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By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale

The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Attitude Magazine and others have celebrated Disney’s decision to modernize the new Beauty and Beast film with a more feminist Belle and first ever “exclusively gay” character. Emma Watson wants the main character, Belle, not simply to be a reader of books but an assertive, feminist inventor who wears riding boots. The newly added character of LeFou, for his part, struggles with his identity and same-sex attraction toward Gaston, the boorish frat boy that tries to woo Belle.

Adding such politically fashionable themes has indeed generated press and gained the praise of cultural elites. But the new Beauty and the Beast reveals some dark truths about Hollywood. Film makers claim to view art as a form of “resistance.” But in this case ideology, political posturing and publicity stunts trumped doing justice to the original story.

It Fails as Art

The biggest problem with adding shock value to the film is that it is just bad storytelling. Despite powerful cinematography and impressive graphics, what we end up with is not art but kitsch. Disney could have wrestled with the challenge of conveying the powerful original tale — written by Gabrielle Suzanne Villanueve de Barbot in 1740 and famously abridged in 1756 by Madame de Beaumont. Instead, Disney used as its source text … its own animated version from 1991. The original version doesn’t even have the characters Gaston and LeFou, which were added by Disney in the 1991 version.

The original fairy tale is rich in meaning and human struggle. It explores:

the virtue and sacrifice of Belle
her struggle to see beyond appearances
Belle’s love for her father and willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of her desires
the effects of wealth and poverty on the family
the vices of envy and avarice
jealousy and struggles among the sisters
the agony of making decisions in the face of an impossible situation
the redemption that comes from sacrificial, other-directed love.

Little of this survived in the Disney cartoon, a garish romance whose shallowness was disguised with fireworks of sentimental tunes and computer graphics.

For the new, live version, Disney “updated” the old timey 1991 version by adding a character with same sex attraction. The story thus becomes a tool to shock audiences and promote a political agenda. Story and art are sacrificed on the altar of political fashion. The actors and producers get a chance to virtue signal, as Emma Watson does in a recent Vanity Fair article showing off her feminism. It takes very little courage to be applauded as sophisticated by one’s peers.

Bumper Sticker Feminism

The other artistic failure is the portrayal of Belle as the assertive feminist. This misses the point of her character and power as heroine of the story. In contrast to her superficial and materialist sisters, who care for nothing but themselves and their own advancement, Belle is serious and scholarly. She has interior resolve, integrity, profound courage and love that enable her to sacrifice her life for her father, to see beyond appearances and redeem the beast.

Her power is revealed in her character and her actions — not in exterior assertiveness and a willingness to buck convention by wearing riding boots. Her whole life bucks the convention of mediocrity and selfishness, which is why she is the protagonist. Instead of all the authentic character virtues Belle exhibited in the original tale, we get bumper sticker feminism and “girl power.”

The original story and the famous 1756 version, written by women, were more authentically affirming of women than this dumbed-down 2017 production.

Distorting Male Friendship

Beyond the obvious problem of sexualizing everything, the relationship between Gaston and LeFou also distorts and undermines authentic male friendship. This not only hurts boys and young men. It also hurts women because it relegates their brothers and future husbands to a frat boy “bro” culture.

As C.S. Lewis notes in The Four Loves, friendship often begins with mutual appreciation of some thing, idea or activity. It is directed toward something. Aristotle explains that while friendship can be grounded in utility or having a good time, authentic friendship is grounded in virtue and a desire to live a life of excellence.

Men need these authentic friendships that challenge and inspire them. It is quite normal for a young man, especially one entering manhood, to admire and look up to other, often older men. They see their masculinity and seek to emulate it — especially if it is in an area they lack, but desire to excel in. While this attraction and admiration often includes the physical, it is rarely sexual. This is the stuff of growing up, of friendship and camaraderie. It is a normal way a man learns to become himself.

Beauty and the Beast distorts this natural pattern by sexualizing it. Director Bill Condon comments that “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. … He’s confused about what he wants.”

Men are confused about a lot of things, especially when they are young. Disney exploits it. Beauty and the Beast’s decision to sexualize the male friendship of LeFou and Gaston undermines real friendship and creates confusion in young men — who might now begin to wonder if their “attraction” to a man is somehow sexual. The upshot of this will be to create further barriers to real male friendship and encourage the insipid and dehumanizing “bro” culture of the frat boys whose shared activities are narrowed to sports, drunkenness and reducing women to sexual conquests.

Any genuine sensitivity to the arts, to deep human emotion or to authentic love that respects a woman in her integrity is looked upon as effeminate, an sign of homosexual tendency. This is bad enough. But the problem is made even worse by Beauty and the Beast, which portrays the heterosexual man as a predator and womanizer. The distortion of male friendship into same sex attraction not only denies boys real friendship. It harms women by creating weak men whose only friendships are based on use or pleasure.

The new Beauty and the Beast could have been a real work of art that addressed the depth of human love and redemption. Instead it is a political puff piece. When the shock wears off, it will be forgotten. But hey, at least it made the headlines and gave the actors and writers a chance to preen to political fashion. And as we’ve seen lately, isn’t that what Hollywood is all about? (For more from the author of “By Sexualizing Male Friendship, Disney Makes a Mockery of the Original Tale” please click HERE)

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Yes, Liberals, We Can Deny Entry to Any Immigrant and for Any Reasons

What is happening in the courts right now goes beyond any debate over a “ban” on Muslim immigration. The courts have denuded the president of his plenary power over setting the refugee cap, which Trump applied evenly to every country included in his new executive order. Obviously, all the national security problems we have are from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East. But let’s put that aside for a moment. Even if this was a ban on Muslim immigration, it would be legal. That is settled law of a sovereign nation state.

Let’s also ignore political considerations for a moment. From a legal standpoint, a nation can set any criteria for letting in any group of people. Through our elected representatives, we can decide to only bring in people with brown hair. We can shut off immigration to those with green eyes or those who are left-handed. The prudence of such a law would have to be dealt with on a political level. Any legal limitation placed on our sovereignty, by definition, means we are not a sovereign nation and that foreign nationals can forcibly control our destiny. This is a principle deeply rooted in the social compact, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence (governance by consent), and the sovereignty of a nation state. Even one who is politically a supporter of loose immigration laws should be alarmed by courts creating a legal limitation to restricting immigration.

We have already cited from endless case law and statements from our founders on the plenary right of a nation to determine who enters the country. I’d like to add some new source material that speaks to the current constitutional crisis:

In Knauff v. Shaughnessy (1950), the Supreme Court made it clear that there is no right whatsoever to immigrate:

At the outset, we wish to point out that an alien who seeks admission to this country may not do so under any claim of right. Admission of aliens to the United States is a privilege granted by the sovereign United States Government. Such privilege is granted to an alien only upon such terms as the United States shall prescribe. It must be exercised in accordance with the procedure which the United States provides.

And yes, the exclusion could be because any consideration, even race. Remember, we are talking about law and Constitution, not politics, prudence, or morality. From Ju Toy v. United States (1905):

That Congress may exclude aliens of a particular race from the United States, prescribe the terms and conditions upon which certain classes of aliens may come to this country, establish regulations for sending out of the country such aliens as come here in violation of law, and commit the enforcement of such provisions, conditions, and regulations exclusively to executive officers, without judicial intervention are principles firmly established by the decisions of this Court. [emphasis added]

Thus, not only is the right to exclude — even for bad reason — deemed settled law in the most emphatic terms, resting on the most foundational principles of sovereignty, but it is not reviewable by the courts. Two years prior, in “The Japanese Immigrant Case,” the court used the exact same language and declared that, based on an uninterrupted stream of near-unanimous decisions, the constitutionality of such an exclusion “is no longer open to discussion in this Court.”

In 1904 (Turner v. Williams), the court made it clear that it is facially absurd to assert a religious liberty, equal protection, or freedom of speech right to affirmatively immigrate to this country. This case speaks directly to what the modern courts are ignoring:

We are at a loss to understand in what way the act is obnoxious to this objection. It has no reference to an establishment of religion, nor does it prohibit the free exercise thereof; nor abridge the freedom of speech or of the press; nor the right of the people to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is, of course, true that if an alien is not permitted to enter this country, or, having entered contrary to law, is expelled, he is in fact cut off from worshipping or speaking or publishing or petitioning in the country; but that is merely because of his exclusion therefrom. He does not become one of the people to whom these things are secured by our Constitution by an attempt to enter, forbidden by law. To appeal to the Constitution is to concede that this is a land governed by that supreme law, and as under it the power to exclude has been determined to exist, those who are excluded cannot assert the rights in general obtaining in a land to which they do not belong as citizens or otherwise.

It’s amazing how liberals worship the concept of stare decisis (court precedent) once a single liberal court overturns years of common sense case law and the plain meaning of the Constitution. But they have no respect for case law that is most firmly embedded in our sovereignty in the most emphatic language, including the courts own admission that they have absolutely no jurisdiction over the issue. All of this case law remains unsettled and unexplained by the civil disobedience of today’s modern judiciary. As I’ve noted before, this case law survived even the liberal Warren-era right up to this generation.

Some critics might suggest that we can’t draw any conclusions from the exclusion acts of the late 1880s because that’s when America was evil and racist. “Just like the courts upheld slavery and were wrong they are wrong about this,” some might suggest. “What about when the courts upheld the internment of the Japanese in the Korematsu case?”

There is a one-word answer to these questions: Sovereignty.

What liberals are missing is that there is a difference between abridging the rights of Americans or even immigrants and a right to affirmatively enter someone else’s country. Of course, we can’t just throw people into labor camps and indefinitely detain them without due process. But we don’t have to allow people into our country. Immigration is quite a different issue than indefinite detention. It’s like saying because you are not allowed to kidnap a visitor of your house and lock him in your attic you must allow anyone into your house in the first place.

As I’ve cited many times, Justice Robert Jackson, the famous Nuremberg prosecutor who was a champion of due process rights and wrote the dissent in Korematsu v. United States, said that “Due process does not invest any alien with a right to enter the United States, nor confer on those admitted the right to remain against the national will.” Shaughnessy v. Mezei, 345 US 222-223 (1953) (Jackson, J., dissenting).] Scalia, in his Zadvydas dissent, made this same distinction between indefinite detention and the right to enter or remain in the country against the national will. Even the majority opinion at the time only granted relief because the individual legal permanent resident was being held longer than six months in prison (but only because his home country would not repatriate him).

Some might feel uncomfortable with the notion that there are no limitations on discriminatory, absurd, or “mean” immigration selection criterion. But those are political or sensibility arguments, not legal arguments. By definition, any limitation whatsoever on the power to exclude necessarily means that a foreign national has some sort of affirmative claim to assert jurisdiction and adjudicate his way into entry. As John Marshall, the judicial strongman himself, said:

The jurisdiction of the nation within its own territory is necessarily exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself. Any restriction upon it deriving validity from an external source would imply a diminution of its sovereignty to the extent of the restriction and an investment of that sovereignty to the same extent in that power which could impose such restriction. All exceptions, therefore, to the full and complete power of a nation within its own territories must be traced up to the consent of the nation itself. They can flow from no other legitimate source.

But again, we are not even talking about a complete shutoff of Muslim immigration. We are no longer a sovereign nation and a sovereign people when courts, relatives of foreign nationals, taxpayer-funded refugee groups, and states can proactively demand any form of immigration they so desire. (For more from the author of “Yes, Liberals, We Can Deny Entry to Any Immigrant and for Any Reasons” please click HERE)

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Fear of Islam Is Rational. It’s Not Islamophobia.

Last October, prodded by a petition asking that it recognize “that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam” and condemn “all forms of Islamophobia,” the Canadian House of Commons agreed on a statement repudiating Islamophobia. Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, then demanded that the government deal with the “Islamophobia” endemic to Canadian society. That demand is now under consideration.

Which caused me to wonder. What is Islamophobia? Might I, as a critic of Islam who nevertheless seeks to be kind to individual Muslims, suffer from this malady?

Phobias are inordinate fears — of heights, dogs, snakes, enclosed spaces and so on. The term “Islamophobia” implies that if you are afraid of Islam per se (rather than just “extremist individuals”), you are likely to be unjust or unkind, or perhaps launch wars against innocent Muslims.

Thus the Canadian petition went on to note (echoing the constant drumbeat in some American high school textbooks), that the Golden Age of Islam produced a series of literate, advanced empires with the Muslim faith at their ideological core. It claims that Islam then made contributions in “arts, culture, science, literature, medicine” and more.

To what extent Islam produced rather than obtaining these things through its conquests is hard to say. That is just one of the many ways in which Islam is more complicated than the Islamophobia-phobic let on. In fact, I think it is rational, moral and biblical to be wary of Islam as a whole, not just a few “extremists” within it — while offering kindness to individual Muslims.

Responses to Real Danger

Most phobias are exaggerated responses to real dangers, after all. Heights are dangerous, unless you’re Spider-Man. Bees sting. Snakes bite. Ask a coal miner or parakeet what can happen in an enclosed space. God implanted such fears in us to keep us in one piece.

So why then is “Islamophobia” a word, and not “Buddhaphobia?”

Ask a Coptic Christian in Egypt whose faith has been suppressed for more than a millennia. Ask Nigerian Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Ask a survivor, if you can find one, of the once great and ancient Jewish communities in Egypt, Iraq or Iran. Talk to Yazidi girls sold into sexual slavery in ISIS-controlled territory.

A young Saudi woman I got to know in Oxford told me, “The only way I’m going back to Saudi is in a body bag.” A former imam I met in the same city told me that “of course” Islamic law prescribes death for those who convert out, which is why (after miraculously converting to Christ) he could not go home.

The villains in some of these cases are considered “extremist,” in others, they represent mainstream Islam. But “extremist” is one of those chameleon-words like “fundamentalist,” that derives meaning only from its neighbors. Therefore “extremist Muslims” must by definition be outliers and cannot “represent” Islam. The question that immediately leads to then, is, What does define Islam?

Defining Islam

Like any ideology, Islam can be defined by (a) the life and teachings of its founder; (b) its canonical writings; or (c) its developed traditions.

Western liberals tend to accentuate its traditions (c) rather than (a) or (b). But even viewed “liberally” as a mere social phenomenon, Islam provides rational grounds for worry, even fear. The horror of 9/11 was no aberration. “The borders of Islam are bloody,” said historian Bernard Lewis. And modern Islamic societies, as shown by broad-based United Nations research, tend to suppress women, among other ills.

Things turn even darker when we look at Islam’s founder. Among Mohammed’s crimes, as chronicled in Muslim tradition, are child-rape, polygamy, torture, slave-trading, assassination, mass-murder, armed robbery and the waging of many aggressive wars.

As for its canonical writings, much of what the enlightened world decries in modern Islam’s treatment of women has its origins in the teachings and actions of the prophet. These include marrying children to old men, polygamy, wife-beating, keeping women indoors and covered. Some of this is enshrined within the sacred pages of the Koran — and stands in stark contrast to the example of Jesus.

One must still give credit where credit is due. Who cannot admire, for instance, a Libyan Muslim immigrant to the United States who takes in terminally-ill foster children? Since Jesus teaches us to recognize such “Good Samaritans,” we should also recognize whatever Muslims have accomplished in medicine, art and science.

That said, recall that Islam conquered several cradles of civilization — ancient Sumer, Persia, Egypt, Israel, and much of the Greek Byzantine Empire — and ruled over technologically-advanced Nestorian Christian and Jewish communities. Islam then conquered much of Christendom and India and enslaved millions of Africans and Slavs. While not as inherently vicious as Nazism, Communism, or Aztec religion, Islam thus proves itself an object of rational fear.

The Two “Extremes”

One should distinguish between phobias or inordinate fears and reasonable concerns. Jesus taught his followers that they would be persecuted for His sake. Was that fear-mongering? Jesus sometimes avoided angry mobs and warned against bullies and ideological predators (“wolves”). Life under Islamic rule taught many followers of Christ to take pragmatic steps to mitigate the dangers of Islamic theology. They did this even while placing ultimate trust in God, making friends in the Muslim community, and treating each individual with the dignity and compassion of Christ.

Thus it is rational to fear the influence of a man whose example and teachings have led to great harm — even if it includes some good.

Christians should place ultimate trust in God. We are called to love Muslims as well, some of whom may prove better men and women than ourselves.

Osama bin Laden was an “extremist” because he followed Mohammed too closely. And that example is the root of a rational fear of Islam in its normative state. Those who truly love their neighbors are “extreme” rather in their resemblance to Jesus, the normative state of Christianity, which overcomes, but does not simply ignore, rational dangers. (For more from the author of “Fear of Islam Is Rational. It’s Not Islamophobia.” please click HERE)

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Why Trump’s Budget Proposal for the State Department Makes Sense

President Donald Trump has made some promising proposals to trim government spending in his recently released budget blueprint.

Trump’s significant 2018 budget cut of 28 percent for the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other U.S. government foreign affairs agencies makes a lot of sense. The cut seems dramatic, but comes on the back of more than a decade of expansion during which the foreign operations budget nearly doubled.

The Trump budget does many good things. For example, it eliminates the cronyist Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a move that Heritage Foundation senior trade policy analyst Bryan Riley and other Heritage scholars have long recommended.

Also on the chopping block: USAID’s Global Climate Change Initiative and all payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs.

In calling for the elimination of this funding last year, former Heritage scholar, David Kreutzer, wrote that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had devolved into little more than a mechanism to redistribute wealth and to dramatically rework and centralize the world economy with little or no impact on climate. Cutting this funding is a good first step toward U.S. withdrawal from the convention.

Given a second chance: the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which had strayed from its hard emphasis on anti-corruption during the Obama years but which was spared from outright elimination in the Trump budget.

Although Trump did not heed the call by Heritage senior research fellow Lisa Curtis to continue funding the United States Institute of Peace, the overall direction of Trump’s foreign operations budget is in line with Heritage foreign policy expert Jim Carafano’s advice: Cut the U.S. foreign aid budget in favor of increased defense spending to make the world safer.

The president’s dramatic budget cut will leave no choice but for the State Department and USAID “to pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation in order to enable effective diplomacy and development.”

That’s precisely what Heritage senior research fellow Brett Schaefer recommended last year: to bring USAID directly under the control of the State Department to better coordinate its activities with U.S. policy priorities

In the words of the budget announcement, a complete overhaul of U.S. foreign aid will refocus “economic and development assistance to countries of greatest strategic importance to the U.S.” and ensure “the effectiveness of U.S. taxpayer investments by rightsizing funding across countries and sectors.”

Overall, the budget cuts will force the reorganization of the State Department that Schaefer recommended last year, to make it a more effective and capable agency ready to resume its role as the primary implementer of the nation’s foreign policy. (For more from the author of “Why Trump’s Budget Proposal for the State Department Makes Sense” please click HERE)

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True Romance Is a Powerful Weapon Against the Gay Lobby

As a child, I spent countless hours watching classic Disney princess movies, Errol Flynn swashbucklers, and other such old-fashioned boy-meets-girl affairs. I rooted for the hero to slash his way through whatever thorn thickets, dragons or evil sheriffs of Nottingham stood in his way to reach his Aurora, his Maid Marion, his one true lady love. I didn’t know it at the time, but these timeless tales were shaping my heart and my imagination by teaching me what true love looks like. Were they often fantastical and idealized? To be sure. But then, I was six years old. And already, a most powerful weapon against all distortions of love’s true nature had been placed in my hands: romance.

A Different Take

Fellow millennial Liberty McArtor recently made waves hereabouts with her piece, “Let’s Be Honest: Disney Has Been Sexualizing Its Characters For a Long Time.” Her take on classic Disney fare like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty was rather different from mine. She highlighted the fact that the princesses were wasp-waisted, buxom beauties often in their teens. This casts wakeup kiss scenes from doting princes in a more disturbing light: “Perhaps parents should think about the message it sends their little girls that when they are 16, a man they don’t know will save them with a kiss on the lips.”

By contrast, she praised the stories of tomboyish princesses like Merida and Elsa, where romance was sidelined by action/adventure or family drama. This jibed with her own personal experience of being that little girl who always wanted to skip the kissing scenes. Her memo to Disney: More of this and less of that. “That” being romance, of all varieties, not merely the gay sort. Meanwhile, she thinks conservative Christian parents should be “wary of the message their daughters are receiving when they constantly watch portrayals of teen girls who are hyper-sexualized and focused on Prince Charming.”

I see Disney’s legacy films quite differently. Yes, Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora in particular is exaggeratedly thin and buxom. And yes, she occasionally sports an era-appropriate dress that bares more than I would approve of. But she’s no Playboy bunny. Some of her outfits are even buttoned up to the collarbone. And what of the shy loveliness of Cinderella, or the child-like innocence of Snow White? Miley Cyrus is hyper-sexualized. Beyoncé is hyper-sexualized. Hyper-sexualized, ye olde Disney princesses are not.

Moreover, I think the fairytale genre holds much promise for conservatives. As millennials, we should tread thoughtfully when evaluating the literary heritage of the West that has been passed down to us. There’s an all-too-prevalent temptation to evaluate every cultural artifact through a 21st century lens, leading to conclusions that are less relevant than we think.

For example, girls as young as 14 were regularly married off to older men in the eras depicted in such tales. Though this did result in sadly arranged unions, it also resulted in many happy ones. And while we’re talking about teen girls’ readiness for marriage, look no further than the Virgin Mary herself, than whom no purer exemplar of feminine virtue can be conceived.

But to the main point: I don’t think the sweet, innocent sentiments expressed by Snow White in a song like “Someday My Prince Will Come” is something for parents to be “wary” of with their children. Cinderella’s “So This is Love” and Aurora’s “Once Upon a Dream” are likewise free of guile. Certainly, there is pop media that can create unrealistically high expectations for young girls, or give them an unhealthily twisted image of romantic affection. See: Twilight.

However, we should waste no chance to point our children toward the Good, and healthy romance is certainly a component of that. We should celebrate the wondrous natural beauty of the male/female bond in front of children at every stage of their development, in age-appropriate ways. This is precisely the goal early Disney accomplished through their romantic fairytales. By using such tools to teach young boys and girls early and often what love is, Christian parents can prepare them to recognize what it isn’t.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Liberty admits that second-wave feminist considerations are driving her thesis to a certain extent. She doesn’t want Disney to put feminine princesses on a pedestal, because not every girl is waiting for her prince to come. She wants Disney to encourage girls to find their own path in life, whether it involves a Prince Charming or not.

The problem with even such second-wave sentiments is that nature abhors a vacuum. I submit that the very liberals and feminists who raised red flags about Aurora, Snow White et alia were leaving such a vacuum for LeFou and Gaston to rush in. Liberty rightly notes that as cultural romantic mores shift, so too will Disney’s. But the solution is not for Disney to get out of the romance business, any more than the solution to government-sanctioned gay marriage is for government to get out of the marriage business. Indeed, Disney just offered up a lovely picture of romantic innocence with its last live-action princess adaptation, Cinderella. (Memo to Disney: More of that.)

The gay lobby wants to begin indoctrinating children as young as possible, because they want to warp a child’s perception of what is natural and normal. All the more reason for Christian parents not to treat love and marriage as “delicate” matters to be “broached” at leisure. Children may not be able to grasp sexuality, but they see the man and the woman kiss, and they know that it is good. The little girl who tucks her dolly in at night may not understand where babies come from, but she knows they are of the utmost importance, and when she grows up she will (she will!) have her own.

Of course, none of the above is meant to belittle those who are ordained to singleness, whether literally or figuratively. As St. Paul notes, some people have a special calling to a vocation that would be hampered by the demands of marriage. But we should encourage marriage-mindedness in those who are not among that select few. There’s a reason why God looked down and thought to Himself that it was not good for man to be alone. At the end of the day, I like to think Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders said it best: “The purpose of a man is to love a woman, and the purpose of a woman is to love a man.” (For more from the author of “True Romance Is a Powerful Weapon Against the Gay Lobby” please click HERE)

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6 Unsettling Ways Trump’s Foreign Policy Is Headed Toward Disaster

As conservatives fight the efforts of their own party and president to promote Obamacare 2.0 here at home, there are some major problems with the direction in foreign policy of this Trump administration. We can dismiss all reports of liberal policies and leftist personnel emanating from this administration as “fake news” — or we can demand a course correction before this becomes the third term of Obama’s State Department. The choice is ours.

The final dramatic act of the Obama administration was to instigate a public feud between former Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over where Jews can live in their own homeland. As conservatives, we swore to ourselves that once Trump assumed power we’d be done with the illogical and immoral Oslo Accords, along with its maniacal idea of creating a new Arab terror state.

Trump himself also promised a new direction:

The reason this issue is important is not just because of our relationship with Israel ; it’s that the obsession with a Palestinian state and the recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorists has served as the fulcrum of our entire Middle East policy for 24 years, preventing us from acting in our own self-interests.

The failure to understand the danger of the PLO is not just bad for Israel. It’s also dangerous for America because it demonstrates that our political elites don’t understand the Islamic threat and will continue the past mistakes of both the Clinton/Obama leftists and the establishment neo-conservatives who support the nation building agenda in the Arab world.

Well, that nightmare is now upon us.

During Trump’s second week in office, I took a lot of flak for criticizing the White House’s statement on Israel’s construction in the so-called settlements. Some conservatives felt that Trump’s statement was a breath of fresh air because, while he did rebuke the construction, he implied that building within the “settlement blocks” is OK.

Obviously, as I noted at the time, this statement is nonsense. Why are we getting involved in any of this Kerry-style dictating of terms? Weren’t we supposed to break from the entire Oslo Accords? Why should we legitimize any notion of a Palestinian state and how does that put America’s interests first? Weren’t we done with nation building in terror states among existing nations, much less trying to create a new one? I warned that absent a course correction, this policy would grow legs and irrevocably suck the president into the globalist swamp of the PLO cause.

It has. Consider the following troubling observations:

This week, Trump dispatched Jason Greenblatt, his top lawyer and envoy to the Middle East, to pressure Netanyahu into halting construction, even for a city designed to house displaced Israelis who were uprooted by a very painful evacuation. As the Times of Israel is reporting, Greenblatt is now obsessing over every last neighborhood with the maniacal precision of John Kerry to prevent Israel from building even within existing “settlements.” The pressure is reportedly so strong that Netanyahu has now held off on his plans to fully annex Ma’ale Adumim, the largest suburb of Jerusalem, which has always been a “consensus” area (even to those who buy into the premise of a Palestinian state). Greenblatt later met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (whose term of office expired eight years ago!) and treated him like a peace partner.

The inimitable Caroline Glick gives a riveting account of the sharp turn of the White House on Israel — embracing the PLO, inviting Abbas to the White House, and taking an active (almost obsessive) role in promoting a Palestinian state. It’s almost as if Trump has made it his life’s mission (or, son-in-law Jared Kushner’s mission) to ram through the “peace process” even more than Obama.

My colleague, Jordan Schachtel has already reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appointed a Kerry acolyte as the Israel-Palestinian policy official in the State Department. Michael Ratney was Obama’s consul to Jerusalem who “oversaw grants to OneVoice, a leftist non-profit that President Obama allegedly used to try to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s 2015 election.” Ratney oversaw a program the Times of Israel said was “in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate.” Martin Indyk — Obama’s anti-Israel apologist — praised the appointment, tweeting that Ratney was a “valued member of Kerry’s peace team.”

Trump decided to keep Obama’s National Security Council Adviser, Yael Lempert, for Israel policy. She accompanied Greenblatt on his trip to Israel, where he graciously met with Abbas and pressured Netanyahu on settlements. Lempert was literally Obama’s point person in the White House orchestrating his war against Israel. This decision is Orwellian.

Talk about the fox guarding the hen house? Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, the Iran director for Obama’s National Security Council, has been given the portfolio over the Persian Gulf region on the policy planning staff at the State Department. This individual was an essential figure in pushing through the Iran deal and has ties to Tehran.

Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to appoint Anne Patterson to the No. 3 position in the Pentagon. Patterson was Obama’s ambassador to Egypt, who had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and embodied John Kerry’s foreign policy. Although conservatives successfully prevented that from happening, Mattis’ motivations, along with a number of troubling statements on policy, reveal that he fundamentally doesn’t share a conservative worldview.

Folks, this is not “deep state” sabotage of Pres. Trump’s agenda. This is Trump sabotaging himself by allowing Jared in the White House and top officials in State to promote the very worst elements of the Clinton/Bush/Obama foreign policy. And it’s not just about Israel. Anyone who believes in creating a new terror state and partnering with PLO terrorists clearly does not understand the broader Islamic threat. This could lead us into nation-building in Syria and other insufferable Arab countries, a notion Trump explicitly rejected with his popular denunciation of the Iraq war.

There is nothing to “negotiate” and nobody with which we can “cut deals.” This is not a matter of convincing Carrier to keep its plant in Indiana. Some things don’t work with negotiations; Islamo-fascists elements are one good example.

What is so disappointing is that foreign policy is the one area where the president has wide latitude to change course without the cumbersome legislative process. Almost 60 days into the new administration, there is no major accomplishment that has gotten past Congress, including the much-promised FULL repeal of Obamacare. Again, foreign policy is the one area where Donald Trump can unilaterally make his mark.

However, absent a dramatic change of course, the pink unicorn of the PLO “peace process” will ensnare President Trump into untenable diplomatic quicksand. As Caroline Glick warns, “The PLO is the Siren that drowns U.S. administrations.” Trump must understand that if he is “serious about embracing the PLO and intends to have his top advisers devote themselves to Abbas and his henchmen,” he is setting himself up “to fail and be humiliated.”

Make no mistake: The “two-state solution” is the Obamacare of foreign policy. Failure to repeal it will be as catastrophic for foreign policy as Obamacare is for domestic policy. Except this time, we won’t be able to blame a parliamentarian. (For more from the author of “6 Unsettling Ways Trump’s Foreign Policy Is Headed Toward Disaster” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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Listen: President Trump Is Not Safe in the White House

In this episode, I address the disastrous security failure at the White House this weekend and what can be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

I also discuss the Trump budget and the reasons liberals, and interest groups, are fighting it.

(For more from the author of “Listen: President Trump Is Not Safe in the White House” please click HERE)

Follow Joe Miller on Twitter HERE and Facebook HERE.

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With Colleges Turning Into Indoctrination Camps, What Can Christian Parents Do?

As we saw in Part One and Part Two of this series, free speech and liberal arts education are dying or dead at most American colleges, while expressions of Christian faith are increasingly penalized. What is a student or parent to do? The options are narrowing, year by year.

Ideally, we’d want to see those strong believers who can make the grade walking the storied lawns of Harvard, Yale, and other elite institutions, honing their arguments with top-notch secular thinkers, gaining five-star credentials, making connections, and witnessing to their faith. But few of those things are possible anymore at most such universities, where matters grow worse year by year. Such schools are clutched tight in the whitened knuckles of tenured radicals, with ever-expanding “speech codes” that repress free expression of thought, and curricula driven not by reason or love of culture, but ideological fervor.

The Ivies Don’t Want You

When schools like Middlebury College can let violent mobs assault professors and silence free speech, while Yale lets angry snowflakes drive celebrated faculty members to give up tenure and quit, we can no longer pretend that these schools are really elite. They might have famous professors, massive endowments, and kids with high SATs, but they are becoming little more than leftist seminaries, which preach a new and puritanical creed that’s not just neutral but hostile to Christianity and Western civilization. Each year, they churn far too many lazy, sloppy thinkers who react to ideas that offend them by starting riots, throwing tantrums, having meltdowns, or claiming that they are victims. Sooner or later, employers will catch on and figure out that it’s time to stop hiring Yalies — except those with the courage (which these days borders on recklessness) to swim against the tide and speak their minds.

Middlebrow Schools Won’t Protect You

You might think that an ordinary state university, or long-standing Catholic college, would be a friendlier venue for conservative, Christian students. But that’s no longer broadly true, as the teachers and administrators at schools eager to polish their reputations ape what is taught and practiced at elite campuses. It wasn’t at Harvard that a journalism professor called on “muscle” to grab the camera of a student journalist who was documenting a leftist riot. It was at the University of Missouri. It wasn’t at Oberlin that a Christian student was silenced by her professor for questioning same-sex marriage — and another professor who spoke out on her behalf was fired. It was at putatively Catholic Marquette University.

Faithful Schools Under Fire

Even colleges with a traditional evangelical Christian orientation are under heavy pressure from theological progressives to compromise biblical teaching and practice on crucial moral issues. It doesn’t help when the regional accrediting authorities threaten to yank the school’s right to grant certified degrees or dispense federal student loans, as happened to Gordon College in Massachusetts. Even when such schools (for now) dodge Big Brother’s bullet, such controversies give ammo to progressives on campus and in the faculty to push such colleges in an ever more secular direction.

Intentionally Christian Colleges

There are a few smaller, more recently founded colleges that we might call “intentionally Christian,” which push back against the overwhelming pressure of trends within academia, to teach traditional liberal arts and sound theology. For highly motivated, intellectually talented students with an interest in academic pursuits, journalism, or the arts, choices such as The King’s College in New York City or Hillsdale College in Michigan make sense. This is where many of the believers who once might have braved the Ivy League will now end up instead, so there’s some hope that they will produce the new cultural leaders which the church desperately needs.

What About the Rest of Us?

But there aren’t anywhere near enough spots at such colleges to educate millions of Christians who simply want a basic college education so they can get started with their lives. Nor is a traditional liberal arts education meant for everyone. Millions of young people want to get training in business, marketing, nursing or math and science, as a preparation for useful, productive careers as citizens and parents. It used to be that universities would require such students to complete a liberal arts “core curriculum,” enriching them with the fundamentals of English literature, Western civilization, American history, and civics — on top of what used to be solid high school education in those subjects.

None of this is true anymore. Apart from a few small, niche colleges that are worth seeking out for select students, there are few schools which you can count on to provide your children with a decent basic education. Many do a good job preparing people for jobs, if they can keep their heads down and not be swayed into secular radicalism by peer pressure and propaganda. But that’s the best you can hope for.

Instead, parents must be proactive. They must see that raising children of faith in today’s environment is a solemn and difficult duty, conducted in mission territory where “soft” persecution is already underway. We cannot count on institutions to form our children; too many have been infiltrated, either openly or quietly, and betray their founding missions.

What’s a Parent to Do?

As editor for ten years of the Christian-friendly, conservative guide to education Choosing the Right College, I was often contacted by parents who sought advice about where their children should study. Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some students — cussed non-joiners and misanthropes like me — would still do well at some Ivy League schools. (Recent graduate Aurora Griffin’s How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard recounts how one student kept her faith.) Other students really belong in the intense subculture of an intentionally Christian college. Many students (many more than you’d think) should skip college altogether and learn useful trades that pay better than most white-collar jobs.

But looking at the middle of the bell curve, I suspect that the wisest option for the average son or daughter of a conservative Christian family would run as follows:

1. If you’re lucky enough to have a serious, academically and doctrinally sound Christian high school close by you, and you can afford the tuition, by all means use it. If not….

2. Consider either home-schooling, or supplementing your children’s education — which might be much more meager or politicized than you could possibly imagine — with materials from a “classical Christian” home school (there are dozens to choose from) that focuses on the liberal arts. Such programs can provide much of what used to be offered in high schools and colleges in key areas of learning, from religion and philosophical reasoning to literature, art, history, and civics.

3. Once you’ve done your best at home to fill in the vast, yawning moral, cultural, and cognitive gaps that exist in the average curriculum, seriously consider state universities with low in-state tuition as the wisest option. There is really no reason to saddle your child with anything like the Class of 2017 average of $37,113 in student debt for what will likely be a disappointing experience. Look closely at smaller or satellite campuses, and community colleges that allow students to fulfill requirements at lower cost.

4. Look for single sex and substance-free dorms, if any exist. If not, consider the benefits of a student living at home and commuting to school. The “traditional college experience” was always overblown, and is in many places now toxic.

5. Investigate chaplaincies, religious student organizations, and churches where your child can continue to live out and deepen his life of faith. Don’t be surprised if the chaplain who serves your denomination at a public university is far more doctrinally shaky than your pastor back at home. If so, steer your child to a more faithful local congregation instead, and make sure you keep in regular communication with him about his faith and the challenges which he faces.

6. And above all, pray for your children. They will need it.

(For more from the author of “With Colleges Turning Into Indoctrination Camps, What Can Christian Parents Do?” please click HERE)

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Most College Humanities and Social Science Programs Have Become Enemies of Freedom and Reason

In the wake of the riots that have silenced free speech on one campus after another, it is clear that few colleges or universities still offer a real liberal arts education. Nor have most even lapsed into simple careerism, aiming solely at getting students ready to support themselves and their families. That would be bad enough, a grim decline from the reason that the Church created the first universities back in the Middle Ages: forming the “whole person,” as West Point still aims to do.

No, things are much worse than that. The reason that most students go to college is grimly careerist — it’s like getting a green card that permits you to work at most jobs in America. But the schools have kept the infrastructure of old-fashioned Western liberal arts institutions, adding on the apparatus of 19th-century quasi-sciences like sociology and history. However, the ideas about human nature, politics, economics, morality and culture that have captured most humanities and social science departments are aggressively hostile to the culture of the West, especially Christianity, limited government, and economic freedom. Even the unique value of human life is no longer taken for granted, thanks to the explosion of ecological fundamentalism in the name of “sustainability.”

So we have the worst of both worlds: schools that keep up the pretense of forming young people in humanistic disciplines, while the teachers who’ve grabbed control of the relevant departments are doing exactly the opposite. So students pass statues of Homer, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare and Washington, en route to classes whose teachers and texts sneer at every value any of those men would have treasured.

Your average humanities department is thus like a seminary whose theology department has been captured by tenured atheists. Even in schools that still retain a Western core curriculum, there are influential teachers like the late Edward Said of Columbia, who boasted that he taught the “canon” of Western literature as a means of exposing our culture as the oppressor of most of the world.

Rejecting Reason, Freedom and Objectivity

Even worse than that, whole disciplines have turned against ideals of reason, free discourse and objectivity, and rest their conclusions instead on untestable, aggressively political dogmas whose premises are unquestioned. In fact, if a student or teacher attempts to question them, he will simply be punished, academically or professionally. Thus they operate less as intellectual fields of inquiry than intolerant, man-made religions — or ideologies. That word means more than just “worldview.” It’s a term for a set of intellectual rationalizations for positions you chose for non-rational reasons, such as the craving for money, power, privilege, or revenge. An ideology is a half-baked idea with a fully loaded pistol.

The great critic of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, Eric Voegelin, explained how to distinguish a legitimate, grounded worldview from an ersatz religion, or ideology. In The New Science of Politics, he noted that ideologues defend their systems not by anticipating objections and answering them, but instead by forbidding the questions.

Marx allowed no room in his system of materialistic determinism for the possibility of God. When students asked him about that, he told them that in a future socialist paradise, the question of God would never come up. (Indeed, future Marxist governments would send the secret police to make sure of that.) Of course that is not an answer but an evasion. It’s the response not of a philosopher but of an ideologue.

Whole Disciplines Without Dissenters

Women’s studies professors, almost to a person, take for granted the right to abortion. How many “queer theory” teachers are willing to entertain the natural law objections to same-sex marriage? Will they let students defend that position in papers in their classes, without subjecting them to classroom shaming and punitive grading? Would students who end up in one of these classes have the nerve to make the experiment? I don’t advise it. I advise not taking those classes, and if they are required I advise transferring colleges.

Can we really take seriously the claim that these are legitimate academic fields, when the answers to complex questions that are widely and justly debated — not just across America, but around the world and throughout the centuries — are so blithely taken for granted that there are simply no dissenters? Worse still, these disciplines poison other departments, as history professors adopt the “consensus” of women’s studies “scholars” on one issue, and philosophers, theologians, even chaplains accept the queer theorists’ party line.

It’s not just that classes infused by such corrupted, politicized disciplines indoctrinate students with pat, false conclusions, and encourage them to wield them self-righteously as cudgels. Nor even that students are being robbed of the chance to appreciate thinkers, artists, and statesmen of the past with any sympathy or pleasure. All that is bad enough.

Lazy Thinking Makes Snowflakes

Even worse, in the long run, are the intellectual laziness and emotional fragility that such an education produces. Can you imagine college Democrats in 1952 reacting to the election of immigration hawk Dwight Eisenhower as today’s “snowflakes” responded to Donald Trump’s win? Even the self-righteous and often violent radicals who took over campuses in the 60s didn’t have melt-downs, public crying fits, and apparent nervous breakdowns when Nixon beat McGovern. Whatever crackpot ideologies they might have adopted, they had been through the training in rigorous, critical thinking that Western education has prided itself on since the ancient Greeks. Our current generation wouldn’t know rigor from rigor mortis.

All these are excellent, and to my mind decisive, reasons to shutter most humanities and social science departments, and reduce English faculty to teaching remedial reading, correct grammar, and the basics of business writing. Let universities and colleges shrink down to their icy, pragmatic core: preparing future taxpayers, without poisoning their minds with toxic ideologies founded on crass intellectual sloth. First do no harm.

But who will pass on the really important traditions of humanistic learning, which our current crop of “humanists” has poisoned like a virus yet clings to like a tapeworm? Tomorrow I’ll grope toward an answer at how to replace the wrecked infrastructure of liberal education in our current tough conditions. (For more from the author of “Most College Humanities and Social Science Programs Have Become Enemies of Freedom and Reason” please click HERE)

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The 5 Stages of a Trump Scandal

Another week, another “nothing burger” Trump scandal.

This week, President Trump took to Twitter to accuse former President Obama of ordering him to be wiretapped at Trump Tower. That accusation, of course, had no evidence to support it. But instead of merely stating that the accusation was false, the media responded with volcanic rage, declaring that it was outrageous to suggest that Obama would ever have done such a thing. To this, conservatives rightly responded saying that Obama has a long history of targeting enemies through bureaucratic surrogates, and that multiple media reports stated that the Obama Department of Justice sought FISA warrants against Trump associates. To this, leftists responded by accusing conservatives of covering for Trump’s lies.
And so it goes.

This is the typical Trump scandal. It has five stages:

Stage one: A media outlet of Trump’s liking reports something.

Stage two: Trump simplifies that report into an incorrect headline.

Stage three: The media jump on the incorrect headline, tacitly suggesting that there is no relationship between Trump’s headline and the truth.

Stage four: The right fires by pointing out that while Trump may be getting the headline wrong, there’s underlying truth to the narrative.

Stage five: The left seethes that anyone would defend Trump’s falsehoods.

And then we repeat this routine over and over, further ensconcing ourselves in our partisan bubbles.

We saw this exact pattern just two weeks ago, when Trump saw a piece on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” during which video journalist Ami Horowitz traveled to Sweden and talked about rising crime rates related to increased Muslim immigration. Trump took that in, processed it and then blurted out that something awful had happened “last night in Sweden.” The media quickly declared that not only had nothing bad happened in Sweden the prior night but that there was also no evidence of a serious crime problem in Sweden due to Muslim immigration. To this, the right responded with statistics showing that Sweden did indeed have a rising crime problem, and that lack of statistics did not denote lack of crime but rather politically driven lack of reporting. The media then asked incredulously whether the right would continue to defend Trump’s nonsense.

Now, note that nothing here is actually scandalous. Trump will always play fast and loose with the truth; the media will always split hairs in order to declare Trump’s entire program out of bounds; and the right will generally defend Trump’s larger program. But it does point out a lack of truth telling on all sides because at any stage of this process, the scandal could die. Trump could simply speak accurately. The left could point out Trump’s inaccuracies while telling the whole story. The right could do the same.

But because Trump has become such a controversial litmus test, everyone’s reacting to Trump rather than to the truth. That means truth becomes secondary, which actually helps Trump, since his commitment to the truth is less than strict.

It’s time to get beyond this cycle of stupidity. Next time Trump tweets something silly, everybody ought to simply take a deep breath — both left and right. Instead of letting Trump’s Twitter feed choose the battleground over facts, Americans on both sides ought to decipher facts and then fight over narrative. That’s what decent politics would look like. (For more from the author of “The 5 Stages of a Trump Scandal” please click HERE)

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