Saturday, April 28, 2018
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.
o 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.
Friday, April 27, 2018
By Janet Levy
April 27, 2018
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
By John Podhoretz
April 25, 2018
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.
By John Kass
April 24, 2018
Travis 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 atwww.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
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