Category Archives: History

Chanukah

A dangerous holiday:

For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.

Holidays aren’t mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.

History is a wheel and as it turns, we see the old continents of time rising again, events revisiting themselves as the patterns of the past become new again. Ancient battles become new wars. And old struggles have to be re-fought again until we finally get them right.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

The Wright Anniversary

It’s been 111 years. On the centennial, eleven years ago, I wrote three pieces. One at Fox News, one at TechCentralStation (which later became TCSDaily), and one at National Review on line. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have suffered from link rot. I’m trying to find out if it still exists on their server.

[Evening update]

National Review has resurrected my other piece.

Nice People

make the best Nazis.

Whenever I point out that Islam is a problematic ideology/religion, people say, “You bigot! I know many Muslims, and they’re very nice people!” Well, I also know many nice Muslims, and in fact most of them don’t necessarily agree with Al Qaeda or IS, but Al Qaeda and IS would (rightfully, in my opinion, though I’m no more of a Muslim scholar than Barack Obama) consider them apostates. The point is that most people are “nice” by nature, but that doesn’t prevent them from adhering to beliefs that aren’t very nice at all. I suspect that if you’d lived in Germany during the war, you’d have thought most Germans “nice,” except for that support-of-Hitler thing. Just don’t let them know you’re a Jew.

Empty Integrity

Thoughts on a declining culture:

…it’s hard to find a children’s cartoon or movie that doesn’t tell kids that they need to look inside themselves for moral guidance. Indeed, there’s a riot of Rousseauian claptrap out there that says children are born with rightly ordered consciences. And why not? As Mr. Rogers told us, “You are the most important person in the whole wide world and you hardly even know you.” Hillary Clinton is even worse. In her book It Takes a Village, she claims that some of the best theologians she’s ever met have been five-year-olds (which might be true when compared with a certain homicidal Ukrainian priest).

Such saccharine codswallop overturns millennia of moral teaching. It takes the idea that we must apply reason to nature and our consciences in order to discover what is moral and replaces it with the idea that if it feels right, just do it, baby. Which, by the by, is exactly how Lex Luthor sees the world. Übermenschy passion is now everyone’s lodestar. As Reese Witherspoon says in Legally Blonde, “On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise professor quoted Aristotle: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law — and of life.” Well, that solves that. Nietzsche-Witherspoon 1, Aristotle 0.

According to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the death of God and the coming of the übermensch was going to require the new kind of inner-directed hero to become his own god. As a result, anything society did to inconvenience the heroic individual was morally suspect, a backdoor attempt by The Man to impose conformity. This is pretty much exactly what Robin Williams teaches in Dead Poets Society. But that ethos has traveled a long way from Mork. When Barack Obama was asked by a minister to define “sin,” he confidently answered that “sin” just means being “out of alignment with my values.” Taken literally, this would mean that Hannibal Lecter is being sinful when he abstains from human flesh in favor of a Waldorf salad. As you can see, when you take the modern definition of integrity all the way to the horizon, suddenly “integrity” can be understood only as a firm commitment to one’s own principles — because one’s own principles are the only legitimate principles. Heck, if you are a god, then doing what you want is God’s will.

This won’t end well.

Time To Euthanize The Lame Duck

Over at Bloomberg View, Stephen Carter writes that it’s time for Congress to go home. I agree. As he notes, lame-duck sessions are an artifact of of transportation technology.

When the Constitution was first ratified, no one could travel faster than the pace of a horse, and it could take weeks to travel from the farthest reaches of the young nation to its capital. Even in 1932, the last time the end date of a session of congress was stipulated, in the 20th Amendment, the fastest safe means of travel was by train. It still took days to travel across the country.

But in the 21st century, with the jet age over half a century old, it is possible to get all the way from all the way even from Anchorage or Honolulu to Washington DC in a single day. There is no longer any excuse for Congress to last more than a week past an election. In fact, I would propose that it be dissolved on the Friday following.

Whether the new Congress was sworn in the following week, or waited until the current January date would be of little moment, as far as I’m concerned. The Founders didn’t require or expect Congress to be in permanent session, and the Republic would survive (and even benefit from) a couple of months without one, absent a national emergency such as the need for a declaration of war. But to maintain the current situation, in which people who had just been repudiated at the polls are allowed to continue to vote, is abhorrent to the very notion of representative democracy, and (as history has shown) a recipe for profound and damaging mischief.

Because the current dates are now established in the Constitution, changing them will require another amendment, and historically, amending the Constitution is difficult. But with Republicans controlling both houses of the Congress and so many state houses (and the president having no say in the matter), the time hasn’t been better in a while for doing amendments in general. Many will be difficult to get past the requisite number of states, but I’ve never heard any good argument for why a Congressional session should long survive an election, so I think amending the 20th Amendment may have good prospects. But if there is one, let’s hear it.

Lest We Forget

Today’s Remembrance Day is particularly poignant, the first one on a century anniversary from the beginning of the war. And I think that no one who fought it is with us any longer. My paternal grandfather was a veteran. He had emigrated from Eastern Europe as a young man, and then returned to fight in France.

Poppies In England

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The New John Birchers

of the Left:

The modern left is built around a trio of laudable principles: protecting the environment is good, racism is bad, and so is demonizing a person over his or her sexual preferences. (In the chapter of his book Intellectuals titled “The Flight from Reason,” Paul Johnson wrote that “At the end of the Second World War, there was a significant change in the predominant aim of secular intellectuals, a shift of emphasis from utopianism to hedonism.” ) But just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere.

They’re lurking around more corners than Gen. Ripper imagined there were commies lurking inside Burpelson Air Force Base. They’re inside your video games! They own NFL teams! They’ll steal your condoms! Disagree with President Obama? Racist! (That goes for you too, Bill, Hillary, and your Democratic supporters.) Not onboard for gender-neutral bathrooms? Not too thrilled with abortion-obsessed candidates like Wendy Davis and “Mark Uterus”? Sexist! Disagree with using global warming as a cudgel to usher in the brave new world of bankrupt coal companies and $10 a gallon gasoline? Climate denier!

And as with the original Birchers, don’t get ‘em started on fluoride.

Or GMO foods, or vaccines.

A Wounded Obama

Beware.

We may be in for a rough ride.

And then there’s this:

The article, which includes a senior administration official gloating that Obama successfully pressured Netanyahu to avoid launching a military strike on Iran back when it could still have stopped the radical Islamic regime’s nuclear program, signaled that Obama has Iran’s back.

It continues to amaze me that any American Jews continue to support this man. Or Americans who care at all about our national security.

The “Time Served” Model Of Education

…is breaking down. This, I think, is the key point:

The conventions of the credit hour, the semester and the academic year were formalized in the early 1900s. Time forms the template for designing college programs, accrediting them and — crucially — funding them using federal student aid.

But in 2013, for the first time, the Department of Education took steps to loosen the rules.

The new idea: Allow institutions to get student-aid funding by creating programs that directly measure learning, not time. Students can move at their own pace. The school certifies — measures — what they know and are able to do.

The public-school paradigm is also based on a century-old model: industrial learning. Time to abandon it, but it’s hard, because it so benefits the status quo, even if it’s a disaster for the kids.

The Problem With Ebola

It isn’t the virus, it’s the incompetence. Not to mention the venality.

[Update late morning]

Amazingly, left-blogger Atrios (aka Duncan Black) agrees:

Ultimately the point is that as of now, Ebola is a small problem in the United States overall, if a very serious problem for the people infected by it, and we have failed to deal with this small problem. The lack of clearly established systematic responses to potential deadly disease outbreaks is extremely worrying. If a genuine epidemic occurs, there’s no reason to think the response will be any better.

At least as of now, there’s no reason to be frightened of Ebola. Turn off cable news and go about your day. A small number of infected people is not an epidemic. But there is reason to be frightened of the apparent inability of our institutions to deal with an actual epidemic, or true national emergencies of any kind.

Yes. As has been pointed out ad infinitum. when the government (and particularly the federal government) tries to do too many things, it ends of doing none of them well.

The Party Of Lynching

warns (ignorant) Democrat voters in North Carolina of lynchings if Republicans win.

If they want to play that game, put together a few thirty-second ads with history lessons about the (Democrat) Klan, and the (Democrat) Bull Connor, and the (Democrat) Lester Maddox, and the (Democrat) George Wallace. And a reminder that Lincoln was a Republican, and that the voting-rights act would not have been passed without Republicans.

[Late-morning update]

Oopsie. Senator Pryor’s college thesis, called desegregation “an unwilling invasion” (as opposed, I suppose, to a willing one?).

Democrats, once the party of racism, always the party of racism.