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“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

Roger Simon: Is a New 'Casablanca' Possible?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Over at PJM:

But, again sad to say, this is a probably an academic exercise. I doubt Hollywood is ready to make a movie like this, even if it would be a hit. They just don’t seem to want to cheer for our team, no matter how much the audience wants it.

Update 4/1: Permalink fixed. Apparently PJM's recent site redesign entailed moving things around.

Obama: is America ready for this dangerous left winger?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gerard Baker at the UK Times Online:

In what might be the most revealing statement made by any political figure so far in this campaign season, Mrs Obama caused a stir this week. She said that the success of her husband Barack's campaign had marked the first time in her adult life that she had felt pride in her country.


It was instructive for two reasons. First, it reinforced the growing sense of unease that even some Obama supporters have felt about the increasingly messianic nature of the candidate's campaign. There's always been a Second Coming quality about Mr Obama's rhetoric. The claim that his electoral successes in places like Nebraska and Wisconsin might transcend all that America has achieved in its history can only add to that worry.

Secondly, and more importantly, I suspect it reveals much about what the Obama family really thinks about the kind of nation that America is. Mrs Obama is surely not alone in thinking not very much about what America has been or done in the past quarter century or more. In fact, it is a trope of the left wing of the Democratic party that America has been a pretty wretched sort of place.

There is a caste of left-wing Americans who wish essentially and in all honesty that their country was much more like France. They wish it had much higher levels of taxation and government intervention, that it had much higher levels of welfare, that it did not have such a “militaristic” approach to foreign policy. Above all, that its national goals were dictated, not by the dreadful halfwits who inhabit godforsaken places like Kansas and Mississippi, but by the counsels of the United Nations.

Sounds like pretty scary stuff to me -- yet seemingly equally apt as a description of the views of and aspirations for the U.S. that Hillary Clinton has expressed. Whether it's Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama, it appears that the Democratic party will be putting forth a socialist candidate for the office of President of the United States this time around.

I try to reassure myself that freedom-loving Americans of once hardy, pioneering stock would never actually elect a candidate of this sort, who runs on a platform of seeming shame about who we are, and a vision-less vision of making us more humble and obedient like everybody else. But the mere possibility is certainly enough to give me a chill...

Hollywood's Most Certainly Not America

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ferras' "Hollywood's Not America" isn't, as its title led me to expect, a song about Hollywood's monolithically leftish political culture. But the mere suggestion of that in the phrase certainly rings true and timely as the Oscars approach.

It's funny: I grew up in Los Angeles as a big fan of the movies. Many of them became (I now recount with no small measure of embarrassment) lenses through which I came to view my own hopes and dreams, cultivate my aspirations, and imagine my possible futures. I would never then have remotely imagined caring as little as I do now what Hollywood's legions of self-important, self-appointed social commentators think of our country, our culture, our way of life. They've gone off the deep end for sure, and the disconnect between the ideological bubble they inhabit and the rest of America has never been more apparent.

In a silly sentimental way, it's too bad my idealization of Hollywood had to meet with disillusionment. But I'm glad to have realized I have far better things to aspire to than Hollywood could ever cook up, and much better uses for my time than passively taking in the imaginings of others. These days I feel much more inclined to spend my time doing, creating, learning. And that can hardly be a bad thing.

"Keep your Burqa, I'll keep my clitoris!"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My kind of feminist!

At Tim Blair's (hat tip: Instapundit)

The Final Mission, Parts I and II

Monday, February 11, 2008

Michael Totten has posted another characteristically excellent, in-depth report from Iraq -- this time from Fallujah, as the Marines there train the local Iraqi Police and prepare to leave patrolling of this once volatile, now startlingly calm city in their hands.

As always, Michael provides insightful, informative reporting that's hard to come by elsewhere -- thoroughly engaging and well worth reading in its entirety.

If you like Michael's work, consider dropping something in the tipjar that makes his travels possible. (I just did so myself.)

Update 2/12: Part III is up now. A few among many especially relevant excerpts, addressing the unfortunate disconnect between popular perception and what Totten has witnessed on the ground:

According to planet-wide conventional wisdom, United States soldiers and Marines are on an abusive rampage in Iraq. Relentless media coverage of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib – which really did occur, but which the United States didn’t sanction or tolerate – seriously distorted what actually goes on in Iraq most of the time. The United States military is far from perfect and is hardly guilt-free, but it’s the most law-abiding and humane institution in Iraq at this time.


Such people do not wish to recklessly fire their weapons and harm civilians. Their rules of engagement are sharply restrictive, much more so than most American civilians have any idea. The rules are certainly more restrictive than Iraqi civilians expected when the Americans showed up in force in 2003.


I've said before that American soldiers and Marines aren't the bloodthirsty killers of the popular (in certain quarters) imagination, and that they are far less racist against Arabs than average Americans. They are also, famously, less racist against each other, and they have been since they were forcibly integrated after World War II. This is due to sustained everyday contact with each other and with Iraqis. The stereotype of the racist and unhinged American soldier and Marine is itself a bigoted caricature based almost entirely on sensationalist journalism and recklessly irresponsible war movies.


You know who else is in Iraq and therefore knows what the country is really like? Iraqis. (Of course.) They see and experience much of the same kinds of events George Packer and I have seen and experienced. They don't learn about Iraq from Reuters and Hollywood. And they are less anti-American than they were during the initial invasion in 2003 – at least many of those who have had sustained contact with Marines and soldiers. Sustained contact with the “other” breaks down bigotry all around, even in war zones.

The violent strain of anti-Americanism in Fallujah and the surrounding area has ebbed almost completely. People here know Americans are not the enemy. They know Americans protect them from murder and intimidation from the head-choppers and car bombers. They know Americans provide medical care to Iraqis hurt by insurgents and even to insurgents wounded in battle.

Che Guevara Flags in Obama's Houston Headquarters?

At Little Green Footballs, c/o Instapundit:

Barack Obama won’t wear an American flag on his lapel, but on the wall of his Houston campaign office: a Cuban flag with a picture of Communist mass murderer Che Guevara.

(Follow the link for pictures and video.)

Yow. Sure seems like the Obama campaign staff ought make an effort to keep that kind of stuff away from the cameras...

Candidates on the contemporary American left don't run for office in this country as outright "socialists", knowing full well that the moniker would render them unelectable in the United States, but incidents like this one (which may say more about certain of Obama's supporters than Obama himself) do seem to shed light on the shared ideological affinities...

What's Right with the World

Saturday, February 2, 2008

over at Dr. Helen's.

It often seems to me that our biggest problem in the U.S. is a national epidemic of cultural self-doubt.

Reading Atlas Shrugged

In response to the most recent of several recommendations over the years, I've finally picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged and dug in for what I've been assured will be a well worthwhile 1166 pages of reading. (I've only made it up to page 232 so far, so no spoilers, please, as I'm muchly enjoying the story!)

Among my favorite passages thus far, this bit of insight into protagonist Hank Rearden in a moment of crisis (p. 214):

He saw for the first time that he had never known fear because, against any disaster, he had held the omnipotent cure of being able to act. No, he thought, not an assurance of victory -- who can ever have that? -- only the chance to act, which is all one needs. Now he was contemplating, impersonally and for the first time, the real heart of terror: being delivered to destruction with one's hands tied behind one's back.

Well, then, go on with your hands tied, he thought. Go on in chains. Go on. It must not stop you. . . .

The passage definitely struck a chord with me, as the mere opportunity to act of my own accord, even if sometimes in error, is all that I have ever asked, and all that ever seemed truly necessary to me.

I look forward to enjoying more such gems if what I've read so far is representative of what's in store.

McCain, the Subprime Kerfuffle, and the Election

Interesting item that went by this week while I was too busy to blog about it:

An excellent, uncharacteristically long post over at Instapundit about the subprime mortgage crisis and, somewhat peripherally, Senator McCain's recent comments on the matter. One especially interesting reader comment:

According to many in congress and social commentators, one of the main causes of the subprime mess was mortgage brokers doing loans for people that we knew could not repay the loan.

As a mortgage broker if I had a customer sitting in front of me who qualified for a loan (according to lender guidelines in place at the time), I was supposed to tell them that I was not going to do a loan for them because I don't think they will make their payments? Can you imagine the uproar if lenders and brokers did that to customers? Especially if the customer happened to be a minority. It comes down to a case of brokers being damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Worth reading the whole thing for a variety of comparably interesting perspectives on what's happening. And be sure not to miss this excellent 2006 SNL sketch guest-starring Steve Martin. I had never seen it before myself, but the radically "new" idea being pitched pretty well sums up what my approach to credit has been all my life: if you don't have the money now, don't buy it! I don't know to what experiences I might owe my natural aversion to spending beyond my means, but it has certainly served me well. Buying a house, of course -- especially in California -- is one purchase for which the need to borrow money is nearly unavoidable, barring truly extraordinary business or investment talents. But even given that, one does have a choice about whether and under what conditions to proceed. A couple of years ago, the assortment of house prices and lending instrument terms being offered in the SF Bay Area entered the realm of the truly absurd. I'm certainly glad I exercised restraint and didn't buy then.

As for McCain, I'm generally inclined to like the guy better than any of the presently available alternatives, but I didn't much appreciate his comments about "greedy people on Wall Street", which Glenn Reynolds followed up on here, here, and here. As James Taranto put it in the WSJ:

He seems to view the making of money -- that is to say, the production of goods and services that people want, and the act of supplying them through voluntary exchange in a free market -- as a less than honorable pursuit.

Certainly, I feel obliged to point out, this is not the point of view I would choose if I were assembling my idea of an ideal candidate from scratch. But I'm a practical man, and politics is rightly enough the art of the possible, not the ideal. I'm still sad about Fred Thompson having withdrawn his candidacy, as are others, but even as my first choice he wasn't someone with whom I agreed on all issues. If anything, I appreciated his straightforward honesty about his convictions, whether I agreed with him on a particular philosophical point or not. Much preferable to crowd-pleasing evasion and fungible, poll-driven responses-du-jour in my book.

In any case, Fred's bowed out of the race, and all the write-in votes the country has to offer seem unlikely to change that. So for now at least, I'm with McCain. I'm no big fan of McCain-Feingold, or of his recent, left-echoing "econo-baiting", but he's got it right on the one issue that overrides all others for me: seeing things through to a tenable conclusion in Iraq, and showing the Jihadists who mean with demonstrated determination to bring harm to the United States and the West at large that we will not back down.

Update 2/3: If he doesn't win re-election to the Czech presidency on February 8th, can we draft Václav Klaus?