Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Barbarians are Inside, and There are no Gates

By Mark Steyn
November 13, 2015

Rescue workers gather at victims in the 10th district of Paris, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. (AP)
As I write, Paris is under curfew for the first time since the German occupation, and the death toll from the multiple attacks stands at 158, the vast majority of them slaughtered during a concert at the Bataclan theatre, a delightful bit of 19th century Chinoiserie on the boulevard Voltaire. The last time I was there, if memory serves, was to see Julie Pietri. I'm so bloody sick of these savages shooting and bombing and killing and blowing up everything I like - whether it's the small Quebec town where my little girl's favorite fondue restaurant is or my favorite hotel in Amman or the brave freespeecher who hosted me in Copenhagen ...or a music hall where I liked to go to hear a little jazz and pop and get away from the cares of the world for a couple of hours. But look at the photographs from Paris: there's nowhere to get away from it; the barbarians who yell "Allahu Akbar!" are there waiting for you ...when you go to a soccer match, you go to a concert, you go for a drink on a Friday night. They're there on the train... at the magazine office... in the Kosher supermarket... at the museum in Brussels... outside the barracks in Woolwich...

Twenty-four hours ago, I said on the radio apropos the latest campus "safe space" nonsense:
This is what we're going to be talking about when the mullahs nuke us.
Almost. When the Allahu Akbar boys opened fire, Paris was talking about the climate-change conference due to start later this month, when the world's leaders will fly in to "solve" a "problem" that doesn't exist rather than to address the one that does. But don't worry: we already have a hashtag (#PrayForParis) and doubtless there'll be another candlelight vigil of weepy tilty-headed wankers. Because as long as we all advertise how sad and sorrowful we are, who needs to do anything?

With his usual killer comedy timing, the "leader of the free world" told George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning, America" this very morning that he'd "contained" ISIS and that they're not "gaining strength". A few hours later, a cell whose members claim to have been recruited by ISIS slaughtered over 150 people in the heart of Paris and succeeded in getting two suicide bombers and a third bomb to within a few yards of the French president.

Visiting the Bataclan, M Hollande declared that "nous allons mener le combat, il sera impitoyable": We are going to wage a war that will be pitiless.

Does he mean it? Or is he just killing time until Obama and Cameron and Merkel and Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull fly in and they can all get back to talking about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century? By which time France and Germany and Belgium and Austria and the Netherlands will have been long washed away.

Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight's events as "an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share".

But that's not true, is it? He's right that it's an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world - an attack on one portion of "humanity" by those who claim to speak for another portion of "humanity". And these are not "universal values" but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta "universal" when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those "universal values" are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.

And then Europe decided to invite millions of Muslims to settle in their countries. Most of those people don't want to participate actively in bringing about the death of diners and concertgoers and soccer fans, but at a certain level most of them either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live - modern, pluralist, western societies and those "universal values" of which Barack Obama bleats. So, if you are either an active ISIS recruit or just a guy who's been fired up by social media, you have a very large comfort zone in which to swim, and which the authorities find almost impossible to penetrate.
And all Chancellor Merkel and the EU want to do is make that large comfort zone even larger by letting millions more "Syrian" "refugees" walk into the Continent and settle wherever they want. As I wrote after the Copenhagen attacks in February:
I would like to ask Mr Cameron and Miss Thorning-Schmidt what's their happy ending here? What's their roadmap for fewer "acts of violence" in the years ahead? Or are they riding on a wing and a prayer that they can manage the situation and hold it down to what cynical British civil servants used to call during the Irish "Troubles" "an acceptable level of violence"? In Pakistan and Nigeria, the citizenry are expected to live with the reality that every so often Boko Haram will kick open the door of the schoolhouse and kidnap your daughters for sex-slavery or the Taliban will gun down your kids and behead their teacher in front of the class. And it's all entirely "random", as President Obama would say, so you just have to put up with it once in a while, and it's tough if it's your kid, but that's just the way it is. If we're being honest here, isn't that all Mr Cameron and Miss Thorning-Schmidt are offering their citizens? Spasms of violence as a routine feature of life, but don't worry, we'll do our best to contain it - and you can help mitigate it by not going to "controversial" art events, or synagogues, or gay bars, or...
...or soccer matches, or concerts, or restaurants...

To repeat what I said a few days ago, I'm Islamed out. I'm tired of Islam 24/7, at Colorado colleges, Marseilles synagogues, Sydney coffee shops, day after day after day. The west cannot win this thing with a schizophrenic strategy of targeting things and people but not targeting the ideology, of intervening ineffectually overseas and not intervening at all when it comes to the remorseless Islamization and self-segregation of large segments of their own countries.

So I say again: What's the happy ending here? Because if M Hollande isn't prepared to end mass Muslim immigration to France and Europe, then his "pitiless war" isn't serious. And, if they're still willing to tolerate Mutti Merkel's mad plan to reverse Germany's demographic death spiral through fast-track Islamization, then Europeans aren't serious. In the end, the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love.

So screw the candlelight vigil.

~I'll be talking about events in Paris on Fox & Friends Saturday morning at around 9am Eastern/6am Pacific.

The 'Trumbo' Dumbo

Brent Bozell
November 13, 2015

The actor Bryan Cranston is now making the interview rounds promoting his new movie lionizing the Hollywood communist Dalton Trumbo. As one should always expect when the Hollywood left starts talking about the blacklist, the communists were the First Amendment heroes. The movie "Trumbo," Cranston told CNN's Jake Tapper, is about resisting "the lessening of the First Amendment or the oppression of it."
Ironically, Cranston said these words at the end of a Nov. 9 program that began with a mob at the University of Missouri driving out a president and a chancellor over wild allegations of racist epithets and restroom swastikas with little hard evidence.
The evidence exposing the fallacy of Trumbo as a First Amendment hero is much more definitive. Author Allen Ryskind in his book "Hollywood Traitors" reported Trumbo not only supported Stalin (and Hitler when he was a Stalin ally), but he also supported North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung after the Korean War. In an unpublished movie script, he had the heroine proclaim that North Korea's invasion of the South was perfectly justifiable, comparing it to the "fight for our own independence in 1776."
Nevertheless, Cranston is making the media rounds unleashing all kinds of nonsense at every sympathetic liberal media outlet available. On NPR, Cranston at least acknowledged that Trumbo was a member of the Communist Party USA, but that's only because "it was a political arm of labor unions and that's what he was truly invested in." That said, "He was dismayed with the bureaucracy of any political party. And the idea that, because he was a member of the party that he is somehow associated with communist Russia at the time, is ludicrous. And this is what the House Un-American Activities Committee tried to prove and failed miserably because there was no connection to it."
At a time when the American left so aggressively accuses the right of denying what is debatable evidence on issues like "global warming," these die-hard deniers refuse to acknowledge the undeniable documentation that emerged after the Cold War that the Communist Party USA was funded by and loyal to the Soviet Union.
At the Daily Beast, Marlow Stern interviewed Cranston and announced that the Hollywood Ten was a "fraternity of communist sympathizers crucified by the House Un-American Activities Committee for their political beliefs."
Perhaps it was Stern who prompted Cranston to descend into the inanity that the Soviet communists were fascists, not communists: "This communist regime under Stalin was unbelievably cruel and vicious. But the truth is they weren't communists. Stalin wasn't a communist. He was a fascist dictator. But the name 'communism' stuck to that."
By Nov. 11, Cranston was telling The Hill newspaper "The message of the film to me is inclusiveness. It's to be able to embrace an opposing viewpoint without thinking of them as the enemy or to demonize some of them."
In reality, Trumbo supported communists who massacred 100 million humans. Is that the left's idea of "inclusiveness"? Anyone with a conscience should have considered these slaughterers as worth demonizing. These leftists don't.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Peter Guralnick on his new Sam Phillips biography

By Bob Mehr
November 5, 2015
As a writer, historian and biographer, Peter Guralnick always has one goal. "My ambition is to tell a story as much as possible from the inside out," he says. "I don't want to write something from afar, I don't want to write an evaluation. I want to write something that tells the stories from the perspective of the subject and from a personal perspective."
With his latest book, Guralnick, 71, has penned his most intimate and inside work yet. His long-anticipated biography, "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll — How One Man Discovered Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, and How His Tiny Label, Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World!," will be published Tuesday by Little, Brown & Co. Guralnick will mark the release with an appearance Wednesday evening at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, where he'll be interviewed by fellow author Robert Gordon.
Guralnick's book on Phillips — with whom he was close for nearly 25 years — is more intensely personal than his previous epic biographies on Elvis Presley or Sam Cooke. "Having a front-row seat with Sam for those years gave me an entrĂ©e that was different from anything I had before," he says. "Here, I had direct access and that altered the manner of writing and it altered my participation in the process. It gave me a different kind of opportunity — to deepen the portrait of Sam. And in a sense it's almost a double perspective at times."
The larger-than-life Phillips, who passed away in 2003, remained a vibrant presence in Guralnick's mind as he wrote. "I could imagine where Sam would take issue with things I was writing, but I didn't want that to intimidate me from saying them," says Guralnick, with a laugh. "I enjoyed having this running dialogue with him, even after he was gone."
The seeds for the project were planted during Guralnick's first interview with Phillips in 1979. "Sam was the most charismatic person I ever met. That first meeting was absolutely inspiring, it was galvanizing. From that moment … I wanted to do a book on Sam Phillips. Over the years, that wish, that desire, remained fixed in my mind," says Guralnick.
"In many ways, that first meeting was a very brief interview by Sam's standards — it was only two-and-a-half hours," says Guralnick. "But what he said was an important summary of so many elements of his life and his teachings. I didn't realize to what extent he saw himself as a teacher. He took that role very seriously. I was drawn to him as a preacher — he looked like a preacher, he looked like an Old Testament prophet. "
Over the course of 700-plus pages, Guralnick documents Phillips as both a musical visionary and a champion of a kind of humanist democracy — someone who sought to document the expressions of the poor and disenfranchised, those consigned to the narrow margins of society.
Guralnick explores Phillips' role in helping midwife rock 'n' roll, and by extension much of 20th century culture. He would discover, record and encourage Presley, Cash, Lewis, Turner, the Wolf, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich and so many others during the embryonic stages of their careers. "Don't forget: He never really worked with anyone who had recorded before," says Guralnick. "His belief in himself in the studio was founded on his ability to nurture talent. It was about bringing out something in the artist which the artist might not have realized was in him. Whether you're talking about Harmonica Frank or Johnny Cash or B.B. King, he was trying to bring out their uniqueness."
Phillips saw his efforts as part of a higher mission than simply cutting records. "One of his stated aims was to give voice to the voiceless. Had he not had that little storefront studio at 706 Union open almost 24 hours a day … who knows if any or all of those artists would have had the same opportunities. But, because of Sam, they did. He expressed over and over again this unshakable conviction in the dream of an egalitarian society."
In trying to understand Phillips' work, legacy and philosophies, Guralnick doesn't shy away from the more difficult aspects of his life. He delves into his drinking and depression, the mental health issues and the electroshock treatments he received as young man. He explores his many close and sometimes complicated relationships with his wife Becky, longtime companion Sally Wilbourn and Sun receptionist Marion Keisker, as well as with his children and heirs, Knox and Jerry Phillips.
By doing so, Guralnick creates a complex, compelling and unflinching portrait, which is, he says, what Phillips would've wanted. "Sam always said 'Tell the goddamn truth!'" says Guralnick. "Now, the truth is not a single thing. The truth of one moment is not the truth of the next. And one person's truth can differ from another. But I think everybody, from Sam on down to his family and friends, told the truth as they saw it."
While Guralnick offers a fuller understanding of Phillips' glory days at Sun in the 1950s, the book also examines the last half of his life, during which he was effectively retired from the music business.
By the early '60s, even as he was building new studios in Memphis and Nashville, Phillips' passion for making records had begun to wane. "You've got to look at a decade of not just achievement, but the sheer volume of work that Sam did between 1950 and 1960," says Guralnick. "How long can you keep going at that rate? That had to figure in. When (Atlantic Records') Jerry Wexler said that in a single decade Sam had created a millennium's worth of music … well, maybe that's bit of a show quote, but it's also true."
Phillips' decision to effectively leave the record business was a concession to the changing nature of the industry, which was increasingly becoming dominated by large corporations in the '60s. "I don't think he ever feared failure or shrank from a challenge, but he could no longer see the future. And he was right," says Guralnick. "By the end of the decade, by 1970, all the independents had been sold."
Ultimately, it was a return to his first love, radio, in his native Alabama that finally reignited Phillips' passion. Guralnick succeeds in giving readers a proper understanding of the last couple decades of Phillips' life. He finds the real man behind the fiery eyes, booming voice and outsized personality that would turn up at awards ceremonies, talk shows or rock and roll retrospectives. "I mean, Sam was always forceful," he says, "but I wanted to capture the quiet thoughtfulness of Sam that I saw over the years, lurking behind that public persona."
After nearly a decade of labor on the Phillips bio, Guralnick has also curated an accompanying two-CD "soundtrack" to the book (released by Yep Roc), as well as a Phillips exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He says there's only one other element to add to the story. "Well, Sam always believed his life would make a great movie," says Guralnick. "And I'll agree with him on that."
For his part, Guralnick says he plans on taking a break from biography to return to fiction — he's written 10 novels and two short story collections and hopes to finish a third — though he allows there might still be one or two musical stories he'd like to tell.
"I never set out to be a professional biographer," he says. "I saw this book, all the biographies, as a chance to tell stories of these great figures operating on a vast plane. That's what's enthralled me about writing them. These are worlds populated with so many great characters and above all else, fascinating individuals. I guess, like Sam, I prize the individual, too."


Book Review: 'Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n Roll' -

'Above the Line': How Ohio State's militarized football program works

October 15, 2015
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Before the national semifinal game against Alabama, Ohio State special teams players signaled to each other in the hallways at the team hotel with brass "clickers." They were similar to those that D-Day paratroopers used to identify friend or foe behind German lines in the dark.
Before the national championship game against Oregon, coach Urban Meyer told the players in a meeting at the team hotel to visualize that they were with elite soldiers on a mission. Hear the helicopter blades churning? See it? See the hideout in the blowing sand? We're going in!
Before the Buckeyes boarded the bus to the national title game in suburban Dallas, they watched a video about SEAL Team 6, which ended with one of the members asking the shooter of Osama bin Laden, "Do you even realize what you just did?"
After the game was won, offensive coordinator Tom Herman turned to Meyer on the sideline and said, "Coach, do you even realize what you just did?"
"Above the Line," a forthcoming motivational book by Meyer (October 27, Penguin Press, $27.95) shares many such details about the paramilitary operation that is Ohio State football.
Camouflage, black uniforms, black stripes
This is a familiar comparison for the violent sport. Former coach Jim Tressel wore a camouflage cap similar to those of desert troops at the Scarlet and Gray Game in 2011.
Woody Hayes had the personal phone number of former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Creighton Abrams on his Rolodex and called him from time to time, perhaps to share his views on the Vietnam War.
Ohio State players will wear black uniforms, like commandos on a raid, for Saturday night's game against Penn State at The Horseshoe.
When incoming players perform well enough in Meyer's estimation, the black stripe on their helmets, which indicates they are, in effect, apprentices, is removed in a team ceremony.
As I wrote in an earlier column, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs handed out an ammunition box that had been used in the wars in the Middle East to safety Von Bell, for being the outstanding member of Coombs' unit during preseason practices.
The Ohio State defense has called itself the "Silver Bullets" for at least two decades now.
The 9/11 effect fades
Remember after the 9/11 terrorist attacks how "bomb" as a term for a long pass was going to go the way of the flying wedge as a football anachronism?  Remember how sports-as-war was going to be considered a trivialization of the horrors of actual combat?
Apparently, the fields of friendly strife just can't help borrowing from those of actual conflict.
All this militarization is meant to honor the troops and is used respectfully. It persists because it works with impressionable young men.
"Above the Line" is also about building leadership skills and unity in business or sports organizations, but those parts aren't as fascinating the glimpse inside the football war machine.
5 a.m. bear crawls and the Red Line
When Meyer took over and began to reshape the team in 2012, angered by several examples of bad attitude, he ordered drills outside in freezing January weather at 5 a.m. that included "bear crawls" on all fours up and down the slushy, icy practice field, four times, covering 400 yards, for each of five days.
"Above the Line" refers to a red line on the practice field. Those without sufficient enthusiasm are sent peremptorily to the locker room and thus kept "below the line" until they form the proper habits.
Haden, Knight and Marotti 
Browns cornerback Joe Haden told me the biggest thing he learned from Meyer at Florida was "how to compete every day."
It's not just on the field, however. Much like former Indiana basketball Bobby Knight, Meyer creates an entire world of competition and conflict, fostering male bonding, aided, in Meyer's case,  by timely applications of positive reinforcement.
Meyer's right-hand man, strength coach Mickey Marotti, prepares Ohio State players for the "confusion, chaos and conflict" they will face on the field by, for example, adding weight and repetitions in the weight room just when the players think they are finished.
Surprisingly, the pastoral game of baseball serves as a training vehicle in the book. "Backdoor slider" is an inside-football term at Ohio State.
It refers to the Los Angeles Dodgers' scouting report on Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley. It emphasized that the great closer always threw a backdoor slider on a 3-and-2 count, no matter if the batter was left-handed or right-handed. The information led to wounded pinch-hitter Kirk Gibson's famous walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series.
When Von Bell jumped an Alabama tight end's corner route and intercepted a critical pass in the national semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, it showed the Buckeyes had reconnoitered well. "It was Von Bell's version of the backdoor slider," writes Meyer.
"Backdoor slider" at Ohio State meant a great scouting report. Or, given the military ethos, good intel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The gangsters of Rome: the brutal side of the ancient city

The Roman emperors created a world that seems modern but contains unspeakable horrors, as new books by Mary Beard and Tom Holland reveal.

By William Dalrymple
3 November 2015

Soon after Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44BC, a comet was seen streaking across the Italian skies for seven successive days. The soothsayers and astronomers soon agreed that the portent represented Caesar’s soul ascending to the heavens, “there to be received among the spirits of the immortal gods”.
Today, thankfully, we may no longer deify our politicians, but Mary Beard represents the nearest thing in contemporary academe: a semi-deified don and an object of worship, both by the Senate House and by the people. Her new work, SPQR, is probably her most ambitious yet, a magisterial history of Rome which attempts to understand “how a tiny and very unremarkable little village in central Italy became so dominant a power over so much territory in three continents”.
Professor Beard tops and tails her account of the rise of the Roman empire by laying out why she believes its study – to which, she says, she has “given a good deal of the past fifty years of my life” – is still not only relevant, but very important, so giving her own answer to the celebrated Monty Python conundrum: “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Rome, she explains, “still helps define the way we understand our world and think about ourselves”:
After 2,000 years it continues to underpin Western culture and politics, what we write and how we see the world, and our place in it.
. . . The layout of the Roman imperial territory underlies the political geography of modern Europe and beyond. The main reason that London is the capital of the
United Kingdom is that the Romans made it the capital of their province Britannia . . . Rome has bequeathed to us ideas of liberty and citizenship as much as of imperial exploitation, combined with a vocabulary of modern politics, from “senators” to “dictators”.

 She concludes: “Many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty have been formed, and tested, in dialogue with the Romans and their writing.”
The publication of SPQR coincides with another excellent book covering much the same territory, Dynasty: the Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar by Tom Holland, the other contender for the laurel wreath of being Britain’s most widely read and industrious classicist. The two books differ slightly in their aims: Holland focuses on the century-long rise and fall of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, while Beard takes a longer view, from Romulus and Remus right up to the early 3rd century AD. The near-simultaneous release of these books, written in intriguingly different styles, can only sharpen an unspoken rivalry for dominance over the classical world, the modern literary equivalent of the showdown between austere Augustus – who nonetheless had a genius for good publicity and keeping himself in the public eye – and the more flamboyant Mark Antony. In this Actium, however, there are two winners.
Mary Beard is the more academic and measured of the two. Analytical and judicious, she is constantly weighing the archaeological evidence against that of written texts, and she watches the frontiers of the Roman empire with the assurance and authority of a senior umpire calling a wicket. Holland is concerned more with building an engrossing narrative, and in diving deep into the human and biographical forces driving Roman history. He is a witty and skilful storyteller, capable of penning penetrating psychological portraits of the monsters who form his subject: he notes with relish that Caligula is “one of the few people from ancient history to be as familiar to pornographers as to classicists”. He recounts with pleasure his racy tales of psychopathic cruelty, incest, paedophilia, matricide, fratricide, assassination and depravity.
Holland is quite correct that the history of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (that is, the first five Roman emperors – Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero) seems to have “sprung from some fantasy novel or TV box-set”:
Tiberius, grim, paranoid, and with a taste for having his testicles licked by young boys in swimming pools; Caligula, lamenting that the Roman people did not have a single neck, so that he might cut it through . . . Nero, kicking his pregnant wife to death, marrying a eunuch, and raising a pleasure palace over the fire-gutted centre of Rome. For those who like their tales of dynastic back-stabbing spiced up with poison and exotic extremes of perversion, the story might well seem to have everything.
Indeed – though for those who prefer their Rome without testicle-licking, Professor Beard may be the safer choice.
Both books open by considering the Romans’ strikingly unflattering myth of origin. The tale of Romulus and Remus is an odd one with which to celebrate the founding of a great city, involving as it does a rape, an unwanted pregnancy, a bungled attempt at infanticide and a successful fratricide. But as Holland comments, non-Romans “found it all too plausible. That Romulus had been fathered by Mars, the god of war, and suckled by a she-wolf appeared – to those brought into bruising contact with his descendants – to explain much about the Roman character.” As the Byzantine emperor Justin observed of his Roman neighbours, “It is only to be expected that they should all of them have the hearts of wolves. They are inveterately thirsty for blood, and insatiable in their greed. Their lusting after power and riches has no limits!”
Both authors then consider the early kings whose tyrannical excesses led the Romans for hundreds of years to refuse to allow supreme power to remain with any single ruler, and caused them instead to embrace a republican form of government in which supreme power long rested with Senatus Populus Que Romanus – “the Senate and People of Rome” – the SPQR of Beard’s title.
It is only with the pivotal moment of the rise of Augustus, however, that the mists of mythology clear and both books fully come alive. It is a story so familiar from drama and fiction, from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra through I, Claudius and Caligula to HBO’s Rome – indeed, even the Asterix comics – that it comes as something of a surprise to see how closely the lineaments of the tales we have followed since childhood resemble the hard reality of recorded history.
For Holland, Augustus is the small-town gangster who rises from a relatively obscure background to become Julius Caesar’s adopted son. He portrays a chillingly ruthless figure whose rise to become the first emperor of Rome involved using the murder of Caesar as his springboard into power-gathering a party around him and carefully orchestrating a series of assassinations by his illegal private army of thugs and hitmen, “a harvest of aristocratic heads” that culminated in the bloodiest civil war of antiquity. This reached its murderous climax on the fields of Philippi, where in 42BC he finally defeated Caesar’s enemies, the champions of the Republic, in a battle in which it has been estimated “that a quarter of all [Roman] citizens of military age fought on one side or the other”. Having come to power with the assistance of his partners in the Triumvirate, Marc Antony and Lepidus, he then turned on them and seized absolute power following his victory in the Battle of Actium and the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra.
Beard is more admiring of this mesmerising man who dominated the Mediterranean world for nearly half a century, and admits to remaining baffled by such a complex and contradictory figure. She quotes his 4th-century successor Julian the Apostate, who likened him to “a chameleon . . . a tricky old reptile continually changing colour . . . one minute gloomy and sombre, the next parading all the charms of the goddess of love . . . enigmatic, slippery and evasive”.
The tall and godlike figure we see in his still instantly recognisable, mass-produced statues, industriously distributed around the empire, seems to have borne only a passing resemblance to the real man, who, according to his contemporaries, was a frail hypochondriac who wore platform shoes to mask his shortness, and had unkempt hair, bad teeth, “poor spelling . . . terror of thunderstorms and [a] habit of wearing four tunics and a vest under his toga in the winter”. Among his final words to the friends who assembled at his bedside as he was dying was “a characteristically shifty” quotation from a Greek comedy: “If I have played my part well, then give me applause.”
“What kind of act had he been playing all those years?” Beard asks. “Where was the real Augustus? How Augustus managed to recast so much of the political landscape of Rome, how he managed to get his own way for more than forty years, and with what support, is still puzzling.”
Augustus, widely seen as Rome’s greatest emperor, highlights the problem we have with almost all these towering monsters: do we regard them as “great”, for the way they bestrode the world, bringing with the Pax Romana prosperity and civilisation to the entire Mediterranean region? Or do we see them as primal models of the corruption and depravity that autocracy and tyranny necessarily bring in their wake, as well as being templates for the violence and exploitation of later centuries of European imperialism? The Romans clearly believed in their own mission civilisatrice: as Pliny put it, it was Rome’s destiny “to unite previously distinct powers, to soften patterns of behaviour, to provide a common language to the numerous peoples hitherto divided by their savage tongues, to civilise mankind – in short, to unite the peoples of the world, and to serve them as their fatherland”. Yet the brutality of Roman colonialism was often extraordinary, and the casualties enormous even by modern standards. Julius Caesar’s campaigns in Gaul, for instance, have often been compared to a genocide. “A million people, so it was said, perished over their course,” Holland writes. “A million more were enslaved.”
In both books, the reader is repeatedly struck by the ease with which the very human figures of the Julio-Claudians move from being totally familiar, and motivated by thoroughly modern aspirations and desires, to moments when they suddenly become utterly alien. Beard is especially good on this. From one point of view, she writes, “. . . everything seems reassuringly familiar: there are conversations going on that we almost join, about the nature of freedom or problems of sex; there are buildings and monuments we recognise and family life lived out in ways we understand, with all their troublesome adolescents; and there are jokes that we ‘get’.” One of the great concerns of imperial Rome was immigration and the displacement by war of vast numbers of foreign refugees into its urban centres: these are issues which are still current in politics today. But, viewed through another peephole, the Roman world sometimes appears terrifyingly vicious and alien, as Beard explains:
That means not just the slavery, the filth (there was hardly any such thing as refuse collection in ancient Rome), the human slaughter in the arena and the death from illnesses whose cure we now take for granted; but also the newborn babies thrown away on rubbish heaps, the child brides and the flamboyant eunuch priests.
Holland usually stresses the parallels with the modern world in the orchestrated theatricality of the emperors’ public performances, as well as the degree of international celebrity enjoyed by the Roman royal family. “No household in history,” he writes, “had ever before been so squarely in the public eye as that of Augustus.”
The fashions and hairstyles of its most prominent members, reproduced in exquisite detail by sculptors across the Empire, set trends from Syria to Spain. Their achievements were celebrated in spectacular showy monuments, their scandals repeated with relish from seaport to seaport. Propaganda and gossip, each feeding off the other, gave to the dynasty of Augustus a celebrity that ranked, for the first time, as continent-spanning.
Even their sexual lives can appear proto-modern. Augustus’s daughter Julia is a strikingly familiar figure: after her father divorced her mother, Scribonia, she grew alienated from both her father and her stepmother, Livia, and, like some unhappy child of Hollywood, or renegade royalty, took refuge in frenzied adultery. Yet as the depravity of the Julio-Claudians grows ever more bizarre, we again find ourselves in an alien world: the elderly retired Tiberius turns the entire island of Capri into the Roman equivalent of the Playboy Mansion, where youths from leading families are made to enact scenes from the lives of the gods, “obliged to pose as prostitutes, to hawk for business like the lowest class of sex worker, to perform sometimes three or four at a time”. Nero simulates “criminals being torn to pieces” by binding the objects of his lust to stakes, then releasing himself from a cage, “dressed in the skins of a wild animal”, and performing acts of oral sex on his victims.
If Beard is the considered Augustus of classical studies in this country and Holland the Mark Antony, with one eye firmly on the imperial bedroom, the third member of this literary triumvirate must be Peter Frankopan, whose epic study of East-West cross-fertilisation, The Silk Roads, was published in August. Frankopan, however, is no weak Lepidus: his is a book of dazzling range and ambition which, in its chapters on the Roman empire, illuminates a side of Romanitas that does not emerge in Beard’s and Holland’s more Eurocentric work: the degree to which the Roman empire was funded, softened and to some extent civilised by its eastern and Asiatic provinces. It was here, Frankopan writes, quoting the poet-historian Sallust, that “Roman soldiers came of age . . . learned how to make love, to be drunk, to enjoy statues, pictures and art”. It was, after all, Egyptian grain that fed the empire, Levantine taxes that paid for its monuments, and eastern silks that revealingly wrapped its society woman. And it was, finally, an eastern religion, Christianity, that replaced its ancient gods.
It is also Frankopan who gives us a fabulously apocalyptic vision – absent from these books by Beard and Holland – of the fall of Rome to Alaric’s Visigoths in 410AD, and an even more terrifying visitation from the “seedbed of evil”, the Huns. The picture he paints is a sort of classical version of Mad Max: Fury Road. The Huns, he shows, were creatures from a nightmare: dressed in robes made of field mice skins stitched together, they ate raw meat, “partially warmed by being placed between their thighs”. But it was not just that they were “exceedingly savage”; they looked terrifying, too. The Huns performed cranial deformation on their young, “flatten[ing] the frontal and occipal bones by applying pressure [so that] the head grew in a pointed manner”, as well as “scarring the cheeks of infant boys when they were born . . . They spent so long on horseback that their bodies were grotesquely deformed; and they looked like animals standing on their hind legs.”
These were the men who brought down Rome and ended the glory of the Caesars. At long last, the Romans had met their match – a people even more ruthless, brutal and lupine than themselves. 
William Dalrymple’s “Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan” is published by Bloomsbury
SPQR: a History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard is published by Profile Books (£25, 606pp)
Dynasty: the Rise and Fall of the House of Ceaser by Tom Holland is published by Little, Brown (£25, 483pp)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Racial Hysteria Triumphs on College Camous

By Heather Mac Donald
November 9, 2015

Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7-day hunger strike, is greeted by the crowd of students on the campus of University of Missouri – Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The pathological narcissism of American college students has found a potentially devastating new source of power in the sports-industrial complex. University of Missouri president Timothy Wolfe resigned Monday morning in the face of a threatened boycott by black football players of an upcoming game. Wolfe’s alleged sin was an insufficient appreciation for the “systematic oppression” experienced by students of color at the university. Campus agitators also alleged that racial slurs had been directed at black students and feces had been smeared in the shape of a swastika in a dormitory.

The university’s board of overseers had convened in emergency session to discuss the football boycott; Wolfe resigned before meeting with them, issuing the standard mea culpa: “I take full responsibility for this frustration, and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.” According to the New York Times, the university could have lost more than $1 million had it forfeited its football game with Brigham Young University on Saturday. A group called “Concerned Faculty” had walked off the job in solidarity with the student activists and was calling on other faculty to join them.

There is no evidence that the University of Missouri denies equal opportunity to its black students; those black students, like every other student on campus, are surrounded by lavish educational resources, available to them for the asking on a color-blind basis. The university’s faculty and administrators are surely among the most prejudice-free, well-meaning group of adults in human history. Thousands of Chinese students would undoubtedly do anything for the chance to be “systemically oppressed” by the University of Missouri’s stupendous laboratories and research funding.

But Missouri’s political class has embraced the patent delusion that the university is rife with racism. Governor Jay Nixon called on college officials to “ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.” In truth, the only barrier to such pursuit is a student’s own lack of academic preparedness, should he have been admitted under a racial preference. Mayor Bob McDavid of Columbia, Missouri—where the university is located—told CNN after Wolfe’s resignation that he congratulated the “students on achieving their goal.” McDavid insisted that we need to “deal with the pain of minorities” and that we will be “done” only “when every student has the freedom to fulfill his dream unimpeded by racial epithets.”

The precedent set here is monumental. Any student protester who can convince his college’s football or basketball team to threaten a strike will be able to bring administrators to their knees even more quickly than usual. Administrative cupidity and alumni fanaticism have turned the collegiate sports-industrial complex into the most powerful force on campus. If that behemoth can be reliably persuaded to support the latest racial agitation—and there will often be a critical mass of black athletes to appeal to—then an already supine leadership class will discard the reality principle once and for all.

Even without the sports boycott tool, however, the takeover of the college campus by racial hysteria appears all but complete. A video of a black female student at Yale screaming and cursing at her college master is a chilling portrait of self-engrossed, bathos-filled entitlement that has never been corrected by truth, much less restrained by manners: “Be quiet!” she shrieks at the frozen administrator, “Why the fuck did you accept the [master] position,” she continues at full, self-righteous cry. (The student’s tirade was occasioned by a statement issued by the master’s wife disagreeing with Yale’s admonition to students not to wear “culturally appropriative” Halloween costumes.) If anyone has reprimanded the student for her grotesque lack of courtesy, Yale is not letting on. Instead, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, issued the usual fawning declaration of sorrow for the tribulations experienced by Yale’s privileged minority students: “Their concerns and cries for help made clear that some students find life on our campus profoundly difficult.”

This shocking video is a glimpse of the future—the boorish, hate-filled Cultural Revolution come to America. Colleges have capitulated completely to delusional victimology; unless employers are willing to stand up against the coddled products of the academic hothouse, we may all soon be living in a world of screaming, monomaniacal victims.

Attacking Our Founding Fathers

The truth about the Founding Fathers' views on slavery
By Walter Williams
November 10, 2015
Scene at the Signing of the Constitution (Howard Chandler Christy, 31 December 1939)
Many of my columns speak highly of the wisdom of our nation's founders. Every once in a while, I receive an ugly letter sarcastically asking what do I think of their wisdom declaring blacks "three-fifths of a human." It's difficult to tell whether such a question is prompted by ignorance or is the fruit of an ongoing agenda to undermine American greatness. Let's examine some facts about our founders and slavery.
At the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, slaves were 40 percent of the population of southern colonies. Apportionment in the House of Representatives and the number of electoral votes each state would have in presidential elections would be based upon population. Southern colonies wanted slaves to be counted as one person. Northern delegates to the convention, and those opposed to slavery, wanted to count only free persons of each state for the purposes of apportionment in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. The compromise reached was that each slave would be counted as only three-fifths of a person. 
If the convention delegates had not reached this compromise, the Constitution would have not been ratified and there would not have been a Union. My questions to those who criticize the three-fifths clause are twofold. Would it have been preferable for the southern states to be able to count slaves as whole persons, thereby giving southern states more political power? Would blacks have been better off without constitutional ratification and a Union made possible by the three-fifths compromise? In other words, would blacks have been better off with northern states having gone their way and southern states having gone theirs and, as a consequence, no U.S. Constitution and no Union? Abolitionist Frederick Douglass understood the compromise, saying that the three-fifths clause was "a downright disability laid upon the slaveholding states" that deprived them of "two-fifths of their natural basis of representation."
Patrick Henry expressed the reality of the three-fifths compromise, saying, "As much as I deplore slavery, I see that prudence forbids its abolition." With union, Congress at least had the power to abolish slave trade in 1808.
According to delegate James Wilson, many believed the anti-slave-trade clause laid "the foundation for banishing slavery out of this country."
Many founders openly condemned slavery. George Washington said, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it." John Adams: "Every measure of prudence ... ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. ... I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in ... abhorrence." James Madison: "We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man." Benjamin Franklin: "Slavery is ... an atrocious debasement of human nature." Franklin, after visiting a black school, said, "I ... have conceived a higher opinion of the natural capacities of the black race than I had ever before entertained." Alexander Hamilton's judgment was the same: "Their natural faculties are probably as good as ours." John Jay wrote: "It is much to be wished that slavery may be abolished. The honour of the States, as well as justice and humanity, in my opinion, loudly call upon them to emancipate these unhappy people. To contend for our own liberty, and to deny that blessing to others, involves an inconsistency not to be excused."
Completely ignored in most discussions of slavery is the fact that slavery was mankind's standard fare throughout history. Centuries before blacks were enslaved Europeans were enslaved. The word slavery comes from Slavs, referring to the Slavic people, who were early slaves. What distinguishes the West, namely Britain and the U.S., from other nations are the extraordinary measures they took to abolish slavery.