Date ►►► April 30, 2009
Everybody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
At the end of an AP story on the extraordinary lengths to which the administration of Barack H. Obama is going to urge, cajole, and even bribe our "allies" into accepting released detainees from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility -- so that the president can shut it down and bask in the warm glow of being patted on the head by Europe -- I stumbled across this arresting exchange:
In speaking to reporters Wednesday, [Attorney General Eric] Holder also said it is possible the United States could cooperate with a foreign court's investigation of Bush administration officials.
Holder spoke before the announcement that a Spanish magistrate had opened an investigation of Bush officials on harsh interrogation methods. Holder didn't rule out cooperating in such a probe.
"Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it," Holder said. [Any country? Any country at all can open a "probe" of American officials, and Holder will seriously consider cooperating with it?]
"This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately created court, we would obviously respond to it," he said.
Oh yes, the "rule of law." But whose law? The rule of law in Spain forbids any interrogation of captured unlawful combatants and terrorists without them having an attorney present to object and demand classified intelligence; is that our new policy too? For that matter, the rule of law in Saudi Arabia demands that rape victims be flogged or even stoned to death. Will we "cooperate" on Saudi probes of such promiscuous women here in the United States?
The juxtaposition of Holder's offer of "cooperation" (complicity) and the hoped-for acceptance of Gitmo detainees strongly suggests that a grand bargain may be in the works: European countries may accept releasees in exchange for American recognition of the "universal jurisdiction" of individual courts of "human rights."
Does our looming cooperation imply that we might even look favorably upon a demand that we arrest and extradite named defendants to stand in the dock of such courts? Perhaps suspecting that he had given a bit too obvious a "tell," Holder seemed to retreat slightly (but only slightly):
Pressed on whether that meant the United States would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests and would review any such request to see if the U.S. would comply.
But this is manifestly absurd: If the Attorney General of the United States once accepts the absurdity that a Spanish court and Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, sitting in Spain and operating under Spanish law, actually have jurisdiction over American officials making official policy decisions inside the United States about how American military and intelligence agents can interrogate detainees at an American Marine Corps base inside Cuba... then how can Holder later limit such jurisdiction to "evidentiary requests?"
If Garzón has legal authority to demand we hand over evidence, he also has legal authority to demand we hand over "war criminals," from American military personnel, to John Yoo, to Jay Bybee, to William Haynes, to Douglas Feith, to Alberto Gonzales, to Richard Myers, to Dick Cheney -- even to former President George W. Bush himself.
This is even more outrageous than the suggestion that we prosecute any of these individuals ourselves, or that we form a "truth commission" and haul them before it for public show trials. This is, in essence, outsourcing the prosecution of the previous administration to foreign courts. Call it "extraordinary judicion."
If we ever once accept that a European court -- and not even a recognized "international" one! -- has jurisdiction over actions committed by American officials here in the United States, and can prosecute them for "crimes" that are not even recognized here, then we have crossed a line from which we can never retreat: The United States will cease to be a sovereign power.
If Eric Holder and Barack Obama accept this idea, they will actually have brought about what used to be a paranoid fantasy among the John Birch Society and other lunatics -- "one-world government," run according to European, not American rules.
Even if we do not actually arrest and extradite suspects in a European crimes-against-humanity witch hunt, by acquiescing and even cooperating with such unconstitutional probes of American citizens, we could make it impossible for former Bush-administration officials ever to travel outside the United States: By accepting the jurisdiction of such "world courts" and blessing their proceedings, President Obama signals that he will stand by and do nothing if, say, Dick Cheney or George Bush is seized abroad and sent to some star-chamber tribunal for prosecution. (What would the former president's Secret Service contingent do -- shoot it out with Italian or German police?)
Note in this WaPo article that the administration has already cooperated with Garzón's kangaroo court, albeit with boatloads of plausible deniability:
In Madrid, a Spanish investigating magistrate announced Wednesday that he has opened a wide-ranging criminal investigation into what he called "a systemic plan of torture" at Guantanamo and other places where the U.S. government held terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Judge Baltasar Garzón said his probe was based largely on complaints filed by four former prisoners at Guantanamo who were transferred to Spain. But in court papers, he also said his investigation was prompted by the release of secret U.S. legal opinions authorizing the CIA to subject terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other tactics.
Spain and some other European countries have adopted laws giving themselves authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world. Although it is rare for prosecutors to win such cases, those targeted can face arrest if they travel abroad.
It's possible that Obama, Holder, and everyone else involved in the bizarre decision to release highly classified memos detailing our interrogation techniques into the wide world, were so naive and feckless that they literally had no idea that a Spanish court (and others) would rake over such a treasure-trove of intel for anything they could use against the United States. But it's equally plausible that the administration knew exactly what would eventuate from the release... and they did it anyway, consciously and deliberately. It is, after all, a wonderful way to push forward the criminal prosecution of the former administration without Obama himself, or his deputies, getting blood on their own hands: Garzón is willing (eager!) to do it for them.
But they cannot escape their own complicity so easily. I strongly believe that even most rank and file liberals will rise up in disgust at the idea that any cockamamie court anywhere in the world can announce that it has awarded itself "authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world" -- then demand the arrest and extradition of Americans for actions committed in some third-party country (or in America itself!) that are not crimes here... but are crimes in the country housing the court.
Should we hand over American government officials to sharia courts in Iran, to be prosecuted for the "crime" of insulting Islam? Well, don't we want to improve relations with that country, hoping they wil promise, crescent their hearts, to stop building nuclear bombs? Or should we extradite a president for refusing to join in some EU-enforced policy to cut carbon use by 80%?
Just how far is the Obama administration willing to go to impose "change we can believe in" upon the American people. More to the point, just how far are we willing to let them go?
Date ►►► April 28, 2009
Yet Another Pennsylbility
Rich Galen of Mullings fame reminds us of another distinct possibility in the 2010 Senate race in Pennsylvania: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge -- the first Secretary of Homeland Security -- could return to the public sector and enter the GOP primary against Pat Toomey.
I don't know the odds of Ridge doing that; but if he entertains thoughts of running for president, it would be a good way to get some experience as a U.S. senator to go along with his executive credentials, to flesh out his resume. Ridge was originally elected governor in 1994 with a minority of the vote; but his reelection in 1998 was very strong, beating the Democrat by about 57% to 31%, almost 2:1.
If he did run, he might very well beat Toomey; and Ridge against Specter or some other Democrat in the general would probably have even a better shot than would Toomey.
In any event, something to ponder.
A Specter Is Haunting the Democratic Party
So let's take stock of the Defector General, Arlen Specter (D-PA, 45%), and look forward to the 2010 elections, when Specter next confronts the voters. There are of course three possibilities:
- Specter runs in the Democratic primary and wins;
- Specter runs in the Democratic primary and loses;
- Specter chooses not to run for reelection.
I believe that Pat Toomey, Specter's opponent in the 2004 Republican primary, entrepeneur, restauranteur, president of the Club for Growth, and former U.S. Representative -- who came within 1.7% of unseating Specter in the primary last time -- will be the Republican Senate nominee in 2010. To me, this is much more certain than than Specter will win the Democratic primary (though I think that's likely as well).
So I will simply assume that will be the case until some act of God or analysis by Michael Barone persuades me otherwise. So here are the three possibilities:
Specter wins the Democratic nomination in 2010
In this case, the most likely one, Pennsylvania seemingly would have a clear-cut choice between the conservative-right Toomey and the center-left Specter. But look above at Specter's percentile number... that's not his number from the American Conservative Union (as I would have used yesterday); that 45% is his score from Americans for Democratic Action, the main congressional ranking organization on the Left.
Even assuming that he moves more towards the Democratic side post-switch, Arlen Specter is highly unlikely to be a loyal liberal (he's never been a loyal anything; he's always been a problem child). Remember, he was originally a Democrat but switched in 1965 to run for District Attorney of Pennsylvania, basically for the same reason he switched today: because he couldn't have won the Democratic primary.
Specter is not going to vote party-line for the Left; therefore, he will anger much of the Left, who live by an all-or-nothing credo (just ask Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, 85% D... written out of the Democratic Party despite a much, much more liberal voting record than Arlen Specter's).
Democrats may be stupid about many things but not about politics. They are well aware that Specter's switch has nothing to do with an evolving ideology or "growing in office" and everything to do with crass political calculation, just as it did 44 years ago. Many will resent a moderate Republican, who they have trashed for decades, "stealing" the Democratic nomination, thus preventing a clean shot at conservative Toomey.
I'm sure the Democratic Party will try to lean on and force out any such candidate; but I'm equally sure that at least one Democrat will ignore the central committee and run anyway.
Therefore, whether or not Specter has a divisive primary fight, he is certain to draw a true-blue liberal opponent as a third-party candidate. So instead of Toomey vs. Specter, neat and clean, we're quite likely to have Toomey vs. Specter vs. Mr. Leftie. This may well suck much of Specter's Democratic support away from him... boosting Toomey's chances considerably.
In another boost, Toomey will certainly have access to far more Republican money in 2010 than he did in 2004 or than he would have had running against Specter in the Republican primary. Don't forget, Specter won the nomination last time only because a number of establishment-oriented elected Republicans, including Specter's conservative then-fellow Sen. Rick Santorum and even President George W. Bush, lined up behind him as the best shot at holding the seat (almost certainly true)... and Specter correspondingly sucked up nearly all the big GOP campaign cash.
Some of those same folks will continue to support Defector Specter if they think he's still the favorite to win (the donors who follow the power); but with Specter's reelection in much more doubt this time, they will hedge their bets by supporting Toomey as well. And there are plenty of big-money GOP donors who actually believe in the Republican Party -- shocking, I know -- and they will have no choice but (a) support Toomey or (b) sit on the sidelines and do nothing. An awful lot of money is going to flow into Toomey's coffers.
Finally, there is the delicate question of Specter's age and health. He is both a cancer survivor and also quite old; in 2010, Arlen Specter will be 80.
While some senators have been reelected in their 80s, that is generally when they reign in a one-party state with little opposition; think Strom Thurmond who won reelection in South Carolina at 82, 88, and 94, and Robert Byrd, reelected in West Virginia at 83 and 89. Both these Senate institutions had only token opposition, easily brushed aside, in their later elections.
But Specter's reelection is probably more like that of former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. Specter has not been convicted of any felonies, whereas Stevens -- at the time of the election -- stood convicted of seven (all since voided due to prosecutorial misconduct). But Specter has his own comparable problems, including his narrow squeaker against Toomey in 2004. With a strong challenger, Specter's prospects are nowhere near as rosy as Thurmond in 1996 or Byrd in 2006. No matter what, a race between Specter and Toomey will be close -- especially with a liberal third-party candidate.
So under this scenario, I think Toomey has his best chance to be the next Republican senator from the Keystone state.
Specter loses the nomination
Judging from Specter's oversized ego -- colossal even by United States Senate standards! --
if he loses the Democratic nomination, there is a very, very good chance he will run anyway as a third-party candidate. If he does, he will suck far more votes from the Left than the Right... though probably not that many.
NOTE: At the moment, according to the Hill newspaper, Pennsylvania election law would not allow him to run as an independent or under a third party if he competed in the Democratic primary and lost:
“It’s pretty hard to run without a party,” Specter said. “It’s always something that could be a possibility. But then I wouldn’t be in the Republican caucus -- wouldn’t have quite the standing as a Republican.”
The decision would be harder for Specter, too, because Pennsylvania state law does not allow someone who has lost a primary to run as an Independent, as Lieberman did. Specter would need to decide to run without a party in advance of the primaries.
However, Pennsylvania voters might soon recognize the registration status of "Independent," and Independent voters might be able to vote in any primary:
Specter lamented that his home state doesn’t allow for him to run as an Independent if he loses the primary. He also said he supports an upcoming effort to open the primaries to independent voters.
So it appears he will not be running as an independent if he loses the primary. (Hat tip to Mr. Michael)
I don't know how who is favored in this case, but probably whichever Democrat runs against Toomey, just because Pennsylvania is a fairly blue state; it went for Obama by 54.65% to 44.23% -- though there will be a much smaller "Obama effect" this time, as Obama is not personally on the ballot. It's not a lost cause, especially if Specter plays dog in the manger with the Democrats.
Even if he doesn't run third party, Toomey is not fated to lose; much depends upon voter sentiment after another year and a half of Obamunism: If the economy has not significantly recovered, if things aren't looking too good on the national security and foreign-policy fronts, if Barack H. Obama and Joe Biden continue making foolish, rookie mistakes and embarassing themselves, then yes, Pat Toomey has a great argument to make that one-party rule is antithetical to Americanism... the very same argument that Democrats made in 2004, by the bye.
Specter decides to hang it up
I believe this is the least likely of all scenarios by a huge margin -- for the reason of Specter's planet-sized ego, perhaps even eclipsing the overweening ego of William Shatner. (The latter is so supremely confident in his own superiority that he's even willing to satirize himself and his own arrogance -- for example, appearing as the "Big Giant Head" in 3rd Rock From the Sun.)
But if somehow Arlen Specter decided that potential humiliation from losing the race outweighed his desperate desire to cling to power at any cost, if he withdrew from the race and campaigned for the Democrat, then that would give the Democrats their best shot at holding the seat -- the equivalent of what would have happened had Specter remained a Republican, then lost the primary to Toomey. Then we really would have a clean tête-à-tête between the conservative Toomey and the liberal Whoever. In that case, barring a truly serious crisis for the Obama administration, the Democrats hold.
That would be bad, because the new senator would be very liberal, and he would assuredly be the 60th vote to crush Republican fillibusters (or 59th vote, if Sen. Norm Coleman, R-MN, 48%, somehow manages the hat trick of beating Al Franken).
We Republicans should hope, hope, hope that:
- Specter continues running for reelection;
- After a brutal primary fight, he emerges as the Democratic nominee;
- Some liberal decides to take the fight to the general as a third-party candidate;
- A goodly chunk of Democrats are disgusted enough with Specter as their nominee that they support the spoiler (on the theory that they have such a huge majority anyway, and a chance to pick up more in other states, that they can afford to jettison the former Republican);
- That Barack Obama continues to be Barack Obama;
- And most especially that Joe Biden and Obama's cabinet continue to be themselves, too.
That's not a particularly unlikely scenario; and I believe that one gives Pat Toomey a very, very good chance of taking that seat away from the liberal-fascist party of Obama.
Date ►►► April 26, 2009
Word Inflation - UPDATED
Suppose we accept the Left's conclusion that pouring water on a terrorist's face, shoving him, poking his chest with your finger, making him stand at attention for a few hours, holding him in a cell that's moderately cold (i.e., not freezing or anywhere close to it), stripping him buck naked, or -- evidently worst of all -- forcibly washing and delousing him... that each of these things constitutes "torture." Then what?
All right; that's what the word torture means. In that case, what word do we use for gang raping women, stoning people to death, lopping off limbs, shoving a cattle-prod up a prisoner's anus, cutting off a captive's nose and ears, gouging out his eyes, and finally beheading him -- on video?
Just tell me what word I'm supposed to use for all that, if the word "torture" now means making him stay awake past his beddie-bye time. G'wan, I double-dog dare you.
This is my pet peeve, Argument by Tendentious Redefinition, in a nuthatch. It's structurally identical to those ultra-radical feminists who defined all heterosexual sex to be "rape"... then accused nearly every man of being a rapist. "Reagan was a rapist! Bush is a rapist! Cheney is a rapist!" Yep, every last one of them has had sex with a woman... so by the tendentious redefinition of "rape," each and every one of these men is a rapist!
So if playing "good cop, bad cop" with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed now constitutes "torture," then I guess every policeman who ever interrogated a suspect is a torturer or torture enabler. Voilà -- we are all Nazis on this bus. Lt. Tragg is now Reich Minister of Propaganda Josef Goebbels.
When we twist words into such tortuous knots, we diminsh our language; soon none of us will be able to communicate at all. We cannot exploit an opportunity, because exploit now means only to abuse. We cannot discriminate between right and wrong, because to discriminate means to prefer one race over another, and nothing else. We can no longer progress into the future because progressive now has only one meaning: Socialism à la 1916.
And now even Rick Moran and Fox News' Shepard Smith -- not to mention former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 63%) -- have blindly accepted the Left's definition of "torture" as "any form of interrogation that induces a terrorist detainee to spill information he would rather keep to himself." Soon, the very fact that an interrogation was successful will be ipso facto proof that it constituted torture.
When a word comes to mean anything at all... then it really means nothing at all. Effectively, we no longer have a word for torture, real torture, like al-Qaeda carries out routinely. No such word, thus no such concept; no concept, no torture! By trivializing what should be profoundly evil, we allow evil to flourish unremarked, let alone unprevented, unrepented, and unrevenged.
The world has gone mad; and even the Republican-Party attendants have swallowed the magic mushrooms.
UPDATE April 26th: I probably should have made reference to our overseas contingency operation, designed to reduce man-caused disasters down to a (politically) manageable level...
If you no longer have the words to discuss the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, designed to end militant Islamist terrorism, then those concepts no longer exist either: If you can't say it, you can't think it.
This is literally Orwellian -- Newspeak is upon us!
Date ►►► April 25, 2009
Albert & Me
Monckton challenges; Gore clucks
According to what appears to be a blog (it's hard to tell these days), Lord Christopher Monckton, former advisor to the Iron Lady of Britain, was invited by Republicans to give skeptical testimony at a globaloney hearing, to respond to the "celebrity witness" brought by the Democrats: None other than Rantin' Al himself:
"Shut up," he explained
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Rotunda... Lord Monckton suddenly found himself un-invited by the majority Democrats:
UK's Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at a high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon.
“The House Democrats don't want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.”
Monckton evidently chased Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%) around the Capitol -- rather like Michael Moore in Roger & Me chasing Roger Smith, CEO of GM; Monckton was trying to get himself reinvited to the hearing, but no dice. In the end, the Democrats reluctantly allowed the GOP to bring a different witness... the well-known climatologist Newt Gingrich.
Evidently, they find it less nerve wracking for Algore to debate another dilettante politician than one who, despite not being a scientist, has nevertheless devoted a very substantial portion of his life for many years to a skeptical inquiry into the pseudoscience of Anthropogenic Global Climate Change (AGCC).
For example, Monckton raised the funding necessary to successfully prosecute a case in the High Court of Justice, in October 2007, preventing Algore's mission-to-Kyoto agitprop cult film "An Inconvenient Truth" from being played in British schools as part of the science curriculum. Monckton has published many articles heaping derision upon the crackpot theory... and he is likely to be far more up on contemporary research casting doubt on the AGCC than is the intellectually profligate Gingrich:
“The Democrats have a lot to learn about the right of free speech under the US Constitution. Congress Henry Waxman's (D-CA) refusal to expose Al Gore's sci-fi comedy-horror testimony to proper, independent scrutiny by the House minority reeks of naked fear,” Monckton said from the airport Thursday evening.
“Waxman knows there has been no 'global warming' for at least a decade. Waxman knows there has been seven and a half years' global cooling. Waxman knows that, in the words of the UK High Court judge who condemned Gore's mawkish movie as materially, seriously, serially inaccurate, 'the Armageddon scenario that he depicts is not based on any scientific view,'” Monckton explained. Monckton has previously testified before the House Committee in March.
Not having the expertise of Algore -- who, after all, won the Nobel Piece Prize for a piece of liberal lunacy -- Monckton was mailed back to England postage due. How fortunate -- how (dare I say it?) convenient -- that Algore will not have to respond to Monckton after all. Isn't it nice to have such useful friends in high places?
Date ►►► April 24, 2009
U.N. Orders Obama to Prosecute Bush Officials for "Torture"
All right, not quite exactly the United Nations itself; but the U.N. special rapporteur on torture issues, Manfred Nowak, announced that the United Nations Convention against Torture obliges us to prosecute those attorneys who opined that the harsh interrogation techniques used against terrorist detainees at the Guanatanamo Bay Detention Facility -- making them stand up for a long time, shouting at them, occasionally slapping them, and in the case of three specific terrorists, waterboarding -- were legal under U.S. law, including all international law that we specifically incorporated by treaty or international agreement:
Manfred Nowak, who serves as a U.N. special rapporteur in Geneva, said Washington is obligated under the U.N. Convention against Torture to prosecute U.S. Justice Department officials who wrote memos that defined torture in the narrowest way in order to justify and legitimize it, and who assured CIA officials that their use of questionable tactics was legal.
"That's exactly what I call complicity or participation" to torture as defined by the convention, Nowak said at a news conference. "At that time, every reasonable person would know that waterboarding, for instance, is torture."
(Of course! Because anybody who didn't believe that pouring water in the face of a terrorist constituted "torture" was, by definition, unreasonable. No circular logic here...)
I expecially love the unbiased and non-argumentative adjectival phrase, "U.S. Justice Department officials who wrote memos that defined torture in the narrowest way in order to justify and legitimize it." Another way to put that is: U.S. Justice Department officials who wrote memos analyzing the specific interrogation techniques vis-a-vis the United States criminal code on torture -- 18 U.S.C. § § 2340-2340A -- and all common-law precedents came to the conclusion that the techniques did not meet the legal definition of "torture" -- which is now and has been for decades illegal in the United States, even for the CIA. (But of course, that phrase isn't quite as useful in damning George W. Bush as torturer in chief, is it?)
Even though this decision is not a legally binding U.N. resolution, the opinion by the relevant U.N. authority may well supply President Barack H. Obama -- who I believe is actively looking for an excuse to prosecute those Bush administration officials the Democrats hate most -- with the fig leaf he needs to cover his animus with a facade of international law. In fact, I'm not even sure he would veto such a resolution were the UN Security Council to enact it.
Besides waterboarding, what techniques is Nowak talking about? What "gruesome" tortures do we stand accused of perpetrating on innocent beheaders? Read the following, and see if a shiver of guilt-driven terror runs up and down your spine:
The memos authorized keeping detainees naked, in painful standing positions and in cold cells for long periods of time. Other techniques included depriving them of solid food and slapping them. Sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling and threats to a detainee's family also were used.
I wonder a bit about that last one; threats of what sort? Where does this charge come from? I don't recall any memo specifically authorizing, for example, the threat to kill a detainee's wife, mother, or children, or any such a thing. The closest I can find is a memo sent February 12th, 2002, by the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, responding to "a request by the Commander of Joint Task Force 170 (now JTF GTMO) for approval of counter-resistance techniques to aid in the interrogatin of detainees at Guantanamo Bay."
In the original request, JTF Guantanamo Bay requested permission to use various harsh interrogation techniques (none of which amount to being "gruesome," in my understanding of that word) divided into three categories of increasing severity. Category three included the following request:
(1) The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family.
This would certainly qualify as the "threats to a detainee's family" mentioned above except that -- in response, the General Counsel approved everything in categories I and II but withheld blanket approval of techniques in category III:
While all Category III techniques may be legally available, we believe that, as a matter of policy, a blanket approval of Category III techniques is not warranted at this time. Our Armed Forces are trained to a standard of interrogation that reflects a tradition of restraint.
In other words, the Office of the General Counsel of the Department of Defense denied permission to Gitmo interrogators to threaten either the detainee or his family with "[imminent] death or severely painful consequences."
This conclusion was agreed to after consultation with General Counsel William J. Haynes II, Deputy Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers... the first two of whom would top the list of lawyers that Obama's friends want to see prosecuted (along with Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the OLC John Yoo).
It's passing odd that these attorneys (and Gen. Myers) are now routinely accused of having authorized such threats to (presumably innocent) family members of detainees when in fact they denied the request; but of course, accusers needed some crime that sounds more "gruesome" than chest-poking, yelling, making detainees stand at attention, and pouring water in their faces. Or putting a detainee (Abu Zubaydah), believed to have entomophobia (fear of insects), into a box with a caterpillar. Accusing the U.S. of approving threats to kill, rape, or torture detainees wives, children, and mothers is conveniently horrific... even if it suffers from the minor drawback of being provably false.
I think I see where Nowak's problem emanates: In the United States, we have rule of law; that means that people can only be convicted of, hence prosecuted for, specific crimes; those crimes must meet the specific definitions enacted by legislation and fall under the interpretation of that legislation by courts in previous cases (case law or common law).
Unlike most countries in Europe and elsewhere, we do not allow defendants to be prosecuted under the catchall crime of "every reasonable person knows" that he's guilty... which appears to be the standard modus operandi of putative "international courts," such as the International Court of Justice at the Hague, the International Criminal Court (also at the Hague), and any of the various European countries that claim "universal jurisdiction" over any crime they decide has been committed anywhere, regardless of the alleged perpetrator, the alleged victim, and the alleged country in which the alleged crime allegedly occurred.
I believe that Special Rapporteur Nowak has simply confused the normal activity of lawyers in the United States -- parsing the actual meaning of the actual words of a criminal statute and the actual decisions handed down by courts -- with "defin[ing] torture in the narrowest way in order to justify and legitimize it;" or as the New York Times puts it, "devising arguments to avoid constraints against mistreatment and torture of detainees."
I imagine this private conversation Nowak is probably having with his little buddies:
(At least until the next time we're hit, if we have the audacity to hit back again.)
I suspect that this attitude -- deriding the absurdity of actually analyzing the law before offering an opinion, rather than operating from pure politics -- is far more widespread than just a few officials at the U.N. and the elite media pundits here and abroad; sadly, I suspect that more than half of all Democrats would agree with Manny Nowak.
When exactly did "rule of law" become a suspect philosophy? It must have been sometime before George W. Bush came along -- but when?
Date ►►► April 23, 2009
Let Barack Put UAW in the Driver's Seat
As part of the administration's plan to destroy Capitalism in order to save it, the feds have offered an extraordinary deal for Chrysler motors: They go into bankruptcy, driven there by unsustainable wages and benefits paid to members of the United Auto Workers union; but all those UAW-driven wages and benefits of employees and former employees are absolutely protected from any reduction by the bankruptcy court.
The Treasury has an agreement in principle with the United Automobile Workers union, whose members’ pensions and retiree health care benefits would be protected as a condition of the bankruptcy filing, said [people with direct knowledge of the action], who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.
Well, that certain makes sense (especially the anonymity part): I'm sure that after the old Chrysler was driven into the ground by risibly high payments to current and former workers, the new Chrysler will have no problem meeting those exact, same obligations. And why not? They're going to be heavily financed by the American and Canadian taxpayers.
Under the most likely assumptions, Treasury will provide the financing that Chrysler needs to operate while under bankruptcy protection. The Canadian government is also expected to participate in backing the company.
The Globe and Mail of Toronto reported the Canadian government’s role on Thursday.
Last month, the Obama administration told Chrysler it would provide up to $6 billion in financing if Chrysler and Fiat could complete a deal by the end of this month. Fiat originally agreed to take 35 percent of Chrysler, but the stake was subsequently reduced to 20 percent. The administration said it would provide up to $6 billion in financing if the two companies agreed, on top of $4 billion in federal assistance that Chrysler has already received.
Oh, and those wicked creditors who viciously lent Chrysler money will finally get their comeuppance for such a dastardly deed:
The only major question that remains unresolved is what happens to Chrysler’s lenders, who hold $6.9 billion in company debt. The government’s most recent offer, presented Wednesday, would give the company’s lenders about 22 cents on the dollar, or $1.5 billion, and a 5 percent equity stake in a reorganized Chrysler.
However, the lenders chastised above do not include the UAW, which runs the Chrysler health-care trust that Chrysler Motors owes $10.6 billion; some creditors are more equal than others, and that debt will be paid in full: The auto-workers union will accept company stock in lieu of half the obligation, and the remainder will be guaranteed by the federal governments of the United States and Canada.
(Of course, the UAW will continue to administer that trust, since that is part of the benefits package that has been guaranteed -- in its entirety, it appears -- by the invisible foot of the Obama administration.)
Whew! Thank heavens the One We Have Been Waiting For has so quickly hit upon the most equitable and balanced solution to be applied to Chrysler, G.M. ("the terms of a Chrysler filing might offer a glimpse into the shape of G.M.’s own filing"), and indeed every huge corporation deemed too big to fail. Having resolved that thorny problem, the moving Obamacon moves on to more important tasks, including:
- Cutting taxes for all Americans who pay no taxes (liberals and Obama cabinet members), while raising taxes on all Americans who do pay taxes (i.e., the rich, the GOP, and other Bush supporters);
- Negotiating our surrender to al-Qaeda, after the disastrous defeat of George W. Bush's wars of aggression against humanity in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Minnesota;
- Allying with Russia to protect it from further criminal attacks by Georgia, which rebellious province was egged on by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Blackwater, and Halliburton;
- Apologizing to Iran for forcing it to house American criminals for 444 days in the late 70s, rightly jailed by the People's Republic of Mullahdom for spying on Iran during George H.W. Bush's tenure at the CIA;
- Pleading with China, traditional financers of the United States, to once again begin sending us cash to nationalize more American industries, after George W. Bush's divisiveness caused the greatest country on Gaea's green globe to cut us off, cold duck;
- Splitting Israel down the middle so that the West Bank and Gaza can be a "contiguous" Palestine -- which the Bush administration utterly failed to propose, despite world opinion;
- And writing an entire book of reasons why everything bad that happens in the next eight years of the administration of Barack Obama -- already the greatest president in American history -- is in fact another horrific legacy of the failed administration of George W. Bush, the worst president of this or any other nation, in this or any other century, on this or any other planet.
Eight years: Long enough to change that pesky 22nd Amendment...
UPDATE (a few minutes later): Please read this related post, about the feds' unacknowledged conflict of interest -- they also own equity stakes in the very banks they are pressuring to renounce their claims on Chrysler in exchange for a warm, fuzzy feeling -- by Scott "Big Johnson" Trunk over at Power Line.
Date ►►► April 22, 2009
On the Other Hand...
Over at my favorite blog, John Hinderaker wrote a post about the absurdist betrayal by Democrats who want to hold hearings trashing intelligence agents -- and bully the Obama administration into prosecuting them -- for the crime of doing what everyone, including the congressional Democrats themselves, urged them to do... namely, keep America safe from al-Qaeda, Iran, and other violent, murderous terrorists.
Paul Mirengoff adds a coda to the piece. In it, he writes:
Moreover hearings would enable these officials to have their say; right now the left-wing MSM largely controls what the public learns about these issues.
Obama understands this. That is why he -- and even more tellingly, his smartest political operative Rahm Emanuel -- initially seemed to be against the idea of prosecutions and showed little enthusiasm for congressional hearings.
Why has Obama shifted his position? Probably because he is weak, indecisive, and "not always up to standard on decision-making."
Paul's suggested motivation is possible, of course; but there is another possibility he evidently has not considered. Perhaps Obama changed his mind because his former colleages in the Senate and House have assured him that the subjects of the congressional witch hunts will not be allowed "to have their say"... that just like much of the legislation that passes through Congress these days, the hearings will only be open to witnesses with the correct political position.
Don't imagine they have any moral scruples that would argue against it!
Waiting for the Sun
Is it just me? (And how many times recently have I said or written, "is it just me?")
For a beautiful example of the miracle of circular reasoning that is globaloney, take a gander at this -- the world and solar system according to Prof. A. Michael Lockwood of Southampton University. This BBC story notes the recent extreme inactivity of the sun, the output of which has been diminishing since 1985:
Last year, it was expected that it would have been hotting up after a quiet spell. But instead it hit a 50-year low in solar wind pressure, a 55-year low in radio emissions, and a 100-year low in sunspot activity.
According to Prof Louise Hara of University College London, it is unclear why this is happening or when the Sun is likely to become more active again.
"There's no sign of us coming out of it yet," she told BBC News.
"At the moment, there are scientific papers coming out suggesting that we'll be going into a normal period of activity soon.
"Others are suggesting we'll be going into another minimum period - this is a big scientific debate at the moment."
Many of us believe that the sun plays a large role in the temperature of the Earth -- since it's the ultimate source of nearly all of it (though some might be caused by the Earth's molten core). Therefore, some unenlightened souls might reason, if the sun radiates less energy, the Earth may begin to cool... and so long, global warming.
To nip this ray of sunshine in the bud and thoroughly squelch the idea that climate change may even conceivably be driven by anything other than the vile burning of oil, coal, and the emissions produced by Detroit iron, the Beeb recruits the current go-to guy on the "consensus view" of anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC), the aforementioned Lockwood, who has bravely taken up the dour man's burden since at least last July:
"I wish the Sun was coming to our aid but, unfortunately, the data shows that is not the case," he said.
Prof Lockwood was one of the first researchers to show that the Sun's activity has been gradually decreasing since 1985, yet overall global temperatures have continued to rise.
"If you look carefully at the observations, it's pretty clear that the underlying level of the Sun peaked at about 1985 and what we are seeing is a continuation of a downward trend (in solar activity) that's been going on for a couple of decades.
"If the Sun's dimming were to have a cooling effect, we'd have seen it by now."
(He said the same thing in a National Geographic article in July 2007.)
An interesting point, because, of course, we have seen a cooling effect by now. But that's an inconvenient truth (sorry)... and Lockwood inadvertently neglects to mention it:
He added that the current slight dimming of the Sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
"What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid."
But wait... what about this?
All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out most of the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.
Perhaps that's just a one-year fluke; on the other hand, there is also this:
Despite no global warming in 10 years and recording setting cold in 2007-2008, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) and computer modelers who believe that CO2 is the cause of global warming still predict the Earth is in store for catastrophic warming in this century.
Don J. Easterbrook , Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University and a frequent writer in refereed journals of climatology, in fact predicts a succession of cooling periods and warming periods over the next century. He likely bases some of his own findings on the same data that prompted Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to publish a paper in Geophysical Research Letters predicting the same thing, as reported in World Climate Report:
“Has the climate recently shifted?” is the title of a just-published paper in Geophysical Research Letters by researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Their examination of this topic was undoubtedly prompted by the recent behavior of global temperature which shows that the rate of warming has dramatically slowed during the past 7-12 years.
Updating a methodology that they had previously developed and used to identify several changes in the climate state that occurred during the 20th century, Swanson and Tsonis examined the temperature data from recent years to see if another state change had taken place:Here, a new and improved means to quantify the coupling between climate modes confirms that another synchronization of these modes, followed by an increase in coupling occurred in 2001/02. This suggests that a break in the global mean temperature trend from the consistent warming over the 1976/77–2001/02 period may have occurred.
In other words, the authors think that they have identified another in a string of break points that signal a change in the general state of the earth’s climate.
WCR notes that Swanson and Tsonis still support the idea of AGCC, but this may be due to their unexamined assumption that the increased variability of the actual climate, compared to the predictions of the climate modelers at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC -- sorry about all the acronyms) -- a completely political organization whose members are primarily political appointees from various nations (the IPCC hires scientists to justify its political decisions) -- indicates that the IPCC must have underestimated 21st-century warming. WCR does a good job of debunking that facile and unsupported conclusion:
But do the models have the the climate sensitivity too low (as Swanson and Tsonis suggest) or too high? Or is the climate model climate sensitivity even coupled to the size of the model internal variability (as it is in the real world)?
There are hints that the latter two may be the case -- that is, the model climate sensitivity is (artificially) disconnected from the model-produced internal variability, and that the model climate sensitivity is too large.
WCR notes that the IPCC tried to correct their first ludicrously false climate models -- which could not even correctly predict past climate change, overestimating it by a whopping amount -- by adding the use of aerosols as a "knob" to adjust the models so that they at least accurately predicted the climate change from 1900 to 2000, as actually observed.
Briefly, tame IPCC
apologists scientists suggested that aerosol polution in the atmosphere acted to cool the atmosphere, counteracting the greenhouse gases that warmed it. But since we significantly curtailed the use of aerosols from the 1970s onward, carbon and carbonoids reasserted control, and warming took command again. Thus, they explained one of those temperature "break points" that occurred in mid-century, in defiance of the original (pre-aerosol-knob) models.
In earlier work (Tsonis et al., 2007), the authors concluded that:The standard explanation for the post 1970s warming is that the radiative effect of greenhouse gases overcame shortwave reflection effects due to aerosols. However, [our result] suggests an alternative hypothesis, namely that the climate shifted after the 1970s event to a different state of a warmer climate, which may be superimposed on an anthropogenic warming trend.
Their new work further supports this conclusion as do plain and simple observations -- after all, there is no way that declining influence of aerosols which was invoked to help explain the warming of the 1980s and 1990s can be used to explain the lack of warming thus far during the 21st century.
So if aerosols don’t play a large role in the 20th century temperature behavior, then the models get things right for the wrong reasons and, when fed the right reasons, they would get things wrong (i.e. produce too much warming -- an indication that their climate sensitivity is too large).
So to sum up, much current research indicates that we have seen a fairly sudden "break point" in both average global temperature and also the trendline of average global temperature since 1998; it was high and rising, but now it's cooler and staying about the same. Considering how long it may take a system as large as the Earth to stop a warming trend and confounding factors that may be at work, it's not unreasonable to conclude that the reduction in the sun's radiative output may be responsible for the 12-year hiatus in global warming. Lockwood notwithstanding, such a conclusion is not contradicted by a continued "global temperature rise" in the Earth's temperature, as he claims; the trend since 1998 has been the other direction.
It appears that, just as Mann, Bradley, and Hughes conveniently ignored the inconvenient Mediaeval Warm Period in their now-infamous "hockey stick" diagram, in order to make today's temperatures seem the highest ever, today's Professor Lockwood completely ignores the abrupt cessation of global warming for the past 11 years in order to pooh-pooh the idea that the sun's output could have anything to do with the Earth's temperature.
And here is the capper; the BBC article actually argues that the sun cannot be having any affect on the Earth's climate because, even though the sun's output is diminishing, the IPCC still predicts global warming!
I rib you not; here is the rest of that section quoted earlier:
[Lockwood] added that the current slight dimming of the Sun was not going to reverse the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
"What we are seeing is consistent with a global temperature rise, not that the Sun is coming to our aid."
Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows global average temperatures have risen by about 0.7C since the beginning of the 20th Century.
And the IPCC projects that the world will continue to warm, with temperatures expected to rise between 1.8C and 4C by the end of the century.
QED -- which in this case stands for "quite easily debunked."
So the sun cannot be driving climate change, because if it were, the IPCC would already have changed its predictions from catastrophic global warming to something else (presumably catastrophic global cooling). Since the IPCC hasn't changed, clearly the sun has no influence on the Earth's mean global temperature. So there.
Of course, eventually, the IPCC may be unable to find
shills scientists to continue denying that any cooling has happened, especially if Swanson, Tsonis, Easterbrook, and scores of other climatologists are correct, and the cooling trend continues for several decades. Eventually, the IPCC will have to flip in their choice of catastrophes.
But not to worry; no matter what the disaster, the salvation will always be the same: Smash the looms, stop producing energy, cut back, minimize industry, and go back to the calm, peaceful, pastoral existence the human race enjoyed before all this technology came along and ruined everything. That is the dream of the New Left; and not coincidentally, as that movement has taken power around the world and set up international bodies connected to the U.N., that also appears to be the dream of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Date ►►► April 20, 2009
On Feudalism, Capitalism, and "American Chopper"
I have been watching "American Chopper," a real reality show on the Learning Channel (formerly on its sister station, the Discovery Channel), since the show began several years ago. It follows the adventures of a real company, Orange County Choppers (Orange County, New York), which builds choppers... in this case, the word doesn't mean helicopters but rather heavily customized motorcycles.
The company, Orange County Choppers (OCC), is a family business; it's majority-owned by the father, Paul Teutul, Sr.. (or usually just "Senior"); I believe the middle son, Paul jr. -- "Junior," or just "Paulie" -- is a partner, but I don't know how much of the company he owns (if any). As this is a multi-million dollar manufacturing business -- started from scratch in a garage -- it's a perfect symbol of the American dream: achieving almost miraculous success from ingenuity, determination, skill, and the freedom to succeed (or fail). In other words, OCC is a paean to Capitalism.
From a small genesis, they have managed to expand from hand-building custom-designed choppers for a handful of fairly wealthy clients -- which they still do, though mostly for corporate clients -- to include a product line of already assembled bikes ready for sale to those of more moderate means who still want a cool chopper. They recently constructed their own huge building for fabrication, display, and sales; and they're now sailing the tricky waters of selling their products throughout the EU, navigating the dangerous coral reefs of European environmental and labor regulations.
But recently, a catastrophe befell them... one which is part of the implicate order of contemporary corporate culture in the world today -- per David Bohm, I mean it is inherent within the corporation even before being realized, much as an oak tree is part of the implicate order of an acorn. And the solution to this inherent dilemma/contradiction is frightening, awesome (in the sense of inspiring awe), and exhilarating in its implications for the future of the GOP, of America, for the completion of Western civilization, and for the expansion of the vistas of Capitalism.
This post is quite long, so I'm putting the rest into the "Slither on." I urge you to read it because the concept (not necessarily my discussion of it) is vital to the future of, well, everything.
So let's jump right in...
Like many family businesses, there is a growing disruptive rivalry between Senior and Junior at OCC. They sometimes have terrible arguments... not as often as they used to, in the beginning of the series; but while fewer in number they seem to have grown in intensity. That's hardly surprising; as Paulie has grown into his thirties, he naturally chafes under the total control of his father; and as Junior rebels, Senior clamps down ever harder, wanting to hold onto the company that he built.
But Paulie has a huge claim to the success as well, for two reasons:
- It was Paulie who persuaded his father, over a long period of time, to allow the Discovery Channel to create a reality show around their then-small company. It was the visibility gained from that very popular cable-TV show that led to their tremendous international success today.
- And more important, it was Paulie who designed and built the spectacular choppers that repeatedly won awards, nabbed the cover of any number of motorcycle magazines, and in fact, attracted the attention of the Discovery Channel in the first place. Without Junior's creative vision and amazing ability to fabricate sheets of metal into works of art in the medium of "motorcycles," the business would still just be a tiny wart on the nose of the custom-chopper industry.
At the beginning of this season, Junior and Senior got into a horrible screaming match (over nothing, as usual)... but this time it culminated in Paul, sr., firing his son: Paulie is terminated and no longer works for OCC.
I expect that in a few more episodes, Senior (who wants his son back) and Junior (who is going crazy doing nothing) will find some way to get back together in some fashion; in the meanwhile, they are going through terrible angst that may well end up destroying their family business, flinging their success to date into the dustbin of startup history, and even tearing them apart as a family.
The builds they have finished since Paulie was fired have been uninspired at best; they produced a bike for the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, for example, that was a fairly standard chopper with a circus-like paint job. Wow. They also finished a build for the 20th anniversary of the B-2 stealth bomber; but in my opinion, the bike was a near ringer for the bike that Paulie designed and built several seasons ago for the Apache helicopter.
Compared to what Junior has been doing since the show began, this is junk. Not only that, but employees of OCC have admitted on camera (in the show) that with Paulie gone, all the builds are "taking twice as long as they should," and that they've fallen behind on other builds -- presumably the stock bikes that are almost certainly the bread and butter of Orange County Chopper. The company is being damaged and its reputation shredded, all because it's guiding spirit -- Junior, not Senior, even though the latter founded the company -- was unceremoniously ousted by his old-guard pop.
They're in serious trouble. If they don't soon come up with a workable solution to bring Paulie back, OCC will collapse under the weight of its own financial obligations, undertaken in the flush years... yet the "status quo ante" is unacceptable to both parties: Senior demands that his employees all follow certain standards, including his son; and Paulie is being driven mad by the increasingly autocratic demands of his father. What to do, what to do?
The real cause of the split is so painfully obvious to me that I wonder they didn't see it coming years ago; and to me, the solution is equally clear. The problem is that Senior runs his company like most corporations are run: as a feudal kingdom:
- The CEO is the king;
- He has his vassal lords -- his dukes, counts, and barons, the senior corporate officers;
- He has his parliament -- the board of directors, on which he may or may not sit, and which more or less controls the purse strings but not the company itself (unless the CEO is also the majority stockholder, as in this case);
- He has his sheriffs -- the managers, group leaders, and shop foremen;
- And the rest of the workers are basically serfs... they have no authority, generally no input, and like mushrooms, are kept in the dark and fed fertilizer.
This organization model works no better in a corporation than its counterpart did in national government. If you have a really good king, he can overcome the inherent inefficiency and inevitable scheming and backstabbing; if you have a mediocre to poor monarch, the company settles, collapses, and dies an ignominious death.
But long ago, we found a much better way to organize society's resources, human capital, ingenuity, energy, and time; we call that new model Capitalism.
Enter the Mises ex machina
This is a true anecdote. No, really. I remembered an article I read many years ago about the feudal structure of most corporations; it advocated extending the principles of Capitalism into the workplace itself... but I couldn't quite remember exactly what the author suggested.
But then, while putting things into storage, I opened a box stored in our linen closet, and behold! There was the very article I'd been trying to resurrect in my memory. It's titled "New Work for Invisible Hands," by Richard Cornuelle (born 1927), and it appeared in the Times Literary Supplement almost exactly 18 years ago (April 5th, 1991). It was supposedly reprinted by the Cato Institute, but I can't find it online. (If somebody can, please let me know the URL in comments, and I'll include it here. Note that the TLS online archives only date back to 1994.)
The piece galvanized me as nothing on the subject had before. For years, I had struggled in the workforce, aware that something was terrible awry but not really knowing what to do about it. Rereading the piece today, I found the exact paragraph that made me leap to my feet back in 1991. (Remember, this was in the age of Papa Bush; the very idea of the piece was revolutionary):
Libertarian thought is wonderfully sound as far as it goes, but there are two gaping holes in it that now gravely threaten its relevance. For one thing, there is no very distinct libertarian vision of community -- of social as opposed to economic process -- outside the state: The alluring libertarian contention that society would probably work better if the state could somehow be limited to keeping the peace and enforcing contracts has to be taken largely on faith. Nor have libertarians confronted the disabling hypocrisy of the capitalist rationale which insists that while the capitalists themselves must have extensive freedom of action, their employees may have much less. Their explanation of how an invisible hand arranges economic resources rationally without authoritarian direction stops short at the factory gate. Inside factories and offices, the heavy, visible hand of management continues to rule with only token opposition. [All emphasis added.]
Mises! That point, which seems so obvious once stated, lit so many intellectual fires in my cerebral cortex that I'm still steaming.
Through much of the article, Cornuelle concerns himself with describing a culture of "imaginative voluntary action" (service organizations, churches and synagogues, private charities, and other forms of volunteerism) to take the place of government social action on poverty; disease control; illiteracy, innumeracy, and miseducation; environmental pollution; crime; drug addiction; cultural isolation; and so forth. This section is fascinating, but much work on this subject has already been published in the intervening two decades, so I won't go into it.
I'm more interested in the area that has been virtually bereft of creative, innovative libertarian and free-market thought before and after Cornuelle's article... and that is where the author truly illuminates the path forward.
This little piggie goes to market
The first task before creating the future is to describe the now, and Cornuelle does this beautifully; it's virtually impossible to argue with any sentence in this complex yet crystaline paragraph, as true today as in 1991:
When freemen went to work in factories, their status was not unlike that of the iron-collared serfs who had preceded them. Their employment was a kind of voluntary indenture, tacitly renewed each day, in which the worker agreed to submit to supervision for a certain number of hours for an agreed-to amount of pay. Workers were free in one sense, but painfully unfree in another. Feudalism had only moved indoors. The movement to civilize this relationship has been more or less continuous. Workplaces have been made safer, lighter, warmer and more agreeable. Wages are higher, hours shorter, and an accumulation of law and custom has elaborated the rights of employees and put limits on the prerogatives of employers. But the system has yet to be altered elementally. Working people are far, far freer than slaves or indentured servants, but they are not as free as their bosses and not nearly as free as they might be.
The economic and spiritual consequences of such "wage slavery" (to liberate a term from the Marxists) are devastating, not only to workplace productivity but to the soul of the employee... particularly in the case of what the Japanese call the "salaryman."
If you are employed by someone else, the odds are high that when you come home from work you are drained mentally and emotionally, which manifests physically as well (falling asleep in front of the TV at 9:00 pm). You often miss milestones in your children's development, much of your social life revolves around co-workers, you find it hard to talk about anything other than work at parties and other social gatherings; your life revolves around Work, and a terrible temptation arises to begin defining yourself in terms of your Work: "What are you?" Not "I'm a father of three," or "I'm a writer," or "I'm a Hasidic Jew," or "My husband and I are adventure racers;" but "I work for Lockheed."
There is little time to see a play, sing-along with your family, go hunting, read a book, or wrestle with your kids. And on the week-ends, you cram every chore that had to be postponed during the week-days into the few hours you have away from Work... so even that precious time is sucked dry by the corporation, like a fat, gouty aristo Hoovering the marrow from a pork bone.
Worse is the psychological effect: Saluting and obeying become the essential thread of your personality; you internalize the military-like regimentation of Work; you begin to think of yourself as a servant, not a free human with the capacity and potential to rise above your lot.
Thus does Work prime you for socialism; as Cornuelle puts it, paraphrasing Friedrich Hayek:
Employed people can scarcely be expected to revere qualities they have been carefully instructed to repress. Instead, they tend to become what the way they work requires: politicized, unimaginative, unenterprising, petty, security-obsessed, and passive.
These are not qualities that can sustain the American experiment of individual liberty and self-government.
Cornuelle gets a bit cryptic when he discusses practical treatments for the social disease he diagnoses; but I think I can flesh it out somewhat. He writes:
[N]ow there is a movement toward more elemental reform which would de-politicize workplaces entirely, make each worker self-supervising, and base compensation on some credible estimate of the value each person adds to whatever product or service the firm produces, in effect bringing the principle of the free market into the plant. But without a legitimatizing rationale, something the libertarians are best equipped to provide, this is bound to be a confused and halting process.
Alas, that is all the guidance he gives us; nevertheless, let's extrapolate that out to a workable, practical reform and see what it looks like.
The military model of decentralization (?!)
Here I'll drag Donald Rumsfeld, willy-nilly, into the debate (probably against his will). Besides winning two wars (and almost losing two peaces), Rumsfeld will be best remembered, at least by military historians, for his reform of the American military. Boiled down to its essentials, he sought to do three things:
- Decentralize control of the troops to put as much responsibility and accountability as possible in the smallest units -- squads -- shifting power from the standard divisional structure to men with stripes on their sleeves, the actual war-fighters. Officers would set the goals, keep track of progress, and ensure that the units in contact with the enemy (or containing the enemy) have all the resources they needed to do their jobs.
- Break down the barriers between types of units, so that small, almost voluntary collectives of soldiers (I'm using the word "soldier" generically) with disparate specialities can integrate into a powerful, self-sustaining, and self-directed team. Thus, instead of having an infantry unit that depends upon a separate and not-very-well coordinated artillery unit -- controlled by a colonel "somewhere else" who is not necessarily even in communication with the general in command of the infantry brigade -- to bombard the enemy prior to a firefight, under the Rumsfeld reforms, small units could themselves call in airstrikes or artillery as needed from individual air-support or artillery squads, without waiting for the bird and the star to have a sit-down with each other.
- Uplink each soldier (ideally), or at least each squad-level unit, with a coordinated, networked virtual battlefield, allowing the brass to follow the entire conflict in a way that Napoleon could only dream of doing. As in Robert A. Heinlein's seminal novel Starship Troopers, the battle can now be mapped almost as a problem in fluid-flow. Commanders can zoom in on hot spots or widen the view to catch opportunities missed by the men on the ground -- or catch potential threats before they coalesce into devastation.
The decentralized, integrated, coordinated battlefield of today and tomorrow revolutionizes warfare as thoroughly as did air power, repeating arms, or even gunpowder itself. And this same model can revolutionize Work -- to the point where it may become unrecognizable.
Free the human 200 million!
We're already seeing the beginnings of decentralization in the increasing use of independent contractors in large businesses -- non-employees who pay their own medical insurance, retirement (including paying self-employment tax instead of having FICA contributions deducted), and other benefits in exchange for a higher rate of payment. But we'll cross a more vital threshold when companies cease paying contractors by the hour worked, and begin paying instead for projects completed.
Whenever a person is paid on the basis of time spent with butt in chair, he is an employee even if he is an ostensibly independent contractor: The client has every right and every motivation to clock the worker's every working moment, to ensure the client is not being cheated. After all, if he's being paid by the hour, the incentive is to take as long as he can possibly justify... the opposite of productivity. If he finishes your project early, his reward is to be paid less!
But if the contractor is paid according to what he produces, then his time is his own: So long as he finishes the project on time and within the budget (or can make a convincing case why he and the client had underestimated the original schedule and budget), the client has neither right nor reason to inquire about how the contractor spends his time... any more than you have reason to interrogate your dentist about how long a lunch break he takes or when he knocks off for the day.
Not only that, but the quicker he finished the first project (in a manner that the client approves), the quicker he can move to the next; being more productive means he makes more money, incentivizing productivity. This is a huge economic boost for the client as well as the contractor.
Of course it's important to recognize the most intractible limitation to Capitalism: Most people don't really want to be capitalists. They want to be told what to do and supervised closely; most folks really do want to be "wage slaves," because they enjoy the security they fancy it supplies.
Of course, after getting laid off a few times, they may change their minds; but as even Ayn Rand understood and depicted in Atlas Shrugged, for every independent, fully self-actualized Dagny Taggart, there are a thousand Eddie Willers -- competent, loyal followers who simply lack either the creative capacity or the will to become independent, fully-realized human beings.
In spite of that dreary reality, however, there are many more budding capitalists than the contemporary fascist structure of corporations allows to bloom; and even for the Eddie Willers, increasing the scope of Capitalism will benefit them indirectly by increasing the wealth of society and making the workplace more livable. But potential capitalists cannot truly revolutionize the workplace, let alone Work, without the next phase: integrating Capitalism into that corporate structure itself.
Just as the armed forces are moving rapidly towards small, self-contained military units that have all the capacity they need to independently accomplish their missions, corporations can move away from discrete and disconnected, overly specialized corporate departments to integrated business units or cells organized around products or projects. As Heinlein said, "specialization is for insects."
Why should Accounting, Personnel, Legal, Sales, Marketing, Operations, and Management all be separated from the productive departments? It may have made sense in the early days of industrialization, as perhaps did unions; but like unions, the time for a wall of separation between "creation" and "control" has passed.
A new, post-modern corporate structure would be organized into business units around the various products -- that which customers want to buy. A big company would have many business units; a small might have only one. Each business unit or cell would comprise an array of contractors (and some Eddie Willers-type employees) who are all assigned to the same project, which provides the organizing reason for the business unit itself.
Consider, for instance, a software company, and imagine this integrated work environment:
- One of the major product lines is an accounting application called Mercury. The Mercury team comprises software engineers, accountants, marketers, and salespeople.
- Each element has a team lead (an engineering team lead, an accounting team lead, and so forth). The team leads keep track of the progress of their piece of the project and the needs of their people, and they coordinate with each other to set schedules and allocate resources.
- The accountants actually use the Mercury application to do their accounting; they're usually a version behind, because they need it to work. But they regularly alpha-test the current software.
- The engineers work closely with the accountants, ensuring that the product is oriented around what accountants actually do, rather than around the software modules that make up the application code: That is, the program menus and functions reflect the real-world work of accountants... not the way the code happens to be divided up and distributed for purposes of efficient program design.
- The marketing people within the Mercury team have input into the product design; they too consult with the accountants, so they can more effectively find out what the target market wants to see in the product.
- The sales people use the product in their own work (updating their sales targets and such), so they too can better sell the product to the target market.
- Lawyer members of the Mercury legal team would focus on the project's legal issues, whether it's software compliance with the tax code (a product issue) or collections, lawsuits anent the application, team-member disputes, and so forth (corporate issues).
- More important, the entire team (as a unit) must "buy" its resources -- manpower, computers, packaging, printing, and even utilities and office supplies -- from the parent company, using company scrip; but they keep a royalty (in scrip) from the product sales, which is used to pay for these resources... and leftover scrip becomes real money, paid to the team members as bonuses.
(Note another important point: A single person can be assigned to multiple projects... and he gets paid for each. Thus, an engineer might work on the Mercury project, but he might also write code for a tax-filing application, a workflow application, or a customer sales-contact application. Each contractor must manage his own time to ensure timely completion of all the projects to which he's attached. The current corporate structure tends to infantalize employees; a more internally capitalist structure matures and expands the abilities of its independent contractors.)
You see the point? We need to create little mini-companies within the parent corporation to institutionalize Capitalism in the belly of the beast; and each independent contractor team member has a monetary incentive to maximize sales (by making the best possible product) and minimize cost (because bonuses are paid based upon the "profit" earned by the team).
"The part that they forgot to kill went on to organize!"
Finally, the project officers who "run" the Mercury project are actually clients of the team member contractors... and their incentive is to get the best application out the fastest they can to be as profitable as possible -- not to waste time supervising every minute of every "employee's" day, attending endless (and useless) meetings, or writing detailed reports of everything the vice president demands to justify his own phony-baloney job.
Similarly, the higher-up corporate officers have the same incentive: Their only bonuses, perhaps their only income, would come from direct ownership (stock holdings in the company) or profit-based bonuses; no more question about whether they truly "earned" their money... if they don't, they don't get any.
And the best part, from my perspective, is that independent contractors, being their own bosses, don't need industrial unions; in fact, the very idea of an involuntary union of independents is self contradictory. Thus the only "union" possible would in fact be the very type of voluntary organization that we want to train people to accept and rely upon, in order to wean our larger society away from government control of every social issue towards a more robust volunteerism and self-help. Capitalism leads directly to more social interaction between people -- and more volunteerism.
Enchained of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your Work
You may have noticed that I use the word Work, capitalized; this signifies what I think it means to most people in the country: the central component of their lives. They spend more time at Work than anywhere else. Work supplies the lion's share of their human relationships; and many bosses believe Work should take precedence over everything else in their employees' lives -- over recreation, over sleep, even over their families.
In Judeo-Christian (and probably Islamic) cultures, Work is penance, a punishment assumed to atone for the original sin of disobeying God's order not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Tanakh, the Jewish bible, Genesis 3:19 covers it pretty well: "By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground -- for from it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you shall return." The King James and Catholic bibles are equally grim.
(I believe the whole problem stems from mistaking the natural consequences of maturity for a curse. As a child, your parents do everything for you; the price of growing up is that you must scratch for your own seed. In fact, I see the entire Old Testament as a parable of this same dynamic, applied to human civilization as a whole... but developing this theme further is beyond the scope of this post.)
Work becomes a God to be worshipped; to speak against "hard work" (meaning Work) is blasphemy. To reject Work is heresy that is punished by casting out the heretic. That is why so many people routinely refer to the self-employed as "lazy bums," even if they in fact work (small-w) harder than an employee would: The fact that they work for themselves, are not employed by a boss-man, means that they don't really Work... so the time they spend and the products they create are meaningless. How can they be productive? They don't suffered the way I do!
Capitalism is pro-work, but it is inherently anti-Work; Work is a remnant from the early days of modern industrialization in the heavily repressed Victorian era. Pleasure is the opposite of Work; but work (small-w) can and should be a pleasure, and it can and will happily co-exist with non-work related pleasures, strengthening family ties and mentally heathful recreation away from the workplace and one's co-workers.
Ideally, increasing automation will drastically reduce the amount of time we must spend at work -- which violates a central tenet of Work-as-God. At the event horizon, we would need to spend only a few minutes per day doing things to create wealth, and the rest of our time we will spend enjoying that wealth.
But first, we must eliminate Work in favor of work; that is the first step. We must rise up as a culture and abolish Work, at least for anyone who aspires to be more than an Eddie Willers.
Chopping the chopper
But in case you've forgotten in all the excitement of Capitalist revolution, this has all been a tangent; we were really talking about Orange County Choppers, Paul Sr., and his son Paulie... remember?
Senior is the boss, and he sets very strict rules for his employees. He monitors their movements like a hawk monitors the movements of mice. Every employee must show up at 7:00 am on the dot; lunch and other breaks are short and strictly enforced; I believe they work 10-hour days.
Worse, if Senior looks out the glass wall of his office and sees people talking or walking around instead of actually banging metal, he comes storming out to scream at them in front of everybody... and he doesn't even accept the defense that such non-physical activities as thinking, designing, sketching, and communicating with other employees can also constitute Work. It was only with a lot of tooth-pulling that Paulie got his father to hire a computer graphic designer, Jason Pohl; and even now, Senior treats Jason as a bad joke -- except when he forces him to bend metal, a task for which he really is not suited.
But when Paulie was there, he would spend many hours conversing with Jason before even touching any tools, coming up with increasingly fantastic designs as the seasons passed. And a lot of times, Paulie comes in late, leaves early, and takes long lunches. Bad "employee," right? But his father also berates him for taking too long thinking about the build before starting to hammer out gas tanks or bend tubing for handlebars.
To me, the solution is so obvious, it's actually frustrating that neither Senior nor Junior gets it... so much so that if this Hamlet-like indecision continues much longer, I may cease watching the show: Paulie is simply not meant to be an employee; he is a Capitalist at heart.
Paulie should come back to OCC -- as an independent contractor. He should incorporate himself, and Senior (his father) should contract with that company to design and build the special bikes, plus the stock bikes when there is time. In other words, he should do the same job he was doing as an employee, but as a non-employee.
OCC would not pay him a salary, nor would it pay any benefits at all. Instead, it would pay a contracting fee, and Paulie would pay all those other things himself -- for himself, and also for his employees. Yes, OCC should let other employees go; they already realize they must lay people off, due to the bad financial times (which curtail both corporate sponsorship of elaborate motorcycles and also ordinary people buying the stock choppers, which are after all luxuries). Paulie's design company should hire some of these laid-off employees -- especially including Jason Pohl.
The benefits to OCC are obvious: They don't have all the overhead of so many employees, and they only have to pay Paulie when he's actually working for them. They pay a lump sum, which is just as deductable as a business expense as were Paulie's salary and bennies when he was an employee. And most important, Senior can relax, because Junior's work habits are no longer his business -- literally.
The benefits to Paulie are equally clear: He can come and go as he pleases, work however he wants in order to create the build, and isn't under the thumb of his father. But at the same time, since he doesn't want his business to fail, he has a gigantic incentive to ensure that come what may, the build is completed on time, within budget, and to the customer's satisfaction... because if he doesn't, Senior can easily contract with a different bike designer for the same product.
In addition, Paulie can use all the machines at OCC -- from lifts and compressed air for power tools to the FlowJet and its five-axis bigger cousin to the CAD setup for Jason -- to design and create his choppers, along with the actual physical space; Paulie doesn't have to buy all those things for himself. In fact, even if he contracts with some other company in the future, if it doesn't interfere with OCC's own work, he might be able to lease access to OCC's infrastructure; again, everybody benefits.
Having his own employees will force Junior to start understanding and confronting the same pressures that his father has to deal with, which will probably bring them closer together as a family (a serendipitous effect of the market). But since his will be a much, much smaller company, his employees -- the Eddie Willers who really do want and need to be told what to do -- will have much more input, responsibilty, accountability, and access than they would as employees of the larger company as a whole. They will be happier and will have a financial incentive to be more innovative and creative; they will likely be paid with both straight compensation and with company stock, as most startups do, so Paulie's success is the employees' success in a very direct way.
Then in the future, when even Paulie's company gets too big and begins to emulate a government (and a feudal one at that!), key employees of Paulie can split off and become independent contractors to him, just as he did with OCC.
Back to the future
This corporate reform would introduce a dose of real Capitalism into the work relationship... which is exactly what has been missing from the Mediaeval structure of nearly every corporation in America (and the world). A number of companies have in fact been experimenting with just such an arrangement of business units, with varying success. (Contrary to libertarian rhetoric, freedom does not come naturally to people: One must command them to be free.)
But once people get a taste for liberty, you cannot take it away without a fight. As that is our greatest strength as a country and society, it makes sense for us to incorporate it into every facet of America that we can... and most especially, we must ditch the "command economy," at all levels, in favor of economic freedom, Capitalism, and the ownership society.
Else we will end up in just as dire a straite as Orange County Chopper, as our most creative minds will simply pack up and find somewhere more congenial to work -- small-w.
Date ►►► April 16, 2009
Sarah Palin and Guilt by Disassociation
Ah, the distinctly noisome bouquet tells me that the 2012 presidential campaign has been uncorked early this year...
The attacks on Sarah Palin have begun again; and as before, since none of Palin's enemies can find anything troubling or disturbing about the woman herself, they're targeting her family, especially her children, once more:
Teen pregnancy, drug charges, burglary arrests. Appearances on the "Tyra Banks Show" that resembled a Jerry Springer segment. Charges of being publicity hounds and not paying for the diapers.
The family foibles continue to play out in tabloid fashion for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, adding unwelcome public drama for the former vice-presidential nominee as she seeks to solidify her clout within a Republican Party that is smarting from the November election and sorely in need of a leader.
But wait... before proceeding further, let's get a little mroe specific on exactly what charges Palin's opponents within the GOP and her enemies among Democrats have leveled:
- We all agree that Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol got knocked up; but that's last year's news, and it wouldn't cause a stir today, let alone in three more years.
- What's this about drug charges? Oh yes, "somebody" in Bristol's former boyfriend's family -- not Palin's family -- was arrested for something involving drugs. That somebody was Levi Johnson's mother, Sherry Johnson.
- "Appearances on the 'Tyra Banks Show',"charges of being publicity hounds and not paying for the diapers" all refer to the aforementioned Levi Johnson, Bristol's ex; he and his mother and sister decided -- without the blessing of Todd, Sarah, Bristol, or the infant Tripp Palin -- to appear on the tabloid show, goodness only knows why. (I have my suspicions, and they do, in fact, include the Johnson family being publicity hounds.)
- After the appearance, during which Levi retailed lurid accounts of his sexual exploits that are hotly denied by his former girlfriend Bristol, Sarah Palin's father accused Johnson of not supporting Tripp Palin -- his legal obligation -- and suggested that he should take some of the money he's now making off of his former association with Alaska's first family and use it to "buy some diapers."
- And burglary? That appears to be the half-sister of Sarah Palin's husband Todd. Diana Palin is married and has her own two children; she does not live with Todd and Sarah Palin.
So out of all the smoke of the allegations -- both the Democratic Party and Republican Party spokesmen puckishly decline to comment -- only one charge actually involves Sarah Palin's family. The rest involve Bristol's former boyfriend, his family, and Palin's husband's married sister.
Yes, I can see how the foibles of people distantly connected to Sarah Palin logically should damage her candidacy; after all, the bad behavior of her daughter's ex-boyfriend's mother certainly demonstrates that Sarah Palin is the hillbilly so many sources (on both sides the aisle) have insisted she is. And we certainly never see any relatives or family members of Democrats having problems... especially not the Democrat current occupying the White House; this situation is something utterly unique to Palin.
When Democrats (with GOP complicity) finish off Palin, they will surely start in on Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. Did you know that he's a hillbubba? And he has a funny name... what's up with that?
I will certainly admit one solid slam against Palin: She clearly was not firm enough in teaching her daughter the sort of boys to avoid. If that's enough to turn you away from her future candidacy, so be it.
Attended a Local Mad Tea Party
Actually, nobody appeared to be mad except for one alter kacher Obama defender (mad in both senses): When a speaker rhetorically demanded to know why bankrupting the country with a senseless spending spree is a good response to a recession, this angry, old gentleman bellowed out, "Because it worked before! In 1933! In the Great Depression! Google it!"
I asked if he could remind me -- how long after 1933 did the depression grind on, before World War II finally ended it? But answer came there none, to quote Lewis Carroll; in all fairness, Mr. Obamoid was already beetling off, perhaps frightened of such a large (300+) mob of "rightwing extremists," and he may not have heard me.
Whoops, let me back up and dress the stage. This afternoon, I drove to the nearest Tea Party, which happened to be in front of the Glendale (California) City Hall. I brought my camera along, so I shall have a nice series of photos to post in this space this evening, as soon as I finish smalling them down (they start at about 2-3 Mb, and I pare them down to about 30K-50K). Until then, keep watching the skies...
The first batch of pics
I didn't take many crowd shots; this gives you a general idea of the size of the mob. I guessed about 300 people present, but I'm not a police crowd-size estimator:
A bit of the scrum
The red lines dramatically dropping in the latter half of the chart are the projections of Barack H. Obama's deficits, of course. This has been making the rounds:
This deficit chart was ubiquitous at tea parties.
There were a number of cute, hand-made signs; here's one:
Under Obama, the only thing certain is (loose) change and taxes.
The opulent, opalescent City Hall of Glendale, California, which surely must rival the Taj Mahal:
Glendale City Hall
Another great sign -- a play on the signs bums hold up at freeway onramps:
Cute and pithy
Land of the free -- for a while yet
She had just cut a segment with her cameraman, and they were folding up tent for the day. She was yammering away, just like a normal person... but the moment she caught sight of my camera, out of the corner of her eye, she instantly turned and beamed this perfect set of incisors at my lens.
Now you know why she is the newsbabe, and I'm just the guy who snapped her photo in my pajamas. (How she got into my pajamas, I'll never know. And don't tell Sachi!)
Newsbabes on the loose!
I don't actually listen to KABC; I think they used to have Larry Elderberry, but he has moved on now.
KABC Talkradio was there.
Date ►►► April 13, 2009
Obamunism III - Biden His Time
For our third example of almost jaw-dropping childishness from the Childe President -- or this time, the Vice Childe -- we have the pathetic maunderings of Vice President Joe Biden (can anyone read that phrase without wincing?) Now (according to Fox News' excellent Bill Sammon) he has taken to recounting how he bravely spoke truth to power, bearded President Bush in his den, and became the life-preserver to which George W. Bush clung, while Biden lectured him repeatedly... always getting the better of the exchange:
"I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office," Biden began, "'Well, Joe,' he said, 'I'm a leader.' And I said: 'Mr. President, turn and around look behind you. No one is following.'"
The exchange is purely "fictional," said [Karl] Rove, who was Bush's top political adviser in the White House.
"It didn't happen," Rove, a FOX News contributor and former Bush adviser, told Megyn Kelly in an interview taped for "On The Record." "It's his imagination; it's a made-up, fictional world."
Such narcissistic fantasizing for personal aggrandizement is commonplace among children, as anybody who has a child (or has ever been a child) knows: Two gradeschoolers have a tussle during recess; and by the time school ends, each has spun a narrative of epic battle à la Beowulf vs. Grendel -- a grand guignol in which his opposite number was so thoroughly vanquished that he will have to leave school and become a professional bum or journalist.
It's a bit disconcerting, however, to see such serial exaggeration come from the VPOTUS. Can anyone imagine Dick Cheney telling a fairy-tale about the day he scored such a bullseye with a cutting remark to Vice President Algore that the latter dropped into an egg-huddled mass, crying for his mommy?
Rove was equally appalled by Biden's claims of having given Bush his comeuppance.
"If you notice, all of these incidents have the same structure: Joe Biden courageously raises the impudent question; the president befuddles the answer; and Joe Biden drives home the dramatic response."
Notice again one of the hallmarks of childishness: Actual history is rewritten to make it more dramatic, with a plotline, climax, and denouement. The courageous senator-hero confronts and takes down the president-ogre; at the end, the villain is reduced practically to tears while the world cheers Zero the Hero.
But the fantasization runs even deeper, according to Rove; and judging from what I've read from other top presidential aides to this and many other presidents (including Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon), even the idea that a single senator would have the kind of access that Biden claims is inherently implausible.
People simply do not have that much face-time with the president, not unless they are top aides whose job entails such extensive contact. Among other problems, the primary job of the president's chief of staff -- the very able Andrew Card until 2006, followed by the equally competent Josh Bolten -- is to serve as a gate-keeper, preventing imbeciles from monopolizing the president's valuable and extremely limited time. There is no way that either Card or Bolten would permit Biden to ramble on and on, lecturing Bush and triumphing over him again and again.
But to hear (read) Biden tell it, George Bush becomes his imaginary friend... the one who plays foil to Biden's sense of snowjob. Here is the long version of a tale told by a Biden:
[Chief of Staff Card, press secretary Ari Fleischer, and legislative liaison Candida Wolff] also disputed a similar assertion made by Biden in 2004, when the former senator from Delaware told scores of Democratic colleagues at a lunch that he had challenged Bush's moral certitude about the Iraq war during a private meeting in the Oval Office. Two years later, Biden repeated his story about dressing down the president.
"When I speak to the president - and I have had plenty of opportunity to be with the president, at least prior to the last election, a lot of hours alone with him. I mean, meaning me and his staff," Biden said on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" in April2006. "And the president will say things to me, and I'll literally turn to the president, say: 'Mr. President, how can you say that, knowing you don't know the facts?' And he'll look at me and he'll say - my word - he'll look at me and he'll say: 'My instincts.' He said: 'I have good instincts.' I said: 'Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough.'"
On Thursday, Rove ridiculed the claim that Biden spent "a lot of hours alone with" Bush.
"Joe Biden was never alone with the president for more than few moments," Rove said. "There was staff in the room the whole time."
In fact, I doubt that even Vice President Dick Cheney or senior aide Karl Rove got "a lot of hours alone" with Bush; as even Biden admits, any meeting between Bush and Biden would include a lot of presidential staffers. So there should be plenty of witnesses to be interrogated, right?
[Biden spokesman Jay] Carney declined to specify the dates of his boss's purported Oval Office scoldings of Bush. Nor would he provide witnesses or notes to corroborate the episodes.
Sammon does not neglect to note Joe Biden's history of embellishment, exaggeration, fabrication, and outright theft of intellectual property in his disgraceful thirty-six years in the Senate, and now three months at Blair House:
Last July, Biden came under fire for telling a questionable story about being "shot at" in Iraq. When questioned by the Hill newspaper, Biden backpedaled by saying: "I was near where a shot landed...."
In September, Biden again raised eyebrows with another story about his exploits in war zones -- this time on "the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where my helicopter was forced down."
"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden bragged to the National Guard Association. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."
But it turns out that inclement weather, not terrorists, prompted the chopper to land in an open field during Biden's visit to Afghanistan in February 2008. Fighter jets kept watch overhead while a convoy of security vehicles was dispatched to retrieve Biden and fellow Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Kerry.
This is, without doubt, the weirdest ticket ever to occupy the White House. But the most worrisome factor is not the liberal-fascist variety of Socialism, the military fecklessness, the mindblowing deficits, the serial lying, the cryptofascist antisemitic appointees, the boorishness of his contacts with foreign leaders, or even the veil of secrecy that shrouds his every decision (much moreso than George W. Bush)... it's the appalling way that everybody involved with this administration, with the possible exception of the Secretaries of State and Defense, sees the world through the eyes of a child -- and a particularly immature and poorly raised one, at that.
It's a shocking turn of events when the lone Democratic exemplar of sanity, honesty, and maturity in the White House is Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Date ►►► April 12, 2009
Time to Fish or Get Off the Pot
While President Barack H. Obama tries to make up his mind how to respond to the Somalian pirates (the larger group, not just the ones who were holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage), he's not wasting any time... he's simultaneously dithering about how to respond to a Somalian Islamist "extremist" group, al-Shabab, that is allied with al-Qaeda. Neither dilemma appears close to resolution; in fact, the paralysis and refusal to use swift retaliatory force reminds me more and more of the 444 days of national humilitation in Jimmy Carter's first term in office.
His second term -- under his standby, Barack Obama -- seems no more decisive on the foreign-policy front than the first term, back in the late 1970s. This stands in bizarre contrast to Obama's firm resolve in his domestic agenda to remake America as a socialist country.
But why not launch a massive attack on the pirates in their lair, to punish them for having attacked an American vessel in the first place? We note with some interest that the entire "community" of Somalis in that modern-day Tortuga (the eighteenth-century pirate island) appears to be on the side of the pirates:
Talks to free [Capt. Phillips] began Thursday with the captain of the USS Bainbridge talking to the pirates under instruction from FBI hostage negotiators on board the U.S. destroyer. The pirates had threatened to kill Phillips if attacked....
Before Phillips was freed, a pirate who said he was associated with the gang that held Phillips, Ahmed Mohamed Nur, told The Associated Press that the pirates had reported that "helicopters continue to fly over their heads in the daylight and in the night they are under the focus of a spotlight from a warship."
He spoke by satellite phone from Harardhere, a port and pirate stronghold where a fisherman said helicopters flew over the town Sunday morning and a warship was looming on the horizon. The fisherman, Abdi Sheikh Muse, said that could be an indication the lifeboat may be near to shore.
The district commissioner of the central Mudug region said talks went on all day Saturday, with clan elders from his area talking by satellite telephone and through a translator with Americans, but collapsed late Saturday night.
"The negotiations between the elders and American officials have broken down. The reason is American officials wanted to arrest the pirates in Puntland and elders refused the arrest of the pirates," said the commissioner, Abdi Aziz Aw Yusuf. He said he organized initial contacts between the elders and the Americans.
Two other Somalis, one involved in the negotiations and another in contact with the pirates, also said the talks collapsed because of the U.S. insistence that the pirates be arrested and brought to justice.
Fine; then the "clan elders" of "the central Mudug region," which contains that "port and pirate stronghold" of Harardhere, are clearly not with us... they are with the pirates. So what is to stop us from launching a series of devastating retaliatory strikes against these strongholds? Nothing, evidently, but Barack Obama's infamous inability to make a decision. (This disability applies even to ongoing wars; in Iraq and Afghanistan, he simply decided not to decide, accepting the Bush doctrine in both theaters by default.)
In fact, Obama is so indecisive that he's not even sure he's ready to commit to criminal charges yet:
U.S. officials said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat during the rescue was in military custody. FBI spokesman John Miller said that would change as the situation became "more of a criminal issue than a military issue."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said prosecutors were looking at "evidence and other issues" to determine whether to bring a case in the United States. The pirate could face a life sentence if convicted, officials said.
Well, that will certainly put the fear of the Judeo-Christian God into Long John Somali!
But back to the problem of al-Shabab. It appears that Obama is not only unwilling to attack pirates, he's also unsure whether we should attack militant Islamist terrorists in Somalia; from the Washington Post article:
Al-Shabab, whose fighters have battled Ethiopian occupiers and the tenuous Somali government, poses a dilemma for the administration, according to several senior national security officials who outlined the debate only on the condition of anonymity.
The organization's rapid expansion, ties between its leaders and al-Qaeda, and the presence of Americans and Europeans in its camps have raised the question of whether a preemptive strike is warranted. Yet the group's objectives have thus far been domestic, and officials say that U.S. intelligence has no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia.
An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration's first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones. The White House discussions highlight the challenges facing the Obama team as it attempts to distance itself from the Bush administration, which conducted at least five military strikes in Somalia. The new administration is still defining its rationale for undertaking sensitive operations in countries where the United States is not at war.
Yes, that's a toughie that would stump even a leader as decisive as Carter, let alone our current President Hamlet; it's especially tough when the president acts as if there never was any discussion in the previous administration about the rationale for launching strikes against terrorists -- and when the most important criterion of the brand new Obamaic rationale is whether such an attack would make the current administration look too much like the Bush administration.
In the meantime, a decision must be made, and the clock is ticking: Do we attack a terrorist group allied with al-Qaeda, which runs terrorist training camps full of domestic and foreign Moloch worshippers (including Europeans and Americans, who could presumably fly under the radar into the United States), which is trying to violently overthrow the current Somali government that we helped install (by supporting the Ethiopian invasion that overthrew the previous, al-Qaeda-friendly government), because we have "no evidence it is planning attacks outside Somalia?"
Of course, neither did the Taliban; they isolated themselves, completely fixating upon Afghanistan and Pakistan. But they also leased their country to the demonic Ayman Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, offering them safe haven from which they could launch the September 11th attacks, and aiding and abetting them in other, more tangible ways. Somalia looks ready to do exactly the same... for exactly the same group. And say what you will, bin Laden is not an isolationist.
I suppose the alternative course under consideration is to make it "more of a criminal issue" and "determine whether to bring a case in the United States." We might even file an indictment with the International Criminal Court at the Hague... though we'd probably have to agree to give them jurisdiction over American citizens as well.
(No matter -- the ICC's first action against Americans would doubtless be to put George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Douglas Feith, John Yoo, Mark Steyn, Rush Limbaugh, and a cast of thousands on trial for crimes against humanity, such as advocating war against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, spying on al-Qaeda without a world search warrant, and lowering taxes on the rich. What's not to like?)
What is the argument against striking at al-Shabab? Primarily that other countries in the world might object:
Some in the Defense Department have been frustrated by what they see as a failure to act. Many other national security officials say an ill-considered strike would have negative diplomatic and political consequences far beyond the Horn of Africa. Other options under consideration are increased financial pressure and diplomatic activity, including stepped-up efforts to resolve the larger political turmoil in Somalia.
That is, all those heads of government who praised Obama to the heavens at the G-20 might instead accuse him of being just like George Bush, and the president's self image would be shattered. Not that those same leaders respected him enough to acquiesce to any of the three major policies he wanted them to implement -- stronger sanctions against Iran and North Korea, stimulus spending, or enlarging the NATO commitment to Afghanistan; but at least they said really nice things about Obama personally.
The most recent discussion of the issue took place early this week, just before the unrelated seizure of a U.S. commercial ship in the Indian Ocean by Somali pirates who [were] holding the American captain of the vessel hostage for ransom.
But are these two questions -- what to do about al-Shabab and what to do about the Somalian pirates -- truly "unrelated," as the Post declares? And even if they are discrete today, how long will they remain so? It stands to reason that terrorists, who oppose the new government of Somalia for being insufficiently Islamist, and pirates, who oppose it for cracking down on piracy, may very well make common cause against their shared enemy.
Barack Obama already fumbled his first test on foreign policy -- the debacle in London at the meeting of the G-20. He appears to have flunked on every measure except cordiality (the leaders all liked him as a person, so long as he kow-towed to China, Russia, the Arab countries, and Europe). I suggest that how we respond to the two Somalian threats represents Obama's first big military-policy test: If he cannot even muster up a military response to pirates and terrorists in the Horn of Africa, then how will he ever respond to the subtler but far deadlier perils of Iran's centrifuges, North Korea's missiles, the Palestinians' pratfalls, Red China's increasing economic dominance, and a resurgent "Soviet Union?"
The answer, I fear, will be even grimmer, and the damage even longer lasting, than his response to the economic crisis.
Date ►►► April 10, 2009
Obamunism II - the Infection Spreads
On Monday, in Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child, we lit into President Barack H. Obama for enunciating a very juvenile and immature philosophy, one based upon four pillars:
- Dividing world actors into either heroes or villains (based on whether they're considered generally Left or Right, respectively), as in the comic books of earlier generations (oddly, many comics have a more sophisticated worldview today than does the president);
- Misapprehending current events in a very superficial, childish way;
- Rewriting the chaos of history to make it a more exciting and melodramatic story -- complete with plot, conflict, climax, and dénouement (resolution of the climax)... they remember things not the way they happened but the way they should have happened;
- And magical thinking, in which deep, non-logical or paralogical connections exist between seemingly disconnected events or people, such that doing some apparently irrelevent thing (throwing the ring of power into a volcano) results in some vital consequence (the evil Sauron is destroyed).
Today, Friday -- bookending the week -- I have a perfect example of such pre-pubescent behavior; but this time, it's not just on the part of the president... it has spread through Western civilization at least as far as Merrie Olde England, as the Times (of London) joins in the juvenalia. Thus Obama does not merely enunciate a philosophy of childishness, he exemplifies what is rapidly becoming a movement of childishness.
In a straight-reporting article on Gen. Ray Odierno's fight in Iraq, primarily in the cities of Mosul and Diyala, we read the following description of the so-called "surge," which I prefer to call the counterinsurgency:
Despite the rise in the number of attacks, overall violence is still far below levels of two years ago when the surge of an extra 30,000 US forces -- a strategy created and implemented by General Odierno and his boss, General Petraeus -- was just getting started. That risk paid off, subduing a civil war that was killing thousands of Iraqi civilians and scores of American soldiers every month.
Let's take a look at that one paragraph. First of all, the definition of civil war is not "kills thousands of civilians and scores of soldiers every month." A civil war requires opposing armies -- each drawn from and led by citizens or subjects of the same country -- engaging in actual combat operations.
Neither of these was true in Iraq. There were initially two armies, that of Saddam Hussein and the one fielded by the American-led coalition. After the former collapsed and up until today, there has been only one army: the latter. In addition, there have been various home-staffed but generally foreign-led terrorist groups... and there is even a small force of militants fielded by a foreign power, Iran. But there is not now, nor has there ever been (during the third millennium) a "civil war" in Iraq.
This is story-telling as described above. It's very dramatic to describe the violent conflict from 2004 through 2007 as a "civil war;" the term conjures up images (in America) of horrific battles like Antietam (Sharpsburg) and Gettysburg and hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers on both sides. In Great Britain, readers envision the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, between "cavaliers" (royalists) and "roundheads" (parliamentarians), in which King Charles I was executed by Parliament, his son driven into exile, the monarchy temporarily abolished, and a new government "Protectorate" established under Oliver Cromwell. Man, that's exciting!
By contrast, the reality in Iraq was nothing like that. The government was never in danger of being overthrown by al-Qaeda, which fielded no real army; the terrorists never really governed territory, though they held sway in some areas (e.g., Anbar province); all they could ever do was kill people, more or less at random.
In addition to the storytelling, the paragraph quoted above demonstrates the oversimplification and superficiality of Obamunism, despite coming from across the Atlantic ocean. Note the claimed provenance of the counterinsurgency: "a strategy created and implemented by General Odierno and his boss, General Petraeus."
This puts all the praise squarely upon the military itself, a safe and politically neutral repository... and it denies credit to the civilians (some former military) who actually crafted the plan, particularly the authors of the American Enterprise Institute's report: Fred Kagen and retired Gen. John "Jack" Keane.
Why should the Times want to deny credit to the AEI? Because it is a preeminent politically conservative organization. To grant the AEI its due entails admitting that the conservative approach to the Iraq crisis was correct; while the liberal view of withdrawal from the cities, handing everything over to the Iraqis, and quickly withdrawing from Iraq altogether -- as enunciated by, e.g., Gen. William Casey and retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, along with nearly every liberal Democrat especially including then-Sen. Barack Obama -- was dead wrong, failed, and nearly cost us the war.
(Even worse would have been the madcap scheme pushed by then-Sen. Joe Biden, among many others, to "partition" Iraq into threes, Sunni, Shia, and Kurd. Within a few months, the Sunni regions would all be controlled by al-Qaeda with support from Pakistan; the Shiite regions would all be controlled by Muqtada Sadr and his puppetmasters in Teheran; and Kurdistan would have managed to provoke a war with Turkey.)
Thank goodness the AEI made such a good counter-case.
Finally, note the truly glaring omission among those who should receive credit for the counterinsurgency, which seized victory from a battlefield where the Left had already declared defeat. Who was the one person most responsible for what the press enjoys calling "the surge?" Who was the actual decider? Who took the political heat? Who was called everything from a moron to a Nazi for pushing it?
The Times has surgically removed President George W. Bush from the story; it's as if he wasn't even there. Evidently, these two generals, Petraeus and Odierno, just got it into their heads to totally change the war-fighting strategy in Iraq. They invented the counterinsurgency out of whole cloth and somehow found a way to increase the forces on the ground as well... and all without any input or decision-making by the Commander in Chief!
Imagine how terrible it would be to have to admit, in one of the most respected organs of the elite media, that George W. Bush was right, and Barack H. Obama was catastrophically wrong on the Iraq war... that if we had followed the Obama-Biden-Reid-Pelosi-Kerry recommendation to declare defeat and go home, we would have lost the war; but because Bush instead implemented a strategy of victory, we have won it. If the Left confessed that, how could it ever hold up its head again?
Far better to praise a couple of more or less apolitical generals, pat the troops on the head, and cut all the political actors out of the picture, like a deranged divorcée cutting her ex-husband's head out of all the wedding photos. Or perhaps more appropriately, the Soviet habit of making former heroes of the revolution "vanish" from official photographs when they fall from power.
But the Times only takes its cue from President Obama himself; during his surprise trip to Baghdad Wednesday, he lavished praise on the American military presence there, crediting them with the "surge of troops;" but he pointedly refrained from mentioning President Bush's courageous decision to implement the counterinsurgency strategy in the first place. This has been Obama's modus operandi from the days of the campaign (which still hasn't ended) through the first months of his presidency: Everything bad that happens in America he blames on Bush; but he shifts credit for all the successes of the Bush administration -- and there were many -- to other entities, either liberal (Congress) or neutral (the military).
This is typically juvenile behavior, now being copied by leftists across America and even in supposedly sophisticated Europe. The childishness of our Childe President is spreading like a virulent malaise through an unsanitary grade school. Heaven only knows how long the epidemic will rage.
Date ►►► April 9, 2009
All right, this is just weird: Extreme sheep art.
Don't ask. Don't tell. Don't give up. The ship.
Date ►►► April 8, 2009
We'll Be the Jug of That!
Via Politico, it appears that the White House now denies that President Barack H. Obama bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia:
The White House is denying that the president bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at a G-20 meeting in London, a scene that drew criticism on the right and praise from some Arab outlets.
"It wasn't a bow. He grasped his hand with two hands, and he's taller than King Abdullah," said an Obama aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The White House line is that Obama did not bow; heavens, no real American would bow to a foreign king, emperor, sultan, or other potentate! Rather, it's merely that Barack H. Obama is a giant, a colossus among men, who bestrides the world like Ozymandias (I mean the Percy Bysshe Shelly poem)... whereas Abdullah is a wizened, shrunken old gnome with bootblack in his beard, whose cranium barely rises to the height of the One's majestic sternum. Obama didn't bow... he merely condescended to lower himself to the king's Lilliputian stature so that the latter wouldn't get a crick in his neck looking heavenwards to behold the beaming countenance. You see.
Aha, but the fact is, we can see. We can see right here:
I've watched it several times now. Barack, baby -- that was a bow. The president bends low from the waist until his head is beneath that of the king, who accepts the homage graciously (while remaining erect himself).
(And by the way, Abdullah actually looks to be only about four or five inches shorter than Obama, six at most... probably as tall as I; would the Lightbringer bow to me if we met?)
Perhaps now that the White House has denied the claim, albeit dishonestly, the elite media will finally bow to reality and show the damned clip on TV. You think?
Date ►►► April 7, 2009
The Party of Conditional Compassion
Riddle me this...
Liberals have a mad desire to cram same-sex marriage -- let's just say gay marriage for the moment, since that's how they think of it -- down our throats. They demand it willy-nilly, generally by court order (Vermont notwithstanding) and regardless of the desires of the citizens of the state in question. They seem terribly urgent about it, as if it's the most important "civil rights" battle in America today (they mean civil liberties, not civil rights, but let that slide).
Yet very few gays would get married, were the option available, according to the polls I've seen -- and in the real-life states that have enacted it: Massachusetts, Connecticut, California briefly, and so forth.
But lo! There is a much more blatant and much less defensible example of anti-gay discrimination in American society: The federal policy barring openly gay men or women from serving in the United States military... at all, in any capacity.
It's virtually impossible to justify on grounds of military necessity, since it's been many decades since anyone seriously believed that homosexuals are weaker or less aggressive than heteros; and the claims that a policy of inclusion would damage morale are no more defensible than the same arguments made in the 40s against racially integrating the military (the argument is essentially that the morale of gay-haters would drop).
At a guess, I believe that at least a hundred times as many gays serve (more or less secretly) in the military as want to get married to members of the same gender, and an even larger number are veterans or would like to serve in the future. At a guess, if about five million legal American residents are homosexual (loosely defined -- say 2% of men and 1% of women), easily as many as a million could be directly adversely affected by the policy. (I cannot imagine that anywhere near ten thousand gays and lesbians seriously intend to get married.)
And Congress or the president could enact that change right this very minute; I don't think Republicans could possibly muster 41 votes to filibuster a bill to lift the restriction, even if they wanted to -- and assuming congressional action is even required; it's possible that all it would take is an Executive Order from the Commander in Chief.
The Left could do it in a snap, even against unified Republican opposition (which I doubt could be mustered anyway). So why don't they?
Well, I didn't plan to leave that hanging as a rhetorical question. As anybody who has read more of this blog than just the seven paragraphs above knows, I ask because I think I know the answer -- which is simply this...
Democrats and liberals couldn't care less about gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites, or any other such subgroup. They only champion the gay (or blacktivist, or feminist) agenda when a particular policy serves the larger agenda of the hard Left: the destruction of traditional Western culture and its replacement by secular humanism.
Simply and brutally put, destroying traditional marriage advances that liberal agenda, so liberal Democrats pursue it with a passion; but allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not advance that vile agenda -- so liberal Democrats truly could not care less.
The only thing that might shake the Left from its apathy on gays in the military is if Democrats start to worry about the 2010 elections; they may decide that they can disguise their larger socialist agenda with the "beard" of civil liberties. They still don't care about gays -- they'll vote Democratic by 75% to 80% anyway; the campaign would be aimed at Independents, who may be won over by the question of fairness.
Of course, it's entirely possible that the GOP would not seriously resist lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military. In that case, pursuing the change wouldn't benefit the Left anyway; they couldn't point to Republicans and believably scream "homophobe!" So if the GOP is at least split on the issue, Democrats probably won't waste their time pursuing it, as there is no electoral payoff.
I realize I am sounding more and more cynical about the patriotism of the Left, but is it any wonder? All I read, day after day, tells me that they cannot stand America as we are; the only America they love is Sweden.
In any event, if you are gay, and if you're more interested in serving in the military than in marrying a person of your same gender, then please consider joining the GOP. At the least, you will find yourself among a group of people who honestly respect and applaud your service to the country, however much they may disagree with your positions on a few issues. I think a gay or lesbian soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine would have a much more pleasant time at a convention or fund-raiser headed by Romney or McCain or Palin than one headed by Reid, Pelosi, or Obama.
Rich Lowry Agrees With the Lizards!
Both pieces were driven by the extraordinarily naive and childish position enunciated Sunday by President Barack H. Obama -- that if we entirely eliminate our nuclear arsenal, Iran and North Korea will surely follow suit. (Neither piece was inspired by the other. It's just another case of "two thoughts with but a single mind between them," or however that old saw goes.)
Rich has one great line that I wish I'd thought to write:
If we had zero weapons, there would be even more of a premium on other states’ acquiring nukes, for purposes of protection, power-projection, and prestige.
That just about sums up why the utopian position of unilateral nuclear disarmament is hopelessly, well, utopian; strength leads to respect, weakness only invites attack: If you would have peace, prepare yourself for war.
Date ►►► April 6, 2009
Obamunism - Through the Eyes of a Child
Well, I think we all knew, somewhere in the back of our collective minds, that Barack H. Obama was planning it; most of us just thought it was so ludicrous, so retro, that he would never really propose it.
But now he has. Great leaping horny toads, it's Dr. Helen Caldicott's unilateral nuclear disarmament all over again:
Just hours after North Korea launched a long-range rocket, President Barack Obama called for "a world without nuclear weapons" and said the United States has a “moral responsibility ” to lead the way, as the only nation ever to use them....
The president directly addressed the Cold War history of this former Soviet bloc city, calling the remaining nuclear weapons “the most dangerous legacy” of that era.
He again pointed to history to say that America must lead. “As a nuclear power -- as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon -- the United States has a moral responsibility to act,” he said.
Obama proposed doing so by reducing America’s arsenal, if not altogether eliminating it; hosting a summit on nuclear security; seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and pursuing a new agreement aimed at stopping the production of fissile materials.
Also, he proposes gathering up all vulnerable nuclear material -- or “loose nukes” -- within four years. That’s an issue Obama also worked on in the Senate, with Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).
As we all know, the only reason that Russia, Red China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and soon to be North Korea and Iran have nuclear weapons is self defense against the United States... and if only we would unilaterally eliminate our nuclear arsenal -- ¡ Si, su puede! -- these other countries would no longer fear us -- and they will surely follow suit. As the New York Times succinctly sums up the theory:
Mr. Obama said that his administration would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons” in its national security strategy, and would urge other countries to do the same. He pointed to the agreement he reached last week with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia to begin negotiations on reducing warheads and stockpiles, and said the two countries would try to reach an agreement by the end of the year. He also promised to aggressively pursue American ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which in the past has faced strong opposition in Congress.
It is a strategy based on the idea that if the United States shows it is willing to greatly shrink the size of its atomic arsenal, ban nuclear testing and cut off the worldwide production of bomb material, reluctant allies and partners around the world will be more likely to rewrite nuclear treaties and enforce sanctions against North Korea and Iran.
That is, if America weakens itself by unilaterally dumping its nuclear weapons, then other nations will feel more empowered to aggressively enforce already existing sanctions against rogue nations. But why? By definition, "already existing sanctions" already exist; if our allies are not willing to enforce them now, why would they be more willing if we become weaker? Does Obama truly believe that the world defies us because we're too powerful? Does he believe that we're evil, imperialist warmongers oppressing the world, causing them to resist us the way that the Jedi knights resisted the imperial storm troopers of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader?
This is magical thinking at its most emblematic: There is no obvious connection between the United States eliminating its nuclear arsenal and Pakistan following suit -- the latter is far more concerned about India (and vice versa) than about us -- or North Korea and Iran abandoning their own nuke hunt; they see nuclear weapons as their route to power in their own regions or protection against their own enemies. It's silly storytelling, jaw-dropping narcissism, and childish "wishing on a star" to imagine that every other country in the world that has or wants nuclear weapons is only driven by fear of America's nuclear arsenal.
But if there is any other reason why they want to be members of the nuclear club, then our reduction or even complete nuclear disarmament will have no effect upon them at all... except perhaps to encourage them tenfold: It's easy for third-world countries to believe that if they have nukes and we don't, they will no longer be third world -- they will be the first world; they will be the masters!
The childishness of this Obamic policy betokens an equally childish worldview, full of good guys (who are always good) and bad guys (eternally bad), superficial understandings, a view of history based more upon melodrama than reality, and magical thinking.
Heroes and villains as world actors
The One is the Lightbringer, whose devoted acolytes are trying to spread the "good news" around the globe (America alone is too small a stage). There is no "in-between," only a vast sea of unenlightened souls awaiting but a touch, a glance from the Obamacle to fall into the rapture.
The Bad Guy in Chief is George W. Bush, of course; and all Republicans are his henchmen. We are consciously evil, in that we sit around and cackle about our latest evil plans, perhaps chewing on the odd pinky or two. (Note that there is another shadowy group of conspirators who may be the real villains in this piece, "working the machinations behind the scenes," as Louis Farrakhan put it; we'll get to them in a moment.)
The great advantage of such hero-villain thinking is that it forces an automatic devaluing of opposing viewpoints: Of course you don't think government should take over the economy... you're a Republican! You want to kill and eat the poor anyway.
Superficiality as a guiding principle
Obamunism is centrally focused on a series of superficial and (upon analysis) meaningless catch phrases, slogans, and jingoisms: hope, change, the One we have been waiting for, audacity, coming together, post-partisan, post-racial, diplomacy, an end to torture, and so forth. While each of these words or phrases could impart meaning in other contexts, as Barack Obama and his apostles use them, we have no earthly idea what he means. Hope for what? Change from what to what? The One we have been waiting for -- to do what?
Even "diplomacy" is an empty concept by itself: Gandhi practiced diplomacy; so did Hitler.
Bear in mind, the more superficial a policy, the more ill-defined and vague, the less able critics are to attack it. It assumes radically different dimensions in the mind of each person who hears about it... and each tends to envision it in a way that resonates with him, personally, satisfying that specific individual's wish-fulfillment fantasies. It's very, very tough to tell someone that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable; he tends to react emotionally -- and sometimes violently.
The heroic epic as public policy
When Obama and his fellow Democrats recount history (particularly the economic history of the United States and the history of the conflict in the Middle East), it's clear their "understanding" is based not upon what actually happened but upon what should have happened to make things more coherent and plot-driven, like a novel.
We didn't have a financial crash because of foolhardy (and bipartisan) government policy to encourage poor people to buy houses they couldn't afford, regulation and oversight that was badly written by Congress and poorly implemented by several administrations, and increasingly complex financial instruments that few people understand, including those who invented them. No, it's much more gripping if there is a vast banking conspiracy -- or as a disturbingly large number of Obama appointees would see it, a vast Jew-banker conspiracy). The conspiracy (or "lobby") controls everything behind the scenes, like a bad John Grisham melodrama (sorry for the redundancy).
This reductionism is signalled by the use of capitalized terms beginning with "Big," personalizing the enemy without actually naming them: Big Tobacco, Big Carbon, Big Business, Big Money.
And the continual conflict among Arab countries is not driven by a religious interpretation of Islam that demands constant "jihad;" that's boring... and it smacks of racism, too. But if everything bad in the entire region is driven by a single rogue villain (Israel) which causes all the problems for the sole purpose of "taking over" -- an alien presence that exploits the traditional peoples of the region -- well then we have an enemy we can focus upon, a much tighter plot to follow, somebody we can actually defeat!
Conspiracy mongering is always based, at core, on a sense that the universe should really be more coherent, more linear, and more dramatic than it actually is. It should follow literary rules of plot development, causality, a climax, and a satisfying denoument. Here is where Obama's man-crush on Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers becomes the synecdoche of his worldview. It's not very satisfying if blacks are doing badly because they have a lousy culture, or if kids aren't being educated because they have egregious work habits and have never enjoyed thinking. It's much more thrilling if Republican big business has busily been suppressing children's education because they need more worker-drones for capitalist imperialism -- and Whitey has been holding down "people of color" for a thousand years.
(By a curious coincidence, among much of Obama's inner circle, it appears that both plots have the same conspirators, the same villains: Jews. As antisemitism rises across the rest of the globe, it now finds a sympathetic ear at the highest levels of the American government.)
The Childe Left hate and fear complexity and constructive chaos more than anything in the world (just as literal children do); they also project this fear onto the Right, pretending that it is conservatives who embody "black and white" thinking, and liberals are the ones who understand shades of gray... but the Left's actions and policies belie the proclamations of maturity and wisdom.
Waiting for a miracle as grand strategy
Obamunism, and its larger parent New Leftism, deeply believe in the "magic bullet" theory of governance: For every intractable problem, there is a single, simple solution that will solve everything -- which has been missed by generations of previous, unenlightened souls, leaving its discovery to the hero of the saga. Some hitherto unsuspected connection exists between (seemingly unrelated) events A and B; Doing A will, as if by miracle, bring about B:
- Many times in our past, and currently in the rest of the world, governments tightly control the economy via wage and price controls, overtaxation, heavy-handed regulation, union boosterism, and "five-year plans." This has never resulted in an economic renaissance, but generally recession and depression. But wait -- that's because it wasn't done by the One! This time, under the encyclical circulated by Barack Obama, when the government seizes control of the economy, it will cause the greatest economic boom in American, nay world, history... and the world will forever revere Obama as its champion eternal. (Don't ask how; it just will. And of course you're skeptical... you're a capitalist.)
- Unlike all previous diplomatic overtures, when the great man just sits down and talks to his fellow world leaders (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, Raul Castro, Ayman Zawahiri) -- when he explains to them that, unlike the previous regime, the current administration doesn't want to conquer and annex their lands, kill their children, and violate their women -- then the light from his heart will shine through, and these national leaders will realize that they need fear America no longer. They will all fall into each other's arms (in a manly way, I mean), have a good cry and a wonderful laugh, and all will be well. Nuclear warheads will be beaten into solar-power plants, war will be obsolete, the Jews will be driven into the sea, and all will live happily ever after. "And guns and swords and uniforms lay scattered on the ground." Barack Hussein Obama is, quite simply, the One that Ahmadinejad has been waiting for.
- Due to stubborn resistance and ignorance, generations have closed their ears and stopped their eyes to the deadly, global peril of man-made climate change. But as soon as Congress enacts the divine vision of the Obamacle -- instantly, the world will cool, the seas will subside, the harvest will be bountiful, and disease and famine will be driven into the void. The word of the king is the blood of the land. We won't even have to wait for the policies to take effect... directly the word is uttered, the Earth will shake, the sky will brighten, and peace and plenty will rain upon all -- equally -- like manna from heaven.
Achievement without effort; success without setback or disappointment; like a Michael Jackson video, Captain Eo points his finger and a bolt of lightning obliterates the bad guy in a puff of CGI. It's magic!
Obamunism - through the eyes of a lizard
It took me a while to realize it, but it's the childishness of Obamunism that irritates me more than any other element... its reduction to heroes and villains, its soap-bubble superficiality, its melodramatic story telling, and the magical thinking that underpins all the rest. Our country is ruled by the inmates of an excessively permissive and progressive preschool.
The entire Obama administration needs a long time-out. Alas, what we're more likely to see is a time-out from history for the entire country... followed by a very rude and deadly awakening.
Date ►►► April 5, 2009
North Korea Launches Missile Over Japan - Japan, U.S. Just Watch
Quoth the Associated Press:
North Korea fired a rocket over Japan on Sunday, defying Washington, Tokyo and other world leaders who suspect the launch was cover for a test of its long-range missile technology. President Barack Obama warned the move would further isolate the communist nation.
Liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from the coastal Musudan-ri launch pad in northeastern North Korea, the South Korean and U.S. governments said. The multistage rocket hurtled toward the Pacific, reaching Japanese airspace within seven minutes, but no debris appeared to hit its territory, officials in Tokyo said.
Japanese missile-defense batteries, which could easily have shot down the missile, did not fire. Prime Minister Taro "the Potato" Aso (a.k.a., "Single Digit") just sat and watched it fly over his country (yet again).
American Aegis and BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships were in the region; they too could have splashed the missile with near certainty -- they too just observed as it flew overhead. Almost certainly, orders came from the Commander in Chief to make no move to intercept, no matter where the missile was aimed... to just let it pass overhead and hope it didn't hit anything.
But I don't want to leave you with the impression that we did nothing; heavens no! The Coalition of the Whining did plenty, bub:
- Chief Japanese Cabinet spokesman Takeo Kawamura announced that he was "highly concerned by this matter."
- Japan demanded an emergency meeting of the U.N. to discuss the provocation.
- President Barack H. Obama urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to "abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council" and not to be so "provocative."
- Red China, North Korea's primary patron, "urged all sides to maintain calm and exercise restraint."
- And U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo "regretted North Korea's move."
But at least Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has laid down the law to North Korea. Well, not Hillary as such; she was too busy. But she sent a trusted subordinate to make the point that we will not tolerate being threatened in this way:
State Department spokesman Fred Lash called the launch a clear violation of Resolution 1718, adopted five days after North Korea carried out a nuclear weapons test in 2006. The U.S. will "take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it cannot threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity," he said late Saturday in Washington.
It comforts me to know that the security of the United States against the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea is in such stalwart, courageous, and decisive hands.
Date ►►► April 2, 2009
Triumph at the Summit of Mount Obamarama
A summit just concluded in London among the G-20, the group of 20 richest nations; the heads of state spoke to each other without visible brandishing of weaponry. This much we can all agree upon.
But that's about all we can agree upon. Here is AP's take on the outcome:
At his summit debut, President Barack Obama failed to persuade foreign counterparts to commit to fresh and lavish spending to boost economic revival. And the success he did achieve in finding common ground was as much the result of modified goals as swaying other countries to bend to U.S. priorities.
Still, he emerged with much of what he wanted from allies on the flailing global economy. And he helped thwart a French-backed attempt to set up an international financial regulator.
And here is the assessment by the New York Times:
After more than 11 hours of meetings, Mr. Obama emerged Thursday from his first summit meeting with a handful of modest concrete commitments. He did not get much of what American officials had been hoping for, notably failing to persuade other countries to commit to more fiscal stimulus spending.
Oh, yes; they're clearly singing from the same hymnal.
So what exactly does AP see as emerging with "much of what he wanted from allies on the flailing global economy?" Oh, that's as clear as crystal:
Thursday's daylong gathering of the G-20 nations pledged $1.1 trillion in loans and guarantees to struggling countries, agreed to crack down on tax havens, large hedge funds and other risky financial products, rejected protectionism that hampers foreign trade and committed to upgrading an existing financial forum to flag problems early in the global financial system. Those were all elements Obama was seeking.
And, as he hoped, the leaders also rejected a push by French and German politicians for a global financial super-regulator, a proposal that had been expected to go down in defeat. The emphasis, instead, was on cooperation among nations to each choose it own way to enact "a stronger, more globally consistent, supervisory and regulatory framework...."
Still, the leaders, many wary of piling up debt, did not sign off on large new stimulus packages for their own countries. Obama's administration had initially pushed for such a commitment, but backed off in recent days as European opposition solidified.
So Barack H. Obama elicited a few trivial, generalized noises from the other members about markets and trade; he managed to "thwart" a French demand for one-world government (at least on financial issues) that everybody knew going in was "expected to go down in defeat" anyway... and he bowed to the rest of the wealthy nations on a world-wide stimulus package, dropping it the moment it met the slightest resistance. Or skepticism.
Obama's "agreement" comprised caving to Europe; there will be no such global stimulus, as the One had long insisted was vital to preventing complete economic meltdown.
Mind, I'm very glad he caved; it's a craven admission by the president that his earlier sepulchral warnings and nigh-biblical denunciations were just so much hot air (no offence to Captain Ed, et al)... and the confession that, in the end, doing nothing is preferable to doing Obamunism -- even to the Euroleft! Still, it's always easy to come to agreement when One is willing to jettison all of One's demands; it rarely takes much diplomatic genius to persuade people to accept their own position instead of yours.
Oh, wait; there was one other signal triumph by the Childe President: According to AP, Obama somehow got the developed nations to "agree to crack down on tax havens."
Bully! So no longer will China allow companies to incorporate in Macao or Hong Kong and thereby skate on paying their "fair share" of taxes. But how did he do it?
Sayeth the Times, the big disagreement was between President Nicolas Sarkozy of France -- who wanted the nations to commit to a "name and shame" policy anent tax havens -- and President Hu Jintao of Red China, who did not want any such naming and/or shaming of the two biggest tax havens in Asia, to wit, those very same Chinese provinces of Macao and Hong Kong.
Here is how it all played out:
Mr. Sarkozy wanted the big communiqué produced by the Group of 20 to endorse naming and shaming global tax havens, maybe even including Hong Kong and Macao, which are under China’s sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hu was having none of it. He appeared angry that Mr. Sarkozy was effectively accusing China of lax regulation, and that the French leader was asking China to endorse sanctions issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of wealthy nations that Beijing has yet to join.
According to accounts provided by White House officials and corroborated by European and other officials also in the room, Mr. Obama escorted both men, one at a time, to a corner of the room, to judge the dispute. How about replacing the word “recognize,” Mr. Obama suggested, with the word “note?”
The result: “The era of banking secrecy is over,” the final communiqué said. “We note that the O.E.C.D. has today published a list of countries assessed by the Global Forum against the international standard for exchange of tax information.” Hong Kong and Macao did not appear on the list.
And there we have it. In a stunning tour de force, Barack Obama has achieved the trifecta:
- He grabbed credit for "thwarting" a French plan that was already doomed before Obama set foot in Londontown;
- He obtained a broad agreement with the other nations by taking the signal policy he has claimed for months was the only thing which could save the world economy -- and consigning to the dustbin of non-history;
- And he resolved a conflict between Europe and China over the latter's tax dodgers by kow-towing to the Chinese, ensuring that Macao and Hong Kong can continue to operate without any fear of being outed, named, isolated, or shamed.
Well now! See how much can be accomplished if America really sets its mind on diplomacy, rather than the Cowboy-George, go-it-alone policy of dictating to the rest of the world? The Times sums up what our man in London has taught us about our proper place in the world:
Gone are the days, from Pax Britannica to Pax Americana, when Britain and the United States made the rules that others followed.
“If there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s an easier negotiation,” Mr. Obama said during his hourlong meeting with the international news media, during which he called on reporters from India and China to ask him questions. “But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.”
Yes, he has certainly proved that those days (of two years ago) are gone. Forgive me if I don't caper and frolic in glee; I've been feeling a bit enervated for the last two-plus months.
The Great Dictator, part (C)
If you want a picture of the future, imagine an iron fist clutching a smiley face -- forever.
The first two posts of this miniseries were:
We ended the last segment with a tease:
The final step of a liberal fascist takeover of the industry would be to control the wages of all employees, to be able to set them however they want.
But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.
The author of the article, Byron York, is the former White House correspondent for the National Review; he now writes for the Washington D.C. Examiner. York describes the legislation that Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) has approved:
The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.
In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is "unreasonable" or "excessive." And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate "the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates."
There really is no other way to describe this than a fascistic economic policy, where by "fascistic" I mean corporate socialism, similar to that developed most extensively by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. (Adolf Hitler did not invent it; he admired the economics of "Il Duce" so much, he copied them in his "Third Reich".)
Before moving further, it's important to note that fascism, while it has the stench of racism, antisemitism, and warmongering for conquest, is not strictly defined that way. An administration can be fascistic even if it has not the slightest whiff of any of those qualities. That said, however, the current administration is an open and unapologetic fan of race-based preferences; is packed to the gills with ardent foes of Israel who too often slop over into naked Jew hatred (using the code phrase "the Israel lobby"); and fecklessly threatened to invade Pakistan even before Barack H. Obama was elected; it can hardly be said to be anti-racist, philosemitic, or pacific.
The bill was actually authored by freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL, not yet rated), most famous until now for filing lawsuits against Halliburton; the fair-minded and non-prejudicial Grayson offered this unique reason for House members to vote for the bill:
"This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they're willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable," Grayson said. "We'll find out who are the people who understand that the public's money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street."
These are not the words of a man who has any love of the free market, individualism, limited government, or Capitalism whatsoever. I venture to say that Mr. Grayson veers perilously close to totalitarianism... and he might not even mind the label.
Too often a false contrast is made between the impersonal marketplace and the compassionate policies of various government programs. But both systems face the same scarcity of resources and both systems make choices within the constraints of that scarcity. The difference is that one system involves each individual making choices for himself or herself, while the other system involves a smaller number of people making choices for others.
It may be fashionable for journalists to refer to “the whim of the marketplace,” as if that were something different from the desires of people, just as it was once fashionable to refer to “production for use, rather than for profit” -- as if profits could be made by producing things that people cannot use or do not want to use. The real contrast is between choices made by individuals for themselves and choices made for them by others who presume to define what these individuals “really” need.
We must contrast the clarity, logical development, and true love of freedom found in Sowell's argument with the crabbed, self-serving, power-mad, authoritarian, arrogant, condescending, ill-informed, adolescent wish-fulfillment of Barack Obama, Timothy Geithner, Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and every other member of the liberal cabal that wants to hijack our country and turn it into Sweden. Or into fascist Italy of the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s.
Thomas Sowell is above all an American man who loves the American experiment... while the Obamunists are from Venus, I think. Barack Obama despises everything that the United States is right now; he will only love his country when it's no longer our country, but just an extension of the EU and the UN.
But always with a smiley face. Never forget the smiley face... that's the distinction that makes one a compassionate liberal fascist, which makes all the difference.
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