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Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Topic: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces (Read 273481 times)
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1150 on:
January 07, 2013, 08:29:05 PM »
"The leading power of the age is in relative decline, beset by political crisis at home and by steadily eroding economic prowess. Rising powers are jostling for position in the four corners of the world, some seeking a new place for themselves within the current global order, others questioning its very legitimacy. Democracy and despotism are locked in uneasy competition. A world economy is interconnected as never before by flows of money, trade, and people, and by the unprecedented spread of new, distance-destroying technologies. A global society, perhaps even a global moral consciousness, is emerging as a result. Small-town America rails at the excessive power of Wall Street. Asia is rising once again. And, yes, there's trouble in the Middle East.
In many ways, the world of 1913, the last year before the Great War, seems not so much the world of 100 years ago as the world of today, curiously refracted through time.
Prager: Richard Cohen explains conservatives
Reply #1151 on:
January 08, 2013, 03:32:58 PM »
Nassim Taleb (Black Swan guy)
Reply #1152 on:
January 22, 2013, 10:34:38 AM »
Prager: Fiscal conservatism needs social conservatism
Reply #1153 on:
January 22, 2013, 11:28:38 AM »
second post of the morning:
'Fiscal' Conservatism Needs 'Social' Conservatism
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
For some years now, we have been told about a major division within American conservatism: fiscal conservatives vs. social conservatives. This division is hurting conservatism and hurting America -- because the survival of American values depends on both fiscal and social conservatism. Furthermore, the division is logically and morally untenable. A conservative conserves all American values, not just economic ones.
By "social conservatism," I am referring to the second and third components of what I call the American Trinity -- liberty, "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum."
It is worth noting that a similar bifurcation does not exist on the left. One never hears the term "fiscal liberals." Why not? Because those who consider themselves liberals are liberal across the board -- fiscally and socially. The left understands that values are a package. Apparently, many conservatives -- libertarians, for example -- do not. They think that we can sustain liberty while ignoring God and religion and ignoring American nationalism and exceptionalism.
It is true that small government and liberty are at the heart of the American experiment. But they are dependent on two other values: a God-based religious vigor in the society and the melting pot ideal. Or, to put it another way, small government and fiscal conservatism will not survive the victory of social leftism.
The Founding Fathers made clear that liberty is dependent upon not only small government but also society's affirming God-based values. Not having imbibed the Enlightenment foolishness that people are basically good, the founders understood that in order for a society to prosper without big government, its citizens have to hold themselves accountable to something other than -- higher than -- the brute force of the state. That something is God and the Judeo-Christian religions that are its vehicle.
Those who believe in a small state -- fiscal conservatives -- need to know that a small state is dependent on a big God and, therefore, on a God-centered population. Look at Europe for confirmation. As secularism expands, so does the state. And that is what is happening in America. Fiscal conservatives, such as libertarians, don't make this connection. They view small government as an achievable end in and of itself, divorced from the social/religious values the American people hold.
Western and Chinese apologists for the Communist Chinese regime argue the same thing -- that economic freedom is divisible from other values.
I am in no way morally equating American libertarians and other fiscal conservatives to Chinese Communists. Libertarians hate communism. I am only pointing out that they agree on the separation of economic and social values, on the dispensability of God and religion, on the idea that America should not interfere in other nations -- no matter how great the evil -- and more.
Fiscal conservatives who consider themselves conservative need to imagine what type of America they will bequeath to future generations if the only conservative value that survives is fiscal conservatism.
Do you really want to live in an America that is godless, where liberty derives from the state and where moral values derive from each individual's heart? In an America that ignores genocides abroad? In an America that so radically redefines marriage -- the union of anyone who loves anyone -- that it no longer has a moral justification to prohibit polygamy or incest? In an America that has no moral opinion on abortion, even if performed solely, let us say, for reasons of the fetus's gender? In an America that embraces multiculturalism rather than the melting pot ideal?
My goal here is not to expel from the conservative movement those who are conservative only with regard to fiscal matters. May God bless them (even those who do not believe in him), and may they long vote Republican. My goal is to bring them to social conservatism.
Because a conservative conserves. And not just money.
VDH: Europe's wishes came true
Reply #1154 on:
January 24, 2013, 07:03:27 AM »
Europe's Wishes Came True
Victor Davis Hanson
Jan 24, 2013
Almost a decade ago, Europeans and many progressive Americans were lamenting how the United States was going to miss out on the 21st-century paradigm symbolized by the robust European Union. Neanderthal Americans were importing ever more oil while waging a costly "war on terror" and fighting two conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our budget deficit in 2003 hit $374 billion.
The EU avoided foreign conflicts and embraced soft power. Its declining military budgets and centralized transnational government ensured that it could address global warming and fund ever-expanding entitlements. Even the poorer Mediterranean nations reached new heights of prosperity. The Greek economy soared. Spain's real estate market was to become the hottest in the world. Italy seemed to resemble Germany more than Portugal.
President George W. Bush was not just hated in Europe, but caricatured as the symbol of backward free-market capitalism, rank American consumerism and U.S. imperialism abroad. Only with the election of the progressive Barack Obama would Europe finally find a like-minded, sophisticated American president.
Yet European Union prosperity has now proved a phantom -- one conjured up by accounting gimmickry, borrowed German money and corrupt EU apparatchiks. Neither the EU at large nor most individual European nations can sustain their present rate of redistributionist entitlements. To end cash transfers across borders spells the breakup of the union. To embrace austerity at home ensures near anarchy in the streets of individual nations.
The worry is not that Greece will implode, but whether France can remain financially solvent. More realistic countries such as Germany, Latvia and Sweden are quietly drifting away from the socialist model, preferring balanced budgets, lower taxes and fewer regulations.
The EU may be worried that Obama's United States is becoming more like the EU at the very time many in Europe are starting to take a second, kinder look at the old free-market model of the United States. An America of low taxes, low unemployment and robust growth once meant a huge market for European goods, as the United States drove a prosperous world economy and had enough cash to protect the Western world.
All that has changed after four years of unprecedented $1 trillion-plus U.S. budget deficits. National debt has hit a historic $16 trillion, with no reversal in sight. Unemployment has been at 7.8 percent or above for 48 consecutive months. GDP growth is calcified at an anemic 2 percent. Record numbers of Americans draw on unemployment, disability and food stamps.
There is even greater irony in foreign policy. Europe blasted Bush for his cooked-up war on radical Islam and his needless interventions abroad. But with the ascendency of Barack Obama, Europe finally got a mirror image of itself. Both Iraq and Afghanistan will have ended according to strict timetables of withdrawal, not with any lasting security on the ground.
France and Great Britain went into Libya, while America "led from behind." Muammar Gadhafi's dictatorship was replaced with chaos that has birthed a terrorist haven that threatens to become the new Afghanistan. The odious anti-Semite and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi now runs a near-bankrupt Egypt that looks a lot like Haiti. After the messes in Libya and Egypt, the West watched impotently as Syria became something like Mogadishu.
France is forced to unilaterally intervene in its old colony, Mali, to stop an Islamist takeover of the entire country. America watches from the sidelines, as undermanned French forces are offered meager logistical support from EU allies. In Algeria, radical Islamists brazenly executed dozens of Western hostages.
Yet Obama has found widespread public support for his new isolationism. ((VDH needs to recognize the role of Bush's poor leadership in both Afpakia and Iraq. It is not illogical for we the people to doubt our government's ability to accomplish what it sets out to do. This is a subject I've been meaning to address for some time.)) Apparently, liberals prefer to borrow money at home for more entitlements rather than spend money on interventions abroad. Many conservatives enjoy the schadenfreude of watching as Europe plays (poorly) the old thankless unilateral role of the United States.
Obama has loudly promised a pivot in the U.S. security profile toward the Pacific region. That change represents the unspoken reality that socialist redistribution has reduced Europe to near-irrelevancy. Supposedly, free-market Asian economies are the new nexus of wealth and power. Oil and gas finds in America are providing unexpected energy independence from the Persian Gulf. Or perhaps the new strategic emphasis reflects the demographic realities of the Obama coalition of various minority groups -- and fewer European-American voters.
The Hawaiian-born and Indonesia-raised president certainly seems more interested in Asia than he does in the old colonial Mediterranean world of aging and shrinking European nations, Arab quagmires, oil intrigue, Islamic terrorists and the Israeli-Palestinian open sore.
In short, Europe got the European Union of its hopes and a changed America of its fantasies -- but both are rapidly becoming its worst nightmares.
Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 07:06:19 AM by Crafty_Dog
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1155 on:
January 24, 2013, 09:18:10 AM »
Nice VDH piece,
"That change represents the unspoken reality that socialist redistribution has reduced Europe to near-irrelevancy. Supposedly, free-market Asian economies are the new nexus of wealth and power. Oil and gas finds in America are providing unexpected energy independence from the Persian Gulf. Or perhaps the new strategic emphasis reflects the demographic realities of the Obama coalition of various minority groups -- and fewer European-American voters.
With regard to the first sentence I agree the US is going the same way. With regards to the third sentence could be a boom if Obama would get out of the way - he won't. He will allow it to proceed but lonely under extraordinary more than necessary regulation so HE and his kingdom is in control of it all - not the private sector. And at the same time he will tax the sector so high it's growth will still be muffled and we will still have to pay up for our energy.
AS for the last statement certainly the strategy is to find and maintain a coalition of groups over 51 % to ram through and subjugate those who "cling on to their guns and religion".
VDH, who I agree with Doug is one of our best thinkers and writers. Has anyone seen if he has written any pieces on strategy. On how to turn the ship around *before* it sinks? Personally I am convinced it is too late.
I have lost all faith in Republican leaders. They botched the Hillary interview. It was embarrassing to watch her go on offense against them and they respond not with outrage, indignation, making it damn clear that she should be responsible and guilty for the deaths they let her turn it around and make them look like fools. As noted by one cable talk hawlk , she came prepared. She had her team of lawyers prepare her for all questions, all comers, prepare even a crying charade (why is ok for supposedly tough women in important positions to cry - if it was a man he would be ridiculed) and our guys were all fragmented, unable to stay focused, directed, like a good tough prosecutor who is PREPARED. Woo is us. EVen this simple task with which they had months - they can't even get this right.
This convinces me more than ever the Republicans will not be able to rise to the occasion. And Karl Rove is back in the thick of the strategizing.
Steyn: What difference, at this point, does it make?
Reply #1156 on:
January 26, 2013, 10:36:28 AM »
If I'm following this correctly, according to one spokesperson for the Marine Corps Band, at Monday's Inauguration Beyoncé lip-synced to the national anthem but the band accompanied her live. However, according to a second spokesperson, it was the band who were pretending to play to a tape while Beyoncé sang along live. So one or the other of them was faking it. Or maybe both were. Or neither. I'd ask Chuck Schumer, the master of ceremonies, who was standing right behind her, but he spent the entire performance staring at her butt. If it was her butt, that is. It might just have been the bulge of the Radio Shack cassette player she was miming to. In an America with an ever more tenuous grip on reality, there's so little to be sure of.
Whether Beyoncé was lip-syncing to the band or the band were lip-syncing to Beyoncé is like one of those red pill / blue pill choices from "The Matrix." Was President Obama lip-syncing to the Founders, rooting his inaugural address in the earliest expressions of American identity? ("The patriots of 1776 ... gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.") Or maybe the Founders were lip-syncing to him as he appropriated the vision of the first generation of Americans and yoked it ("preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action") to a statist pitch they would have found utterly repugnant.
The whole event had the air of a simulacrum: It looked like a presidential inauguration, but the sound was tinny and not quite in sync. Obama mouthed along to a canned vocal track: "We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future." That's great! It's always reassuring to know the head of state is going to take issue will all those people wedded to the "belief" that America needs either to shove every granny off the cliff or stake its newborns out on the tundra for the wolves to finish off. When it comes to facing the music, Obama is peerless at making a song and dance about tunes nobody's whistling without ever once warbling the real big numbers (16 trillion). But, like Beyoncé, he's totally cool and has a cute butt.
A couple of days later, it fell to the 45th president-in-waiting to encapsulate the ethos of the age in one deft sound bite: What difference does it make? Hillary Clinton's instantly famous riposte at the Benghazi hearings is such a perfect distillation that it surely deserves to be the national motto of the United States. They should put it on Paul Krugman's trillion-dollar coin, and in the presidential oath:
"Do you solemnly swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?"
"Sure. What difference, at this point, does it make?"
Well, it's the difference between cool and reality – and, as Hillary's confident reply appeared to suggest, and the delirious media reception of it confirmed, reality comes a poor second in the Obama era. The presumption of conservatives has always been that, one day, cold, dull reality would pierce the klieg-light sheen of Obama's glamour. Indeed, that was the premise of Mitt Romney's reductive presidential campaign. But, just as Beyoncé will always be way cooler than some no-name operatic soprano or a male voice choir, so Obama will always be cooler than a bunch of squaresville yawneroos boring on about jobs and debt and entitlement reform. Hillary's cocksure sneer to Sen. Johnson of Wisconsin made it explicit. At a basic level, the "difference" is the difference between truth and falsity, but the subtext took it a stage further: no matter what actually happened that night in Benghazi, you poor sad loser Republicans will never succeed in imposing that reality and its consequences on this administration.
And so a congressional hearing – one of the famous "checks and balances" of the American system – is reduced to just another piece of Beltway theater. "The form was still the same, but the animating health and vigor were fled," as Gibbon wrote in "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire." But he's totally uncool, too. So Hillary lip-synced far more than Beyoncé, and was adored for it. "As I have said many times, I take responsibility," she said. In Washington, the bold declarative oft-stated acceptance of responsibility is the classic substitute for responsibility: rhetorically "taking responsibility," preferably "many times," absolves one from the need to take actual responsibility even once.
In the very same self-serving testimony, the Secretary of State denied that she'd ever seen the late Ambassador Stevens' cables about the deteriorating security situation in Libya on the grounds that "1.43 million cables come to my office" – and she can't be expected to see all of them, or any. She is as out of it as President Jefferson, who complained to his Secretary of State James Madison, "We have not heard from our ambassador in Spain for two years. If we have not heard from him this year, let us write him a letter." Today, things are even worse. Hillary has apparently not heard from any of our 1.43 million ambassadors for four years. When a foreign head of state receives the credentials of the senior emissary of the United States, he might carelessly assume that the chap surely has a line of communication back to the government he represents. For six centuries or so, this has been the minimal requirement for functioning interstate relations. But Secretary Clinton has just testified that, in the government of the most powerful nation on Earth, there is no reliable means by which a serving ambassador can report to the Cabinet minister responsible for foreign policy. And nobody cares: What difference does it make?
Nor was the late Christopher Stevens any old ambassador but, rather, Secretary Clinton's close personal friend "Chris." It was all "Chris" this, "Chris" that, when Secretary Clinton and President Obama delivered their maudlin eulogies over the flag-draped coffin of their "friend." Gosh, you'd think if they were on such intimate terms, "Chris" might have had Hillary's email address, but apparently not. He was just one of 1.43 million close personal friends cabling the State Department every hour of the day.
Four Americans are dead, but not a single person involved in the attack and the murders has been held to account. Hey, what difference does it make? Lip-syncing the national anthem beats singing it. Peddling a fictitious narrative over the coffin of your "friend" is more real than being an incompetent boss to your most vulnerable employees. And mouthing warmed-over clichés about vowing to "bring to justice" those responsible is way easier than actually bringing anyone to justice.
And so it goes:
Another six trillion in debt? What difference does it make?
An economic stimulus bill that stimulates nothing remotely connected with the economy? What difference does it make?
The Arab Spring? Aw, whose heart isn't stirred by those exhilarating scenes of joyful students celebrating in Tahrir Square? And who cares, after the cameras depart, that Egypt's in the hands of a Jew-hating 9/11 truther whose goons burn churches and sexually assault uncovered women?
Obama is the ultimate reality show, and real reality can't compete. Stalin famously scoffed, "How many divisions has the Pope?" Secretary Clinton was more audacious: How many divisions has reality? Not enough.
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1157 on:
January 26, 2013, 12:07:10 PM »
Mark Steyn nails it in so many ways. What difference does it make?] "At a basic level, the "difference" is the difference between truth and falsity"
Clinton is saying: we went with falsity, we won and you can't do anything about it.
The exact quote I think was: "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans, Was it because of a protest or is it because of guys out for a walk one night and they decide they go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?"
With continuing disregard for the truth, neither of those scenarios is what happened either. Wasn't it a planned terror attack or do we still not know. Guys out for a walk?? One night?? It was the anniversary of 9/11!!! Does she still not get it??
'What difference does it make' is not an answer to a congressional inquiry. My first reading of this was that her reaction was scripted and rehearsed, answer a question with a question etc. More accurate and very funny is CCP's reaction, good thing she didn't have a lamp within reach. She was pissed. You have to know your Clinton history to get that one.
David Mamet and the Fools of Chelm
Reply #1158 on:
January 27, 2013, 07:03:52 PM »
Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm†
Jan 29, 2013 12:00 AM EST
By David Mamet
The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so. .
Karl Marx summed up Communism as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” This is a good, pithy saying, which, in practice, has succeeded in bringing, upon those under its sway, misery, poverty, rape, torture, slavery, and death.
For the saying implies but does not name the effective agency of its supposed utopia. The agency is called “The State,” and the motto, fleshed out, for the benefit of the easily confused must read “The State will take from each according to his ability: the State will give to each according to his needs.” “Needs and abilities” are, of course, subjective. So the operative statement may be reduced to “the State shall take, the State shall give.”
All of us have had dealings with the State, and have found, to our chagrin, or, indeed, terror, that we were not dealing with well-meaning public servants or even with ideologues but with overworked, harried bureaucrats. These, as all bureaucrats, obtain and hold their jobs by complying with directions and suppressing the desire to employ initiative, compassion, or indeed, common sense. They are paid to follow orders.
Rule by bureaucrats and functionaries is an example of the first part of the Marxist equation: that the Government shall determine the individual’s abilities.
As rules by the Government are one-size-fits-all, any governmental determination of an individual’s abilities must be based on a bureaucratic assessment of the lowest possible denominator. The government, for example, has determined that black people (somehow) have fewer abilities than white people, and, so, must be given certain preferences. Anyone acquainted with both black and white people knows this assessment is not only absurd but monstrous. And yet it is the law.
President Obama, in his reelection campaign, referred frequently to the “needs” of himself and his opponent, alleging that each has more money than he “needs.”
But where in the Constitution is it written that the Government is in charge of determining “needs”? And note that the president did not say “I have more money than I need,” but “You and I have more than we need.” Who elected him to speak for another citizen?
It is not the constitutional prerogative of the Government to determine needs. One person may need (or want) more leisure, another more work; one more adventure, another more security, and so on. It is this diversity that makes a country, indeed a state, a city, a church, or a family, healthy. “One-size-fits-all,” and that size determined by the State has a name, and that name is “slavery.”
The Founding Fathers, far from being ideologues, were not even politicians. They were an assortment of businessmen, writers, teachers, planters; men, in short, who knew something of the world, which is to say, of Human Nature. Their struggle to draft a set of rules acceptable to each other was based on the assumption that we human beings, in the mass, are no damned good—that we are biddable, easily confused, and that we may easily be motivated by a Politician, which is to say, a huckster, mounting a soapbox and inflaming our passions.
The Constitution’s drafters did not require a wag to teach them that power corrupts: they had experienced it in the person of King George. The American secession was announced by reference to his abuses of power: “He has obstructed the administration of Justice … he has made Judges dependant on his will alone … He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws … He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass out people and to eat out their substance … imposed taxes upon us without our consent… [He has] fundamentally altered the forms of our government.”
Who threatens American society most: law-abiding citizens or criminals? (Matt Rourke/AP)
This is a chillingly familiar set of grievances; and its recrudescence was foreseen by the Founders. They realized that King George was not an individual case, but the inevitable outcome of unfettered power; that any person or group with the power to tax, to form laws, and to enforce them by arms will default to dictatorship, absent the constant unflagging scrutiny of the governed, and their severe untempered insistence upon compliance with law.
The Founders recognized that Government is quite literally a necessary evil, that there must be opposition, between its various branches, and between political parties, for these are the only ways to temper the individual’s greed for power and the electorates’ desires for peace by submission to coercion or blandishment.
Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervor, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, willful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties. It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government.
Many are opposed to private ownership of firearms, and their opposition comes under several heads. Their specific objections are answerable retail, but a wholesale response is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms. On a lower level of abstraction, there are more than 2 million instances a year of the armed citizen deterring or stopping armed criminals; a number four times that of all crimes involving firearms.
The Left loves a phantom statistic that a firearm in the hands of a citizen is X times more likely to cause accidental damage than to be used in the prevention of crime, but what is there about criminals that ensures that their gun use is accident-free? If, indeed, a firearm were more dangerous to its possessors than to potential aggressors, would it not make sense for the government to arm all criminals, and let them accidentally shoot themselves? Is this absurd? Yes, and yet the government, of course, is arming criminals.
Violence by firearms is most prevalent in big cities with the strictest gun laws. In Chicago and Washington, D.C., for example, it is only the criminals who have guns, the law-abiding populace having been disarmed, and so crime runs riot.
Cities of similar size in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and elsewhere, which leave the citizen the right to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in the Constitution, typically are much safer. More legal guns equal less crime. What criminal would be foolish enough to rob a gun store? But the government alleges that the citizen does not need this or that gun, number of guns, or amount of ammunition.But President Obama, it seems, does.
He has just passed a bill that extends to him and his family protection, around the clock and for life, by the Secret Service. He, evidently, feels that he is best qualified to determine his needs, and, of course, he is. As I am best qualified to determine mine.
For it is, again, only the Marxists who assert that the government, which is to say the busy, corrupted, and hypocritical fools most elected officials are (have you ever had lunch with one?) should regulate gun ownership based on its assessment of needs.
Q. Who “needs” an assault rifle?
A. No one outside the military and the police. I concur.
An assault weapon is that which used to be called a “submachine gun.” That is, a handheld long gun that will fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down.
These have been illegal in private hands (barring those collectors who have passed the stringent scrutiny of the Federal Government) since 1934. Outside these few legal possessors, there are none in private hands. They may be found in the hands of criminals. But criminals, let us reflect, by definition, are those who will not abide by the laws. What purpose will passing more laws serve?
My grandmother came from Russian Poland, near the Polish city of Chelm. Chelm was celebrated, by the Ashkenazi Jews, as the place where the fools dwelt. And my grandmother loved to tell the traditional stories of Chelm.
Its residents, for example, once decided that there was no point in having the sun shine during the day, when it was light out—it would be better should it shine at night, when it was dark. Similarly, we modern Solons delight in passing gun laws that, in their entirety, amount to “making crime illegal.”
What possible purpose in declaring schools “gun-free zones”? Who bringing a gun, with evil intent, into a school would be deterred by the sign?
Ah, but perhaps one, legally carrying a gun, might bring it into the school.
If President Obama determines a need to defend his family, why can’t we defend our own? (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters/Landov)
We need more armed citizens in the schools.
Walk down Madison Avenue in New York. Many posh stores have, on view, or behind a two-way mirror, an armed guard. Walk into most any pawnshop, jewelry story, currency exchange, gold store in the country, and there will be an armed guard nearby. Why? As currency, jewelry, gold are precious. Who complains about the presence of these armed guards? And is this wealth more precious than our children?
Apparently it is: for the Left adduces arguments against armed presence in the school but not in the wristwatch stores. Q. How many accidental shootings occurred last year in jewelry stores, or on any premises with armed security guards?
Why not then, for the love of God, have an armed presence in the schools? It could be done at the cost of a pistol (several hundred dollars), and a few hours of training (that’s all the security guards get). Why not offer teachers, administrators, custodians, a small extra stipend for completing a firearms-safety course and carrying a concealed weapon to school? The arguments to the contrary escape me.
Why do I specify concealed carry? As if the weapons are concealed, any potential malefactor must assume that anyone on the premises he means to disrupt may be armed—a deterrent of even attempted violence.
Yes, but we should check all applicants for firearms for a criminal record?
Anyone applying to purchase a handgun has, since 1968, filled out a form certifying he is not a fugitive from justice, a convicted criminal, or mentally deficient. These forms, tens and tens of millions of them, rest, conceivably, somewhere in the vast repository. How are they checked? Are they checked? By what agency, with what monies? The country is broke. Do we actually want another agency staffed by bureaucrats for whom there is no funding?
The police do not exist to protect the individual. They exist to cordon off the crime scene and attempt to apprehend the criminal. We individuals are guaranteed by the Constitution the right to self-defense. This right is not the Government’s to “award” us. They have never been granted it.
The so-called assault weapons ban is a hoax. It is a political appeal to the ignorant. The guns it supposedly banned have been illegal (as above) for 78 years. Did the ban make them “more” illegal? The ban addresses only the appearance of weapons, not their operation.
Will increased cosmetic measures make anyone safer? They, like all efforts at disarmament, will put the citizenry more at risk. Disarmament rests on the assumption that all people are good, and, basically, want the same things.
But if all people were basically good, why would we, increasingly, pass more and more elaborate laws?
The individual is not only best qualified to provide his own personal defense, he is the only one qualified to do so: and his right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution.
President Obama seems to understand the Constitution as a “set of suggestions.” I cannot endorse his performance in office, but he wins my respect for taking those steps he deems necessary to ensure the safety of his family. Why would he want to prohibit me from doing the same?
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1159 on:
January 27, 2013, 09:43:24 PM »
"This is a chillingly familiar set of grievances; and its recrudescence was foreseen by the Founders. They realized that King George was not an individual case, but the inevitable outcome of unfettered power; that any person or group with the power to tax, to form laws, and to enforce them by arms will default to dictatorship, absent the constant unflagging scrutiny of the governed, and their severe untempered insistence upon compliance with law."
Yes. I think the Republicans, or at least the Conservative ones are evolving their message that I hope will resonate with more people than those of us already in the choir. (I am a convert!
While the left tries to point to the private sector rich and powerful (unless one is a liberal Democrat - they get a "pass"; like Hollywood; like Buffett) we can point to Washington DC. Rush pointed this out the other day as I posted. Hannity who I admittedly shied away from for being too "unobjective" if you will, did a great show this weekend on Fox. The richest county in the US is DC. Seven of the top richest counties in the entire country are surrounding DC. Multiple members of the Houses have family members getting rich as lobbyists.
IF anyone has driven around DC knows there are a lot of slums. So the fact that it is still the richest county in the US says a lot. (Actually is DC really a county?)
Maybe the Repubs can have some success at turning the !% argument against the left with the corruption of the ruling government elite
Reply #1160 on:
January 30, 2013, 10:44:26 AM »
"[W]e spend so much time on these individual issues like guns and health care, but what we need to take on as a country is the topic of freedom overall. What are rights? What is the purpose of the government? All our arguments are because we disagree on those questions, but that's not usually where the discussion is. If we want to change things, we need people thinking on these fundamental questions." --columnist Frank J. Fleming
The Crisis of American Conservatism
Reply #1161 on:
February 09, 2013, 09:11:09 AM »
Interesting thought pieces: The man who shot bin Laden
Reply #1162 on:
February 12, 2013, 01:25:41 PM »
Long piece on Esquire, March 2013. Because of secrecy and security, this guy comes back and starts over keeping his claim to fame hushed.
February 11, 2013, 6:00 AM
The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed By Phil Bronstein, former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle
For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but abou3t the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced an skilled warriors carry on with their lives.
Dan Bongino: It's about people control.
Reply #1163 on:
February 13, 2013, 11:14:48 PM »
VDH: Why do propserous societies give up?
Reply #1164 on:
February 14, 2013, 10:24:59 AM »
Why do once-successful societies ossify and decline?
Hundreds of reasons have been adduced for the fall of Rome and the end of the Old Regime in 18th-century France. Reasons run from inflation and excessive spending to resource depletion and enemy invasion, as historians attempt to understand the sudden collapse of the Mycenaeans, the Aztecs and, apparently, the modern Greeks. In literature from Catullus to Edward Gibbon, wealth and leisure -- and who gets the most of both -- more often than poverty and exhaustion implode civilization.
One recurring theme seems consistent in Athenian literature on the eve of the city's takeover by Macedon: social squabbling over slicing up a shrinking pie. Athenian speeches from that era make frequent reference to lawsuits over property and inheritance, evading taxes, and fudging eligibility for the dole. After the end of the Roman Republic, reactionary Latin literature -- from the likes of Juvenal, Petronius, Suetonius, Tacitus -- pointed to "bread and circuses," as well as excessive wealth, corruption and top-heavy government.
For Gibbon and later French scholars, "Byzantine" became a pejorative description of a top-heavy Greek bureaucracy that could not tax enough vanishing producers to sustain a growing number of bureaucrats. In antiquity, inflating the currency by turning out cheap bronze coins was often the favored way to pay off public debts, while the law became fluid to address popular demands rather than to protect time-honored justice.
After the end of World War II, most of today's powerhouses were either in ruins or still preindustrial -- China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Taiwan. Only the United States and Great Britain had sophisticated economies that survived the destruction of the war. Both were poised to resupply a devastated world with new ships, cars, machinery and communications.
In comparison to Frankfurt, the factories of 1945 Liverpool had survived mostly intact. Yet Britain missed out on the postwar German economic miracles, in part because after the deprivations of the war, the war-weary British turned to class warfare and nationalized their main industries, which soon became uncompetitive.
The gradual decline of a society is often a self-induced process of trying to meet ever-expanding appetites, rather than a physical inability to produce past levels of food and fuel, or to maintain adequate defense. Americans have never had safer workplaces or more sophisticated medical care -- and never have so many been on disability.
King Xerxes' huge Persian force of 250,000 sailors and soldiers could not defeat a rather poor Greece in 480-479 B.C. Yet a century and a half later, a much smaller invading force from the north under Philip II of Macedon overwhelmed the far more prosperous Greek descendants of the victors of Salamis.
For hundreds of years, the outmanned legions of the tiny and poor Roman Republic survived foreign invasions. Yet centuries later, tribal Goths, Visigoths, Vandals and Huns overran the huge Mediterranean-wide Roman Empire.
Given our unsustainable national debt -- nearly $17 trillion and climbing -- America is said to be in decline, although we face no devastating plague, nuclear holocaust, or shortage of oil or food.
Americans have never led such affluent material lives -- at least as measured by access to cell phones, big-screen TVs, cheap jet travel and fast food. Obesity rather than malnutrition is the greater threat to national health. Flash mobs go after electronics stores, not food markets. Americans spend more money on Botox, face lifts and tummy tucks than on the age-old scourges of polio, small pox and malaria.
If Martians looked at the small box houses, one-car families and primitive consumer goods of the 1950s, they would have thought the postwar United States, despite a balanced budget in 1956, was impoverished. In comparison, an indebted contemporary America would seem to aliens flush with cash, as consumers jostle for each new update to their iPhones.
By any historical marker, the future of Americans has never been brighter. The United States has it all: undreamed new finds of natural gas and oil, the world's pre-eminent food production, continual technological wizardly, strong demographic growth, a superb military and constitutional stability.
Yet we don't talk confidently about capitalizing and expanding on our natural and inherited wealth. Instead, Americans bicker over entitlement spoils as the nation continues to pile up trillion-dollar-plus deficits. Enforced equality rather than liberty is the new national creed. The medicine of cutting back on government goodies seems far worse than the disease of borrowing trillions from the unborn to pay for them.
In August 1945, Hiroshima was in shambles, while Detroit was among the most innovative and wealthiest cities in the world. Contemporary Hiroshima now resembles a prosperous Detroit of 1945; parts of Detroit look like they were bombed decades ago.
History has shown that a government's redistribution of shrinking wealth, in preference to a private sector's creation of new sources of it, can prove more destructive than even the most deadly enemy.
VDH: DB forum is wrong
Reply #1165 on:
February 19, 2013, 04:13:03 PM »
America's Bright Future
by Victor Davis Hanson (Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow)
In three key sectors of the economy, the country is experiencing a rejuvenating renaissance.
Talk of American decline is in the air. And why not when the aggregate U.S. debt nears $17 trillion? Unemployment has not dipped below 7.8 percent in 48 months. GDP growth over the last four years has averaged an anemic 2 percent. The economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012. Record numbers of Americans are on food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance.
“Lead from behind” has become a catchphrase for a new American retrenchment abroad. Exhausted from a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with huge defense cuts on the horizon, the United States has ceded leadership in the out-of-vogue “war on terror” to France to stave off an Islamist takeover of Mali. The Arab world certainly seems more unstable than ever. A Muslim Brotherhood government presides over an unstable Egypt. The death toll in Syria now exceeds 60,000. Islamist terrorists slaughtered Westerner hostages in Algeria, months after the murder of an American ambassador and three others in Benghazi. Mediterranean Libya is starting to resemble Somalia.
Illustration by Barbara Kelley
There are reasons for pessimism about the world in general and America in particular, which is more divided politically than at any period since the turbulent 1960s—torn apart by fresh arguments over the Second Amendment, the debt, the federalization of health care, and proposed amnesty for illegal aliens. Still, the general despair does not mean that there are not reasons for optimism, especially when we compare our lot with that of other countries. The United States still enjoys the most robust demography of the major Western industrial nations. Its Constitution ensures a political stability not found elsewhere. There is no danger of political dissolution of the sort that the European Union faces. We have been spared the riots and turbulence of Greece.
An American Farming Renaissance
More importantly, recent revolutionary trends in the United States have either gone unnoticed or been taken largely for granted. Yet these underappreciated developments offer hope for an American renaissance unlike any in our recent memory—mostly despite, rather than because of, the federal government that currently borrows nearly $.40 for each dollar it spends.
Take agriculture. Just a decade ago, there was talk of the United States becoming a net food importer. Commodity prices were largely flat. Farming seemed to be losing its competitive edge plagued as it was by high-energy costs, flat food demand, and prognostications of crippling droughts brought on by man-made climate change. But a perfect storm of events has suddenly redefined the American farm in a way analogous to the mechanized revolution of the 1920s.
China and India have reached a proverbial tipping-point, where millions of newly upscale consumers have broadened their tastes for everything from almonds and raisins to processed foods that require substantial bulk purchases of grains, rice, meats, and corn syrup. If only 20 percent of the Indian and Chinese population have the capital to afford new choices in imported food, such percentages still represent about 400 million new Westernized consumers, a class larger than most other nations.
An unnecessary biofuels program has diverted valuable acreage to ethanol production, creating commodity shortages while boosting prices and adding to the new sense of demand for American produce. Meanwhile, new fertilizers and chemicals, genetic engineering, and computerized mechanization have done the nearly impossible—they have transformed an efficient agriculture of the late twentieth century into an even more productive new enterprise. In 2011, the United States set a new record of over $140 billion in export agricultural earnings, after ensuring 315 million Americans the most diverse, safest, and cheapest food in the world.
In my own environs of Central California, the sudden changes are mind-boggling. California exported a record $21 billion worth of produce from some 400 crops last year. Almond acreage has soared to 760,000 acres, while prices remain higher in real dollars than when the industry was at just a quarter of its present plantings—a situation quite unlike the past cycles of overplanting and crashing prices. New rootstocks, improved cultivars, second-generation drip irrigation technologies, and computerized fertilization regimens have made once sandy and marginal soils as productive for fruits and nuts as deep loams.
Along with increased efficiency and vast new markets, America’s farm competitors are also facing new challenges. The huge European Union subsidy program is proving unsustainable, especially its once vast cash transfers to Mediterranean farmers. Energy and labor prices are far higher in Europe and regulations more Byzantine. Elsewhere, most of the world’s agriculture does not operate according to free-market principles and remains hampered by state interference.
The Future of Fuel
Along with food, fuel is another one of modern life’s essential resources—and in that domain, too, America could soon be preeminent. The traditional notion of “peak oil” and the once gloomy prognostications of a future of ever increasing bills for imported natural gas have almost instantly disappeared. Thanks to the new technologies of fracking and horizontal drilling, America not only has the largest combined gas, oil, and coal resources in the world, but may also become the largest producer of all three by 2020.
Four years ago, vast new finds of gas in the Midwest and East, along with extensive discoveries in California and Alaska, suggested that we might in the distant future need only to rely on North American produced oil and gas. Today, the once widely mocked Nixon-era slogan of self-sufficiency in oil and gas could become a reality. If the current development of oil and gas on private lands were expanded by new federal leases on public lands, self-sufficiency could come even more rapidly—especially if trucks and heavy equipment change over to natural gas fuels. California alone may have 35 billion barrels of oil reserves in its newly appreciated Monterey Shale formation, a natural treasure that could dwarf the riches of Napa Valley wine industry or Hollywood.
The gradual displacement of coal by natural gas for electrical production will not only help clean the American atmosphere in a way federally-subsidized wind and solar power have not, but also create an industry of coal exportation to energy hungry, resource poor China and India. As a result of plentiful supplies of domestic natural gas, American consumers will save over $100 billion in reduced household bills over the next decade.
With the new production, even at falling prices, gas and oil revenues provided a half-trillion dollar boost to the economy in 2011 alone. Given the new competitive pricing of domestic American fuels, long departed energy-dependent industries in petrochemicals, fertilizers, and steel and aluminum production may once again return to American shores. The 1970s nightmare of oil embargoes, the 1990s scenario of fighting in the Middle East to help keep open the sea-lanes to the Persian Gulf, and the astronomical oil and gas importation costs of the 2000s may all be ended by thousands of new American gas and oil wells, requiring millions of new American workers.
Silicon Valley Rejuvenated
During much of the 1980s, there was wide scale apprehension that the new computer age belonged to Asia. Apple’s miracle was nearly defunct. Steve Jobs remained exiled from the company for a decade, as he struggled with a number of start-up companies. Experimental high definition television was forecast soon to become a veritable Japanese monopoly. Sony bought Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach was sold to Japanese investors—all supposed proof of a superior Asian economic model of government and private industry partnership. The dot-com crash at the end of the 1990s was a reminder that the best days of Silicon Valley had come and gone.
Yet just two decades later, the genius of Silicon Valley and its second-generation affiliates across the country, from Washington to Texas, have redefined modern living in a truly global sense. Each morning, billions worldwide wake up to multitask on their iPhones, check in with their Facebook accounts, run Google searches on their laptops and iPads, tap into Microsoft word programs, and buy things on Amazon. While much of the labor to produce these items is outsourced abroad, and while cheaper knock-off models and versions have captured a large share of the commodity purchases, so far, the United States continues to produce the majority of first-generation ideas and innovations that fuel the information and communication revolutions. A once nearly insolvent Apple of the 1980s is currently the world’s second largest publicly traded company, with a market capitalization value of some $626 billion.
Despite high labor costs, overregulation, and increasing taxation, American tech companies profit from an informal and meritocratic culture that rewards talent more than it relies on hierarchies of birth, class, and tribe so common abroad. While American public school education is in crisis, and although the humanities have been politicized on our college campuses, American math, science, engineering, and professional schools in business and medicine still remain preeminent. That explains why in a recent Times Higher Education ranking of world universities, eight of the top ten institutions were American. California alone had more universities—Berkeley, Cal Tech, Stanford, and UCLA—among the top fifteen ranked campuses than any single nation except the United States as a whole.
Bouts of collective pessimism are common in America, and the current episode of collective depression is understandable given our mounting debt and unsustainable entitlements. But we should remember one thing. In the past, when we feared seemingly great rising powers—from the dynamic Germany of the 1930s, to the Soviet juggernaut of the 1950s that put a man into space, to the supposedly unstoppable Japan, Inc. paradigm of the 1980s, to the much admired post-national European Union collective of the 1990s— all such rivals eventually imploded or sputtered. America, meanwhile, recouped and regained its preeminence in peace and war.
Why such resilience? Largely because of our far greater reliance on free markets, transparent meritocracy, rewards for individual initiative and success, comparatively smaller government, and constitutionally-protected liberties. Despite the present despondency—over two-thirds of Americans in most polls believe their country is on the wrong track—these uniquely American attributes are propelling revolutions in fuels, agriculture, and informational sciences in a manner unlike anywhere abroad. That American breakthroughs in fracking, horizontal drilling, improved agricultural protocols and technologies, mobile communications, social networking, and online commerce have developed without fanfare and largely without government aid should remind us that the sources of our continual renaissance lie more outside than inside Washington.
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1166 on:
February 19, 2013, 04:35:44 PM »
I hope he is correct.
My use of the noun Politburo
Reply #1167 on:
February 20, 2013, 11:23:06 PM »
for big government that is controlled by party members in the dem party, and our liberal universities and have unilaterally decided religion, guns, soda, endless taxation, bigger government oversight and intrusion into our lives is a good thing all the while progressing towards the end goal of total single government domination of all of humanity has been hijacked by
Bob Woodward and misapplied to Karl Rove group.
The only think keeping the liberal politburo in power is the continuously refined calculations on how to bribe just enough coalitions of voters to stay in power.
Reply #1168 on:
February 23, 2013, 05:34:56 PM »
Haven't had a chance to read this yet but it comes recommended:
Re: Orphan Voters
Reply #1169 on:
February 23, 2013, 05:37:29 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on February 23, 2013, 05:34:56 PM
Haven't had a chance to read this yet but it comes recommended:
Making the republican party even more "democrat-lite"-ish isn't the path to victory, or good for our already diminished future.
What if One Day We Get a Bad President?
Reply #1170 on:
February 23, 2013, 05:42:54 PM »
What if One Day We Get a Bad President?
The consequences of being saddled with a non-progressive, dumb chief executive are too horrible to imagine.
Frank J. Fleming
February 20, 2013 - 12:12 am
I believe I have noticed a problem with President Obama’s declaring that he can blow up Americans with drone strikes without due process.
Stick with me here; this is a bit of an esoteric argument. Now, like most people, I celebrate every time Obama obtains more power. Now he can do whatever he feels needs to be done for the country and not be burdened with getting the approval of his lessers first. So the more powerful the presidency, the better for us all. But I had a terrible thought: What if one day we get a bad president?
For instance, take this power to kill Americans with drones. No one worries that Obama will abuse such a power — I mean, we’re talking about a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for existing. It’s not like he’s ever going to use that power to blow us up (though, according to his lawyers, he legally could… and if he did, we’d just have to assume he had really, really good reasons). But just imagine if that power wound up in the hands of a president like George W. Bush. He’d probably blow up people with the drone all day, thinking he was playing a video game (“I’m gettin’ me a high score!”). Or worse yet, think of handing Dick Cheney that power. He’d most likely declare a unilateral war on kittens and puppies, blowing them up from the sky and then collecting the tears of children for some evil Halliburton project.
And the power to incinerate people isn’t the only power I fear could fall into the wrong hands. Like, what about the new authority the government has under President Obama to force people to buy things? That’s great for Obama to have, because he can force people to buy things they really do need to buy, like health care (and maybe in the future other things we all should really have, like hybrids or his memoirs). But think of what could happen if a president not as enlightened as Obama wielded such a power, backed by a Congress full of Republican troglodytes? They could make us all buy AR-15s or Big Gulps or Bibles or other dangerous, awful things.
Furthermore, there is Obama’s position on compromise. Now, we all agree that it’s absolutely ridiculous that Obama has to yield at all to those mindless Republican thugs who somehow hold a majority in Congress. Obama is a brilliant man, so why should he compromise to the ideals of those so far beneath him? That’s why he doesn’t ever yield and agree to spending cuts and just asks for more taxes on the rich. And if somehow taxing the rich more and more doesn’t make the math add up, then we’ll ignore the stupid math. I mean, that’s why we haven’t had a federal budget for years: Why in the world should what Obama can do be limited by some arbitrary squiggles called “numbers”? So Obama will absolutely not compromise with crazed right-wingers or math.
But think of what would happen if a bad president took such an attitude? He’d spend all his time making speeches, listing out promises that would never be fulfilled, while Congress would be locked in constant gridlock. What a pointless, worthless presidency that would be.
Also, the latitude we give Obama might become a problem if bad presidents come to expect it. Normally, if the unemployment rate hovered around 8% for a president’s entire term (and was only that low because millions of people had given up even looking for work) while at the same time we were burdened with high gas prices and economic growth ground to a halt, we would say that president was a complete and utter failure. Basically the worst president imaginable. We’d not only want that worthless wretch kicked out of office before he could do any more damage to our economy, we’d want him forced to wander the streets while citizens pelted him with rotten fruit and shouted obscenities at him.
With Obama, though, we’re very understanding of what’s happened to the economy because of the mess he inherited from Bush. Obviously, someone as smart as him, with all his economic experience from community organizing and voting in legislatures, is doing the absolute best anyone could expect, and four years later he’s almost got unemployment going in the right direction. But what if a Republican becomes president and has a similar record and expects the same leeway? He could be a total disaster on the economy — America could have results almost as bad as during the last four years — and then finish his first term and expect a pat on the head and a cookie like we gave Obama.
So we are setting a lot of precedents during Obama’s presidency that will give us something to fear if we elect a bad president someday. Still, I know what many of you are thinking: “We’ll just never elect a bad president again.” It does seem like we’ve fixed the system so we won’t ever elect a bad president, as Mitt Romney, who despises 47% of Americans, lost quite handily to Obama (who despises a much smaller percentage of Americans — only rich people and business owners). Romney wanted to outlaw vaginas and tie poor people to the top of his car, and there was something about binders that was very bad though hard to coherently explain why, and the people rejected him. But it wasn’t that long ago that George W. Bush was elected and reelected. And what if in 2016 people aren’t enamored with Hillary Clinton’s charm or wowed by literally one of the sharpest intellects we’ve ever seen, Joe Biden? What if instead they fall for that psychopath Marco Rubio, despite his affinity for drinking water?
The obvious solution is to have Obama be president forever, but that’s not practical. Eventually Obama will get bored and want to be president of a country he likes better than this one. Another idea would be to pass a law that if the president is an enlightened progressive, he shall have dictator-like powers and not have anything he does questioned by Congress or the Supreme Court, but if he’s a right-winger, he’ll need a supermajority in Congress to do anything. The only problem is that the Republicans in Congress love to block all commonsense legislation like that.
So the only option left is to consider curtailing a bit of the power we’re allowing Obama, because someday we might have a president who is completely detached from average Americans, doesn’t care about our problems, and ruins everything he touches — someone completely unlike Obama. I mean, just imagine all that power Obama has in the hands of someone who completely sucks at being president. The economy would be ruined, we’d have disastrous situations abroad, and our liberties would be threatened. It would be a lot like now, but instead of it being Bush’s fault, it would be the fault of the current president. So to keep that from happening, we’ll have to do the hard thing and put more limitations on Obama’s power. I’m sure he’ll understand and not drone-strike us.
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1171 on:
February 24, 2013, 07:47:26 PM »
Geraghty on Gaffes
Reply #1172 on:
February 26, 2013, 10:34:00 AM »
Morning Jolt – February 26, 2013
By Jim Geraghty
John Kerry Was For 'Kyrzakhstan' Before He Was Against It
This is kind of an easy lay-up for mockery . . .
John Kerry has suffered his first gaffe as the new US secretary of state, inventing the nation of 'Kyrzakhstan'
In an embarrassing slip of the tongue, Mr Kerry last week praised US diplomats working to secure "democratic institutions" in the Central Asian country, which does not exist.
The newly minted diplomat was referring to Kyrgyzstan, a poor, landlocked nation of 5.5 million, which he appeared to confuse with its resource-rich neighbour to the north, Kazakhstan.
The State Department kindly omitted the error in the official transcript of Wednesday's speech, which Mr Kerry delivered on the eve of his first foreign trip as secretary of state.
(All of that wacky capitalization reflects that we're reading the Telegraph of London.)
A little while back, I pointed out that we need a better, more specific term for the statements our current political journalism calls "gaffes" because the media was applying the term to all kinds of statements:
Verbal misstatements and grammatical errors: "57 states," Joe Biden calling his running mate "Barack America," etc.
Brain freezes: Rick Perry in the debate. Of course this looks bad during a moment in the spotlight, but anyone who has never had this happen to them, raise your hand. Uh-huh. Didn't think so.
Honest statements that are admissions against self-interest: President Obama declaring during a meeting of his Jobs Council, "Shovel-ready was not as . . . uh . . . shovel-ready as we expected."
Unusual ideas: Newt Gingrich's pay-kids-to-be-janitors idea.
Genuinely harmful erroneous statements: Joe Biden saying, "I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," in an appearance designed to reassure the public about swine flu, or Michele Bachmann repeating a mother's claim that Gardasil causes retardation.
Controversial or unpopular points: See Romney's Olympics and Palestinian statements above.
So John Kerry said 'Kyrzakhstan' when he meant 'Kyrgyzstan,' a small but strategically important Central Asian nation that has suffered from a vowel drought for many decades. Big deal? Small deal? I'd argue that our assessment of Kerry's intelligence or verbal acuity ought to be based on factors bigger than this.
So why are some gaffes turned into big deals and others not? Narrative, right? If you're Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle, Mitt Romney, or certain other Republican figures, you've been accused of being a bumbling imbecile, and thus every time you slip up words in a public appearance it's further evidence of your imbecility. But when Barack Obama mentions "57 states," it's just a reflection that he's tired.
By the way, a few Democrats do get the "dumb guy" treatment. Here's Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, speaking on the floor of the House, July 2010: "Today, we have two Vietnams, side by side, North and South, exchanging and working. We may not agree with all that North Vietnam is doing, but they are living in peace. I would look for a better human rights record for North Vietnam, but they are living side by side."
Yes, this is the same woman who in 1997 asked a NASA scientist if the Mars Pathfinder had photographed the flag that Neil Armstrong had planted . . . You know, the one on the moon.
There are genuinely stupid people in our political world, people who are probably too stupid to stay in the offices they hold. But it's not their misstatements that worry me; it's their silly or stupid ideas. I think the "reset button with Russia" represented ludicrously wishful thinking, pretending that tensions between the U.S. and Moscow had to do with some sort of "cowboy attitude" from President Bush instead of the two nations having fundamentally different and conflicting interests and goals in the world, coupled with the unnervingly intense paranoia and ruthlessness of Vladimir Putin. Someday Russia may have a leader who's a nicer guy than Putin, but the Russian government's worldview is probably still going to see the world as a zero-sum game, where if we're winning, they're losing.
Toss in the widespread, bipartisan support for negotiating with the Taliban. Obviously, David Petraeus and John McCain aren't stupid. But they, along with most of our foreign-policy thinkers, believed that at some point, the Taliban would wear down and be ready for good faith negotiations, where we would be able to trust them to live up to their side of the argument. Surprise! Turns out the efforts at talks went nowhere, and the Taliban made unrealistic demands for prisoner swaps. You have a better chance of hashing out the paperwork with a rabid dog.
Over at the American Thinker, Shoshana Bryen looks at the non-gaffe parts of the speech that ought to concern us:
Secretary Kerry equated foreign aid with promoting moderation. "The investments that we make support our efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism wherever it flourishes. And we will continue to help countries provide their own security, use diplomacy where possible, and support those allies who take the fight to terrorists."
Consider Pakistan. Between 2001 and 2012, the United States spent almost $18 billion in Pakistan. From 2009-2011, under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, the U.S. provided $2.8 billion in civilian aid, including $1 billion in emergency humanitarian aid. About $855 million of that was in the FY2011. And yet, our bilateral relationship is defined mainly by arguments over drone strikes and collateral damage. Regarding Pakistani willingness to "take the fight to the terrorists," Pakistan-based Taliban groups remain committed to attacks on targets in both Pakistan and Afghanistan and more than 300 civilians, mainly Shiites in a predominantly Sunni country, were killed in sectarian assaults in 2012. More than 80 people were killed last week when a bomb went off in a largely Shiite marketplace.
Is more American money going to change and moderate Pakistan? Or those who support the United States in opposition to a nuclear Iran?
See, this is stupidity (or perhaps better described as bad judgment) with policy consequences.
Okay, one easy lay-up, from Jim Treacher: "You probably haven't heard of Kyrzakhstan, but it's one of the most dangerous places on Earth. It's so perilous that you can't find it on any map. It's just that scary. . . . I notice Kerry didn't mention Libya in his list of dangerous places. Apparently, everything's been going just fine there. But then . . . what difference does it make?
By the way, is the Marco Rubio water-drink thing over? Anybody else still think that the water drink was a potential career-ender, as the CNN chyron suggested?
Walter Russell Mead: The World and its Leaders
Reply #1173 on:
March 04, 2013, 10:51:00 AM »
Walter Russell Mead writing on Friday, March 1, online for the American Interest:
Financial markets around the world reeled when the Italians rejected the European status quo and their own political establishment in the last election. This should not have come as such a surprise; few political establishments anywhere in the democratic world are as spectacularly rotten as Italy's, and the European status quo is the biggest man-made policy disaster since the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Italian voters don't have a lot of use for their leaders, and it's hard to say they are wrong. The left wants to preserve the unsustainable, the right doesn't have what it takes, and the center is dominated by short term, self centered careerists whizzing through the well oiled revolving doors that connect business with government. But how different are politics elsewhere? Voters ultimately weary of repeat policy failure by the well connected and well educated, and whether you look at Europe, the United States or Japan, the failures of national leadership keep piling up.
Americans often like to believe that our problems are as exceptional as our strengths, but our stale and ineffective political establishment looks a lot like its peers around the world. The American elite is not alone in its inconsequential futility and its lack of strategic vision; world leaders everywhere are falling down on the job.
The assumption that the people guiding the destinies of the world's major powers know what they are doing is a comforting one, but there's not a lot of evidence to support it. The "pass it to find out what's in it" health care 'reform' in the United States, the vast stinking policy corpse that is European monetary union, the failure of establishments everywhere to figure out the simple arithmetical problems that our welfare states are encountering because of the demographic transition, the metastasizing tumor of corruption also known as the Chinese Communist Party: none of these suggest that the world is being governed with unusual wisdom.
VDH: Medieval CA
Reply #1174 on:
March 07, 2013, 04:33:20 PM »
Gates Close at Dusk
At about dusk, I close two large metal gates to my driveways. The security lights come on, and I enjoy intramural life. I am not protecting my dogs from coyotes, although there are many in the vineyard, but rather the farmhouse from the odd array of visitors, the lost, and criminals that can make up the now normal nighttime world of central California. If you doubt me, just peruse the Fresno Bee for the sort of things that occur nightly.
From the past year I offer the following catalogue of those who have visited the farm from dusk to dawn outside the walls: A half-dozen noble caballeros riding down the road on magnificent steeds, outfitted in satin and silver with majestic sombreros, who unfortunately timed their ride a bit late and found themselves in the dark, and in need of stables (my lawn had to do). Some female text-messagers sitting in the car presumably giving directions to thieves — perhaps those who on three occasions last year stole copper wire from pumps. A decent enough soul, presumably from Mexico, broke and out of gas, who spoke neither English nor Spanish; a would-be “scavenger” who had all sorts of stolen items in his new truck, seeking cash customers for his wares; and dozens more. A sort of California Canterbury Tales of nocturnal pilgrims, interesting in retrospect, a bit scarifying at 11 p.m. honking or yelling at the closed gate. Sorry, folks, the compound gates close at 9 p.m.
The surrounding landscape was once a checkerboard of small 60-200 acre family farms. The house I live in never had a lock for its seven outside doors. Weeknights were spent in local get-togethers — the Walnut Improvement Club, Eastern Star, the Odd Fellows, the Masons, the Grange, Farm Bureau — exotic names long gone with the breezes. In most cases, the children of the neighboring dead yeomen have long left, and the parcels conglomerated by larger corporations or purchased by absentee owners, or leased. The old farmhouses are mostly rented out to immigrants. Agriculture is booming; but farming is long dead. The land grows food as never before, but no longer families.
The Feudal Pyramid
A medieval society can be defined in a variety of ways. In terms of class, there is more a pyramidal culture. A vast peasantry sits below an elite of clergy and lords above — but with little or no independent middle class in-between.
I think California is getting there quickly — with the U.S. soon to follow.
For our version of the clergy, think public employees, whose salary and benefits are anywhere from 30-40% higher than their counterparts in the private sector. In California, the security guard in the symphony parking lot makes minimum wage and has no pension, even as he faces as much danger as his counterpart in the state police. And like medieval churchmen, our public-employee clergy positions are often nepotic. Families focus on getting the next generation a coveted spot at the DMV, the county assessor’s office, or the local high school. Like the vast tax-free estate of the clergy that both nearly broke feudalism and yet was beyond reproach, so too California’s half-trillion-dollar unfunded pensions and bond liabilities are considered sacrosanct. To question the pay or the performance of a California teacher or prison guard is to win the same scorn that was once earned from ridiculing the local friar. If suggesting that the man of god who was too rotund as a result of living freely on his tax-exempt church land was worthy of stoning, then so too suggesting that our teachers or highway-patrol officers are paid incommensurately with the quality of students in our schools or the safety on our roads is likewise politically incorrect right-wing heresy.
The aristocracy is, of course, our coastal elite, the five or six million high earners who live near the Pacific Ocean from the Bay Area to San Diego. They are more likely to administer both our inherited and natural wealth, symbolized by everything from top universities, Hollywood, and state government to Silicon Valley, Napa Valley, and California finance and natural resources. Their children, if industrious and motivated, are prepped at Stanford and Berkeley, interned at proper law firms and government bureaus, and usually inherit enough of their patrimony and early enough to afford the $1,000 per square foot price that a Newport or Atherton keep costs — along with its flocks of attendant nannies, gardeners, neighborhood security guards, and maintenance people.
The middle is still shrinking. They are mostly the over three million who have left California for no-tax Nevada or Texas, or crime-free Idaho, or sane Wyoming and Utah. High-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction, and energy are disappearing. The aristocracy, whose religion is the green government, believes that to extend the conditions of its own privilege to millions of less well-educated and less correct-thinking others (e.g., build new affordable condos alongside interstate 280, open up the Malibu hills to low-income development, start drilling for oil and gas in the Monterey Shale formation, build some more dams to ensure irrigation water, widen the 99 and 101 to three lanes from northern to southern California) is to destroy the hallowed lord-serf system altogether.
The aristocracy sails in the summer, not powerboats. In winter, it tends to ski, not use snowmobiles. Its SUVs are Volvo and Mercedes, not second-hand Tahoes and Yukons. Ideally, its kids go to UC, Stanford, or USC, not to CSU campuses in Turlock, Fresno, or Bakersfield. The aristocracy believes in noblesse oblige, but it is a funny sort of one: shutting down a quarter-million acres of farmland is good for all of us, especially for a three-inch bait fish, and even for the farmworkers and managers who must lose their jobs for a just cause. Keeping derricks out of the coastal panorama is wonderful for rich and poor — and really, who would want a smelly job anyway out on a nauseous oil platform? To paraphrase Steven Chu, European-priced gas is the goal: $10 a gallon would thin out the traffic, keep the right people on the roads, clean up the air, and make high-speed rail economical.
The disappearing middle-class worker in California, who is not connected to the aristocracy or part of the clergy, gets up to work in places like insolvent Stockton, Modesto, or San Bernardino. He drives on substandard roads to a job that does not quite pay for his once overpriced but now underwater house, or the most expensive and highly taxed gas in the nation. Yet he shrugs that he cannot so easily leave a state, with a house without equity, and yet cannot quite stay either — when the nation’s highest sales and income taxes lead to the nation’s nearly worst schools and infrastructure.
If he whines, he is told that he is lucky to live in California with its climate, weather, and culture — and so must pay a premium in taxes, regulations, and high costs, despite receiving very little in return in the form of state services. So without a vibrant middle class, the medieval world thrives.
In medieval California, the elderly and retired sometimes head to the foothills, a poorer man’s coast, where there is less crime and less worry over what California has become. I never quite fathomed fully why a classical Greece of city-states on the plains became an Ottoman Greece of villages perched on mountain slopes. I knew, of course, in the abstract that Greeks fled Turks to escape the taxman, conversion to Islam, and the Janissaries, but I can now appreciate that maybe such a sense of impending dread is real in interior California, as valley towns become darker at night from lights that no longer work, and streets that are no longer safe and assumptions that are no longer familiar. Even the most liberal retired professor seems to head for the hills once his thirty years at CSU are up.
The peasantry — one third of the nation’s welfare recipients, in a state in which almost a quarter of the population is officially “poor” — lives mostly in the central interior, or in the vast Los Angeles basin, or in small-service enclaves along the coasts — a Redwood City or Seaside, where they tend to the aristocracy’s daily needs. The aristocracy makes enough not to mind high taxes, and takes care of the tax-freed peasantry by offering the nation’s highest public benefits, including generous EBD and WIC cards, Section 8 housing, daycare help, education supplements, legal assistance, and cash grants.
Those in Old Pasadena, Pacific Palisades, Montecito, Pacific Grove, Menlo Park, Hillsborough, Piedmont, and Pacific Heights mostly avoid the peasantry in Merced and Tulare. That many of their tax dollars end up there and that billions of their state’s earnings go out of state as remittances to Latin America mean little. There is so much good weather, high life, and money in coastal California that the expense to keep the peasantry content is simply a small cost of being an aristocrat in paradise. Indeed they romanticize the peasantry in a way that they most surely do not the embattled middle class.
The Medieval Mind
But feudal California is more than a sense of bifurcated classes and locations. It adopts a closed medieval state of mind too. The Renaissance marked a lessening of the intolerance and censorship of the medieval clergy. Art, literature, science, and philosophy were freed from shibboleths of Aristotle, Church doctrine, and formalistic conventions. But California has of yet had no such renaissance. In our closed, anti-scientific, and deductive way of thinking, Solyndra was a success. Drilling for cheap natural gas in the Monterey Shale formation would be seen as failure. When our governor told Rick Perry that Californians did not need to cool off in 110 degree heat through “fossil fuel”-fed air conditioning, he did not mean that solar panels were energizing green air conditioners in Barstow, but rather that our elites on the coast have natural air conditioning; it’s called the Pacific Ocean. And although wind and solar provide miniscule amounts of California energy, it matters little, given that coastal elites enjoy 70 degree weather year-round and keep their power bills low. PG&E’s and Southern California Edison’s astronomical energy costs are for “little people,” the middle classes in the hot and cold interior and mountains. The aristocracy sets the regulations that make power soar, and the interior pays far more of the costs.
In medieval California, certain thinking is off-limits, just as during the tenth century in France or in the eighth century in Constantinople. I once wrote, on these pages, that one could not any more determine exactly the racial and ethnic heritage of millions of intermarried and integrated Californians, much less could universities easily determine why particular California ancestries qualified for affirmative action and others did not (e.g., was it due to ongoing racism, skin color, historical claims against the majority culture, purposes of “diversity”? etc.). The next thing I knew the Stanford Daily was calling for me to be disciplined by the Hoover Institution. Indeed, these monthly reflections on California earn on occasion an angry op-ed in a California paper, dozens of hate emails — and even now and then a phone call from an irate state official.
You see, in medieval California the orthodoxy of the clergy and aristocracy must remain unquestioned. Wind and solar are superior energy sources to natural gas or other fossil fuels. The blue-state model of high taxes and big government has been redeemed by the public-approved tax hikes of 2012.
Acres of huge windmills or vast solar-panel farms do not cause as many environmental or aesthetic problems as does a confined natural gas-fed power plant. The degree to which we are not entirely green is due not to science, but to the greed of private enterprise. The problem with illegal immigration is not that it is illegal, much less that the state is overwhelmed in its idealistic mission to provide near instant parity to millions who arrived without legality, capital, education, or English from the abject poverty of central Mexico, but that a largely white, aging, and disappearing nativist class is obstructing multicultural solutions. Our public employees are the most successful and competent in the nation and that is why they make more than others elsewhere, but still not enough to provide a lifestyle commensurate with their talents and industry.
The present baby-boom generation and its offspring are brilliant and are Renaissance figures; they gave us, after all, everything from Facebook to Apple and Google. They are superior moral beings too, and so do not outsource, avoid taxes, bundle campaign donations, seek insider subsidized federal loans, or in general say un-nice things. In contrast, our ancestors were pedestrian and reactionary. After all, they did silly, almost inexplicable things like build Hetch Hetchy, the Big Creek hydroelectric project, the L.A. freeway system, and the California Water Project. We will use these quirky inheritances a bit longer, but would never replicate them.
California’s public education curriculum is medieval. There are certain religious tenets that are sacrosanct and indoctrinate the young. A grasping white male Christian culture gave us a burdensome legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia, and nativism. Courageous Latino, black, gay, and female heroes fought on the barricades to ensure us the present utopia. We name new schools after 19th Century Mexican bandits who were hung for murder, not any longer after Father Serra or Luther Burbank.
To the degree there is a Stanford University, or Southern California Edison, or a California oil or farming industry, it was due not to those who designed or invented such institutions, but to the unsung heroes who did the actual manual labor of laying cement and hammering nails. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are largely a curse; wind, solar, and biofuel are our future. Only heretics and reactionary witches doubt the sanctity of gay marriage, or pine for anti-abortion legislation and capital punishment — leftover prejudices from our pre-green government past. When we say “celebrate diversity” at our universities, we do not mean celebrate all sorts of thinking, from radical left to reactionary right, from the atheist mind to the Church of Christ zealot, from the capitalist to the socialist, but rather we define diversity as superficial appearance, and the degree to which different races and genders march in lockstep to a uniform ideological drummer. In medieval California there is no empiricism: the public schools are successful, the CSU system is reaching new academic heights, and high-speed rail is shortly to replace our crowded freeways.
Finally, the medieval world was less secure than that of the Renaissance and Enlightenment that followed. It was feudal in the sense of walled cities and castles, and a lack of easy, safe, and cheap transportation that had once been assured in Roman times. When I drive down to Malibu or over to Palo Alto, it can be a feudal experience, even though contemporary cars are safer and more dependable. But the problem is not the machine, but the increasingly medieval mind that pilots it.
Huge trucks stay in the middle lane of the rare three-lane freeway, and often hog the fast lane when there are only two. I count dozens of Highway Patrol officers lasering cars. They seem less interested in the flatbed trucks that have no tarps over their green cuttings, lumber, mattresses, and scrap iron. Every tenth car is weaving, due not to drink but texting.
Some stretches — the 99 south of Visalia, the 101 south of Gilroy, the 152 a mile after Casa de Fruta, the convergence of the 405 and 101 — are truly scary driving experiences. At night on the way home I make it a point not to get gas on the west side of the 99 as it bisects Fresno. I don’t stop in an Inglewood or even Delano at dark. Driving Manning Avenue or Nees Avenue out to I-5 is a sort of Russian Roulette: at which intersection will the cross-traffic driver run the stop sign? I avoid 4-6 p.m., when too many have too many alcoholic beverages on their way home. In feudal California we may liken a drive to Napa or Newport to a sort of medieval pilgrimage to the Middle East, a trip sometimes fraught with danger, in need of careful planning and enormous patience. Some days 180 miles is less than three hours and we are in Renaissance times; at others it is six hours and we are back to the byways of medieval Italy.
Of course, there is an excitement in the medieval World: the clash of a postmodern Palo Alto with premodern Parlier three hours away, or consider the notion of the Stanford legacy student on the I-5 passing the van of the meth lab operator. I never know quite what I’ll see when I go into Selma, only that it will be unexpected, sometimes bizarre, and require all my sensatory talents to make sense of or avoid it. My grandparents talked of their grandparents coming out west to California in the 1870s. I may one day tell my grandkids that I made it to Los Angeles safely and back!
Political Rants & interesting thought pieces: Jack Kemp - The Wagon
Reply #1175 on:
March 08, 2013, 12:28:03 PM »
Jack Kemp in 1979: "You need both groups, both parties. The Democrats are the party of redistribution. The Republicans must be the part of growth."
In 1979, all of Washington was run by Democrats.
Correcting and sourcing a great analogy that I botched in recent posts.
"Think about a wagon. It is a simple but forceful way of visualizing an important aspect of government. The wagon is loaded here. It's unloaded over there. The folks who are loading it are Republicans. The folks who are unloading it are Democrats. You need both groups, both parties. The Democrats are the party of redistribution. The Republicans must be the part of growth. It is useless to argue, as some libertarians do, that we do not need redistribution at all. The people, as a people, rightly insist that the whole look after the weakest of its members."
Jack Kemp's 1979 book, “An American Renaissance.”
I told this story at a gathering in a friend's living room after listening to a young woman, daughter of Kieth Ellison's predecessor and a Lt. Governor candidate in her own right, tell us that the difference between the parties was that Democrats care about others while Republicans care only about themselves. She heard that we need both parties and gasped, "I've never heard that before!"
Tyranny of the ZIP Code
Reply #1176 on:
March 10, 2013, 10:47:08 AM »
WaTimes/Doran: America's New Religion
Reply #1177 on:
March 13, 2013, 10:35:32 AM »
DORAN: America’s new ‘religion’
The culture is ugly and coarse but it’s all relative
There are many explanations for President Obama’s popularity: his personal charisma, demographics, Republican bungling and dependency on government. Yet rarely is culture invoked as the reason why so many Americans have embraced his agenda.
To many, talk about culture evokes classical art and music, and often prompts blank stares, but if we define culture as the predominant beliefs and behavior of a society, what can be said about 21st century American culture?
Few believe that culture really matters in a society where millions of voices are competing for attention and notoriety, but America has embraced a predominant culture: relativism, the belief that I decide what is right or wrong, true or false, that there is nothing that is objectively right or wrong, true or false.
Relativism has become America’s national “religion.” In recent decades, Americans have adopted this attitude because it allows them to indulge their passions and ambitions guilt-free, or because they have been brainwashed into believing that adopting this attitude is a mark of sophistication. While many Democrats have embraced the ideal of a welfare state, many libertarian Republicans have embraced the competing ideal of the autonomous man. Neither acknowledges an authority higher than the state or the individual in matters of right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
It is unlikely that many Americans would consciously choose a culture of coarseness, so why is American culture — TV, radio, films, books and advertising — so immersed in violence, indiscriminate sex, superficiality, pornography and ugliness?
There is much talk about our freedom to choose, but we rarely hear that we can’t choose the consequences of our choices. When relativism is adopted by a society, it does not produce beauty, but coarseness, if not as the desired outcome, then as an unintended consequence. One can see this occurring in America, in a descent to the lowest common denominator when it comes to art, music, literature, public discourse and entertainment.
When no one can judge with anything like authority, then the ugliest TV show is on par with a program that depicts heroic virtue. There is nothing “bad” about someone who makes exploitative films, nor is there anything “good” about someone who strives to produce something beautiful. Relativism fosters self-indulgence over self-governance, hedonism over self-giving.
Examine cultures that have embraced relativism, and you find moribund societies with few children, “green religions” that value the planet over human life, the glorification of physical stimulation and “self-fulfillment,” and nihilism that proceeds from life having nothing to offer apart from what can be extracted from it in a few short years.
Without reliably honorable norms of human behavior, constant stimulation often becomes the paradigm for happiness, frequently resulting in enslavement to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, violence or the passive malaise of video games and the Internet.
Relativism diminishes our intellectual capacity. How many today are capable of constructing a rigorously logical argument to support their position? When there is no right or wrong, when nothing is true or false, then the need for rigorous reasoning and meticulous research diminishes. Debating positions becomes a matter of appealing to an audience’s passions, of attacking the person making the opposing argument or of demonstrating how the consequences of a particular position will either favor or harm the audience.
This zeitgeist has been ably captured by Mr. Obama and his allies, with references to “fairness,” “tolerance” and “cultural sensitivity” replacing “anachronistic” concepts like right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
Despite what is peddled in our universities, by Hollywood and on Madison Avenue, we are not equipped to decide what is right and wrong solely by ourselves. Attempting to do so makes us less human, not more human. Relativism produces self-absorbed men and women who can’t think, but who believe themselves to be knowledgeable, sophisticated and liberated. It is a dead-end existence masquerading as freedom.
Thomas M. Doran, a writer and educator, is the author most recently of “Terrapin” (Ignatius Press, 2012).
Reply #1178 on:
March 19, 2013, 12:54:26 PM »
From the article:
In the category of “pop-culture-not-talked-about-by-normal-Ducks,” People magazine’s cover story last week was on ABC’s The Bachelor, Sean Lowe, and his pledge to remain a virgin re-virgin until his wedding night. As someone who graduated high school in town of less than 1500 in Kansas, I think this type of pledge is pretty typical: many teens and young adults make a pledge, usually in front of an audience, to avoid sexual conduct until marriage. And, not surprisingly, most teens do not keep their pledge. In fact, there are some studies that indicate that these virginity pledges are associated with riskier sexual behavior.
Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 06:09:09 PM by Crafty_Dog
Steyn: Geopolitical ADHD
Reply #1179 on:
March 26, 2013, 10:25:04 AM »
Ten years ago, along with three-quarters of the American people, including the men just appointed as President Obama’s secretaries of state and defense, I supported the invasion of Iraq. A decade on, unlike most of the American people, including John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, I’ll stand by that original judgment.
None of us can say what would have happened had Saddam Hussein remained in power. He might now be engaged in a nuclear-arms race with Iran. One or other of his even more psychotic sons, the late Uday or Qusay, could be in power. The Arab Spring might have come to Iraq, and surely even more bloodily than in Syria.
But these are speculations best left to the authors of “alternative histories.” In the real world, how did things turn out?
Three weeks after Operation Shock and Awe began, the early-bird naysayers were already warning of massive humanitarian devastation and civil war. Neither happened. Overcompensating somewhat for all the doom-mongering, I wrote in Britain’s Daily Telegraph that “a year from now Basra will have a lower crime rate than most London boroughs.” Close enough. Major General Andy Salmon, the British commander in southern Iraq, eventually declared of Basra that “on a per capita basis, if you look at the violence statistics, it is less dangerous than Manchester.”
Ten years ago, expert opinion was that Iraq was a phony-baloney entity imposed on the map by distant colonial powers. Joe Biden, you’ll recall, advocated dividing the country into three separate states, which for the Democrats held out the enticing prospect of having three separate quagmires to blame on Bush, but for the Iraqis had little appeal. “As long as you respect its inherently confederal nature,” I argued, “it’ll work fine.” As for the supposedly secessionist Kurds, “they’ll settle for being Scotland or Quebec.” And so it turned out. The Times of London, last week: “Ten Years after Saddam, Iraqi Kurds Have Never Had It So Good.” In Kurdistan as in Quebec, there is a pervasive unsavory tribal cronyism, but on the other hand, unlike Quebec City, Erbil is booming.
What of the rest of the country? Iraq, I suggested, would wind up “at a bare minimum, the least badly governed state in the Arab world, and, at best, pleasant, civilized and thriving.” I’ll stand by my worst-case scenario there. Unlike the emerging “reforms” in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria, politics in Iraq has remained flawed but, by the standards of the grimly Islamist Arab Spring, broadly secular.
So I like the way a lot of the trees fell. But I missed the forest.
On the previous Western liberation of Mesopotamia, when General Maude took Baghdad from the Turks in 1917, British troops found a very different city from the Saddamite squat of 2003: In a lively, jostling, cosmopolitan metropolis, 40 percent of the population was Jewish. I wasn’t so deluded as to think the Jews would be back, but I hoped something of Baghdad’s lost vigor might return. Granted that most of the Arab world, from Tangiers to Alexandria, is considerably less “multicultural” than it was in mid century, the remorseless extinction of Iraq’s Christian community this last decade is appalling — and, given that it happened on America’s watch, utterly shameful. Like the bland acknowledgement deep in a State Department “International Religious Freedom Report” that the last church in Afghanistan was burned to the ground in 2010, it testifies to the superpower’s impotence, not “internationally” but in client states entirely bankrolled by us.
Foreigners see this more clearly than Americans. As Goh Chok Tong, the prime minister of Singapore, said on a visit to Washington in 2004, “The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America’s credibility and will to prevail.” Just so. If you live in Tikrit or Fallujah, the Iraq War was about Iraq. If you live anywhere else on the planet, the Iraq War was about America, and the unceasing drumbeat of “quagmire” and “exit strategy” communicated to the world an emptiness at the heart of American power — like the toppled statue of Saddam that proved to be hollow. On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, mobs trashed U.S. embassies across the region with impunity. A rather more motivated crowd showed up in Benghazi, killed four Americans, including the ambassador, and correctly calculated they would face no retribution. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, these guys have reached their own judgment about American “credibility” and “will” — as have more potent forces yet biding their time, from Moscow to Beijing.
A few weeks after the fall of Saddam, on little more than a whim, I rented a beat-up Nissan at Amman Airport and, without telling the car-hire bloke, drove east across the Iraqi border and into the Sunni Triangle. I could not easily make the same journey today: Western journalists now require the permission of the central government to enter Anbar Province. But for a brief period in the spring of 2003 we were the “strong horse” and even a dainty little media gelding such as myself was accorded a measure of respect by the natives. At a rest area on the highway between Rutba and Ramadi, I fell into conversation with one of the locals. Having had to veer onto the median every few miles to dodge bomb craters, I asked him whether he bore any resentments toward his liberators. “Americans only in the sky,” he told me, grinning a big toothless grin as, bang on cue, a U.S. chopper rumbled up from over the horizon and passed high above our heads. “No problem.”
“Americans only in the sky” is an even better slogan in the Obama era of drone-alone warfare. In Iraq, there were a lot of boots on the ground, but when it came to non-military leverage (cultural, economic) Americans were content to remain “only in the sky.” And down on the ground other players filled the vacuum, some reasonably benign (the Chinese in the oil fields), others less so (the Iranians in everything else).
And so a genuinely reformed Middle East remains, like the speculative scenarios outlined at the top, in the realm of “alternative history.” Nevertheless, in the grim two-thirds-of-a-century roll call of America’s un-won wars, Iraq today is less un-won than Korea, Vietnam, or Afghanistan, and that is not nothing. The war dead of America and its few real allies died in an honorable cause. But armies don’t wage wars, nations do. And, back on the home front, a vast percentage of fair-weather hawks who decided that it was all too complicated, or a bit of a downer, or Bush lied, or where’s the remote, revealed America as profoundly unserious. A senator who votes for war and then decides he’d rather it had never started is also engaging in “alternative history” — albeit of the kind in which Pam Ewing steps into the shower at Southfork and writes off the previous season of Dallas as a bad dream. In non-alternative history, in the only reality there is, once you’ve started a war, you have two choices: to win it or to lose it. Withdrawing one’s “support” for a war you’re already in advertises nothing more than a kind of geopolitical ADHD.
Shortly after Gulf War One, when the world’s superpower assembled a mighty coalition to fight half-a-war to an inconclusive halt at the gates of Baghdad, Washington declined to get mixed up in the disintegrating Balkans. Colin Powell offered the following rationale: “We do deserts. We don’t do mountains.” Across a decade in Iraq, America told the world we don’t really do deserts, either.
— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2013 Mark Steyn
Prager: The Bible vs. The Heart
Reply #1180 on:
April 04, 2013, 05:02:42 PM »
The Bible vs. Heart
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
I offer the single most politically incorrect statement a modern American -- indeed a modern Westerner, period -- can make: I first look to the Bible for moral guidance and for wisdom.
I say this even though I am not a Christian (I am a Jew, and a non-Orthodox one at that). And I say this even though I attended an Ivy League graduate school (Columbia), where I learned nothing about the Bible there except that it was irrelevant, outdated and frequently immoral.
I say this because there is nothing -- not any religious or secular body of work -- that comes close to the Bible in forming the moral bases of Western civilization and therefore of nearly all moral progress in the world.
It was this book that guided every one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, including those described as "deists." It is the book that formed the foundational values of every major American university. It is the book from which every morally great American from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to the Rev. (yes, "the Reverend," almost always omitted today in favor of his secular credential, "Dr.") Martin Luther King, Jr., got his values.
It is this book that gave humanity the Ten Commandments, the greatest moral code ever devised. It not only codified the essential moral rules for society, it announced that the Creator of the universe stands behind them, demands them and judges humans' compliance with them.
It gave humanity the great moral rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
It taught humanity the unprecedented and unparalleled concept that all human beings are created equal because all human beings -- of every race, ethnicity, nationality and both male and female -- are created in God's image.
It taught people not to trust the human heart, but to be guided by moral law even when the heart pulled in a different direction.
This is the book that taught humanity that human sacrifice is an abomination.
This is the book that de-sexualized God -- a first in human history.
This is the book that alone launched humanity on the long road to abolishing slavery. It was not only Bible-believers (what we would today call "religious fundamentalists") who led the only crusade in the world against slavery, it was the Bible itself, thousands of years before, that taught that God abhors slavery. it legislated that one cannot return a slave to his owner and banned kidnapping for slaves in the Ten Commandments. Stealing people, kidnapping, was the most widespread source of slavery, and "Thou shall not steal" was first a ban on stealing humans and then on stealing property.
It was this book that taught people the wisdom of Job and of Ecclesiastes, unparalleled masterpieces of world wisdom literature.
Without this book, there would not have been Western civilization, or Western science, or Western human rights, or the abolitionist movement, or the United States of America, the freest, most prosperous, most opportunity-giving society ever formed.
For well over a generation, we have been living on "cut-flower ethics." We have removed ethics from the Bible-based soil that gave them life and think they can survive removed from that soil. Fools and those possessing an arrogance bordering on self-deification think we will long survive as a decent society without teaching the Bible and without consulting it for moral guidance and wisdom.
If not from the Bible, from where should people get their values and morals? The university? The New York Times editorial page? They have been wrong on virtually every great issue of good and evil in our generation. They mocked Ronald Reagan for calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." More than any other group in the world, Western intellectuals supported Stalin, Mao and other Communist monsters. They are utterly morally confused concerning one of the most morally clear conflicts of our time -- the Israeli-Palestinian/Arab conflict. The universities and their media supporters have taught a generation of Americans the idiocy that men and women are basically the same. And they are the institutions that teach that America's founders were essentially moral reprobates -- sexist and racist rich white men.
When the current executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, was appointed to that position she announced that "In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion." The quote spoke volumes about the substitution of elite media for religion and the Bible in shaping contemporary America.
The other modern substitute for the Bible is the heart. We live in the Age of Feelings, and an entire generation of Americans has been raised to consult their heart to determine right and wrong.
If you trust the human heart, you should be delighted with this development. But those of us raised with biblical wisdom do not trust the heart. So when we are told by almost every university, by almost every news source, by almost every entertainment medium that the heart demands what is probably the most radical social transformation since Western civilization began -- redefining marriage, society's most basic institution, in terms of gender -- it may be wiser to trust the biblical understanding of marriage rather than the heart's.
My heart, too, supports same-sex marriage. But relying on the heart alone is a terribly flawed guide to social policy. And it is the Bible that has produced all of the world's most compassionate societies.
This, then, is the great modern battle: the Bible and the heart vs. the heart alone.
Noonan: A statesman's friendly advice
Reply #1181 on:
April 05, 2013, 10:37:26 AM »
Noonan: A Statesman's Friendly Advice Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew on what makes America great—and what threatens its greatness.
By PEGGY NOONAN
I found myself engrossed this week by the calm, incisive wisdom of one of the few living statesmen in the world who can actually be called visionary.
The wisdom is in a book, "Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States and the World," a gathering of Mr. Lee's interviews, speeches and writings.
Mr. Lee, of course, is the founder and inventor of modern Singapore. He made it a dynamo. He pushed it beyond its ethnic divisions and placed a bet that, though it is the smallest nation in southeast Asia has few natural resources, its people, if organized and unleashed within a system of economic incentive, would come to constitute the only resource that mattered. He was right. When he took office as prime minister, in 1959, per capita income was about $400 a year. Last year it was more than $50,000.
He is now 89, a great friend of America, and his comments on the U.S. are pertinent to many of the debates in which we're enmeshed.
He is bullish about our immediate prospects but concerned about our longterm trajectory. He believes what made us great is the ancestral nature of our people—creative, inventive, original, inclusive.
Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
His advice on immigration: keep it up but keep your culture.
What threatens America? A political culture stuck in the shallows, and a mass-entertainment edifice that is destabilizing, destructive and injurious to the national character.
Is the United States in systemic decline?
"Absolutely not." It is the most militarily powerful and economically dynamic nation in the world. America faces debt, deficit and "tremendously difficult economic times" but "for the next two to three decades" it "will remain the sole superpower."
America has shown over its history "a great capacity for renewal and revival." It doesn't get stuck in "grooved thinking" but is able to think pragmatically and imaginatively. Its language "is the equivalent of an open system that is clearly the lingua franca" of all the economic and political leaders and strivers in the world. In the coming decades "it is the U.S. that will be pre-eminent in setting the rules of the game. No major issue of world peace and stability can be resolved without U.S. leadership."
A major factor in America's rise and economic dominance: All the brightest people in the world know "Americans will let you work for them in America and in their multinational corporations abroad." But America will lose its technological edge unless it is able to continue attracting talent.
The American advantage in coming economic and technological contests? A "can-do" approach to life. Americans always believe a problem can be solved. An "entrepreneurial culture" that sees both risk and failure "as natural and necessary for success." The U.S. is still "a frontier society." "The American culture . . . is that we start from scratch and beat you." They would settle an empty area, call it a town, and say, "You be the sheriff, I am the judge, you are the policeman, and you are the banker, let us start." Not long ago the U.S. was losing to Japan and Germany in manufacturing. "But [Americans] came up with the Internet, Microsoft MSFT -0.87%and Bill Gates, and Dell. . . . What kind of mindset do you need for that? It is part of their history."
America is great not only because of its power and wealth. After World War II its "magnanimity and generosity" helped it "rebuild a more prosperous world." "Only the elevating power of her idealism" can explain this. "The United States is the most benign of all the great powers."
What worries him about America? Our elections have become "a never-ending process of auctions" in which politicians outbid each other with promises. America's leaders seem captive to popular sentiment. They must break out of this and do what is necessary for America, "even if they lose their re-election."
Our consumer society and mass communications "have made for a different kind of person getting elected as leader." Politicians hesitate to speak needed truths: "A certain coyness or diffidence seems to have descended on American politicians."
Mr. Lee is "amazed" that "media professionals can give a candidate a new image and transform him . . . into a different personality. . . . A spin doctor is a high-income professional, one in great demand. From such a process, I doubt if a Churchill, a Roosevelt, or a de Gaulle can emerge!"
What worries him about the prevailing U.S. culture? a lot: "guns, drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, unbecoming behavior in public—in sum, the breakdown of civil society."
"The ideas of individual supremacy . . . when carried to excess, have not worked," and the world has taken note: "Those who want a wholesome society where young girls and old ladies can walk in the streets at night, where the young are not preyed upon by drug peddlers, will not follow the American model. . . The top 3 to 5% of a society can handle this free-for-all, this clash [but] if you do this with the whole mass, you will have a mess. . . . To have, day to day, images of violence and raw sex on the picture tube, the whole society exposed to it, it will ruin a whole community."
Asians visiting the U.S. are often "puzzled and disturbed by conditions there." including "poverty in the midst of great wealth."
Peggy Noonan's Blog
Daily declarations from the Wall Street Journal columnist.
In spite of this, America often now exhibits to the world a sense of its own "cultural supremacy." When the American media praise a country such as the Philippines for becoming democratic, "it is praise with condescension, compliments from a superior culture patting an inferior one on the head." America criticizes Singapore as too authoritarian. "Why? Because we have not complied with their ideas of how we should govern ourselves. But we can ill afford to let others experiment with our lives. Their ideas are theories, theories not proven."
What can destroy America is "multiculturalism," which he speaks of as not an appreciation of all cultures but a gradual surrendering of the essential culture that has sustained America since its beginning. That culture—its creativity and hardiness, its political and economic traditions—is great, and it would be "sad for America to be changed even partially." Will waves of immigrants from the south assimilate, or will America become "more Latin American?" America must continue to invite in all the most gifted and hard-working people in the world, but it must not lose its culture, which is the secret of its success.
And America goes the way of modern Europe at its peril: "If you follow the ideological direction of Europe, you are done for." There are always people who require help, but "addressing their needs must be done in a way that does not kill incentive."
"Americans and European governments believed that they could always afford to support the poor and the needy: widows, orphans, the old and homeless, disadvantaged minorities, unwed mothers. Their sociologists expounded the theory that hardship and failure were due . . . to flaws in the economic system. So charity became 'entitlement,' and the stigma of living on charity disappeared." Welfare costs grew faster than the government's willingness to raise taxes. They "took the easy way out by borrowing to give higher benefits to the current generation of voters." The result: deficits and dangerously high public debt.
Prager: Lessons for Holocaust Day
Reply #1182 on:
April 09, 2013, 10:18:50 AM »
Lessons for Holocaust Day
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Yesterday, Jews around the world observed Holocaust Day. This day ought to be universally observed because the lessons of the Holocaust are universal. Here are some of them:
1. People are not basically good
At any time in history, the belief that people are basically good was irrational and naive. To believe it after the Holocaust -- and after the Communist genocides in China, Korea, Cambodia, and the Soviet Union, the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians, and the mass murders in Rwanda, the Congo, Tibet and elsewhere -- is beyond irrational and naive. It is stupid and dangerous, and therefore inexcusable.
2. The Jews are the world's canary in the mine
When Jews are murdered, it is a warning to decent non-Jews that they are next. Because Western nations dismissed Nazi anti-Semitism as the Jews' problem, 50 million non-Jews ended up dying. If the world dismisses Ahmadinejad's Iran as primarily the Jewish state's problem, non-Jews will suffer again. Jew-haters (or, if you will, Jewish state-haters) begin with Jews but never end with them.
3. Great good is no more common than great evil
That is why the most important task for any society is to devise ways to make people good. By "good," I do not mean people who do not murder or steal. People who don't murder or steal aren't good people; they are simply not criminals.
It is therefore worth pondering: With the collapse of America's Judeo-Christian moral foundations, how exactly will American society make good individuals? Those who equate goodness with support for a welfare state do not ask this question. But the rest of us are very worried.
4. Lies and victimhood make evil possible
Most evil is not committed by sadists. Most evil is committed by people who hold evil ideologies. And in modern times those ideologies have emanated from two primary sources: lies and victimhood.
Lies about Jews built Auschwitz (just as, for example, lies about blacks enabled the transatlantic slave trade). And along with lies about Jews, it was Germans' sense of victimhood that built Auschwitz. Perceiving oneself or one's group as a victim allows many people to rationalize doing evil.
5. Nazism, not Christianity, built Auschwitz
The symbol of Nazism was the swastika, not the cross. Had Nazism been a Christian movement, its symbol would have been, or at least included, the Christian cross. The claim that the Holocaust was a product of Christianity is a charge perpetuated by people and ideologies bitter over the nearly 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe. That bitterness is warranted. Blame for the Holocaust is not. Too many Christians supported the Nazis, but Nazism was anti-Christian.
The complex truth is this:
a) Nearly 2,000 years of European Christian anti-Semitism -- including Martin Luther -- rendered the Jew an outcast and thereby laid much of the groundwork for the acceptance of Nazi demonization of the Jews.
b) But no Christian institution or theology ever called for the extermination of the Jews. It took the secular shattering of the Christian conscience to accomplish that. This was prophesied 100 years before Hitler's rise, in 1834, by the great German poet, Heinrich Heine, a secular Jew:
"Christianity -- and that is its greatest merit -- has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman [the cross] is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then ... a play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."
European Christianity has much to atone for (and it has). But the collapse of Christianity should frighten every decent person. In Europe, it was first succeeded by fascism, communism and Nazism, and then by a soulless and morally confused secularism. What will succeed it in America?
6. Secular education has proved morally worthless
Professor Peter Merkl of the University of California at Santa Barbara studied 581 Nazis and found that Germans with a high school education "or even university study" were more likely to be antisemitic than those with less education ("Political Violence under the Swastika," Princeton University Press).
A study of the makeup of 24 leaders of Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units that killed nearly two million Jews prior to the use of gas chambers, showed that the great majority were highly educated: "One of the most striking things about the Einsatzgruppen leadership makeup is the prevalence of educated people, professionals, especially lawyers, Ph.D.'s. ..." (Irving Greenberg, in "Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era?" Ktav Press).
6. Pacifists in moral societies are morally worthless
No Nazi death camp was liberated by pacifists or peace activists. Every camp was liberated by a soldier who either killed or helped others kill.
7. Had there been an Israel in the 1930s and '40s, six million Jews would not have been murdered
There would have been one place on earth that would have taken in Jews prior to the Holocaust, when Hitler was willing to let many leave. And during the Holocaust, one country would have fought for them -- by bombing Auschwitz, for example.
8. The Chinese need their Holocaust Day
When the Chinese have their own Holocaust Day -- a day that commemorates Mao's and the Communist Party's killing of 60 million Chinese between 1958 and 1961 -- China will be a much more decent place. Until then, it is run by people who venerate a monster.
9. God is indispensable -- but not a celestial butler
If we deny God, we will produce a morally lost society. But if we rely only on God -- and do not fight -- evil will win.
Give monogamy a chance
Reply #1183 on:
April 09, 2013, 11:14:33 PM »
Though I find the piece's analysis incomplete in that it does not recognize the fundamental tension comes from the extended interregnum between puberty and breeding, it does make some points that need making.
Give Monogamy a Chance
Students, who in class recognize the ethical imperative not to use other people as means to an end, do so every night in their dorms..
By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH
The hit HBO series "Girls," which is wildly popular with 20-something audiences, is also notorious for its frank portrayals of the dark side of the casual-sex culture reigning among America's young adults. In the first season of the show, the main character, Hannah (played by Lena Dunham), finds herself in a dysfunctional relationship with an actor, Adam, whom she regularly sleeps with but isn't dating in the traditional sense. She really likes him, though, so she asks him one day, during intercourse, "You want me to call you?" His response is to push her head down into a pillow.
For decades now, young women have been taught by popular culture that casual sex is supposed to be liberating. Shows like "Sex and the City" sent the message that promiscuity was at worst no big deal and at best empowering. But stories like those on "Girls," and those in Donna Freitas's illuminating new book, "The End of Sex," suggest that for many young women it proves instead to be dehumanizing. Using extensive survey research and dozens of interviews with young men and women on college campuses across the country, Ms. Freitas explodes the myth of the "harmless hookup."
The hookup, as Ms. Freitas defines it, is meant to be "an efficient form of sexual interaction." To qualify, a sexual encounter must be brief—lasting "as short as a few minutes to as long as several hours over a single night"—and it must be "purely physical in nature." One freshman at a Catholic college sums it up this way for the author: "There are no strings. You just do it, you're done, and you can forget about it." Among its practitioners, first base is tonsil-hockey and home plate is learning each other's names, as Tom Wolfe put it over a decade ago. The point is simply to have sex (often very bad sex) with no emotional bond formed with one's partner. The basic human desire to love and be loved is a sign of weakness here, and traditional courtship—exchanging high-fives over a game of beer-pong doesn't count—has no role.
A professor of religious studies at Boston University, Ms. Freitas draws a portrait of life on campus in which sex is almost completely decoupled from eroticism. One college woman describes juggling three men at once; a male student admits that a hookup is just a "trial run" for a date; a third student explains that oral sex is "almost expected" in a hookup: "People have these urges and they are trying to satisfy them." Sex on campus, writes the author, has been reduced to a solitary and selfish act—basically, onanism "with another person present."
The End of Sex
By Donna Freitas
(Basic, 221 pages, $25.99)
In other words, many college students, who in philosophy class would surely recognize the ethical imperative not to use other people as means to an end, do so every night in their dorms. This selfishness is why, as Ms. Freitas argues, the hookup culture is intimately related to sexual assault. In both, one person uses another to satisfy a sexual or social desire without any regard for what that other person wants, needs or feels. Once alcohol is added to the mix, and there is plenty of it in the hookup culture, consent becomes a murky issue.
According to various academic studies, 65% to 75% of undergraduates report having participated in the hookup culture. But many are troubled by it. In a survey that Ms. Freitas gave to 1,010 students from Catholic and secular institutions, around 50% had reservations about whether casual sex is acceptable. Three quarters of the respondents objected to the notion, central to the hookup culture, that "sex is primarily the taking of pleasure from another person." And contrary to depictions in popular culture, men are just as troubled by casual sex as women are.
So why do they do it? Social pressure plays a large role. But there is something else. College students may not be lusting after sex so much as they are chasing after relationships. In our wider culture, where more and more interactions are occurring via text messages, Facebook, FB -0.96%Twitter and email rather than face-to-face or at the very least on the phone, students are yearning for meaningful connections. Hooking up offers an immediate substitute for the relationships and romance that young people admit they want, but without the constraints and sacrifices that authentic relationships require.
Ms. Freitas's book is a timely and alarming wake-up call to students, college administrators and parents, and she presents a compelling argument against the hookup culture. Less convincing are her ideas for fixing it. The author, whose own thinking is firmly rooted in the feminist left, thinks administrators on campus could do more, for instance, to educate students about healthy sexuality—even though, given the politically correct bureaucrats that administer most campuses, there are already plenty of consciousness-raising events pushing messages that overlap with and complement hookup norms, such as replacing Valentine's Day with "Vagina Week."
In the book's conclusion, Ms. Freitas says that she wants young adults to have "good sex," a category that can include, she suggests, hooking up—as long as students recognize that casual sex is "just one option among many." Yet this jars with the nearly 200 preceding pages on the corrosive effects of casual sex. She also wants students to "feel empowered" by their sexual decisions and to recognize that "it is their right to define what they want out of sex"—even though feminists who champion the hookup culture rely on the same rhetoric. Their ideas about liberation and empowerment, like the hookup culture itself, treat human sexuality as a social and political battlefield. In the end, though, sex isn't a political act, nor is it about empowerment. It is one part of a complete relationship between two people. Meaningful sex is grounded in love and commitment, not power—an insight students seem to intuitively grasp, even if they don't act on it.
Ms. Esfahani Smith is an associate editor of the New Criterion and editor of the pop-culture blog Acculturated.
Reply #1184 on:
April 10, 2013, 05:36:00 PM »
second post of the day:
“Counter-revolutionary” is an apt term for these days: President Obama has promised to make a fundamental transformation, a veritable revolution in American society and culture. Those who oppose such an ongoing agenda are suspected of all sorts of racism, nativism, misogyny, homophobia, and general counter-revolutionary activity.
So — here are some thoughtcrimes:
The latest news on “climate change” was not good for global-warming, cap-and-trade zealots. The planet did not heat up in the last decade and a half, despite substantial increases in carbon emissions. The much ballyhooed “Marcott paper” (supposedly millennia of conclusive climate data!) has been largely discredited, and shares the company of the East Anglia email trove (e.g., “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. … Our observing system is inadequate”).
Why the counter-revolutionary suspicion of global warming? I know that the forces of market capitalism are potent, but they certainly lack the powers of the sun and solar system to alter the earth. I have also spent too much time in academia and met too many professors not to know that politicization has infected campus teaching and research — especially the doctrine that the noble ends always justify the occasionally suspect means.
Global warming is a cult belief of the elite: the latter conveniently opposed fracking and horizontal drilling, while subsidizing costly wind and solar that hurt the poor (the lines of cars of poor Latinos at the rural filling station near my house — which offers gas at 10 cents a gallon cheaper than in town — forms about 6:00 a.m.). Such facts — like the cost of air conditioning in Fresno on an August 105 Fahrenheit afternoon — are of no interest to the Palo Alto or Berkeley utopian.
It is the penance that instead counts — an Al Gore lecturing upscale students on polar bear populations so he can use his carbon-offsetted private jet to save them. There is the matter of “cool” too: Worrying about global warming is like drinking Starbucks as you enter Whole Foods; in contrast, worrying about cheap natural gas to help the poor have warm homes is like drinking a McDonald’s latte as you are greeted at the door of Walmart.
Cool — for upscale, would-be revolutionaries – is everything.
I have met very few academics, politicians, or journalists who knew much about guns. Few of them hunt. Most do not live in bad neighborhoods or drive long distances, sometimes through or into rough areas. I suspect few work alone at night. Few are plagued by woodpeckers destroying an eve on the barn, varmints digging under the shed pavement, or a rabid coyote too close to the doghouse.
So when I hear a liberal expert propose yet another round of Second Amendment infringement, I expect confusion about magazines, clips, calibers, rifles, shotguns, pistols, “automatic” and “semi-automatic,” and “assault weapons.” (Four hours, black spray paint, a sheet of aluminum, cardboard, tin snips, solder, and super glue, and you perhaps could make my ancient semi-automatic .22 resemble a scary “assault rifle.”)
So far I have heard of no proposed legislation that would have stopped Sandy Hook or Columbine, tragically so. To have prevented another unhinged loser from shooting children and teens would have required a police state to have confiscated millions of previously sold legal weapons and ammunition, or to have had armed guards in the schools. There is no legal support for the former or political support for the latter.
The Sandy Hook shooter’s sick fascination with violent video games and his aberrant psychological state (or was it an autistic-like impairment?) were the stronger catalysts of his mayhem. Yet I know that the Obama administration has no desire to go after Hollywood moguls regarding gratuitous gun violence on the big screen, much less take on the ACLU and the psychiatry industry about either psychotropic drugs or the ability of the clearly unhinged to avoid incarceration.
There is a predictability in the liberal mindset: it prefers the iconic to the substantial in matters of controversy. Address the misdemeanor, ignore the felony.
To stop most gun-related deaths in general in the U.S., we would have to focus on inner-city youths (cf. both the success and controversy of stop-and-frisk in New York). We would have to target young minority males in advertising to make the illicit use of the gun comparable to the social unattractiveness of … well, smoking.
I cannot see any of that happening. So we go after the demonic gun that causes less than 1% of annual gun-related deaths, feel good about doing something “for the children,” and derive an added psychic uplift that such a superfluous something also enrages the lower-middle class — especially the slightly rural, mostly white male Sarah Palin constituent. The First Amendment is sacrosanct and must be expanded; the Second is suspect and must be deflated.
Sometime about a year ago, the long-held position of Barack Obama and the Clintons on gay marriage — No! — became, in Emmanuel Goldstein fashion, abhorrent. Indeed, they’ve become harsh critics of those who still believe as they recently did.
Most Americans are fine with civil unions and, in live-and-let-live fashion, don’t worry all that much about gay marriage. Nonetheless, why the sudden dramatic change, if not for brilliant messaging and well-funded liberal gay donors whose pledges were made contingent on fluidity on the issue?
Key to the transformation in popular culture was the radical change in the perception of male homosexuality. In the 1980s and 1990s — read the work of the late gay investigative journalist Randy Shilts, or the old videos of San Francisco parades or arguments over bath houses — there was the general impression that male homosexuality was both more promiscuous than either heterosexual or lesbian practice, and that passive sexual intercourse was a catalyst for the spread of the AIDS virus and hepatitis (suddenly a venereal disease in a way it had not been in the past) in a manner that “normative” heterosexual intercourse was not.
Mention of male homosexuality in the news was usually linked with sexual practice, and the result was not favorable to the majority of the public. The age-old word “sodomy” was not then the taboo term that it is now. That perception — reality, whatever one calls it — has now vanished. “Gay” is a non-sexual sobriquet that involves vaguely defined expressions of affection. To suggest that anal intercourse is statistically more likely to be unhygienic or, if practiced with frequency, to run the risk of either hepatitis or AIDS is now proof of homophobia. Indeed, so is the use of “homosexual” for “gay.”
Most of us do not think too much about it, other than to ensure that we treat people — in my case whether in evaluating students, grant applicants, or scholars — equally, with no interest at all in their sexual lives.
That said, the transformation in gay-advocacy strategy has been nothing short of remarkable, its signature achievement being that there is absolutely nothing much different between gay male and straight male sexual congress — and that those who believe there is are themselves bigots.
If so, we should soon expect the liberal popular culture — from the movies of Quentin Tarantino to the recent Spartacus series — to stop presenting anal penetration as an especially unwelcome sort of act, or a particular nasty sort of sexual coercion.
In the logic of gay marriage, liberal culture — art, cinema, movies, journalism, politics — will soon represent gay male sexual practice as an act as natural as any other, without value judgments of any sort attached to it. Also, I would expect in the years ahead that the law, as it does now, will not add enhanced charges like “anal penetration” or “sodomy” to sexual criminal complaints. I am confused in this progressive era why I still read that a particular sex offender suspect is to be considered especially odious, by adding details to his charges like “sodomy” or “anal penetration.” Why qualify, much less legally enhance, the particular details of rape?
Incidentally, in matters of sexual consistency, there should be no longer suspicions of adult males being Brownie or Girl Scout Masters, given that the gay rights movement has made the Boy Scouts themselves suspect for unfairly discouraging gay Scout Masters. Is a forty-year old heterosexual male any more likely to look upon young girls in untoward fashion than a forty-year old gay male would young boys? Gay marriage is not the end of a long struggle, but the very beginning of a brave new world whose contours we can only imagine.
In good 1984-style, the Associated Press just outlawed “illegal immigrant.” Apparently “illegal alien” was so odious that its banishment was automatic and not worthy of citation. Yet what does “undocumented” mean, given one usually never applied for documents to be un-anything?
As Orwell saw, imprecision, or rather deliberate distortion, in language is always the first characteristic of the totalitarian.
Here are the public’s problems with illegal immigration, from 1-5:
1. The law: Once one group feels that it is exempt from federal law, others might as well, too. If I choose to break a federal statute of my own choosing with impunity, why would I fear doing the same with others? Who needs to file a 1040 or worry about car registration, a building permit, a fishing license, or rabies pet vaccination?
We forget that the illegal immigrant serially violates the law in obtaining all sorts of fraudulent documents (how can one with a false Social Security number be “undocumented”?), any one violation of which would harm the job or education prospects of a U.S. citizen.
2. The tribe: Illegal immigration, largely from Latin America, is too often implicitly predicated on ethnic chauvinism. Were it a matter of Southeast Asians or Poles coming illegally and en masse, La Raza activism would be nonexistent — or championing law enforcement.
The Democratic Party in general supports massive influxes, followed by periodic amnesties, followed by expanded entitlements, followed by political loyalty for 3-4 generations. La Raza activists see numbers as key to incomplete assimilation that in turn leads to salad-bowl like political constituencies. Without massive immigration, the Democratic Party’s base — greens, gays, single women, metrosexual young yuppie couples, African-Americans, third-generation Asians and Latinos — does not guarantee the much-promised new demography. As a rough observation, red-state, church-going nuclear families seem to be having more kids than blue-state sorts.
Once the impoverished Oaxacan immigrant crosses the border, he becomes statistical proof that Latinos have not achieved parity with the majority culture, due to all sorts of –isms and –ologies that can only be addressed by more government programs staffed by activists. The fact of why and how he was impoverished and whom was to blame before he crossed the border is too illiberal to be addressed.
The most frightening statistic I know in regards to illegal immigration is the disappointing performance of second-generation California Latinos in standardized tests and graduating from high school.
Compare this quote from an April 2012 Wall Street Journal article written by George P. Shultz and Eric A. Hanushek:
But the averages mask the truly sad story in the Latino population, soon to become California’s dominant demographic group. Hispanics attending school in California perform no better than the average student in Mexico, a level comparable to the typical student in Kazakhstan. An alarming 43% of Hispanic students in California did not complete high school between 2005 and 2009, and only 10% attained a college degree.
Where did all that massive money spent in remedial help and education go, if Mexico does as good a job as the U.S?
A word like raza really does mean race, as in the superior race. Because it compounds the assumptions of an exceptional language and ethnic heritage and racial identity, it is pernicious in the way unquestioned use of volk in 19th-century Germany logically grew into something quite scary 100 years later.
3. Helot labor is helot labor: Something is quite sick when a country of chronic 7.6% unemployment (in fact, much higher when we count those who gave up looking for work) wants to import a million menial laborers.
Either entitlements are too generous, or no longer tied to work participation, or we have lost the respect for a shared experience of entry-level physical drudgery, the traditional perquisite to character. I grew up with the bracero program, and remember the old Harvest of Shame-like documentaries, the Woody Guthrie “Deportee” activist songs, and the seasonal liberal op-eds deploring the exploitation. The premise that America can institutionalize the idea that you are good enough to work for us but not good enough to be one of us just won’t work.
Mark my words: the guest-worker program is an invitation to exploitation, endless social activism, serial amnesties, and more ethnic tensions.
4. Numbers impair assimilation: Bring in 100,000 immigrants and we are a melting pot of assimilation as Latinos follow the paradigm of the Italians; but bring in nearly 1,000,000 a year, and illegally so, and we are a salad-bowl, Balkanized society of competing factions.
Legality, English, and a diploma guarantee successful assimilation, which used to be desirable; the antithesis to all that ensures difficult assimilation, which to too many elites is now more desirable. How did assimilation, integration, and intermarriage become counter-revolutionary?
5. Legal immigration is mostly ignored, other than in platitudes about meritocratic criteria (e.g., education, skill sets, capital, etc.). Democrats sing of legal immigration as if they were the party working to get the brilliant Nigerian electrical engineer his green card at Google. Maybe, maybe not. But does Joe Biden or Chuck Schumer ever say the following?
We need to predicate immigration on legality and on precisely those skills needed by American society — and therefore we must close the borders to those who would come illegally, without a high-school diploma, and knowledge of English, given they are far more likely to draw on rather than contribute to the finances of the U.S.
The classically liberal position on immigration (e.g., treat everyone on a racially blind and ethnically blind basis; ensure that those who took the trouble to follow the law are privileged over those who did not and cut in line; apply meritocratic criteria not subject to racial or ethnic bias; and for applicants of roughly similar qualifications, ensure a rough “diversity” that results in Asians, Latin Americans, Africans, and Europeans entering in about equal numbers) is now counter-revolutionary.
Here is what you do if you are a revolutionary who wishes to transform the American economy:
a) Have the government absorb health care, one-sixth of the economy.
b) Ensure that a correct Federal Reserve establishes near-zero interest rates.
c) Vastly expand the numbers on food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance.
d) Raise taxes on the upper incomes, so that in many states the suspect pay 55% of their incomes in federal income, payroll, Medicare, Obamacare, and state income taxes.
e) Exempt half the U.S. households from federal income tax, so that for many April 15 is a day of credit reimbursement.
f) In matters of bankruptcy, seek to elevate pension holders over creditors and contractors.
g) Promote programs that seek to offer redress payouts to supposedly discriminated constituents and seek to excuse mortgage and credit card debt.
h) Vastly grow the number of federal employees.
i) Run chronic budget deficits to ensure redistributive growth.
j) Plan to double the national debt in eight years.
l) Cut the defense budget.
m) Keep entitlement payouts sacrosanct.
n) Conduct psychological warfare against the job-hiring classes (pay your fair share, you didn’t build that, no time to profit, fat cat, etc.).
o) Establish crony capitalism so that particular capitalists (e.g., Solyndra, GE, Chrysler, etc.) understand that anti-capitalist mandates do not apply to politically correct policies.
p) Discourage new gas and oil production that might undercut green energy and prevent gas from going “to European levels” or electricity to “skyrocket.”
Here is what you might do should you wish a natural recovery, decentralization, and more people working:
a) Simply do the opposite from all of the above.
How do you know if you are a counter-revolutionary? You sense that you – not just your opposition to “fundamental transformation” — must be destroyed.
It’s that simple.
Prescience in 1975
Reply #1185 on:
April 16, 2013, 07:17:37 AM »
David Fromkin writing in Foreign Affairs, July 1975:
The grim events at the Athens airport on August 5, 1973, were in a sense symbolic. . . . When the hand grenades were hurled into the departure lounge and the machine gunners simultaneously mowed down the passengers waiting to embark for New York City, it seemed incomprehensible that so harmless a group should be attacked. The merest glance at their hand-luggage, filled with snorkels and cameras, would have shown that they had spent their time in such peaceful pursuits as swimming, sunbathing, and snapping photos of the Parthenon.
The raid had been undertaken on behalf of an Arab Palestine. Yet the airport passengers had done the Arabs no harm. . . .
True, other ages have suffered from crime and outrage, but what we are experiencing today goes beyond such things. Too small to impose their will by military force, terrorist bands nonetheless are capable nowadays of causing enough damage to intimidate and blackmail the governments of the world. Only modern technology makes this possible—the bazooka, the plastic bomb, the submachine gun, and perhaps, over the horizon, the nuclear mini-bomb. The transformation has enabled terrorism to enter the political arena on a new scale, and to express ideological goals of an organized sort rather than mere crime, madness, or emotional derangement as in the past.
Prager: Lessons from Boston and Chechnya
Reply #1186 on:
April 23, 2013, 10:36:01 AM »
Lessons from Boston and Chechnya
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
We cannot bring back the stolen lives. We cannot bring back the lost limbs or the lost hearing. And we cannot mitigate the infinite grief of the victims' loved ones.
But there is something we can and must do: We must learn all the lessons we can.
Here are some:
1. The gulf between the decent and the indecent
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, once told an interviewer before a Golden Gloves boxing competition: "I don't have a single American friend. I don't understand them."
The reason Tsarnaev didn't understand Americans was not primarily cultural. Tsarnaev came to America when he was 14 or 15, an age when the vast majority of immigrants to America have assimilated quite successfully
Rather, the reason was that the indecent don't understand the decent, just as the decent don't understand the indecent.
One of the greatest insights I learned as a young man came from reading Viktor Frankl's seminal work, "Man's Search for Meaning." Frankl was a Jewish psychoanalyst who survived Auschwitz, where nearly every member of his family, including his wife, was murdered. His conclusion: "There are two races of men in this world but only these two. The race of the decent man and the race of the indecent man."
Those "races" do not understand one another. But more important than understanding the indecent is overpowering and, when necessary, destroying the indecent.
2. Any religion or ideology that is above good and evil produces enormous evil.
For tens of millions of Muslims today, Islam is beyond good and evil: The infidel may be decent, but that is of no importance to the radical Islamist. For example, to become a "more religious" Muslim, Tamerlan Tsarnaev gave up boxing, marijuana, tobacco and even not wearing a shirt in the presence of females. Tsarnaev believed Islam forbade those things -- none of which is an evil. But when it came to the greatest evil -- murder (of non-Muslims) -- his religion was not only silent, it was enthusiastically supportive.
Likewise, communists in the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere -- and their many supporters in the West -- raised the creation of egalitarian society and industrialization above good and evil. And Nazism elevated race above good and evil. The environmentalists who oppose vitamin A-injected rice in the Third World place their agenda above good and evil.
Unfortunately, most religious and secular ideologues find preoccupation with human decency boring. The greatest moral idea in history, ethical monotheism, doesn't excite most people.
3. A victimhood identity produces cruelty.
The Tsarnaev brothers' primary self-perception was that of being Chechen victims, and that plus their religious convictions allowed them to blow up men, women and children with a perfectly clear conscience. Even when victimhood status is objectively true -- which it was not for these brothers, who were among the spectacularly fortunate few to be able to live in freedom and with unlimited opportunities -- nothing provides people with as good a reason to commit atrocities as does a victim mentality.
4. Happiness is a moral issue.
Happiness is not an emotional state so much as it is a moral imperative. In general, those who act happy make the world better and those who act unhappy make it worse. This is equally true in the micro and macro realms. It is not surprising, therefore, that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was described by a cousin, Zaur Tsarnaev, in this way: "He was never happy, never cheering, never smiling."
5. Boys will be bad men if they had no good men.
It is apparent that the younger brother Dzhokhar was deeply influenced by his brother, Tamerlan, who was seven years older. All of us who have an older brother, especially with a large age gap, know that he has a god-like status in the eyes of a young boy.
If good men do not inspire boys, bad men will. Without good older men in boys' lives, those boys are likely to grow up and do bad things. See our inner cities for further confirmation.
6. Universities and the left generally continue to deny any link between Muslim terrorists and their Muslim beliefs.
Just as in previous acts of Islamist terror, the left in general, and university professors in particular, continue to argue that it is wrong -- actually bigoted -- to associate these terrorists' religious beliefs with their terrorism.
Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown professor of sociology: "So you take one part of the element, that he's Muslim. But he also might have listened to classical music. He might have had some Lil Wayne."
MSNBC host Melissa Harris- Perry: "I keep wondering is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, 'This is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?' And of course, the answer is no. ... Our very sense of connection to them is this framed-up notion of, like, Islam making them something that is non-normal."
Zaheer Ali -- Harvard graduate, recipient of Columbia University's Merit Scholars Graduate Fellowship, recipient of the Social Science Research Council's Mellon Mays Pre-Doctoral Research Grant -- on MSNBC: "It isn't Muslim that is a common thing here, it's people who are alienated."
Professor Brian Levin -- director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino (formerly associate director of the Southern Poverty Law Center) -- to Bill Maher:
"Look, it's not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian who say they're out for God and end up doing not so nice things."
Bill Maher's response: "That's liberal bullshit."
And that's what our children are routinely taught.
Your second amendment cop buddy will take your guns
Reply #1187 on:
April 23, 2013, 06:37:13 PM »
I will note that in my opinion Lew Rockwell more than one has crossed the line into racism and anti-semitism. Nonetheless this piece posted on his site packs a punch on the subject of gun confiscation.
Re: Your second amendment cop buddy will take your guns
Reply #1188 on:
April 24, 2013, 12:35:57 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on April 23, 2013, 06:37:13 PM
I will note that in my opinion Lew Rockwell more than one has crossed the line into racism and anti-semitism. Nonetheless this piece posted on his site packs a punch on the subject of gun confiscation.
Ayn Rand: Money
Reply #1189 on:
April 28, 2013, 06:09:13 PM »
“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
“When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor–your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?
“Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions–and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.
“But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made–before it can be looted or mooched–made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.’
“To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss–the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery–that you must offer them values, not wounds–that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men’s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade–with reason, not force, as their final arbiter–it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability–and the degree of a man’s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?
“But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality–the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.
“Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?
“Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth–the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?
“Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men’s vices or men’s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment’s or a penny’s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you’ll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?
“Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?
“Or did you say it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It’s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money–and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.
“Let me give you a tip on a clue to men’s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.
“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.
“But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich–will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt–and of his life, as he deserves.
“Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard–the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money–the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.
“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.
“Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men’s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.’
“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world? You are.
“You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it’s crumbling around you, while you’re damning its life-blood–money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men’s history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves–slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody’s mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers–as industrialists.
“To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money–and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being–the self-made man–the American industrialist.
“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity–to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.
“Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters’ continents. Now the looters’ credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide– as, I think, he will.
“Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.”
The Angel Clark Show
A Spanish Leftist Speaks Out
Reply #1190 on:
May 06, 2013, 10:35:04 AM »
An interesting rant by a Leftist Spanish journalist, refusing to toe the party's line. First published about 3 years ago.
A Leftist Speaks Out
by Pilar Rahola
As a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against hatred of Jews.
Why don't we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona?
Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection?
Why aren't there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam?
Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan?
Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel?
Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism?
Why don't they defend Israel's right to exist?
Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism?
An finally, the million dollar question: Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn't care.
And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: "We want freedom for the people!"
Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never preoccupied when Hamas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.
The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don't inform, they propagandize.
When reporting about Israel the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel that there aren't any accusations left to level against her.
At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.
And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: "Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel."
In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nakba Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust.
Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70's and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel.
This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of President Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the extreme left, and on issues of the Middle East he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it's a symbol.
Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us with cell phone hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. And yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israel in the world.
And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.
In conclusion, I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not against Israel like my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews; it is the duty of the non-Jews.
As a journalist it is my duty to search for the truth beyond prejudice, lies and manipulations. The truth about Israel is not told. As a person from the left who loves progress, I am obligated t defend liberty, culture, civic education for children, coexistence and the laws that the Tablets of the Covenant made into universal principles.
Principles that Islamic fundamentalism systematically destroys. That is to say that as a non-Jew, journalist and leftist I have a triple moral duty with Israel, because if Israel is destroyed, liberty, modernity and culture will be destroyed too.
The struggle of Israel, even if the world doesn't want to accept it, is the struggle of the world.
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1191 on:
May 14, 2013, 08:12:25 PM »
I wonder if any of these scandals will be proven to be connected to Obama.
Surely he knew about a lot of this. Surely he gave the "nod". That doesn't mean there is anything in writing or any email evidence to speak to this likely truth.
So we would have to hope someone will turn on him. Perhaps we will need special prosecutor(s) to force the truth out of those who will surely be thrown under the bus with
the proverbial buck stuffed in their pockets.
We will now have to suffer through the inevitable democratic counter attack being formulated as we speak.
I wonder if any of the journolisters are on the AP list. Lets see if they are STILL more infatuated with their beloved party or with themselves and their fellow media types.
Will there come a point where they will en masse throw the ONE under the bus? Paving the way for Clinton? Or Cuomo? Will Boomer Bloomberg jump into the ring?
Newt: The Four Scandals
Reply #1192 on:
May 15, 2013, 02:25:48 PM »
When I started writing this it was called "three scandals".
There was the Benghazi Scandal, the IRS Scandal, and the little covered but equally alarming Secretary Sebelius scandal.
Then as I was writing we learned that the Justice Department had secretly obtained two months worth of phone call records for more than 100 Associated Press reporters. This is the largest violation of the First Amendment in modern times and so we now have four scandals in the Obama Administration.
The White House wants Americans to believe the four scandals are all, in one way or another, the rogue acts of insignificant subordinates.
They want us to believe that a few misguided but well-meaning IRS agents in regional offices took the initiative to persecute and harass conservatives in an election year.
They want us to believe that repeated requests for more security at the Benghazi compound were ignored by fourth-tier bureaucrats at the State Department, never making it to the Department’s leadership. That the talking points were altered by unknown analysts at the CIA, rather than senior administration officials as evidence suggests. That the explosive allegations of a senior diplomat are really just the ramblings of a disgruntled employee.
They want us to believe that the White House was completely unaware that the Department of Justice secretly grabbed two months of phone records from Associated Press reporters who cover the administration, in an effort to identify their sources.
And no doubt we will soon discover that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s shakedown of insurance companies for money which Congress refused to appropriate was really the initiative of some unfortunate functionary deep in the bowels of the Department.
But in truth, these scandals are not the random acts of a few bureaucrats who got out of hand.
These scandals are in fact the natural manifestations of Obamaism.
Unaccountable power, untethered from law or the Constitution, and employed for political gain is standard operating procedure in an administration which seeks to make government bigger and bigger. It is the Chicago machine transplanted to the federal government.
And they continue without shame, lying about what they’ve done, then lying about lying, and finally lying about the people who are telling the truth until everyone forgets what they lied about in the first place.
When the President blamed the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on a protest that never happened, anyone who dared challenge the official story was smeared as a crazy extremist or a bitter partisan.
When the Secretary of State vowed to prosecute the creator of an obscure anti-Islam Internet video, those who doubted the explanation were intolerant.
When the U.N. ambassador said on five Sunday talk shows that the violence arose from a spontaneous demonstration against the video, people who questioned the claim were politicizing a tragedy.
It is now obvious to everyone that the Obama Administration was deliberately dishonest. And so the White House tells Americans to forget about it, “Benghazi happened a long time ago.”
The subordinates have been punished. The whistleblowers have been demoted. Move along, nothing to see here.
The administration took the same approach to the IRS scandal. Apparently beginning in 2010, the IRS singled out groups with “tea party” or “patriot" in their name (presumably assuming that groups on the Left don’t describe themselves as “patriotic”), as well as organizations “involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement
,” or making statements which “criticize how the country is being run.”
The IRS asked many of these groups to provide lists of their donors, the amount of each donation, and lots of details about the organizations’ activities. Here is an example of one appalling letter from the IRS to a Tea Party group which was targeted.
When the IRS confessed to some of this on Friday in advance of an investigation made public yesterday, it tried to blame low level IRS employees in a Cincinnati office. But it is already being widely reported that senior IRS officials in Washington knew for almost two years that the agency was targeting conservative organizations, even though they testified before Congress more than a year ago and claimed the IRS was doing no such thing.
So they lied to Congress, then lied to the press when caught, and now once again they’re lying about lying. This is the agency which is integral to implementing Obamacare.
How would you like the IRS bureaucrats deciding your health treatments?
Chilling isn't it?
Meanwhile, the White House maintains it had no idea the IRS was abusing power to target the administration’s political enemies, although the Presidential spokesman, Jay Carney, has admitted some people in the White House knew something at a recent press briefing.
Carney's comment begins to move toward Senator Howard Baker's famous Watergate question, "What did you know and when did you know it?"
Speaking of abuses of power, the White House also says it was unaware the Department of Justice secretly obtained two months worth of phone records for more than 100 Associated Press reporters, many of whom cover the Obama administration.
The DOJ is trying to discover the source of unauthorized and damaging national security leaks which informed an AP story on al Qaeda last year.
That is in contrast with the damaging national security leaks which supported the President’s reelection last year: they have not shown much interest in discovering who told the New York Times about President Obama’s “kill list” or his administration’s work on the Stuxnet virus that set back Iran’s nuclear program, or who granted Hollywood filmmakers unprecedented access to officials who divulged details of the bin Laden raid.
Of course, two months worth of phone records are likely to reveal communications with AP sources on hundreds of other stories about the administration in that period of time. But the White House says it is not involved.
Finally, we learned this week that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been shaking down the health care companies for donations to fund implementation of Obamacare. When Congress refused to appropriate more money to set up the health insurance exchanges, Secretary Sebelius began asking these companies to contribute to Enroll America, a nonprofit organization created to promote Obamacare. It is headed by a former White House official.
As Senator Lamar Alexander said, “Such private fundraising circumvents the constitutional requirement that only Congress may appropriate funds. If the secretary or others in her department are closely coordinating the activities of Enroll America...then those actions may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.”
Senator Alexander points out the Secretary’s activities are functionally no different from those which led to the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the executive branch attempted to continue supporting a program Congress had not authorized using private donations. Fourteen officials were indicted in Iran-Contra.
Among all these lies and abuses of power from senior administration officials, how can the White House credibly continue to blame low level subordinates? And if he’s not responsible for the State Department, the Department of Justice, the IRS, or the Department of Health and Human Services (all of which were carrying on activities transparently to his political advantage) is President Obama responsible for anything at all in the executive branch?
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1193 on:
May 15, 2013, 04:45:45 PM »
I tried to look up who oversees the Office of Inspector General and it seems according to Wikipedia there are MANY offices of the "Inspector General".
If I read right the particular OIG who comes out with the above mentioned report more or less exonerating Lerner at the IRS is the one under HHS - that is overseen by, you got it Sec. Sebelius.
All of a sudden a report is released sounding as though it is non partisan and objective, coming from a department run by one Brockster appointee that "exonerates" the IRS which is controlled by a another Brockster appointee.
It is all legal mumbo jumbo that has ZERO credibility. Actually can anyone EVER remember one Fed agency uncovering illegal activity of another Federal agency?
Yet MSLSD will be advising us tonight that the career civil servants who never have a political axe to grind at an OIG investigated and found no wrong doing and that is the end of the story.
It was those jerks the Clintons who dumbed us all down with this kind of crap.
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1194 on:
May 15, 2013, 04:52:38 PM »
Are your political opinions ObamaCare compliant?
Learn more at IRS.gov
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1195 on:
May 15, 2013, 06:53:53 PM »
OK lets put to rest the concept that "career" civil servants are nonpartisan. That is like saying school teachers are all nonpartisan. Or all doctors are nonpartisan. "it is all about patient care". Although how many doctors are Dems and how many are, like me, Republican I am really not sure.
Congressman leaves IRS commish walking bow-legged.
Reply #1196 on:
May 17, 2013, 04:04:01 PM »
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1197 on:
May 20, 2013, 07:59:55 AM »
On the news is Obama's rant that "blacks have to work twice as hard"
Is this really true? In the highly competitive field of medicine I am in, the people who get ahead are ALL the ones who work twice as hard. Be they white black oriental middle eastern indian female male......
WSJ: A Crisis of authority
Reply #1198 on:
May 20, 2013, 08:30:49 PM »
By JAMES TARANTO
Democracy is in peril: That is an emerging theme of the liberal left's response to the Obama scandals. The argument misses the point, no doubt deliberately. What we are witnessing now is not a crisis of democracy but a crisis of authority. The administrative state, in thrall to a decadent cultural elite, has lost the consent of the governed.
"After a week of scandal obsession during which the nation's capital and the media virtually ignored the problems most voters care about--jobs, incomes, growth, opportunity, education--it's worth asking if there is something especially flawed about our democracy," declares the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne.
He goes through a partisan litany of complaints--"a radicalization of conservative politics, over-the-top mistrust of President Obama on the right, high-tech gerrymandering in the House and a Senate snarled by non-constitutional super-majority requirements"--but makes no mention of the abuses of power by the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department. He does hint at Benghazi, in his concluding paragraph, but only to pooh-pooh it:
Since World War II, bouts of economic growth have allowed democracies to buy their way out of trouble. One can hope this will happen again--and soon. In the meantime, politicians might contemplate their obligations to stewardship of the democratic ideal. They could begin by pondering what an unemployed 28-year-old makes of a ruling elite that expends so much energy feuding over how bureaucrats rewrote a set of talking points.
But if the purpose of that rewriting was, as it appears to have been, to deceive voters and bolster the president's re-election prospects, then it was a subversion of democracy.
And the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power. Thomas Friedman is famous for musing that he wishes America could be China for a day. It turns out we've been China for a while.
In a CNN.com column Donna Brazile strikes the same theme with a sinister twist:
A government of, by, and for the people requires that people talk to people, that we can agree to disagree but do so in civility. If we let the politicians and those who report dictate our discourse, then our course will be dictated.
Why am I alarmed? Because two "scandals"--the IRS tax-exempt inquiries and the Department of Justice's tapping of reporters' phones--have become lynch parties. And the congressional investigation of Benghazi may become a scandal in itself.
In one breath Brazile urges everyone to be civil and respectful. In the next she labels her opponents with one of the most racially incendiary metaphors in the American lexicon. And note that she is casting government officials who abused their power as lynching victims.
Brazile is on to something, however, in her skepticism about "those who report." The current crisis of authority very much includes the news media, which in significant measure have abdicated their guiding principles of impartiality, objectivity and sometimes even accuracy.
Liberal media bias is an old complaint, but the Obama presidency has given it a new and dangerous form. Never has the prevailing bias of the media been so closely aligned with the ideological aims and political interests of the party in power. The American media remain free and independent, or you would not be reading this column. But to a large extent they have functioned for the past few years as if they were under state control.
The problem of media bias runs deep, and it often does not take the form of open partisanship. Here's an example, from a Washington Post story on the IRS scandal:
Nonprofit groups that do not have to pay taxes are supposed to ensure that political activity is not their primary purpose, so evidence that some of the new organizations seeking tax-exempt status were fronts for campaign organizations drew bipartisan interest. Good-government groups started pressuring the IRS to more closely scrutinize applicants. One such group, Democracy 21, wrote a series of letters to the IRS arguing that many of the groups should not receive favored tax status.
"In all of these cases, the groups were claiming (c)(4) status basically for the purpose of hiding their donors," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.
There's a whole world of bias in that phrase "good-government groups." According to the Inspector General's report, one of the red flags the IRS used to identify dissident organizations for targeting was "education of the public via advocacy/lobbying to 'make America a better place to live.' " Tea Party organizations conceive of themselves as good-government groups, just as Democracy 21 does. The Post accepts the latter characterization, but not the former, unquestioningly.
Fred Wertheimer: Nonprofit status for me, but not for thee.
The description of Democracy 21 as a "good-government group" is especially inapt in this particular story. Wertheimer's organization wrote letters lobbying the IRS to take action against political groups of whose activities it disapproved. The IRS did Wertheimer's bidding, and in so doing massively abused its power. The IRS, not Wertheimer, is culpable for the abuse of power. But it is preposterous to label Democracy 21 "a good-government group" in the course of telling how its activities encouraged an abuse of governmental power.
"Good-government group" is a misleading designation for another reason. As we noted last week, Democracy 21 is itself a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) corporation. In lobbying the IRS to investigate nonprofits for engaging in political activity, Democracy 21, a nonprofit, was engaging in political activity.
That's not "good government," it's rent-seeking. A large, established corporation was seeking to use the regulatory power of the state to set up barriers to entry by smaller competitors. It is an exact parallel to the McCain-Feingold media's insistence that corporate free speech is an outrage against democracy. In making that claim, the New York Times and others almost never mention that "media corporations" were exempt from McCain-Feingold's unconstitutional censorship.
There's been a lot of talk about Watergate lately, most of it unintentional apophasis (or "Bimbo," to use the technical term). A very funny example is the lead paragraph of a column by the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn:
If it makes me a media lackey or a tail-wagging lap dog for President Barack Obama to hold out for, you know, actual evidence that he had anything to do with the various and glaring misbehavior, blundering and butt-covering in the governmental ranks before I begin invoking Watergate and floating the possibility of impeachment, then so be it.
Do go on, Eric. What was that you were saying about Watergate and impeachment?
As we wrote Friday, this will be a scandal like Watergate if it turns out that the IRS was acting under orders from Barack Obama or Valerie Jarrett. If the White House's conduct turns out to be unimpeachable, then it is something far worse: a sign that the government itself has become a threat to the Constitution.
But it's worth pondering how Watergate helped bring about the current crisis of authority. It oversimplifies matters only slightly to say the liberal left owes its cultural authority to three events in the 1960s and 1970s. The culmination of the civil-rights movement in 1964-65 established its moral authority. The antiwar movement's success at securing defeat in Vietnam established its political authority. Watergate discredited the Republican Party. (It also made heroes of journalists and provided impetus for restricting the political speech of those who are not media professionals.)
The political result of all this was more polarization. The ascendant left became dominant in the Democratic Party, driving conservatives into the Republican camp, which in turn encouraged liberal Republicans to become Democrats. The cultural result--the effect on journalistic, educational, charitable and scientific institutions--was both polarization and left-wing domination.
The left, certain of its moral authority, felt entitled to rule. The grandiose Barack Obama was the personification of that attitude, if not a caricature of it. The Portland Press Herald notes a lovely example from the newly released memoir of Maine's recently retired Sen. Olympia Snowe:
In an earlier phone call, Obama had told the Republican that she could be "a modern-day Joan of Arc" by supporting his health care bill, now known as "Obamacare." When Snowe pointed out Joan of Arc had been burned at the stake, Obama reportedly replied: "Don't worry, I'll be there with a fire hose!" She still voted against the bill on the Senate floor.
Try to imagine Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton making that pitch.
Moral authority entails a moral hazard: the temptation to abuse political and cultural power. Today's liberal left conceives of itself as being on the side of all that is good, right and reasonable. It caricatures the right as racist, extremist, greedy, dishonest, fanatically religious, prone to violence--and dangerous because, through the Republican Party, it has maintained parity in the political arena. Of the 10 presidential elections since Watergate, each party won 5; and voters haven't entrusted the Democrats with full control of government for more than two years since the Carter era.
If ordinary politics are a battle between good and evil, then winning becomes an overriding moral imperative. The end justifies the means: Journalists shade or conceal the truth in the service of a "larger truth." Government restricts political speech in the name of promoting democracy. Administrative agencies perpetrate injustice in the name of "social justice." That's how IRS agents could think it was their patriotic duty to help fix an election for the party in power.
These wrongful actions subvert the institutions with whose stewardship the perpetrators have been entrusted. They also undermine the moral authority of those institutions' leaders. National Journal's Ron Fournier offers five suggestions for how "Obama can restore the public's trust and rescue his presidency." None of the ideas are likely to achieve those goals, but three of them seem worthy: Bring in some adult supervision at the White House, appoint a special prosecutor for the IRS, and adopt a more media-friendly policy on leak investigations. One of them--"appoint a bipartisan oversight board to oversee the implementation of Obamacare"--won't fly. Even Republicans are savvy enough not to share responsibility for that fiasco.
But the final proposal is downright ludicrous: "Reset the narrative and public expectations with a major speech on trust." It's not just that Fournier continues to imagine, against all evidence, that Obama is a dazzling orator. He fails to see that whether or not the president is personally culpable in the scandals, they all flow from his basic political character. Fournier's fantasy that Obama could "reset the narrative" with a speech suggests that he has not yet abandoned the fantasy that Obama is some sort of savior.
If Obama is no savior, neither is he the devil. He is but a man who, through a combination of ambition, talent, character and luck, became the central figure in the left's crisis of authority. That crisis had been building for decades, seems to be reaching a culmination now, and will be resolved we know not how, except that we expect the process to be convulsive.
What if we're wrong? What if the country collectively shrugs, loses interest in politics, and goes on with life? Then we really will be like China--or worse. In his Saturday column, the New York Times's Charles Blow, who at 42 is just under a decade younger than Obama, shows us where the corruption of moral authority leads.
He begins by asserting that the Obama scandals are failing to "resonate" with the public. That claim is based on a single opinion poll, so it may prove evanescent even if true. But Blow's explanation of this purported fact is chilling:
As for Tea Party groups that received extra scrutiny from the I.R.S., an Associated Press-GfK poll released last month found that fewer than a fourth of Americans say they support the group. The Tea Party may well be passé. . . .
So an unpopular movement applied for tax-exempt status under conditions made possible by an unpopular court decision, in order to influence politics with unfathomable amounts money from unnamed donors? Good luck gaining sympathy for that.
This passage exemplifies the moral and intellectual decadence of the 21st-century left. A comparison to one of Blow's Times predecessors will illustrate why. Anthony Lewis, who retired in 2001 and died this March two days shy of his 86th birthday, was insufferably smug too. But it is impossible to imagine him crowing over the persecution of an out-group because it is unpopular.
One common argument against such persecution is a slippery-slope appeal to self-interest: You may be next. That's the gist of the famous Martin Niemöller poem:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent,
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent,
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak up,
because I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for me,
there was no one
left to speak out.
The analogy isn't precise. When the U.S. government came for the Tea Party, Blow's colleagues on the Times editorial board did speak out--in support of its IRS effort. But what happens when they come for the mainstream media? Then, the editorial board speaks out. But Blow remains blasé:
It is clear that the Justice Department overreached on the Associated Press scandal and that its strong-arm tactics are likely to have a chilling effect. But Americans are not big fans of mass media. A November Gallup poll found that only a fourth of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of journalists highly. Even bankers ranked higher.
Not only is Blow untroubled by abuses of power at the expense of an out-group he loathes, but he's only mildly bothered by what he considers an abuse of power against his own kind, mainstream journalists. The next step after the corruption of authority, it would seem, is uncritical submission to it.
Let's again quote Barack Obama, from his May 5 commencement address at the Ohio State University:
Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted.
His words were soothing, reassuring, like a lullaby. The scandals are a wake-up call.
Is democracy in peril? Is it really true that "we can't be trusted" with America's "brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule"? That all depends on what the president meant by "we."
Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Reply #1199 on:
May 23, 2013, 09:05:08 AM »
Hearing one of the purported excuses of the IRS apologists whether they be media liberals or IRS employees pointing out they deal with thousands of items every day. Suggesting they are too overwhelmed with data they couldn't possibly have done anything wrong by purposeful design strikes a painful cord with me.
It is exactly one of the same excuses from the US Copyright office to explain why so many copyright documents disappear. Oh we have 6000 that come through here a day we couldn't possibly be doing anything with specific ones but we admit we do make *mistakes" amongst the avalanche of papers. So they easily find take hold what was sent it, then wait for their accomplices to steal it out of our house and then suddenly we hear nothing from the CRO. When we call, send in writing requests for what we sent them they deny they ever received them. *we* must be mistaken because they never received anything from us.
Then in the occasional case we do find written evidence we sent them something such as a postal receipt, low and behold, it is miraculously found. If we don't respond their accomplices in the music business know they are home free with stolen material and we start to hear the dirtballs singing it on the music stations and the yahoo et al announcements of all these new albums.
So when I hear the IRS trying to claim they had no idea or where not purposely looking at conservative groups because of the sea of data, I in fact know in my heart, they are lying.
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