Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The Bully Pulpit

Now that I am frequently in my Jeep an hour at a time, I enjoy listening to the Great Courses series. My choices tend toward history. I highly recommend courses by the historians Mark Stoler and J. Rufus Fears. They do not drone. They have a knack for personalizing the facts, for leading you to why this happened and where things went wrong and who was behind the mess without spoon feeding it. It's great, involving, compelling history. Nothing, unfortunately, thrills my nerdy little soul more.

But I have to say, I can be thrown off a good history now and then by a peccadillo (which rhymes with armadillo and that stands for... never mind). For example, I recently bought a course on the history of biblical Israel. The professor has a nice voice and she knows her ancient history and she had plenty of great information to impart. But she insisted on saying "B.C.E." throughout instead of "B.C." In case you don't know, B.C.E. is the newish, supposedly neutral historical way to designate the era "Before Christ." It stands for "before common era." There's not even anything to capitalize in that. And there's nothing neutral about it. Even if you're not a believer, even if you don't accept Christ's life as fact, the very concept of Christ marks the most pivotal turning point in world history. To deny that as a historian is absurd, and using "B.C.E." is just a passive aggressive way to make a statement of one's religious feelings or lack thereof. It's like Vanderbilt University renouncing and renaming Confederate Hall without tearing down the building or the Brown faculty eliminating the Columbus Day holiday but renaming it Fall Break or some such. It's historical revisionism and hypocrisy of the worst sort: that done sanctimoniously and judgmentally.

I do not digress. This has everything to do with why I would not normally have read, much less purchased, The Bully Pulpit - Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Most of us know her from TV as a featured commentator giving historical perspective in federal election coverage. I have to say I enjoy watching her and the information she brings to the table. So she's sort of a cross between a big time historian and a big time journalist.

That in itself wouldn't throw me off, but I suspected already and you don't have to read far into this book to know, that the two passions of the author are progressivism and agenda journalism. It is a complete and total paean to any and every possible way to see American history through the lens of leftist ideology. So if you choose to read this book, accept and ignore this irritant, like the lady spewing "B.C.E." over and over again. As for how I ended up reading it, the book was a gift, so I figured I had nothing to lose by forging past her politics to get to the meat of the thing.

First and foremost, Ms. Goodwin does an outstanding job of painting the two divergent personalities: Roosevelt, the type A, charismatic man of intense passions and Taft, his erstwhile best friend and chosen successor in the presidency, the fat and affable judicial intellect, a sort of tortoise to Roosevelt's hare. I ended up admiring them both, but I'd probably rather go fishing with Taft. Roosevelt would be too busy, casting and recasting and trying different lures. I like to just sit there and watch my bobber. Taft would be all about that.

Ms. Goodwin sets the scene well, giving context to the two men amid their contemporary American society at the turn of the century. These are the two presidents who, tragically, ushered in the bumbling Woodrow Wilson through the breakdown of their friendship and Roosevelt's launch of a disastrous third party bid. America, though in a period of prolonged prosperity after the Civil War and before the world wars, was roiling with social unrest and change. The obvious comparison is to today's world and, I would say, our current bumbling president, but the important thing to remember is that it is comparison, not equivalence. The progressivism of that day is not at all what is passing for progressivism today. Progressivism then was good sense, like eliminating child labor, establishing the forty hour work week, including women in the vote. Progressivism today is rank leftism.

Once I managed to get past the author's grinding ax--progressivism, progressivism, progressivism-- I thoroughly enjoyed her writing style, wealth of facts and details, and presentation of the personalities who drove American history out of the horse and buggy and into the automobile. (Curiously, it was Taft who loved the new invention while Roosevelt despised it.) Looking for a good, long read into history? Go get it, but don't buy it as a metaphor for politics today hook, line, and sinker. And be careful to steady the boat when Taft steps in.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off"

Now even Taylor Swift is being accused of racism because of her new video for her pop song, "Shake It Off."

On the contrary. Taylor Swift has huge talent and a huge sense of humor. Or more precisely, whimsy, which is something direly lacking in today's world of pure cynicism, sarcasm, and begging to have a chip to carry on one's shoulder. And she's living proof a la the Jackson Five of the America of opportunity, the antidote to the dismal world of rapperism and occupation.

Judge for yourself. I choose whimsy, hope and change, not rage, hope and change.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Nobel Prize for Savoir-Faire...

...should be awarded to whatever Egyptian official had the presence of mind to order John Kerry and his entourage subjected to metal detectors before his meeting with the Egyptian president. What a meet comeuppance for the pompous one and the Obama administration who left the Egyptians in the lurch when the Islamists took over. It's no wonder those guys figured out how to fit the stones of the pyramids together so perfectly.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Movie Review: Dinesh D'Souza's Movie "America"

Frankly I didn't make it all the way through D'Souza's previous "2016" movie. The ground it covered was all familiar to me. I felt its purpose was more to educate the ignorant about the nature of Barack Obama than to talk to someone like me, who was already convinced of his ineptitude. I was watching it on a laptop and I couldn't stay with it.

For someone continuing to study and puzzle over this man and what is happening to our country, however, this new film is not to be missed. D'Souza puts it perfectly in saying that Obama didn't create the movement, the movement created him. In this "America," D'Souza helps make sense of it all.

D'Souza treats or interviews several guiding lights from the current progressive side of things and features archival television and movie footage of many key events and progressive leaders in modern American history. It is not dry. In fact, most of this is very interesting. Footage of Saul Alinsky is especially revealing, as is examination of Howard Zinn's largely unchallenged take on American history. (I remember reading his book in high school, and, even then as a liberal-leaning young nincompoop, thinking that this guy's lens wasn't very clear. But his seminal book has become like a Bible for those who want to believe the worst about America.)

I think the film really shines in its historical reenactments. D'Souza uses the device of asking what the world would be like if America didn't exist, and visits several characters in American history, some well known and some who are not, but should be. I especially liked George Washington's character. I'm not sure he ever really spoke in the movie, but the actor very successfully conveyed the dignity and charisma that made men follow him and took the Constitution from theory to reality. I was also very taken by the potrayal of Lincoln. In short segments with iconic figures, it is very hard I think to achieve the suspension of disbelief necessary for dramatic affect, but this movie does it brilliantly.

I've been to several movies, documentary or otherwise, where I did not feel I got my money's worth. Not this one. The cinematography showcasing America's beauty is worth the price of admission alone. But I'd also like to think it will change some minds. Those people whose appreciation of history is slight and whose idea of news is watching Jon Stewart are the ones who need to see it for that to happen, but I think unfortunately only the conservative choir is the main audience who will see it. If you are in that choir, you owe it to yourself to go see it while it's in the theaters; it plays great on the big screen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Hobby Lobby case is not about contraception.

Every time I heard the Supreme Court's decision handed down yesterday re Hobby Lobby, the newscaster got it wrong. And so did most conservative talk show hosts, at least those I heard. The issue is not about contraception; it is about abortion.

Among the many types of "contraception" mandated by Obamacare for insurance policies are the various forms of morning after pills like "Plan B" which, instead of preventing pregnancy as birth control pills do, actively poison a pregnancy. And the Obama administration has made no secret of its advocacy for full blown abortion, so it is logical to expect that an outright abortion mandate follows.

Many reasonable persons of faith consider abortion to be murder. These people are not extremists, or even just outside the mainstream if the polls that consistently show over 50% of Americans opposed to abortion are correct. Thus sponsoring insurance policies that literally fund genocide is for most people, unconscionable.

If it's legal and the parents decide an abortion is appropriate, then let them pay for it, but don't make me take my treasure and fund what I consider a moral atrocity with it. It has nothing to do with anybody's imagined "war on women." There is no such thing, except within Islam.

Hobby Lobby had the moral courage to stand for religious liberty expressed through private property rights and thank God, it was affirmed by the Supreme Court yesterday.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Don't impeach Obama.

Impeachment is useless, especially with a feckless Congress. Someone needs to arrest the bastard.

His sins against everything America stands for are easy to enumerate, obvious to any thinking person who is faithful to the Constitution and prizes individual liberty. Those alone might be impeachable.

But standing idly by while over ten years of sacrifice of American blood and treasure goes right down the toilet in Iraq? That's not just incompetence nor stupidity That's not just negligence nor wrongheadedness. That's a high crime. That is a betrayal of hs duties as Commander in Chief. That is treason.

The libs loved counting the bodies of American soldiers brought home in caskets fighting for the cause of liberty in Iraq. Over four thousand.

Seems to me, they should count for something.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another faux crisis.

The supposed humanitarian crisis of children streaming across the Mexican border is another Fast and Furious - a fake crisis cooked up by really, really cynical zealots in and around the Obama administration who figure if their logic for open borders won't work, then maybe casting open borders as "for the children" will.

If anybody thinks for more than two seconds about this, they will realize that thousands of children don't just show up at the border, having trekked across the deserts of northern Mexico with the dream of making it to America.

They didn't suddenly strike out toward America because they heard that amnesty was imminent. It wasn't an unintended consequence of Obama's and Cantor's and etc.'s political discourse about immigration reform.

They came in buses. They were rounded up from all over Mexico by the Mexican government, which is only too happy to have a way to get rid of them. And for that to happen, U.S. government officials simply have to be complicit. Just as the Justice Department - with impunity - put guns into the hands of the drug cartels in an attempt to subvert the Second Amendment, the Feds are having children stream across the border in an attempt to liquidate our national sovereignty.

These are sick people. Not the immigrants - they're just pawns and orphans. I mean that these are sick, vile people running our country. It's time they were exposed and rooted out. Perhaps Eric Cantor's defeat in Virginia is the first sign that just that thing is about to happen. It was such a surprise that no one was even paying attention and no dirty pool was played by either the Republican or Democrat parties. The voters got one honest for a change.

The crisis is at the top, not in the Tea Party, not on the border. And it's time for the deportations to begin.