Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

So, the big question Americans are asking themselves about violent protests and riots in Cairo, Egypt (and Tunisia and Yemen) is: why is America, the Land of Democracy, supporting monarchs, dictators, and presidents-for-life (Mubarak took office in 1981 when Anwar El-Sadat was assassinated)?

One answer to that question would be: Somalia. Another would be that we’re a federated republic, not a strict democracy.

Let’s take a look at Somalia first. Somalia, originally Somaliland, was formed by Britain and Italy in the 19th Century. Britain ruled the north, Italy, the south. After World War II, Italy lost its claim to South Somaliland, and the British took over.

Somaliland gained its independence on June 26, 1960 and merged on July 1 with the U.N. Trust Territory of Somalia to create the Somali Republic. Nine years later, Somalia’s first president, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated and six days later Maj. Gen. Muhammed Siad Barre seized control of the government in a military coup. Barre declared Somalia a socialist state in 1970 – the Somali Democratic Republic.

Somalia laid claim to a huge chunk of the eastern region of Ethiopia, which was mostly populated by Somalis. In 1978, 11,000 Cuban troops armed with Soviet weapons drove out the Somali army and ethnic Somali rebels. Fighting continued for another ten years in Ogaden (eastern Ethiopia) until the two sides reached a peace agreement.

Barre in his turn was ousted by the forces of the United Somali Congress in 1991. The result of the fighting was 40,000 casualties. By mid-1992, the war, drought, and general crime produced a famine that threatened 1.5 million people.

In Dec. 1992, the U.N. accepted the United States’ offer of troops to safeguard food delivery. The mission helped alleviate the famine. America’s reward was significant casualties, including the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in which dead American soldiers were dragged, beaten, and defamed through the lawless streets of Mogadishu.

The last U.N. troops retreated in March 1995. Behind them, they left a country with no functioning central government, with various factions controlling different regions governed by warlords. They signed a peace accord in Jan. 1994, with a provisional parliament. For the first time in 13 years, Somalia had a legislature. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was sworn in on Oct. 14, 1994. Only Yusuf had to make his capital in another city, Jowhar, because his political rivals held Mogadishu. On June 5, 2006, an Islamic militia took over Mogadishu from the warlords.

The transitional government was able to recapture Mogadishu in December 2006, with the help of Ethiopian troops. The U.N. authorized an African Peacekeeping mission but was defeated by insurgents. Hundreds were killed and 350,000 flee the capital. Bombings and kidnappings between 2007 and 2008 caused humanitarian workers to flee the country.

Pres. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed resigned Dec. 29, 2008 and the transitional parliament elected a moderate Islamist, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to the position. On June 22, 2009, a state of emergency was declared after Islamist insurgents increased their attacks on officials of the UN-backed government. By this time, Ethiopia had completely withdrawn its troops. Piracy, Islamic insurgency, and political disputes furthered weakened Somalia’s prospects for “democracy” and on Sept. 21, 2010, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke resigned.

Somalia is probably one of the poorest nations on the earth. With few industries and some agriculture (it is the desert, after all), they’re dependent on their natural resources, the chief of which is uranium. Currently, piracy is the career of choice for the young men of Somalia.

Egypt is one of the oldest civilizations on the face of the earth, along with China and India. Somalia controls the all-important Horn of Africa and Egypt, the Suez Canal. As long we depend on Mid-East Oil, what happens in these political furnaces is going to concern us, will us nill us.

Mohammed Atta was reportedly upset by the lack of opportunities for educated young Egyptian men (he held two advanced engineering degrees). He considered Western tourism and its effect on architecture and culture an incursion and a curse. So he emigrated to Germany, and then flew a jet plane at full speed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th.

These are essentially tribal cultures in the Middle East. They may have the latest technology – computers, cellphones, and the internet. But they’re essentially citizens of about the 7th Century. Their notion of freedom is very different from the Western notion of civilization, as more learned pundits have pointed out in the last few days since these riots began.

America was not only a completely new concept, but it was carried out on a completely new and unknown continent, except of course to the tribes that lived here. Make no mistake about the American Indians; they fought fiercely among themselves, much as their Middle East counterparts continue to do to this very day: this land is YOUR land, this land is MY land.

To these tribes, compromise is not an option. For them, it’s a fight to the death, against each other and against the Western nations that are trying to civilize them. For one tribe to trespass on another’s territory is certain death. Even in the West, we see this sort of barbarism in the form of inner city gangs, fighting over their drug trading territory.

We’re a little more civilized here in America. But still, you can’t just go trespassing on someone else’s property and certainly not steal anything from that property. My property is NOT your property, although the socialist/communist would like to remedy that. Some states do allow property owners to shoot trespassers. If they did not, and if we did not have a strong police force and justice system (which has been much weakened of late) to enforce those property rights, we would become Somalia ourselves.

What Egypt is on the verge of is not a revolution or government reformation, but anarchy, the same kind of anarchy strangling Somalia and endangering the shipping trade in that part of the world.

The Egyptians want freedom, but what is it exactly they want to do with that freedom? I saw looting going on in their streets and beatings. The police raised the white flag and the military is joining the insurgents. Are they really concerned about reforms for the poor, or they just using the poor as a shield for something else?

Saudi Arabia’s monarchy is said to be trembling in it sandals over this situation. Israel is extremely disquieted to say the least. Now Yemen is in turmoil and other countries, like Jordan, are said to be on the verge of such revolutions themselves. Meanwhile, Iran sits back on its nuclear stockpile, probably rubbing their hands in anticipation.

The United States has not condemned the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, as it ought to have. You can depend upon the fact that the MB is sitting back, allowing anonymous actors to prepare the stage for their takeover. The U.S. made the mistake of not backing the Shah of Iran in 1979; it’s being more cautious this time.

No one would blame a civilized country for resenting a 30-year fiat rule of its “president”. However, Egypt didn’t look like much of a civilized country on television on Friday. It looked like any other Third-World, backwards, stability-challenged country relying on violence to carry the day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering the Challenger - and Apollo One

Twenty-five years ago today, I was sitting at my desk in the offices of a major magazine. I was allowed to have a radio, which amazingly enough, worked in our office building. As I listened, a reporter announced the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

We were daring enough in those days to think a teacher could fly into space and conduct a science lesson from the space shuttle. Thousands of children across the country were tuned. But 73 seconds into the flight, something went wrong. Instead of a lesson in science, the children received a lesson in tragedy, as the shuttle disintegrated in the clear blue skies above Florida.

When I was young, I remember the Apollo 1 fire; I was young then, as those children were. I remembered John Glenn’s successful orbit around the earth. But this was different. The anniversary of that fire was yesterday.

The flight was planned to be the first manned mission of the Apollo manned lunar landing program, set to launch in February 1967. Its launch was precluded by a fatal fire on Jan. 27, which killed all three crew members (Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee), and destroyed the Command Module cabin. This occurred during a pre-launch test of the spacecraft on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral.

To this day, I still remember the fire and the three astronauts trapped in the command module. Death, especially by fire (or explosion) is a frightening scenario to young children. Sooner or later, they must become acquainted with the inevitability of death and both Apollo One and the Challenger served each of their young generations as that reminder.

NASA was undaunted by the fire and found a way to fix the problems that led to the deaths of the astronauts. We went on to land men on the moon, taking the first steps for mankind into a vast, unexplored frontier. Since then, though, we’ve become more timid.

After the Challenger explosion, eventually civilians were banned from taking the flights. The Socialists were always opposed to the space program. They insisted the money would be better spent on their social programs, feeding the poor, at the expense of the tax-paying public. Eventually, the government taxed and the unions bullied, all manufacturing right out of our country, creating even more people seeking “entitlements.”

Last year, Obama basically gutted the space program. Then in his State of the Union address this week, he had the nerve to cite the space race as an example of greatness – that we needed another “Sputnik moment.”

We will never have another “Sputnik moment” until we regain the courage to seek one. We couldn’t get past the Challenger accident as we did the Apollo One fire. Instead, we stop in our tracks, wring our hands, and wail, “Oh, we can’t. We mustn’t. It’s too dangerous. The risks, the dangers, the horrors.” If we’d had that attitude in the 19th Century, no one would have ever ridden a train or invented the automobile. Thousands of people died in railroad accidents, and deaths by auto are in the millions.

The bathroom installer is here today to put the tiles in shower/bathtub stall. He says that his daughter’s class all dressed in blue today to take a class photo in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger explosion, 15 years before they were born. They plan to send the photo to NASA. She was only 37 when she died. Even though I was a young adult on that day back in 1986, I was looking forward to seeing her lecture from space.

Thanks to the Liberal agenda, using timidity as an excuse to channel the funds for the space program over to their own wasteful programs, that class photo will not just be a memorial to Christa McAuliffe, but to the entire dream of exploring space.

Houston, we have a problem.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Barack Hussein Obama, All-American

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. I didn’t feel like wasting my time watching what I suspected would be an infomercial for Green Energy. And reading the text of the speech, I was right.

It was a downright, by-golly All American speech. He even asked God to bless America. He was so red, white, and blue I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been wearing yellow Gadsden flag Tea Party shirt under his suit.

“We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

“From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dareto dream. That’s how we win the future. We are a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.” We do big things. The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

Glory, hallelujah.

He said that the focus shouldn’t be on the 2012 election, but this address has all the earmarks of a campaign speech. He touched on a number of topics – the economy (he declared the recession has ended - as it has been spoken, let it be written), the shooting in Tucson, terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, green energy, and education. He was just full of all-American platitudes. His stance on education was the most interesting (to me).

“America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree,” he said. “And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed. That responsibility begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done. We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”

And I agree with him. I’ve been reading a book called, “Waiting for Superman” which is based on a movie of the same name; the book is the follow-up to the movie. Various educators and leaders with a vested interest in the future of education comment on the movie’s premise, charter schools, and the lottery required to get into one of these academies.

Some writers held that in the end it’s the teacher who will make the difference if the parent or community fails – after all, that’s their job. They point out that even in more affluent schools, students still fail. I’m not an educator but I hold the belief that the family is still key. Where reading is part of the family life, it’s more likely (although not necessarily) to become part of the student’s life.

There are things parents can’t do, though, from an educational standpoint. Teachers are more distant emotionally from the student than the parents are. There isn’t that conflict of emotions. They’re better equipped to instill scholarly discipline, though whether they do anymore these days is the problem.

Obama gave a fine speech about education until he came to the part about meeting the need for new teachers in the future.

“Over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Yes, they’re retiring – at the age of 55, where their private sector counterparts must work until 65 or later. They also retire with generous, taxpayer-funded retirement and health benefits. If teachers were forced to work until 65, we wouldn’t need those 100,000 new teachers – yet. Experienced teachers would still be in the classroom, mentoring the next generation of young educators.

Supporters of teachers argue that they work very hard – and they do. My grandfather was a teacher. An engineering teacher. But the rest of us work hard, too, paying their salaries as we go along. If we’re so hard up for good teachers, then maybe we shouldn’t let them go so soon.

Wouldn’t we all love to retire at 55? Most of us can’t afford it, though. America can’t afford such early retirement for its teachers, either financially or pragmatically. They profess great dedication to their profession. Let them prove it by staying on the job for life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Command Performance

“Find the enemy! Find them! Fix them! Fight them! Finish them!” Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway

My mother, highly-organized and efficient, is always harping at me for not getting rid of my excess magazines. I, highly disorganized and not very efficient, not too mention over-scheduled, don’t always have time to read every magazine.

“Then get rid of them!” my mother yelled at me.

But I ignored her. When she’d come to visit, I’d put my stack of unread magazines, mainly Smithsonian, under my bed until she went home. I have Smithsonians dating all the way back to 2007. I tried to listen to Mom’s sensible advice, but I’d always say to myself, “Noooo, there might be something good to read in here that might be useful to know someday.”

I love Smithsonian Magazine. It’s one of my favorite magazines. Even if it is edited by Liberal, Socialist, Commies. Even if it is so bent to the Left, that I have to cock my head sideways to read some of its articles. Even if the editor was a reporter for the New York Times and Time Magazine. They do have one good thing going for them; I believe one of my former bosses is their Advertising Services Manager.

The writing is great, the research is great, the photography is spectacular. The magazine has great variety – everything from articles on history to art to science to nature to foreign (and domestic) destinations. Last night, reading the Nov. 2007 issue, I was visiting the Ganges River with the Smith.

That was the article I’d held the magazine back for; I’d read everything else. But there was another article that I re-read with great interest, given the anti-American performance at the White House dinner for China’s Communist Party Chairman (no sense in calling him a “president” since elections are meaningless in China. As Rush Limbaugh rightly pointed out, here was pianist Lang Lang performing for Barack Obama’s White House, for whom he’d performed at the 2009 Nobel Prize ceremony, whose guest has jailed the 2010 Nobel Prize winner.)

“My Motherland” is an ode to the Chinese soldiers who humiliated the American and United Nations forces in Korea in 1950. But hold that note just a minute, there. Yes, the Chinese forces shellacked the American forces, who were trying to drive whole brigades up narrow, mountainous roads in Korea. Meanwhile, the Chinese had already prepared other units to attack the Americans once they found they had to retreat.

But then along came General Matthew B. Ridgway. Pres. Truman assigned him to head up the Eighth Army after he fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur (who pushed the North Koreans all the way back to the Yalu River on the Chinese border. When MacArthur insisted on pursuing them further, very much like the first Gulf War, Truman refused and recalled MacArthur).

For the year 1950, yes, the Chinese celebrated with anti-American propaganda songs. But their victory was short-lived. The account was published in an article, “Command Performance,” written for Smithsonian by David Halberstam, who died in an automobile accident in April 2007.

In the article, Halberstam writes that Ridgway was a Spartan, no-nonsense general who felt (much as the Chinese did, Halberstam observed) that Americans had become too soft. They were too accustomed to driving instead of walking. The Eighth Army, when he first arrived, was bereft of morale, filled with a defeatist attitude, unfamiliar with the territory, and clueless in terms of intelligence. The commanders were weak, old, and out of touch. Ridgway ordered the troops to make their patrols on foot, even in the cold, just as the soldiers of yore had done.

According to the author, Ridgway believed that he and the men he commanded were the direct descendants of all those soldiers who had fought before them, even back to Valley Forge. He felt George Washington was looking over their shoulders and spoke of being worthy of the hardships they endured.

Ridgway soon learned that all the American positions were surrounded by Chinese and that the commanders weren’t even sending out patrols. They had no idea where the Chinese really were or what they were up to. Ridgway made it his business to visit every headquarters, whether it was divisional, regimental, a battalion, or a company. He ordered the forward units to go out and find the enemy.

The general had no fantasies about Chinese might. There may have been more of them, but in his mind, they were still mortal and could still be killed, and that was just fine with him. He made it his business to seek out their weaknesses and exploit them. He wanted those stationary flags, sometimes four and five days in the same position, to start moving – forward. Nothing but comfort was keeping the flags in those positions, according to Halberstam. “Find them! Fix them! Fight them! Finish them!” Ridgway thundered.

The administration wanted the enemy brought to the table without expending more resources in the enterprise. Ridgway’s plan was to force the Chinese to pay so high a price in blood that victory would be as unreachable for them as the moon. The secret was greater firepower. He ordered more artillery and more artillery battalions. Ridgway intended to use the meat-grinder policy.

The one overriding problem he saw was the low morale of his own troops. According to Halberstam, the general felt that the real damage was psychological and the solution was confidence. A true leader, one of his assistants during World War II said that he was always drawn to the heat of battle. During one aerial attack, he stood right in the middle of the road as the Germans were attacking and – well – displayed his “weapon.”

Ridgway didn’t care about the Chinese culture or philosophy. This was war and he didn’t want to know what they thought; he wanted to know what they were going to do, and he studied up on their tactics, looking for those weaknesses. One thing he did was bring the CIA and its intelligence operations back into the fight.

Ridgway wasn’t afraid of the Chinese and North Koreans and he wasn’t afraid of Army Public Relations. He nicknamed his first Korean offensive “Operation Killer.” Army Chief of Staff Joe Collins wrote him to say that Army PR might have a problem trying to sell that moniker, that it was “too bloodthirsty.”

Halberstam quoted Ridgway as replying, “I did not understand why it was objectionable to acknowledge that war was concerned with killing the enemy. I am by nature opposed to any effort to ‘sell’ war to people as an only mildly unpleasant business that requires very little in the way of blood.”

Ridgway was unbothered by the prospect of a blood-soaked field filled with enemy bodies; the alternative was a field filled with American bodies. “After the Battle of Chipyongni, Halberstam wrote, “in February 1951, when the Chine finally broke and the Americans killed thousands with air and artillery strikes, one company commander had spoken of the battlefield as covered with ‘fricasseed Chinese.’

“Ridgway liked that phrase,” the author noted.

“Because Korea was such a grinding war, with such an unsatisfactory outcome, not many military men emerged from it as heroes,” Halberstam wrote. “Grim wars that end in stalemates [as the Korean War did] may produce men who are heroes to other soldiers, but not to the public at large. Thus Ridgway was revered in years to come not so much by ordinary Americans, who had largely turned away from the war, but by the men who fought there and knew what he had done.”

Halberstam also quoted Gen. Omar Bradley’s commendation of Ridgway: “’It is not often in wartime that a single battlefield commander can make a decisive difference. But in Korea, Ridgway would prove to be that exception. His brilliant, driving, uncompromising leadership would turn the battle like no other general’s in our military history.’”

And that, Lang Lang, is the true history of the Korean War, and China’s very brief “victory” in that conflict. It’s true that the United States didn’t win; but neither did North Korea and the Chinese. To this day, the demilitarized zone stands as testament to that stalemate. Had Ridgway entered the war sooner, there might not even be a demilitarized zone, but one united, and free, Korea.

Try setting that one to music, Lang Lang and Obama. Much thanks to the late Mr. Halberstam and Smithsonian magazine, and, of course, to Gen. Ridgway.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two by Two

Here's a little ditty for Congressional Date Night (since my computer crashed over the weekend and I missed posting for two days).  Lang Lang, take note.

When Congress goes marching two by two, Hurrah! Hurrah!
Lackeys will swoon and faint on cue, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The Dems will cheer and the Libs will shout.
The Media they will all turn out
And we all will pay as Congress goes marching in.

The Little Red School Bus

Once upon a time, there was a very smart lady who drove a yellow school bus. Sometimes she drove the children to and from school. Other times, she drove them on class trips.

The lady bus driver knew a lot of things and would talk to the children on the class trips about history and literature and science. On class trips to the Statue of Liberty, for instance, she’d tell them how the statue had actually been planned as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln. But there was no pedestal for her to stand on once she got to New York, so children all across America contributed their pennies so the pedestal could be built.

On science trips, she’d tell them about geology, and about how once, the earth was all one great mass of land. She’d tell them about the layers of rock making up the earth’s core, and how, if you looked very closely, you could see fossils of ancient creatures embedded in the rocks.

She showed them Niagara Falls and how far back the rocks under the falls had eroded over the many centuries. The lady bus driver told them about American history and the Founding Fathers, and how they put their lives on the line for liberty, that they were wanted men, considered criminals by the British. She told them about all the wars that had been fought to preserve freedom, from the Revolutionary War to the flag-raising on Iwo Jima.

The lady bus driver cautioned them not to believe anyone who told them there was a better way than freedom. Some of the teachers didn’t like that, but when the lady bus driver was behind the wheel, she was the boss.

She taught them to pay attention to the road, that it was important to know where they were going. The lady bus driver had them look up at the sky in the evenings, at the stars drifting in the vastness of space, to remind them to be humble and ambitious at the same time.

“The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves,” she would intone, quoting Shakespeare. She liked to quote Gone with the Wind and the Bible, too. That was something else the teachers didn’t like very much.

One day, her high school age daughter wrote a story about her, after a school librarian refused to allow the lady bus driver’s son to take out a book on astronomy. The first thing the daughter did was kick the teacher off the bus. Then the lady bus driver and her students took off for history and the stars.

They didn’t get very far, though, before the teacher managed to clamber back onto the bus and take control of the adventures. So now, in southern California, we have The Little Red School Bus.

According to The Blaze:

“The Southern California Young Communist League (YCL), a branch of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), announced on its website that it’s launching a “National Red School-Bus Tour.” The YCL calls each stop on the tour “weekend long schools” for “young activists.” So what exactly is this tour all about?

“The blog P/Oed Patriot broke the story after it went digging. Here’s what it found:

According to the SoCal YCL’s website the “Schools” will include:

‘Lively classes and discussions: Marxism and the Political Moment: Building the Movement for Change; The Crisis of Capitalism Today: Causes of Crisis and the Class Struggle; Working Class and the Labor Movement; Racism, Immigrant Rights, Women’s Rights, LGTB Rights and the Struggle for Equality; The CPUSA and YCL, envisioning Bill of Rights Socialism and how to get there. Also plenty of cultural, social and recreational activities.”

It’s not bad enough that students are being inculcated in the glories of socialism and communism in the classroom. The SCYCL wants to continue the brainwashing on the weekends. Communism 24/7. Never mind the Ten original bill of rights. Instead, the students will learn the Ten Planks of Communism.

“We do not believe in violence simply as a means to an end,” the website continues. “However, we support all forms of revolution, which historically have included violent forms but only were they successful or lasting and positive when the circumstances had called for it, when the assessment was correct (under fascism, extremely repressive and life-threatening conditions are set in place and creates justifiable responses) and ultimately if the end result is the achievement of a democratic, just society.”

Just what sort of “tour” is this going to be? Are they going to tour the notorious neighborhood of Watts, the scene of race riots during the Sixties? Will they take the children to see Rodney King’s neighborhood? Will they hold practice protests at Disneyworld and throw eggs and rocks at Mickey Mouse, that ultimate symbol of successful capitalism?

Will they take them to the fields of central California, where Che Gueverra organized the farm laborers into unions? Along the way, instead of singing the “Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” will they sing Woody Guthrie songs while passing joints among the teenagers?

At present, this seems to be voluntary excursions aimed at minority and inner city children. It may be another attempt to copy the admirable efforts of Tea Party activists to peacefully educate children about America’s great heritage, to counter the classroom activists who’ve been teaching the young that America is a terrible place, created by greedy, grasping white men.

The SCYCL is taking these kids for a ride.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Name That Tune

Insulting a guest you’ve invited to your home is pretty bad manners. Insulting the host who has invited you into their home is the height of bad etiquette. But what do you call it when the host insults his own home – or in this case country.

Earlier, I was critical of Speaker of the House John Boehner for snubbing the White House dinner for Chinese President, and Communist Party Chairman, Hu Jintao. However, I had not seen the entertainment agenda, and would not have believed that a President of the United States would countenance such a display. But then, we’re talking about Barack Hussein Obama.

According to a story in the Epoch Times, and carried by Glenn Beck’s news information service, The Blaze, the headline entertainment at the White House dinner was Chinese pianist, Lang Lang.

Named by Time Magazine in 2009 as one of the world’s most influential people, Lang Lang began playing piano at the age of 3, and by the age of 5, he had won the Shenyang Competition and had given his first public recital. Entering Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at age 9, he won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians Competition and played the complete 24 Chopin Études at the Beijing Concert Hall at age 13. Lang Lang’s break into stardom came at age 17, when he was called upon for a dramatic last-minute substitution at the “Gala of the Century,” playing a Tchaikovsky concerto with the Chicago Symphony.

Since then, Lang Lang has taught at prestigious music schools all over the world. His mission is to encourage children to learn to play the piano and love classical music. He’s considered one of the “hottest” artists on the classical music scene. He has played charity concerts and he even performed at the Nobel Prize Awards in 2009, where Obama received his participation award.

The number with which he delighted the White House audience was not Chopin’s Fifth Nocturne, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, March of the Wooden Soldiers, Hail to the Chief, or Holst’s Dance of the Demon.

No, Lang Lang chose a song entitled, “My Motherland” which was the theme song of a pro-Communist and extremely anti-American movie, “Battle on Shangganlin [Triangle] Mountain.” The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.” The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—that in fighting in the Korean War, the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is and then near the end has this verse, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States.

Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out the famous anti-American propaganda

The name of the song is “My Motherland,” originally titled “Big River.” In an interview broadcast on Phoenix TV, the first thing Lang Lang is quoted as saying is that he chose the piece.

He then said, “I thought to play ‘My Motherland’ because I think playing the tune at the White House banquet can help us, as Chinese people, feel extremely proud of ourselves and express our feelings through the song. I think it’s especially good. Also, I like the tune in and of itself, every time I hear it I feel extremely moved.”

He expressed this idea more frankly in a later blog post, writing: “Playing this song praising China to heads of state from around the world seems to tell them that our China is formidable, that our Chinese people are united; I feel deeply honored and proud.”

That’s what we get for inviting Chinese Communists to dinner. That’s what we get for electing a pro-Communist to the office of President of the United States. Maybe the Chinese people themselves understand good manners; clearly, their leaders do not. No wonder Boehner didn’t want to attend the dinner. He was right – they’re not nice people and their manners are obviously atrocious. What else could we have expected from a government that devotes most of its economy to its military, while its people work like robots in inhuman factories, all the while claiming they’re for the people?

Eduard Holst, not to be confused with the musically-famous Gustav Holst (“The Planets”), was a prolific composer, writing over 2,000 tunes. He was so prolific (and many of his compositions lightning fast) that some numbers were published posthumously.

Many of his songs were written for children, to listen to and to play. He probably did more for student pianists, composing some rather difficult music that would challenge and improve their skills than Lang Lang ever will, setting his obviously Communist agenda to music, to lure children in with classical musical like a Red Pied Piper.

Better “The Little Maid in Pink” than “The Little Comrade in Red.”

Beige Malaise

Henry Ford used to have a saying: You could have a car in any color you wanted, as long as the color was black. These days, your bathroom can be any color you want, as long as the color is beige.

The current bathroom fashion rage is Ancient Egyptian, Greek, or Roman, with one standard color – sand or beige. There’s a whole range of marbled patterns thrown in with some rather ugly greens, and your basic, Henry Ford black.

You can get bright colors. But the tiles are an extremely fragile glass tile that has no place in a bathroom where bare feet are the fashion. Colored, ceramic or porcelain tiles are strictly out. Passe. Gone with the wind. Yesterday’s news. “Old School.”

America is supposed to the land of freedom of choice. But not, apparently, when it comes to bathroom tiles. If you want those easy-to-clean, brightly colored tiles of olde, you must make a special order and wait a full week for delivery. My plumber and the bathroom installer sent me ahead to Home Depot, Loews, and Wayne Tile to find my choice of color. However, all I found was a maze of beige. From one end of the aisle, that’s all each store had.

If I were the owner of a brand-new, Georgian McMansion, with money to burn in my fashionable fireplace, I’d be in Baby Boomer Heaven. Alas, I live in an apartment built in 1970 that was converted over to condominiums in 1980. The tiles are the original 1970, apartment building tiles. “Lemon Chiffon” is the technical term, although the color is a bit dusky for chiffon.

The previous decided they wanted to update the bathroom a bit, so it wouldn’t look so “Old School.” They installed one of those plastic shower wraparounds. But that was in 1984. Since then, the glue gave way and the shower started leaking down into my shared basement. I had to deal with the problem pronto, even though the temperature forecast for this evening is minus three degrees.

The plumbing fixtures are all fixed except for the shower. My bathtub drains again. However, the shower will not be operative until the tile is installed. There’s no actual faucet head yet for the tub, either; just an elbow pipe to keep the water from hitting the wall. In these conditions, I must perform my daily ablutions. With the temperature forecast so low, I plan to keep the heat on in my bathroom overnight so my pipes don’t freeze and burst.

All because colored, ceramic tiles are considered out-of-date. Otherwise, my bathroom would be finished by now, or well on its way. Didn’t I say this was the Age of Capricorn? Did I mention that Capricorn is the most boring sign of the Zodiac? Beige is their color. Totally devoid of creativity, interest, color. Capricorn is all about conformity.  Capricorn also rules rocks and stones.

My entire office building is beige. My mother visited it on Family Day, when the new building first opened. A former architectural news journalist, she was appalled at all the beige.

“How do you even know what floor you’re on?” she asked, rightly. Eight years later, employees still get confused about what floor they’re getting off on. New Money rules, though. You’re not supposed to be distracted by anything. You must focus on whatever task is at hand and not be beguiled by a colorful wall panel. We’re not even allowed to hang anything on our cubicle walls.

I believe in freedom, and even though I’ll freeze taking my bath tonight, by next week, I’ll at least have a colorful, sunny, porcelain/ceramic tiled, “Old School” shower.