Thoughts from the Ammo Line

Ammo Grrrll concludes her series on her high school reunion in a column she titles “50th Reunion, or, How Did I Get This Old?” She writes:

You know those beautiful young ladies in high school back when you were a nerd who could never date them (if you were a boy) or BE them (if you were a girl)? Well, they are still beautiful! What kind of karmic fairness is that? Some of them look like they just stepped out of Miss Skalbeck’s English class on the way to the lunchroom. (It’s meatless Friday, so it’s either Fish Sticks or Mac and Cheese, back in the quaint old days when a Christian religion was modestly accommodated.)

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that by age 67 or 68, the old cliques have pretty much broken down. By this reunion, people had stopped trying to impress each other and circulated nicely, talking to everyone. Heck, we’re all just geezers now who have done our best, accomplished much, and are hoping that when we meet Our Maker, many years from now, He grades on a curve.

Out of a class of around 240, 175 people registered for the reunion, including some spouses and teachers. There were no nametags at our opening cocktail reception. Some people were instantly recognizable. Others could not have been guessed if my life had depended on it. Whatever reunion you attend, do NOT say, “Guess who I am?” This can only lead to embarrassment all around. Just stick out your hand and say, “Hi, I’m Somebody Johnson” (in Minnesota), or “I’m Tammylou Faye-Anne Whatever” (in Texas).

A dear, late friend of mine told me that when her father visited his native Czechoslovakia, then still Communist, he ran into an old woman whom he recognized from gradeschool and broke the ice after 50 years by asking, “Doesn’t the government give you teeth?”

Better openers at your reunion would be neutral sports talk: “Would soccer be tolerable if limited to one two-minute shootout? OK, how ’bout with actual guns?” or “Should they change the name of the Golf Channel to The Cialis Channel based on the number of commercials for it?” What’s up with that, so to speak?

I am blessed to be one of very few people my age with two living parents. I had to divide my time between reunion events and parental visits, so I left early. The next night was our big banquet and dance. I sat with travel mates Bonnie and Heather and a guy who still had a crush on Bonnie and Heather who was livin’ the dream for one evening.

This time we had nametags with our senior pictures on them in case we hadn’t been humiliated enough in life. Whatever made me think a Lilt home perm the day before pictures was a great idea? It may be an urban legend, but I read that Barry Manilow bought up all existing copies of his yearbook and destroyed them. If I ever get that rich, count on it!

The organizers of the reunion had done a bang-up job with the banquet. It opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by a career Army classmate. The dance band then played all the military anthems for every branch of service and had the vets who had served in each branch stand to sustained applause. It had to be over half the men in the class, God Bless ‘em. Bonnie, who is a veterinarian,also stood by mistake. OK, I made that up.

Colleen, the emcee, recalled that a certain strict English teacher once scolded a periodically-disruptive student thusly: “Susan, your life would go much better if you didn’t think you were so funny.” Rumor has it that her life went just fine. So, neener, neener.

After the banquet, the cover band played the music from the Sixties. Ammo Grrrll was a dancin’ fool for over an hour. The next day everything hurt, including my hair.

Finally, it was obvious that none of us had gotten through life without challenges and sorrow. No matter how successful, how financially secure, everyone I talked to had dealt with something – from disabled children to mental health issues; from surviving breast cancer to broken marriages and addiction. Life can be a marathon through a minefield.

We are here not to see through each other, but to see each other through. Our class was good at that. Many thanks to the organizers. On to the 60th. This time we’ll leave more time for the Cowboy Hall of Fame even if we need three walkers then instead of just the one.

Ninth Circuit considers Guam’s racially discriminatory plebiscite registraton law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument yesterday in the case of Davis v. Guam. The hearing occurred in Guam, the first time the Ninth Circuit has sat there since 2002.

Mr. Davis, a resident of Guam, attempted to register to vote in a plebiscite on Guam’s relationship to the United States. He was denied permission to register because he could not trace his ancestry to a native inhabitant of Guam. Guam law allows only those with correct ancestry to vote in the future status plebiscite.

According to a report by Davis’ expert, nearly every ancestor who could “confer” on a modern descendant the right to register to vote was a member of the Chamorro racial group. Thus, Guam has effectively conditioned the right to vote in its plebiscite on race.

Therefore, Davis claims that this racial prerequisite for registering to vote violates the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and other federal civil rights statutes. However, a district court ruled against him on the theory that he suffered no injury from the statute that excludes him, on racial grounds, from registering to vote because the election has not been scheduled and may not occur,

Try to imagine the reaction to this argument if it were applied to defeat the claim of a black prohibited by law from registering to vote in a prospective election due to his race.

Mr. Davis is represented by, among others, Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Terry Pell of the Center for Individual Rights, and Doug Cox of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. All three, I’m proud to say, are friends of Power Line.

The panel that heard the case yesterday consisted of Alex Kozinski, Randy Smith, and Mary Schroder. The first two were appointed by a Republican president, Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively. Judge Schroder was appointed by President Clinton.

Guam tried to defend its race-based voting requirement on the theory that Guam represents a special case because its native population was never polled as to whether it wanted to become part of the United States. Chief Judge Kozinski countered that “native inhabitants” have never been polled when the United States claimed their land as American territory. In general, he seemed unconvinced by Guam’s arguments.

You can read accounts of the oral argument here and here. You can listen to it by going here.

Michael Brown: Too Burly for the New York Times

Michael Brown was a very large young man, 6’4″ and 292 (sometimes reported as 300) pounds. He used his size aggressively to rob a convenience store and shove aside a store clerk just ten minutes before his fatal encounter with a police officer. Brown’s height and weight are obviously relevant to the police officer’s claim of self-defense, which we assume will eventually be forthcoming.

Yet these basic physical facts are too hot for the New York Times to handle. In a column by Kyle Massey, an assistant news editor, the Times says that it regrets describing Brown as “burly” and will no longer do so. Why? Because the word “burly” is “racially charged.” That’s news to me; I have sometimes described my son as burly, although he weighs more than 100 pounds less than Brown. Evidently I will have to stop, even though the Merriam-Webster dictionary merely defines “burly” as “strongly and heavily built.”

So how will the Times describe Brown from now on? Svelte? Diminutive? I don’t suppose so. The paper’s real problem is that it doesn’t want readers to know that Brown was such a big guy. They just want to keep saying that he was “unarmed,” as though that precludes any necessity for self-defense. 6’4″ and 292 pounds clouds that narrative just a bit. So from now on, the Times will draw a discreet veil over the stature of the burly Mr. Brown.

Strategy? What Strategy?

President Obama gave a press conference today, in which the prime topic was ISIL. Obama’s constant theme was that we don’t have a strategy to deal with the terrorist organization that has been rampaging across Syria and Iraq for months. A transcript of the press conference is here:

I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I’ve been consulting with members of Congress, and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead. …

And in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy. Now, we’re not going to do that alone. …

As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress, and I do think that it’ll be important for Congress to weigh in and we’re — that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate. …

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.

In case you think your eyes might be deceiving you, here he is: Barack Obama saying that he doesn’t have a strategy to deal with ISIL:

ISIL has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks in Iraq going back to 2010. The group has played a major role in the Syrian civil war since April 2013. In early June 2014, ISIL captured Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit in northern Iraq, and threatened Baghdad. In this campaign, ISIL obtained large quantities of American weaponry and a great deal of money, making it the richest terrorist group in history. It also murdered hundreds of Christians and rendered many more refugees. In late June, ISIL announced the founding of a new caliphate. In July, ISIL carried out a series of mass executions. In early August, ISIL slaughtered large numbers of Yazidis and kidnapped 400 Yazidi women to sell as sex slaves. On August 8, the U.S. government labeled ISIL’s massacre of the Yazidi as genocide. On August 16, ISIL murdered 80 more Yazidis. On August 19, ISIL beheaded American journalist James Foley on video. The following day, President Obama took a brief break from golfing to denounce Foley’s murder. On August 21, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that ISIL represents an “imminent” threat to American security.

And yet, by Obama’s own account, he has barely begun the process of developing a strategy to combat ISIL. How can this be? Well, from August 9 until August 25, he was on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard–apparently not the traditional presidential “working vacation.” Before that, who knows? Was there something that Obama had to do between June and the present that was more important than developing a strategy to stop the terrorist organization that was marauding across Iraq and Syria? Apparently so. Fundraising, most likely–the one thing Obama is good at.

The fact that we have arrived at this late date, and our president says “We don’t have a strategy yet,” testifies to the utter fecklessness and incompetence of the Obama administration.

American exceptionalism: we’d be damned fools not to believe in it

I wrote here about the College Board’s effort to mandate that AP U.S. History be taught from a leftist perspective. That perspective is based, in part, on a critique of “American exceptionalism.”

In my post, borrowing from Stanley Kurtz, I took “American exceptionalism” to mean the view that celebrates America as a model, vindicator, and at times the chief defender of ordered liberty and self-government in the world.

There are, of course, other ways to state the sense in which America is exceptional. But to constitute American exceptionalism as the term has always been used, that sense must be, on balance, a very positive one.

Suppose that Americans stopped viewing their country as exceptional in the positive sense. Suppose we adopted the view espoused by Thomas Bender, to whom the new approach to AP U.S. History is tied, that we are just “a province among the provinces that make up the world.”

Americans would then be exceptional in a different sense.

As President Obama has suggested, it is normal for citizens to believe their country is exceptional. Obama put it this way:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

This is vintage Obama. He stands above America — putting us in a “global perspective” as just another country that considers itself exceptional.

This, as I tried to show in my post, is the same perspective that gives rise to the way the College Board wants AP U.S. History to be taught.

Still, I agree with Obama that Brits probably believe in British exceptionalism and Greeks in Greek exceptionalism. And I knew first hand that the French believe in French exceptionalism.

Nor is this phenomenon limited to citizens of countries like Britain, Greece, and France, whose histories indisputably are exceptional. When I talk to immigrants from Central and South America, they speak proudly of “my country,” the nation they left to come to the U.S.

I don’t probe deeply enough to learn whether they consider their country “exceptional” or to discover what version of their national history they are taught in school. But it’s clear that they don’t view their country as just a province among the provinces that make up the world.

When I visited the Dominican Republic this past winter, I discovered a narrative of that nation’s history (which I gather is taught) that holds that its patriots thwarted the U.S. when we intervened militarily in 1965. In reality, the U.S. was not thwarted.

The U.S. accomplished its goal of preventing a left-wing takeover of the DR and saw its preferred presidential candidate, Joaquín Balaguer who had been closely associated with the dictator Trujillo, elected president under a plan for forming a new government imposed by the U.S. (Balaguer went on to serve 22 years as democratically elected president, presiding over stunning economic growth and development).

If the Brits, the Greeks, the French, and the Dominicans believe in the exceptionalism of their respective countries, then, as Yossarian might say, Americans would be damned fools to feel any other way.

Obama’s animus

No surprise here, but I had overlooked what Peter Wehner has extracted from the Jerusalem Post:

Speaking extensively on US relations with Jerusalem since the end of the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians last April, and throughout Operation Protective Edge, a candid [former US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin] Indyk said at times US President Barack Obama has become “enraged” at the Israeli government, both for its actions and for its treatment of his chief diplomat, US Secretary of State John Kerry… Gaza has had “very negative impact” on US-Israel relations, he continued. “The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister has been fraught for some time and it’s become more complicated by recent events.”

Wehner comments:

Think about this for a moment. In a neighborhood featuring Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, just to name a few of the actors, President Obama was “enraged” at … Israel. That’s right, Israel–our stalwart ally, a lighthouse of liberty, lawfulness, and human rights in a region characterized by despotism, and a nation filled with people who long for peace and have done so much for so long to sacrifice for it (including repeatedly returning and offering to return its land in exchange for peace).

Yet Mr. Obama–a man renowned for his lack of strong feelings, his emotional equanimity, his disengagement and distance from events, who New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd refers to as “Spock” for his Vulcan-like detachment–is not just upset but “enraged” at Israel.

Wehner adds: “It’s clear to me, and by now it should be to others, that there is something sinister in Barack Obama’s constant anger aimed at Israel.” As I say, no surprise — Obama’s animus against Israel is unsavory and overdetermined — but it is good to have Wehner say it right out loud (whole thing here).

A pro-Hamas left emerges

The historian Jeffrey Herf writes at the American Interest of the emergence of a pro-Hamas left:

On July 31, 2014, a group of left-leaning historians called “Historians Against the War” posted an open letter to President Obama denouncing Israel’s actions in the Gaza War and calling for a cut-off of American military assistance to Israel. On August 13, the letter was posted on the website of the History News Network. On August 13, the signers reported that “in less than twenty-four hours over two hundred US, based [sic] historians had signed the letter.” This remarkable turnout depended on the mobilization of an already existing network of an academic Left that emerged in opposition to the war in Iraq and that stays in touch via a website called “The Hawblog.” On August 14, the blog announced that more than a thousand historians had signed the statement, including a large number from Mexico and Brazil.

With a brief and unconvincing effort to sound balanced, the statement deplored “the ongoing attacks against civilians in Gaza and in Israel” but then turned its fire on Israel for what it called “the disproportionate harm that the Israeli military, which the United States has armed and supported for decades, is inflicting on the population of Gaza.” The signers were “profoundly disturbed that Israeli forces are killing and wounding so many Palestinian children.” They found “unacceptable the failure of United States elected officials to hold Israel accountable for such an act” and demanded “a cease-fire, the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a permanent end to the blockade so that its people can resume some semblance of normal life.” Further, they urged the President to suspend U.S. military aid to Israel until there is assurance that it will no longer be used for the commission of “war crimes.” “As historians,” they concluded, “we recognize this as a moment of acute moral crisis in which it is vitally important that United States policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict change direction.”

As Herf notes, the Haw in Hawblog is an acronym of Historians Against the War. Yet the Historians Against the War support the Hamas war against Israel. Maybe they should make that the Haw! haw! haw! blog. The complete list of signers is posted with the statement here.

How has the vanguard of the academic left come to support an organization of genocidal fascist? Herf finds it an event that signifies, likening it to the Communists’ support of the Hitler-Stalin pact:

For this historian, the “Historians Against the War” statement of summer 2014 recalls the policy of the Comintern during the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939–1941. In that two-year period, as Hitler invaded and occupied all of continental Europe except the Soviet Union, and island Britain fought on alone, the Communist Parties denounced “Anglo-American imperialism”, called Franklin Roosevelt a “war monger” for aiding Britain and abandoned verbal attacks on Nazi Germany. The Communist Parties only returned to the previous anti-fascist stance of the Popular Front era because Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Had Hitler not invaded the Soviet Union, presumably the Communists Parties would have opposed a strictly Anglo-American attack on Nazi Germany.

The years of the Hitler-Stalin pact offer an often forgotten and embarrassing case of the Left making common cause objectively with fascism and Nazism. It was only in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s massive contribution to the defeat of Nazism that “anti-fascism” again became embedded in the Left’s essence and public presentation. The “Historians against the War” statement of July 31 revives the spirit of the infamous years of 1939-41, but does so with a confidence that many decades of Communist and Western leftist attacks on Israel and on Zionism, along with expressions of “solidarity with the Palestinian people,” has fostered. The habits of mind and emotion cultivated in the Western Left in the era of the secular PLO’s terrorist campaigns of the 1960s to 1980s have remained strikingly intact, even though the terror now comes from the Islamist extreme Right rather than the extreme Left.

Among the few names I recognize on the list of featured signers, there is a distinct geriatric Communist (Bettina Aptheker, age 69), leftover left (Staughton Lynd, age 84) and Communist fanboy (Ellen Schrecker, age 76) flavor. One would like to think that the signers do not represent the vanguard of anything other than the growing struggle against senescence and senility. Yet the complete list of signers is a long, long list (with a few ringers). Can we bring back Hugh G. Reckshun and similar friends from the old online anti-Iraq war petition that James Taranto faithfully monitored?

Unfortunately, Herf is clearly on to something. It is amazing what magical properties hatred of the United States has.

On a local note, Minnesota is represented big time among this utterly retrograde and disgusting crowd. I see among the signers listing the University of Minnesota as their affiliation: Cyrus Bina (Morris campus, of the economics department — how’d he get on here?), David Chang (“I am an historian of race and ethnicity in Hawai’i and the United States”), Christopher Isett (“late imperial and modern Chinese economic, social, legal and political history, East Asian economic history, comparative history and social theory, agrarian history and agricultural change”), Scott Laderman, (Duluth campus, forthcoming book: Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing), Kevin Murphy (“history of sexuality,” etc.), Jimmy Patiño (Chicano Studies, he “seeks to critically excavate, extrapolate and facilitate alternative imaginings of democratic practice among subaltern communities in the midst of global capitalism”), Marynel Ryan Van Zee (Morris campus, “[m]y current research is focused on German economic thought of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the persistence of ideas from the German past in the way that the economy, state, and household are perceived today”), Sara M. Evans (Regents Professor Emerita, (“[s]he is described as one of the foremost scholars of feminist studies in the United States, and is attributed [sic] with creating the field of women’s history”) and Elaine Tyler May (Regents Professor, her “work centers on the intersections of gender, sexuality, domestic culture and politics”).

The University of Minnesota is another brick in the wall of the institutional left, deserving of attention all by itself.