Happy Fourth of July!

July 4, 2016

Sprit_of_'76.2

It’s Independence Day here in the US, in which we celebrate our break with the British Empire. We’re 240 years old and, despite what some sanctimonious Lefty scolds might think, I think we’re doing pretty darned good. We’re not without our problems or faults, for instance two major parties that manage to find the two worst people possible to nominate for president, but I continue to believe America is exceptional among the nations of the world and that we are indeed a force for good. If you’re looking for some good Independence Day reading, there’s always the Declaration of Independence itself. Think of it as a short ideological summation of who and why we are.

Then there’s the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which function as a citizen’s “owner’s manual.” And yes, to those of you in other countries raising an eyebrow about now, we do tend to place those documents on a pedestal. You have to admit, however, they’ve worked well for over two centuries. How many republics and constitutions has France had in that time?

Gosh, it’s become quiet…. Winking

A lot’s been written around the Web about today, so I’ll spare you my musings. Instead, I want to leave you with something that I think symbolizes the best of the “Spirit of 1776:” a reenlistment ceremony held in 2008 in Baghdad in Saddam Hussein’s former palace, Al Faw. Over 1,200 enlisted personnel volunteered for another tour of duty, sworn in by General Petraeus himself:

 

Petraeus reenlistment

Eat that, Michael Moore. Oh, and Congressman Murtha? What was that about our military being broken?

Happy 4th of July, folks. Enjoy the hot dogs and fireworks.  smiley party

LINKS: More at Sister Toldjah, and Cassandra’s “love letter to America“.

UPDATE: Historian Victor Davis Hanson, as always, puts it better than I:

The Founders’ notion of the rule of law, coupled with freedom of the individual, explains why the United States runs on merit, not tribal affinities or birth. Most elsewhere, being a first cousin of a government official, or having a prestigious name, ensures special treatment from the state. Yet in America, nepotism is never assured. End that notion of American merit and replace it with racial tribalism, cronyism or aristocratic privilege, and America itself would vanish as we know it.

There is no rational reason why a small republican experiment in 1776 grew to dominate global culture and society — except that America is the only nation, past or present, that put trust in the individual rather than in the state and its elite bureaucracy. Such confidence in the average free citizen made America absolutely exceptional — something we should remember more than ever on this Fourth of July.

Those notions are being put to a test these days as progressives try ever harder to divide us on tribal lines and turn free citizens into wards of the State while the two parties nominate exemplars of “cronyism and aristocratic privilege,” but I still believe they’re true. smiley us flag

Note: This is a republication of a post I wrote in 2008, edited to repair broken links or replace text no longer available on the web.

 


Sunday Not Quite A Book Review: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history 1962-1976”

July 3, 2016

Book Cover Dikotter Cultural Revolution

Since I haven’t been posting much of late, I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to revive the Sunday Book Review series. Great idea!

Trouble is, the book I read is one that I can’t get a handle on the right approach to reviewing it. smiley d'oh! smiley headbang wall

The topic is so large and so complex that I’m left with just one thing to say: if you are ever tempted by the idea that things would be better if we just gave government all the power it wanted, read Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976”. That should slap some sense into you.

The book tells the story of bloody turmoil China was thrown into for over a decade because of the paranoia and whims of one all-powerful man, Mao Zedong. Setting faction against faction, even against his own Communist Party, Mao threw China into such chaos that at times it seemed a second civil war might result — and in some locales, it did.

Fearing that his “comrades” would sideline or even depose him for his horrific errors in the 1950s, worried that a Khrushchev waited in the wings to bring ideological revisionism and a denunciation of Mao’s legacy as Khrushchev did to Stalin in his 1956 “Secret Speech,” Mao and his allies waged war against enemies often made up wholly in Mao’s mind.

The price, of course, was paid by the people. Whether looking for “capitalist roaders,” “revisionists,” members of various “anti-Party cliques” and agents of foreign powers lurking within the Party itself, or merely people of “bad class background” (for example, former landowners under the old regime and their relations), enemies weren’t just found among a few rivals to Mao. Dikotter’s book tells in appalling detail how ordinary Chinese had to suffer because of Mao’s whims: prison camps, “reeducation” centers, thousands of city residents exiled to the country with no relevant skills and yet expected to survive — and never return to the city. People humiliated, driven to suicide or beaten to death by teenaged “Red Guards.” Knowledge, learning, and arts declared worthless, even evil, if they didn’t conform to “Mao Zedong Thought” and serve the class struggle. The horror stories of Lovecraft and King are nothing compared to what really happened in China in the 1960s.

Over and over, we’re treated moments of madness, but also shown how people resisted, or at least tried to survive. When Mao’s insane economics made even basic goods almost impossible to get, many set up secret factories and trade routes, reestablishing an underground capitalism in Communism’s heartland. Secret book clubs meeting to share a copy of forbidden Western literature. Playing Classical music on old phonographs in a closet, hoping no one would hear and denounce you to the authorities.

It’s said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” China in the Cultural Revolution is a glaring example of this, and Frank Dikotter’s “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” should be part of any “scared straight” program for anyone tempted by statism.

Highly recommended.

PS: “The Cultural Revolution: a people’s history, 1962-1976” is available in hardcover and Kindle format. I’m happy to say the Kindle book was well-formatted and free of any errors as I recall. Fair disclosure, I get a few cents from purchases made through my links.


(Video) What does ISIS want? (Aside from us dead, that is.)

June 26, 2016

Here’s a good video from Prager University narrated by Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He provides a useful brief background on ISIS’ origins, its goals, and how it sees its place in Islamic history. Worth watching.

One of these days we’re going to wake up from our national madness, an insanity that has seen the two major parties choose the two worst candidates ever as their nominees. And when we do, maybe we can get back to dealing with the real problems of the world (1).

Such as Islamic maniacs who want to get to paradise over our corpses.

Footnote:
(1) Note to isolationists: you may not be interested in the outside world, but the outside world doesn’t care. And it is very much interested in us.


Orlando massacre: Was the FBI waiting for the killer to send them an invitation?

June 17, 2016

Warning after warning sign that Omar Mateen was a threat. Such as:

Then a few weeks ago, the gun store called the FBI.

“Mateen then called someone on the phone and began speaking in Arabic. Robert Abell says that’s when the salesman became suspicious.

“He just made the mistake of asking for an armor that wasn’t normal,” he said. “And then on the phone conversation was another key that you might need to step back and look at this. Our guy made the right decision at the time. I’m not selling him anything.

“As soon as we said we didn’t have the bulk ammo he walked out the door.”

Abell says they denied the sale, which they have the right to do. But before they could get his name and information, Mateen left the store.

The gun shop owner says they immediately alerted the FBI about the suspicious man who wanted to purchase body armor. But the feds never followed up and visited the store.

They failed to connect the dots on a lot of other red flags, too — read the whole thing.

Nobody in their right mind expects we can mount a perfect defense against terrorism, whether organized from abroad like 9-11, or conducted by a native-born citizen acting largely on his own — such as Omar Mateen. Every defense has its weakness, its point of vulnerability and failure.

But it’s laughable for FBI Director Comey to stand there, in the face of a long track record of warning signals, and say “I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently.”

Let me buy you some glasses so you can see those red flags more clearly, Mr. Comey.


How the North Korean Air Force trains: with paper airplanes

June 13, 2016

That sure seems to be the import of the video at the end of an article about other North Korean weirdness. Here’s a screen clip:

"Planes go ZOOM!!"

“Planes go ZOOM!!”

Click the link or the photo, then go to the bottom of the article to watch the video. I’d swear they are practicing attack runs on a giant map, all while Dear Leader III looks on, happy as a pudgy murderous dictator can be. Mel Brooks would steal this for one of his movies.

North Korea: Where surrealism found its home.

Afterthought: On a more serious note, I’m reminded of something George C. Scott says toward the end of “Patton.” I’m paraphrasing, but General Patton (Scott) says he knew the Germans were beaten when he realized they were using wagons and horses for their retreat. In other words, they were running out of fuel and thus the ability to sustain modern combat operations.

Makes one wonder how long North Korea could keeps its planes flying if the Korean War turned hot again.


D-day: storming the castle

June 6, 2016

Seventy-two years ago today, American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish soldiers charged the gates of Hell — and won:

Black Five put up an excellent roundup of D-Day posts from many blogs a few years ago. It’s still worth reviewing. And have a look at this entry for a photo essay on D-Day.

RELATED: The Daily Mail tells the story of one Medal of Honor winner who still wonders how he survived Normandy.


Of course @HillaryClinton can’t say if bearing arms is a constitutional right.

June 5, 2016
x

“I support… Which answer do you want?”

That would require her to have read and actually understood the document, instead of just paying it cursory lip service:

Hillary Clinton couldn’t definitively say Sunday that the Second Amendment of the Constitution guaranteed the right to bear arms during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Republican rival Donald Trump has charged that Clinton wants to abolish the amendment. While Stephanopoulos said he knew that wasn’t true, he pressed her on her gun views that have increasingly gone to the left.

“Do you believe that an individual’s right to bear arms is a constitutional right, that it’s not linked to service in a militia?” he asked.

“I think that for most of our history, there was a nuanced reading of the Second Amendment until the decision by the late Justice Scalia, and there was no argument until then that localities and states and the federal government had a right, as we do with every amendment, to impose reasonable regulations,” she said. “So I believe we can have common-sense gun safety measures consistent with the Second Amendment.”

She then went on to blather more about “common sense” and “reasonable” regulations, but, to Stephanopoulos’ credit, he didn’t let her off the hook, pressing her about whether the right to bear arms is individual.

And, of course, the answer is “yes, it is an individual right.” Even A-level progressive constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe agrees with that:

“My conclusion came as something of a surprise to me, and an unwelcome surprise,” Professor Tribe said. “I have always supported as a matter of policy very comprehensive gun control.”

And he’s not the only one, as you’ll see at the article.

But Hillary is in a bit of a pickle: On the one hand, as a good Progressive, she thinks the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the doctrine of natural rights that lie behind them and were at the core of the American Founding, have been made obsolete by the march of History. In fact, they positively get in the way of the better managed society (managed by progressive experts, of course) we need to head toward. The right to self-defense is one of those bothersome natural rights. If Hillary came out and said an unequivocal “yes,” then she risks alienating her progressive-Socialist base.

On the other hand, Hillary needs to retain traditional Democrat voters, who also happen to like their guns and think it’s their business and no one else’s if they own won. Trump strongly appeals to a large swathe of these voters, and Lady Macbeth risks losing them if she gives in to her inner gun-grabber.

Hence the clumsy evasions. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

I’ll just sit back and enjoy watching Her Inevitableness squirm. smiley popcorn

PS: If you want to read an excellent book about the right to bear arms as understood at the time of the Constitution’s writing, I can recommend “The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms” by Stephen Halbrook.


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