Another Perspective

Another Perspective

The Dying Gaul

By 1.28.14

Imagine, for a moment, that you are doing excavation work in your backyard, desirous of adding a family room on to your house, when the contractor unearths, oh, one of the civilization’s three or four greatest sculptures, one of antiquity’s wondrous masterpieces.

Such is the case with the magnificent Dying Gaul, a depiction of a fatally wounded warrior facing his final end, on exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., compliments of the Capitoline Museum in Rome and the Italian government. It dates from the first or second century A.D., most likely a Roman copy, in marble, of a Greek bronze from Pergamon, a Hellenized city in Asia Minor, now Turkey. It was cast in the third century B.C. to celebrate the defeat of the invading Gauls or Celts, a fierce people whose reach extended even to the wilds of Ireland.

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A Prohibition Anniversary

By 1.17.14

On this day (January 17) in 1920 the 18th Amendment went into effect, banning the production and sale of booze. The subsequent 13 years of Prohibition are commonly recalled in popular culture as a colorful blur of speakeasies, moon shiners, and gangsterism. Supposedly it was American Puritanism gone amok until sanity and the Depression intervened. But it represented an apogee of popular American reform movements whose consequences still endure. The creation largely of churches, it also was the last crest of the 19th century Protestant moral consensus before America’s Protestants divided between liberal modernists and “fundamentalists.”

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When the World Lost a Touch of Schmilsson

By 1.15.14

Before I woke up on the morning of January 15, 1994, I had the most vivid dream. In this dream, Harry Nilsson was standing right in front of me. His heart was melting and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

My own heart leapt into my throat when I learned later that day Nilsson had died of heart failure. My dream completely spooked me out.

I would be spooked out again 48 hours later when an earthquake hit Los Angeles that measured 6.7 on the Richter scale. My Dad had arrived in L.A. the previous evening for a visit to his eldest sister. Fortunately, he was not the worse for wear. Interestingly, shortly after his arrival Dad asked my aunt, “When earthquakes occur what time of the day do they usually take place?” “About 6 a.m.,” my aunt replied. So sure enough when the earthquake happened Dad awoke and said, “Oh, it must be 6 a.m.” He then promptly went back to sleep.

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The Moral Evolution of Progressives

By 1.10.14

Boy, have progressives “evolved.” The party of saloon protesters, suffragettes and crusaders against smoking, prostitution and immigration are now the champions of government-regulated vice.

They no longer want to save souls, but use them to increase tax revenue to fund an ever expanding list of new priorities in a turnaround that would likely make Frances Willard, the famous head of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in the late 1800s, reach for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

The reversal is not totally consistent, however. No sooner had progressives successfully helped to ban smoking everywhere in public places had they moved on to champion legalizing marijuana.

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The Politics of Language

By 1.8.14

“Political language,” wrote George Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” The media’s insistence that Jahi McMath is just a “body” falls into this Orwellian category.

“Hospital releases body of Jahi McMath,” read stories about the thirteen-year-old Oakland girl taken to a New York hospice after doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland stopped treating her. “Performing medical procedures on the body of a deceased human being is simply not something Children's Hospital can do or ask its staff to assist in doing,” said the hospital’s attorney.

Echoing this line, liberal journalists and commentators, who normally pride themselves on their sensitivity to slights, had no problem referring to the girl as a corpse and her parents as deluded.

If McMath is a corpse, she is a surprisingly active one. Her heart is still beating, something readers will learn from even some of the same stories saying she is dead. And how does this corpse manage to digest food or breathe?

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Shirking Its Duty

By 12.31.13

A second marriage, it is said, is the triumph of hope over experience. So is a European Union debate over defense. It is Kabuki theater, an enthralling show without practical impact. The Europeans recently issued new promises to do more than free ride on the U.S. However, if they really want to make a difference, they must devote real resources to their militaries and to take real risks in deploying their forces — which no one expects.

In late December European leaders assembled in Brussels for the latest European Council meeting. (Don’t worry if you’re confused: there’s also a commission and parliament; they all do very important things, even though it’s hard to figure out what!) It was the first Council meeting in eight years focused on defense since the Europeans have no one to defend against. It’s been five years since the body offered more than a pro forma mention of the issue.

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Talking Out of School

By 12.30.13

There was a time when no professional intelligence operations officer would talk about his business with a journalist or anyone else who was not officially involved with these activities. The breakdown came in the 1970s — first with the Nixon Administration and then with Carter. The reasons were different, but the end result was the same. These “unauthorized disclosures” increased as congressional oversight was stimulated by the Pike and Church committees. The instigation of this “talking out of school” was multi-sourced but ultimately evolved from Defense Department competition with the CIA and personal animosity between CIA operational leaders, William Colby and James Angleton (Director and Chief of Counter-Intelligence Staff, respectively). None of this should have happened, but it did.

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Reagan and Islam

By 12.24.13

Unbelievably the crash of Communism in Eastern Europe occurred all of 24 years ago, culminating with the dramatic and less than peaceful overthrow of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, a Dracula-like figure, although lacking the vampire’s panache. After their attempted escape, the bloodsoaked tyrant and his equally culpable wife were quickly tried and executed by a hastily organized people’s court on Christmas Day. Fa-la-la-la indeed.

The Iron Curtain’s fall, followed by the Soviet Union’s collapse two years later, were magnificent works of Providence, one of whose instruments was Ronald Reagan, who almost uniquely understood the earthly vulnerabilities of the 70-year-old totalitarian empire so intrinsically at odds with humanity and God. For this reason, among others, Reagan ranks among the last century’s greatest presidents, and his hymns are justly sung, and not just by conservatives.

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A Christmas Eve Message to the Troops

By 12.24.13

It is not often noted and perhaps little remembered these days, but seven decades ago this month the battles around the small Italian village of San Pietro decimated the olive groves and many of the American men advancing on well-fortified German positions.

My father was commander of Company H of the 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, during that battle. He had become the company commander in earlier battles, after one more senior officer was captured and another simply quit the fight, telling medics he “couldn’t take any more.”

The 36th Infantry Division, and my father, entered combat for the first time at Salerno, on September 9, 1943. The Salerno landing occurred the day after the unconditional surrender of the Italian government to the allies. As Rick Atkinson wrote in his excellent book The Day of Battle, the German commander, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, declared that the invaders “must be completely annihilated and… thrown into the sea,” so that the British and Americans would “realize that they are hopelessly lost against the concentrated German might.”

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Ruckus on Embassy Row

By 12.23.13

The brouhaha over this Indian person in the diplomatic corps who is alleged to have reneged on the wages she promised her domestic help and then proceeded to pay the help illegal wages and then continued in her life of crime by submitting false green card info so the slave-labor person could work legally despite being an illegal working at illegal wages, it is what you might call a case in point, as is the duck brouhaha wherein this Louisiana backwoodsman who became a TV person made some remarks to a magazine that hurt the feelings of the politico-correcto majority.

I say it is a case in point to make it look as if I know whereof I speak, but the truth is I cannot figure any of this out. I am at loss to understand the meaning of it all. It is a shame, because it is a damn sight more interesting, or at least more fun, than worrying about an imminent trip to a rotten hellhole of a country where when they get mad at you they do not stop at bouncing you off a TV show, they slit your throat and sometimes they also slit some other body parts and stuff them in your mouth, which is filled with the blood from your throat wound, you get the picture.

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