Democrats Demonstrate Historical Amnesia

October 14, 2015

by Avi Davis

One of the most remarkable things about Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas was not the way the candidates sought to differentiate themselves from one another, but rather how much they struggled to make themselves look the same.

Part of this was due to the presence of a 72 -year-old firebrand, whose ideological weight made the stage sag way down to the far left and had all the candidates tumbling in that direction.  Bernie Sanders, with his calls for a political revolution, a crusade against Wall Street, free college tuition for all Americans and the break up of national banks sounded more like Fidel Castro in 1959, than a modern day American presidential contender.  And yet, he received by far the greatest applause of the evening, so long lasting  that at one point  the debate began to resemble a rally rather than a genuine exchange of ideas between thoughtful progressive candidates.

 

 

What is truly remarkable is how little resistance these entirely bankrupt and out- of-date ideas received from the other candidates.  When Jim Webb meekly attempted to challenge Sanders’ wild rhetoric  – pointing out that a political revolution is not exactly on the horizon and that Congress was unlikely to pay for the exorbitant programs Sanders was proposing, his criticisms were met with deafening silence.  Hillary Clinton, the long favored front runner, seemed too busy touting her experience and the fact that she is a female to be much engaged in confronting both Sanders’ and the audience’s silliness.

But letting this stuff go bears consequences.  That is because Sanders now has a national voice – which he may not have had before – and his brand of  socialist propaganda, which would never have passed muster 22 years ago when Bill Clinton faced off against his Democratic challengers, is going to be taken seriously in the upcoming presidential race.

The extraordinary thing is that here we are in 2015, twenty five years after the collapse of the world’s greatest failed experiment in socialism, in a country, by dint of its free enterprise system, which has ensured a greater level of prosperity for a greater proportion of its population, than any other nation in history.  Each one of the candidates harped on the great income disparity between rich and poor ( “the greatest gap since  the 1920s!,” at least three of them howled)  – but its all quite relative.  Even those in the lowest income brackets in our society today live lives of comfort and ease when compared to the existences of those same poor in the 1920s. Cell phones, 50″ television screens, owner-owned cars and a variety of other electronic  possessions can be seen in the homes of the most dirt poor areas of Detroit, New Orleans and East Los Angeles.  While these are not true determinants of income, they are symbols of an affluence that the poor in the rest of the world deeply envy and  why so many are risking their lives as illegal immigrants to cross our borders.

No one on that stage last night should have needed a history lesson in how socialism actually operates in the real world and how it significantly failed millions and upon millions of its adherents in the 20th Century.

 

 

But apparently no one was bold enough to stand up to Sanders and call him out for the ridiculous figure he casts in 21st Century American politics. They were all too busy retreading tired liberal tropes about brutal police tactics, institutional racism, billionaire avarice, climate change exigencies, Republican obstructionism, Wall Street chicanery and pharmaceutical industry malfeasance – all of which form part of Bernie Sanders’ bucket list of complaints against America.

And while Sanders was barking his socialist wares, Hillary Clinton was left free to address the country’s significant problems with broad platitudes. Although CNN host Anderson Cooper admirably continued to grill her about the consuming email scandal and her failures regarding Benghazi, none of her competitors seemed to consider these considerable vulnerabilities to be fair game. Sanders actually offered her a hand out of the furnace, seeming to agree with her that the concern of the country over her honesty and good faith, are not matters worthy of general discussion in Democratic circles but should be remaindered as Republican scare tactics.

The other big winner of the night was Barack Obama.  None of the candidates sought to distance themselves from Obama’s abysmal foreign policy record, the sluggish U.S. economy, his failures to assist his much venerated middle class, nor the Obamacare fiasco that any of them would need to fix immediately should they become President.  Clinton, whom the White House appears not too eager to see as as a presidential successor, went out of her way to avoid attacking Obama’s record and legacy, carefully sidestepping his most egregious failures.

This was the weak and uncourageous field which stood before the American public on the stage in Las Vegas last night.  We deserved and deserve much better.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

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On Columbus Day, Are We Celebrating the Wrong Italian Explorer?

October 12, 2015

by Avi Davis and Michael Lotus

Every second Monday in October in the United States, the banks close, the post office shuts down, federal services are unavailable and many local public services cease to operate. It is the day in the calendar designated by our government to celebrate Christopher Columbus’  first landing in the New World.

Many American citizens believe that the public holiday marks the discovery of the land mass which would come to be known, three hundred years later, as the United States of America.

résumé of christopher columbus christobal colón

This is not true. Christopher Columbus, in none of  the four Atlantic  voyages of discovery he undertook from the Kingdom of Spain, ever set foot on the continent of North America.  The date October 12, 1492 only marks the day upon which he discovered an island off the coast of Cuba in the Caribbean – which some consider present day San Salvador Island and others consider Samana Cay.

Christopher <b>Columbus</b>' <b>Voyages</b>

What, in fact, we truly celebrate on the second Monday of October each year is not the discovery of the American continent(s) but rather the joining of the Old and New Worlds –  for this essentially marks the modern beginnings of what was to become known as the Western world.

The sudden opening to Europeans of the Western Hemisphere, and the contemporaneous discovery of sea routes to Asia, is one of many links in the chain of causation that led to the modern world. These sea voyages were essential early steps on the near-miraculous steps by which agrarian mankind  escaped from the Malthusian trap of pre-industrial civilization which offered a finite consumption of resources and no exit.  The once-in-history escape from this fate is therefore referred to by Ernest Gellner and Alan Macfarlane as’ The Exit,’ which originated in England and was then adapted to local conditions and replicated around the world.

Another way to describe this unique and world-transforming change is, in Jim Bennett’s words,” the triumph of production over predation.” In a post-Exit world, exploitation of other humans beings, by slavery and other more subtle means,  no longer became the primary path to wealth and power.

Would the Exit have occurred without the linking of the Old World with the New?

We can never be sure. Similarly, we can’t say for certain that the particular combination of history, technology, and geography that led the British Isles to become the driving force for the European Exit was either inevitable or would never be duplicated in another place or time.

What is clear, however , is that the chain of events set in motion by Columbus, Cabot, Verrazzano, Cartier and Jolliet and the other European explorers, resulted in a shift of populations from one hemisphere to another  – populations which would inevitably be linked by common heritage, law and language and creating a network of trade and cultural exchange which has survived to this day.

A further detail worth mentioning on Columbus Day is the observation that we in the Anglosphere may be celebrating the wrong Italian. That is because there were really four European discoveries and settlements in the Western Hemisphere –  a Spanish one -in the Caribbean and Mexico ( as well as points further south); a Portuguese one in Brazil;  a French one in the valleys of the St. Lawrence and  Mississippi Rivers and an English one along the eastern coast of North America.  In this regard, we should not forget that the explorations of John Cabot (Giovanni Caboto), on assignment from the King of England in 1497 were the first recorded English commissioned incursions into North America.

John Cabot - Explore the world

So, while giving Columbus his due for uniting the Old and New Worlds, let us also celebrate the achievements of the Venetian sailor John Cabot, commissioned by Henry VII of England, whose discoveries led to the planting of the Anglosphere in the New World — which, in turn, led in turn to America 1.0, America 2.0 and then America 3.0, which is now struggling to be born.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance. Michael Lotus is a fellow of the American Freedom Alliance and  a founder and senior researcher of the American 3.0 Institute.


Ted Cruz Misses an Opportunity to Nail Climate Alarmists

October 11, 2015

by Avi Davis

The climate debate kicked into high gear this week when on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz, clashed swords with Sierra Club president Aaron Mair at a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee hearing on the impact of climate change on minorities.  Cruz, a seasoned prosecutor, made mincemeat out of Mair, who seemed entirely unprepared for Cruz’s questioning, falling back repeatedly on the Sierra Club’s position that 97% of climate scientists around the world support the claim of anthropogenic global warming and that the science is settled.  Time and again Cruz challenged Mair to admit that satellite data over the past 18 years shows no credible evidence of a change in global temperatures and that it has forced global warming alarmists to retreat to the claim that there has been an  unexpected “pause” in the projected rise in temperatures.

Cruz was relentless in demanding to know whether the Sierra Club would agree to retract its statements and change its policy if this satellite data were proven to be correct.  Mair, who seemed uncomfortable and not at all confident of his position, whispered constantly to an aide who furnished him with the only answer he could muster: ” The Sierra Club’s position remains that anthropogenic global warming is settled science and is validated by a majority (97%) of world scientists.”

The questioning and stonewalling from Mair grew so preposterous that it looked as though the Sierra Club was under cross examination and had reverted to its Fifth Amendment protections, so as not to incriminate itself.

This was the point at which Cruz failed to press his advantage.  The obvious next question to the floundering Mair should have been: “Well where did you get that figure of 97%?”  It is a figure, after all, relied upon, not only by the Sierra Club, but by the President of the United States, his Secretary of State, the entire Democratic Party, the media, academia and the environmental NGOs who relentlessly spew it as unassailable proof that the world is being catastrophically warmed by man-made activities.

But where does the figure actually come from?  Surely someone, at some point, must have conducted a survey or study to produce it?

Well, indeed, they had – and not just once.   One is a 2004 opinion piece by Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, published in Science Magazine, which claimed that of the abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, 75% supported the view that man-made activities were responsible for most of the observed warming of the earth’s atmosphere over the past 50 years. But Oreskes’ essay failed to note whether any of these abstracts at all determined that the warming was “dangerous”and it did not contain any reference to world renowned climatologists such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer,  Sherwood Idso  or Fred Singer.  Forgotten also by Orekes, was that abstracts of academic articles often fail to be substantiated by the body of the article they preface. Since she didn’t apparently read the articles she could not have truly  known what they did or did not support.

Then there was a 2009 article in Eos, by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, supported by her thesis adviser Peter Doran, who reported, in her master’s thesis, the results of a two question on-line survey which found that 97% of scientists surveyed agreed that global temperatures had risen over the past 50 years and that human activity had been a contributing factor.  But the survey failed to question its respondents as to  whether the human factor was sufficient to constitute a problem for the future of the planet.  And more importantly, only 79 respondents claimed an expertise in climate science.  This was out of a total of 3,146 total respondents!

Another student, William R. Love Anderegg, this time at Stanford University, conducted a survey in 2010 through Google Scholar of 200 of the most prolific writers on climate change and found that ” 97% to 98% agreed that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the unequivocal warming.” But once again, how much of a danger this posed to the earth’s atmosphere was not determined.  And of course the fact that only 200 out of the tens of thousands of climate scientists world wide were surveyed, was not dispositive of much at all.

Then of course there is the U.N’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which issues reports every six years and claims to represent the views and opinions of 2,500 climatologists world wide.  Its reports have been the basis of the claim that world wide scientific opinion accepts that greenhouse gases have been the single greatest contributor to the rise of the Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.  And yet, in its Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2013, only a handful of those 2,500 had reviewed research having to do with the key question: how much of the increase in world temperatures over the past 50 years was due to man-made activities?.  Only a paltry 41 authors and editors in the crucial fifth chapter of the Report had addressed anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.

Forgotten, neglected or discredited by the alarmists are other surveys which have come to opposing conclusions as those of the students at Stanford University and the University of Illinois.  In 2010, two German scientists, Dennis Bray and Hans van Storch found that most scientists disagree with the “consensus ” on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and the projections of computer models.  A 2012 survey by the American Meteorological Society found that only 39.5% of its 1,854 members accepted that man made global warming is even dangerous.

The Heartland Institute, based in Chicago, has now organized nine international conferences ( two of which I have attended) which have brought together a very wide selection of scientists from a  variety of backgrounds around the world to discuss and debate anthropogenic global warming.  Their consensus has been that in fact not only has global warming abated, but that man made activities contributed little to it and that the measures now being recommended by our own government, most academic institutions and other activist NGOs, (such as the Sierra Club) would do little to nothing to reverse nor forestall climate change either now or in the foreseeable future.

This, then, is the material Senator Ted Cruz had at his disposal to sweep the floor with the Sierra Club and its highly politicized agenda which aims at saddling mankind ( read- the developed nations of the world) with the responsibility for the allegedly manmade catastrophic damage to our climate.  It was an opportunity invidiously lost.

Nevertheless, those in the vanguard of the effort to expose Global Warming propaganda for what it truly is – an attempt at global wealth redistribution and an opportunity for a small cadre of opportunists to make a great deal of money – should not hesitate to press again and again on the issue of where, exactly, the alarmists come up with their 97% figure.

Curiously enough, that would make for a far more conclusive debate and authoritative finding than anything that could be finally settled about climate change.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone.  In 2010 he organized the international conference Big Footprint: Is Green the New Tyranny?which took place at UCLA in Los Angeles.


John Lennon Turns 75

October 11, 2015

by Avi Davis

The 75th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth –  October 9, 1940  should be registered as both a day of celebration and a day of mourning.

 

Celebration because the 60s icon’s musical legacy is still very much in tact and his extraordinary contributions to  Western culture are as valued  – and as valuable – as ever.  But mourning too, because the other side of Lennon, his darker, less tolerant side – his political activism, association with far left causes and his remaining influence on a spoiled generation which became focused on the  undermining of the incomparable freedoms it had been handed, is a memory which deserves to be abandoned rather than cherished.

No one can now doubt the artistry and sheer breadth of talent of  a man who penned such elegiac titles as Norwegian  Wood, Strawberry Fields Forever and Across the Universe.  The volume of the Beatles’ 60s output and the range of their writing from I Wanna Hold Your Hand in 1963 to the seamless musical tapestry of Abbey Road  in 1969, was a musical journey of such maturation, that only Mozart can rival it over such a similarly short time span.  Although this is an assessment which would be dismissed in the 1960s as pop culture infantilism, today it is incontestable: the Beatles provided a driving, propulsive force to the direction of both popular music and mass culture in the 1960s that is unequaled in the modern era.

Abbey Road dei Beatles: la copertina dell’album tra leggenda e ...

 

Yet something happened to Lennon’s artistry in mid-1968, after his return from India and the rapid collapse of his marriage to his wife Cynthia.   A deep cynicism began to populate his lyrics which surfaced in such songs as  Yer Blues, Glass Onion, Sexy Sadie and Happiness is a Warm Gun – all of which appeared on the Beatles’ White Album in November of that year.  Gone was the wistful, lyrical absurdist, who in his finest moments ( I am the Walrus and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,) could rival Lewis Caroll for sheer imaginative reach. In his place was now a social critic and angry, self-obsessed depressive who seemed to be casting about for targets to skewer.

His association  and marriage to the Japanese performance artist Yoko Ono and his addiction to heroin in 1969-70, could be said to have contributed to this artistic inversion.

For after the release of the Beatles’ White Album, it is a very different Lennon who appears on record.  His contributions to the Beatles’ Let it Be (mostly recorded in January, 1969 under extremely strained circumstances) were minimalist fluff and save for the mystical Across the Universe – a song which was actually written and recorded eighteen months earlier – he makes no notable contribution.  Abbey Road, recorded seven months later, witnesses glimpses of the return of the impish humor and elevated wonder of the world ( see Because, Sun King and Polythene Pam) yet his contributions are outshone by McCartney and to an even  greater extent by George Harrison, who by this point had matured ( with Something and Here Comes the Sun) into a clear equal of the others.

The trend continues into 1970 when the uber-confessional solo album Plastic Ono Band is released.  Although a singer -songwriter album of searing penetration and extraordinary self- insight, it is quite obvious that the poet John Lennon of Beatledom- and its presiding genius, is gone. In his place is a world weary, jaded and thoroughly guilt-ridden introvert who has traded his lyricism and poetic inclination for sardonicism and public exposure.

Many say that this was the real Lennon, who had kept this true persona hidden during the years needed to maintain the Beatles’ commercial success and public appeal.   But I don’t buy it.  Lennon’s greatest gift was as an acute observer of the world which he filtered through humor and an exquisite irony.  Jettisoning these gifts  – or refusing to use them – was a tragic abandonment of his muse and his talent.

But seemingly determined to transform himself into an avant grade artist and social gadfly, he threw himself into his new wife’s artistic projects- both in the recording and film studios and even more garishly in the public eye.

This became clear in his accelerating penchant for exhibitionism. The recording of a series of unfocused experimental albums in the late 60s with Ono ( even appearing with his wife on the cover of one of them fully nude); media events such as the Amsterdam and Toronto honeymoon bed-ins, wherein the two held court in their pajamas for an overly fawning media; myriad independent film projects such as the recording of a fly climbing a woman’s naked torso – offered very little lasting artistic value and already exacerbated his steady artistic decline.

By the time, in 1971, when he came round to record what many regard as his opus, Imagine, Lennon was already an avant grade burn out and  the new album was designed as a return to  commercial form. And that it certainly was, reaching #1 in the charts soon after its release.

Yet listening to Imagine today, you can still hear the absence, despite the dreamy title song, of that wistful poet observing the world with ironic and  childlike wonder.  Perhaps songs such as How? and Jealous Guy provide a glimpse of the former, but the songs in general were either romantic twaddle or purposeless political cant.

Certainly when the airy and superficial title song Imagine is lined up against the acerbic How Do you Sleep? – (a thinly disguised but brutal attack on his former songwriting partner Paul McCartney) on the same album – one had to wonder whether Lennon had meant any of his wishes for peace, love and harmony for all mankind.  If he couldn’t manage it in his own life – even in the course of the song progression on one album, how likely was the world to maintain it into the future?

The early 1970s witnessed a steady decline in the quality of Lennon’s artistic output commencing with the politically naked and often disastrous Sometime in New York City (1972) and ending with the tired and overwrought Walls and Bridges (1975).  During this time he and his wife underwent a trying attempt to become American citizens (prevented for years because of a 1968 drug bust), participated in numerous talk shows, interviews and media events and gave support to too many radical left wing militant groups, all of which served to tarnish their credibility as serious artists.  In mid-1973, the couple split with Ono remaining in New York City and Lennon relocating to Los Angeles.  The drunken eighteen month spree that Lennon would undergo on the West Coast (referred by him – and now by most of his biographers, as his ‘Lost Weekend’) would result in more demonstrations of bad behavior and increasingly weak songwriting. When they reunited in 1975 the couple decided to have a child and Sean Ono Lennon was born in October, 1975 on his father’s 35th birthday.

Thereafter Lennon would become a house husband and his wife a businesswoman and they retreated almost completely from public view. It is said that during these years  Lennon did not pick up a guitar, although there is much recorded evidence to indicate that this was not the case.

When he emerged from his self- imposed exile with a new album, it was a ghastly mess. Double Fantasy (1980), his final album, is a cloying, over produced dud –  full of the kind of cutesy domesticity for which he used to savage Paul McCartney and thoroughly ruined by Ono’s contributions which sound like recordings made at a drunken sorority party.

Double Fantasy: Amazon.co.uk: Music

 

Like James Dean, Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison, cultural figures who also died relatively young, Lennon’s popular image is frozen in time.  After he was murdered in December, 1980, at the age of 40, the execrable Double Fantasy became a smash hit and his final coda.  Frozen with it however was not the image of a middle aged man who, by reports from some of his aides, was undergoing a re-evaluation of his radical past and becoming increasingly conservative in his outlook, but the rebel and radical of his Beatle deconstruction days.

And so the memory that has come down to us is of John Lennon the iconoclast, John Lennon the hippie dissident, John Lennon the American Che Guevara in affecting beret, –  the John Lennon who rejected materialism, capitalism, religion and all forms of violent conflict – a cynosure for societal self loathing and the patron saint of a culture of complaint.

This form of worship – lets call it Lennonism – has its adherents today  amongst atheists, environmentalists, the moribund Occupy movement, militant black separatists  and global governance advocates.  They have successfully appropriated the image, the voice and the music of John Lennon for the propagation of their own ideologies.

The Sixties are often referred to as a time of  awakening and rebellion – a rejection by youth of the materialism and the encrusted dogmas of the previous generation.  But the vast majority of the music of the era is in fact  celebratory –  full of sunny, hopeful melodies – anticipating a life of bountiful opportunities and progress.  This was not yet a generation possessed of the deep cynicism and self hatred we see among youth today.   Rather, it was  a generation celebrating personal freedom and the enormous achievements of the West in securing such  for millions of its citizens.

John Lennon’s own music in the 1960s, while often introspective, was nevertheless in the very vanguard of this celebration.  He lead the Beatles, for at least the first part of their domination of the 60s music industry, with a wry appreciation of the fact that a boy from a lower middle class background in impoverished Liverpool, had been given the opportunity to rise to unparalleled heights of success and fame.  Western freedom made this possible and Lennon was smart enough to know it even if he never publicly acknowledged its truth.  It clearly shone through his lyrics and his melodies.

The great sadness is that he let his wonder of living in the age of freedom to slip from his consciousness and to  be replaced with attitudes that would  transform him into a cynic.  And the great shame is that rather than being known today as the Beatle who celebrated freedom, he is known as the Beatle who spat upon it.

And that certainly is a cause for mourning on this auspicious day.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

 


An Officer and a Spy : A Review

October 8, 2015

An Officer and a Spy (Robert Harris)

It is now 80 years since the death of Alfred Dreyfus and 120 years since the end of l’affaire which bore his name. When most people think of this tragic episode in fin-de-siècle France they usually conjure, not images of the defenestrated Jewish officer who became a scapegoat for the French military’s intelligence lapses, but rather of an Austrian journalist covering the trial, who, sickened by the anti-semitic tauntings of the Parisian crowds, soon became the founder of the national political movement known as Zionism.

But Theodor Herzl, as romantic and fascinating a lead character as he might have suggested, does not appear at all in Robert Harris’ latest work An Officer and a Spy, his fictional account of the Dreyfus Affair.  In fact, the tornado of antisemitism, which tore through France and  swirled around Dreyfus and his two trials in the late 1890s, barely plays any role at all.  While there are gratuitous references to mobs screaming “Death to the Jews” and “Kill the Jew Traitor” and deprecatory references by the French High Command to the hated “Jew” Dreyfus, this appears as little more than background noise in the propulsive narrative and not a central focus.

By and large the antisemitism of the age is less a concern for the novelist than is the character of his central protagonist, Colonel Georges Picquart.

Picquart, who became the effective head of  French Intelligence in the wake of the first Dreyfus trial is the novel’s first person narrator and central character.  His counter-espionage investigations reveal that Dreyfus was wrongly convicted and that the real spy, who had delivered military secrets to the  German General Staff in 1894, was a French major, desperate for cash and low on loyalty. But the French High Command had pinned its flags to the Dreyfus mast and so they decided to dig in. Picquart was quickly quarantined and then sent on pointless intelligence gathering missions to the south of France and then onward to Tunisia where he wasted away for months in a lonely frontier outpost while the High Command conspired to send him on suicide missions into North Africa’s deserts.

Picquart retaliated by becoming one of the first of modern whistle blowers and through his lawyer would inform both the French intelligentsia as well as the radical  left of the scandal, both of whom would seize upon the cover- up to draw attention to the corruption of the Nationalists in the French parliament.  The roar of outrage grew into a crescendo when novelist Emile Zola published his famous front page essay, J’accuse which  would not only directly name the individual French generals responsible for the miscarriage of justice, but would land Zola himself in a heap of trouble as the libel suits poured in.

Throughout the languidly paced novel, which revolves largely around the sensational trials of the period, we meet some handsomely drawn characters: the florid Major Hubert- Joseph Henry, Picquart’s second- in-command, who plays a central role in the attempt to frame Dreyfus;  The calculating and politically ambitious General Auguste Mercier, French Minister of War, who leads the cover up and never ceases, until the day he dies, to express his belief in Dreyfus’ guilt; Pauline Monnier, Picquart’s long time mistress, who gets caught up in the scandal and almost loses her family as a result and Fernand Labori, attorney to Zola, Picquart and Dreyfus, who just avoids death from an assassin’s bullet.

In the epicenter of this tumult is, of course, the character of Alfred Dreyfus himself , whose ordeals on Devil’s Island, off the coast of Guyana in South America are recounted through the verbatim correspondence ( often sequestered by French Intelligence and not always delivered to their intended address) between the incarcerated prisoner and his wife, over a period of four years.  His words describe a hell hole where the prisoner endures endless privation and restrictions and which might have driven a less stoic and courageous man to suicide.

But Dreyfus’ self-belief and his perfervid conviction that French justice would ultimately prevail, were enough to prevent his collapse into depression or send him into a death spiral.  He survives to be vindicated and restored to his former command.

The story is in many ways a narrative tour de force, and although ponderous at times,  still drives the reader hungrily onward  with the  question of what will become of both Picquart and Dreyfus, whose fates become curiously intertwined.

Still, well acquainted with the history of the time, I come back to the many pages left inexplicably blank in the book, pages that could well have been filled in with descriptions of the rancor and hatred on the street for Jews , investigating the breadth of its hold on the French imagination and how such antagonism could not only survive, but flourish in so-called enlightened 19th Century France.

Alas, you will not find much of this in An Officer and a Spy.

For a real grasp  of that animus we need to look beyond Harris and refer to the words of Emile Zola himself, written in 1896, even before the full impact of the Dreyfus trials would steamroll France,  foreshadowing some of the horrors of the approaching century:

” For several years I have followed, with growing surprise and revulsion, the campaign against Jews in France. I see it as a monstrosity, by which  I mean something outside the pale of common sense, of truth and justice, a blind, fatuous thing that would push us back centuries, a thing that would lead to the worst abominations, religious persecutions with blood shed over all countries.”

It stupefied him that that such fanaticism should have erupted:

” In our age of democracy, of universal tolerance , when the movement everywhere is toward equality, fraternity and justice, we are at the point of effacing boundaries, of dreaming the community of all peoples, of holding religious congresses where priests of every persuasion embrace, of feeling that common hardship unites us in brotherhood. And a bunch of madmen, of imbeciles of knaves, has chosen this moment  to shout at us: ‘Let’s kill the Jews, lets devour them, lets massacre, lets exterminate, lets bring back stakes and dragonnades.’

 

LITERATURA Y MÚSICA: Émile Zola

 

Zola, in these words, was painting a picture of a civilization which beneath its veneer of elegance, élan and openness was sick to its core. This is a characterization only hinted at in Harris’ novel  – and a sorely missed opportunity it is.

Nevertheless, An Officer and a Spy leaves a nerve tingling sense of how even the most sophisticated and accomplished of civilizations can verge on collapse when a maniacal hatred of the other obtains a grip on its consciousness and then tips it off kilter.

In our present day and age one might  refer to any number of parallel political climates where conformity of views is demanded and dissent systematically persecuted.  Certainly our College campuses, particularly in regard to it raging anti-Zionism ofer a compelling analogy to  intolerant, hypocritical 19th Century France.  The  re-emergence of rampant antisemitism in Europe, driven by Muslim fanaticism and yet unimpeded by enlightened European opinion and activism, is a cause for extreme concern.

But we might also compare the case of”climate skeptics” – those individuals who voice doubts or present scientific data which contradict claims of anthropogenic global warming and are vilified, ridiculed and howled down as “deniers” and “traitors” by academics, the press and even political leaders.

Thus when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island seriously suggests that climate skeptics should be subject to criminal indictment or when the New York Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan proclaims that the NYT may well begin referring, as her paper’s policy, to climate contrarians as “deniers,” we might all begin to hear the echo of those Parisian streets of 130 years ago and shudder with the possible consequences.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


A Yom Kippur Meditation

September 23, 2015

by Avi Davis

Yom Kipur, Jerusalem. The entire country enveloped in preparations for the day. The pilot and the stewards on the El Al flight, all secular, wish us ‘ chatimah tova’ (the Hebrew short hand for the blessing to be inscribed in the Book of Life) as we descend the gangway; same for the customs officials, the airport security officials and the taxi driver. Jerusalem is already awash in a sea of white – white shirts, white dresses, white shrouds – hours before the onset of the Festival. Zion Square, the throbbing heart of the city, looks like one of those mid-western towns in the U.S. through which a tumbleweed might occasionally blow. Except for the sporadic police car, it is eerily silent.

When the public siren sounds at 6:00 pm, signaling the onset of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the entire country seems to clank to a halt. And as I contemplate the awe that Yom Kipur inspires in the people of Israel – religious and secular alike, my mind is drawn back 42 years ago to the same day when all the young men were forced to leave their families, homes and synagogues and join their battalions in the Sinai Desert and Golan Heights to confront a surprise attack by the country’s enemies. Many would not return. Today, among those soldiers, would be four of my Israeli nephews.

In this part of the world there is a thin line between life and death, peace and war. The prayers on Yom Kipur itself make this clear – who will live and who will die, who will succeed and who will fail? – none of which is known and without exception we all walk the same tightrope. But here, in this country and in this city, that balance seems particularly poignant and relevant. To contemplate our good fortune, to think about our near misses, to give thanks for our fruitful year of life and to dare to hope and pray for another, makes fasting for 25 hours an utterly minor inconvenience – and almost a privilege. May we all merit, through repentance and forgiveness, the gift of life; may we all continue to long for peace, even as we know we must prepare for war; and may we all learn, as one of the central prayers on Yom Kipur implores us, the love of kindness, the elevation of righteousness, the kindling of compassion and the true blessings of life bestowed upon us by G’d.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


Ann Coulter’s Helpful Gaffe

September 21, 2015

by Avi Davis

I have never been a big Ann Coulter fan. It has always appeared to me that her penchant for stirring political acrimony by name calling and ridicule was merely an attempt to mirror the same liberal tactic which so often offends conservatives. Maybe many among us welcomed the unbridled fury she unleashed against our liberal dominated institutions; but for me, her brand of populist rhetoric sank us into the same mire as our adversaries – reducing the debate to a mere game of mud slinging rather than a true struggle over ideas

So now we come to the high water mark of Coulterism: in a tweet during the second GOP Debate, she used an expletive to describe the candidates’ obsession with Israel, qua Jews. Immediately following and in the four days thereafter, her tweet unleashed a barrage of criticism from both the left and right, whose memberships now recognize that within our ranks lurk Buchananites whose support for Israel can never be taken for granted and to whom we must be wary lest we witness a recrudescence of the kind of isolationism which always brings with it the stench of antisemitism.

Coulter has spent a great deal of time trying to back pedal on her tweet but it hasn’t made much difference. The underlying animus remains and there is little chance for her now to disguise it.

But lets forget Coulter for the time being and answer her question:

Why is it that Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and most of the other candidates ( Rand Paul perhaps excluded) made and  make such a big fuss about Israel, mentioning the defense of Israel almost in the same breath as the defense of the United States?

Perhaps it could be characterized as mere pandering to the heavy Jewish vote in their constituencies -those whom they believe might be disenchanted with the anti- Israel tilt of the Obama Administration and are looking for a realignment.   Or perhaps it has something to do with some of their rich Jewish backers – such as Sheldon Adelson – who can help prop up sagging campaigns.

Actually, neither of these explanations are either true nor accurate. Every one of these candidates has been on record for years expressing unconditional support for the State of Israel and its security needs – and it is for one glaringly simple reason: they believe Israel’s security vouchsafes the United States’ security. Making that connection may not be so patently obvious given the geographical distance between the two countries. But it is abundantly clear to anyone who has heard jihadist rantings in mosques from Oslo to Riyadh – the two countries are regarded as the hydra headed monster whose joint destruction is essential to paving the way for the re-emergence of the Caliphate.

Big Satan and Little Satan – there is really no difference in the minds of America’s enemies – except perhaps in determining which one should be eliminated first. Given this fact, it is perfectly sensible and reasonable to make common cause with an ally who is really on the front lines of the defense of what are essentially American values and whose military and intelligence services stand resolutely in support of U.S national security needs.

So, please, give Ann Coulter her due. She raised an important question that now has been resoundingly answered. And perhaps never again in this campaign will the issue of why we give support to Israel or why we give such untoward attention to Jewish interests, will be asked again. Those interests are clearly American interests and what a great relief to find that that these formidable Republican candidates almost to a man (and now a woman) understand it.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

 


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