Calling terrorism ‘terrorism’

If you missed out on President Barack Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism summit held in Washington this week, then you missed as Obama put on a star-studded show devoted solely to addressing terrorism, during which nearly everyone involved avoided using the word terrorism. The same president who reacts to increasingly common incidents of Islam-addled serial killers by claiming Islam is their real victim staged what amounted to a three-day photo op. The same sort of people who swear that so-called “global warming” is an actual thing purported to offer solutions to terrorism while only mentioning terrorism in passing. Indeed, Obama put everyone through quite the rhetorical gymnastics routine to avoid connecting Islam to the thousands upon thousands of murders committed in the name of Islam. I’m left wondering if the world’s Christians should apologize for allowing some of their adherents to throw themselves neck-first onto ISIS’s machetes.

At one point during Wednesday’s festivities, the president of the United States suggested the rest of the world owed terrorists — ahem, “violent extremists” — a chance to air their “legitimate grievances.” Far be it for me to presume upon his Esteemed Presidential Nobel Prize-winning-ness, but whether they travel under the banner of the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Islamic State, Boko Haram or “Muhammad’s Angels,” the people behind terrorist attacks from New York to London to Paris to Sydney — and most points in between — have only one grievance: You’re not Muslim. Imagine how well that discussion would go. “Chillax, Mahmoud. Put down the AK and rap with me, bro.”

Of course, Obama has had no problem citing religion when Muslims were the victims, even if their religion had nothing to do with the crime. Obama has been so quick to suggest religious hatred was a motive for incidents like the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, shootings that I was surprised he didn’t invoke his oft-cited imaginary son. Meanwhile, virtually every instance of Islamic terrorism comes with the Obama-approved disclaimer that the perpetrators’ religion is inconsequential; and besides, “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” It never occurs to deep thinkers like Obama that anyone whose “prophet” is so thin-skinned that he’s still pushing bloody jihad 15 centuries after he got it started is probably in need of some serious self-examination — just as it never occurs to deep thinkers like Obama that treating Muslims as if they all suffer from a religion-wide lack of compunction presumes that they all suffer from a religion-wide lack of compunction. In doing so, Obama and his cohorts are acting as if Muslims are a separate species, while simultaneously decrying anyone who so much as looks askance at the guy with the “Sharia4Life” T-shirt.

Obama had his shills working overtime to prepare the world for his conference on the subject-that-shall-not-be-named. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf — possibly in an effort to dissuade Americans from noticing her boss’s foreign policy is more confused than Joe Biden on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” — suggested Tuesday that the cure for what ails the Muslim world is a steady paycheck. “[W]e can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people,” Harf said. In floating that rhetorical air biscuit, she managed to stink MSNBC’s Chris Matthews out of his usual leg-tingling reverie. That’s the ticket: If we can get every Tawiz, Da’hrir and Hakim a gig flipping goatburgers at the Halal Hut, they’re sure to cut back on the infidel-slaughterin’. Besides, look how well close-to-full employment worked out for Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder stopped the world’s longest retirement party to suggest islamofascism is just a figment of Fox News hype. “If Fox didn’t talk about this, they would have nothing else to talk about, it seems to me.” I wonder if Mr. Fast ’n’ Furious would prefer Fox look into Holder’s gun-running operations.

Yet the terrorists behind the attacks aren’t knocking over armored cars or jewelry stores; they’re booking one-way trips to the wrong side of the lawn. You can’t placate a religiously enraged enemy with a job fair; and a jihadi isn’t likely to trade in his suicide vest for a steady 9-to-5, whether the gig requires a paper hat or a pinstripe suit. Furthermore, Obama-by-Harf’s suggestion that poverty breeds islamofascist terrorism is belied by the teeming hordes of grossly impoverished people from deepest Africa to deepest Detroit who manage to get through each day without firing so much as single RPG at an infidel.

Obama did make a special effort to soothe the jangled nerves of Muslim-Americans, suggesting outreach to their communities would increase the likelihood that they would cooperate with law enforcement. He did not note the fact that access to all the fruits of American liberty has yet to inspire such community-mindedness. Nor did he note that the largest Muslim-American group in the nation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has definitive ties to known terrorist organizations. At least he didn’t work in any of his “bitter clinger” material, or throw out one of those “conservatives/Tea Partiers/the NRA are the ‘American Taliban’” lines his minions find so enormously inspiring.

If you’re curious to see a conference about terrorism in which everyone spends more time trying to figure out what to call it than what to do about it, then I’m sure you can catch the tail end of the show. But I expect you have better things to do than watch the same people who can’t bring themselves to call terrorism “terrorism” avoid reality.

The reality — whether we call it “islamofascism,” “violent extremism” or “cotton candy rainbows” — is that Islam is the thread that unites the overwhelming majority of terrorists and terrorism plaguing the world. While the suggestion that all — or even most — Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers is ludicrous, the suggestion that most terrorists are Muslims is entirely accurate. But while violent elements do exist within America’s borders, they generally represent no greater community than their fellow gang members or the voices in their heads. The reality is that the dominant form of terrorism is inspired by Islam — whether a perversion thereof or not — and has its spiritual, physical and financial roots in the countries in which Islam dominates society. The reality is that in the countries in which society is dominated by Islam, the governments — many of which profess to be our allies — often lack the resources and/or the will to combat islamofascism at its spiritual, physical and financial roots. The reality — seldom though it might ever intrude on such paragons of foreign policy expertise as our esteemed Nobel Peace Prize-winning president — is that the solution to terrorism is obvious.

We all know where the weeds are in the garden. The people in that area need to turn the Terrorism-B-Gone on them full blast and stop forcing the rest of the world to waste time and money on three-day babblefests that ignore the central issue. Moreover, since the price of exterminating these vermin is staggeringly, brutally high, it’s about bloody time the Muslim world stop expecting the rest of the world to foot the bill. It’s worth noting that some fairly unlikely participants are waking up to this reality. In the wake of recent ISIS acts of terrorism, Jordan and Egypt have thrown serious ordnance at ISIS cells. Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi don’t seem to have any trouble figuring out who and where the terrorists are; they even call them “terrorists.” And they didn’t need a three-day seminar to figure it out.

–Ben Crystal

The sad story of Jackie Robinson West

The old sage told us: “Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.” Of course, the old sage was a sap. People cheat, and they often win as a result. Look at pretty much any Democrat since President Jefferson got Sally Hemings in “the family way.” Look at any election involving ACORN or a Kennedy. Look at Hillary Clinton’s bank account. Hell, look at BILL Clinton’s bank account.

It hardly gets better outside the Beltway. Consider the New England Patriots, Tiger Woods and a stream of baseball players dating back to well before Kenesaw Mountain Landis dropped the hammer on Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 White Sox. Forget baseball. Lying, cheating and stealing are the real national pastimes.

All things being equal, the punishment handed down by Little League International to the Jackie Robinson West team caught using ineligible players might seem a bit draconian. After all, the kids didn’t game the district lines in order to bring in “ringers.” The kids didn’t ride those ringers to a monster 2014. The kids didn’t cheat; their adult coaches did. Why punish the kids when it’s the coaches who threw the proverbial spitball, right?

Wrong. And let’s not even get caught in a rundown over the fact that the Jackie Robinson West players were well aware that they didn’t ride the school bus with some of their teammates — and in some cases had never met them before. The Jackie Robinson West players are 11- to 13-year-olds, not infants. Treating them as if they’re stupid is disrespectful and, given their ethnicity, racist.

And criticism of Little League Baseball misses the strike zone by a mile. The residency requirements exist for a reason, just as all the rules of the game do. You doctor the ball; you get tossed. You cork your bat; you get tossed. You take the field with ineligible players; you get tossed. Excusing players from one rule suggests they can skate on the others. Excusing them because they’re black is gross bigotry. The Jackie Robinson West scandal, therefore, bears no parallel to the Penn State scandal of 2011, in which an entire program’s worth of innocent young men — many of whom were black — were punished for crimes committed when they were children by someone they didn’t really know.

Of course, I do feel badly for the kids. After all, they’re 11-, 12- and 13-year-old Little League Baseball players who have now been publicly tarred and feathered for blatantly violating the rules of the game — both letter and spirit. Their 2014 national championship title and all their victories have been vacated. Cheating didn’t just cost them their victories; it cost them their entire 2014 baseball existence. According to Little League Baseball, it’s as if they never played any of those games. Sure, they’ll still get to look back at the reams of images and video clips of their run to the Little League World Series championship, which they ultimately lost to a bunch of South Korean kids who didn’t cheat; but they’ll never be able to remove the asterisks next to their names.

The lesson they’ve learned is twofold: “Cheaters never win” and “if your coaches are cheating and you play along, you’re also cheating.” It’s a variation of the rules about criminals and their willing accomplices; if you drove the getaway car, you also robbed the bank. In cheating to win, they’ve debased not only baseball but themselves, their friends, their fans and their families. And victory isn’t worth their honor. At least, that’s the lesson they should have learned.

In reality, they’ve learned nothing of the sort. They’re the victims, you see. And that appropriated victimization worries me.

It worries me that people are making Jackie Robinson West out to be victims. It worries me because a group of kids who have already begun following the wrong people down the wrong path are being told that cheating is acceptable as long as you win and as long as the right people are cool with it. It worries me because this is becoming a nation in which politicians prove on a nearly daily basis that being corrupt — or even outright criminal — is considered acceptable as long as you win and as long as the right people are cool with it. It worries me because America, which was actually less venal when Jerry Springer was still on air, is only one or two race and/or sex scandals away from being worse than the people Springer considers too weird for TV. I worry because we are systematically breeding basic decency out of our population.

Don’t take this as some maudlin “these kids today” rant. These kids today are led by their hip little noses by these adults today. Kids today are neither more nor less likely to find trouble than kids last year, last decade or last generation. Their music, their clothes and their culture are neither more nor less ridiculous than their predecessors’, no matter what Ol’ Man McGrumpypants might say after telling those damned kids to get the hell off his lawn. However, these kids today are the first generation in American history to be openly encouraged to disgrace, defile and demean themselves, no matter what the prize. We’ve gone from “cheaters never win; winners never cheat” to “cheaters shouldn’t win; winners shouldn’t cheat” to “Cheat. Win. Get your own reality TV show.”

These kids today, from Jackie Robinson West to Mario Mendoza South, are being taught “don’t be Jackie Robinson; be Barry Bonds.” By the way, congratulations to the kids from Mountain Ridge Las Vegas. They won the 2014 Little League World Series U.S. championship, fair and square.

–Ben Crystal

A light against the Islamic State darkness

I haven’t watched the video of Islamic State terrorists setting a captured Jordanian pilot ablaze and then doing their ululating victory dance while the poor guy burns. Unlike President Barack Obama and his accomplices, I’m well aware of who the Islamic State is. I need no further reminders of the brutality the terrorists openly hope to inflict upon every human being on the planet. Make no mistake about it: Given enough rope, the Islamic State would gladly hang every one of us, presumably after the requisite shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” and requisite period of torture that makes waterboarding look like a day at Splashdown Mountain. In the islamofascist worldview, only islamofascists are allowed to view the world. There is no room in their blackened souls for humanity, and their behavior — from the Taliban to the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Hamas — leaves little doubt.

And, yes, I am deliberately omitting the Islamic State from the human roster. In the days since the Islamic State shared its barbarism with the world, I’ve seen no shortage of people struggling to put Islamic State-style savagery into words. Most observers seem to gravitate toward calling them some variation of “animals.” I actually think that’s unfair … to animals. Animals don’t behave the way the Islamic State does; not even the most vicious predators are so cruel. Baloo the Bear doesn’t dine on deer because his imam declared jihad on ruminants. Tony the Tiger doesn’t run down a wild boar because Sharia requires him to exterminate the porcine apostates. Even your house cat doesn’t play with the mouse out of any personal or religious animus. They’re all animals, and they’re all driven by basic biological urges. Islamic State terrorists deserve no such defense. Their bloodlust is the product of a conscious choice. The sort of people who would not only burn a man alive but turn the horror into a macabre pep rally are, by virtue of being intellectually superior to our furry friends, actually inferior for the same reason. They’re not animals; they’re subhuman.

An examination of the Islamic State and its deeds would send even the stoutest-hearted among us seeking affirmation. And I found it in the unlikeliest of places: a criminal courtroom. A good friend of mine is also one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the city of Savannah, Georgia. And he related to me a true story that, although it could never undo crimes like those of the Islamic State, certainly ought to remind us that we might be worth saving after all.

Late last week, a deeply disturbed young man faced sentencing for a series of robberies and sexual assaults against women, some of whom were elderly. His crimes were unspeakably vile; yet, as my friend recounted, a glimmer of humanity shone through the courtroom. After what my friend considered a sincere display of remorse, one woman, one of the man’s victims, rose in the courtroom and faced the man who had taken from her everything but her life. And she forgave him.

The attacker will spend the rest of his life in prison, with parole a possibility only after his 78th birthday. I don’t know what will become of the victim. I am humbled by her grace. She possesses strength of character to which I can merely aspire. The man stole everything from her but her life. Yet not only did she forgive him, but she made a point of doing so publicly. She endured her darkest hour, inflicted upon her by force beyond her control, and chose to turn immediately to face the light.

It’s a seemingly impossible juxtaposition. The gulf between that magnificent woman and the man upon whom she bestowed her nearly divine compassion is nearly as wide as the canyon that separates an Islamic State camp from Eden. But she bridged it effortlessly — an act I must admit is probably beyond my meager talents. I doubt I could be so magnanimous. But I would rather be that woman than some bomb-heaving Islamic State lunatic. So I will endeavor to try, as should we all.

We stand at a fork in the road of history. To the left lies the path of rage and bloodshed — a path gleefully followed by the Islamic State, the Taliban and the subhuman cancer of islamofascism. To the right lies the path of dignity and peace — a path followed by the best of us. I wish I could claim to have chosen the right path every time. It’s the divine path, lit by the countenance of God Himself. I’ll likely never meet the woman who forgave a brutal criminal in a Savannah courtroom last week. But she stood against a backdrop of impossible cruelty and showed us all the way. I hope to follow her. We all should.

–Ben Crystal

Gearing up for 2016

At last weekend’s Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Citizens United played host to pretty much everyone who’s anyone on the Republican scene. Under normal circumstances, if you’ve been to one of these political gas leaks, you’ve been to most of them. However, in light of the Democrats’ current death spiral, the Iowa Freedom Summit represented anything but normal circumstances.

As the Democrats, led by an increasingly punch-drunk President Barack Obama, wobble toward 2016, anytime more than a few conservative notables get within a few feet of each other, it’s possible the next president of the United States is in the room. Moreover, it’s a chance for the political prognosticators to put on our swami hats and peer into the — God, forgive me — “Crystal” ball.

Not everyone who headlined the IFS is — or even plans to be — a presidential contender. And not every presidential contender attended the IFS. Most importantly, not everyone who has expressed interest in running is — in my estimation — a serious contender (Sit down, Mr. Trump). With that in mind, here are our contestants.

The all-stars

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Walker didn’t come to Iowa as quite the dark horse he so clearly wants everyone to consider him. Despite his high ranking on the liberals’ hit list, he’s far from the most conservative dog in the ring. However, he did send Big Labor’s best goon squads yelping back behind their masters’ legs, repeatedly. And he delivered a showstopper at the IFS, which moved King to suggest Walker “won” the event.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas: King suggested Walker should share the title with the Lone Star State’s junior senator. Cruz’s publicity flacks may well be the best in the business. He’s enormously high-profile — and, subsequently, he’s an enormously high-profile contender. Yet he somehow manages to surprise everyone every time he blows the roof off the place. Given his meteoric rise in influence in the Senate, it’s possible the left has the lapdog media so busy hitting him for his everyday activities that they aren’t really looking ahead. They should be careful. If you punch yourself out early, you’re in real trouble against a fighter with a strong chin.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: I work for Personal Liberty Digest™, not the Republican Party. Therefore, I’m allowed to say the following: I know; I know. He’s a fun guy. He “slow jams the news” with Jimmy Fallon. He does cameos on “Saturday Night Live.” He kicks back with Jerry Jones in the owner’s box at Dallas Cowboys games. I like a guy who can make fun of himself. It tells me he has a fairly healthy self-image. I don’t like a president who supports so-called “gun control,” doesn’t consider illegal aliens illegal and believes in so-called “global warming.” When I look at Chris Christie, I see secretary of Health and Human Services, possibly secretary of being the super-duper coolest guy in the GOP.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: After Mitt Romney, Perry is the most polished. His credentials are economically sound; he’s solid on core issues like abortion and border security. When the Democrats tried to torpedo him with their bizarre indictment stunt, he turned them into national punchlines. And should he run, he opens with Texas’s 38 electoral votes in his pocket.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky: I’m stepping out on a limb with the following statement: If Rand Paul doesn’t run in 2016, his window will close. On paper, he’s the guy the GOP needs. In practice, he’s played patty-cake with the Democrats an awful lot. Note to Sen. Paul: Photo ops with Sens. Ben Cardin, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker are one thing; photo ops with disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder and race-pimp Al Sharpton are quite another. Paul’s libertarian sensibilities are attractive. His willingness to share them with enemies of the species is less so.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Romney 2008: “Let’s run for president!” Romney 2012: “That didn’t work; let’s run for president again!” Romney 2016: “That didn’t work. Let’s run for president again!” Stop. Just, stop. William Jennings Bryan was a respected politician. Then it got weird. Don’t be like William Jennings Bryan.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: Is it his turn already? I thought it was supposed to go “Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, Bush,” not “Bush, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Clinton.” They better straighten this out before George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton arrive.

Girl power

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst: Ernst bragged about castrating a pig, which was almost as awesome as the Democrats’ pearl-clutching responses. She’s rough, she’s tough and she takes exactly zero crap from sanctimonious liberal hypocrites. She’s also a few credit hours short of a degree in basic public speaking. That response to the State of the Union wasn’t quite the disaster the Democrats would have you believe. But it was no “Morning in America.” It wasn’t even midafternoon in Des Moines.

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina: She’s a smart, capable and highly successful person with an established record in the private sector. She did lose a Senate run against Barbara Boxer, but that was in California. By reckoning, disapproval by Californistan voters isn’t exactly a disqualification. She’s also a woman, which means a potential candidacy would open her up to that special vitriol liberals reserve for members of the fairer sex who stray too far from the stove. I’m not certain she’s ready for it.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: I have no idea if Palin is planning a run. I suppose I could look it up, but that would require me to make an effort to learn what we all already know: Palin will never be elected president of the United States. Don’t get me wrong. I like Palin. I like her refusal to back down from her stances. I like how she causes Democrats to go into some kind of seizure if they even hear her name. I like how she can drop a moving coyote from a moving helicopter. I like that she isn’t particularly hard on the eyes. And I like that she wouldn’t freak out and call me a sexist for noticing. But she is electoral kryptonite. The Democrats would mobilize all the troops George Soros could buy to stop her campaign. And, unfortunately, she took the stage in Iowa and… wandered into the sunset. Her speech was described as “rambling.” Her speech was described using some other terms, but “rambling” was probably the nicest one.

The God squad

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee is one seriously earnest cat. There is no doubt that Huckabee believes every word he says. You have to admire a man of principle. But the chances of Huckabee winning a presidential election lie somewhere between “low” and “didn’t he used to be on TV?” In 1996, America elected President Bill Clinton knowing he was creepier than that guy who hangs out around the high school two years after graduation. Unfortunately, spirituality is not an acceptable aspect of a candidate’s platform, unless she’s Muslim.

Rick Santorum: Santorum vies with Huckabee for the “family values” voters. He’s stacking the box in Iowa, presumably thinking a big push will pay off with a win in next year’s Iowa caucuses. It might. Santorum also won top Iowa honors in 2012 (he tied with Mitt Romney). However, the Iowa caucuses have been held since 1976. In that time, the number of non-incumbent Republicans who’ve won them and gone on to win the GOP nomination is just one: George W. Bush in 2000.

The wild card

Ben Carson, M.D.: I had some concerns about Carson, mostly relating to some past statements he made about so-called “gun control.” His views on the topic appear to have “evolved.” He could be lying, a Manchurian candidate who secretly plans to wage open war on the Bill of Rights his first day in office. But I somehow doubt someone under mind control would be an effective gift-wrapper, much less world-renowned neurosurgeon. Also, his very existence gives liberals hives; and you just can’t underrate that kind of talent.

The pack

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida: One word sums up Rubio’s current image: amnesty.

Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina: He’s not even the best senator from his own state. Maybe if he played second fiddle to Sen. Tim Scott. Scott/Graham 2016? Probably not.

Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Mike Pence of Indiana and John Kasich of Ohio: It’s early to count anyone out, but the vice president slot looks like a better fit for these guys. Of the lot, Jindal might have the best chance to break out.

Ambassador John Bolton: Secretary of State or Defense. Not a presidential contender.

A caveat

It’s January 2015; 22 months lie between now and the next presidential election. Think back to early 1991. President George H.W. Bush was only slightly less popular than free beer. Future President Bill Clinton was just a fat, creepy pervert from Arkansas with a seriously pissed-off looking wife. So I might end up being more wrong than a Philadelphia weatherman. But no one misses work when I’m wrong.

–Ben Crystal

 

Updated to correct an error stating two non-incumbents had won Iowa and then been elected President. Gerald Ford was an incumbent when  he won Iowa and he was not elected President.

The liberals’ ‘heroes’

I seldom pay much attention the supermarket tabloids. It’s not that I’m not interested in Oprah Winfrey’s secret plan to splice Bat Boy’s DNA with space aliens to create a body double that will take over the world. It’s just that I figure that I have little chance of surviving the coming Oprah-Bat Boy-alien war, and I’m wondering if whatever I forgot is close enough for me to make a mad dash to aisle 2 and back without infuriating the guy behind me in line. It’s not that I don’t want to see the latest pictures of Kim and Kanye West’s baby; it’s just that I’m trying to figure out if I have enough beer for the week. And It’s not that I don’t care what Pitbull said to T.I. at the annual Hip-Hop Awards “ho-down” (and they do mean “ho”). Actually, I’ll admit it: I don’t care what Pitbull said to T.I.

However, one of the fashion glossies caught my eye during a recent trip to the grocery store. Just to the right of the candy bars, batteries and mini-containers of hand sanitizer was the latest edition of Elle. Staring back at me from the cover, with what I’m guessing was either smoldering sensuality or gastrointestinal discomfort, was the reputed face of modern liberal feminism, Lena Dunham. Once I shook off the surprise of learning that Elle is still a thing, I realized I was looking at the ultimate demise of actual women’s rights — and a perfect example of why the Democrats not only took a beating last fall, but are likely to take another one in 2016.

Dunham is famous, a consequence of critical adoration of her HBO series “Girls.” She’s politically influential, thanks to the creepy-to-everyone-except-Democrats “First Time” video extolling the virtues of now-President Barack Obama. And she’s a magazine cover model because — well — she’s famous and politically influential. But she’s also the same person who not only falsely accused an innocent man of rape in order to push book sales, but admitted in that book that she molested her own sister. Full disclosure: I watched an episode of Dunham’s acclaimed show. It reminded me of a bush-league “Seinfeld.” Nearly every character is more a collection of neuroses than an actual human; and despite its New York City setting, black people are either invisible or plot devices. She’s a liar. She’s a slanderer. If her show is anything to go by, she’s a racist. And — and I don’t think this can be overstated — she’s a child molester. But because she’s an outspoken liberal, she’s a hero.

And Dunham is not alone in the pantheon of liberal demigods and demigoddesses. Obese war profiteer Michael Moore managed to squeeze his considerable bulk back into the spotlight recently. According to Moore, the Chris Kyle biopic “American Sniper” lionizes “cowards.” Moore, who piled up a reported $50 million by vilifying excessive wealth and who enjoys first-rate American healthcare by vilifying American healthcare, has never been closer to combat than the occasional scramble for the last bear claw. It’s bad enough that Moore thought it was possible to burnish his own reputation by insulting men like Kyle. It’s far worse that Moore thought it was necessary to do so. It’s absolutely appalling that anyone took him seriously. But because he’s an outspoken liberal, he’s a hero.

Of course, Dunham and Moore are merely avatars of a much larger collection of freaks, weirdos and creeps who would likely be shunned by society were it not for the fact that their politics list drastically to the port side. Al Franken, who headed the writing staff of “Saturday Night Live” during the very lean post-Eddie Murphy days, is now a U.S. Senator. Gwyneth Paltrow, who once unfavorably compared “cheese from a can” to smoking crack, recently hosted Obama at a first-class fiesta. The Oscar-winning actress said: “It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass.” Jay-Z and Beyonce are virtual royalty. Sen. Elizabeth Warren considers her ancestors’ cheekbones sufficient proof of her Native American roots. Hillary Clinton is planning to run for president on the “I dodged imaginary sniper fire, but what difference does it make?” ticket. The Rev. Al Sharpton is practically the co-president.

Behind the famous faces are the big-money heavyweights. These are the new world order types who flocked to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum. They required an air force of private jets to congregate with their super-wealthy pals. Once in Davos, they were treated to another ridiculous slide show about so-called “global warming” by former Vice President Al Gore. Already wealthy by virtue of his family’s tobacco farming, Gore is awash in dough. In fact, his biggest score was the sale of his failed “Current TV” cable network to Al Jazeera. Gore used Current to push his pet science-fiction project. Al Jazeera is owned by the House of Thani. In case that rings no bells, the House of Thani is the royal family of Qatar. Mr. Global Warming sold Global Warming TV to Big Oil.

And then there’s former President Bill Clinton, who has somehow managed to avoid being mentioned on the sex offender registries despite fighting a personal war on women since the days when global warming was known as global cooling. Yet new reports on the Virgin Islands estate of Democrat sugar daddy Jeffrey Epstein indicate Clinton was not only a friend of the disgraced billionaire, he hitched a ride on Epstein’s private 727 to what the media are now calling “Sex Fiend Island.” I’ll leave the goings-on at Epstein’s tropical man cave and massage parlor to your imagination; this is the Personal Liberty Digest™, not HBO.

Yet Clinton remains one of — if not the — most popular Democrats in America. Dunham’s creepy mendacity hasn’t prevented the abortionistas from continuing to sing her praises. Moore’s hypocrisy hasn’t prevented the “America last” crowd from cheering his proclamations. Paltrow’s intellectual vacuity hasn’t prevented Obama from grubbing for cash at her 24-carat, canned cheese-free trough. And as I noted earlier, little needs to be said about Sharpton that isn’t already common knowledge. I understand why the Democrats gravitate toward people of this caliber. They share their values, twisted though they might be. More importantly, they have a lot of money, which they’re willing to share it in return for photo ops, stays in the Lincoln bedroom and/or political influence. The thing is that for all they share in common with people like Obama, they have absolutely nothing in common with the people upon whom they rely for book sales, viewership and the money they need to keep living their lifestyle of the rich and famous. They complain about things like money and influence in politics, while spending enormous sums of money in order to gain influence in politics. They decry the plight of the poor while living like pharoahs. But they’re outspoken liberals, so they’re heroes.

–Ben Crystal

Open mic night at the State of the Union

I despise watching the State of the Union address. The President’s annual command performance is the Super Bowl of speeches. For every epic tilt involving the scrappy underdog New York Giants spiking a previously undefeated New England Patriots with a game-winning drive as time expires, there’s a yawner featuring a Mike Ditka-led Chicago Bears throwing the Patriots off the roof of the stadium. No matter who wins, the winner’s fans will cheer their masterpiece of a victory. Meanwhile, the losers’ fans will blame the conditions, the referees or, in the case of the Patriots’ victims in their three victories, deliberately underinflated footballs. Likewise, no matter how well the president follows the teleprompter, his supporters will declare the speech a feat of Ciceronian quality, while his detractors will proclaim it the worst thing they’ve endured since their last visit to the doctor’s office.

Actually, that’s unfair, albeit not to the Patriots. Even blowouts usually sport someone putting on a show for the ages. In fact, the State of the Union is really the Super Bowl halftime show of speeches. Barring a colossal blunder or epic roof-raiser, both productions are largely overproduced, underperformed and forgettable. Sometimes, Prince rocks the house. Sometimes, FDR delivers “The Four Freedoms” (a terrific piece of wordsmithing, politics be damned). But mostly, both productions are merely a brief respite before the two opponents get back to tearing each other to pieces.

The State of the Union is a constitutional requirement. The president of the United States accepts a pro forma invitation from the speaker of the House of Representatives. He shows up in late January. He shakes hands with the party faithful types who set up for aisle space like sci-fi nerds staking out places in line for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie. He then delivers a speech somewhere between “Thank God that’s over” and “Does this guy ever shut up?” President Nixon brought home his 1972 address in just under 29 minutes. In 2000, President Bill Clinton made the nation squirm uncomfortably for an hour longer. Neither speech would make either disgraced chief executive’s top 10 lists, proving only that Nixon was much more efficient about lying on national television.

On the surface, Obama’s sixth edition was as forgettable as most. He laid out the usual partisan platitudes, unfulfillable promises and outright lies — in his case, “women’s health” (aka abortion), “free” community college and some argle-bargle about whatever they’re calling global warming this week. He took credit for things with which he had nothing to do and blamed his own failures on other people. That’s no partisan dig. Obama hardly broke new ground in that department.

But then, well into the speech, Obama spun out. What had until then been a fairly unremarkable parade of applause lines and filler turned into a nasty, hypocritical rant. He crowed about his electoral invulnerability, “I have no more campaigns to run,” with the supposedly ad-libbed suffix, “I won both of them.” The president of the United States, standing in the chamber of the House of Representatives, addressing the nation he serves, decided to test out his skills for improv night at the Ha-Ha Hut — because that’s treating the office of the presidency, and the people by whose assent it exists, with the respect it deserves.

In what will be, barring impeachment, eight years in office, Obama will have countless fundraising dinners, special interest bull sessions and backroom deal-making soirees in which to work through all his best one-liners. And he can make jokes about how much he hates conservatives all evening when he grubs for dough at some Hollywood superstar’s Malibu beach palace. Maybe he could leave the late night audition material for those occasions.

Upon further examination, Tuesday’s effort was actually a new direction, even for Obama. Beyond the sudden “nah-nee, nah-nee, boo-boo” moment, Obama also managed to set marks for new levels of hypocrisy. The same speech that contained his now-infamous “ad-libbed” moment contained a plea for more bipartisan compromise, “I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.” He whined about the endless dialing for dollars of campaign life “constant fundraising” while his wife simultaneously used the speech to dig for ducats and his party followed the speech with an emailed, Obama-signed fundraising plea before the rest of his party could fire a hailstorm of almost shocking misogyny at Republican respondent Sen. Joni Ernst.

He also managed to argue against himself. Mere moments after he lifted his chin over the success sanctions have had in keeping Russia from overrunning huge swaths of Ukrainian territory, he warned congressional Republicans from imposing similar measures against Iran. He railed against armed interventions and then demanded authorization to arm up and intervene in the Mideast. He repeated delusional claims about inroads against islamofascism but avoided acknowledging the existence of islamofascism. He acted as if the newly dropping gas prices — over which he claimed no influence when they hovered near the $4-per-gallon mark — were a product of his will and then yammered about Al Gore’s inconvenient science fiction project, avoiding acknowledging the price-kiting effects of so-called “climate change” measures, the war on America’s coal industry and his party’s stated plan to try to impose new taxes on fuel, thereby raising prices on middle- and lower-class Americans before they get too comfortable with affordable gasoline.

He even made the claim “middle-class economics works.” At best a passable bumper-sticker slogan, it loses adhesion pretty quickly measured against the record numbers of Americans permanently exiled from the workforce, working multiple “McJobs” to stay afloat and looking across a wealth gap that has widened by leaps and bounds as a direct result of his policies. Obama also included a boast about Wall Street’s unprecedented success, an unsubtle elbow in the ribs to the hundreds of millions of Americans who have never seen a bonus check from Goldman Sachs.

Obama’s sixth State of the union was clearly not what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they penned Article 2, Section 3. He’s not the first president to turn the address into a sideshow, and he likely won’t be the last. But he is the first president to turn the address into an opportunity to turn to the opposition — and the majority of the people whom they represent — and smugly flip them the proverbial bird. At some level, I suppose I can understand his motivation. After all, the people just did the same thing to his party and him last November. The difference is, as he’s so fond of reminding us: We’re not the president; he is. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer invited guests refrain from publicly insulting their hosts while standing in their house. Dude, you’re the president. Act like it.

–Ben Crystal

Charlie Hebdo: Is this the end?

Before ululating lunatics murdered a dozen people in and around their offices, the French parody magazine Charlie Hebdo meant as much to me as a tween pop star’s Myspace page. Let’s be honest, kids: Their brand of humor makes Seth Rogen/James Franco stoner comedies read like Aristophanes. There’s more than enough sophomoric yammering to be had in this country to keep me from seeking it out au français.

In fact, Hebdo’s depictions of Muhammad, infuriating to the jihadi set though they might be, pale in comparison to much funnier lampooneries by “South Park” and “Family Guy.” And they barely scratch the surface of offensiveness when compared to some of the treatment faced by the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who have also figured into comedic storylines in the aforementioned animated sitcoms and in many, many others that clock in well down the laugh-o-meter. But being unfunny isn’t a capital crime, not even in France. According to more than a few of you dear readers, I should join the surviving Charlie Hebdo staffers in being glad for that.

If my detractors among Personal Liberty Digest™ readers are right, I might need to cut my celebration short. If presidential spokeshole Josh Earnest is to be believed, the party is already over. As Earnest acknowledged during Monday’s White House press briefing, albeit in mangled verbiage that made me wistful for President Bush’s comparative eloquence, President Barack Obama “will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.” As relayed through the opening in Earnest’s face, Obama’s rationale for future attempts to repress things that get al-Qaida’s keffiyehs in knots lies in his belief that poking fun at Muhammad endangers American service personnel. Far be it for me to enlighten one so wise as Billy Ayers’ best pupil, but if anyone — American soldier or Nigerian ditch-digger — is in danger because Muslims can’t take a joke, the punchline isn’t the problem.

I’m far from the only person who thinks so. None other than HBO comedian and Obama mega donor Bill Maher has noted, “When there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.” By threatening to crack down on Americans’ free expression in order to protect them from Muslim lack of compunction, Obama is pre-emptively blaming the victims for potential acts by the aggressors. Car thieves lack compunction, so maybe we should all drive 2007 Chevy Malibus in “rental fleet white.” Burglars lack compunction, so maybe we should all live in identical homes. Bill Clinton lacks compunction, so maybe we should make all women wear some kind of all-covering garment and submit to genital mutilation.

According to the 1st Amendment, Obama doesn’t have to be shy about expressing himself. Likewise, I neither want nor need Obama’s permission to express myself, even if it offends Obama. Like every other citizen of the United States, Obama is perfectly welcome to come out and admit he thinks my right to mock Muhammad should be subjugated to spare Muhammad’s evidently porcelain-delicate feelings. I, in turn, have the right to tell Obama to get bent. But both of our respective liberties end there. No matter how much it might offend the delicate sensibilities of some Boko Haram, al-Qaida or ISIS serial killer, Obama doesn’t have the right to actually stop me from mocking Muhammad, just as I don’t have the right to actually smack Obama upside his oddly undersized head.

In these enlightened days, we’re not supposed to pronounce our cultures superior to others, even if in cowering from islamofascist rage we’re pronouncing theirs superior to ours. But by any reasonable standard, the human condition in countries that offer actual freedom of expression is vastly superior to the one endured by people in (insert name of Muslim-dominated country here). And if you count yourself among those who think I’m just Bob Livingston’s resident Charlie Hebdo, then don’t take my word for it. Go ask a teenage girl in Nigeria. You might want to step on it. Thanks to the islamofascists in Boko Haram, teenage girls are in increasingly short supply in Nigeria; and the ones who are still around aren’t particularly chatty.

Not only are those who would quash mockery willfully trying to stuff us all in burqas rather than risk offending people whom they simultaneously claim represent a tiny fraction of Islam, they’re also willfully being racist as hell. There are close to 2 billion Muslims on the planet. Their geographic and ethnic range extends across every race and continent. By repressing expression — even the sophomoric, crude and/or offensive-to-Muslims kind — those who seek to blame the victims of islamofascism for being victims of islamofascism are not only suggesting all Muslims are islamofascists, they’re also suggesting Muslims are as much a separate species as a religion. I can’t help but notice the unspoken bigotry that courses through every attempt to censor images that might offend “some” Muslims. The assertion that we all have to watch what we say about Muhammad in front of Muslims carries with it a nasty subtext: Muslims are by nature violently insane and will respond to provocation with insane violence.

In the days since islamofascist psychopaths turned the Charlie Hebdo offices into a shooting gallery, media worldwide have publicly — and strenuously — avoided repeating any of Charlie Hebdo’s behavior. When the Parisian jokesters followed up with an all-new edition that again featured an image of Muhammad, news outlets took advantage of the story — not to rally behind the idea of free expression, but instead to test out their cool new onscreen pixellating software.

As I watched Earnest explain his boss’s increasingly cowardly response to threats from guys who seriously need to work on their senses of humor, I thought: “Obama is so terrified of a 7th century ideology, he’s willing to send us all back in time. This is how it begins.” And then I realized: “Obama is so terrified of a 7th century ideology, he’s demanding we all go back in time; and self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ around the world actually agree with him. This isn’t how it begins. This is how it ends.”

–Ben Crystal

Charlie Hebdo and the innocence of Islam

TNS/Paramedics wheel a victim to an ambulance in Paris after an attack where masked gunmen attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring seven.

Seven billion souls share space on our big blue marble. Of those 7 billion, approximately one-quarter consider themselves to be adherents of Islam. That means about 1.7 billion people think there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.

Taken as a whole, only Christianity outweighs Islam on the global religion scale. However, the world’s Christian population is fractured by theological divisions as narrow as the real estate between the first and third Congregational churches in a New England village, and as wide as the theological canyon between the Vatican and Salt Lake City. Identifying the world’s Christian populations as a single monolithic entity is as ludicrous as expecting the pope to deliver Holy Communion to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

However, Islam experiences far less diversity of interpretation of the divine. Of those 1.7 billion Muslims, between three-fourths and four-fifths are Sunnis, while most of the remainder are Shiites. Furthermore, the nations that consider Islam to be founding governmental principles are wholly dominated by Islamic doctrine.

While the largest officially Christian nation, England, boasts a population of some 55 million people, fewer than 60 percent of our best pals cross the pond consider themselves Christians. And anyone who has observed the queen’s subjects of late knows that the Muslims in that country are punching well above their weight. Meanwhile, the largest officially Muslim nation, Pakistan, boasts a population of nearly 200 million — of whom 96 percent pray five times daily toward Mecca. In fact, the places where Islam officially reigns supreme all feature nearly unanimously Muslim populations.

But, I’m a fair guy. Therefore, I won’t hold the actions of a handful of homicidal lunatics against — say — the 210 million Muslims in Indonesia. They didn’t storm the offices of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo in a coordinated attack that ended the lives of 12 people, including a police officer whose execution was broadcast endlessly around the world. I shouldn’t expect any sort of condemnation from the people of Iran, 99.6 percent of whom are Muslims. They didn’t launch a death strike against the staff of a print comedy troupe. Just because a group of ululating mass murderers turned a parody paper’s offices into a shooting gallery doesn’t mean that the 76 million Muslims who comprise 95 percent of the population of Egypt should proffer condemnation. Just because Muslims in Afghanistan think being a rape victim is a capital offense doesn’t mean they just hosed down a French lampoon with hot lead. Just because Muslims in Somalia think every 9-year-old girl dreams of her very own genital mutilation for her birthday doesn’t mean they sent a dozen innocent people to a violent death. Just because Palestinians danced jigs of joy on 9/11 doesn’t mean they busted out a soft-shoe Wednesday morning.

I certainly shouldn’t bear any ill will toward the Muslims and Muslim-related groups in non-Muslim countries. Anjem Choudary, the fire-breathing, Sharia-preaching, radical islamofascist who leads the U.K.’s growing jihadi movement, wrote in a USA Today op-ed Wednesday evening: “So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?” But he didn’t actually shout, “We have avenged the Prophet,” after mowing down 12 people because they drew a mean ol’ picture of Muhammad.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that members of other islamofascist groups deserve no blame for the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s house of humor. While an al-Qaida representative told The Associated Press the attack was “inspiring,” the group itself wasn’t taking credit for the crime. The members of al-Qaida might be islamofascist sociopaths bent on world domination, but they’re not responsible for every act of terror committed by everyone who shares their mission but not their methods.

Heck, some would even go so far as to suggest the perpetrators themselves aren’t to blame for their crimes. Even the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who famously claimed, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” said of Charlie Hebdo’s iconoclastic humor as recently as 2012: “Obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this.” Try to see it from the shooters’ perspectives. If the people at Charlie Hebdo hadn’t pushed the limits of satire, as suggested by the Nobel Prize-winning president, then they wouldn’t have been targeted. If the victim hadn’t been dressed so provocatively, then her rapists — wait, that’s totally different.

Except that it isn’t. Despite the leftists’ repeated slurs, there is no other campaign of mass killings being committed in the name of religion anywhere else in the world; and there hasn’t been in quite some time. Even the Israelis, whose detractors consider the lowest of the low, aren’t campaigning in the name of God as much as the name of real estate. The Israeli response to its neighbors is generally a national belief that good fences make great neighbors, especially in crappy neighborhoods. Islam’s public face is increasingly becoming a twisted mask of bloodthirsty rage. There is hardly a nation on Earth that hasn’t felt the sting of Islamic-inspired terrorism. Counter that with the actions of the world’s 2.3 billion Christians, who haven’t engaged in a war of religious significance since before the boys in the Mideast realized the stuff they were standing on could fund wars of religious significance and pay for really bitchin’ sports cars, dude!

Even when someone does commit an act of barbarism in the name of Christianity, he’s a pariah outside the wacko fringe. Consider the general attitude towards Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church crowd. They may well be the most roundly despised people in North America, and they haven’t even killed anyone.

Christianity — even twisted, weird, Phelps-ian editions thereof — doesn’t regularly inspire the sort of madness that visited the world on Wednesday. When so-called “artist” Robert Mapplethorpe unveiled a crucifix in a jar of urine, no one machine-gunned his “studio.” When cartoons like “Family Guy” and “South Park” lampoon the Savior, no one storms their offices with murderous vengeance on their minds. But when they poke fun at Muhammad, they’re behaving “irresponsibly.” It’s worth noting that by making special allowances to protect Muhammad’s evidently thin skin, the world is essentially saying Muslims lack the ability to behave according to modern civilization’s basic rules.

In the past few years, I — along with many of you — have been called everything from a “Nazi” to an “American Taliban” for holding and/or espousing ideals that run counter to Obama’s professed beliefs. I’m a “gun nut” because I don’t think the 2nd Amendment was meant to cover only muskets. I’m “anti-woman” because I don’t think the proper response to a positive pregnancy test is a visit with Dr. Dilation N. Evacuation. I’m “racist” because I think Obama has been to the presidency what athlete’s foot is to a locker room. When some nut shoots up a school or a movie theater or a shopping center, I’m supposed to shoulder some of the blame, since I’m part of the “gun culture.” By that logic, not only do the billion-and-a-half Muslims who didn’t shoot anyone at Charlie Hebdo’s offices still owe an apology; they deserve part of the blame.

But what the hell do I know? I’m a racist, sexist, islamophobic, gun-worshipping, poor-people-hating, right-wing lunatic.

–Ben Crystal

Admiring Hillary

According to a poll released Monday by the Gallup organization, the woman most admired by Americans during 2014 is Hillary Clinton. Soak that in for a moment. Of the approximately 165 million or so members of the fairer sex who call America home, the one who most inspires the people of this great nation is — according to Gallup — a woman who actually blamed her husband’s endless scandals and the fallout therefrom on a so-called “vast right-wing conspiracy.” With so many impressive, successful and even inspirational women from whom to choose, the most respondents selected the ex-first lady, U.S. senator, presidential also-ran and secretary of State.

As if Hill-dawg’s hold on the top spot isn’t enough to make us wonder about Gallup’s polling samples, leafing backward through the years to Hillary’s arrival on the national stage reveals an even more troubling trend. The woman, whose entire resume comprises four decades of being humiliated by her husband, pretending “first lady” is an elected office, and then cashing in the humiliations and hubris on a senatorial seat in a state in which she didn’t live, has been the most admired woman in Gallup’s annual poll on the topic in 17 of the past 18 years. I’m curious if Gallup polled anyone outside the Wellesley College Womyn’s Club and the MSNBC interns.

Hillary Clinton was an enormously divisive first lady who used her husband’s position to enrich herself, empower herself and abuse the living hell out of anyone who got in her way. From stunning commodities trading successes, to an attempt to place trial lawyers in charge of the nation’s healthcare system, to her proclamation that the millions of people who felt the pangs of revulsion at her husband’s appalling behavior were part of a massive and coordinated cabal, Clinton turned an unearned, ceremonial position into a battering ram. Dubiously accumulated wealth, cronyism at the potential expense of human life and enabling grotesque male chauvinism hardly seems “admirable.”

Following her husband’s tenure in the Oval Office, Clinton left behind her Chicago and Arkansas homes to become a “lifelong” New Yorker. She ran a campaign that capitalized on both her husband’s fame and her husband’s career, and she won the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Nestled comfortably in Congress’s upper house, she set to work running for president. Unfortunately, her 2008 bid was sidetracked when Barack Obama trumped her “lady card” with the political ace of spades: the race card. Thereafter, she dumped her adopted home state to take up residence in the State Department as a member of Obama’s cabinet. She ditched Illinois, then Arkansas and then New York just to get closer to the White House. I find it hard to describe that as “admirable.”

Her tenure at the State Department was an absolute disaster, marked by a precipitous decline in America’s image in the eyes of allies and enemies alike. The shrill harpy of a first lady became a placeholder of a Senator and then an ineffectual blip of a secretary of State. And, of course, she abandoned Obama’s ship of State to prepare a 2016 presidential bid — but not before she helped steer it onto the rocks of worldwide derision. Two years later, she has yet to demonstrate any real political acumen or qualification other than respiration and a pulse.

If you have a daughter, I’m sure you harbor hopes and dreams of a future in which she lives a long, happy life. And I’m sure that you hope that she rises to the very top of whatever field she chooses. She could emulate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a widely respected jurist who shattered the glass ceiling using her own wit and wisdom. She could emulate Condoleezza Rice, who emerged from humble beginnings to become one of the most powerful people on Earth through sheer will and then succeeded her diplomatic service by becoming not only a top official at Stanford University, but a major player in the boy’s club of football, even making the short list of candidates for commissioner of the NFL. Your daughter could also emulate the millions of stay-at-home mothers, proudly and determinedly raising generations of children to become far more worthwhile citizens than someone who rose to fame and fortune by standing next to — and enduring — a disarmingly buffoonish sexual predator.

My niece is wandering perilously close to the edge of her teenage years. Ahead of her lies an endless sunrise of possibilities. She could save lives as a doctor. She could work for peace as a diplomat. She could fly to the stars as an astronaut, presuming we stop bumming rides from the Russians. She will almost certainly be an amazing human being. She will absolutely give my older brother multiple coronaries before she does any of that. When I think of the women she admires, I prefer to tell myself that she thinks of women — of people — truly worthy of admiration, her own mother and grandmother among them. I’m sure her cheers are currently reserved for some movie star, pop music star or some combination of the two. And, to be honest, I prefer that to Hillary Clinton.

–Ben Crystal

Hooray for Pyongyang-wood!

Sony Pictures spent just under $50 million to get a formulaic “stoner” comedy to multiplexes worldwide. “The Interview” follows what appear to be a mentally challenged interviewer and his even more mentally challenged sidekick as they journey from asking celebrities idiotic questions to venturing to North Korea to assassinate a thinly disguised parody of Kim Jong Un in the guise of interviewing the reclusive dictator. Hijinks presumably ensue along the way.

Prior to the film’s release, hackers — allegedly working on behalf of North Korea — broke through Sony’s Web security and leaked information meant to both embarrass the studio and warn against releasing “The Interview.” Sony pulled the film from distribution rather than risk either the ire of North Korea’s head lunatic in charge or any further damage to the paper-thin egos of Hollywood’s elite. A global uproar ensued, with everyone from the kid manning the popcorn machine at your local 11-screen to President Barack Obama decrying Sony’s decision to err on the side of cowardice. The otherwise forgettable film, featuring James Franco and Seth Rogen as James Franco and Seth Rogen, went from one step above direct-to-DVD to the biggest word-of-mouth push since the girl from the Blair Witch Project blubbered into a Handycam. In an effort to soothe any ruffled feathers, Sony added professional race pimp and grievance monger Al Sharpton to their future filmmaking processes — because he apparently represents not only Obama, but overly sensitive bridge trolls who own weird Asian countries. Sony ultimately reversed its field, releasing the film online to critical derision tempered only by nods to film’s bizarre political relevance. The entire saga dominated the news cycle for days.

I could almost cut off my column right there. The mere fact that those events actually transpired says more about the plight of this boy’s America in 2014 than any retro-spectacle the lapdog media is likely to produce to close out the year. An indubitably lousy film starring indubitably lousy actors offended the delicate sensibilities of the indubitably lousy dictator of an indubitably lousy country, so the movie studio caved and then un-caved to pressure brought by someone who might have been working for the lousy dictator of the lousy country. And the ensuing hubbub became one of the biggest stories of the season, if not the year.

Even politicians and their grubby little minions managed to jam their snouts into the trough. Obama, who once jailed a guy for making an equally terrible film that almost no one ever saw, took a firm stand against restricting artistic expression — even if the expression barely qualifies as art. For days, the world was positively transfixed by the tableau — although not so transfixed that people stopped murdering, raping, maiming and otherwise making life miserable for other people. The United States, wracked by the worst racial divisions since the Democrats were drawing their “line in the dust,” continued to burn in the wake of ethnic brush fires set by social arsonists and professionally aggrieved malcontents, blazes which have claimed lives from Los Angeles to Missouri to Brooklyn, New York.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan suffered another death-filled month, thanks in part to a resurgent Taliban, perhaps boosted by the reacquisition of five of their serial killers in return for a sniveling alleged deserter in what was the most lopsided trade since the Vikings swapped a decade of future talent for Herschel Walker. A decidedly non-decimated al-Qaida continued to threaten humanity with all sorts of mayhem. ISIS continued to spread like cancer through a newly raging Iraq, perhaps bolstered by weapons the terrorists obtained from Obama before he decided he didn’t like them. A record 100 million people have permanently left the workforce while millions more work multiple low-wage jobs to make ends meet. Both groups anticipate the sudden competition of millions of illegal aliens the way middle-aged guys anticipate a visit to the proctologist. Eric Holder will leave the Justice Department without ever accounting for his role in and perjury about Operation Fast and Furious. The IRS may never account for playing the heavy in Obama’s politically motivated audits. America’s place in the world is as inconsequential as any time since the 19th century. The same president who squeezed out a statement deploring Sony’s lack of spine — in between rounds of golf, natch — will certainly never face justice for deploying the NSA against pretty much everyone. And an increasingly powerful Al Sharpton is making movies.

But certainly, a bad movie featuring marginally talented actors that offended the delicate sensibilities of a profoundly spooky martinet deserves more attention than anything that might make Obama look bad. And there’s no doubt it deserves more attention from Obama and his Democrat elite than boring stuff like Jon Gruber’s admission that Obamacare is the biggest financial fraud in American, and possibly human, history.

As 2014 stumbles to the finish line, “The Interview” spent days as the top news story in the nation and possibly in the world. It took the murder of two police officers, a racially motivated hate crime incited by the incessant shrieking of anti-law-and-order rabble-rousers like Obama and Sharpton, to bump the dramedy off the top of the cycle. And somehow, no one seemed to notice that the same people who incited the Brooklyn murders have consistently pushed for a federal law enforcement complex straight out of an Orwellian acid trip.

Of course, the possibility exists that North Korea had nothing to do with the Sony hack and subsequent release of embarrassing documents and communiques. The idea that the North Koreans, who have serious trouble keeping on the lights on a regular basis, could successfully pull off such a plot strains credulity nearly as far as the idea that Sony would drop eight figures on another idiotic shlockfest. And Obama used the sordid affair to push for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act-type government oversight and involvement in the Internet, an awfully conveniently timed move that would essentially legitimize his administration’s well-known misuse of the NSA to spy on innocent Americans.

I’m not going to watch “The Interview.” There’s no way I would have paid to watch two guys act out a script they probably scribbled on a pizza box while 10 bong hits into a Ziploc bag of Maui Wowie. And Kim Jong Un flipping his kimchee over it doesn’t really jack up the cost-benefit analysis. Besides, I’ve got more important stuff to focus on, as do all of you. I’ll catch “The Interview” when it hits basic cable.

–Ben Crystal

All the cool bigots shop at Target

In a recent interview with the hard-charging newsmagazine People, first lady Michelle Obama opened up about a recent incident in which she was confronted by the same caustic racism that is eating a hole in the heart of our nation. Despite her husband’s meteoric rise from the lowly confines of Bill Ayers’ living room to the highest office in the land, Mrs. Obama says racism still lurks, waiting for the right moment to ruin her reverie.

And the evil bigotry bandit isn’t waiting all that patiently. Although she is years removed from the humdrum of middle-class life, Mrs. Obama claims the psychic scars left by those dark days are as vivid now as they were then. Indeed, Mrs. Obama told People that racism kept its boot on her family’s throats until the day President Barack Obama occupied the Oval Office. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.” Perish the thought. I’ve waited for cabs in major cities across the planet. I’ve watched as available cabs blew by me like I had a barbed tail, horns and pitchfork. I’m not sure they ignored me because of my race, but I suppose it’s possible. To be honest, if I were a cabbie, I’d be more likely to pick up a pencil-necked lawyer like Obama than a larger-than-average guy with a “face for radio” like — say — me.

But the Obamas (the President deigned to sit with his wife for the piece) have faced far greater indignities. “There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys.” I’d be willing to bet that quite a few black males, who are professionals, have come out of quite a few restaurants and were met with compliant valets eager to pocket a couple of bucks in return for bringing the ride around quickly. Without pressing the immodesty too far, no one has ever mistaken me for a parking valet (although I’m pretty sure a few people have mistaken me for a car thief — or worse). And Mrs. President has had to witness the vicious bigotry hurled at Mr. President. “He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.” Christ on His Throne! That’s almost as embarrassing a faux pas — for the offender — as mistaking one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a waiter, not that anyone could be so incredibly ill-mannered.

Of course, the first couple’s recollections were part of a hard-hitting interview with the respected media outlet. Indeed, the president was careful to note that he got off easy. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse….” It would be awful if Obama’s son were to… hey, wait a minute.

And then, there was the now-infamous Terror at Target. During a shopping trip, the first lady stumbled into double-discrimination when a woman asked her for assistance. “(D)uring that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.” What backwoods, hillbilly, redneck Target allows such monstrous patrons? Not only did the woman mistreat the First Mrs. out of racial animus, but the act of assuming that someone of Mrs. Obama’s height — she’s a hair under 6’ — would naturally be able to assist her wounds the soul. Come to think of it, Mrs. Obama herself acknowledged the trip was “not too highly disguised.” That means not only did the woman treat Obama differently based on her race and height, she neither bowed nor scraped. Of all the nerve!

If that last story seems oddly familiar, that’s because it is. Mrs. Obama has told the same tale before. In fact, she told the exact same story to David Letterman 2½ years ago. But it seems time has yellowed the pages of Mrs. Obama’s internal diary. Back then, it was a heartwarming saga of the graceful first lady “giving back” to the little people. “I was in the detergent aisle, and she said — I kid you not — she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’… And the only thing she said — I reached up, ’cause she was short, and I reached up, pulled it down — she said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good.” In the space of 30 months, the little lady in need of assistance was transmogrified into a fire-breathing — albeit petite — racist.

Pardon me for pulling the handbrake on the first lady’s trip down memory lane, but who does that? If Michelle Obama has indeed suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous racism, shouldn’t she be able to feed a celebrity gossip glossy a more harrowing tale than one of an encounter at Target with an undersized Klanswoman — especially if the story has undergone more revisions than Lois Lerner’s sworn testimony? For that matter, if their road to riches took them through such racist neighborhoods, then why do the president’s stories involve imaginary children? For that matter, are the fabulously wealthy first couple so desperate for “street cred” that they need to invent incidents in which they and the kids they don’t actually face bigoted trolls who don’t actually exist?

Following the most racially divisive presidential campaign since Jesse Jackson took America down to “Hymietown,” Obama took office in 2009 and immediately set about driving a wedge right through the heart of America. Despite a presidency stained through the floorboards with scandals borne of Obama’s and his minions’ reflexive dishonesty, the nation has spent six years listening to administration spokesholes claim everyone who notices Obama’s lies is as racist as that vicious ferret who attacked the poor first lady in the dungeons of Target’s laundry aisle.

Over six years, the president has blundered into — and vastly inflamed — tense situations. We’ve been treated to “beer summits” in Cambridge, Massachusetts; riots in Ferguson, Missouri; and murders in Brooklyn — all easily traced back to the racial divide Obama has simultaneously exploited and decried. And Obama’s disdain for the truth is really the only legacy he has established. Compared to Obamacare, Operation Fast and Furious, the NSA spying scandal, the IRS auditing nightmares and the ascension of Al Sharpton, weaving a tale at Target out of whole cloth doesn’t seem like all that big a deal. But I can’t help but think: “If they’ll lie about this, they’ll lie about everything.”

And they have. But I’m a racist for noticing. And you’re a racist for reading this. I’ll see you at Target; that’s where all the cool bigots shop. At least, that’s what the first lady says.

–Ben Crystal

Obama’s Cuba gambit will fail

TNS/Abdel Rodriguez protests at Versaille’s Restaurant in Miami after President Obama’s decision to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States.

In 1989, I was just a bright-eyed young American lad who had decided to put the time between high school and college to better use than simply learning how many beers he could successfully “funnel” before introducing his face to the floor. So I set off for southern Africa.

By the late 1980s, South Africa had long been cut off from much of the world, the subject of an increasingly comprehensive international economic embargo. As a result, the countries surrounding South Africa, writhing in post-colonial chaos and already inextricably linked to their southernmost neighbor, were forced by geography, history and demographics to share South Africa’s enforced solitude. And that solitude produced the land that greeted me. What I discovered upon my arrival was a place far uglier — and stranger — than I had imagined.

At its best, Africa is as magnificent a work of art as the Almighty has ever created. The Drakensburg mountains rise so empress-like, an ’80s band ought to write a song about them. The Indian Ocean shores at Durban look like board of tourism postcards. The Kalahari’s almost Martian emptiness is somehow made even lonelier by Camelthorn trees waiting for National Geographic to photograph them. And to the eye of an American teenager, meeting the animals from the zoo on their turf is nearly as cool (“How much does that bull elephant weigh?”) as it is intimidating (“how fast does that bull elephant run?”).

Even the cities had their high points. At its center, Johannesburg was a modern, glass and concrete affair not entirely dissimilar to any mid- to large-sized American city’s business district — Charlotte, North Carolina, with weird food. The better neighborhoods in Pretoria were half a world away from affluent American suburbia, but could have been right next door. The safari lodges in Botswana were as nice as any 4-star hotel in which Michelle Obama and 40 or so of her friends have stayed on the taxpayers’ nickel.

But at its worst, Southern Africa is closer to hell than Detroit. The townships and homelands outside South Africa’s cities were glorified prison camps. In some places, the poverty was so shocking, it could nearly shake your faith. Illness, death and their evil friend, grief, didn’t hide in the shadows; they drove bulldozers right through whole villages. And oh, dear God, the smell! A trip to an economically embargoed land would change even the most pampered child’s appreciation for regular municipal garbage-hauling and the people who do that job. Bless you, “garbage man.” (Author’s aside: Because garbage-removal is as rare as meaningful personal liberty across most of Southern Africa, people burn their refuse. While it creates an unholy stink, it has the odd effect of producing almost cartoonishly vibrant sunsets, proving that the Almighty can create beauty out of almost anything and is, indeed, everywhere.)

As a direct consequence of the economic prison sentence imposed by the globalist-led United Nations, the elite in sub-Saharan Africa held onto virtually all of the wealth and resources, while the poor lived in conditions that make the Motor City look like Monte Carlo.

In the early ’90s, apartheid collapsed in on itself, and the region was suddenly thrown open to the world. Money flowed in like water. And lo and behold, the once-downtrodden masses mired in unspeakable poverty enjoyed the sudden influx of foreign capital by — remaining downtrodden and mired in unspeakable poverty. In their haste to congratulate the new governments of places like South Africa and Zimbabwe, no one bothered to take note of who the new governments were. Moreover, no one bothered to notice that the only people capable of handling large inflows of foreign currency and investment were the same people who had handled inflows of foreign currency and investment. The end of the embargo in southern Africa spread some money around some new people who were largely as greedy for authority (and, therefore, unsuited to wield it), gave the rest of it to the same people who had it before and left the overwhelming majority suffering from monstrous diseases, dying ridiculously young and burning their trash.

Here’s the thing: Trade the click consonants and glottal stoppages for Español and dress everyone in T-shirts proclaiming loyalty to a Major League Baseball team, and Southern Africa is Cuba. Cuba is a Marxist hellhole. Worse: Cuba is precisely the hellhole Marxism always produces, albeit with tropical-getaway foliage. A ludicrously tiny minority of the people — in Cuba’s case, the Castros and whichever of their cronies hasn’t been sent to “rehabilitation” for “crimes against the state” — not only own nearly everything of value, they essentially own everyone else. While the Castro boys party with Hollywood stars, the average Cuban scrapes and claws his way to a subsistence living. And, as is always the case in a communist dictatorship, the average Cuban knows: Someone is always watching.

Now, more than a half-century after President John F. Kennedy — himself perhaps the most undeservedly praised foreign policy leader of the 20th century — decided to prove to Cubans the merits of freedom by forcibly divorcing them from the merits of freedom, President Barack H. Obama — clearly the most deservedly reviled foreign policy leader of just about any century — has decided to skip the dating phase and just go steady with the younger Castro brother. In a Wednesday announcement, Obama proclaimed “(W)e will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” He offered as a rationale: “(I)solation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.” Rather than form a cohesive plan for reintegrating the communist holdout (the diplomatic version of “getting to know each other”), Obama is going to give the Castros the keys and hope they’ll be gentle.

It’s reasonable to conclude that Obama’s decades of tutelage at the knees of Marxist firebrands like Bill Ayers, F.M. Davis and Saul Alinsky, acting in concert with of decades of unfettered American globalism, has produced a president who lacks not only the will to make hard choices, but the wisdom to know the difference. By conducting the negotiations under the same shroud of secrecy that he used to cover up his trade of five Taliban serial killers for one (alleged) sniveling deserter, Obama sold out not only the American people who deserve better than to be repeatedly ignored by his increasingly imperial stylings, but the victims of stunning communist oppression in Cuba. And in haste to do something — anything — on the foreign stage that didn’t end in his abject humiliation, Obama has simply repeated one of the two failed strategies that have defined most of America’s foreign adventures since JFK was still sneaking Marilyn Monroe out the back door of the White House.

Just as embargoes punish only the already-oppressed, suddenly unfettered global investment enriches only the already-wealthy. The average Cuban isn’t likely to see much of a new dollar from overseas. But he’d be overjoyed to learn that he won’t be sent to “re-education camp” if he somehow manages to snare one. But it’s a fool’s errand to think a president like Obama, who has willingly lied to, spied upon and harassed his own people, would understand the plight of the average Cuban, especially since he clearly doesn’t care about the plight of the average American.

Sadly, most American politicians tend toward hawkish intervention or mewling appeasement. They either can’t — or, in Obama’s case, won’t — open their eyes to the lessons of fairly recent history. All “stick” produces Iraq and Afghanistan. All “carrot” produces South Africa and Zimbabwe. The careful balance produces post-unification Germany. Instead, Obama has chosen to pour carrots into Cuba, ignorant of the fact that the communists will simply eat what they want and bury their people in the castoffs. In fact, I’ll predict that Cuba, with its peculiar confluence of European and African cultural heritage steeped in decades of brutal communist hegemony, will end up being a lot like another bastard creation of too much money without enough liberty: Russia. Given Obama’s personal humiliation at the hands of current Russian oligarch and Soviet holdover Vladimir Putin, and his barely concealed admiration for precisely the sort of government that made Cuba such a party for the past half-century, it’s likely Obama won’t figure this one out until it’s too late.

–Ben Crystal