Taking Credit Where It’s Not Due – the Left’s Specialty

May 24, 2011

Lots of folks are shaking their heads nowadays.

President Barak Obama, understandably, is making the most of the spectacular mission that bumped-off Threat Osama. It happened on his watch and, fair or not, snagging props for the good things is a handy perq that goes with residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Less defensibly, he’s offered nary a peep acknowledging, let alone commending, the terror-battling policies of his predecessor; policies he had sanctimoniously and persistently denounced in bygone days, but which made that mission possible.

Those wagging their noggins at the Commander-in-Chief’s boorishness are justified. But those surprised by his grandstanding? – what were they expecting? The political Left’s bread-and-butter long has been repudiating their rivals’ every accomplishment, and then living off the capital of those very same accomplishments. And Barack Obama is nothing if not the embodiment of all things Leftist.

Our exertions in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, aggressive intelligence measures, a more robustly funded military – all were formerly deplored by Team Obama as the diabolical machinations of the Rove/Cheney/George W. Bush axis. Yet, turns out all served as pivotal links in the chain of variables which lead American special operators to the squalid doorstep of the world’s most wanted jihadist.

The New York Post’s Michael Walsh has pithily summarized, “President Obama has now, with his targeted killing of bin Laden, essentially accepted every element of the Bush war-fighting doctrine in the battle against Islamic terror.”

Plainly, this pattern is no out-of-the-blue anomaly: before crowing about his newly-minted Mighty-Warlord status, the President was busily trumpeting record domestic oil harvests. Whitehouse.gov recently chortled, “[O]il production last year rose to its highest level since 2003″. Phooey on those $4/gallon gasoline prices! Ignore those forlornly idled Gulf Coast derricks! — things actually have never been better on the stateside fossil-fuels front.

Then again, our jauntily garrulous leader declined to mention any recent supply increases resulted from energy developments which emerged significantly during the tenures – once again – of dastardly, “Right-Wing” luminaries: Reagan and Bush 43. (For the record, on this score Bill Clinton also played a commendable role.)

Redstate.com’s Steve Mahley evaluates, “Obama Administration policies had nothing whatever to do with the production buildup in late ’09 into early 2010.” Additionally, any recent inventory growth can be traced to “industry ingenuity and competitiveness … [T]hey have excelled in spite of hostile Federal policies, not because of them.”

Again, it’s not just the present Chief Speechifier forsaking honest communication – this has been Liberal/Democratic stock-in-trade for decades. The insufferable Bill Clinton and his toadies are still high-fiving themselves for taming the 1990′s deficits and “leaving a surplus” for GWB’s maiden term. As with his wife’s current boss, though, the scalawag from Arkansas scants meaningful details: a GOP-dominated congress squeezed Clinton for essential tax-cuts, balanced budgets and welfare reform (he twice vetoed it before eventually signing the Republican-engineered legislation.)

Moreover, a Republican player named Reagan steered America victoriously through the Cold War, relieving the Clinton presidency of the burden of checking a predatory Soviet Union. Styled “the Peace Dividend”, that, along with GOP contributions referenced above, massively benefited not only the nation’s fisc, but the political fortunes of Bill Clinton, as well.

With wearying predictability, impudent Lefties win public office, commandeering the governmental driver’s seat for a season, and make a general hash of things. The grown-ups (Constitution-centered conservatives) then step up and set the house back in comparative order – whereupon the big-government, welfare-statist, America-is-the-problem, put-it-to-the-Man, punish-the-successful, kill-babies-and-wreck-marriage “Progressives” get another crack at thumping their chests over what the other guys have built up; and promptly get busy draining and devouring, ransacking and overthrowing it all over again.

The day following OBL’s vanquishment, some participants on morning TV’s gabfest The View were beside themselves with Barack-euphoria. A beaming Joy Behar, exulting “We love our President”, literally couldn’t sit still. The normally more dignified Barbara Walters effused mock pity for any 2012 Republican Oval-Office aspirant.

Reminded me of a gaggle of junior high-school ‘tweeners – which works on several levels, actually. Pubescents major in trashing adults’ “boring” but essential activities; stuff that makes life work, keeping the kiddos clothed, fed, safe. Thriving on what mature, serious folks provide, teenyboppers gigglingly ridicule “old people” efforts, sometimes, conversely, fancying they had a part making them happen.

Behold the contemporary Left – seems some pubescents never change.

Seeing Red Because Green Hornet Has Gone Blue

January 28, 2011

    I admit, at nearly fifty years old I’m still transfixed by the exploits of super-powered, colorfully costumed chaps who keep the world safe. So I was genuinely anticipating Columbia Pictures’ release of The Green Hornet. The trailers for this cinematic treatment of the 1960′s TV series looked kinda fun – and, as noted, I’m a softie for the genre.

     Then I started reading the reviews. And my heart sank. Two in a row featured the off-putting observation that, contrary to reasonable assumptions, the film is decidedly un-family-friendly. True enough, Hornet was co-written by comedic, cinematic sex-romp superstar Seth Rogen (also tapped to play the masked protagonist) - so perhaps its crudity shouldn’t be a complete surprise.

     Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman, nevertheless, frets, “It seemed quite seriously like those involved (Rogen?) … REALLY wanted this to be … R-rated … I can honestly not remember the last time I watched a PG-13 with so much profanity.”

     Agreeing was Crosswalk.com’s Jeffery Huston who lamented “the free-flowing profanity and base crudity (often sexual …) that we expect in R-rated raunch-fests”. Verdict?  “[U]ltimately too crass and offensive to take the kids”. 

      That was enough for me. No double-sawbucks of mine would be going toward father/son night in this case. I’m tired of underwriting a Hollyweird which evidently can’t resist trashing-up about everything to which it applies its scrofulous little fingers. Even the Green Hornet, turns out, is no longer safe.

     This exasperation reminds me of a relatively recent, minor but instructive debate involving the latest Die Hard installment. 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard was an impressive box-office performer and enormously entertaining. One head-scratching beef among fans of Bruce Willis’s Detective John McClane, however, was that this third sequel in the big-screen, action/thriller franchise clipped the character’s ribald signature line. A clichéd trope from Saturday morning cowboy serials blended snarkily with an “f-word” variant reportedly favored by former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanual, McClane’s obscenity was only partially uttered in the PG-13 Live Free/Die Hard. Its R-rated predecessors, on the other hand, had featured the full, unveiled vulgarity.

     This situation was flatly too much for the potty-mouth enthusiasts. An “f-bomb”-free Jonn McClane? What a revoltin’ development!  Or, as they more likely put it, “What a @!#*& revoltin’ development!” Live Free simply had failed to measure up to (down to?) Die Hard‘s pre-established standards.

     Then there’s TNT’s Southland. My wife and I have become regular viewers of this Tuesday evening police drama (my penchant for fictional crime-fighters doesn’t stop with the super-hero variety). Its edgy storylines, engrossing characters, and abundant, but not cartoonish, heroics grabbed our attention early on.

     But, when the series kicked-off its third season just weeks ago, I noticed something rankling: an eruption of persistent, envelope-pushing coarse language. Once again, the renowned “f-words” are bleeped out, literally; but just about everything else earns a profanity-pass: the whole panoply of curse words, lewd sexual dishing, even blasphemous misuses of God’s name (which, for the record, lots of folks find most offensive of all.)

     I’m planning on dropping TNT note, protesting their needless debasement of this superior drama. Who knows? –  my plaint may make a difference. I suspect, however, and with regret, that Southland‘s days on our household’s “appointment TV” docket are numbered.

     One’s faculties boggle - how did Shakespeare, Dickens, even Hemingway, for all that, ever manage to address their eras’ ticklish scandals and outrages without sewage-saturated prose? Or John Ford, Howard Hawks, Frank Capra capture silver-screen magic minus the unrelenting, jack-hammering presence of blue material? Orson Wells’ feat in Citizen Kane – popularly toasted as the greatest film of all time – becomes all the more towering when one acknowledges its script’s lack of scurrilous dialogue despite the unsettling nature of its subject matter.

     Could cinematically gifted colossi like today’s Scorcese or Tarantino test their talents against a post-modern challenge? Producing compelling works without recourse to smothering filth? Vulgarity has become expected fare in their stuff; point of fact, in almost everything pop culture grinds out nowadays. How’s about a more tasteful, albeit still aesthetically distinguished, change of pace? Would they be up to that?

     Sophisticates, of course, roll their eyes at the rubes’ finger-wagging, pleading the smut-peddler’s dog-eared defense: “We’re only recording how real people speak!” 

     Please. Human beings have bowel movements, as well; yet, unless it’s a Jim Carrey movie, most films thankfully forgo that explicit depiction. Portraying depravity can be accomplished without engaging in it – by a sufficiently competent and imaginative artist, that is.

     Meantime, the coarsening of society gallops along. The fellow in the green mask has gone blue.

     I suppose I should start worrying about Tinsel Town’s plans for the upcoming Green Lantern movie.

Making it Until April

January 28, 2011

     Every year, post-Christmas reality reaffirms why, much as I love the holidays, I ‘m vexed by mixed feelings when late-November initially rolls around. Planted in all the year-end ho-ho-ho festivities lurks a dread of what’s to follow: months of shrunken days and extended nights, most of them frigid and snow-choked.

     Wintertime ushered in by Yuletide clearly poses no problem for skiers salivating over three feet of powder. Ditto, for those hankering after snow-groomed, backwoods trails custom-made for their Arctic Cats.

     For the rest of us? January-March often spell more a brumal ordeal to be outlasted than an enchanting stretch to be welcomed.

     So, how to survive until April?

     First, although for most this suggestion arrives too late to be tested this time around: why not leave up the Christmas decorations awhile? Is there some unheralded law that forty-eight hours after the Big Day the tree has to be orphaned disconsolately at the end of the driveway? The shivering house ransacked of holiday lights? The garland consigned back to the attic? Seems like a no-brainer: why not maintain a personal oasis of brightness and color for a handful of weeks during the calendar’s gloomiest phase? Why choose to “go dark” yourself, just as the hibernal environs around you are doing the same? 

    I’ll be keeping my office’s diminutive Christmas tree, cheering me as I write this, fired up at least through January. Sure, it’s only a psychological bump, but I’ll take whatever I can these days when the sun sets hours before dinnertime. Any port in a storm, as they say. Or snowstorm.

      Create events. Target an otherwise not-too-spectacular activity, stir in the right blend of people, maybe some food – and voila! You’ve whipped-up something to anticipate despite the surrounding, frigid murk.

      NFL playoffs, the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards ceremony, or something as unimaginative as DVD movie night – all can be transformed from a few hours’ throwaway diversion into a winter-defying production, a fortifying tonic against the worst ravages Jack Frost tosses our way.  

    A long-departed pair of holy men additionally provides promising material for wintry-doldrums getaways. While Saint Valentine’s and Patrick’s Days earn comparatively low-billing on the festival scale, with some forethought they can serve up a handy mid-winter emotional boost.

     Few folks enjoy more than sketchy familiarity with the historical adventures of Ireland’s Patrick. No leprechaun he – more a cross between Mother Theresa and Indiana Jones.

     Valentine? This courageous third-century Christian martyr was … well, you do the research.                

     Then throw yourself, with “wintertime-you-ain’t-gonna-beat-me” gusto and the help of friends, into making an experience of memorializing these spiritual giants. February 14 will jump way beyond an overdone romantic gesture. And no more will corned beef and cabbage be simply once-a-year, specialty-menu items. March will yield a fresh reason to be appreciated, not just put up with.

     This further underscores a broader, undying truth: relationships matter most in life. Plunging mercury doesn’t diminish that one degree. Humans’ interacting is meant to be more impactful than even the weather; and can be, if we reject the unfortunate, unflattering reflex of surly withdrawal. Cabin fever need not be a given. – it can be pre-empted every time, despite the season’s most caliginous elements, with a regular dose of  Intentional living, intentional friendships.

     Then, there’s this reminder: beset by our first months’ all-encompassing frost, February’s buffeting blizzards and March’s blustery inhospitability, we still call America our home - a land whose dazzling lifestyle would leave those of any other age – even some in this age who inhabit other corners of the planet – slack-jawed. July or January, our local markets’ Produce Departments remain dependable kaleidoscopes of sight and taste. Need something? The Wal-Mart or Target down the road likely has it. Feel a chill? Tap a button and your domicile toasts right up. The poorest among us typically have access to automobiles, cell phones, televisions. Obesity generally threatens their ranks more than starvation.

     These plentiful, year-round blessings alone should encourage, revive, exhilarate us even in a very dark, cold season. When Christmas celebrations linger merely as cozy, but months-distant, memories, if our chief gripe is shoveling the walk, scraping the windshield? Life remains good.

Thanksgiving’s Antidote for irony

January 28, 2011

Could Thanksgiving Day be the most “uncool” major American holiday? I mean, once one gets past the mounds of festive comestibles, the fourth Thursday in November represents, at bottom, pretty serious business. It’s intended an exercise in gratitude – actually, by shockingly unhip implication, gratitude (gasp!) to God.

Modern Western culture doesn’t do “serious” terribly well these days. Existence, for many a 21st century American, centers on entertainment, pleasurable diversion, laughter – certainly not anything particularly heavy or sobering.

Thanksgiving Day, though, mirthful as it ought to be, never quite escapes its tone of soberness. It commemorates the adventures of an intrepid band of pioneers who courted death and privation to tame a foreboding land. They faced near-extinction, sacrificed for a divinely-ordained destiny, secured survival, and never chucked their exuberant (Christian!) faith along the way. 

The holiday has no Santa Clause or elves to elide its spiritual aspects, no scary masks or horror movie marathons to overshadow its transcendent roots. Our Pilgrim forebears’ purposeful, four-centuries-removed offering of gratitude to their Creator is still presented, rather forthrightly, as paradigm for us today. It’s not just about “giving thanks”, but nurturing a personal and national disposition which acknowledges life’s stuff matters enough to notice.

Dilemma: for decades now, America increasingly has been big on the “ironic”, short on semi-sacred sentiments like gratefulness and appreciation. The latter are much too ickily, drearily earnest for fashionable types who ceaselessly tweak our cultural thermostat. Irony, of course, in today’s parlance connotes: sarcastic detachment, snooty ridicule of anything/everything; nothing taken too solemnly, nor too reflectively. It dominates our culture. Writer David Aikman, thus, christens this age “Generation I for irony “.

In the immediate, smoky wake of the 9/11 outrage, Time magazine’s Roger Rosenblatt announced: “The age of irony comes to an end”. And he was correct; it did. For about three weeks. Whereupon voguish and smirking insouciance came roaring back with smug, shoulder-shrugging vengeance.  

So, nowadays more than ever, we hear much approvingly about “irreverent” humor. Nothing is off limits for the laugh-seeking ironist who claims it as his métier. Matter of fact, the more cherished a topic, the better for the stand-up routine or sit-com plot. Seinfeld, perhaps the most acclaimed prime-time comedy of the past generation, was the television incarnation of this trend: eight seasons of a self-professed “show about nothing”; because, ultimately, nihilistically, nothing was deemed important.

Hardly the most gratitude-friendly atmosphere.

More recently, this self-satisfied snarkiness was showcased at Washington, D.C.’s October 30th “Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear”. Literal days before potentially history-making, nation-altering mid-term elections what did late-night talkers/(alleged) funny guys John Stewart and Stephen Colbert opt for? A public gathering cum satirical skit, situated on the Mall and drenched in the sniggering milieu of our era. It cast the whole democratic process as giggle fodder.

For three hours, the Saturday before ballot-box Tuesday, with international financial calamity looming, with Americans fighting and dying abroad in a war against jihad, the Comedy Channel luminaries mugged for the cameras, indulged in rhetorical nudges and winks, and, at one point at least, scampered around the stage like a buffoon (Colbert); all before myriad impressionable, on-site spectators. I understand, at festivities’ wrap-up Stewart donned suit and tie and lectured the throngs about civic “civility” – ostensibly a “grown-up” gesture; but regrettably preceded and, I suspect, overwhelmed by the afternoon’s let’s-just-have-a-chortle clownishness.  

Thanksgiving Day grates against this spirit of our age – if all is a joke, how can genuine gratitude be sustained? The mid-autumn observance’s contrariness serves a vital purpose, affirming that all around us much remains precious; hence, much demands thankfulness. It’s an annual tonic against that alternative outlook – indifferent, flippant, ever-amused, never inspired – which is cancerous for individuals. For civilizations.

Crusading atheist Ayn Rand, of all unlikely sources, recognized that to destroy a person “tell them to laugh at everything … Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul … Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle … anything goes – nothing is too serious”.

 Our fiercely theistic Pilgrim Fathers undoubtedly would’ve hailed Rand’s observation, if not her impiety. While, contrary to the widespread but unhistorical caricature, Plymouth Rock’s settlers could savor a healthy laugh, I won’t pretend they were an especially ironic bunch. Red-blooded thankfulness, expressed regularly, was paramount. That’s one part of the legacy they left us. So, even now Thanksgiving Day reminds us sometimes it’s necessary to dump the sneering jibe, hit pause on the punch-lines, and get serious.

Conservatives, Christmas and Cellar Door

January 28, 2011

Cellar door. Let your lips form the words, speak them gently to yourself. Do you feel your heartbeat de-escalating? Blood pressure easing? Pinballing thoughts soothing? If so, J.R.R. Tolkien, were he still alive, wouldn’t be surprised. He, after all, was the famed British scribe (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) who reputedly anointed “cellar door” the most fetching word-phrase in the English tongue. True, that observation has been variously ascribed to others, Edgar Alan Poe and poet Robert Frost among them – but a 1955 essay puts Tolkien on the record savoring the word-duo.

“Cellar door” earns its favorable rating via a mildly exotic,  academic specialty known as phonaesthetics, which analyzes words’ sounds as opposed to their semantics. It concerns itself, that is, with the way groups of letters play on the eardrum; addressing melody, if you will, irrespective of meaning. Other contenders for most dulcet-toned terms, posted by dictionary.com readers, include “cinnamon”, “epiphany”, and “languorous”. Then there’s “dog-kennel”. A buddy of mine nominated that one for the prize; euphonious enough, in spite of its obviously scruffy associations.

Lexicons, meanwhile, are a-brim with words that communicate sublime notions without leaving any acoustic impression worth mentioning. Definitionally? They’re delightful. Aurally? Often unremarkable. Sure they stir our hearts and minds, just not necessarily our audio-sensibilities.

I’m thinking of examples like: “liberty”, “forgiveness”, “family”,” integrity”. It’s not how they sound that rivets, but what they represent. With characteristic impishness, American satirist Dorothy Parker supposedly demonstrated this alternative approach to word-evaluation when she puckishly dubbed “check enclosed” the most striking Anglo-Saxon pairing. 

Could “Christmas” be one of those comparatively rare birds that excels in both categories, marrying a winning tone with stimulating content? Clearly boasting a susurrus, crystalline delicacy that enchants the ear’s palate, this term also inspires in the soul so much that is, undeniably, thrilling. Not for nothing does Andy Williams croon about “the most wonderful time of the year”!

Closing on half-a-century of living, I still enjoy the deep, warm glow excited by mention of A Christmas Carol, the familiar magic of Christmas tunes and lights, or by the “Christmas Story” of a divine baby drawing first breath in a manger two-thousand years ago. And these all have precisely what in common? Letters: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. So nice to say, to hear. So nice in their implications.  

Curiously, the C-word has another, less conspicuous connection to pleasant and potent vocables: the historical figure after Whose birth it is named is granted a fascinating, and very pertinent, title by one of His chief chroniclers. The Apostle John opens his account of Jesus Christ’s ministry by identifying Jesus as the “Word made flesh”. Dwelling as human being among fellow human beings,  Christ  articulated flawlessly, in visual form, exactly what God is like. The Creator donned an earth-suit, descended to the planet, made Himself known! – that, insists the fourth Gospel writer, is what the Jesus of Christmas was all about: a Heaven-dispatched, many-splendored communiqué from God,  .

A holiday season this rich with “word” motifs ought remind us of the massive potential, for good or ill, of whatever we speak and write. What is language, after all, but alphabetized packages which convey ideas; thus shaping actions, lives, societies, history.

Words, thankfully, are persuaders. This year’s Christmas season, happily, overlaps a time of political and societal ferment. Epochal change quivers in the atmosphere, and what folks have been saying and writing played an indispensable role in bringing that about. It will continue to do so if perceptive people keep promulgating their perceptions.  

Guess what? The drubbing Leftists endured in November’s mid-terms notwithstanding, there remains an appreciable demographic which still maintains government possesses authority to demand individuals purchase health insurance; which insists D.C.’s overriding obligation is to take care of the unemployed, the elderly and, well, the respirating. They’re still cool with this administration’s dereliction of duty on our southern border and regarding Islamist jihad. They  enviously persevere endorsing a system that tolerates forty-percent of U.S. residents’ paying zero income tax while the rest obscenely shoulder an extortionate share.

Plenty of territory there for sound words to do their salubrious thing.

Indeed, American founding principles – low taxes, limited government, patriotism, respect for life and family, a virile military – can (and must!) be advanced, one word, one sentence at a time, by every Constitution-revering citizen. Explaining. Convincing. Words alone are rarely enough – but, usually they play at least some essential role.

All because words are awesome. Words carry a life-transforming wallop. Sometimes they sound real pretty, too.

Do Kenyan Molestors matter?

January 28, 2011

Was there ever really a time the Mainstream Media (MSM) didn’t stampede like a herd of rabid lemmings on crack to report every allegation that young boys were molested by Roman Catholic priests? Okay, we admit there was, but seems like it occurred wayyyyyyy back during the misty seasons of our youth. Y’know, before Sinead O’Connor was tearing up that photo of John Paul II on late-night TV. Before Madonna was cavorting lasciviously in music videos, draped in lingerie and a crucifix. Nowadays, the MSM’s standing headlines routinely condemn “pedophile-protecting” Popes or the “circle-the-wagon” Church of Rome - or maybe by extension, Jesus Christ Himself since these are assumed to represent Him.

It’s odd then that the bullhorns of print and broadcast media have been comparatively mum about a child molestation epidemic occurring in the East African nation of Kenya. It’s estimated between 2003 and 2007 alone well over 12,500 girls were molested. Since 2009, more than 1000 teachers have been fired for sexually abusing pupils, mostly aged twelve to fifteen. In one southwestern Kenyan elementary school twenty girls turned up pregnant, nearly half of them by educators. Some degenerates racked up to a full score of victims before being discovered. Also beginning to surface are yucko trysts between female teachers and youthful male charges.

Could the global MSM’s relative lack of enthusiasm for this story be chalked up to the perpetrators’ positions in Kenya’s government educational system? Support for public school teachers, after all, is a hard, nearly sacrosanct plank of Leftist (read “media”) ideology. It’s safe to say that, had the guilty parties gone by the moniker “father” and been wearing a clerical collar while doing their dirty deeds, international attention would be far greater. When it’s a “reverend” defiling little ones, it’s all H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks rightly breaking loose from the ranks of the ink-stained wretches and talking heads. When the reprobate is merely a government-paid pedagogue? It might get some attention. Or maybe not.  

Now, any Lame Stream Media flacks who fear they are opening themselves up to charges of favoritism or journalistic double-dealing can cheer up – we have a possible solution for their predicament! Since upwards of eighty-percent of Kenyan citizens profess themselves Catholic or Protestant believers, it’s likely most of the perverts are “Christians” – not the authentic, Jesus-Is-Lord, live-in-obedience-to-God’s-commands variety, mind you, but cultural, born-that-a-way types. A technically acceptable, above-the-fold banner, therefore, could be: “Outbreak of Child Molestation Among Kenyan Christians!”; or, “In Kenya, Christians on Child-Raping Rampage!” Y’see? The poobahs of the planet’s press get a two-fer here: a way to maintain a superficial consistency in exposing pedophiles while indulging their relish for trashing all things Jesus-oriented.

Okay, a minor hitch: ten-percent of the Kenyan populace identifies as Muslim. So, at minimum it’s expected a handful of the deviants will end up being alleged followers of Allah. It was an Islamic teacher, for example, who secretly abused thirteen boys until he infected them with a disease, prompting one lad’s parents finally to contact a clinic.

What’s your typical, Christo-phobic news-hack to do?

Well, he could simply overlook the inconvenient details – that is, any bit of datum that doesn’t make the RC church, or any Christian institution for that matter, look as skeevy as possible. That should be particularly easy in this instance since the MSM is in the deeply-ingrained habit not only of dissing anything connected with historic Christianity, but of making excuses for the peccadilloes of Muslim bad boys, as well. Whether we’re talking about obnoxious, New York City/Ground Zero Mosque building, the threatening of “infidels”, or the bullying imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the establishment media’s watchdogs regularly give a pass to aficionados of Islam. And scarcely cut a break to the “We-Love-Jesus” set.

  It’s not that the MSM doesn’t care about children. It’s just that sometimes they seem to care more about maximally dumping on, in whatever manner possible, those awful people who take their Christianity seriously.

Autumn Surprises. Again

January 28, 2011

I was under the impression it was “past peak” - that’s how leaf-peeper enthusiasts put it – and so wasn’t totally prepared for two recent experiences. There I was traversing a couple of genuinely local by-ways, simply going about my unremarkable, daily business; then jarringly, gloriously I’m being reminded of one reason New England is so incomparable a place to live.

Distracted in the late afternoon, en route to pick up my youngest, I drove into a bower of mid-October splendor that actually startled me. What is most times a dismissively familiar street had been transformed into a riot of autumnal, take-my-breath-away color. Something like banks of ridiculously-hued candy, ranged vertically along the roadside, hovering overhead. I was tempted to stop the car in the middle of the pavement. And stare. Agog.

 Our British cousins might apply the term “gob-smacked: utterly astonished, astounded, dumbstruck”. Yup, that’d work. 

 Really, this shouldn’t be happening to me after nearly half-a-century’s residence in the Northeastern and Upper Mid-Western United States. Yet, happen it does, at least a handful of times every fall season; and again this time around.

 Then, just yesterday (as I type this), I’m negotiating another unsuspecting drive down another nearby street. It’s early AM, a gloomy, leaden day, chilly; and I stumble yet again upon a visual tsunami: New England’s gigantic Sugar Maples promenading in full, sumptuous, autumn regalia; aching yellows and blazing oranges, tinged with crimson and all crowded together. To boot, they glow over an ancient, stone walled cemetery – a description-beggaring, this-time-of-year, iconic canvas. I gasped – literally gasped. Very simply, it was exuberant sensory overload.

 The sight was so overwhelming, a few hours later I had to corral my wife into the vehicle and venture back to the same spot so she could sample it, so I could share it with someone. Rain was threatening all day, winds were blustery – the thought of that flamboyant tableaux being stripped bare before she could take at least one gander - and before I could take a second - was nearly unbearable. So we stopped what we were doing to make it happen.

 And all this five or ten minutes from my front door? Are you kidding me? It’s an annual exhibit, courtesy of the Creator, which ought to be classed with any of the nations’ wonders.

 I admit, here in New Hampshire our frigid (even at the height of summer), rocky beaches are grade-B level, at best. Likewise our mountains, certainly serviceable for skiing or hiking, are, nonetheless, hardly world-renowned. But the Granite State’s autumn plumage? Worth putting up against any on the planet.

 My enthusiasm this season of the year is tempered, regrettably, by what its magnificence presages: too soon these miraculous boughs will be skeletally stark; and next, worse, they’ll be bundling frosty, white stuff. You know, that frosty white stuff that makes every part of life a whole lot more work all the way around. Autumn is the doorway to winter – for me, not an invigorating proposition.

 Couldn’t fall’s iridescence just persevere six or eight weeks longer and the frigid season contract the same? I know that’s not the way it plays out, but it sure would be nice.

 If, however, I relocated south, where lots of my friends call home, and harvest time’s dependable ­- but always dazzling - pageantry never made an appearance, I admit I’d miss it. Perpetually temperate climates may boast palm trees and cacti, but usually spell colorless Octobers, as well. I’m not certain that’s a trade I’m willing to make. Mid-autumn New England is an inestimable, month-long rarity – probably too precious to be abandoned, probably sufficient compensation for wintertime’s impending rigors.

Then again, check back with me in January.

What’s up with Ill-Mannered Islam?

September 28, 2010

I hate getting snookered by e-mail scams – really embarrassing. I’ve generally developed a decent instinct about these things, but it’s not infallible – as confirmed when I recently forwarded a “shocking” story (with pictures!!) of Muslims shuttering New York City’s 42nd Street and Madison Ave intersection every Friday for a mid-afternoon prayer session. My brother-in-law arched an eyebrow at the account; he works near there and has never noticed it. When he questioned its veracity my tummy sank; I realized I hadn’t vetted the info. And sure enough, snopes.com exposed the claim as, largely, a myth.

However — what is apparently not a myth is information passed along by CBN newshounds that this sort of thing is, indeed, a weekly occurrence in another storied Western city: Paris, France. Dale Hurd reports Islamic worshippers, buttressed by private security forces, are blocking City of Light’s streets with barriers every Friday while prostrating themselves on the pavement. Residents of that district can neither enter nor exit their domiciles while this is unfolding.

 It’s all illegal under the Republic’s “secularism law”, but police have allegedly been instructed to let it slide.

The unsettling link between segments of contemporary Islam and bloody terrorism has been established pretty stoutly. But considering this eye-crosser in the French capital, Manhattan’s ongoing “Ground Zero Mosque” dust-up, and what seems to be interminable and global dyspepsia afflicting devotees of Allah — could someone show me, please, where the Qur’an endorses just plain rude behavior?

City dwellers intimidated? Urban traffic snarled-up? Grieving 9/11 families crassly dismissed as irrelevant? Non-Muslim “infidels” (and, for that matter, more neighborly Muslims) routinely subjected to newsreel of spittle-flecked, teeth-baring, slogan-bellowing Islamic demonstrators agitated about, well, whatever it is they are agitated about that particular day? It’s enough to tempt one to conclude there must be a specific Quranic verse prescribing churlishness.

Granted, fundamentalist Muslims’ well-advertised attitude is, literally, “to hell with” the souls of those who reject their creed. Not a few among their ranks, however, evidently extend that sentiment, figuratively speaking, toward every other aspect of non-Muslims’ lives. Increasingly, “unbelievers” are contemptuously inconvenienced, bumptiously intimidated and vilely insulted in the name of “the Prophet”.  And if the offended object? It is predictably – and tediously-  the sharia-chanting offenders who cry victim.

Requisite disclaimer: of course not all Muslims are rude; and the boorish, admittedly, can be numbered among those who profess other religions – or none at all. Can there be any disputing, however, a developing pattern of Islamic enthusiasts justifying their indisputably antisocial antics as service to Allah?

There was a report not long ago of a Washington, DC woman walking her dog on a public by-way near a city mosque, accosted by an Islamic man who let her know the critter’s proximity to their house of worship was not appreciated. Howcum?  It seems traditional Muslims frown on canines; they’re considered unclean. 

The fairer sex is especially ill-used by particularly unyielding Quranic attitudes. Women running afoul of burqa-only strictures or exhibiting feisty, and thus inappropriate, assertiveness are thuggishly and vocally slandered as “wh*res” or “sl*ts”. In some Islamo-French sectors, young women live in terror of predatory, sharia-molded bullies who salaciously harangue them for daring to show up on the boulevards acting too “Western”.

Along with respectful admirers, who else greeted Pope Benedict in his late-summer Great Britain visit? – scores of scowling, howling Mohammedan fire-eaters. Waving anti-Christian placards, they brayed clever slogans like: ” Benedict, go to hell”, “Burn, burn, burn in hell” (in case the pontiff didn’t get the message the first time), “Pope Benedict, you will pay”; and, disquietingly malevolent, “Benedict, watch your back”. Now there’s a way to bring skeptics over to one’s cause!

As if he hasn’t already garnered enough unfavorable press, lately the self-described “bridge-building” Imam spearheading the “Ground Zero Mosque” acerbically brushed off World-Trade-Center-as-Sacred-Ground objections to his enterprise. Many Americans insist that precinct ought not host a fifteen-story structure dedicated to the religious ideology under which the 9/11 barbarians launched their murderous assault – but Faisal Abdul Rauf is having none of it.  “It is absolutely disingenuous …that that block is hallowed ground,” the Jordanian-born cleric publicly scoffed. “Let’s clarify that misperception.”

I’m not sure those whose loved ones perished screaming on that real-estate nine years ago will appreciate the Imam’s tutorial, but there it is: his approach for winning their hearts. After all, he continued, “This is an opportunity that we must capitalize on so that those who preach moderation will have a mega-horn to preach and to teach.” Get it? Rauf’s brand of sensitive Islam demands a monument to its allurements, so the outraged know-nothings had better step off.

Let’s not forget endemic, and impudently trumpeted, anti-Semitism – a  regular feature of the planet’s Muslim community. From Iranian Ahmadinejad’s crude “anti-Zionist” rantings (before the United Nations, no less) to the “Jews-aren’t-human” slurs of Islamic students which drove a teacher (and sixty of her supportive colleagues) from an Ontario school, the dar al Islam too often majors in hostility toward its Abrahamic brethren.

The sentient observer could be pardoned for determining the so-called “Religion of Peace” is nothing of the sort – nor a “Religion of Please”. As my Clash Radio co-host, Doug Giles. has put it, when it comes to Islam, there appears to be a conspicuous “separation of church and taste”.

This much is clear: Muslims who genuinely detest the all-too-common oafish shenanigans of their fellow religionists must speak up. Understandably, they may chafe at this obligation, but if they are to rescue their faith from a progressively radicalized, unflattering reputation they really have no option. Those laying claim to amicable Islam have to unambivalently repudiate disagreeable Islam – repudiate unambivalently but politely, that is.

Sound Ideas, Deficient People

September 6, 2010

     Summer 2010 has turned out a mixed bag for a number of celebrities and public figures. Lindsay Lohan spent time in the pokey then got released; fellow thespian Charley Sheen barely missed the same. What was supposed to be Tom Cruise’s comeback blockbuster, June’s Knight and Day, sputtered at the box office (though, for the record, I thought the film was delightful). Director Oliver Stone ran into a bit of a publicity buzz saw for weird comments widely perceived as anti-Semitic and Hitler-sympathetic. Our president and his vp pitched the past few months as a spell of economic “recovery” only to collide headlong into a season of deepening fiscal doldrums.

     Mel Gibson? Fughedaboutit – the superstar actor/director endured weeks of humiliation from his erstwhile mistress who publicly accused him of physical abuse and released scalding tapes of his profanity-addled tirades against her. Al Gore similarly suffered woman problems – make that women problems: three female masseuses have accused the former vice-president of improper sexual advances.

     Then again, Gibson’s ex-wife unexpectedly stepped up insisting, whatever his faults, the Aussie had always been a fine father and non-threatening husband; and suddenly there are rumors of a Gibson Lethal Weapon 5 revival.  

     Gore was cleared criminally of at least one of the charges; and, with the news that this past May and June were among the warmest on record, the Apostle of Man-Made Global Warming can trumpet more data supporting his debatable theory.

     Of course, since not a few deep-thinkers respond to Gibson’s scandals by dismissing the legitimacy of historic Christianity altogether – Gibson, after all, is a fundamentalist Roman Catholic and directed 2004’s incendiary Passion of the Christ – I suppose that means Mr. Gore’s climate-change alarums ought to be similarly reprehended; I mean, the guy’s been fingered for sexual improprieties, hasn’t he? Sure, he denied the incidents strenuously, but since when does that matter? Nowadays the syllogism is straightforward: three women registered complaints about Al Gore; Gore promotes anthropogenic global warming; said global warming must, perforce, be a canard.

     Right?

     Silly, I know – but that’s how today’s cultural combatants regularly engage life-issue squabbles. No matter a proposition’s worthiness, if its proponent violates certain societal strictures it is rejected out-of-hand.

     Since Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard or Mel Gibson has fallen short of Bible standards he has unabashedly espoused, we’re told everything Jesus uttered loses its practical value. When GOP Governor Mark Sanford, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin’s daughter stumbles

in his/her personal morality, that not only translates for many ideologues into an excuse to reject the entire Republican party, but furthermore as hard evidence against every politically conservative notion floated. Ever. Low taxes, restrained spending, constitutional originalism, protection for the unborn, defense of traditional marriage, a muscular military are all, henceforth, declared definitively off-the-table because a few Republican figures made regrettable personal choices.

     Allow me, once again, a query: considering not just the aforementioned vice-president’s red-faced mess, but former Democratic Senator/presidential candidate John Edward’s adultery ignominy, and lately, the alleged ethical mischief of prominent Leftist representatives Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters, are the tenets of contemporary political liberalism equally repudiated?

     It’s admittedly a cheap, lazy tactic for evaluating the merits of an argument; appalling, in fact. Formally titled the “genetic fallacy”, it discredits (or, for that matter, affirms) an assertion 

solely based on its source, rather than its content. And it turns up predictably in current debate, every time an advocate betrays himself to be an imperfect human being and his claims are thus imperiously discarded. No meaningful thinking is required, no irritating reasoning called upon nor persuasion concerning the validity of one’s own contrary ideas  Nice, neat, handy.

     One of history’s blazing hypocrites has to be indispensable American Revolutionary lion Thomas Jefferson. Okay, so he penned the Declaration of Independence, served capably as our third president, and generally provided intellectual fire-power vital to our nation’s founding and early maturing. But in spite of his fiery denunciations of national profligacy, Jefferson the notorious spendthrift burdened his survivors with a debt so formidable they had to dispose of his property (including Monticello) to help assuage it. Moreover, although an early, rhetorically passionate scold of chattel slavery, he trafficked in hundreds of slaves over the course of his lifetime, and scores were sold after his death to cover his financial obligations.

     So – do we scotch that magisterial, seminal document he crafted? Jefferson’s notions of personal liberty, accountable government, human dignity? All out the window because of their flawed spokesperson? Further, is slavery in fact desirable, since TJ raged against it with potent verbiage while incongruously indulging it with his behavior?

     Cogitation like that is absurd, of course but it’s standard operating procedure for not a few among the contemporary chattering class. Which generates another dilemma: when it is uncovered that these sanctimonious, self-certain scoffers entertain unflattering peccadilloes of their own, what are we to make of everything they have said?

    Geniuses and honorable people occasionally lay a philosophical egg. Conversely, idiots and cads have been known to cough up a great concept or two. Truth remains truth, good ideas good, even if they issue from a bad person. Or wild-eyed actor. Or fallen preacher. Or lapsed politician.

What Jack Taught Us – Lessons from 24

June 14, 2010

     Just a few weeks ago, the fourth Monday night in May 2010 to be exact, the clock finally ran out on the greatest, long-running telecast ever to shine from the little screen — Fox’s 24 wrapped its final “Day.” Over nearly a decade, the groundbreaking series tracked eight tumultuous twenty four hour periods (actually nine if you count a 2008 TV film) in the career of the Counter-Terrorism Units’ ferocious and bedeviled Jack Bauer (portrayed by Keifer Sutherland). Along the way, the program elevated the bar for stomach-clenching drama, riveting character exchange, and intersecting storylines. By my lights, the final episode of 24‘s inaugural season (2001) remains the most engrossing one-hour of television ever broadcast. Who can forget the hands-on-your head, emotional earthquake delivered by that episode’s concluding thirty seconds? Fans, now thoroughly addicted, were left numb for the next four months – and then Jack’s “Day 2″ kicked off, and it started all over again.

     In the process of entertaining viewers – immensely – 24 also reinforced not a few important life fundamentals; some of them decidedly politically-incorrect:

     1) Evil people come in all kinds of packages: When it came to providing villains for this series’ convulsive plotlines, no demographic, no ethnic group, no sex were exempt. In our predictably prissy, post 9-11 age, in which creative types and politicians alike seem petrified at  acknowledging there are malevolent Muslims on the planet, 24 didn’t flinch at prominently featuring jihadist baddies. Or, for that matter, Russian, or Chinese, or Mexican, or …

      Jack and CTU’s ever-evolving squad squared off against some really nasty African-Americans, as well – a couple of them particularly repellant African-American women. Actually, some of 24‘s most loathe-worthy cretins were members of the distaff-sex. And not piquantly amusing, mildly exotic villainesses like Cruella DeVille or Rocky and Bullwinkle‘s Natasha Fatale – no, these were genuinely reptilian, Jezebel-types who convinced us they deserved every unpleasant thing that happened to them. In one of the most quietly unsettling developments of eight years of dramatic turns, viewers of this year’s final “Day” witnessed the incremental moral implosion of President Allison Taylor. The first American female Chief Executive in this thriller’s universe, and once the embodiment of jut-jawed rectitude, she was reduced, ultimately, by bullying men and bullying circumstances into just another disgraced Compromiser-in-Chief. Of course, evil white males also abounded in the multi-faceted travails of Jack Bauer and the country he loved.

     Intentionally or not, season in and out, this series revisited a startlingly unfashionable, often dismissed, but punishingly obvious classical doctrine: human kind are fallen. Red and yellow, black and white, in every cohort of Homo sapiens the capacity for remarkable evil lurks, and too often emerges. It’s a reality that can make life difficult for all of us – Jack Bauer included.

     2) Death visiteth all: Intrepid, avenging angel Bauer dispensed lethal violence readily, handily; but his life was regularly on the receiving end of it, as well. As this series finale faded to black,  the 24 enthusiast was struck with the realization that  nearly every person who had played a personal role in Jack’s beleaguered existence was now gone: a few had relocated, one or two were locked away from civilized society, but often as not they simply no longer remained among the living.

     Season one, I suppose, set that tone with the shocking, haunting murder of Jack’s wife – and so 24 pressed on for nearly a decade, soullessly dispatching major players time and again. For a character on this television serial, long term survival odds were never particularly strong. This past season, for instance, saw the heartless assassination of a female operative who’d bid fair to become Bauer’s best recent shot at enduring happiness. My wife and I were irked for days; “The writers didn’t have to do that,” I griped.

     Of course, as a charter viewer why was I taken aback by this brutal script eruption? – that’s the world of 24, in this respect much like the real one in which people die, loved ones, friends, one and all. In the end, no one gets a pass on that.

     3) Mercilessness is often justified; but not always: The planet earth on which 24 struts its stuff is a predatory place – the “good guys” sometimes have to strike back in like manner. Nobody could hunt down and eliminate the guilty like Jack. Time and again his unique brand of implacable savagery against the iniquitous was exactly what we, the innocent, needed to stay safe. Or alive.

     I recall an interview with this drama’s cast airing a few years ago (the Larry King Live Show, if I recall correctly). One or two of the stars tsk-tsked about the occasional, sanguinarily unorthodox methods Jack employed in his pursuit of domestic and international lowlifes. Then, with a slightly chagrined chuckle, someone admitted most of us likely are glad there are Jack Bauer’s laboring in the shadows to protect all the rest who busy ourselves, heedless, in the daylight.

     It was Churchill who pointed out, “”We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” The “Great Man” would, undoubtedly, have appreciated Jack Bauer’s proper place in a very dangerous world.

     But I can’t honestly claim the violence meted out by 24‘s chief protagonist was always defensible. Over the history of this program, Jack killed lots of folks because he had no other choice. He also was known to gun down a malefactor or two (or three, or four…) who, indeed, may have deserved the ultimate penalty – but not by his hand as lone judge/jury/executioner. This most recent “Day”, for instance, saw Jack briefly go not only off-the-gird in his mission, but off-the-rails, as well – a gory, revenge-fueled rampage that left, literally, a trail of bodies all across New York City. The casualty count included this season’s Madame Lafarge, a skulking, nefarious piece of work named Dana Walsh who certainly warranted the electric chair – except that Jack opted, instead, to cut short the judicial process, executing her point-blank as she cowered before him, disarmed and subdued. Understandable? Sure – she’d had a role in the murder of a woman he loved. Tolerable? In a rule-of-law civilization, never. We don’t anoint 007s in this Republic.

     “No matter what occurs in your life, no matter how bad the circumstances seem to be,” writes James Lee Burke in one of his novels, “you must never consider a dishonorable act as a viable alternative.”

     Ideologically brawny, bring-the-hammer-down types like myself do well to bear in mind that extreme measures, while periodically necessary for sure, can be abused. A decent society never forgets that, never lowers its safeguards against that possibility.

     4) Relationships are what matter most: In 2001, the 24 narrative launched with Jack attempting to patch up his wobbly marriage and set straight a straying daughter. The closing moment of this year’s incendiary series finale found him tearfully thanking this program’s other hardy perennial, the perpetually sullen computer-geekette Chloe O’Brien, for being the person he could count on whenever he was in a bind. 

     For all the volcanic action which punctuated this drama, it’s a good bet key character moments will be what sticks in the minds (and hearts) of its faithful viewers: there was season one’s poignant  telephone conversation between Jack and  his newly-reconciled, newly-pregnant wife moments before his solo assault on a nest of terrorists; a similarly weepy, season two communication with his daughter from an apparently doomed airplane’s radio (few can telegraph Shakespearean anguish like Sutherland’s Bauer- he cries surprisingly easily for such a tough guy); Jack’s complicated, on-again, off-again friendship with dyspeptic fellow agent Tony Almeida; his smoldering rage, barely contained, against former lover Nina Myers who betrayed him and murdered his wife; a brief, anomalous scene in this last season’s premiere episode of Jack playing with a granddaughter whom now, presumably, he won’t be seeing much. A catalogue of 24‘s compelling “people segments” could go on and on.

     Jack Bauer routinely saved the nation from catastrophe, but it was the men and women with whom he connected intimately who meant the most to him. Like all of us, even a dauntless CTU agent is created to form relationships with others.

        24 has delighted and diverted – and, it turns out, touched some of the profoundest, age-old chords within us – what theologian Helmut Thieleke has called “the really vital questions that touch the depths of existence”. That’s the best kind of entertainment.

     Jack Bauer and Company will be missed.


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