From January, 2014

More on Pete Seeger

Presumably, we are meant to think well of someone who left behind this legacy: Along with countless other sensible people, I have often bristled at the mindless deification of Pete Seeger, the nonagenarian folk singer who died yesterday at age 94. I have no doubt that Seeger was a lovely man (a mutual friend, who became a dedicated enemy of Seeger’s far-left politics, once assured me that he was), nor can one argue with his outsized influence on American music. And we all remember good-but-overpraised songs like If I Had a Hammer and the treacly classic Where Have All the Flowers Gone? But as…

The State of Speechmaking about the State of the Union

Last night’s State of the Union address was replete with platitudes, buzzwords, lame rhetorical tricks, and the same old same old. There was nothing, new, path-breaking or consequential that came out of it. Given former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s admission that President Obama “stopped trying to change Washington years ago,” I suppose that none of this should come as any surprise, although we are left to wonder why we should have elected and re-elected a president who promised us Change We Can Believe In if he “long ago” decided to give up on delivering that change to the rest of…

If I Have Money to Burn . . .

Then I might very well choose to burn some on this service. There will, of course, be an emphasis on Bach, with lots of Mozart and Handel thrown in as well. Some Chopin, Liszt and Beethoven to spice things up will also be called for.

On Edward Snowden

Joel Brenner writes truth: When Snowden asserts that the National Security Agency listens to encrypted Russian diplomatic traffic, it takes the Russians about twenty minutes to shut it down.  An operation like that can take many years to put in place.  When he explains exactly how NSA can implant devices that make it possible to extract information even from isolated networks of hostile governments, those operations will die on the vine.  When he identifies specific networks of adversaries that we have penetrated and the exact locations from which we have done it, he effectively shuts those operations down.  When he…

Is Our Journalists Learning?

No, Iran was not “an American ally” prior to President Bush’s “axis of evil” speech, and to claim otherwise is to either misunderstand history, or to deliberately misrepresent it. To be sure, Iran and the United States had a commonality of interests when it came to Afghanistan; for reasons unrelated to 9/11, the Islamic regime in Iran decided that it did not like the Taliban, and vice versa. But that never made Iran “an ally” of the United States. The two countries still were adversaries on a host of issues (including the regime’s support for terrorism), and there was still a…

Quote of the Day

I’ve seen proof, black on white, that Herr Dr. Förster has not yet severed his connection with the anti-Semitic movement. … Since then I’ve had difficulty coming up with any of the tenderness and protectiveness I’ve so long felt toward you. The separation between us is thereby decided in really the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world? … Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself hand and foot against people who confuse me with these anti-Semitic canaille; after my own sister, my former sister, and after Widemann more recently have…

In Memoriam: Pete Seeger

His legacy was summed up nicely nearly seven years ago by Ronald Radosh: Today, Jim Brown’s new documentary, “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” opens the annual American Film Institute/Discovery Channel Silverdocs Festival near Washington, D.C. Two years ago, Mr. Brown asked to interview me for the film. I was a former student and friend of Mr. Seeger’s and have written critically about his life and politics. I asked Mr. Brown whether he would actually use what I said. Mr. Brown responded that Pete and his wife, Toshi, wanted a critical voice in the film and did not want just…

Obama-Induced Intellectual Whiplash

Ron Fournier continues to have the Obamaphiles’ number: For months, the White House and its allies mocked critics of Barack Obama’s leadership, arguing that no president has “Green Lantern” superhero powers. Now these same people are predicting that Obama can salvage his agenda by waving a magical “pen and phone.” The contradiction illustrates how far partisans will go to defend a flailing presidency, grasping at slogans and insults as a growing majority of Americans tune out. We witnessed a similar drama under President Bush, who set a low bar for public approval that Obama is close to matching. More than that, Obama’s plan to…