Happy Birthday P. G. Wodehouse

PGWodehouseThe English novelist–most famous for his thoroughly awesome series of “Jeeves” novels–would have been 133 today. Here are some of my favorite Wodehouse lines of prose:

He enjoys that perfect peace, that peace beyond all understanding, which comes to its maximum only to the man who has given up golf.

 

Insidious things (mint juleps). They creep up on you like a baby sister and slide their little hands into yours and the next thing you know the Judge is telling you to pay the clerk of the court $50.

 

He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.

 

She fitted into my biggest armchair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing armchairs tight about the hips that season.

 

The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say ‘When!

 

She uttered a sound rather like an elephant taking its foot out of a mud hole in a Burmese teak forest.

Mr. Obama’s Legacy, Part 2: The Demise of the Fourth Estate & the Death of Journalism

journo text bookI owe my vast and demanding readership a follow-up to my previous post about the long-term legacy of the Obama presidency. You’ll find the Part 1, “The Weaponizing of the Federal Bureaucracy” here.

Prior to the 1970s, Journalism students in America’s colleges and universities were taught a code of ethics that demanded objectivity in their reporting. It was understood that reporters and writers would have viewpoints and biases, but that they had a professional responsibility to keep their opinions out of their writing and to set their biases aside when reporting the news. No, this was never perfectly achieved but it was the ideal to which professionals aspired and the standard to which they were held.

Students were also taught that journalists played a vital role in American democracy–namely, keeping the government accountable and keeping the citizenry informed about what their government was up to. They inherited a tradition from Enlightenment Europe that viewed the press as a “Fourth Estate”–and therefore a pillar of civilized societies.

Americans understood that one of the key traits distinguishing the great Western democracies from totalitarian states and banana republics was a press that was free, able and willing to challenge the government.

Sure, guys like Walter Cronkite were ideological liberals. But the point is, Cronkite and his generation cared about being perceived as objective. He didn’t allow the mask to slip until late in his career and life.

All of that began to change when the maoist hippie protesters and campus sit-in organizers of the sixties became the adjunct professors of the seventies and the tenured professors or deans of the eighties.

Once these “Progressives” were solidly in control of of the nation’s “J Schools” (and the rest of Liberal Arts departments for that matter) they began turning out a new kind of journalist with a new sense of mission.

These new reporters no longer saw their mission to be informing the public of the facts (whatever those facts might be) and holding government officials accountable (no matter which party might be in power.)   This new generation of journalists very consciously viewed themselves as a force for societal transformation.

Sam-and-Helen

Sam and Helen: The Reagan Years

As the battle lines of the”culture wars”  formed (especially after 1973’s Roe v. Wade), this new breed of journalists picked a side.

This made advancing a set of agendas the primary mission of reporters, rather than objectively reporting events. And advancing agendas required actively helping one political party’s candidates and hindering the other’s. It also meant moving the electorate to the left.

All of this was accomplished subtly but powerfully through the reporter’s and editor’s power to decide what is “news” and what isn’t. To choose which questions to ask and which to leave unasked. And to choose who is questioned and who is left alone.

This wave of reporters were already well up the ranks of the nation’s news organizations by the time Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in 1981. Some older reporters sensed the shift and threw themselves into the agenda-driving fray.

As long as Republicans were the party in power, reporters and editors could continue to plausably claim they were continuing to fulfill their independent and objective watchdog role. But with the election of Bill Clinton, that claim became harder to square with reality .

Such claims became laughable when Barack Obama got his party’s nomination and the Republican nominee, the moderate John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. The news media’s advocacy became an powerful asset for the Obama cause–and an unsurmountable obstacle for Team McCain.

After the election, the country’s most incompetent and corrupt administration since Warren G. Harding’s benefited from a news media and liberal blogosphere that saw its sole job as running interference for President and his allies in Congress.

In the early days, the agenda-mongering in the press was uncoordinated and non-orchestrated. It succeeded organically because of a shared world view — everyone pretty much agreed with everyone else. But that all changed with Mr. Obama’s candidacy and presidency.

In 2007, liberal blogger Ezra Klein quietly formed a GoogleGroups message board called “Journolist” and began inviting other influential liberal Journolist-logoreporters, writers, bloggers, and academics to join. Ultimately the list grew to more than 400 of the nation’s key journalists working at most of the elite media outlets. The secret network allowed leftist journalists to coordinate messaging and strategy.

Journolist offered the Obama administration a power to dispense preferred talking points and suppress unflattering news narratives that must have made Vladimir Putin envious . Of course, Team Obama happily accepted.

The existence of this group explains why, to the this day, Mr. Obama looks like he’s been slapped in the face with a wet mackerel on those rare occasions a reporter dares to ask him a hard or embarrassing question.

When the existence of Journolist leaked out, it was hastily shut down, but it has almost certainly been reconstructed in a stealthier way. In a broader sense, journalists now view themselves as righteous soldiers in the culture wars, fighting with the tools at their disposal to shape public opinion and make sure the “right” people get elected.

Sure there are a few exceptions — throwbacks to the earlier breed of objective journalist. ABC’s Jake Tapper comes to mind. But these are rarities. Real journalists generally don’t get promoted, or, if one slips through the system, don’t stay employed.

The most recent example is CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who tended to ask tough questions about the Obama administration’s Solyndra boondoggle, the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal, and Benghazi. Her pursuit of the Benghazi story was the last straw for her colleagues at CBS. She was instructed to play ball. She refused and resigned.  

No, the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t cause the death of journalism. But it finally exposed the truth that the corpse was cold.

The Wendy Davis Slime Machine

Wendy Davis Slimey

I’ve been following politics and studying elections most of my adult life. I’m also an avid student of history. And if there has ever been an uglier, more vicious, more dishonest media campaign for political office than that of Wendy Davis for Texas governor, I’m not aware of it.

Even the left-leaning Washington Post is now recoiling in horror. (“Wendy Davis is Running One of the Nastiest Ad Campaigns You Will Ever See“) A writer for hyper-liberal Mother Jones magazine called her latest ad, “offensive and nasty.”

The fact is, those adjectives accurately describe the entire campaign–which has received massive out-of-state funding, particularly from liberal coastal elites who fell in love with Wendy the state legislator when she conducted an 11-hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas House against a bill that restricted late-term abortions. When Davis’ filibuster–which was accompanied by pro-abortion supporters hoping to pelt Republican legislators with tampons, condoms, bricks and jars of urine and feces–became a widely covered national story, she became the darling of the Left and Big Abortion.

Thus out-of-staters have poured millions into the Davis campaign. And those dollars have funded a relentlessly negative, misleading and ubiquitous television ad campaign. Her campaign has been carpet bombing the local airwaves for weeks.

Meanwhile, the Greg Abbott campaign has barely bothered to respond to the stream of ugly accusations in the Davis ads. In fact, he’s hardly bothered to advertise at all–which tells you everything you need to know about what Abbott’s internal polls are saying about the election.

And explains why the Davis campaign is plumbing new depths of sliminess as election day approaches. May that day come quickly.

Update:

Forgot to mention that the campaign media company that created Davis’ latest ad is the same one that crafted the attack ad against Mitt Romney that falsely suggested a woman died of cancer because of him. So . . . lie down with dogs . . . fleas . . . and all that.

We’ve Seen This Before (Part 2)

You’ll find the first installment of this series here. The premise is that we’re living at a time in which it’s easy to think we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of global dysfunction and entropy.

Yes, a lot of ugly and troubling things are happening. But we’re also victims of the 24-hour news cycle and instant video from every corner of the planet.

A generation ago we might never even read about a handful of ISIS-besieged Yazidi citizens being rescued by helicopter from a remote Iraqi mountaintop. Today we watch video of it shot by a camera-phone in the chopper a few hours after it happened and share it with all our friends on Facebook.

Social media streams fed to our smart phones 24/7 provide a constant adrenaline drip of alarm and dismay.

If something unspeakably horrific happens somewhere, we know about it within minutes. Often we watch it unfold in real time. We lose sight of the fact that the unspeakable has been happening with regularity ever since the Fall of Man — beginning with one guy named Cain taking a rock and bashing in the skull of his brother.

It’s just that in most generations, we had the luxury of not hearing about it. Or seeing graphic pictures of the body.

Furthermore, most of us know precious little history. So, with this series I hope to provide a few morsels of historical perspective. So welcome, time traveler, to this installment of “We’ve Seen This Before” . . .

*****

It is 1918 and and you live in a Duluth, Minnesota.

War

For four long years most of the world’s great powers have been engaged in a war of unprecedented scope and scale. The industrial revolution has made a new kind of warfare possible.

Mechanized. Chemical. Terrifying. The miracle of mass production has come to the business of killing humans.

It’s called The Great War . . . or The War to End All Wars . . . because the horror has been so appalling that no rational person can imagine another war ever being fought. Here in 1918, the war shows signs of winding down but it has already produced the deathsWWI War Bonds of 9 million combatants and another 7 million civilians.

Disappearing Liberty

Over the past few years, you’ve watched President Woodrow Wilson–using the war as justification–roll back civil liberties and turn the U.S. into a quasi-fascist state.

The Espionage Act of 1917 was followed by The Sedition Act of 1918. This act forbade Americans from using, “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the United States government, flag, or armed forces while we were at war. The act also let the Postmaster General deny mail delivery to anyone considered a “dissenter” of any government policy during wartime.

You watched Wilson create the “War Industries Board,” with the aim of placing all American industry in the service to the state. In a few years it will serve as a model for the policies Mussolini and Hitler.

Communism

A gate of hell has opened up in Russia and disgorged something new, dark and unimaginably oppressive. The newspapers tell you that the Czarist monarchy there has been overthrown and replaced by something called a Marxist revolution. The world’s first atheistic totalitarian regime is now ruling the world’s largest piece of geography with an iron-fist.  And the blood is already beginning to flow.

Before the 20th Century comes to a close, Communism will kill nearly 100 million.

Plague

A mysterious new viral disease is sweeping the world and killing millions–with no abatement in sight. It will come to be called the Spanish Flu.

Spanish FluPrevious influenza outbreaks had tended to kill only the very young and the very old. But this plague specializes in killing healthy young adults. Each day your morning newspaper carries the reports of how many more thousands died over night–around the world and across America.

Your Halloween news for the morning of October 31, 1918 informs you that Spanish flu has killed 21,000 of your fellow Americans in that week alone.

This plague is everywhere. From the remotest Pacific Island to inside the Arctic Circle. You know many people who have died from it. Everyone does.

In fact, before this disease burns itself out, one third of the earth’s population will have contracted the disease, and somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide will have perished.

In many places, there are so many dead, and so many others sick and weakened, that the dead are being buried in mass graves dug by steam shovel.

It’s terrifying. And many preachers have taken to their pulpits and the street corners declaring the plague a punishment from God. Many others are confident that this pandemic, along with the global war and many other signs, indicate that the end of all things is at hand.

Disaster

A world increasingly connected by telegraph lines means your morning newspaper frequently contains news of recent disasters–both natural and manmade. Every day brings the news of a new earthquake, tsunami, flood or famine.

cloquet_fireThen on October 12, you witness with your own eyes what will be remembered as the greatest disaster in Minnestoa history as a huge portion of of the northeast corner of the state burns to a crisp. For three days it seems like the apocalypse has come as walls of uncontrollable fire burn through the forests and sweep east toward Lake Superior.

It is initially rumored that the fire was started by foreign agents.

Before it is finally extinguished, what comes to be known as the Cloquet Fire chars more than a quarter million acres,  burns three communities to the ground, and kills nearly 500 people. Scores of unrecognizable victims are buried in mass graves.

In 1918, you and countless other people around the world are convinced that events are spiraling out of control, the pinnacle of Western civilization has been reached, and that life will never be as good and calm again.

But you are wrong.

We’ve Seen This Before (Part 1)

Sure, it seems like the wheels have come off and the world is rolling down the freeway out of control with showers of sparks flying from all four rims.

ISIS. Murderous domestic islamists abroad and at home. Ebola.  A cluelessly inept president who seems embarrassed by America’s historic power and prosperity.

Terrible? Oh, yes.

Unprecedented? Not at all.

Americans under the age of 50 have no meaningful memory of what things felt like in the 1970s. And many of us who lived through it have done our best to forget.

Hi. Remember me.

Hi. Remember me.

Allow me take you back to a few years before Jimmy Carter. To 1973 . . .

>The year begins with the U.S. Supreme Court handing down it’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision–ripping from the individual state legislatures the ability to regulate the delicate, divisive issue of abortion. It will set off decades of polarizing debate–what will later come to be known as “the war within the states.”

>Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union are as high as at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. is locked in a global chess match with the Soviets. And losing.

It isn’t just that the Soviets have thousands of nuclear missiles–on land sea and air–most pre-targeted on every major U.S. city. On every continent, dominoes are falling to communism as Soviet client states and marxist insurgencies emerged in strategic places–including in our own front yard of Central America.

Many are predicting the ultimate triumph of global communism and believe that the West has entered its twilight period.

>The “ecology” movement–birthed out of the chaotic cultural upheavals of the 60s  is pointing out scarcity and environmental devastation everywhere. Just a few years earlier, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio had become so polluted that it actually caught fire.

We seem to be running out of everything–especially energy. Especially one particular form of energy:

no gas

 

>The economy is in freefall. OPEC cuts oil supplies and the price of oil doubles overnight. Inflation and interest rates are rising at a dizzying rate and people are getting panicky.

>The Watergate scandal has the  government paralyzed even though the nation is facing an overwhelming number of crises–domestic and international. A Constitutional crisis ensues. The President of the United States will ultimately be forced to resign the following February.

>The Irish Republican Army launches a long, deadly campaign of terrorist bombings in the UK.

>In October, an open shooting war breaks out when Israel’s Arab neighbors launch a surprise attack on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. The Soviets are backing the Arabs. The U.S. is supporting Israel. And the two superpowers come perilously close to war themselves.

Munich72>The previous year the Olympics in Munich had been desecrated by the murder of 11 Israeli athletes by a PLO terrorist squad.

> Seemingly every other week either the French and the Soviets are testing a nuclear device. Each test reminds everyone that a nuclear holocaust is hair-trigger pull away at all times.

>A strange new flu epidemic sweeps the world. They name it Hong Kong Flu. In a few years Swine Flu will also emerge.

For the average American in 1973, it seems the madness and cultural decay that began in the late 60s is only accelerating. The nation has lost it’s way. Our enemies are too strong. Our leaders aren’t up to the task. Events are overtaking us on every side.

Understandably, many Americans look around in fear and dismay. It is 1973 and it looks like times will never be good again.

Yes, we’ve seen this before.

Mr. Obama’s Legacy – Part 1: The Weaponization of the Federal Bureaucracy

There are so many terrible and tragic things about the current U.S. administration that it’s easy to get lost in the blizzard of incompetence, corruption and wrongheadedness.

Nevertheless, I think that when we look back on Mr. Obama’s eight years two things will stand out as being the most destructive to the long term health and well-being of our society.

1. The Weaponization of the Federal Bureaucracy

2. The Abdication of the Fourth Estate (i.e., The Death of Journalism)

I’ll elaborate briefly on the first of these two toxic legacies here, and will address the second in a subsequent post.

1. The IRS scandal has tended to get lost in the myriad of outrages and derelictions of the last six years. But it is by far the most troubling and is the poster child for a broader disease that has metastasized and spread into many branches of the government.  And it received zero attention from the major news outlets–except, of course, for Fox News. (More on that in Part 2 of this post.)

Destroyer of Hard Drives

Lois Lerner

The U.S. tax system is ostensibly a “voluntary” one–meaning that we’re all basically on the honor system to report all our income and not lie about the deductions to which we’re entitled. To make this work in the face of fallen human nature, we have invested the IRS with the awful power to turn the lives of cheaters inside out. Indeed, few government agencies have the power to destroy a person’s life with so completely and with such impunity as does the Internal Revenue Service.

This is why the unfolding revelations of systematic targeting of conservative organizations  and individuals for audits and denial of tax-exempt status should send a chill down the spine of every American who cares about freedom and the future of this republic. The fishy missing emails, suspiciously destroyed hard drives, and the astonishing lack of backups all reek of a cover up.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama joked in a speech about having his enemies audited. The under-reported, under-investigated story of entrenched career employees with liberal Democratic sympathies using the terrible power of the IRS to thwart conservative organizations and harass conservatives is a huge one.

These events should have every investigative journalist in the county crawling all over the Executive Branch asking questions and citing “unnamed sources.” And they would if any of this happened under a Republican Administration.

But it’s not just the IRS. From the very beginning of this administration we have seen a ruthlessly effective marshaling of the federal bureaucracy to attack, obstruct and shackle small-to-medium sized businesses and strengthen Big Labor.

This has been accomplished through regulation and draconian enforcement of murky laws across several Executive Branch agencies–including OSHA, the NLRB, the EPA, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), various divisions of Eric Holder’s Justice Department,  and the rest of the alphabet soup that comprises the federal bureaucratic labyrinth.

Back in the waning days of the Bush 43 administration, a chorus of Democrats and liberal Bush critics accused Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of “politicizing the Justice Department.” These ultimately proved to be a bogus claims.

In retrospect, perhaps the liberal critics of Bush were simply engaging in what the psychologists call projection.

When the voters gave them the opportunity in 2008, they weaponized the federal bureaucracy.

Ramirez cartoon

Paul Harvey–1952

Recently I was told how man outwits his nearest mental competitor, the monkey. He ties a small-neck bottle to a tree. Puts bait in the bottle. The monkey can reach in, but with the bait clutched in his grip he cannot get his fist out again.

And he will not let go. So he is stuck, trapped by his stubborn greed.

Every election year in the United States the politicians are catching a lot of monkeys.

We have been baited with promises, pseudo-prosperity and stage money. We have been lured into a trap.

In the past two decades in the United States . . . a beneficent government has sold us a substitute for freedom. It is called security.

Suddenly the gamble was taken out of job seeking. Taxes took all the excess profits–the bonus of business.

We were promised that the government would take care of us if we get ill or get old and that we will never earn less than 40 cents an hour no matter what. Thus we have lost the good sense and moral integrity that set man apart.

If the old pioneering fire has died out of us, if we will hang on to new deals, fair deals and raw deals at the sacrifice of our i-deals, then we deserve to be trapped by our own clutching fingers because we are animals, nothing more.

History, for six thousand years, is the record of free people made slaves trying to get the free lunch out of the bottle.

Remember These Things (1952)

Paul Harvey

 

"The Twelve Apostles" Cape Town. Shot this years ago.

“The Twelve Apostles” Cape Town. Shot this years ago.

Say It

Clearly, being a capital P Progressive means never having to admit you were wrong. Even when you are utterly, completely, gob-smackingly wrong.

This fact comes to mind when hearing President Obama’s declared intention to go after ISIS. You see, whatever this president endeavors to do in that part of the world, it will surely prove to be far harder and far costlier than it would have been had he not prematurely yanked virtually all U.S. forces out Iraq early in his presidency.

In fact, this endeavor almost certainly wouldn’t have even been necessary if he had done the responsible thing and kept a formable military presence in place in Iraq (much as we’ve done in South Korea.) ISIS arose in the vacuum created by Mr. Obama’s impetuous, foolhardy pull out.

In Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul and other key cities in northern Iraq, brave U.S. soldiers drove Al Qaeda in Iraq (now rebranded as ISIS) out — house-by-house, block-by-block — often at the cost of many U.S. lives. But, through the expenditure of precious blood and treasure, they succeeded in driving them out.

What is now known as The Second Battle of Fallujah involved the deadliest street fighting the Marines had seen since Vietnam’s Hue City in 1968. The bravery exhibited during Fallujah II has become part of Marine Corps lore. Ninety-two Americans died in the fighting to crush the Islamist stronghold there.

And this Commander-in-Chief abandoned it without a thought.

Then, back in January–before anyone had heard of ISIL or ISIS–Fallujah fell back into Islamist hands once more. And the journalists who had cheered Mr. Obama’s “undoing of “W’s” mistake could scarcely be bothered to report it. At least until heads literally started rolling.

A few evenings ago the President of the United States addressed the nation regarding his plan to deal with ISIS.  What follows is the speech he did NOT make. But should have:

 

My fellow Americans,

I’m sorry. I was wrong.

Blinded by a liberal groupthink narrative that took as an article of faith that George W. Bush was an imbecile and that everything he did must be undone, I have squandered the sacrifices made by our combat troops and rendered the deaths of thousands of our noblest souls meaningless.

What is more, by my short-sighted, irresponsible actions, I have doomed tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia, Christians, Yazidis and others to misery, homelessness, slavery and death. 

The current leader of the group perpetrating these crimes against humanity and beheading innocents on video, is a man I chose to release from our Camp Bucca prison in Iraq in 2009.

Again, I’m sorry. I was wrong.

President Abraham Lincoln, comparisons to whom I have very deliberately attempted to cultivate for myself, once made this statement: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

I have been given enormous power and my character has not been up to the test. Please forgive me.

Good night. And may God bless the United States of America, what remains of her.