'War, and Preparation for War, Are the Normal Conditions of Mankind, While Peace Is Extremely Rare.' - Michael Ledeen
For season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen, each weekday I juxtapose excerpts from my book readings with a selection of the previous day’s -- or weekend's -- headlines and noteworthy excerpts. The goal is to make fresh connections between the events of the day and the bigger picture of history and humanity’s place in the universe.
So which side are you on in the Republican foreign policy "civil war" between Chris Christie and Rand Paul? Are you an "interventionist" "GOP establishment" "neoconservative" who wants a limitless spy state and big taxes to support perpetual nation-building? Or are you a "noninterventionist" "Tea Party insurgent" "constitutional libertarian" who wants to shut down overseas military bases because you regard your own government as a more serious threat to your liberty than a few Muslim fundamentalists misinterpreting their Koran off in a cave in Afghanistan? Because, you know, those are the only two existing foreign-policy philosophies available to those who regard themselves as "conservatives" who are a part of "the Right."
I've lived these intra-ideological squabbles and debates firsthand. That's something my progressive friends and family have perhaps misunderstood the most -- there is no "conservative" or "right-wing" position on just about anything. More like there is a range of such positions and amongst these positions when an election isn't going on then these various camps are fighting to gain control of political and cultural institutions through swaying politicians, writers, activists, and big-money donors. Two years ago I was looking to make a job switch to a publication that more closely reflected my values and philosophy, particularly on foreign policy -- which has always been the primary issue fueling my political writing/editing and activism. PJ Media was my first choice then and so it remains today. I am earnest and honest when I say that the writers and activists in PJ Media's line-up of columnists and freelancers inspire me both personally and professionally. My own writings are largely inspired by trying to learn from and balance them all.
So I've decided to express that more explicitly in my introductions to each day's round-up of links and excerpts. I will highlight a writer and try to explain in brief one important insight I've gained from them that you too should consider using when analyzing the day's ONSLAUGHT of often shocking and disturbing headlines.
I'll start off with presenting each of the PJ columnists who most specialize in foreign policy before moving on to other PJ writers and then finally debuting my much procrastinated-upon list of top 10 conservative columnists. (It seems only reasonable to sing the praises of and then exclude these colleagues that I edit before moving on to describing the ideas of writers further out in the writing and political universe. My top 10 conservative columnist list can't include any of those we haven't at PJ -- I am too biased and then the list would be almost entirely PJ writers. And it would be an impossible task because my assessment of which of the PJ columnists' analysis I agree with the most shifts from week to week...)
So first: these five men and one woman were strong influences before I began at PJM and they've each only grown in my esteem since I've started editing them.
Today we begin with Michael Ledeen and what I regard as one of his most basic and important philosophical ideas, expressed across three of his books that I've been reading and blogging about the past few months:
Each of the three most popular foreign-policy philosophies fighting it out on "the Right" derives from a different assumption about human nature. The so-called "neoconservatives" assume that all humans have an innate desire to be "free" and that given the opportunity will choose "freedom" -- tyrannies are bad and democracies are good. Give Muslims the vote and surely they won't vote for tyrants worse than the ones we just freed them from... right?
The Ron Paul/Rand Paul (really just same lyrics set to different melodies to appeal to different generations) paleo-libertarian, non-interventionist philosophy also assumes that all humans want to be free. If only America would withdraw from the world and stop getting our nose involved in what's just an eternal squabble between warring Cain and Abel tribes then eventually the few extremists would stop attacking us and peace would emerge.
The third assumption flatly rejects both idealized, utopian visions of human nature. The reason why I regard Michael Ledeen as such a clear-eyed foreign-policy analyst is because he writes through the vision of understanding that human beings ARE NOT inclined to seek freedom. The reason for this is that humans are not good -- we are by and large evil and we have to be inspired to be good instead of evil by strong, moral leaders. The safest course of action for both nation states and for individuals -- and this comes from Machiavelli -- is to just assume criminality as the norm. Because it is. Civilization is the exception; humans began in barbarism and that remains our natural tendency.
There's a reason why I choose to keep linking and excerpting below the lurid crime stories that obsess our tabloid, popular press. Stories like that are the norm of human existence -- they are only aberrations because they happen in what's supposed to be civilization. In Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, Ledeen describes why Machiavelli named Moses as the greatest example of leadership. When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai, he saw that in his absence many of the Israelites had returned to the practice of idolatry -- a sexual orgy combined with human sacrifice to honor nature gods like Astarte and Ba'al. This is the great evil that they had sought to flee from Egypt, and many Israelites had taken it with them. Moses had the courage to execute the offenders. That's how one deals with evil. Ledeen explains on page 93, "If Moses had said to the idolaters 'Let us reason together,' he would have failed. In these circumstances, to do good -- is to guarantee the triumph of evil."
Neoconservatism and Paulastinian non-interventionism both fail to implement this understanding of evil, and when we have these proxy arguments over Christie and the Pauls that's what it boils down to arguing over. Both sides refuse to confront idolatry with a sword like Moses did. The Pauls think the idolaters will leave us alone if we leave them alone. And the the Christies think the idolaters will become our business partners and embrace our culture and values eventually -- that the Muslim Brotherhood will "moderate" -- if we just help them get voted into power.
Accepting that evil is the default setting of all humans -- including ourselves -- is step 1 of beginning to comprehend what it means to be a defense hawk. This is the philosophy of "peace through strength" that Ronald Reagan implemented to win the Cold War and that conservatives can still revitalize today to re-win it again over Putin's Neo-Sovietism while triumphing in the bigger war with Orthodox Islam.
Make a point to consider some of Michael Ledeen's books and articles before diving into today's headlines (I will continue to highlight useful excerpts from them as I do my own studies). And stay tuned as each afternoon I count down some of the other valuable writers whose books and articles are like toolkits to help us fix the recurring cultural and political pathologies found in the headlines and stories below.
Friday Morning Book Reading:
Friday Morning News Round Up:
Lead PJM Stories From Friday:
Roger L. Simon: Only Benghazi Can Save Us from Hillary
Benghazi is Hillary’s Achilles’ heel, but the news Thursday — broken by CNN’s Jake Tapper — that the CIA has been administering lie detector tests to agents who were there, obviously to prevent them from talking, threatens to turn the attention away from Hillary’s State Department to the CIA. It seems the CIA was up to its neck in Benghazi, many more of its personnel at the so-called annex the night of the terror attack, with several of them severely wounded.
Some quick questions come to mind. With more than twenty CIA people at the annex (we can assume they were armed), far more than we had been told or led to believe, why did they fare so poorly against their Islamist attackers? Is this the reason the military wasn’t called? Did Langley assume their men could defend themselves?
I certainly have no idea, but we must be careful not to let the natural inquiries into the CIA’s activities obscure Hillary’s role. She still was the woman who told Tyrone Woods’ father — at the dead SEAL’s funeral — that they would get the maker of that “terrible video.”
This seems all the more ridiculous with the new facts coming out.
Bridget Johnson: State Dept. Issues Travel Alert About on-the-Run al-Qaeda
Mike McDaniel: Why no ‘Childproof’ Guns? Technology the Barrier, not NRA
New at PJ Lifestyle on Friday:
Andrew Klavan: Is Jesus Against Kooky Gay Guys?
Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin: Vlad Tepes a Hero, Sky Pirates, and Some Genre-Bending Fish Stories in Book Plug Friday #3
Paula Bolyard: Wait, Was That Insane Clown Posse on Red Eye?
Walter Hudson: Matt Damon Brings ElysiumNonsense to Letterman
New at PJ Tatler on Friday:
Bryan Preston: Dozens of US Embassasies to Close Sunday Due to ‘Credible’ Terror Threat (Update: Worldwide Travel Warning)
Bryan Preston: Nidal Hasan, ‘Soldier of Allah’
Bridget Johnson: Issa: Is It a ‘Phony Scandal’ When Americans Die?
Bryan Preston: July Unemployment Report: More McJobs
Bridget Johnson: Just 10 GOPs Vote Against Samantha Power’s Confirmation
Bryan Preston: Major Vote Today Will Put the House on the Record on Carbon Tax (Updated: Just 12 Dems Vote Against Carbon Tax)
Bridget Johnson: Bill Would Allow VA to Disinter Capital-Criminal Vets
Bridget Johnson: Sanders Rallies Against Fast-Food ‘Starvation Wages’ on Senate Floor
Bryan Preston: Seattle Bans ‘Brown Bag’ and ‘Citizen’ from City Government Use Because They’re Racist, or Something
Bridget Johnson: State Dept. Issues Travel Alert About on-the-Run al-Qaeda
Bryan Preston: Flashback: ‘Jihadis Threaten to Burn U.S. Embassy in Cairo’
Bryan Preston: Democrat Charlie Rangel: Tea Partiers are ‘White Crackers’
Bryan Preston: Video: Bear Helps Himself to Take-Out Dinner
Stephen Kruiser: So, That Happened
Stephen Kruiser: Yeah…About That Nuclear Option ‘Deal’ In The Senate
Rick Moran: 77% of Jobs Created in 2013 are Part Time
Rick Moran: Increased Violence Linked to Climate Change
Stephen Kruiser: Recall Effort Against Pelosi-Picked Mayor Of San Diego Gets Going
Stephen Kruiser: MSM Just Can’t Quit Sarah Palin
Stephen Kruiser: New York Times JUST Beginning To Notice That Terry McAuliffe Might Be Kind Of A Sleazebag
Charlie Martin: Who Is Wendy Davis?
Also Around the Web Friday:
CNN Money: Your TV might be watching you
The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs' built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you're watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information.
Tommy Christopher: Liberal DailyKos And Conservative Redstate Join Forces To Help Ailing Conservative Blogger
Like many people, on my side and the other side, I am no great lover of Obamacare (I would much prefer Medicare for all or single-payer), and I can even understand some of the objections from the other side, but a conversation like the one I had with Caleb should not be allowed to happen in this country, and his condition should not have progressed as far as it did because he had to wait until it got so bad, he couldn’t not go to the hospital. If we could all start by agreeing on those things, we could find a solution. Until then, this is what we have for my friend Caleb, who, I am sure, will read every one of those comments if and when he’s able, and continue all the conversations they started. Whatever you think of the minds on either side of this issue, here is evidence at least of open hearts.
Josh Feldman: Glenn Beck: Obama Administration Is Planting The Seeds Of Impending ‘Race War’
On his show Friday, Glenn Beck became convinced that many members of the Obama administration act like racists, after breaking down the “anatomy of a racist”: they see groups over individuals, they lack objectivity, and they seek power through conflict. Beck concluded that the president and his allies are trying to sow the seeds of a race war.
Paul Schrader’s no-budget L.A. nihilist odyssey “The Canyons” begins and ends with bleak but gorgeous washed-out images of shuttered and decrepit movie theaters, most of them in suburban malls that were probably booming two decades ago, or even one. Schrader also uses these images, which have no direct connection to the movie’s story, as chapter headings or interstitials, breaking the narrative into separate days. It took me a while to grasp the symbolic connection Schrader is making, which is that “The Canyons” is meant as “post-theatrical cinema,” a movie made after the age of movies.
This is a movie about people who make movies, or at least claim to, but who barely seem interested in them, except as a means to an end or as lifestyle accessories. In one perhaps overloaded scene, Tara asks her supposed friend Gina (Amanda Brooks) when she last went to the movies. Gina starts to talk about going to a glitzy premiere of something with her boyfriend and Tara interrupts: Stupid celebrity parties with instantly forgettable films attached don’t count. She means going to the movies because you want to see a movie.
Mike Flynn: Shocking: Black Teen Unemployment Rate 41.6%
When Limbaugh entered the world of talk radio, the AM dial was essentially moribund. He turned it into a weapon for conservatism, and in the process, led the revolution that has ended in the disintegration of the old media monopoly. Limbaugh can rightly be said to be the greatest populist expositor of conservatism in America since Reagan, and the link between the Reagan generation and the so-called Rush Babies.
In his book, Righteous Indignation, Andrew Breitbart wrote about how Limbaugh turned him into a conservative.
John Nolte: Aniston: Is Couric 'A Legitimate Journalist?'
At The Mary Sue:
Becky Chambers: On Internet Friends and In-Person Friends, or As They Are More Commonly Known, "Friends"
The flip side is the surreal moment that commonly happens when you meet an internet friend offline. At first, they feel like a stranger. That feeling may pass quickly, but it’s there nonetheless, even though that person knows everything about you, even though you talk to them every day, even though the two of you are the best healer-tank duo the world has ever seen. Suddenly, the social rules have changed. You can’t take the time to write and edit your words carefully. You can’t respond with an all-caps expletive and an animated GIF. It’s every bit as alien as it is to email with someone you’ve only ever spoken to in person.
I’ve read many things discussing — usually with concern — how the internet is changing the way we socialize. There’s this perception that the internet is making us lonelier, or cheapening our friendships. I don’t think we have to worry about that. People who want face time are always going to seek it out, and those who have difficulty making friends in the real world can have an easier time of it online. As for me, I reside somewhere in the middle
At the Daily Mail:
According to a Pew Research Center study released Thursday, 36 per cent of young adults ages 18 - 31 are living with their parents. That's the highest percentage in four decades.
The 22 books everyone should read… according to F Scott Fitzgerald: List of novels he dictated to nurse is revealed
FITZGERALD'S ESSENTIAL READING
Sister Carrie: Theodore Dreiser
The Life of Jesus: Ernest Renan
A Doll’s House: Henrik Ibsen
Winesburg, Ohio: Sherwood Anderson
The Old Wives’ Tale: Arnold Bennett
The Maltese Falcon: Dashiel Hammett
The Red and the Black: Stendahl
The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant
An Outline of Abnormal Psychology: edited by Gardner Murphy
The Stories of Anton Chekhov
The Best American Humorous Short Stories
Victory: Joseph Conrad
The Revolt of the Angels: Anatole France
The Plays of Oscar Wilde
Sanctuary: William Faulkner
Within a Budding Grove: Marcel Proust
The Guermantes Way: Marcel Proust
Swann’s Way: Marcel Proust
South Wind: Norman Douglas
The Garden Party: Katherine Mansfield
War and Peace: Leo Tolstoy
John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works
Ex-FBI official claims organization can remotely activate the mic on Android phones to record user's conversations
The FBI has developed the capability to remotely switch on the microphones in Android handsets and record user’s conversations, claims an anonymous former U.S. official.
The same technology also enables investigators to do the same to microphones in laptops without the user knowing, the person said.
The claims, made in a Wall Street Journal report on the FBI’s use of hacking tools, come hot on the heels of revelations that the National Security Agency gathers data on millions of American citizens.
At the Weekly Standard: The Soft Underbelly of Obamacare
Of course, the mandate has already ceased to be the obligation that Obamacare’s architects wanted it to be. In his landmark ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius last summer, Chief Justice John Roberts found that Congress did not have the authority under the commerce clause to make the purchase of health insurance obligatory. The only way the “personal responsibility” requirement was found constitutional was as a tax on the uninsured: Citizens can either purchase insurance or pay that tax. Both options are perfectly permissible under the law. Indeed, the Roberts decision suggests that Congress could never raise the tax very much because that would tip the balance away from providing a genuine choice to imposing a de facto obligation to buy coverage.
As a choice, rather than a requirement, the individual mandate doesn’t make expensive coverage look all that appealing. In 2014, an uninsured household (with income above an exemption threshold) must pay a tax of only $95 or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater. For a family with a $40,000 income, that’s either a $400 uninsured tax, or about $1,800 in premiums for insurance offered in the Obamacare exchanges (after the subsidies they’d receive). Some will buy the insurance, but many will not. And of those who don’t, some won’t bother to pay the uninsured tax either, because the ability of the IRS to collect it from them is severely restricted. The only way the government can ever recapture the money is by reducing future tax refunds, and then it can only do so a little at a time.
Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post: How Fractured is the GOP?
The return of the most venerable strain of conservative foreign policy — isolationism — was utterly predictable. Isolationists dominated the party until Pearl Harbor and then acquiesced to an activist internationalism during the Cold War because of a fierce detestation of communism.
With communism gone, the conservative coalition should have fractured long ago. This was delayed by Sept. 11 and the rise of radical Islam. But now, 12 years into that era — after Afghanistan and Iraq, after drone wars and the NSA revelations — the natural tension between isolationist and internationalist tendencies has resurfaced.
In fact, both parties are internally split on domestic surveillance, as reflected in the very close recent House vote on curbing the NSA. This is not civil war. It’s a healthy debate that helps recalibrate the delicate line between safety and security as conditions (threat level and surveillance technology, for example) change.
David Brooks at the New York Times: The Neocon Revival
The conservatism that Kristol was referring to is neoconservatism. Neocons came in for a lot of criticism during the Iraq war, but neoconservatism was primarily a domestic policy movement. Conservatism was at its peak when the neocons were dominant and nearly every problem with the Republican Party today could be cured by a neocon revival.
Kristol and others argued that the G.O.P. floundered because it never accepted the welfare state. “The idea of a welfare state is in itself perfectly consistent with conservative political philosophy,” he argued. In a capitalist society, people need government aid. “They need such assistance; they demand it; they will get it. The only interesting political question is: How will they get it.”
As Richard John Neuhaus and Peter Berger wrote in a famous essay on mediating structures and public policy, “The modern welfare state is here to stay, indeed ... it ought to expand the benefits it provides.”
No. The welfare state was built by my grandparents' generation and it will be disassembled by mine. It took a civic generation to get the machine going and it'll take another one to turn it off. The corporatist Baby Boomer neoconservatism represented by Brooks lost the last two presidential elections. You all had your chance and you blew it -- you're done.
Mark Tapson: From Wrong Number to Wedded Bliss
Really make a point to read this lovely story by my friend Mark about how he and his wife Anna fell in love.
Mark Steyn: Lords of the Transition Team
What accomplishments does Ms. Abedin’s husband have for his lifetime in “public service”? Other than the $3 million Park Avenue apartment that mysteriously came his way after his enforced return to the private sector. Carlos Danger’s pitch to the electors of New York is that they need him: His gifts are so extraordinary, his talent so prodigious, his skill set so indispensable that, like all great men weighed in the scales of history, he must be taken, as Cromwell said, warts and all. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Yet his time in Congress left no trace whatsoever. The most ridiculous thing about Anthony Weiner is not the tumescence of his Tweets but the flaccidness of his résumé.
Any day now, Hillary Clinton, having spent 20 minutes in the private sector, will be needing a new “transition team” to help her transition into replacing President Obama. He’s “smart” and “accomplished,” too. He had a million bucks of elite education — Occidental College, Columbia University, Harvard Law School — and became a “community organizer.” His wife went to Princeton and became a 350-grand-a-year diversity-outreach coordinator, a job so vital to the University of Chicago Hospitals that when she quit to become first lady they didn’t bother replacing her. This is what it means to be “smart” and “accomplished” in the hyperpower at twilight.
John Hinderaker: Major Hasan Explains
How frustrating it must be for Major Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood mass murderer, a self-described Soldier of Allah, to have his mighty act of religious defiance classified as “workplace violence” by the Obama administration! Yesterday Major Hasan sent several documents to Fox News, in which he explained himself as a jihadist. While much briefer, they can reasonably be compared to Mein Kampf, which Hitler, like Hasan, wrote while incarcerated. You can read some of the documents here.
Hasan believes that the murders he committed are entirely logical if only one understands Islam. I think he is probably right about that.
Charles C. Johnson: Reza Aslan misrepresents his status as scholar of ‘religions’; downplays his ties to extreme Islamists
Aslan also presents himself as a moderate despite his affiliation with the Iranian government. The long-time pundit is an advisory board member of the National Iranian American Council, a group that has been described by Iranian dissidents under oath as a “front group” for the Iranian government.
NIAC was funded by the Alavi Foundation and the PARSE Foundation, both of which have since been shut down, the former because of its status as a front group for the Iranian regime.
Aslan also has a long history of downplaying the dangers of jihadist groups, specifically denying the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the country where the Brotherhood got its start and which recently toppled its extremist Brotherhood-affiliated president.
Weekend News Round Up:
Lead PJM Stories From the Weekend:
Tom Blumer: Obama to America: 'Bleep You'
Bridget Johnson: Proposed 28th Amendment Would Make Congress Join Obamacare Exchanges
Bill Straub: A New Nuclear Waste Administration?
Barry Rubin: What the Benghazi Leaks Mean
It was well-known that in 2011 the United States was facilitating the weapons supply to Syrian rebels. The weapons were paid for by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and delivered through Turkey.
We have known for more than a year about this traffic. There were two big UN reports on this traffic. (By the way, this meant that the United States was arming Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups.)
What wasn’t known was a simple detail: the United States was alsocollecting and shipping the weapons.
That’s it! This is what was being concealed. After all, it was openly known previously that the Libyan rebels against Gaddafi were armed by the United States.
The whole mess was unnecessary!
If it had been known that the CIA guys in Turkey weren’t just watching the weapons supply but delivering it, to quote Clinton, what difference would it have made?
Would Congress have stopped the weapons traffic? No. After all, they wouldn’t even do anything about the arms to Mexican drug gangs that killed Americans.
Would Americans have revolted? No.
Would it have cost one percent of the votes in the election? No.
My prediction: history will come to regard Barack Obama as his generation's and his party's Richard Nixon. The Watergate break-in didn't need to happen. Were the gains in any way comparable with the risk? And the Benghazi massacre didn't need to happen. Is the gain of obscuring what was already known in the intelligence community any way comparable to the prosecution that should result from the dereliction of duty of allowing an ambassador to die?
PJTV’s Afterburner with Bill Whittle: Sarah Palin was Right (Video)
PJ Lifestyle Featured on PJ Home Page This Weekend:
Theodore Dalrymple: Should an Alcoholic Be Allowed to Get a Second Liver Transplant?
P. David Hornik: How I Became a Conservative
Chris Queen: Pixar’s Alternate Universe?
Susan L.M. Goldberg: Sex for Girls‘ Sake: Porn, Art, or Both?
Rhonda Robinson: ‘Poor in Kenya Is a Lot Different Than Poor in America, Isn’t It?’
New at PJ Tatler this Weekend:
Rick Moran: Al-Qaeda Terror Threat ‘Very Specific’
Rick Moran: New York Times Sells Boston Globe for 93% Loss
Bridget Johnson: State Dept.: Post Closures a Mix of Eid and Caution, Or Something
Stephen Green: Israel Sued for Death of Jesus
Prominent Kenyan lawyer Dola Indidis argues that the evidence provided by the Bible demonstrates that Jesus was subjected to “selective and malicious prosecution” that “violated his human rights through judicial misconduct.”
The lawsuit targets Roman Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, King Herod, numerous first century Jewish elders, the Republic of Italy and the State of Israel.
New at PJ Lifestyle this Weekend:
Walter Hudson: ‘There’s Plenty of Money, It’s Just the Government Doesn’t Have It’ — Congressman Keith Ellison
Charlie Martin: A Boring Week of Excitement
Sarah Hoyt: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!
Rhonda Robinson: When Walking The Monetary Tightrope Who Needs a Stinkin' Safety Net?
Religion and Values on Sunday:
Susan L.M. Goldberg: Girl on Girl Action: Girls and the Female Gaze
Rhonda Robinson: If Jesus’ Miracles Kept With Talmudic Tradition, Isn’t That Evidence He Was Sent From God?
Charlie Martin: Nothing for Nothing
Also Around the Web This Weekend:
ABC News: Senior U.S. Official: Intercepted Al Qaeda Communications Indicate Planned Attack ‘Big,’ ‘Strategically Significant’
Authorities do not know the exact target of the planned attack, according to the official.
“We do not know whether they mean an embassy, an airbase, an aircraft, trains,” the official said.
The official said there is concern about devices that could be implanted inside the body of a terrorist.
“We are concerned about surgically implanted devices,” said. “These are guys who have developed the techniques to defeat our detection methods.”
New York Times: Other Agencies Clamor for Data N.S.A. Compiles
Intelligence officials say they have been careful to limit the use of the security agency’s troves of data and eavesdropping spyware for fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans’ privacy rights.
The recent disclosures of agency activities by its former contractor Edward J. Snowden have led to widespread criticism that its surveillance operations go too far and have prompted lawmakers in Washington to talk of reining them in. But out of public view, the intelligence community has been agitated in recent years for the opposite reason: frustrated officials outside the security agency say the spy tools are not used widely enough.
“It’s a very common complaint about N.S.A.,” said Timothy H. Edgar, a former senior intelligence official at the White House and at the office of the director of national intelligence. “They collect all this information, but it’s difficult for the other agencies to get access to what they want.”
“The other agencies feel they should be bigger players,” said Mr. Edgar, who heard many of the disputes before leaving government this year to become a visiting fellow at Brown University. “They view the N.S.A. — incorrectly, I think — as this big pot of data that they could go get if they were just able to pry it out of them.”
Ross Douthat at the New York Times: Return of the Jesus Wars
Part of the lure of the New Testament is the complexity of its central character — the mix of gentleness and zeal, strident moralism and extraordinary compassion, the down-to-earth and the supernatural.
Most “real Jesus” efforts, though, assume that these complexities are accretions, to be whittled away to reach the historical core. Thus instead of a Jesus who contains multitudes, we get Jesus the nationalist or Jesus the apocalyptic prophet or Jesus the sage or Jesus the philosopher and so on down the list.
There’s enough gospel material to make any of these portraits credible. But they also tend to be rather, well, boring, and to raise the question of how a pedestrian figure — one zealot among many, one mystic in a Mediterranean full of them — inspired a global faith.
Via Real Clear Politics:
Aslan's Jesus Is a Failed Mohammed - Stephen Prothero, Washington Post
Scholars and believers alike tend to contrast sharply the founders of Christianity and Islam: Jesus the apolitical man of peace who turns the other cheek; and Muhammad the politician, jurist and general who takes much of the Arabian Peninsula by force. In “Zealot,” Reza Aslan blurs this distinction, depicting Jesus as a “politically conscious Jewish revolutionary” whose kingdom is decidedly of this world.
Aslan is an Iranian American Muslim, a religious-studies scholar and a creative-writing professor who lives in Los Angeles, where he runs a company called Aslan Media. So we should not be surprised to encounter in “Zealot” a life of Jesus that reads like a movie treatment, all the way down to these key scenes...
But the real problem is that Aslan, like thousands of “historical Jesus” experts before him, refuses to say “I don’t know” with anything near the frequency required for the task. He, too, purports to be an intrepid archaeologist for historical truth, excavating the “real” Jesus out of the “propagandistic legend” that has grown up around him. But he, too, remakes Jesus in his own image.
In the end, “Zealot” offers readers not the historical Jesus but a Jesus for our place and time — an American Jesus for the 21st century, and more specifically for a post-Sept. 11 society struggling to make sense of Christianity’s ongoing rivalry with Islam.
Kyle Smith at the New York Post: Shanghaied: Shocked that Hollywood collaborated with the Nazis? It’s doing the exact same thing today with China
But Hollywood’s past shouldn’t surprise those who observe Hollywood’s present.
Where moviedom is heading can be reduced to a single statistic. “Iron Man,” which was released only five years ago, earned $15 million in China. Yet “Iron Man 3” has taken in over $121 million in China.
Meanwhile, studio chiefs scrambled to recut “World War Z,” which originally contained a brief hint that the zombie outbreak began in China, to mollify Chinese state censors through whom all movies must pass. China has so far rejected the movie anyway. No one knows why, and the “World War Z” grosses in China stand at zero.
Stan Persky Reprinted from LA Review of Books: ["image_size", "click", "small"]]}">Gore Vidal still holds up
It took only a couple of minutes of Internet rummaging-around to get to the source of the judeophobia charge. My Facebook friend, it turned out, had been reading a batch of pro-Zionist blogs that slagged the recently-departed polemicist Vidal for his views on Israel. Since my friend was a fervent anti-Islamicist-terrorist (a perfectly respectable view), he had lately acquired a rather indiscriminate corollary affection for my Jewish compatriots who were citizens of Israel, especially the more militant right-wing members of that category (a not-so-respectable fondness).
The blogs and flogs, which had names like “Harry’s Place” and “The Socialism of Fools” (I’ll spare you the hyperlinks) both quoted from a 2010 Christopher Hitchens essay, written more in sorrow than in anger as they say, about the crankiness of Late Vidal and included the observation that Vidal had
a very, very minor tendency to bring up the Jewish question in contexts where it didn’t quite belong. [. . .] But these tics and eccentricities, which I did criticize in print, seemed more or less under control, and meanwhile he kept on saying things one wished one had said oneself.
The late Hitchens, who was no slouch as an essayist himself, was probably right about many of Late Vidal’s political failings, and no doubt it was true, as Hitchens pointed out, that Vidal got worse after age 75 (i.e., after Sept. 11, 2001).
While many criticisms of Vidal, both personal and political, are justified, the judeophobe charge doesn’t stick. In the end, it was just another complicated dispute about Israel, Zionism, and some American Jewish supporters of Israel, disputes of which there is no end. So, “judeophobe” is just exaggerated code for “anti-Zionist.” Phew! Enough of that. On to something more interesting, namely, how Vidal holds up as a writer.
Heh. "Judeophobe" is hardly the term those of us at the "pro-Zionist" "right-wing" "blogs and flogs" actually use to describe Vidal... The man was an antisemite -- as just about all of the literary and cultural icons I was indoctrinated to love turned out to be. Sigh... Worth reading as a corrective: David Greenberg at Slate, Crossposted at the Huffington Post: Stop Eulogizing Gore Vidal
The Heartland conservatism that became these men’s philosophy—and Gore Vidal, we should recall, described himself as a conservative—aimed to insulate America from the corrupting cosmopolitan influences of Europe and beyond. Its most vile exponents, such as the Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh, opposed World War II on the grounds that Hitler’s war was none of America’s concern. Others followed the spirit of Jefferson’s famous warning to avoid “entangling alliances.” Some, notably Lindbergh, blamed American Jews for railroading the nation into war. Others saw dark conspiracies in Pearl Harbor, which they said was Roosevelt’s connivance, foisted on a peace-loving nation.
Vidal himself espoused both of these views. In an interview with Bob Edwards several years ago, he sputtered that Philip Roth, whose Plot Against America describes a dystopian wartime United States under a President Lindbergh, was unfair to the isolationist aviator. Later, in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere, he effectively laid blame for Pearl Harbor at Roosevelt’s feet.
In the demonology of Vidal and his not-so-progressive Progressive forbears, Jews in particular loomed large. Vidal’s anti-Semitic rants frequently insinuated that Jews were un-American, more loyal to Israel than the United States. The most notorious of these pieces, “The Empire Lovers Strike Back,” ran in the The Nation on March 22, 1986, and achieved what many would have thought impossible: arousing sympathy for Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter. It was the kind of piece that should give pause to those who ritually deny that anti-Zionism is rooted in anti-Semitism; it should be read in full. Describing the Podhoretzs as propagandists for Israel (“in its never-ending wars against just about everyone … a predatory people”), he cast Podhoretz, who was born in the United States, as someone who would never become “an ‘assimilated American,’ to use the old-fashioned terminology.” Addressing Decter, he declared, “I’ve got to tell you I don’t much like your country, which is Israel.”
At Breitbart News:
At the Daily Mail:
What do you get when you cross a lion with a tiger? A liger! And these cute cubs will grow into the biggest felines on the planet
Tawana Brawley finally starts paying $431,000 debt to man she wrongly accused of gang-raping and kidnapping her 26 years ago after court docks her nurses wages
The ex-prosecutor said he remains more interested in extracting a confession from Brawley than the money she owes.
'Every week, she'll think of me. And every week, she can think about how she has a way out — she can simply tell the truth.'
Brawley's advisers in the case — the Reverend Al Sharpton, and attorneys C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox — have already paid, or are paying their debt to Pagones.
Until now, Brawley, 41, has refused to pay out but she is now forced to cough up $627 each month to the man who is one of three whose name she dragged through the mud in 1987, possibly for the rest of her life.
Joe Malchow: Friedrich Engles Was an Entitled Jerk
Engels came, of course, from a wealthy family. The Engels in question are the Engels of the Ermen & Engels Co., a large manufacturer of cotton. The young Friedrich Engels was sent to the office in Manchester. The whole business of finding a job and competing based upon the usefulness of one’s labor, he did not try. Engels quickly divined a nice way of getting ahead. He accused his father’s business partner (the aforementioned Ermen) of fraud. Karl Marx’s wife Jenny thought this was a great idea. “Get yourself firmly entrenched between the two hostile brothers,” she wrote to Engels in February 1851. “Their enmity gives you the opportunity to make yourself indispensable to your worthy papa. In my mind’s eye I can already see you as Friedrich Engels, junior, a partner of Friedrich Engels senior.” Oh, Lady Macbeth!
Engels did just that, and was soon part owner of the cotton company. “As part-owner of the mill, he eventually received a 7.5 percent share in Ermen & Engels’ rising profits, earning £263 in 1855 and as much as £1,080 in 1859–the latter a sum worth around $168,000 today.”
Monday Morning Book Reading:
"War, and preparation for war, are the normal conditions of mankind, while peace is extremely rare." - Michael A. Ledeen, pg. 74 of Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West.
See the previous four weeks; link round-ups:
- Week One
- 1. Monday, July 8: “We Ought to Defeat Capitalism With Its Own Weapons, Comrades…“
- 2. Tuesday, July 9: Can We Just Fast Forward to 2040? Please?
- 3. Thursday, July 11: Researching the American Family’s War to Beat Death…
- Week Two
- 4. Monday, July 15: Turning On Mankind’s Magical Machines To Battle Mother Earth’s Cruel Monsters
- 5. Wednesday, July 17: ‘So, You Know How You Felt on 9/11? Yeah, That’s How We Feel When It Comes To Race.’
- 6. Thursday, July 18: ‘… And There We Can Still Maintain Our Mysterious and Dreadful Freedom.’
- 7. Friday, July 19: 'Evil Always Takes Advantage of Ambiguity.' - G.K. Chesterton
- Week Three
- 8. Monday, July 22: ‘His Father Urged Him to Study Marxism, But Valentin Preferred Science.’
- 9. Tuesday, July 23: ‘Perhaps The Final Secret of the Illuminati Is That You Don’t Know You’re A Member Until It’s Too Late to Get Out.’
- 10. Wednesday, July 24: Is Anthony Weiner a ‘Deviant’ or a ‘Normal’ Male?
- 11. Thursday, July 25: ‘The Most Ancient Conflict in Western Culture, Between Jew and Egyptian, Continues…’
- 12. Friday, July 26: Weiner's Wild Women: Are Sydney Leathers and Huma Abedin His Succubi?
- Week Four
- 13. Monday, July 29: Malcolm X: ‘The Jew Cries Louder Than Anybody Else If Anybody Criticizes Him.’
- 14. Tuesday, July 30: ‘My Father Was a White Man.’ – Frederick Douglass, the Archetypal Anti-Slavery Republican
- 15. Wednesday, July 31: Why Is It Evil to Murder Unwanted Children?
- 16. Thursday, August 1: Nihilism Defined: ‘When You Realize Your Life Has as Much Meaning as Your Dog’s…’
- 17. Friday, August 2: Pastafarianism Is a Real Religion. Benghazi Is a 'Phony Scandal.' Hillary Will Be President.