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Rediscovering Christopher Columbus

CCSMCashing in on the promise of what one man staked his life and fortune upon over 500 years ago, remnants of an old discovery ship may have been found in what was once known as the New World.

According to news reports, Barry Clifford, an underwater explorer who in his early career worked in sea-based oil, construction, salvage and rescue operations for profit, discovered what he reportedly thinks may be the historic Santa Maria, pictured here with its captain Christopher Columbus in a painting. Clifford’s historic work includes recovery of artifacts from the Boston Tea Party. The undersea archaeologist has worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Discovery Channel and National Geographic Society and is president of the Provincetown, Massachusetts-based charity Center for Historic Shipwreck Preservation.

If Clifford’s discovery is confirmed, the find is a major historical achievement. The Santa Maria was flagship of the great voyage of Christopher Columbus, who discovered America and the West in 1492. Santa Maria, which is believed to have struck a reef off the coast of Haiti on Christmas Day, 1492, was the largest of three ships (the other two were the Nina and the Pinta). Scholars and experts say that the Santa Maria crossed the Atlantic Ocean without major trouble and was crucial to the historic voyage sponsored by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I, which set sail from Spain in August 1492.

As Clifford told CNN: “This is the ship that changed the course of human history.”

Yes it is and apparently the Santa Maria has been found in the exact area where Columbus said the ship came to an end off Haiti’s northern coast. The purpose of Columbus’ voyage was to find a westward route to China, India and what used to be called the Far East to find gold, riches and spices. In October of 1492, his sailors spotted an island in the Caribbean Sea and thus essentially discovered the West. When Santa Maria ran aground on the reef in shallow waters – Clifford’s shipwreck discovery is apparently in 10 to 15 feet of water – the great captain ordered that the ship be stripped of timber and that Santa Maria’s planks and provisions be used at a fort the men built in Haiti, where the Santa Maria’s anchor is on museum display.

According to CNN, the underwater discoverer Clifford, fittingly an enterprising seaman who seeks to profit like Christopher Columbus, says a lombard cannon is key to his realization – and Clifford like Columbus relied on his own judgment – that the wreck that lies underneath the surface is what’s left of the Santa Maria. Also appropriately, perfectly so in the 21st century, much of what Columbus left there has been looted.

As Old and New Worlds wait for confirmation, I look forward to learning new facts and knowledge about this flagship and its grand voyage and unconquerable captain and explorer.

 

Ogle, Scream or Overcome

Life in these United States is harder than ever. The widening gap between what the government-educated population in the welfare state believes to be possible and what is, in fact, possible inculcates what I regard as an unspoken, public anxiety manifested by physiological tension. Overloaded with debt and government controls, confused, tricked and violated by lies, degradations and bad laws, we the people are like frogs in boiling water or kernels in a popcorn bag. One by one, people pop.

meltdown in Cobb County GAIt happened again last week in a town in Cobb County, Georgia. A FedEx employee doing address corrections on some packages told the press that she saw a 19-year-old man she said was a loader when she said she “heard a clink.”

“I looked to my left,” she said. “I saw him standing there and the knife was on the ground. He dropped his knife. He had an assault rifle. He had bullets strapped to his chest like Rambo. I mean he looked like he was heading into war. As soon as I saw him, I ran the other way. I ran and made sure that people upstairs were gone. He was in all black. I think he had a camo vest. He had an assault rifle and bullets strapped to his chest.”

It is easy to dismiss these attacks as criminal acts by the insane. But I think most of us know that these attacks are becoming more common and that it could happen to you and me and everyone in this uniquely combustible welfare state. Here, and only here, we live in a country founded on individual rights, land of the once-free and the climax of what it means to have inalienable rights: the single greatest creation of wealth in the history of man: the Industrial Revolution. Here, and only here, we live in a country that has turned on its own best premises and is destroying individual rights one by one. It stands to reason that here, and only here, in America, we will see the best of everything sour into the worst of everything.

Watching, or, conversely, evading, the news is to watch – or evade – part of reality. That what constitutes the news is becoming harder to figure compounds the problem but it’s no excuse to turn to sniveling comedy as a substitute, which amounts to burying one’s head in the sand, though I certainly understand the inclination to sneer at the world in its current state. Watch what happens, go ahead and look, really look, and learn from each catastrophe as much as you can. This is what a 22-year-old named Collin Harrison, a package handler who’s worked at the FedEx facility for two years and was there early Tuesday morning when he heard the screams, is starting to do. He told the media: “Me and another employer were talking about [the suicidal shooter, Geddy Kramer] and how he requested to take off Saturday, but his manager told him no. He took off anyway, and he didn’t show up this morning. We thought maybe he [would] just quit. I tell people on my other shift, one of these days a manager is gonna say that one thing to that one person and this is gonna set them off, and they [are] gonna come in here and start shooting, and that happened today.”

Yes it did. Given the nation’s current state, it will happen again and again, only it will happen more often (as I predicted when I wrote about suicide here) as we are attacked, controlled and/or collapse from within and as life gets harder. FedEx’s Harrison is right to have expected that any perceived rejection can set someone off track toward self-destruction and mass murder. Why? I think it’s because we are losing control of our own lives and because the loss of control – over property, money, health care, food, traffic, education, debt, travel, privacy and personal choices – is happening fast, it is happening totally and the total control is being imposed by the state which causes people to experience the onset with an inexplicable and overwhelming anxiety that builds and becomes exacerbated to deadly degrees.

Yet as people such as Kramer in Cobb County lose control and choose to exit life and take others with them, and those such as Collin Harrison are left behind to hear the screams, check for corpses and carry away the wounded, dead and murdered, the people with the most control over our lives, the ones who throw the switch and activate new controls that end freedom in America – the politicians – feel nothing but contempt for the people over whom they assert and wield control. Indeed, they sneer, laugh and turn their noses up at the people’s suffering.

Laughing ObamaBy now, you’ve probably heard about the annual White House correspondents dinner, an event that has risen in stature in proportion to the rise of government intervention in our lives. Yet you may not have even heard about what happened in Cobb County, Georgia and, if you did, you’ve probably not heard as much about it as you surely will about the press mixing (I call it whoring) with politicians at the White House dinner, which is like a scene from The Hunger Games. What happened in Georgia, an extermination of human life at a center of trade in an increasingly common acting out of attempted mass murder, is emblematic of our times and crucially more important to know and understand than any gathering of New Left influence peddlers and those who grovel before them in the capital of a nation going bad, down and berserk.

Even politicians sense an inversion. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told the media that the White House dinner, presided over by the nihilist in chief Barack Obama, whom I call the Nothing Man, was an exercise in self-indulgence and nothing more, though he didn’t put it that way. Rep. Hoyer, in a rare moment of truth in Washington, said of the annual event: “Everyone ogles each other..[and] I’m always amazed when these actors and actresses come here and they want to meet us.”

I am well beyond being amazed that people of ability fawn over those who seek to enslave them. I am never past being disgusted by the spectacle. I am more aware than ever that neither the power-lusters and slavemasters nor those who sanction them are even a fraction as important as those decent, productive Americans who are slowly boiling and popping off, killing themselves and others in a blaze of misery. They are the ones we must reach, persuade and tend to with empathy and reason. The more biting the sneering becomes – brace for it to get worse as Letterman makes way for Colbert – the more tender, insistent and confident must we the people be in convincing one another to undo what’s being done to us.

 

Interview: Thomas Doherty in Defense of the Infidel

TD/Brandeis infidelAfter being abused by Moslems in Somalia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali moved to the Netherlands. She became an outspoken critic of Islam and wrote a screenplay for Submission, a 2004 movie that specifically critiques Moslem treatment of women. The picture’s director, Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist. A note found on his corpse threatened to assassinate Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who’d become a member of Dutch Parliament.

Ali, who denounced Islam following the 9/11 attack on the United States, wrote about her internal struggle with her Islamic faith in Infidel, a 2007 New York Times bestseller reprinted with a foreword by the late Christopher Hitchens, which, according to a Publishers Weekly review, “delivers a powerful feminist critique of Islam informed by a genuine understanding of the religion.”

Ali was recently named as recipient of an honorary degree by Brandeis University, which invited her to speak to students during commencement—and promptly withdrew the honor and invitation after a fundamentalist Islamic group raised objections and coordinated a campaign against the infidel, a term which is Latin for without faith.

Upon the controversial Brandeis decision, few spoke up in defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali—and, I noticed, almost no one from Brandeis University came to the infidel’s defense.

As a longtime intellectual who never attended college, I have nevertheless become aware that college professors do not typically speak out against colleges that placate political correctness or submit to smear campaigns, let alone speak up against a college for whom they are employed.

But I recently discovered—and talked with—one who did.

His name is Thomas Doherty, a film scholar at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Doherty, cultural historian with special interest in Hollywood cinema, is chair of the American Studies program at Brandeis, an associate editor for the film magazine Cineaste and film review editor for the Journal of American History. His books include Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration (Columbia University Press, 2007) and Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (Columbia University Press, 2013).

Following the Brandeis-Ali affair, Doherty gave a short interview to the press in which he said he refused to sign the letter and added that he thinks Ali is a “courageous freedom fighter”. We spoke briefly before the interview, confirmed the interview in e-mail correspondence and talked at length about the author Ali, the university and the risk of speaking out for reason. This is an edited transcript.

Scott Holleran: Why have you chosen to defy the university by speaking out for a known infidel—an atheist against Islamic fundamentalism—who has been targeted by terrorists, singled out by your employer for denunciation and cast out?

Thomas Doherty: This wasn’t a difficult call. 86 faculty members of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed the letter [denouncing Ali and demanding her removal from the list of honored recipients]. I got a call from Associated Press and they asked what I thought. I said that she’s a courageous feminist who is putting her life at risk to defend women’s rights. I didn’t know her work well. I knew her mostly from her film Submission. I thought she was a great choice for receiving an honorary degree from Brandeis, which typically names white males. When I first heard about the letter, I thought it was bizarre that there was controversy. When I read the letter, I was shocked. It’s pretty depressing.

Scott Holleran: What is the most common response if any to your comments supporting Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the Brandeis administration?

Thomas Doherty: I’ve heard nothing from the administration. When you’re tenured, it doesn’t matter. What can they do—give me a smaller raise?

Scott Holleran: What is the most common response if any from fellow faculty members?

Thomas Doherty: I got a very gracious letter from Bernadette Brooten who wrote the [denunciation] letter. I’ve received support and agreement from a couple of my colleagues but that’s here in the American Studies department—so we study America and we might be considered an outlier.

Scott Holleran: What is the most common response if any from students?

Thomas Doherty: I haven’t talked to students yet. I must have gotten 40 or 50 letters in support saying ‘what happened to the university I graduated from?’ Those are mostly from lawyers and professors, alumnus of Brandeis. Frankly, I’d never raise something like this in class.

Scott Holleran: When you first became aware of the campaign against Ali, did you think the campaign would fail or succeed?

Thomas Doherty: First, I was stunned. They announced the honorary degree and then my wife told me Megyn Kelly was talking about the university’s decision on Fox News. I had heard that the women’s studies professors were upset with choice of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. That didn’t sound right to me. Then, I read the letter. I didn’t think their campaign would succeed—I thought it would fail. I was surprised how quickly Brandeis University collapsed.

Scott Holleran: Have you seen Submission?

Thomas Doherty: Yes. I just checked out her new film Honor Diaries. It’s sort of an arty protest against Islam. It has pictures of women in a chador with projections of the Koran over it. It’s your basic art protest against an ideology which happens all the time in film. There are protests against patriarchy, Mormonism, Catholicism. I didn’t think of her [2004] film Submission as especially formidable or controversial. It really came to my knowledge when the movie’s director, Theo van Gogh, was assassinated [by an Islamic fundamentalist]. I thought at the time that people in the arts should have been more aware of that. So I was surprised that the Oscars in 2005 did not honor [Van Gogh]. The guy was literally killed for making a film. I got in touch with a friend at the [trade publication] Hollywood Reporter who confirmed that Van Gogh was not mentioned during the [Academy Awards] ceremony. There wasn’t any kind of homage. I thought then that if there had been a gay filmmaker who made a film against Christianity and had been assassinated by a Christian fundamentalist, there would have been an homage.

51b6YKbnkjLScott Holleran: Have you read Infidel?

Thomas Doherty: No. I have read sections of it. I’m not an expert on this woman. I’ve never met her. I’ve had no contact with her. I’m mostly a film guy, so she came to my consciousness through film. What I know about her is that she was mutilated under [Islamic] law and severely abused and when she told her story in film, someone murdered the director and put a death sentence on her. When someone’s been trying to kill you for 10 years and you speak out against them, it’s not insane.

Scott Holleran: Is it possible that the university became aware of the campaign against Ayaan Hirsi Ali and decided that it was unable to protect and defend the students and faculty against the threat of initiation of force by Islamic jihadists?

Thomas Doherty: I have no idea how the decision was made.

Scott Holleran: Do you agree with Brandeis alum Jeffrey Herf, author of Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009) and The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006), who wrote to Brandeis President Fred Lawrence that the university’s decision is “an act of cowardice and appeasement”?

Thomas Doherty: Yes.

Scott Holleran: Do you agree with Mr. Herf that “… the Nazi interpretation of Christianity as well as the core texts of the Christian tradition itself, were used by the Nazis to justify their mass murders”?

Thomas Doherty: The Nazis would use anything to justify their mass murders. If you look at the Nazi propaganda, they were propagandizing against the pope too. Look at the cartoons—they did it because Hitler wanted no gods before him, so there’s a lot of anti-Catholicism.

Scott Holleran: Your work centrally addresses the conflict between the individual and the state in your books Hollywood and Hitler and Hollywood’s Censor. Do you see your opposition to the university’s withdrawal of the honorary degree as part of a career theme exploring submission to slavery?

Thomas Doherty: No. This is an easy call. If you believe in freedom of expression then you support people who believe that as well. I oppose the totalitarian mindset. She’s put her life on the line since 2004—we are talking about someone who has literally put her life on the line. The notion that 13 members of the faculty in women’s studies would oppose this woman is mind-boggling. I have no idea why.

Scott Holleran: Both feminists and multiculturalists claim that all people and cultures are equal in every sense, so they accept the egalitarian ideal that all cultures and religions, for example, are equal in every way—if religion means female genital mutilation, so be it—and one must never judge—

Thomas Doherty: —That’s what they put forward but there’s obviously a judgment here in the end against Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I believe in feminism but you have a Third World Somali woman so how much more multicultural can you get? This woman’s being shut down. If someone like Ayaan Hirsi Ali isn’t under the umbrella of feminism, who is?

Scott Holleran: What is your estimate of her new movie, Honor Diaries?

Thomas Doherty: I like it. She’s interviewed in it and she executive produced the film. It’s about nine Moslem women fighting to improve conditions in predominantly Moslem countries ruled by Sharia law, with female genital mutilation, and other than Ayaan Hirsi Ali, most of the women self-identify as Moslem so the theological criticism is from within the orb of Islam. [Islamic advocacy group Council for American-Islamic Relations, which drove the campaign to pressure Brandeis University to withdraw Ali’s honorary degree] wants to shut the film down, too.

Scott Holleran: The Brandeis statement said that “[t]he selection of Ms. Hirsi Ali further suggests to the public that violence toward girls and women is particular to Islam or the Two-Thirds World, thereby obscuring such violence in our midst among non-Muslims, including on our own campus. We cannot accept Ms. Hirsi Ali’s triumphalist narrative of western civilization, rooted in a core belief of the cultural backwardness of non-western peoples.” But the Brandeis University motto is: “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.” Is the Brandeis motto a fraud?

Thomas Doherty: In this case it certainly is. If you look back to the 1950s, Brandeis was founded not just as a celebration of the Jewish experience but also from the very beginning we welcomed the liberal leftist college professors—we got Herbert Marcuse—so to see this particular arc come around is particularly distressing given the Brandeis tradition.

Scott Holleran: Do you think your own life may be at risk for speaking out for the infidel?

Thomas Doherty: I hope not. [Pauses] No, I don’t think so. I’ve received no death threats. Brandeis is a great place. [Pauses] There’s an expression in Yiddish shanda which means you’ve disgraced us and reflected poorly on Jews—shanda. This is a big shanda.

The Press Defies the State

PPThough serving what is largely a symbol of pretentiousness, the Pulitzer Prize juries boldly defied the American government and awarded the highest prizes to those who reported facts disclosed by an American who worked for the government, defied the government, fled the country, heroically spoke against total government control and was deemed a traitor by the state.

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize today for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance programs. An award also went to a team associated with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which also reported extensively about the NSA’s secret programs. The Guardian’s NSA articles are also based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government employee and contractor who fled to exile in Russia.

In a statement about the awards, the Jeff Bezos-owned Post‘s executive editor, Martin Baron, said today that the NSA reporting exposed a national policy “with profound implications for American citizens’ constitutional rights” and that “[d]isclosing the massive expansion of the NSA’s surveillance network absolutely was a public service…In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All of this was done in secret, without public debate, and with clear weaknesses in oversight.”

But, as far as what barely remains of a free press is concerned, the best part of what Baron said is that, without reporting on Snowden’s disclosures:

  We never would have known how far this country had shifted away from the rights of the individual in favor of state power.”

Today’s press is bullied, pressured and dominated by the state, and permeated by faith in either the dogma of statism or traditionalism, as evidenced by most of media including MSNBC and Fox News, a fact reflected by the worst part of what Baron’s statement says: “… As even the president has acknowledged, this is a conversation we need to have.”

The free press is not based on need and does not exist to have a conversation, though a conversation may be fostered and may occur, whether a conversation is acknowledged by the leader of the executive branch in a republic based on individual rights. By using the language of the Obama administration, which controls the government that has a monopoly on the use of force and has seized unprecedented power through unconstitutional means, the Post‘s editor undercut the truth of what he said – that individual rights are paramount. The press exists to express, report and speak in free exercise, but at least the editor identified, named and defended individual rights, he said it out loud, and he said it in defiance of a government that exhibits contempt for the rights of the individual, aims to destroy the nation based on this sacred ideal and seeks total power over every aspect of the individual’s life, liberty, property and pursuit of happiness.

The nation’s capital newspaper editor defied the nation’s government in explicit support of “the rights of the individual.” This fact, and the free exercise of press independence, is pure progress.