Another Perspective

Another Perspective

Barack Obama, Closet Conservative?

By 1.28.14

And what, sir, is your greatest strength?

We may savor the absurdity of what the still preening but failed president had to say about that — in the long puff piece by David Remnick that appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of the New Yorker.

President Obama patted himself on the head — declaring that he, more than other men, was “comfortable with complexity.” It is well to dwell upon those words for a moment — even if you plan to give tonight’s state-of-the-union a miss.

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Gene Clark: A Byrd Like No Other

By 1.28.14

The last thing I expected to happen in this new year was that I would be in a nightclub with a bunch of 20-somethings listening to a performance of an album recorded by Gene Clark nearly 40 years ago.

Well, this past Saturday night I was in nightclub with a bunch of 20-somethings listening to a performance of an album recorded by Gene Clark nearly 40 years ago.

For those of you who are not familiar with Gene Clark, he was a member of the legendary 1960s folk-rock band The Byrds. The Missouri-born Clark was responsible for writing the lion’s share of their songs such as “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Here Without You,” “She Don’t Care About Time,” “Set You Free This Time,” and “Eight Miles High.” Clark’s songwriting elevated The Byrds into something more than a very good Bob Dylan cover band.

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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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