Category Archive 'Mark Steyn'
02 Oct 2011

Commentariat Turning on Obama

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The Emperor has no clothes.

Mark Steyn has a few choice comments, as the chattering classes’ major case of buyer’s remorse becomes ever increasingly the topic of the day.

“Obamaism” was the Emperor’s new centrism: To a fool such as your average talk-radio host, His Majesty appears to be a man of minimal accomplishments other than self-promotion marinated in a radical faculty-lounge view of the world and the role of government. But, to a wise man such as your average presidential historian or New York Times columnist, he is the smartest guy ever to become president.

In part, this is a natural extension of an ever more conformist and unrepresentative establishment’s view of where “the center” is. On issues from abortion to climate change, a Times man or Hollywood activist or media professor’s notion of “centrism” is well to the left of where American opinion is.

That’s one reason why a supposedly “center-right” nation has wound up regulated into sclerosis, drowning in debt and embarking on its last decade as the world’s leading economy.

But in the case of Obama the chasm between soft, seductive, politico-media “centrism” and hard, grim reality is too big to bridge, and getting wider all the time.

You would think this might prompt some sober reflection from an American mainstream media dying in part because of its dreary ideological conformity. After all, a key reason why 53% voted for a man who was not, in Tina Brown’s word, “ready” is that Tina and all her pals assured us he was.

Occidental, Columbia, Harvard Law, a little light community organizing, a couple of years timeserving in a state legislature: That’s what America’s elites regard as an impressive resume rather than a bleak indictment of contemporary notions of “accomplishment.”

Obama would not have withstood scrutiny in any society with a healthy, skeptical press. Yet, like the high-rolling Wall Street moneybags, they failed to do due diligence.

Read the whole thing.

25 Sep 2011

End of the World as We Know It

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Mark Steyn looks at the pre-2012 political jockeying taking place in America these days and the European economic mess and feels in the mood for a little doom and gloom.

I mentioned in this space a few weeks ago the IMF’s calculation that China will become the planet’s leading economic power by the year 2016. And I added that, if that proves correct, it means the fellow elected next November will be the last president of the United States to preside over the world’s dominant economy. I thought that line might catch on. After all, we’re always told that every election is the most critical consequential watershed election of all time, but this one actually would be: For the first time since Grover Cleveland’s first term, America would be electing a global also-ran. But there’s not a lot of sense of America’s looming date with destiny in these presidential debates. I don’t mean so much from the candidates as from their media interrogators — which is more revealing of where the meter on our political conversation is likely to be during the general election. On Thursday night, there was a question on gays in the military but none on the accelerating European debt crisis. It is certainly important to establish whether a would-be president is sufficiently non-homophobic to authorize a crack team of lesbian paratroopers to rappel into the Chinese treasury, break the safe, and burn all our IOUs. But the curious complacency about the bigger questions is disturbing. …

In a perfect snapshot of this administration’s witless banality, the president traveled last week to the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River and claimed that, despite the fact that the structure connects the home states of the Republican House leader and the Republican Senate leader, the meanspirited GOP is going to kill the jobs bill and thus all prospects for a new bridge between their two states.

The bridge has nothing to do with the jobs bill. Work on a new bridge is not scheduled to begin for four years and wouldn’t be completed until 2022 at the earliest. Because in the Republic at twilight you can run up another seven-and-a-half-trillion dollars of new debt in less time than it takes to put up a bridge. Even as cheap political showboating the president’s photo op was a pathetic joke, with the laugh on you.

If this is the best America can do, there won’t be a 2022, not for the United States, or anything that would be recognizable as such.

Read the whole thing.

24 Sep 2011

Reading Mark Steyn in the Light of Ortega

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Jose Orgetga y Gasset

Mark Anthony Signorelli turns his review of Mark Steyn’s After America: Get Ready for Armageddon into an essay supplementary to Steyn’s book, arguing the author’s view of cause and effect can be improved by reading a much earlier (1930) attack on the same forces of dissolution by the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset.

Throughout his book, Steyn catalogues the demoralizing effects of unlimited government upon the American citizenry. No one can ignore the power of the case he presents. But as much as government overreach erodes the character of a people, the debased character of a people manifests itself in arbitrary government. Bad institutions make bad people, but bad people also make bad institutions. Our ugly politics is every bit a reflection of our cultural failings as are our worthless schools. Steyn is not unaware of these facts; one of the passages I found most compelling in his book was when he argues that the truly horrifying thing about the rise of Obama was the fact that the majority of the American people had been duped by such an evident buffoon. Our folly created his administration, and all of its works. So Steyn clearly understands the way a people’s faults can manifest themselves in inept government. Still, the obvious emphasis of his book is on the causal relationship which runs opposite, on the way that inept government debases the character of a people. I think that emphasis is misplaced; I think the effects of a people’s character on the character of their government are more fundamental, more decisive to their happiness, and more subject to reform than the effects which flow from a corrupted government upon the citizenry. Or, to put the point in a different way, I believe that culture is far more consequential for the maintenance of a well-ordered community than politics. Steyn himself advises that, “changing the culture is more important than changing the politics,” but since the emphasis of his book is on the way that bad politics has changed our culture for the worse, he actually seems to undermine this bit of advice.

The book that most effectively delineates the ruinous social mechanisms of liberal democracy is The Revolt of the Masses, by the early twentieth-century philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset. For Ortega, modern western society was marked by the rise to power of the “mass-man,” the unqualified or uncultivated man, who, lacking all necessary intellectual and moral training in the duties of civic life, had nonetheless asserted his immutable right to impose his own mediocrity of spirit upon society: “The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will.” The mass-man is not bound by any traditions or maxims of prudence; he cares only about having his own way in the world. And when he is taught (as all modern political theory teaches him) that the state is a manifestation of his own will, he freely grants it an unlimited scope of action, just as he (theoretically) grants himself a perfect freedom of action: “This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention, the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State…when the mass suffers any ill-fortune, or simply feels some strong appetite, its great temptation is that permanent, sure possibility of obtaining everything – merely by touching a button and setting the mighty machine in motion.” The consequences of this trend are catastrophic:

    The result of this tendency will be fatal. Spontaneous social action will be broken up over and over again by State intervention; no new seed will be able to fructify. Society will have to live for the State, man for the governmental machine. And as, after all, it is only a machine whose existence and maintenance depend on the vital supports around it, the State, after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome than the death of a living organism.

Exactly as Steyn describes it in his book, some eighty years later. But what Ortega makes us see is that “big government” results from the prior moral corruption of the people, in particular from their unbounded self-love and self-assurance. It destroys them in the end, but at the first, it was their creature.

Read the whole thing. This one is a must-read.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

10 Sep 2011

9/11 Commemorative Snivellings

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “911 Peace Story Quilt”

Mark Steyn rants understandably enough at the Saturnalia of Snivelling on the part of our wiser and better fellow countrymen belonging to the urban arts and political communities occasioned by the 10th Anniversary of the Islamic Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.

Aside from firemen, Mayor Bloomberg’s official commemoration hasn’t got any room for clergy, either, what with all Executive Deputy Assistant Directors of Healing and Outreach who’ll be there. One reason why there’s so little room at Ground Zero is because it’s still a building site. As I write in my new book, 9/11 was something America’s enemies did to us; the 10-year hole is something we did to ourselves – and, in its way, the interminable bureaucratic sloth is surely as eloquent as anything Nanny Bloomberg will say in his remarks.

In Shanksville, Pa., the zoning and permitting processes are presumably less arthritic than in Lower Manhattan, but the Flight 93 memorial has still not been completed. There were objections to the proposed “Crescent of Embrace” on the grounds that it looked like an Islamic crescent pointing towards Mecca. The defense of its designers was that, au contraire, it’s just the usual touchy-feely huggy-weepy pansy-wimpy multiculti effete healing diversity mush. It doesn’t really matter which of these interpretations is correct, since neither of them has anything to do with what the passengers of Flight 93 actually did a decade ago. 9/11 was both Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid rolled into one, and the fourth flight was the only good news of the day, when citizen volunteers formed themselves into an ad hoc militia and denied Osama bin Laden what might have been his most spectacular victory. A few brave individuals figured out what was going on and pushed back within half-an-hour. But we can’t memorialize their sacrifice within a decade. And when the architect gets the memorial brief, he naturally assumes there’s been a typing error and that “Let’s roll!” should really be “Let’s roll over!”

And so we commemorate an act of war as a “tragic event,” and we retreat to equivocation, cultural self-loathing, and utterly fraudulent misrepresentation about the events of the day. In the weeks after 9/11, Americans were enjoined to ask “Why do they hate us?” A better question is: “Why do they despise us?” And the quickest way to figure out the answer is to visit the Peace Quilt and the Wish Tree, the Crescent of Embrace and the Hole of Bureaucratic Inertia.

Donald Trump is basically an idiot, but he is not a pretentious ass, so even he could see that what real leadership would have done in response to the 9/11 attacks’ destruction of New York City’s World Trade Center Towers. Real leadership would have commenced immediately on rebuilding exactly the same buildings at the identical site and location, and would have grasped the symbolic importance of putting them back up as quickly as possible, only one story taller.

Real leadership obviously didn’t, and doesn’t, exist in New York City and New York State, only obfuscating, obstructing, hot air and sanctimony and conformity producing anti-leadership. Ten years have gone by, and replacement buildings are not up yet. They have instead created an amazing anti-monument to ruin and destruction with two deep water-filled holes occupying the actual former locations of the towers. I think one deep, useless, water-filled hole must be taken to symbolize the void where the intelligence of the city, state, and regional leadership ought to have been, and the second void must represent their missing masculine qualities, the absent courage, flair, and instinctive spirit of defiance of the same: one hole symbolizes their lack of brains, the other their lack of balls.

07 Aug 2011

It’s Later Than You Think

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Rembrandt, Belshazzar’s Feast, 1635, National Gallery, London

Mark Steyn, in his customarily brilliant manner, reflects on the scope and significance of the federal debt.

The fecklessness of Washington is an existential threat not only to the solvency of the republic but to the entire global order. If Ireland goes under, it’s lights out on Galway Bay. When America goes under, it drags the rest of the developed world down with it. When I go around the country saying stuff like this, a lot of folks agree. Somewhere or other, they’ve a vague memory of having seen a newspaper story accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office graph with the line disappearing off the top of the page and running up the wall and into the rafters circa mid-century. So they usually say, “Well, fortunately I won’t live to see it.” And I always reply that, unless you’re a centenarian with priority boarding for the ObamaCare death panel, you will live to see it. Forget about mid-century. We’ve got until mid-decade to turn this thing around.

Otherwise, by 2020 just the interest payments on the debt will be larger than the U.S. military budget. That’s not paying down the debt, but merely staying current on the servicing — like when you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off any of what you borrowed but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge. Except in this case the interest charge for U.S. taxpayers will be greater than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel combined.

When interest payments consume about 20 percent of federal revenues, that means a fifth of your taxes are entirely wasted. Pious celebrities often simper that they’d be willing to pay more in taxes for better government services. But a fifth of what you pay won’t be going to government services at all, unless by “government services” you mean the People’s Liberation Army of China, which will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers by about 2015. When the Visigoths laid siege to Rome in 408, the imperial Senate hastily bought off the barbarian king Alaric with 5,000 pounds of gold and 30,000 pounds of silver. But they didn’t budget for Roman taxpayers picking up the tab for the entire Visigoth military as a permanent feature of life.

Read the whole thing.

I think myself that Mark is overlooking the obvious detail: that when, as he puts it, “you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off any of what you borrowed but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge,” before much longer you wind up stiffing all your credit cards and burning your credit rating for the next decade. The government equivalent of stiffing credit cards consists of inflating your currency, so you can pay your debts after all using funny money worth a small fraction of what it was at the time those debts were incurred.

The US Government has not overlooked this solution. Remember Quantitative Easing? It is already underway and in process. I’m not sure who it was that remarked “Inflation is the cruelest tax,” but he was clearly right. Inflation rewards the improvident and punishes the responsible. Inflation strips the middle class of its accumulated savings in order to relieve the government of its debt.

05 Jun 2011

Mark Steyn Addresses Weinergate

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Mark Steyn is sharp-tongued as ever on the topic of the week: the latest scandal-mired abrasive, self-righteous, egomanaical, ultra-liberal democrat.

And so it goes after another tumultuous week in American politics. Nearly a third of homeowners are “underwater” – that’s to say, they owe more on their mortgages than the property is worth. Private-sector job growth has all but vanished. The House of Representatives voted not to raise the debt ceiling.

But as the debt ceiling subsides – or, at any rate, stays put – we see the dreary steeple of Anthony Weiner emerging from his Twitpic crotch shot.

For the benefit of the few remaining American coeds Rep. Weiner isn’t following on Twitter, the congressman’s initial position when his groin Tweet went viral was that his Twitter had been hacked. Could happen to anyone. …

Congressman Weiner then retreated from the sinister hacking line, and protested that all this fuss about a mere “prank” involving a “randy photo” (his words) was an “unfortunate distraction” from real issues like raising the debt ceiling. Like Bill Clinton in the Nineties, Rep. Weiner needs to “get back to work for the American people.”

It’s the political class doing all this relentless “work for the American people” that’s turned this country into the brokest nation in the history of the planet, killed the American Dream and left the American people headed for a future poised somewhere between the Weimar Republic and Mad Max. So, if it’s a choice between politicians getting back to work for the American people or Tweeting their privates round the planet, I say, Tweet on, MacDuff.

15 Apr 2011

Rising Illegitimacy Rates Inevitably Mean More Democrats

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Then

Pete Robinson reflects gloomily about Republican prospects, noting that the Republican base is bound to dwindle as the national illegitimacy rate skyrockets. (AEI article:)

Forty years after the Moynihan report, the tragic saga of the modern black family is common knowledge. But the tale of family breakdown in modern America is no longer a story delimited to a single ethnic minority. Today the family is also in crisis for this country’s ethnic majority: the so-called white American population….

Consider trends in out-of-wedlock births. By 2002, 28.5 percent of babies of white mothers were born outside marriage in this country. Over the past generation, the white illegitimacy rate has exploded, quadrupling since 1975, when the level was 7.1 percent. The overall illegitimacy rate for whites is higher than it was for black mothers (23.6 percent) when the Moynihan report sounded its alarm….

Today no state in the Union has an Anglo illegitimacy ratio as low as 10 percent. Even in predominantly Mormon Utah, every eighth non-Hispanic white infant is born out of wedlock.

Pete discusses these demographics over dinner in Hanover, New Hampshire with Mark Steyn, who points out that the dramatic changes to the American national character can be readily observed even in rural Northern New England.

For miles in every direction, Mark noted, lay country that until just a few decades ago represented the heartland, so to speak, of the flinty, resourceful, independent Yankee spirit. Now? “You’ll see lovely girls in the local high schools,” Mark said. “When you come across them again five years later, they’ll each have three children by three different fathers.” Then Mark told a story.

In colonial times, it was against crown law to cut down any pine that exceeded a certain girth–twenty-some inches, as I recall–because all such trees were reserved for the use of the Royal Navy, which required a ready supply of masts. Every time you see a colonial house with floorboards more than two feet wide, you’re witnessing an artifact of the American spirit–an act of rebellion. Mark pointed to the floorboards in the restaurant, some of which were certainly more than two feet wide. “Two centuries ago,” he said, “the families in these parts were felling trees in defiance of the crown. Today they’re raising their children on welfare checks.”

Woe to us all.

It probably is worth noting that both of the last two presidents elected by the democrat party may not have been born in wedlock. William Jefferson Clinton, given the name William Jefferson Blythe III at birth, is widely rumored not to have really been the offspring of the traveling salesman William Blythe II who perished in an automobile crash three months before Bill Clinton’s birth. Barack Hussein Obama is certainly of illegitimate birth, as his parents’ marriage was bigamous and invalid.

Barack Obama, Sr. had married Kezia Aoko aka “Grace” in 1954 and had already had two children, prior to his attending the University of Hawaii and marrying Stanley Ann Dunham in 1961. No divorce from Kezia ever occurred, and Barack Sr.’s first wife Kezia is still alive today.


Now

27 Mar 2011

“Do-Gooders in a Land with No Good Guys”

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Mark Steyn identifies some of the key problems with postmodern kinetic interventions in pursuit of undefined objectives in situations in which no one is on our side.

[I]t’s easy to mock the smartest, most articulate man ever to occupy the Oval Office. Instead, in a nonpartisan spirit, let us consider why it is that the United States no longer wins wars. OK, it doesn’t exactly lose (most of) them, but nor does it have much to show for a now-60-year old pattern of inconclusive outcomes. American forces have been fighting and dying in Afghanistan for a decade: Doesn’t that seem like a long time for a noncolonial power to be spending hacking its way through the worthless terrain of a Third World dump? If the object is to kill terrorists, might there not be some slicker way of doing it? And, if the object is something else entirely, mightn’t it be nice to know what it is?

I use the word “noncolonial” intentionally. I am by temperament and upbringing an old-school imperialist: There are arguments to be made for being on the other side of the world for decades on end if you’re claiming it as sovereign territory and rebuilding it in your image, as the British did in India, Belize, Mauritius, the Solomon Islands, you name it. Likewise, there are arguments to be made for saying, sorry, we’re a constitutional republic, we don’t do empire. But there’s not a lot to be said for forswearing imperialism and even modest cultural assertiveness, and still spending 10 years getting shot up in Afghanistan helping to create, bankroll and protect a so-called justice system that puts a man on death row for converting to Christianity.

Libya, in that sense, is a classic post-nationalist, post-modern military intervention: As in Kosovo, we’re do-gooders in a land with no good guys. But, unlike Kosovo, not only is there no strategic national interest in what we’re doing, the intended result is likely to be explicitly at odds with U.S. interests. A quarter-century back, Gadhafi was blowing American airliners out of the sky and murdering British policewomen: That was the time to drop a bomb on him. But we didn’t. Everyone from the Government of Scotland (releasing the “terminally ill” Lockerbie bomber, now miraculously restored to health) to Mariah Carey and Beyonce (with their million-dollar-a-gig Gadhafi party nights) did deals with the Colonel.

Now suddenly he’s got to go – in favor of “freedom-loving” “democrats” from Benghazi. That would be in eastern Libya – which, according to West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center, has sent per capita the highest number of foreign jihadists to Iraq. Perhaps now that so many Libyan jihadists are in Iraq, the Libyans left in Libya are all Swedes in waiting. But perhaps not. If we lack, as we do in Afghanistan, the cultural confidence to wean those we liberate from their less-attractive pathologies, we might at least think twice before actively facilitating them.

Officially, only the French are committed to regime change. So suppose Gadhafi survives. If you were in his shoes, mightn’t you be a little peeved? Enough to pull off a new Lockerbie? A more successful assassination attempt on the Saudi king? A little bit of Euro-bombing?

Alternatively, suppose Gadhafi winds up hanging from a lamppost in his favorite party dress. If you’re a Third World dictator, what lessons would you draw? Gadhafi was the thug who came in from the cold, the one who (in the wake of Saddam’s fall) renounced his nuclear program and was supposedly rehabilitated in the chancelleries of the West. He was “a strong partner in the war on terrorism,” according to U.S. diplomats. And what did Washington do? They overthrew him anyway.

The blood-soaked butcher next door in Sudan is the first head of state to be charged by the International Criminal Court with genocide, but nobody’s planning on toppling him. Iran’s going nuclear with impunity, but Obama sends fraternal greetings to the “Supreme Leader” of the “Islamic Republic.” North Korea is more or less openly trading as the one-stop bargain-basement for all your nuke needs, and we’re standing idly by. But the one cooperative dictator’s getting million-dollar-a-pop cruise missiles lobbed in his tent all night long. If you were the average Third World loon, which role model makes most sense? Colonel Cooperative in Tripoli? Or Ayatollah Death-to-the-Great-Satan in Tehran? America is teaching the lesson that the best way to avoid the attentions of whimsical “liberal interventionists” is to get yourself an easily affordable nuclear program from Pyongyang, or anywhere else, as soon as possible.

I don’t really have a problem with knocking off Qaddafi (who has actually contrived the murder of hundreds of Americans in the past). His elimination is long past due. But Obama is not even certain that he thinks Qaddafi needs to surrender power, and we have no basis for supposing that we are spending all those expensive cruise missiles on replacing him with a less barbarous and less dangerous alternative.

08 Jan 2011

Maybe the Fed is Right in Opting for Inflation

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Mark Steyn is lamenting the Untergang of das Abendslands at the New Criterion, arguing that Big Government inevitably results in Global Retreat, but this time he believes that the Anglo-American tradition of liberty will be retreating with us.

Decline starts with the money. It always does. … Today the people who have America’s bonds are not the people one would wish to have one’s soul. As Madhav Nalapat has suggested, Beijing believes a half-millennium Western interregnum is about to come to an end, and the world will return to Chinese dominance. I think they’re wrong on the latter, but right on the former. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military.

According to the cbo’s 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the U.S. government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest—whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 percent. America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey, and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have advanced from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.

What does that mean? In 2009, the United States spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent years, then within a half-decade or so U.S. interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This year, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge American dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it. Answer: Mr. and Mrs. America.

Within the next five years, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the U.S. Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers. When they take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it.

I think he’s right about the financial implications of where the left’s politics are taking us, but I think financial collapse is just another epiphenomenon of the cultural dégringolade.

We are accustomed to condescending to the past, but I happened to recall yesterday (in the course of arguing with my classmate) that in the 11th century, the leadership of the Christian West was able to respond so promptly and effectively to Muslim attacks and outrages against Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land that, in a mere three years, 1096-1099, they were able to organize an army, march overland to Constantinople; invade the Middle East; capture Nicea, Antioch, Edessa, and Tripoli; liberate Jerusalem and erect a new Christian kingdom, principality, and a pair of counties. How do we look by comparison? Today’s leadership cannot even rebuild two skyscrapers in the course of a decade, let alone effectively rebuke Muslim violence and insolence.

I’d take Pope Urban II, Raymond of Toulouse, and Godfrey of Bouillon over George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, and Barack Obama any day.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

04 Sep 2010

Hugh Hewitt Interviews Mark Steyn

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Steyn delivers a number of gems.

On Michael Bloomberg:

This pompous twerp, Bloomberg, who I think has come to embody the particular stupidity of the American ruling class, because it’s a very parochial kind of stupidity. Presuming to lecture his knuckle-dragging, moronic constituents on how they don’t apparently understand the United States Constitution? It’s nothing to do with that. There are all kinds of things that are Constitutional and are legal, but are not necessarily appropriate.

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On Obama:

A lot of people think he’s going to be a one-term president. The interesting thing is whether he’s going to be a one-termer, as you say, by choice, like a James K. Polk. In other words, he figures he’s going to do what he needs to do in four years, and then he’s going to move on. And I said sometime last year, I think, that what I found odd about him is that he’s the first American president I can think of who gives the impression that the job is too small for him. …

And he’s just kind of killing time in it until something more commensurate with his abilities comes along. And given that his entire view of the world, as John Bolton likes to say, he’s the post-American president for a post-American world, the idea that he would be focused on reelection in the way a conventional politician such as Bill Clinton is, I think is not really part of his thinking. I think he’s much rather utterly transform the United States, and then swan off after a couple of years, and go be a secretary-general of the United Nations with enhanced powers, or whatever racket has been cooked up for him in those years.

12 Jun 2010

The Strange Animosity of the Left Toward Hirsi Ali

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Mark Steyn tries to make sense of the left’s defense of fundamentalism Islam against the criticism of a female Somali intellectual.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s great cause is women’s liberation. Unfortunately for her, the women she wants to liberate are Muslim, so she gets minimal support and indeed a ton of hostility from Western feminists who have reconciled themselves, consciously or otherwise, to the two-tier sisterhood: when it comes to clitoridectomies, forced marriages, honour killings, etc., multiculturalism trumps feminism. Liberal men are, if anything, even more opposed. She long ago got used to the hectoring TV interviewer, from Avi Lewis on the CBC a while back to Tavis Smiley on PBS just the other day, insisting that say what you like about Islam but everyone knows that Christians are just as backward and violent, if not more so. The media left spends endless hours and most of its interminable awards ceremonies congratulating itself on its courage, on “speaking truth to power,” the bravery of dissent and all the rest, but faced with a pro-gay secular black feminist who actually lives it they frost up in nothing flat.

The latest is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Reviewing Ayaan’s new book Nomad, he begins:

    “She has managed to outrage more people—in some cases to the point that they want to assassinate her—in more languages in more countries on more continents than almost any writer in the world today. Now Hirsi Ali is working on antagonizing even more people in yet another memoir.”

That’s his opening pitch: if there are those who wish to kill her, it’s her fault because she’s a provocateuse who’s found a lucrative shtick in “working on antagonizing” people. The Times headlines Kristof’s review “The Gadfly,” as if she’s a less raddled and corpulent Gore Vidal. In fact, she wrote a screenplay for a film; Muslim belligerents threatened to kill her and her director; they made good on one half of that threat. This isn’t shtick.

But Kristof decides to up the condescension. Of the author’s estrangement from her Somali relatives, he writes: “I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps Hirsi Ali’s family is dysfunctional simply because its members never learned to bite their tongues and just say to one another: ‘I love you.’ ”

Awwwww. Group hug! Works every time.

But maybe not so much in Somalia. This isn’t a family where they bite their tongues but where they puncture their clitorises. At the age of five, Ayaan was forced to undergo “FGM” (female genital mutilation), or, in the new non-judgmental PC euphemism, “cutting.” When she had her first period, her mother beat her. When she was 22, her father arranged for her to marry a cousin in Canada. While in Germany awaiting the visa for her wedded bliss in Her Majesty’s multicultural utopia, she decided to skip out, and fled to the Netherlands.

All she wanted was a chance to do what Nicholas Kristof takes for granted—to live her own life. What difference would saying “I love you” in a Lifestyle Channel soft-focus blur accompanied by saccharine strings make? As they see it, the perpetrators of “honour killings” love their daughters: that’s why they kill ’em. Would Kristof wish to swap his options for the set menu served up to Muslim women? How would he like it if, just as he was getting ready to head to Oxford on his Rhodes Scholarship, his dad had announced that he’d arranged for him to marry a cousin? Oh, and in Canada.

Which brings me to my big philosophical difference with Ms. Hirsi Ali: in 2006, she was one of a dozen intellectuals to publish a manifesto against radical Islam and in defence of “secular values for all.” Often in her speeches, she’ll do a heartwarming pitch to all of us—“black, white, gay, straight”—to stand firm for secular humanism. My problem with this is that, in Europe and elsewhere, liberal secularism is not the solution to the problem but the vacuum in which a resurgent globalized Islam has incubated. …

In a way, the Western left’s hostility to Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes my point for me. In Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman wrote that suicide bombings “produced a philosophical crisis, among everyone around the world who wanted to believe that a rational logic governs the world.” In other words, it has to be about “poverty” or “social justice” because the alternative—that they want to kill us merely because we are the other—undermines the hyper-rationalist’s entire world view. Thus, every pro-gay, pro-feminist, pro-black Western liberal’s determination to blame Ayaan Hirsi Ali for the fact that a large number of benighted thuggish halfwits want to kill her. Deploring what he regards as her simplistic view of Islam, Nicholas Kristof rhapsodizes about its many fine qualities—“There is also the warm hospitality toward guests, including Christians and Jews.” …

As Paul Mirengoff of the Power Line blog observes, traditionally when useful idiots shill for illiberal ideologies it requires at least “the illusion of progressivism” to bring them on board. Islam can’t provide that, but that’s no obstacle to getting the bien pensants to sign up. As much as anyone, secular leftists want meaning in their lives. But Communism went belly up; the postwar welfare state is bankrupt; environmentalism has taken a hit in recent months; and Christianity gives them the vapours. Nicholas Kristof will not be the first great thinker to talk himself into a view of Islam as this season’s version of Richard Gere Buddhism.

At a superficial level, the Islamo-leftist alliance makes no sense: gay feminist secular hedonists making common cause with homophobic misogynist proscriptive theocrats. From Islam’s point of view, it’s an alliance of convenience. But I would bet that more than a few lefties will wind up embracing Islam to one degree or another before we’re done.

Mark Steyn omits consideration of the irresistible leftwing impulse toward treason and the embrace of the cause of the Other, which becomes increasingly passionate and compelling in direct proportion to the evil and/or inferiority of the particular hostile Other. The leftist, in the case of Islam, manages to enjoy the piquant pleasure of combining the sensations of pleasure attendant upon fulfilling the role of society dowager defending the minority footpad from the police with taking another whack at Western Civilization.

10 May 2010

Mark Steyn: The End of the World As We Know It

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Mark Steyn

Hoover Institute’s Peter Robinson interviews Mark Steyn about his recent book: America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It and the end of the Post-WWII Global Order.

38:19 video — long, but strongly recommended.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

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