Day: March 20, 2018

Homeschooling: The Best Hope for America's Future


A 7-year-old in second grade came home and said, “Mom, Dad, guess what!  Our teacher read us the funniest book.  It was so silly.  It was about a prince who was getting married, but he didn’t marry a princess.  He married a prince!  Isn’t that so silly, Mom?”  The book read to the confused child to introduce 7-year-olds to same-sex “marriage” is King and King by Linda de Haan.

Without parental knowledge or consent, 5-year-old Jacob, entering kindergarten, came home with a “diversity bookbag.”  Inside was a book introducing kindergartners to same-sex households, celebrating Clifford and her dad’s “partner,” Henry – selling homosexuality to 5-year-olds disguised as diversity.  The book is Who’s in a Family by Robert Skutch.

Folks, if my public school arrogantly usurped such authority when I was a kid, my stocky little-over-five-foot black mom would have been outraged.  She’d march to my school and angrily confront the principal: “Who do you people think you are?  How dare you take such liberty with my nine months?”

Please correct me if I am wrong.  But all I see is parents passively allowing leftists to mold and shape students into their image.  God commanded parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  Where is the outrage over government usurping authority to dictate the morals, principles, and values instilled in your child, overruling God-ordained parental authority?

With leftists pushing over 70 genders and growing onto the mainstream, leftists are banning teachers from addressing students as “boys and girls,” calling the term mean-spirited and non-inclusive.

Notice this tactic routinely used by leftists.  While Americans are minding their own business, leftists attack, pushing their outrageous ideas on us while portraying themselves as victims of our intolerance, hate, and aggression.

Whitney Houston was correct when she sang, “I believe the children are our future.”  This is where the true battle for America’s future is being fought: in the hearts and minds of our kids.  A haven of rest, healing, and safety for parents and their children is homeschooling.

This is why leftists are attacking, using government to politically bomb these safe havens, hell-bent on making homeschooling illegal. 

Homeschooling is far superior to government indoctrination camps, obsessed with teaching social justice, white guilt, gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and conspiring against and disobedience toward parents.

Eighty-two percent of public schools are failing.  Despite spending $1.4 billion annually, around $16,000 per student, reading proficiency rates for Baltimore high school grads is around 11%, with 12% in math proficiency.  And yet, the Baltimore school system graduates around 70% of its students every year.  In other words, a large number of Baltimore’s graduates can barely read their diplomas. 

Years ago, circumstances forced my brother and his wife to remove their 10-year-old son from a private Christian school.  Making the adjustment into public school was stressful for their son.  He was hated for raising his hand too often, knowing the correct answers.  He was even bullied because of his posture, taught to sit correctly in his chair.  To survive, my nephew purposely dumbed down.

My black buddy was a Baltimore cop who headed city-sponsored mentoring programs, youth choirs, and more.  Ten years ago, he retired and moved to Montana.  He moved back to Baltimore three years ago and was asked to resume working with youths.  My buddy said that seeing youths throwing rocks at police cars, hating cops, rioting, and no officials willing to support real discipline, he wants nothing to do with Baltimore’s youth crisis.  My Baltimore former cop buddy said he is also soured by city officials’ insane hatred for guns.

Leftists tend to share a bigotry of lowered expectations regarding minorities.  I argued with a Miami white middle school teacher who, despite parent’s objections, thought Hispanic students should not be forced to learn English.  I’ve read numerous biographies of immigrant celebs who said learning English was crucial to their success in America.

In California, public schools pushed to allow black students to speak Ebonics rather than be pressured to learn correct English. 

Popular among home-schoolers is the VARK model theory, which outlines four kinds of learners.  Some kids are visual learners.  There are auditory learners, reading-writing learners, and kinesthetic learners.  By understanding how your child processes information, you can design a teaching program that is right for him.  This ain’t happenin’ in government school halls of mass mediocrity.

Meeting countless families with children in my ten years of traveling as a political activist, I learned to immediately recognize homeschooled children.  They were happy, calm, polite, articulate, filled with information, and confident, always looking me in the eye when speaking to me.

Until parents get their act together and begin taking back public education – running for school boards, putting their feet down, and more – homeschooling is the way to go.  It’s the best hope for America’s future.

A 7-year-old in second grade came home and said, “Mom, Dad, guess what!  Our teacher read us the funniest book.  It was so silly.  It was about a prince who was getting married, but he didn’t marry a princess.  He married a prince!  Isn’t that so silly, Mom?”  The book read to the confused child to introduce 7-year-olds to same-sex “marriage” is King and King by Linda de Haan.

Without parental knowledge or consent, 5-year-old Jacob, entering kindergarten, came home with a “diversity bookbag.”  Inside was a book introducing kindergartners to same-sex households, celebrating Clifford and her dad’s “partner,” Henry – selling homosexuality to 5-year-olds disguised as diversity.  The book is Who’s in a Family by Robert Skutch.

Folks, if my public school arrogantly usurped such authority when I was a kid, my stocky little-over-five-foot black mom would have been outraged.  She’d march to my school and angrily confront the principal: “Who do you people think you are?  How dare you take such liberty with my nine months?”

Please correct me if I am wrong.  But all I see is parents passively allowing leftists to mold and shape students into their image.  God commanded parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  Where is the outrage over government usurping authority to dictate the morals, principles, and values instilled in your child, overruling God-ordained parental authority?

With leftists pushing over 70 genders and growing onto the mainstream, leftists are banning teachers from addressing students as “boys and girls,” calling the term mean-spirited and non-inclusive.

Notice this tactic routinely used by leftists.  While Americans are minding their own business, leftists attack, pushing their outrageous ideas on us while portraying themselves as victims of our intolerance, hate, and aggression.

Whitney Houston was correct when she sang, “I believe the children are our future.”  This is where the true battle for America’s future is being fought: in the hearts and minds of our kids.  A haven of rest, healing, and safety for parents and their children is homeschooling.

This is why leftists are attacking, using government to politically bomb these safe havens, hell-bent on making homeschooling illegal. 

Homeschooling is far superior to government indoctrination camps, obsessed with teaching social justice, white guilt, gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and conspiring against and disobedience toward parents.

Eighty-two percent of public schools are failing.  Despite spending $1.4 billion annually, around $16,000 per student, reading proficiency rates for Baltimore high school grads is around 11%, with 12% in math proficiency.  And yet, the Baltimore school system graduates around 70% of its students every year.  In other words, a large number of Baltimore’s graduates can barely read their diplomas. 

Years ago, circumstances forced my brother and his wife to remove their 10-year-old son from a private Christian school.  Making the adjustment into public school was stressful for their son.  He was hated for raising his hand too often, knowing the correct answers.  He was even bullied because of his posture, taught to sit correctly in his chair.  To survive, my nephew purposely dumbed down.

My black buddy was a Baltimore cop who headed city-sponsored mentoring programs, youth choirs, and more.  Ten years ago, he retired and moved to Montana.  He moved back to Baltimore three years ago and was asked to resume working with youths.  My buddy said that seeing youths throwing rocks at police cars, hating cops, rioting, and no officials willing to support real discipline, he wants nothing to do with Baltimore’s youth crisis.  My Baltimore former cop buddy said he is also soured by city officials’ insane hatred for guns.

Leftists tend to share a bigotry of lowered expectations regarding minorities.  I argued with a Miami white middle school teacher who, despite parent’s objections, thought Hispanic students should not be forced to learn English.  I’ve read numerous biographies of immigrant celebs who said learning English was crucial to their success in America.

In California, public schools pushed to allow black students to speak Ebonics rather than be pressured to learn correct English. 

Popular among home-schoolers is the VARK model theory, which outlines four kinds of learners.  Some kids are visual learners.  There are auditory learners, reading-writing learners, and kinesthetic learners.  By understanding how your child processes information, you can design a teaching program that is right for him.  This ain’t happenin’ in government school halls of mass mediocrity.

Meeting countless families with children in my ten years of traveling as a political activist, I learned to immediately recognize homeschooled children.  They were happy, calm, polite, articulate, filled with information, and confident, always looking me in the eye when speaking to me.

Until parents get their act together and begin taking back public education – running for school boards, putting their feet down, and more – homeschooling is the way to go.  It’s the best hope for America’s future.



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Let's Call Liberal Activists 'Regime Hate Squads'


Remember the good old days of the Latin American “death squads”?  Every liberal chanted with one voice to end these extrajudicial paramilitaries used by right-wing Latin American dictators to do the dirty work that they didn’t want the regular armed forces, police, and justice system to do.

Liberals invented the term to differentiate between noble lefty revolutionary guerrillas who were good and evil right-wing regime thugs who were bad.  As any child could tell.

I strongly feel that our liberal friends’ devotion to activism, the notion of the marginalized and the oppressed rising up in righteous rage against the ruling class, has gone sadly awry.  That is because the whole point of riots and rebellions and protests is that people outside the system are demanding to be included in the political division of spoils.  Our modern culture of voting and elected governments and universal franchise was created precisely to provide that every adult (except illegal aliens) was inside the system and represented by someone in the councils of power and therefore did not need to riot, rebel, or protest to get his cut.

On this notion, the idea of blacks and women and gays and transgenders needing to do activism and peaceful protest in the year 2018 is baloney.  As signed and sealed liberal “little darlings,” these formerly marginalized groups are now fully represented in the system.  Therefore, there is no warrant for them to flood into the streets.  That’s what the history of 19th-century Britain teaches us, too.  By the 1890s in England, the violence of the early to mid-19th century – the rick-burnings, the riots, the Chartism – had all died down.  The workers now had the vote, and their grievances were being addressed in the councils of power, and so they stopped rioting.

But liberals are attached to “activism” as to a religion.  Activism is what gives their lives meaning, so each graduate of a selective college must find a marginalized group, somewhere, somehow, and organize them and lead their “mostly peaceful protests” along the arc of history toward justice.  That is why liberal activism now features illegal aliens and Muslims.  They are outside the system and can be represented only by Soros money and well born activists from selective colleges.

An example of this craving for the crunch of beef and the bray of the bullhorn is Vanity Fair’s excited piece on the 17-minute silence on Wednesday, March 14 at Parkland, Florida.  It was so wonderful that the kids wanted something more than the official 17-minute silence approved by the ruling class, so they transformed themselves into a mob and had a bit of a rumble.  Mostly peaceful, of course, but almost orgasmic for the Vanity Fair writer.

But this is only half of the story.  Our liberal friends, following the advice of Herbert Marcuse, have determined that only they are allowed to organize and protest, and anyone organizing against the ruling class is a hate group and not to be allowed to protest, and anyone speaking against the beliefs of the ruling class is guilty of hate speech and not to be endured.

Suppose you are a student preparing your application to a selective college like Yale, and you know that the key to acceptance is activism in ruling class-approved protest.  How do you know what kind of protest is approved by the ruling class and what is utterly beyond the pale as fascistic hate speech?  For instance, is it okay to protest against the Parkland massacre?  Don’t worry, kids: as Walter Olsen explains in the Wall Street Journal, you eager progressive beavers have your young Millennial senior assistant director of admissions, Hannah Mendlowitz, who has kindly written a blog post to assure all applicants that protesting gun violence is A-OK.

“For those students who come to Yale, we expect them to be versed in issues of social justice,” Ms. Mendlowitz writes.  “I have the pleasure of reading applications from San Francisco, where activism is very much a part of the culture.  Essays ring of social justice issues.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.  Social justice activism is a Good Thing, as long as it aligns with the trendy progressivism of your average San Francisco resident.  But hey, don’t get caught doing peaceful protest in the waiting room of an abortion facility.  Different strokes for different folks.

This liberal activism stuff stinks.  Activism approved by the ruling class is not real activism, which would be representing the folks outside the system, beyond the pale of ruling class approval.  In fact, today’s activists are nothing but ruling class toadies, as the nice young lady at Yale admissions makes clear.  So it is time to name and shame all lefty think-tanks, protest groups, activist organizations, and ambitious young activists-in-training as “regime hate squads.”

Because that is what they are.

Christopher Chantrill (@chrischantrill) runs the go-to site on U.S. government finances, usgovernmentspending.com.  Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.

Remember the good old days of the Latin American “death squads”?  Every liberal chanted with one voice to end these extrajudicial paramilitaries used by right-wing Latin American dictators to do the dirty work that they didn’t want the regular armed forces, police, and justice system to do.

Liberals invented the term to differentiate between noble lefty revolutionary guerrillas who were good and evil right-wing regime thugs who were bad.  As any child could tell.

I strongly feel that our liberal friends’ devotion to activism, the notion of the marginalized and the oppressed rising up in righteous rage against the ruling class, has gone sadly awry.  That is because the whole point of riots and rebellions and protests is that people outside the system are demanding to be included in the political division of spoils.  Our modern culture of voting and elected governments and universal franchise was created precisely to provide that every adult (except illegal aliens) was inside the system and represented by someone in the councils of power and therefore did not need to riot, rebel, or protest to get his cut.

On this notion, the idea of blacks and women and gays and transgenders needing to do activism and peaceful protest in the year 2018 is baloney.  As signed and sealed liberal “little darlings,” these formerly marginalized groups are now fully represented in the system.  Therefore, there is no warrant for them to flood into the streets.  That’s what the history of 19th-century Britain teaches us, too.  By the 1890s in England, the violence of the early to mid-19th century – the rick-burnings, the riots, the Chartism – had all died down.  The workers now had the vote, and their grievances were being addressed in the councils of power, and so they stopped rioting.

But liberals are attached to “activism” as to a religion.  Activism is what gives their lives meaning, so each graduate of a selective college must find a marginalized group, somewhere, somehow, and organize them and lead their “mostly peaceful protests” along the arc of history toward justice.  That is why liberal activism now features illegal aliens and Muslims.  They are outside the system and can be represented only by Soros money and well born activists from selective colleges.

An example of this craving for the crunch of beef and the bray of the bullhorn is Vanity Fair’s excited piece on the 17-minute silence on Wednesday, March 14 at Parkland, Florida.  It was so wonderful that the kids wanted something more than the official 17-minute silence approved by the ruling class, so they transformed themselves into a mob and had a bit of a rumble.  Mostly peaceful, of course, but almost orgasmic for the Vanity Fair writer.

But this is only half of the story.  Our liberal friends, following the advice of Herbert Marcuse, have determined that only they are allowed to organize and protest, and anyone organizing against the ruling class is a hate group and not to be allowed to protest, and anyone speaking against the beliefs of the ruling class is guilty of hate speech and not to be endured.

Suppose you are a student preparing your application to a selective college like Yale, and you know that the key to acceptance is activism in ruling class-approved protest.  How do you know what kind of protest is approved by the ruling class and what is utterly beyond the pale as fascistic hate speech?  For instance, is it okay to protest against the Parkland massacre?  Don’t worry, kids: as Walter Olsen explains in the Wall Street Journal, you eager progressive beavers have your young Millennial senior assistant director of admissions, Hannah Mendlowitz, who has kindly written a blog post to assure all applicants that protesting gun violence is A-OK.

“For those students who come to Yale, we expect them to be versed in issues of social justice,” Ms. Mendlowitz writes.  “I have the pleasure of reading applications from San Francisco, where activism is very much a part of the culture.  Essays ring of social justice issues.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.  Social justice activism is a Good Thing, as long as it aligns with the trendy progressivism of your average San Francisco resident.  But hey, don’t get caught doing peaceful protest in the waiting room of an abortion facility.  Different strokes for different folks.

This liberal activism stuff stinks.  Activism approved by the ruling class is not real activism, which would be representing the folks outside the system, beyond the pale of ruling class approval.  In fact, today’s activists are nothing but ruling class toadies, as the nice young lady at Yale admissions makes clear.  So it is time to name and shame all lefty think-tanks, protest groups, activist organizations, and ambitious young activists-in-training as “regime hate squads.”

Because that is what they are.

Christopher Chantrill (@chrischantrill) runs the go-to site on U.S. government finances, usgovernmentspending.com.  Also get his American Manifesto and his Road to the Middle Class.



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The Great Victor Davis Hanson Takes On World War II


Victor Davis Hanson is a conservative icon, well known and respected; a prolific author of twenty-plus books and current occupant of a chair of historical, military, and agrarian classical studies; a Ph.D. from Stanford; and the founder of classical studies at University of California at Fresno.  ;Now he occupies a chair at the Hoover Foundation of Stanford University. 

I first came to know him reading The Western Way of War (1989), which explained the reason for the lethality and effectiveness of Western armies throughout history.  ;This past year, he wrote one of his best books: The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books, 2017).

Hanson titled the book for the fact that there were at least two major wars going on in World War II, and it is a mistake to think of the Axis Powers and the European and Pacific wars as a one big theater of war.

Hanson also sets up the thesis that the Axis Powers succeeded initially only because of the hesitance and even fecklessness of the Allies during the late thirties, when the Nazis and the Bushido Empire expanded without resistance to take regional control and acquire influence, and even more while the major Allied powers pretended not to see the threat or, in some cases, refused to do anything to stop the aggression.

For the French, English, and Americans, the problem was a collective memory of the carnage of WWI and the commitment to pacifism, or at least weak responses to evil and aggression that resulted.

When the Allies committed to unconditional surrender, the game was over.  ; 

The unique and enlightening thing about Hanson’s book is his focus on two things: resolve, political and societal, and then the national resources and industrial capabilities of the belligerents, key to a successful war effort.  Startling realities include odd things like the German Army that committed to Operation Barbarossa in the East being dependent on horses and surprisingly ragtag.  The blue-water German navy was no match for the Brits or the American navy.  ;Germany had limited access to petroleum and had to convert coal to fuel oils until the Romanian fields were annexed, but then those fields were inadequate.  Japan was always fuel-starved.  The Allies went to war on an ocean of Texas oil. 

As for tech, Germany had the V1 and then later the V2 and many superior weapons, but they had no ability to make them mean something.  Germany and Japan just didn’t have the industrial capacity and resources to match American power and competence in warfare – supplies, manpower, firepower.  

In the Pacific, the Japanese had no ability to replace fleet carriers or a declining number of pilots and planes, even though the Zero was a good plane and Japan started with a group of good fleet carriers.  German Monster tanks were lethal but in limited numbers.  ;The net effect was that the Russian T-34 and even the inferior American Sherman tanks were effective because of numbers combined with other factors such as air support and mobility. 

The Germans had no ability to invade England or reach out from their initial base without a navy or any long-range bombers like what the allies had, like the British Lancaster and the American B17, 24, 25, and 26 – particularly the 17.  The mighty B-29 was a difference-maker in the last stages of the Pacific war.   British defenses in the battle of Britain were better not just because of Spitfires, but also because of superior British radar.  The Hellcat and Corsair were a match for the Zero when they came online.

American production of small and large carriers for the Pacific was astounding and emblematic of the ability of the American output on all sorts of things – guns, artillery, vehicles, tanks, planes, ships, transports, cargo, and fuel-carriers for land and water.  As the war went on, American industry continued high-volume production of essentials with modifications that improved quality, effecting a telling change in force effectiveness in categories such as submarines or various carriers.  ;Likewise with the output of bombers and fighters, such as the P-51 Mustang – fifteen thousand-plus were made, the last version with wing tanks for bomber escorts to the German heartland that were demoralizing to the Germans.  ; 

American capability in ground forces and support armaments and gunnery along with air superiority were decisive.  ;The American forces just kept coming in the Pacific, overwhelming by numbers and firepower the Japanese fortress islands.  ;In the Pacific, the U.S. Navy, Marines, pilots, and planes supported by good logistics and naval firepower dealt with even the fanatical Japanese resistance.  Bombing runs of hundreds of big bombers hit the island targets and the Japanese homeland.  Hundreds of bombers in the skies were what the Japanese looked up at in the closing days, before the atomic bombs.

Hanson points out the unique and horrifying number of deaths of non-combatants killed by the Axis powers despite losing the war.  ;The Axis powers were able initially to take adjacent powerless or weak nations, were able to target and destroy civilian populations, along with on the ground pogrom and genocidal projects.  ;

I agree with the Hanson argument that World War II was not a single conflict, but several, ranging the expanse of the globe, each varying with the arrival and departure of advanced technologies, sophisticated ideologies, national armies, and legendary statesmen.

A concerning last thing one must consider is that WWII was a break in time, when the failure of deterrence during the late ’30s resulted in an out-of-control aggressive nationalistic statist movement of the Nazis, Japanese, and Italian fascists to get out ahead of more civilized elements.  ;The price to be paid was the destruction of civility and a massive loss of innocent lives.  ;

Hanson reasonably says Germany in 1939 “was not stronger than the combined French and British militaries – or at least not so strong as to be able to defeat and occupy both powers.”  The Japanese were a regional factor and had been to attack and annex part of China, but they still were not really that capable – certainly not as capable as a fully alert and motivated United States.  ;However, the fecklessness of both the Brits and the French and the inactivity and lack of concern by the United States clearly encouraged the adventurous Nazi and Bushido belligerents.  ;

Hanson as a historian appreciates the reality of moral indecision.  ;His book could not be timelier, since we are facing fanatical enemies who in two examples are close to nuclear capability, and nuclear capability may be possible for these intractable enemies even in a black market or in the role of surrogate for another more established nuclear power like Pakistan.  Why the Western world – which was aware of the classical lessons and geography of war, and was still suffering from the immediate trauma of the First World War – chose to tear itself apart in 1939 is a story not so much of accidents, miscalculations, and overreactions (although there were plenty of those, to be sure) as of the carefully considered decision to ignore, appease, or collaborate with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany by nations that had the resources and knowledge, but not yet the willpower to do otherwise.

Tens of millions of innocents died at the hands of the Nazi, Bushido, and Italian fascist war machines because action was not taken to stop the evil forces eventually unleashed to bring on WWII.  Hanson asserts and espouses a moral clarity too often lacking in political and foreign policy salons that are infected with Marxist and Progressive magical thinking dangerous to civilized nations.

I will leave it to the reader to guess how America would or would not act to protect the safety of the country and its citizens.  Churchill proved that men do make a difference in history.  What is playing out now because of aggressive socialism and bellicose Islam could end badly if mistakes leading up to WWII are repeated.  ;Hanson’s book gives us a vivid reminder – the book is a heavyweight, and you will benefit from hefting it.  I avoided the lift with a Kindle.

Victor Davis Hanson is a conservative icon, well known and respected; a prolific author of twenty-plus books and current occupant of a chair of historical, military, and agrarian classical studies; a Ph.D. from Stanford; and the founder of classical studies at University of California at Fresno.  ;Now he occupies a chair at the Hoover Foundation of Stanford University. 

I first came to know him reading The Western Way of War (1989), which explained the reason for the lethality and effectiveness of Western armies throughout history.  ;This past year, he wrote one of his best books: The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict was Fought and Won (Basic Books, 2017).

Hanson titled the book for the fact that there were at least two major wars going on in World War II, and it is a mistake to think of the Axis Powers and the European and Pacific wars as a one big theater of war.

Hanson also sets up the thesis that the Axis Powers succeeded initially only because of the hesitance and even fecklessness of the Allies during the late thirties, when the Nazis and the Bushido Empire expanded without resistance to take regional control and acquire influence, and even more while the major Allied powers pretended not to see the threat or, in some cases, refused to do anything to stop the aggression.

For the French, English, and Americans, the problem was a collective memory of the carnage of WWI and the commitment to pacifism, or at least weak responses to evil and aggression that resulted.

When the Allies committed to unconditional surrender, the game was over.  ; 

The unique and enlightening thing about Hanson’s book is his focus on two things: resolve, political and societal, and then the national resources and industrial capabilities of the belligerents, key to a successful war effort.  Startling realities include odd things like the German Army that committed to Operation Barbarossa in the East being dependent on horses and surprisingly ragtag.  The blue-water German navy was no match for the Brits or the American navy.  ;Germany had limited access to petroleum and had to convert coal to fuel oils until the Romanian fields were annexed, but then those fields were inadequate.  Japan was always fuel-starved.  The Allies went to war on an ocean of Texas oil. 

As for tech, Germany had the V1 and then later the V2 and many superior weapons, but they had no ability to make them mean something.  Germany and Japan just didn’t have the industrial capacity and resources to match American power and competence in warfare – supplies, manpower, firepower.  

In the Pacific, the Japanese had no ability to replace fleet carriers or a declining number of pilots and planes, even though the Zero was a good plane and Japan started with a group of good fleet carriers.  German Monster tanks were lethal but in limited numbers.  ;The net effect was that the Russian T-34 and even the inferior American Sherman tanks were effective because of numbers combined with other factors such as air support and mobility. 

The Germans had no ability to invade England or reach out from their initial base without a navy or any long-range bombers like what the allies had, like the British Lancaster and the American B17, 24, 25, and 26 – particularly the 17.  The mighty B-29 was a difference-maker in the last stages of the Pacific war.   British defenses in the battle of Britain were better not just because of Spitfires, but also because of superior British radar.  The Hellcat and Corsair were a match for the Zero when they came online.

American production of small and large carriers for the Pacific was astounding and emblematic of the ability of the American output on all sorts of things – guns, artillery, vehicles, tanks, planes, ships, transports, cargo, and fuel-carriers for land and water.  As the war went on, American industry continued high-volume production of essentials with modifications that improved quality, effecting a telling change in force effectiveness in categories such as submarines or various carriers.  ;Likewise with the output of bombers and fighters, such as the P-51 Mustang – fifteen thousand-plus were made, the last version with wing tanks for bomber escorts to the German heartland that were demoralizing to the Germans.  ; 

American capability in ground forces and support armaments and gunnery along with air superiority were decisive.  ;The American forces just kept coming in the Pacific, overwhelming by numbers and firepower the Japanese fortress islands.  ;In the Pacific, the U.S. Navy, Marines, pilots, and planes supported by good logistics and naval firepower dealt with even the fanatical Japanese resistance.  Bombing runs of hundreds of big bombers hit the island targets and the Japanese homeland.  Hundreds of bombers in the skies were what the Japanese looked up at in the closing days, before the atomic bombs.

Hanson points out the unique and horrifying number of deaths of non-combatants killed by the Axis powers despite losing the war.  ;The Axis powers were able initially to take adjacent powerless or weak nations, were able to target and destroy civilian populations, along with on the ground pogrom and genocidal projects.  ;

I agree with the Hanson argument that World War II was not a single conflict, but several, ranging the expanse of the globe, each varying with the arrival and departure of advanced technologies, sophisticated ideologies, national armies, and legendary statesmen.

A concerning last thing one must consider is that WWII was a break in time, when the failure of deterrence during the late ’30s resulted in an out-of-control aggressive nationalistic statist movement of the Nazis, Japanese, and Italian fascists to get out ahead of more civilized elements.  ;The price to be paid was the destruction of civility and a massive loss of innocent lives.  ;

Hanson reasonably says Germany in 1939 “was not stronger than the combined French and British militaries – or at least not so strong as to be able to defeat and occupy both powers.”  The Japanese were a regional factor and had been to attack and annex part of China, but they still were not really that capable – certainly not as capable as a fully alert and motivated United States.  ;However, the fecklessness of both the Brits and the French and the inactivity and lack of concern by the United States clearly encouraged the adventurous Nazi and Bushido belligerents.  ;

Hanson as a historian appreciates the reality of moral indecision.  ;His book could not be timelier, since we are facing fanatical enemies who in two examples are close to nuclear capability, and nuclear capability may be possible for these intractable enemies even in a black market or in the role of surrogate for another more established nuclear power like Pakistan.  Why the Western world – which was aware of the classical lessons and geography of war, and was still suffering from the immediate trauma of the First World War – chose to tear itself apart in 1939 is a story not so much of accidents, miscalculations, and overreactions (although there were plenty of those, to be sure) as of the carefully considered decision to ignore, appease, or collaborate with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany by nations that had the resources and knowledge, but not yet the willpower to do otherwise.

Tens of millions of innocents died at the hands of the Nazi, Bushido, and Italian fascist war machines because action was not taken to stop the evil forces eventually unleashed to bring on WWII.  Hanson asserts and espouses a moral clarity too often lacking in political and foreign policy salons that are infected with Marxist and Progressive magical thinking dangerous to civilized nations.

I will leave it to the reader to guess how America would or would not act to protect the safety of the country and its citizens.  Churchill proved that men do make a difference in history.  What is playing out now because of aggressive socialism and bellicose Islam could end badly if mistakes leading up to WWII are repeated.  ;Hanson’s book gives us a vivid reminder – the book is a heavyweight, and you will benefit from hefting it.  I avoided the lift with a Kindle.



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Mr. President: Please Be Careful What You Wish For


In the wake of the 100% preventable Valentine’s Day maniac murders of 17 children, calls for mental health assessments have become popular.  President Trump tweeted a ringing endorsement of mental health checks: the murderer “was a sick person – very sick – and we had a lot of warning about him being sick.  This wasn’t a surprise.”  The president repeated the mental health mantra the next day at CPAC.

This enthusiasm for mental health should be viewed with extreme caution.  It is a classic example of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”  No one ought to realize this better than President Trump himself.  After all, his own mental health has been questioned repeatedly.  “James Gilligan, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University,” who boasted of having worked with “the most dangerous people,” including murderers and rapists, arrogantly claimed to “know how dangerous this man is.”  By March 13, 2018, 70,182 self-styled “mental health professionals” had declared the president seriously “mentally ill,” despite never having met or evaluated him personally.

Psychiatrists have demonstrated arrogance, error, and dishonesty for decades.  In 1964, long before anyone had ever heard of Donald J. Trump, Barry Goldwater was pronounced mentally unfit by 1,189 psychiatrists who never had met the candidate but whose views were sought as members of the American Psychiatric Association.  According to an honest psychiatrist, Cornell Professor Richard A. Friedman: 

The psychiatrists’ assessment was brutal[.] … They used terms like megalomaniac,” “paranoid” and “grossly psychotic,” and some even offered specific diagnoses, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder.

These “professional” pronouncements revealed far more about the mental health profession than about either Goldwater or Trump.  It is hard to imagine any behavior more unprofessional than an ideologue using professional credentials to smear someone solely on the basis of personal dislike or political disagreement.

Those who disagree with the self-styled “professionals” can be forgiven for concluding that it is the latter who call their own mental health into question.  Violating their own professional standards based solely on rabid political disagreement, they are so “intellectually disabled” by ideology that they sell out their ethics, their morals, and any pretense of being truly professional and rational.

Dr. Friedman, who “cringed” at the foregoing “findings,” warned against “the misuse of medical authority as a political weapon to denigrate an opponent.”  Is it impossible to disagree with someone without calling him stupid or crazy?  Lord Acton pointed out: “There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.  Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities[.] … The result would be an Encyclopedia of Error.”  “Professional” ideologues seem unable to grasp the distinction between error, even stupidity, and mental sickness.

This article is not a defense of President Trump – not by any means.  In fact, a careful reader will note that, right here, I am clearly criticizing him.  (Actually, this is my second recent critique of Trump.)  But not having thought through the implications of a policy proposal or speech does not make a person mentally unbalanced.

It always has been a convenient way to dispose of political opponents to label them “crazy” or, in less politically incorrect language “mentally unstable” or “mentally unfit.”  Why bother with refuting rational criticisms and policies of political opponents when emphatically unprofessional – and dishonest – psychiatrists and psychologists can be rounded up to declare them “nuts”?  The late Thomas Szasz was a leading, if not the leading, exponent of this view.  Although often rightly criticized as unreliable, Wikipedia contains this well sourced article: “Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.”  The article argues that psychiatry has an “inherent capacity for abuse.”  In my recent book, Equal Justice for Victims, at p. 296, I refer to “high class political prostitutes with licenses to practice psychiatry.”  (On March 5, Fake News called for more such people to be inflicted on the country to cure a “major shortage.”  All I can say is heaven forbid.)

Nikolas Cruz, the child-murderer, manifested clear signs of mental sickness.  Personally, I believe that Dr. Szasz went too far in declaring mental illness a myth.  There surely are violently sick people among us.  The problem presented by the mental-health-check solution is that it is difficult to separate diagnoses of real mental illness from attacks on highly rational political opponents with whom dishonest politician-psychiatrists disagree.  

The left bears a heavy responsibility for “deinstitutionalization” and unwarranted parole, with terrifying results, often fatal to law-abiding members of society.  No one should think the left, which, even now, works relentlessly to inflict the brutal upon the tame, will meekly accept mental health checks.  As pointed out in The New York Times days after the Parkland murders, “laws designed to preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness place limits on what treatments can be imposed against a person’s will.”  (One clearly mentally ill, but remorseful, killer has bitterly complained that he should never have been released to murder a young woman.)  I do not, because I cannot, argue that the likes of Cruz should be ignored.  But I do contend that we must be careful about ceding our fate to psychiatrists, let alone funding more of them.

Five members of the United States Supreme Court have made clear why there can be little justified public confidence in psychiatrists to protect society from the violently mentally ill.  In 2014, they ceded authority to determine death sentences to murderer advocates posing as neutral psychiatrists, and a year ago, the same five turned over to these “professionals” without legal training the authority to determine the meaning of the Constitution.  What this means, in practice, is that people who carefully plan and carry out premeditated murders cannot be executed because they are deemed by psychiatrists “intellectually disabled.”  In such cases, one can only wonder exactly who is “intellectually disabled”: the murderers or their judicial and psychiatric saviors.

Leftist opposition to “institutionalization” is minor compared to the principal problem for advocates of mental health checks: exactly upon whom are we going to rely to determine the mental health of potential murderers?  I do not claim to have an answer.  But I do have questions: would President Trump be confident in any of the more than 70,000 “mental health professionals” who have proven their own unfitness by signing a document declaring him mentally ill?  Would he have confidence in an experienced psychiatrist who compares him to dangerous murderers and rapists?

Until the so-called mental health professions clean up their act, I am afraid that there will be no way to confidently certify people capable of distinguishing the demented from the different, genuine mental illness from political disagreement.

Lester Jackson is author of numerous articles about capital punishment, the Supreme Court, and American politics.  His recent book is Equal Justice for Victims: A Blueprint for the Rightful Restoration of Capital Punishment.

Image by Pixabay.

In the wake of the 100% preventable Valentine’s Day maniac murders of 17 children, calls for mental health assessments have become popular.  President Trump tweeted a ringing endorsement of mental health checks: the murderer “was a sick person – very sick – and we had a lot of warning about him being sick.  This wasn’t a surprise.”  The president repeated the mental health mantra the next day at CPAC.

This enthusiasm for mental health should be viewed with extreme caution.  It is a classic example of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”  No one ought to realize this better than President Trump himself.  After all, his own mental health has been questioned repeatedly.  “James Gilligan, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University,” who boasted of having worked with “the most dangerous people,” including murderers and rapists, arrogantly claimed to “know how dangerous this man is.”  By March 13, 2018, 70,182 self-styled “mental health professionals” had declared the president seriously “mentally ill,” despite never having met or evaluated him personally.

Psychiatrists have demonstrated arrogance, error, and dishonesty for decades.  In 1964, long before anyone had ever heard of Donald J. Trump, Barry Goldwater was pronounced mentally unfit by 1,189 psychiatrists who never had met the candidate but whose views were sought as members of the American Psychiatric Association.  According to an honest psychiatrist, Cornell Professor Richard A. Friedman: 

The psychiatrists’ assessment was brutal[.] … They used terms like megalomaniac,” “paranoid” and “grossly psychotic,” and some even offered specific diagnoses, including schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder.

These “professional” pronouncements revealed far more about the mental health profession than about either Goldwater or Trump.  It is hard to imagine any behavior more unprofessional than an ideologue using professional credentials to smear someone solely on the basis of personal dislike or political disagreement.

Those who disagree with the self-styled “professionals” can be forgiven for concluding that it is the latter who call their own mental health into question.  Violating their own professional standards based solely on rabid political disagreement, they are so “intellectually disabled” by ideology that they sell out their ethics, their morals, and any pretense of being truly professional and rational.

Dr. Friedman, who “cringed” at the foregoing “findings,” warned against “the misuse of medical authority as a political weapon to denigrate an opponent.”  Is it impossible to disagree with someone without calling him stupid or crazy?  Lord Acton pointed out: “There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find defenders among the ablest men.  Imagine a congress of eminent celebrities[.] … The result would be an Encyclopedia of Error.”  “Professional” ideologues seem unable to grasp the distinction between error, even stupidity, and mental sickness.

This article is not a defense of President Trump – not by any means.  In fact, a careful reader will note that, right here, I am clearly criticizing him.  (Actually, this is my second recent critique of Trump.)  But not having thought through the implications of a policy proposal or speech does not make a person mentally unbalanced.

It always has been a convenient way to dispose of political opponents to label them “crazy” or, in less politically incorrect language “mentally unstable” or “mentally unfit.”  Why bother with refuting rational criticisms and policies of political opponents when emphatically unprofessional – and dishonest – psychiatrists and psychologists can be rounded up to declare them “nuts”?  The late Thomas Szasz was a leading, if not the leading, exponent of this view.  Although often rightly criticized as unreliable, Wikipedia contains this well sourced article: “Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union.”  The article argues that psychiatry has an “inherent capacity for abuse.”  In my recent book, Equal Justice for Victims, at p. 296, I refer to “high class political prostitutes with licenses to practice psychiatry.”  (On March 5, Fake News called for more such people to be inflicted on the country to cure a “major shortage.”  All I can say is heaven forbid.)

Nikolas Cruz, the child-murderer, manifested clear signs of mental sickness.  Personally, I believe that Dr. Szasz went too far in declaring mental illness a myth.  There surely are violently sick people among us.  The problem presented by the mental-health-check solution is that it is difficult to separate diagnoses of real mental illness from attacks on highly rational political opponents with whom dishonest politician-psychiatrists disagree.  

The left bears a heavy responsibility for “deinstitutionalization” and unwarranted parole, with terrifying results, often fatal to law-abiding members of society.  No one should think the left, which, even now, works relentlessly to inflict the brutal upon the tame, will meekly accept mental health checks.  As pointed out in The New York Times days after the Parkland murders, “laws designed to preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness place limits on what treatments can be imposed against a person’s will.”  (One clearly mentally ill, but remorseful, killer has bitterly complained that he should never have been released to murder a young woman.)  I do not, because I cannot, argue that the likes of Cruz should be ignored.  But I do contend that we must be careful about ceding our fate to psychiatrists, let alone funding more of them.

Five members of the United States Supreme Court have made clear why there can be little justified public confidence in psychiatrists to protect society from the violently mentally ill.  In 2014, they ceded authority to determine death sentences to murderer advocates posing as neutral psychiatrists, and a year ago, the same five turned over to these “professionals” without legal training the authority to determine the meaning of the Constitution.  What this means, in practice, is that people who carefully plan and carry out premeditated murders cannot be executed because they are deemed by psychiatrists “intellectually disabled.”  In such cases, one can only wonder exactly who is “intellectually disabled”: the murderers or their judicial and psychiatric saviors.

Leftist opposition to “institutionalization” is minor compared to the principal problem for advocates of mental health checks: exactly upon whom are we going to rely to determine the mental health of potential murderers?  I do not claim to have an answer.  But I do have questions: would President Trump be confident in any of the more than 70,000 “mental health professionals” who have proven their own unfitness by signing a document declaring him mentally ill?  Would he have confidence in an experienced psychiatrist who compares him to dangerous murderers and rapists?

Until the so-called mental health professions clean up their act, I am afraid that there will be no way to confidently certify people capable of distinguishing the demented from the different, genuine mental illness from political disagreement.

Lester Jackson is author of numerous articles about capital punishment, the Supreme Court, and American politics.  His recent book is Equal Justice for Victims: A Blueprint for the Rightful Restoration of Capital Punishment.

Image by Pixabay.



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The State of Israel: Normal or Unique?


Ecclesiastes warns, “Of making many books there is no end.”  Certainly, the output on Jews and the State of Israel continues in full flood.  The latest work is In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton U.P.), written by Michael Brenner, German-born historian, child of a Holocaust-survivor, who teaches at the University of Munich and American University.  It is a splendidly written and fair-minded work combining thoughts on the emergence and bewildering diversity of Zionist ideas and on the nature and changes in the State of Israel, and it appears fortuitously at a time when racist bigotry against Jews continues to raise its ugly head.

Disgracefully and almost unchallenged by members of the Congressional Black Caucus was the declaration “the powerful Jews are my enemy,” expressed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on February 25, 2018.  Even worse, one member of the caucus, Danny Davis (D-Ill.), defending Farrakhan, explained that the “the world is so much bigger than the Jewish Question.”  His insensitive statement recalls the phrase, used once to discuss issues of the status and condition of Jews in European countries, but also long used by anti-Semites and those seeking destruction of the State of Israel and made infamous by the Nazi formula “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” – the Holocaust, planned at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942.

The words of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), first written as a poem in 1878, end with the aspiration “to be a free people in our land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”  The anthem echoes the 2,000-year hope for Jews to return to the land of Israel, restore it, and become a sovereign nation.  Brenner’s book discusses the ideas behind the creation of the Jewish state and the ongoing debate about whether that free state, now the State of Israel, should be or can be considered a normal state or unique.  Is Israel a state like any other, or does it have a Sonderweg, a special path?

The book goes over much familiar ground, telling the story of how Zionism emerged as one of the paths for overcoming the age-old discrimination and persecution of Jews and for normalizing their condition.  The proposals for ending persecution varied: thorough assimilation as proposed by Walter Rathenau, Jewish German businessman and politician; Diaspora autonomy, best expressed by Simon Dubnow, historian in Odessa; a Jewish society and a state that would be a spiritual center of creativity and cultural values, envisioned by Ahad Ha’am; the Eastern European Jewish socialists known as the Bund, who concentrated on social and economic issues and aimed at a “new Jew” working the land in collective settlements by kibbutzim; Orthodox Jews, who wanted a society based on Halakha, Jewish religious law; cultural Zionists, who wanted the renewal of the Hebrew language and a distinct secular culture; and the mainstream Zionism, established as a Jewish mass movement by Theodore Herzl in Basle in 1897, though anticipated by others such as Leon Pinsker and Max Nordau.

From the start, Zionist writers differed, and no single solution was accepted.  Herzl himself was a secular liberal interested in saving the Jews from anti-Semitism, proposing a society for Jews and non-Jews.  In it, religion and Jewish culture would not be significant, and languages used would be German, English, and French, not Hebrew.

Brenner fairly traces the arguments of the Zionist pioneers and their followers – among others, Ber Borochov; Aaron Gordon; Rabbi Kook; Israel Zangwill; and Vladimir Jabotinky, who held that Jews should settle on both sides of the Jordan and have a strong state with sovereignty.  At the core was always the question of the “idea” of a state, a normal one like others or one that is exceptional unlike any other, a model society with a mission, “a light unto the nations.”  Tension was always present between idealism and pragmatism.  Was the state to be secular or religious?  Early on, in view of increasing persecution and the Nazi menace, the question of a place for Jews as immediate refuge, a safe haven, was crucial: Africa, Australia, South America, and Tasmania were choices.

What indeed was the “national home” promised by the Balfour declaration of 1917 to become?  The meaning of Jewish sovereignty remained unclear, and proposals by Zionist thinkers and actions in the State of Israel reflected differences regarding the character of Jewish self-determination.  Brenner makes the point that both the mainstream Zionist movement and socialist Zionists were inclined to favor autonomy under British or international rule until World War II.  Interestingly, the legacy of Herzl is claimed both by the right as nationalist and by the left as cosmopolitan.

The State of Israel since its creation has struggled with these issues in a changing society and an insecure and hostile international environment.  Brenner believes that Israel has achieved many goals of the Zionist movement, but it is not a state like any other.  One indication is that it has been subjected to far more international attention, as shown by the disproportionate condemnations by U.N. and other resolutions, far more than any other country in the world.  It has been seen as exceptional not only by itself, but, for prejudiced reasons, by many in the “international community.”

In his address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, David Ben-Gurion, whom Brenner calls Herzl’s heir, explained that a Jewish state meant a Jewish country, labor, colony, agriculture, and industry along with Jewish seed.  It would be characterized by Jewish language, schools, culture, safety, security, and autonomy.  But he held contradictory views, holding on one hand that the state would be a nation like any other nation but also rejecting on the other hand that notion in arguing that Israel occupies a unique place in the intellectual and cultural history of mankind, a light unto other states.

For many, the founding and survival of Israel is seen as a miracle, and by some as a normalization of Jewish history.  Israel was created as a Jewish state, with flag, anthem, language, official Jewish holidays, and the Law of Return.  Brenner discusses a number of the real problems that have arisen in the state.  Israel has been unable to draft a formal constitution, nor has it formulated an exact definition of “Jewishness,” but it has drafted a number of basic laws.  It lacks a single document that clearly defines its essence.  At the beginning, Israel had an overwhelmingly secular Jewish population and a quiescent religious minority with religious symbols.  Many of the original Jewish settlers came from Eastern Europe, penniless, little educated, refashioning the land and making it cultivable.  The Hebrew language was restored and modernized, and a compromise was made on the role of religion, with acceptance of openings on Sabbath and of secular rulings by the courts.

Israel has changed, become less secular and socialist and more nationalist and religious.  The settler ideal has, to an extent,  begun to replace two features: the ideal of kibbutzim, now reduced in numbers from 5% of the population to less than 2%, and the prominence of social democratic governments.  More common are capitalist and technological entrepreneurs and control by divided but more right-wing political groups.  Symbolically, Israel exports 20 times more in high-tech goods than in agriculture.

The dilemma of normality or uniqueness remains in the present deeply divided Israeli society.  In the 1900s, there were four groups: a large secular majority and three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority.  Today, the secular population and universalist values are declining, while religious and more particularist elements are increasing.  Brenner holds that Israel has made enormous achievements, but it also has setbacks.  The 1967 Six-Day War victory made Israel, still evolving in realpolitik and perhaps in fantasy, a more combative power.

In the present Israeli order, there is no clear majority or even clear minority groups, but four “tribes” different from each other and increasing in size.  A national-religious minority, once moderate, is now more concerned with settlements.  Then there are an Arab-Palestinian minority, now over 20% of the population, unequal in ownership and local administrative services, which demands of Israel a “state of all its citizens,” and less prominent Jewish symbols and actions; a Haredi ultra-Orthodox minority, growing and now playing a larger role, with many, perhaps most, seeing themselves as more Jewish than Israel, but who have modified their critical or hostile position toward the state; and a declining purely secular population.

The future is open.  The model of Israel is more than simply a choice between the “normal” Tel Aviv, a secular and hedonistic city, quasi-Western, and the diverse, unique Jerusalem more dominated by religion of various kinds, a part of the Middle East.

A state of Israel has always meant different things.  To its secular founders in their revolt against Jewish history, it would normalize Jewish history.  For Orthodox Jews, it symbolized continuity, not a break with Jewish history, but its culmination, a vehicle to messianic goals.

With its consumer society and shopping malls, multinational corporations, and start-up companies; privatization of state owned enterprises; new economic oligarchies; and increase in travel abroad, today’s Israel is symbolized more by microchips than by oranges.  One can conclude that Israel is both Jewish and democratic, though not as democratic as many wish, nor as religious as the Orthodox want.  The question of normal or unique is still open.  Brenner carefully concludes that the goal of becoming a state like any other remains elusive.

Ecclesiastes warns, “Of making many books there is no end.”  Certainly, the output on Jews and the State of Israel continues in full flood.  The latest work is In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea (Princeton U.P.), written by Michael Brenner, German-born historian, child of a Holocaust-survivor, who teaches at the University of Munich and American University.  It is a splendidly written and fair-minded work combining thoughts on the emergence and bewildering diversity of Zionist ideas and on the nature and changes in the State of Israel, and it appears fortuitously at a time when racist bigotry against Jews continues to raise its ugly head.

Disgracefully and almost unchallenged by members of the Congressional Black Caucus was the declaration “the powerful Jews are my enemy,” expressed by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on February 25, 2018.  Even worse, one member of the caucus, Danny Davis (D-Ill.), defending Farrakhan, explained that the “the world is so much bigger than the Jewish Question.”  His insensitive statement recalls the phrase, used once to discuss issues of the status and condition of Jews in European countries, but also long used by anti-Semites and those seeking destruction of the State of Israel and made infamous by the Nazi formula “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question” – the Holocaust, planned at the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942.

The words of the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva (The Hope), first written as a poem in 1878, end with the aspiration “to be a free people in our land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.”  The anthem echoes the 2,000-year hope for Jews to return to the land of Israel, restore it, and become a sovereign nation.  Brenner’s book discusses the ideas behind the creation of the Jewish state and the ongoing debate about whether that free state, now the State of Israel, should be or can be considered a normal state or unique.  Is Israel a state like any other, or does it have a Sonderweg, a special path?

The book goes over much familiar ground, telling the story of how Zionism emerged as one of the paths for overcoming the age-old discrimination and persecution of Jews and for normalizing their condition.  The proposals for ending persecution varied: thorough assimilation as proposed by Walter Rathenau, Jewish German businessman and politician; Diaspora autonomy, best expressed by Simon Dubnow, historian in Odessa; a Jewish society and a state that would be a spiritual center of creativity and cultural values, envisioned by Ahad Ha’am; the Eastern European Jewish socialists known as the Bund, who concentrated on social and economic issues and aimed at a “new Jew” working the land in collective settlements by kibbutzim; Orthodox Jews, who wanted a society based on Halakha, Jewish religious law; cultural Zionists, who wanted the renewal of the Hebrew language and a distinct secular culture; and the mainstream Zionism, established as a Jewish mass movement by Theodore Herzl in Basle in 1897, though anticipated by others such as Leon Pinsker and Max Nordau.

From the start, Zionist writers differed, and no single solution was accepted.  Herzl himself was a secular liberal interested in saving the Jews from anti-Semitism, proposing a society for Jews and non-Jews.  In it, religion and Jewish culture would not be significant, and languages used would be German, English, and French, not Hebrew.

Brenner fairly traces the arguments of the Zionist pioneers and their followers – among others, Ber Borochov; Aaron Gordon; Rabbi Kook; Israel Zangwill; and Vladimir Jabotinky, who held that Jews should settle on both sides of the Jordan and have a strong state with sovereignty.  At the core was always the question of the “idea” of a state, a normal one like others or one that is exceptional unlike any other, a model society with a mission, “a light unto the nations.”  Tension was always present between idealism and pragmatism.  Was the state to be secular or religious?  Early on, in view of increasing persecution and the Nazi menace, the question of a place for Jews as immediate refuge, a safe haven, was crucial: Africa, Australia, South America, and Tasmania were choices.

What indeed was the “national home” promised by the Balfour declaration of 1917 to become?  The meaning of Jewish sovereignty remained unclear, and proposals by Zionist thinkers and actions in the State of Israel reflected differences regarding the character of Jewish self-determination.  Brenner makes the point that both the mainstream Zionist movement and socialist Zionists were inclined to favor autonomy under British or international rule until World War II.  Interestingly, the legacy of Herzl is claimed both by the right as nationalist and by the left as cosmopolitan.

The State of Israel since its creation has struggled with these issues in a changing society and an insecure and hostile international environment.  Brenner believes that Israel has achieved many goals of the Zionist movement, but it is not a state like any other.  One indication is that it has been subjected to far more international attention, as shown by the disproportionate condemnations by U.N. and other resolutions, far more than any other country in the world.  It has been seen as exceptional not only by itself, but, for prejudiced reasons, by many in the “international community.”

In his address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in 1946, David Ben-Gurion, whom Brenner calls Herzl’s heir, explained that a Jewish state meant a Jewish country, labor, colony, agriculture, and industry along with Jewish seed.  It would be characterized by Jewish language, schools, culture, safety, security, and autonomy.  But he held contradictory views, holding on one hand that the state would be a nation like any other nation but also rejecting on the other hand that notion in arguing that Israel occupies a unique place in the intellectual and cultural history of mankind, a light unto other states.

For many, the founding and survival of Israel is seen as a miracle, and by some as a normalization of Jewish history.  Israel was created as a Jewish state, with flag, anthem, language, official Jewish holidays, and the Law of Return.  Brenner discusses a number of the real problems that have arisen in the state.  Israel has been unable to draft a formal constitution, nor has it formulated an exact definition of “Jewishness,” but it has drafted a number of basic laws.  It lacks a single document that clearly defines its essence.  At the beginning, Israel had an overwhelmingly secular Jewish population and a quiescent religious minority with religious symbols.  Many of the original Jewish settlers came from Eastern Europe, penniless, little educated, refashioning the land and making it cultivable.  The Hebrew language was restored and modernized, and a compromise was made on the role of religion, with acceptance of openings on Sabbath and of secular rulings by the courts.

Israel has changed, become less secular and socialist and more nationalist and religious.  The settler ideal has, to an extent,  begun to replace two features: the ideal of kibbutzim, now reduced in numbers from 5% of the population to less than 2%, and the prominence of social democratic governments.  More common are capitalist and technological entrepreneurs and control by divided but more right-wing political groups.  Symbolically, Israel exports 20 times more in high-tech goods than in agriculture.

The dilemma of normality or uniqueness remains in the present deeply divided Israeli society.  In the 1900s, there were four groups: a large secular majority and three minority groups: a national-religious minority, an Arab minority, and a Haredi minority.  Today, the secular population and universalist values are declining, while religious and more particularist elements are increasing.  Brenner holds that Israel has made enormous achievements, but it also has setbacks.  The 1967 Six-Day War victory made Israel, still evolving in realpolitik and perhaps in fantasy, a more combative power.

In the present Israeli order, there is no clear majority or even clear minority groups, but four “tribes” different from each other and increasing in size.  A national-religious minority, once moderate, is now more concerned with settlements.  Then there are an Arab-Palestinian minority, now over 20% of the population, unequal in ownership and local administrative services, which demands of Israel a “state of all its citizens,” and less prominent Jewish symbols and actions; a Haredi ultra-Orthodox minority, growing and now playing a larger role, with many, perhaps most, seeing themselves as more Jewish than Israel, but who have modified their critical or hostile position toward the state; and a declining purely secular population.

The future is open.  The model of Israel is more than simply a choice between the “normal” Tel Aviv, a secular and hedonistic city, quasi-Western, and the diverse, unique Jerusalem more dominated by religion of various kinds, a part of the Middle East.

A state of Israel has always meant different things.  To its secular founders in their revolt against Jewish history, it would normalize Jewish history.  For Orthodox Jews, it symbolized continuity, not a break with Jewish history, but its culmination, a vehicle to messianic goals.

With its consumer society and shopping malls, multinational corporations, and start-up companies; privatization of state owned enterprises; new economic oligarchies; and increase in travel abroad, today’s Israel is symbolized more by microchips than by oranges.  One can conclude that Israel is both Jewish and democratic, though not as democratic as many wish, nor as religious as the Orthodox want.  The question of normal or unique is still open.  Brenner carefully concludes that the goal of becoming a state like any other remains elusive.



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