Dumb question

I’m about to show my youth and ignorance here with regard to the Vietnam War (’cause even though I lived through it, I was truly a child then). But first, let me back up a bit. Mr. Bookworm rented Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a film with an interesting conceit: Ms. Taymor takes 33 of the Beatles songs and interweaves a story around them. As a musical, it’s pretty successful. Bucking trends in musicals for the last 40 years, she chooses actors who actually have really good singing voices. Also, showing her background in theater and puppet work, it’s a visually impressive movie, if you don’t mind that she goes over the top sometimes. That’s the praise.

Now for the criticism: The movie is set during the Vietnam War era and is totally anti-War. American soldiers are shown as brutal robotic types who work for a military that takes sweet, innocent young men and throws them into the maw of hell. Anti-war protests are shown as seminally important events that simultaneously reveal the grossness of American policy in Vietnam and that allow wholesome, moral young Americans to find a place for themselves in opposition to the evil war. In this regard, the movie is both a babyboomer nostalgia trip and a nudge-nudge wink-wink anti-Iraq War movie. So, even as the movie is beautiful to look at and lovely to hear, it offends me. It’s blithe acceptance of the 60s Leftist tropes is so facile as to be almost grotesque — but it did leave me thinking.

The street protest I mentioned above culminates with a speaker talking about American imperialist aggression and Americans as baby killers. What I wondered very much was how and where this angle on the war started. Truth to tell, it sounds precisely like the kind of talking points you can see brooded over by a handful of people attending some secret Communist meeting in a grimy NY basement apartment.

Looked at objectively, from the point of view of a whole nation, the “our nation is evil” idea is kind of fringey. That being the case, how did it gain so much currency? Why did Americans embrace this paradigm about the war instead of viewing the War — as John F. Kennedy, their hero, viewed it — as a necessary (for America) way to stop worldwide Communist aggression and as an act of decency to keep the Vietnamese free? Where did Americans get the idea, stated in this movie, that the Vietnamese wanted us to go? Maybe the North Vietnamese, who were Communist puppets did, but I was under the impression that the South Vietnamese were desperate for us to stay there and protect them from a Communist takeover — a takeover that, when we pulled out, was even more horrific than anyone had anticipated. (One of my most vivid pre-teen memories is of the extraordinary panic on the ground, amongst ordinary Vietnamese, when the Americans pulled out.)

In the current War, from the first second, the Leftists just leapt upon the Vietnam War template, dragging their old signs out, and replaying the identical scenario, with a sympathetic media to help out and spread it amongst people who normally wouldn’t give too much of a rat’s ass one way or another. It’s been like watching a re-run. But who created the original 1960s script, and how did it spread so rapidly and effectively that it became the accepted view that our American men and boys were brutal, imperialistic babykillers — end of story?

Did the original script come from the Kremlin, which was gleefully spreading misinformation, or was it an organic, homegrown Leftist process? Was it embraced so quickly because, after the Korean War, we were sick of getting involved in jungle fighting in the Far East? Or was the draft the problem, with articulate, well-read, generically liberal/Leftist students suddenly having a vested interest in saving themselves — and shooting further Left in the process? And if it’s the latter explanation — that is, the draft created self-interested young people who would rather attack their own nation and leave the Vietnamese in hell than put themselves at risk — why didn’t the draft create precisely the same problems with WWII?

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but it suddenly occurred to me that, while I’ve always seen the end result of anti-Vietnam War agitation, I’ve never understand how the theme came into being and how it got a toehold in the American psyche and the American body politic.

UPDATE: I’ve switched to a new server, so you can feel free to look around here or check out my new site, which not only has the old stuff, but also will move forward into the future with all my new material.

Letting Berzerkley hear from you

My expectations of Berkeley have always been low.  Already when I was a student there many, many moons ago, I figured out that few people there actually engaged in independent thinking.  They were simply radical liberal lemmings.  I was also pretty disgusted by the professors who lived in their multi-million dollar homes in the hills; who commanded huge taxpayer funded salaries for working a few hours a week; and who had their black and Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners, but who nevertheless felt comfortable preaching Marxist class warfare and castigating students for their middle-class upbringings.  Still, even for a town that normally functions at a low intellectual and moral level, Berkeley’s government seems to have found new depths to plumb with its council resolution likening a Marine recruiting station to a porn shop — the only difference being that, while Berkeley would no doubt welcome a porn shop, it’s doing its damnedest to rid itself of the Marines.

If you think there’s good reason to slap down this newest candidate in Berkeley’s perpetual game of “How Low Can You Go,” you now have the perfect opportunity:  a petition that Move America Forward’s Melanie Morgan intends to submit to the Mayor and City Council next week.  Of course, since Berkeley follows the paranoid style of American politics, it will only cement them in their belief that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.  Nevertheless, it seems like the right thing to do so feel free to go do it.

Hat tip:  Michelle Malkin

Quick picks *UPDATED*

The kids are back in school and I thought the house would fall silent and I would blog again. However, it turns out — and this is very flattering — that there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me but felt they couldn’t while the kids were around. I’ve spent the last two hours on the phone with people who really, really needed to have my ear. So, blogging this morning will be somewhat abbreviated, and will boil down to my sharing with you somethings I found interesting.

The first thing I found interesting was the fact that both the WaPo and the WSJ expressed real dismay at the fact that the Dem candidates are engaging in truly unseemly contortions in their efforts to deny the Surge’s success. If this is just political expediency, it reflects poorly on their character. If it’s a genuine psychological inability to recognize the situation on the ground, its very scary that people who propose themselves as our Commander in Chief are laboring under that kind of mental handicap. At minimum, I’d like the person with his (or her) finger on the button to exist in the real world, and not suffer from monomaniacal delusions.

Speaking of delusions, Dennis Prager challenges the claim that Barack Obama is a “uniter.” This claim is, of course, ridiculous on its face. Obama is bound and determined to withdraw troops from Iraq instanter, if not sooner, as a colleague of mine used to say, while I’m an equally firm believer in staying in Iraq until the situation is completely stabilized for the US’s benefit. Where’s the middle road on that one? How in the heck is he going to “unite” his and my entirely disparate views? Here’s Dennis’ take on the real meaning behind the “unity” claim:

If those who call for unity told the whole truth, this is what they would say: “I want everyone to unite — behind my values. I want everyone who disagrees with me to change the way they think so that we can all be united. I myself have no plans to change my positions on any important issues in order to achieve this unity. So in order to achieve it, I assume that all of you who differ with me will change your views and values and embrace mine.”

If people from opposing viewpoints listening to Barack actually think he stands for their position, it’s because Barack is prevaricating and obfuscating. If he were clear and honest about his positions (and he is clear and honest about the War), approximately half the electorate would not view him as a uniter, but would view him as someone who could not possibly represent their interests.

Incidentally, Fred Siegel addresses much the same issue — Barack’s alleged universality — when he points out that those he knows who like Obama are completely unable to articulate what it is they like about him beyond a pretty face and nice voice. Many are also impressed by his Ivy League credentials, something that utterly fails to impress me. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m sure there have been lots of good lawyers who emerged from Harvard Law in the last 20 years, I haven’t met them. Without exception, the Harvard lawyers I have met, have been almost stunningly inept. Many have been smart and nice, but all of them have ranked in the bottom 5th of lawyers I’ve worked with or appeared against. For me, a Harvard Law degree is like a big red warning sign. And if you are a wonderful, intelligent, incredibly competent Harvard lawyer reading this, my apologies. Clearly, I just haven’t met you, so you haven’t been able to un-skew my view.

On a completely different subject, let’s talk about vaccination. I’m a huge proponent of vaccination, something I think results both from the fact that I’m a history lover and I have older parents. The history part means that I’ve read about all the horrible epidemics that decimated childhood populations. Even in the 20th Century, although the US was able to reduce the 50% child mortality that existed in all prior eras and other places, polio was still a nightmare disease that hung over childhood until the Salk vaccine came along. My parents had measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. I carry a discrete chicken pox scar on my face. The diseases are real and the consequences can be significant. As the diseases receded, though, people started fearing the vaccines’ side effects, even though those side effects, in all cases, have been minute compared to the disease risks. The latest fear was the fear that the preservative in many childhood vaccines caused autism. Yet another study has dis-proven this fear. I hope that finding encourages parents who were holding off on vaccines to give the subject another thought.

Here’s another wild jump in topic. The New York Times has a moderately interesting article about gephyrophobia — the fear of bridges. I’ve always found bridges concerning, perhaps because I grew up in earthquake country. My vague fear solidified completely when I saw the first Superman movie, back in 1978. (PLOT SPOILER HERE FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE.) As you may recall, Lex Luthor’s nefarious plot involved creating a massive earthquake to get rid of California entirety, so that the Nevada property he’d purchased cheap would become valuable beach front property. When he successfully gets an earthquake going, the Golden Gate Bridge collapses. (SPOILER OVER.) As a kid in San Francisco, that image stuck with me — and was reinforced during 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake, when a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing one woman. I never got to the point where I avoided bridges, but I can’t say that I enjoy them.

Another topical leap: Your child and mine can now get college credit — at a taxpayer funded college — learning how to be gay. Yup, it’s truly no child left behind, or no child’s behind left alone, I’m not sure which. The famous university-level Mickey Mouse classes have just risen (or sunk) to a whole new level.

Whenever honor killings occur, whether in Canada or Texas, the usual suspects emerge to explain that honor killings and other acts of abuse against women have nothing to do with Islam, and that it’s just a bizarre coincidence that they keep cropping up in the Islamic community. Robert Spencer, however, got wind of a Yemeni columnist who wants nothing to do with this politically correct horse pucky. He’s quite clear on the fact that Islam demands the physical abuse of women — for their own good, of course.

And for now, th-th-th-that’s all, folks!

UPDATE: Whoops! I missed it. Fred Barnes also tackled the Dems’ peculiar aversion to the truth about the Surge.

UPDATE II: I like Bret Stephens’ take on the silliness of Obama’s constant promise to end American division in future:

Barack Obama, still fresh from his victory in Iowa last week and confident of another in New Hampshire tonight, has as his signature campaign theme the promise to “end the division” in America. Notice the irony: The scale of his Iowa victory, in a state that’s 94% white, is perhaps the clearest indication so far that the division Mr. Obama promises to end has largely been put to rest.

Of course, Barack’s Iowa victory may also cast into the light something I’ve already noted: Barack’s not really black. Sure, he’s got a genetic black inheretence, and he likes obsessing about his blackness, but his youthful influences and his education were mainstream white — something American blacks might notice.

UPDATE IIIChristopher Hitchens also examines the icky obsession with Obama’s race and suggests that, if you have questions about his racial views, you might want to check out the website for the Church with which Obama is publicly affiliated.  (Hat tip:  The Anchoress.)

That critical gap

I wrote generally about the gap between critics and the rest of us.  Patrick has taken one critic, deconstructed his criticism, and explained precisely why that gap looms so large.

The War at home

When I say “the war at home,” I’m not taking of the home front, a la WWII. I’m taking about Americans at war with the War. One young American, fighting (and, ultimately, dying) in Iraq, had his fill of that war:

Published: Oct 19, 2007

A Soldier’s Last Words: Listen Up CBS, CNN, Cindy Sheehan, Al Franken by Louisa Centanni

SGT. Edmund John Jeffer’s last few words were some of the most touching, inspiring and most truthful words spoken since the tragedy of 9/11 – and since our nation went to war.

SGT. Jeffers was a strong soldier and talented writer. He died in Iraq on September 19, 2007. He was a loving husband, brother and son. His service was more than this country could ever grasp – but the least you can do for the man who sacrificed his life for you … is listen to what he had to say. Listen up and pay attention to all of the Cindy Sheehans and Al Frankens of the world. To MSNBC, CNN, and CBS. To all who call themselves Americans … Hope Rides Alone.

Hope Rides Alone

By Eddie Jeffers

I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others. I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again…and yet, I too, am just a boy….my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid…because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.

There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own…but that are necessary for survival. I’ve made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets…who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.

And to think, I volunteered for this… And I am ignorant to the rest of the world…or so I thought. But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi , Iraq , the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn’t fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America , and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.

I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about. It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that’s what they are. In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.

People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don’t realize its effects on this war. In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy’s brutality because it’s against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward’s war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war. And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation’s news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes…only now, the enemy is becoming something new. The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not realize it.

But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society…and they are becoming our enemy. Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word “quagmire” around and compare this war to Vietnam . In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam . Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military. America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on. Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war.

Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the Internet…and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed…for doing their job.

It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we’ve done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq ? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed? It’s all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of Bush. They will ignore the good news, because It just might show people that Bush was right.

America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It’s not like World War Two, where people rationed food, and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks. The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a service member, its life as usual…the war doesn’t affect you.

But it affects us. And when it is over, and the troops come home, and they try to piece together what’s left of them after their service…where will the detractors be then? Where will the Cindy Sheehans be to comfort and talk to soldiers and help them sort out the last couple years of their lives, most of which have been spent dodging death and wading through the deaths of their friends? They will be where they always are, somewhere far away, where the horrors of the world can’t touch them. Somewhere where they can complain about things they will never experience in their lifetime; things that the young men and women of America have willingly taken upon their shoulders.

We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted, raped, and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause, and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor…we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It’s supporting our President, our troops and our cause.

Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn’t.

Let’s stop all the political nonsense, let’s stop all the bickering, let’s stop all the bad news, and let’s stand and fight!

Eddie’s father, David Jeffers, writes:

I’m not sure how many letters or articles you’ve ever read from the genre of “News from the Front,” but this is one of the best I’ve ever read, including all of America’s wars. As I was reading this, I forgot that it was my son who had written it. My emotions range from great pride to great sorrow, knowing that my little boy (22 years old) has become this man.

He is my hero. Thank all of you for your prayers for him; he needs them now more than ever. God bless.

Though Eddie is no longer with us, you can help to let his voice be heard.

Thanks to News Media Journal and David Jeffers for print permission.

Hat tip: W “B” S

The failed Democratic anti-Surge

I’m not giving away anything by quoting here the concluding paragraph from Noemie Emery’s long and fascinating article about the Democrats’ desperate and, at the moment, unsuccessful anti-Surge efforts in the last year.  If you read only this paragraph, good as it is, you’ll have missed all of the really interesting stuff:

As they took control of Congress at the start of 2007, the Democrats vowed this would be a year of historic importance, and it seems they were prescient: Seldom before in the annals of governance have so many politicians fought so long and so hard to completely screw up a winning strategy being waged on their country’s behalf. Some cruelly define this as treacherous conduct, but this is imprecise and unkind. They tried, it is true, to do serious damage, but were compromised in the event by their chronic incompetence, as well as by being too above-board and open to try to do things on the sly. A stab in the back as a concept was wholly beyond their capacities. This was not a stab in the back that works via guile and subterfuge. It was 41 different stabs in the front, that always fell far short of serious damage, unless you count the damage they did to their own reputations (the approval ratings for Congress are now in the twenties). It was the Stab in the Front, the Surge-against-the-Surge, the Pickett’s Charge of the Great War on Terror. It was a year to remember, that will live in the annals of fecklessness. It was historical. It was hysterical. It was the Stab that Failed.

The gap between critics and the rest of us

Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator that assembles movie reviews and then, depending on the number of positive or negative reviews, assigns any given film a “freshness rating. ” The higher the rating, the more favorable the majority of reviews are.

For example, as of today (11/25 at 18:06 PST), Enchanted gets a 93% freshness rating (which is a percentage point higher than yesterday). In other words, there’s a fair degree of critical unanimity that Enchanted is a really nice movie. That unanimity carries over to the non-professionals too. At the bottom of each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page, non-professional critics can add their two cents, either by writing a review or simply by voting for the movie. The non-professional critics give the movie a 92%, while the user rating is 8.4/10 — pretty high. And if you get away from the rarefied world of professional critics or people who take the time to contribute to sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, the news is still good. By voting with their feet, film-goers gave the movie a $50 million opening, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Things are a little different for famed director Brian de Palma’s Redacted, both in terms of box office revenues and, most strikingly, in terms of the way the professional critics see the movie and the way the rest of the world sees the movie. In this last regard, it is, once again, a striking reminder that our media is populated by people who are very anti-War — which, as I always say, is their prerogative, if only they didn’t pretend to some Olympian objectivity.

So, back to Rotten Tomatoes, this time to the Redacted page (again, as of 11/25 at 18:06 PST). Generally, the movie hasn’t been well-received. What’s fascinating is that, the more “important” the publication (in a declining scaled from the New York Times down to the Podunk Review, and yes, I made that last one up) the more likely it is that the critic approves of the movie. Thus, while the critical average for the movie is 47% (that’s aggregating all professional critics) the top critics (or, as they’re called, “the cream of the crop”) gave it a 54% rating. Even more strikingly, some of them acknowledge that it’s a lousy movie. They just like the message so much, they really think you ought to see it. For example, David Edelstein, who reviews movies both for NPR and New York Magazine, has this to say:

Critics have called the movie crude and punishing. All right, the defense concedes all that, but the movie does a harrowing job of depicting the psychological toll of the occupation on both Iraqis and U.S. soldiers. Despite the presence of two American sociopaths (one named Rush, perhaps in honor of the radio commentator who likened torture at Abu Ghraib to frat-house antics), this is not an unsympathetic portrait. In the film’s best scene, we watch a car approach a checkpoint from the Americans’ point of view. It takes a long time, and who knows who’s inside it? All at once, you understand the corrosiveness of living all the time with that threat. And is it unpatriotic to point out that soldiers on their third tours of duty in a place where they have little knowledge of the culture, where they can’t tell who is on their side and who wants to blow them up, stand a good chance of losing both their moral compass and their minds?

If I read Edelstein correctly, he’s saying that Redacted is a lousy movie, but you should see it anyway, because it shows that our soldiers are going insane in Iraq. Okay. He may have framed it in the guise of compassion (those poor babies at the checkpoints), but I think the underlying message is pretty unmistakable, don’t you?

While the faux-intellectuals may be impressed, the public is not. The bottom of the Rotten Tomatoes page starts to give the game away. Non-professional reviewers give the movie only a 30% approval rating, which is enough to drive anyone away from the box office. Likewise, those who merely vote (without a written review) give it a 3.4/10 — again, a singularly uninspiring showing. But that’s the world of words. How about the marketplace? Therein lies the real story (H/T Power Line):

IT’S hard for Hollywood pacifists like Brian De Palma to capture the hearts and minds of America if Americans won’t see their movies. While the public is staying away in droves from “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah,” audiences are really avoiding “Redacted,” De Palma’s picture about US soldiers who rape a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then kill her and her family. The message movie was produced by NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who insisted on deleting grisly images of Iraqi war casualties from the montage at the film’s end. Cuban offered to sell the film back to De Palma at cost, but the director was too smart to go for that deal. “Redacted” – which “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” said critic Michael Medved – took in just $25,628 in its opening weekend in 15 theaters, which means roughly 3,000 people saw it in the entire country. “This, despite an A-list director, a huge wave of publicity, high praise in the Times, The New Yorker, left-leaning sites like Salon, etc. A Joe Strummer documentary [of punk-rock band The Clash] playing in fewer theaters made more in its third week,” e-mailed one cineaste. “Not even people who presumably agree with the movie’s antiwar thesis made the effort to see it.” (Emphasis mine.)

It kind of gives you hope for America, doesn’t it? We may be bombarded by intellectually superior people urging us to do our moral duty by seeing a movie that implies — heck, that says straight out — that American troops are so morally and psychologically weak that serving in Iraq has turned them into monsters, but we, the People, ignore that type of crap. Good for us!

UPDATE: Hot Air reminds me that America was never the real target market in any event. It’s sad when anti-American propaganda, rather than being created abroad and sent here, is created here and sent abroad. It’s an inversion of the normal way people should feel about their home.

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