BEN WEINGARTEN

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Month: March 2014

‘Non-religious’ Fox anchor makes an interesting admission about the church

Greg Gutfeld has a new book out titled “Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You,” which we have been covering extensively at Blaze Books.

Yesterday we spoke with Gutfeld about his new book, along with a wide range of topics ranging from Greg’s reverence for religion and the church despite his non-religiosity, to bullying to the NSA. Below is the transcript from our phone interview which has been edited for length and clarity. All links are ours.

Be sure to check out our review and top quotes from Greg’s book as well, and if you’d like to keep up with similar content, give us a follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Make your pitch to Blaze readers for why they should pick up a book that’s called “Not Cool?”

Gutfeld: Because I think it’s about them. It’s about me. It’s about anyone who wonders why people do dumb things, because the one reigning principle in acting stupid is a desire to be liked, or a desire to be seen as cool. That’s why people do things that aren’t good. How do you convince somebody to do something that’s bad for them? You tell them that it’s cool. And it sounds like it’s not a new idea, but actually I don’t think anyone’s really traced it through all different areas from academia to media to government to pop culture, politics, so I try to show how the cool mindset once it permeates society becomes kind of deadly and destructive.

If there were one or two key takeaways from the book, what would they be?

Gutfeld: To resist the idea of subversion, and instead subvert the subverter. The path to cool is always about undermining the normal, undoing tradition, because to the hip and cool whatever comes before is old and stupid. And so you have to resist that urge to be accepted, to be liked, you have to instead subvert the subverter. Be happy in embracing the common sense or the tradition. Be proud that you’re in the military or that you got a good job and that you actually build things. Don’t be embarrassed that you happen to be religious. These are things that are always undermined by the cool.

By the way this isn’t about fashion. I think a lot of people mistake – because when you use the word “hipster” – they think of the goatees and the nose rings. But it’s not about that. It’s about a mindset. I’d say the Brooklyn hipster is probably a sub-segment of this kind of destructive academia-media-government complex. But it’s more about an idea than it is a person. And it’s a destructive one. And it’s always about undermining tradition in all parts of life.

I mean you see it right now I think in foreign policy. You know what happens when a person, an educated person, has spent most of his life being educated that your country, the United States, is the villain. Their exceptionalism is what’s wrong with the world, and if we only retreated and fixed what was inside of us, the world would appreciate it. The world would be a better place. And the world would be a better place primarily because we’re not there.

And so, what is the consequence of that? There’s not much of a consequence if that person stays on campus. But when that person leaves campus and enters the White House, does that have an effect? The idea that somehow America is equally to blame, if not more to blame for the world’s problems, that that somehow must infect the way you think about how to deal with things like Russia, or Venezuela, or Iran…it makes you “lead from behind.” Which in some ways means you don’t lead at all.

One of the parts of your book that I thought was really compelling and interesting was your discussion of the virtues of religion in general and Mormonism specifically. Expand a little bit on that.

Gutfeld: Well you know the thing is I am non-religious. I wouldn’t say that I am an atheist. I would say that I just don’t know. I haven’t been to church in years. But there is one thing I know, and that is that the church is a positive influence in communities, in terms of encouraging charity, and neighborly concern. It’s an important thing. I mean it’s what I had when I was growing up – you saw your neighbors, it got you out of the house. If you worked at the Church as an altar boy like I did you got to know everybody. You knew who died and who was sick because you were always at funerals and…it was a community thing.

We are moving away from that and there have been studies that are out now that are talking about how people are becoming as they get more involved with technology they are moving away from these community-based groups. And I think that this is dangerous and we have nothing to replace what worked before. And religion does work for a lot of people and has helped a lot of people in society, and when we subvert it, what kind of traditions are you going to replace it with?

That’s why I really like Alain de Botton, a great philosopher-writer who’s an atheist, and he talks about this a lot. He argues, “Religion is a good thing even if you’re an atheist, so what are you gonna do about it? How are you gonna replace it?” You know, you can’t just trash something and then think that life goes on because it doesn’t. It’s a valuable thing. You need religion for atheists I guess is what he’s getting at.

I talk about Mitt Romney in the book and this is a guy who gives a lot of money to charity (and I kind of wrote about how I knew almost nothing about Mormonism) and I talked to my friend Walter Kirn about it. He’s a great writer, and we went back and forth on e-mail about when he became a Mormon. It’s just stuff I didn’t know. And you don’t know about it because they don’t brag about it. They don’t talk about it. And I think that’s you know – Mitt Romney never really came out and said yes I do this, I do this and I do this. He didn’t and so maybe that harmed him, I don’t know. But they’re fairly humble about that sort of stuff.

Read more at TheBlaze…

An interview with Jim Lacy, author of ‘Taxifornia’

Blaze Books sat down for an in-depth interview in TheBlaze’s New York newsroom this past Tuesday with former Reagan appointee and California-based lawyer and political communications company executive Jim Lacy, author of “Taxifornia,” to discuss the major challenges facing California that threaten to turn the state into one big version of Detroit.

Below is our interview, transcribed from our interview with slight edits for clarity. All links are ours.

Make your elevator pitch for why Blaze readers should pick up this book?

Lacy: Well public employee unions are really transforming government throughout the United States and the negative effects of that are being played out in California right now. So what my book does is very closely examines the political control that the public employee unions—specifically the California Teachers Association (CTA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have accomplished in the state, and it discloses their swamped political spending: spending that is three, four, five-fold more than traditional special interests like Chevron which is just completely dwarfed by their political spending. AT&T, the California Chamber of Commerce, none of them can match the political spending, and as a result of this political spending, the public employee unions really do have a lock on the outcome of political decisions in the state that effect the economy. And this involves a connection between the problems that we’re having with public employee pension obligations, bankruptcies of local government, and taxes being raised to the very highest levels in all categories.

For two years in a row California has had the highest rate of poverty in the nation according to Obama’s census bureau. The unemployment is still completely out of whack. California has depending upon what survey you read either the first highest, third highest or fifth highest unemployment in the nation. So my theory is that people need to have that information because the information that they are getting right now from the mass media is that California has a surplus and Jerry Brown and the liberal Democrats are doing a great job and the reality is they aren’t – the state’s getting ready to explode economically in a negative way. And so that’s what my book, “Taxifornia,” is about.

Why should non-Californians care about California’s problems?

Lacy: Well we know that the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country was in Detroit right? Well before Detroit what was the largest municipal bankruptcy in the country? It was the city of Stockton, California. Yes again, California leads the nation – it leads the nation in municipal bankruptcies. USA Today says that there are probably ten more cities in California that are ready to go bankrupt. So we have to ask ourselves the question, “Well why?”

A big part of the reason that the municipalities are having these problems is because of public employee pension obligations. And as a result of those, they’re raising taxes. I’ll give you an example. San Jose is the third-largest city in California. It’s also the 10th largest city

in the nation. So your question was “Why should the rest of the nation care?” And what I’m gonna tell you is that because of the way that the liberals and the public employees have controlled California politics, this is what’s coming in municipalities all across the nation. It’s just playing out in California first because the liberals have been in control for so long. The city of San Jose just put together its latest city budget, and they have a reform mayor. The budget’s a $1 billion budget. 30% of the budget is dedicated to paying for pension obligations for public employees that have already provided services. If 30% of the budget today is to service debt on past services by public employee union members, what’s it gonna be tomorrow, two years from now, or three years from now? Because people are living longer, and because of the salary obligations of two generous salaries that the politicians have given.

And I’ll give you an example. In the county that I live in, the average pay for a firefighter is $234,000 a year. That firefighter can opt to retire at age 50 or age 55 and depending upon the calculation from anywhere from 50% to 75% or 90% of that salary over time. In the last 10 years San Jose’s obligations to pay for public employee pensions, which by the way are all underfunded (they aren’t paying enough) have quadrupled to $300 million. So if they’re going to go up exponentially, I would say that probably in the next 10 years it’s quite conceivable that San Jose’s public employee pension obligations will constitute the majority focus of government spending.

So what’s happening in California is that the purpose of government is shifting – government is no longer primarily organized to provide police, fire and public safety services. What it’s primarily organized for right now – the direction that it’s going in — is to provide pensions to past employees. And that’s a real problem. And it finds itself in too-high salaries, and too-generous pensions under defined benefit plans. And there’s a whole reason that we have that in the state, and part of what “Taxifornia” does is reveal that.

Read more at TheBlaze…

An in-depth interview with Jerusalem Post editor and former Netanyahu staffer Caroline Glick on her controversial one-state plan for peace in the Middle East

Caroline Glick is out with a new book we have been covering of late entitled The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East” [reviewed here].

The central premise of Glick’s — the Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post’s — book is that the two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians is unfeasible, legally, historically and morally unjustifiable, and based on a discredited world view. Glick argues instead for a one-state solution whereby Israel would apply Israeli law, and through it Israeli sovereignty to the entirety of Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank).

Below is our interview, conducted with Glick from TheBlaze’s newsroom in Manhattan. The conversation has been transcribed and slightly modified for clarity. All emphasis is ours.

Give us your pitch for why Americans should be interested in this book.

Glick: The United States has been pushing this idea of a two-state solution for over a generation. It was first pushed by the Nixon Administration in 1970 and it’s based on this totally false understanding of the Middle East which places Israel at the center of everything. It says that the size of Israel is really responsible for all the bad things in the Arab world, and if we can make Israel smaller than the problems will be smaller. And the ultimate idea is partition and establishing a PLO state in areas that Israel controls.

The problem with this paradigm is that it’s totally false. Israel doesn’t dictate events in the Arab world. Those are dictated by internal issues in each Arab state as we’ve seen now with the revolutions going through all of them that have absolutely nothing to do with Israel. They all have to do with the internal dynamics and pathologies of Arab societies. But because the U.S. has been pushing this idea for so long, what has happened is that U.S. policymakers are fundamentally incapable of understanding the Middle East, because they’re basing everything on this false assumption of Israeli culpability. And once you start with that, you can’t think about anything else. So they didn’t understand Iraq when they went in, because they didn’t think about it. They didn’t understand Egypt when they decided to overthrow Mubarak because they didn’t think they had to think about it. They put everything into prisms, so “democracy,” “Israel,” “peace process” and they’re all very convenient but they’re all completely irrelevant.

So what this book does is it shows why this is false, how devastating it has been for American policymakers’ capacity to analyze situations as they unfold based upon reality, and so I think it’s absolutely critical for Americans who are concerned about U.S. national security and their interests abroad. Furthermore, this has had a debilitating impact on Israel because basically you have the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy is to pressure Israel, which is the U.S.’ only stable ally in the Middle East, and so by necessity this policy has weakened Israel, and as threats rise in every area of the Middle East against Israel or simply rise because of the massive instability and empowerment of the most radical extremist actors in the Muslim world in places like Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia…and of course in Iran, Lebanon, you need Israel to be as strong as possible and so Israel itself has to get out from under the tyranny of the two-state paradigm, which places again all of the blame for everything on the Jews.

And so it’s imperative for Israel to get past this; it’s imperative for the United States to get past this and to move on and base a policy on reality. The policy that I put forward here seems radical, but actually it’s not at all radical because it’s based entirely on reality and fact, statistics…and interests and values. And what it says is, the West Bank of the Jordan River, what we in Israel refer to as Judea and Samaria, is part of Israel: by law, by national rights. And Israel has to control it for those reasons as well as for military necessity because it can’t defend itself without them.

As I argue in my book, America is much better off having an Israel that is stable and capable of defending itself against all aggressors because the stronger Israel is the more secure U.S. interests are and so this book is both for people who are involved in policy and national security, it’s also for people who care about Israel, and understand that there’s something fundamentally wrong when the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy is to push for the establishment of a terrorist state that is dedicated to destroying Israel but can’t figure out what to do about it because they’ve been told all of this time that Israel is the problem, or the absence of a Palestinian State is the problem; that if they care about Israel they should support America financing a Palestinian terrorist army and spending upwards of $500 million a year bankrolling Palestinian terrorists. It’s always been crazy, but that’s what people have been told and they’ve come to believe it over time. It was always a lie, and so that’s something else that I focus on in my book and I think is critical for people to understand.

Describe what the “Israeli solution” is.

Glick: The Israeli solution involves the application of Israeli law and through it Israeli sovereignty to the entirety of Judea and Samaria — the West Bank of the Jordan — and providing the Palestinians who live there with automatic permanent residency status and the right to apply for Israeli citizenship in accordance with Israel citizenship law, and through that, the dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority and the abandonment of the two-state paradigm for peace-making. This is an idea, this is a policy that is based on an understanding that at base the Palestinian national movement since its inception in 1920 has not been about the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state but rather the destruction of the Jewish state or earlier the prevention of the establishment of a Jewish state and so it remains to this day which is why the PLO has consistently refused statehood every time it has been offered them since 1993. And so it’s about abandoning a fake idea, an idea that’s based on lies, that is that the Palestinians aspire first and foremost to a state of their own, and embracing instead the truth that Israel is capable of absorbing the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, and giving them what they’ve always lacked which is full civil rights, and through that their ability to determine their own fate as individuals and as members of a society of Israel.

Read more at TheBlaze…

An interview with Paul Kengor, Reagan biographer and author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative

In connection with the release of his new book, “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative,” reviewed here, we interviewed Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, Reagan biographer, and author of numerous books including the 2012 title ”The Communist” (published under our Mercury Ink imprint) and “God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life.”

Our correspondence with Professor Kengor comes in light of a renewed focus on Russia given the goings-on in the Ukraine, years of economic stagnation and hostile in-fighting between conservatives and Establishment Republicans, among other similarities with the era in which Reagan rose to the White House.

Below we cover these timely issues and more. The interview, conducted via email, has been slightly edited for formatting. And again, be sure to check out our review and cheat sheet if you missed them too.

Give us your elevator pitch for why TheBlaze audience should read another book on Reagan. 

Kengor: Because this is a book on Reagan that’s crucial and timely and well worth their time—and it’s short. They will sincerely find great benefit in this one. I mean that.

We constantly hear Republicans of all stripes make the claim “I’m a Reagan conservative,” or, when asked which Republican they most identify with, they point to Reagan. But in fact, many to most are not Reagan conservatives at all. Many of them are liberal/progressive Republicans. So, what is a “Reagan conservative?”

I’m someone who has studied Reagan enough (some say more than anyone) that I felt I could and should and must take up the task of answering that question, especially during this battle within the GOP between genuine conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Tom Coburn and what Reagan would have called the “Rockefeller Republican” types. There are far more Reagan conservatives coming out of the Tea Party than from the so-called Establishment.

Thus, with the 2014 mid-terms coming up, and the crucial 2016 presidential nomination coming as well, this project to define what a Reagan conservative is struck me as imperative. I should add, too, that Reagan was such a model conservative, really the prototype, that this book defines not just Reagan conservatism but conservatism generally.

When I spoke on this book at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara last week, the executive director of the group, Andrew Coffin, said that this book is a kind of manifesto on conservatism.

So, I ask readers of The Blaze: What could be more needed right now as we engage in this battle for 2016? I think a short book carefully explaining Reagan conservatism and conservatism generally is one they should read.

Besides, because it’s a short book, it’s also very inexpensive—only something like $13 on Amazon. You can’t beat that. It’s cheap and quick but an enlightening read. You’ll benefit from this and will want to buy it for your friends, including your liberal friends.

Read more at TheBlaze…

 

Business Isn’t Capitalism

The Left has done an excellent job over the years of portraying Republicans as the “party of business.” 

There is an unfavorable implication to this title in a society in which many – unknowingly viewing life through a Marxian prism – aided by propaganda in academia and the arts, have a negative view of private enterprise as consisting of miserly Scrooges and evil Montgomery Burns’s accumulating vast wealth on the backs of the poor.

Mitt Romney (Center) pictured during his time at Bain & Company in an unfortunate pose by 2012 electorate standards. (Image Source: The Atlantic)

Mitt Romney (center) pictured during his time at Bain & Company in an unfortunate pose by 2012 electorate standards. (Image Source: The Atlantic)

To be for business in their zero-sum worldview is to be for those who have achieved wealth and status, the devils to the poor, meek and downtrodden angels, angels stuck in their position thanks to evil businessmen and an inherently unfair society.

The Left personifies (Soros and facts aside) or at least purportedly supports the underdog, and how can you oppose the underdog?

As with most all disinformation campaigns, this portrayal was based on a kernel, and perhaps even more than a kernel of truth. Republicans historically promoted economic policies such as tariffs that “protected” certain favored businesses, at the expense of consumers who thereby were forced to pay higher prices for goods.

From a cultural perspective, Leftist radicals were against “the man,” from Madison Avenue mad men to the dutiful suburban Ward Cleaver types who upheld the traditional order, and who were decidedly not Leftist radicals.

In more recent times, such lines have blurred to a degree, as politicians have conferred benefits upon shifting industries and constituencies, and in turn received funding and votes from varying blocs as the political winds have shifted (see the financial services industry in 2008 and 2012). Remember, despite there being “fat cat” Republicans like Mitt Romney, the chief venture capitalist in all the land, and overseer of many many Solyndras, is Barack Obama.

Continue reading at TheBlaze…

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