"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The US foreign policy conducted by the Obama administration has been a disaster all along. He abandoned Iraq and the rise of ISIS has followed. I have read “Black Flags“, which describes how the al Qeada organization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has morphed into ISIS after Obama pulled US forces out of Iraq. Now, as Richard Fernandez explains in another masterful analysis, Assad is about to rout the last of the non-ISIS opposition.
Reuters reports that Bashal al-Assad’s forces have made major advances behind a major Russian air offensive and are now poised to destroy the non-ISIS rebels opposing the Syrian government is rocking the foreign policy establishment. “After three days of intense fighting and aerial bombardment, regime forces, believed to include Iran-backed Shia militias, broke through to the formerly besieged regime enclaves of Nobul and Zahra.”
The Russians have been surprising US military leaders in ways that are very unpleasant.
The performance of the miniature, “rust bucket” Russian air force has formed an invidious baseline to what the USAF has achieved. The Independent reported:
Their army’s equipment and strategy was “outmoded”; their air force’s bombs and missiles were “more dumb than smart”; their navy was “more rust than ready”. For decades, this was Western military leaders’ view, steeped in condescension, of their Russian counterparts. What they have seen in Syria and Ukraine has come as a shock.
Russian military jets have, at times, been carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month.
We are not serious and the US military has to wonder what will happen if Putin decides to take the Baltic republics.
The Diplomad observes that “‘Progressives’, of course, are greatly influenced by movies. In fact…the majority of what passes for “Progressive thought” is derived from the Hollywood version of history that they have running in an endless video loop in their heads. Listen to them talk about the economy, race relations, education, “gender equality,” US history, etc., and it all forms part of some giant Hollywood script.” Indeed—shortly after 9/11, when the idea of arming airline pilots was first mooted, critics of the idea referred to “gunfights at 35,000 feet” as something “out of a Tom Clancy movie”. Hadn’t they thought that deliberately crashing airplanes into buildings might be something out of a Tom Clancy movie, too? And whether or not something might appear in a movie is obviously irrelevant to its validity from a policy standpoint.
David Warren writes about the conspiracy of German elites, in both media and government, to suppress knowledge of the New Year’s atrocities in Cologne and other cities. Indeed, one might conclude that the whole idea of free speech hasn’t taken hold very well in Germany over the last 70 years, at least among the writing and political classes. Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to Germany: Mark Zuckerberg, the ringmaster of the Facebook circus, was apparently all too eager to co-conspire with Merkel to delete strong criticisms of her immigration policies.
A society cannot thrive or even survive if its decision-making organs are disconnected from knowledge of what is actually happening, any more than your furnace can keep your house at the right temperature if the wires connecting it to the thermostat are cut. In a democracy, the ultimate decision-making organ is supposed to be the people of the country.
Don Sensing writes about totalism, and how it is reflected in the behavior of the Obama administration and the attitudes of the “progressive” Left. He quotes Mussolini’s definition of Fascism:
If Scally knows the difference between groping and raping, then his usage here publicly victimized the victim a second time, and he also misinformed all his Irish Times readers. On the other hand, if Scally’s command of standard English usage is so poor to the extent that he really does not know the difference, then he should open his eyes, mind, and heart, and speak to his mother, sister, or daughter—someone—anyone—or, he could just buy a standard college-level English dictionary. But either way, whether Scally knows the difference or not, The Irish Times has lost my trust.
An archaic term, in general; according to the wildly variable and sometimes suspect Wikipedia, it is a term taken from an even more archaic term for food for livestock. “Soldiers are the metaphorical food for enemy cannon fire.” Wikipedia defines the expression further as, “…an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded … as expendable in the face of enemy fire … or to distinguish expendable low-grade or inexperienced combatants from supposedly more valuable veterans.”
Expendable is the operative word, and expendable without much regret on the part of the credentialed elite – the political, social or military elite – because the expected goal is considered worth the sacrifice, especially if the sacrifice is borne by others. Reading this week about the sexual violence reported – reluctantly in many cases by German media – as being perpetrated on a grand scale by recent Middle Eastern migrants masquerading as war refugees on women in German cities on this last New Years Eve gave me a sickening new understanding of the concept. Read the rest of this entry »
For more than a quarter century, as Americans have suffered trouble from the Muslim world’s Sunni and Shia components and as the perennial quarrel between them has intensified, the US government has taken the side of the Sunni. This has not worked out well for us. It is past time for our government to sort out our own business, and to mind it aggressively.
To understand why hopes for help from the Sunni side are forlorn, we must be clear that jihadism in general and Daesh in particular are logical outgrowths of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s (and the Gulf monarchies’) official religion, about how they fit in the broader conflict between Sunni and Shia, as well as about how the US occupation of Iraq exposed America to the vagaries of intra-Muslim conflicts.
The U.S. government does not understand how to combat international terrorism or respond to its threats. In an exclusive interview with Ginni Thomas of The Daily Caller, Codevilla highlighted the failure of both administrations to understand the enemy, explaining that it makes national security decisions based on a flawed paradigm.
“After 9/11, the U.S. government instituted a system of homeland security based on the proposition that any American is as likely as anyone in the world to commit terrorist acts — and that therefore, all Americans must be screened and presumed to be terrorists until the screening clears them,” Codevilla said.
Certainly, the government has been engaged in a faux security system with the TSA that pretends it will stop an airline hijacking or bomb threat, while allowing 90% of false bombs and guns to escape surveillance.
“These people who attacked us had reasons, which are widely supported — in fact, vigorously promoted by the regimes from which they came,” Codevilla said. “The Saudi regime, which we count as an ally, does in fact harbor the most virulent strain of Islam, the Wahhabism. This movement inspired most of the hijackers in 9/11. The others, some of the leaders, were inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, which the Obama administration has been courting and favoring.”
Rather than confronting the movement of Islamic radicalization, Codevilla says that both Barack Obama and George W. Bush blamed acts of terrorism on the perpetrators themselves, instead of viewing them as the incarnations of a murderously ideological movement.
Alongside the Faith Campaign, Mr. Hussein’s regime constructed a system of cross-border smuggling networks designed to evade the sanctions. This funded a system of patronage, much of it distributed through mosques, that maintained a series of militias directly loyal to the ruler, like the Fedayeen Saddam and the Sunni tribes, as a hedge against any repeat of the 1991 Shiite revolt. These networks, which are deeply entrenched in the local populations, especially the tribes of western Iraq, are now run by the Islamic State, adding to the difficulty of uprooting the “caliphate.”
This also throws cold water on the belief that Christians were better off under Saddam. It’s true that they were marginally better off with secular Baathists in power than radical Islamists, but that was no longer the case after the Gulf War. In fact, the trouble started even before that with the tyrannical Arabization campaigns that tried to erase the Kurds from history. They also victimized all non-Arabs, including Christians. The biggest problems for Iraqi Christians after 2003 were largely the result of many trying to reclaim lost property, possessions, and dominion. The lack of legal authority and rule of law meant inflamed tensions and retaliations that culminated in the total ethnic cleansing of the past few years, but the roots of the brutality reach farther back.
The refusal of the Obama Administration to recognize or even acknowledge the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq is now worsening the already grim situation. It’s obvious now that the official American policy is continuation of the Arabization of the region.
The important thing to remember about rebellions, even small ones, is that everyone who thinks they can control the forces unleashed — can’t. That goes for Obama and that goes for Trump. A friend who was a veteran of the Anbar Surge wrote that democracy was scary and to calm himself down he repeated to himself Winston Churchill’s soothing words: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Yes, I think we are on the threshold of a revolution. Whether it is a Revolution, with a capital R, is yet to be seen.
in 1307 Gessler raised a pole in the market square of Altdorf, placed his hat atop it, and ordered all the townsfolk to bow before it. Tell, whose marksmanship and pride were legendary, publicly refused. Gessler’s cruel wrath was tempered by his curiosity to test Tell’s skill, so he gave Tell the option of either being executed or shooting an apple off his son’s head in one try. Tell succeeded in splitting the apple with his arrow, saving his own life. When Gessler asked why he had readied two arrows, he lied and replied that it was out of habit. After being assured that he wouldn’t be killed, Tell finally admitted that the second was intended for the tyrant if his son was harmed.
Yes, it is best not to put all your cards on the table until they are needed.
Gessler, enraged, had Tell arrested and taken by boat across Lake Lucerne to Küssnacht to spend the life he had saved in a dungeon. A sudden fierce storm made the crew terrified, and since William Tell was a better sailor, they handed the wheel to him. But instead of heading towards the dungeon, he escaped to shore. There he ambushed and killed Gessler with an arrow, launching the young Confederacy’s rebellion against Austrian rule.
Donald Trump’s rhetorical excesses aside, he has a way of pushing us into important debates, particularly on immigration. He has done it again with his bracing proposal to force “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” I have no idea what Mr. Trump knows about either immigration law or Islam. But it should be obvious to any objective person that Muslim immigration to the West is a vexing challenge. Some Muslims come to the United States to practice their religion peacefully, and assimilate into the Western tradition of tolerance of other people’s liberties, including religious liberty — a tradition alien to the theocratic societies in which they grew up. Others come here to champion sharia, Islam’s authoritarian societal framework and legal code, resisting assimilation into our pluralistic society.
To do a valid Christian baptism requires some water, a Christian to administer it, and about 15 seconds. Licitness so that all the proper paperwork is done and the newly baptized Christian is properly educated could take a year but if you don’t give a hoot for the niceties or it’s an emergency, 15 seconds will do. That’s all that is required to get around Trump’s Muslim ban. This makes his plan a stupid plan. It is worse than useless. It is an anti-screen. Honest Muslims who want medical treatment or just to go shopping will be stopped. For a terrorist, it’s hardly a speed bump.
That isn’t to say that there is no room to change our immigration system to improve things. It’s just not this one. Trump has the money to hire the best help in formulating a real plan and he came out with a stupid stinker instead.
The better solution, and one that would be perfectly understood by Trump’s base would be a straightforward declaration that private courts including religious courts that issue judgments that call for the injury or death of americans are enemies of America. To aid them as a U.S. citizen is treason, and any of their agents or bailiffs are in an immigration-excludable category that gets put on the DS-156 right next to the item asking are you a Nazi.
We don’t need anything complicated. Nobody reasonable is going to get bent out of shape over the declaration of our enemy being people who seek to kill or hurt us. The ones who do protest it will be doing us all a service. Hardly any administrative procedures have to be changed, only one form.
Trump wouldn’t have had to break a sweat selling this. But he didn’t. Why did he push his dumb plan instead?
Should the USA stop immigration of muslims into the country? I think yes. I would go further, and declare – through legislation – islam a seditious ideology and outlaw its practice. I would even close mosques.
Let me be clear. This is not my being opposed to a strange religious practice, or a group of people because of their ethnicity, this is about recognizing islam as a violent, totalitarian ideology. In the same way we would not invite members of a violent cult to live in our homes with our family and children, we should not invite islam to live in our larger civilization. And recognizing its violent and totalitarian nature, we should outlaw its practice.
I do not see this as a violation of religious freedom. If I declare an intent to kill everyone who does not join my cult, and propagate that idea through my offices, then declare my beliefs a religion, am I then free to go about carrying out my agenda and proselytizing others to kill and subdue as well? And is a society that wants to protect its citizens, its freedoms, and its way of life within its rights – within its responsibilities – to prohibit that cult from practicing?
If not, why not?
And if that violent cult wishes to bring more of its members from overseas to join them, are we morally obligated to admit them?
If so, why?
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 7th December 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I was reading one of my favorite blogs this morning and saw this comment.
We just came from church service where we have San Bernardino police attending. We were told and I think it is important to share that the terrorists screamed “alahu akbar” several times while they were shooting; the FBI are preventing the police from going public with this information as well as the witnesses. BTW: My husband and I just got back from Washington, DC and were told by retired secret service that Obama has a Muslim prayer room in the White House. Not sure if this is well known. I had no idea.
The news media and the FBI, of all people, seem to be suppressing information.
Obama’s speech last night was weird. First, he was standing. Second, the only new information it contained was his statement.
That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.
This sounds like he is finally recognizing that Islam has problems.
His proposed solutions are nonsense. One of them is delusional and no one will permit this to occur.
To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.
The “No Fly List” is a list of people with no legal justification who are not permitted to fly on US airplanes. So far, we know that about half of them are there by mistake. We also know that 72 persons on that list work in the Department of Homeland Security. This is ridiculous. There is no incidence of a person on the no fly list who has committed a terrorist act or used a gun in a crime. The terrorists of San Bernardino were not on the list, or on any list of suspected persons.
My daughter was nearly ten years old, in that Christmastime of 1990. I was stationed at Zaragoza AB, in the Ebro River Valley of Spain, which was serving as one of the staging bases in Europe for the build-up to the First Gulf War … the effort to liberate Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein seemed to believe that he had a perfect right to occupy, loot and exterminate those opposing him in that small matter. But this is not about that war, particularly – only as it affected those of us located far along the haft of the military spear towards the sharp and pointy end.
Zaragoza was a long-established US base in Spain by then – sufficiently long enough to have grown up a second generation of children born to American servicemen and their Spanish wives. It was sufficiently well-established to have a fairly modern on-base school, which housed the elementary classes in one wing, and the high school in the other. My daughter started there in kindergarten, the very week that we arrived, in 1985, to the day that we departed, six years later, when she started the sixth grade. It was a safe posting, especially considered after my previous assignment to Athens, Greece, where terrorism aimed at American personnel and at the base generally was accepted grimly as an ongoing part of life, like hurricanes along the southern coasts. Read the rest of this entry »
It can only hope to make us so afraid that we do something stupid that either helps it or hurts us. ISIS can only succeed if, blinded by rage and terror, we achieve its goals for it. There are at least two ways that might happen — and one of them is already happening.
Klein listed as “stupid” the refusal to accept Syrian refugees and “resurgent sentiment in America that the West is locked in a war not just with ISIS but with ‘radical Islam'”
I think they expect an attack and are preparing their excuses.
The Meet the Press program on November 22 seemed to set a new theme for the Democrats. First, Hillary this week declared, “Let’s be clear: Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”
Then, Chuck Todd had a Muslim activist “American international human rights lawyer, Arsalan Iftikhar,” who bemoaned the Republicans “Islamophobia.”
Arsalan has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies at DePaul University and he is also a member of the Asian American Journalists Association –
He seems to be a professional Muslim. A few months ago, they had former basketball player Lew Alcindor, now named “Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” to make the same point about peaceful Muslims.
Abdul-Jabbar told host Chuck Todd that terrorists “do not represent the teachings of Islam” and that this misconception makes it “impossible for real Muslims to be understood.”
He continued by saying that he believes the majority of terrorists are a product of their environment, not their religion:
The avoidance of analysis of Islam contrasts sharply with the excoriation accorded Christianity, Israel, and Western Civilization. The Catholic Church sex abuse crisis has received saturation coverage. Distinguished history professor Philip Jenkins, in a book published by Oxford University Press, claims that media coverage distorts the crisis and contributes to anti-Catholic bigotry. Israel’s very right to exist is questioned and, in high profile media, at times denied. Western Civilization is depicted as imperialist, racist, and Orientalist. This politically-correct selective outrage that lambastes the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western Civilization while emphasizing positive images of Muslims only serves further to inoculate Islam from critique.
In one of my posts on the aftermath of 9/11, I introduced the metaphor of the Attrition Mill. An attrition mill consists of two steel disks, rotating at high speed in opposite directions and crushing the substance to be milled between them. Metaphorically, I see America, and western civilization in general, as being caught in a gigantic attrition mill, with one rotating disk being the Islamofascist enemy and the other disk representing certain tendencies within our own societies…most notably, the focus on group identities, the growing hostility toward free speech, and the sharp decline of civilizational-self confidence.
The combination of the upper and lower disks of the metaphorical Attrition Mill is far more dangerous than either by itself would be. For example, the student government at the University of Minnesota has rejected a resolution calling for annual commemorations of the 9/11 atrocity. Why? It was argued that such a resolution would make Muslim students feel “unsafe.” The “Students for Justice for Palestine” said that being reminded of 9/11 on its anniversary would lead to increased “Islamaphobia.”
It seems pretty clear that this sort of ridiculously deferential “sensitivity” does not make immigrants, or children and grandchildren of immigrants, more likely to assimilate. Contrarily, it reinforces group identifies and intergroup hostilities. And in doing so, it creates a social environment in which it is much more likely that actual terrorists–representing the upper disk of the Attrition Mill–will go unreported or even be actively supported in their ethnic/religious communities. And that, in turn, greatly increases the risks inherent in large-scale migration.
Hillary Clinton reacted to the Benghazi murders by blaming a video, going so far as to tell a grieving father that he would have his revenge–not on the killers, oh, no, but rather we are going to have that filmmaker arrested. Here, we see the threat and actuality of Islamist violence being used as an excuse for interfering with the free-speech rights of Americans…and you can bet that if that precedent is successfully established, it will be applied with plenty of other justifications, too.
And both disks of the Attrition Mill are revolving with increasing speed. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the Paris kosher grocery store, and the Russian airliner were followed by the large-scale attack that just happened in Paris. The lower disk of the Mill is turning faster as well: Amherst students are demanding restrictions on free speech, with compulsory “reeducation” for offenders. We have seen insane behavior at Yale, with students raging at a couple of professors who dared to suggest that people not go overboard about the issue of Halloween costumes. Here is Alan Dershowitz on what is happening to our colleges: “the fog of Fascism is descending”
Add me to a relatively short list of people on social media who are not making any particular gesture of sympathy and solidarity with the people of France who have been whammed for the second time in a year by the bloody-minded foot-soldiers of Islam. It’s not that I don’t care, and that I don’t feel the least shred of human sympathy for those people who went out for a drink and a good meal at a popular restaurant, a raucous rock concert, a soccer game, and then had their lives changed forever – if not ended entirely. It’s just that at this particular point in time, I am a bit tired of making easy feel-good, symbolic gestures about Islamic terrorism. Once you’ve made them … then, what for a follow-up? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Helen on 16th November 2015 (All posts by Helen)
There really is very little I can say about the Paris events (the word les événements might acquire a new meaning now and, perhaps, we shall all get over that nonsense of 1968) and their aftermath, particularly as it is still not clear what will happen in the medium and long term. But I thought readers of Chicagoboyz might be interested by news of our own battlefront or, at least, some of it.
I have put up two postings on my blog about debates in the House of Lords where all the interesting political stuff happens: one was the Second Reading of Baroness Cox’s Private Member’s Bill, whose aim is the abolition of Sharia courts, which the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has finally acknowledged as a danger and the other is about a somewhat more idiosyncratic campaign conducted by the Lord Pearson of Rannoch (the word idiosyncratic was invented to describe him) to open up a wider dialogue about Islam. I realize that some of the terminology I use is not always clear to people outside Britain but I shall be happy to answer questions.
I noticed the usual Russian disinformation warriors are out in force blaming this on the United States, claiming that ISIS was trained and supplied by the USA/CIA, or they are tools of Israel and the USA, etc. Odd how PenGun always mimics the same talking points. Maybe not.
Berthold Brecht’s bitterly satiric poem “The Solution” has now and again been quoted here, usually in regard to some towering idiocy on the part of a government given to complaining about a lack of support among citizens for some particular national objective. Note that I specified citizens in the once-commonly-accepted American sense, and not the citizens-as-subjects in the European sense, which seems to imply that the ordinary people of a particular nation are there merely to serve as a kind of sheep to be sheared economically, or as metaphorical cannon-fodder to be marshaled up and flung to the front of whatever national objective that the national ruling class has ruled must be the focus of the effort of the moment.
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Nasty old Commie that he was, he did have a way with words. The irony in this is so thick that I am surprised that it hasn’t coagulated, and dropped all the way through to the center of the earth. And it is only ironic – again – that Germany’s ruling class (analogous to our very own unholy alliance among elected politicians, the bureaucracy, the intellectual and media elite) appear to have decided to take the opportunity of unrest in the Middle East, to dissolve the people and elect another, welcoming them in with balloons, banners and stuffed toys. Read the rest of this entry »
It makes sense. I have believed for some time that we are headed for a revolution. Maybe not an old fashioned bloody revolution but something is coming.
The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.
Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well … One of our most gifted generals predicts the conflict will last “10 to 20 years.” And now comes news that the Pentagon is investigating whether intelligence assessments of ISIS have been manipulated for political reasons.
I have spent much of the past seven years trying to work out what Barack Obama’s strategy for the United States truly is. For much of his presidency, as a distinguished general once remarked to me about the commander in chief’s strategy, “we had to infer it from speeches.”
At first, I assumed that the strategy was simply not to be like his predecessor—an approach that was not altogether unreasonable, given the errors of the Bush administration in Iraq and the resulting public disillusionment. I read Mr. Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—with its Quran quotes and its promise of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”—as simply the manifesto of the Anti-Bush.
One criticism of Obama is that his portfolio is mighty thin. He has no record. Well, he actually does and and here it is. Pretty interesting.
It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.
Why was that ? In 2002, the Democrats took over the Illinois legislature, not because of Bush as the reporter says, but because the Republican governor got caught selling drivers’ licenses to truckers with bad driving records. A disastrous truck accident splashed the whole story across the newspapers and the Democrats took over in the next election.
The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.
Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s kingmaker.
Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio program.
I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:
“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”
“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”
Obama ended up in the US Senate because the GOP Senator, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for re-election. Why ?
While State Senator he was a member of a group of conservative state senators elected in 1992 who often challenged the leadership of the Illinois Republican Party and were dubbed the “Fab Five”, the group also included, Steve Rauschenberger, Dave Syverson, Patrick O’Malley and Chris Lauzen.
After a hard-fought primary victory against Illinois Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, in which the latter had the support of most national and state-level Republican leaders, Fitzgerald defeated first-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun in 1998, and served for one term in the U.S. Senate. He was the first Republican in Illinois to win a U.S. Senate race in 20 years, and the only Republican challenger in the country to defeat an incumbent Democratic senator in the 1998 election cycle. Although Moseley Braun was dogged by negative publicity of corruption charges, Fitzgerald defeated her by only 2.9%.
Fitzgerald is a staunch conservative on such issues as opposition to abortion (except to save the life of the mother), gun control, gay marriage and taxes, but on some issues, particularly environmental issues — he opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge throughout his tenure in the US Senate — he broke with conservative colleagues. He was one of only a handful of GOP Senators to support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.
He was a “maverick” and was not supported by “the Illinois Combine,” a term coined by columnist John Kass to describe the bipartisan corruption in Illinois politics that has brought the state to bankruptcy.
I called former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the Republican maverick from Illinois who tried to fight political corruption and paid for it. For this sin, he was driven out of Illinois politics by political bosses, by their spinners and media mouthpieces, who ridiculed him mercilessly.
Senator, what do you call that connection that Stuart Levine describes from the witness stand, you know that arrangement across party lines, with politically powerful men leveraging government to make money — what do you call it?
“What do you call that Illinois political class that’s not committed to any party, they simply want to make money off the taxpayers?” Fitzgerald said. “You know what to call them.”
“The Illinois Combine,” Fitzgerald said. “The bipartisan Illinois political combine. And all these guys being mentioned, they’re part of it.”
Antoine de St-Exupery, writer and pioneering airmail pilot, was based for a time in the then-French-colonial territory of North Africa. He recorded his observations about the people and their culture in his essay Men of the Desert, which is one of the chapters in his book Wind, Sand and Stars. I previously excerpted part of this essay in my post the French aviators and the slave. Several recent events in which American soldiers were murdered by Afghan and Iraqi men who they thought were their comrades have again called it to mind.
But we were not always in the air, and our idle hours were spent taming the Moors. They would come out of their forbidden regions (those regions we crossed in our flights and where they would shoot at us the whole length of our crossing), would venture to the stockade in the hope of buying loaves of sugar, cotton cloth, tea, and then would sink back again into their mystery. Whenever they turned up we would try to tame a few of them in order to establish little nuclei of friendship in the desert; thus if we were forced clown among them there would be at any rate a few who might be persuaded to sell us into slavery rather than massacre us.Now and then an influential chief came up, and him, with the approval of the Line, we would load into the plane and carry off to see something of the world. The aim was to soften their pride, for, repositories of the truth, defenders of Allah, the only God, it was more in contempt than in hatred that he and his kind murdered their prisoners.
When they met us in the region of Juby or Cisneros, they never troubled to shout abuse at us. They would merely turn away and spit; and this not by way of personal insult but out of sincere disgust at having crossed the path of a Christian. Their pride was born of the illusion of their power. Allah renders a believer invincible. Many a time a chief has said to me, pointing to his army of three hundred rifles, “Lucky it is for France that she lies more than a hundred days’ march from here.”
And so we would take them up for a little spin. Three of them even visited France in our planes. I happened to be present when they returned. I met them when they landed, went with them to their tents, and waited in infinite curiosity to hear their first words. They were of the same race as those who, having once been flown by me to the Senegal, had burst into tears at the sight of trees. What a revelation Europe must have been for them! And yet their first replies astonished me by their coolness.
“Paris? Very big.” Everything was “very big” – Paris, the Trocadero, the automobiles. What with everyone in Paris asking if the Louvre was not “very big” they had gradually learned that this was the answer that flattered us. And with a sort of, vague contempt, as if pacifying a lot of children, they would grant that the Louvre was “very big.”
These Moors took very little trouble to dissemble the freezing indifference they felt for the Eiffel Tower, the steamships, and the locomotives. They were ready to agree once and for always that we knew how to build things out of iron. We also knew how to fling a bridge from one continent to another. The plain fact was that they did not know enough to admire our technical progress. The wireless astonished them less than the telephone, since the mystery of the telephone resided in the very fact of the wire.
It took a little time for me to understand that my questions were on the wrong track. For what they thought admirable was not the locomotive, but the tree. When you think of it, a tree does possess a perfection that a locomotive cannot know. And then I remembered the Moors who had wept at the sight of trees.
Yes, France was in some sense admirable, but it was not because of those stupid things made of iron. They had seen pastures in France in which all the camels of Er-Reguibat could have grazed! There were forests in France! The French had cows, cows filled with milk! And of course my three Moors were amazed by the incredible customs of the people. “In Paris,” they said, “you walk through a crowd of a thousand people. You stare at them. And nobody carries a rifle!” But there were better things in France than this inconceivable friendliness between men. There was the circus, for example.
“Frenchwomen,” they said, “can jump standing from one galloping horse to another.”
Thereupon they would stop and reflect. “You take one Moor from each tribe,” they went on. “You take him to the circus. And nevermore will the tribes of Er-Reguibat make war on the French.” I remember my chiefs sitting among the crowding tribesmen in the opening of their tents, savoring the pleasure of reciting this new series of Arabian Nights, extolling the music halls in which naked women dance on carpets of flowers.
Here were men who had never seen a tree, a river, a rose ; who knew only through the Koran of the existence of gardens where streams run, which is their name for Paradise. In their desert, Paradise -and its beautiful captives could be won only by bitter death from an infidel’s rifle-shot, after thirty years of a miserable existence. But God had tricked them, since from the Frenchmen to whom he grants these treasures he exacts payment neither by thirst nor by death. And it was upon this that the chiefs now mused. This was why, gazing out at the Sahara surrounding their tents, at that desert with its barren promise of such thin pleasures, they let themselves go in murmured confidences.
“You know . . . the God of the French . . . He is more generous to the French than the God of the Moors is to the Moors.”