Friday, March 01, 2019

On 1967's Six Day War

“The Sinai victory of 1956 put Israel on the map as a military force. But that triumph was rendered inconclusive by the perception that it had been effected under the aegis of the allied powers, England and France. The Jews, it was believed by many even among our own people, could not have achieved this victory alone.

Now in June 1967 this perception has been overturned. On her own, the forces of Israel have repelled powerful enemies bent on her destruction and have prevailed over these foes in spectacular fashion. A new archetype has been born in the eyes of the world: the Warrior Jew…

This will change, however. This new conqueror, the Warrior Jew, finds himself responsible now for a million and a quarter Arabs who hate him, who will never be reconciled to his rule, and who would eat him raw in the night…”

(Steven Pressfield’s description of Moshe Dayan’s thoughts following the Six Day War, The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War published 2014, pages 378-9)

“Israel had won war, but a new war had succeeded it. There would be more wars after tht. The need to defend our people was never going to end.

Less than three months after the cease-fire, on September 1, 1967, the leaders of the Arab world met in Khartoum. At this summit they declared in regard to Israel the notorious ‘ Three No’s.’

No recognition, no negotiations, no peace.

Waves of terror had already begun.”

(Nechemya “Cheetah” Cohen, as quoted by Steven Pressfield, The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War published 2014, pages 393-4)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Again, Malcolm Muggeridge on Socialism

Malcolm Muggeridge, the celebrated journalist who became disillusioned with Communism after his experiences in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s and who, a couple of decades later would become a convert to and apologist for Christianity, spoke to a 1979 audience at Hillsdale College about the “great liberal death wish” that is socialism.

The thing that impressed me, and the thing that touched off my awareness of the great liberal death wish, my sense that western man was, as it were, sleep-walking into his own ruin, was the extraordinary performance of the liberal intelligentsia, who, in those days, flocked to Moscow like pilgrims to Mecca. And they were one and all utterly delighted and excited by what they saw there. Clergymen walked serenely and happily through the anti-god museums, politicians claimed that no system of society could possibly be more equitable and just, lawyers admired Soviet justice, and economists praised the Soviet economy. They all wrote articles in this sense which we resident journalists knew were completely nonsensical…

How could this be? How could this extraordinary credulity exist in the minds of people who were adulated by one and all as maestros of discernment and judgment? It was from that moment that I began to get the feeling that a liberal view of life was not what I'd supposed it to be - a creative movement which would shape the future - but rather a sort of death wish. How otherwise could you explain how people, in their own country ardent for equality, bitter opponents of capital punishment and all for more humane treatment of people in prison, supporters, in fact, of every good cause, should in the USSR prostrate themselves before a regime ruled over brutally and oppressively and arbitrarily by a privileged party oligarchy? I still ponder over the mystery of how men displaying critical intelligence in other fields could be so astonishingly deluded…

I laugh at it all now, but at the time you can imagine what a shock it was to someone like myself, who had been brought up to regard liberal intellectuals as the samurai, the absolute elite, of the human race, to find that they could be taken in by deceptions which a half-witted boy would see through in an instant. I never got over that; it always remained in my mind as something that could never be erased. I could never henceforth regard the intelligentsia as other than credulous fools who nonetheless became the media's prophetic voices, their heirs and successors remaining so still. That's when I began to think seriously about the great liberal death wish.

By the way, here’s a link to that whole speech.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Unsung Heroes: The Coastwatchers of the Solomon Islands

“The war had been turned around, and it all began in the Solomons. If Midway ended forever any chance of a Japanese victory, it was the Allied seizure of Guadalcanal and the recapture of the Solomons that started Tokyo down the road to final defeat… 

Many contributed to this remarkable reversal: the unsupported Marines who clung to Henderson Field after the naval disaster off Savo…Colonel Edson’s 700 weary men who hurled back Kawaguchi’s 2100 from Bloody Ridge…the overworked destroyers and cruisers that took on Admiral Yamamoto’s battlewagons…the little band of fighter pilots who crushed the great air armadas sent down from the north…the coordinated sea and air effort that ultimately derailed Admiral Tanaka’s Tokyo Express.

They all did their bit, but none played a larger part than Commander Feldt’s handful of Coastwatchers, together with the intriguing assortment of missionaries, local people, and natives who helped them. Their numbers were small -- six teleradios behind enemy lines in June 1942; still only 14 a year later -- but their contribution was enormous…

Admiral Halsey summed it up well when he later observed, ‘The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal, and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific.’”

(Walter Lord, Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bookin’ Along in the New Year

Due to the winter weather which has precluded outdoor activities (especially my walking & praying routines) AND a trip to the March for Life in Washington D.C. which created a lot of hours on planes and in hotel rooms (including being stranded in Chicago for a day), I have done a bit more reading than normal in these 6 weeks since my last book roundup here.

There have been a few clunkers in that bunch of 19 books read since January 1 — books that I gave only 1 or 2 Stars. And there have been several 3 Star books that I enjoyed, found of value, and which, in certain circumstances, I would recommend.

But it’s the 4 Star books that I would recommend most heartily, books of excellence and high significance. Here’s the specific breakdown according to genre with the titles in bold showing books that were, in fact, re-reads for me.

Fiction:
* The Lone Star Ranger (Zane Grey) - 1 Stars
* The Mysterious Island (Jules Verne) - 4 Stars
* Kim (Rudyard Kipling) - 2 Stars
* The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond (G.K. Chesterton) - 3 Stars
* The People of the Mist (H. Rider Haggard) - 2 Stars
* Journey to the Center of the Earth (Jules Verne) - 1 Star

Historical Fiction:
* Fair Stood the Wind for France (H.E. Bates) - 3 Stars
* Valley Forge: George Washington and the Crucible of Victory (Newt Gingrich, William R. Forstchen, Albert S. Hanser) - 4 Stars
* The Cornet of Horse: A Tale of Marlborough’s Wars (G.A. Henty) - 3 Stars
* August 1914 (Alexander Solzhenitsyn) - 4 Stars

History: 
* The Wright Brothers (David McCulloch) - 4 Stars
* Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West  (Tom Clavin) - 3 Stars
* True Detective Stories from the Archives of the Pinkertons (Cleveland Moffet) - 2 Stars
* Lonely Vigil: Coastwatchers of the Solomons (Walter Lord) - 4 Stars

Drama:
* Once in a Lifetime (George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart) - 3 Stars
* You Can’t Take It With You (George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart) - 4 Stars
* The Man Who Came to Dinner (George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart) - 3 Stars

Culture & Politics:
* Ship of Fools (Tucker Carlson) - 4 Stars

Theology & the Christian Life:
* Life Is Mostly Edges: A Memoir (Calvin Miller) - 3 Stars
* Death in the City (Francis Schaeffer) - 4 Stars

Monday, February 11, 2019

Muggeridge on Abortion, Socialism, and the Great Liberal Death Wish

Speaking at Hillsdale College in 1979, the astute cultural critic Malcom Muggeridge (converted late in life to Christianity) spoke about the barbarism of abortion (which he ironically called the “humane holocaust”) as well as the post-Christian culture which allowed, even encouraged it. (By the way, the speech, in its entirety can be found by using the link at the bottom of this post.)

“I want to say something about all this, showing how this humane holocaust, this dreadful slaughter that began with 50 million babies last year, will undoubtedly be extended to the senile old and the mentally afflicted and mongoloid children, and so on, because of the large amount of money that maintaining them costs. It is all the more ironical when one thinks about the holocaust western audiences, and the German population in particular, have been shuddering over, as it has been presented on their TV and cinema screens. Note this compassionate or humane holocaust, if, as I fear, it gains momentum, will quite put that other in the shade. And, as I shall try to explain, what is even more ironical, the actual considerations that led to the German holocaust were not, as is commonly suggested, due to Nazi terrorism, but were based upon the sort of legislation that advocates of euthanasia, or ‘mercy killing’ in this country and in western Europe, are trying to get enacted. It's not true that the German holocaust was simply a war crime, as it was judged to be at Nuremberg. In point of fact, it was based upon a perfectly coherent, legally enacted decree approved and operated by the German medical profession before the Nazis took over power. In other words, from the point of view of the Guinness Book of Records you can say that in our mad world it takes about thirty years to transform a war crime into a compassionate act…”

Now I want to try to get to grips with this strange state of affairs. Let's look again at the humane holocaust. What happened in Germany was that long before the Nazis got into power, a great propaganda was undertaken to sterilize people who were considered to be useless or a liability to society, and after that to introduce what they called ‘mercy killing.’ This happened long before the Nazis set up their extermination camps at Auschwitz and elsewhere, and was based upon the highest humanitarian considerations.

You see what I'm getting at? On a basis of liberal-humanism, there is no creature in the universe greater than man, and the future of the human race rests only with human beings themselves, which leads infallibly to some sort of suicidal situation. It's to me quite clear that that is so, the evidence is on every hand. The efforts that men make to bring about their own happiness, their own ease of life, their own self-indulgence, will in due course produce the opposite, leading me to the absolutely inescapable conclusion that human beings cannot live and operate in this world without some concept of a being greater than themselves, and of a purpose which transcends their own egotistic or greedy desires. Once you eliminate the notion of a God, a creator, once you eliminate the notion that the creator has a purpose for us, and that life consists essentially in fulfilling that purpose, then you are bound, as Pascal points out, to induce the megalomania of which we've seen so many manifestations in our time - in the crazy dictators, as in the lunacies of people who are rich, or who consider themselves to be important or celebrated in the western world. Alternatively, human beings relapse into mere carnality, into being animals.

I see this process going on irresistibly, of which the holocaust is only just one example. If you envisage men as being only men, you are bound to see human society, not in Christian terms as a family, but as a factory-farm in which the only consideration that matters is the well-being of the livestock and the prosperity or productivity of the enterprise. That's where you land yourself. And it is in that situation that western man is increasingly finding himself.”

(Malcolm Muggeridge, “The Great Liberal Death Wish,” Imprimis, May 1979, published by Hillsdale College)

Friday, January 04, 2019

Klavan on Conservative Creativity

A few days ago, I finished (on my Kindle) Andrew Klavan’s brief but excellent and provocative book, A Crisis in the Arts: Why the Left Owns the Culture and How Conservatives can Begin to Take it Back. 

I highly recommend it. Klavan, himself a best-selling fiction writer, eloquently explains how politics and social policy is “downstream” of culture and that conservatives cannot hope for political success or social change if they continue to cede the arts to the far left as has been done for the last several decades.

 Instead Klavan writes...

We need to fight back. 

For those conservatives with artistic talent and ambition, this is a spectacular moment to take to the barricades. Big Media is tottering under the assault of new technologies. With electronic publishing and social media, books can be self-published and self-promoted. With the new video cameras, professional-looking films can be produced on the cheap and distributed online. YouTube, iTunes, smart phones, tablets, blogs -- all provide opportunities for new kinds of work and new ways for that work to be dispensed.  

To take advantage of this moment, conservatives have to come to grips with a situation that they naturally find uncomfortable: yet, to wit, we are now at the counter-culture. When it comes to the arts, radical leftists are The Man. We need to act like the rebels we now are and stop trying to win the favor of the big studios and publishers and mainstream reviewers. We need to make stuff. Good stuff. And get it out to the audience anyway we can…

The arts, even at their least, are one of humanity’s most noble enterprises. They have been hijacked by adherence of the low-end depressive ideology. They have been hijacked by the adherents of a low and oppressive. We should take them back.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Year in Books

It was another banner year for reading.

My booklist for 2018 finished this afternoon at 115 but that includes everything, including quickly-read mysteries and adventure novels. But along with the list itself I always keep a record of my responses. Those rating 4 stars are terrific books (many of them old friends) that I enthusiastically recommend to others. Those winning 3 stars are books of enjoyment and value that I would recommend in some circumstances and which might well merit a re-read at some time. The 2 star books are ones that I managed to finish but will probably never pick up again. And the 1 star books — well, actually, there are no 1 star books because if they’re that dull or offensive or annoying, I don’t bother to finish them and, therefore, they don't make the list. 

With all that said, though, 2018 was  a splendid year and I list below (by genre) all of my 4 star picks. (By the way, the ones with an asterisk are books that I had already enjoyed…at least once before. And, as you'll plainly see, with my advanced age and particular literary standards, I do a lot of re-reading!)

Novels:
* Ivanhoe (Walter Scott)
* The Hunt for Red October (Tom Clancy)
Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate)
* The Book of the Dun Cow (Walter Wangerin)
The Cruel Sea (Nicholas Monsarrat)
* Huntingtower (John Buchan)
* Killer Angels (Michael Shaara)
Fire Over England (A.E.W. Mason)
* The Man Who Was Thursday (G. K. Chesterton)
* The Magnificent Ambersons (Booth Tarkington)
Seventeen (Booth Tarkington)
* Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens)
* The Haunted Man (Charles Dickens)
* A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
Emma (Jane Austen)
* The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame)
* The Christmas Room (Denny Hartford)
4 novels from Jan Karon’s delightfully engaging Mitford series, Out to Canaan, A New Song, In This Mountain, and Shepherds Abiding (Jan Karon)

Plays: 
* Our Town (Thornton Wilder), 
* Dr. Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)
* Cyrano de Bergerac (Edmund Rostand)
* The Love Girl & the Innocent (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

Collections of Short Stories:
* King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Antonia Fraser)
* The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
* The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
* The Return of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
* His Last Bow (Arthur Conan Doyle)
* The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
* Grimm’s Fairy Stories (The Brothers Grimm)

History: 
* The two volumes of Memoirs (Ulysses S. Grant)
Deadly Times: The 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times and America's Forgotten Decade of Terror (Lew Irwin)
* Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 (Joseph Ellis)

Christian Life/Culture:
* The Holy Bible (both a read-through AND a listen-through with Alexander Scourby’s narration)
* No Little People (Francis Schaeffer)
Happiness (Randy Alcorn)
* The Adventure of Living (Paul Tournier)
Creed or Chaos (Dorothy Sayers)
The Treasure Principle (Randy Alcorn)
The Best Is Yet to Come (Tony Evans)
* Heaven, Your Real Home (Joni Eareckson Tada)
The Crisis in the Arts (Andrew Klavan)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Carol of the Field Mice

This delightful carol was sung by the little field mice outside Mole’s door in Chapter 5 (Dulce Domum, the Christmas chapter) of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. 

“Carol”

Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet--
You by the fire and we in the street--
Bidding you joy in the morning!

For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison--
Bliss to-morrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning!

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow--
Saw the star o'er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go--
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!

And then they heard the angels tell
`Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!'