Early Summer in Center Point

I’m freshly back from a bittersweet long-weekend up in the childhood homestead. Dad had a doctor’s appointment in Tulsa on Friday morning so I chauffeured him and mom up.

Did a few little home maintenance and gardening tasks for the folks. Things are the same there, but different. Tomatoes are ripening, but on vines that are being swallowed by grass and weeds. Huge yellow squash plants are wilting for want of water. Still, the old peach tree behind the house is so laden with fruit that the lower branches are touching the ground.

Accompanied dad to a men’s breakfast at their church. The men at the church know about dad’s battle with Alzheimer’s and are supportive, patient and empathetic.

At one point, a man roughly my own age came up to me and said, “Your father is a hero to me.”

“Thanks,” I said. “He’s one to me, too,”

“He’s sneaky,” the man continued. “For years he’s been quietly slipping around helping people all over this town. He never calls attention to himself. He just serves and serves.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “He likes to fly under the radar.”

Sunday lunch was good. The news from dad’s doctor was not. And I’ll be checking on those peaches in a couple of weeks.

What is Your "Toy Story?"

Good Father’s Day yesterday. Brunch with the four women I love at a breakfasty place serving colossal portions of carbs and pork bits. This is as it should be.

Later, a long, leisurely workout, a nap, then ensconcement in my favorite chair to watch the U.S. Open. From my cushy throne I was eventually served dinner followed by a slice of homemade coconut cream pie (an Emeril Lagasse recipe). It was astonishingly good.

Now a half-moon of seduction and sin calls to me every time I open the refrigerator door. Alas I’m fasting today. But tomorrow . . .

I have utterly loved being a dad. Of course, the job is different with daughters aged 21, 18 and 16 than it was only a brief decade ago–just a blink of the eye–when they were 11, 8 and 6.

Which is why I haven’t seen the new Toy Story movie. Back in the day we saw every big new release for kids and enjoyed them as much as the girls did. These days? . . . I haven’t darkened the door of a movie theater since the final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

James Lileks, on the other hand, has a daughter who is in the sweet spot for movies like Toy Story III. He has a sweet and insightful review up over at his blog, here.

As you surely know, the Toy Story movies are about the toys left behind by a boy who has outgrown them and left them behind.

That got me thinking about the toys I left behind. Particularly the ones from my earliest, dimmest days of memory.

The first toy I can remember having was a stuffed monkey. He held a banana in one hand which could be jammed into his open mouth. I wonder if a picture of that little guy is findable on the interwebs? Standy by . . . Ah yes. This guy:

mr-bim

Apparently his name was Mr. Bim. I never knew that. But just looking at this picture I can smell the rubber of his hands and face. It also triggered a memory of sticking his thumb into his mouth. It fit better than the banana, I now recall.

I also remember a Jack-in-the-Box with a crank handle that played “Pop Goes the Weasel” when you turned it. I believe a terrifying clown popped out at the end of the song. It’s a long shot, but I’ll look . . .  Well, I’ll be switched:

matty

That’s the one. That’s some high-octane nightmare fuel, right there.

I remember wooden puzzles with big, chunky pieces. One featuring cars, another farm animals. And I dimly recall a metal whirring top and spun after you pumped it a few times. Sort of like this one:

top

So what toys occupy the mistiest corners of your memories?

The Sour Grapes of Wrath

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Fascinating blog post over at The American Enterprise Institute site about migration patterns in the United States. The chart above is just one of several–this one showing where recent movers to the Houston area moved from in 2008 (black lines) and Houston residents moved to (red lines).

It paints a striking picture of a mass exodus from blue states like California, New York and Michigan to the relative economic health of Texas. Keep in mind, these pictures are all based on moves in 2008, before the economic crisis really got cranking. These trends have surely accelerated since.

Here’s a similar snapshot of the Austin area.

austin

And my home of Tarrant County:

tarrant

I am reminded of a conversation I had last year with a friend who works for JPMorgan Chase. He mentioned that he had a new coworker who had just moved to Dallas from Manhattan. The new arrival had mentioned that the word among the Wall Street banking community is that Texas was the best place to ride out the recession.

Of course, there is a reason for that. It is because a majority of Texans don’t vote for the kinds of policies and politicians that are so highly favored by the more enlightened folks in California and New York.

Many of these refugees from liberalism are liberals. Having fouled their own nests with high taxes, unionization, and anti-business regulation, they are fleeing en masse.

By the way, these maps are built with an amazing interactive utility over at Forbes.com. Check it out.

Date Night

The date nights with Mrs. Blather have been too rare for several months now owing to the twin pressures of book deadlines and financial austerity measures. You know, like the wise financial austerity measures our government has put in place to get the skyrocketing budget deficits under control. {pause for hysterical laughter}{additional pause for weeping)

All the Female Offspring Units had babysitting gigs last night so we decided to break out of our rut and head in to downtown Ft. Worth to try a new restaurant. After a fine meal, we decided to walk around the Sundance Square area which on most nights is alive with lights, live music, and pedestrians.

We heard music in the distance so we followed the sound to a large bandstand surrounded by a throng of several thousand 45-to-55-year-old black women seemingly having a wonderful time. We asked a bystander who the band was and learned  it was The Bar-Kays–a group we both instantly recognized as a 70s B-List funk/R&B band that occupied a branch on the pop music family tree somewhere between Parliament and the Ohio Players.

bar-kays

They brought the funk. Which is a good thing. There’s nothing worse that throwing a party and having the guy who was supposed to bring the funk show up empty handed. (Can I hear a “Good God ya’ll.”)

Aficionados of 70s-era funk will recall that The Bar-Kays gave us timeless classics such as “Freak Show on the Dance Floor” and “Shake Your Rump to the Funk.” We listened for a while but moved on after nearly being injured by a couple of large women who were obviously taking the rump shaking exhortation to heart.

In other words, it was a great date night.

One More Post on the Israel Situation

Just a survey of some worthwhile commentary from around the interwebs:

Helen Thomas’ Exquisite ‘Weimar Moment’ Reflects Progressive America–Abraham H. Miller

Erdogan and the Israel Card–Wall Street Journal

Blast from the Past: (Video) The Late Tony Snow Smacks Down Helen Thomas

Israel’s Gaza Blockade: It Works–Jonah Goldberg

A Few Random, Rambling Thoughts on Anti-Semitism

anti_sem__graffiti

In the post on Helen Thomas below, I mentioned that I thought Helen Thomas’ comments were not “animated by anti-Semitism” but rather a broader hatred of Western Civilization of which Israel and the Jews are merely a conspicuous subset by virtue of being an island in a sea of Islamic/Arabic culture . In response commenter (and friend) Bonnie points out, quite correctly, that there is a spiritual root to the animus toward the Jews in general and to Israel in particular.

This is the pitfall of hurriedly dashing off thoughts for a blog post. What I should have written is that anti-Semitism isn’t the sole force animating Thomas’ ugly remarks. Clearly, a visceral hatred for Jews and for the Jewish state is a dominant part of the mix. And this animus is indeed spiritual in root and branch; as is the hatred of Christians and the global resentment of Christian, missionary-sending America.

For example, the levels of vitriol and blind rage focused on George W. Bush each day of his eight-years in office defy explanation in terms of ideology or culture. Sarah Palin triggers the same fury in those who dwell under the principalities and powers of Media, Pop Culture, Politics, Academia  and Art. Indeed any real-deal Christian who aspires to high office in America is going to find him or herself the object of this fury from the Helen Thomases of this world.

Flawed Logic

Spiritual roots aside, at an intellectual level, there is also a false assumption under-girding much of the anti-Israel bias infusing the sentiments of Helen Thomas, et. al.. That assumption is that most of our problems in the Middle East would be solved if Israel didn’t exist. This is nonsense.

If Israel as a nation-state ceased to exist tomorrow and every Jewish person on the planet were whisked off to another planet, the leaders of the Arab-Islamic world would simply find other grievances and resentments with which to whip up hatred for the West.

Chief among these would be European Colonialism, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and, hilariously, the Crusades.

It is telling that Osama Bin Laden’s original manifestos before and after the 9/11 attacks rarely if ever mentioned “Palestine” or the “Zionist Entity.” His rational for the war against America was the presencce of U.S. “Christian Crusader” troops on the holy soil of places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The fact is, nothing short of complete “submission” (the literal meaning of Islam) by the West to Islamic culture and sharia will appease the virulent strain of spiritual dementia that has spread through the Islamic world like mad cow disease.

That surrender is already well underway in Europe. In fact, the future King of England told a group of students at Oxford this week that we should all look to Koran to inform our views and policies on the environment. I’m not making that up. It is madness.

Semantics

At another level, I am finding the term “anti-Semitism” increasingly un-useful for communicating an ugly reality. Like the words racist and sexist, the word has lost the punch it ought to have by virtue of overuse and abuse.

Thirty years of Al Sharpton and the rest of the Civil Rights Grievance Industrial Complex shouting “racist” at anyone who disagreed with them has diluted the word into meaninglessness. Feminists have done much the same thing to the word sexism. This is tragic in that real racism and real sexism still exist and we need words to communicate the concepts.

In a similar way, but to a lesser degree, the U.S. Anti-Defamation League has weakened the word anti-Semitism by hurling it promiscuously at things like Christian evangelism, Easter pageants, and simply quoting statements from the New Testament.

In my view, the word anti-Semitism is becoming too subjectively laden with varying meanings to various people to effectively convey the dark thing that is rising in hearts and minds around the world. Thus I am increasingly likely to use the terms Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred as an end-run around the semantic fog.

Oddly enough, all of the above reminds me of a great piece Charles Krauthammer wrote back in 2006 when the “Borat” movie was doing big business. Check it out if you have time.

Faux-tilla

flotilla

Little by little, the truth about the so-called humanitarian flotilla that attempted to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza is coming out.

It is now widely known–at least to those not so deeply invested in Israel hatred that they are immune to the obvious–that the flotilla was a provocation financed and orchestrated by the Turkish government and carried out by an extremist Turkish islamic group called the IHH.

As a just-released report by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center tells us:

“The IHH operatives’ preparations included handing out walkie-talkies as they boarded the ship, taking over the upper deck, setting up a situation room for communications, and a briefing given to theoperatives two hours before the confrontation by IHH head Bülent Yildirim, who was on board the ship and commanded his men.

The revelations also bring into question Turkey’s status as a member of NATO and therefore an “ally” of the United States. You may recall that the U.S. invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein was rendered much more difficult and dangerous by Turkey’s refusal to allow staging from their territory.

Some enterprising students in Israel have come up with a brilliant device for highlighting Turkey’s hypocrisy and duplicity in the whole flotilla affair.

Although most of the recent talk regarding flotillas has revolved around ships sailing toward Gaza, at least two plans have emerged for “reverse flotillas” – from Israel toward Turkey – to highlight what organizers have labeled the Turks’ “shameless hypocrisy” in their criticisms of the Jewish state:

The most ambitious of the two plans has been devised by members of Israel’s National Student Union, who this week announced their intention to set sail toward Turkey, in an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the “oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan” and to members of the “Turkish Armenian minority.”

This is delicious. The Turks have been oppressing their Kurdish minority for decades. The Eastern end of Turkey was formerly Kurdistan and therefore, by the standards of Helen Thomas and other Israel-bashers, it is occupied territory. Of course the Turks have been much more brutal to minorities under their rule than than the democratic and civilized Israelis would ever contemplate.

The Turks have worked hard to erase the historical memory of their genocidal actions against ethnic Armenians in the early years of the 20th Century. If you’re not acquainted with that horror, you can get an overview here.

Summer Officially Begins

Finished another book yesterday. And by “finished” I mean writing, not reading.

This one was a ghost-writing gig. Between this project and the Palin book I’ve written about 100,000 words since getting back from Alaska in mid-March. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m thrilled to have had the opportunities. But meeting the deadlines has meant pretty much lashing myself to my office chair for 14 hours per day for the last 12 weeks. Every once in a while I would get up and walk 10 feet from the chair just to prove to the universe and myself that we are indeed two separate entities.

Meanwhile the world kept spinning. Though the wheels seem to have come off and we’re pretty much just rolling down the freeway on rims now as the sparks fly upward.

*****

President Obama is trying to figure out “whose ass to kick.”  The Holder Justice Department just lost another honest lawyer because he was, you know, honest. Secretary of State Clinton delivered heartfelt birthday greetings to Queen Elizabeth a week before her birthday. And it appears a huge volume of U.S. foreign policy secrets have been leaked and are about to posted on the web.

Do you want to know what Obama and friends have me missing the most about the Bush Administration? Competence.

Yes, the Bush years offered plenty to disappoint and frustrate. Government and spending grew far too much. Immigration and border security policy were foolish. And some of the ticking economic time bombs that were activated in the Clinton years were allowed to keep on ticking.

However, it is should be noted that the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress made a valiant effort in 2003 to reform the Community Reinvestment Act. Congressional Democrats, led by Barney Frank, were successful in defeating the reform measures and the housing bubble kept right on inflating until it burst in 2008.

All that aside, think back to the team Bush assembled and the resume’s they brought to Washington, both in business and government. Here is line up A:

  • Cheney–White House Chief of Staff (Ford); Congressman; Secretary of Defense (Bush 41); Chairman/CEO Halliburton
  • Rumsfeld–Congressman; Director, U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (Nixon); White House Chief of Staff (Ford); Secretary of Defense (Ford); Ambassador to NATO (Nixon); CEO/President/Chairman, Searle Corporation; Chairman/CEO General Instrument Corp.; Chairman, Gilead Sciences Corp.
  • Powell–4-Star General, U.S. Army; National Security Advisor (Reagan); Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, (Bush 41)
  • Ashcroft–Governor, Missouri (two terms); U.S. Senator

(As it turned out, Bush’s two biggest cabinet blunders involved leaving Clinton appointees in place–Tenet at CIA and Mineta at Transportation.)

Now compare the backgrounds and real-world experience of those key Bush cabinet appointees to their counterparts in the Obama government. That would be Joe Biden, Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Eric Holder. The only one in this group who knows what he or she is doing is Gates, the hold-over from the Bush administration.

Thus, the most inexperienced, least qualified President to occupy the White House since Warren G. Harding has surrounded himself with an inexperienced, under-qualified team. This, just as our nation is facing a confluence of crises not seen since the 1930s–when the Great Depression combined with the Dust Bowl and the global rise if militant fascism.

*****

Some thoughts about the Flotilla a little later.

Helen of Goy

helenthomas

Helen Thomas. She’s the hyper-liberal White House reporter who used to harangue and hector Ronald Reagan before she did the same to George H.W. Bush which was before she spent eight years pecking at Bill Clinton from his left flank which was before the eight years of harpy-like shrieking at George W. Bush.

Of course, all of this occurred many decades before she, as a young reporter fresh out of college, grilled newly elected President William Henry Harrison about the Whig Party’s position on the Indian Problem and the tarriff.

For some time now, Thomas has been sort of the village idiot of the White House press room. She would have long ago become an embarrassment to the liberal journalistic establishment if such were capable of embarrassment. But lacking the capacity for shame, it has continued to give Thomas a coveted seat at presidential press briefings simply because she’s playing for their team.

If Thomas were a conservative she would have become a byword and in in-joke among journalists decades ago.

But yesterday Thomas may have gone too far. She did what lefty journalists are never supposed to do, that is, say plainly and clearly what she thinks about Israel.

After this video virally propagated around the interwebs, she snapped back into a journalistic pose of detached objectivity and wrote this on her blog:

I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.

So her comments, which the interviewer asked her to confirm twice, don’t reflect her “heart-felt belief?” Then what do they reflect?

For what it’s worth, I don’t think anti-Semitism animates and informs Helen Thomas’ views. I think she is expressing “anti-Zionism” which in turn springs from a general hatred of Western Civilization.

The American Left has turned against Israel for the same reasons it views the United States as the guilty party and bad guy in every interaction with the wider world.

Israel is an island of Western culture in a sea of medieval islamist decay. As I have said in this space before, Helen Thomas, her fellow travelers rooting for the phony flotilla, and the seething masses of islamists around the world, do not hate the West because of it’s support of Israel. They hate Israel because it is part of the West.

This is clearly our current President’s posture, too and explains his flagrant hostility to Israel.