Aaron Hanscom

Saturday, December 31, 2005


I have nothing to add to this spot-on ode to our troops from Ben Stein:

Probably the happiest moment of my whole life was when I had just quit being a trial lawyer for the FTC, the world's worst job, had moved out to UC Santa Cruz to teach, dragged my colitis-racked body into my tiny prefector's dorm room, unpacked, and then gone to look around. It was a surprisingly warm August night in Santa Cruz in 1972. I found a picnic table, a sturdy table indeed, and lay down on it on my back just for a lark. I looked up at the stars. I had never seen so many and they danced all around in the California sky.

I was at peace, free from cares and worries, about to plunge into a new life of love and redwood trees. And I know I've told you about this before and will again if I live.

For the next several weeks, I had a riot of romance with various women around Santa Cruz, got my first Weimaraner, learned to say good-bye to the day by staring at the sunset, and became generally a new man.

The old, frightened Benjy was gone at least for a few weeks or months.I was a hero of the revolution, James Bond raking in the girl chips.

I was happy.

BUT WHAT JUST OCCURRED to me today, December 29, 2005, is that none of this, absolutely none, not one bit of it, would have been possible without the men and women of the Armed Forces. While I was busy being born (and not dying), men and women were getting blown to pieces by German 88's and Japanese mortars to win the big one. While I was growing up, our freedom was saved by the Strategic Air Command ("Peace is our Profession") and by men and women patrolling in the Arctic Circle. While I was in elementary school, my cousin Joe and my uncle Bob were fighting and fine men and women were dying at Cho-Sin Reservoir.

The piece really should be read in its entirety.

Friday, December 30, 2005


The question "Why do they hate us?" often leads to contradicting answers from people who think Islamic terrorists can be appeased. You've heard them all before. If only we'd stop supporting autocrats in the region; if only we wouldn't illegally overthrow their leaders. If only we didn't fight wars for oil; if only we didn't support the sole democracy(until recently Israel was alone) in the region, which interestingly doesn't have any oil. I could go on and on.

I've long claimed that much clarification can be found by turning one's eyes toward Spain. Why do they hate them? Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld has written a frightening piece in Frontpage Magazine:

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos’ efforts earlier this year to remove HAMAS from the European Union’s terrorist list, have done little to change HAMAS’ agenda. It is not only Palestine that children in the West Bank and Gaza are asked to liberate; now they are asked to liberate Seville. The HAMAS children’s magazine, Al-Fateh, in a recent issue, (No. 66), tells the children about the city called Asbilia (Seville) and calls on them to free it, together with the whole country, from the infidels and to reinstate Muslim rule...

In a series of speeches about the importance of confronting al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq, President George W. Bush acknowledged that their aim is to “establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Spain to Indonesia.”

However, this ideology is clearly not limited to al Qaeda’s terrorists. HAMAS’ children magazine, Al Fateh’s call to return Seville “to the hands of the Muslims” is no different than that of al-Qaeda’s call to establish the Caliphate. Evidently, HAMAS’ interests also extend to the liberation and Islamization of all occupied former Muslim territories, according to the dogma of the Muslim Brotherhood from which HAMAS originated.

Apparently encouraged by successful Jihad against Israel, HAMAS is now raising the ante, going international. Just as they have indoctrinated a generation of Palestinian children to commit suicide attacks against Israelis, they are now expanding their targets to include the rest of the Caliphate – beginning with Spain. It is only a matter of time, before today’s Palestinian children, and others exposed to HAMAS’ publications start offering themselves up for the next stage of Jihad in Spain.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Let them kill you and they'll stop killing you

I won't see Speilberg's Munich even though the usual suspects are telling me that I can't pass judgement on it until I do. They told me the same thing about Farenheit 9/11. When I finally saw that film I realized that my criticisms, which were based on reviews from writers I respect and my own prejudiced--the horror, the horror!--opinion of Michael Moore, were in fact too lenient. The only way to counter the West L.A. liberal Jews walking out of the Westwood Crest Theater and rubbing their chins while deep in thought would be to draw their attention to a critical review from a fellow Jew(as long as it's not Dennis Prager) in the NY Times. Well, what do you know? Look what I found:

Gradually, as the assassinations begin, the moral weight of their acts brings the team of assassins close to breakdown. Avner (played by Eric Bana) hesitates before shooting one of his targets. The Mossad agents argue about whether they should rejoice in their success. One suggests that the Palestinians learned their tactics from the Israelis. Another, pointing to increasing acts of terror around the world in apparent response to their success, says, "All the blood comes back to us." By the end of the movie, Avner thinks the Israelis are going to kill him. He renounces his country. And he warns of a cycle of violence.

But the film is so intent on its theory that it eagerly departs from previous accounts - or even plausibility about how Mossad agents might act. It supposedly takes its guidance from George Jonas's contested 1984 book, "Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team," which is itself presented as an account based upon the recollections of the disenchanted head of the Mossad team. But Mr. Jonas's Avner, unlike Mr. Spielberg's, is not paralyzed by moral doubt; Mr. Jonas writes that he has "absolutely no qualms about anything they did."

Moreover, the film, to make its argument about the cycle of violence, ends up treating the Munich massacre almost as if it were the original act of Palestinian terror. The elimination of context makes the Israeli response seem intemperate, while all future acts of Palestinian terror are treated as if they were responses to the Israeli assassinations. But as the historical Meir well knew, in the years before Munich, maniacal terrorists aligned with the Palestinian cause had bombed a Swissair jet, thrown hand grenades into crowds at Israel's airport, hijacked planes and associated themselves with other terror groups trained and partly financed by the Soviet Union. These, like the attacks that followed Munich, were part of a continuing war, not evidence of an amorphous cycle of violence that developed out of Israel's attempts to undermine terror.

We have no idea

If we were completely aware of the true nature of the terrorist threat, we probably wouldn't sleep well at night.

Matthew d'Ancona reminds us:

On Boxing Day, Ken Livingstone told the BBC that there had been 10 attempted attacks on London since 9/11, two of them since the July 7 bombings. But the mayor insisted that these foiled atrocities were not the work of a "great organised international conspiracy with orders flowing down the chain", but of "fairly disorganised and small groups of disaffected people".

This is a serious misrepresentation of modern Islamist terror. What binds and inspires the cells that have plotted and continue to plot attacks on cities such as London is precisely the interconnectedness of the war: the thread that links the jihadi in the West Bank, or in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, with his brother in Leeds, or Lahore, or Los Angeles.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Or so it appears to me. The rage is asleep say the rioters:

The rage in the suburbs is only asleep," said Balastik, a French youth of Mauritanian origin who has been jobless since dropping out of school seven years ago and is dreaming of a career as a rapper with his band, Styladone. "It wouldn't take much to wake it up again."

Is France also asleep I wonder?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Steve Vlasich reminds us to remember our troops in foreign lands this Christmas:

And now, this year as I spend Christmas with my family, deep in my heart I wish another generation of soldiers good luck and godspeed as they fight the twin demons of holiday homesickness and the enemy. May you persevere and triumph.

This holiday season, pray that our troops - the pride of our nation serving in remote lands - will be safe from the terrorists' wrath. As you sip your eggnog in from of the warm fireplace surrounded by family and friends, think about how it feels to be 18 or 19 years old on patrol in the rough streets of an Iraqi city on Christmas eve. Remember those who fight for our right to live as we choose.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Arcade Fire

Ross Douthat is guest blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's site. Here is his interesting take on the culture wars:

I think there are two cultures, one highbrow and one lowbrow, which interact in various ways but which are increasingly distinct from one another. These two common cultures aren't necessarily defined in terms of a single television show that everyone watches, but each one has a set of shared values, assumptions, interests and habits - all of which may manifest themselves in a wide variety of shows and books and movies and websites, but which are held in "common" nonetheless. So for instance, one set of highbrow types might spend their spare time reading literary bloggers, while another set spends theirs downloading Arcade Fire or British Sea Power from iTunes. But both of these sets probably consider the New Yorker the last word in highbrow journalism, read the Sunday Times regularly, aspire to send their kids to elite universities, laugh along with Jon Stewart (even if they don't watch The Daily Show every night) and so on and so forth. They don't share all the same tastes, in other words, but they speak the same cultural language.

I think that makes me highbrow. I've longed claimed that The Arcade Fire's Funeral is a rarity: a rock album that simply doesn't grow stale with time.

The dangers of isolationism

Jonah Goldberg in today's Los Angeles Times:

John F. Kennedy sent the isolationist America First Committee $100 while he was at Harvard with the note, "what you are doing is vital." But that was the same JFK who wrote "Why England Slept" — his senior thesis-cum-bestseller on why Britain was unready for war. Kennedy's explanation: The British people were unwilling to face reality. The same was true of the United States in the 1930s. The memory of the horror and stupidity of World War I was fresh enough in Americans' minds — as was the ongoing Depression — that the idea of going to war or even engaging in world affairs just seemed unthinkable. So, we didn't think about it. We used language that made things seem OK.

But the problem, as Kennedy learned, is that evil men and dangerous forces don't take a timeout until we're ready to pay attention. And that's where Iran comes in. Seriously challenging Iran just strikes a lot of people as too much to fit on the American plate right now, so we prefer to call Ahmadinejad an "unlikely firebrand" instead of a murderous fanatic.

But whatever we call him, it won't change the fact that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and that Ahmadinejad is a particularly kooky religious fanatic (possibly a member of the Hojjatieh, which seeks to foment global chaos in order to hasten the arrival of the messianic 12th imam).

In response to Ahmadinejad's comments, the world has responded with only slightly more outrage than it would if he'd called for trade barriers on pistachios. It's time to wake up.

I guess with Israel in the picture we think it is OK to go on sleeping.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Peggy Noonan

The Wall Street Journal's fey explores an interesting coincidence:

It's a small fact of history I discovered through talking to Nancy Reagan about Ronnie, talking to Mrs. Thatcher about her childhood, and reading about John Paul. It is that all of their mothers took in seamstress work at home when they were children, to supplement their families' incomes. I realized: These three great collaborators in the bringing together of Europe all grew up watching their mothers take different pieces of cloth and sewing them together into a whole — a new thing that coheres and is something different. I thought: That may be a coincidence, but it may be more. Childhood is the forge in which we're formed. I think in it we learn things that are unforgettable that we don't even know we're learning, or not forgetting.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Fabulous Small Jew

The best living essayist, Joseph Epstein, has a gem of a piece in today's Wall Street Journal. I've always found pleasure in applying Alexis de Tocqueville's generalizations to modern cases. Epstein writes:

Applying his generalizations to contemporary cases is provocative. Take our war in Iraq. Does he have anything to contribute to the discussion? In his chapters on the military and war and peace among democracies, Tocqueville, with that characteristic combination of loftiness and directness, writes: "There are two things that will always be difficult for a democratic people to do: to start a war and to finish it." Now there, as they used to say in English departments, is a sentence that resonates.

There is simply no denying the fact that for too many Americans (at lest the ones I know) this war against terror feels like anything but a war. Their hearts are just not in it. Why not?

But why should democracies find it so difficult to start and to finish wars? Tocqueville's response is complex: The martial spirit is less in democracies than in aristocracies; moreover, "the wealthiest, best educated, most capable citizens of democratic nations are unlikely to pursue careers in the military. . ." Citizens in a democracy have "an excessive love of tranquility," and war gets in the way of their striving for increased wealth and material comfort. Tocqueville himself wasn't opposed to war. He thought it "almost always enlarges the thought and ennobles the heart." But he felt that democracies were not in the best condition to wage it.

It is that "excessive love of tranquility" that gets to me on a daily basis here in Brentwood. Why have I never once overheard a gorgeous blonde on a cellphone at my next door Starbucks express her fear that the synagouge she attends might be a terrorist target? Or a Hollywood player talk of the sacrifice of our soldiers? Is it because they want to forget about what's out there? I guess Tocqueville answered that 175 years ago.

Morgan Freeman

He'd probably agree with my OC Register article. In case you missed 60 Minutes last night:

Freeman notes there is no "white history month" [as there is a Black History Month] and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talkinng about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Great Expectations

What happened to the much anticipated "Tookie riots"? I answer that in my latest piece for The Orange County Register:

I heard about Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision not to grant clemency to Tookie Williams while driving through the epicenter of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. As a caller to a talk-radio program expressed her fear that the news would spark similar violence and unrest, I feared the effects of her words far more than the decision to execute a convicted murderer.

As an elementary school teacher in South Los Angeles, I spend a great deal of time in a largely black neighborhood. I still remember my very first drive to work several years ago. I seemed to be entering a different country as I left the elegant surroundings of Pacific Palisades and made my way into the dreary environs of Watts. This was not just a physical journey. My emotions were taking an odyssey of their own.

Staring at so many decrepit buildings, vagrants and police cars was difficult. I felt guilty. Guilty for having such a blessed life. For never being in need of any material thing. For the legacy of slavery and racism. I felt sad, too. Sad for the people who had to live in such a hopeless and scary environment. For the people who feared being killed in a drive-by shooting. For the children being "raised" by drug addicts.

I hope you'll fill out the free registration and read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cultural Prozac

What do top 10 lists, TiVo's and iPod's have in common? J. Peder Zane explains:

Awards and top 10 lists serve the same function, helping us focus on what deserves our attention from an ever-expanding menu of choices.

The need for such guidance has never been greater. Technology has powered a fundamental shift during the last decade, dramatically decentralizing culture and empowering the consumer. Thanks to the iPod and online services such as the iTunes music store, the album has given way to the personal playlist, enabling us to buy only the music we want, and much more of it. TiVo means we no longer have to pick a particular television show at a given hour, but can watch what we want, when we want. The Internet has increased exponentially our sources of information so that we are no longer limited by the number of magazine and newspaper subscriptions we can afford.

When everything is available, anything is possible. Technology is allowing us to replace mass culture with personal preferences. Each of us is an impresario and ringmaster, designing lavish entertainments for an audience of one. Man, do I have good taste!

With choice comes responsibility. Which songs? Which programs? Which publications? It can make your head ache. In "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less" (2004) Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, argues that our cornucopia culture is damaging our mental health.

Perhaps. But that ship has sailed -- the future will only bring more choice. In this context, prizes and top 10 lists are cheap forms of mass therapy, reducing the stress of selection. Consider them cultural Prozac.

Sweeden's Muslim problem

Monday, December 12, 2005

Where Has the Magic Gone?

This weekend, while the crowds jostled for seats at the Narnia movie, I watched Richard Attenborough's Shadowlands--not for the first time. The beautiful film depicts the true love story of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidson. Some of the strongest scenes involve Lewis(played superbly by Anthony Hopkins) and his colleagues at the university where he taught. They chide him often for his "childish" books like Narnia. It is made clear that they would never be able to regain the lost magic from their own childhoods.

Terez Rose writes on how learning to play the violin has brought the Christmas magic back to her own life:

Why does magic grow so inaccessible to us as adults? Life nudges us away from it, exposing our childhood dreams and treasured precepts as the naive illusions they'd always been. There is no Santa; there are no such things as fairies and spirits. How then to explain, as I played my violin, the magic sweeping over me like the embrace of a divine spirit? In that moment, I had it all back - the peace, joy and timeless sense of security of my youthful Christmas Eves.


Born on 12/12/05.