Garth’s “Tolkien and the Great War” is published by HarperCollins (£9.99)
Image: Poodlesrock/Graphicartis/Corbis

Emptiness at West Point

By Published: May 29, 2014

Photo: Christopher Fincham/US Army
It is fitting that on the day before President Obama was to give his grand West Point address defending the wisdom and prudence of his foreign policy, his government should be urging Americans to evacuate Libya.
Libya, of course, was once the model Obama intervention — the exquisitely calibrated military engagement wrapped in the rhetorical extravagance of a nationally televised address proclaiming his newest foreign policy doctrine (they change to fit the latest ad hoc decision): the responsibility to protect.
You don’t hear R2P bandied about much anymore. Not with more than 50,000 civilians having been slaughtered in Syria’s civil war, unprotected in any way by the United States. Nor for that matter do you hear much about Libya, now so dangerously chaotic and jihadi-infested thatthe State Department is telling Americans to get out.
And you didn’t hear much of anything in the West Point speech. It was a somber parade of straw men, as the president applauded himself for steering the nation on a nervy middle course between extreme isolationism and madcap interventionism. It was the rhetorical equivalent of that classic national security joke in which the presidential aide, devoted to policy option X, submits the following decision memo:
Option 1. All-out nuclear war.
Option 2. Unilateral surrender.
Option 3. Policy X.
The isolationism of Obama’s telling is a species not to be found anywhere. Not even Rand Paul would withdraw from everywhere. And even members of Congress’s dovish left have called for sending drones to Nigeria, for God’s sake.
As for Obama’s interventionists, they are grotesquely described as people “who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak” while Obama courageously refuses to believe that “every problem has a military solution.”
Name one person who does.
“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force?” Obama recently and plaintively asked about Ukraine. In reality, nobody is. What actual earthlings are eager for is sending military assistance to Ukraine’s woefully equipped forces.
That’s what the interim prime minister asked for when he visited here in March —and was denied. (He was even denied night-vision goggles and protective armor.) Two months later, military assistance was the first thing Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s newly elected president, said he wanted from the United States. Note: not boots on the ground.
Same for Syria. It was Obama, not his critics, who went to the brink of a military strike over the use of chemical weapons. From which he then flinched. Critics have been begging Obama to help train and equip the outmanned and outgunned rebels — a policy to whichhe now intimates he might finally be coming around.
Three years late. Qusair, Homs and major suburbs of Damascus have already been retaken by the government. The battle has by now so decisively tilted toward Assad — backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, while Obama dithered — that Assad is holding triumphal presidential elections next week.
Amid all this, Obama seems unaware of how far his country has fallen. He attributes claims of American decline to either misreading history or partisan politics. Problem is: Most of the complaints are coming from abroad, from U.S. allies with no stake whatsoever in U.S. partisan politics. Their concern is their own security as they watch this president undertake multiple abdications from Warsaw to Kabul.
What is the world to think when Obama makes the case for a residual force in Afghanistan — “after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains that you have helped to win” — and then announce a drawdown of American forces to 10,000, followed by total liquidation within two years on a fixed timetable regardless of circumstances?
The policy contradicts the premise. If you want not to forfeit our terribly hard-earned gains — as we forfeited all our gains in Iraq with the 2011 withdrawal — why not let conditions dictate the post-2014 drawdowns? Why go to zero — precisely by 2016?
For the same reason, perhaps, that the Afghan surge was ended precisely in 2012, in the middle of the fighting season — but before the November election. A 2016 Afghan end date might help Democrats electorally and, occurring with Obama still in office, provide a shiny new line to his résumé.
Is this how a great nation decides matters of war and peace — to help one party and polish the reputation of one man? As with the West Point speech itself, as with the president’s entire foreign policy of retreat, one can only marvel at the smallness of it all.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jeter state of mind

Savor the last season of the incomparable Yankees shortstop

May 28, 2014

New York Yankees' Derek Jeter hits an RBI single scoring Alfonso Soriano during the sixth inning against the Chicago White Sox on May 25, 2014.Photo: UPI
To Derek Jeter's kids (whenever you come along):
You were born too late to know your father the way we did, so I want to take just a minute to let you know what he meant to us.
He was a kind of prince in baseball cleats, George Clooney in pinstripes, the guy every woman wanted to bring home to mom, and very few did. He was humble and handsome and yet hard to hate.
He was like a good magician. You could never figure out how he did it. He was the best player in baseball for a good 10 years straight and yet he never won a batting title, never won an MVP, never was the highest-paid player in the game. The only thing he did better than anybody else was excel: five rings, 13 All-Star games, the greatest New York Yankee since Mickey Mantle. He spoke to the media every day, yet managed to say nothing. He dated the most traffic-stopping women, yet never seemed to wind up on Page Six or TMZ or "Extra."
He never showed up in the clubhouse with a black eye to explain, a headline to deny or a photo to justify.
"He could sense trouble coming," said his best friend, former teammate and retired catcherJorge Posada. "We'd be at a restaurant. He'd say, 'That guy in the blue shirt. He's going to come over here and ask for an autograph.' And sure enough, 15 seconds later, the guy would be standing at our table."
And he'd always sign. And look them in the eye. He got that from his parents, of course, your grandparents, Charles and Dorothy, who made him sign a contract every year promising to behave. You could swear he kept signing that contract every year he played.
How he was loved! In a league full of bloated steroid cheats, he kept the same body, the same weight, the same helmet size. In a game full of bat-flipping prima donnas, he ran out every ground ball, hard. In a world of my-agent-doesn't-want-me-to-play multimillionaires, he played hurt more than we know. "Most of the time, he wasn't 100 percent," Posada said. "He'd come out of spring training and tell me, 'I'm already hurting,' but he wouldn't tell anybody else. He just kept going."
Your father was everything men wanted to be. The guy with the $15 million Trump Tower penthouse. The dude dating Miss Universe. The man with all of the talent and none of the jerk. He was everything women wanted, too. The elegant athlete who loved books, paid for everything, and had a limo waiting for them when it was time to go.
The stat-heads scoffed at him, but then the stat-heads never figured out a way to measure the things he did. Some guys would lean over the wall in foul territory to make a catch. Jeter would launch himself over it, sometimes two rows deep. He'd come out with a bruised face, a cut chin, and the ball.
[+] EnlargeDerek Jeter
Elsa/Getty ImagesJeter has played the game in a way that any fan can appreciate.
Fourteen Yankees were captains, but none longer than your father, and that includes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Your father was like a rooster's crow. You could always depend on him. The only way to make him mad was to give him the night off. "He hated to sit out," says 39-year Yankees trainer Gene Monahan. "He'd drive me crazy. 'What am I supposed to do all night?' he'd say. I'd go, 'I don't know. Go run some laps!' He'd just sit there hoping they'd pinch hit him in the seventh."
Oh, he had his faults. If you crossed him, even once, you were out forever. If he didn't get to the World Series, he would slip into a terrible funk. He could be a bit of a germ freak. He refused to use public bathrooms unless it was an emergency.
He had zero patience for excuse-makers. One time, in Chicago, when he was a rookie, he tried to steal third with two outs and the big slugger Cecil Fielder up. He got caught. What did he do? He went and sat next to his manager. "I knew I'd screwed up," he said. "I wanted him to be able to yell at me if he wanted."
Nobody had to yell at him much. He threw right, hit to right and did right. He began a foundation called Turn 2, which helps kids growing up in lousy situations, and he gave far more to it than money. One time, he showed up to watch a hapless Turn 2 Little League team. Not only hadn't they won a game, they hadn't even scored a run. When they finally scored one that game, he celebrated as though they'd all just landed on the moon.
King or cook, he cared about you. When Monahan was fighting throat and neck cancer, Jeter would text him instead of call him, because he knew talking hurt. "Get back here," he wrote. "We've got your spot right here waiting for you." Said Monahan: "That kept me going."
He had this way of making you feel you belonged. Before the first World Series game at Yankee Stadium after 9/11, President George W. Bush was to throw out the first pitch. Everybody was tense. Jeter walked up to Bush and said: "Throw from the mound or else they'll boo you."
He was hilarious, but he didn't want you to know it. In his final goodbye season of 2014, I asked, "Who would you cross the street to avoid?"
"You," he said.
More than anything, he cherished playing for his beloved New York. "It's like a Broadway play here every night," he said. "You never know what's going to happen, but you know it's going to be a thrill."
When his body just couldn't do it anymore, it was bittersweet. Nobody loved playing baseball more than your dad, but he was ready. "I'm going to finally see what Europe is like in the summer," he told me. "I've been on a schedule my whole life. The plan now is to have no plan."
After that, he said he was going to settle down and have a family, which was unthinkable. Derek Jeter settling down? It was like an eagle deciding to take the bus. Glad he did, though, because genes this good shouldn't be wasted.
If there was a better man in sports, I never met him. Your father was a gentleman. A charmer. A 1,000-point star. "He was the kind of guy you wanted to be next to," Posada said.
He was ours for 20 years, but he's yours now, and I just wanted you to know how lucky you are.

Mass Killings Have Become Rorschach Tests

The California shooting is a peculiar one for the white-privilege crowd to have latched onto. 

A screenshot of "Elliot Rodger's Retribution," the YouTube video that may be linked to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) shooting. YouTube/Screenshot

Mass shootings are described by the good denizens of the American press corps in quite the variety of ways. The favored sobriquet is “tragedy,” but there are others on offer too — among them “rampage,” “abomination,” “running amok,” and “killing spree.” Having watched over the weekend the various reactions to the horrific crime in California, I might proffer a new appellation. How about, “Rorschach test”?

Onto the despicable act of a disturbed young man, entire worldviews are today being projected and confirmed. Over at Salon, a teacher of “Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies” named Brittney Cooper asked a question that she thought most germane:
How many times must troubled young white men engage in these terroristic acts that make public space unsafe for everyone before we admit that white male privilege kills?
The shooter, Cooper claimed at various points in what is an impressively self-serving little essay, was a “young white guy” who fed off of “heterosexual white male entitlement”; “a young, clean-cut white man” who was distraught at his inability to “access all the markers of white male heterosexual middle-class privilege”; a representative of “troubled young white men” whose philosophy was rooted in “white supremacy” and who serves an exemplar of both “pathological white masculinity” and “middle-class, heterosexual, white male rage”; and someone who was not only marinated in “racism, white supremacy and patriarchy” but coddled by “systems of whiteness and patriarchy [that] continue to produce white men who think like this.” “As long as America refuses to deal with its white male privilege problem,” Cooper concluded rather predictably, “we will continue to have” mass shootings.

It is unsurprising that Cooper would draw this conclusion. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like the Klan. Still, there is a tiny problem with her theory, and that is that it’s nonsense. Certainly, the claim that “usually, the young men who . . . shoot large numbers of people . . . are white, male, heterosexual and middle-class” is a popular one. Just this weekend, serial fabulist Michael Moore told his fans that “nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males.” Still, popular does not equal true. Shooters are invariably male, yes. But, racially, they are all over the map. As Salon’s own Andrew O’Hehir noted in 2012, “the stereotype that these kinds of shooters are invariably white men is less true than it used to be”:
In the last decade or so, almost every possible demographic has been represented: There have been two infamous campus shootings by Asian graduate students, one by a Native American teenager living on a Minnesota reservation, and a couple by African-Americans and Latinos. Overall, 43 of the 61 shooters in mass killings since 1982 have been white, which is only a little higher than the proportion of whites in the general population.
Actually, it’s a little lower.  And the FBI confirmed in 2010 that, despite the widespread belief to the contrary, “the racial diversification of serial killers generally mirrors that of the overall U.S. population.” That is: White people commit mass shootings pretty much in line with their demographic representation. Is Cooper suggesting something has changed?

All in all, this particular shooting is a peculiar one for the white-privilege crowd to have latched onto. The killer’s hideous 140-page manifesto is many things: misogynistic, racist, devious, narcissistic, self-indulgent, rambling, calculating, immature. But it is not “white supremacist” — at least not in any meaningful sense. Indeed, pace Cooper, the shooter appears to have been racked with doubt as to his identity. “I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian,” he writes in one passage. “On top of this,” he confirms elsewhere, “was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with. I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them.” Really, then, the only way that one can possibly reconcile the facts of the matter with Cooper’s holistic argument is to submit that other people enjoying white privilege caused him to flip. In other words, that, as a half-Indonesian American, he was a minority victim of a white-supremacist culture. One can make that (eminently silly) case if one wishes to, I suppose. But one can’t have it both ways. Critics have to decide: Was he anexponent of heterosexual white male entitlement, or was he a victim of it?

One has to play similar games in order to harmonize the killer’s astonishing, deep-seated hatred of females with the fact that four out of the six people he killed were male. There is no question that the shooter had constructed a poisonous ideology in which women were the sworn enemy. His targets, in his own ugly words, were “all you girls who rejected me and looked down on me, treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men,” and so intolerably angry was he at women in general that he expressed a wish to put them into camps, to watch them “starve to death,” and to force a few carefully selected survivors to breed with him and others of his choosing. This having been done, he suggested, “sexuality would not exist,” “humanity will be pure and civilized,” and “men will grow up healthily, without having to worry about such a barbaric act.” He was, let’s say, not a fan of the fairer sex.

Nevertheless, as disturbing as this is, we have a good word for attitudes and behavior such as this. That word is “crazy.” The essential trouble with the panoply of indignant hashtags and self-righteous op-eds that have appeared in the aftermath of the outrage is that they have tended to establish a false dichotomy: Either one believes that this incident is directly reflective of a given problem or one is denying that that given problem exists at all. This is silly and manipulative. To suggest that the cartoon misogyny of an extremely disturbed young man is not usefully related to women’s rights in general is not to suggest that women face no problems in America at all — any more than to suggest that dismissing as schizophrenia the “microwave machine” surveillance-paranoia of the sick man who shot up the Navy Yard implies that Americans have nothing to fear from wiretaps or the relentless pace of the Internet. It is just to say that the shooter’s ostensible motive is of limited utility going forward , and that if it wasn’t this, it would almost certainly have been something else.

Without ever quite making anything that could be reasonably described as a case, the Guardian’s Jessica Valenti argued yesterday for the collectivization of the killer’s guilt, maintaining that to describe the perpetrators of these crimes as crazy “not only stigmatizes the mentally ill — who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it — but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society.” This is a rather impressive stretch. Insofar as the disturbed will draw from and respond to the culture in which they live, the contents of murderers’ manifestos are relevant and interesting. If we were to see a network of would-be killers develop, each member claiming to be acting in the same way for the reason, they would become especially so. But, really, that’s about the extent of their relevance.

Rare is the case in which one can directly blame the acts of madmen on the particular cultural influences that they have appropriated. Words do not pull triggers; people do. As the Southern Poverty Law Center was not to blame for the shooting at the Family Research Council and Sarah Palin was not to blame for the attack on Gabby Giffords, no recriminations are due for “Judd Apatow comedies,” “pathological white masculinity,” or “liberal Hollywood.” Unless we wipe out civil society, there will always be influences, urges, and upsets. John Lennon’s killer was obsessed with J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and to such an extent that he pretended to be its protagonist and, once he had committed his grisly execution, he stood and read the book until the police arrived. Charles Manson was so captivated by the music of The Beatles that he believed their lyrics contained messages for him, and took to writing out phrases in his victims’ blood. This latest shooter was a fan of Cenk Uygur, a onetime MSNBC host and leading progressive on YouTube. What does this all mean? Nothing much at all, I’m afraid.

All told, the killer hated everybody. He hated himself. He hated women. He hated other men because women liked them. He hated white people because he was only half-white, and he hated minorities because he wasn’t as non-white as they were. He craved sex, but was also disgusted by it. He hated his classmates, but also his whole town, which he had originally planned to wipe out in toto on Halloween. Four of the victims were men, two were women; three were ethnic Chinese, three were white. This was a crime whose execution was as complicated — and, possibly, as meaningless — as its conception. When terror strikes, the first word to our lips is “why?” We sully the search for genuine answers when, just hours into our inquiry, we are seen already to have woven the questions into our Weltanschauung.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pope Francis’s unfriendly visit

The Golden Age of Catholic-Jewish relations seems to have come to an end during Francis’s visit to the Promised Land this week.
May 27, 2014

Pope Francis touches the wall dividing Israel and the West Bank. (Osservatore Romano/AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman were right when they blamed the noxious anti-Israel incitement rampant in Europe for Saturday’s murderous shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the assault and battery of two Jewish brothers outside their synagogue in a Paris suburb later that day.

Anti-Israel incitement is ubiquitous in Europe and is appearing in ever-widening circles of the Western world as a whole.

Until this week, the Catholic Church stayed out of the campaign to dehumanize Jews and malign the Jewish state.

Pope Benedict XVI was perceived as a friend of Israel, despite his childhood membership in the Hitler Youth. His opposition to Islam’s rejection of reason, eloquently expressed at his speech at the University of Regensburg in 2006, positioned him as a religious champion of reason, individual responsibility and law – Judaism’s primary contributions to humanity.

His predecessor Pope John Paul II was less willing to confront Islamic violence. But his opposition to Communism made him respect Israel as freedom’s outpost in the Middle East. John Paul’s visit to Israel in 2000 was in some ways an historic gesture of friendship to the Jewish people of Israel.

Both Benedict and John Paul II were outspoken champions of the Second Vatican Council and maintained doctrinal allegiance to the Church’s rejection of anti-Judaism, including the charge of deicide, and its denunciation of replacement theology.

Alas, the Golden Age of Catholic-Jewish relations seems to have come to an end during Francis’s visit to the Promised Land this week.

In one of his blander pronouncements during the papal visit, Netanyahu mentioned on Monday that Jesus spoke Hebrew. There was nothing incorrect about Netanyahu’s statement. Jesus was after all, an Israeli Jew.

But Francis couldn’t take the truth. So he indelicately interrupted his host, interjecting, “Aramaic.”
Netanyahu was probably flustered. True, at the time, educated Jews spoke and wrote in Aramaic. And Jesus was educated. But the language of the people was Hebrew. And Jesus preached to the people, in Hebrew.

Netanyahu responded, “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew.”

Reuters’ write-up of the incident tried to explain away the pope’s rudeness and historical revisionism, asserting, “Modern-day discourse about Jesus is complicated and often political.” The report went on to delicately mention, “Palestinians sometimes describe Jesus as a Palestinian. Israelis object to that.”
Israelis “object to that” because it is a lie.

The Palestinians – and their Islamic and Western supporters – de-Judaize Jesus and proclaim him Palestinian in order to libel the Jews and criminalize the Jewish state. It seems like it would be the job of the Bishop of Rome to set the record straight. But instead, Francis’s discourtesy indicated that at a minimum, he doesn’t think the fact of Jesus’s Judaism should be mentioned in polite company.

Francis’s behavior during his public meeting with Netanyahu could have been brushed off as much ado about nothing if it hadn’t occurred the day after his symbolic embrace of some of the worst anti-Jewish calumnies of our times, and his seeming adoption of replacement theology during his homily in Bethlehem.

Consider first Francis’s behavior at the security barrier.

Reasonable people disagree about the contribution the security fence makes to the security of Israelis. But no one can reasonably doubt that it was built to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorist murderers. And Francis ought to know this. Francis’s decision to hold a photo-op at the security barrier was an act of extreme hostility against Israel and the Jewish people.

As the former Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Francis may have heard of the November 2002 massacre at Kibbutz Metzer. Metzer was founded by Argentine communists in the 1950s. Metzer is located 500 meters from the 1949 armistice lines which made it an obvious beneficiary of the security fence. But true to its radical roots, in 2002 members of the kibbutz waged a public campaign against the planned route of the security fence. They feared that it would, in the words of Metzer member Danny Dovrat, “ignite hostility and create problems” with the kibbutz’s Palestinian neighbors.

Thanks to that concern, on the night of November 10, 2002, a gunman from the “moderate” US- and EU-supported Fatah terror organization faced no physical obstacle when he entered the kibbutz. Once there he killed two people on the street and then entered the home of Revital Ohayon and executed Revital and her two sons, Matan, 5, and Noam, 4 years old.

Fatah praised the attack on its website and pledged to conduct more assaults on “Zionist colonizers,” and promised to continue “targeting their children as well.”

Had he actually cared about the cause of peace and non-violence he claims to champion, Francis might have averred from stopping at the barrier, recognizing that doing so would defile the memory of the Ohayons and of hundreds of other Israeli Jewish families who were destroyed by Palestinian bloodlust and anti-Semitic depravity.

Instead, Francis “spontaneously” got out of his popemobile, walked over to a section of the barrier, and reverentially touched it and kissed it as if it were the Wailing Wall.

The graffiti on the section of the barrier Francis stopped at reinforced his anti-Semitic position. One of the slogans called for the embrace of the BDS campaign.

Although the economic consequences of the campaign of economic warfare against Israel in the West have been negligible, BDS’s goal is not economic. The goal of the movement is to dehumanize Israelis and set apart for social ostracism anyone who refuses to embrace the anti-Jewish slanders that Jews have no right to self-determination and are morally inferior to every other religious, ethnic and national group in the world.

And that is nothing compared to the other slogan on the barrier. That one equated the Palestinians in Bethlehem to the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. In other words, it denied the Holocaust.

By standing there, kissing the barrier with its Holocaust denying slogan, Francis gave Vatican license to Holocaust denial.

And that was just the beginning.

Image: Pope Francis is welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Pope Francis is welcomed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, upon his arrival to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 25, 2014. (AP)

Pope Francis met with Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas at his presidential palace in Bethlehem. When Israel transferred control over Jesus’s birthplace to Abbas’s predecessor Yasser Arafat in 1996, Arafat seized the Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of the Nativity and turned it into his – and later Abbas’s – official residence.

Standing next to Abbas on seized church property, the pope called Abbas “a man of peace.”

Abbas returned the favor by calling for Israel to release all Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. And the pope – who interrupted Netanyahu when he told an historic truth – said nothing.

At mass at the Church of the Nativity on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed with Latin Patriarch Fuoad Twal. In his sermon Twal accused Israelis of being the present-day version of Christ killers by referring to the Palestinians as walking “in the footsteps of the Divine Child,” and likening the Israelis to King Herod.
In his words, “We are not yet done with the present-day Herods, who fear peace more than war… and who are prepared to continue killing.”

Rather than condemn these remarks, Francis echoed them.

“Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we before today’s children?” the pope asked.

“Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and cared for him with the love of a father and mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him?” During his visit Monday to Jerusalem, Francis embraced the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammed Hussein. Departing from his scripted remarks which called for the pope to refer to the mufti and his associates as “dear friends,” Francis called them his “dear brothers.”

Hussein has been condemned by the US and the EU for his calls for the annihilation of Jews in the name of Islam.

In 2012, Hussein said it was the destiny of Muslims to kill Jews, who he claims are subhuman beasts and “the enemies of Allah.” He has also praised suicide bombers and said their souls “tell us to follow in their path.”

Francis didn’t condemn him.

Francis stridently condemned the anti-Jewish attacks in Brussels and Paris. And during his ceremonial visits to Yad Vashem, the Wailing Wall and the terror victims memorial he said similarly appropriate things. But all of his statements ring hollow and false in light of his actions.

Israelis and Jews around the world need to be aware of what is happening. Francis is leading the Catholic Church in a distressingly anti-Jewish direction.

White House Accidentally Outs Top CIA Agent in Afghanistan: Will this be the straw the breaks the camel’s back?

Posted By Roger Kimball On May 27, 2014 @ 9:28 am In Uncategorized | 25 Comments

President Obama at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on May 25th. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)

Here’s a thought experiment: what if a Republican administration, six years into its term, had inadvertently blown the cover of its top CIA operative in a war-torn hellhole during a surprise visit by a president who had undertaken the trip in a desperate effort to shore up his sagging popularity in the wake of numerouscandals, including one involving widespread and deadly corruption in the administration of Veterans Administration hospitals.  To ask the question is to answer it: the legacy (formerly the “mainstream” media) would be skirling with criticism of the administration’s dangerous incompetence.  Every day there would be scathing articles dilating on the president’s fecklessness and the fecklessness, if not, indeed, the criminal negligence of those around him. And it would be endlessly (and correctly) pointed out that, at the end of the day, it was the president, not his underlings who must bear the brunt of the criticism, for along with the stupendou power in the president, the Constitution also invest in him a great burden of public trust. Thus is was that James Madison, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 insisted that there had to be a mechanism for removing a president not just for “treason” or “bribery” but for “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.” [1] To protect the country, incompetence and other instances of what another Founder, George Mason, called “maladministration” as well as criminal behavior were grounds for impeachment and removal.

But what if, to continue the thought experiment, the administration in question was Democratic rather than Republican? Once again, the question is self-answering. In that case, the media’s excuse factory would go into overtime.  The specific articles produced by this exercise in extenuation vary according to circumstance. Sometimes it’s a matter of camouflage — “nothing to see here, move along” — sometimes it’s a sort of distorting mirror in which the large appear small and vice-versa. Sometimes it’s simply a sort of white-noise machine in which the ambient static cancels out unpleasant revelations from outside and induces slumber.

But I wonder just what is going to happen in the aftermath of this latest scandal. Is there anyone — anyone — who still believes that there was “not even,” as the President said [2], “a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS — that it was merely happenstance, or the work of a few “rogue” employees, that explains why the overwhelming majority of citizens the IRS harassed were conservatives? Is there anyone — anyone outside the corridors of The New York Times [3], that is — who still believes the administration’s story about the Benghazi massacre — that it was sparked by a “rogue” internet video about Mohammed? Is there anyone who believesanything the administration says [4] about Obamacare — “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health plan, period,” etc., etc. As I write, there is also the disgusting scandal surrounding the Veterans Administration, whose callous maladministration and “secret waiting lists” for infirm veterans has caused many deaths and untold suffering. The President says he’s “mad as hell” [5] about it, but exactly what has he done?

While you cast about for an answer to that last question, ponder the latest scandal, just out of Afghanistan.  This headline from Newsmax sums it up: White House Blunder Puts Whole CIA Unit in Peril [6].” Obama slipped secretly into Afghanistan to bolster his tarnished luster among the military in the wake of the VA scandal. It’s not clear how well that worked. As Newsmax reports, “The accidental disclosure of the identity of the top CIA agent in Afghanistan by the Obama administration could affect operations in that country — even target the entire unit for assassination by the Taliban.”

Gosh.  Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, tartly observed that “It looks like a rookie mistake, but it’s in year six of the administration. It’s a bit stunning. You would never expect to see that in material that’s been made public.”

Indeed. But with this administration, one has learned to expect the unexpected. Next week, Encounter Books will publish PJM columnist Andrew McCarthy’s Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment [7].  Notwithstanding the subtitle, the book does not argue for Obama’s immediate impeachment. Indeed, it argues against it.  What it does, however, is catalogue the extensive evidence of lawlessness, incompetence, and arbitrary usurpation of prerogatives that the Constitution vested in Congress. It is an extraordinary, and a depressing, litany. Among much else, it makes you appreciate why James Madison would have insisted that  impeachment was an “indispensable” mechanism to remove a “chief Magistrate” guilty of “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.”

Article printed from Roger’s Rules:

URLs in this post:

[1] “incapacity, negligence, or perfidy.”:

[4] anything the administration says: