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Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Postmortem: Michele Bachmann
Topic: Decline of the West

 

She just ended her presidential campaign after a poor showing in Iowa, so let’s begin with Michele Bachmann. Why did she crater?

 

In my opinion, her failure to make an impression comes down to one thing: lack of presidential profile. Though she has the conservative credentials that so many Republican primary voters are looking for, Bachmann came across as something of a lightweight. The more people watched her, the less they could imagine her as president. Maybe that’s unfair to the candidate. But there it is.

 

For me personally, the deal breaker was her attack on Governor Rick Perry’s Texas vaccine initiative. As a polio survivor, I loathe and revile the whole Bobby Kennedy Jr./Jenny McCarthy anti-vaccination cult, which I regard as an authentic case of mass child abuse. When Bachmann tried to damage Perry by appealing to these irrational fears of vaccination, she lost me. It was such an Obama-like thing to do.


Posted by tmg110 at 2:42 PM EST
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The Morning After Iowa
Topic: Decline of the West

Thought I'd take a bit of a post-2011 break to digest the political lessons of the year and await the outcome of the Iowa caucus. First impression: the Republican nomination fight is far from over. Mitt Romney's narrow victory and Rick Santorum's strong second-place finish indicate that GOP primary voters are not resigned to a Romney candidacy. At this point Mitt still has a better chance than anyone of winning the nomination, but it's no sure thing.

Romney's problem: GOP conservatives just don't consider him a member of the club. They're still looking for that elusive, conservative non-Romney. Today it's Rick Santorum and we'll see if he has staying power. Iowa hasn't settled the GOP nomination fight.

Iowa has, however, performed the useful function of knocking off a couple of marginal candidates. I expect that Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry will soon elect to hang up their skates. The former finished fifth despite spending oodles of cash on TV advertising; the latter finished sixth with a dismal 5% of the vote. Ron Paul, who finished third, and Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth, will probably stick around for the time being, but their chances of winning the nomination are slight to nonexistent.

Individual postmortems and campaign forecasts to follow.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:08 AM EST
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Sunday, 1 January 2012
Welcome to 2012!
Topic: Decline of the West

New Year's resolution: If it's Obama v. Trump on Election Day, I'm writing in my own name.


Posted by tmg110 at 12:50 AM EST
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Thursday, 29 December 2011
The Few, the Extremely Frightened
Topic: Must Read

 

We tend to romanticize old wars and old battles: Agincourt, Yorktown, Gettysburg. Another good example is the Battle of Britain (July-September 1940), rhetorically immortalized by Winston Churchill. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” he remarked in a speech to the House of Commons on 21 August 1940. He was referring to the pilots of RAF Fighter Command who, in their Spitfires and Hurricanes, were contesting control of the air over southeast England with Hitler’s mighty Luftwaffe. His words were greeted with prolonged applause that has echoed down to this day. In the high summer of 1940 the fate of Britain—indeed of the world—seemed to hinge on this air battle. Churchill’s "few"—a few hundred RAF fighter pilots, most of them in their twenties—thus entered history’s Valhalla.

 

If this is your impression of the Battle of Britain, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read Derek Robinson’s Piece of Cake (1983; now available for the Kindle).

 

Robinson’s novel chronicles the adventures of Hornet Squadron from the outbreak of war in September 1939 to the climax of the Battle of Britain. It’s not a very romantic story, and it’s not Hollywood-heroic. The pilots of Hornet Squadron find themselves pitted against the Luftwaffe with inadequate aircraft. (Their first Hurricane fighters have two-bladed wooden propellers and fabric-covered wings while lacking cockpit armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.) Moreover, the RAF’s rigid peacetime tactics prove disastrous against the well-trained Germans. After taking a pasting in France, the squadron returns to Britain for the great battle. By the time the book ends, only a few of the characters the reader has gotten to know along the way are still alive.

 

While taking nothing away from the brave young men who fought and died in the skies over England in the summer of 1940, Piece of Cake tells it like it is. War is hell, everybody's scared, the good die young and sometimes survival is merely a matter of luck. This one’s a must read.


Posted by tmg110 at 11:12 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 11 April 2013 9:54 PM EDT
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Monday, 26 December 2011
A Little Christmas Gift from the Religion of Peace
Topic: Decline of the West

 

How thoughtful:

 

MADALLA, Nigeria (AP) - At a Nigerian Catholic church where a terror attack killed 35 people on Christmas, women tried to clean the sanctuary ahead of Mass on Monday while one man wept uncontrollably amid the debris.

 

>snip<

 

At least 52 people were wounded in the attack, said Slaku Luguard, a coordinator with Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency. Victims filled the cement floors of a nearby government hospital, some crying in pools of their own blood.

 

On Christmas, attacks by the radical Muslim sect left 39 dead across Africa's most populous nation. A bomb also exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation's northeast.

 

After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.

 

"There will never be peace until our demands are met," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the Sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended."

 

Well, incidents like this certainly don’t present Islam in a very favorable light. But not to worry! No doubt our dedicated apologists for the Religion of Peace on campus and elsewhere will find some way to pin the blame on the victims. I can hear them now: "The nerve of those damned Catholics, who had the gross insensitivity to build their lousy churches in Muslim Nigeria…"


Posted by tmg110 at 1:58 PM EST
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Still Supporting Ron Paul?
Topic: Decline of the West

 

Then you just might be giving your vote to a 9/11 truther who has speculated that President Bush and the CIA had a hand in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He also believes that America ought not to have fought Nazi Germany. “Saving the Jews,” he thinks, was none of our business. He also thinks it possible that FDR somehow engineered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the nation into war.

 

This interesting summary of Paul’s lunatic views on foreign policy comes from a former aide, Eric Dondero. The candidate’s spokesman describes this individual as “a disgruntled former staffer.” So perhaps what he alleges should be taken with a grain of salt. Paul has said, though, thinks that the 9/11 attack was really America’s fault; the Islamofascists were simply reacting our oppressive foreign policy. Starting from there, it’s a short hike to the zany conspiracy theories of the 9/11 truther mob.

 

Would you really be comfortable with someone like Ron Paul in the White House? Think about it.


Posted by tmg110 at 1:44 PM EST
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Saturday, 24 December 2011
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
Topic: Scratchpad


 


Posted by tmg110 at 1:25 PM EST
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Parading the Colors
Topic: Virtual Reality

I just updated WAR FLAGS, my website devoted to military and naval flags of the world, past and present. Check it out!

 


Posted by tmg110 at 1:16 PM EST
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Thursday, 22 December 2011
Milk and Cookies? I Need a Beer!
Topic: Decline of the West

When jolly old Saint Nick comes down your chimney this year, better have a breathalyzer handy: Drunken Santas Terrorized Lower Manhattan.

Thousands of drunken Santas terrorized Lower Manhattan when they flooded into the neighborhood for SantaCon earlier this month, openly flouting public drinking and urination laws, locals say.

Angry residents attended Community Board 1's Monday night meeting to complain about the latest incarnation of the annual pub crawl, whose participants have been allowed to grow more rowdy every year, they say.

"There was public urination, people vomiting all over the place, open containers and no police," said John Fratta, chairman of the Seaport/Civic Center Committee which plans to send an angry missive to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the 1st Precinct complaining about the lack of enforcement during SantaCon.

Are they absolutely sure this wasn't an Occupy Wall Street protest…?


Posted by tmg110 at 8:41 AM EST
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Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Charles Bronson Strikes a Nerve
Topic: The Box Office

 

There are times when a book or movie—not necessarily great in itself—captures the mood of the moment, reflecting and magnifying society's attitudes, tastes, prejudices, fears or anxieties. Such a movie is Death Wish, a workmanlike Charles Bronson vehicle, directed by Michael Winner, that caused a nationwide sensation and became a smash hit when it was released in 1974.

 

Death Wish, based on the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield, tells the story of Paul Kersey, a successful New York architect whose life is torn apart when his wife and daughter fall victim to a home invasion. The wife (Hope Lange) is kicked to death by the trio of thugs (one played by a young Jeff Goldblum) who’ve forced their way into the Kersey apartment. The daughter is raped and beaten. She survives only to lapse into a state of catatonia. The grieving husband soon discovers that there’s little that the police can do to identify and arrest those responsible.

 

In the mid-Seventies, violent crime was a major social and political issue. The streets and public parks of big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were infested by vicious street criminals; assault, armed robbery, rape and murder were depressingly common occurances. The mugger was the iconic figure of the age and such outrages as the vicious attack on Paul Kersey’s family were only too common.

 

Thus Death Wish zeroed in on a widely experienced state of anxiety, fear—and anger. The pain and suffering inflicted by violent crime were bad enough, but worse perhaps was the pervasive sense of helplessness produced by life in a lawless society. It was obvious to the average citizen that the police could not protect him. If he fell victim to a mugging or assault, the cops would probably not catch those responsible. And if they were caught, it was very unlikely that the courts would give them much more than a slap on the wrist. Things were not quite that black and white, of course, but that’s the way people perceived the situation in 1974.

 

All this explains why audiences cheered and applauded when Paul Kersey, instead of resigning himself to life as a victim, took up the gun and started shooting street criminals.

 

Death Wish isn’t exactly a revenge movie, for Kersey doesn’t go looking for the thugs who destroyed his family. Rather, he becomes a vigilante. His mission: to fight violent crime. His method: simplicity itself. Kersey merely slips a pistol into his pocket and takes a stroll in a dangerous neighborhood or park. Inevitably, he’s accosted by violent street criminals, whereupon he produces his pistol and opens fire. Needless to say, after gunning down three or four muggers, the Vigilante becomes a folk hero to the long-suffering citizens of New York. (Cue loud and prolonged audience applause.)

 

Why this enthusiastic and somewhat disconcerting audience reaction? It derived, I think, from the fact that Kersey, as played by Bronson, is presented not as an action hero but as Everyman. He’s not a violent guy by nature; indeed, he served in the Korean War in the Medical Corps as a contentious objector. He could be your next-door neighbor, your dentist, your brother, your uncle, your father. But the traumatic shock of the assault on his family turns him into the Vigilante. It’s intimated in the film that Kersey is a bit deranged. Well, who wouldn’t be, after what he’d gone through?

 

In Death Wish, the movie and the moment met with a bang. A number of similar films have been made since then (including four highly inferior Death Wish sequels) but none of them resonated with mainstream America as this one did. (Incidentally, the critics of the time hated Death Wish for all the usual left-liberal reasons. A lot they knew!) It’s not a great film, but it’s a good one and it has held up well—thanks in part to Bronson’s excellent performance, which was possibly the best of his career. If you’ve never seen Death Wish, it’s currently available on Netflix. (I watched it last night.) If you have seen it, now is the time for a second look. Death Wish is one on the most politically incorrect movies ever made—and I mean that as the most heartfelt of compliments.


Posted by tmg110 at 11:46 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 3 February 2012 11:27 AM EST
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