Date ►►► May 31, 2008
Talking Islam 2: A Bad Meme Infects the Conservative Meme Pool - CORRECTION
In our previous post about Bret Stephens' ham-fisted misinterpretation of a memo from the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the Department of Homeland Security -- which urges the U.S. government to change the lexicon by which it refers to militant Islamists and terrorists, in order to open what I dubbed an ideological counterinsurgency -- I noted that the usually solid and dependable Bret Stephens had utterly misunderstood the purpose of the memo... which is a neat trick, since it nakedly declared its real purpose right in the memo itself. Heather Wilhelm at Real Clear Politics negligently accepted Stephens' misunderstanding and acted as the first carrier.
We're beginning to see a full-blown epidemic of destructive memes (a meme-idemic?): The bad Stephens memes spread through the body politic (the "dextrosphere," in this case) with the speed of a bacterial epidemic in the real world, as each new person infected by the Stephochete spreads it further through the conservative intellectual domain.
Now, Power Line points us to the most recent outbreaks: Two reviews of the book Willful Blindness, by Andrew McCarthy, hijack the book to bash DHS anent this memo; and both give all appearance that the authors never actually read the memo itself... just Bret Stephens' bad caricature of it.
The first review is by Thomas Joscelyn for the Weekly Standard, the second (subscriber only) by Bruce Thornton for the National Review.
Throughout Joscelyn's review, he consistently refers to the terrorists as "jihadists." But to Moslems or Arabic speakers, the word "jihad" means "holy war": To call someone a "jihadist" is the same as calling him a holy warrior... which is precisely what the death cultists and human sacrificers pine to be. Using the word thus accepts their self-designation at face value without demanding a single concession in return.
This is precisely the argument the memo makes: Why add legitimacy to terrorist claims of holiness? Yet Joscelyn seems not to understand this straightforward point; instead, he imagines a very different (and monumentally silly) basis for the objection to the word "jihadist":
The strategic failure McCarthy exposes is ongoing, and extends even to something as basic as naming the enemy. Just as Willful Blindness was released, the State Department and other agencies published an edict banning the use of the word "jihadist" (as well as similar terms) from the government's lexicon. The thinking is that the terrorists like to call themselves "jihadists," thereby appropriating an Islamic term which can have far more benevolent meanings, such as the struggle for spiritual betterment or simply to do good.
It is true that, in some Islamic traditions, "jihad" has been endowed with such inoffensive meanings. But as McCarthy rightly argues, "jihad" has far more frequently been used to connote violent campaigns against infidels since the earliest days of Islam. When Sheikh Rahman called on his followers to wage "jihad," they knew that their master did not mean for them to become absorbed in prayer.
Moreover, Washington is apparently too obtuse to notice that Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda's terrorists, Tehran's mullahs, and Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi clerics have called for a militant brand of jihad persistently over the past several decades. All of these parties know how their words will be interpreted by the Muslim masses, and no fiat from the Washington bureaucracy will undo this widely accepted meaning.
In this clumsy tirade, Joscelyn makes it quite clear that he has never actually read the memo itself, which certainly does not make the argument that "jihad" shouldn't be used because it really means a struggle for spiritual improvement. Joscelyn appears simply to have made that up. [Joscelyn insists he did so read the memo; very well, then he did not read closely -- because again, even the correct NCTC memo does not make the argument he attributes to it.]
Here is what the DHS memo actually says about the word "jihad":
What terrorists fear most is irrelevance; what they need most is for large numbers of people to rally to their cause. There was a consensus that the USG should avoid unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers, or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims. Therefore, the experts counseled caution in using terms such as "jihadist," "Islamic terrorist,'' "Islamist," and "holy warrior" as grandiose descriptions.
And here is what the NCTC memo says:
Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahideen' in conversation to describe the terrorists. A mujahed, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means "striving in the path of God" and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions.
First, "jihadist" was not banned [by the DHS memo]; the memo suggests caution.
[Joscelyn has a better argument with the NCTC memo; but even there, on the first page, it says:
The following set of suggestions regarding appropriate language for use in conversations with target audiences was developed by the Extremist Messaging Branch of the National Counterterrorism Center [NCTC] and vetted by the interagency "Themes and Messages" editorial board at the CTCC. This advice is not binding and is for use with our audiences. It does not affect other areas such as policy papers, research analysis, scholarly writing, etc. The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness among communicators of the language issues that may enhance or detract from successhl engagement.
Joscelyn writes, "Sounds like a ban to me;" I say, sounds like a non-binding suggestion to me.]
Second, it does not suggest caution because of any confusion over the true meaning of jihad, rather because jihad is not a dirty word to Moslems... it's a heroic term. It's every bit as counterproductive as calling insurgents "freedom fighters," when in fact they are bloody-minded terrorists.
Instead, the DHS memo suggests the term "death cultists" -- which can hardly be faulted for refusing to call the enemy what he is. The DHS memo also suggests dubbing terrorists takfiri (when talking to Arabic speakers); takfir is the act of "excommunicating" fellow Moslems for "apostasy." After declaring them non-Moslems, killing them becomes legitimiate, in the eyes of other militants. Takfir is always a horribly negative term in Arabic... unlike jihad, which is generally a positive term (several different meanings, all good).
[The NCTC memo suggests "terrorists," "violent extremists," and "totalitarian"... which, once again, does not sound particularly PC to me. Does it to you, readers?]
In other words, this memo constitutes one of the first attempts by the government to generate a "new lexicon," as David Kilcullen famously called for in his article in Small Wars Journal a year ago. Jim Guirard expanded on this article in his own piece a week later: "David Kilcullen's Call for a New Lexicon":
The first of Kilcullen's five steps toward an effective antidote -- a worldwide chemotherapy counterattack -- on the raging AQST cancer is his call for "a new lexicon based on the actual, observed characteristics of [our] real enemies ..."
....Although he does not list particulars of this proposed new lexicon, here are more than a dozen of the Arabic and Islamic words of which he would almost surely approve. They are the words, the semantic tools and weapons, we will need to break out of the habit-of-language box (largely invented by Osama bin Laden himself) which currently depicts us as us the bad guys, the "infidels" and even "the Great Satan" -- and which sanctifies suicide mass murderers as so-called jihadis and mujahideen ("holy guys") and "martyrs" on their heroic way to Paradise....
irhab (eer-HAB) -- Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called "jihadis" and "jihadists" and "mujahideen" and "shahids" (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author's lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism)....
takfir (takh-FEER) -- the Wahhabi and al Qaeda-style practice of making wholesale (and largely false and baseless) accusations of apostasy and disbelief toward Allah and the Qur'an. Those radicals, absolutists and judgmental fanatics who engage in this divisive practice of false witness are called "takfiri...."
So, what is the point of this new and improved lexicon of Arabic and Islamic words and frames of reference? In terms of the vital "hearts, minds and souls" aspects of the Long War (or is it the Endless War?) on AQ-style Terrorism about which Dr. Kilcullen is so appropriately concerned, the rewards could be great, indeed.
Just for starters, imagine the khawarij (outside the religion) al Qaeda's great difficulty in winning the approval of any truly devout and faithful Muslims whatever once these genocidal irhabis (terrorists) come to be viewed by the Umma (the Muslim World) as mufsiduun (evildoers) engaged in Hirabah (unholy war) and in murtadd (apostasy) against the Qur'an's God of Abraham -- and as surely on their way to Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) for their Satanic ways.
In this context of truth-in-language and truth-in-Islam, bin Ladenism's so-called "Jihadi Martyrdom" becomes Irhabi Murderdom (Genocidal Terrorism), instead, with it a hot ticket to Hellfire rather than to Paradise. And is this not precisely the powerful disincentive we need for the unholy cancer of suicide mass murder?
So Thomas Joscelyn assumes that the memo (which he clearly did not read [closely] before critiquing) "bans" the use of the term jihadist out of some exaggerated sense of tolerance for those Moslems who use it to mean spiritual development; while in reality, the DHS memo merely urges "caution" in using the term [while the NCTC memo makes the "suggestion" it be avoided] because it confers upon the militant Islamists exactly the legitimacy they crave. And the memo very closely tracks a call by Col. David Kilcullen to develop an official "new lexicon" to undercut al-Qaeda by changing the language used in discussing militant Islamism.
Perhaps some of you remember David Kilcullen: He is the ex-Australian-Army colonel who was the top civilian counterinsurgency and counterterrorism advisor to Gen. David Petraeus, while the latter was the commander of Multinational Force - Iraq during the so-called "surge." Kilcullen now serves that same role on the staff of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
I think Petraeus' best mate knows a thing or two about counterinsurgency. But perhaps Mr. Joscelyn knows better. After all, he is a "terrorism researcher, writer, and economist," a subject-matter expert unencumbered by the necessity of putting his theories into practice on the battlefield, with lives on the line. (Of course, I myself do not even rise to what George W. Bush would call a "pundent;" so what do I know? Though at least I can parse simple English sentences with clarity and precision.)
Evidently, Bruce Thornton in NR is another such expert. I cannot see his entire review (I don't subscribe), but Power Line quotes the relevant passage:
This jihadist ideology motivated Abdel Rahman and the 9/11 jihadists, and continues to motivate Islamic terrorism today. But, then and now, this obvious traditional belief is ignored or rationalized away by those entrusted with our security: The secretary of state publicly croons that Islam is the “religion of peace and love,” and the State and Homeland Security departments instruct their employees not to use words like “jihad” or “mujahedeen” (holy warrior) in their communications. In contrast to this delusional thinking, McCarthy bluntly, and correctly, states the obvious: “Islam is a dangerous creed. It rejects core aspects of Western liberalism: self-determination, freedom of choice, freedom of conscience, equality under the law.” We refuse to face the truth about Islam, and thus we disarm ourselves before “a doctrine that rejects our way of life and a culture unwilling or unable to suppress the savage element it breeds wherever it takes hold.”
If we assume this is not a complete non-sequitur, then we must conclude that Thornton is under the impression that the reason DHS [and NCTC] give for cautioning against the promiscuous use of "jihadist" is that the word is actually synonymous to the virtues that form the core of Western liberalism. Else how else could that core stand "in contrast to [DHS's] delusional thinking?"
Which means that Thornton also didn't bother reading the DHS [or NCTC] memos, only a careless reader's drive-by mischaracterization.
Is it really too much to ask that intellectual heavy-hitters with much knowledge of Islamic terrorism, writing reviews of an important book for respectable, nationally distributed conservative magazines, at least bestir themselves to read the primary document -- not a secondary source of dubious authority -- before firing their broadsides at the Department of Homeland Security? Good heavens, Big Lizards applies stricter literary standards before publishing a blogpost!
I read much of Joscelyn's online book, Iran's Proxy War Against America, and found it first rate; I don't know who Thornton is, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, subject-matter experts are just as prone to careless reading as the rest of us... especially when the misreading fits their preconceived notions of their enemies (DHS [and State], in this case) as benighted fools and political poltroons.
Yet such outbursts of "I don't need to read them, I know what they're going to say" often prove far more embarassing for experts than for us ordinary folk, who have nothing much to lose by accidentally spreading malicious memes.
Date ►►► May 29, 2008
McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part II
Scott McClellan's pathetic campaign against George W. Bush -- hence for the election of Barack Obama -- continues apace; he keeps talking about more snippets from the book in interviews.
Today, McClellan bores deep into the Plame name blame game, which he sees as a "turning point" in his relationship with the president. But here is an oddity: It was clear to everyone from at least October 28th, 2005 -- the day that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted "Scooter" Libby -- that it was not true that Libby was uninvolved in the inadvertent leak of Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation; and it was also well known by then that Karl Rove had testified five times to Fitzgerald's grand jury, correcting some of his testimony. As I recall, we already knew at that time that the correction involved a conversation Rove had with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine... which clearly implied that Rove, too, had inadvertently revealed Plame's employment.
So by late October, 2005, Scott McClellan already knew that what he told reporters in 2003 was wrong. This was the moral "turning point," he now says.
Yet he continued in his White House employment, after Libby's indictment, for six more months; he did not resign until late April, 2006 -- when he was ousted by new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Some "turning point!"
And once again, not a single charge of McClellan's is backed up by any evidence so far released... and much of it is in fact contradicted by strong, available documentation. (And this complete lack of evidence does indeed make McClellan, as Rove put it, sound like a "liberal blogger!")
Not only that, but McClellan and his new allies in the elite media (didn't they used to despise him?) now stoop to deliberate obscurantism to hide the absurdity of what they're claiming. Viz:
[McClellan] was ordered to say from the press room podium that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were not involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Later a criminal investigation revealed that they were.
Revealed that they were "involved," yes; revealed that they were criminally culpable? No.
In fact, neither I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, nor Karl Rove, then Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy, was ever indicted for leaking Plame's name or CIA affiliation: Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and Rove was never indicted for anything at all.
("Involved" -- what a weasel word! For that matter, Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Tim Russert were also "involved," weren't they?)
During the investigation, Richard Armitage, then Deputy Secretary of State to Secretary of State Colin Powell, admitted that he was the first to inadvertently leak to reporter Robert Novak the fact that Lyin' Joe Wilson's wife was in the CIA; Armitage was also never indicted on any charge. Had the leak been intentional, the leaker would almost certainly have been indicted; thus it's a pretty fair conclusion that the Special Counsel believed the leaks were unintentional and inadvertent. (Particularly so since Armitage, like his boss Colin Powell, opposed the Iraq war... so why would be try to "discredit" the guy who was trying to prevent it?)
So yes, Libby and Rove were "involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press;" but AP (and McClellan, so far as they report) fail to mention that they were both exonerated of the accusation that they did so deliberately in order to discredit Wilson.
You would think that would be an important part of the story.
Here's another wonderful bit of half-truth misdirection from AP, which they save to the end as the supposed killer-anecdote that demonstrates, to everyone who already suffers from BDS, what a liar and hypocrite is George W. Bush:
And [McClellan] recalled a day in April 2006, when the unfolding perjury case against Libby had revealed that Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war. High-profile criticism was coming from Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in those days before the war. [Take note that AP doesn't reveal what this "declassified" intelligence report was; but I'll let the beans out of the bag in a moment.]
The president was leaving an event in North Carolina, McClellan recalled, and as they walked to Air Force One a reporter shouted a question: Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?
McClellan took the question to the president, telling Bush: "He's saying you yourself were the one that authorized the leaking of this information."
"And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kind of taken aback," McClellan said.
"For me I came to the decision that at that point I needed to look for a way to move on, because it had undermined, I think, a lot of what we had said."
Really? Let's stick a few particulars into that vague and smelly indictment...
First, anytime an administrative official speaks to a news source off the record -- even if fully authorized -- that could be called "leaking." As McClellan himself has done this many times (along with every other White House Press Secretary), he should not feign such horror.
Second, let's clarify what "intelligence report" Bush "declassified" in 2003 or 2004 (not 2006). There are only two possibilities that McClellan could be referencing, and the first is easily dismissed:
- The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate;
- Or the 2002 intelligence report on the debriefing of a certain former ambassador who was recommended by his CIA wife to be sent to a certain African country.
The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate
President Bush relied upon this estimate, compiled by the CIA, in his decision to ask Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force; an AUMF is the legal equivalent of a declaration of war.
By mid-2003, with the war in full swing, the elite media was abuzz with claims that the 2002 NIE had said that Iraq had no WMD and was not even trying to develop any. In particular, these many stories claimed that the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain Uranium had been "debunked" by the CIA before the war -- and that the war was therefore entirely predicated on a lie.
It turns out that all these stories had a single source: Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who had been sent to Niger by the CIA in response to his CIA wife's nagging of the Agency.
It was absurd that the CIA accepted Plame's suggestion of her husband for the trip. Its purpose was ostensibly to determine whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy Uranium yellowcake, yet Wilson had no expertise whatsoever in nuclear or WMD investigations. He did, however, have one indispensible qualification: He already believed the story was a fairy tale, even before he left for Africa.
When he returned, and after he was debriefed by his CIA handlers (see below), he covertly went to numerous elite-media sources and told them that he had found that the idea that Hussein was trying to acquire Uranium yellowcake was bunk. Later, he published an op-ed in the New York Times (July 6th, 2003) titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," in which he peddled the same claim.
As more and more people came to believe, because of this disinformation campaign, that the administration had "lied us into war" (a cherished Democratic mantra), the president decided to declassify parts of the NIE on which he had relied. Not the whole thing, as that would reveal sources and methods; just the "key judgments" that the CIA presented the White House. He did so with great fanfare on July 18th, 2003... the day after Scott McClellan was named White House Press Secretary. This is an important point: McClellan was already the presidential spokesman when Bush announced the declassification of parts of the NIE and distributed it to reporters; and even prior to his promotion, he was the Deputy Press Secretary to Ari Fleischer.
Therefore, I suggest that the NIE cannot be the "2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities" that Bush "declassified," which McClellan now says he first found out about in April of 2006. Obviously, McClellan knew about the declassification of portions of the 2002 NIE way back in 2003... when the rest of the civilized world found out about it.
So this cannot possibly be what AP means above, unless Scott McCellan is dumber than a box of Barbara's boxers. That leaves only one other reasonable possibility:
The 2002 intelligence report on Joe Wilson's debriefing by the CIA
On July 7th, 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a document titled Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. In the section titled "Niger," there is a chapter tantalizingly called "the Former Ambassador." It includes the following summary of the previously classified CIA debriefing of "the former ambassador" -- that is, of Lyin' Joe Wilson -- when he returned from the trip to the African nation of Niger that his CIA wife, Valerlie Plame, wangled for him. The briefing was included in an intelligence report disseminated within intelligence-community circles on March 8, 2002.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to publish their report, they asked the president to declassify any intelligence in the report that was still classified. Bush complied; we don't know whether Wilson's debriefing was declassified at that point or before, but I don't recall anybody writing about it until after the report came out.
I strongly believe that this is what AP means when they write "Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war." I can think of no other 2002 intelligence report that has made its way into the unclass information world besides these two... and it cannot possibly be the NIE for reasons elucidated above.
But why did this declassification so enrage the Left -- and so horrify Scott McClellan, becoming one of his "turning points?" Let's see what, exactly, former Ambassador Joe Wilson did tell his CIA handlers when he returned. In this case, speculation is unnecessary, because we know exactly what information Wilson gave them from his little Nigerien adventure. From that same chapter linked above:
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as "a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record." The report also indicted that the "subsources of the following information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform." DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do. DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the "high priority of the issue." The report was widely distributed in routine channels.
(Redacted) The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, (Redacted) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
And there you have it: In setting straight the record of prewar intelligence on Iraq, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee had to note that former Ambassador Joe Wilson (husband of former CIA employee Valerie Plame) told his CIA handlers that the former prime minister of Niger revealed that an Iraqi delegation tried to meet with him to discuss "expanding commercial relations," which the former prime minister believed was an attempt to purchase Uranium.
Wilson then went to the elite media and lied through his teeth... covertly, at first; but when that failed to bring down the Bush regime, overtly in an op-ed in the NYT. Thus, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report exposed Lyin' Joe Wilson as exactly what he was; and for that, the Left will never forgive either the president who declassified the debriefing or the committee that revealed Joe Wilson to the world.
For reference, here is what President Bush said in his January, 2003 State of the Union address... the very "sixteen words" that Wilson flatly claimed in his op-ed "was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Sounds like an excellent summary of what former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki told former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.
Selective declassification vs. selective leaking
The elite media and its new sock puppet Scott McClellan make much to-do out of this final point, as if it were the synecdoche that encapsulates McClellan's entire charge:
Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?
Once again, vagueness to the rescue! There are two ways to "selective[ly] release" classified information; one is completely legal, the other criminal, despicable, and a gross and offensive betrayal of the United States of America:
- The president or some Congressional committees can legally declassify specific information, in consultation with the agency that classified it, and release it to the general public, including the news media;
- A disgruntled government employee, fighting against the express policy of the elected government, can criminally "leak" the classified information to individual elite reporters he believes are friendly to his cause, in an effort to destroy whatever legal intelligence program he dislikes.
AP is correct: The president has on many occasions decried a "selective release of secret intelligence" of Type 2, such as the leak of details about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (the NSA al-Qaeda telephone intercepts) or our perfectly legal -- nobody even denies this -- voluntary surveillance of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system, part of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program to find and interdict terrorists' money transfers.
This sort of "selective release" does incalculable damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities, puts human sources at risk, and alerts death-cult terrorists that they should change their modus operandi to avoid detection by intelligence and law-enforcement agents. Such leaks kill good people and aid and abet al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other evildoers.
But that's not what McClellan is whining about. He was so shocked and horrified that he "came to the decision that at that point [he] needed to look for a way to move on" because the president made no attempt to conceal the fact that he had engaged in a perfectly legal Type 1 "selective release of secret information": He formally declassified part of a CIA debriefing, after consultation with the CIA, possibly even at the request of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.
Are you able to detect the subtle, miniscule difference between some low-level toady in the NSA leaking details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, thus shutting off the flow of information about potential al-Qaeda cells in the United States -- and the president declassifying a summary of a debriefing that the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to release as part of a report on pre-war intelligence, more than a year after the debriefing was conducted?
If so, then you're one up on both the former White House Press Secretary and the elite media!
What McClellan didn't prove in his book
I'm sorry that so many folks are shocked to learn that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is a liar; but it's hardly the president's job to keep old intelligence documents classified -- even when the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to publish parts of them -- just to preserve Wilson's reputation... so he can continue to accuse President Bush of lying, when in fact the evidence indicates that all along, the liar was Wilson himself.
And I note, once again, that all of this was printed not only in the Senate report on July 7th, 2004; it was also discussed extensively -- and put into the context of debunking Joe Wilson's lies -- in a July 12th, 2004 column in the National Review by Clifford May. I myself was late to the game; I didn't start blogging (on Patterico's Pontifications) until May of 2005. But by October of that year, I was already posting about this on Big Lizards.
Where the hell was Scott McClellan that he wasn't already aware of this until sometime in April of 2006? The rest of us knew it eight months earlier.
More and more, the evidence indicates that McClellan's faux horror and his "turning points" are entirely fabricated after the fact... and the only two reasons I can imagine are (1) to sell more copies of his book, and (2) to set himself up for a position in the fantasized administration of President Barack Obama.
The saddest part is that even if Obama were elected, then just as with David Brock (anyone remember him?), he would no more give a job to a betrayer like Scott McClellan than he would pluck somebody else's used Kleenex out of the rubbish and blow his own nose into it.
McClellan is burning all his former friends and colleagues for nothing.
Date ►►► May 28, 2008
McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part I
I believe that McClellan's campaign will turn out to be a disaster, not for the president but for McClellan himself.
(And I assume you all realize I mean the campaign by Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary until he was ousted by incoming Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten -- and not a minute too soon! -- to damage the GOP enough that Barack Obama wins the presidency in 2008... not the failed presidential campaign of ousted -- and not a minute too soon! -- Civil War Gen. George McClellan in 1864.)
Alas, I was scooped on the following observation by John Hinderaker at my favorite blogsite, Power Line; but I shall persevere, secure behind the lizardly firewall of "Never first, always final."
What has struck me is "the Case of the Missing Evidence": McClellan is quoted as leveling numerous charges against President Bush and members of his administration, from "misleading" us into the Iraq war by spreading "propaganda," to McClellan's accusation that Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby conspired together to out Valerie Plame and then lie about it to the grand jury, to -- this is truly bizarre -- McClellan's psychic claim that Bush lied about never having tried cocaine. Yet in not a single accusation in a single article I have read (I've read six) is there even a shred of evidence offered for the claim, other than the rather dubious word of a man hawking his new "tell-all" book.
Nothing. Nada. Bagel.
Here is a typical example from our ancient enemy, the Times:
Mr. McClellan writes that top White House officials deceived him about the administration’s involvement in the leaking of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. He says he did not know for almost two years that his statements from the press room that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr. were not involved in the leak were a lie.
“Neither, I believe, did President Bush,” Mr. McClellan writes. “He too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth -- including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”
Of course, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald extensively investigated Karl Rove in that case, calling him back numerous times for more testimony. Rove even corrected some of his testimony, which almost certainly led to even more intense investigation by Fitzgerald. Yet after all that, Fitzgerald -- who was highly motivated to find some legal victim higher up the food chain than the chief of staff to the Vice President -- couldn't even gain an indictment from a grand jury... which hears only the prosecution's case.
But I'm sure McClellan knows better. I wonder whether he shared whatever evidence he has with Fitzgerald, who obviously considered it pretty unconvincing (or he would have used it) -- or whether McClellan only discovered this "evidence" of perjury and obstruction of justice after Fitzgerald failed to indict Rove.
Here's another good one:
[McClellan] is harsh about the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, saying it “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” and “allowed our institutional response to go on autopilot.”
Does anyone else detect a pattern here? Systematically, McClellan is working his way, one by one, through every anti-Bush fairy tale promulgated by the "reality-based community," the nutroots of Daily Kos. (I fully expect that somewhere in the book, which I will not waste time reading, McClellan will express his doubts that 9/11 was really carried out by al-Qaeda -- maybe it was Mossad! -- and will suggest that the Pentagon was hit by a U.S. missile and that the World Trade Centers were taken down by controlled demolition...)
Anent Katrina, I was going to make some scathing response about how effective President Bush really was, in contrast to the Demo-lib caricature; but then I remembered I already did -- two years ago. I'll stack my evidence up against McClellan's any day... or I would, if McClellan could find any.
Maybe McClellan should start reading Big Lizards before writing future books.
Although I did independently come up with this observation, I must confess that John beat me into
JOHN adds: McClellan was a lousy press secretary. A much better spokesman, Tony Snow, once told me that the best thing about his job was the opportunity to follow President Bush around and observe his conduct of the Presidency. Tony said that he came away with a deep appreciation of President Bush's character, judgment and knowledge of the issues. Unless McClellan can come up with some facts to back up his claims--facts have been notably absent from the press accounts I've seen of his book--I think Tony's assessment is considerably more reliable.
I could not agree with John more... especially the part about McClellan's squirmy "talents" as a presidential press secretary; he always came across to me a lot less like Ari Fleischer, or even Clinton's Mike McCurry, and a lot more like Jon Lovitz's pathological liar character from Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s ("Yeah, yeah, the Queen of England... that's the ticket!")
But I also agree with Paul: McClellan's tabloid trash is going to get a full-court press of reviews, news articles, and free PR by the Democratic Party (both political and journalistic wings)... making the contrast all the more stark with the brilliant insider tome War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
Feith's book received no reviews by any major elite-media source except for Bret Stephens' review at the Wall Street Journal... despite the fact that War and Decision was written by the man who actually made (in consultation with his direct boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) the important decisions he discusses; while What Happened -- say, if this is about McClellan's career, then didn't the printers accidentally leave off the question mark that should have been at the end of that title? -- is nothing but the ramblings of a man whose only function was to explain other people's decisions to the press.
Say, has anybody else ever noticed that life isn't fair? (Darn... I think I was scooped on that observation, too.)
A Tale of "Two" Parties
One of the reasons I hate Breitbart.com -- the internet "news" website founded by Andrew Brietbart, developer of the Huffington Post -- is that it's more than biased; it's clumsily and stubbornly leftist, often not even pretending that the right might have a point. Or even exist!
In this piece on embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, we learn that Olmert's defense minister -- former Prime Minister Ehud Barak -- has called upon Olmert to resign in the wake of numerous credible allegations of bribery and four separate and ongoing police investigations of the PM. If Olmert refuses to quit, Barak says that he will pull Labor out of the coalition and force early elections.
It's the most serious career crisis Olmert has faced since becoming prime minister, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon -- founder of the Kadima party, which won a plurality in the last elections -- lapsed into a coma following a stroke.
But one fascinating omission struck me as I read the article: Nowhere in the piece does Brietbart even so much as mention the right-wing Likud party... which is notable because every, single poll in Israel indicates that, in the event of elections anytime soon, Likud will be the new plurality party -- and might even become Israel's first ever majority government.
(The Alignment party, a.k.a. the Labour Alignment, held an absolute majority of seats in the Knesset for a year or so after the 1967 Six Day War. But Alignment was itself a coalition party, formed by the merger of Mapai, Labour Unity, Rafi, and Mapam -- and the majority came from the seats formerly held by the latter two parties. So the claim that Alignment was a "majority party" deserves at least an asterisk: It never actually won a majority of seats in an election as itself.
(If Likud were to win a majority of the Knesset seats, it would be the first time in Israeli history that a single party actually won a majority of seats in an election.)
In fact, it almost appears that Breitbart is unaware that there are three major parties in Israel, not just two: Kadima, Labor, and Likud. (Plus a host of minor parties that come into play whenever one of the majors seeks a ruling coalition, which is after every single election.)
For example, here is Brietbart on the potential effects of the threat:
Labour secretary-general Eitan Cabel said that if Kadima does not oust Olmert and elect a new party leader, Labour would move to set a date for early elections within two months.
Without the support of Labour's 17 MPs, Olmert's coalition government would lose its parliamentary majority in the 120-member Knesset....
Several members of Olmert's Kadima party have already let it be known they would be willing to accept the premier's job, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter.
This rather makes it sound as if either another member of Kadima will take Olmert's place -- or else new elections will put Labor firmly in charge!
The odd thing is that, by so studiously ignoring Likud as if they didn't exist, Brietbart manages to avoid telling its readers a critical point that changes everything about this story: Since Barak knows that new elections would mean a Likud government (not Labor) headed by his old archrival, Benjamin Netanyahu, he is extremely unlikely actually to do what he threatens... and since Olmert also knows that, he is equally unlikely to take the threat seriously and resign.
By contrast, here is the AP article on the same threat:
If Labor Party leader Ehud Barak carries out his promise to withdraw from Olmert's fragile coalition, new elections could usher in a government opposed to current peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria....
He promised to consider cooperating with a new leader from Olmert's Kadima Party, but vowed to pull Labor out of the government "soon" if Olmert doesn't step aside. Without Labor, Olmert would lose his parliamentary majority, and new elections would probably be forced two years ahead of schedule.
Polls forecast a poor performance for Labor if elections are held now. Polls have signaled that hard-line opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of Olmert's peace overtures, would win. That could deter Barak from following through on his threat to bring down the government.
Before posting this, I gave Breitbart another chance: I went to the main site, found the newest article on this news item, and read it. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they had actually updated the story to include discussion of other parties. They added these two paragraphs:
The premier also faced pressure from leftist parties even though in the past they have supported governments involved in the peace process.
"I am fully in favour of negotiations with Palestinians and Syria, but Olmert cannot from a moral point of view carry out such discussions following the damaging testimony by Morris Talansky," said Ran Cohen of the Meretz party.
Well, I'm glad we've got that sorted out! So now we know that, in the event of early elections, Ehud Olmert will be followed by Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, or Avi Dichter of Kadima; Ehud Barak of Labor -- or perhaps Ran Cohen of Meretz-Yachad (or one of the other four Members of the Knesset from that party).
Reason number 523 why we should not treat Breitbart as a real news source.
Date ►►► May 27, 2008
Talking Islam 1: Why Bret Stephens Acted the Fool, and Why Heather Wilhelm Needs a Neuron Infusion
The Department of Homeland Security is finally doing something right on the urgent task of confronting the terrorist ideology; but some conservatives, quagmired in their "clash of civilizations" nightmare, are unprepared even to listen. Alas, Bret Stephens, writing on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, plays to this crowd (perhaps inadvertently) by mocking a DHS internal memo as "Newspeak" for recommending the language to use to avoid driving mainstream Moslems into the terrorist ideology and instead give them good reason to come over to the side of civilization.
(On Real Clear Politics, Heather Wilhelm dutifully follows suit, parroting Stephens' hilarity with a one-sentence dismissal of the memo -- without, evidently, bothering to read the memo herself or form her own opinion; consider this a rather left-handed hat tip.)
Our government does a lot of stupid, self-destructive things in the long war -- for example, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were once stalwart against negotiating or even meeting with Palestinian representatives (whether Hamas or Fatah) until and unless they both recognized the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and also renounced terrorism... and actually stopped committing terrorist acts. Both Bush and Rice declared this a necessary first step in the "Road Map to Peace."
But now, they appear to have abandoned that precondition and are willing to invite to a Middle East peace conference countries and powers that not only refuse to recognize Israel but actively engage in terrorism against it.
However, that fact that the "invisible foot" of government frequently trips up our best laid plans should not blind us to cases where they really are trying to do the right thing -- and doing a fairly good job of it. I believe this is the case with the DHS memo; we need to see more action (and more sustained effort) in fighting the ideological as well as the military battles.
Stephens' column annoyed me precisely because it may strangle this vital effort in its cradle. Let me explain why that would be so defeatist...
I've been reading Douglas Feith's magnificent but very dense tome War and Decision; one of the most frustrating -- infuriating! -- sections details the attempts by Feith and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to get the State Department to move off of its collective posterior... and actually craft an ideological counterinsurgency (my term) to fight against the ideology of violence, murder, torture, and bombing promulgated by al-Qaeda, Iran, and other terrorist actors... an ideology that strongly attracts and least stable and most disaffected of Moslems around the world, losers who believe they have been marginalized by the tyrannical and unresponsive governments that still characterize the ummah.
State insisted that this fell into their jurisdiction, not the Pentagon's; but then they refused to engage or do anything other than issue a couple of press releases. Engaging the terrorist ideology head-on is vital to the war against global caliphism: Without our own futurist, international front of modernity, individualism, and freedom, how can we hope to confront and overpower the terrorists' reactionary ideology?
They preach bloody human sacrifice, eternal war, brutal repression of the individual, and destruction of every vestige of civilization and the modern world beyond what Mohammed himself knew. Without our own ideological counterinsurgency, we're left with nothing but brute physical force. (Certainly Gen. David Petraeus considers the ideological war of ideas to be as important to the Iraqi counterinsurgency as the military forces added during the "surge;" I assume he knows what he's talking about.)
Feith and Rumsfeld were ultimately thwarted in their attempts to get an ideological counterinsurgency up and running; but now, at least, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties of the DHS has actually begun the long overdue process: They issued an internal memo -- instantly leaked to the press by disgruntled leftists -- suggesting the language the USG (United States government) should use (and terms to avoid) in speaking about the war. It's actually not a bad first effort... despite Stephens' hooting and braying.
The first page of the memo explains why diction -- word choice -- is so important to winning the ideological war against those seeking to impose a worldwide caliphate:
[T]he terminology should also be strategic -- it should avoid helping the terrorists by inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of their ideology....
If senior government officials carefully select strategic terminology, the government's public statements will encourage vigilance without unintentionally undermining security objectives. That is, the terminology we use must be accurate with respect to the very real threat we face. At the same time, our terminology must be properly calibrated to diminish the recruitment efforts of extremists who argue that the West is at war with Islam.
DHS amplifies this message on pp. 7-8:
Bin Laden and his followers will succeed if they convince large numbers of people that America and the West are at war with Islam, and that a "clash of civilizations" is inherent. Therefore, USG officials should continually emphasize a simple and straightforward truth:
Muslims have been, and will continue to be part of the fabric of our country. Senior officials must make clear that there is no "clash of civilizations;" there is no "us versus them." We must emphasize that Muslims are not "outsiders" looking in, but are an integral part of America and the West.
Too many conservatives have fallen in love with the romantic idea of a "clash of civilizations," and they passionately believe that we are "at war with Islam." Of course, we aren't and shouldn't be: The majority of Moslems are at least open to modernity, liberty, and democracy, depending on how they are presented... that is, assuming they are not restricted only to those who renounce religiosity -- a requirement never demanded of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or Hindus, who are allowed to be democratic, modern, yet also religious.
I have seen numerous hard-core, absolutist culture warriors roll their eyes in disgust at such "liberal" thinking. The very idea that not every Moslem wants to murder us all!
I do not believe Bret Stephens is among that group; but his cynicism about everything coming out of DHS makes him an unwitting tool of such absolutist conservatives... they use his column to buttress their own loser-philosophy.
They see themselves as hard-headed, reality-based grownups; anyone who believes that Islam and the West can coexist they accuse of being an infantile fantasist. But if they are correct, then we are already lost: If we literally are at war with a billion fanatics, each of whom is just one cartoon away from strapping on a suicide vest and heading off to the local Galleria, then we cannot possibly win such a war without changing the West so drastically, it would no longer be a liberal, democratic zone of the globe. We should have to become a military dictatorship ourselves to have a chance.
Fortunately, there isn't the slightest bit of evidence that this is true. Every Moslem-majority country has an element, exerting greater or lesser control, of global caliphists who are absolutely our enemies; I'll go farther... this is true in every country that has a substantial Moslem minority. But the existence of an insurgent fifth column within every Islamic enclave does not mean that each such enclave constitutes an insurgency.
That would be "liberal thinking" -- or more precisely, liberal fascist thinking... the idea that each individual is utterly defined by his group identity. That's the thinking behind liberal-fascist ideas from "affirmative action" and "hate-speech" codes to the round-up and incarceration of tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent in American concentration camps during World War II. How is liberal racist and classist dogma any different from saying that "all Arabs" or "all Moslems" are enemies of (and incapable of understanding) Western values such as democracy and freedom of conscience?
The overarching purpose of this DHS memo is to give the USG the language to avoid driving fence-sitting or even mainstream Moslems into the arms of militant Islamism, and instead to drive them towards modernity, democracy, and individualism:
Starting from the premise that words do indeed matter, three foundational assumptions inform this paper:
(1) We should not demonize all Muslims or Islam;
(2) Because the terrorists themselves use theology and religious terms to justify both their means and ends, the terms we use must be accurate and descriptive; and
(3) Our words should be strategic; we must be conscious of history, culture, and context. In an era where a statement can cross continents in a manner of seconds, it is essential that officials consider how terms translate, and how they will resonate with a variety of audiences.
So what, specifically, does the memo suggest? Here are a few of the recommendations:
- They urge USG spokesmen to use "caution" in using terms like jihadist, Islamic terrorist, holy warrior, and even Islamist; the former terms because they "give the terrorists the legitimacy they seek" -- they're not really "holy warriors," for God's sake -- and the last, Islamism/Islamist, because, while it's certainly accurate, "it may not be strategic for USG officials to use the term because the general public, including overseas audiences, may not appreciate the academic distinction between Islamism and Islam."
This is not a slam against Moslems; even many Americans who do not study this stuff night and day get those terms mixed up and may not know they mean different things. Yet these suggestions of words to avoid produces much snorting and pawing by Stephens in his WSJ piece:
In "1984," George Orwell famously created Newspeak, "the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year." How things haven't changed. The Homeland Security memo begins by declaring that "Words matter," whereupon it proceeds to suggest that some words matter so much it's best not to use them at all. Instead, the memo proposes a "strategic terminology" to dictate the utterances of public officials regarding the so-called Global Struggle.
But Stephens completely misses the point. The memo does not argue that we shouldn't use such words out of an Orwellian desire to make the concepts themselves disappear, as if by magic.
It argues that government officials shouldn't use them for the same reason that we shouldn't call our military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan a "crusade" -- because it may frighten potential Moslem allies into thinking that we plan to take away their countries and force-convert them all to Christianity. Even suspecting such a thing would stampede many Moslems otherwise disposed towards us and against the terrorists into allying with the bad guys, for the same reason we allied with the Soviet Union during World War II: self preservation.
They warn government officials away from using the term "moderate Moslem," because many Moslems imagine that means a Moslem who doesn't really believe in Islam.
A better term to use for a Moslem who does not support extremism, militancy, and violence against the innocent is to call him a mainstream Moslem, or an ordinary or traditional Moslem: That allows him to be very religious but still locates him within the larger Moslem community that does not sacrifice women and children to Moloch. (That's my analogy; the DHS paper doesn't use the terms "human sacrifice" or "Moloch," more's the pity.)
Similarly, they warn we should be careful using Arabic terms unless we really understand what they mean -- not just the literal text but the subtextual meaning as well.
For example, al-Qaeda adherents are "Salafists;" they believe that Islam was perfect in the days of the prophet Mohammed and the two generations that followed, and that should be the model for Islam even today. But that doesn't mean that all Salafists are al-Qaeda supporters. So if we verbally attacked "Salafism," we would be condemning tens of millions of non-violent Moslems in order to get at the tens of thousands of violent Salafists among them. It's a terrible blunder, a stupid strategy that will lead to defeat, like attacking "Catholic priests" for being pederasts, when we really mean to attack just those priests who engaged in such horrific sins (and anyone who shielded them from exposure).
- Nevertheless, the memo does suggest some Arabic terms that cannot be misunderstood. For example, they recommend understanding the concept of takfir: Moslems who declare other Moslems to be apostates or unbelievers ("kafiri"), making it legitimate (to takfiri) to blow them up or torture them to death. The term is universally used in Arabic as a purely negative concept: Nobody says, "Takfir and proud of it, man!"
- Just as nobody says "I'm a cultist." Militant Islamism is a death cult, and that's a perfectly proper word to use against it: It's accurate -- they have very cult-like recruiting and retention techniques (lies, propaganda, isolation, physical coercion) -- and calling terrorists "death cultists" cannot possibly help them recruit new suicide bombers.
At a conference convened two years ago in Amman, Jordan, by King Abdullah, 200 leading Islamic scholars from 50 countries unanimously issued a fatwah condemning takfir; so it's not even controversial: Takfir is bad, and takfiri are despised:
Strictly speaking, takfirism most accurately describes terrorism by Muslims against other Muslims. But it may be strategic to employ the term in a wider context given that (1) many of the leaders of al-Qaeda are known to have adopted a takfiri ideology, and (2) part of the USG's anti-terrorism strategy should be to emphasize that the majority of the victims of modern terrorism are Muslim. There may also be a useful nexus to cult terminology; regarding takfiri indoctrination. French terrorism expert Roland Jacquard states: "Takfir is like a sect: Once you're in, you never get out. The Takfir rely on brainwashing and an extreme regime of discipline to weed out the weak links and ensure loyalty and obedience from those taken as members." Thus the phrase "takfiri dearh cult" may have some relevance.
Again, I don't think Stephens advocates a war of Islam vs. the West; he wrote a very penetrating article about Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Moslem organization in the world with more than 40 million members... and which is unabashedly pro-West, pro-modernity, and even (yes, really) pro-Israel. I read and posted about it at the time: We Found the "Moslem Methodists!"
But I sure wish Stephens could have thought a second time before firing off today's ill-advised and remarkably unhelpful column. We actually need to get on the same page here: Without a strong ideological component to the war against the takfiri death cults, we are not going to win. The DHS memo is at least a very good first step... and it's unfortunate that some folks are so stuck in the mode of knocking anything DHS or State does that they cannot even notice when they do something right for a change.
Date ►►► May 26, 2008
All the Views They Spit Into Print
It's a vile word. It combines slander and vilification, the essence of what the Bible calls "bearing false witness." A traducer is a person without a conscience, without a chest; a hollow, soulless spirit. Stitching together the worst segments of a harpy and a demon, traducers are sociopaths who literally feel absolutely nothing for their fellow men and women but contempt. They are unable to conceive of other human beings as persons; lives and reputations are tools to be manipulated for the day's desire.
But it's not quite strong enough to describe the editorial board of the New York Times.
There are lies, damned lies, and the Times. To the editors, a man's good name is a wad of toilet paper to be used once then flushed away. Truth is an alien contagion to be warded off by voodoo chants and stuffed alligators. Accuracy is a speedbump on the slander track, over which the Times SUV smashes at unstoppable speed.
Not sure what I'm talking about? You all know that there are several proposals for a "new G.I. Bill" kicking around D.C.; two are significantly popular within Congress.
The first, supported by Democrats, such as Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA, 85%), whom voters fantasized was a moderate non-partisan when they elected him by a razor's edge over George Allen; this followed yet another Democratic campaign of lies and ad-hominem attacks, which is all they have been able to muster in the way of argument in the seven lean years of political oratory. It's also supported by RINOs like Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 79%)... a man who, through thick and thin, is always there when he needs you.
This version of the new G.I. Bill gives full benefits -- the same benefits -- to every vet who served at least three years. The net effect of this, of course, is to encourage veterans to leave the service after a mere three years, typically before even rising to the rank of sergeant or petty officer third class. Every institution from the Pentagon to the Congressional Budget Office agrees that it would hurt retention of combat veterans -- in the middle of a war.
The other version is supported by the likes of Republican presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain and by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 88%), and Richard Burr (R-NC, 92%)... and also by the President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the armed forces, George W. Bush. This version has two major differences with the other:
It pays benefits on an increasing scale based upon time in service, so the longer the vet has served before retiring, the more benefits he or she receives. This is far superior to the Webb bill, because it encourages enlisted members to stay in military service longer.
Non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the American military. We give our NCOs unprecedented command authority, setting us apart from, and making us far more victorious than, the other militaries of the world.
- It allows the veteran to transfer the educational benefits from himself to his spouse or children, thus helping veteran families pay for college eduction for their kids.
With that prolog, here is how the editorial by the New York Times linked above describes, in an unbiased and non-partisan way, the president's and the nominee's rejection of the first G.I. Bill, the one by Sen. Webb:
President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.
He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.
So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.
Where on Earth -- or further south -- did the Times get such truculent and absurdist rhetoric? Where did they get the cockamamie idea (whether they believe it or are simply lying for political purpose) to say that Bush and McCain reject the Webb bill because it's "too generous?" What brilliant reporter dredged up a hidden memo, a secret meeting, a cabal of Republican infamy that spouted such a phrase, to justity the New York Times using it as a bludgeon?
Oh, wait; now I remember. Does this sound at all similar?
Barack Obama told veterans Saturday that he can't understand why Republican John McCain opposes legislation that would provide college scholarships to people who have served in the U.S. military.
"Now, let me be clear: No one can dispute John McCain's love for this country or his concern for veterans. But here's what I don't understand. I don't understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "George Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more."
Or maybe it's from this article, which appeared in an obscure publication that the New York Times may perhaps have missed:
Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, his rival for the Democratic nomination, voted to expand the benefits. Mr. McCain was not present.
“There are some who oppose this benefit, arguing that our men and women in uniform haven’t earned it, that it’s too generous,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I could not disagree more strongly. It’s time we match our words with our actions.”
Thus we now learn that the Times now farms out their editorial pages. With all the journalistic standards and gravitas of a pack of gibbons flinging poo at their rivals, the Times simply parrots Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's gross and offensive caricature of the objections of serious critics of the Webb bill. Apparently, Democratic campaign staff were invited to New York to ghostwrite an "editorial" befouling Bush and McCain.
(I suggest the Federal Election Commission investigate whether this editorial constitutes a substantial and unreported in-kind donation to Barack Obama's campaign, possibly violating McCain-Feingold.)
If you're still not convinced of the mendacity here, let's read a little more of the Times' love letter to Obama:
The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. [Ah, so this version is supported by "Vietnam veterans"... unlike the other version, which is only supported by chickenhawks like McCain.] They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.
Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11....
Mr. Bush -- and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain -- have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.
What a nice thing to say about Sen. McCain. Of course, liberals would treat him with more respect had he, you know, served his country, as Democrats do.
Lest you think the Times has not thought about the arguments against the bill they support (that is, the one that drains us of our non-coms), here is their unassailable answer:
They [Republicans like McCain] have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying -- as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are -- to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.
Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits -- by 16 percent [imagine a dramatic "ta-dah" playing in the background]. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get. [As opposed to the tired, cynical, doddering NCO hacks the Times wants to boot out.]
So let's see... we lose a bunch of Army Staff Sergeants, Air Force Top sergeants, Navy Petty Officers, and Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeants. But that's okay, because we gain an equal number of buck privates, airman recruits, seaman recruits, and privates.
So what are those ungenerous, veteran-hating Republican macacas whining about? The same number of losers will still be stuk in irak, right? They should instead be grateful the Democrats don't simply ban NCOs all together -- "three stripes, you're out."
The Times editors hasten to add that they support a "larger, sturdier military;" but what is now as obvious as Michael Moore's, ah, fundaments is that liberals, especially those anointed beings who control the elite media, consider the United States military as primarily a massive jobs and welfare program. Its only purpose is to support those illiterate, uneducated, stupid people who didn't study in school. One soldier, one widget is more or less interchangeable with another. And they want to cycle the widgets through the military entitlement complex as quickly as possible, so they can go to college and get "real" jobs.
Like, for example, moving to Chicago to become a "community organizer." I understand that's a career path where you can get to the top really fast.
Date ►►► May 23, 2008
California Marriage Protection Act Gets a Jump at the "Starting Gun"
The starting gun was just fired for the November campaign... and in this case, I mean the campaign for the California Marriage Protection Act, a citizen's initiative state constitutional amendment to restore the traditional definition of marriage in California -- now that four judicial activists on the California Supreme Court overpowered three judicial conservatives to force same-sex marriage on America's largest state.
By "starting gun," I mean the Los Angeles
Dog Trainer Times has comissioned the first set of polls since the court's decision -- and in a twist that evidently bothered the Times enough that they tried to cover it up by circumlocution, it turns out that Californians begin with a wide and deep antipathy to changing the definition of marriage. All three major party registrations -- Republican, Independent, and Democratic -- support the constitutional amendment, as do men (narrowly) and women (very strongly), as well as (I surmise from the silence) all age demographics; if some age group opposed it, I believe the Times would not be reticent about mentioning the fact.
These poll numbers are spectacularly good for an opening bid! (Hat tip to Patterico.)
And the Times cannot even blame it on "homophobia," an accusation that has become the first refuge of scoundrels in this debate, because by wide margins, respondents have no problem with gays or homosexuality itself.
Let's jump right to the numbers from the L.A. Times poll:
Either way, the poll suggests the outcome of the proposed amendment is far from certain. Overall, it was leading 54% to 35% among registered voters. But because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level.
As Patterico points out on the post linked above, that is a 19-point margin of victory before the first salvo from the pro-amendment camp is fired. But he also notes (with wry amusement, I would imagine) that the Times tries to bury this lede under a flood of generally pro-gay sentiment. Here are the opening two grafs of the article; there are three more "great news for gays!" paragraphs before the Times finally gets around to reporting the actual numbers (so much for the traditional "inverted pyramid" structure that is supposed to characterize news stories):
By bare majorities, Californians reject the state Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages and back a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at the November ballot that would outlaw such unions, a Los Angeles Times/KTLA Poll has found.
But the survey also suggested that the state is moving closer to accepting nontraditional marriages, which could create openings for supporters of same-sex marriage as the campaign unfolds.
A reader may imagine that the Times is onto something when they say that "because ballot measures on controversial topics often lose support during the course of a campaign, strategists typically want to start out well above the 50% support level." But it's just more disingenuousness on the part of our wretched monopoly newspaper.
In fact, on this particular ballot issue last time, support for the identically worded Proposition 22 actually rose from its initial support to its final victory in June, 2000. Here is a fairly liberal blogger (Calitics) who is a strong supporter of legalizing same-sex marriage:
We all know that initiatives need to be well ahead to start before the advertising ramps up and the No side chips away at the lead. This poll would traditionally signal an initiative in the danger zone. However, the initial polls for Prop. 22 in 2000 were at 58%, and it rose to 61% by election day. Opinions may be fairly hardened on this one.
Support for the amendment is fairly consistent in all demographic groups; Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support it:
Generally, the poll found consistency between views on the court decision and the proposed amendment. Overall, Californians opposed the court's view by a 52%-41% gap....
Yet support for the ruling did not necessarily lead to opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment, and vice versa. Democrats and independents narrowly backed the amendment despite their support for the court action. Democratic men favored the ruling but were split on the amendment. Democratic women, meanwhile, approved of both the court decision and the amendment.
Also, according to the few internals the Times released (as a graphic!), while men are almost evenly split on how they would vote in the amendment (43% for, 41% against), women -- generally more liberal than men on other issues -- are resoundingly in favor by 58 to 31, a whopping gender gap of 25%, with women being much more supportive of the amendment.
Note: Due to a bit of confusion, let me explain why I say 25%, rather than 27%. By "gender gap," I mean the gap between what the men say vs. what the women say.
The men support the amendment by 2%; the women support it by 27%. Thus, the gap between the genders is 27 - 2 = 25%. Comprendez-vous
But the strong, across-the-board support for the amendment cannot be attributed to bigotry or homophobia. In fact, a solid majority of Californians agrees with me (which means they are correct, for a change): There is nothing immoral about same-sex relationships, and there should be no legal stumbling blocks preventing two (or more) adult men or women -- or mixed groups -- from living together and doing whatever they want to do behind closed doors. That is a simple question of individual liberty.
More than half of Californians [54 to 39] said gay relationships [not marriage] were not morally wrong, that they would not degrade heterosexual marriages and that all that mattered was that a relationship be loving and committed, regardless of gender.
Overall, the proportion of Californians who back either gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples has remained fairly constant over the years. But the generational schism is pronounced. Those under 45 were less likely to favor a constitutional amendment than their elders and were more supportive of the court's decision to overturn the state's current ban on gay marriage. They also disagreed more strongly than their elders with the notion that gay relationships threatened traditional marriage.
Oh, yeah, and by the way, they strongly reject the court's decision and resoundingly support the amendment to restrict marriage to the traditional definition. But that's a side issue -- we're talking "generational schism" here!
Interestingly, however, a significantly greater number of registered voters younger than 35 think that same-sex relationships are "morally wrong" than those over 35: 48% of 18-34s think such relationships are "morally wrong," compared to 27% of 35-44s, 37% of 45-64s, and 44% of respondents aged 65+. A greater percentage of young people think gay relationships are "morally wrong" than of senior citizens!
But the fact that a strong majority does not see gay relationships as "morally wrong" does not mean we should change the traditional definition of marriage, upon which our civilization is founded. We have seen what happened in Europe when marriage was steadily eroded as a special institution -- not only in Belgium and the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was allowed (even encouraged), but in other European countries that abandoned religious-based marriage: Marriage itself was devalued, the marriage rate dropped, and more worrisome, so did the fertility rate among native-born Europeans. (See Mark Steyn's book America Alone: the End of the World As We Know It for why a diminishing fertility rate throughout Western Civilization, other than the United States, is a terrible problem.)
For example, in the Netherlands, according to CBS, from 1995 to about 2000, the marriage rate was struggling back from a previous sharp drop. But when the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage began in 2000, culminating with full legalization nationwide in mid-2001, the rising tide of marriage did a U-turn -- and by 2005, it had plummeted to the lowest level since World War II, when couples in war-ravaged Holland postponed marriage "for the duration."
Another CBS table shows that the marriage rate (marriages per 1,000 Netherlanders) had remained fairly steady, averaging 5.5 from 1995 to 2000; but in 2001, it began a precipitous decline down to 4.4 by 2006, a drop of 20%.
During that period, the fertility rate (children born per woman per lifetime) rose significantly, from 1.53 to 1.73, an increase of 13%... but the entirety of that rise was due to presumably Moslem immigrant women born in Morocco and Turkey. The fertility rate among women born in the Netherlands stayed absolutely stagnant at 1.7 from 2000 to 2005 -- well below the bare replacement rate of 2.1.
Obviously, not all of this drop in marriage and fertility rates among cultural Europeans can be attributed to same-sex marriage; the marriage rate also dropped precipitously in France, which did not legalize same-sex marriage.
But all the factors cited for the drop in marriage across Europe --
- Easy, no-fault divorce laws
- Increasing rejection of religious marriage in favor of civil marriage
- Increasing acceptance of shacking up and out-of-wedlock births as normal
- More leftist and socialist governments that are hostile to traditional religion and values
- And a general rejection of religion by the populations in Europe
-- fit very well into the same disastrous social attitude: Europeans have lost their belief that there is anything special about traditional moral values, including traditional marriage. Expanding marriage to include same-sex couples is just one more example of that, albeit an important one.
So far, we have not seen a similar precipitous decline in the marriage rate or the fertility rate in the United States; and if this Times poll is an indicator -- conducted, as it is, in one of the most liberal states in the nation -- we're also not likely to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States anytime soon.
If this trend holds and the amendment passes, as I believe it shall, we will still be back to the same paradigm we have always had: It's never the people but always the "experts" -- especially our robed masters -- who push radical ideas like legalizing same-sex marriage.
When the people actually get to vote, as in California, they invariably reject same-sex marriage and support traditional marriage, even as they accept same-sex unions short of marriage.
But what about Massachusetts, arguably the most liberal state in the Union? If those who favor same-sex marriage truly believed they could ratify their court-imposed regime with a vote of the people, wouldn't they jump at the chance? Yet the opposite has happened: Democrats in Massachusetts have hysterically opposed any actual vote there.
The simplest explanation is the most likely one: I suspect they have their own internal polling, and they already know who would win.
Our previous (recent) posts on this subject have been:
- Californichusetts, originally posted in March but bumped up to May 15th, 2008, after the court announced its decision; this post lays out the many arguments against same-sex marriage and explains why it is so bad and dangerous -- not just for America, but for Western Civilization itself.
- Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus, posted May 21st, 2008; this post attacks the appalling way that same-sex marriage was thrust upon the people of my home state of California, against their democratically expressed will, by a breathtaking act of judicial activism.
- Patterico and Gay Soldiers: Strict vs. Rational - Liberty vs. Privilege, posted May 22nd, 2008; this post argues a different aspect of the debate -- I voice stalwart opposition to laws criminalizing "sodomy," on grounds that they violate basic human liberty, but distinguish between that liberty and support for traditional marriage.
Date ►►► May 22, 2008
Patterico and Gay Soldiers: Strict vs. Rational - Liberty vs. Privilege
Patterico has an interesting post up; I agree with his basic premise -- that pure policy questions should not be decided by the courts but by the democratic branches of government (the legislative and executive branches). But in the course of his otherwise excellent post, he makes, I believe, two fundamental errors: first, mistaking the lucidity of the explanation of a decision for the validity of that decision; and second, applying strict legal reasoning where a broader philosophical reasoning is wanted.
(Some of this is based on suppositions on my part; I'll try to point them out when I notice them.)
Just the FAQs, ma'am
In his post, "Ninth Circuit Issues Deceptively Important Opinion on 'Don't Ask, Don’t Tell'," Patterico slams a panel of three liberal judges on the Ninth Circus for their decision in Margaret Witt, major v. Department of the Air Force, et al -- a case involving the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military. And Patterico also berates the Supreme Court's majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. He argues that the lack of clarity in the latter created a confusing situation in the former: What level of scrutiny anent gays should courts apply to laws and policies?
This a very important question, as Patterico explains:
The reason this is important is because [sic] the level of “scrutiny” almost always determines the outcome. When courts look at governmental action under a “rational basis” type of scrutiny, it means they’re not making the government work hard to justify its actions. Any conceivable “rational basis” for the government’s action will be enough to justify it.
By contrast, when courts apply “strict scrutiny” to governmental action, they’re essentially walking up and holding a magnifying glass to the government’s decisionmaking process. If the court finds any flaw in the government’s reasoning, however slight, it will strike down the governmental policy.
He then goes on to note that the Court, in its landmark ruling Lawrence v. Texas (majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy) -- which found a fundamental liberty for consenting adults to engage in sexual activity, procreative or nonprocreative, in private (including homosexual activity) -- never properly specified what level of scrutiny to apply to laws and regulations that apply to such sex:
Usually, appellate courts simply state the test they are applying, in a clear way, so that lower courts are easily able to apply the test. This is especially true for the Supreme Court, which must provide guidance for all federal courts in the nation.
But when you’re drunk on judicial arrogance, as Justice Kennedy was in the Lawrence v. Texas decision, the virtue of clarity becomes nothing more than an annoying vexation. The need for clear guidance is petulantly waved aside, as the author of the opinion writes in grand prose. His audience is not the lower-court judges who have to implement his pronouncements. Rather, it is fawning journalists at the New York Times and other elite media outlets.
Thus do the courts find themselves in the predicament of trying to figure out what sort of “scrutiny” the Lawrence v. Texas decision was actually applying. Was it “rational basis” scrutiny? “Strict scrutiny?” Or something in between? Justice Kennedy didn’t bother to say, so the courts are on their own.
One court of appeal has directly ruled on the issue: the Eleventh Circuit, which stated that Lawrence applied “rational basis” scrutiny.
Today, the Ninth Circuit disagrees, saying that some form of heightened scrutiny -- essentially a form a “intermediate scrutiny” -- applies to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
The distinction here would be between a Court declaring that the Texas law prohibiting "sodomy" had "no rational basis," thus was unconstitutional; or alternatively, the Court ruling that whether or not there was a rational basis, the liberty being infringed was so fundamental and vital that the state of Texas had to go farther and show that:
- The law served a compelling governmental interest;
- That it was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest;
- And that it was the least restrictive means for achieving that interest.
Patterico may well be correct on the narrow, legal point that Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion did not clearly indicate which scrutiny test should be applied. But... "drunk on judicial arrogance?" I cannot believe this attack only targets Kennedy's ability to write a judicial opinion; that would be a rather colossal case of overkill. I can only suppose that Patterico believes the decision itself, striking down "sodomy" laws across the nation, was an example of "judicial arrogance," what we would ordinarily call judicial activism -- that is, legislating from the bench.
Based admittedly on my supposition, I must conclude that Patterico believes there was no "liberty" at issue in Lawrence, no "fundamental right" to have sex that some would call sodomy, and that it was perfectly constitutional (whether or not a good idea) for states to ban it.
I take the contrary position: I believe Lawrence was correctly decided, no matter how good or bad was Justice Anthony Kennedy's legal argument in the opinion. I believe we do have the fundamental right to engage in nonprocreative sex (the usual definition of "sodomy," encompassing far more than gay sex), and that such privacy is a vital liberty issue.
But I completely agree with Patterico that Lawrence should not force judicial decisions in favor of same-sex marriage or striking down the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military service, thus judicially forcing the military to allow gays to serve openly. The rest of this post explains why, after the "slither on"...
Now, let me not make the same mistake that Patterico ascribes to Justice Kennedy; here is exactly where I stand on the underlying issues:
- I have no argument with Patterico's point that the opinion in Lawrence offered no clarity on which standard of scrutiny to apply; that's a lawyer's question beyond my competence.
- Likewise, Patterico and I agree that "don't ask, don't tell" is a foolish policy. I believe I'm also in agreement with Patterico (reading between the lines) that the military should simply drop its prohibition against homosexuals serving openly in the military, at all levels and in every MOS for which the individual qualifies. I think the current policy, even under "don't ask, don't tell," has created a terrible potential for blackmail, leading to espionage and sabotage.
- Patterico and I definitely disagree on same-sex marriage; I believe allowing it strikes a dangerous and potentially deadly blow to Western civilization for reasons I have enunciated many times (most recently, in the reposted Californichusetts). But we definitely agree that whichever way a state decides, the process of decision should be democratic, not judicial (as I noted in Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus, which evidently none of you liked).
I have no specific evidence where Patterico stands on laws prohibiting "sodomy," but I imagine (based on extrapolation) that he opposes such laws... but that he believes there is nothing unconstitutional about them; rather, I reckon he believes they should be overturned by legislatures or votes of the people.
But while I agree with him on the demerits of anti-"sodomy" laws, I dispute the point that they should be constitutional; I believe Lawrence was correctly decided. I'll get to that in a minute.
Where I take issue with Patterico's post is not precisely on point (4) above, though that is the background; where we really part company is that Patterico's post tacitly assumes that a wretched majority opinion in Lawrence (which I cede for purposes of discussion) disproves the validity of the decision itself: A perfectly good decision can be obscured by an incompetent and self-aggrandizing opinion.
I also take issue with another tacit assumption: That if Lawrence v. Texas requires a standard of "strict scrutiny" anent policies such as "don't ask, don't tell," this will automatically force the policy to be overturned.
The second point is the easiest to show; Patterico notes that the plaintiff in the Ninth Circuit case argued that Lawrence v. Texas protects private sexual activity as a "fundamental right," but that the Ninth rejected this position in favor of one Patterico finds barely less sweeping:
Note that the plaintiffargues that Lawrence effectively . . . establish[ed] a fundamental right to engage in adult consensual sexual acts.
Wow. That argument, if accepted, would grease the ol’ slippery slope up something fierce. To say that any consensual adult sexual act is a “fundamental right” under the Constitution has implications that go waaaaay beyond “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Ninth Circuit doesn’t go that far. Yet. Rather, it takes what sounds like a simple, small step: it decides that the Lawrence court wasn’t applying “rational basis” scrutiny. This is just another step down the slope -- but don’t let its seeming modesty fool you. It’s a big step.
But suppose the court had gone farther and accepted plaintiff's argument. Would that mean that "don't ask, don't tell" would inevitably be struck down?
No, because courts have historically given the military great leeway even with rights everyone agrees are "fundamental"... including the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The service clearly abridges a servicemember's ostensible freedom of speech; and obviously military service does not grant soldiers complete freedom of assembly: They may be disallowed from leaving the base, they can be sent abroad without their consent, and they can be explicitly ordered not to participate in any political rallies. And they can even be prevented from leaving military service so long as they are still needed. And all this is true even in the post-Vietnam, all-volunteer military.
Regarding the strict-scrutiny standard, national security has historically been a textbook example of a "compelling government need." Courts recognize that armies and navies cannot afford their members the same degree of individuality and liberty allowed civilians, even in a free society. I don't think any federal appellate court ever found that the military draft was unconstitutional, for example; and that actually applied to civilians, not soldiers!
If the military lawyers could persuade the courts that there was any basis rationally related to national defense for preventing gays from serving openly in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard, then I believe that would pass the "strict scrutiny" test. Thus for purposes of military service, the standards of "strict scrutiny" and "rational basis" wouldn't even be that far apart; I believe the Court would tend to defer to the military leaders, no matter what lower courts held.
Liberty bonds; tyranny severs
In arguing my point (4) above, I will not try to make a legal argument. (I'm not a lawyer, though I sometimes play "sea lawyer" on the internet.) But I don't believe that only attorneys at law are allowed to opine on matters of liberty, nor that their opinion should trump any non-lawyer's opinion.
As I see it, the basic question decided by the Court in Lawrence v. Texas was this: Can government regulate private sex between consenting adults?
This brings up a related, very touchy subject: Is there a fundamental right to privacy implicit within the Constitution? There certainly is no explicit right to privacy; the case Griswold v. Connecticut -- ostensibly about whether a couple could purchase condoms -- held that there was just such a fundamental right to privacy found within (infamous expression alert!) the "penumbras" of other, explicitly protected rights in the Constitution formed by "emanations" from those explicit rights:
The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.
The language seems pompous, antiquated, and quaint, leading many to conclude it is ridiculous and meaningless. But if you actually trouble to look up the words, you will see that the premise is not only defensible, it's actually quite quotidian.
A "penumbra" is "a surrounding area, a periphery." And an "emanation" is just "something that issues from a source." So all that this much derided and thoughtlessly dismissed sentence means is that cases suggest that explicit rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights have implicit surrounding areas of consitutional protection, formed by the requirements of the explicit rights themselves: Some explicit rights, the Court held, could not be protected without protecting some similar, nearby, or related right that is not explicitly mentioned.
Your penumbra has an emanation...
Taking it out of the sexual realm, let me give you what seems like a good example to me; if a lawyer reading this post believes this to be a bogus illustration, please let me know. The Second Amendment is (I insist) an individual right of every adult in America, with some exceptions (felons, illegal aliens, children, drunkards). Here is what it says exactly, anachronistic punctuation and all:
(The punctuation and spelling were modernized before the Bill of Rights was ratified.)
Note, however, that it doesn't explicitly protect the right of the people to ammunition. The two words are not generally synonymous; there are many references to "arms and ammunition" and suchlike from the 18th century and earlier. So would those of you who reject the very idea of ancillary, implicit rights connected to explicit rights argue that it was perfectly acceptable for the federal government to prohibit the private possession of ammunition?
I doubt it; it's clear that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is meaningless if ammunition can be banned. Protecting the explicit right to keep and bear arms requires protecting the implicit right to keep and load ammunition. The right to ammunition forms part of the "penumbra" surrounding the Second Amendment formed by its "emanation" -- the need for ammunition to make the explicit right to arms meaningful.
Examining the private parts
Here is how the Court in Griswold reasoned its way a "fundamental right to privacy;" there is a good, basic philosophical argument here, regardless of whether it was legally well written:
In NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462 , we protected the "freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations," noting that freedom of association was a peripheral First Amendment right. Disclosure of membership lists of a constitutionally valid association, we held, was invalid "as entailing the likelihood of a substantial restraint upon the exercise by petitioner's members of their right to freedom of association." Ibid. In other words, the First Amendment has a penumbra where privacy is protected from governmental intrusion. In like context, we have protected forms of "association" that are not political in the customary sense but pertain to the social, legal, and economic benefit of the members. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 430 -431. In Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U.S. 232 , we held it not permissible to bar a lawyer from practice, because he had once been a member of the Communist Party. The man's "association with that Party" was not shown to be "anything more than a political faith in a political party" (id., at 244) and was not action of a kind proving bad moral character. Id., at 245-246.
Those cases involved more than the "right of assembly" - a right that extends to all irrespective of their race or ideology. De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353 . The right of "association," like the right of belief (Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 ), is more than the right to attend a meeting; it includes the right to express one's attitudes or philosophies by membership in a group or by affiliation with it or by other lawful means. Association in that context is a form of expression of opinion; and while it is not expressly included in the First Amendment its existence is necessary in making the express guarantees fully meaningful. [381 U.S. 479, 484]
They follow by a list of explicit rights which can only be meaningfully protected by assuming an implicit but nevertheless basic and fundamental right to privacy. You can disagree with the specific examples cited, yet still logically accept the basic premise. I think nearly everybody believes there is a zone of liberty surrounding the individual, inside of which government may not intrude, except under the most extraordinary circumstances:
- How many of you believe that your state or city -- believing that beige is a particularly soothing color -- can constitutionally pass a law requiring the insides of all buildings, whether public, commercial, or residential, be painted the same shade of beige?
- Can government ban red and blue clothing, because the city council or state legislature (or Congress) declares them "gang colors?"
- Can it constitutionally mandate the number of squares of toilet paper individuals must use?
- Can it ban spicy food, even in one's own home, because it might lead to gastric ulcers and cause more health-insurance claims?
- Can it make kissing in public a criminal offense?
Many people do, in fact, believe that all of these are constitutional... nearly all such folk are lawyers. They implicitly accept the premise that any power not expressly forbidden to the Congress or the states is therefore perfectly proper for them to exercise. (A perfect example of being "overlawyered" in one's thinking.)
But fundamental rights long predate the writing of the Constitution; they even predate the existence of lawyers, let alone any specific, lawyer-generated enumeration of such rights. And the rest of us understand that no matter what the Constitution does or does not say, there are certain natural limits to the totalitarian impulses of government at all levels.
We also accept that our understanding of these fundamental rights will change over time: For example, in 1796, there was no national consensus that all human beings had a fundamenal right to liberty; a certain class of human beings, slaves, were denied that right. The right itself may have existed then, but if so, much of the country didn't accept it.
But regardless of what people would have accepted in 1850 or 1900 or even 1950, today in 2008, I assert that the vast majority of the American people accept that individual adults have a fundamental legal right to engage in consensual, non-commercial sex behind closed doors... including sex that will not produce a baby. Even most Americans who believe such non-reproductive sex is morally wrong rarely believe the government has the authority to jug sinners for engaging in it.
That means that the vast majority of Americans believe government has no authority to bar the use of contraceptives, because the decision of how many kids to have is not within the jurisdiction of government; in fact, that's one of China's great crimes against humanity. The right to use or not use contraceptives is part of a larger right of privacy.
Likewise, most Americans now accept that the right to engage in sex that your local city council disapproves of is also falls within the fundamental right to privacy. This includes, via Lawrence v. Texas, the right of homosexuals to engage in what some jurisdictions used to call "sodomy" -- particularly when one points out that "sodomy" can be defined, and has been defined in the past, to include virtually any heterosexual act other than the "missionary position." If the State has the authority to ban "sodomy," then it also has the authority to prohibit "adultery," which means any sex outside marriage... and that, too has frequently been done.
Real Americans do not see their governments as a surrogate parent (or surrogate priest), making every decision for every American; real Americans reject totalitarianism, even majoritarian totalitarianism. We all "draw the line" of individual liberty somewhere; most of us assume that there are zones of liberty not explicitly protected by the Constitution, but in which government should not intrude nonetheless.
Only a wretched handful believe liberty is precisely and exclusively limned by the explicit words of the Constitution, that any power not expressly prohibited is available for government, merely because the Constitution is "silent" on the issue. Philosophically, in our liberty-based culture, all else being equal, uncertainty should be resolved in favor of individual liberty, the states, or the federal Congress -- in that order.
Liberty, security, and sanction
I support the decision of Lawrence v. Texas striking down "sodomy" laws. So why don't I accept that "liberty" should also require same-sex marriage? What is the difference?
The right of privacy primarily protects private acts; but marriage is fundamentally a public act: It used to be called "publishing the banns;" even today, marriages are generally public spectacles where people spend thousands of dollars and invite all their friends, relatives, and distant acquaintances; many times, they even publish a squib in the newspaper.
Marriage is the public, social sanction of a relationship. Since those desiring marriage seek the approval, even applause of society, it makes perfect sense that society (through its democratic institutions) can constitutionally decide what specific types of relationship it's willing to approve. Under that authority, society has by and large decided it will not approve of marriages between three or more people, between adults and those below the age of consent, between people who are too closely related -- or between people of the same gender.
Marriage is certainly not necessary to make meaningful the right of gays to engage in sex with each other, unless one believes that sex, intimacy, and love can only exist inside of marriage. So nothing in Lawrence or Griswold even speaks to same-sex marriage (or polyamorous marriage).
All right... but doesn't a fundamental right to engage in gay sex force the end of "don't ask, don't tell?"
Again, certainly not... no more than a fundamental right to freedom of speech and the right peaceably to assemble force the end of military censorship and discipline. When you join the military, voluntarily or by being drafted, you give up certain rights formerly protected by the Constitution.
That doesn't mean the military must prohibit gays from serving openly, only that it can if the president and/or Congress so desires: National defense trumps individual liberty among military servicemembers, even under a standard of "strict scrutiny."
Finally, I want to caution again that some of the opinions I impute to Patterico are actually suppositions I drew from reading between his lines; and I could be wrong. It has occasionally happened.
But even if I misstook his position on some issue, my arguments still stand as directed against the position itself... which presumably someone holds. It's a big country.
A Modest Campaign Proposal...
...for the man who really is a conservative, after all!
John Hinderaker (I cannot stop thinking of him as "Hindrocket," no matter how the lads try to bury the past) has a wonderful post up at Power Line: Oil Executives Try to Educate Senate Democrats, But Democrats Appear Hopeless. It's an eye-opening primer on the oil biz and the relationship between prices at the pump and the price that American oil companies must pay to buy foreign oil, since congressional Democrats refuse to allow them to drill in the United States. Not only that, but it's even longer than its title!
Here is how John ends his post, quoting from the transcript of the Senate hearing on gasoline prices, to which many top executives of Big Oil were invited -- including John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil:
Later in the hearing, Senator Orrin Hatch walked Hofmeister through the Democrats' latest efforts to block energy independence:
HATCH: I want to get into that. In other words, we're talking about Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. It's fair to say that they're not considered part of America's $22 billion of proven reserves.
HOFMEISTER: Not at all.
HATCH: No, but experts agree that there's between 800 billion to almost 2 trillion barrels of oil that could be recoverable there, and that's good oil, isn't it?
HOFMEISTER: That's correct.
HATCH: It could be recovered at somewhere between $30 and $40 a barrel?
HOFMEISTER: I think those costs are probably a bit dated now, based upon what we've seen in the inflation...
HATCH: Well, somewhere in that area.
HOFMEISTER: I don't know what the exact cost would be, but, you know, if there is more supply, I think inflation in the oil industry would be cracked. And we are facing severe inflation because of the limited amount of supply against the demand.
HATCH: I guess what I'm saying, though, is that if we started to develop the oil shale in those three states we could do it within this framework of over $100 a barrel and make a profit.
HOFMEISTER: I believe we could.
HATCH: And we could help our country alleviate its oil pressures.
HATCH: But they're stopping us from doing that right here, as we sit here. We just had a hearing last week where Democrats had stopped the ability to do that, in at least Colorado.
HOFMEISTER: Well, as I said in my opening statement, I think the public policy constraints on the supply side in this country are a disservice to the American consumer.
The committee's Democrats attempted no response. They know that they are largely responsible for the current high price of gasoline, and they want the price to rise even further. Consequently, they have no intention of permitting the development of domestic oil and gas reserves that would both increase this country's energy independence and give consumers a break from constantly increasing energy costs.
Every once in a while, Congressional hearings turn out to be informative.
Informative and also prescriptive; I think this would be a dandy centerpiece to John McCain's campaign, the core of his energy program: Lower gas prices by letting American oil companies drill for American oil on American soil.
How will the argument go between McCain and Barack Obama? Something about like this:
McC: We should allow American companies to drill in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and start expoilting shale oil in the West.
BHO: But that will produce pollution.
McC: No more than the pollution produced by burning the same quantity of foreign oil.
BHO: But that will increase global warming!
McC: No more than the global warming produced by burning the same quantity of foreign oil; the only difference will be more good, high-paying jobs for more Americans. Does my opponent have something against job creation? Or something against lower gasoline prices, when companies are spending $40-$50 a barrel to develop our own oil, rather than $135 a barrel to buy it from the Saudis, from Iran, and from Venezuela?
BHO: Yes I do -- lower prices mean that Americans will buy more gasoline. And lower gasoline prices mean lower food prices, so we'll buy more food. With lower prices overall, our economy will have a boom... which means we'll use more of the world's resources, which we already hog. After all, we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. [The blue part is an actual Obama quotation.]
McC: My friends, there you see the difference between us. My fellow Republicans and I want to see America thrive and our economy grow, creating more jobs for Americans and more wealth and prosperity for everyone. But my opponent would rather create a "global test" for the American economy to pass, where Europe and Asia dictate how much Americans are allowed to consume.
So you have a stark choice: You can vote for jobs and prosperity -- or you can vote for limits, cutbacks, making do with less, and bowing our heads before the rest of the world, both economically and militarily. When you step into the voting booth, that is what you're really deciding.
If McCain were to pound on this theme from now until November -- let us drill for American oil on American soil -- I believe he would crush Obama like a butterfly against a speeding windshield.
And by the end of campaign season, Democrats would be begging the Market gods for gasoline prices to plummet! That alone would be worth the trip.
Date ►►► May 21, 2008
Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus
I have in my pocket three horrible court decisions: One is a state supreme-court decision from California; another is a decision by a panel of the D.C. Circus Court; and the third is an initial court order followed by further action now pending before U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, based in Oakland, California.
What do these three decisions have in common? Let's get you some particulars...
California Supreme Court to California Voters: Drop Dead
In a previous post here (Californichusetts), we discussed the demerits of the underlying policy of same-sex marriage. Today, we're more concerned with how the court reached its decision -- the process -- and the implications of such a process for the future of democracy.
A liberal on a bulletin-board I frequent chastised me; "a court would never" -- I paraphase him -- "pull a claim of unconstitutionality out of hat!"
Oh yes they did, sez I; this is easily seen by anyone who actually reads California Chief Justice Ronald George's appalling opinion. But it's even more obvious when reading the magnificent and stunning dissent by Justice Marvin Baxter, which begins on page 128 of the pdf linked above. Baxter wrote perhaps the most devastating dissenting opinion since Hugo Black's dissent on Griswold.
In this case, the court admitted that there was no history at all, none whatsoever, of same-sex marriage even being contemplated in the writing of the California constitution. So how on earth could the court be "in accordance with the constitution" when they say -- and this really is their reasoning -- that the fact that the legislature has passed some legislative relief for gays that does not include marriage means the legislature has inadvertently given "exlicit official recognition" (George's words) to the putative right of persons of the same sex to marry?
It's completely loony. From Baxter (pp. 5-7, 132-134 of the pdf -- the italics are Baxter's):
But a bare majority of this court, not satisfied with the pace of democratic change, now abruptly forestalls that process and substitutes, by judicial fiat, its own social policy views for those expressed by the People themselves. Undeterred by the strong weight of state and federal law and authority, the majority invents a new constitutional right, immune from the ordinary process of legislative consideration. The majority finds that our Constitution suddenly demands no less than a permanent redefinition of marriage, regardless of the popular will.
In doing so, the majority holds, in effect, that the Legislature has done indirectly what the Constitution prohibits it from doing directly. Under article II, section 10, subdivision (c), that body cannot unilaterally repeal an initiative statute, such as Family Code section 308.5, unless the initiative measure itself so provides. Section 308.5 contains no such provision. Yet the majority suggests that, by enacting other statutes which do provide substantial rights to gays and lesbians -- including domestic partnership rights which, under section 308.5, the Legislature could not call "marriage" -- the Legislature has given "explicit official recognition" (maj. opn., ante, at pp. 68, 69) to a California right of equal treatment which, because it includes the right to marry, thereby invalidates section 308.5.
I cannot join this exercise in legal jujitsu, by which the Legislature’s own weight is used against it to create a constitutional right from whole cloth, defeat the People’s will, and invalidate a statute otherwise immune from legislative interference. Though the majority insists otherwise, its pronouncement seriously oversteps the judicial power. The majority purports to apply certain fundamental provisions of the state Constitution, but it runs afoul of another just as fundamental -- article III, section 3, the separation of powers clause. This clause declares that "[t]he powers of state government are legislative, executive, and judicial," and that "[p]ersons charged with the exercise of one power may not exercise either of the others" except as the Constitution itself specifically provides.
The rest is equally brutal.
This decision was a pure power-play: Four members of the court wrestled the other three to the ground, declaring a brand, new right to marry a person of the same sex... and at the same time, declared homosexuality to be a "suspect class," like race, requiring "strict scrutiny" to be applied to any law that affects disparately those with different sexual preferences.
Who needs a legislature, an executive, democracy, or the people themselves, when we have black-robed masters who will so kindly tell us what to do?
But worse even than the policy is the usurpation of the will of the people. The people are striking back now: More than 1.2 million Californios signed a petition to place upon the November ballot a state constitutional amendment that has the exact wording of Proposition 22, which passed in 2000 by 61.4% -- and which the court just struck down. The idea is that if the constitution itself is amended to restrict marriage to one man, one woman, then clearly the court cannot continue to find that same-sex marriage is required by the very constitution that forbids it.
But of course, that assumes at least a faint, embryonic heartbeat of judicial dignity and humility in the breasts of the four members of the majority. If the citizen initiative constitutional amendment passes, but the justices in fact defy the will of the people and double down on same-sex marriage... well, we'll have a full-scale revolt in the Golden State, like the one that led to three California Supreme Court justices being recalled by the people (for persistently preventing the death penalty from being executed).
Democracy only works, and only serves to fuse individuals into a society, when voters have reason to believe their votes actually count. That allows us to accept defeat graciously, because we know that if in the future, we managed to get a majority to see it our way, we can reopen the policy in question.
But if the judiciary only supports democracy so long as the judges agree with the vote, then citizens will have no choice but to seize jurisdiction from the courts. And that could signal the beginning of the end of Western Civ. So let us hope the court accepts passage of the amendment with the same grace that those of us who support it would accept the will of the people should it lose.
Pawing the money
The next case takes place across the country, in the District of Columbia; the Treasury Department is in a lather after a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circus ruled today that folding money "discriminates" against the blind.
And why is that? Because blind people cannot see what denomination bill they have in their wallets! AP takes up the trail of tears:
The U.S. acknowledges the current design hinders blind people, but it argues that they have adapted. Some rely on store clerks to help, some use credit cards and others fold certain corners to help distinguish between bills....
The court ruled 2-1 that such adaptations were insufficient under the Rehabilitation Act. The government might as well argue that there's no need to make buildings accessible to wheelchairs because handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask passers-by for help, the court said.
"Even the most searching tactile examination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill. The secretary has identified no reason that requires paper currency to be uniform to the touch," Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote for the majority.
Courts don't decide how to design currency. That's up to the Treasury Department [well... it used to be!], and the ruling forces the department to address what the court called a discriminatory problem.
This is absurd, of course. Recorded phone-help systems at government offices ("Push 1 for English, 2 for Spanish, 64 for Serbo-Croatian...") discriminate against the deaf, because they cannot access that information without "adaptations," like a texting phone. (The recorders of these phone-help trees "might as well argue that there's no need to make buildings accessible to wheelchairs because handicapped people can crawl on all fours or ask passers-by for help.")
Elevator buttons in tall buildings discriminate against the vertically challenged, because they cannot reach the top buttons. Police discriminate against schizophrenics who want to live on the streets, because the cops continually arrest them for sleeping on the sidewalk.
Everybody has some inconvenience in life, and especially so when he has a disability. But failure to create a landscape with no sharp edges -- "Nerfworld," I dubbed it in a story anthologized here -- is not automatically unlawful discrimination.
One blind man makes exactly that point:
Not all blind people agree that U.S. money should be changed. The National Federation of the Blind sided with the government and told the appeals court that no changes were needed.
Charlie Richardson, the legally blind manager of Charlie's Express Stop inside the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., said he doesn't oppose changing the money but disagrees with the ruling.
"To actually be discriminated against is to have something denied to you," Richardson said. "We're not denied the use of money."
But the court did not agree; it has ordered Treasury to redesign all American currency, without regard to what Congress and the President have already decided.
Polar bear on a stick
Finally, recall that a few days ago, some environmental extremists won a court ruling from federal Judge Claudia Wilken, forcing the Department of the Interior to immediately rule whether the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) falls under the Endangered Species Act. As we all expected, this was simply Phase One of a deep plan.
The plaintiffs dropped the other shoe yesterday -- Phase Two of the judicial coup d'état: The enviro-mentally challenged loons have gone back to court to abuse the judicially forced listing of polar bears as "threatened" by "global warming" (which supposedly causes the Arctic ice to melt): They demand a judicial order forcing the Bush administration to implement the Kyoto Protocol, or some similar regulatory regime to combat Anthropogenic Global Climate Change (AGCC) -- a.k.a. Globaloney.
Judge Wilken issued her ruling in spite of (possibly in complete ignorance of) the fact that there is a raging conflagration within the atmospheric sciences community on whether global temperatures are still warming now, whether they will warm in the near future, whether it has anything significantly to do with human activity, and whether we can do anything about it anyway. I doubt she even cared... some scientists said Globaloney would kill the polar bears, and her heart simply bled at the thought.
Thus, she flexed her judicial muscles and forced Interior to dance to her tune. And now the same plaintiffs that she favored once want her to use her robe to force an anti-climate-change policy upon the entire United States, outside the democratic system:
[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne, echoing President Bush, said last week the Endangered Species Act was the wrong tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Kempthorne that he would propose "common sense modifications" to make sure the polar bear listing would not set backdoor climate policy outside the normal system of political accountability.
The conservation groups said Kempthorne acted improperly.
"On the one hand, he's acknowledging that global warming is impacting polar bears," said Melanie Duchin of Greenpeace in Alaska. "On the other hand, he's not willing to do anything about it. We're asking the administration to uphold the spirit and intent of the Endangered Species Act."
Since when was the "spirit and intent" of the ESA to completely bypass Congress and the President to allow judges to enact sweeping changes to our energy, economic, and pollution regulations, all ordered by an unelected person who holds her appointment for life? I reckon I missed that part of the debate over passage of the Endangered Species Act.
In this case, it's clear that the polar bears don't even enter into the affair, except as hairy, white bludgeons by which leftist enviromentalists hope to pound the Bush administration into combating AGCC -- no matter how many scientists doubt the connection between human activity and global warming, and no matter what it does to the economy. They want to bypass not only the democratic process but also the normal scientific vetting process; instead, they would use the courts to render a final verdict on the issue... quickly, before somebody discovers something contrary!
That last line is not a joke; I believe some of the activists are actually aware of the rising chorus of well-credentialed scientific naysayers, and they want to cut them off at the knees. Once the Judiciary has decided, how could mere research undo that judicial decision? The colossal edifice of Globaloney would stand thus in perpetuity, unaffected by the tides and vagaries of honest scientific theory.
The leaden thread
In the brilliant "Rumpole" stories by John Mortimer, British barrister Horace Rumpole often argues in the Old Bailey that British justice hangs by a "golden thread," the principle that the crown must prove a man guilty before he can be punished, that he starts out with the presumption of innocence. But in America's courtrooms today, we have a new principle -- the leaden thread of judicial activism: This is the presumption by an increasing number of judges that, by virtue of the very robes they wear, they know best how to govern society.
In his column yesterday on the same-sex marriage decision by the California Supreme Court, Dennis Prager nailed the "hubris" -- I would say narcissism -- that applies to all the judges discussed above:
Another reason for this decision is arrogance. First, the arrogance of four individuals to impose their understanding of what is right and wrong on the rest of society. And second is the arrogance of the four compassionate ones in assuming that all thinkers, theologians, philosophers, religions and moral systems in history were wrong, while they and their supporters have seen a moral light never seen before. Not a single religion or moral philosophical system -- East or West -- since antiquity ever defined marriage as between members of the same sex.
That is one reason the argument that this decision is the same as courts undoing legal bans on marriages between races is false. No major religion -- not Judaism, not Christianity, not Islam, not Buddhism -- ever banned interracial marriage. Some religions have banned marriages with members of other religions. But since these religions allowed anyone of any race to convert, i.e., become a member of that religion, the race or ethnicity of individuals never mattered with regard to marriage. American bans on interracial marriages were not supported by any major religious or moral system; those bans were immoral aberrations, no matter how many religious individuals may have supported them. Justices who overthrew bans on interracial marriages, therefore, had virtually every moral and religious value system since ancient times on their side. But justices who overthrow the ban on same-sex marriage have nothing other their hubris and their notions of compassion on their side.
These undemocratic judges ride high above the fray on great, white stallions, passing lordly judgment -- immune from being gainsayed, corrected, or even criticized:
- Four (out of seven) justices on the California Supreme Court know better than the legislature, the governor, even the people themselves; they know better than thousands of years of religious and philsophical systems how to organize society. And by golly, these Anointed -- with their Vision of the perfectability of society -- will fix all our problems for us.
- The D.C. Circus (well, two out of a three-judge panel of the appellate court) feel great compassion for the blind -- itself a noble emotion; so to assuage their feelings of pity and sympathy (and perhaps guilt at being sighted), they order the Treasury Department to implement the judges' own personal solution to the problem they themselves defined. (The decisions of the democratic branches of government which normally have jurisdiction over printing and engraving are irrelevant; those folks just don't share the Vision.)
- And lone Judge Wilken -- I know you're shocked to discover that she is a Clinton appointee, confirmed by the Democratic Senate of 1993 -- decides all by herself that polar bears must be designated as "threatened" (the plaintiffs now demand that be changed to "endangered," the stronger classification)... and she will decide, again all by herself, whether that means we must implement a drastic curtailing of energy usage, costing us hundreds of billions of dollars every year (irrelevant as an issue in the case) and damaging our ability to generate energy for generations to come (equally irrelevant... the poor, suffering polar bears!), all to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that may or may not have anything to do with Arctic sea ice that may or may not be melting in temperatures that may or may not still be rising.
Three cases; three separate jurisdictions; one leaden thread: "benevolent" judicial tyranny... for our own good. And one presidential candidate who promises to appoint that exact kind of judge, and only that kind, in every federal judicial opening he is allowed to fill. Judges who will rule for life, with no realistic way to get them out of office, no matter how egregiously they rule. (Thelton Henderson was never impeached, despite his ghastly ruling that refusing to discriminate on the basis of race constitutes discrimination on the basis of race.)
All right, conservatives... still think there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between John McCain and Barack H. Obama?
It's well at this point to recall Auric Goldfinger's great rule of threes; it was only alluded to in the Ian Fleming "James Bond" novel Goldfinger, I believe, but stated explicitly in the movie: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action."
Just so long as we all know what's going on here.
Date ►►► May 19, 2008
It's Not the Crime, It's the Cover Up: NYT Still Shielding Obama On "No Preconditions"
Today, even AP admits that Barack Obama did indeed say that he would hold summit meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Venezuelan President Oogo Chavez, and North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il "without precondition"... the very policy that prompts many in the GOP (including Big Lizards!) to dub Obama an "appeaser."
(Actually, Obama is even more feckless than Neville Chamberlain: Great Britain had no military to speak of in 1938; they used the eleven months between the dissection of Czechoslovakia -- "peace for our time" -- and Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in a massive mobilization and buildup for a long war. Obama has no such easy excuse.)
Yet amazingly, the New York Times continues to run interference. Even today, they still pretend that what's at issue is meeting with our enemies at all, rather than meeting with them at a presidential level without any prior agreement to moderate their behavior.
Here is the Times blog the Caucus on the dustup today between John McCain and Barack Obama:
Mr. McCain, who was in Mr. Obama’s hometown to address the National Restaurant Association, diverged from prepared remarks on economic issues to get in his jab at Mr. Obama.
Believing keeping the focus on national security is advantageous to Mr. McCain, his campaign has been continuing to try to make hay over Mr. Obama’s stated willingness to sit down with the leaders of rogue nations.
The Caucus follows this bare-faced mischaracterization of the nature of the dispute with a spirited defense of Obama, just in case any readers were still confused which side was "right":
Arguing for engagement with the country’s foes, Mr. Obama said in a speech on Sunday that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”
“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying we’re going to wipe you off the planet.”
He went on to argue that Iran spends “one-one hundredth of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn’t stand a chance. And we should use that position of strength that we have to be bold enough to go ahead and listen.”
To which, according to the Caucus, John McCain had no answer and was reduced to impotent harumphing...
Mr. McCain seized upon those comments today, his voice stern and dripping with contempt: “Obviously, Iran isn’t a superpower and doesn’t possess the military power the Soviet Union had. But that does not mean that the threat posed by Iran is insignificant.”
How weak! How embarassing! Things certainly look bleak for McCain's chances, when even a wimp like Obama can spank McCain like a stripper at a stockholder's meeting.
By the way, just to correct the record: Reagan certainly did not, as Obama claimed, talk to Gorbachev when the Soviet Union was saying "we’re going to wipe you off the planet." It was Nikita Kruschev who said "we will bury you" in 1956, three decades before Reagan's summit. The whole point of that meeting was that General Secretary Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev had already drastically reformed the Soviet Union -- remember perestroika and glasnost? -- long before Reagan agreed to that summit.
This summit represents the polar opposite of what Obama actually proposed, and which the Times continues to work overtime to suppress: You won't read a word about Obama's promise to hold summits "without precondition" in this article... nothing.
By contrast, here is AP's version of that same exchange:
Republican John McCain accused Democrat Barack Obama of inexperience and reckless judgment for saying Iran does not pose the same serious threat to the United States as the Soviet Union did in its day. McCain made the attack Monday in Chicago, Obama's home turf.
"Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama's inexperience and reckless judgment. These are very serious deficiencies for an American president to possess," McCain said in an appearance at the restaurant industry's annual meeting....
McCain listed the dangers he sees from Iran: It provides deadly explosive devices used to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, sponsors terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and is committed to the destruction of Israel.
"The threat the government of Iran poses is anything but tiny," McCain said.
AP goes on to characterize -- correctly, we note -- the nature of the dispute:
At the heart of the dispute between the candidates is Obama's assertion that, as president, he would meet with leaders of these rogue countries without preconditions. Obama insists that direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.
McCain strongly disagrees with Obama's position; he argues such a meeting would lend international prestige to U.S. foes.
"A summit meeting with the president of the United States, which is what Senator Obama is proposing, is the most prestigious card we have to play in international diplomacy," McCain said.
"An unconditional summit meeting with the next American president would confer both international legitimacy on the Iranian president and could strengthen him domestically, when he is very unpopular among the Iranian people," McCain said.
As to Obama's assertion (as paraphrased by AP) that "direct engagement with the Soviets helped prevent nuclear war and, over time, helped to bring down the Berlin Wall," I refer you to our earlier post, Appease Porridge Hot, Appease Porridge Cold: There's engagement (Kennedy style), and then there's engagement (Reagan style).
Back to the Times. The Caucus takes no judicial note of the about-face Obama took after McCain called him out. Responding to McCain, Obama today denied he had said Iran posed no threat to us:
Speaking during a town hall meeting in Billings, Mont., Senator Obama fired back at Senator McCain. “Let me be absolutely clear: Iran is a grave threat.” But the Soviet Union posed a bigger threat, he said.
A grave threat? "Grave," in the sense used here, means "fraught with danger or harm," "portending future disaster," "involving or resulting in serious consequences : likely to produce real harm or damage," "very serious : dangerous to life." But here is what Obama said over the weekend, while he was still trying to defend his promise to meet "without precondition" with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and North Korea by pretending that was a commonplace diplomatic act in which U.S. presidents always engage:
“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding, “I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us."
He didn't say "they don't pose as serious a threat," he said "they don't pose a serious threat." But maybe he just misspoke. He's a Democrat; he has a license to flub. But what about the overarching point?
Suppose Iran completes development of its nuclear warhead. Then suppose it passes a couple of nukes to Hamas, which passes one to al-Qaeda, which smuggles it into a busy American port and detonates it. (Hamas uses its other nuke on Tel Aviv.)
Wouldn't that be far "graver" than anything the Soviet Union actually did to us? Remember, in one sense, the threat from the Soviets was weaker: Unlike Islamist "martyrs," the Soviet Union wanted to live. We deterred them by threatening nuclear retaliation... a strategy we called "mutually assured destruction," or MAD.
Iran could make retaliation unlikely by putting several cutouts between itself and the nuclear bomb; and al-Qaeda or other apocalyptic, human-sacrificing death cults cannot be deterred by threats of retaliation, because they long to die in the blast anyway, believing that's an express ticket to paradise and the 72 virgins and 72 wives (or perhaps chilled raisins instead).
But evidently, none of this has occurred to the first-term senator from Chicago. He cannot conceive any way in which Iran could pose a serious threat to the United States. Except that he simultaneously believes that it constitutes a "grave threat!"
And the Times doesn't notice any contradiction. This raises an interesting thought... Given the New York Times' inability to stay afloat financially, and given their clear ideological leanings -- maybe it would make more sense for them simply to disband the company and reorganize themselves as the Democratic Party of the Times Square District.
I think they would be a lot more financially secure with a piece of Barack Obama's fundraising action than they are now trying to peddle their "newspapers."
Date ►►► May 17, 2008
Boycott Michael Reagan
He is a fool -- a compete and utter asshat. This gibbering baboon, in a fit of pique, is now taking to the airwaves to urge his hundreds of thousands of listeners not to vote for the California Marriage Protection Act on the November ballot. Instead, he urges all conservatives to sit home in a snit, letting the entire election be decided by Democrats... because then they'll see the error of their ways and convert.
What the hell am I talking about? Well, let me give you his own words from his own website:
Talk Radio Host and Conservative Strategist Michael E. Reagan announced today that he will not vote for any ballot measures in the State of California in the 2008 November, election and he urges others to follow suit. During a press availability today at his office, Michael stated, "I am taking my ballot and mailing it directly to the Supreme Court of California at 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102-4797 to allow the judges to decide for us. Mr. Reagan continued, "We have seen this time and time again, Democracy usurped, the voters wishes do not matter, whether its Proposition 187 or the Gay Marriage Ban, its no longer We the People, it is now, They the Judges who make the decisions in the golden state. As the son of a former Governor of this state and United States President, I am disgusted."
Great. Perfect. He's disgusted -- so we have to live with same-sex marriage imposed on us by judicial fiat. By refusing to vote for the state constitutional amendment that would overturn the ruling by the judicial activists on the Supreme Court of the State of California -- and urging all his listeners to refuse to vote -- Michael R. allows the Democrats to make utter fools of all of us. (I guess "won't get fooled again" is not high on Michael Reagan's list of mottos.)
By folding his arms and squatting on the floor, sullenly refusing to vote, he gives the liberal Democrats their fondest desire anent marriage... its destruction as a special institution. Hands it to them giftwrapped. That will teach them a lesson!
We have a chance here, a real chance, to write traditional marriage into the constitution, where it would take another referendum of the people to enact same-sex marriage; not only the legislature but also the state courts would be powerless to impose it on us.
Except... we have this pea-brained radio talk-show host so sunk in despair and simple cowardice that he gives up and goes home after a single judicial setback -- and urges his loyal listeners to do the same.
Ronald Reagan was never like this; he was a fighter. Had President Reagan been as infantile as his son, the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact would still hold sway over hundreds of millions of people across East Europe. Thank God Reagan did not slink away to sulk; and thank God he is not alive today to see his son running from a fight because he took a single punch... Ronald Reagan would be ashamed of Michael.
If our troops were more like Michael, Iraq would be more like Iran. Or Sudan. Or Rwanda.
If Ward Connerly were more like Michael, California would still have institutionalized racial discrimination. Maybe Michael has forgotten that proposition 209 was also nullified by a left-liberal federal judge (Thelton Henderson) -- but Connerly was stubborn (where Michael Reagan is faint-hearted), and he fought and fought and fought... and the 9th Circus overturned Judge Henderson's ruling, restoring the ban on affirmative action that voters here had passed in 1996.
I have my own boycott in mind: I want all those listeners to the Michael Reagan show who do not consider themselves cowards to tune out, turn off, and drop out of the pity party:
- If you're a fighter, not a loser...
- If you react to adversity by digging in your heels, not dropping to your knees...
- If you think conservatives, traditionalists, and anti-liberals have a duty to fight against creeping socialism, rather than disengage in a funk and surrender by proxy...
- If you think traditional marriage is worth rescuing, not abandoning...
- If you don't think that giving liberals everything they want will make them come to their senses out of a sense of guilt, but will instead excite and encourage them to overreach further than ever before...
Then please join me in a boycott of Michael Reagan, until he comes to his senses -- and stops doing the Democratic legislature's dirty work for them. Until he wakes up, throws off his narcissistic sulk, and finds a spine:
Step one is to appeal this decision -- for which there is no valid basis in the state constitution -- to the U.S. Supreme Court; step two is to pass the damned California Marriage Protection Act constitutional amendment this November 8th; and step three is to emulate Ward Connerly (not Michael "I'll never vote again" Reagan) and defend the CMPA from the inevitable court attacks that will follow its passage.
Democrats, liberals, socialists, and other liberal fascists are relentless and energized in their schemes to overthrow more than two centuries of Americanism. If we are not equally relentless and even more enegized, the Left will win.
Without massive action by the Right, Barbara Boxer and Barbra Streisand will win; Squeaker of the Assembly Karen Bass and Squeaker Emeritus Fabian Núñez will win, as will State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero and President pro Tem Don Perata; Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Jerry Brown, Pete Stark, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, and Dianne Feinstein will all win; the rest of us will lose. And all this, to a large extent, will be because of petulant crybabies like Michael "I'm too sensitive to fight" Reagan.
Boycott Michael Reagan until one of two things happens: Either the worm turns and begins using his show to urge people to vote for the CMPA, as he should have been doing all along... or until he changes his last name, so as to bring no further disrepute onto the memory of our greatest -- and most determined and courageous -- president since Abraham Lincoln.
Date ►►► May 16, 2008
Democrat Limbo - How Low Can They Go?
An amazing accusation has just been flung at John McCain by a completely "disinterested" party: James Rubin, President Clinton's State Department spokesman. Rubin accuses McCain of "hypocrisy" for attacking Barack Obama on his willingness to meet with rogue leaders and America's enemies throughout the world. While it seems a simple smear job -- easily debunked, as we do in this piece -- it's also a window into the utter inability of Democrats, not Republicans, to parse nuance, to understand why talking is sometimes good -- and sometimes a horrible blunder.
And as always, a primer into how deeply the elite media is in bed with Obama. "Slither on" for the whole sordid tale...
Let's open with Rubin's smear. In his op-ed in the Washington Post, he writes:
McCain, meanwhile, is guilty of hypocrisy. I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and believe that she was right to say, about McCain's statement on Hamas, "I don't think that anybody should take that seriously." Unfortunately, the Republicans know that some people will. That's why they say such things.
But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program.
Rubin then gives a single pair of question and answer; I am always suspicious when a person is accused of some terrible sin -- and the only evidence offered is such a small snippet that we cannot possibly know what, exactly, the target meant.
So I hunted a bit and managed to find a brief video clip from Sky News which shows part of the piece where Rubin interviews McCain. I use Rubin's own transcript, which seemed accurate -- as far as it went (except for one mistranscribed word, in blue font):
Rubin: Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?
McCain: They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so... but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, then they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.
The continuation bet...
Based upon this single Q&A of ambiguous meaning, Rubin builds an imposing edifice of sweeping conclusion:
For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that's a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today.
Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.
Rubin plays to the crowd...
Notice the sly way that Rubin seeks to play into what he perceives as McCain's greatest weakness -- the supposed squishiness of conservative support for the "maverick" nominee:
- Rubin compares McCain to "Europeans in Davos, Switzerland;"
- He calls McCain "newly conservative," as if he had switched his positions in order to fool the Republican electorate (Rubin names no issue on which McCain has become "newly" conservative);
- He says that McCain in 2006 "was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States;" in fact, McCain says no such thing in this exchange... he says that because Hamas was elected, "sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another." With the modifier "one way or another," how could anybody dispute this statement?
- Finally, Rubin says that it was McCain who "inject[ed] Hamas into the American election;" actually, it was Hamas itself, by endorsing Barack H. Obama... and domestically, it was Obama's former advisor Robert Malley, who got the boot from the Obama campaign a week ago today, after he disclosed that he had actually been negotiating with Hamas. (So much for Team Obama's revulsion at the very thought of meeting with terrorists!)
Before truth can lace up its boots...
The Associated Press has already run with the Rubin smear, others are sure to follow. Naturally, AP simply accepts the accusation as proven beyond all reasonable doubt -- in spite of the fact that even the snippet Rubin himself offers (his only evidence) falls short.
In fact, there is much better evidence that Rubin's claim is groundless and fraudulent; but it requires more work to ferret out than big-budget elite-media reporters can afford to give it. Thus, you must turn to a more determined source, one with the tenacity to dig deeper than the lazy reprinting of other people's stories that is the specialty of the mainstream media: You're left to the tender mercies of Big Lizards instead.
It turns out that the clip on Sky News doesn't end where James Rubin -- the interviewer -- chooses to stop transcribing. Behold, there is a second Q&A that Mr. Rubin asks McCain, but which he chose not to highlight... and you'll see why directly.
Before we look at it, however, let's turn to the question of what, exactly, John McCain accused Barack Obama of doing. (This seems jumpy, but we're going somewhere... trust the lizard.)
The Democrats -- both the main party wing and the media auxiliaries (the Fleet Street Irregulars) -- persistently misstate why McCain and other Republicans have chastised Obama. They repeatedly claim (as does Obama himself) that Obama is attacked for wanting to talk at all to leaders of rogue nations, as in the AP story linked above:
On Thursday, McCain suggested that Obama was naive and inexperienced for expressing a willingness to meet with rogue leaders like Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In another AP story, Obama repeats that mischaracterization of his blunder:
Meeting with reporters, Obama argued that tough-minded diplomacy and engagement with rivals is a bipartisan foreign policy that dates to former Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan.
"That has been the history of U.S. diplomacy until very recently," said Obama, who said he was comfortable engaging McCain in a foreign policy debate. "I find it puzzling that we view this as in any way controversial. This whole notion of not talking to people, it didn't hold in the '60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met with Kruschev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."
He also noted that former President Nixon opened talks with China, "with the knowledge that Mao had exterminated millions of people." He said he was confident making the case that McCain's policy is flawed.
Don't know much about history...
Even this short response from Obama reveals the shallowness of his understanding of history -- and his inability to parse simple English statements. First of all, Obama is right; "Mao had exterminated millions of people." We agree.
But those exterminations occurred from 1949 to 1953; Mao's subsequent idiotic agriculture policies caused tens of millions to starve to death from 1959 to 1962.
Nixon met with Mao in 1972 -- a decade after the famine, and nearly twenty years after the exterminations ended. In the interim, China had changed dramatically. It was still totalitarian and Communist, but it had certainly stopped murdering millions of people a year, as it did at the beginning of the Communist era. It was only murdering a handful... which, believe me, is great progress where Communist dictatorships are concerned. (They're even better now, though they took a Great Leap Backward with their brutal suppression of dissent and protest in Tibet as the Beijing Olympics approached.)
Perhaps more to the point, Nixon did not meet with Mao "without precondition," as Obama would meet with the presidents of Iran, Syria, and Venezuela and the Dear Leader of the DPRK; President Nixon himself met Mao only after many months of secret discussions between National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and his Chinese counterpart, including a visit by Kissinger to China in 1971. During those earlier discussions, China agreed to several preconditions of any future agreement or diplomatic recognition, including the following:
- They agreed not to launch a military invasion of Taiwan;
- They agreed that they would be satisfied with a statement that both Taiwanese and mainland Chinese agreed that there was only one China, and that Taiwan was part of it -- without demanding that Taiwan agree that the government of this "one China" would be the Communist government of Red China.
These were both very significant: Until the Kissinger visits, China insisted that Taiwan was a renegade province of the People's Republic of China. After meeting with Hammerin' Hank, the Red Chinese agreed to disagree about the final status of Taiwan.
Thus, far from being an example of the kind of meeting Obama wants to hold, Nixon in China demonstrates the polar opposite approach: A long, slow, careful buildup of diplomacy and negotiation, culminating with -- not starting from -- a mano-a-mano summit.
That long, long river in Africa...
This short history lesson illuminates the actual accusation against Obama: naïveté and fecklessness. It's not that he would meet with leaders of rogue states (Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela); there are certainly situations where that would be useful. It's that he would do so without any preconditions -- without a preliminary agreement on what the final agreement would and would not contain. Such open-ended summit meetings serve only two purposes:
- They legitimize the leaders of nations that support terrorism against the United States and our allies;
- And they offer the great temptation for the American president, desperate for a deal, any deal, to agree to unconscionable terms that empower our enemies and enervate our allies and our own forces, civilian and military.
Today, Obama himself and through his spokespeople, denies that he ever said he would meet with such despots "without precondition." Here is Susan Rice, Obama's foreign policy advisor and an official spokeswoman for the campaign, in full denial mode:
Susan E. Rice, a former State Department and National Security Council official who is a foreign policy adviser to the Democratic candidate, said that “for political purposes, Senator Obama’s opponents on the right have distorted and reframed” his views. Mr. McCain and his surrogates have repeatedly stated that Mr. Obama would be willing to meet “unconditionally” with Mr. Ahmadinejad. But Dr. Rice said that this was not the case for Iran or any other so-called “rogue” state. Mr. Obama believes “that engagement at the presidential level, at the appropriate time and with the appropriate preparation, can be used to leverage the change we need,” Dr. Rice said. “But nobody said he would initiate contacts at the presidential level; that requires due preparation and advance work.”
The house of cards...
Yet here is what the man himself said, during the fourth Democratic debate on July 23rd, 2007, in response to a question about meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar Assad, Kim Jong-Il, or Oogo Chavez without any preconditions:
COOPER: Let’s go to another YouTube video.
QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.
In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?
COOPER: I should also point out that Stephen [the question submitter] is in the crowd tonight.
OBAMA: I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.
Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We’ve been talking about Iraq -- one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.
They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.
Translation: Obama plans to have a summit with Ahmadinejad "without precondition," during which he will tell the Iranian president that we're going to pull out... and invite Iran to step in and "carry some weight" in Iraq. This is precisely why such ad-hoc summit meetings without our enemies are so pernicious... Obama is just looking for a chance to hand Iraq over to Iran for safekeeping.
If you're still skeptical, here is the YouTube of Stephen's question and Obama's answer:
Like a web, the pieces start to fall in to place...
First of all, even the New York Times, in the story linked above, added a correction contradicting Dr. Susan Rice and admitting that Obama said exactly what McCain accused him of saying, just as the transcript above shows.
And second, if you further in the transcript of the debate, both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are asked the same question, and both insist that such meetings must be preceded by much groundwork and preconditions describing the scope of any future final agreement. Obama listens to both his main Democratic rivals... yet he never says a word; he never says, "Oh, yes, I meant with preconditions and groundwork," or anything similar. He simply stands on his original answer of "I would."
It's a head-cutting competition, and Obama clearly is contrasting his own reckless boldness with the almost conservative sobriety of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
Thus we draw the following conclusions:
- McCain's charge against Obama is not simply that he would meet with tyrants, despots, and Hezbollah's grandboss, but that Obama himself said -- unlike either Clinton or Edwards -- he would hold such meetings without any preconditions whatsoever;
- Obama did indeed say that; both the NYT transcript of the debate and a YouTube clip from it clearly prove McCain's charge was true and accurate;
- Nevertheless, Obama now denies ever having said such a thing, though even the Times must admit Obama is lying;
- Worse, he and many other Democrats now pretend that McCain attacked Obama merely for saying he would meet with rogue leaders... as if the Obama version of a summit were no different than those held by Nixon with Mao or Reagan with Gorbachev.
Obama claims the mantle of "statesman" by impulsiveness and shooting from the lip.
The bluff rebuffed...
And now, at long last, we can return to Clintonista-turned-Obamaniac James Rubin's smear of John McCain. When we last left him, Rubin had called McCain a hypocrite based upon the former's interview of the latter for Britain's Sky News:
The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.
As I said, however, the Sky News clip linked above runs on past the single pair of question and answer Rubin quoted; it also includes the next question Rubin asked of McCain, a Q&A Rubin himself seems curiously anxious to forget. This is my own transcript; I haven't seen this anywhere else; I'll give you the original Q&A first, followed by the second:
Rubin: Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?
McCain: They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that.
Rubin: So should we, the United States, be dealing with that new reality through normal diplomatic contacts to get the job done for the United States?
McCain: I think the United States should take a step back, see what they do when they form their government, see what their policies are, and see the ways that we can engage with them. And if there aren't any, there may be a hiatus. But I think part of the relationship is going to be dictated by the way Hamas acts, not by how the United States acts.
In other words, John McCain most certainly was not "ready to do business with a Hamas-led government;" far from it: McCain said we'll have to "deal with them, one way or another"... and then he went on to explain, face to face with Rubin, that how we deal with Hamas will depend entirely upon what course Hamas pursues. He says nothing about any meetings, with President McCain or any member of his administration. And he says nothing at all about meeting "without precondition."
Like a puzzle, the fine strands come together at the center...
So we can add to our conclusions above:
- James Rubin has completely fabricated the entire "hypocrisy" charge against McCain.
It is the lie direct: And I think Rubin knows it, because he says, "Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama." That's a dead giveaway that this is not merely "political amnesia" on Rubin's part... it is a brazen falsehood.
I think the thought never occurred to Mr. Rubin that Sky News would so inconveniently make available a clip, not only of the one question Rubin wanted to highlight, but also the next question he asked -- which shows conclusively that McCain did not mean what Rubin slyly tried to make it seem he meant.
Just as Seymour Hersh was caught with his pants on fire when the Taguba Report about Abu Ghraib was released, Rubin has now been caught with smoking trousers with the release by Sky News of the clip we linked above.
And the fact that all this is already in the elite-media record -- and in fact, the New York Times already included a correction in its own article that Obama did indeed say just what McCain chastised him for saying -- leads to the final conclusion:
- The Democrats -- elected and media -- know full well that their attacks on McCain are scurrilous lies... yet they make them anyway, hoping they will not be exposed before the November elections.
They are slanderers, false witnesses, and traducers of better men -- McCain, David Petraeus, Mitt Romney, and yes, George W. Bush -- than any screamer of the Left can ever hope to be. (If indeed they hope to be anything other than what they already are.)
I suspect most readers of this blog already knew that; but there are still people in this country for whom hard evidence still counts for something. Chalk it up to tarring and feathering the dead horse.
'Tis better to keep silent and be thought a fool...
I have one final cautionary parable...
One example that Barack Obama cited for how productive and important are such ad-hoc meetings between the President of the United States and our enemies' leaders -- the one he seemed most proud of -- was the June 1961 meeting in Vienna between President John F. Kennedy and General-Secretary Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union; from the first AP story linked above:
Meeting with reporters, Obama argued that tough-minded diplomacy and engagement with rivals is a bipartisan foreign policy that dates to former Presidents Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan.
"That has been the history of U.S. diplomacy until very recently," said Obama, who said he was comfortable engaging McCain in a foreign policy debate. "I find it puzzling that we view this as in any way controversial. This whole notion of not talking to people, it didn't hold in the '60s, it didn't hold in the '70s ... When Kennedy met with Kruschev, we were on the brink of nuclear war."
Like the proposed Obama summits, this meeting was held without preconditions or much legwork on the part of the Kennedy administration.
Many historians now consider that Vienna summit to have been a disaster for the United States. Kennedy was unprepared for the bombastic and overbearing Khrushchev, who had already been in power for eight years (JFK had been president for only five months). It now appears that it was Kennedy's weakness and unpreparedness that gave Khrushchev the impression that he could put nuclear missiles into Cuba with impugnity:
One key that did not come loose without a struggle, however, was the translator's notes from the 1961 Kennedy-Khrushchev summit meeting in Vienna.
Mr. Beschloss made five requests for the notes, from mid-1986 until they were released in September of last year. What did they add?
"There was nothing earth-shattering," he said, but the "virtually a word for word" account of two days of talks gave a feel for the meeting, and in particular a sense that "Kennedy's Cuba language was vague enough to have contributed" to Mr. Khrushchev's belief that he could get away with putting missiles on the island.
As Hugh Hewitt noted on his show today, contrary to Obama's misinformed claim, we were not "on the brink of nuclear war" with the Soviets in June 1961; but we certainly were after that disastrous conference, which likely precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
And that, evidently, is the template which Obama looks to for his own diplomatic adventures, should he become president (heaven forbid).
Conservatives, our country simply cannot afford to have this man as president. You have to come home to the GOP, even if John McCain is not your choice for nominee. You cannot sit back and allow a man like Barack Hussein Obama to become president by default: The stakes are too high.
Date ►►► May 15, 2008
Appease Porridge Hot, Appease Porridge Cold
In a brilliant speech before the Knesset today, President George W. Bush said the following (you can read the complete speech by clicking the Slither On):
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
Almost immediately, Barack Obama reacted with volcanic fury, leaping to the conclusion that the warning against "appeasement" was aimed squarely at him:
By tradition, partisan politics comes to a halt when a U.S. president is on foreign soil, and Bush's remarks led Obama to quickly cry foul. The first-term Illinois senator responded to the comments as if they were criticism of his position that as president he would be willing to personally meet with Iran's leaders and those of other regimes the United States has deemed rogue.
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said in a statement his aides distributed. "George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel." [Actually, if they help keep Obama out of the Oval Office, then I think they do a tremendous lot to secure the American people and our stalwart ally Israel!]
Let's ponder that exchange for a moment. I see three fascinating dynamics at play in the fields of the Obamessiah...
Dynamic 1: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth"
Bush attacked appeasement -- and Obama instantly recognized himself, reacting angrily and defensively. So even Obama realizes that his proposed unconditional dialoging with Mahmoud, Jong-Il, Raul, and Oogo skirts perilously close to appeasement.
But since Obama sees America -- not Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Venezuela -- as the cause of all the world's ills, he truculently believes that it's up to us to "make amends." We must meet with those we have "wronged" by our "cowboy diplomacy" all these years -- which wrongs created a patriotic backlash that takes the form of groups we falsely label as "terrorists" (that would be Hamas, Hezbollah, even al-Qaeda). We must meet with our victims and humble ourselves before them; then they will forgive us and stop all the attacks against us... which were all based on a GOP-inspired misunderstanding anyway.
(Obama likely learned this attitude from two decades of listening to Jeremiah Wright's sermons.)
But he knows he can never say such a thing out loud: He would never be elected. In his own mind, he probably imagines this is because Americans are afraid the face the truth; but for whatever reason, this attitude is a secret he's trying desperately to hide.
Thus Obama's guilty start when he hears that very thing trip from the not so agile lips of George W. Bush. Since it's so overwhelmingly obvious to Barack Obama that Bush meant to single him out, he probably didn't even notice that his name never came up.
Dynamic 2: "If you know who I mean -- and I think you do!"
But in reality, I think it is patently obvious that Bush had Obama directly in mind... and that he knew everyone in the country (and especially Obama himself) would "get it." The presidential spokeschick had a quip all ready to run once Obama plunged into the trap as everyone in the Bush (and McCain) teams expected:
In turn, White House press secretary Dana Perino denied that the Knesset remark was aimed at Obama. In fact, the language is fairly typical for Bush speeches, and Gordon Johndroe, a national security spokesman for the president, said Bush was referring to "a wide range of people who have talked to or suggested we talk to Hamas, Hezbollah or their state sponsors" over a long period of time.
One such person most recently was former President Carter, who held talks with Hamas leaders, leading to criticism from Bush officials as well as Obama and McCain.
Even as the White House said Bush meant no dig at the Democrat, Perino couldn't resist the opportunity to get in a small one.
"I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case," she said.
"Um... thank you, Ma'am. May I have my eggs back again now?"
Barack Obama looks a fool, not only for instantly leaping to the conclusion that "appeaser" must mean himself -- but then for being so outraged and offended, getting all het up, when in fact nobody even mentioned him. It makes him seem not only guilty but narcissistic.
This was a sly and very effective nudge-nudge wink-wink attack on the New Kid by the president.
Dynamic 3: The "left-handed monkey wrench"
And boy, did it work like a charm!
There is a tradition in many fields that when the New Kid first shows up to work, he is given a number of bootless errands and impossible tasks to perform, things that a more experienced worker would instantly recognize as senseless; the stereotypical version is sending the new hire on the assembly line in search of a "left-handed monkey wrench."
The trick is based upon ignorance and inexperience... and that is just what Barack Obama evinced in this humiliating exchange.
Any experienced politician would immediately recognize the offer of Fool's Mate -- and would decline. Consider this response, had the theoretical target been, say, Bill Clinton...
George W. Bush: "We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
(Bill waits for a question at his current campaign stop)
Reporter: "Mr. President, what do you think of the line about appeasers in the speech by that fascist guy illegally occupying Al Gore's and John Kerry's White House?"
Bill Clinton: "Well, heck, I listened to that speech -- and I couldn't agree more. The president was sure right about that: We can never 'negotiate with the terrorists and radicals,' and I'm glad he understands that. I just wish he would understand that there are some people, heads of state, that you just gotta talk to. I mean, heck, when I was president, I always --" [We skip forty minutes of self praise.]
See, the trick only works if the target publicly recognizes himself as the butt of the speech. If instead he pretends not to notice, then what is the president going to do? He can't out and out say, "and I mean you, Bubba!" because then the target could rightly be outraged.
But Obama was such a green hayseed that he ran pell mell right into the bear trap, flapping his arms and caterwauling like to wake the dead; nobody in America could fail to notice when his leg was grabbed by the steel jaws.
Once the voters notice, they will laugh, because he just made himself look like such a buffoon.
"You can't make a silk purse out of a pig's breakfast"
But when they finish laughing, many undecided Americans will stop to ponder a couple of points:
- The connection between Barack Obama's grandiose foreign-policy schemes and appeasement (and by extension, the fecklessness of the entire Democratic Party)... sure, maybe he doesn't call for dialog with Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah; but he calls for dialog with Nasrallah's boss, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Which is worse?
- The poor judgment and cranky attitude exhibited by Obama accusing the president of "launch[ing] a false political attack." It's like the old coot all the kids love to torment, because they know will always get apoplectic and scream, "You kids get outa my yard!"
I cannot guarantee this will immediately show up in the polls; gaffes do their best work in the weeks leading up to the election, as the accumulated weight of a hundred stupid miscommunications come back to haunt the nominee. But I strongly suspect this will raise serious doubts in the minds of more than a few undecided voters about entrusting the presidency at this time to an entry-level candidate.
(If you don't feel like jumping to the White House website, the full speech by the president is just below.)
President Bush Addresses the Israeli Knesset - May 15th, 2008
President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world's great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach.
It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer -- to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel's greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.
We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence, founded on the "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate." What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David -- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.
Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel's independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel's closest ally and best friend in the world.
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God." The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust -- what Elie Wiesel called "the kingdom of the night." Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel's freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: "For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words."
The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.
My country's admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.
I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: "Masada shall never fall again." Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.
This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It's also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles -- shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.
We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.
We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.
We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms -- whether by those who openly question Israel's right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.
We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli's leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.
We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.
The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.
This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.
And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the "elimination" of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant "Death to Israel, Death to America!" That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that "the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties." And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It's natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.
Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.
America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.
Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.
The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.
That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel's founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:
Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world's great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved -- a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today's oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause.
Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn't mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.
This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America's closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.
Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.
Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel's independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar -- the key to the Zion Gate -- and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, "Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day." Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: "I accept this key in the name of my people."
Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless.
Californichusetts - bumped from March pending new post
Surprise, surprise, the California Supreme Court is currently deciding (yet again) whether to tell California voters to go to hell, and to order the era of gender-neutral marriage... just as Massachusetts did! Thanks; I always wanted us to take our lead from Hyannisport.
So let's put on our manly gowns, gird our loins, and pull up our socks: It's time to deal with this invitation to cultural suicide once more.
It boils down to two questions:
- Doesn't the "equal protection" clause of the state constitution require the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) as a state constitutional right?
- Even if there is no "right" to SSM, isn't it a good idea to expand marriage to be more inclusive?
On a nutshell, he answer in each case is No -- it doesn't and it isn't. The rest of this post explains why.
How equal is "equal protection?"
In California, it's not just the state legislature that has defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman (explicitly in 1977, implicitly earlier); the people themselves did so in 2000 via Proposition 22, which added Section 308.5 to the state's California Family Code:
The citizen initiative passed overwhelmingly. If a court overturns it, it had better be because the court found it violates a clear, undeniable, and unambiguous right... not just because four justices voted against it seven years ago, and now they have their revenge.
But the only legal argument ever offered is that the rule violates the "equal protection" clause of the California constitution, Article I, Section 7:
Proponents of SSM say equal protection is violated for a homosexual, because he cannot marry the person that he wants to marry. But of course, a heterosexual also cannot marry the person he wants to marry if one of them is already married, they're too closely related, or one of them is too young. Throughout human history, marriage has always been strictly limited to certain types of unions; it has never, in thousands of years of human history, been an unrestricted right.
Gender is just one of the restrictions; if the others don't violate equal protection, then neither does the gender restriction. And if it does violate equal protection... then what's the legal rationale for banning polygamy?
Cat got your tongue? "But my four wives and I really love each other!"
With all restrictions dropped but the declaration that "we love each other," what's to stop gang members from all marrying each other, so that none will be able to testify against another? How do you prevent an entire building full of spinsters marrying the same guy, so each can receive Social Security? How do we prevent one American citizen from marrying five hundred Argentinian women and men to bring them all here as permanent residents?
Marriage needs restrictions: Without them, it's no more special a relationship than a bowling team or union membership.
So you're in favor of banning interracial marriages too, huh?
A ban on racial intermarriage has never been a piller of Western civilization; racism itself (per Dinesh D'Souza's the End of Racism) dates only to the sixteenth century. And most of the miscegenation laws in California were passed from 1901 onward, during the "Progressive Era" -- they were Jimmy Crow Lately laws.
Miscegenation laws were not repealed not by the courts, which never found any equal protection violation; in fact, they found no problem with them at all. It was the people, speaking through their state legislature, who rejected racism in the marriage laws in 1948 (after the Progressives and other socialists made those laws progressively restrictive through 1945).
Why did the legislature repeal those laws? Because society decided that there was no significant difference between the races; the differences are purely cosmetic. Thus, there was no compelling reason why a black man could not marry a white woman, or a white man marry a Hispanic woman.
However, nobody except self-described "queers" (radical "gender-free" advocates who proudly use the term on themselves) believes that there is no significant difference between males and females. In fact, we're discovering new differences every year, including distinctions in thought processes, temperment, and styles of exercising authority.
Unlike marriage between black and white, a marriage between two men or two women is completely different in character from a marriage between a man and a woman.
It has a great effect on child rearing -- the correlation between fatherlessness and violent crime and other antisocial behaviors is admitted by every sociologist -- and even on the behavior of the spouses themselves. When men mix only with other men, or women with other women, all the negative traits of each sex are magnified. But when men marry women, both parties moderate their behavior, and we achieve at least some union between yang and yin.
(As kids who grow up with divorced parents now, having two fathers can be terribly confusing and can also lead to the kids playing one Dad off the other. Fatherlessness and overfathering are both very sub-ideal.)
Finally, experience teaches that cultures that allow polygamy, such as traditional Moslem cultures, end up devaluing women and girls to the point where the papa will kill his own wife or daughter if he thinks (or imagines) she has shamed the family name. It's much, much rarer for a father to kill his teenaged son for such imagined shame, because males are so much more important in polygamous cultures. (They may encourage sons and daughters alike to become suicide bombers, but that is completely different: Radical Moslems consider that to be enhancing the family honor. It's like sending sons off to war. But the father rarely murders his son as punishment for shaming the family.)
Societal survival is a compelling interest
Thus, society does have at least three compelling interests in restricting marriage to one man and one woman: The effect on getting and raising children, moderating behavior of individual men and women, and promoting the full equality of the sexes. And equal protection is not violated, because every resident, regardless of sexual preference, may legally marry anyone he wants, provided both meet society's qualifications anent age, sex, number, family relationship, and of course willingness.
If we ever decide to change any of those restrictions, it must come from the people themselves... via the legislature or directly by citizen initiative. The courts should never drive society willy nilly towards the utopian leanings of the judges. That is the difference between leftists, who favor totalitarian, top-down rule by "experts" in all areas of life (from economics to religion to marriage)... and those of us on the right, who prefer individualism, Capitalism, and democracy, where the women and men in society get to decide for themselves, through the ballot box, what axioms define society.
For a perfect example, let me explain why I absolutely support Lawrence v. Texas (the U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down anti-"sodomy" laws across the nation) -- yet I oppose with equal fervor Goodridge v. the Department of Public Health, the ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts forcing the state legislature to legitimize SSM.
Simply put, Lawrence is individualistic and democratic: It does not require you to accept gay relationships as the equal of heterosexual relationships -- it just prevents you from throwing them in jail for it. It's one aspect of "the right to be let alone." Thus, Lawrence is individualist and conservative... modern conservatism has always recognized freedom of conscience in principle, even if some individual choices carry enough "ick" factor to tempt conservatives to make an unwarranted exception.
But Goodridge is totalitarian and leftist: It requires you to treat SSM exactly the same as mixed-sex marriage, and to hell with your deeply held religious beliefs. That is not the role of the courts.
SSM supporters twist words to impose a total, top-down transformation of society to fit the utopian ideology of the Left, using the phrase "equal protection of the laws" as a weapon to overthrow the democratic process -- quite literally, in the case of California and our Proposition 22. So on to question two...
What's so bad about SSM anyway?
This section will be briefer than it could be -- I could write an entire book! -- because I'll just sketch the argument; if you want more specifics, type "same-sex marriage" into the search box in the right sidebar and read my earlier posts.
Simply put, here is the syllogism on which I operate:
- Our society ultimately rests on a small number of irreducible axioms: inalienable rights, government by consent of the governed, etc.
- One leg of the stool of Western civilization is the marriage of one male to one female. This has been the definition in our society going back thousands of years. It encourages the interaction of male and female and the civilization of boys, female equality and women's rights, and the rights of children. It has dramatically shaped our culture.
- But not irreversibly shaped; if you knock out one leg of the stool, it may still appear to stand; but it becomes ricketier, less stable, and more prone to topple over when hit by something external... such as militant Islamism, to pull a random example out of my hat.
- While many people (especially the young) are eager to "change everything," a certain level of stability is vital to society, both culturally and legally. Our experience of societies that have a different set of axioms -- such as the Moslem and African cultures -- warns that treasured rights and privileges that we take for granted would not survive such ham-fisted tampering.
- So for God's sake, don't do it!
Here's what's so bad, wise guy...
The law of unintended consequences applies in full force here. For example, the easier we make it for any group of two or more people to be legally considered "married," the less special is the marital relationship; as it becomes less special, it attracts fewer people. Fewer marriages means fewer children, hence a waning, dying culture (cf. Northern Europe, esp. Scandinavia).
Fewer marriages also mean kids who are born are more likely to grow up in fatherless homes. Looking at America's black population, we see an extraordinary rate of out of wedlock births (69.3% of all births, compared to 31.7% of white babies - Table 14) and fatherless households (60%, compared to 22% for white children). If we compare that disparity to the disparity in violent-crime offender rates between blacks and whites (blacks were nearly three times times as likely, 2.8:1, to commit violent crime in 2005 as whites; Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2000 Census), we see a strong correlation between out of wedlock birth and fatherlessness on the one hand and the commission of violent crime on the other. This is hardly surprising; a strong and law-abiding male role model teaches boys how to resolve problems peacefully and legally.
That correlation should tell us that the very last thing we should be doing is discouraging heterosexuals of any race from getting married: Raising kids in an intact, married family makes them much less likely to become either violent criminals or the victims of violent criminals. But diminishing the "sacred specialness" of marriage by opening it up to any and all groups of people who declare "love" for each other does exactly that: If marriage means nothing, then why get married?
The West is the best
Our Western culture is unique in many ways: It's the strongest and most economically successful culture in human history; it's the freest and most respectful of individual rights; and it's also the most conservative culture on the planet, in the sense of conserving the virtues and mores of the classical liberalism of the nineteenth century -- derived from Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke and first enshrined into law by the American Founding Fathers at the tail end of the eighteenth century.
Asian cultures (excepting Japan, which is completely Western) are mostly radical socialist cultures (Socialism includes both Marxist and fascist versions), still vainly trying to transform the world and create the New Socialist Man. And Moslem cultures are too often reactionary, trying to recreate the days of the Prophet -- more than thirteen centuries ago.
The Western culture converted to what we now call "traditional marriage" more than two thousand years ago; traditional African and ancestral American cultures never enforced "traditional marriage;" the socialist cultures of the East rejected spiritual unions (marriage) in favor of civil partnerships many decades ago; and traditional misogynist Islamic law still treats women like cattle.
Why on earth would any sane person want to monkey with the Western marriage model?
Jonah swallows the whale
Finally, I love this very appropos passage from Jonah Goldberg's new masterpiece, Liberal Fascism (pp. 133-4), which perfectly captures those radical activists trying to transform America into their own utopian vision:
Anybody who has ever met a student activist, a muckraking journalist, or a reformist politician will notice the important role that boredom and impatience play in the impulse to "remake the world." One can easily see how boredom -- sheer, unrelenting ennui with the status quo -- served as the oxygen for the fire of progressivism because tedium is the tinder for the flames of mischievousness. In much the same way that Romanticism laid many of the intellectual predicates for Naziism, the impatience and disaffection of progressives during the 1920s drove them to see the world as clay to be sculpted by human will. Sickened by what they saw as the spiritual languor of the age, members of the avant-garde convinced themselves that the status quo could be easily ripped down like an aging curtain and just as easily replaced with a vibrant new tapistry. This conviction often slid of its own logic into anarchism and radicalism, related worldviews which assumed that anything would be better than what we have now.
A deep aversion to boredom and a consequent, indiscriminate love for novelty among the intellectual classes translated into a routinized iconclasm and a thoroughgoing contempt for democracy, traditional morality, the masses, and the bourgeoisie, and a love for "action, action, action!" that still plagues the left today. (How much of the practiced radicalism of the contemporary left is driven by the childish pranksterism they call being subversive?)
Sadly, that is exactly what's going on here and now; and our enemies without and within call it "historically inevitable" that they will succeed. If so, fellow right-wingers, then it's our bounden duty, as William F. Buckley, jr. wrote in the National Review mission statement in 1955, to "stand athwart history, yelling Stop."
So to all those leftists who are screaming, arguing, threatening, cajoling, extorting, commanding, and suing to cram same-sex marriage down Californians' throats, and most particularly to the California Supreme Court...
Date ►►► May 14, 2008
Mississippi: All Politics Is Loco
Democrat Wins by Running for Protectionism
In Mississippi's First congressional district, a special election was just held to replace Rep. Roger Wicker (R-MS, 96%), who was tapped to fill the rest of term of former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS, 86%). Wicker was a strong conservative who typically won his district with 70% of the vote; in 2004, President Bush won the district by 62-37, and by 59-40 in 2000. Nevertheless, the Democratic candidate, Travis Childers, won yesterday by a relatively narrow 54-46, beating Southaven mayor Greg Davis.
The first question is, Why? Is Mississippi turning liberal? Does this indicate Republicans are going to be slaughtered in 2008?
Not necessarily. First, the Democratic Party was again quite clever in selecting a socially conservative populist for its candidate; Childers is just as anti-abortion and pro-gun as the Republican nominee.
Where they differed was mostly in economic policy: Judging by the campaign "news" that Childers chose to put on his website, his main line of attack against Davis was on the issue of free trade vs. "fair" trade -- that is, protectionism. Childers pummeled Davis over the Colombian Free Trade Agreement... and he demagogued it to death, saying that if it passed, Mississippi jobs would be "exported" to South America:
Travis Childers, the Democratic candidate for Congress in Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, today signed a “No New Trade Deals” pledge outside a closed plant in West Point and stressed the need to stand up for Mississippi's working families by fighting for fair wages and bringing good jobs back to the district.
Childers called on his Republican opponent, Greg Davis, to also pledge not to support new trade deals that unfairly send Mississippi jobs overseas. So far in his campaign, Davis has stayed silent, not denying that he would be a rubberstamp for trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA that are bad for the region.
“Sadly, my opponent, Greg Davis, continues to stay silent on the most important issues we face -- keeping our jobs,” Childers said. “Greg Davis has been silent on trade in the campaign, and so I'm sure he won't stand up for our jobs in Congress.”
“As an economic leader and small businessman who created more than 1,000 new jobs in my community, I will always stand up for the needs of working Mississippi families,” Childers continued. “I have pledged to fight against unfair trade deals that send our jobs overseas and fight for fair wages so the working people of Mississippi can make ends meet.
So why did this work? Why was Childers able to ride opposition to Capitalism into the Capitol? I think we get a clue from the next paragraph in that "news" item:
Davis recently received the support of a business group known for opposing minimum wage increases and has not said how he stands when it comes to trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. And on Davis 's Web site, he does not focus on trade, jobs or economic development.
In fact, Davis doesn't even mention them! Looking at Greg Davis' own website, under "Issues" -- which you cannot reach directly from the front page; think about that -- here is the totality of what issues Greg Davis stood for in yesterday's runoff election:
Taxes and Spending
Make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Bury the death tax. Restrain spending.
[Probably not the best idea to lead off by mentioning President Bush, but at least this is a specific policy that Davis can defend; the rest of his issues are like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.]
Support our armed forces by insuring they have the manpower and equipment to fight and win.
[This is so vague that even Democrats could say it; remember when they complained about body armor and jerry-rigged up-armoring of Humvees?]
Protect the border. Enforce our immigration laws. Require proof of U.S. citizenship to obtain taxpayer-funded benefits.
[Democrat Childers also campaigned on taking a "tough stand to stop illegal immigration into our country."]
Defend our values. Support the Second Amendment. Stand up for the unborn.
[Childers is right with Davis on both of these vague issues, along with opposing same-sex marriage.]
Advocating policies that strengthen our economy by focusing on lower taxes, a simpler tax code, fewer regulations, and less government red tape.
[Childers: "Even John McCain said that Congress has been spending like 'drunken sailors.' As someone who has been balancing a family checkbook for years and has run two businesses, this defies all common sense. As Chancery Clerk, I balanced 16 consecutive budgets. As Congressman, I'll fight for balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility."]
So what, exactly, did Republican Greg Davis do to differentiate himself from Democrat Travis Childers? In particular, what was Davis' response on the free-trade/protectionism debate?
With Childers hammering Davis on the issue, Davis desperately needed to campaign up and down the state, correcting Childers' misstatements and fabrications about free-trade agreements and defending in particular the Colombia FTA, which is before Congress at this very moment. But trade doesn't even appear as an "issue" or campaign news item on his website.
In fact, Googling for about a half hour, I couldn't find a single statement by Davis on free trade. This is the central policy attack launched against him by the Democrat, and he's evidently barely responding. This is surreal.
So what "issue" did Greg Davis run on? Oh, a huge one for Mississippi (dripping irony alert):
Davis, the mayor of Southaven, launched a new TV ad this week linking Childers with Obama and Wright.
The ad blasts the Prentiss County chancery clerk for his silence when Wright "cursed America, blaming us for 9/11...
"Travis Childers - he took Obama's endorsement over our conservative values," the ad concludes. "Conservatives can't trust Travis Childers."
(Alas, as it turns out, Davis was likewise silent about Jeremiah Wright, a fact which Childers gleefully pointed out, of course. Home run for the Democrats.)
Longtime Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill was fond of saying "All politics is local;" he meant that in the end, at least in House elections, people tend to vote not on grand national issue but on local issues: city streets and county roads, public transportation, local businesses, sales and property taxes, and so forth.
There are seeming exceptions, such as the 1994 Contract With America; but even then, the contract had to be sold locally in each district. (It was, which is why Republicans swept into power then.) National goals, like requiring a 60% majority in the House to pass a tax increase, had to be brought down to the local level: Each Republican had to show voters how tax increases hurt them more than they helped.
In this case, from what I can tell from 2,000 miles away, Childers was running an entirely local campaign based on bread-and-butter district issues:
- He attacked free trade by claiming Mississippi-1 would lose jobs;
- He claimed that Davis was in the pocket of Big Oil and other special interests and argued that this meant higher gas taxes, which he claimed Davis had supported;
- He claimed that Davis had opposed funding education in the district.
In response, Davis seemed to hang his campaign on linking Childers to ultraliberal Obama and Wright. When has this ever worked? Certainly never when the local pol has never campaigned alongside the national figure and disagrees with him on numerous issues important to the region.
Didn't anybody tell Davis that neither Obama nor Wright was on the ballot in his district? If his entire campaign was to tie Childers to Obama, then he had to do something to prove that Childers was somehow like Obama... he had to find a local issue on which Childers was unacceptably liberal, then pound on it like a beatnik on a bongo.
So what is being done by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the arm of the Republican National Committee that is supposed to recruit and help elect Republican candidates for the House? Evidently nothing: Candidate recruitment is clearly lagging (especially in MS-1!) -- how many Iraq or Afghanistan war vets are running? how many popular political figures? how many experienced administrators? -- and messaging is frankly pathetic.
Here's Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK, 100%), Chairman of the NRCC, from the NYT article linked above:
Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the party was disappointed and needed to be better prepared to deal with conservative Democratic candidates, but he warned that time is short.
“Voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general,” Mr. Cole said. “Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward-looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for.”
Yeah; that would be nice.
The NRCC should set up a local task force for every, single endangered GOP congressional district, plus another for each district where the Democratic incumbent is at all shaky. Each task force must determine the major problems in its district, what the voters are most worried about. Then they must craft both policy and messaging that (a) would resolve or at least mitigate the problem, while (b) fitting within the overarching Republican philosophy of trusting individual people, families, and business owners rather than the government.
This is nothing new; in the past, the NRCC has done this very well. But I've seen little to nothing of this sort done for 2008... has anyone seen anything?
Then the NRCC should hook up with (or recruit) GOP candidates in each of these districts and work with them to merge Republican policies and messages with that of the candidate. For example, such a task force in MS-1 would have identified voter fears about free-trade agreements, and it would have developed messages pounding home the fact that Colombia can already sell all its goods here without any tariff... but American companies -- including those in Mississippi -- have tariffs slapped on them when they try to sell American goods in Colombia. And that is what the Colombian FTA would overturn, allowing Americans, even those in Mississippi, to export more products to South America.
They could have worked with Greg Davis to promote job training programs. A campaign could have pointed out that less than 10% of Mississippi jobs are export related, about half the national average. Why should this be?
Together, national and local GOP could have created a hopeful, forward-looking vision: If the state of Mississippi and the counties inside the district were to promote and invest in export industries (chemicals, paper products, and such) by lowering corporate taxes and relaxing some regulations, then with the free-trade agreements already in place, upper Mississippi would start attracting jobs and luring companies to MS-1, not "exporting" jobs and hemorrhaging businesses. They could attract both American-owned companies and also at foreign-owned companies operating in Mississippi.
That is what a local-issues campaign looks like. That is how Davis could have clearly differentiated himself from Childers. He could have presented his bold vision of a reviving and thriving local economy, versus Childers' defeatist holding action, clinging to the old economy because he's so terrified of change. Davis could have brought in more Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal and less Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and Jeremiah Wright. And I think he would have won; if not, at least he would set himself up for a rematch in November, if Childers turns out to be more liberal than advertised -- which is probable, as Childers "grows in office." (Like Sen. James Webb, D-VA, who now has an 85% "liberal quotient" from the Americans for Democratic Action for 2007.)
Instead, Davis went for a silly scare campaign that nobody believed (Childers is just Obama in drag!) and squandered a conservative district; and the national Republicans were no real help at all -- not in pushing Davis to enunciate policy differences, and certainly not in messaging. Wonderful job there by the NRCC.
Tom Cole had the last year and a half to "define a forward-looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for.” Now he has less than six months. I think it's time for Rip Van Cole to roll out of his hammock and get on the hump... we've got some heavy-duty campaigning to do.
Date ►►► May 13, 2008
Hagee Non-Recants and Issues Non-Apology Apology for Words He Never Said
The neverending quest by liberals to find a "conservative Jeremiah Wright" to bash over John McCain's head -- uh -- never ends. The newest wrinkle is the putative "open letter of apology" that Pastor John Hagee sent to the President of the Catholic League, William Donohue.
Nearly every elite-media source has falsely reported that Hagee admitted he made the attacks he has been denying all along... thus, they falsely accuse him of hypocrisy and perjury. (Wouldn't the Ten Commandments call that bearing false witness?) Here are a couple of examples...
Televangelist John Hagee, one of John McCain’s highest-profile supporters from the religious right, has apologized for calling the Roman Catholic Church “the great whore” and “the apostate church....”
Pastor Hagee, leader of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church, had said his anti-Catholic remarks had been taken out of context, but in the letter he appeared to own up to them.
“Neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church,” he wrote. [How exactly does this quotation "own up to" the supposed "anti-Catholic remarks?"]
The Catholic League called on McCain to repudiate Hagee at that time, stating that he had "waged an unrelenting war" against the church and noting the pastor had referred to the Catholic Church as a "false cult system," among other terms. Hagee also said Hurricane Katrina was "the judgment of God" on the city's "sin...."
In his letter to the Catholic League today, Hagee said he now understands that other terms he used to describe the church -- "the great whore" and the "apostate church" -- are "rhetorical devices long employed in anti-Catholic literature." He said he had gained a better understanding in recent weeks of the Catholic Church's relationship to the Jewish faith. Hagee wrote of his "profound respect for the Catholic people" in the letter and said he hoped to advance "greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals."
The New York Times:
Some have interpreted Mr. Hagee's references to “the great whore” prophesied in the Book of Revelation, as a slur on the Catholic Church. Mr. Hagee now says that was never his intention. In his book, “Jerusalem Countdown,” he accused the Vatican of collaborating with Hitler in the Holocaust. [Given the Times' record, can we please see the passage in question?]
Note the cowardice of the New York Times, which poltroonishly attributes the interpretation to "some," rather than to the Times itself -- which is what the author really means. This is an old and dishonorable rhetorical trick to say the most appalling things with "plausible deniability" when someone calls you out.
I was intrigued by the selective quotations and strange refusal to quote the letter at length... and I suspected foul play, particularly after reading one somewhat less-unfriendly source, the Political Intelligence blog on the Boston Globe's website. That story raised this cryptic point, quoting from William Donohue:
"And while he stresses that his invocation of terms like 'apostate church' and the 'great whore' were never meant by him to describe the Catholic Church, he acknowledges that anti-Catholics have long employed such language," Donohue said in his statement.
But was that really true? Phrased better, did John Hagee ever actually call the Catholic Church either "the Great Whore" or "the apostate church," either of which would be clear and unambiguous anti-Catholic bigotry? I know that many conservatives say he has not; yet that is the type of negative claim that is virtually impossible to prove but easy to disprove -- all you need is one example.
So far, however, such a clear example has not forthcome... in contradistinction to Jeremiah's jeremiad, which triggered scores of similar examples from primary sources -- newsletters, sermons, publications, speeches, interviews, interviews with parishoners -- and YouTube after YouTube, until we were nearly inundated in Jeremi-ism:
And more, and more, and more --
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
Here is the usual source cited by liberals trying to make Hagee out to be as bigoted and conspiratorial as the Right Reverend Wright, Barack Obama's spiritual mentor (until political expediency forced a schism), a sermon on the Great Whore and apostate church, a snippet of which was shown on YouTube:
Again, this is unsatisfying to anyone with a skeptical mind: Nowhere does Hagee say that those two terms represent the Catholic Church today, or as a whole in any era. While I am certainly no specialist in eschatology, it sounds as if Hagee is talking about one specific manifestation of some (unnamed) church during the eventual Apocalypse.
So I really, really wanted to read Hagee's entire letter. Did he really "own up to" calling the Church "the Great Whore" and "the apostate church," as Fox News claims?
It took some digging, but at last, I found a newspaper with guts enough to print the full letter that Hagee sent. It was the Wall Street Journal; here is what the Journal had to say in its Washington Wire blog about the letter:
John Hagee, the controversial evangelical pastor who endorsed John McCain, will issue a letter of apology to Catholics today for inflammatory remarks he has made, including accusing the Roman Catholic Church of supporting Adolf Hitler and calling it “The Great Whore....”
Hagee’s letter explains some of the harsh words he has used when describing the Catholic Church. “I better understand that reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the ‘apostate church’ and the ‘great whore’ described in the book of Revelation” -- both terms Hagee has employed -- “is a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary,” he wrote. [Again with the vague implications! All right, he "employed" those terms -- but in that context?]
After Hagee’s endorsement of McCain, both came under fire after the spotlight was placed on other disparaging comments Hagee has made in the past. The dissection of their relationship -- How did the McCain campaign court Hagee’s endorsement? Did he know about Hagee’s comments at the time? -- coincided partly with the attention placed on Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Barack Obama.
(It's important to understand that, other than their editorial pages, the WSJ is pretty much just as left-liberal as the rest of the elite, drive-by media.)
The article contains a link to a PDF of the letter -- just a graphic image, not OCRed. As a service to the blogosphere, I transcribed it to ordinary text; you'll find it in the "slither on."
Despite years chronicling what I call "media madness," I was nevertheless stunned by the sheer mendacity of the mainstream press, and by their casual willingness to destroy a man's life just to try to mitigate the relationship between Barack Obama (their favored candidate) and a truly horrific example of "Black Liberation Theology," the racist, America hating, conspiracy monger Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
Let's start with the repeated claims that (a) John Hagee used those terms to refer to the Catholic Church, (b) lied about having done so, and (c) has now confessed to his religious bigotry. A few newsies covered Hagee's defense of himself by quoting a scant single sentence out of context; here's the Fox News version:
“Neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church,” he wrote.
By itself, that is baffling... especially after the same article has just told us that "Hagee... has apologized for calling the Roman Catholic Church 'the great whore' and 'the apostate church.'" The obvious conclusion we're expected to draw is that Hagee is simply lying, and clumsily so.
Yet here, from Hagee's actual letter, is the entire paragraph ending with that sentence, quoted in full:
I hope you recognize that I have repeatedly stated that my interpretation of Revelation leads me to conclude that the "apostate church" and the "great whore" appear only during the seven years of tribulation after all true believers -- Catholic and Protestant -- have been taken up to heaven. Therefore, neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church.
I'm not a theologian, either... but a person who believes the above would never use either term to identify the Catholic Church. Just as no religious Jew could believe that a man can be "the Messiah," no matter how holy, if he has already died -- without gathering all the Jews together again from the Diaspora, rebuilding the Temple, or ushering in the world of Isaiah's dream of beating swords into ploughshares.
Eschatologists believe in a particular sequence of events during the End Times, and the "Great Whore" and "apostate church" do not come before, but after the rapture. So Pastor Hagee has a pretty good argument that he did not mean to identify today's Catholic Church with those terms.
Any purveyor of so-called "news" with the least interest in truth would have investigated the slurs before repeating them, being squeamish about libeling an innocent man. But journalists are made of sterner stuff: For the cause, they're always willing to sacrifice -- the nearest conservative, Republican, or Christian.
So there we are. The news media live by a Spartan ideology:
- Anent conservatives, good news is no news;
- The media motto is "All the news we see fit to print;"
- Truth is negotiable; its definition is "That which advances the prospects of the Democratic Party;"
- November elections are decided in May -- so by election day, the Democrats have already won;
- If the Republicans win, see (4);
- And the typical American is liberal headed towards socialist, angry at conservatives, and an atheist, as proven by the fact that this describes the typical respondent in any media-sponsored political poll.
If you bear this in mind, a lot of otherwise inexplicable actions by the elite media suddenly make perfect sense.
As promised, click the Slither On to read the complete (two full typewritten pages) letter from John Hagee to William Donohue.
Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights
Attn: Mr. William Donohue, President
450 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10123
Dear Mr. Donohue,
Insofar as some of my past statements regarding the Roman Catholic Church have raised concerns in your community, I am writing in a spirit of mutual respect and reconciliation to clarify my views.
Out of a desire to advance greater unity among Catholics and Evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful. After engaging in constructive dialogue with Catholic friends and leaders, I now have an improved understanding of the Catholic Church, its relation to the Jewish faith, and the history of anti-Catholicism.
In my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms, I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholic and Protestant relations with the Jews. In the process, I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not. Likewise, I have not sufficiently expressed my deep appreciation for the efforts of Catholics who opposed the persecution of the Jewish people. It is important to note that there were thousands of righteous Catholics -- both clergy and laymen -- who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust. According to many scholars, including historian Martin Gilbert and Rabbi David Dalin (author of the Myth of Hitler's Pope), Pope Pius XII personally intervened to save Jews.
In addition, I better understand that reference to the Roman Catholic Church as the "apostate church" and the "great whore" described in the Book of Revelation is a rhetorical device long employed in anti-Catholic literature and commentary.
I hope you recognize that I have repeatedly stated that my interpretation of Revelation leads me to conclude that the "apostate church" and the "great whore" appear only during the seven years of tribulation after all true believers -- Catholic and Protestant -- have been taken up to heaven. Therefore, neither of these phrases can be synonymous with the Catholic Church.
In recent decades, Catholics and Evangelicals of good will have worked together to defeat the evil of Communism, promote what Pope John Paul II called "a culture of life" that protects every human life from conception to natural death, honors the institution of marriage, and defends the rights of the poor.
As I wrote in my tribute to Pope Benedict XVI after President Bush welcomed him to the White House, he "spoke for all of us when he said that 'any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted' and called for Christian participation 'in the exchange of ideas in the public square.'" Both Catholics and Evangelicals have been engaged in an effort to assert the primacy of faith and values in our increasingly secular society.
My profound respect for the Catholic people has been demonstrated in my own ministry. For example, when the Ursuline Sisters of San Antonio were on the verge of losing their home, our church bought the property for our school and allowed them to continue living in their home free of charge for twelve years. The sisters were part of the daily life of the school, walking the grounds and the hallways where the children would embrace them and hold their hands in friendship. The love of our school children for these sisters symbolized my own feelings as well. I pledge to address these sensitive subjects in the future with a greater level of compassion and respect for my Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is this sense of Christian fellowship I hope to reestablish with Catholics with whom I and all Evangelicals must unite to be a voice for life, the family, marriage, and Christian values to our nation and the world.
Pastor John Hagee
Date ►►► May 12, 2008
Greed Is Good - and Sometimes, So Too Is Corruption
One of the joys of writing a blog is the opportunity it gives to mock one's enemies. In this case, we rise to mock the naiveté of the Associated Press... which is shocked, shocked to discover bribery and corruption in the Arab Middle East. (Of course, the other possibility is that AP knows its point is asinine yet mendaciously makes it anyway, hoping to fool its liberal readers.)
AP claims to have just realized, to it's spiritual horror, that Iraqi officials are often corrupt... and that the Bush administration, rather than fall off its high horse, declaim about purity of essence, and order mass arrests of everyone from the Iraq prime minister on down, instead turned a blind eye to low-level skulduggery in order to give the new Iraqi government time to become much more stable -- as it has:
The Bush administration repeatedly ignored corruption at the highest levels within the Iraqi government and kept secret potentially embarrassing information so as not to undermine its relationship with Baghdad, according to two former State Department employees. [Now there's as unbiased a pair of witnesses as I've ever seen!]
Arthur Brennan, who briefly served in Baghdad as head of the department's Office of Accountability and Transparency last year, and James Mattil, who worked as the chief of staff, told Senate Democrats on Monday that their office was understaffed and its warnings and recommendations ignored.... ["If only they had listened to me!"]
The State Department's policies "not only contradicted the anti-corruption mission but indirectly contributed to and has allowed corruption to fester at the highest levels of the Iraqi government," Brennan told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.
First of all, note that the "former State Department employees" immediately ran to tell "the Senate Democratic Policy Committee -- not, for example, the Inspector General at the State Department, the Department of Justice, or even a real Senate committee (one that has Republicans as well); the SDPC is just an unofficial caucus with no actual investigatory or oversight authority.
That should tell you what desired outcome actually motivated these two witlesses.
Second, what have they discovered? That Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "eviscerat[ed]" "Iraq's top anti-corruption office." Corruption in an Arab country! Stop the presses!
What purpose does it serve to highlight corruption and bribery in a government that is three years old? Isn't it more important to gain a measure of stability first... and only then start really working on applying the rule of law equally and evenly?
Now that the Iraqis have achieved some real stability (because of the counterinsurgency -- which the Democrats fought hammer and tooth) -- this is probably the right time to start pushing them to become more open and transparent. But we must bear in mind, that goes against literally thousands of years of Arab culture. (Arab tribes ran on corruption long before Islam came along; it wasn't even considered corruption... just what Heinlein called "squeeze.") It will be very hard and take decades to root corruption out of Arab society.
But realistically speaking, corruption rarely brings down a government. If the citizens have a reasonably good assessment of the level of corruption, and it's a level they can deal with, then they may even panic if it suddenly disappears.
Sachi made a point about the endemic nature of corruption around the world: Typically, corruption simply becomes an important part of the infrastructure. What the Soviets called the "nomenklatura," the permanent bureaucracy, is so poorly designed, so badly implemented, so enmeshed into every level of society, and so unrealistic in what they require, that it stifles necessary functions of the government.
Corruption is the universal solvent that eats through decades (centuries!) of accumulated crud and allows the system to work. Take away the corruption from, say, Soviet "republics," Arab states, Near and Far Eastern oligarchies, and prehistoric African or South American cultures flooded with ancient Soviet T-62 tanks and AK-47s... and the State will probably collapse.
Some Americans -- especially ideologically pure liberals, who are irritated whenever reality comes along to ruin the fun -- are spoiled by living in a culture where the level of corruption in New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit is considered a national shame. In most countries, bribing public official to do their jobs is so routine, there is not even an attempt to hide it from public view; they may even advertise their rates. After all, the next guy needs to know who to pay off!
I believe Democrats themselves realize how foolish this carping and whining sounds; I think they're uneasy about the likelihood that most people who read the news or follow obscure congressional non-committee committees are aware that Arab culture tolerates a much higher level of corruption than American culture; even Europeans are more blasé about it than we. So the Senate Democratic Policy Committee is trying to make it seem as though it's taking "testimony" (it has no such authority) about something more interesting and important than the garden-variety collection of "user fees" (bribes) for doing one's job:
Sen. Byron Dorgan, head of the Democratic Policy Committee, said the testimony was critical in light of upcoming legislation that would appropriate more than $170 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Dorgan is a member, is expected to approve the legislation Thursday.
"It is a cruel irony if we are appropriating money next Thursday or did appropriate money last month or last year and that money ends up actually providing the resources for an insurgency in Iraq which ends up killing Americans," said Dorgan, D-N.D.
But corruption and support for insurgency are two completely separate problems. When did Democrats first get het up about the latter? Their only reaction to such revelations in the past has been to demand we surrender, flee the region, and allow it to collapse into complete chaos -- and a haven for those very terrorists.
Unrealistic Democratic posturing is a far more dangerous attitude than letting petty corruption in Iraq slide for a while, until the new democratic nation can perform its most critical tasks without corruption to grease the skids anymore. At least bribery helps make things work; sermonizing about Iraqi original sin is just cutting off your nose to wash your face.
So What Will President McCain Do...
John McCain has made globaloney a cornerstone of his campaign, a way (as Agence France-Presse puts it) to "differentiate" himself from George W. Bush's "skepticism on global warming":
The Arizona senator was due to propose a cap-and-trade system designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in remarks which will clearly separate him from the skepticism on global warming which has marked Bush's presidency.
The initiative will also signal that McCain plans to challenge the Democrats for independent voters in the November presidential election, targetting especially the climate change stance of leading Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Now, if this were purely a cynical attempt to peel off some of the independents and moderate Democrats from the Democratic nominee, then as scientific data piles up debunking the myth of anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC), it would presumably be easy for McCain simply to let it all drop into the memory hole. But I'm skeptical that McCain is such a cynic; I think it far more likely that he is a true believer in globaloney... in which case, it will be difficult for him to accept the data, no matter how prestigious the scientist, university, or scientific agency may be in the fields of meteorology, atmospheric sciences, or climatology. (Not impossible but quite tough.)
It's not McCain's worst sin; that would still have to be the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 -- which was held by the Supreme Court to be constitutional in this century's "Roe v. Wade" legal fiasco, McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93 (2003). But a passionate belief in globaloney would surely give the "Gang of 14" a run for its money in the Sincere but Misguided Judgment sweepstakes.
But the odd thing is that McCain always seems to have lots of company in his little insanities. On the BCRA, he had the full support of President Bush and even Sen. Fred Thompson in the Senate vote on March 20th, 2002; and on globaloney, he has the enthusiastic company of both Democratic candidates, Hillary and Obama.
McCain's approach is called "cap and trade;" it includes a bit of a nod towards a free market, although with a government-enforced, anti-Capitalist, "Pigovian" ceiling:
McCain proposed a cap-and-trade system, which sets a limit of total greenhouse gas emissions but allows companies to sell unused greenhouse gas emission credits to other firms which have exceeded their quota.
His plan would seek to return emissions to 2005 levels by 2012, and a return to 1990 levels by 2020. It foresees a reduction of 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
This perfectly encapsulates the Do Something! disorder: Whenever a sufferer sees a problem (real or imaginary), his disorder prompts him to demand that the government "do something" about it.
He impatiently dismisses any suggestion that if the putative problem is let alone, it will probably cure itself. He rejects as "do nothingism" the strategy that we can best cure macro problems by allowing natural processes to work their magic (Capitalism, the ordinary weather cycle, the ordinary business cycle, the march of technology, the biennial vote). Rather, sufferers insist that "the time for debate is over" and demand "action, action, action!" Don't debate, don't plan, don't think -- just do something... anything!
Normally McCain is immune to the disorder; but on two issues -- campaign corruption and globaloney -- he exhibits symptoms of an advanced stage.
Barack Obama's plan (from his website) is strikingly similar, except he wants to reduce emissions by significantly more than does McCain:
Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
For collectors, here is the Hillary Clinton carbon plan, which is -- surprise, surprise -- virtually identical to Obama's:
Centered on a cap and trade system for carbon emissions, stronger energy and auto efficiency standards and a significant increase in green research funding, Hillary's plan will reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and address the looming climate crisis.
Setting ambitious targets, the plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming, and cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels, more than 10 million barrels per day.
But nobody really cares and it makes no difference; she is not going to be the nominee.
Both Democrats would cut emissions by a third again as much as would McCain... which is precisely why globaloney nonsense is not going to be an issue in the election: If you really rejects the whole crumbling edifice of AGCC, what are you going to do -- vote for Bob Barr?
But there is one other point that cuts for McCain in the election. I believe that, while McCain is sincere, neither Obama nor Clinton is; I believe neither Democrat cares one way or another whether we "do something" about AGCC or not: They care only that the liberal electorate cares.
Thus, while it may be difficult for John McCain to accept that his deep belief about global warming is wrong -- requiring him to admit he was taken for a ride by politicians masquerading as scientists, like NASA's James Hansen -- nevertheless, since he was rationally (if invalidly) convinced of AGCC, he is open to being rationally convinced that it's simply wrong.
But the Democrats were not "rationally convinced" of the truth of globaloney, they were politically convinced. Thus, as long as the great liberal unwashed believe in it, Obama and Hillary will support it -- no matter what the science eventually says.
While this belief in globaloney bothers me (though not nearly so much as the conservative obsession with finding "scientific" alternatives to established evolutionary theory), the Democratic candidate will be much worse than John McCain. Therefore, there's no reason to bring it up in the future: As bad as we many think McCain is, he is still better than the only plausible alternative, even on this issue.
When Harry Met Nancy
A funny thing happened on the way to the fact checker...
AP distributed a very illuminating article today. They compared the major energy proposals of both Democrats and Republicans, in each case reciting the "spin" from proponents -- then following with the "facts," as defined by said checker of said facts.
Here is where illumination sets in: For every single proposal in the Democrats' plan, the "facts" discovered by AP completely contradicts the "spin" from the Democrats. Viz.:
THE DEMOCRATIC PROPOSALS.
_Enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
SPIN: Oil companies are making too much money, earning $123 billion last year while motorists faced soaring gasoline costs. Imposing a 25 percent windfall profits tax on the five largest oil companies and repealing $17 billion in tax breaks could help the shift away from fossil fuels toward alternatives. Taxes could be avoided if profits are used for refinery expansion or development of wind, solar or biomass projects.
FACT: Profits are large because the companies are huge, and oil now sells for well over $120 a barrel. The taxes could spur some new alternative energy projects, but economists say they also could reduce investments in oil and gas exploration, and are unlikely to affect prices. They could do more harm than good, says Robert Hansen, senior associate dean at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "Anytime you put in a tax you create an incentive to avoid it," says Hansen.
And so forth. All in all, here are the proposed Democratic policies and AP's reaction to them:
- "Windfall profits" tax: AP finds that the oil company profits are entirely legitimate and that such a tax would probably backfire;
- Make energy "price gouging" illegal: Nobody can define "gouging," which means the law will end up being de facto "price controls;"
- "Stand up" to OPEC: With the world oil market (and especially with both India and Red China ramping up industrial production), we can't force OPEC to pump more oil or lower the price... but we can prompt them to retaliate against us even trying.
But then the elite media turns its gimlet eye to the (cue scary music) Republican policies. Here, the "fact checker" seems to have found a very different pattern: For every single proposal in the Republicans' plan, AP finds that Democrats in Congress plan to block it from floor action.
In other words, All the Democrats' proposals are stupid and unworkable; and the GOP proposals cannot pass a Democratic Congress!
Case in point:
THE REPUBLICAN PROPOSALS....
_Develop vast amounts of oil and natural gas in offshore waters now off limits.
SPIN: For a quarter century, energy development has been blocked in more than 80 percent of U.S. coastal waters, depriving the country of vast oil and gas resources. States should be allowed waivers to the moratoria and get some of the revenues from development.
FACT: Most areas of federal offshore waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico and off much of Alaska have been placed off limits to drilling by a succession of presidential orders and congressional action to protect tourist industries and avoid the risk of spills and environmental damage. The House has twice approved giving states the right to opt out of the federal ban.
Let's run through the Republican proposals and AP's "fact checking" anent them...
- Pump oil from ANWR: Democrats in the House and Senate and President Clinton have always opposed this, and there's no indication they'll accept it now. Besides, while it's undisputed that we can get billions of barrels of oil from ANWR, it's still a small amount compared to the total world supply (but a large percent of the American supply);
- Drill in the Gulf and other offshore locations: Stubborn Democrats refuse to allow this, too;
- Build new refineries: Because of the ethanol mandate, oil executives don't expect much growth in oil demand; so they prefer to expand existing refineries rather than build new ones;
- Coal-based diesel: Runs afoul of liberal global-warming policy to reduce greenhouse gases. (While John McCain supports doing something about "Anthropogenic global climate change," his plan is nowhere near as draconian as either Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's.)
So the problem with the Democratic proposals is that they simply won't work as advertised... and the real problem with the Republican proposals is the absurd politicization of the House and Senate Energy Committees by vindictive and "world-saving" Democrats, as personified by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 65%).
This analysis sounds so even-handed and mature, I'm shocked, shocked to see it come from the drive-by media.
Date ►►► May 8, 2008
Oppressed by China Red
Today, the Chinese government lugged the Olympic torch (one of the "side torches," not the main one) up to the summit of Mount Everest at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters). Provacatively enough, they ascended the Tibetan (north) face of the mountain (which it pleases the world to call the "Chinese face") rather than the Nepalese (south) face.
All foreign climbing teams were told that Everest was closed for the event; China was very afraid some mountaineer from the United States or some European country would unfurl a "free Tibet" banner and "mar" the celebration. The other climbers who had planned to summit during that period all had to go home or stick around at Base Camp and climb some other time. Even Nepal, under pressure from the 800-lb gorilla of the Chinese occupation force in next-door Tibet, went along with China's seizure of the tallest mountain in the world for a narcissistic celebration of itself.
Most of the climbers were Tibetans climbing in Tibet, but the only national flag they unfurled was Chinese. Instead of being good propaganda for Red China, the climb became mired in controversy, like everything else: To many, it symbolized China's continuing dominance of Tibet and its adamant claim that the invasion and long occupation makes Tibet a province of China now.
But ham-fisted diplomacy and PR has become a hallmark of the not-ready-for-prime-time People's Republic of China, seen most clearly by the catastophic public-relations disaster of the torch tour...
After leaving San Francisco, the Olympic torch traveled down south to Australia and around several Southeast Asian countries before arriving in Nagano, Japan on April 27th. As I wrote before, the Nagano authorities refused to allow the blue-clad Chinese paramilitary guards to run with a torch runner; but that did not deter China: Using internet bulletin-board systems, China solicited a very large number of Chinese exchange students in Japan to "volunteer" for "torch-guarding duty." China even provided them with Chinese flags.
But if Communist China meant to demonstrate that it's civilized enough to host an Olympics, it failed miserably.
The Chinese volunteers in Japan surrounded the torch runner so tightly that they prevented any of the locals from seeing the Japanese celebrity athletes recruited to carry the torch. There were very few Olympics or Japanese flags in view, mostly just a tsunami of red and yellow Communist flags flooding down the parade route. My father, watching the event on TV, told me that it didn't even look like Japan: “If the Chinese wanted to enjoy the torch alone and not let others see it, why didn't they just run it around inside China?”
Two things shocked the Japanese:
- The sheer number of Chinese who showed up; hundreds of "torch guards" materialized seemingly out of nowhere to participate, and many Japanese wondered where they had all been a month earlier.
- How swiftly Japan rushed to appease China; probably because of point 1 above, the Japanese police looked the other way as the pro-Chinese protesters suppressed the pro-Tibet side by force.
It's no secret that there is racial prejudice against Chinese in Japan (and against Japanese in China). But unlike Korean nationals, who are often vocal about their civil rights, the Chinese in Japan have kept a low profile. They by and large assimilate into Japanese society; Chinese immigrants and Japanese citizens had been on relatively good terms for decades.
However, in recent years -- starting with the orchestrated anti-Japanese riot in China over WWII compensation in 2005 -- mounting crime by Chinese gangsters in Japan and the recent frozen-food contamination have severely strained the two countries’ relationship. In this climate, the "in your face" behavior by Chinese students is "unhelpful" (as Donald Rumsfeld would put it) to the image of Red China.
The Japanese people were also angered by the Nagano police's pro-Chinese policy. Determined to avoid trouble, the cops kow-towed to the Chinese, preventing many pro-Tibet and anti-Chinese residents (including Japanese citizens) from protesting.
In this YouTube, a lone pro-Tibetan protester (his sign reads "Shame on China" in English) is surrounded by pro-Chinese agitators. Two of them converge on the man with the anti-Chinese sign, and they rip it to shreds. During all this, several Japanese policemen stand by and do nothing to stop the aggression or protect the Tibet supporter's freedom of speech:
Next, a pro-Tibet protester on a motor-bike is told that his Tibetan flag is offensive and might "create trouble" -- yet just up the block, hundreds of pro-China demonstrators wave hundreds of Chinese flags, and the police allow them to march on:
Policeman: "If you wave such a flag, it looks like a challenge."
Protester: "What about their flags? Why don't you stop them?"
The Nagano police are only taking their cue from the government of Japan; yesterday, pro-China Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda welcomed the Chinese president, Hu Jintao; Hu's main claim to fame -- what likely propelled him into the presidency -- was the crackdown he initiated in 1989 when he ran the "Tibet Autonomous Region"... and the possibility that he may even have had a hand in the unexpected death of the Panchen Lama of Tibet. The Central Committee of the Communist Part of China tends to sit up and take notice of efficient suppression of dissent.
But at least in Japan, the pro-Tibet demonstrators for the most part escaped violence from overzealous Chinese students. South Korea was not so lucky.
At the torch’s next stop in Seoul, over 10,000 Chinese students showed up. Korean police were pathetically unequipped to deal with a mob that size. They could not stop the Chinese from beating a number of anti-Chinese demonstrators (hat tip Agam’s Gecko):
Before the event, the police's main concern was that rallies by human rights activists to protest China's crackdown in Tibet might disrupt the relay. However, tens of thousands of nationalistic Chinese supporters flocked to streets in Seoul, resulting in an outbreak of violence against anti-Beijing Olympic protesters.
Some, including one Korean journalist, sustained light injuries from the clash in which Chinese expatriates and students hurled rocks, sidewalk blocks and rubbish. Police say they will apprehend those who resorted to violence….
The Chinese supporters pushed through police lines, with some of them hurling rocks, bottled water and plastic and steel pipes at the protesters.
It soon turned into a violent clash that left citizens, riot police officers and anti-China protesters injured. A news photographer was hit over the head and another Korean activist was hurt after being hit by a pipe wrench in the chest.
The pro-Chinese later surrounded, kicked and punched Tibetans and South Korean supporters who waved pro-Tibet banners and called for the protection of human rights of North Korean defectors. They also clashed with riot police, witnesses said.
Pro-Chinese violence in Seoul, South Korea
At least there was no People's Liberation Army to gun down the Korean demonstrators.
Choson Online goes into detail about the violence:
The clips show some 100 Chinese crowding in on several Koreans protesting against China’s repression in Tibet in the lobby of the Seoul Plaza Hotel in the heart of the capital, beating them with flagpoles and fists, and kicking them. Riot police were sandwiched in the middle, and some of them were also beaten.
The Chinese students kept shouting, "Beat him to death!" and "Apologize!" Those who were beaten up by the Chinese mob were later revealed to have been three members of civil rights groups who had protested against China’s handling of the Tibet issue in front of the Deoksu Palace on Sunday afternoon. They escaped into the hotel after being chased by over 400 China supporters. One riot police officer had to have six stitches in the head after being beaten by the mob.
There was also footage of a reporter bleeding from the head after being hit by a piece of wood thrown by the Chinese, and a leading member of a civil rights group hurt by a metal cutter hurled by the Chinese demonstrator. One clip shows four American high school students wearing "Free Tibet" T-shirts surrounded by 300 Chinese people. They were later rescued by the police.
(As an aside, this should serve as a strong counterargument to those pro-Chinese and anti-Tibet commenters who have insisted that the pictures in this post are "easily explained" by the suggestion that Tibetan demonstrators and Chinese loyalists happily walk side by side without friction to the demonstrations.)
As you might imagine, Koreans are up in arms about the Chinese mob’s behavior.
According to Japanese language Choson Online, before the riots against freedom of speech began, South Koreans were somewhat sympathetic to China for all the troubles they were having with protest spanning the globe. However, their feelings toward China have changed overnight: Oppressing dissenters within their own country is one thing; it's ugly, but other Asian countries are reluctant to interfere in China's internal business. But assaulting and suppressing anti-Chinese sentiment in foreign countries is unforgivable. Who are the Chinese to dictate to the rest of the world what protesters can say about Red China?
This scandal demonstrates two points:
- How diplomatically immature China still is, still making the sort of blunders more often assciated with third-world countries like Myanmar;
- And how feckless it was for the International Olympic Committee to award the 2008 Olympics to Beijing in the first place, in the misguided and thoughtless belief that merely giving China everything it wants will raise the self esteem of the Chinese Communist Party so much that they will spontaneously reform themselves.
The first point is easily argued: Whether or not China helped orchestrate the violent Tibetan demonstrations in and out of the country earlier, why didn't they just keep playin the victim card? Why not continue to hawk the line that it is the demonstrators, not the put-upon Chinese, who are the unreasonable ones?
A couple of weeks of China complaining that France and Japan and South Korea were not living up to their obligation to protect the torch, coupled with pictures of vicious anti-Chinese thugs rioting in the streets, would have been worth years of pro-Chinese propaganda.
Instead, with visions of Tiananmen Square dancing like sugarplums in their heads, the Communists deployed paramilitary troops to aggressively "guard the torch;" and when other countries prevented such invasions by the PLA, China pressed its foreign-exchange students into duty as urban-assault irregulars -- just like the Nazi and Stalinist fighters who battled in the German streets before the NSDAP finally took over.
Neville Chamberlain had a catchy phrase for the second point above; when applied to Nazi Germany in 1938, he called it "peace in our time." (World War II began the next year, and Chamberlain lived just long enough to see the collapse of his peace plan.)
China is the most populous country in the world (but not for long) and one of the most troublous, having deep ties to both North Korea and Iran. It certainly is not the most powerful, yet it is one of the most belligerent.
Which accounts for the kow-towing by countries such as Japan and South Korea: People usually show great deference to the town madman, even if he's armed only with a nuclear pocket knife.
Date ►►► May 7, 2008
Stephen King's Patriotism Has Never Been Questioned...
Last month, Stephen King, famous author of bloated horror novels that run 800, 900, 1200 pages long, made this Kerryesque statement while talking to some kids about the importance of reading:
I don’t want to sound like an ad, a public service ad on TV, but the fact is if you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that. It’s not as bright.
Two days ago, King was called on the carpet by Noel Sheppard, American Thinker author and blogger at NewsBusters; Sheppard wondered why King, a former teacher, would bash the military (telling schoolchildren that the American Army is staffed with illiterates) during wartime.
"Shut up," King explained.
Oh, let's be fair; "shut up" is not his entire explanation, only part. To be perfectly fair to King -- much fairer than he was to Sheppard -- here is King's complete statement from his own website (scroll down to May 5th):
That a right-wing-blog would impugn my patriotism because I said children should learn to read, and could get better jobs by doing so, is beneath contempt. Noel Sheppard says, “Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen.” I guess he feels ignorance and illiteracy are OK when the country needs cannon-fodder. I guess he also feels that the war in Iraq has nationwide approval. Well, it doesn’t have mine. It is a waste of national resources... and that includes the youth and blood of the 4,000 American troops who have lost their lives there and for the tens of thousands who have been wounded. I live in a national guard town, and I support our troops [!], but I don’t support either the war or educational policies that limit the options of young men and women to any one career -- military or otherwise. If you agree, find Sheppard on the internet, and send him an email:
“Hi, Noel—Stephen King says to shut up and I agree.”
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," wrote Samuel Johnson in 1775 in a letter to Lord Chesterfield. He meant false patriotism, the blustery chest-thumping of a man who knows he has said something despicable, feels guilty about it, but is too narcissistic simply to apologize... so instead, he clumsily tries to "turn the tables" on those he sees as attacking him.
Heck, after a few days of self-congratulatory whining, he might even convince himself that he really is the aggrieved party; nobody knows the trouble Stephen King has seen. The liberal knack for self-delusion is little short of breathtaking.
So, did Sheppard impugn King's patriotism? Well, no, not really; in fact, the word never crossed his keyboard:
For those that can bear it, what follows is another in a long line of liberal media members bashing the military....
[King quote above]
Nice sentiment when the nation is at war, Stephen.
Ought he have impugned it? It certainly seems appropriate: King's original statement, like Kerry's, is in fact unpatriotic. He mocks and disparages America's military troops while we're at war, a fact I suppose he barely recognizes.
Stephen King is a good writer of horror fiction (at least he used to be; I haven't read his stuff in years); but he is also a doctrinaire liberal in the Arianna-Huffington mold. His "analysis" of the Iraq war is facile, uninformed, out of date, and historically illiterate (say, is he illiterate enough to join the Army?) From the Bangor Daily News article:
I guess [Sheppard] also feels that the war in Iraq has nationwide approval. Well, it doesn’t have mine. It is a waste of national resources... and that includes the youth and blood of the 4,000 American troops who have lost their lives there and for the tens of thousands who have been wounded.
Substitute a slightly smaller number in the statement above, and King could have made it at any time from 2003 on. He shows not the slightest awareness of the dramatic turnaround in the last year and a half, caused by switching strategies from attrition to counterinsurgency (of which he's also probably ignorant). Heck, it's almost a pull-quote from a Michael Moore interview. I wonder how many times he's watched his personal, autographed copy of Fahrenheit 911?
(But of course, he "support[s] our troops;" just not not their mission or the country that sent them.)
King's response to Sheppard's criticism was a perfect synthesis of all the qualities of contemporary liberalism: fear-mongering, know-nothingism, petulance, and utter disdain for freedom of speech: Note that he concludes by telling his readers to inundate Sheppard with e-mails telling him to "shut up" (which actually is his real explanation, after all).
Nice sentiment anent a fundamental right, Stephen.
It's tone-perfect liberalism: Free speech for me, but not for thee. Like his role models, the Dixie Chicks, Stephen King believes he has the unfettered right to dismiss the war and smear the troops without having to suffer the slings and arrows of other people's contrarian speech.
Don't you know who he is? He's a big man! He shouldn't have to be criticized -- especially not by some peon who hasn't had even a single New York Times bestseller.
Never in anything I have ever read by Mr. King -- I've read a lot but not much recently -- has he ever so much as hinted at any feeling of patriotism or love of country, or even that he thinks America is any better than any other nation randomly pulled out of a hat... Great Britain, Singapore, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Like everywhere else in King's atlas, America is a frightening place where horrible monsters roam. He's never claimed that we're worse than everybody else, as the most extreme liberals do; but he hasn't said we're any better, either.
In other words, I must agree: Stephen King's "patriotism" has never been questioned. So far as I know, it has never been mentioned.
Young Jazz Singer on Dancing With the Stars Goes Out With True Style
21 year old Jazz singer Mario -- né Mario Dewar Barrett -- was eliminated from Dancing With the Stars last night.
Mario and professional partner Karina Smirnoff on Dancing With the Stars
Too bad; I rather liked him; he was always upbeat, took criticism well and tried to incorporate it into the next week's dances, and showed a lot of class. But we knew he was in trouble when he came in second on the judges' leader board one week... yet was in the bottom two after the voting. Clearly, his many fans were not watching the show in large enough numbers to keep him in the competition.
But when Mario left, he did something nobody else on the show has ever done; and it was so patriotic, so moving, that I was near taken aback. Mario began by thanking head judge Len Goodman for the criticism he had given Mario, which he said made him a better ballroom dancer. Then he added this, completely unexpectedly:
And the comment about me being brave and being an inspiration, you know, for young people, I want to say that the real brave ones are the young men and women fighting for our country overseas. And I want to, you know, really shed light on that and tell you thanks for that. And I really appreciate it, and I've had a ball. Thank you very much!
Mario said nothing political, but that very fact speaks volumes. Barack Obama could not have resisted the temptation to use our soldiers and Marines to make some political point, nor could have Hillary Clinton. But Mario only wanted to thank and praise the troops... so that is all he did.
A classy exit for a very classy guy. And I couldn't care less about his politics... whatever they are.
Date ►►► May 6, 2008
Gee, He Really Is Conservative - Page 3: Judges
The third in our series about John McCain's conservatism, which turns out, funnily enough, not to be oxymoronic at all. The earlier installments were:
- Gee, He Really Is Conservative - Page 1: Economics 101
- Gee, He Really Is Conservative - Page 2: Health Care
Today, John McCain gave his new stump speech on the judiciary and his own judicial philosophy. You don't need to be a judge or even a lawyer to have a judicial philosophy; I have one, and I'm not a lawyer... I do sometimes play sea-lawyer on the internet, but that doesn't really count.
Being blessed with towering ignorance of the law, I really have little to say about this issue. (Little of value, I mean; that certainly does not imply I'll shut up in future.) Instead, I turn the floor over to my friend Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, who is a lawyer -- or at least claims to be one -- and is a conservative. Or at least claims to be one.
Paul says that McCain's speech on his future judicial appointments was "very strong, very sound." Since I know that many of our readers are lawyers, real ones; and as I've heard that lawyers sometimes disagree with and don't trust the judgment of one another; I have continued the tradition of quoting extensively from McCain's own speech in the "slither on;" in this case, "extensively" means the entire speech. Y'all can pick nits to the utter fulfillment of those greedy, little lumps of coal you people call hearts.
Paul Mirengoff begins, "Senator McCain delivered an address on judicial philosophy at Wake Forest University today. It's very strong, very sound speech." Continuing in that vein, after a long, lazy quotation from McCain's speech, Paul concludes the following (long, lazy quotation from Mirengoff's blogpost follows):
Should McCain's speech satisfy conservatives? Not in and of itself; actions speak louder than words. However, McCain's actions over the years have mostly been consistent with these words. For example, he was a solid supporter of Roberts, Alito, and nearly all of the court of appeals nominees that Democrats attempted to block. His decision to join the Gang of 14 seems to have been a tactical one -- he thought it would maximize success in confirming worthy nominees. One can disagree with that judgment, as I do, without seeing it as inconsistent with a sound judicial philosophy....
For my part, I don't expect that McCain will be perfect on these issues; indeed, even Reagan at times came up short. But I certainly agree that McCain understands most of the basics and that, in all likelihood, his approach to the judiciary will generally be sound.
(But notice, I'm marginally less lazy -- because I made judicious use of the elipsis to spare you the necessity of reading every word, even those that are less dispositive than the ones I chose to quote. Just like Prof. Higgens, "[I have] the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein." Consider yourself blessed to have found this site; think how drab, listless, and unexciting was your life before discovering Big Lizards!)
In any event, as the mantra goes, read the whole thing. I mean the Power Line whole thing. Oh heck, both whole things; and read this whole thing, too. You'll be as happy as a doornail that you did.
What follows is the entire text of McCain's speech...
May 6, 2008
U.S. Senator John McCain will deliver the following remarks as prepared for delivery at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, NC, today at 10:00 a.m. EDT:
Thank you, Ted, and thank you all very much. Dr. Hatch, I'm grateful for your invitation to this great university. And Senator Richard Burr, thank you for that warm welcome to North Carolina and to Wait Chapel. I'm honored to be here, and I brought along a friend. I'm sure you'll recognize him -- my pal, Senator FredThompson of Tennessee.
We appreciate the hospitality of the students and faculty of Wake ForestUniversity, and especially during exams. I know exam week involves some tough moments, likewhen you're up at 3:00 a.m. and have to choose between studying or watching one of Fred's old movies. Most of the students here look confident and ready, so you need no advice from me as final exams draw near. But for those of you who might be feeling a slight sense of panic coming on, all I can say is that a few bad grades don't have to be end of the road -- so just give it your best and move on. An undistinguished academic record can be overcome in life, or at least that is the hope that has long sustained me.
Your kind invitation brings me here as a candidate for president of the United States, and anyone in that pursuit has plenty of promises to make and to keep. When it's all over, however, the next president will be compelled to make just one promise, in the same words that 42 others have spoken when the moment arrived. The framers of our Constitution had a knack for coming right to the point, and it shows in the 35-word oath that ends with a pledge to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution itself.
This is what we require and expect of every president, no matter what the agenda or loyalties of party. All the powers of the American presidency must serve the Constitution, and thereby protect the people and their liberties. For the chief executive or any other constitutional officer, the duties and boundaries of the Constitution are not just a set of helpful suggestions. They are not just guidelines, to be observed when it's convenient and loosely interpreted when it isn't. The clear powers defined by our Constitution, and the clear limits of power, lose nothing of their relevance with time, because the dangers they guard against are found in every time.
In America, the constitutional restraint on power is as fundamental as the exercise of power, and often more so. Yet the framers knew that these restraints would not always be observed. They were idealists, but they were worldly men as well, and they knew that abuses of power would arise and need to be firmly checked. Their design for democracy was drawn from their experience with tyranny. A suspicion of power is ingrained in both the letter and spirit of the American Constitution.
In the end, of course, their grand solution was to allocate federal power three ways, reserving all other powers and rights to the states and to the people themselves. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches are often wary of one another's excesses, and they should be. They seek to keep each other within bounds, and they are supposed to. And though you wouldn't always know it from watching the day-to-day affairs of modern Washington, the framers knew exactly what they were doing, and the system of checks and balances rarely disappoints.
There is one great exception in our day, however, and that is the common and systematic abuse of our federal courts by the people we entrust with judicial power. For decades now, some federal judges have taken it upon themselves to pronounce and rule on matters that were never intended to be heard in courts or decided by judges. With a presumption that would have amazed the framers of our Constitution, and legal reasoning that would have mystified them, federal judges today issue rulings and opinions on policy questions that should be decided democratically. Assured of lifetime tenures, these judges show little regard for the authority of the president, the Congress, and the states. They display even less interest in the will of the people. And the only remedy available to any of us is to find, nominate, and confirm better judges.
Quite rightly, the proper role of the judiciary has become one of the defining issues of this presidential election. It will fall to the next president to nominate hundreds of qualified men and women to the federal courts, and the choices we make will reach far into the future. My two prospective opponents and I have very different ideas about the nature and proper exercise of judicial power. We would nominate judges of a different kind, a different caliber, a different understanding of judicial authority and its limits. And the people of America -- voters in both parties whose wishes and convictions are so often disregarded by unelected judges -- are entitled to know what those differences are.
Federal courts are charged with applying the Constitution and laws of our country to each case at hand. There is great honor in this responsibility, and honor is the first thing to go when courts abuse their power. The moral authority of our judiciary depends on judicial self-restraint, but this authority quickly vanishes when a court presumes to make law instead of apply it. A court is hardly competent to check the abuses of other branches of government when it cannot even control itself.
One Justice of the Court remarked in a recent opinion that he was basing a conclusion on "my own experience," even though that conclusion found no support in the Constitution, or in applicable statutes, or in the record of the case in front of him. Such candor from the bench is rare and even commendable. But it was not exactly news that the Court had taken to setting aside the facts and the Constitution in its review of cases, and especially in politically charged cases. Often, political causes are brought before the courts that could not succeed by democratic means, and some federal judges are eager to oblige. Politicians sometimes contribute to the problem as well, abdicating responsibility and letting the courts make the tough decisions for them. One abuse of judicial authority inspires more. One act of raw judicial power invites others. And the result, over many years, has been a series of judicial opinions and edicts w andering farther and farther from the clear meanings of the Constitution, and from the clear limits of judicial power that the Constitution defines.
Sometimes the expressed will of the voters is disregarded by federal judges, as in a 2005 case concerning an aggravated murder in the State of Missouri. As you might recall, the case inspired a Supreme Court opinion that left posterity with a lengthy discourse on international law, the constitutions of other nations, the meaning of life, and "evolving standards of decency." These meditations were in the tradition of "penumbras," "emanations," and other airy constructs the Court has employed over the years as poor substitutes for clear and rigorous constitutional reasoning. The effect of that ruling in the Missouri case was familiar too. When it finally came to the point, the result was to reduce the penalty, disregard our Constitution, and brush off the standards of the people themselves and their elected representatives.
The year 2005 also brought the case of Susette Kelo before the Supreme Court. Here was a woman whose home was taken from her because the local government and a few big corporations had designs of their own on the land, and she was getting in the way. There is hardly a clearer principle in all the Constitution than the right of private property. There is a very clear standard in the Constitution requiring not only just compensation in the use of eminent domain, but also that private property may be taken only for "public use." But apparently that standard has been "evolving" too. In the hands of a narrow majority of the court, even the basic right of property doesn't mean what we all thought it meant since the founding of America. A local government seized the private property of an American citizen. It gave that property away to a private developer. And this power play actually got the constitutional "thumbs-up" from five m embers of the Supreme Court.
Then there was the case of the man in California who filed a suit against the entire United States Congress, which I guess made me a defendant too. This man insisted that the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violated his rights under the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit court agreed, as it usually does when litigious people seek to rid our country of any trace of religious devotion. With an air of finality, the court declared that any further references to the Almighty in our Pledge were -- and I quote -- "impermissible." And it was so ordered -- generations of pious, unoffending custom supposedly overturned by one decree out of a courtroom in San Francisco. And now it turns out the same litigant is back for more in the Ninth Circuit, this time demanding that the words "In God We Trust" be forever removed from our currency. I have a feeling this fellow will get wind of my remarks today -- and we're all in for trouble when he hears that we met in a chapel.
In the shorthand of constitutional discourse, these abuses by the courts fall under the heading of "judicial activism." But real activism in our country is democratic. Real activists seek to make their case democratically -- to win hearts, minds, and majorities to their cause. Such people throughout our history have often shown great idealism and done great good. By contrast, activist lawyers and activist judges follow a different method. They want to be spared the inconvenience of campaigns, elections, legislative votes, and all of that. They don't seek to win debates on the merits of their argument; they seek to shut down debates by order of the court. And even in courtrooms, they apply a double standard. Some federal judges operate by fiat, shrugging off generations of legal wisdom and precedent while expecting their own opinions to go unquestioned. Only their favorite precedents are to be considered "settled law," and everything else is fair game.
The sum effect of these capricious rulings has been to spread confusion instead of clarity in our vital national debates, to leave resentment instead of resolution, and to turn Senate confirmation hearings into a gauntlet of abuse. Over the years, we have all seen the dreary rituals that now pass for advice and consent in the confirmation of nominees to our Supreme Court. We've seen and heard the shabby treatment accorded to nominees, the caricature and code words shouted or whispered, the twenty-minute questions and two-minute answers. We have seen disagreements redefined as disqualifications, and the least infraction of approved doctrine pounced upon by senators, their staffs, and their allies in the media. Always hanging in the air over these tense confirmation battles is the suspicion that maybe, just maybe, a nominee for the Court will dare to be faithful to the clear intentions of the framers and to the actual meaning of the Constitution. And then no tactic of abuse or delay is out of bounds, until the nominee is declared "in trouble" and the spouse is in tears.
Of course, in the daily routine of Senate obstructionism, presidential nominees to the lower courts are now lucky if they get a hearing at all. These courts were created long ago by the Congress itself, on what then seemed the safe assumption that future Senates would attend to their duty to fill them with qualified men and women nominated by the president. Yet at this moment there are 31 nominations pending, including several for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that serves North Carolina. Because there are so many cases with no judges to hear them, a "judicial emergency" has been declared here by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. And a third of the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is vacant. But the alarm has yet to sound for the Senate majority leadership. Their idea of a judicial emergency is the possible confirmation of any judge who doesn't meet their own narrow tests of party and ideology. They want federal judges who will push the limits of constitutional law, and, to this end, they have pushed the limits of Senate rules and simple courtesy.
As my friend and colleague Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma points out, somehow these very same senators can always find time to process earmark spending projects. But months go by, years even, and they can't get around to voting on judicial nominations -- to meeting a basic Senate duty under our Constitution. If a lobbyist shows up wanting another bridge to nowhere, or maybe even a courthouse with a friend's name on it, that request will be handled by the Senate with all the speed and urgency of important state business. But when a judicial nominee arrives to the Senate -- a nominee to preside at a courthouse and administer justice -- then he or she had better settle in, because the Senate majority has other business and other priorities.
Things almost got even worse a few years ago, when there were threats of a filibuster to require 60 votes for judicial confirmations, and threats in reply of a change in Senate rules to prevent a filibuster. A group of senators, nicknamed the "Gang of 14," got together and agreed we would not filibuster unless there were "extraordinary circumstances." This parliamentary truce was brief, but it lasted long enough to allow the confirmation of Justices Roberts, Alito, and many other judges. And it showed that serious differences can be handled in a serious way, without allowing Senate business to unravel in a chaos of partisan anger.
Here, too, Senators Obama and Clinton have very different ideas from my own. They are both lawyers themselves, and don't seem to mind at all when fundamental questions of social policy are preemptively decided by judges instead of by the people and their elected representatives. Nor have they raised objections to the unfair treatment of judicial nominees.
For both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, it turned out that not even John Roberts was quite good enough for them. Senator Obama in particular likes to talk up his background as a lecturer on law, and also as someone who can work across the aisle to get things done. But when Judge Roberts was nominated, it seemed to bring out more the lecturer in Senator Obama than it did the guy who can get things done. He went right along with the partisan crowd, and was among the 22 senators to vote against this highly qualified nominee. And just where did John Roberts fall short, by the Senator's measure? Well, a justice of the court, as Senator Obama explained it -- and I quote -- should share "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy."
These vague words attempt to justify judicial activism -- come to think of it, they sound like an activist judge wrote them. And whatever they mean exactly, somehow Senator Obama's standards proved too lofty a standard for a nominee who was brilliant, fair-minded, and learned in the law, a nominee of clear rectitude who had proved more than the equal of any lawyer on the Judiciary Committee, and who today is respected by all as the Chief Justice of the United States. Somehow, by Senator Obama's standard, even Judge Roberts didn't measure up. And neither did Justice Samuel Alito. Apparently, nobody quite fits the bill except for an elite group of activist judges, lawyers, and law professors who think they know wisdom when they see it -- and they see it only in each other.
I have my own standards of judicial ability, experience, philosophy, and temperament. And Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito meet those standards in every respect. They would serve as the model for my own nominees if that responsibility falls to me. And yet when President Bill Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg to serve on the high court, I voted for their confirmation, as did all but a few of my fellow Republicans. Why? For the simple reason that the nominees were qualified, and it would have been petty, and partisan, and disingenuous to insist otherwise. Those nominees represented the considered judgment of the president of the United States. And under our Constitution, it is the president's call to make.
In the Senate back then, we didn't pretend that the nominees' disagreements with us were a disqualification from office even though the disagreements were serious and obvious. It is part of the discipline of democracy to respect the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government, and, above all, to respect the verdicts of elections and judgment of the people. Had we forgotten this in the Senate, we would have been guilty of the very thing that many federal judges do when they overreach, and usurp power, and betray their trust.
The surest way to restore fairness to the confirmation process is to restore humility to the federal courts. In federal and state courts, and in the practice of law across our nation, there are still men and women who understand the proper role of our judiciary. And I intend to find them, and promote them, if I am elected president.
Harry Truman said that he gave "more thought, more care, and more deliberation" to the selection of judges than nearly any other duty of the office. I will bring that same level of care and caution to my judicial nominations, expecting in return that the Senate will do its own part, and confine itself to the duty of confirming qualified men and women for the courts. The decisions of our Supreme Court in particular can be as close to permanent as anything government does. And in the presidential selection of those who will write those decisions, a hunch, a hope, and a good first impression are not enough. I will not seek the confidence of the American people in my nominees until my own confidence is complete -- until I am certain of my nominee's ability, wisdom, and demonstrated fidelity to the Constitution.
I will look for accomplished men and women with a proven record of excellence in the law, and a proven commitment to judicial restraint. I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and my friend the late William Rehnquist -- jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference. My nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power, and clear limits to the scope of federal power. They will be men and women of experience and wisdom, and the humility that comes with both. They will do their work with impartiality, honor, and humanity, with an alert conscience, immune to flattery and fashionable theory, and faithful in all things to the Constitution of the United States.
There was a day when all could enter the federal courthouses of our country feeling something distinctive about them -- the hush of serious business, the quiet presence of the majesty of the law. Quite often, you can still find it there. And in all the institutions of government there is nothing to match the sight of a court of law at its best. My commitment to you and to all the American people is to help restore the standards and spirit that give the judicial branch its place of honor in our government. Every federal court should command respect, instead of just obedience. Every federal court should be a refuge from abuses of power, and not the source. In every federal court in America, we must have confidence again that no rule applies except the rule of law, and that no interest is served except the interest of justice. Thank you very much.
Date ►►► May 5, 2008
Ben Stein's witty agit-prop documentary is not primarily about science. It is about the politics of science. As such, it documents how some of the ideas of Charles Darwin have been misused, creating stumbling blocks to unfettered research in disciplines unrelated to evolutionary science.
During an interview with Geraldo Rivera, Stein insisted on a clear distinction between "intelligent design" and "creationism." Stein does not view himself as a creationist but rather as an opponent of what he considers to be the State Religion of "Darwinism." The trouble is that the film itself lacks intelligent design at crucial moments.
When scientists are interviewed who happen to be atheists there is no doubt that they employ science as a means of bolstering their belief system. Metaphysics aint the same as physics! Richard Dawkins is always honest and even complains about mainstream Christians (Catholic and Protestant) who reconcile God and evolution. Pope John Paul was a famous example of this.
Here is where we get into trouble. Every time a propagandist is about to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth he simply cannot resist cheap shots and omissions. Sure, Stein is better than Michael Moore or Ann Coulter. So what? He doesn't heed his better angels in this film. The result is a good film that doesn't tell the whole truth. This could have been a great film.
When Stein interviews the heretics against Darwinism it is rarely clear who is a creationist as opposed to someone who has no problem with the obvious fact that species originate from other species over the vast gulfs of time required for this genuine miracle. There is at least one creationist in the woodpile who pooh-poohs changes in anything but an already established species.
Close attention to this movie inspires our own dangerous thoughts. For example, this writer never forgets the science fiction of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Quatermass and the Pit, both advancing ideas that would fall under the heading of tinkering with the evolutionary process (i.e., intelligent design at interesting moments). Never mind that these works of SF are not in the business of providing proof for their wild speculations. According to the State Religion of "Darwinism" -- that Stein proves exists to some extent -- these movies are not science fiction. They have a tinge of intelligent design. Intelligent design of any kind is indistinguishable from creationism. Therefore quite a lot of science fiction (if you add it all up) is dastardly creationist fiction. This burning issue is not going to be discussed in scientific journals but it is at the core of why Stein has a point.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Creationists say "Chicken" and evolutionists say "Egg" -- and your humble reviewer likes his science sunny side up. Of course the evolutionary process is real. We don't need no stinkin' fossils to prove that. All we need is to take a good look at the duckbill platypus or the angler fish.
But Expelled shows molecular biologists punished for questioning any part of the old Natural Selection notions of what was an amazing theory in the Nineteenth Century but maybe could use an upgrade. Darwin's ideas of the cell were primitive compared to what we now understand. One commentator says that if Darwin saw the cell as an automobile it is now a galaxy. The most visually stunning part of the film shows the cell as sort of a surreal Disney nano-factory. Hey, that's not the Garden of Eden! How can any science person get in trouble with another science person over nifty stuff like that?
Michael Shermer tells Stein early in the film that no one loses a job for the heresy of intelligent design in various fields. Stein shows case after case of people not having contracts renewed for exactly that. A professor with tenure couldn't be fired but his grants mysteriously went extinct. Coincidence? It just happened naturally. No prime movers need apply.
Stein wins this part of the argument. There is a Science Orthodoxy that has nothing to do with scientific method. Grant money is the math that matters.
Ben Stein should have quit while he was ahead. There are two things he gets spectacularly wrong. The first is the casino cartoon where he attempts to show how highly improbable it is for a specific genome code to emerge by random chance. At this point we turn the review over to J. Kent Hastings (co-author with the reviewer of the novel Anarquia) who knows a little something about science. Take it away, Kent:
"There are many viable non-lethal mutations that can survive and reproduce. Perhaps getting a particular exact genome code is as improbable as Stein suggests. But some organism that fits an ecological niche will very likely emerge with an equally improbable code. The scientific consensus is that the vast amount of time since life began on Earth is sufficient to account for the species we observe today and the fossil remains of any extinct species."
This reviewer claims to know a little about scientists and that's where Stein really screws up. He digs up the old fossil canard and tries to link poor Charles Darwin to the Nazis. Stein sort of says he isn't doing what he then proceeds to do, thus qualifying him to be the kind of person who fires other persons without admitting the reasons. Charles Darwin was not a Social Darwinist. He had nothing to do with eugenics. Stein plays a trick worthy of Michael Moore. He quotes a typical Nineteenth Century attitude from Darwin about the breeding of better sorts of animals so isn't a shame that better people don't do all the breeding. That is very different from equating Darwin with the mystical racism of Hitler. It also isn't the same as Darwin advocating any kind of government program to do the impossible by Darwin's standards. The author of The Origin of Species didn't think that human beings could guide the course of evolution.
Ben Stein makes sure that we in the audience know that he's Jewish during this section. He doesn't bother informing us that the vast majority of educated Nineteenth Century Jews could and did make the same kind of remarks that he berates Darwin for making. If the film had ended here it would have left a very bad taste.
For the good of the film, it ends on a much higher note. Stein deserves an Oscar for this bit. Panspermia rears its Hydra heads at just the right moment. Dawkins and Stein meet in a battle worthy of King Kong vs. Godzilla! The contemporary world's most famous atheist insists he doesn't believe that any concept of a god or goddess could have any merit. Stein plays his victim, the passionate disbeliever, like a musical instrument. Somehow he gets the great man to admit the possibility of life being seeded on Earth from space. And then comes the kicker. There could be super intelligent aliens involved somewhere along the line.
Yes, Ben Stein gets that admission from Richard Dawkins. Game over! What, something to study? Intelligent whatsit? Life engineered somehow? Richard Dawkins is married to Lala Ward, the second Lady Romana on the greatest science fiction TV series, Doctor Who. You'd think he would have remembered some of the god-like super aliens that Lala Ward had over for dinner and avoided Stein's trap.
Earlier in the film, and in the trailer for the film, the seed was planted. Evolution is not about the origin of life. It's about the origin of species. There is no convincing science about the origin of life because we still don't know. Evolution is not a theory. It's an established fact. But the origin of life is still theory!!! Take your amino acid mud bath and invite Dr. Frankenstein over with his electrical equipment. Or imagine some incomprehensible something speaking a Word. Or imagine eternal life and the eternal return if you prefer. So far, science doesn't have the answer. The atheists insist on what the answer must be but science is silent on the subject. We could find life forms on a thousand worlds and still not know how it all began.
If Dr. Frankenstein discovers the ultimate question we can hope he shares the answer before the villagers get to him with fire and pitchfork. And we can be sure of one thing. After seeing Expelled, we know that the lynch mob is as likely to storm out of the university classrooms as the village tavern or church.
Brad Linaweaver is an award winning science fiction author and libertarian activist. This article is available to anyone who wants it so long as there is no editing and the author's name is spelled correctly. It can also appear on copyrighted sites: just run copyright 2008 by the author with permission to reprint granted to everyone.
NYT: Leadership and Patriotism Merely "Symbolic" "Distractions" From the Issues
Here is a fascinating (and betimes repellent) glimpse inside the liberal mindset, where a "distraction from the real issues" is any ground on which the Democrat in question doesn't want to fight.
Yesterday, the New York Times published another of its unbiased, nonpartisan analyses of the race; oddly, it turns out that Democrats are fighting on important issues (like gasoline prices -- what is Obama going to do, impose price controls?)... while Republicans are squabbling over irrational, distracting, and "symbolic" issues -- leadership, character, patriotism, and the candidates' visions of a future America:
Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.
But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.
The memory of that campaign -- reinforced, for many, by the attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam war record in the 2004 election -- haunts Democrats of a certain generation.
And by the way, Barack Obama is now playing the race card. I know this comes as a great shock to readers here, who never thought that the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy -- and a Democrat! -- would ever use his race as an issue in the campaign. I mean, that’s a storybook, man. But there he goes again:
Mr. Obama himself seemed chastened by the re-emergence of the old politics last week. “Let’s be honest,” he said in an interview on NBC. “You know, here I am, an African-American named Barack Obama who’s running for president. I mean, that’s a leap for folks. And I think it’s understandable that my political opponents would say, ‘You know, he’s different. He’s odd. He’s sort of unfamiliar. And what do we know about him?’ ”
Note that he didn't try to demonstrate any actual racism directed against him; he flings the inuendo of bigotry while taking constant refuge within real bigotry, as with his twenty-year flirtation with the race-baiting Jeremiah Wright. It's as if racism has no inherent evil but is freely available for anyone to use as a weapon against the Right ("any stick to bash a conservative"). Consider this a preview; we'll come back to this later, when it will become the central point.
What fascinates me is that Democrats still don't understand the whole "values" thing; and I begin to believe that, like eunuchs in a seraglio, they're aware of something wonderful going on, but they're unequipped by their natures to participate.
Like George H.W. Bush and the "vision thing," that failure to understand speaks volumes, saying more about the unacceptability of Democrats in a time of war than any policy dispute their political opponents can raise. Consider this, the heart of what drew me to this Times story in the first place:
But David Axelrod, chief strategist to Mr. Obama, argues that any Democratic nominee will be subject to the same withering attacks on values and character.
Character, of course, is a moral value; it includes such "symbolic" elements as courage, honesty, loyalty, patriotism, civility, constancy, and -- wait, what is that again? oh yeah -- leadership. Democrats still can't wrap their brain lobes around the fact that the American people consistently elect their president based on these "symbols," rather than on the "plan" that the "man" (or woman) enunciates.
Perhaps it would penetrate if we noted that absent those seven deadly virtues above, it's impossible to know whether the man will actually implement the plan... or will change his mind, lie to his constituents, and do something completely different once elected.
Remember this? Bill Clinton ran, among other platform planks, on fully integrating gays into the military; it was, he said several times, going to be his "first executive order." But once elected, the Democratic Congress turned truculent on gays. So without a second thought, Clinton dropped the whole issue like a wad of used Kleenex
It makes no difference whether you agree or disagree with the policy. The point is that character matters a great deal more than any particular "issue." Those who voted for Clinton because he had "the plan" they liked, and who were angry and impatient with anyone who questioned his character, got the shock of their lives when "the plan" went straight into the can:
- He ran as a moderate charter member of the Democratic Leadership Council, but immediately turned hard left; then after the 1994 elections handed Congress to the Republicans, Clinton made another U-turn to start "triangulating" on issues such as welfare and taxes. This is inconstancy.
- He threw a bunch of Army Rangers into Somalia, vowing to track down Mohamed Farrah Aidid and bring him to justice (Operation Gothic Serpent); but when a couple of Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Rangers killed in the subsequent battle -- and even though they killed about 700 Somali militiamen -- Clinton nevertheless panicked and yanked out the troops; this demonstrates a distinct lack of courage.
- He denied the accusations of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky (in the Oval Office of the White House -- rather, the small working vestibule off of the Oval Office) and even sent surrogates out to the talk shows to insist it was all a GOP hit job on him. He detailed Hillary Clinton to declare it a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Then, when the blue dress was produced, he almost casually did another about-face, admitting everything (including the lies)... leaving all his sock puppets looking like liars and fools (including Mrs. Rodham Clinton Rodham). Thus his basic dishonesty.
One of the most gifted politicians of the post-World War II era did himself in by his own colossal narcissism, dishonesty, and other character flaws. One would think, given this example, even Democrats would understand why character is not just a "distraction," and values are not just "symbolic" issues.
Yet evidently not; they still don't get it... and I believe this stems from the very character flaws that led them to liberalism in the first place: moral vacuity, nihilism, and terminal egoism.
This isn't the 1930s, 40s, or even early 60s, and today's liberals didn't become so in response to Jim Crow, Joseph McCarthy, or the Great Depression. The most seminal influence on their political walkabout was the rioting and unrest of the late 60s and early 70s. Their heroes were the overeducated, overfed, and overly pampered ersatz "revolutionaries" of that era. Their heroes were those:
- Who zealously took up the Red crusade to create the New Socialist Man;
- Who spouted the jingoisms of America's enemies during the Vietnam War;
- Who accused America of being the biggest terrorist and war criminal in the world;
- Who didn't want to save the environment for people, but rather from people;
- Who demanded that we fight "racism" (meaning the bad life decisions made by people of "protected" racial groups) by instituting even more racism;
- Who preached that whites were racially guilty, males were sexually guilty, and ordinary, middle-class people had stolen everything they had from the poor, from minorities, and from "Native Americans;"
- And who never saw a problem they didn't want to politicize and turn into a statist grab.
These are the saints of contemporary left-liberaldom: Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Bernadine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Andrea Dworkin, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Malcolm X, Russell Means, and "Field Marshal Cinque" of the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Their contemporary followers are neither so grandiose nor as infamous; in fact, they are rather squalid: Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Sean Penn, Janeane Garofalo, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee, Ward Churchill, and Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org. Their worldview is likewise squalid, unimaginative, concrete-bound, and transcendentally narcissistic. David Axelrod -- chief "strategist" to Obama, remember him? -- continues, with an interpretive assist from Times reporter Robin Toner:
“The question,” Mr. Axelrod said, “is whether given the abysmal state of our economy, given the war, given all the challenges that people sense we face that have led George Bush to have the lowest rating ever, do you believe that voters are going to be distracted from the fundamental need for change? I think the answer to that is no.”
In fact, as Mr. Axelrod suggests, these are very different times.
Twenty years ago, the nation was in an era of comparative peace and prosperity; a sense of crisis did not hang over the election [I reckon the imminent collapse of the evil empire doesn't count]. Today, with the war in Iraq in its sixth year and the economy stumbling, more than 8 in 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track. A new generation of voters have entered the electorate, who may not be as susceptible to values issues.
In such a climate, it would presumably be far more difficult than in 1988 to keep the campaign focused on symbolic, values-related issues, or matters of personality.
Honesty, courage, loyalty, patriotism, civility, constancy, and leadership -- just "matters of personality." A belief in freedom, personal responsibility for one's own life, Capitalism, rugged individualism, the unique greatness of America... just "values-related issues."
Some people are tone deaf; they literally cannot distinguish one melody from another or from a random collection of notes. Contemporary liberals are values-deaf -- they cannot distinguish virtues from vices, their only principle is expediency, and they imagine that any grab-bag of disconnected "issues" constitutes a "political philosophy."
Thus, they fly into a rage whenever Republicans or conservative, the elite media, or the people themselves begin questioning them about "distractions" from the "real issues," distractions like Hillary Clinton's fundamental dishonesty or Barack Obama's appallingly bad judgment and almost belligerent vagueness... from the complete lack of a real vision for America that both Democrats share. (According to the Times: "Mr. Obama rose to national prominence largely on the basis of his oratorical skills, and has never been accused of lacking vision!")
To leftists, American values have no intrinsic worth or meaning. The only function of such "symbolic" issues is to bludgeon the enemies of contemporary liberalism. For example, the New York Times falsely accused John McCain of adultery in February of this year, made no attempt to back it up, and refused to make a correction when the charge fell apart. Yet have they ever been concerned about such "distractions" when the accused was a Democrat? To paraphrase Tim Rice, lyricist of Jesus Christ, Superstar, "What is this new respect for marriage? Till now this has been noticibly lacking!"
Liberals fling accusations of sin and corruption the way monkeys fling poo at rival tribes... as a smelly missile weapon that actually came from themselves, not the target.
So the next time some progressive New Leftist works himself into a lather about the "distractions" of "symbolic, values-related issues" -- followed immediately by an attack on the character of the nearest conservative -- give him a banana, and maybe he'll go away.
Date ►►► May 1, 2008
And Now for Something Completely Gassy...
I suppose a couple of you have noticed food prices rising. (This only applies to those of us who eat.)
The major reason, of course, is the continued industrialization of large countries with economies that are just now emerging from third-world status -- especially in Asia, and particularly China and India. As more and more of their combined 2.46 billion residents (36.8% of the world's population) shift into a middle-class lifestyle, they eat more (duh); that means less food for everyone else, as neither has increased food production at anywhere near the rate they've increased consumption. (China has the additional burden of a water pollution and food contaminantion problem of staggering proportions.)
I suspect there is another hidden cause of food shortages and the consequent price rise; but none of the elite media has mentioned it (for reasons that will become obvious), so I don't know how much or little it contributes. From the beginning of the Clinton era until very recently, many countries in Europe, Africa, and especially Latin America have shifted leftwards. With internationalist obsessions with "land reform," anti-white racism, and the war against agribusiness, I suspect they've inadvertently sabotaged their food production and export.
Zimbabwe is the poster-child of this problematic trend:
Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a result of a combination of factors, not all of which are due to climate. Drought-related food production problems, chaos resulting from violent disputes over the legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe's re-election, and the government's quixotic approach to land redistribution have combined to exacerbate the food shortage. In February 2000, seizure of white-owned farms commenced, and it increased in frequency leading up to the election in March 2002. At that point, Mugabe decided to break up the large white-owned commercial farms for the country's landless war veterans, which reduced the large-scale commercial-sector planted area by 74 percent compared with 2000-01 levels. (2) Due to pressures from the land redistribution program, large-scale commercial cattle stock, which traditionally accounted for up to 90 percent of national beef exports, is estimated to have declined by 70 percent from 1.3 million in December 2001 to 400,000 in July 2002.
I've never seen hard data, but I suspect revolutionary land-, energy-, and water-use policies have annihilated a significant part of the world food supply.
Still, at least some of the problem can be laid at the doorstep of the mass movement away from oil drilling -- and towards ethanol production from corn and other grains, items which are better eaten than burnt.
Thus, this research should come as very welcome news: General Motors has started sinking significant money into developing methods of creating ethanol out of the trash-parts of grain, out of wood pulp, and other inedibles:
The General Motors Corporation announced on Thursday that it was hedging its bets on how best to make ethanol from non-grain sources, and making an investment in a second company with technology that might do that job cost-effectively.
G.M., which has pledged to make half its vehicle production ethanol-compatible by 2012, said it had taken an equity position in Mascoma, a company based in Lebanon, N.H., that has three proprietary technologies for making ethanol from sources like papermill waste, corn stalks, wood chips and switchgrass. G.M. would not reveal the amount of its investment or the size of its stake.
In January, G.M. bought a stake in a company named Coskata that would use similar raw materials but with a different process.
I don't really see a downside to this. Coskata says that it can produce a gallon of ethanol from such otherwise junk plant sources for just a dollar to a dollar fifty; if they could produce ethanol at sufficient rates -- which they can't just yet -- that could dramatically lower fuel costs (for vehicles capable of burning alcohol-gasoline combinations).
So could drilling more of our own oil, of course; but there is no reason, other than political poltroonery, that we can't do both.
Evidently, it's the early stages of production, prior to fermentation, that need some real breakthroughs:
Ethanol made from non-grain materials, known as cellulose, is identical to corn ethanol, and the final steps ae usually the same: using yeast to ferment sugars into alcohol. But getting the sugar out of the cellulose is complicated. The process usually requires treating the cellulose with steam or acids to open up the material, and then letting enzymes — the digestive juices of bacteria or fungi — free the sugars. In addition, the cellulose includes both conventional six-carbon sugars as well as five-carbon sugars, but most industrial-grade yeast only likes the six-carbon variety.
Executives at Mascoma said they had developed a patented process, using heat and mechanical action, to treat the cellulose, avoiding the use of chemicals.
And, they said, they are working with some bacteria that feed off cellulose and break it down, and others that are efficient at converting sugars to ethanol. “Each one exists separately in nature,” said Dr. Lee R. Lynd, a founder of the company and its chief scientist. Now they are using gene splicing to give a single organism the ability to do both.
The approach is potentially simpler than the one used by some competitors, which is to digest the cellulose using an enzyme made in a separate process.
Just something to keep an eye on; it should be obvious that if we can make enough ethanol out of stuff we ordinarily would throw away, such as "papermill waste," it would be stupid to ferment and burn edible crops.
Once again, it's technology to the rescue. If Thomas Malthus were alive today, he'd be spinning in his grave.
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