Friday, May 19, 2017


May 18, 2017
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Media fake news is everywhere.
No, the new health care bill does not treat rape as a pre-existing condition and Republicans did not celebrate its passage with beer. 
The latest media outrage is driven by a Washington Post story about intelligence disclosures based on claims by anonymous sources. The Post’s big hit pieces are mainly based on anonymous sources.
Its latest hit piece runs a quote from, “a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials.” That’s an anonymous source quoting hearsay from other anonymous sources.
This isn’t journalism. It’s a joke.
Last week, the Washington Post unveiled a story based on “the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House.” The fake news story falsely claimed that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to resign. 
Rod had a simple answer when asked about that piece of fake news. “No.”
So much for 30 anonymous sources and for the Washington Post’s credibility.  But the media keeps shoveling out pieces based on anonymous sources and confirmed by anonymous sources while ignoring the disavowals by those public officials who are willing to go on the record. 
The Comey memo story is based on, according to the New York Times, “two people who read the memo.” And then "one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter."
And his dog. 
The supposed memo contradicts Comey’s own testimony to Congress under oath. 
The Times hasn’t seen the memo. No one has seen the memo except the anonymous sources that may or may not exist. The media’s fake news infrastructure relies heavily on anonymous sources. And anonymous sources are the media’s way of saying, “Just trust us.”
The question is why would anyone trust the media? 
Comey fake news is popular on the left because it is convinced that he is the key to reversing their election defeat. Recently CNN got its fake news fingers burned with a story claiming that the former FBI Director had asked for more resources for the Russia investigation before he was fired.
Where did CNN get its story from? Anonymous sources. Or, as the story put it, “two sources familiar with the discussion.” 
Sources “familiar with the discussion” is up there with “a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials.” And their neighbor’s dog who barks exclusively to CNN.
Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe both shot down CNN’s fake news.  CNN’s headline was, “New Acting FBI Director Contradicts White House on Comey.” Its fake news was referenced only as, “Amid reports that Comey had asked for more resources for the Russia investigation, McCabe testified that he believed the bureau had adequate resources to complete the job.” 
CNN did not acknowledge that the fake reports had come from it. It phrased it in passive and vague language. And it left out a crucial part of McCabe’s response. “When we need resources, we make those requests here. So I'm not aware of that request and it's not consistent with my understanding of how we request additional resources. That said, we don't typically request resources for an individual case. And as I mentioned, I strongly believe that the Russian investigation is adequately resourced.”
CNN didn’t just push fake news. It covered up its crime. And it’s the cover-up that proves the crime.
Media outlets like CNN and the Washington Post often knows that they’re pushing lies. WaPo’s fact checkers shot down the claim that rape is a pre-existing condition. But the paper ran a piece titled, “I Was Raped. Thanks to Republicans, I Could Be Denied Insurance.” The editors know quite well which of these pieces will have more of an impact. 
But the Post has a dozen stories mentioning the Comey resources fake news.  
The Washington Post isn’t in the news business. After its takeover by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, it’s in the business of manufacturing viral Trump hit pieces. It got a viral fake news hit with its lie that Press Secretary Sean Spicer was hiding in the bushes to avoid them. There was an equally snarky correction issued that was largely irrelevant. Having manufactured a piece of fake news fit for a Saturday Night Live skit, the Post then dutifully reported  on the Saturday Night Live skit featuring its fake news item.
In the past there would have been a world of difference between the Washington Post and Saturday Night Live. Today they are part of the same lefty echo chamber. The media, all the various parts of it, is now one big influence operation. The machine works by developing and taking fake news attacks viral. WaPo and SNL are in the same business. There isn’t even much of a stylistic difference.
The Washington Post's "Trump fired Comey because he's taller" could easily have come from Saturday Night Live, The Onion or the Daily Show. 
The truly damning epitaph of American journalism is that there isn't much of a difference. Saturday Night Live isn’t doing comedy and the Washington Post isn’t doing journalism. They’re both manufacturing viral Trump attacks.
Getting your news from the Washington Post is as worthless as getting it from Saturday Night Live. 
While more respectable papers like the Post and the Times occupy the top rung of the fake news ladder, CNN has become the National Enquirer of Trump bashing. No story is too petty or fake to get airtime or site space. Recentexamples that have gone viral include, “Is the President Afraid of Stairs” and “President Gets 2 Scoops of Ice Cream, Everyone Else 1.”
CNN’s fake news is constantly being shot down by the facts. But it just doubles down on its lies.
 “We will not insult your intelligence by pretending it’s legitimate. Nor will we aid and abet the people trying to misinform you," CNN's Don Lemon had blustered when trying to suppress the Rice spying story.
CNN insults the intelligence of its viewers every minute that they watch it. It offers up a stream of misinformation while trying to suppress legitimate news. Much of this misinformation takes the form of spreading lefty fake news memes whether it’s rape as a preexisting condition or Republican beer.
And even when corrections appear, they exist only for the purpose of plausible deniability. The original fake news gets rolled into multiple news stories, blog posts and editorials that never get updated or corrected. 
And even if they were to be, the damage would be done. That’s the way fake news works. 
CNN and the Washington Post are throwing mud and assuming that some of it will stick. And even when it’s officially corrected, it still sticks around. Months later, the Post site still carries an uncorrected reference to the AP fake news story which claimed that Trump had threatened to invade Mexico even after it had been denied by both governments and had been pulled for being unverifiable. 
It’s a safe bet that rape as a preexisting condition and Comey’s Russian resources will also stick around.
“Applying the fake news label is an attack on the truth. It’s reckless and corrosive to democracy, and elected officials attempt to deliberately and systematically erode the credibility of news organizations because they object to factually accurate reporting," the CEO of the Washington Post insisted last month.
But it’s the media that is reckless and corrosive to democracy. It has eroded its credibility with fake news. Factually accurate reporting has become too difficult and unrewarding. The idea of waiting months or years for an investigation to pay off is alien to the nanosecond news cycle. That’s why every fake Trump scandal is the new Watergate. And fake news is constantly being manufactured. 
News organizations are throwing away their credibility to reverse the results of a democratic election. And it’s not only their own credibility that they are throwing away. The marketplace of ideas was based on reason and objectivity. Without them, there was no longer a public square we could all live in. 
Media bias began to corrupt the marketplace. But bias meant the selective reporting of facts. Falsehoods could creep in. But generally the media would not just casually run stories that were completely false. It would happen from time to time. But it wouldn’t be a constant practice.
And then a tipping point was reached. 
Historians of journalism will argue over when the dam broke. Was it the age of Obama or of Trump? But the day arrived. The sun rose over the CNN Center in Atlanta, the K Street digs of the Washington Post and the offices of other media organizations. And it was no longer a question of selective reporting. We were no longer arguing about the injection of opinion into news stories or journalistic double standards. 
The age of fake news had arrived. We no longer have a free press. All we have is a fake press.

Roger Ailes, One of a Kind

The Fox News founder shaped his times more than almost anyone.

By Jonah Goldberg — May 19, 2017
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Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations, answers questions during a panel discussion at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, California, U.S. on July 24, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

On my first visit to Roger Ailes’s office, I half expected to find him petting an enormous white tiger, perhaps feeding it from a bowl of raw meat. After all, this was at the height of Ailes’s reputation as a kind of James Bond villain (and well before the sexual harassment scandals that ended his career).

That wasn’t his reputation in-house at Fox News (where I am a contributor), of course. He elicited enormous affection and loyalty from most of the people who worked for him, particularly those he plucked from obscurity and turned into superstars. But in a field that trails only Hollywood and pop music for its capacity to create divas, Ailes understood that fear — which tends to encourage humility — was a useful tool for managing superstars.

Over the course of the meeting it became clear that Ailes was sizing me up for a project he thought I might be right for. (I wasn’t.) His language was alternately ribald and cerebral. I realized that there was a brilliance behind the bawdiness; it helped him take the measure of people. I’ve often joked that Ailes was an odd mix of Boss Hogg and Aristotle.

But Aristotle is probably the wrong comparison. Aristophenes — the Greek playwright — is a better fit.

Ailes was proud of the fact that he got his start in theater. He told me that he brought that sensibility to television. TV is an entertainment medium, one that appeals to the rational parts of our brains but also to the emotional parts. This was not an insight unique to Ailes, but he understood better than most that if the emotional part wasn’t working (what people see), people wouldn’t pay attention to the rational parts (what people said). 

That’s why Ailes famously watched the news on mute when he was assessing talent. “If there was nothing happening on screen in the way the host looked or moved that made me interested enough to stand up and turn the sound up, then I knew that the host was not a great television performer,” Ailes wrote in his book, You Are the Message.

Of course, he took his understanding of human nature and drama to politics as well. Discovered by Richard Nixon, Ailes went on to become one of the most influential political consultants in American history.

When Ailes started Fox News, the joke goes, he discovered an underserved niche in television news: half the country. 

Most of the people who decry Fox News as “right wing” either don’t watch it or cherry-pick quotes from the opinion side. The truth is, Fox was always more nationalist and populist — patriotic, if you prefer — than ideologically conservative. Ailes had a healthy (and sometimes unhealthy) contempt for the journalistic establishment, which by the early 1990s had become ideologically cosmopolitan.

As a broad generalization, the elite media saw itself as a kind of transatlantic guild, with at best loose attachments to this country, and a dim and cynical view toward anything that smacked of not just conservatism, but patriotism and traditionalism.

For example, in 1987, Columbia University held a symposium with political, journalistic, and military leaders. The journalists were asked if they’d agree to embed with an enemy army unit. They said they would. When asked if they would tip off Americans about to be ambushed, then-ABC News anchor Peter Jennings agonized and finally said he would. Mike Wallace of CBS chastised Jennings, saying it was “another story. . . . You don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter!” Jennings switched his position.

Ailes not only had contempt for this kind of thing, he understood that many decent Americans shared it. “My first qualification” for running Fox News, Ailes once said, “is I didn’t go to Columbia Journalism School.”

Dramaturgically, Ailes’s vision for Fox News was predicated on the belief that America is a decent country — particularly in the vast middle where coastal elites do not dominate — and that there is no inherent contradiction between good reporting and the sort of patriotism common to journalists such as Walter Cronkite and Ernie Pyle.

Fox’s populism was an easy fit with American conservatism for two decades because populist indictments of liberal elites and conservative ones overlap a great deal. In the era of Donald Trump that overlap has been attenuated somewhat, and that has been a challenge at Fox — and beyond.

Ailes, a man of demons and angels, brilliance and bawdiness, shaped his times more than almost anyone. It would have been fascinating to hear his ultimate answer to that challenge.

— Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him by e-mail at or via Twitter @JonahNRO. Copyright © 2017 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Thursday, May 18, 2017

So When Exactly Did Bill Ayers and Barack Obama Meet?

By Jack Cashill
May 18, 2017

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Bill Ayers and Barack Obama

In his massive new biography about Barack Obama's pre-presidential years, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Garrow makes hash out of the lie that preserved Obama's candidacy in 2008.  That said, he pulls back from the implications of his own revelations to protect what remains of Obama's literary reputation.

In the way of background, during an April 2008 presidential primary debate on ABC, George Stephanopoulos said about Bill Ayers and pals, "They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings.  He's never apologized for that."  He then asked Obama, "Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?"
"This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood," said Obama dismissively of Ayers.  "He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from [sic] on a regular basis."

The question fueled what the L.A. Times called a "storm of criticism."  The rage was directed not at Obama for his dissembling, but at Stephanopoulos for his effrontery.  How dare he ask Obama about an "obscure sixties radical"? asked Michael Grunwald of Time.  The media chose not to follow up.  If they had, Hillary Clinton would have won the nomination.

Garrow has come along nine years too late to do Clinton any good.  But after ten years researching this book and interviewing a thousand people, he reveals just how strong was the relationship between Ayers and Obama and how deep was the lie that protected it. Unfortunately, there is an element of that lie Garrow himself insists on protecting.

Garrow sticks to the story that state senator Alice Palmer asked Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn to host a fundraiser for state Senate candidate Obama in the fall of 1995 – as if they needed to be asked.

Then Garrow begins adding information.  "After that gathering, Barack and Michelle began to see a great deal more of not only Bill and Bernardine but also their three closest friends, Rashid and Mona Khalidi and Carole Travis."  Rashid Khalidi was a Palestinian native of radical bent then living in Chicago.

According to Garrow, Obama did the following during the next eight years.  He organized a panel on juvenile justice based on a new book by Ayers.  He served on the Woods Fund board with Ayers.  He joined Ayers for a panel discussion, "Intellectuals, Who Need Them."  Up until the time of his 2004 Senate run, he and Michelle attended "the almost nightly dinners" held with Ayers, Dohrn, and the Khalidis.

Ayers obviously meant a whole lot more to Obama than "a guy who lives in the neighborhood" might be expected to.  But how much more?  Khalidi did not shy from giving credit where it was due.   He began the acknowledgment section of his 2004 
book, Resurrecting Empire, with a tribute to his own literary muse: "First, chronologically and in other ways comes Bill Ayers."  Khalidi had no reason to be coy about this relationship. Obama obviously did.

Garrow obliges him.  Although he concedes that Ayers and Obama both dated the same woman, Genevieve Cook, in New York City in 1984, he does not try to connect the dots.  Nor does Garrow try to connect dots when Ayers follows Obama to Chicago and both work on educational reform with the same people during the years 1987-1988.

No, Garrow specifically traces the first meeting of Ayers and Obama to a time in 1995 immediately after pre-publication galleys for Obama's book Dreams from My Father arrived in Chicago – in other words, too late for Ayers to have helped at all with the book's writing. This is way too convenient.

For all his research, Garrow refuses to ask what Bill Ayers saw in Obama.  The answer may well be found in a 1994 essay that Ayers co-authored, whose title befits a former merchant seaman: "Navigating a restless sea: The continuing struggle to achieve a decent education for African American youngsters in Chicago."

In "Navigating," Ayers and his nominal co-author, former New Communist Movement leader Michael Klonsky, offer a detailed analysis of the Chicago school system and a discussion of potential reforms.

Garrow cites "Navigating" twice but chooses not to see the obvious – namely, that Obama offers a nearly identical analysis in Dreams.  This analysis was completed in the same year, 1994, as "Navigating."  The particular value Obama brought to the relationship can be found not in the many points on which Ayers and the Obama of Dreams agree, but rather on the one point on which they at least seem to differ.

First, the areas of agreement.  Dreams tells us that Chicago's schools "remained in a state of perpetual crisis."  In "Navigating," the situation is described as a "perpetual state of conflict, paralysis, and stagnation." 

Dreams describes a "bloated bureaucracy" as one source of the problem and "a teachers' union that went out on strike at least once every two years" as another.  "Navigating" affirms that the "bureaucracy has grown steadily in the past decade" and confirms Dreams' math, citing a "ninth walkout in 18 years."

"Self-interest" is at the heart of the bureaucratic mess described in Dreams.  "Navigating" clarifies that "survivalist bureaucracies" struggle for power "to protect their narrow, self-interested positions against any common, public purpose."

In Dreams, educators "defend the status quo" and blame problems on "impossible" children and their "bad parents."  In "Navigating," an educator serves as "apologist for the status quo" and "place[s] the blame for school failure on children and families."

Another challenge cited in Dreams is "an indifferent state legislature."  Ayers cites an "unwillingness on [the legislature's] part to adequately fund Chicago schools."

In Dreams, "school reform" is the only solution Obama envisions.  In "Navigating," Ayers has no greater passion than "reforming Chicago's schools."  In fact, in that same year this article was written, 1994, the ambitious Ayers co-authored the proposal that would win for Chicago a $49.2-million Annenberg Challenge grant.  Obama would later be made its chair.

In Dreams, the thoughts on educational reform are channeled through the soulful voice of two older black Americans.  The first, Moran, a composite, tells Obama, "The public school system is not about educating black children.  Never has been.  Inner-city schools are about social control.  Period."

"Social control" is an Ayers obsession.  "The message to Black people was that at any moment and for any reason whatsoever your life or the lives of your loved ones could be randomly snuffed out," he writes in his memoir, Fugitive Days.  "The intention was social control through random intimidation and unpredictable violence."

In Dreams, Moran elaborates on the fate of the black student: "From day one, what's he learning about? Someone else's history. Someone else's culture. Not only that, this culture he's supposed to learn is the same culture that's systematically rejected him, denied his humanity."

Precociously Afrocentric, Ayers has been making the same case since he first got involved in education.  "The public schools' idea of integration is racist," he said early in his career.  "They put Negro children into school and demand that they give up their Negro culture. Negro children are forced to speak, behave, and react according to middle-class standards."

The second of Obama's educational mentors is "Frank," Obama's mentor in Hawaii, the Communist Frank Marshall Davis.  Frank tells the college-bound Obama, "You're not going to college to get educated. You're going there to get trained. They'll train you to forget what it is that you already know."

Ayers makes the identical distinction in his 1993 book To Teach.  "Education is for self-activating explorers of life, for those who would challenge fate, for doers and activists, for citizens. Training is for slaves, for loyal subjects, for tractable employees, for willing consumers, for obedient soldiers." 

By 1994, Ayers had been preaching educational reform for nearly thirty years, but one major force still intimidated him: Chicago's sluggish and self-interested educational bureaucracy. 
Over the years, this bureaucracy had morphed, as Ayers notes in "Navigating," from being a bastion of "[w]hite political patronage and racism" to being "a source of Black professional jobs, contracts, and, yes, patronage."  For reasons both ideological and practical, Ayers wilted in the face of this bureaucracy.

On this racially tender issue, not so strangely, Dreams tells a different story.  Obama openly chides the black "teachers, principals, and district superintendents," who "knew too much" to send their own children to public school.

"The biggest source of resistance was rarely talked about," Obama continues – namely, that these educators "would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before." 

As to the claims of these educators, affirmed in "Navigating," that "cutbacks in the bureaucracy were part of a white effort to wrest back control," the author of Dreams says, teasingly, "[N]ot so true."

"Not so true"?  In these three words one can anticipate Obama's potential return on Ayers's investment.  Simply put, as a black American, Obama could address sensitive racial issues in ways Ayers could not.  Ayers surely recognized this.

To advance Obama's career, it appears, Ayers finished up Dreams, got Obama appointed chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant, and launched his state Senate run, all in 1994-1995. 

The political calculus behind that ambition helped shape Dreams.  This was a careful book written to jump-start the career of a deeply indebted and highly malleable Chicago politician, maybe even a mayor, one who saw the world through white eyes, as Ayers did, but one who could articulate the city's real problems in words that Ayers could not.

This would have worked out much better for Ayers if Obama had contented himself with Chicago.  As history records, he did not.

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By Ann Coulter
May 17, 2017

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Neal Kaytal: “He could say, like President Bush did right after September 11th, ‘The face of Terror is not the true face of Islam, that’s not what Islam is about, Islam is Peace.’

Every time I try to be mad at Trump, the media reel me back in by launching some ridiculous, unprovoked attack. This time, it's the fake news story about Trump "leaking" classified information to the Russkies. 

The president can't "leak" classified information: It's his to declassify. 

The big secret Trump allegedly revealed is that Muslims might try to blow up a plane with laptops. I already knew that. I read it in The New York Times. 

The New York Times, March 22, 2017: 

Devices Banned on Some Planes Over ISIS Fears

"Intelligence showing that the Islamic State is developing a bomb hidden in portable electronics spurred the United States and Britain on Tuesday to bar passengers from airports in a total of 10 Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptop computers ... two senior American counterterrorism officials said. ..."

This totally secret, Deep Throat-level information has been widely published in thousands of news outlets throughout the civilized world. There was yet another round of stories last week with the update that the U.S. is considering a laptop ban on flights from Europe as well. 

Hey, you know what might make more sense than banning laptops? How about banning Muslims? 

Bear with me here, I'm still working out the details, but I'm almost certain a federal judge in Hawaii can't block a president's temporary ban on Muslim immigration just because he's testy with Trump over some campaign statements. 

As Northwestern law professor Eugene Kontorovich explained in The Washington Post, courts have never examined a politician's campaign statements for improper motive, because 1) campaigns are not part of the deliberative process; and 2) to start doing so would open the door to "examinations of the entire lives of political officials whose motives may be relevant to legal questions."

Nonetheless, Kontorovich says, that is the legal argument being advanced against Trump's travel ban: "Trump is a bigot, and thus his winning presidential campaign in fact impeaches him from exercising key constitutional and statutory powers, such as administering the immigration laws." 

To preserve their judicial coup, this Monday, the 9th Circuit sent out the geriatric ward to hear an appeal of the Hawaii judge's absurd ruling. At their ages, there's a good chance the judges will be dead by the time the Supreme Court overturns them. 

Arguing against Trump's exercise of his constitutional and statutory powers was first-generation American, Neal Katyal. (There are plenty of 10th-generation America-haters. You couldn't get one of them to argue that we should end our country through mass immigration?) 

At oral argument before the three wheezing gargoyles, Katyal announced that, before enforcing federal immigration laws passed by generations of Democrats and Republicans working together in Congress, the president of the United States is required to profess: "Islam is peace." 

There's a new legal principle! 

Asked by one of the crypt-keepers if Trump is the only president who would be prohibited from issuing this precise travel ban because of his statements about Muslims, the smarmy, preening, pretentious Katyal answered: "I think the most important point is, if you don't say all these things, you never wind up with an executive order like this." 

As lawyers say: Nonresponsive! 

But as long as we're operating under these new rules for determining a U.S. president's rights and responsibilities, how about looking ateverything Trump has said about Muslims? 

For example, may the courts consider this quote from September 2015? 

Trump: "I love the Muslims. I think they are great people. ... Would I consider putting a Muslim-American in my Cabinet? Oh, absolutely. No problem with that." 

Lawyers like Katyal aren't telling the courts what Trump said; they're telling courts their own crazy interpretations of what Trump said. No liberal is capable of accurately reporting Trump's position because the left never understood his position in the first place. As Peter Thiel said, the media take Trump literally, but not seriously, while the people take him seriously, but not literally. 

After the San Bernardino terrorist attacks in December 2015, Trump made the perfectly reasonable suggestion that we curtail our breakneck importation of Muslims, some of whom periodically erupt in murderous violence. The media concluded: TRUMP HATES MUSLIMS! Nothing Trump or anyone else said could persuade them otherwise. 

Here's what Trump actually said: 

"What's happened is, we're out of control. We have no idea who's coming into our country. We have no idea if they love us or if they hate us. ... I have friends that are Muslims. They are great people. But they know we have a problem. They know we have a real problem. 'Cause something is going on. And we can't put up with it, folks. ... 

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. ... Where the hatred comes from and why -- we'll have to determine, we're going to have to figure it out. We have to figure it out. We can't live like this. It's going to get worse and worse. You're going to have more World Trade Centers. ..." 

Throughout the campaign, Trump supporters tried in vain to explain the so-called "Muslim ban" to a hostile media dead set on interpreting everything out of Trump's mouth in the ugliest possible way. For example, our general policy on Muslim immigration would be "No, thanks!" but there would be exceptions. So Charles Krauthammer can stop worrying about King Abdullah of Jordan. 

In March, Trump supporter Andy Dean told a dense CNN anchor: 

"He's talking about the culture of Islam in the Middle East. ... We love Muslims in America and they love us. Why? We have a great culture that respects women's rights. ... The thing about Muslims in the Middle East is they don't respect women's rights. If a woman wants to get a divorce in the Middle East, that woman could be killed. If you want to leave the religion of Islam in the Middle East, you can be killed. It's very real." 

To the same blockhead anchor, Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany had to fill in an edited quote the network had just shown of Trump: 

"It's important to know what happened 15 seconds later. Anderson Cooper said to him, 'Are you speaking of radical Islam or are you speaking of Islam?' He said radical; sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, though. So he did say radical Islam. He said it repeatedly during his campaign. He said, 'I have Muslim friends. I love the Muslim people.' ..." 

One of Trump's vast number of African-American supporters told HLN's Drew Pinksy: 

"I love what (Trump) is doing with the Muslims getting out of the country, because if they really knew what that was about -- if they knew that that was about freedom. It was about freedom versus enslavement." 

He's right. It's not about religion. It's not about nationality. It's about hitting the pause button on bringing in radical Islam's dysfunctional, misogynist, violent, exploding-airplane culture. 

The voters understood Trump. (At least some of us did -- barely enough of us to elect him president!) Liberals didn't. But now the courts are blocking Trump's exercise of presidential powers based on the left's own idiotic misinterpretations of what he said. 


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: 'Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet' by Lyndal Roper

26 June 2016
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Martin Luther burns Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull, Exsurge Domine, which threatened him with excommunication unless he recanted within a sixty day period. Luther refused to recant and responded instead by composing polemical tracts lashing out at the papacy and by publicly burning a copy of the bull on December 10, 1520. (Thumann)

Jesus Christ, a Jewish rabboni, or “teacher”, alarmed the Temple authorities by daring to come back to life. “OK, so we killed him, but only for three days”, runs the Jewish joke. Christianity began with a crucified body that went missing – but was it really a Jewish body? Martin Luther’s austere, reforming personality would not allow for Christ’s Jewish blood because Jews fed off satanic excrement. “The devil stuffs and squirts them so full that it overflows and swims out of every place,” Luther preached.
The German theologian was aware of the Hebraic roots of the Bible. (Matthew’s gospel, the most demonstrably “Jewish” of the four, seeks to show how every recorded act of Jesus is rooted in Jewish scripture.) Yet Luther called for German Jewry’s complete cultural eradication. Small wonder his antisemitism was co-opted by the Third Reich. His virulent Jew-baiting was no mere relic of Catholic antisemitism; it was integral to Protestant identity and a Protestant sense of election as God’s anointed people. As Lyndal Roper writes in her excellent and wholly absorbing biography, Luther argued repeatedly that Jews did not belong to the German race. Instead, they were a contaminant akin to the Nazis’ Fremdkörper – an alien body within the nation.
In many ways, Luther’s campaign to “restore” Biblical Christianity to 16th-century Germany was a battle for land and national supremacy. Catholics, no less than Jews, were seen by Luther as a supranational sect inimical to the sturdy bond of Germanic race and nationhood. His animus against Rome served not only to unite Germans against the papacy, but strengthened their territorial sovereignty. Protestant artist friends of Luther’s, such as Dürer, Holbein and Lucas Cranach, brazenly attacked the “burdens and abuses” of the pope, and thus helped to ensure that an impressive 50 of Germany’s 65 imperial states had adopted the Reformation by the late 16th century.
Unlike other biographers of Luther, Roper concentrates on the churchman’s childhood. Luther was born in Eisleben in northern Germany in 1483 but grew up in the provincial mining town of Mansfeld, a Dantean hellpit of smouldering slagheaps and furnaces. Luther’s father, a well-off smelting master, wanted young Martin to marry into money; instead, in a flagrant act of disobedience, he became a tonsured Augustinian monk. Monastic sexual continence did not suit the mine owner’s son, however, and in 1525 Luther married a former nun, Katharina von Bora. It was no longer a requirement for priests to be celibate.
In Roper’s analysis, Luther’s rebellion against his father anticipated his attacks against the pope. The “father” of the Roman church was a “sodomite” and a “transvestite”, who had subjected the Christian family to levels of “Satanic” abuse. Always a good hater, Luther scorned Marian veneration as a form of idolatary and the papal mass as a black sabbath by another name. Only the Bible –sola scriptura – could decide matters of liturgy and doctrine. The scriptures were superior to the authority of popes, councils, church fathers, the Virgin Mary and all those glittering blessed saints.
On 31 October 1517 Luther nailed (or perhaps glued: history is unclear) his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle church and so sparked off what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Understandably, Luther saw the Catholic sale of indulgences as a money-making scandal. Congregations were gulled into a false sense of salvation through the payment of fees. (“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”, ran a preacher’s advertising jingle.)
Luther was not the first to criticise the un-Christian mechanism of cash-for-salvation. Two centuries before him, in Decameron, Boccaccio had bemoaned the “clever rascality” of priests who hoodwinked their way to wealth and sexual gratification. Yet no church figure before Luther (certainly not in north Europe) had attacked Rome with such a ribald energy and moral indignation. In his pulpit rantings there was something of the huckster or cult leader. Luther was a man who looked “neither left nor right” in his polemics, says Roper: the reformation took the direction it did largely because of his authoritarian personality.
As the reformation spread across Europe, vernacular versions of the Bible became a useful weapon of protest. Luther’s translations of the Old and New Testaments loaded and vivified the German language with coinages that are still in use. Like William Tyndale in England, Luther daringly translated the Greek ekklesia as “community” or “congregation” rather than “church”. Congregational singing – an innovation of the Lutheran revolt – allowed the faithful to become participants in church worship rather than remain mute spectators. By the time he died in 1546, at the age of 62, Luther had set in motion a doctrinal and liturgical revolution that swept all before it; Europe would never be the same again.
Today, on the eve of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany is a unified democratic republic with a powerful Lutheran church that in some ways still disdains the Vatican and any whiff of ornament. Conceivably, Luther’s assault on Catholic Europe in 1517 helped to usher in modern secularism in the west. His frank attitude to human sexuality, too, was quite forward-looking and certainly a break from late medieval Christian asceticism. Roper’s biography, distinguished by the excellence of its writing and research, is the beginning of wisdom in all things Reformation, anti-Roman and, alas, proto-Hitlerite. Rarely has a church reformer presented such a dubious side.
Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet is published by Vintage (£30). Click here to buy it for £24

Reforming Spirit - Book Review: 'Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet' by Lyndal Roper


June 2016
First Public Monument of Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany
Get ready to start hearing a lot about Martin Luther. On 31 October 2017 it will be five hundred years since Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. In fact, as scholars have long known, and Lyndal Roper immediately concedes, whether Luther ever actually posted the Theses in this way is doubtful. But there is no doubting the momentous consequences of the confrontation with the Papacy sparked by Luther’s disquiet over the theology of indulgences. In Britain interest in the anniversary has so far been relatively muted – a contrast with Germany, where an entire decade of official commemorative events is accelerating towards its climax. But Luther undoubtedly belongs to that relatively select company of eminent dead foreigners of whom nearly all British people have heard, and he enjoys the reputation of being a force for historical good: a prophet of individual conscience and liberty against oppressive structures of power and inherited patterns of thinking.
Roper’s beautifully written life is not exactly an exercise in debunking, but she admits that Luther is a ‘difficult hero’. Her publishers’ claim that the book represents the first historical biography ‘for many decades’ is hyperbolic chutzpah, but it is certainly among the most interesting, provocative and original biographies of Luther to appear in recent years – one that tackles head on the challenge of entering into and exploring the interior life of its subject.
Half a century ago, the American psychoanalyst Erik Erikson’s bookYoung Man Luther argued that the trajectory of Luther’s career and the emergent shape of his revolutionary theology were explicable in terms of his troubled relationship with his father, Hans Luder. Among Luther scholars, and historians in general, Erikson’s book has come to exemplify a type of ‘psycho-history’ seen as reductionist and anachronistic.
Yet Roper, who has employed psychoanalytical insights fruitfully in previous work on gender and witchcraft, is unafraid to venture back into this disputed territory. She recognises the risk of ‘reducing major ideas to the outcomes of unconscious wishes or conflicts’, but nonetheless believes that the key to understanding Luther lies in his rebellion against the overbearing Luder, a master miner who wanted his son to become a lawyer, not a priest. Luther’s entry into the monastery was a kind of retreat into a matriarchal world of female saints, which ultimately failed to provide respite from cripplingAnfechtungen (spiritual doubts and temptations).
In the end, having clung to and outgrown a succession of substitute father figures (such as his confessor, Johann von Staupitz), Luther allowed God himself to become his father. The utter dependence expressed in his doctrine of justification by faith alone supplied the resolution to a relentless inner conflict. Luther, Roper thinks, could write compellingly about the ‘freedom’ of the Christian precisely because his own independence of self had been fought for so bitterly and at such great emotional cost.
It all makes perfect sense; maybe too much sense. One of the perils of psychoanalytical explanations of motive, in history as in life, is that once the initial hypothesis is accepted, occurrences can readily be made to conform to it. Yet Roper’s approach is consistently stimulating and exciting, serving to open up debate rather than close it down. She can certainly be absolved of one of the besetting sins of psycho-history, that of under-representing the social and cultural context of the subject. Roper paints remarkably vivid pictures of the mining community of Mansfeld, where Luther grew up, and of the university town of Wittenberg, where he was formed as a thinker and lived almost his entire adult life. Rather than the solitary genius of legend, we see a Luther deeply embedded in relationships and the sometimes petty social concerns of a small provincial town.
Roper’s Luther is a man of intense friendships and equally intense enmities. His openness, personal warmth and ‘breezy indifference to formalities’ are attractive characteristics. But he was also a man energised and motivated by opposition, who could be extraordinarily intransigent, authoritarian and unforgiving. Was this a blessing? Only ‘someone with an utter inability to see anyone else’s point of view’, writes Roper, ‘could have had the courage to take on the papacy’. The tragic course of Luther’s relationship with Andreas Karlstadt, loyal disciple turned bitter critic, is traced in rich and moving detail. Luther had a tendency, extreme even for his age, to personalise theological disagreements and, since he identified his own cause so closely with Christ’s, to see opponents as literally demonic. It led him to misunderstand the causes of the great peasant risings of 1524–5 and to call for the punishment of rebels in terms shocking even to contemporaries, let alone sensitive liberals today.
Nor does Roper tiptoe around the most controversial aspect of Luther’s thought: his visceral anti-Semitism. This is often regarded as either a typical prejudice of the era or as an unfortunate peculiarity of embittered old age. Roper unsparingly documents how hostility to Jews was a leitmotif of Luther’s career, going beyond the conventional anti-Semitism of contemporaries, Catholic and Protestant. It was not incidental but central to his theology: ‘true Christians’ (in other words, Luther’s followers) were the new chosen people of God; Jews had to be displaced, disparaged, even destroyed. Luther’s calls for the burning of synagogues and Talmuds were nothing less than ‘a programme of complete cultural eradication’.
This is to come close to resurrecting another mid-20th-century theme: the argument that Luther was a progenitor of the Holocaust. Roper does not quite say so, though she is not shy of asserting that Luther’s top-down view of political authority – a product of his psychological dependence on God as father, and of his upbringing in a princely territory rather than a self-governing town – ‘provided the theological underpinnings of the accommodation many Lutherans would reach centuries later with the Nazi regime’.
Luther viewed a Christian as simul justus et peccator (‘at the same time justified, and a sinner’). It is appropriate, therefore, that Roper regards this authoritarian figure as also, paradoxically, a prophet of liberation. He never exhibited the instinctive revulsion for female bodies felt by many monks (was that because he grew up with younger sisters?) and he came to renounce asceticism and espouse ‘remarkably uninhibited’ views on sexuality and marriage, as well as to enjoy a full sexual life himself after marrying the ex-nun Katharina von Bora.
This was the unexpected consequence of a ‘gloomy anthropology’: if all human actions were intrinsically sinful, then sexual pleasure was no worse than other forms of human indulgence and could cheerfully be enjoyed and celebrated. For a leading feminist historian, Roper is surprisingly forgiving towards Luther’s notoriously patriarchal and chauvinist attitudes, pointing out that when he said that women should ‘bear children to death’, Luther was in fact insisting that the agonies of childbirth were natural and pleasing to God and simultaneously denouncing the widespread belief that women in labour were under the sway of the devil.
Yet the paths of sexual liberation were dangerously uncharted. In denying marriage to be a sacrament, and thus any right of the Church to regulate it, Luther accidentally set himself up as an authority in marriage disputes: his advice, as Roper documents, ‘at times seemed to have been made up on the spot’. In 1539 Luther caused lasting damage and embarrassment to the cause when he privately agreed that Philip of Hesse, a leading Lutheran prince, could, like a polygamous Old Testament patriarch, covertly contract a bigamous second marriage. Even before the age of the leaked email, there was no chance of a signed memorandum such as this remaining secret.
On occasion, Roper’s generally sure-footed negotiation of Luther’s theological landscape stumbles slightly. She considers it an ‘extraordinary concession’ that Catholic representatives at the Diet of Augsburg were ready to agree that salvation came ‘by faith and grace, not by works alone’. But no reputable medieval theologian believed people could be saved ‘by works alone’ (a version of the ancient Pelagian heresy) – the process necessarily began with an unmerited offer of God’s grace. In noting en passant that Luther speculated very little about the afterlife, Roper overlooks his teaching about a pre-resurrection ‘sleep of the soul’ – intensely controversial in the 16th century and rapidly rejected by the Protestant mainstream. She rightly lays emphasis on Luther’s belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but goes on to paint this as an aspect of his thinking ‘which is difficult to understand today and where the gulf that separates our world from his seems at its greatest’. Roper’s ‘our’ evidently does not extend to the many millions of Catholics and other modern Christians who do believe Jesus to be really present in forms of bread and wine.
No one, however, can accuse Roper of failing to take Luther’s ideas seriously: the particular virtue of this book is its determination to relate those ideas to the social settings in which Luther was formed and to the personal preoccupations and inner life of a flawed but fascinating individual. Aspects of the presentation will doubtless infuriate uncritical admirers, as well as some Luther scholars of the old school. Yet this unfailingly inventive and compelling account is a welcome gust of fresh air into the thick celebratory atmosphere of anniversary season. There will never, and never should, be a ‘definitive’ biography of Luther. But anyone seriously interested in one of the most influential figures of the last half-millennium will need to make time to read this one.

Hatreds and fears: Review of 'Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet' by Lyndal Roper

30 July 2016
Image result for martin luther roper
What are we to make of the inner life of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the man who more than any made the Protestant Reformation happen? This inner life is the decided focus of Lyndal Roper’s learned, but humane, biography. Here was a man of such courage that he withstood the Emperor to his face at the Diet of Worms, risking imprisonment and death by insisting on his own heterodox teachings. Yet he was also a man so petrified by a storm in his early twenties that he vowed to become a monk if he was spared.
Fear and hatred seemed to struggle for dominance in Luther’s character, without extinguishing his humour (which has struck modern readers as coarse, a word also used of his facial features by contemporaries). The making of his post-monastic career was his hatred of the papacy, first for its corruption, later for existing at all as an institution. But he hated uppity peasants, too. Despite Luther’s claim that he came from peasant stock, his father was a master smelter from Mansfeld, a mining town in what is now Saxony-Anhalt, grimily brought to life in this biography – as dirty as Coketown in Hard Times, and nastier. In 1524, Luther took the princes’ side in the bloody Peasants’ War.
His “visceral” hatred of Jews is the hardest thing for a modern reader to take. It was no merely theological rejection of Judaism. He advocated the destruction of their schools and the burning of their houses. He brought his scatological fantasies to bear in describing them worshipping and devouring the Devil’s excrement.
Dr Roper, now the Regius Professor of History at Oxford, does not attempt to reconcile Luther’s contradictions. As a monk he suffered Anfechtungen, which can be translated as temptations, and they brought him terror. Later, he recalled one of his superiors remarking that these terrors seemed as necessary to Luther’s make-up as eating and drinking. He feared God and saw Jesus as a terrifying judge, but at the same time remembered having “thought Jesus a womanish name”.
Luther’s lifelong insistence on the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, under the guise of bread, is an aspect of his belief emphasised by Roper. But it is striking that he suffered attacks of panic in the presence of the Sacrament. When he said his first Mass, he would have fled in terror at the point of the consecration, when bread and wine became Christ’s body and blood, had the prior not held him back. At a Corpus Christi procession, when the Sacrament in form of bread is honoured in public, he broke out in a sweat of fear, convinced that he would perish.
This means that there must have been something profoundly wrong with Luther’s life as a monk. Since it was the professed aim of this life to spend eternity with Jesus and his father God, it would hardly do to be terrified of them, day by day.
Roper calls Luther’s monastic life one of “extreme bodily and mental mortification”. It is true that he had chosen to join a reformed branch of Augustinians, which observed an unmitigated rule. Luther did fast, and thought it bad for his health, just as he took the view that sexual intercourse would have been good for his bodily health, following the prevailing scientific teaching of his day.
But while the other members of his monastery rose in the middle of the night to sing matins, Luther was excused this, from the age of 25, on the grounds that he had to teach university students the next day. He also skipped the recitation of the Psalms that marked each day’s monastic hours, saving them up all week to be said the following Saturday, which then left him no time even to eat. It was a recipe for a breakdown, or a breakout.
After his 95 theses were nailed on the castle church door at Wittenberg, in 1517, when he was just 34, events carried him on rapidly. Others had attacked papal corruption before, but this time scholars and princes took notice. Luther used the new craft of printing to issue a deluge of polemic. Soon he lost control of the Reformation, and feuded bitterly with other reformers.
Part of the subtitle of Roper’s impressively marshalled book is “Renegade”, and an undertaking on which he reneged was his vow of celibacy. But it was not in order to marry that he left the monastery. “They won’t force a wife on me,” he declared in 1521, when many other reformers were taking wives.
Four years later, he did marry. His bride was Katharina von Bora, an ex-nun. Roper finds it “rather chilling” that she always addressed him as “Mr Doctor”.
592pp, Bodley Head, £30, ebook £14.99