Super Bowl Sunday

So for the 50th time, it’s Super Bowl Sunday in America, and around the world. Might be a good game, occasionally it is (for whatever your definition of good is). Best one I ever saw was Super Bowl XX: daBears against the Pats, about which it was said, “If they don’t score, we can’t lose”. But I grew up with The Monsters of the Midway, and even now, when I’ve rather soured on professional sports, I have a soft spot for them (and the Cubs, as well).

But there was one, where I couldn’t tell you a thing about the game, but like a large portion of America, I was in tears before it ever started. That was Superbowl XXV, and it was only a couple days after Desert Storm had started.

Here from ESPN is the story of a legendary performance.

You have to understand.

You have to remember.

This is 1991. Before six people died in the World Trade Center bombing. Before 168 died in Oklahoma City. This is before 111 individuals were injured by a bomb made of nails and screws at the Atlanta Olympics. Before backpacks stuffed with pressure cookers and ball bearings blew limbs from people at the Boston Marathon.

Think back.

This is the tippy-top of ’91. Way before Connecticut elementary school classrooms in Newtown were strewn with bullets. Before a Colorado theater was tear-gassed and shot up as The Dark Knight Rises began. Before 18 people were shot in an Arizona parking lot, along with a congresswoman who took a bullet in the back of the head. You have to understand. This is before a young married couple in combat gear killed 14 at a holiday party in San Bernardino.

This is a generation ago. A full decade before the United States of America came to a brief but full stop — 2,977 people dead and more than 6,000 injured in three states. This was before three New York firefighters raised a star-spangled banner amid the sooty rubble of ground zero. In 1991, ground zero was just downtown Manhattan. If you were alive — if you were over the age of 5 — you must make yourself remember the time. In 1991, people are jittery, but no one stands in line in bare feet at airports. There are no fingerprint scanners at ballparks.

This is, like, pre-everything. There’s no Facebook — barely a decent chat room to flirt in. The Berlin Wall? Buzz-sawed, climbed over and kicked through. Mandela is free, and Margaret Thatcher is out. This is one-way pager, peak Gen X quarter-life crisis time — and it wasn’t called a quarter-life crisis back then. North and Saint West’s late grandfather had not yet read his friend’s letter to the world: “Don’t feel sorry for me,” attorney Robert Kardashian said to flashing bulbs. “Please think of the real O.J. [Simpson] and not this lost person.” This is the year Mae Jemison preps for the Endeavour, Michael Jordan is ascendant and In Living Colorand Twin Peaks stamp the kids who make prestige TV glow in 2016. Beyonce is in elementary school. Steph and Seth Curry are in a Charlotte playpen. Barack Obama is the first black president — of Harvard Law Review. The (pre)cursors are blinking.

“This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait,” President George H.W. Bush says in August 1990, and by the dawn’s early light of Jan. 17, 1991, a coalition of countries led by the United States drops real bombs on real people and real places in real time on four networks. This was the first Gulf War. There are no color-coded threat level advisory posters on airport walls, but the State Department and the Secret Service agree: The possibility of a terror attack is high, and Super Bowl XXV — the Giants vs. the Bills, scheduled just 10 days later — is a soft and glaring bull’s-eye.

The Goodyear blimp? Grounded. A Blackhawk patrols instead. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s annual Super Gala gala? Canceled. Concrete bunkers gird the parking lot of old Tampa Stadium, and a 6-foot-high chain-link rises quickly behind that. Canines sniff chassis, and ushers wave metal detectors. SWAT teams walk the stadium roof with machine guns. Alternate dates, due to a fear of mass casualties, are considered. For a Super Bowl.

“[It] was the shape of things to come,” former defensive back Everson Walls recalled in 2013 for USA Today. “The security was incredible. I think that’s the first time they checked bags and really were concerned about terrorist threats.”

It was tense. “Players were discussing privately if there would be a draft,” former Giants tight end Howard Cross said last year in the New York Post. “And whether our younger brothers might be drafted.”

There is a ghost game hovering too — the one played two days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It is known as the NFL’s “mourning game” and opened with a lone bugler playing taps. Pete Rozelle was ravaged in the media for going through with it. He’d struggled with the decision, and it haunted him his whole career. But Commissioner Tagliabue will not have the regrets of his predecessor. Tagliabue — a Jersey City basketball-playing attorney who’d represented the league against the USFL — arrived at Super Bowl XXV in a flak jacket. And he had Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

But there are more than 1,700 security professionals on the grounds. And if it seems every person is waving a tiny U.S. flag, that’s because a tiny U.S. flag has been placed on every seat. The field is a kaleidoscope of honor guard uniforms and team uniforms and kids doing a red, white and blue card stunt. Central is the entire Florida Orchestra — standing in full dress, signaling serious and formal.

Then Whitney Houston steps onto a platform — it looks to be the size of a card table — in a loose white tracksuit with mild red and blue accents. She has on white Nike Cortezes with a red swoosh. No heels in which to step daintily, and definitely not a gown. Her hair is held back by a pretty but plain ivory bandanna — there are no wisps blowing onto her face. No visible earplugs to take away from the naturalness of the moment. Everything is arranged to convey casual confidence.

Here we begin. Snare drums so crisp. Bass drum so bold. Houston holds the mic stand for a moment but then clasps her hands behind her back — it reads as clearly as a military at-ease. Her stance says: We came to play. Says, in the parlance of the ‘hood, and on behalf of her country: Don’t start none, won’t be none. All we have to do is relax, and we’re all going to win.

Like the best heroes, Whitney — the black girl from Jersey who worked her way to global stardom, made history and died early from the weight of it — makes bravery look easy.

Do continue reading The story of Whitney Houston’s epic national anthem performance at 1991 Super Bowl.

But one of the unique things about the Star Spangled Banner is that it ends with a question, the eternal question of America, “Does that Star Spangled Banner still wave over the home of the free and the brave?” It’s a question that every generation of American has been called on to answer, and so are we.

Enjoy the game, the food, the beer, and the camaraderie. Only happens once a year!

Playing the political game

George-Washington

Part of the problem with politics, highlighted in Neo’s posts this week, is that frankly most decent people don’t want to touch it, and those that do tend to be tarred by the pitch they have touched. It takes a very strong character to resist the temptation, a thick skin to bear the slings and arrows, and the patience of a saint to deal with your fellow politicians. Such men, and women, come along infrequently. To my mind George Washington, despite sniping from various historians, fits the bill to a tremendous degree. He could quite easily have become king, or at least president for life, instead he retired to Mt Vernon. He was the American Cincinnatus. In their positions, most men would have held on to absolute power; they did not. The American Constitution, knowing that it is too much to hope for another Washington, wisely imposes term limits on the President; it is more than time to do the same for the Senate. Two terms are more than enough to do any good a Senator is going to do. Congressmen might also benefit from the same system, as would Governors. The fact is that power does, as Lord Acton wrote, tend to corrupt.

By that, Acton was not just meaning what we tend to mean – graft, peculation and monetary misdeeds, he was also referring to the subtle corruption of the character. Surround a man, or woman, with people whose self-interest lies in telling them what they want to hear, and they will soon lose their natural judgment. Politicians are even worse than the rest of us for thinking they are right, so tell them that and their big heads get even more swollen. Now there is the fame thing. Harry S Truman could walk down the street in DC and most people wouldn’t even have recognised him, he and Mrs T could dine at a restaurant without being bothered by the media. That all changed with TV and JFK, and now POTUS is a ‘celeb’. This is not good for the ego or the character.

Then there is the art of winning elections. There is no reason elections have to cost so much, and in the UK we have a limit of £18,000 (about $26,000) per MP per campaign. The main parties can spend whatever they can raise, and it would be better for them, and for the trees, if they were similarly limited. We all know most of it is ‘spin’, which is weasel-speak for telling lies. It encourages politicians to treat the process like a game, the objective of which is to get elected – at literally any cost. We fall for this time and again, but like a drunk the morning after, wake with a hangover proclaiming ‘never again’ – until the next time.

It’s easy to romanticise the past. Politics was in one sense cleaner when it was an affair of landed gentlemen arguing over power – men too wealthy to be ‘bought’. Democratic politics has always tended to be ‘down and dirty’. Neo was right earlier in the week when he reminded us of the importance of character. Viewed from my side of the Atlantic, Hillary looks to me like a bridesmaid determined to be the bride – no idea what she’s do if she was, but thinks it’s her turn now; you can see why, it would make all that putting up with the public humiliation from Bill sort of worth it. Bernie Sanders is a familiar type to us in the UK – an impractical socialist who wins easy support from the young by promising free stuff and who will get nowhere. As for ‘The Donald”, straight out of ‘Citizen Kane’, but souped up for the modern era. He’s a Republican? Really? Last time I looked (which was admittedly a few years back) he was still a Democrat. Rubio’s a good-looking boy put up to stop Cruz, because Cruz is dangerous – he seems to believe what he says, and we can’t be having that!

Not long now till Super Tuesday and these things get sorted – but I can’t be the only one to think that America ought to be able to find better than this?

Virtuous Reality Specs

Spring-Heeled Jack jumping over a gate Image o...

Spring-Heeled Jack jumping over a gate Image obtained from: http://anomalyinfo.com/illus.htm#i000001 A 19th century “penny dreadful” illustration. From the BBC Hulton Picture Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heh! This is from England, but I’m very sure you’ll recognize the symptoms and easily be able to substitute the appropriate Americans. Zika, who cares (yet anyway), this is really dangerous!

If you think today’s violent porno online culture is corrupting our kids, wait until you see what’s coming next.

Games involving extreme violence, murder, gang rape, theft and misogyny are a bad influence on developing minds, but they are not that lifelike. I don’t care how good the graphics are in Grand Theft Auto, it’s still two dimensional and nobody is convinced this is real life.

However, there’s a new cult that is far more dangerous. It’s in 3D, startlingly realistic, and allows the participant to immerse themselves in a fantasy word of their choice. They become cut off from the physical world, oblivious to facts and data and the geography of their real surroundings, because they have the capacity to make everything look how they want it to. Before information can reach the rational regions of their brain, it is re-arranged into the picture the user wants to see, by being passed through a prism of their prejudice.

They call this Virtuous Reality. Celebrity users include Jeremy Corbyn, trendy vicar Giles Fraser, New Statesman columnist Penny Dreadful and the entire editorial staff of the BBC.

Like many new phenomena, virtuous reality has been around for a while, but it’s only just reached mass consciousness. Recent events in Cologne and Sweden have alerted the public to the power of this reality distorting power of virtuosity, but in truth it’s been around for decades.

via Nick Booth: I’ve rumbled Polly T and Co. Their distorted view is down to virtuous reality specs – The Conservative Woman.

And so we must develop the ‘New Soviet (British, American, German et. al.) Man’. or rather pick one of 20, 50, 100, whatever choices of virtuous reality genders.

Nor can they make sense of Islam, because they can’t make sense of religion, except perhaps as coffee houses full of do-gooders. A real religion, with a God who means what he says, whether Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, or any other, is simply beyond their ken. Daniel Greenfield expanded on this the other day on Frontpage Magazine.

The left’s greatest intellectual error is its conviction that the world can be divided into a binary power struggle in which both sides agree on the nature of the struggle, but disagree on the outcome.

For leftists of a certain generation, it was class. Marx began the Communist Manifesto by laying out a primal class struggle throughout human history. For Marxists, everything in the world could be broken down to a class struggle with the wealthy oppressors on one side and the oppressed on the other.

It didn’t matter that this model didn’t fit a reality in which Communists leaders came from wealthy backgrounds and their opponents were just as likely to be poor peasants. To the left, everything is defined by the model. Reality is an inconvenience that is suppressed with gulags and firing squads.

Today the variable is identity politics. Everything must be intersectional. There are those who stand on the right side of history, in favor of abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration. Everyone who isn’t on board is a racist, even if they’re black or Latino, a sexist, even if they’re female, or a homophobe, even if they’re gay. Once again, reality doesn’t matter. The binary struggle is the model for everything.

The left believes that there is a binary struggle over the future of humanity with only two sides. It does not understand how the right actually thinks and it has no room for understanding equally compelling belief systems that operate outside this model.

That’s where Islam comes in. Or doesn’t.

The left has never been able to understand religion. It’s not so much secular or atheistic as it is consumed by a compelling belief system of its own which leaves no room for religious conviction.

Via: WHY THE LEFT CAN’T UNDERSTAND ISLAM

I would say these loose cannons are too dangerous to let run free amongst us, but we’ve nearly given them the keys to the kingdom. I think it may be time for the adults to reassume control.

Give Women the Right to Defend Themselves

Nederlands: Geert Wilders op campagne in zwolle

Nederlands: Geert Wilders op campagne in zwolle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from Geert Wilders and Machiel de Graaf writing for the Gatestone Institute.

“Cultural enrichment” has brought us a new word: Taharrush. Remember it well, because we are going to have to deal with it a lot. Taharrush is the Arabic word for the phenomenon whereby women are encircled by groups of men and sexually harassed, assaulted, groped, raped. After the Cologne taharrush on New Year’s Eve, many German women bought pepper spray. Who can blame them?

A culture that has a specific word for sexual assaults of women by groups of men is a danger to all women. The existence of the word indicates that the phenomenon is widespread. Frau Merkel, Prime Minister Rutte and all the other open-door politicians could and should have known this.

The Islamic world is steeped in misogyny. The Koran explicitly states that a woman is worth only half a man (Suras 2: 228, 2: 282, 4:11), that women are unclean (5:6), and that a man can have sex with his wife whenever he wants (24:31). The Koran even says that men are allowed to have sex slaves (4:24), and that they have the right to rape women whom they have captured (24:31).

The hadiths, the descriptions of the life of Muhammad, the ideal human being whose example all the Islamic faithful must follow, confirm that women are sex objects, that they are inferior beings like dogs and donkeys, and that there is nothing wrong with sexual slavery and raping female prisoners.

Taharrush is quite common in Islamic countries. Women are frequently surrounded by men and subsequently abused. The Egyptian website Jadaliyya points out that it also happens to veiled women. Women are victims simply because they are women and not because they have provoked the men by their conduct or “provocative” clothing. It can happen in the streets, public transport, supermarkets, or during protest demonstrations. […]

The solution is not that our women keep an arm’s length from the male barbarians, but that the government keeps these men thousands of kilometers away from us. Until that happens, other measures are needed. It is irresponsible to turn our country into a jungle and subsequently send women unarmed into the jungle. They must at least have the right to defend themselves. Contrary to countries such as Germany and France, in our country it is illegal to carry pepper spray. With the Netherlands now being overrun by men who see women as inferior sex tools, it is time to legalize pepper spray in the Netherlands as a weapon against taharrush.

via Give Women the Right to Defend Themselves.

The only real problem that I have with this is this. Women, like men, have an inherent, God-given, right of self-defense, not to mention the duty to defend others. It is simply the right to life. It is illegitimate for any government to think it has any right at all to preemptively remove this right from any member of society. Pepper spray (and tasers and the like) are an OK stopgap. But the only way to stop animals like this is to put them down, and therefore, lethal self-defense is the answer.

Yes, for most of us that means guns. Not for nothing, in the Old American West, was it said that God created men and women, but Colonel Colt made them equal. How else is an 110-pound woman going to defend herself from 2 dozen or so young men? The answer is, she isn’t.

It’s far too late, in Europe certainly, but here as well, for half measures. Either we allow our women (and men, incidentally) to defend themselves, or we allow them to massacred at the will of the insurgents. That is the bottom line decision we have to make.

Are There Any Men in Europe?

abuse_germanyJess’ choice yesterday to lead with Yeats’ Second Coming was in my view directly on point. I also agree with everything she said in the post. It does seem darker than the thirty’s do in retrospect, at least. For all the aberrations at Oxford then (“We resolve not to fight for King and Country”) and now (trying to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, who in establishing his scholarships had more guts than almost anybody, in specifying that colour was to have no place in selecting winners). The left has always been racist, both here, and in Europe, witness the furor from the Democrats over TR having dinner with Booker T. Washington, or Wilson’s segregation of almost everything and the institution around that time of Jim Crow. Again we see those who refuse to study history, condemning

Of course the left has always been racist, witness the furor from the democrats over TR having dinner with Booker T. Washington, or Wilson segregation of almost anything and the institution around that time of Jim Crow. Again we see those who refuse to study history, condemning themselves or their children to reliving it.

A friend of ours, Francis Phillips, writing last week in the Catholic Herald, had something to say about the comparison as well.

[Speaking of a woman who recently died, who had come to Britain in 1939 as a refugee from Germany]

Everything about her life spoke to me of an age that is past: her loyalty to her German history as well as her patriotic love for her adopted country; her reserve, her independence and the quiet inner strength that her faith gave her.

It struck me that, despite the horrors of the war, she had come to adulthood and to England during a less complex time in our history: patriotism was not a suspect stance to hold; the concept of multiculturalism, once unthinkingly vaunted, now agonised over, had not been heard of; there was no migration crisis (the post-war refugee crisis was a European phenomenon) and global terror had not been invented.

With her death and the gradual decline in the numbers of the other wartime refugees to this country, we have lost both the quiet and dignified witness of their lives as well as the high regard they had for our country’s values. We hardly know what these values are any more. Paradoxically, the times seem darker now than in 1939.

It’s true, I think, they do. And while Jess’ points are very valid, there something else as well.

Are there any men left in Europe?

In you missed it, there was a row over the weekend between the Kremlin and Berlin, about a 13-year-old girl who disappeared for 30 hours and then claimed to have been held by ‘southern appearing aliens’, and sexually abused, not to say gang-raped. Somehow the story only got public by means of social media in the Russian émigré community. The authorities now say she recanted the story to ‘professionals’. Maybe so, it wouldn’t be the first time that a kid lied to stay out of trouble. But it’s troubling that Russia apparently doesn’t believe it, and that a good number of Americans don’t either.

Patterico had something to say about this (specifically New Years Eve) as well.

[A]t the risk of sounding old fashioned, and not jumping to any conclusions, note that I am simply chewing things over in my mind. Given that, as I read reports from Europe and the US about the horrible events that night, I am having trouble finding any mention of German men fighting back against the assailants. I did find this as yet unverified report from a doorman at a luxury hotel in the area. It speaks clearly to the horrific events and the utter terror these women experienced:

“Throughout the evening again and again women came to me and asked if they could just stand next to me so I could look after them. I still didn’t quite know what that was all about. They told me they were chased by these guys”.

The men who had chased the girls then attempted to attack again, but martial arts expert Jurevic was ready: “These guys that chased them, then they really tried to attack me. I’ll have to be honest, I beat them all up.

“I’ve never witnessed something like this, I always thought this stuff would be some sort of right wing propaganda. But it was real!”.

Aside from that, and the passing mention of two men who tried to protect their female companions and one’s daughter, I’m not seeing where German men came to the defense of the throngs of women being victimized that night. It’s strikes me as odd given that large numbers of women were forced to walk through gauntlets of Muslim males upon exiting the train station and elsewhere in the square:

When we came out of the station, we were very surprised by the group we met, which was made up only of foreign men … We walked through the group of men, there was a tunnel through them, we walked through … I was groped everywhere. It was a nightmare. Although we shouted and hit them, they men didn’t stop. I was horrified and I think I was touched around 100 times over the 200 metres.”

Via: Where Were The German Men During The Cologne Attacks?

I may be old-fashioned here, or even a fish’s bicycle, but I was raised with that old Irish adage (even if I am Norwegian-American). “The first duty of the strong is to protect the weak“. That’s been true since, as John Ball had it, “Adam delved and Eve span”.  If it’s no longer true, then most likely our civilization is doomed, and we’ll see the denouement of Yeats poem.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Lacking conviction?

code pink on Iran

Neo and I have sometimes quoted Yeats’ lines from The Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
This is because they seem as relevant to our times as they did to the 1930s. T.S. Eliot expressed it less pithily but with more exposition in his Idea of a Christian Society which was written around the time of the Munich Crisis of 1938. He, like many, was shaken by what had happened, and penitent and critical. But as he explained:

It was not…a criticism of the government, but a doubt of the validity of a civilization. We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas opposed to us. Was our society, which had always been so assured of its superiority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined premises, assembled round anything more permanent than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of dividends?

Those words are I think even more relevant now than they were then. Back in the 1930s our civilization retained many of its Christian characteristics, and its morality and standards were those of our Judeo-Christian heritage – we did, in short, as we found in 1940, have some ideas to pitch against those of the Nazis, as we would, for the long Cold War, against the Communists. But what have we now?

I’m struck and penitential about the way in which so many feminists are quiet about what has happened in Cologne and elsewhere – it is clear that for them fear of being called ‘racist’ outweighs the principles they claim to stand for. Their ideas are not held with as much conviction as those of ISIS sympathisers. But they are hardly alone. Our governments do, indeed, seem to care only for banks and profit and not for anything higher. It leaves us, literally, vulnerable against those who hate our civilization and all it stands, or stood for. The reason I singled out feminists a moment ago was that they at least know, passionately I thought, what they stand for, but it is easy to be passionate when faced with an ‘enemy’ which isn’t really that. Western men can be misogynistic, but that fades when compared to the attitude of many Muslims – but best not cross them because unlike Western men, they will turn round and harm you. Is it cowardice? Or is it just that they are not that passionate?

It sometimes seems as though the effort of staying alert for so long against the enemy of Communism has sapped us of our energy. Was it too much for too long? No doubt it would be nice if the world was a better place where we did not face real enemies, but those liberal pieties are not true, they are a delusion. Perhaps Eliot was right, and we do not have values which will stand when the wind blows? But so it seemed in the 30s – and when the moment came, so too did the man – Churchill. We shall have to hope there’s one in the wings.

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