Saturday, April 28, 2018

'The Best Cook': In Rick Bragg's book about Momma's table, it's all over but the eatin'

By David Holahan
April 23, 2018


Those who use Rick Bragg’s latest meander into Southern life as a cookbook will need to gird their culinary loins — and not be a scared of liberal doses of Crisco, fatback drippings, lard, bacon grease, cracklin’ meat and such.

Never mind recipes for indigenous fare like “Squirrel Brains and Scrambled Eggs” or “Baked Possum and Sweet Potatoes.” The latter requires not simply the acquisition of a marsupial, but a live one to be fed “for a week or so” to “flush the nastiness from its system.” Talk about long prep time.

But this isn’t really a cookbook, or even a “food memoir” exactly, as the author suggests. The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table (Knopf, 512 pp., ★★★★ out of four) is a collection of stories — wonderful, rollicking, poignant, sometimes hilarious tales about how generations of Bragg’s extended family survived from one meal to the next.

To families like his, in the hardscrabble foothills of northeastern Alabama, food was a many-splendored thing. It was love and reward, survival and joy, identity and adventure — an example of the last being the practice of “noodling,” or catching big river catfish barehanded.

Food from the skillets of cooks like the author’s mother, Margaret Bragg, was akin to an established religion: for her the greatest sin, according to her son, was “bland food carelessly prepared, devoid of salt, seasoning, and crisping fat.”

Bragg, a best-selling author (All Over But the Shoutin') and previously a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a storyteller of the first water. But translating his mother’s meals into recipes presented a challenge, even to a person who grew up on her cooking.

She never opened a cookbook, not once, didn’t own one; her recipes were all in her head, passed down generations, some from before the Civil War. Plus, she didn’t measure out ingredients by cups and teaspoons, but rather by dabs and smidgens and handfuls. She had no use for a timer: she could tell when the cracklin’ cornbread, or what all, was done by smell.

Somehow her son got it all down on paper, sitting with his mother, watching her cook and listening to the stories of who taught her what when, and who taught it to the people who taught it to her. 

In fact, the reader can skip the recipes altogether and concentrate on the stories wrapped lovingly around them — and still get a cooking lesson, how Margaret Bragg made plain food, well-seasoned, taste like a preview of kingdom come.

Take the story of Clem Ritter. Margaret’s father, Charles, was racing home with her and her siblings one evening, hoping against hope not to be too awful late for a dinner his wife had been laboring over most of the day.

Well, wham, he ran straight over Clem Ritter as she was crossing the road, his tire going directly over her head, which Margaret described as being “all whomp-sided.” There wasn’t much they could do for her. So they laid her down by the side of the road, and made a beeline for dinner. Such was the allure of Southern home cooking.

The story startles the author, hearing it for the first time from his 80-year-old mother, as it does the reader. They just laid her by the side of the road? And Clem Ritter, it is revealed at the tail end of the telling, was part of the family. She was Margaret’s dog, named after the victim in a true-crime magazine story.

And, happy to report, Clem Ritter was up and around after dinner, although she was whomp-sided for a spell. 

Today's Tune: Waylon Jennings - The Lost Outlaw Performance

Today's Tune: Waylon Jennings - Rose in Paradise (Live 1987)

An Appreciation of Waylon Jennings

His Mickey Mouse Ways

By Dave Hickey
June 2004 Issue

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So how would you feel? It’s 1958. You’re 21 years old, spinning wax at a two-bit radio station in the middle of West Texas, just happy to be out of the cotton patch and not knowing nothing about nothing but Ernest Tubb, Pepsi-Colas, drive-in movies, and Moon Pies. That’s you, and one day your good friend, who is also your mentor and role model, who also sees a lot more in you than you see in yourself, waltzes into the booth at the radio station, tosses you an electric bass guitar, and tells you to learn how to play it. He’s taking you on a rock and roll tour, starting next month, January of 1959. A week later, your friend flies you to New York City and puts you up in his Greenwich Village apartment. You sleep on the couch, learn the bass, rehearse with the band, and explore Manhattan. The two of you have your picture made in a Grand Central photo booth. Then you climb on the bus, and in a wink, you’re crisscrossing the frozen Midwest in the dead of winter with a bunch of one-hit wonders, playing rock and roll shows in high school auditoriums and basketball gyms.

By the end of January you’ve played twenty shows. Your friend has decided to take you to London as his opening act, which is nice, but that’s a few weeks away, and right now it’s forty below in Duluth and the heat on the bus is out. The tour moves from Duluth to Clear Lake, Iowa, and nobody has any more clean clothes. West Texas boys (on account of their dirty minds) require clean clothing, so your friend charters a plane from Clear Lake to Fargo so you can all find a laundromat before the next night’s show. After the gig in Clear Lake, however, you and the guitar player get wangled out of your seats on the plane.
“You’re not going with me tonight?” your friend asks. “Chicken out?”
You say no, that the Bopper wanted to fly.
“Well, I hope your damned bus freezes up again,” your friend says.
“Well, I hope your ol’ plane crashes,” you say, and, of course, it does.
Your friend is dead, slammed into a frozen wheat field, and you are sitting in a Minnesota truck stop, staring out at the frozen morning, realizing that, just for a minute there, you were sort of about to feel free. Then you feel bad about even thinking that. You’re nothing now in the middle of snowy nowhere, and the promoters don’t want the band to go home. They offer to fly you to your friend’s funeral, first-class. They offer you more money if you’ll stay on the tour. What decides it, though, is that you are a West Texas boy, a bad-weather cowboy, and a man of your word. So, like a fool, you stay, but you get no tickets, first-class or coach. You get no money, and at the end of the tour, in a daze, you go home. You’ve got no friend and you’ve got no future. How do you feel?
Well, first, you’re extremely angry, and second, you don’t care anymore. About some things (like businessmen, lawyers, and bourgeois respectability), you will never care again. You’ve just been awarded a thirty-day doctorate in the music industry, so, from Jump Street, you trust no one except out of laziness and make few friends because, somehow, it seems, you kill your friends, and anyway, you are too far gone for any but the farthest out. From now on you will sit a long way back from the screen and see yourself acting out the roles that life requires of you—son, friend, lover, husband, music star, culture hero—but you will never take any of them very seriously.
You’re plenty screwed up, in other words, and if you had a shrink, if anybody in West Texas had ever heard of a shrink, he would probably diagnose a permanent case of low-grade depression, dissociation, and survivor’s guilt, along with a heavy dose of the old And Suddenly syndrome. He would probably prescribe the pills you’re taking anyway, because at this point, you are morally certain that the better things get, the more likely they are to blow up in your face; that the brighter the sun, the softer the woman, the sweeter the song, the darker the oncoming storm. The future closes like a shutter in these moments, so you live in the music, which has its own time. You can strip it down, tighten it up, clean it off, and ride it like a rising wave. The music, in the moment of its making, sets you free, but it doesn’t cure anything—and, really, it never will.
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With Johnny Cash
ON FEBRUARY 13, 2002, in Chandler, Arizona, Waylon Jennings died in his sleep, at the age of 64, of having lived. Six months later, we gathered in Lubbock at the second annual Buddy Holly Music Festival and Symposium, to remember him together. Waylon’s son, Buddy, was there, as were Richie Albright and Billy Ray Reynolds, his primal rhythm section. Billy Joe Shaver, who wrote the archetypal Waylon songs, showed up, and Lenny Kaye, who co-wrote Waylon, the autobiography, flew in from New York, on leave from his gig with Patti Smith. I flew in from Las Vegas to reminisce about my years as an embedded journalist in the outlaw music movement. We all sat at a long table in a white conference room, like a posse without the sheriff.
In ragtag fashion, we projected the man we knew back onto the things we had heard and, in doing so, imagined the narrative that opens this essay. It seems a plausible one to me, and all the more plausible since we had known Waylon Jennings at various times and in varying circumstances, and clearly, we knew the same man. We recognized his preternatural, ironic self-awareness, although we didn’t all call it that. Billy Joe, in fact, looked at me funny when I used the phrase, but we all located the trick of his charm in his benign sense of his public persona as a crazy cartoon of himself. Somehow, he could throw bullshit at you with one hand and wipe it off with the other. In a world full of evil dudes pretending to be good guys, Waylon was a good guy pretending to be an evil dude and never quite succeeding.
You would see him driving around Music Row in some butterscotch, gold-trimmed, East L.A. pimpmobile, dressed up like the “third outlaw” in a spaghetti western, and you would smile, knowing that no one bore less malice in his heart. Onstage, he would step up to the mike, swinging that Telecaster from his hip, and glare out into the lights, projecting an aura of dark, unrepentant machismo with so much good-hearted irony that the aggression bore only the faintest hint of real menace. Out in the audience, you got the buzz of his sexual charisma, but you knew you were one of the gang, that Waylon was sincere in his insincerity. But it was not all a joke. Some things were taken very seriously indeed, and if you crossed the line, you quickly saw the glint, and things got a little, uh, gritty.
You had to violate the code for this to happen, and those who did invariably thought that it was all a joke, that Waylon was totally inside the ongoing party. Eventually, you figured out that, onstage or off, Waylon Jennings loved the party, the performance, and the costumes. He loved the distance they put around him, but part of him was always standing outside, leaning against the proscenium, watching from the wings and keeping things in line. Proper distinctions had to be drawn, because Waylon had rules. He knew the difference between being a man and being an animal, between being crazy and being insane, between being bad and being mean, between being an outlaw musician, a thieving crook, or just a plain old scuzzball, predatory criminal. He never confused these modes of transgression, and although he lived by the Code of the West—as all West Texans must—Waylon never confused cowboys on the stage and cowboys on the range. He insisted, in his music and in his presence, that these distinctions be observed as a hedge against self-delusion.
It’s clear to me now that Waylon’s discomfort derived in large degree from the self-awareness that made him so appealing.
Having said this, of course, I must concede that guarding oneself against self-delusion has never been a high priority among drug addicts of my acquaintance, myself included. Among this delusional legion, however, Waylon Jennings was by far the least deluded. I remember once, not long after I arrived in Nashville, asking Waylon why the locals took speed rather than smack and barbiturates, like us Manhattan sophisticates did. He said, “Hillbillies and hairdressers take speed because they’re not comfortable, but they still have to work.” That, I thought, just about said it, although it’s clear to me now that Waylon’s discomfort derived in large degree from the self-awareness that made him so appealing.
One night on the highway, in his new shiny bus, on the teetering brink of his pop success, I asked him how he liked his new audiences. “Well, it ain’t exactly living in the love of the common people,” he said dryly. He went on to explain that when you start performing, you play for people who are just like you, and that’s not really performing. Then you perform for people who just like you, and that’s really fun. Then, “if you’re lucky,” you end up performing for people who want to be you, and that’s really not as much fun because these people who want to be you always hate you a little because they’re not you. They secretly want you to fail so you can know how it feels to be them. “Actually,” he said, “it’s not that complicated. There’s a lot of people in a room. One guy’s got the microphone. Everybody else’s got the beer. They’re all having about the same amount of fun.”
I sat there and thought that knowing this much about yourself and your audience was probably not much of a benison for a performer. It does, however, account for some of Waylon’s special virtues. In “Good Hearted Woman,” for instance, there is a line that goes “She loves him in spite of his wicked ways she don’t understand.” Waylon never sang it that way onstage. He always sang “She loves him in spite of his Mickey Mouse ways that she don’t understand.” Because, I think, Waylon knew what wickedness was. He knew he wasn’t it, and his comic vision of Mickey Mouse machismo let everyone in on the joke. He could characterize himself—in a phrase at once self-deprecating and deftly cosmopolitan—as “too dumb for New York City, too ugly for L.A.,” and no other singer in Nashville would even dare.
He could stand in the wings, watching himself onstage, and write, “I’ve seen the world with a five-piece band looking at the backside of me.” I can’t imagine another country performer confident enough in his own masculinity to acknowledge that he knows the band is looking at his butt. And what other leather-clad, asphalt cowboy could walk up to a fellow who’s bitching about somebody being “a goddam queer,” drape his arm around the fellow’s shoulder, snuggle up close to him, and say, sotto voce, “Aw, come on, Hoss. We all just grab onto something warm and worry ’bout the details later.” If you were familiar with the pathological caginess of most Nashville singers, this cowboy hipster candor was scary at first. Then you realized how profoundly Waylon did not care, and ultimately, I think, the magic cloak of this not caring kept him alive for more than six decades. Because the truth was that if Waylon wasn’t on the stage, in the studio, on the bus, or having dinner with his wife, Jessi, he was in trouble or about to be.
His gift to us, of course, had nothing to do with being in trouble, although it got him into some. He made strong music. He sang great songs that said things beautifully and spoke with some precision to the times for which they provided the soundtrack. More than that, of all the artists with whom he is associated, Waylon Jennings had the most passionate sense of how you put things together and what things you leave on the bus. He was an artist, in other words, and an artist of his time. At the exact moment that American painters and sculptors were cutting away the obfuscation and expressive nonsense that had accrued around American art during the post-war period, at the very instant that the kids at CBGB’s were beginning to jettison the pretentious theater that was drowning rock and roll, Waylon was taking country music back where it never had been.
He stripped away the decorative bric-a-brac that had plagued Nashville product for decades and created contemporary roots music in the minimalist tradition—a music that was not really simpler, just stronger, better organized, and more totally focused than anything that came before it. Dispensing with virtually everything but the rhythm track and the vocal, he changed the focus of the sound from the orchestral grandeur of the setting to the sinuous muscularity of the music’s forward drive. Abandoning the pop-hillbilly flummery of contemporary country songs, he embraced the poetic license and compression of lyrics like Billy Joe Shaver’s. In the end, he made a new music that, like the singer of Billy Joe’s song, “left a long string of friends, some sheets in the wind, and some satisfied women behind.”
The trick was in the bass and drums, and Waylon’s producer, Jack Clement, helped with this. As Richie’s drums got sharper and cleaner and the bass got louder, the tempo could get slower and the vocals softer, so everything fell into balance. The songs rode on the bong-bong of this “Cajun march” that Richie and Waylon invented—it sounded like an old four-four but bounced like a bluesy twelve-eight, with hidden triplets flowing through the drum track, accentuated by Waylon’s Telecaster. To Nashville ears, it sounded like nothing or, even worse, like rock and roll, but it moved like a new wheel on an empty highway and still does, although there are no more empty highways and no more hipster cowboys at the Dairy Queen. Even so, history keeps a special place for artists like Waylon who scrape off the paint and carry out the trash, who bet their whole heart on the unadorned shape of the music. You have to be crazy to do it, of course. You know that soon enough the vehicle will be repainted, that stripes, chrome, and all manner of gewgaws will ultimately accrue, but what you have done doesn’t go away. It survives at the heart of the music.
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AND WAYLON SURVIVES AS WELL, on his records, of course, but most profoundly in the memory of fading gypsies like those who gathered in Lubbock, who never saw bad done so well. This is the picture of Waylon that I carry with me today: We are milling around the crowded greenroom after a show in Atlanta. Waylon is flopped down in the middle of a leather couch, flanked by two exquisitely coiffed, extremely plump white ladies. The ladies are attired in pastel pantsuits, and the three of them make a nice tableau—the gaunt King of Darkness bracketed by two painted and powdered Easter eggs. Waylon sits forward with his elbows on his knees, grinning and soaked with sweat. His hair hangs in wet, greasy ropes, some of it plastered across his forehead. His shirt is stuck to his body, and his wristband is stained with dark blotches. He sinks heavily into the pillows of the couch while the fat ladies seem to float weightlessly. I am imagining the strain the ladies are putting on their knees, trying not to look heavy, when I realize that, at that moment, they are not heavy at all. They are in heaven.
I sit down on the arm of the couch and find the three of them in a deep discussion about the almost insurmountable difficulty of running a beauty salon in Atlanta, Georgia, what with taxes, zoning, sorry help, and the burgeoning complexities of interracial hairstyling. Waylon is contributing what he can, which is more than I would have expected. His limited experience of beauty salons, I surmise, has been considerably enhanced by his wide experience with beauticians. Also, Waylon is a small businessman himself. As he points out, he started off as a very small businessman, picking Texas cotton and getting paid by the pound. The ladies chatter away, giddy but perfectly at ease. They are telling this dangerous outlaw things they have never told anyone, but they are not complaining, as they are wont to do, because Waylon is not a complainer and he is contagious.
Whatever they expected as they tiptoed backstage, it was never this! They are having a conversation with Waylon Jennings! It’s better than the sex they fantasized about and thought they wanted but didn’t really. Waylon knows this. He knows that, as a culture, beauty-salon ladies are incurably romantic and less worldly than they like to pretend. They are not prudes, exactly. They will have sex with you if they must, but what they want is Scarlett and Ashley. They want the rituals of courtly flirtation, and Waylon, with his devil smile and attentive gaze, is giving them that. It occurs to me, as I blatantly eavesdrop, that Waylon is selling a hell of a lot of records with this little gesture. Then I feel bad for having thought it, because Waylon Jennings, in that moment, is clearly happy as hell to be chatting with the fat ladies, behaving like the perfect young cowboy, being thoughtful and curious and whimsically generous, living in the love of the common people.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Politics as a Weapon in the Cause of Islam

April 27, 2018

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Keith Ellison takes his oath of office with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and his wife, Kim. (Getty Images)

In 2007, in a highly controversial move, Keith Hakim Ellison, the first Muslim congressman, swore his oath of office on a copy of the Koran.  In effect, Ellison rejected the values that unify Americans and instead pledged to follow a religious text that commands Muslims to wage war against secular legal systems.
Today, swearing the oath of office on the Koran and even simultaneously praising Allah have become almost commonplace.  In 2016, Minneapolis Park Board member and Somalian refugee, A.K. Hassan took his oath on a massively oversized Koran and proclaimed his commitment to serve "in the name of Allah."  In 2015, another Somali refugee, Ilhan Omar, elected to the Minnesota House of Representative, swore on the Koran, as did Carolyn Walker-Diallo, the first Muslim woman judge elected to Brooklyn's 7th Municipal District, andAbdullah Hammoud, a Michigan state representative.  
In "Muslim Brotherhood Political Infiltration on Steroids," I described how as early as 1987, FBI information revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood – a Middle East political organization considered a terrorist organization by five Arab countries and Russia – was seeking to "peacefully get inside the United States Government" and accomplish "the ultimate goal of overthrowing all non-Islamic governments."  Several M.B. front groups, including Project Mobilize; the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO); and Jetpac, Inc., had been created to politically exploit America's Muslim community to achieve supremacist goals set forth in the Muslim Brotherhood's strategic plan, the Explanatory Memorandum.
As if taking a cue from the memorandum, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, spoke in January 2016, at the 14th annual Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) conference in Chicago.  He urged Muslims to "[t]urn your centers, Islamic centers, mosques into registration centers for voters, into polling stations during election time."
Awad intoned that American Muslims can determine "not only the future of you here but the future of America itself."  In 2014, the United Arab Emirates identified CAIR and MAS as terrorist organizations.  CAIR, referred to as "Hamas doing business as CAIR" by former FBI supervisor and M.B. expertJohn Guandolo, had been previously identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the HLF-Hamas funding trial.  ICNA was listed in the Explanatory Memorandum as one of the Muslim Brotherhood's likeminded "organization of our friends" with the shared goal of destroying America and transforming it into a Muslim nation.
In Canada and Europe and to a more limited degree in the U.S., once devout Muslims are installed in political office, they push for anti-hate speech and anti-Islamopobia laws and even prohibitions against verbatim citing of Islamic texts.  In addition, since sharia-adherent Muslims are commanded to reject man-made law such as the U.S. Constitution, they must endeavor to replace secular law with Islamic doctrine under a caliphate or Islamic government.
Muslims in office also take positions against U.S. interests.  For example, Ellison represents "Little Mogadishu," a neighborhood in Minneapolis with one of the highest concentrations of Somali Muslim refugees.  In 2015, despite active recruiting in his district by the East African terrorist group Al-Shabaab, and the arrest of several Somalis for attempted travel to Syria to join ISIS, Ellison ignored terrorist financing concerns and opposed efforts to curb cash transfers to Somalia.
Meanwhile, new Muslim candidates of questionable motivation and affiliation continue to run for office.  Since my previous article, two are in upcoming races, and one, who was momentarily unsuccessful, is likely to run again.
In Florida's Broward County, Altaf Ahmed is running for county commissioner in an election to be held later this year.  In 2016, he tweeted his attendance at CAIR Florida's 16th annual gala and included a photo of himself with Siraj Wahhaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  In 1992, Wahhaj said, "If only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate."
Ahmed also praised the gala's organizer, Nezar Hamze, a CAIR leader and Broward County sheriff's deputy.  Hamze has denied the threat of Islamic terrorism and has conducted active shooter training at an al-Qaeda-associated Florida mosque.  He has been actively involved in Islamic Relief Worldwide, anorganization banned by the UAE, Israel, and several Swiss banks for funding al-Qaeda and Hamas.
Another questionable candidate for office, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is running for the 50th Congressional District in eastern San Diego County and Temecula, the seat currently held by Duncan Hunter.  Campa-Najjar's grandfather headed the intelligence wing of Fatah, the organization responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and other terrorist attacks against Israelis. 
Campa-Najjar attended an Islamic school at the Masjid Abu Bakr in San Diego but claims to have converted to Christianity.  His views on the Middle East are confounding.  He says he appreciates Israel's need for security but also proclaimsthat "Israel will have to acknowledge its wrongdoings as the sovereign state" and "Palestinians will have to renounce violence and fanaticism, acknowledge their Jewish neighbors and accept new realities."
In the most recent presidential election, Campa-Najjar supported Bernie Sanders, who criticized Israel for its offensive war against Gaza following thousands of rocket attacks and questioned America's level of support for Israeli security.
A third Muslim would-be politician, Dilara Sayeed, ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for the Illinois House's 5th District and was endorsed by M.B. operative Ellison.  Sayeed recently spoke at a Muslim religious festival (Eid) dinner at the Loyola University Chicago Muslim Student Association and washonored by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) at an event that featured M.B. and sharia-advocate, Dalia Mogahed, as the keynote speaker.
The Muslim Student Association, a rabidly anti-U.S., anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel group, is the first national Islamic organization established by the Muslim Brotherhood to indoctrinate and recruit Muslim students for terrorist organizations.  Meanwhile, CIOGC members include many M.B. front organizations, such as the Mosque Foundation (M.F.), which has held fundraisersfor individuals and groups associated with the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas; Islamic Relief USA, which has funded al-Qaeda; and the Muslim American Society, which has propagated materials that degrade women, curse Christians, and call for the murder of Jews and homosexuals.
With endorsements from the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune and as a fellow of JetPac, an organization established as an "open call for American Muslims to immerse themselves in local politics," Sayeed is likely to seek political office again and succeed. 
Given the new Muslim candidates and their affiliations, and the likely emergence of even more such office-seekers, Ellison's address at a 2010 MAS fundraiser, hosted by jihad supporter Esam Omeish, now seems an ominous warning.  Said Ellison, "And I am telling you, that with your help, we are able to take the Muslim presence on Capitol Hill from zero to a real player.  And this is what we're trying to do and we got to do it in every state house in America ... positioning Muslims in general to help steer the ship of state in America."
Surely, the ongoing attempt to penetrate American society through political office so clearly documented in Muslim Brotherhood strategic documents published decades ago is proceeding apace.  Despite a stated objective to destroy the United States from within and replace its system of laws and values with Islamic doctrine or sharia, ignorance or willful blindness on the part of Americans insures that their goal is dangerously within reach.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

How to stop the West from committing cultural suicide

By John Podhoretz
April 25, 2018

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It might seem odd to say a book with the alarming title of “Suicide of the West” is an exhilarating call to arms in defense of what is highest and best in our civilization, but Jonah Goldberg’s extraordinary new bestseller is exactly that.
Goldberg says if we don’t veer from the cultural glide path we’re on, with both left and right committed to factually misleading and emotionally suppurating narratives about the innate cruelty and inborn injustice of this country, the greatest force for prosperity and freedom the world has ever known is likely to die. That is the “suicide” of Goldberg’s title.
But since this is something we’re doing to ourselves — a perverse effort to set fire to our own cultural patrimony — it’s also something we can correct.
The key factoid animating “Suicide of the West” is this: For 2,000 years, everywhere on earth, the large mass of humanity lived on the equivalent of $1.90 a day. “Near subsistence living,” Goldberg writes, “defined human habitats for almost all of human history.”
Then something happened. In the 18th century. In Great Britain. It was a complex phenomenon Goldberg calls the Miracle — a new way of thinking about humanity and human achievement and personal liberty that unlocked a hidden door in the possibilities of the species.
The results of the Miracle are astounding. Where once 94 percent of the people on earth survived on less than $2 a day, today only 9.6 percent does. “Around the world, the number of people considered poor has decreased both relatively and absolutely — an incredible feat, given massive increases in population,” Goldberg writes.
We have come to take most of this for granted, so much so that many of us believe the benefits of material prosperity are of little meaning because they’re not shared equally across all societies. We lament our failings rather than dwell on the astonishing fact that, as Goldberg puts it, “If the 200,000-year life span of homo sapiens were a single year, the vast majority of human economic progress would have transpired in roughly the last fourteen hours.”
We do this, as Goldberg observes in the most original observation in his very original book, because the Miracle is unnatural. It’s a human construct. It’s a new thing, and it remains a radical thing, even though we call its loudest expostulants today “conservative.”
Meanwhile, though we tend to think of those who reject the democratic capitalism at the heart of the Miracle as being “progressives,” they are in fact reactionaries seeking to restore a lost way of life and return humanity to a more natural path.
The political liberty we were granted by the Miracle has freed humankind to pursue individual achievement — and it’s a series of unbroken individual achievements that have led the world to unprecedented bounty. But these achievements involve harnessing nature and improving on it. And it’s this aspect of the Miracle that creates a cognitive dissonance in us. It’s not so easy to transcend humanity’s hard-wired pre-modern drives.
As Goldberg says, we’re tribal creatures, intensely social and innately hierarchical, and we find greater meaning within groups. The great ideological fight in the Age of the Miracle is between those who see the rise of the West as a fulfillment of humankind’s potential and those who cannot reconcile themselves to the ways it seems to go against what they think is natural.
The problem is that the rejecters are themselves creating unnatural constructs to try and restore the existence that seems most real to them. They’re building fake tribes through the vehicle of what we now call “identity politics.” And these fake tribes and the demand that we adhere to the arbitrary rules they establish for who is in and who is out are the true drivers of the West’s suicidal impulses.
Goldberg’s answer is so simple it seems too easy, and yet so difficult it seems unachievable. We need to teach and experience gratitude for what we have been given, which means reacquainting ourselves with the philosophical and scientific roots of the Miracle and then passing them on to our posterity. So much is arrayed against this effort, and yet we Americans, we tribal Americans, do long to belong to the American tribe.
In his pathbreaking book, Goldberg makes it clear all we need do to find our place is to understand that we are the beneficiaries of a great tradition that not only speaks the truth about us, but has rewarded us with gifts once beyond imagining. This is the book of the year.

Jordan B. Peterson - Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

Left's knee-jerk reaction to Waffle House killings runs counter to facts

April 24, 2018
Image result for Travis ReinkingTravis Reinking, the suspect in a deadly shooting at an Antioch Waffle House, is escorted into Hill Detention Center for booking in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, April 23, 2018.  (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean)
Travis Reinking, the mentally disturbed man charged in the Waffle House killings, had his guns taken away with the help of law enforcement.
This is a fact.
But the guns were returned to him by his father, and four people were killed the other day in that Waffle House in Nashville, Tenn.
These, too, are facts.
President Donald Trump did not give the guns back to Reinking, the NRA didn’t, and theRepublicans did not meet in a quiet cloakroom so innocents would be slaughtered.
Law-abiding gun owners of America didn’t demand that the guns be returned to a man with obvious mental illness.
The killer’s father, Jeffrey Reinking, did that on his own, according to police.
He took possession of the guns from law enforcement. He knew that his son was sick, that he may well have been dangerous.
And yet he gave them back to his son.
Yes, facts are stubborn things, aren’t they?
Yet immediately after the Waffle House killings, the hot takes were launched in media, on Twitter, and the high priests of the left began attacking the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
It was Trump’s fault and the NRA’s fault and the fault of America’s “gun-culture” and the Republicans’ fault, and the fault of the patriots who wrote the Constitution to protect liberty and minority rights, and on and on.
If you’re a regular consumer of American news, you know this liturgy by heart. Do we really need another “town meeting” on national cable news to unleash the demagogues?
Using the Nashville Waffle House shooting in hot takes to shame Americans away from publicly supporting the Second Amendment must be extremely satisfying to some.
But it’s about as logical as using the Toronto van attack the other day to stop Canadians from renting vans.
When partisan politics meets fear and opportunity, the hot takes come rushing, and the herding of the mob commences and facts are pushed aside.
We’ve seen this before in the aftermath of other shootings, like the recent carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The immediate cry was to gut the Bill of Rights in the name of “common sense” gun laws, and those who didn’t join up were shamed.
Only later did facts come out.
An armed Broward County sheriff’s deputy refused to engage the shooter. Local law enforcement had repeated run-ins with the alleged shooter; they knew he was armed and dangerous and yet did nothing.
The federal PROMISE program, brainchild of the Obama administration, was designed to allow schools to deal with disciplinary issues without notifying police.
The 19-year-old suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, was reportedly not in this program. But such policies may allow troublemakers like him to fall through the cracks.
Seventeen were killed, and he confessed pulling the trigger, authorities said.
But before the details were all known, the hot takes were already thrown.
Appeals to fear and rage aren’t policy, but they are effective politics, especially in a culture that has been weaned away from understanding that our republic was designed to be slow and deliberate to protect the rights of the minority against the passions of the day.
Now we’re fed a daily dose of policy by polls and pundits shouting on TV. Civics in schools is an afterthought.
Fear and rage are potent weapons. And there’s nothing like pushing raw emotion and political tribal chant to herd people to policy, whether that be another war in the Middle East or tearing up the Bill of Rights.
Are there good and honestly outraged and frightened Americans who just want to put an end to these shootings? Yes, of course.
But fear and outrage also have political utility. And those techniques are used by political hacks with their eyes on the 2018 elections.
That is the way of hot takes. Then, a few hours pass, and the facts start coming out.
In August 2017, the U.S. Secret Service arrested Travis Reinking, who is from downstate Morton, Ill., near the White House. He demanded a meeting with President Trump. Federal authorities contacted the Illinois State Police asking that Reinking’s state firearm owner’s identification card be revoked. It was. He gave up his FOID card.
Travis Reinking also gave up his guns, three rifles and a 9 mm handgun.
But his father gave them back to him.
In June 2017, Travis Reinking was wearing a dress, pulled it off and jumped into a pool and began yelling at people. Authorities said he was spotted tossing a rifle into the trunk of his car.
According to news reports, a Tazewell County, Ill., sheriff’s deputy told the father what had happened, adding in his police report that “he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would.”
That report mentions Jeffrey Reinking taking Travis’ guns away earlier.
And in May 2016, the sheriff’s office found Travis Reinking talking of suicide, that pop singer Taylor Swift was stalking him and that he had weapons.
You want “common sense” gun laws? How about promoting Gun Violence Restraining Order bills in the states? A GVRO would allow family members living with a mentally ill person to seek a court order to temporarily seize their guns.
But in this case?
This one is not on law-abiding gun owners who safely keep weapons to defend themselves and their families, as is their right.
This one’s on the father.
He gave those guns back to his son.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin
Twitter @John_Kass

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This Is The Real Reason Britain Won’t Release Alfie Evans To Italy

April 25, 2018

Image result for alfie evans britain
In recent weeks many people across the globe have been moved and outraged by the story of little Alfie Evans, whose life hung in the balance in a British hospital and whose fate was taken from the hands of his parents by the National Health Service (NHS) and the courts.
As of the time of this publication, Alfie was forcibly removed from his breathing devices but continues to breathe on his own. The NHS and the courts would not even allow Alfie to go home with his parents, and when the nation of Italy offered to fly him to a Rome hospital for experimental treatment (at their own expense) the courts told Alfie’s parents they would not be allowed to leave the country.
Even after Alfie surprised doctors with his will to live he was denied water for nearly six hours. He continued to be denied nourishment. With the denial of his exit from England altogether it was clear that the British courts and the NHS had no intention of letting Alfie live.
But why?
Though still morally squishy there’s a valid argument to be made that when a nation votes for socialist healthcare they are agreeing to let the government treat their lives as algorithms. When the bottom line is measured in dollars rather than lives, the risk a society takes is illustrated in cases like Alfie’s. The NHS simply cannot afford the extremely expensive prospect of keeping alive a little boy who most likely will not live much longer due to an incurable condition. Alfie’s chances of any meaningful recovery were slim to none. It isn’t outside the boundaries of reason that the government tasked with his treatment would deem it simply not worth the effort expended.
It’s cruel, but logical…the inevitable result of a single-payer system.
I may not agree with such reasoning, but I can at least derive the path that such woeful decisions must take in a place like the UK.
What is not logical and nearly incomprehensible is the decision of the court not simply to deny Alfie further treatment, but then deny his right and the right of his parents to leave the country to seek treatment elsewhere. Even that decision might make a tiny bit of sense if it were to add to the NHS’ costs. That would be a problem for that pesky algorithm. However, Italy had already sent an airlift equipped to take the young child. His transportation and hospital provisions were covered by donations and the state of Italy. In fact, to move Alfie out of the care of the NHS would only save them money and labor. Alfie’s parents would have one more shot at rescuing his life. It seems like a win-win for everyone.
And still, the courts have barred the family from leaving the country.
Let’s ponder that for just one moment. Great Britain is a nation with a proud history of freedom and democracy. Most other nations around the world and Britons themselves would describe it as a “free country”, and yet here is a case where its free citizens are not allowed to leave its borders.
Is this something that should happen in a “free country”? Would Alfie’s parents be barred from taking a vacation? Would anyone in their right mind in that country find it acceptable or consistent with British values to deny any family the right to leave for a vacation or to visit a relative abroad? Why then is it allowable for this family to be virtual hostages in their land simply because their reason for travel is medical care rather than pleasure?
Some years ago I watched a documentary on the design and building of the Berlin Wall between East Germany and West Germany. It included extremely rare clips of interviews with the architects (I was shocked to learn there was actually a deliberate design to that monstrosity).
I searched high and low for the film, but was unable to locate it. If any reader has any clue where to find it please do let me know…I’ve been desperate to watch it again.
In one clip, an aging (former) East German Wall architect spoke briskly about the strategy of his designs. Although the interview was conducted during what must have been the last years of his life, he still seemed deeply resentful that he was being asked to defend the wall’s erection even after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. I’ll never forget what he said in that interview – it made the hair stand up on my arms.
With great sincerity – almost pleading with the interviewer – he said,  “We had to build the wall. Too many people were leaving for the West and you need people to make socialism work. We had to build the wall to keep them in so they could see how great socialism was, so they could see that it works.”
As I can’t find the clip, you’ll just have to take my word for it (or not). The point is – this man and his comrades felt that the only way to sell people on their socialist vision was to force them to live in it. Those leaving were just too stupid to understand that it was the best thing for them.
This is exactly the point in the ruling by the NHS and the courts to forbid their free citizens from leaving the country. If they are allowed to flee the heart-wrenching consequences of socialism, then others will want to do the same. How can a socialist system work without the cooperation of everyone? And how can you force people to participate in that socialist system when they discover that system may kill them or their loved ones?
You build a wall.
Great Britain doesn’t yet have a wall to keep its citizens in, but the courts have built one with the law. Just as East Germany could not tolerate the massive loss of defectors who were leaving with their training, intellect and tax dollars, Great Britain’s healthcare system cannot tolerate the defection of those who might find better healthcare somewhere else.
After all, how would it look if Alfie were allowed to leave England (allowed to leave a free country! Even to write the words feels absurd!) and then found a successful treatment in another country?
It would be an abject embarrassment to a government that holds up their socialist healthcare as one of the wonders of the Western world. Not only would they be forced to admit that their own doctors and bureaucrats were wrong for denying this baby life-saving measures, but they would then have to deal with hundreds, maybe thousands of other citizens fleeing the bondage of NHS algorithms for a chance at swifter, more modern healthcare.
For some bizarre reason, a nation that boasts figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, a tiny island nation that was once so powerful and broad it was said that the sun never set on the British empire…for some inexplicable reason that nation has chosen to hang its pride and joy on socialized medicine.
If you think I exaggerate just look up the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics.
To release this child to the care of any other nation would be to admit failure, and heartless bureaucrats who will never have to watch young Alfie struggle for air or dehydrate to death have decided that their misplaced pride is more valuable than the lives of their citizens.
As a born Canadian I’ve often heard friends and family condescendingly mock the United States for our dogged refusal to bow to socialized medicine. They have the woefully ill-informed idea that people without health insurance here don’t receive care or expensive treatment at all.
“I’d rather pay higher taxes for “free” healthcare than deal with America’s health system,” they often say.
To anyone who echoes such sentiments, let me point to poor, sweet Alfie Evans and his helpless parents as to why most Americans still abhor the idea of the government having the last say in whether or not you get the treatment you need to live.
Ask anyone here and 9 times out of 10 they’ll tell you they’d give their last dollar, sell their last possession, go into debt for the rest of their lives to save the life of someone they loved rather than sit helpless as their government sentences that person to death because it just isn’t “worth it”.
It’s never “worth it”…until it’s your child. When government controls your healthcare, they ultimately control what your life is worth to the people who love you. I’ll take the system we have here in America over what Canada or the UK shoves down the throats of its citizens every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Given how many Canadians seek surgeries and treatments south of their border every year, I reckon they would too.
Alfie Evans may indeed have never really had a chance to survive his illness, but if there were a chance – one that would not cost the taxpayers of Great Britain – shouldn’t his parents be allowed to seek it out? Shouldn’t they, as citizens of a “free country” be allowed to leave its borders whenever they please and for whatever reason they please?
Sadly, Alfie – and little Charlie Gard before him – is doomed to be the sacrificial lamb at the alters of pride and socialism.
You will never convince me that this is right in any way. Never.
Because what this is… this is nothing short of real, actual, genuine evil.